words: Ambica Gulati
If you thought Punjabi food was passé, then it’s time to rethink. For India might now be the home of many new cuisines, some tried, some tested, some fusion, but for those living abroad India lives on with the traditional palette. Chef Dipna Anand’s family has been running a Punjabi cuisine restaurant, Brilliant, in London’s Southall for the last 40 years. But the journey of Brilliant began in 1950s in Kenya, Nairobi, when her grandfather, Bishen Dass Anand, started a restaurant there.
Dipna is the third generation to continue the family business and the restaurant has catered food to the royals, the celebrities and the common folks. Even Prince Charles praised the food. Celebrated Chef Gordon Ramsay named it one of the ‘Best Restaurants’ on his Channel 4 TV show. More recently, she won the British Curry Award, announced by the British Prime Minister David Cameron. Dipna went on to study food at the University of West London and now teaches Asian cuisine there, besides being involved in the restaurant with her brother Shanker. Beyond Brilliant is her first cookbook in which she talks about the healthy way of cooking, shares 40 recipes from the Brilliant menu and some award winning healthy recipes. On a recent visit to India, she spoke with a group of us on her journey and art of cooking. Excerpts:
What is the USP of Brilliant?
It is a restaurant where Punjabi cooking is kept alive.
The trend in India has been moving more towards fusion food. What is your take on this?
Fusion food is good as long as it doesn’t cause confusion. We should not lose the food value or the flavours while mixing cuisines.
How have your recipes changed from your grandfather’s times?
Most of the original recipes are there, some have been tweaked to suit the needs for today. For instance, now people take less ghee and butter, so quantities in some have been reduced.
What do you feel is the future of Punjabi cuisine?
It’s never going to be lost. I have been teaching for this reason too. In London, there are about 70% Bangladeshi restaurants and rest Indian restaurants.
Do you have more Indians coming in or foreigners?
We have about 70% Indians, rest would be tourists and London residents.
Which is your hot selling dish?
Tandoori mixed platter with its grilled mix of kebabs and tikkas. And the vegetarian keema which is made with soyabean and peas.
How do the people react to a woman chef?
It’s now an honourable profession. My family has always supported me and as a female I get a lot of attention. Brilliant is a family-run restaurant and you always find one of us there.
Brilliant is open for lunch and dinner. There are cookery courses on the weekend and a meal for two would cost around 50 pounds.