Gurpareet Bains: development chef, cookery book author (“Indian Superfood”)  food writer, nutritionist and food disrupter. Read here his story.

 

You are development chef, cookery book author, food writer, nutritionist and food disrupter. Where does all your passion for cooking come from?

I must say your opening question is a very good one and I’ve had to put a bit of thought into it, since just as we might season a dish with many flavours, the recipe for my passion isn’t a simple one.

For as far back as I can remember, I have always liked to cook. My Mum often reminds me with great nostalgia, that as a toddler I could be found playing in the kitchen with pots and pans.

I come from a long line of Punjabi farmers. They were real ‘salt of the earth’ people, who harnessed the power of nature to grow food, and created wholesome and delicious meals, fresh from the land. Present day Punjab is India’s bread basket – home to a food culture which has been the single biggest regional influence on Indian cuisine as a whole.

I grew up in England into a large family, surrounded by aunts, uncles, grandparents and a virtual army of children (my cousins). Mum would always be cooking up a storm of crispy samosas, spicy pakoras and melt-in-the-mouth gulab jamuns in sweet sugar syrup. And on Sunday, she would make us parathas – freshly rolled pastry, stuffed with a scrumptiously-spiced mashed potato filling, fried lightly on a pan and served crispy and sizzling hot, with lashings of dairy-fresh butter and natural yogurt. I guess this is where my passion for food started.

 

 

Another huge influence on my food is Australia where I lived for a good few years. I recall when I would stay with my aunt that we would while away for hours, eating food and talking about it. She would often step out of the house and go to the garden, walking carefully, so not to disturb sleeping snakes; returning from the volcanic soil with a huge fistful of the freshest spinach and fenugreek leaves, for parathas, pakoras, or whatever else she was cooking at the time.  It was in Australia where I learned the gastro-delights of multiculturalism; discovering a food culture where a kaleidoscope of ethnic recipes had exploded into a single cuisine, combining the freshest ingredients with every conceivable cooking style known to mankind. It was possible to enjoy by the beachside, fresh salad with poached chicken breast and juicy ripe mango from the tropic of Capricorn, all tossed up in a zesty, Vietnamese-style mint and lemon dressing. And the ‘menu of the day’ in the cosmopolitan restaurants of Sydney would be tempura-style rock oysters on their shell, with a pungent wasabi dressing; Italian veal and pork meatballs, fragranced gently with cardamom, served on a bed of angel hair spaghetti; and tropical coconut and passion fruit sponge cakes drizzled with raspberry coulis. A food lover’s paradise!

Later in life, I would combine a love of classical Indian food with a healthy Pacific Rim fusion influence and create my own cuisine and this is what my passion became.

 

How did your culinary career start?

It would have to be from a series of misfortunate events which included being left without a business I had worked hard for. Encouraged by my family and friends, I decided to follow my passion for food by pursuing a culinary career.

My first foray into the culinary world, was my own restaurant, and then shortly after as a Promotion chef for the Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul, where we introduced Indian food to the Swiss chain for the very first time.

 

What’s does a food disrupter do?

I create new culinary concepts eg the world’s healthiest meal, or the world’s first 1 of 5 a day vegetable snack bar etc. that disrupt the food industry, by changing the way we eat.

 

As member of “Experimental Food Society”. What is behind this organisation?

It is an organisation formed to front the UK’s most talented and pioneering culinary creatives, featuring ground-breaking gourmet artists that challenge your perception of food.

My Insomnia-No-More Curry became an international phenomenon and was formally recognised as a British icon by the Experimental Food Society in November 2012.

 

You are as well a member of “The Guild of Food Writers”. Tell us something about it.

The Guild of Food Writers is the professional association of food writers and broadcasters in the United Kingdom. Established in 1984, it now has around 480 authors, broadcasters, columnists and journalists among its members. The Guild arranges regular events to keep its members connected.

 

As guest in a restaurant; will we know exactly where the ingredients come from in the future?

Since the internet era, accountability and transparency have never been more important, and therefore it does seem that we are moving this way.

 

What is modern Indian cuisine for you?

This would be a cuisine that adapts to its surrounds, by incorporating local ingredients and current issues eg health.

 

Indian fusion cuisine; is there such a thing?

Absolutely, over the last few decades in London we have seen a barrage of high-end Indian restaurants taking a cue from French cuisine nouvelle. My Indian fusion cuisine combines a rare window into a world of Indian Pacific Rim fusion.

 

What are the biggest misunderstandings about Indian cuisine?

I feel agitated when people talk about Indian food being unhealthy.  Indian food can be the healthiest food on the planet. Indeed, India is the home of vegetarianism, and much of the cuisine has Ayurvedic roots, where recipes are prepared to rid the body of ailments.

 

What are new trends in Indian cuisine?

