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Indian Food : Heaven and Hell

Indian Food : Heaven and Hell

September 03, 2009

In the kitchen, we know fusion rocks. But what if it leads to confusion? The dos and don’ts of Anglo Indian cooking.

When you don’t cook regularly, going into the kitchen to make something is often an exciting and exhilarating experience. Yes, it has been argued that men usually make more of a monumental fuss about what they’re going to make, but why not. As I ventured into the kitchen the other day, I couldn’t help but realise how much of the food I’d had growing up was actually very unique. Every kitchen will turn out its special blend of flavours, depending of-course on the matron in charge. However, it is perhaps inevitable that with such a range of ingredients on offer, a lot of the food we’re eating is a conglomerate of eastern and western themes. A bit like a cash and carry inspired ready-steady-cook.

Growing up, I’ve had spiced up omelettes, sandwiches deep fried in batter and pizzas with every single conceivable topping. Simplicity is often overruled, and mixing European recipes with Indian flavours becomes a regular experimental occurrence - but how much garlic, ginger and onion should really go into a Sunday roast? Often, you happen to stumble upon some beautiful accidents, on other occasions things can go terribly wrong. At this point, I wonder whether it is worth imposing some universal Dos and Don’ts in an Anglo/Indian kitchen.

I for one delight in the invention of chutney and its simplicity. Greek yoghurt and mint sauce is one step in which to create the easiest of condiments. Why then, when it so easy to create or buy these dips, do we rely on our friend tomato ketchup to go with almost every single savoury Indian snack? Perhaps this is one of the first rules to impose. I find it an insult on the Samosa, Pakora or Bhaji when Mr Heinz comes out. Strangely though, this rule can be turned on its head when we think of puddings. You may have often had Gajrela with Ice-cream, which is of course heavenly. I don’t suppose that they originally served this with Kulfi though? So some wise person somewhere must have thought of the idea, and it’s been a legendry party favourite since.

Perhaps then, we need to consider flavour more seriously. I think the best way around this exercise is to document the most interesting food marriages imaginable. Once I have a catalogue of delights or monstrosities, I’ll be better equipped to formulate a definitive culinary constitution.

1 Comment

  • Geetali
    25.09.09 11:53 AM
    Kudos Sandeep for your piece. A timely reminder!
    I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to flavours and fragrances. Some things just don't *go* with each other. Pizza and chhole are wrong on more levels than I'd care to explore! I've often bemoaned the north Indian cook's tendency to see paneer as a save-all cookery device. Takem for example, paneer. Paneer is great. It has a unique texture and flavour. To deny paneer its place in north Indian cuisine is to deny Mother's love. But really, it only lends itself to some very basic - nay, classical - interpretations. So let's not lace our linguine, or muck up our moussaka with it!

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