Book review: On the Himalayan Trail by Romy Gill
Romy Gill's latest book has seen her travel in the shadow of the Himalayas, from Kashmir to Ladakh, to learn about the cuisine of India's most northerly region.
For Gill, who grew up in west Bengal, this disputed land held a mystique for its stunning landscapes, snow-capped mountains and rolling hills, which were the setting for many Bollywood films.
The story of her travels is documented through stories, recipes and in stunning photographs that fill more than 250 pages. Gill visited restaurants and homes as well as spending time with waza – chefs who specialise in the preparation of wazwan – the sumptuous, multi-course banquets served across Kashmir.
The resulting book offers a thorough account of the region's cuisine, touching on variations in spicing, technique and the availability and use of ingredients. But what is truly transportive is Gill's beautifully written accounts of the sights, smells and textures she encountered on her journey.
The recipes are equally expansive with an extensive vegetarian section featuring dishes such as Gogji, a turnip curry that sees the vegetable almost caramelised and flavoured with spices and a Kashmiri chili paste; and chok wangun, soured aubergines that are fried before being boiled in a sauce to give a sour tang.
The meat chapter features lamb and goat in various guises – including a Kashmari offal delicacy. Naat Yakkhn, goat cooked in yogurt, stands out, with Gill saying it was a favourite of hers and "includes plenty of ghee but is surprisingly light on the stomach".
The harsh winters of the region see a reliance on preserving and the smoking of fish, with dishes featured including Gaad Choonth, where fish is cooked with quince or green apples.
This is a beautiful book that stands out as much for Gill's personal accounts of her travels as for the recipes themselves, which will no doubt pique the interest of any chef interested in learning more about this region.
On the Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories from Kashmir to Ladakh by Romy Gill (Hardie Grant, £27)
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