How can Chefs help address the global challenge of ‘sustainability’ and deliver a better food system for all? Start with a wholesome use of every part of the produce – vegetable and livestock, advises Chef Manjit Gill.
The Red Carrots
We, Chefs, work with farmers to encourage them to grow the seasonal produce. I can see that the farmers are sowing the seeds of the red carrots. After some time, we would be able to see how the green leaves are popping up in the fields and one can only visualize how the red carrots are growing under the soil. These roots may not be visible to our eyes, but the very thought makes us happy that soon the market will be flooded with long and sweet red carrots.
What makes me sad is when I don’t see the beautiful small light green leaves with long stems are missing from the carrots. The local farmers around us are all ready to grow quality produce and strive to keep the earth clean. I am a regular visitor at the Tijara Organic Farm from where I get my fresh and seasonal produce – complete with the leaves. This is where the red carrots are growing in the most natural way through bio-dynamic farming.
Visiting the farm and interacting with the farmers makes you creative and improves your cooking which helps you give goodness and wellness to your diners. It create happiness for all – the one who is growing, the one who is cooking and the one who is eating, because the produce is used in a variety of recipes so nothing goes waste. If Chefs start using the seasonal produce and create recipes for their menu, it will encourage the farmer to become a good guardian of the earth. By adopting diverse agriculture as opposed to mono agriculture, the farmer can rotate crops and let the earth rest. These are good and clean practices for honouring mother earth that also provide incomparable philanthropic crops year after year.
The practice of interacting with the earth through the farmers and their crops makes one appreciate better what food stands for. Going to the vegetables market and buying the fresh produce is the culture of honour and traditions. This brings the simplicity to your recipes and brings value to your food, makes it sumptuous, tasty and finely soulful with your indigenous knowledge and skills.
From the farm to the pan then to the plate and back to the farmer – this is the philosophy we need to live with every single day. We, the Chefs, must use real, whole vegetable and cook from scratch. This will enable us to produce our signature food and beverages every day in every restaurant.
Indian food philosophy believes in fire and cooking as age old traditions and purest forms of cooking with intentionally simple, local, clean ingredients that have been selected for their taste profile and therapeutic values. I am sure that just as I have, you too, have spent your entire life eating and cooking carrots without leaves. The green leaves are, in fact, the most important part of the red carrot. Most people assume the carrot leaves are inedible maybe because of alkaloids but all the greens have these. The amount is not so much that it harms the body. These leafy greens are high in proteins, vitamins and minerals and translate into useful ingredients for vegetable dishes, cooked with potatoes or carrots, soups, salads and curries. Moreover, they are rich in Vitamin C – much more than the carrot root. These leaves are a rich source of chlorophyll.
Including carrot greens in food ensures a good heart health as it is high in potassium, antioxidant properties and regulates blood pressure. Carrots are sweet and light. The first taste we note is bitter and pungent but the after taste and effect is sweet.
Our Indian philosophy is that we cook seasonal produce in some form. Vegetables are always scraped to get high yield and the dense vitamin content. We make our food from scratch with fresh seasonal ingredients. Even the meats are also cooked along with the seasonal vegetables to give the flavour and taste of the season. These preparations are considered to be good for wellness.
The farmer’s role is to provide that nutritious resource that has such high flavour, texture and taste and this gives value to the human being. After farmers giving us the produce Chef want, we need to respect the farmers efforts and do the process that there is no waste. Must wash the vegetables and then scrape if it is required or remove the outer leaves and reserve them. Both may be used as fillings, cut into finely chopped or puree them to use in the dishes to thicken or to create a different texture. Because of this size and the quality, every piece of the produce is used in various recipes so that nothing goes to waste! Farm to handi or to Kadhi combines and create premium largeness of fresh vegetables and herbs from farmers, the skilful hands of we Chefs and the power of our traditional knowledge of our cooking of few chiliad years.
Our cooking is the purest form of cooking simply using few clean ingredients that have been selected for their flvour and taste profile. Cooking on low heat and consistently cooks meat and vegetables so it remains its nutritional value and easy for absorption of nutrients. Going to the farms or farmers market that instantly makes you want to cook and eat everything. Putting the local and seasonal on the table, buying not only makes you feel good and rather hungry – its sustainable shopping, cooking, eating and thinking. Bringing farm to table with the farm and farmer’s reference, let us help. Bringing the farm to the table, embrace the deep delectable colours, textures, flavours and tastes of your food.
Rather masking them with heavy spicing, heavy cream, heavy pastes of nuts and too many ingredient. Let the flavours and tastes shine in your food. There are many ways that we Chefs can assist in sustaining agriculture for regional food security. Using more variety of crops and educate consumers, children in schools about the positive effects of maintain and consuming diverse agriculture. I feel that increasing regional farming and agricultural productivity can lead to healthy regional sustainability. By producing the crops and livestock needed for daily consumption and putting them on a large scale to the population, we would be helping not only the agricultural industry but also fostering economic development within the region.
Sadly, farming is looked down upon in the contemporary corporate job culture. It is hard to improve our farming practices if we continue to harbour such views on farming. We need to encourage people to adopt farming as a vocation - on small scale with backyard farming, as also on the large scale. As Chefs, we need to spend more time in the farms. For the health of the nation, it is essential that local food systems be redeveloped so that we can be more self-sufficient and prosperous, and stay in harmony with nature.
Regional food security is important because, whether it is local or regional, it brings farmers closer to consumers by producing fruits and vegetables or raising livestock or fish closer to the places they are sold. Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance.
Reprinted from Cuisine Digest - India's first magazine for Chefs
Author: Chef Manjit Gill, President - Indian Federation of Culinary Associations, Chairman - Heritage and Culture Committee, WorldChefs and Culinary Director, Cuisine Digest magazine for Chefs
Photo Credit: Kapil Mohan, Urvashi Sibal
Twitter: @ChefManjitGill; Facebook: @CuisineDigestIndia