Innovate and be fit, after all stale is unhealthy!

You all must be thinking what innovation has got to do with health. Well, let me tell you a little mysterious secret – for a Chef like me, it’s really challenging to constantly come up with stuff, which others would get inspired from and I don’t want anyone, ever, to get ill with whatever I practice and preach! Ill, not physically but mentally – innovation and newness in cooking, thus, becomes important for me to ensure that I give something so exciting to people, that they are ever interested in food – be it cooking, eating, reading or just about anything related with food! Maybe the traditional old stuff wrapped up in a different style and look, so it does not stale on the palates. It’s not very advisable to eat stale food and if you cling on to age-old things and not broaden your horizon while cooking the food, you will soon lose the effect on the masses!

It is good to know your roots and where you come from, but don’t let that become obsolete. Change is inevitable everywhere, be it human nature, technology, trends or food! So, it’s necessary to adapt to innovation and move ahead with the changing times and let the past go by!

From where did it all began

The restless “human mind” is the answer! Trust me, one thing in the world, which is typical to homo sapiens and can really do gorgeous wonders, if channelized in the right direction, is the very little ‘grey matter’ that resides quietly inside the human brain. It is rightly synonymous with the terms “power of small” and “small is big.”

Innovation in the culinary world has been there, majorly as a result of the human mind and nature, from quite some time. And I beg to differ with all those who term it as the “latest thing.” Had it not been all those great inventors and discoverers, whom people termed as “crazy” for their ideas and concepts, the world wouldn’t have been sustaining the way it does today. Thanks to their madness, which bestowed upon us some revolutionary ideas like electricity, telephone, refrigerator, etc., and the list just goes on and on!

Coming to food, food trends and inventions, the story of innovation dates back to almost 17-18th century. One of the best examples that can be talked about is when the courageous William Cullen from the University of Glasgow, Scotland demonstrated the method of artificial refrigeration in 1748. Next in line were American inventor Oliver Evans who designed the first refrigeration machine in 1805 and Jacob Perkins who built the first practical refrigerating machine in 1834. These weren’t enough, so an inquisitive American physician John Gorrie came up with a refrigerator based on Evans’ design in 1844 and the legacy was carried forward by the German engineer Carl von Linden who patented the process of liquefying gas in 1876 which forms a part of the basic refrigeration technology, even today!

It is very true that inspite of ice being used to preserve food since the prehistoric times, the refrigerator remains one of the most important inventions in the human history, or rather, I would say one major innovation in the culinary world. This is just one instance, history is full of such things and aspects that tell us how advancement can creep into our daily lives and produce such wonders, without which we can’t even dream our lives, especially in this jet-set-tech savvy age of today.

Some other significant inventions of the culinary world that rule the world today are pasteurization, sterilization, canning, baking, grinding/milling, fermentation, frying, microwave cooking, etc. – the list is just too exhaustive, so let me just stop it here with these things as there is a lot more to talk about innovation and modernization in general. Keep a watch over my blogs, I might just write about any of these scientific terms, anytime!

Unplanned and accidental – innovations are like that

Just imagine, when you are cooking in the kitchen and something just happens accidently, comes without a warning and goes on to become something so popular, that people start associating you with it, for centuries to come. There is obviously an excitement and a sense of achievement if something like this occurs. Here, I would love to share one such moment of mine – the dish Shaam Savera, which people have loved over the years and has become a signature dish of mine, just happens to be a result of such an accident that arose from a mixture of ingenuity, innovation, skill, experience and knowledge! I was supposed to cook the regular palak kofta for my show on TV, but when the creative adrenaline rushed, I just came up with the tricolor plated version of the humble palak kofta, the Shaam Savera, which was simple and easy, yet sophisticated. Its very true when we say that “its all in the head”, i.e., if you are confident enough, you create great stuff. Just for your information, Shaam Savera is nothing but paneer (cottage cheese) koftas coated with spinach, served in a creamy tomato gravy! It’s a bit laborious, but I can assure you that all the efforts are worth it when you get a bite of it.

