The CDH Khichdi (Risotto) - a hearty khichdi inspired by Italian cuisine.

Navigating the food streets of Delhi, Comfort Food: 80 Easy-to-Make Recipes travels through cuisines of Morocco, Asia and Italy for easy, lip-smacking dishes that bring you home.

In his latest book, Le Cordon Bleu Chef Michael Swamy pairs up with Food Stylist & Researcher Mugdha Savkar mixing the traditional with the modern bringing you global food influences “guaranteed to soothe the evolving Indian palate”.

In this email interview Swamy talks about the evolving idea of Indian Comfort food and how cooking it can add some pretty impressive culinary skills to your repertoire.

What’s Comfort food to the Indian palate today?

Comfort Food is any food that one turns to for comfort either from a long stressful day, a week of unfamiliar food or simply a meal one cooks up just for themselves. The concept of Comfort Food in India has always meant stuff like a good hearty khichdi with a bowl of raita or a simple curry with rice and lots of fried papads. However, this concept has undergone a small change in the recent decade, where the Indian palate has also begun to crave stuff like French fries, burgers, hummus and pita bread, Indianized Chinese food or even a rich dessert. We sum up Comfort Food today, as food which one grabs without giving a thought to the number of calories involved or the health benefits attached. As long as it tastes good and fills one up with cheerful goodness, it’s comfort food.

You say the book is as much about discovering and it is about hitting home. What was the basis of recipe selection?

The recipes selected were based on three things. One was of course, the foods we ourselves turn to for comfort – like soups, salads, grilled stuff or rice and curry, risotto, teas, brownies. Two, it was foods that we notice have become popular over time, be it Indian food or the adapted cuisines that have entered our culinary scenario. These foods interestingly do not spell comfort to just teenagers or the youth but are liked by every age group and are convenient to a wide range of budgets. E.g. pastas, pizzas, burgers, khao suey, cocktails, stews… Third, the ease of making the recipes because in order to be comforting, a recipe needs to be simple enough for anyone to rustle up.

What skills can a reader look to take away from this book?

The reader can easily develop his or her culinary skills from the recipes given – it could even be someone who is stepping into the kitchen for the very first time! All the recipes are simple and can easily be modified to suit anybody’s flavour preferences. So, it also helps one learn to think out of the box. Simply substitute an ingredient or two in any recipe and see the magic it will create.

The authors Michael Swamy & Mughda Savkar mix traditional and modern to create flavours closer home.

One of the talking points of the book is ‘choicest delicacies defining 25 years of food culture in Delhi’. What’s the Delhi Connection?

The Delhi Connection of the book is very strong as it contains some Delhi favourites like Banta Soda, Sindhi Kadhi, Paneer Shashlik,… foods which we have eaten not only in the restaurants and eateries across the city but also relished at the home of our friend Vikrant Batra whose family business became the inspiration for this book. Vikrant actually became our link to the real food culture of Delhi and explained it’s evolution to us through some lip-smacking meals!

If you were to choose a unanimous favourite recipe from the book, which one would it be and why?

Our common favourite is most definitely the CDH Khichdi (Risotto)! Coz it’s like our team! A perfect combination of traditional and contemporary. Personally too, we constantly crave the comfort and hearty khichdi but we are also crazy about Italian flavours and textures of Arborio rice and pasta. This recipe satisfies all our cravings perfectly and is also tremendously easy and quick to whip up – even after a long long day. What’s more, it doesn’t require any accompaniments to complete it.