The premium lifestyle food store in the upmarket mall in New Delhi was brimming with weekend customers looking for things they would not get in their neighbourhood provisions shop. With her three-year-old in tow, a 20-something mother was busy sifting through bunches of asparagus to pick the freshest one for the vegetable au gratin she was planning to bake for dinner. She had already filled her trolley with the best of exotic greens like avocado, snow peas, basil, leeks and zucchini — and her next stop was to be the meats section from where she had to pick up some cold cuts to go with drinks before meal.
While some were happy to lay their hands on a packet of wanton strips, others were disappointed not to find seaweed or French bread. Many could be seen asking when the store was going to replenish its tarragon and passion fruit stock.
The crowded antipasti corner, with cured meats, olives, mushrooms, anchovies, artichokes, pickled meats and vegetables on display, and the ever busy attendant at the cheese section packing ricotta, mascarpone and cream cheese on demand only pointed to the fact that gourmet cooking is catching up fast with Indian households.
The food that was served only in star or select fine dining restaurants once is now being cooked at home. Be it arborio rice, couscous, tahini dressing, chitaki mushroom, foie gras or bacon strips, the average Indian kitchen has welcomed them all to its world food cabinet.
Agrees celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor: “Indian kitchens are opening up to world cuisines in a big way — all thanks to globalisation, with people travelling to places, trying out the cuisines from all over the world and bringing them back to their kitchens.”
It is, therefore, not surprising that your kirana store next door now stocks all sorts of pasta sauces, soup mixes, olive oils and several things not traditionally Indian. Even the roadside vendors’ carts these days have red and yellow bell peppers, broccolis and ornamental cabbage giving company to the everyday vegetables. And you can now count on the neighbourhood confectioner for full or sour cream.
But even unavailability of ingredients doesn’t deter home cooks like Sonia Minocha, a freelance media professional and food enthusiast in Delhi, from trying out new items. She enjoys making Continental and Mediterranean dishes, picking up recipes online from food websites and blogs, and happily uses substitutes for ingredients that she fails to source or finds too expensive. “Brussels sprouts are not easily found in Delhi, so I try to use something else in its place. I love making Chinese orange marmalade and this fruit is only available in private farms or gardens so I try to pick them from wherever possible, or else make it with normal oranges which of course is continued…