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Wine & Dine
March 02, 2017

When King Mushroom And Edamame Took Centre Stage On Our Plate

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photographs by Ankush Maria

Two culinary maestros, Chef Manish Sharma and Chef Tejas Sovani whip up palate-pleasing creations

Fresh, simple and yet paradoxically exotic, two culinary concoctions occupy pride of place on the long, tastefully laid-out table in the plush eatery at The Oberoi, Gurgaon. The chefs’ creations, with king mushroom and edamame as the star ingredients, are attractively plated. A couple of hours earlier, alighting from my vehicle in the premier property’s courtyard, I had strolled into its luxurious expanse for an interaction with the executive chef, Manish Sharma, and the senior executive sous chef, Tejas Sovani. They had promised to tantalise my palate with two offerings that will not break any New Year fitness resolutions.

The stage — or should I say the table — is set in a private area in Amarata, the hotel’s modern Indian restaurant. The ingredients — in varying stages of readiness — that will make up the dishes are lined up in bowls, plates and platters of varying sizes. The plating is finally done on synchronised crockery that will highlight each element to best advantage and we soon dive into the modern Indian creation by Chef Sovani from Amaranta and the Italian one conjured up by Chef Sharma who is at the helm of the hotel’s multicuisine restaurant threesixtyone˚.

Sharma’s first culinary lessons were at home with his father, an Air Force officer with a passion for food. At his father’s side in the kitchen, he learnt a mantra that continues to drive him even today: always cook any dish as though you are creating something new each time, even if it is scrambled eggs. This thought infuses his creation for the day. He points out, “It is always great to work on something different; it makes you push culinary boundaries just a bit further.”

On the choice of edamame and king mushroom, Sharma – who has prepared a dish comprising organic polenta, king mushroom and edamame and truffle balsamic jus — opines, “To start with, both are fresh and exotic; king mushroom is earthy and edamame brings texture, colour and sophistication to the dish. I wanted to try something new and see it develop as a ‘must-try’ on our menus. My first thoughts were to create a vegetarian dish as that’s something most chefs are weary of.”

Sovani, having just returned from a three-month stint at Noma, Denmark, where he learned the nuances of foraging, sustainability, detailing and ageing, is now bringing them to the fore at Amaranta. Interested by the choice of the two ingredients, he states, “Mushrooms are very versatile. If treated correctly, they can taste far superior and better than the best cuts of meat. The inspiration for this dish (confit of king mushroom, with cumin-tempered edamame and corn, garlic-creamed spinach, popped corn) comes from khumbh matar and makai palak. I was extremely intrigued to cook with edamame as I have never seen it being used in any form apart from steamed. I wanted to create a one-of-a-kind dish that was similar to chaunkewale makai aur matar by replacing the green peas with edamame.”

The chefs examine the king mushrooms that make their way to the table and, seeking a perfect presentation, call for some more — to add volume to the plates that, in the final analysis, will be minimalistic rather than over-the-top. In this context, Sharma emphasises, “I don’t like to make changes just for the sake of making them. I wanted to keep my plate simple and uncluttered and focus on textures and individual flavours.” Sovani adds, “The dish is unique as it has minimal elements with balanced flavour unions. My style of cooking is simple, where less is more, and it allows each ingredient to be the star. I love experimenting with recipes and seeing them evolve from the thinking stage to the final stage.”

The dishes — as I observe them being plated — are appealing to the eye. And due to the light ingredients and flavours, I learn soon enough that they are easy on the palate as well. Food that can up your health quotient is a great way to start the new year!

Organic Polenta, King Mushroom And Edamame With Truffle Balsamic Jus

Ingredients
For the organic polenta Organic polenta, 300 gm; Milk, 1 litre; Grated Parmesan cheese, 50 gm; Butter, 30 gm.
For the king mushroom King mushroom, 200 gm; Sea salt, to taste.
For the edamame Edamame, 50 gm; Sea salt, to taste.
For the true balsamic jus Truffle paste, 20 gm; Aged balsamic, 20 ml; Cream, 50   ml.
For the garnish Olive oil, 30 ml; Home-grown cress, few sprigs; White balsamic, 20 ml; Sea salt, to taste.

