Thursday, 10 October 2013

Around the World with 250 Cakes + Virgin Coconut Oil at The Kirana Shop

This column appeared in the October 10 edition of Mail Today (Delhi/NCR).
Copyright: Mail Today
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/best-cakes-restaurants-food-cheesecakes/1/313943.html

FORTUNE COOKIE / By Sourish Bhattacharyya

AROUND THE WORLD WITH 250 CAKES
I MET Roger Pizey accidentally last week, much after the publishing house that had set up our interview, gave up trying to locate him. I ran into a chef in whites moving around with the air of an absent-minded professor in the Professor Calculus mould and I knew it had to be the man because I had seen his face on the back flap of his monumental book, World’s Best Cakes (Jacqui Small/Penguin Books India). When I said to him that we had been trying to locate him all over the hotel, he said, looking nonplussed, “But I was in the baking room!”
Where else would you expect Marco Pierre White’s favourite pastry chef to be? It is said that the legendary restaurateur had tasted Pizey’s tarte tatin at the iconic London restaurant, Le Gavroche, and at once made the chef a job offer he couldn’t refuse. And the two have stuck together for over 25 years; Marco has even written a laudatory foreword to one of the most delectable cookbooks that I have read in my lifetime.
Roger Pizey, legendary restaurateur
Marco Pierre White's pastry chef,
has written the most delicious
cookbook titled World's Best Cakes
World’s Best Cakes is a gastronomical world tour, spilling over with recipes (250 of them, from Apple Strudel to our own Malpua and Sugee, read sooji, Cake, to Tarta de Santiago) and guides to the best bakers and patissiers in the leading cities of the world. This is a cookbook that tells you not only how to make cupcakes, but also guides you to the home of the original temptress, Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street, New York City. It takes you to the “only place in Rome to buy tiramisu, according to the Romans” (Pompi on Via Albalonga 7); it points to the birthplace of the double-side macaron (“pure pleasure”), the Parisian tea room Laduree on Rue Royale, whose history goes back to 1862; it leads you to Vienna’s Café Central on the corner of Herrengasse/Strauchgasse, the historic meeting place of intellectuals and revolutionaries, which saw Josip Broz Tito, Sigmund Freud, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky walk in and out of its portals in just one month — January 1913.
History and confectionery seem to walk with hands clasped together. The cheesecake, which I associate with the humongous portions of the Cheesecake Factory, a very American institution, is actually a creation of the ancient Greeks. It was served to Olympic athletes as a source of energy. The Pineapple Upside Down Cake wouldn’t have been possible had American bakers not discover the convenience of tinned pineapples, which started coming in from Hawaii in the early 20th century. The Scandinavian Cardamom Coffee Cake may seem like a mistake, but it owes its existence to the spice, which the Vikings took with them back home around the ninth century A.D. — the connection was established with the discovery of a Buddha statuette from the Swat Valley in a Viking grave excavated in 1954 in the island of Helgo in Sweden. Cardamom, not cinnamon, in fact, is the favoured spice for baking in Sweden and Norway.
Cakes also have been immortalised in literature and pop culture. Madeleines, the French sponge cakes shaped like scallop shells, owe their worldwide fame to Marcel Proust’s ecstatic description of them in his encyclopaedic seven-volume novel, A la Recherche du Temps (In Search of Lost Time). And of course, “cream coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels…” were some of Maria’s favourites in The Sound of Music. Apple strudels, which are layered filo pastries that can also have walnuts, pumpkin, cabbage and quark as fillings, have been traditionally eaten in Austria, the setting of the classic starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. World’s Best Cakes makes you a better baker and a better-informed person too.
At Ragini Mehra's organic produce
store, The Kirana Shop, you'll find
virgin coconut oil produced at the
Philippines spa resort, The Farm 

