I am an unashamed television junkie. There is a lot I could do instead if I didn’t spend about 2 hours a day watching TV. My days are packed enough with work, including teaching and preparing for the lectures, that by about 7 o’clock all I am good for is sitting on the couch, staring at the TV and sipping tea. These days it is a couple of episodes of some cooking show or other, followed by the Australian series, Packed to the Rafters. Food Safari, hosted by Maeve O’Meara, is by far, my favourite food show. Fox Traveller is also the lone channel that my cable fella still airs in English, the rest (History, Discovery, and Nat Geo) are now available only in Hindi in my hood. Believe me, it is weird to hear Nigella speak in Hinglish. Still, some shows and documentaries are interesting enough that I don’t mind the language. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against any language, least of all a language I have grown up speaking. But, you will be hard pressed to follow this Hindi dubbing unless you know English very well! The dubbing, especially for the cooking shows, seems to retain all the verbs, adjectives, and most nouns, in English – there is little that is truly translated!
I do think, though, that the voice-over for Jamie (Jamie’s America, and Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, on TLC) is rather good; that is how he would sound were he to speak Hindi! While surfing I have also caught many episodes of David Rocco’s Amalfie Getaway on Fox. This time around he was being marketed more for his good looks than for the cooking! Anyhow, I got an opportunity to meet the Italian-Canadian actor, producer, and host of popular food and travel shows, in person last month! ITC Maurya had organised a lunch meeting with him for Delhi food bloggers at their West View restaurant. The restaurant does enjoy expansive views of the Central Ridge and its green forest cover, a view seen by but a few! Unfortunately, currently it is open to service for dinner only.
David Rocco was in Delhi to conclude shooting for a new series, David Rocco’s Dolce India, to be aired later this year. After a busy morning wrapping up the shoot, he was all charm at the lunch table surrounded by women-only bloggers and hotel staff. On the menu were his recipes (no, he didn’t cook for us, unfortunately). We chatted as the lunch progressed, talking about family, food, and cooking. To David good food is about the best ingredients and being passionate about them. Naturally, talk veered to extra virgin olive oil. Apparently, there is no messing with a good quality Olive Oil, and it don’t come cheap. If it is cheap, it ain’t the real thing. So, all you friends of mine, living yonder, you know what to send me – good quality, extra virgin, olive oil! Some comparisons were made with butter, and how it was overrated (along with French cooking!) and could be replaced in most recipes with olive oil. But Sangeeta (there’s a kindred soul!) and I stated that we were in no hurry to give up butter. It tastes darned good. Besides, I don’t even have access to good olive oil, right? When I do, I will use it for salads and to drizzle on top to finish a dish. Always remember, there is that carbon footprint to worry about, so keep your imports to a minimum. Apparently, olive groves are coming up in nearby Rajasthan, so we may soon have good, local olive oil!
While we were on fats, I had to ask David if he thought olive oil was suited to Indian cooking and whether he had tried cooking with mustard oil. He is partial to olive oil but he admitted that no oil can hold up to Indian cooking and frying like good old mustard oil! He mentioned his recent hour-long pakora-frying frenzy with mustard oil, and admitted there was no way olive oil (or any other ‘exotic’ oil) could hold up to that. [I told you so, already! – On choosing the right oil, consuming red meat, etc.]
Olive oil is being fiercely marketed in India as the healthy alternative. There are many who have been brain-washed into believing that soybean oil, rice bran oil, and safflower oil are better and lighter than the oils used traditionally, namely, mustard, peanut, and sesame. The misinformation is now so widespread that peanut oil has almost disappeared from the shelves of most super markets! I have to go to the mom-and-pop stores in nearby Laxmi Nagar to stock up on peanut oil. I just follow a simple rule – mustard oil for North Indian food, peanut or sesame oil for South Indian. I reserve olive oil for Italian and Mediterranean cooking, and it all works out well.
The recipes for the food on the menu were David’s but had been prepared under the supervision of ITC Maurya’s well known Chef Manisha Bhasin. David Rocco’s recipes are simple, about the ingredients, and not about fussy plating. This was evident in the first course itself, pasta with morsels of soft aubergine, a combination that I had not come across before. The risotto highlighted the humble beet, but the Saltimbocca di Pollo, chicken with sage cooked in marsala wine, stole the show – the wine reduction was simply fabulous. I went easy on the wine since I had to drive Reeta and myself back! David left the group for an interview on the sides as we were served dessert. Smart move; he avoided the disapproving clucks all around. He was back only for good-byes but not before a round of picture taking! The group (touched based with Deeba after a long time; the others – Charis, Parul, and Ruchira – I was meeting for the first time) stayed back for a round of coffee and tea. Thanks for a lovely afternoon, ITC Maurya!