Saturday, 19 March 2011


In a town like Sylhet in Northern Bangladesh, it’s quite easy to eat locally.

I have my pick of locally grown and processed rice’s at every shop in Sylhet...whether I want highly polished basmati, baby basmati, short grain aram, or my favourite hand milled “almost” brown boro!!!

I adjusted the menus of all my restaurants to the seasonal bounty of the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York. I work with schools and social enterprises in London to hit their price points by purchasing local meats and vegetables from their own community. In Sylhet, we cook rice for our main meal most days, eat local eggs, chickens, and river fish, use mustard oil and have learned local sweet desserts made from rice, carrots, and sweet potato.

I say this not to gloat. Of course I should be able to come up with great dishes to eat...I am a professional chef. That is not the point. It’s actually irrelevant for great cooking. Let the market write your home food menu, as I did with my restaurants. This is the secret trick of simple great food.

We have seen in the last few weeks laal saag (a bit like red swiss chard) overflow in the markets, which pushed us to make lots of greens and beans or saag paneer when the paneer cheese man walks by our house. Now spinach is coming to town and this will be the centre piece along with baby eggplant for pasta that we will roll out this week as we have dinner parties for local friends before we return to London and then Washington...

Let the market (not the supermarket or tv advertisements) write your menu.

It may sometimes seem like a bit of a hunt to get your food supplies...and yes it will be very rare that every item on your plate is from the local market place, but every meal can have some item from the local food shed. And in time you will find many a wonderfully tasty surprise...and maybe just maybe as it takes a bit longer to find these wonderful items, we may learn again to appreciate food and those who toil to grow it for us.

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