Author: chefabhijitsaha

Abhijit Saha is the Founding Director and Chef of Avant Garde Hospitality Pvt. Ltd., which currently owns and operates two critically acclaimed premium restaurants in Bangalore, Caperberry and Fava in Bangalore. In June 2014 he opened his Signature Indian restaurant, Saha, in Singapore’s Duxton Hill area and was awarded the ‘Best Chef of India’ at the Indian Restaurant Congress and Awards, 2013. With twenty four year of varied experiences, Chef Saha is an expert in Classical and Modern European & Regional Indian cuisines. He has been invited by the Culinary Institute of America as a Guest Chef and Speaker at ‘The World of Flavours Conference‘– 2004, 2005 and 2007. He is a member of the elite team of chefs who contributed to the ‘World Culinary Arts’ DVD which has won the ‘James Beard Foundation’ Award in 2008. In the past he has also won the ‘IFCA Entrepreneur Chef of the Year’ Award 2008-2009 and the SICA ‘Golden Hat’ Award 2010 for outstanding contribution to the culinary field. Abhijit Saha enjoys F1 Racing, fine wines, travel, photography, architecture and design.

Saha Singapore at the spectacular World Gourmet Summit 2015

Singapore’s annual World Gourmet Summit is, without doubt, one of the premier culinary events on the global calendar.  This year, it was my happy privilege to have Saha Signature Indian Restaurant & Terrace Bar participate in this culinary extravaganza.

Gastronomy in Motion -- Theme for World Gourmet Summit 2015

Gastronomy in Motion — Theme for World Gourmet Summit 2015

Saha was among the Singapore restaurants that showcased the expertise of master chefs from the world over in a series of superb culinary experiences during the World Gourmet Summit from April 6 to May 3. It allowed me the opportunity to meet some amazing chefs and other food professionals, sit down to standout gourmet meals, conduct and attend master classes and also to present what we do at Saha to a wider audience.

Guest Chefs at WGS 2015

Guest Chefs at WGS 2015

The theme for WGS 2015 was ‘Gastronomy in Motion’ and at Saha we created gourmet menus that reflect this concept. The very basis of avant-garde cuisine is to move and move forward, making it a perfect fit with this year’s theme. While there were culinary adventures to be had everywhere, we pulled out something extra special for our guests at Saha. I used the opportunity to create 30 new dishes for the Epicurean Delight and Degustation. Inspired creations included such new age creations as Deconstructed cucumber raita; Textures of lamb comprising pistachio crusted chop, shikampuri kebab and haleem; Kaffir lime flavoured tandoori salmon; Tribute Singapore – a vegetarian creation of stir-fried baby kalian, tofu and water chestnuts, seasoned with cumin, chilli and garlic, Parmesan cheese kulfi with Mango Sorbet and Phirni Lyte.

 While we launched the WGS Special menus at Saha on April 6, the events started on April 13 and one of the highlights at Saha was a sparkling Networking Evening on the day, attended by some 50 guests, including celebrity chefs, prominent members of the F&B community, food writers, bloggers and members of the press. We were happy to host Chef Peter Knipp, Principal Creator & Organizer of WGS with his elegant wife Sue Bee, Dr Kwan Lui, Founder of At-Sunrice Global Chefs Academy, Singapore, Master Riesling Wine Maker Dr Lippold, Chef Niklesh Sharma from Malaysia, Master Kaiseki Chef Shinichiro Takagi from Japan Two Michelin Star Chef Giancarlo Perbellini, from Verona and Executive Pastry Chef Cherish Finden from London, amongst others.

Opening Reception & Awards of Excellence

Opening Reception & Awards of Excellence

The Awards of Excellence and the Opening Reception where the stars of the culinary world were present was held on April 14 at the swank One Farrer Hotel. While Chef Ivan Brehm of Bacchanalia stole the show by winning 3 awards including Chef of the Year, we celebrated, too, the nomination of our Resident Sous Chef Preetam Sodi for the Young Chef of the Year award. The other highlight of the evening was the spectacular display of over 20 Chocolate & Sugar showpieces by Chef Niklesh Sharma and his team.

Networking Evening at Saha

Networking Evening at Saha

The signature event at Saha held on April 29 was an evening of Indian Tapas & Grover Wines. We intended it to be an informal and fun evening where guests could mingle while sipping on Grover wine cocktails and nibbling on a series of innovative Indian tapas, small plates and petit desserts.  Guests also appreciated my live demo of Fresh Smoked Oysters with Kachumber & Aloo Papri Chaat Modern which was an eye-opener for many about the possibilities of Indian cuisine.

