By Rudy & Marlene Otter
London: Indian food, once saddled with a waist-thickening image because it contained copious amounts of ghee, oil, sugar and salt, has undergone a healthy transformation. The change was tasted and appreciated by thousands of people who attended the Eat & Drink Christmas Festival in London’s Olympia exhibition centre where the five-day show was staged.
Long queues were formed at the Indian stands which prided themselves on selling natural, organic, gluten-free spicy fare, all produced in healthier and more innovative ways. A firm called Punjaban was busy selling everything from Bombay potato curry and butter chicken to samosas and a range of pickles and chutneys as well as starter kits for dishes like tadka dhal.
Trendy Taste, said its owner Uday Mehta, began trading just six months ago. "All our products have more fibre and are sugar-free, gluten-free and contain low salt sourced from the Himalayas. Everything is suitable for vegetarians and vegans." As he spoke, customers lined up. "Our snacks are made from wheat, oats and other natural ingredients and they are very tasty," Mehta said. Products included diet soya sev, roasted wheat puff, curry pasta, masala makhana and diet bajri.
Gupta Confectioners, another popular stand, laid on Bombay street food from chicken masala paneer wraps to samosas and onion bhajis.
The show, held successively in five different UK locations, also proved popular with people who attended the Ideal Home show which shared the same London location. "Taste, try and buy" proved an irresistible invitation to visitors who also bought organic ingredients from artisan producers and discovered innovative, time-saving gadgets for their homes.
Award-winning celebrity chefs gave running commentaries as they dished up their culinary delights for audiences to sample. The big names included Gino D’Acampo, Rachel Green, Theo Randall, Rosemary Shrager, William Alexander and Gregg Wallace.
A section named ‘artisans market’ offered chutneys, pickles, breads, cooking oils, fresh juices and jams, locally sourced cured meats, cheeses and sea food. Another section displayed dried fruit, nuts, chocolates and fudge.
Visitors also learned how to create exotic cocktails from expert mixologists. Beers, wines and champagne flowed freely throughout the event.