Pratap Chahal- our Desi chef returns with Monsoon madness & Chocolate Macaroons

Just came back from seeing a most excellent Pixar film about how good cooking can come from the most unusual places… “Ratatouille: Rat-a-too-ee” is a film that is a must see for foodies and animation junkies alike (the graphics are amazing) and the watching the food being prepared just made me salivate. Its about a rat chef and is set in the militarized, maniacal environment of one of the finest restaurants in Paris. Made me nostalgic for the good old days when Pratap used to come home after a hard day, slaving away in a Michelin restaurant like a mad inspired pastry genius, bringing home incredible savory delights that he’d invented in the kitchen for his house mates to gormandize. Anyway here he is, our very own Prata-touille :

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To be sung in the tune of ‘Soldier of love’ by Pearl Jam:

‘Where o’ where can the summer be?

Global warming took it away from me!

Now I’ve got to get away from all this rain

So I can be alive and not drown…in floods.’

Monsoon madness…aptly named for it drives people nuts – especially when England gets its first taste of monsoon-style rains. For us in the food industry, it’s a blessing and a curse – it helps crops to grow, albeit, marginally. The damage from the excessive rain is far more crippling, having painfully thrashed into near non-existence the presence of cauliflower and broccoli, and my own pumpkin and courgette plants are drowning in my back garden.

Ok, ok…enough moaning. Doesn’t help though everytime you go to the supermarket to but food, 90% of the items on your list come from half way across the world! It’s impossible to get home-grown produce anymore. Although in the restaurant world, global farms are, ironically, life-savers and earth-killers (death by food miles).

Well, here we are, again after an extended leave, not much has happened in the London restaurant scene, with this time of year being the quietest anywhere as everyone is traipsing around the world with their families. Nevertheless, here’s something you might like to whip up for your afternoon snack or tea…

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Chocolate Macaroons with a chocolate & black cardamom dipping sauce:

2 – Egg whites

40 g – sugar

80 g – Almond powder (just put some in a blender till they’re finely ground up if you

cant get any)

100 – Icing sugar

1 level tbsp – cocoa powder

Method: Whisk the egg whites and sugar till they for a firm meringue (you should be able to hold it above your head without it decorating you with a white hat!)

Sieve the dry ingredients and slowly fold them in with a spatula.

Preheat your oven to 180c, or medium heat.

Line a tray with non-stick paper and place a few spoonfuls of the mix onto the tray – don’t flatten it out too much. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the top is smooth and crispy. Let them cool down while you make the sauce.

Black cardamom sauce:

200 ml – Milk

200 ml – Cream

2 tbsp – black cardamom, crushed

30 g – sugar

50 g – dark chocolate

Method: Boil the milk, cream and cardamom and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Bring back to the boil, whisk in the sugar and strain onto the chocolate. Mix till the chocolate has dissolved – taste for sugar. Sometimes, a pinch of salt give it a slight edge.

Alternatively, you can use two macaroons and sandwich them with some shrikhand and cherries!

Going back on the topic of food-miles, the philosophy is ironic in itself. Whether the food has come from half way across the world, or the half-way across the city even, I bet the miles notched up wont be very different. It’s us consumers who notch up those miles by driving to the marked – think millions of people driving any distance to buy food – surely those notch up to something. In a more positive light though, there is satisfaction eating something grown in the country you live in. India for example, is a champion of this as it grows almost all of its fruit and vegetables – also helping people to follow and be guided by the season. The anticipation of summer and the first mango, the thrill of winter and its apples and guava – these simple pleasures are numbed by the global availability all year round. But, and I’m fighting both sides of the case here, in a global kitchen, a city where the world is represented, people want food from all over – Indian vegetable will have to come from India, Caribbean yams and calaloo (similar to spinach) will have to come from a thousand miles away as we want to eat what our cultures have engrained in us.

For the better part, some of us are striving to do our bit by buying produce that is as near to the UK as possible, until, of course, the vicarious desire for Asian cuisine ropes us in.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this matter, as it is a vicious circle and we are hypocrites sometimes as there is no choice but to buy from far away – old habits die hard and we don’t want to change the way we eat, just the way we buy what we eat.

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One Desi Chef in Culinary Wonderland-PRATAP CHAHAL

Pratap Chahal returns with mouth watering recipes and a photographic review of Heston Blumenthal’s acclaimed Michelin restaurant, The Fat Duck. It was named the best restaurant in the world in 2005 by Restuarant magazine and second best in 2006 and 2007. Enjoy!

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Summer Summer, what a bummer!

