It is said that a wholesome dining experience is incomplete unless all the senses are satisfied — right from how your food tastes to smells, sounds, feels and looks. In a layman’s language let’s just say that every cupcake is incomplete without a cherry on top; and, that’s why any chef worth his salt would never let a dish leave his counter without appropriate plating and presentation.
With more and more Instagram friendly “foodgrams” flooding our social media, a good-looking and well-plated dish becomes an instant conversation starter on the dinner table. Arun Sundararaj, Executive Chef at the Taj Mahal Hotel Delhi, points out that a person first eats with his eyes and then the other senses. He says, “The plating of food is a process where the chef pre-decides the quantity and the accompaniments that need to be placed on the food. Choosing a plate is like choosing a canvas for a painter. The chef would know his dish and already has an understanding of what the colour of the dish is and what would be the correct backdrop for the same. So when you are choosing a plate, the size of your plate should be in proportion to your dish. Look at the colour, if the shape is abstract then you can use the plate differently. If you need to add a new element to your plate to complete the look and feel, make sure the product that you use is of quality food grade. If you are new to the art of plating, look at current ideas online and see what you could use. Be creative when needed is what I would say.”
A good host or chef’s motto is to first get the cooking technique and the taste correct, and then look at the way the food is presented to make it look appetizing. The quantity, the balance of colour, texture, and height of the dish plays a very important role in the overall look of the plate.
From foaming layers, gaseous effects to powdered or concentrated or/and crystalised garnish techniques — there are several new techniques in the food business that are being used by experts to present the food. Speaking about the trends, chef informs, “If you have plated the food well but the food is not seasoned well or not cooked well, then you have lost the game. So get the basic right. There are many trends in plating that we see these days — cleaner plates, different textures, abstract designs to name a few. If you have been in the food business for long, you would know that white by far was the best way to plate food as it would bring out the colours that were presented. Today quirky things are used to change the pattern of the plate. With different metal platters, one can relate to the food that he has cooked it in. A lot of people are also using flotation techniques these days to showcase a dish or a part of the dish.”
While plating at restaurants and hotels is part of a fancy meal, one can also try some simple tricks at home to create an arty effect. “When one has to plate the food at home, the thumb rule is to pre-decide what you would plate the food in. If possible try plating a dry plate of the meal before you actually do it during the dinner time. Serve sauce or curry separately so the plate will not get messy. Keep many spoons, a slicer a pair of kitchen tongs (to help plate) and a small napkin handy to wipe the edge of the plate once you have placed the food on the plate. Remember that if you are doing more than one plate (i.e. a course wise meal) keep in mind the volume of your entire meal, as your guest may feel that they got too much or got too less,” sums up the chef.
Given below are a few recipes by Arun Sundararaj, Executive Chef at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi, which iseasy to prepare and present at home.
PALAK PATTA CHAAT
- 4 kg organic spinach leaves
- 1 kg organic gram flour
- 200 gm corn flour
- 50 gm coriander seeds crushed
- 10 gm carom seeds
- 40 gm turmeric powder
- 25 gm yellow chilly powder
- 25 gm ginger, finely chopped
- 40 gm green chilly, finely chopped
- 50 gm coriander powder
- Salt per taste
- Oil to fry
for finishing (per portion)
- Black chaat masala as per taste
- 1 tbsp raw mango chutney
- 2 spinach leaves
Remove stalks. Shred in a medium-size and wash it three to four times in a colander and let the water drain out the whole night. Add rest of the stuff in a big bowl the next day. No water to be added. Mix well till it gets frying consistency. Now make small marble size balls with the thick batter and then fry it till 70 per cent done. Take it out and then fry it again to make it crisp. For frying leaves, dip the bigger leaves individually into thin gram flour batter with all the other ingredients except carom seeds and fry till crisp. Fry the balls.
For finishing toss the fried balls with raw mango chutney and black chaat masala in a bowl. Decorate the plate as shown in the picture with a big leaf on top and varq (optional) as a garnish.