Tapas evening with Grover Wine Cocktails

Tapas evening with Grover Wine Cocktails

 

Master classes, which are integral part of WGS, are events that also make the World Gourmet Summit a bit more special.  My Interactive Master class at the Miele Studio Kitchen, showcasing the Modern Indian Cuisine of Saha, was reserved exclusively for Scripps Network and we had a lot of fun together. The master class by Chef Giancarlo Perbellini was not to be missed and I am glad I didn’t.  It was a treat to watch this artist at work and to savour his menu of Modern Panzanella with Langoustine, Parmesan crème brulee stuffed ravioli and Signature Tiramisu

 

Masterclass

Masterclass

Masterclass under way

Masterclass under way

Chef Giancarlo Parbellini

Chef Giancarlo Parbellini

While the WGS was an endless whirl of culinary activity, I seized the opportunity to experience some world class meals and attend sessions by other renowned chefs on many occasions with Kripal Amanna, Editor & Publisher of Food Lovers Magazine (official media partner from India for WGS 2015). A wonderful experience was the WGS Epicurean Delight Dinner by 2 Michelin Star Chef Tim Raue at Skirt at the W Hotel in Sentosa. His menu included such delights as Carpaccio of Scallop, Elderflower Dressing & Green Melon, Steamed Turbot with Leek & Ginger; Peking duck dimsum, cucumber & spring onion and banana, yuzu & smoked butter.

Chef Tim Raue & Scallop Carpaccio with Elderflower

Chef Tim Raue & Scallop Carpaccio with Elderflower

The Rougie foie gras dinner at Forlino, created by Chef Chris Salans from Mosaic Restaurant, Bali, was another memorable experience of WGS 2015. I marveled at the way this chef redefined this luxury ingredient.

Foie Gras Ice Cream by Chef Chris Salans

Foie Gras Ice Cream by Chef Chris Salans

I also enjoyed reconnecting with Masterchef Australia host George Calombaris at a special event held in At-Sunrice Global Chefs Academy. We fondly recollected the time we spent together in Bangalore when I hosted him and Chef Gary at special events at Caperberry & Fava in 2013. The opportunity to interact with Chef Jordi Roca & Master Sommelier Josep Roca of the famed El Celler de Can Roca at The Macallan Master of Taste after party in Bacchanalia was another unforgettable experience.

George Calombaris

George Calombaris

WGS 2015 was a splendid show and kudos to Chef Peter Knipp and his team for organizing this spectacular showcase of gastronomy for the past 19 years and raising the bar every time. I am thrilled that Saha was part of this prestigious event. The accolades from our VIP guests, celebrity chefs and, of course, our customers at Saha was the best thing about it, assuring us that avant garde Indian cuisine is now ready to take on the world.

http://www.worldgourmetsummit.com/wgs2015/main.php/

http://www.saha.sg

A forecast for 2015

The beginning of a new year is always an interesting time. The months ahead hold endless possibilities and as a chef and restaurateur it’s exciting to predict what the trends will be in the realm of dining, restaurants, ingredients, cooking techniques – indeed, the very way in which we approach food and drink. Truffle Oil Centred Ravioli at Caperberry The restaurant business: My reading is that the F&B business is all set to see a further surge, with growth in all segments, from cafes and bistros to speciality restaurants, quick service outlets and microbreweries. The number of restaurants and bars will go up by atleast 15% to 20%. This sort of growth and a crowded space means chefs and restaurateurs will also be under pressure to create new concepts and innovate to stand out from the clutter. You can also expect more restaurants failing and closing down. It is a great time in India to be in the F&B business as the opportunities and growth potential are big. However one has to be careful because of increasing leasing and manpower costs and lack of trained manpower. Peru Cuisines & Ingredients: Aspects of Latin American, particularly Peruvian cuisine and unique ingredients from the Andean mountains and Amazon basin have been making their impact felt everywhere.  One of the original fusion cuisines, Peruvian has absorbed Spanish, African and Chinese and Japanese influences allowing chefs to draw inspiration from it now. Amaranth Grain Think ingredients like Quinoa, Amaranth, Tarwi beans, Purple corn, Oca (tuber) Yuca(Cassava), Aguaje (palm fruit), Cocona (Amazon tomatoes), Sweet Pepino Cactus fruit and many kinds of potatoes (apparently there are 3800 varieties found in Peru). Styles of dishes such as Causa Limeña, Ceviche, Tiradito, Taamales and Pachamanca (earthen oven) are also going to gain in popularity. Peruvian Potato Closer home, I believe regional Indian cuisines are going to become more popular, in a marked departure from the ubiquitous ‘North Indian’ that restaurants have typically served until now. Modern takes on classics from, say, Kerala, of the sort we showcase at Saha, Singapore, will also set the trend. As importing food gets more cumbersome and expensive, chefs now have a compulsion to work with fresh, local and seasonal produce. So, dishes that celebrate local ingredients are likely to make it to the menus this year. On the international restaurant circuit, trend-spotters believe bitter elements will find their way into food. So,  chocolate, cocoa and coffee are going to appear on savoury plates. Turkish coffee Style & Technique: Innovations will continue. I, for one, try to achieve this through understanding new international trends, using new cooking techniques and innovative menu and food presentation. With increasing availability of micro-greens and edible flowers, food presentations will see an increase use of these ingredients. At Fava, for instance, we’re already using homegrown micro-greens that are tossed into salads at the table. Smoking is another technique set to enjoy popularity. Live Micro Green Salad The bar: I see a definite spike in the number of wine drinkers, with more young people turning to it. Microbreweries will continue to keep their current popularity, especially in cities like Bangalore.  As for cocktails, again bold, bitter flavours are going to be in with bartenders experimenting more and more with bitters that go beyond angostura. Health-conscious drinkers are going to be demanding more natural cocktails that use fruit, plant and vegetable juices and extracts. Image Courtsey Mens Health So, let’s say cheers to that and here’s wishing