Ah..you know it’s the English summer when the sun shines, men walk around with no shirts and the women wear tiny skirts. Not to mention, the pubs are all full!

Ah..you know it’s the Indian summer when the sun burns, men walk about sweating like rivers and the women don’t leave the house! Not to mention, you can cook without a stove!

But it’s the season for strawberries (beautiful, seductive plump English strawberries), Asparagus, broad beans, cherry tomatoes, and all those beautiful baby vegetables. Every menu has the same ingredients. Every dish exploits the bounty of the produce. We’ve got asparagus on 5 dishes! Why not?

Somewhere in the countryside of Oxford Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons is growing its own organic fruit and vegetables. Raymond Blanc’s beautiful 14th century building houses a stunning, expensive and head-expanding restaurant that’s held two Michelin stars for 25 years. They grow 60 varieties of herbs and the lavender that surrounds the whole site. It’s makes you giddy with joy! RB as he is popularly known is a small French man who has tremendous respect for everyone he works with (he’s got a killer head chef though!) The amount of Michelin star chefs in the UK that have trained there is testament to the place itself… Marco Pierre White, the infamous bad-boy who trained Gordon Ramsay learnt from Raymond Blanc, as did Heston Blumenthal (albeit for a week).

Speaking of Heston Blumenthal…I got the chance to go and dine at The Fat Duck a few months ago (having planned on it for 3 years)…In one word. OHMYGOD! We sat for 5 hours being entertained and that is exactly the way it is – entertainment! From the waiters performing magic tricks and visual effects on the table to the way the food makes you laugh ‘cause it tastes incredibly surreal and flawless, to the way it’s so relaxed. The pictures should speak a little for the place, but all written and said, nothing better than going there to feel like a child in wonderland.

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Sardine Sorbet, Mackerel Inverterbrate, Sea Salad

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Mango and Lychee Bavarois, Douglas Fir Puree, Blackcurrant Sorbet

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Roast Foie Gras, Almond Fluid Gel, Sherry and Camomile

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Liquid Nitrogen Poached Lime and Green Tea Mousse with Vodka (Palate Cleanser)

PRATAP CHAHAL: one Desi Chef cooking up a storm in the U.K.

“Food Glorious Food…”

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Pratap Chahal is one the very finest desi chefs working in London right now, not to mention one my oldest and most insane friends from Saint Stephen’s College. Everyone knew that Pratap was destined to do something extraordinary with his life; perhaps write lyrics for Infected Mushroom? But Pratap moved to London and into the hard core sleep-two-hours-a-night cut-throat world of cheffing instead. And he has taken cooking to a new level of other-worldly experience- having been lucky enough to share a flat with him in London, I can say with a degree of authority that if the devil offers you one of this pastries in exchange for your immortal soul…you should take the pastry.

But here is the man himself, the sultan of cheffing, the madman himself…with some recipes to start you up…

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The summer is here and here’s an easy recipe to cool you down.

Tomato and Green Mango ‘gaspacho’ with frozen coriander oil

Ingredients

Gazpacho:

20 – ripe tomatoes

4 – large green mangoes

2 – red onions

2 – red peppers (capsicum)

Few springs – basil (or tulsi if you cant get green basil)

Few sprigs – coriander

1 inch piece- fresh ginger

3 cloves – garlic

200 ml – water

1 tablespoon – ketchup

2 tsp – salt

2 tsp – sugar

½ tsp – cumin seeds

¼ tsp – ajwain

½ tsp – fennel seeds

Coriander Oil

250 ml – olive oil (veg. will do, but olive is much better)

1 bunch fresh coriander

Method:

For the soup, chop up all the vegetables and mix with the water and ketchup and leave to marinate overnight. The next day, blend the mix in a food processor and pass through a coarse strainer. In a pan, heat a little oil and fry the spices and add them to the soup. Check the soup for the seasoning and add more salt if needed. Chill well.

For the oil, gently warm the olive oil and add the chopped coriander and leave to cool down. After 15 minutes, warm the mix back up again the blend for a few minutes until the coriander is completely pureed. You can either pass through a fine sieve or leave as it is. Pour into ice cubes and freeze the mixture overnight.

To serve, pour a little soup into chilled bowls and place one ice cube of oil in the middle of the plate. Sprinkle a few toasted almonds around the soup and serve with a light salad or toasted brown bread.

There’s a bit of work involved here, but if you do it the night before for the next day, you wont be disappointed…I’ll be back soon with a very sexy dessert for the hot afternoons or even evenings! In the meantime, why not try freezing some ambi-panna and then scraping the ice with a fork to make a tasty granite? Heap it on top of some chilled lychees for a quick but very cooling fix!