Here in the UK we do love our cookery shows. From Jamie Oliver’s cockney twang talking us through the sprucing up of school dinners, to Nigella Lawson’s seductive tones, dripping with chocolate sauce as she explains how to bake a cake – check out the TV guide and you will find a myriad of programmes dedicated to cooking in all shapes and forms. Masterchef, Come Dine With Me and, of course, The Great British Bake-Off, have experienced record numbers in viewing figures at various points over the past decade, but sometimes it can almost feel like we’ve seen it all.
However, one recipe for cooking show success that always turns into a winner, is to take these celebrity chefs out of their comforting kitchens and take them on a culinary journey to some exotic location, where they can experience first-hand the truly authentic flavours of a culture.
Asia has drawn in many celebrity chefs over the years but India, home to one of the world’s most popular culinary traditions, has generated particular interest amongst two of the best known TV chefs of the UK.
It’s Gordon Ramsey versus Rick Stein – which one do you prefer?
Gordon Ramsey’s Great Escape
Bad-tempered Gordon Ramsey is one of the most successful chefs on TV. His channel 4 series dedicated a whole season to India with Gordon exploring the incredible diversity of India’s food as he travelled the country, taking in a whole lot of culture along the way.
Gordon recounts sampling recipes his mother had learned from their Indian landlord when he was growing up in Birmingham and he uses his substantial skills to tweak and compile the authentic recipes he discovers on his trip. The end result was a spin-off book, Gordon Ramsey’s Great Escape: 100 Classic Indian Recipes.
Spicy coconut curries from Kerala sit alongside the rich and decadent sauces of Rajasthan between the pages of this collection, and all the recipes are neatly divided into easy-to-follow sections including Everyday, Entertaining, Quick Lunches, and Healthy. Gordon’s three Michelin stars are evident as he puts his own, unique twist on classic recipes without allowing the dishes to become over-complicated or intimidating.
Rick Stein’s India
Following in Gordon’s footsteps a couple of years later, Rick Stein – a chef famed for his exquisite seafood restaurants – hit the Indian trail in his quest for the perfect curry. He headed straight to Bengal and Tamil Nadu first to explore the regions where the British Raj first became aware of the dish which would soon become a national favourite.
Rick meets chefs, home cooks and street vendors in his travels and, this being Rick Stein, he manages to track down some truly sumptuous seafood delights including Chettinad crab curry and a madras fish curry brimming with snapper, tomatoes and tamarind.
The spin-off book, sporting the same name as the show, was also a big success. Glossy photographs provide inspiration and Rick’s creative use of spices will help cooks all over the UK re-create the authentic flavours of India.
The chefs in some of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants may use their unique skills to produce innovative dishes, but the roots of the recipes are always authentically Indian.