Accolade for a Modernist (Avant Garde) approach to Indian food

While Singapore’s discerning diners have warmly embraced Saha,where we have been showcasing Indian cuisine with an avant-garde approach, being named Best New Restaurant at the annual RAS (Restaurant Association of Singapore) Epicurean Star Awards held last month has come as another feather to our fairly new cap. The other nominees in the Best New Restaurant category wereBabette, Cook and Brew, The Study, Dancing Crab, UNA and Pince & Pints, so it was certainly a tough challenge.

 


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Accolades and recognition such as this strengthen my belief that a constantly evolving approach to food is the way to go. While we believe Indian food to be tradition-bound, it has always shown a propensity to change with time. Right from the Vedic period, when norms for eating and cooking were laid down, Indian food and its many regional variations, have been subjected to diverse influences – Greek, Arab, Persian, Portuguese, Mughal and British.The Mughals, who established their empire here in the 16th Century and went on to rule for three centuries, endowed India with its ‘grande cuisine’, rich and sophisticated, with royal cooks thinking nothing of a flourish of pure gold for certain dishes.

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The cuisine of palace kitchens may rule supreme, but the humblest homes also celebrate their dishes and their cooking methods. Home cooking is, in fact, what makes Indian cuisine the vast and delightful realm that it is. The knowledge and techniques perfected over time and passed on through generations have ensured that diverse flavours co-exist in harmony to create an unmatched experience. The ability of Indian cuisine to absorb and assimilate the influences of different cultures has not only given it complexity and vastness, but also the potential to be a World Cuisine.

Which brings me to the burden of this piece: my quest to enhance traditional Indian cuisine and create new dining experiences. There is no reason why Indian cuisine, which has always absorbed influences and evolved, shouldn’t employ new techniques and culinary processes, which is what avantgarde cuisine is all about.

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I like to think of it as the analysis and understanding of dining psychology and the science behind it. To me, an avantgardeapproach can transform dining on Indian food to a whole new emotional and sensory experience. This is made possible by employing cooking techniques and presentations that have emerged from the confluence of culinary science, culinary arts and culinary artistry.

Look at the canvas, or the spice rack, if you will, that we have to play with. Our geographical diversity spans the gamut from the mountains of Kashmir to the deserts of Rajasthan, the backwaters of Kerala to the Bay of Bengal. We have access to a diverse array of produce – including vegetables, fruit and seafood. We have spices and own the fine art of using them to achieve a unique balance of flavours and aromas.

 

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The success of avant-garde cuisine depends on being fully conversant with flavour pairings and being able to combine foods with similar volatile aroma molecule compositionswhichdeterminetheirflavour; creating a bridge betweensensationssuch as visionandtaste, colour and temperature; understanding perception and experiences and turning dining into multi-sensory experience.

At Saha, Singapore, our menu, for most part, takes an avant-garde approach to traditional Indian food to create new and exciting experiences for the diner. We take, for instance, the Kerala classic ofMeen Moilee and deconstruct it, using the ingredients of the original and interpreting them differently. Similarly, the everyday vegetable stew of Kerala becomes an espuma in our kitchen. Sous vide cooking allows us to serve Masala Lamb Chops which are so like a classic lamb curry and still so different. We have fun with street food favourites like golgappa and lassi and turn them into spherifications, resulting in surprising new textures and taste sensations.Our samosas are baked and we serve them with mint chutney foam in shot glasses; and diners tell us what a refreshing take on an old favourite it is. The advanced techniques we use for smoking food isa way of bridging the sensations of taste and aroma. When the glass dome is lifted off our Lamb Roulade with Kakori Spices, the diner is carried away in a waft of smoky aromas.

