The Energy and Resources Institute of India (TERI) has stamped its green footprint on the Indian kitchen with its first-ever cookbook on environmentally-friendly diet.
The Teri Press, the publishing arm of TERI, in collaboration with the The Park Hotel in the capital, Friday released "The Original Organic Cookbook: Recipes for Healthy Living".
The book has been authored by executive chef Kuntal Kumar of the Hilton Hotel at Shillim, a two-hour drive from Mumbai.
The book was released by TERI director-general and head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) RK Pachauri, and former member of the Indian cricket team Ajay Jadeja. Maxine Olson, the resident representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), was also present on the occasion.
TERI has been campaigning for organic food for over a decade since it set up its first agricultural testing field on seven hectares of land at Supi, 10 km from Mukteshwar, in Uttarakhand in 2002.
Over the past six years, the institute has involved local communities in cultivating crops and herbs the natural or the organic way to create sustainable livelihoods. The book is an extension of the project.
Explaining the importance of the book, Pachauri said an efficient home is one which is energy sensitive in design.
"Such homes must also have intelligent kitchens where the food cooked should also protect the ecology. We have to start the process of conservation with what we put in our mouths. So, it was important for a member of the TERI family to get a product like this on print," Pachauri said.
The environmentalist stressed the need for a radical change in lifestyles. "We have gone overboard in using pesticides. And we have to start promoting organic food in a big way to neutralise its effect," he said.
Pachauri hoped that the book would not only influence people in India, but also encourage people abroad to eat more organic food.
The volume, priced at Rs 595, is divided into eight chapters that offer a comprehensive spread of international and Indian recipes. They are simple and easy to cook with organic ingredients. It begins with a chapter on juices followed by sauces, spreads, pickles, appetisers, soups, main courses and desserts.
The artfully designed volume in a pleasing shade of green ends with two glossaries - one on the cooking terms and the other on the organic herbs used in the dishes.
"I tried to make the book reader-friendly with cross-references. I have tried to describe each herb and the processes involved to pack it with maximum information even for the lay cook. It was easy to edit because the book had real substance. The recipes were good and well-sorted and hence the process of polishing it to a finesse was easy, unlike many other cook books," editor Nasima Aziz told IANS.
Kuntal Kumar described it as a celebration of the organic lifestyle. It is a challenge to commercialise organic food, he said.
"Only 14,000 tonnes of the two million tonnes of food grown annually is organic," he added.
It is always difficult to have a running organic food section in hotel menus since farmers cannot ensure adequate supply, chef Baksheesh Din of The Park said.
Kuntal Kumar offered live demonstrations of two organic recipes in a makeshift interactive kitchen - a simple snack of stir fried bean sprout salad with sautéed garlic and herbs followed by a complete meal of hot and sour mushroom soup with bean curd or organic tofu.
"I want to dispel the notion that organic food is only vegetarian," the diminutive chef told IANS. "You have organic chicken, which grows naturally, and all kinds of marine food are organic. You can't put pesticides or medicines in sea water," he said.
Listing the array of organic non-vegetarian food available, Kuntal Kumar said deer and even poultry birds like quail could be reared organically.
The three traits that set organic food apart from its modified and medicated cousin are freshness of taste, subdued colouring in case of vegetables and better nutritional value, the chef said.
Citing a rough estimate of the positive impact that organic food can have on the environment, Kuntal Kumar said latest data showed that if all the farmers in the world took to organic farming, the earth would be able to reduce carbon emissions by 21 per cent.