Date palm jaggery or Nolen Gur or Khejur Gur is a warm, memory note of winter goodness for most Bengalis - as it is prepared by the siuli tribe during the cold winters in Bengal. The siulis climb the tall date palm trees, tap it for it's fresh sap and hang their earthen pots into which the sap (neera) will trickle all night long. The pots are removed during early dawn hours, filtered through a layered mesh and then boiled for about many hours at controlled temperature in tin or steel flat vessels fixed on firewood pits - also called a mud oven.
We caught up with Chef Thomas (in the middle of what looked like a really busy day for him and his crew) for an interview - Not just did he take the time out to answer all our questions but he also shared tremendous insights from his travel & food experiences with genuine fervor and enthusiasm. Here's wishing for this food genius and his equally passionate team heaps and bundles of power and success in all their future endeavors!
Chef Thomas Zaccharias was named Chef of the Year at Conde Nast Traveller India magazine’s Top Restaurant Awards in 2018 and executive chef at one of India's best restaurants - The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai.
“Indians have had a special bond with food since times immemorial. Right from the art of making it to preserving food, there are various techniques which are unique to each household that makes our food healthy, unique and something to learn from. Apart from that Indian food is known for its diversity. The food pattern keeps changing as per the season and the local produce. These traditional foods and our age old recipes contain nutrients that are lacking in a lot of urban and middle income communities these days.
There has been a strong restoration of our understanding and belief in unrefined products – which today represents food experiences that are unprocessed and raw. Traditional Indian Cooking Oils likeKachi Ghani cold pressed Mustard oil, Sesame oil, Coconut oil and Groundnut oilare making purposeful comebacks into our kitchens. Ancient indigenous grains and millets, natural ungraded unrefined produce, consciously raised and treated poultry, meat and eggs, whole milk from freely grazed, healthy cattle, pickles of Desi varieties of mango, lime, garlic etc have not just found renewed love and appreciation but are being perceived and acknowledged as precious and rare.
One of the most important aspects of the Organic farming that we practise at our farms is usage of Desi Indigenous seeds - in our understanding, these native breeds have a direct impact on Soil health as they do not deplete the soil of its nutrients. They are innately well accustomed to local climate change, they have an inherent adapting power to climatic stress and can sustain drought conditions, require very little or no forced management and are naturally resistant to diseases and pests.