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The results we’ve achieved so far convince me that by taking an avant-garde approach in the Indian kitchen, it’s possible to unleash the infinite possibilities of this wonderful cuisine.

 

The Taste of Technology – Cognitive Cooking

An IT business exhibition may seem like an unlikely place for a chef to be. But there I was at CeBIT 2014, held from November 12-14 in Bangalore. I had been invited by IBM to showcase Cognitive Cooking and the web based Chef Watson App.

 

 

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This app, created through collaboration between IBM and Bon Appetit, has been designed to meet the challenge that most people face — of discovering delightful new recipes or simply deciding what to make for dinner with the ingredients they have at home.

 

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Chef Watson is a first-ever cognitive cooking beta app, a web-based app that is powered by IBM Watson technology and Bon Appetit’s culinary expertise and about 9,000 recipes, enabling users to design and cook recipes they might never have thought of.  At CeBIT, the aim was to bring together Chef Watson and the expertise of a chef.

 

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At the event, I selected 5 recipes created by Watson, modified them to suit Indian tastes and preferences and served them in mono portions. The dishes includes Turkish Style Bruschetta; Swiss-Thai Asparagus Quiche; Vietnamese Chicken and Apple Kebab; Caribbean-Style Chicken and Chips; Coconut and Plantain Espuma. The reactions of the crowd I must say was overwhelming and cognitive cooking became the most talked about activity at the event.

 

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For the Special lunch attended by 120 CXOs of various companies we also served a duet of chocolate for dessert — Italian Chocolate Cake using Chef Watson’s recipe and Cryo Chocolate Ganache Powder with Saffron Soil & Mint Soil created by me.

This app is ‘cognitive’ because Watson can reason about flavour the same way a human use their palate.  The system understands natural language, reading and analyzing tens of thousands of existing recipes to learn about ingredient pairings, dish composition, and cooking steps.  It then cross references these with data on the flavour compounds found in ingredients, and the psychology of people’s likes and dislikes to model how the human palate might respond to different combinations of flavours.

 

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The ingredients it selects are based on what it has learned might pair well based on the recipes it has read, as well as what it knows about the underlying food chemistry – specifically the flavour compounds of each ingredient. There are a huge number of possible combinations and Watson generates thousands that it thinks will work well, sorts them, and then presents the user with 100 options.

For me, it was an engaging opportunity to see technology play a role in creating new dishes and imagine the possibilities ahead. We live and cook in interesting times to be sure.

THE MUSEUM WINE COLLECTION, RARE INDEED

‘Getting better with age, like wine’, they say. The magic, of course, lies not so much in the ageing, but in the wine itself. Only fine wines age elegantly. The very best can reveal their pleasures even after a 100 years in the bottle.

Heidsieck 1907

Heidsieck 1907

At Saha & Buyan Restaurants in Singapore we have the privilege of stocking and displaying a spectacular collection of old vintage wines. This is called the Museum Collection and comes from the private collection of wine connoisseur and collector of Ravi Viswanathan, who also happens to be the investor behind Saha & Buyan.

Ravi Viswanathan

Ravi Viswanathan

The Museum Collection is an apt name, for these bottles are treasures, created over centuries. There is the 1811 Juglar Champagne, from cellars that received a gold medal by Napoleon for the beauty and richness of their wines. Divers exploring a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea discovered these bottles in 2010.

Juglar 1811

Juglar 1811

More recent vintages of Veuve Clicquot are a popular celebratory pop these days. But imagine a bottle of this Champagne from 1841, made during the time of Madame Clicquot herself. It is widely acknowledged that this house made some of best Champagne under the management of this highly respected winemaker. Naturally, Champagne aficionados were thrilled when 162 vintage bottles – 79 of them drinkable – were discovered in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea some 170 years after they were bottled.

Veuve Cliquot 1841

If you wish to drink what Tsar Nicholas II would have, there’s the Heidsieck Monopole Co 1907. It was found in a shipwreck of a Swedish freighter in the Gulf of Finland. The ship was specially commissioned to deliver wines to the Tsar in 1916, but a German submarine hit the ship and it sank with all the 2000 bottles of wine.  They were found in 2000.

Heidsieck 1907

Heidsieck 1907

For another sip of history there’s the 1821Vin Jaune from the Chateau Chalon, Jura, France. It is known for its nutty flavors and aromas that can develop additional curry notes as the wines ages due to presence of sotolon. The wine’s yellow colour ranges from pale to deep gold and also gives it its name. Probably the oldest aged white wine in the world, it fetches great prices at auctions. The1821 vintage also has sentimental value for it is the year when Napoleon, exiled in the island of St Helena, passed away.

