KERALA

For that authentic taste of Europe

SAY CHEESE: A master chef from Europe, Ingrid Bergstrand, holds a pizza she has made with a generous topping of mozzarella.  

K. Santhosh

Thrissur: Can you tell the difference between pancetta and prosciutto, sugo and ragu, mozzarella di bufala and mozzarella fior di latte?

Don't worry if you can't. You can still enjoy European food. Sink your teeth into a succulent pizza, let the cheese and tomato sauce melt in your mouth, and exclaim, ``Mama, Mia!''

A master chef from Europe, Ingrid Bergstrand, plans to open a centre in Thiruvananthapuram in December to popularise European cuisine. Workshops on the discipline are on the cards.

``I want Malayalis to have a taste of authentic European food,'' Ms. Bergstrand told The Hindu on a visit to Thrissur early this week.

A part of the house she built on M.P. Appan Road at Vazhuthacaud in Thiruvananthapuram, with her Malayali husband C.P. Santiprasad, would function as a pizzeria. With its terracotta-tiled floor, Swedish wooden furniture and a large oven that fills the best part of the kitchen, the house has a European feel, she says.

Another part of the house would function as an art gallery. ``Students and artists can hang about the place, discussing art and life. I want the place to be modelled on a Parisian art cafe,'' Ms. Bergstrand says.

Having specialised in European cuisine, she has worked in international restaurants such as Djuro Badens, Rolfokok, Grand Hotel-Marstrand, Skytteholm, Olada Laxen, Arnolds, La Carotte, Svedala Italian Restaurant and Sesson, a famous hotel in Denmark.

In 1990, she started her own restaurant in a Swedish tourist village, Granna.

Her recipes and writings, done after extensive research in Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Old Czechoslovakia, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, England, Greece, Grand Caneria and the U.S. have appeared in journals such as Gurmiet.

``My initial effort will be to popularise authentic pizzas. The problem is that the knowledge and experience of authentic Italian food is limited in Kerala. Italy has a variety of dishes, ingredients and styles. Every region has its own identity based on produce and season. This is often missing in the Italian dishes offered in non-Italian restaurants. Pasta, mozzarella, focaccia and tiramisu are the world's favourite dishes. But you hardly get the authentic stuff outside Italy,'' she says.

She explains the techniques to rustle up good pizzas, using bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli, mushroom, olive, tomato, meat and seafood, and herbs and seasonings such as basil, oregano and garlic.

``The cheese is usually mozzarella or sometimes a mixture of different kinds of cheese,'' she says.

Food, she says, is the repository of history. ``For instance, Italian cuisine speaks about the history of the land — right from the Moorish influences of the sorbetti and pastries such as canaroli in Calabria, to the use of cream, paprika and veal stews, which are relics of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the north.''