Flavourful memories

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | POOJA PRABBHAN
Published May 5, 2019, 12:15 am IST
Updated May 5, 2019, 7:02 am IST
Sunday Chronicle gets chefs to reminisce secrets that were passed on from generations.
Anand Kumar,  executive chef
 Anand Kumar, executive chef

Indian chefs proudly talk about the special ingredients and cooking preparations imbibed from their grandmothers and how strongly it influences their  own technique.

Perhaps, grandmas knew it all along... The soulful fragrance of homegrown spices, the magic of ‘her secret sauce’ and a burst of rich traditional flavors in your mouth — nothing compares to the gems rustled up in granny’s kitchen. So, what was the secret? Her love that translated into pieces of culinary grandeur or some smart hacks up her sleeve? Either way, the results have made us all go gaga over their gastronomia. Turns out, food experts also think alike. Sunday Chronicle gets chefs to reminisce  secrets that were passed on from generations.

 

“One of the tips my grandmother gave me, which has never disappointed till date is that if a dish becomes too salty, then a surefire way to reverse the effect is by adding a peeled potato into it and cooking it for some time. This process magically reduces the saltiness,” begins Anand Kumar, Executive Chef, Hilton Bangalore Embassy Golflinks.

Chicken PoulaoChicken PoulaoDesi chicken masala with chana dal  paranthaDesi chicken masala with chana dal paranthaShuktoShukto

He further elucidates, “I was making a dish recently, and we were trying out a new Himalayan pink salt, the dish became a tad too salty and immediately I dropped a potato into the dish and it was saved! Another one of my grandmother’s culinary gems was to add a ball of dough to oil, if it becomes too hot, this helps cool it down quickly.”

 Maharaj Jodha Ram Choudhary Maharaj Jodha Ram ChoudharyChef Stephane Calvet, executive chef Chef Stephane Calvet, executive chef

While tips and tricks are often guarded secrets, if there’s something that works like a charm, it has got to be secret creations. Speaking of which, Chef Neeraj Rawoot, Executive Chef, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, elaborates, “Hand powdered Garam Masala (freshly ground whole Garam Masala in a mortar and pestle) which was used in many of her preparations happens to be one of my grandma’s creations that never let me down.” When quizzed about a few culinary tips from his granny that he swears by; the Chef reveals, “To prepare a mustard paste for Bengali curries add a pinch of turmeric powder and green chili which will prevent from getting a bitter taste. While preparing Baingan Ka Bharta, after roasting the tomatoes and eggplant, cling wrap them for five mins so that the skin peels out well and fast.”

Grandmother's special Paella, Four Seasons Hotel BengaluruGrandmother's special Paella, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru

For wide-eyed food enthusiasts, if there’s one piece of culinary information worth knowing, it is this:  “Masalas should be freshly grounded, rather than using commercially packed masalas because they will always lend a freshness and will have the most flavor!” avers Chef Avijit Deb Sharma, Novotel Outer Ring Road. Thanks to his grandma, he believes that food should always be cooked in slow heat. “Through this, it saves cooking gas and also flavors of spices cook well in the dish. One of my fondest memories of those days is that when I used to spend time with her and we didn’t have a mixer and grinder, so she used to make  certain mix of spices weekly, which were roasted and then hand ground in  Shil Nora ( Bengali version of a pestle and mortar ) and store them for the rest of the week, this mostly used to happen on Sundays after lunch.”

Dal pithaDal pitha

Executive Chef Stephane Calvet, Four Seasons Hotel, Bengaluru, opines that if there’s one grandma secret he learned early on in the kitchen, there are some details that one can never bypass if one is to turn in a fabulous dish. He reveals, “What I learned from my grand mum is that the details really matter in the final dish…like if one were to cut up chicken pieces really small, and also add the bones, a rich and flavoursome broth is a guarantee.”  Chef Amar Dwivedi, Executive Sous Chef lets us in on another granny special that stays close to his heart and kitchen ethics, of course. “One tip that I follow the most is to cook food in earthenware, this suggestion has helped me a lot in my career.I have cracked my grandma’s secret that she uses her own spices and never grinds them using a mixer. She always used the muddling method for spices, which made the freshness and flavor remain in the dish.”

Bhapa ChingriBhapa Chingri

Letting us in on that one grandma secret that he just couldn’t get enough of, Chef Neeraj Rawoot reveals, “I think grinding fresh masalas on a “Silbatta” – mortar pestle makes a lot of difference. The masala retains its aroma as it doesn’t get heated up due to friction in a regular mixer grinder.  And of course, the love and time they give to the dish creates the magic. One of my favorite dishes is “Bhapa Chingri” which involves steaming of prawns in a tender coconut shell with onion, green chilli, mustard oil, and mustard paste. Such a simple recipe but the key to this dish lies in the prawn stock or the gravy and the mustard paste. I remember this memory as my granny used to come to my wife’s house to cook food. She would add a bit of turmeric and green chilies while grinding the mustard from getting bitter. Also, she would leave the head of the prawn to get an intense stock.”

Chef Neeraj RawootChef Neeraj Rawoot

Executive Chef Stephane Calvet, Four Seasons Hotel, Bengaluru, opines that if there’s one grandma secret he learned early on in the kitchen, there are some details that one can never bypass if one is to turn in a fabulous dish. He reveals, “What I learned from my grand mum is that the details really matter in the final dish…like if one were to cut up chicken pieces really small, and also add the bones, a rich and flavoursome broth is a guarantee.”  Chef Amar Dwivedi, Executive Sous Chef lets us in on another granny special that stays close to his heart and kitchen ethics, of course. “One tip that I follow the most is to cook food in earthenware, this suggestion has helped me a lot in my career. I have cracked my grandma’s secret that she uses her own spices and never grinds them using a mixer. She always used the muddling method for spices, which made the freshness and flavor remain in the dish.”

Executive chef Avijit Deb SharmaExecutive chef Avijit Deb Sharma

Letting us in on that one grandma secret that he just couldn’t get enough of, Chef Neeraj Rawoot reveals, “I think grinding fresh masalas on a “Silbatta” – mortar pestle makes a lot of difference. The masala retains its aroma as it doesn’t get heated up due to friction in a regular mixer grinder.  And of course, the love and time they give to the dish creates the magic. One of my favorite dishes is “Bhapa Chingri” which involves steaming of prawns in a tender coconut shell with onion, green chilli, mustard oil, and mustard paste. Such a simple recipe but the key to this dish lies in the prawn stock or the gravy and the mustard paste. I remember this memory as my granny used to come to my wife’s house to cook food. She would add a bit of turmeric and green chilies while grinding the mustard from getting bitter. Also, she would leave the head of the prawn to get an intense stock.”

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