Vinn Jaune 1821

Vinn Jaune 1821

The Museum Collection includes two splendid old vintages from the Chateau Lafite Rothschild. There’s the 1854 and the 1883, the very best examples of old Bordeaux wines. Structured, rich and grand, these last for 100 years and more.

Chateau Margaux

Chateau Margaux

Another great Bordeaux wine in the Museum Collection is the Mouton Rothschild 1874. A magnificent wine, it is guaranteed to transport the drinker into a magical land of flowers and beautiful scenery.

From Chateau Margaux, one of the five 1st Growth wines from the 1855 Classification of Medoc wines, there are 1877 & 1896 vintages. Feminine, elegant and velvety, this one is like the woman with inner beauty, ageing gracefully for over a century.

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1883Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1883

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1883Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1883

Although some of these wines are not for sale, there is an excellent collection of  vintage wines, ranging from 25 to 75 years old, that you can savour with your next meal at Buyan or Saha.

SWEET NOTES ON CHOCOLATE

We’re taking a breather after packing off the Caperberry chocolate orders that kept us busy through the Diwali season. Even as the luscious-centred delights were being crafted and placed in their luxury boxes, I found myself thinking about our endless fascination with chocolate, the perfect gift and a sensory pleasure like few others.

Diwali Special Chocolates

How it all began: The history of chocolate goes all the way back to the Mayans. Cacao beans were so valuable to them that they were used as currency. In 1519, the Aztec emperor Montezuma served some to his guest, the conquistador Hernando Cortes.  Cortes took cacao back home to Spain in 1529, sweetening the cacao drink for Spaniards.  As the drink gained popularity, the Spanish planted cacao trees in their colonies in Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Jamaica.

Early experiments: Milk chocolate wasn’t invented until 1875. The first European chocolate involved removing half of the cocoa butter, crushing what remained and mixing it with salts to counter the bitter taste, this was known as Dutch Cocoa. Milk chocolate was discovered by taking this powder and mixing it with sweetened condensed milk, which had been invented by a man named Nestle. Sounds familiar?

Chocolates By Caperberry 1

Early experiments: Milk chocolate wasn’t invented until 1875. The first European chocolate involved removing half of the cocoa butter, crushing what remained and mixing it with salts to counter the bitter taste, this was known as Dutch Cocoa. Milk chocolate was discovered by taking this powder and mixing it with sweetened condensed milk, which had been invented by a man named Nestle. Sounds familiar?

As a gift: According to some historical versions, Anne of Austria, daughter of King Philip III of Spain, who married King Louis XIII of France in 1615, gave him chocolate as a wedding gift.  That is also how news of chocolate spread from Spain to France and other parts of Europe.
Chocolates by Caperberry 2

The food of love: Famed lovers Montezuma and Casanova had declared chocolate to be an aphrodisiac, and the Marquis de Sade was once arrested for hosting a ball where he spiked the chocolate pastilles with Spanish fly, turning the gala into an amorous affair. There’s no denying that chocolate gives most people the feeling that they’re in love. Apparently, that’s because of what phenyl ethylamine (PEA), a chemical in chocolate, does when it’s released in the human brain.

A sensation: People desire chocolate for its sensory properties, its melting sensations and intense flavour, which develops in the cocoa solids during the fermentation process. Its aroma and flavors are highly complex. More than 500 compounds responsible for aromas have been found in roasted cocoa beans, and chocolate has more 1,500 flavor compounds, which is three times the number found in wine.

Too much demand: The world is facing a chocolate shortage due to the demand for chocolate increasing all the time. Supply is unable to keep up, making this unique and delightful ingredient dearer every passing day. So indulge in it before it becomes unaffordable ore ven worse, unavailable!

Sentosa Cove via Vivocity: Another side of Singapore

I have been spending a fair amount of my time in Singapore of late, on account of my recent venture Saha- Signature Indian Restaurant, there. Primarily on Sundays when Saha is closed,I have the opportunity to explore the city, which has a well-deserved reputation for its gastronomy.

During my last trip in September, I decided to discover Sentosa, the playground of Singapore, if you will. The island resort, reached by a causeway, a tropical-themed boardwalk or a cable car ride which offers splendid views, is chockfull of attractions and things to do – from a Dolphin Lagoon and ocean-side pyrotechnics to luge rides and an adventure park. Much as I’d like the occasional adrenaline rush of a para jump, it’s the wine and dine options at Sentosa that have captured my interest the most.