Following Dishoom and other Mumbai inspired café style restaurants, we are now seeing chai shops pop-up. Moving forward, authentic chai could be a new drink of choice!

 

How would you describe the soul of Indian cuisine in one sentence?

A deeply ethical cuisine, where just like India itself, everything collides and happens at the same time, and we have a kaleidoscope of flavours in one single meal.

 

First you came to the international spotlight in 2009, when you created the ‘world’s healthiest meal’. What was the meal and your secret behind?

Back in 2009 I had a lightbulb moment, by acknowledging the United States Department of Agriculture finding that nearly ¼ of the top antioxidant-rich foods available to us are, in fact, spices, and then combining these spices in abundance with nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, low-fat proteins and nuts – widely known as superfoods – to create Indian Superfood, a collection of the world’s most antioxidising recipes.

The ‘world’s healthiest meal’ itself was Chicken with Blueberries and Cinnamon, served with a Goji Berry Pilau – which contained the antioxidant equivalent of 23 bunches of grapes. It contained a bounty of the some of the most antioxidising foods known to humankind, and is a microcosm of the concept itself.

 

Your first cook book “Indian Superfood”, was published by Bloomsbury in July, 2010 and is a no.1 bestseller. From zero to hero. How did you manage to make your first cook book so successful?

I guess the success actually comes from rejection, since initially countless agents and publishers rejected my concept, and this made me work harder at proving them wrong. I pushed hard on the PR side and combined this with celebrity endorsements.

 

There are millions of cook books in the market. What is the secret of a good cook book?

I am of an opinion that a great and/or unique concept combined with PR is the secret to a good cook book. Of course delicious and easy-to-prepare recipes should be a given, especially if authors want their readers to cook from their books!

 

Your distinctive culinary concept acknowledges the USDA finding that nearly ¼ of the top antioxidant-rich foods available to us are spices. Can you tell us something more about it? And how we can use it?

It really is true that spices are some of the most antioxidising and disease fighting foods available to us. It makes sense that if we incorporate more of these healthy foods, our diets become more super. Take for example cinnamon. Per 100g it contains around 300,000 antioxidant units, compared to a 100g bunch of white grapes which contains around 1000 antioxidant units per 100g.

I’m not telling anyone to substitute healthy foods for spices. Instead I would recommend adding spices to an already healthy diet.

 

In June 2012 Gurpareet unveiled his second recipe-book and culinary concept, Indian Superspices. What is this book about?

By using spices in medicinal quantities I created lab-inspired recipes that help to alleviate everyday ailments; and proves the robust Indian kitchen is the ideal laboratory in which to explore the medicinal and culinary possibilities of spices together.

In 2011 you were crowned Chef of the Year at the inaugural English Curry Awards. What was your winning dish?

I was recognised for my overall contribution to the curry industry, since by this time I had a number of winning dishes under my belt and I was a published recipe book author.

 

Your third recipe-book, The Superfood Diet, is a gastronomic, multi-cuisine, healthy cookery book, published by Bloomsbury in May 2014.  What is the concept behind this book?

The Superfood Diet combines weight loss with the expectation of an extended lifespan by encouraging us all with a tempting selection of full-flavour foods. Featuring three simple diet plans combined with a collection of favourite recipes, which are both reassuringly low in calories and fat, and healthily high in superfoods and antioxidants.

In December 2014, you created the world’s healthiest Christmas Dinner. Can you let us know the recipe?

My meal includes turkey with roast potatoes and all the trimmings but contains just 930 calories, two-thirds less than the classic meal. Essentially, it is a three-course festive feast with fewer calories than a single bowl of mixed nuts!

 

HOW TO COOK GURPAREET’S GUILT-FREE GALA (SERVES 4)

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup with Lobster

Ingredients:

  • 450g butternut squash, diced
  • 2 large pears, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 100g cooked lobster meat
  • chopped fresh dill, to garnish
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Method:

Place the butternut squash, diced pears, chopped onion and stock cube in a large saucepan. Cover with 1 litre boiling water, and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the butternut squash is soft, stirring occasionally.

Blitz the soup until smooth. Place the cumin seeds in a non-stick frying pan and heat on a medium heat until the seeds start to sizzle and pop – this should take no longer than 2 minutes. Mix the cumin seeds through the soup and reheat to serve. Garnish with the lobster meat and dill. Season to taste with black pepper.

 

 

Vital Statistics (per portion):

  • 150 kcal
  • 1g fat
  • 1g salt
  • 6.5g sugars

 

Turkey Breast Poached in Mulled Wine Spices

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 strips of orange rind
  • 2 strips of lemon rind
  • 4cm x 3cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled
  • 10 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 500g, turkey breast fillet

 

Method:

Place all the ingredients, except the turkey, in a deep saucepan and pour over 2 litres cold water. Heat until the water begins to bubble. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, uncover the pan and bring the water to a boil. Place the turkey breast into the water until it is submerged and return to the boil. Once the water begins to boil, take the pan off the heat and cover with a lid. Allow the turkey to sit in the water and poach for 3 hours (this stage of the process can be done in the morning).

