Le Royal Meridien chef Vasu Dev shows flavours from the land of Rajputs

Chef Vasu Dev, executive chef, Le Royal Meridien, belongs to an army background and that plays a major role in his passion for food

Published: 14th February 2018 11:09 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2018 08:10 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: I started cooking at the age of eight. My father was in the Indian army and my mother would be out in the fields working. So, I helped in the kitchen most of the time.

I began cooking simple rice and daal tadka, and soon took interest in cooking. I used to cook mid-day meals at the primary school back in my hometown — Uttaranchal. I later decided that I wanted to cook for a living.

After doing a course in western cuisine in Delhi, I travelled extensively to places like Bahrain, Dubai, Libya, Goa, Jaipur, Amritsar and now Chennai. Every place has taught me a lot about flavours and spices, and I’ve learnt to cook continental, Indian and Middle-Eastern cuisines. Right now, I’m focusing on Rajasthani cuisine, as we are curating a food festival there.

The cuisine of the Rajputs and Marwaris stands out for its vibrancy. It is very simple, with a lot of spices and buttermilk. In olden days, because not many vegetables were grown, besan was used to make dishes like ghatta curry (besan dumplings) cooked in buttermilk gravy. For non-vegetarian food, wild boar and other animals were hunted down. Nowadays, mutton is preferred.

Millets like bajra and jowar are used in dishes, because they need a lot of water and are easy to grow. They are also healthy and rich in fibre. During winters, baingan ka bharta with bajre ki roti is made.

Another important ingredient in Rajasthani cuisine is ghee. Restaurants and sweet shops in Jaipur and other parts of the state, cook their food in pure ghee. It makes their food healthy and tasty.

Chillies are also used abundantly in Rajasthani food. They are grown at homes because most dishes require a lot of chillies. One variety is mathania chilli, usually grown in the region of Jodhpur. It is used in Laal Maas,  a dish which is made with mutton these days, but was traditionally made with boar meat. Mathania chilli is bright red  and fiery. Fenugreek seeds, coriander, nigella seeds and cumin are other ingredients in Rajasthani cuisine.

I have learnt about so many cuisines and flavours from different states, but what remains a dream is tribal cuisine. The quality of ingredients and spices used by them is different from ours, because they are closer to nature.

When it comes to South Indian, I have eaten specialities from all the states. My favourite, though, is Andhra cuisine. It is spicy and sour at the same time because of tamarind. I also want to explore Chettinad food for all its spices.

Bhuna Kukda

Ingredents
● Chicken legs cut into pieces with small gashes: 500 g
● Crushed red chili: 20 g
● Crushed coriander seeds: 10 g
● Crushed cumin seeds: 5 g
● Crushed anise seeds: 5 g
● Crushed nigella seeds: 5 g
● Garlic paste: 10 g
● Ginger paste: 10 g
● Thinly sliced onion: 20 g
● Plain yogurt: 100 g
● Ghee or cooking oil: 10 g
● Salt to taste
● Garam masala powder: 5 g
● Dry mango powder: 5 g
 

Method
Mix garlic, ginger, onion, salt and yogurt together.
Rub the spice mix on chicken thoroughly, and keep aside to marinate for 2-3 hours.
Place chicken over open fire barbecue and cook on both sides for 12-15 minutes, with ghee or oil.
Serve with sliced onion and a chutney of your choice
(mint or garlic).

Rajwada Laal Maas

Ingredients
● Lamb cut into cubes with bones: 500 g
● Whole dry red chilies: 30 g
● Coriander seeds: 20 g
● Garlic paste: 10 g
● Ginger paste: 10 g
● Plain yogurt: 200 g
● Ghee or cooking oil: 30 g
● Onions thinly sliced: 100 g
● Salt to taste
● Garam masala powder: 10 g
● Finely chopped green coriander: 20 g

Method

Soak red chilies and coriander seeds in a bowl of water. After 10 minutes, drain and grind it into a smooth paste.
Add yogurt, salt, garlic, and ginger to the paste, and then add meat to it. Mix well and keep aside to marinate for two hours.
Heat ghee or cooking oil in a deep
pan on medium heat.
 Add onions and fry till golden brown. To this, add meat and its marinade. Fry till ghee or oil begins to separate from masala.
Stir often, and sprinkle little water when masala sticks to the pan. Then check the seasoning.
When the meat is cooked and tender, remove the pan from heat and sprinkle some garam masala.
Cover immediately and keep aside for
2 to 3 minutes.  
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
 Serve hot with your choice of breads.

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