All Things Artisanal
From pickles, jams, cheeses, chocolates to breads – the word ‘artisanal’ is increasingly being used to describe homemade, small-batch products. While at first these could only be scored at farmer’s markets that displayed everything from stinky cheeses, tough breads, organic honey to gluten-free bakes, today artisanal foods are more accessible and fashionable to chomp on.
To describe it simply, artisanal foods are those that are produced by hand, mostly at home by chefs and bakers. When something is labelled as artisanal, it means that there is a real human being behind it. These don’t use industry strength preservatives or taste enhancers, rather rely on classic culinary techniques such as natural fermentation, slow cooking and use of organic raw material. As a result, the produce is more potent and distinct.
Creator Yakuta Sarkari from the Cold Food Company agrees. At her Worli-based kitchen, a notice period of two weeks is required to make one jar of honey and fig vinegar, while the chilli-mint marinated feta cubes and herb oil take five days to brew. “Since after the initial mixing, each jar is made to sit in a cool, dark place until all the flavours have well amalgamated, timing and technique is crucial,” says Sarkari.
She is not the only one toiling hard to create perfect concoctions. Similar treatment is also meted out to create artisanal chocolates at Chembur-based The Bean Company. Owner Sanjay Solomon who runs a chocolaterie via his web portal says, “What separates artisanal chocolates from regular ones is that each bar is handmade and each flavour is handpicked. No machine is used for tempering, labelling or packaging.” To create further exclusivity, he gets each chocolate hand-wrapped in artistic block printed paper which changes every time a fresh batch is made.
On the 26-year-old entrepreneur’s menu, you will find chocolates in flavours such as panko crumbs, Lonavala chikki, bergamot and hempseed, mango and pepper and other daring flavours that can never be earned elsewhere.
Cheese is another product that is increasingly being churned and sold out of local homes. Deriving recipes after rummaging through ideas on the internet and several cookbooks, brothers Prateeksh and Agnay Mehra started The Spotted Cow Fromagerie. Their one-month-old cheese company doles out French-style camembert and brie and Italian robiola out of a Dahisar-based kitchen space.
Apart from the fact that each of their cheeses is robust in terms of flavour and creaminess, it is also vegetarian, preservative free and is home delivered – something that isn’t possible with commercial cheeses. Twenty-nine-yearold Prateeksh quips, “It’s different also because it has a shorter shelf life and is made using local milk. This makes it even fitter for local consumers.”
Another cheese maker in this city is Breach Candybased Mansi Jasani. The 27-year-old cheese curator stocks on cheeses made by makers in Mumbai, Pondicherry and Himachal. “After my stint at Murray’s Cheese in New York, I started The Cheese Collective. The online store stocks all kinds of artisanal cheeses and some such as goat and farmer’s are homemade by me,” says Jasani.
What connects Jasani with various artisanal food makers in the city is the fact that most of them don’t have a store and mainly stock at pop-up souks, book launches and food exhibits. They also home deliver and you can be in touch with them for orders and feedback via their social media pages only.
Shivani Tolia from Yellow Butterfly feels that this connection helps build a better consumer base. Her brand that specialises in gourmet dips constantly updates its Twitter and Facebook pages when new dips are ready to be relished.
“This kind of connectivity adds on to the personalised experience. It also helps chefs make constructive changes since they are in direct touch with the clients,” says Tolia.
While artisanal food-making is still nascent in the city, it is a stream that is constantly evolving. With more and more consumers turning conscious about the ingredients that go on their platters, this niche but necessary market, is here to stay.
Homemade chocolate and paprika dip
Ingredients: Dark chocolate, 200 gms; Cream, 250 ml; Unsalted butter, 1 tbsp; Red paprika powder, 1 tsp; Dash of Tabasco sauce
Method: In a microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate, cream and butter. Once melted, add chilli powder, Tabasco sauce and stir. When all the ingredients have mixed evenly, transfer into a bowl and allow to set at room temperature. Once set, serve the dip with a choice of cookies, fruits, marshmallows or assorted brownies.
(Recipe by Shivani Tolia from Yellow Butterfly)