A British bloke taking fancy to Indian cuisine is rare. Very rare. But, Brit chef and TV presenter Alan Coxon has not only dedicated an entire TV series to our country, he has also written five books to accompany it.
In Chandigarh for the Great Campaign — week-long British food and drinks festival — Coxon gets talking about his love for Indian food.
The chef, who has done shows on cuisines of northwest America, South Africa and Portugal, is now onto a series that encapsulates his journey to seven locations across India, in search of the history and origin of the korma, tandoor, rogan josh, Madrasi cuisine and vindaloo.
“Living in the UK, I knew these five cuisines are very popular in India. As a food archaeologist, I was curious about the history of their ingredients. Another thing I wanted to do was to trace the original recipe,” says Alan, who has been a judge for the iTQi (International Taste and Quality Institute of Brussels) awards.
About the five e-books that accompany this series, he says, “All the e-books are culinary travelogues with behind-the-scenes stories, besides some well-known and lesser-known Indian recipes with stunning photographs. The first of these e-books is a trip to some northern parts of India — including the city of Amritsar, home to the Golden Temple and the communal kitchens where over 40,000 meals are served everyday. This area is also home to the tandoor.
So, expect to find all you need to know about this style of cooking. The first book — Foods and Influences of the Punjab and Amritsar — is available now.”
Talking about his overwhelming experience at the Golden Temple, Coxon says, “I was blown away by the humanitarian activities at the gurdwara. I have never witnessed anything like the generosity of people at the community kitchen.”
Been rated one of the top 10 favourite TV chefs of the year in a BBC poll, Coxon is best known for his BBC series, Ever Wondered About Food. He is also a monthly food and travel columnist and has a weekly radio slot on Chef Radio, where he discusses food archaeology.
Alan strongly believes that the world is a melting pot, and it is the food that unites us. “I have loved challenges, that’s the reason I came to India. India has always had a great influence in the history of food. Now, as a chef, when I work in England, I can add spices and ingredients with my eyes closed. That cannot be done with Indian cuisine. Ingredients here are much more powerful.”
Seemingly smitten by Indian food, he adds, “The tandoor method of cooking and the concept of marination has been perfected by Indians.”
Coxon’s next book, to be launched on December 13, is about the tastes of Goa and Mumbai.