When a chef who has earned Michelins for each and every kitchen he’s heralded visits the land of foodies, one can expect no less than a feast to remember, and more so, if that feast happens to be in the capital-cum-food lovers’ paradise…
Chef Michael Wignall’s second visit to India last year was an experience that left him thrilled, excited and wanting to come back for more.
His India story
India, says Wignall, is an amazing country and adds how he finds the history, the people and most importantly the food of India to be quite inspirational. And these very same things have made him gravitate to the country yet again.
However, he expresses his desire to come back and see more of the country and “experience more of India”. “The last time when I had visited, I had a broken leg. Unfortunately, this second visit was only for three days so I couldn’t actively see a great deal,” he explains.
“Dosa sets me up for the day and I’m a small eater, so this is perfect for me. A far cry from a full English breakfast!”
My curiosity then compels me to ask him about Indian restaurants he’s ventured to and what he enjoyed eating the most. Wignall is quick to respond and exclaim how truly amazing he feels Indian Accent is, and how the humble dosa marks his favourite start to the day. “It sets me up for the day and I’m a small eater so this is perfect for me. A far cry from a full English breakfast!” he says.
Interestingly, Wignall reveals how his place of origin, that’s the north of England, is where Indian food is part of their culture. “I was brought up eating Indian food, albeit Westernised,” admits the chef.
In his restaurant, he has adapted some traditional Indian recipes that have been inspired from his first visit to the country, and he particularly expresses his fondness for experimenting at home with different kinds of Indian herbs and spices.
On the menu…
The chef, who was formerly heading The Devonshire Arms in the UK, acquired The Angel at Hetton, the 15th century gastropub in Yorkshire Dales along with his wife Johanna and James and Jo Wellock, his business partners. He describes his food as ‘modern, technical and meaningful’.
Cut to my inquiry about his signature dishes and he says: “I’ve got numerous dishes as signatures, a few which have stayed on the menu for a while, such as the Cassoulet of Clams. It has stayed with me because of the marriage of seafood flavours.”
And as for his cooking in India, he reveals he got some great feedback for one of his signature dishes, Aged Duck, which he served with bhaji onion and oriental cabbage at the charity dinner in Delhi.
And of course, as any chef would do, he did tweak his dishes to suit the Indian palate. To do so, he took into consideration the local ingredients that he would be using and the level of spice put into each dish.
“For instance, we sourced some interesting ingredients like Thangi – wild Himalayan hazelnuts that only fruit once every two years. I think as a chef you will always take into consideration the role of local ingredients, wherever you are in the world,” says Wignalli.
The chef whipped a mean feast comprising ricotta with fermented garlic emulsion, nasturtium, winter truffle, eryngii and not to forget, his much-adored Aged Duck!
The sweet ending to this meal was marked by a Snickers’ peanut parfait with peanut powder, salted caramel and chocolate rocks.
Wignall was in India on the invitation of Anand Kapoor, who heads an NGO called the Creative Services Support Group (CSSG). “He invited me previously to support the work he does. I got to meet some great people and try some amazing food,” he says.
“I think you need to be able to do all areas of the kitchen to be at the highest level, so I like to take a keen interest in all areas of the kitchen,” he believes.
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From HT Brunch, September 22, 2019
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