Way to Sentosa

View of Sentosa from Vivocity

I began at Vivocity Mall, which is the hopping-off point for Sentosa. Besides the array of retail and entertainment options, it also houses some top-rated restaurants. Among them is Jamie’s Italian by British chef Jamie Oliver. It’s known for its Antipasti Planks of assorted Fish, Meats or Vegetables; Fresh home made pastas like Shrimp Linguini, Truffle Tagliatelle; Wild Mushroom and Smoked Mozzarella risotto, Thirty day matured Prime Rib, Baked sustainable Halibut, and Tiramisu & Epic Brownie. Make sure to you book in advance, particularly for dinner to avoid disappointment.

Courtesty Jamie's Italian

Jamie Oliver                       Courtesy:Jamie’s

 Other quality restaurants at Vivocity include Bornga, serving Korean-style barbecue, and Serenity Spanish Bar & Restaurant for very good paella and sangria, King Louis- Grill & Bar a medieval themed restaurant, The Queen and Mangosteen for British food, Madam Kwan’s for Malaysian Nasi Lemak, Tajimaya-.Japanese Charcoal Grill- and on to Sentosa, with its luxury resorts and restaurants that span the gamut from beach bars to cafes, bistros and fine dining places.

Bornga, Vivocity

Among the headline-grabbers in Sentosa CoveareSaint Pierre &Brussels Sprouts by celebrity Belgian Chef Emmanuel Stroobant. While Saint Pierre is known for it’s fine modern French cuisine, Brussel Sprouts serves Musses and a wide range of Belgian craft beers in a fun-casual atmosphere. The freshest and mussels are served in ten different styles – Vin Blanc (onion, parsley, butter, leek, celery,white wine), Fromage Bleu (blue cheese, bamboo shoot, mushroom, cream), Ostendaise (fish stock, lobster bisque, grey shrimp, mushroom) and more – with an endless supply of fries. I was impressed by the play of little local touches on a European classic.

Courtesty Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts                       Courtesy: Brussels Sprouts

Then, there’s the Earl of Hindh, decorated with grand portraits of Maharajas, full-length mirrors and antique chandeliers. The view of the marina from the restaurant is simply breathtaking.

With Chef Negi & Subha, Partner, Earl of Hindh

View of the Marina from Earl of Hind

The menu is inspired by the Indian cuisine from the British Raj, when the maharajas and royalty dined on exotic dishes and hosted lavish feasts. On the menu is a range of kebabs, with the perfectly-executed Kakori Kebab being a signature and curries such as Murgh Tikka Masala, now a global best-seller, besides desserts like Aam Tukda. Earl of Hindh also stocksa fine selection of single malts and whiskies, to be paired with the rich dishes. What could be more Indian than that!

Earl of Hindh Whisky Edradour

Kebab Platter at Earl of Hindh

My Journey of Cooking Italian Cuisine in India

From time to time I find my thoughts wandering to the great meals I’ve had. A couple of years back, there was the one at Il Palagio, the Michelin star Italian restaurant at Four Seasons, Firenze, where I attended a special dinner titled ‘The Reds and the White’, a six-course extravaganza created by Executive Chef Vito Mollica using the divine autumn white truffles from San Miniato by Savini Tartufi paired with nine great Italian reds from the house of Pio Cesare (Piedmont), Allegrini (Venteo and Tuscany) and Argiolas (Sardinia).

iBlog Italy Truffle dinner - 148

Extravagant Truffle Dinner

For many years now ‘La Cucina Italiana’, or the Italian Cuisine, has been one of my favourites. I love Italian cuisine for its simplicity, flavours, diversity and magical ingredients. Italian cuisine arrived in India a couple of decades ago when I was just starting my career as a chef. It was the early ‘90s and cooking Italian food in India had its own challenges. It is not possible to cook any ethnic cuisine without the right ingredients and Italian recipes in particular use a wide variety of indigenous and artisanal ingredients. Finding some of these ingredients was as difficult as mastering the art of cooking itself. Substitution may be possible at times, but the results may not be inspiring.

Blog Italy Fresh Pasta Dinner

Cured meats and Fresh pasta in Parma!

Blog italy Cured meats in Parma- 37

My first brush with Italian cooking was in the kitchens of the Orient Express, New Delhi. Although the menu there was ‘Contemporary European’, it included several elements of Italian cuisine. In 1998, I had the opportunity apprentice with Michelin Star Italian Chef Giorgio Locatelli at Zafferano. What an experience it was to witness the art of converting freshest ingredients into superlative dishes! White Alba truffles, delicious salads, amazing antipasti, fresh seafood, creamy risottos, al dente pastas, delicate desserts and great Italian wines were all there. On my return to India I opened Seventy Seven, an Italian cuisine-inspired fine dining restaurant at the Manor Hotel, New Delhi.

