Did you know that eggs can be pickled, and so can salmon, cucumber, okra (bhindi), tomatoes, brinjal and oranges – to name just a few.
Prominent restauranter, author and columnist Monish Gujral, in his new book, ‘On the Pickle Trail – 100 recipes from around the World’ (Penguin/Ebury Press), that has been nominated for the World Cookbook Awards to be held in Sweden in May, takes you on a dizzying journey that will have you craving for more.
“During one of the Gourmand award ceremonies in China, where I had gone to receive the award for my book, ‘On the Dessert Trail’, my friend Marlena Spieler, who is a food writer and journalist, started chatting about different types of pickles,” Gujral told IANS in an interview.
“It was then the idea to write a book on pickles came in my mind. I remember my grandmother drying turnips, carrots and cauliflower in the sun in winter to make a delicious sweet and sour pickle and mango pickles in summer which we would relish all around the year but now with growth of nuclear families where we are all consumed with corporate competition, this art of home cooking is dying.
“I have always advocated and promoted home artisanal cooking, which is at an all-time low because of the charms of the retail world. I wanted to propagate the importance of fermented foods in our diet and how pickles help us improve our gut health. Pickles are mostly fermented and are rich in probiotic bacteria that help in digestion and enhance the immune system,” Gujral explained.
Speaking about the research that went into the book, he said since he is a part of the global chefs’ platform through Le Cordon Bleu and World Cook Book Fairs, this began by interacting with the national and international chef’s community to find out about every country’s favourite or national pickles and how the recipes evolved.
“There are many culinary social media online platforms where the community is more than happy to interact which helped me a great deal to research for my book.
“Throughout my travels in India and abroad, I interacted with people especially some home makers, friends and colleagues in search of the global pickles and recipes. All of them proved to be invaluable resources as they often provided direct answers and also pointed me in the right direction to find my answers,” Gujral elaborated.
Did he find a common thread in the pickles featured in the book?
“Pickling has been a source of food preservation for centuries and the artisanal techniques of pickling and fermentation are the essence of this book, which showcases the tangy world of pickles that may pickle your fancy.
“The recipes in this book combine a simple pickling and fermentation methods that make them very accessible to people who want to try their hands at making some very interesting global pickles, which is my main purpose to have written this book so as to promote home artisanal cooking,” Gujral said.
Speaking about the current citation for the book, he said: “To my surprise I received an email from Mr Edouard Cointreau, Chairman World Cookbook Fair Gourmand Awards stating that my book has been nominated for the World Cookbook Awards to be held in Sweden in May 2023. ‘On the Pickle Trail’ will compete in the Fermentation Cook Book category and in line for International Best Cookbook Gourmand Awards.”
Apart from his other talents, Gujral has a fair number of books under his belt.
“My first two books, namely ‘On the Tandoori Trail’ and ‘On the Butter Chicken Trail’ were essentially official Moti Mahal cook books showcasing the culinary legacy of Moti Mahal and my grandfather, Mr Kundan Lal Gujral, founder of Moti Mahal and inventor of tandoori chicken, butter chicken, dal makhani and chicken pakora
“Later, I was commissioned by Penguin India to write a series showcasing and celebrating recipes such as kebabs, desserts and now pickles, which has been core of my cook books,” Gujral said.
What are his plans for taking Moti Mahal forward in the post-pandemic world?
“We all experienced the perils of pandemic over last two years and the hospitality industry suffered hugely. Since human beings adapt very fast, we at Moti Mahal like others too adopted to online sales during the period and experimenting in cloud delivery kitchens which helped us sustain.
“Going forward I am to explore and grow my chain of restaurants all across India and abroad. I had launched my brand Tandoori Trail in 2005 which continues to grow globally and recently we have opened in Apex, North Carolina. Tandoori Trail is a tribute to my grandfather Kundan Lal Gujral’s culinary journey showcasing and celebrating his original recipes in a modern avatar
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at email@example.com)