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The Chef's Little Black Book

Devika posted on 09 December

By Devika Pathak

Delhi is home to some of the most innovative and exciting chefs in the country. We're giving our readers a peek into their Little Black Books - the ingredients they use, where to find them, a chef's favorite cookbook, the best produce in the city - a small insight into what goes into those delicious meals that keep us coming back for more.

This three part series includes familiar faces, and some cool new kids on the block; it'll feature snapshots of the kitchens of some of our favourite chefs cooking food from different parts of the world. Make notes!

Neeraj Chaudhry | Thai Pavillion

Key ingredients in your kitchen & where you source them from… The Thai pavilion kitchen uses a host of exotic meats, seafood items, vegetables and herbs ranging from goose liver, scallops, sea bass, smoked marbled pork ribs, banana flowers, pandanus leaves, lemon grass, Thai ginger and Kafir lime, to name a few. All these ingredients are sourced from Thailand.

Best places to find ingredients in Delhi… The bustling and ever vibrant INA market for sure!

Kitchen equipment you can’t live without… A Kom Kom peeler, a traditional mortar and pestle, and a steamer.

Favourite recipe book and bookstore… 'Arharn Thai' by David Thompson. I love the Sunday book market at Daryaganj.

Where is your little black book? Online. Nevertheless, the basics are embedded in the mind.


Alice Helme | Damson Catering 

Key ingredients in your kitchen & where you source them from… Rock salt and freshly ground pepper. In England I use Maldon Salt, a beautiful flaked sea salt, and in Delhi we use different variations from the Himalayas.

Best places to find ingredients in Delhi… INA and I’m afraid suppliers are our standard procedure. However as a company, our philosophy about food is simple - good produce makes good food - therefore we spend time working with farmers, meeting them, encouraging different vegetables or herbs like purple basil or micro mustard cress.

Kitchen equipment you can’t live without… We are currently obsessed with our dehydrator. It not only locks in great flavours and nutrients, but provides pretty garnishes and interesting textures. It’s also a great way of preserving fruit and vegetables.

Favourite recipe book and bookstore…  We just love Ottelenghi; fresh, seasonal, original flavours - we have all his books, 'Plenty' being my favourite. There is The Book Shop next to The Steak House in Jor Bagh that sometimes has good ones.

Where is your little black book? Often we will take a classic recipe and change it slightly in practice; in theory, they are all online and printed in lever arch files.


Rishim Sachdeva | Uzuri 

Key ingredients in your kitchen & where you source them… The key ingredient in my kitchen is Rafael Salgado Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is imported from Spain. Apart from this, we use a lot of corn-fed chicken, organic duck, fresh organic eggs, quail eggs and fresh rocket leaves, all of  which are sourced from French Farms.

Best places to find ingredients in Delhi… French Farms is situated on the outskirts of Delhi, and is my best recommendation for almost all organic products. INA market during the early hours of the day is one of the best for fresh fish, but only if you know how to recognize good quality fish.

Kitchen equipment you can’t live without… My spoon and tweezers. A spoon can be used for pretty much anything from cooking, checking the tenderness of meat, turning over delicate fish and vegetables, and most importantly for tasting. As for tweezers, they are very important for plating and arranging delicate little ingredients, which require precision and extra attention.

Favourite recipe book and bookstore… My favourite recipe books are 'On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen' by Harold McGee and 'Today's Special: A New Take on Bistro Food' by Anthony Demetre. I have been to Om Book Store a few times and they do have a good collection, but due to time constraints I tend to shop for my books online - usually the kindle versions from Amazon.

Where is your little black book? All my recipes are hand written in the kitchen in a pocket size notebook. I’ve got a collection of over nine of these little books and the best part is that only I can understand my own handwriting. For everybody else, it’s just scribble. However, I am currently trying to jot down all the notes from my pads to my computer, giving me a chance to refresh all the recipes and try new things.

{image courtesy | Damson Catering Supper: photo by Sachin Soni}