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Rick Stein's India [DVD]
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Determined to track down the perfect curry and introduce new flavours, Rick Stein embarks on a spectacular journey though the Indian sub-continent to discover the origins of dishes, ingredients and spices that are celebrated the world over. This colourful series offers viewers a feast of delights influenced by India’s colourful history, captivating cultures and enthralling religious communities. He travels to Kolkata (Calcutta) to experience its ethnic influences and street food, discovers the temple food of Tamil Nadu, travels through the spice laden hills of Kerala, becomes a guest judge at a cooking competition in the Punjab and meets the Dalai Lama in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh - unearthing new flavours and dishes along the way. Inspired by the wealth and fabulous ethnic diversity of Indian regional cooking, Rick hosts a small gathering of friends at his cooking bungalow to reveal the outcome of his search for the perfect curry.
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The use of colour in the choice of ingredients and locations makes this a visual feast.
I spent my childhood years in Bombay,Madras and Calcutta and remember the abject poverty everywhere you went.Nothing has changed.For a country that's supposed to be on the up India still has a long way to go.
Off camera and in the background you can see the squalor,the open drains,the sweat shops.It's sad now as it was 100 years ago,a country that appears to be in limbo.
The people are gregarious:wherever a camera crew are spotted they are there giving their help,advice and input to add to the flavour of Stein's series.You can't fault them.They really are friendly.
Credit to Rick Stein and his producers for allowing these scenes to be framed.
We can appreciate Stein's gift of presenting wonderful food to us, the amateur chefs, but perhaps this series might be viewed one day as a social commentary on emerging India.
For me a very thought provoking essay but there's a lot more beyond the cookery facade......
My problem was it was a gift for a woman I was trying to impress, but when it arrived the case was broken
and i got moaned at. So this was the replacement one i had to order to put matters right. It arrived in good condition.
If you've seen any of his previous series then you know exactly what you're getting: a tour of India which takes in all aspects of grassroots and traditional cookery - majoring on the people who prepare the food, as well as the fresh ingredients; where they come from, how they're grown, and how all of these influences have an active interplay with social history.
Don't expect exact recipes which you can follow step by step. Each programme does include several segments (three or four) of Rick cooking dishes in a fabulous lakeside bungalow, based around the meals, meats and methods he's discovered in each region. These are really useful demonstrations - I picked up a trick about swilling ground spices in warm water before adding them to hot oil, for instance - and occasionally quite comic, like when the ginger / garlic grinder kinda explodes and showers poor Rick with hot (if fragrant) masala! But if you want actual amounts, list of ingredients, cooking times and so on, then you'd best buy the companion book.
The TV episodes aim to represent the flavours of the Indian subcontinent - and when you watch several of them it really does become obvious that different ingredients are used in different areas, or combined in subtle ways to make dishes which sound the same - but obviously taste totally different.
Rick goes out of his way to try eating at small cafes and restaurants, even when he's obviously a little uncomfortable with the surroundings. You have to applaud his determination throughout the series to learn to eat rice with his fingers, in a country where cutlery is rare and where the plate is often a banana leaf.
Each episode includes a guest chef or cookery expert who acts as a guide to local delicacies, and behind-the-scenes segments where Rick snoops in the kitchen while a dish is being made. Hot oil flares on open fires: heaped handfuls of garam masala, chilli and cumin get thrown into the mix, and he scribbles it down in his notebook while the Indian chefs deftly throw or blend the bread speciality of the region. It's almost as if you can smell the spices...
There are some times where words fail our presenter and he literally can't quite describe what he's tasting. There are also other moments where he delights in tucking in to what looks like utterly inedible fishy things, and the occasional awkward pauses where communication between Rick and his guest stalls, as he stumbles to find something suitable to say about the flavour of the food they've spent all day preparing for him.
But in many ways that's the charm of this series: it's not wildly glamorous. There's no sweeping helicopter shots or romantic moments with Rick looking windswept on a mountain top. As with the very best factual TV, the series is more about the subject then the presenter. Sure, he's Rick Stein. But his enthusiasm for the feed and the cookery is what drives each episode and what makes it so watchable.
The Indian-based soundtrack is excellent, also. Not too loud so it never competes with the dialogue, but very atmospheric.
In this DVD there is only focus on curry, different meats/fish with gravy cooked in a large pan.
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