The veggie verve

Five leading chefs talk about vegetables they discovered recently and how they use them

Published: 08th October 2016 04:30 PM  |   Last Updated: 08th October 2016 04:48 PM   |  A+A-



Express News Service

It takes a master to create flavours divine using innocuous vegetables. The trick lies in fleshing out stellar members of the plant kingdom and giving them a rather ritzy twist to court your palette. Chefs Mukhtar Qureshi, Vicky Ratnani, Saransh Goila, Saurabh Udinia and Amrita Raichand let out some of their secrets of how to cook up great dishes.

Nawab of Kebabs
“Nadru is also known as kamal kakri or bhey,” says Mukhtar Qureshi, master chef at Neel in suburban Mumbai. He picks plain vegetables to create a sheer palate serenader. “I get the nadru from Kashmir for its freshness and succulence. It is first reduced to a very fine mince. Then it is cooked on slow flame for three to four hours in milk and then sauted with onions, nutmeg and cardamom. I never use spices from Mumbai, only those from north India and freshly hand-pounded. Finally, the binding of the kebab is done using roast chana and mawa.” Nadru ke shammi. Soft, fragrant, melt-in-your-mouth kebabs, inspired by the shammi kebabs of Awadh. Qureshi style. In the first bite you can’t even tell that it’s not made of meat.
Challenge Cheat: Getting the best quality bhey is crucial.

Vicky Ratnani and his prawn and tendula dish

Cheesy Chips
Chef Vicky Ratnani has discovered tendula, the baby bitter gourd. The small, hairy cousin of the karela has been in existence for years, unnoticed at sabzi wallahs and finding no room at chic veggie groves. “I tasted it for the first time three years ago at a relative’s home in Pune. Tendula is used liberally in Gujarat. It isn’t really bitter and can be stir fried Oriental style for yum appeal,” says Vicky. “I sauted it in a wok with ginger, garlic, wine, spring onions for a delicious twist.” The best is yet to come. In his new menu at The Korner House in Mumbai’s Bandra, Vicky has been serving up hot tendula chips with Parmesan drizzle. “I slice the vegetable into very thin, round pieces, give a dusting of rice flour and Asian spices, and deep fry. The crunchy wafers complement prawn dishes beautifully.”
Challenge Cheat: Tendula is available only in the early part of the year.

Oui! Outenga!
Chef Saransh Goila was sojourning through east India when he chanced upon outenga in Assam. “It is a green elephant apple,  a cross between an apple and a raw mango,” says Saransh. “It has a sweetish-sour taste and is a regular inclusion in Assamese cuisine. I make fish dishes and pickles with outenga. A very simple curry with ginger, garlic and daal. Toss fish in it with freshly-pounded turmeric and one or two pieces of outenga cut to the size of mango pickle pieces and crushed. A dot of jaggery brings in the flavoursome balance.”
Challenge Cheat: It’s important to get the balance of flavours right. If used in large amounts, outenga dominates the dish and makes it tangy.
Savouring Saag
While configuring a mint new menu for his iconic restaurant Masala Library, Chef Saurabh Udinia chanced upon the non-glamorous cousin of the spinach, pui saag. “It is specific to West Bengal and can be found in large vegetable markets in Delhi at times,” says Saurabh. “Like radish, it has a peppery taste. The texture is of pui saag is slightly thicker, as opposed to regular spinach. I marinade sea bass with a special radhuni marinade, including celery seeds and a Bengali spice mix with kasundhi (mustard), and serve it cooked with neatly shredded, deep fried pui saag. The combination tastes fantastic. Procuring pui saag is a problem. I buy two to four kg everyday, of which 70 per cent gets discarded as the leaves are yellow or tattered.”
Challenge Cheat: I cannot rely on the usable quantity I am able to get, so I grow pui saag in my herb garden.
Chayote Ugly
Chef Amrita Raichand’s latest culinary muse is ‘chow chow’, the rather unglamorous, pear shaped green pumpkin. “It is also called chayote, laplap, mirliton and Buddha’s hand melon, and comes completely zipped with low calories, high moisture content and Vitamin C,” says Amrita. “I often slice it thinly and add cherry tomatoes, spicy Thai dressing, bird's eye chillies, a pinch of sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice for that extra zing. A crushed peanut garnish brings in the crunchy twist, just like a raw papaya salad. Chow chow works great in an Indian home-style dish as well. I use it with chana daal to replace lauki in the lauki-chana daal or mix in masalas with chopped chow chow to prepare stuffed baigan.”
Challenge Cheat: Chow chow has a neutral taste, making it a great vehicle to piggy back with your favourite flavours.

India Matters


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