Flavour, pinch by pinch

Chef Mohammed Zashimuddin will curate the Lucknowi Food Festival at Spice Jar, The Residency, from Dec 8

Published: 06th December 2017 11:37 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2017 09:48 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Iwas all of eight when I started cooking. I belong to a small family in Jharkhand and being the oldest of five siblings, I had to take up the responsibility to support my family. Although I was born in Jharkhand, I was raised in Kolkata.


So my food journey also began there and there has been no turning back since. It was back in 1999 that I first visited Chennai and then worked in a couple of places before joining The Residency in 2000. Since then I have been working with them and am currently working at their Coimbatore branch.

I cook anything and everything Indian — Mughalai, Awadh, Nawabi, Gujarati, Marwari, you name it, I cook them all.  I love cooking Mughalai because it is a rich cuisine, in terms of the flavours — from extremely mild to spicy, the taste of the spices, etc.

The best part about cooking Indian cuisine is that they are actually all similar in terms of the ingredients — spices, powders, etc, that is used. Where it differs is in the amount or quantity of spice that is added to each dish. The combination of the spices is what determines the flavours and differentiates it as a specific cuisine. Chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, etc, are used in most dishes, but how much of it is used it is where the flavours differ. There are different combinations we try out using these basic masalas — Peshawari masala, Nihari masala, etc. For example in a normal bhuna ghosh, if you add some fresh coriander, it will taste different, if you add in some cashew nut paste it becomes korma, and instead of cashew if you add some almond paste it becomes badami ghosh korma, and so on.

As Jharkhand is a place that is yet to develop, people there cannot really eat too much rich food. So people stick to eating the traditional daal and sabzi with roti and for sweets, they usually eat malpua. Our chicken and mutton curries are also made in a very simple manner — without any cashews or almonds.

My kind of cooking is a bit different from that of the other chefs. I don’t use a spoon to measure anything. All my masalas, spices, etc, I measure with my hands. If you ask me how I know the right measurements, I don’t know how to answer it, I just know it. In fact, there was this time when I was in Maldives and I had to make biryani. They had all the measuring equipment and spoons ready but I began making it and was adding the masalas with my hand. The other chefs there were just staring at me and murmuring.

One of them came up to me and said yaar, zyaada ho jaayega masala biryani mein (that will be too much of masala in your biryani)”. I just kept quiet and continued to cook and once I was done, the head chef tasted it and he was very happy with the flavours and its unique taste.

I worked in Maldives too for around three-four months in between and I noticed that they like our Indian flavours. What attracted me most was their way of presentation — it is beautiful, and I haven’t seen that kind of presentation of food anywhere else. I learnt a lot of things after working in Maldives. I am motivated to learn some western cuisine as well — continental and even a bit of baking, which I am slowly experimenting with.

It was only after coming down to Chennai that I tasted South Indian food for the first time. I remember the first thing I ate was idly-sambar, which I did not like back then because I was used to eating daal and roti. But today I can proudly say that the south Indian breakfast is really tasty and healthy as well.

Yakhni Shorba

Ingredients: Mutton with bone: 250 gm; Cow ghee: 15 ml; Cumin seeds: 10 gm; Onion slice: 100 gm; Black pepper corn:
5 gm; Whole coriander seed: 10 gm; Green cardamom: 2; Black cardamom:  1; Cloves:  2; Cinnamon stick: 1; Mace: 1; Bayleaf: 1; Coriander roots: 20 gm; Ginger garlic paste: 5 gm; Saunf: 2 gm; Yoghurt: 100 ml; Saffron one pinch; Salt to taste; Coriander leaves

METHOD: Pack black pepper corn, whole coriander seed, green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, mace, bayleaf, saunf and coriander roots, in a thin cotton cloth. In a thick bottom vessel heat ghee. Add cumin seeds and let it crackle. Add sliced onion and fry for 2 minutes. Add the mutton, salt, ginger garlic paste, packed cotton cloth, saffron and cook for 5 minutes. Add 5 cups of water and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Whisk the yoghurt and add it to the preparation and cook for 5 minutes. Add  the salt. Add coriander and serve hot.

Murgh Chops
Ingredients: Chicken leg: 1/2 kg; Garlic paste: 20 gm; Ginger paste:
15 gm; Lemon juice:  10 ml; Yellow chilly powder: 10 gm; Kasoori methi powder:  5 gm; Jeera powder: 5 gm; Hung curd: 125 gm; Amul cheese: 10 gm; Crush black pepper: 5 gm; Roasted  whole coriander powder: 10 gm; Cream: 50 ml; Mix gram masala powder: 5 gm; Saffron one pinch; Mustard oil: 25ml; salt to taste

METHOD: Make a paste of the hung curd and cheese. Remove skin from chicken pieces, and cut slits into them lengthwise (First marination): Marinate the chicken with garlic paste, ginger paste, lemon juice,and  salt and keep aside.  (Second marination): In a separate bowl add yellow  chilli powder, kasoori methi powder, Jeera powder,crushed pepper, roasted coriander powder,  garam masala powder, curd & cheese paste, saffron, cream and mix it all together. Add the first  marinated chicken into second marination. Put mustard oil in it, mix  well and keep in a cold room for one hour. Put the chicken on skewers and grill on a tandoor. Serve hot with green chutney.

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