Italian Blog Spaghrtti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

With no import licence, Italian ingredients were hard to come by and I had to depend on purveyors who would import these ingredients for me. Soon, they were all rewarded as the demand for these ingredients, showed a steady increase and their businesses began to flourish. I also encouraged local farmers to grow fresh herbs and exotic vegetables and worked closely with Gayatri Farms for guinea fowl, duck, turkey, Japanese quail and corn-fed chicken. Around that time, economic liberalization also facilitated the availability of more imported food into the country.

italy Fresh Produce in Florence- 23

Fresh produce in Florence

In my next assignment as Executive Chef of The Park, Bangalore I was entrusted with creating and opening the Italian restaurant I-t.alia, in 200. It was to be the finest Italian restaurant in the country and we collaborated with the legendary Italian food expert Antonio Carluccio for a comprehensive training programme on Italian Cuisine. Soon after I put together a menu that was an honest expression of Italian food augmented with fine presentation.

Italian Blog Arichoke and green peas risotto for Italian article

It has been a long journey of love, fascination and discovery of Italian cuisine for 21 years. Even today the knowledge and understanding of Italian cuisine and ingredients continue to inspire the menus of my flagship restaurants Caperberry, a showcase for avant garde European cuisine, and Fava which features Mediterranean cuisine, as they do for several restaurants across the world.

Blog Italy

The popularity of Italian food is fuelled by the many similarities it shares with Indian cuisine in terms of ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, chilli etc, regional cooking diversities and the simplicity of home cooking. It is also packed with a wide range of comfort food like pastas, pizzas, risottos and hearty soups all of which are as delicious in their vegetarian format.

With so much to offer, Italian cuisine continues to delight chefs, diners, food lovers and enthusiasts around the globe in a manner that makes it a real ‘cuisine of the world’.

The Marriage of Single Malt and Fine Food

For many of us the ultimate expression of fine dining is a well-crafted, multi-course dinner accompanied by an appropriate wine for each course. There are few greater pleasures in life than the wonderful tango of food and wine. Still, don’t you sometimes wonder if it can be done a little differently? Perhaps another beverage that has the versatility and characteristics which makes wine such a perfect partner of food?

Anyone with a little knowledge and understanding of beverages will know the answer: the Scottish ‘water of life- usquebaugh’ a Gaelic word from which the term whisky has emerged. Within the vast world of whisky it is the ‘Single Malts’ that hold the most promise because of their close resemblance to wines, not necessarily in taste but in characteristics which make them ideal for food pairing. Like wine, Scotch whisky is a natural artisan product with a lot of skill and craft involved in its production to achieve consistent results of distinction. It also happens to be the most popular spirit drink traditionally enjoyed before and after dinner or sometimes as a cocktail (not by purists though who believe the addition of any third element besides some pure water can ruin the dram).

The increasing popularity of Single Malts in the last decade or so has opened up the potential of Scotch whisky as a fine accompaniment to food. Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a whisky from a single distillery made using 100% malted barley and water by batch distillation in copper pot stills. Malt whisky which has more flavour constituents than blended whiskies is generally matured in oak casks for at least 10 years even though the mandatory requirement is only 3 years. During the maturation process the harsher constituents mellow and some of the characteristic flavours, aromas and colour develop. There are over hundred pot still malt distilleries in Scotland. Each of these produce malt whiskies which differ considerably in flavour and bouquet depending on several factors like geographical region (Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Campbeltown and Island), climate and natural elements like water and peat (used in the kiln in which the malt is dried which gives it a smoky, somewhat pungent flavour).

Single Malts

Other factors include the distillation process, the size and shape of stills and the maturation process in oak casks. With so many variables it is natural that the single malt whiskies vary from light, floral and fruity to full bodied, earthy, smoky and peaty. It is this diversity of nose and palate that makes it possible for different single malt whiskies to be married to and enjoyed with different kinds of food. The pairing principle for Single Malts is no different from that of wines. In both cases one has to ensure the ‘balance’ of flavour, strength, aroma and taste. The term ‘balance’ here means that neither the Single Malt nor the food should dominate each other. The natural progression has to be from Lowland to Highland and then to Island and from young to old.

Using this rule of thumb, one of my favourite pairings is the Dalmore 12 years with Stuffed morels with whisky and honey reduction. This single Highland malt of great distinction with hints of Olorosso Sherry (from the maturing casks), orange and spice notes and a well-rounded, rich citrus mouth feel and woody finish is a great match for the exotic, earthy flavours of morels, creamy ricotta honey and olives.

