It was a perfect Sunday brunch - on a Saturday! The opening day of the British Week was full of food, courtesy some of Britain’s leading chefs including Mark Poynton, the chefpatron of the Michelinstarred restaurant Alimentum located in Cambridge. On being asked about his expectations from the food festival, Poynton said he sees his first trip to North India (he had visited Chennai on his maiden trip) as a huge learning opportunity. “The spices used in India are a lot heavier and spicier on the palate as compared to Britain. I want to learn to inculcate this in the British cuisine and perhaps impart some knowledge about British cuisine too - basically, a creative trade.”
On being questioned about his favourite Indian dish, he immediately, though a little sheepishly, said, “Dosa!”
The event, being organised by the British Deputy High Commission in collaboration with the British Council Chandigarh, UK Trade and Investment and Visit Britain, was declared open on Saturday by Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher, amidst lots of food, fun and conversation at the Taj Chandigarh.
Remembering all the lovely Indian food she has had on her trips to Britain, Kirron Kher said, “I am excited about this event and I hope it turns out to be a mutually enriching one.”
David Lelliot, British Deputy High Commissioner Chandigarh, too, swears by Indian food and its importance when it comes to IndoUK relations. Wearing a tie bearing flags of both nations and savouring the mango fish curry, Lelliot said, “Indian food is essential in the British way of life. If you ask me, the average British has Indian food at least once a week which is amazing!”
The other chefs visiting from the UK includes Abul Monsur from Kent, Ali Hussain from Sunderland and Khalis Miah from Aberdeen, all of whom were more than happy talking in Hindi and talking about ‘British-Indian’ cuisine at length.
“Today, chicken tikka masala is at par with fish ‘n’ chips in England,” said Miah, putting our very own tikka masala right at the top with the most quintessentially British dish possible! Agreeing with his assessment on the popularity of Indian food in the UK, Monsur said, “We aim for a balance between Indian and British taste palate,” adding, “As a chef, the environment in India is amazing - it is warm, enriching and so inspiring.”
“One difference that I have noticed is that people in the UK, while extremely receptive of Indian food, are pretty conscious of the calories that come along with the taste. So, we tend to swap ghee with olive oil and butter with coconut oil while trying to retain the authenticity of flavours,” said Hussain, who works as a freelance chef with the Newcastle United Football club and Sunderland AFC.
With a menu that had everything from kumbh matar masala to chickpeas and okra bath and mango fish curry and of course the omnipresent chicken tikka masala, this inauguration left a lovely aftertaste while promising an amazing gastronomical journey over the next nine days.