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‘I don’t put things on a plate to make it look cute’

DECCAN CHRONICLE | SUSHMITA MURTHY
Published Aug 30, 2015, 7:20 am IST
Updated Mar 28, 2019, 12:45 am IST
...says chef Floyd Cardoz as he talks about his love for simple food
Charcoal grilled Chilli Calamari
 Charcoal grilled Chilli Calamari

He may be a celebrated New York chef rustling up meals for the Hollywood glitterati and even the US President on occasions, but Floyd Cardoz’s reputation of putting upma on the world map precedes it all. He clinched the title of Top Chef Masters (2011) with the humble Indian snack (with a snazzy twist of course) when his co-contestants were busy dishing out far more complex compositions. But that for you is the essence of Floyd Cardoz — a Bandra boy-turned-celebrity chef who prefers the whiff of curry leaves over thyme or the crunch of green pepper over zucchini.

“I believe in using local and seasonal ingredients,” says Cardoz, seated across us at a table at his Mumbai venture, The Bombay Canteen. “There is a reason why people in the coast eat more coconut than those in the interiors, why South Indians eat spicier food than Kashmiris and so on. I don’t put things on the plate just to make it look cute.” Quite naturally then, he isn’t a fan of molecular gastronomy. “I don’t practise modernist cuisine. If I’m sitting and wondering what the heck I am eating, why is that good? Why would someone dehydrate curry leaves only to rehydrate them? For me, that is food from the head, not the heart — it’s not passion.”

 

Chef Cardoz, apart from partnering and serving at star restaurants (Tabla, White Street) in the US, has also released cook books and was recently offered a judge’s gig on Masterchef India. But he couldn’t take it up due to time constraints. Has he watched the show though? “I haven’t watched the Indian show, but US Masterchef is a sham. There’s more crying than cooking!”

The man behind the exquisite food styling in the American comedy-drama 100-Foot Journey, reveals that food that looks drool-worthy on camera need not be so in real life. “Very often chefs don’t understand how food looks on camera. One shouldn’t use butter dishes because they look lacklustre. No adding salt to the dish because it adds moisture and makes it look runny. Also, cook it a little less. They fool you into thinking the food’s good, but it’s all about tantalising the eyes.”

 

Does Cardoz believe he has changed the perception of Indian food abroad? “Without sounding pompous, yes, I have contributed to redefining Indian food in the US. It was easy because it used to be badly executed. It was all about the chicken tikka, paneer makhani — spicy and greasy. People didn’t like it, and for good reason. I opened their eyes to more spices and ingredients,” he says.

As someone who picked upma for his culinary experiments, we ask him how he’d reinterpret the other Indian breakfast favourite, poha. “Actually, I’ve already done something interesting with it. I use it to crust fish and paneer — a hit recipe among my guests. When they ask me how I managed to find such flat rice, I tell them we have little boys who hammer each grain to flatten it out!” he quips.

 

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Kashmiri Milk Braised Raan

Ingredients

  • 1 leg of lamb (1.5-2 kg)  
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 litres milk
  • 2 fresh green chillies, split
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli seeds, ground fine
  • 4 tbsp coriander powder  
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 12  green cardamoms, roughly pounded
  • 8 black cardamoms
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1  2-inch piece dry ginger, pounded
  • 4 bay leaves

Method

1. Wash the meat and marinate it (one hour) with garlic-ginger paste, red chilli powder, turmeric, dahi, lemon juice, salt to taste.  
2. In a pan, add oil and fry the sliced onions until golden brown along with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.
3. Crush the onions by hand. Put the remaining oil in the pan into the marinated meat.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and the crushed onions to the meat. Mix well and put on a high flame till the meat mixture comes to a boil. Then close the lid and leave to simmer for about 45 minutes.
5. Fry the potatoes with salt till golden brown and keep aside.
6. When the meat is cooked, add the fried potatoes (do not pour any water into the meat; allow it to cook in the tomato, yoghurt and meat juices).
7. In another pan, spread the cooked rice on the base, then place the meat over it and repeat the layering till all the meat and rice is used.
8. Sprinkle garam masala and a bit of saffron mixed in milk over the last layer and cook on slow fire for 15 minutes.
9. To serve the biryani, dig ladle right into the pan and bring out the rice in layers so that the separation is visible on the serving dish. Dig in.

Recipes Courtesy - Chef Floyd Cardoz, Culinary Director, The Bombay Canteen

 

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Char- grilled Chilli Calamari  

Ingredients

  • kg squid body + tentacles cleaned    
  • Squid Spice mix:
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 4 tsp coriander
  • 4 tsp yellow mustard seed
  • 8 Kashmiri chillies
  • tsp turmeric
  • to taste lime juice
  • 4 tbsp sliced pickled onion

Method
1. Grind the spices
2. Clean the squid and score with a knife. Marinate the squid. Then sprinkle with salt and oil before grilling.
3. Heat up the charcoal grill or grill pan on high heat. Place the calamari on the grill and cook for about a minute on one side. Turn the calamari over and cook on the other side till it is tender.
4. Remove from the grill, cut it into smaller pieces and transfer to a plate.
5. Garnish with sliced pickled onions.

 

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