The other is a more complex single malt called Jura Superstition made from island malts 13 to 15 years old. Despite being an island malt it does have the heavy peaty and smoky characteristics prevalent in the malts from Islay. With its multiple flavour profile it marries very well with the robust flavour of Rosemary and almond crusted lamb chops with whisky and wine sauce.
.Although it may be virtually impossible to replace wine with Single Malt at the dinner table, it has definitely emerged as an exciting option that can add a lot of panache and vigour to fine dining in recent times.

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SINGLE MALT DINNER MENU

CANAPES & COCKTAILS
Scotch Rarebit
Savoury olive and herb scones
Scottish smoked salmon and caper scones
Pairing- Single Malt Special Cocktails- Whisky Sour & Mint Julep

DINNER
Amuse Bouche
*******
Ayrshire potato salad deconstruction – roasted potatoes, onion, truffle, green pea gazpacho and beet foam
OR
Whisky grilled scampi with avocado salad
Pairing – The Dalmore, 12years
*****
Pan grilled silken tofu with roasted pepper and basil
OR
Oat meal crusted Scottish salmon with sautéed mushroom and whisky sabayon
Pairing – Jura Superstition
*****
Sweet lime sorbet
*********
Tomato confit, mint and goat cheese tart with whisky-saffron beurre blanc
OR
Shepherd’s pie deconstructed – slow braised lamb leg, feuilletage of baby onion, potato and sun-dried tomato and whisky jus
Pairing – The Dalmore, Gran Reserva
******
Raspberry cranachan, whisky flavoured chocolate fudge and fig ice cream
OR
Tome de savoie English cheddar and with tea pot de crème and cornichons
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Cryo espuma
******
Petit fours and coffee
Pairing – Dalmore Cigar Malt

The Art of Cooking with Sparkling Wine

Cooking with wine is one of the exciting things you can do in a kitchen. From classic Coq au vin to the trendier red wine jus, wine-infused foods open up a whole new repertoire for a chef. You can take it to another level by using sparkling wines in a variety of ways. Here are some of my favourite sparkling wine recipes. Of course, to drink alongside, make sure it’s the best bubbly.

Blog Sparkling wineWarm mushroom salad

Sparkling Wine Tossed Mixed Mushrooms

Preparation time – 45 minutes
Cooking time- 7 minutes
Serves -4

Ingredients – Quantity
Milky mushrooms – 75 gms
Button mushrooms – 75 gms
Shitake mushrooms (dry) reconstituted – 25 gms
Fresh oyster mushrooms – 75 gms
Morels (dry) – reconstituted – 20 gms
Horn of plenty (dry) – reconstituted – 25 gms
Garlic chopped – 2 tsp
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Sparkling wine – 4 tbsp
Flat leaf parsley – chopped – 1 tbsp
Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Crushed black pepper – ½ tsp

Garnish
Parmesan shavings – 16 nos

Method

Wash and reconstitute the dried mushrooms by soaking them in hot water for 30 minutes. Trim the stalks of milky and button mushrooms and cut them in to quarters. Remove the stalks of morels, shitake, horn of plenty and oyster mushrooms. Cut the button mushrooms and morels into halves.

Heat olive oil in a large shallow pan, add chopped garlic and allow it to cook for 10 seconds without browning. Add the milky and button mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes over medium to high heat. Follow it up with the other mushrooms, sparkling wine and continue to cook for a minute or so. When the wine and the liquid from the mushrooms have evaporated, remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle with salt, crushed black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and chopped parsley. Give them a quick toss and serve garnished with Parmesan shavings.

Blog Cooking with Sparkling Wine Zabaglione

 

Zabaglione with Strawberry
Preparation time – 1 hour
Cooking time- 10 minutes
Serves – 4

Ingredients – Quantity
For zabaglione
Egg yolks – 12 nos
Vanilla extract – ½ tspn
Prosecco – 120 ml
Caster sugar – 60gms

For the strawberry
Strawberry – 200gms
Caster sugar – 2 tbsp
Bouvet Brut Rose – 60 ml

For garnish
Strawberry – 4 nos

Method
To prepare the berries
Cut the strawberries into quarters lengthwise. Place them in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with sugar and 60ml of Bouvet Brut Rose sparkling wine. Set aside for an hour allowing them to macerate.

To prepare zabaglione
Bring half a saucepan of water to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Choose a mixing bowl that fits the top of the saucepan without its base touching the water. Put the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract and 120ml of Prosecco in the bowl and mix with the help of a whisk. Place the bowl on the saucepan with simmering water, whisk until the mixture turns pale and the volume is doubled. This should take 8-10 minutes.

Assembly
Place the macerated strawberries in individual stem glasses (preferably martini glasses) and pour the zabaglione to cover. Serve garnished with fresh strawberries.