NOUVELLE CUISINE FOR NAVRATRA VEGANS
THE FARM at San Benito, an hour and a half by car from Manila in the Philippines, has become one of the world’s best-known spa getaways and is owned by resort developer Naresh Khattar. I’d first heard about it from the hotelier Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi’s grand-daughter, Ragini Mehra, whom I met in her latest avatar as promoter of organic food products at The Kirana Shop. At this quaint little place in one corner of Meharchand Market, on the other end from Ayesha Grewal’s The Altitude Store, the shop that brought organic food to Delhi, Mehra stocks The Farm’s ‘absolutely no heat’ virgin coconut oil, which dieticians recommend you have raw every morning to protect yourself against a host of diseases (believe me, it doesn’t taste bad!).
Mehra, better-known among the city’s ladies who lunch as the co-owner of the Silhouette salon at The Oberoi, also keeps a lavishly illustrated cookbook titled Raw! That too is from The Farm, which Mehra visited some time back and fell in love with its 175 acres of coconut plantations and “divine raw food”. Raw! has vegan recipes from Alive, the resort’s acclaimed restaurant, whose chefs showcased their style of cooking at a dinner at The Oberoi this past Sunday.
The cookbook, for instance, uses an assortment of mushrooms to give an interesting twist to the ceviche, a South American seafood salad that owes its worldwide popularity to super chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Its recipe for Som Tam, Thailand’s famous raw papaya salad, substitutes the flavour-enhancing fish sauce with a light soy sauce. And it reinvents the Chicken Marengo (chicken sautéed in oil with garlic and tomato and garnished with fried eggs and crayfish), the classical dish said to have been invented for Napoleon after his victory in the Battle of Marengo in June 1800. Alive’s version of it is the very nouvelle Crispy Potato Napoleon with eggplant, caramelised onions and pumpkin-ginger sauce. You’ll have to visit The Farm to figure out whether the food tastes as good as Luca Tettoni’s photographs look, but it’s one cookbook you may want to dig in this season of festive veganism.

ITALIAN NOTES IN BUTTER CHICKEN
I HAVE SEEN tomatillos, a staple of Mexican cuisine, grow in the farm of the promoter of Hyatt Regency New Delhi and Four Seasons Mumbai, Shiv Jatia. I have heard Bill Marchetti, the Aussie chef who’s developing the Spaghetti Kitchen restaurants for Blue Foods, talking ecstatically about cultivating the massive beefsteak tomatoes in Punjab. But it took a conversation last week to make me sit up and smell the ketchup.
I was talking to Zorawar Kalra, whose Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra at the Bandra Kurla Centre, Mumbai, has opened to rave reviews, and he said he was using San Marzano tomatoes for his butter chicken. These tomatoes, originally from Naples, are thinner and more pointed; they have a thicker flesh and fewer seeds, and their taste is stronger, sweeter and less acidic than what you buy in the bazaar. A favourite of pulp makers, San Marzano tomatoes may just lift the taste of butter chicken. This all-time favourite dish, about whose ideal recipe there seems to be no unanimity in this world, can be made or marred by the tartness of the tomatoes that go into it. With their acid-sugar balance and ability to smoke well because of their thick flesh, San Marzano tomatoes seem to have been created by nature for butter chicken. San Marzano, I bet, will be the new go-to ingredient.

GOURMET DELHI
DELHI’S credentials as the foodie capital got a boost this past weekend with the opening of The Gourmet Jar, India’s first store dedicated to jams, marmalades and preserves, at Shahpur Jat, the urban village in the shadow of the Siri ruins that’s been seeing a quiet revival. A creation of the Veggie Wiz blogger and ‘confiturer’, Apeksha Jain, the specialty store doesn’t have your standard-issue jams and marmalades. Instead, its spread includes such exotica as mango jalapeno or Cape gooseberry cinnamon preserve; apple, green tea and rose jam; banana rum or fig Cointreau jam; marmalades with orange and apricot brandy or bitter orange and whisky; and mulled wine jam for the Christmas season. Jain also has a sugar-free jam with dates and prunes. These are made with fresh organically grown fruit and not sweet fruit pulp, and the good news is that Jain doesn’t use corn syrup, the bane of all things sweet and industrial.