Talking of accidental and innovative inventions, let me share a list of some food items which might not make you believe that they came into existence, by chance – chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, saccharin, raisins, Iceberg lettuce, Tofu, Ice-cream cones and cornflakes. These are just a few from the whole bunch!

Keep on experimenting

Innovation is surely experimentation – in my field, I get the chance to see, taste, smell and feel an array of innovations from day-to-day. I feel privileged that I have that power to create new stuffs and inspire millions. But, this won’t be possible if I would not open my mind to experiments and trying new things out. Of all the modernism I work with, let me write about one of the most important facets of the culinary world – plating. “You eat with your eyes first”, is a very common phrase, especially in the modern age. Presenting the food in a way that it boosts the appeal of food itself is not an easy job – it is an art and needs minds that can think out-of-the-box with a unique approach. To make a dish from simply being incredible to unforgettable needs a lot of patience and a perfect blend of flavours, tastes, textures, looks – everything is counted, from combination of ingredients, cooking procedures to cutlery, arrangement and garnishes! Just imagine that your plate is the canvas on which the painting has to be made, and the painting is the food presentation. A simple rulebook that can help you master a perfect plating is

1. Using colours on the plate. Play with colour and be cheerful and happy. No one likes dull paintings, same goes with food!
2. Making the ‘food’ on the plate a “star” and not the garnishes. Keep decorations simple.
3. Using edible garnishes which are unique and easy to make at the same time. Remember, you don’t want to end up plating a dish which looks confusing!

Innovation is really a big thing, especially in the culinary world – whether it’s the kitchen going digital with smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. and websites providing millions and trillions of recipes from around the globe at just a click or the emphasis on local fresh produce use in cooking and molecular gastronomy reaching homes – innovation is definitely here to stay, as long as the human mind ponders over new, unusual, innovative and creative thinking. And why not, when its doing good to humanity in many ways! Hail innovation!

As I get busy with my next creative act, try some of these innovative recipes from my website –

Quinoa and Asparagus Soup with Floating IslandsJau Jhinga BhavnagariJhunka Bhakar Tartlets ; Mango and Brown Rice Payasam in Chocolate Cups with Jamun Jam

Here are the links to some of these recipes…

Jau Jhinga Bhavnagri

Jhunka Bhakar Tartlets with Lehsun Chutney

Mango and Brown Rice Payasam in Chocolate Cups with Jamun Jam

Cool November

Am in Delhi while I write this and it is so much cooler here than in Mumbai…but good weather for us is also around the corner too! I am sure December will be cool in Mumbai, though it is rare to see sweaters come out of the cupboards!
If the weather is to be enjoyed well and truly, then Tawa recipes are the name of the game. The Yellow Chilli at MovieWorld, Ghaziabad, Pacific Mall at Saibabad, and at Greater Noida and Noida will be hosting the Tawa Festival running through 15th to 30th of November. With the sizzle of the food on the tawa and the deep aromas enjoy foods like Tawa Palak Pudina Paratha, Amritsari Tawa Gosht, Tawe Ki Urad Dal and Kalimirch Tawa Chicken.
Some great things have sparked off ever since we had the Innovation Station competition before Diwali. The prize winning Rajgire Chikki with Kesar Sandesh will be dished out for our guests for a lunch tomorrow along with mini batatawadas, Biscuit Corn Sevpuri, Pindi Chole, Chatpati Bhindi and Ajwain Paranthas. As the guests are from out of India this is a good introduction. A few days ago, my team dished out a fantastic Gulab Jamum Thandai Mousse and a Dark Chocolate Mousse with Peanut Chikki. Dream desserts!
The Wonderchef cookery classes and demonstrations are going on in full strength at the Inorbit Malls at Vashi and Malad. Two sessions with Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi are scheduled for the 17th and 18th of November. Be there as the Wonderchef range of cookware and bakeware is really simplifying cooking for their proud owners and it is worthwhile to understand their benefits live!
As I wind up, lets share some tawa food and some dreamy dessert with you!

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor.