Kids Corner


My Love Affair With Cooking






Coming from a Punjabi family, you don’t need an introduction to great food.

The women cook great and so do the men – my dad loves to cook ‘dudh kheer’, the best I’ve ever had in the world. You need to reduce a handful of rice in litres of milk so that it condenses out; your movie can get over but not the ‘kheer’!

This is how I remember my childhood – my mother used to cook on a Sunday and we had a little tandoor in the back garden. The special dish at home would be aaloo parantha and chhole.

Growing up, we had a vegetable garden at home and most of what we ate grew in our garden. Whether it was onions, chillies or fruits like jackfruit, mango and chikoo.

So when I saw everything when I began to cook, it was familiar to me; when you grow up with something like fresh produce, it becomes a part of your life.

Also, my parents used to throw a lot of social events and food used to be cooked in bulk, so as I graduated from college, although I had the options to become a fighter pilot, engineer or join the army, I chose to do hotel management.

My plan initially was never to be a chef but I realised my love for food grew leaps and bounds so I eventually took up culinary arts as a profession. That’s when I got through as a trainee in the Taj Group of Hotels in Delhi. I think, if a person, in their learning days, starts out with Taj, he or she can survive anywhere else in the world.

The ball kept rolling after that and I travelled to different parts of the country and the world. I learnt how to blend different cultures with cuisines. It was a harmonious blend of learning and inspiration which I got and bring to my clientele today.

But I still don’t think I’ve reached where I want to be. I want to share my food with the larger audience in different parts of the world and I’m still getting there.

When it comes to my cooking, if a dish is authentic I let it stay authentic, if it’s traditional, I let it stay traditional. I don’t mess around with that. I have learnt to create my own dishes around them by understanding the flavours. And I don’t ever read a book, for the sake of learning; I’d rather go research the content myself.

One of my dishes, for example -- ‘Jheenga methi sarson,’ shrimp/prawn in spinach -- has very traditional Punjabi flavours to it but I wanted to add a popular seafood ingredient to it.

Although you don’t find prawns in Punjab, people love it so I wanted to combine two unique flavours. There is mustard oil, which is consumed through most preparations in Punjab, ‘methi’, seen abundantly in the fields, with a hint of chilli and the tartness of green mangoes.

If you leave the prawns aside for longer than needed, they change texture. You can enjoy this with some green chutney.

Chef Surjan Singh Jolly is Director of Food and Beverages with JW Marriott.

[Courtesy: Deccan Herald. Edited for]
April 17, 2015

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