This book is a celebration of the best in Indian cooking. It is the author's intention to introduce the food of India through the culinary genius of some of the finest Chefs in the country.
It is no secret that Indian Cuisine is "in" and the time ripe to introduce the "Grand O1'Men" and the "Whiz Kids" of the Indian kitchen: the present day Chefs, who are inventive and daring-ready to try out anything new and different. The result is a wonderful collection of recipes-old and new-from their respective repertoires.
J. Inder Singh Kalra, President (Asia) of the International Wine, Food and Travel Writer's Association, is a journalist and travel writer of repute. He has run a series of highly popular Restaurant columns-for Weekend Review, Delhi, and the Evening News of India, Bombay. He is one of those rare writers in his genre who have given Chefs their pride of place as true artistes. Mr. Kalra is now a Restaurant and Travel Consultant specialising in Gourmet-and other-tours.
Pradeep Das Gupta, a graduate of St. Xavier' s College, Calcutta is a full time professional photographer, specialising in food and studio still life.
LIke the inevitable flashback in the Hindi potboiler, a part of every Indian's memory is dedicated to a delicacy-by-delicacy, bite-by-bite, munch-by-munch recall of a lifetime of meals. Food is an integral part of every Indian's conversation. Get into one or eavesdrop on almost any, and soon you will be treated to a graphic description of a meal eaten or served anywhere from the night before to several years ago. Today, fortunately, there is much more to talk about.
Ours is a land of traditions. Despite the drawbacks that stem from them, great changes are taking place in the Nation's culinary life-changes evolutionary as well as revolutionary. One of the more important recent 'discoveries' is its own wealth of culinary styles and regional foods. Whereas once restaurants here took pride-misplaced, to be sure-in the 'international' cuisine they could serve, they are now going into specialisation. To cater to changing tastes, many Chefs are reviving styles like Handi, Dum Pukht, Kadhci and Tawa cooking. Others are specialising in regional-Marwari, Goan, Hyderabadi, Parsee-foods. The effort is being duly lauded: the success of the spate of festivals being hosted in almost every city within-and many cities without-the country is eloquent testimony to this fact.
To the uninitiated, Indian cooking seems like a jigsaw puzzle incapable of solution. It seems like a complex problem, difficult to solve. The reason is simple: there is no recorded text for Indian cuisine. Every genre of cooking has innumerable schools, each school more than one style, each style its own Guru.
Recipes are handled down from generation to generation, but never put on record-only memorized. As a consequence, every recipe is open to interpretation and there is no standard recipe at all. Every great artiste of the kitchen-and there are quite a few-believes that the method he adopts to make a delicacy is the correct one. Innovation is often mistaken for originality.
The recipes were never recorded because most of the Master Bawarchis, if we May coin the designation, were and still are paranoid-fearful that someone will 'pinch' their recipes. This is the only reason why India's culinary art, despite thousands of years of refinement, is not as well known as that of France or China.
Moreover; Indian cuisine varies from region to region. The taste, colour, texture, appearance and aroma of the same delicacy changes every few kilometres. The resultant mayhem has only led to confusion-especially far the serious student of Indian cooking.
After nearly two decades of watching and working with Master Chefs, after having spent thousands of hours on experimentation and after careful evaluation, we have concluded that Indian cooking is based on three major factors: the-choice of ingredients, their proportions and quantities, and the sequence of cooking.
CHOICE OF INGREDIENTS
For better cooking, it is imperative to use fresh and seasonal ingredients. Before that, however, it is important to understand each and every ingredient individually-its salient qualities, nourishment value, calorie count, shelf life, changes in its characteristics with temperature variations etc. Without this knowledge, it would be practically impossible to buy the correct ingredients in the market. It is obvious, therefore, that buying right is half the battle.
For example, when buying leafy vegetables (spinach, coriander, mint) the leaves should be crisp (and not withered), green (and not brownish) in colour, and 'young' (not overgrown, which would make the stem thick and hard).
When buying meat (goat or lamb), to cite another example, it goes without saying that you, will need specific cuts for different dishes. However, the meat for every cut must be firm, lean and not excessively fatty, 'pinkish' in colour, odourfree, of a fine texture and the bones must be porous and of a pink hue. Weight of chicken acquires special importance for different delicacies.
PROPORTIONS AND QUANTITIES
The bane of Indian cooking has been the use of andaaza (literally, approximation from experience) rather than exact proportions and quantities. Such approximation leads to inconsistency. It is for this reason that each ingredient should be used in the exact proportion and quantity.
For example, excessive use of yoghurt in a dish will make it sour and unappetizing. Similarly, the excessive use of chillies will 'kill' almost any curry.
To give you another example, in the making of Pulao, the proportion is two parts of boiling water for every part of rice. Any deviation from this cardinal principle would either make the rice sticky (excess water) or leave the cereal raw (less water).
SEQUENCE OF COOKING
To give a preparation the right colour, texture, aroma and taste, the sequence of cooking plays a significant role. Do not cut corners and take the easy way out. Very often, cooks tend to put all the ingredients in cold fat simultaneously. The resultant disaster is a tasteless mess without any colour or flavour.
If the recipe demands that the onions be-fried until golden brown, it would be absurd to introduce the whole garam masala or fresh ground masala before the onions have achieved the requisite colour. This would, doubtless, destroy the dish, and there will be the taste- of raw onions in the mouth.
Again, let's take the example of Sambhar, the Southern lentil delicacy, where tamarind pulp is added after the dal is cooked and never before. If the sequence is not followed it is likely to end up a bitter 'witches' brew. The dal will, also stay undercooked.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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Emperor & Queen (486)
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