CHENNAI: Strings of cheese wrapped inside thin and crispy wafers of dosa — this simple dish changed 20-something-year-old home chef Harshita Mirpuri’s life. “A few years back, the concept of cheese dosa or other flavours of dosa beyond plain and masala weren’t known. But about a decade ago, my mom used to make delicious cheese dosas at home. It was quite popular among my friends. That innovation intrigued me and my interest in cooking began,” she shares.
Passion on slow cook
Harshita was 16 years old when she started experimenting with sandwiches and dosas. “I tried new flavours. I used to add a pinch of salt and pepper in my sandwiches and took baby steps in cooking. But from sandwiches, I also went straight up to trying to make gnocchi and cupcakes at home. I burned the cupcakes and the gnocchi didn’t turn out to be great. So, I stayed away from baking for a while and decided to take it slow,” she says.But thanks to her family who are all food enthusiasts, Harshita was always given an opportunity to experiment with different dishes, feed her family and receive constructive criticism. “We belong to the Sindhi community and as a family, we are very enthusiastic about food and culture. That’s how my interest in the food industry intensified. My parents were always supportive of my choices,” says Harshita, who went on to pursue a culinary course at IHM, Taramani in 2012.
After graduation, several professional offers came her way, but Harshita chose to develop her culinary skills by working as an apprentice under well-known chefs in the city. “My ultimate goal was to start a food business. After several internships, gaining umpteen experience, in 2017, I started my venture Saute Couture — custom-made food was the concept,” she shares. From spaghetti arrabbiata, a recipe she learned from chef Willi, and mini tarts to delicious lasagnas, Harshita makes them all. “Lasagnas are my signature dish. I make it at least once a week for my family. They love it — from the girl who burned cupcakes to making perfect lasagnas, I have grown but I am still learning. I write about my relationship with food. The goal is to enjoy the process. I always feel like I am waltzing through the kitchen while cooking. I pick ingredients from different shelves and sway. That’s the key — to enjoy while cooking,” says the home chef who loves whipping up dishes from Continental and global cuisines.
Apart from the long-list of teachers she’s had the chance to work with, Harshita considers YouTube to be another mentor. The platform, she says, introduced her to several dishes, international chefs and the magnificent global cuisine. “From hummus, falafel to dishes from the European cuisine, as long as I have the ingredients, I experiment,” she says.
Ask her what’s the one ingredient she cannot give up, she quickly points to the versatile garlic. “It’s a simple yet important ingredient. It has so many flavour profiles. If you slow roast or slow cook it, it turns sweet. If you fry it in oil, it becomes crispy and has an undertone of bitterness. It’s a humble ingredient with so many different tones. It’s universally used in most cuisines — from Italian to south Indian,” shares Harshita.
Through her venture Dough Dough Deli (formally known as Saute Couture), she makes New York deli-style comfort food. “I use fresh, wholesome ingredients to make food — from cheesecakes, wholesome soups, apple pie, bakes, ramen bowls to sandwiches. I believe in making everything — from my dips to sauces — from scratch. I make food based on the orders I receive. I ask my customers to give me a 24-hour notice. But if they are short on time, I try to do it the same day,” says Harshita.
For details, visit her Instagram page: doughdoughdeli