Vivek Singh’s Indian Festival Feasts Book Launch
Vivek Singh, Executive Chef of The Cinnamon Club has just launched his latest cookbook, Vivek Singh’s Indian Festival Feasts and I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch party at Cinnamon Bazaar, his Covent Garden Indian Street Food outpost. The cookbook is a gastronomic guide to the most famous Indian festivals with each chapter includes colourful recipes inspired by a specific festival accompanied by personal anecdotes from Vivek. After a glass of sparkling rosé and a glance at the cookbook, Vivek produced platters of fantastic looking and tasting canapés inspired by the festival of Eid-al-Fitr. Lambs liver, Shrimp stir fry, Tapioca fritters, deconstructed spinach pakora with tamarind mango and yoghurt and Lamb shami kebabs with black cardamom, ginger, garlic, green chillies and lentils gave us a taste of the recipes in the book which as Vivek explained were not based on restaurant dishes. He has included recipes from the 13 most important and enjoyable festivals including a fabulous wedding feast and explained the centrality of food to Indian festivals commenting that ‘Celebrations create memories of food and people.’We moved on to drinking a Gaspar Malvasia, a white from Slovenia with tropical fruit on the nose which was robust enough to manage the spices and heat of the food. And then the feast proper began…Haleem was an amazing spiced lamb and lentil broth flavoured with mint, bay leaf, black cardamom, cinnamon, and crisp caramelised onions. It was creamy and gently spiced and the accompanying Mughlai Paratha was meltingly soft and stuffed with minced meat and eggs. Watermelon chaat was a fab collation of pressed watermelon amaranth seeds, date chutney, and masala cashew nut and was a wonderful balance of spicy crunch and the sweetness of the watermelon. It came with a Paneer paratha which was a great counterpoint to the spice and moisture of the chaat. Vivek makes the best chaats known to man! Sunday roast anyone? Ran was a stunningly presented whole braised leg of lamb with peppercorns, nutmeg and pickled onion that was tender and moist. For rice fans a Kashmiri lamb biryani with dried fruits and Kashmiri spices was fruity, light and nutty. The Morel malai kofta was totally bling – covered with gold leaf, really light and with a spiced tomato sauce and a wonderful paneer exterior. I ate it with a Caldinho de Peixe – a Portuguese-influenced fish dish of meaty sea bass in a light coconut milk curry. A plate of Methi Begun Aubergines with deliciously bitter fenugreek leaves contrasted with the sweetness of the aubergine. We also tasted Sanku Khichadi, a beetroot and yoghurt relish and I loved the Sheermal, a rich saffron bread, fresh and flaky and bursting with saffron flavour, and the Lauki Chana Dal – a dish of lentils with marrow laden with deep, rich, earthy turmeric flavours. Normally served full of sugar, the Sheer Khorma was an elegant vermicelli milk pudding with pistachios and dates. We tried it alongside a rich and creamy Pistachio Kulfi with its trademark intense, dense texture. After a light and refreshing post-prandial cocktail of white rum, apricot brandy, Riesling, black kale juice, chia seeds and red amaranth, it was time for tea! It’s not often that you get the author of a book of recipes cooking the dishes for you and this was an amazing gastronomic journey into the heart of India’s celebratory food culture. I can’t wait to go home now and start cooking!
For more about the book or to buy a copy yourself, check the Cinnamon Club website
For more about Cinnamon Bazaar Indian Street Food restaurant in Covent Garden, check our launch review