3 pumpkin flower
100 gm green pumpkin
2 gm fennel seeds
2 gm carom seeds
2 gm methi seed
2 gm salt
10 gm oil
2 ml turmeric
3 gm garlic, chopped
- 2 gm green chilli, chopped
- 5 gm onion, chopped
- 5 gm tomato, chopped
- 2 gm ginger, chopped
- 5 gm corn flour
- 5 gm degi chilli
- 2 gm coriander powder
- 4 gm chaat masala
10 ml amchur chutney l 10 ml mint chutney l 4 gm edible flower l 10 gm sweet yoghurt
- Take green pumpkin wash well and de-seed without peeling the skin and cut into small dices. Take thick bottom pan, add oil, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, carom seeds and let it crackle in oil. Now add chopped garlic, ginger, green chilli, onion and tomato. Sauté well.
- Add small dices of pumpkin, turmeric powder, degi chilli, salt and cook until mashed properly. Make a corn flour batter with cold water and add salt into it. Rest for five minutes.
- Wash pumpkin flower thoroughly in cold water pat dry on paper and mix in batter. Deep fry it, after taking out from fryer add chat masala and keep aside.
- Take a plate and mould in the pumpkin mash and place the deep fried pumpkin flower. Garnish it well with amchur chutney, mint chutney, sweet yoghurt and edible flower.
KHUBANI KA MEETHA
½ cup dried apricots
3 tbsp sugar or as per taste
2 crushed green cardamom
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup milk or water
- Handful of apricot kernels (optional)
- A few slices of roasted and blanched almonds and pistachios
- 1 pinch saffron threads (optional)
- 1 edible silver leaf (optional)
for mille feuille puff pastry
200 gm puff pastry
- Soak dry apricots overnight. When they puff into smooth balls, strain them, reserving the water. Pit the apricots. Transfer the apricots along with soaked water to a non-stick pan.
- Bring to a boil, and then stew for 15 minutes. Add sugar, keep stirring. Mash to make the apricots pulpy. Add lemon juice to prevent caramelizing. At this stage, add ¼ cup milk to prevent the compote from sticking.
- Now add cardamom powder and saffron. Stir well.
- For baking the puff pastry, line a 43 x 30-cm (17 x 12-inch) baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry into a 3-mm (1/8-inch) thick 40 x 20-cm (16 x 8-inch) rectangle. Put the dough onto the baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 2000C (4000F). Prick entire surface of the dough with a fork. Brush with the milk and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Cut the puff pastry into sheets and fill the apricot stuffing and repeat to form layers.
MURGH METHI MALAI SOUFFLE
- 100 gm chicken breast
- 5 gm coriander root
- 4 gm green chilli
- 5 gm cardamom powder
- 30 ml cream
- 50 gm cheese
- 4 ml ginger julienne, finely chopped
- 2 gm garam masala
- 10 gm fresh fenugreek
- 5 egg white
- Salt as per taste
- 10 gm butter
- 2 drops liquid smoke
10 ml oil
10 ml water
15 gm refined flour
0.01 gm saffron
- Butter the mould and store it in a cold place. Take a heavy duty blender and blend the chicken breast, green chilli, coriander roots, ginger julienne, cheese, green cardamom powder, garam masala, and one egg white. Whip egg white to a hard peak. Add in the liquid smoke and blend further. Fold in the beaten egg white into the chicken mixture. Now take out the mould and pour in the batter and place it in a steamer for 10 minutes and let it cook.
- To make the sauce, in a thick bottom pan, boil together cream, ginger, fresh methi, and green chilli julienne. Add in the cheese. Remove from the heat and strain. De-mould the soufflé and pour the cream sauce on top and garnish with micro greens and tulle.
- To make tulle, blend all the ingredients together with saffron and make a thin slurry. Take a non-stick pan and add slurry into the pan. Let the slurry cook on slow heat. Remove from pan when the slurry is cooked and crispy. Place it on paper so as to remove excess oil.