 

Vital Statistics (per portion):

  • 130 kcal
  • 1.25g fat
  • 0.065g salt
  • neg sugars

 

Blueberry Sauce (accompaniment for turkey)

 

Ingredients:

  • 100g blueberries
  • 10g coconut nectar
  • 1 x clove
  • Pinch chilli
  • Pinch salt
  • 25ml water

 

Method:

Place all the ingredients in a small pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Allow to cool before serving.

 

Vital Statistics (per portion):

  • 24 kcal
  • neg fat
  • 0.0035g salt
  • 5g sugars

 

Turkey, Sage and Onion Cornmeal Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • 125g lean turkey thigh mince
  • 2 red onions, finely diced
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten
  • 25g cornmeal
  • 15g passata
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • pinch ground chilli
  • 10g fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 5g fresh dill, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C /Gas Mark 6. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, and knead together until well mixed. Divide the turkey mixture between 4 small silicone moulds or ramekins (which will need greasing). Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

 

Vital Statistics (per portion):

  • 98 kcal
  • 2g fat
  • 0.05825g salt
  • 2.5g sugars

 

Baby Roast Spuds with Seaweed and Rosemary Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shredded dried seaweed/sea salad
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 300g baby new potatoes, halved

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas Mark 7. In a large bowl combine the coconut oil, turmeric, shredded seaweed and rosemary. Mix through the baby potatoes.Place the spice-coated potatoes in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through, turning once after 15 minutes.

 

Vital Statistics (per portion):

  • 65 kcal
  • 2g fat
  • neg salt
  • 1g sugars

 

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Mash

Ingredients:

  • 200g parsnips, diced
  • 250g sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 25ml quark (skimmed milk soft cheese)
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • freshly ground black pepper

 

Method:

Steam the parsnips and sweet potatoes until soft. Place the steamed vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic, and mash until smooth. Mix through the remaining ingredients.

 

Vital Statistics (per portion):

  • 90 kcal
  • 0.5g fat
  • Virtually nil salt
  • 5.5g sugars

 

Steamed Kale, Baby Carrots and Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 400g whole baby carrots
  • 400g Brussel sprouts
  • 100g kale

Method:

Steam the whole baby carrots and Brussel sprouts for 15 minutes. Add the kale and continue steaming for a further 7 minutes.

 

Vital Statistics (per portion):

  • 65 kcal
  • neg fat
  • Virtually nil salt
  • 8g sugars

 

No added fat/sugar Gluten Free Superfruit Pudding with Green Tea and Chia Seeds

 

Ingredients:                    

  • 240g dried mixed fruit
  • 20g dried goji berries
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch ground chilli
  • 140ml green tea, cooled
  • 60g gram flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons chia seeds
  • Mascarpone cheese and grated lemon rind to serve

 

Method:

Place the dried mixed fruit, goji berries, ginger, cinnamon and chilli in a non-metallic mixing bowl. Pour the green tea over the fruit and mix well. Cover and allow to rest overnight. Stir the gram flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl of mixed fruit until it is combined thoroughly and turn the mixture into 4 small silicone moulds or ramekins (which will need greasing).

Using the back of a spoon, push the mixture out to the sides of the moulds until even. Sprinkle chia seeds evenly on each pudding. Cover each mould tightly with cling-film. Steam for 1 hour. Serve the puddings warm with a 1 tablespoon dollop each of mascarpone cheese and a sprinkle of lemon rind.

 

Vital Statistics (per portion):

  • 310 kcal
  • 12g fat
  • 0.0535g salt
  • 42g sugars

 

 What should you not expect from the job?

You should never rely on food writing to solely provide a salary and let it take over your life, at least until it cashes up. It is a labour of love, and another string in your bow.

Take what agents and publishers say (or don’t say) with a grain of salt. Profile building should be an essential part of your journey. In the same way we put petrol in a car to keep it going, your brand needs PR ‘fuel’. If you apply all of this and network, it might be possible one day to make a full-time job of writing.

 

Aren’t you interested in working as a cook again?

With my books and recipe development projects, I do work in a kitchen as a cook. People still get to taste my food. However the medium is different and consumers can either buy my products, or pick up a book and cook my food for themselves.

 

Your own restaurant in the future/ is that an option for you?

I did have a restaurant a good few years back, and it led to greater things for me. If an opportunity arises again with the right partners, I might once again find myself in a restaurant.

 

Thank you Gurpareet! That was really amazing!