Age-old Indian recipes, lost and found
When we talk about Indian food, many states and many more communities come to the mind. On the four corners of the compass, the country brims with distinct food cultures and recipes. For his latest ongoing show, Lost Recipes on Epic Channel, Chef Aditya Bal walks down the forgotten road of culinary traditions.
Excepts from the interview:
Q. Tell us about Lost Recipes. What is the show all about?
A. Like every other thing, food practices are ever evolving. Many dishes have died out in various communities of India — be it the East Indian community, the nawabs of Lucknow and Awadh, the French colonies of Pondicherry or the Portuguese settlers in Goa. The show is based on the history of food, and we have spoken to families, who know of recipes, bygone practices, and have access to them through manuscripts.
Aditya Bal cooks with a local family in Pondicherry
Q. How new was this experience for you?
A. Most recipes were new for me. It was amazing to see how simple some dishes were. One Goan dish we featured was a
hay-smoked Mackerel. The recipe was introduced by Jesuit monks who came to Goa from Portugal 1,500 years ago. They taught Goans how to bake bread.
The ingredients included Makerel, lemon and salt. A pile of hay is set on fire, the mackerel is put on it and covered with another layer of hay. On the shoot, I learnt that bread was earlier fermented using toddy!
Q. Tell us about a recipe that touched your heart.
A. In Lucknow, we cooked the Moti Pulao in a begum's house. The nawabs made their food look pretty, and it was very innovative, too. This pulao is laden with peas and the rice grains resemble white pearls. It is quite tedious. Fragrant spices such as cardamom, nutmeg, mace and poppy seeds are used. The white pearls are made using egg white and varq. We also did kebabs. The nawabi food legacy is being carried forward by the Qureshi family.
Q. How different are these recipes from today's cooking?
A. When you see slow cooking methods, popular in the olden days, you realise that today's cooking is just a time-saving process with modern appliances.
Tit Koh (Pondicherry)
> 1 kg pork, with a little fat (cut into 1 inch cubes)
> Jaggery to taste
> 1 cup coconut water
> 1 cup fish sauce
> ½ cup honey
> Red chillies
> Salt to taste
> Caramelise the jaggery
> Add the pieces of pork and cover in caramel
> Add coconut water, fish sauce, and honey.
> Simmer for two hours
> Just 5 minutes before taking it off the fire, chop the red chillies finely
> Serve hot