India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Wine & Dine
December 14, 2012

Gastronomic Soirées

Text by Sonal Ved. Photographs by Poulomi Dey.

I often get intrigued with questions such as what do beauticians apply on their skin or whose art does an artist hang on his wall or what do writers read. But as a food writer, one question that baffles me the most is what do chefs cook for their own house parties? As envoys of fine food, aren’t chefs expected to rustle up a smorgasbord that can put a royal wedding to shame? As the party season crawls close, a lot of us will be battling similar pressures. To whet my curiosity, I walked through three bustling kitchens of Mumbai’s most celebrated gourmet caterers. These five culinarians have been supervising every swanky party in town. Perfect to help me create my own celebratory setting! Five gourmet caterers spill the beans on inspired home entertaining

Yakuta Sarkari
Cold Food Company

Goodies from Yakuta Sarkari’s Cold Food Company are just what an urban hostess needs. The gourmet food retailer and home chef doles out a range of salad dressing, marinades and dips that fit perfectly into a modern day party scenario.

According to the Worli-based caterer, serving cold food is infinitely more convenient than toiling in the kitchen heat. She says, “An ideal party menu is one where a major chunk of cooking can be done a day or two in advance.” The idea behind suggesting this is to ensure that the hosts can be relaxed on D-day and spend maximum time with their guests.

Yakuta’s personal house party menu flows across five basic courses – soups, hors d’oeuvres, salads, main course and dessert. “For soup, I would go for a cold one served in shot glasses. Since flavours of certain soups such as gazpacho enhance as the days progress, it fits ideally into my theme,” she says.

For hors d’oeuvres and salads, she relies heavily on store-brought ingredients such as salmon, capers, marinated olives and cheeses that can be perched on crostini, churned into dips or tossed with salads.

“For the main course too, I would pick on things that need little effort in terms of cooking but look beautiful at the same time,” she says. Take for instance her red tomato and black olive tart that tastes as good as it looks, neatly stacked up on a pie tray.

To end the meal, she recommends having at least three options – a fruit-based dessert for children, one healthy dessert and a chocolate-based option for chocoholics.

Yogurt and balsamic dip
Ingredients: 3 cups yogurt; ½ onion (minced); fistful of coriander leaves (finely chopped); 2 small garlic pods (minced); balsamic vinegar for glaze; salt and pepper for seasoning.

Method: Hang curd in a muslin cloth for six to seven hours until all the water has drained out. Whisk it with a beater and add onions, coriander leaves and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Glaze it with balsamic vinegar and garnish with fresh coriander sprigs. Serve cold with vegetable crudités.

DIY Menu
Soup: Chilled almond soup.

Hors d’oeuvres: Prawns salsa verde served on crackers, Goat cheese and red onion tartlets.

Salad: Hearts of palm and avocado, Smoked chicken and red grape.

Main course: Mushroom and parsley quiche, Pasta with roasted bell peppers.

Desserts: Lemon meringue pie, Fruit tarts.

Chef Joshua D’Souza and Neha Manekia
Silverspoon Gourmet

Take Chef Joshua’s gastronomic flamboyance and add to that a dash of his wife Neha’s management aesthetics and you will discover the city’s newest culinary power couple. Silverspoon Gourmet, their 10-month-old cookery venture is a catering company that specialises in edgy European fare.

For a house party, the couple chooses to translate their professional charm onto the dinner table by serving food belonging to popular regions of Europe. According to Chef Joshua, party food should be an ideal icebreaker. He says, “Since Spanish and Italian fare is familiar to the Indian palate, it acts as a good conversation starter.”

The duo mainly entertain to unwind from their hectic schedules, so the focus is on homely fare with a touch of the exotic. Apart from their choice of cuisine, they like to lay emphasis on no-fuss foods. Pick-able eats such as meats skewered on sticks, finely chopped vegetables on crispy bruschettas and mini-rolls are ideal to get the ball rolling. “Post that, guests seldom have space for more, so our mains are restricted to two or three dishes,” he says. Their top two choices are saffron-scented seafood paella and scrumptious deconstructed lasagne.

For dessert, Joshua avoids falling into the chocolate trap and instead opts for citrusy flavours of lemon cheesecake, sour cherry crumble, orange mousse and roasted peach with goat cheese and honey.

Eggplant and chilli-yogurt rolls
Ingredients: 6 large aubergines; 2 tbsp dried oregano; 30 ml olive oil; 500 gm Greek yogurt; 2 green chillies (chopped); salt and pepper as per taste.

Method: In a bowl, mix yogurt with green chillies and season it with salt and pepper. Slice aubergines lengthwise and soak the slices in salty water for a few minutes. Drain and marinate with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano. Grill these slices on both the sides, or pan-sear them until slightly brown. To assemble the dish, place a slice of eggplant on a plate and spoon a little yogurt on top. Roll it and fasten it with a toothpick. Serve cold as a starter.

DIY Menu
Hors d’oeuvres: Beetroot crepes, Smoked chicken skewers, Charmula-flavoured prawns.

Main course: Deconstructed lasagne, Pumpkin gnocchi.

Dessert: Dense chocolate cake with citrus Anglaise, Fresh berries with lemon sorbet and custard sauce.

Sunnaeya Kapur and Shweta Kanuga
Platterati

Thirty-something Sunnaeya Kapur and Shweta Kanuga are culinary ninjas who specialise in pre-plated catering. This means that their fare comes tastefully dressed on individual platters instead of being stacked up on buffet casseroles.

The idea to pre-plate food came about when Shweta, the kitchen head and co-owner of the company, observed that people often picked wrong combinations from buffet spreads. She says, “I’ve seen guests match strong balsamic salads with béchamel sauce pasta. Since most cream sauces are subtly flavoured, teaming them with strong salads is a big faux pas.”

To save the world from committing these crimes of palate, they came up with a catering service that offered pre-plated dining.

On an odd day when the duo is not tending to the taste buds of the city’s who’s who, they like to entertain friends over gourmet cuisine. “For house parties, our food philosophy remains the same,” says Sunnaeya, the business head of Platterati. While appetisers and entrées such as stuffed mushrooms and bite-sized yogurt rolls come perched on soup spoons, desserts, dips and cold soups are served in shot glasses.

Apart from plating, the girls also enjoy marrying traditional flavours with gourmet overtones. Pani puris, for instance, come stuffed with raw mango salsa and tempuras are tossed with a pinch of rasam or sambhar powder before being deep fried.

According to Shweta, “An ideal dish is the one that balances sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spicy elements.” To bring about this, her main course dishes are extensively layered or textured instead of being one-dimensional. “From ricotta ravioli served with Madras curry powder-infused béchamel sauce to Kerala-style kalamari and spaghetti topped with curry-tempered beetroot, we are constantly evolving,” she adds.

Parmesan shortbread with black olives
Ingredients: 1 packet parmesan cheese-infused shortbread (available in all supermarkets); ¼ cup goat cheese; ½ cup black olives (pitted); salt and pepper as per taste.

Method: Chop goat cheese into small cubes and keep aside. On a plate, arrange shortbread pieces and top it with goat cheese cubes. Season it with salt and pepper and garnish with black olives. Serve cold.

DIY Menu
Hors d’oeuvres: Sun-dried tomato pesto, Tzatziki, Caramelised onion dip.

Main course: Kerala-styled grilled fish on a bed of tapioca mash with crispy spinach on the side served with a pepper and cumin-infused broth.

Palate cleanser: Ginger and pear shots.

Dessert: Red velvet cake shots.

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