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Italian and the dosa

NEHA MUJUMDAR
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FOOD David Rocco is unapologetic about his carb-heavy, simple style of cooking

Italian and Indian cuisinesAre inherently similar,David Rocco insists
Italian and Indian cuisinesAre inherently similar,David Rocco insists

If you follow a David Rocco recipe, you won’t need to stand for hours at the stove watching over a tomato sauce. You’re more likely, as in his spaghetti con pomodorini e pecorino (spaghetti with tomatoes and pecorino cheese), to quickly sauté some garlic and tomatoes while the pasta cooks, combine sauce and pasta, and sprinkle cheese.

Go simpler still: boil pasta, toss with butter and cheese. It doesn’t get simpler – and more satisfying than this. The health-food brigade might shudder at the thought of such unabashed celebration of carbohydrates and fat, but David is unapologetic, only offering the ever-wise ‘m’ word: moderation. “Everybody needs carbohydrates,” he says over phone. “In moderation, it’s all right. And most recipes call for plenty of vegetables.”

David Rocco has been in India for the last three weeks: his Twitter timeline is full of rapturous recountings of some Rajasthani curry or the dosa he ate at a Chennai restaurant. Indian viewers probably know him from David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, which has aired for some time now; of late, there’s a new dose of Italian food available, in the form of his new show, David Rocco’s Amalfi Getaway . Here, again, he explores the food on Italy’s Amalfi coast.

Hasn’t he done it all, when it comes to Italy? What’s left to explore? For David, plenty: like in India, food is a “pastime” in Italy, he says. “Even if you do 5,000 shows you won’t be done.”

In early 2013, he plans to go on a journey across India in eight months, learning what he can about Indian cooking and hopefully reciprocate, teaching people a bit about Italian cooking. The plan to visit India came about after he suddenly started receiving emails from Indian viewers, asking him to come to the country. So it was that this month he visited Chennai, Mumbai, Jaipur and Delhi – an itinerary he’ll readily acknowledge isn’t comprehensive, but a “good start”.

He plans to learn from home cooks, and show viewers something about Italian cooking. When he’s in India for the exploratory show, David plans to source his ingredients locally – inevitably making some compromises – cilantro substitutes for flat leaf parsley, for instance.

Driving the project is a conviction that the two cuisines are inherently similar, and hence, easy to find parallels between. He lists a curry of string beans, prepared with ginger, garlic and chilli. Omitting the ginger, the dish was exactly like one his mother might have prepared, he said.

Of course, he’ll concede that often in cases where he might just make do with olive oil, cheese and garlic, an Indian dish might require toasting and pounding spices. “Less is more – that’s my philosophy,” he says. Picking out the best ingredients and doing as little to them as possible is what he describes his style as – in opposition to cream-and-butter-overdosed restaurant food. “My food feeds the soul. It’s simple, and it’s about bringing fans together.”

On his television show, he doesn’t aim to turn people into cooks immediately – there are his cookbooks and online tutorials for that. “I just want to inspire people to cook food. People are cooking lesser and lesser.”

David Rocco’s Amalfi Getaway airs on Fridays at 8.30p.m. on FOX Traveller.

NEHA MUJUMDAR

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