After choreographing dishes that have created more than a ripple in the world of culinary excellence, chef Manish Mehrotra turns writer with the Indian Accent Restaurant Cookbook.
We, for once, could not help but ask a clichéd question, “What do you find more difficult? Cooking or writing?” Expecting a detailed reply, we pause. He, however, loses no time and replies, “Writing.” His gestures with hand as if saluting all writers in silence—it speaks volume before we get the monosyllabic reply accompanied by a look of disbelief in his eyes. “As a chef we take a lot of things for granted while working in a kitchen. We need not explain every step that goes into making a dish,” says he.
The book that took almost three years in the making—from conceptualising to writing and then publishing—is a good example of how perfection can be presented in a 182-page volume. Inside the hardcover are the recipes of dishes served in the acclaimed Indian Accent restaurant in New Delhi. For the uninitiated, Indian Accent—started in 2009 at The Manor Hotel—has set the bar high with its fusion and contemporary Indian cuisine. Mehrotra, however, corrects us as he says, “I would prefer to call it inventive Indian dishes.” Indeed. Almost all recipes stand for what the chef called ‘inventive Indian dishes’—Besan Laddoo Tart, Saffron Cheesecake, Bhatti Murg, Safed Makhni, Missi Roti Focaccia, Tandoori Foie Gras, Amla Murabba, Paprika Pineapple to name a few.
The cookbook in its first five sections—small plates, large plates, sides, desserts and sub-recipes—presents the recipes of dishes, which bring a superlative combination of Indian and global flavours served at the restaurant. Picture of each dish accompanies its recipe. Set in a black background—and rightly so as it brings to life the contrast and depth of each colour in the plates—the photographs by Rohit Chawla add zest to the recipes, which otherwise would have remained just words.
An anecdote or a brief precedes each recipe and sets the mood flowing for further reading. In Mishti Doi Cannoli, Amaranth Laddoos, the chef explains how mishti doi (sweet curd) and amaranth laddoos were an important part of his childhood in Bihar. “I loved it when my mother served amaranth laddoos for breakfast. Eating mishti doi till the last spoonful from an earthen pot is a sinful pleasure,” writes Mehrotra.
Writing about the signature dish Blue Cheese Naan—it was one of the first recipes that was created for the menu—Mehrotra shares how they serve it as soon as diners are seated. Another item high on nostalgic quotient is the Chorizo Chukki Mattar. “During winter, a dish made with fresh green peas was always served for lunch or dinner at my home, because it was my father’s favourite vegetable. This Indian Accent dish is a take on the classic British/European sausages and mushy green peas combination,” writes the corporate chef of Ekatra Hospitality Ventures. Ghugni (a Bengali dish of chickpeas) with mutton, a dish from his childhood, takes a new avatar in Achaari Lamb Shanks, Latpati Lima Beans.
As the chef busies himself for his next project, New York is the next destination for Indian Accent as it’s being launched there this February. It’s time the world got to taste the new inventions of Indian cuisine.
Blue Cheese Naan