Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The food map concept …….Cuisine as we will know it


The average Indian’s understanding of cuisine and its varied implications is a subject of study both for the chef and the food enthusiast.
As I look into 2014 I see that the average Indian is getting very aware of his “culinary surroundings” or the cuisine, its timing and its relevance. In general.. now people take pride in eating healthy food that is both local and seasonal .there was a time when eating mangoes in winter or snow peas in summers was a matter of great pride , not any more . The average Indian’s understanding of the principle” least travelled and most opportune “ food being the healthiest has clearly come to bright light .
Heres the benefits of this trend , being more aware causes me , the “eater” to look out for detail in local food . The good part is that the rich culinary heritage of the country provides a lot of such detail. In India food doesn’t only change with the seasons but with the village as well and its this seasonal local cuisine that I foresee as trend in this year.
Indian food is not confined within the political boundaries of the state, In a recent conversation with Mr Abhay Mangal das , the owner of House of Mangal Das. I realised that the food map of india is very different from the political map and its this food map that will come to the fore in times to come  . For example Gujarat and Rajasthan borders don’t necessarily imply a cuisine change, however other aspects like culture , dialect and climate do.
I am sure people will (and they already are) ask about the food from specific culinary regions (malwan , sindhudurg, kolhapur , puneri ) rather than generic (read Maharashtrian food ).
Similarly the cuisine of Punjab will get to be known for Malwa , Majha and Doaba food (and Lahori food of course).its a welcome change that I am looking forward to and a change that Indian cuisine deserves .
So heres the deal
1 be aware of the culinary map of your surroundings  and the culinary regions around you
2 Eat Local, food that travels a lot loses a lot of nutrition

3 Trust nature and Eat seasonal, nature knows your body and its seasonal needs … it does

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Art Of contrast …. The legend of Salted caramel and other stories

               Contrast has been known to artists forever now & as somebody who has been painting for longer than he has been cooking, the concept of contrast as an eye-catcher in art settled in easy with me. It was only later when I started cooking I realized that contrast can stimulate all senses not just visual. 
                Textural contrast in food always creates that stimulative wow , whether it is the contrast in the crunch and the Juiciness of the Jalebi or the golgappa or the texture difference felt when biting into an éclair, contrast ALWAYS stands out. Visually chefs have used contrast in colour and height to conveniently direct our eye to the star on the plate or even the buffet. Take the croquembouche for example the tall tower of choux buns that stands out among all desserts inviting you for a taste. 
                Moving onto the contrast in taste ….the contrast of sweet and salted. A phenomenon that’s swept the world is “Salted Caramel”, the pleasing stimulus that this contrast brings about made it the biggest and the fastest growing food trend in America, yes even bigger than wasabi and sushi.
           But before we bow to the western ingenuity let's go searching for sweet and salty in our lives and travels...Poha jalebi of Indore , Fafda jalebi of Gujarat, Saag and Gur in Punjab...are food fads from forever. For my  travel shows I spoke to a family of  “Nagar Brahmins“ a community of Gujarat who claim that the community has been having aloo bhaji and home made ice cream as a sorbet course forever.... now how’s that for contrast!! 

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE
[excellent with ice creams (that's for the temperature contrast) and brownies]

Ingredients
Granulated sugar - 2 cups 
Unsalted butter (room temperature, cut into pieces) - 12 tbsps 
Heavy cream (at room temperature) - 1 cup 
Salt ( preferable fleur de sel or sea salt flakes) - 1 tbsp

Method
1. Heat the sugar over medium to high-heat in the bottom of a heavy saucepan.
2. Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a deep amber color.  
3. Carefully add the butter. Whisk until butter is melted. 
4. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until cream is incorporated and caramel is smooth. 
5. Whisk in the fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt flakes. Your salted Caramel Sauce is ready!!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

CRYSTAL GAZING .... food in 2014




I look at the food industry as a business that runs on a demand created by changing Cultural and food attitudes/tendencies. Various concepts and culinary aspects (techniques, flavors, and ingredients) just fill in the need for that food attitude.
Here are some food attitudes that will rule the roost in 2104

  1. the need for small ... we all have learnt to accept the fact that small portions are here to stay. They have taken the form of mono portions on buffets or sampler platters and soup shots. The next big trend is the glorification of the cupcake which has started but is going to continue in an even bigger scale with more varieties, more artistic elements and more serving styles like cupcake Christmas trees .
  2. the need for no fuss dining … this is a visible trend that has led to an eruption of casual cafes serving good food and drinks , this trend is going to manifest itself in Izikayas , small and simple Japanese style bars / eateries where you would drop in for a quick drink aand bite after work .
  3. the love for eastward travel  The Indian subcontinent has found a second home in Thailand and Singapore and like the rest of the world we have learnt to love Japan for (most of) its food the country that will a mark this year is Korea with its unique style of barbeque
  4. the curious foodie cult   theres a fast growing bunch of food loving individuals that want to try out new stuff and they have allowed chefs to more creatively express themselves. The popularity of offal cuisine and molecular gastronomy are clear products of this tendency. Molecular gastronomy is here to stay , but in India it will reflect more in the dessert side of things with nitro ice creams, fruit foams , espuma desserts etc
  5. All things Indian … fusion was out long ago ,(trust me it was never meant to be) . But theres a definite place for a detailed regional local cuisine concepts like coorgi , Majha , surati etd that will definitely make a mark this year . the fall of the rupee and the food laws making imports a little more painful will only aid to this process
  6. Life beyond Italy and Mexico … the world obsession with Italian and Mexican cuisine has started dying down with Spanish and Nordic restaurants booming in Europe and Venezuelan and Peruvian cuisine establishing itself in the US this trend will travel to India in 2014 for sure .Quinoa is going to be king and our introduction to Aztec cuisine

Prediction is a risky business especially when it’s about your own field of work .
The January Articles on trending food are an interesting read for the simple reason that they give an insight into what line a chef is going to tread this year.