One might suppose that Secrets of Indian Gastronomy is a cookbook. Yes, it is. One will assume it is packed with delicious and authentic recipes. Well, it is. One might be drawn to the conclusion that those secrets will be bizarre cooking techniques or the necessity to poach a particular exotic vegetable on a moonlit night in the shadow of the Taj Mahal. Not at all.
Secrets of Indian Gastronomy is a well-measured and authoritative tome that has not sought the strange and the extreme of the Subcontinent. The book has its focus on the culinary evolution of Indian food and the reasons for that. It introduces the reader to the vibrancy of Indian dishes and even touches on why this formidable culinary philosophy can be translated to the Western food battery.
It’s a truism, and a fact that is appreciated across the globe: we are what we eat. But we are, for the most part, ignorant about how to balance our diet to get the best out of eating, which should be a pleasurable and healthful pastime.
We in the West assume that a balanced diet must involve the modern concepts of ‘5-a-day’ and ‘cut down on burgers’. Indian culinary arts have evolved over millennia and include all food groups, spices, and even the disposition of the cook. That isn’t such a foreign concept, as we often hear that the magic ingredient in a favourite dish is love; or never to eat food from an angry chef.
Chef Manjit Gill isn’t a new gastronomic kid on the block. He has decades of experience and is one of the most respected and recognised luminaries in the international food arena. His distinctive red turban has become his sartorial trademark. He is held in high esteem by the most celebrated chefs, who appreciate his dedication to the craft.
Chef Manjit graduated from the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition in Pusa, New Delhi, in 1974. He was a trainee in the kitchens of the Oberoi School of Hotel Management, one of the most sought-after places, and he graduated in 1976. Manjit stayed with the group and in 1977 he joined the Oberoi Intercontinental Hotel as Chef de Partie in European cuisine. Then at the WelcomGroup Maurya Sheraton Hotel and Towers his talents were fully recognised when he was eventually given the prestigious appointment of Executive Chef.
Now Executive Corporate Chef of the ITC-WelcomGroup hotel chain, chef Manjit Gill has charge of Bukhara, which is internationally regarded as one of the finest Indian restaurants, as well as Dum Pukht, Dakshin, Peshawari and more. He is the instantly recognisable face of high-end Indian cuisine and an ambassador for Indian food. In 2007 he received a “Lifetime Achievement” national award from the Indian Ministry of Tourism. Chef Manjit Gill is the President of the Indian Federation of Culinary Associations.
Indian food is popular and, yes, Manjit is admired by his peers and lucky restaurant-goers, but he is a man with a wider mission. He believes that Indians should take pride in their national dishes and consider them just as worthy as Western offerings. India has a wealth of recipes, techniques and know-how of which to be proud and it should surely be considered one of the world’s most important and influential cuisines, sharing equal status with French and classic Chinese. Manjit champions Indian cuisine across the globe and strives to persuade Indian chefs that their native dishes have nothing for which to apologise. He is changing its negative perception and replacing indifference with enthusiasm.
Secrets of Indian Gastronomy is compiled by Chef Manjit Gill for PIHMAA, that’s the celebrated Pusa Institute Hotel Management Alumni Association. The recipes here are penned by some of the most respected chefs in India. They are presented with the home cook in mind, although any professional with even the slightest interest in Indian food will find this a unique and inspiring book.
Bhuna Khatta Gosht from Senior Executive Chef, ITC Hotels, Vijay Nagpal is a rich and mouth-watering dish made with ingredients available to almost every household. Alok Shivpuri, Principal of IHM Pusa, offers us an iconic Kashmiri Biryani. It’s a striking dish but easily accomplished by the home cook. Sunil Gadihoke, Executive Chef, WelcomeHotel Sheraton, has a remarkable Chettinad Eraichi Kari – Chettinad Chicken – as his contribution.
Sanjeev Kapoor is perhaps the most celebrated of celebrity chefs in India and his recipe for a stunning Khaas Seekh is included, which looks as good as it tastes, a recipe that will show off the skills of the enthusiastic amateur chef and will garner compliments at any dinner party.
Secrets of Indian Gastronomy will be sought by anyone who wants to learn about Ayurvedic food principles, which are becoming increasingly recognised and respected in the West, with balanced dishes and delicious recipes. The chefs are all experienced and knowledgeable, and this is indeed a rare collection of their works. Both Chef Manjit Gill and PIHMAA deserve to be proud. Long may they both continue promoting Indian food to its rightful status!
Secrets of Indian Gastronomy
Author: Chef Manjit Gill
Published by: Shubhi Publications
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018