Method
For the organic polenta Cook the polenta in boiling milk and whisk it until there are no lumps. Reduce heat to low and let it simmer, whisking often, until polenta starts to thicken. The mix should still be slightly loose. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, whisking often. When the polenta is too thick to whisk, stir with a wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and gently stir butter into the mix and let it partially melt. Mix the grated Parmesan cheese into the polenta until the cheese has melted. Pour it into a mould to set for later use.
For the king mushroom Slice the stalks into equal sizes. Pan-sear on a very hot skillet and season with sea salt
For the edamame Bring water to boil and blanch with sea salt. Refresh in ice cold water and set aside for further use.
For the true balsamic jus Bring cream to boil in a heavy-based pan. Add truffle paste and balsamic to it. Reduce the sauce to coating consistency and add seasoning.

Cut the polenta into a rectangle. Arrange it on one  side of the plate. Apply the truffle paste on the surface of the polenta. Arrange the sliced king mushroom on top of the polenta. Toss edamame and the remaining king mushroom with a few drops of olive oil and sea salt. Arrange next to polenta. Dress the vegetables with freshly  cut cress. Place a few drops of truffle sauce and white balsamic vinegar next to the vegetables. Garnish the plate with some balsamic reduction.

Confit of King Mushroom With Cumin-Tempered Edamame And CornGarlic Creamed Spinach, Popped Corn

Ingredients
For the confit of king mushroom King oyster mushroom, 500 gm; Sunflower oil, 400 ml; Fennel, 5 gm; Garlic (peeled), 10 gm; Black peppercorn, 3 gm; Curry leaf, 5gm.
For the tempered edamame and corn Sunflower oil, 30 ml; Edamame, 200 gm; Corn kernel, 100 gm; Cumin seed, 5 gm; Asafoetida, a pinch; Ginger (finely chopped), 10 gm; Coriander (chopped), 20 gm.
For the creamed spinach Malabar spinach (blanched and pureed), 100 gm; Sunflower oil, 20 ml; Cumin seeds, 5 gm; Garlic (chopped), 10 gm; Onion (chopped), 50 gm; Tomato (chopped), 50 gm; Red chilli powder, 5 gm; Dried fenugreek, 2 gm; Double cream, 30 gm; Butter, 10 gm.
For the garnish Red spinach, 1 punnet; Nasturtium leaves, 10 nos; Popcorn (spiced with cumin powder and chaat masala), a few.

Method
For the confit of king mushroom Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add fennel seed, garlic, black pepper and curry leaf. Add mushroom and cook for 40 minutes on very low heat. Mushroom shouldn’t be fried at a high temperature as they will reduce in size and become dry. Once cooked, remove and place on a kitchen towel to drain off excess oil.
For the tempered edamame and corn Heat oil in a deep pan, add cumin, asafoetida, chopped ginger, edamame and corn kernel. Add chopped coriander, season and keep aside.
For the creamed spinach Bring water to a rolling boil, add in salt. Add spinach leaves and cook for three minutes. Remove the leaves from boiling water and shock in iced water. Drain excess water and blend to form a puree. Add some ice while pureeing to retain the colour. Heat oil in a pan, add cumin, chopped garlic, onion and sauté until golden. Add tomatoes and cook for five minutes till soft. Add red chilli powder and cook for another three minutes. Add pureed spinach and  cook without covering for three minutes. Add salt as per taste. Remove from heat and strain. Reserve and keep aside.

Lay out some creamed spinach on a plate. Place two mounds of edamame and corn away from each other on the plate. Put the confit mushroom on the tempered edamame and corn. Garnish the plate with red spinach, nasturtium leaves and popped corn.

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