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Wine & Dine
August 25, 2013

The Colours Of India

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photographs by Ryan Martis.

Oranges, olives and cottage cheese – three ingredients that are drenched in the hues that colour our Indian flag. Chef Vikas Vichare and Senior Sous Chef Ashish Bagul cook up offerings that use this triumvirate in two distinctly different cuisines. Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena marvels at their culinary ingenuity

In sync with the patriotic spirit of the month, we decide to challenge the creativity of the chefs at the Trident, Bandra Kurla, Mumbai by urging them to come up with two offerings that combine three ingredients which are drenched in the prominent colours of the Indian flag – orange, white and green! Chef Vikas Vichare and Senior Sous Chef Ashish Bagul pick up the gauntlet that sets their culinary creativity buzzing – for the ingredients we have tossed across to them are cottage cheese/paneer (white), oranges (orange) and olives (green and black).

So, on a relatively clear afternoon with the weather gods smiling on us, we drive out to the Trident, Bandra Kurla, Mumbai to interact with the chefs and sample their creations. The first floor restaurant, Botticino’s well-appointed space and working area is where they are going to prepare and present their fare. They will dabble in Indian and Italian food – for if there is something that residents of both nations love, it is their food.

We meet Chef Vichare and Senior Sous Chef Bagul who share a distinct bonhomie with each other as they work easily in tandem, though they are busy preparing their own culinary concoctions. They were batchmates at the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development, and, as they say, “We have both worked together a lot which has increased our camaraderie.”

In between all the preparation and cooking that keeps them busy, we chat about the reality cooking shows that have begun to dominate the lives of almost all who love food. Chef Vichare, the more articulate of the two, observes, “I don’t think they dominate our mind; they motivate me to create something better on my own.”

I ask them about our challenge and 30-year-old Chef Vichare replies, “It was definitely thought-provoking. It made me tap into my creativity to present a new dish which I can serve in the future as well. The ingredients may go well together but the main challenge was to incorporate the paneer into the Italian recipe. That took more than a little bit of thought and I finally came up with paneer and orange ravioli with saffron zucchini sauce and green olives.”

At first glance, the compact finished product that we finally see on the plate does not pay adequate tribute to the elaborate effort that has gone into it. Chef Vichare points out, “I wanted to give it a simple, unique and attractive look. I decided to make striped pasta dough for the ravioli and this was the challenging part.“

Meanwhile, 33-year-old Senior Sous Chef Bagul has worked his magic with the ingredients that we have given him. He is passionate about simple authentic food – like the Maharashtrian puran poli that is normally made on an upside down earthenware tava. “Having grown up eating those delicacies I developed a passion for food,” he states.

Senior Sous Chef Bagul loves Indian cuisine and that explains the choice of his creation in today’s endeavour – Jaituni Paneer Tikka with Spiced Orange Chutney. He adds, “I was excited when I saw that one of the ingredients was paneer; however I was put to the test with the green olives and oranges that had to be used in Indian cuisine. With a little thought, I found it very easy to combine paneer and orange as they have very contrasting flavours, and my basics of Western cuisine helped me put the green olives to the best use in my recipe.”

Naturally, thought they are friends, he did not want his creation to be overshadowed by his co-chef’s! He states, “Since I am cooking something with the same ingredients as Vikas, I do not want my Indian food to look any less attractive. So, when presented with the ingredients, I thought out-of-the-box and decided to make a rolled paneer tikka. I have to be very careful while rolling the paneer with the stuffing inside, so that I don’t ruin the texture of the paneer and ensure that the stuffing stays intact. That is the most difficult part of the task.”

As both chefs finish almost simultaneously, they are ready to plate up and serve their creations. The colours of India have blended delicately and imaginatively into the offerings that have been enhanced by the unusual combination. And, the fine fusion of ingredients is evident in the culinary delights that make me want to return with a new challenge soon.

Ingredients: Refined flour, 250 gms; Eggs, 4; Oranges (imported), 8; Paneer, 280 gms; Double cream, 50 ml; Candied orange zest (sweet), 8 gms; Tomatoes (finely diced), 100 gms; Basil leaves, 5 gms; Olive oil (extra virgin), 8 ml; Butter (unsalted), 25 gms; Pine nuts, 10 gms; Saffron, 1 gm; Yellow zucchini (sliced), 150 gms; Black olives, 100 gms; Salt, 20 gms; Green olives, 15 gms.

Method: Take the refined flour, add 5 gms salt, 1 whole egg and 3 egg yolks. Make a smooth dough and reserve 1/4th of it, cover it with a damp cloth. Now add black olive paste to the remaining 1/4th dough and knead it to get the black coloured dough.

For the mixture: Remove the orange segments without pith, cook them on a slow flame till they form a semi-dry mass. Mix the grated paneer with double cream and salt to make it smooth and creamy. Add the orange segments to it.

For the saffron zucchini sauce: Sauté the sliced zucchini in olive oil, add a little water to it. Cook it very soft, add the saffron and bring to boil, blend it and reserve for later use.

For the ravioli: Sheet the basic pasta dough on a pasta machine to the thickness of 5 and the black dough to 4. Roll the black pasta sheet through the tagliatelle cutter to get even strips. Brush egg wash (1 egg and water, beaten together) over the white sheet; place the black tagliatelle horizontally at an even distance over the white sheet. Allow it to stick to the white dough and then pass this striped sheet through the pasta machine to get a thickness of 2.5. Cut even squares of this sheet and stuff them with orange and paneer mixture.

For the tomato and candied orange salsa: Cut the blanched tomatoes and candied orange rind into equivalent dices, mix in chopped basil, olive oil, pine nuts and salt to taste.

Blanch the ravioli in salted water and toss in melted butter with basil shreds and then place on the plate as seen in the picture; put a small teaspoon of the salsa over each piece of ravioli and serve.

Ingredients: Paneer (thinly sliced), 500 gms; Ginger and garlic paste, 10 gms.

Ingredients for filling: Grated paneer, 100 gms; Cashew nuts, 50 gms; Chopped coriander roots, 10 gms; Chopped green chillies, 5 gms; Chopped green olives, 75 gms; Grated cheese, 50 gms, Salt, 5 gms.

For marination: Yoghurt, 200 gms; Cheese, 100 gms; Cream, 50 gms; Green chillies, 5 gms; Saffron, 1 gm; Tumeric powder, 2 gms; Garam masala powder, 10 gms; Salt, 10 gms; Green olives, 100 gms.

Method: Apply the ginger and garlic paste and salt to the thinly sliced paneer and keep aside. Make a filling with grated paneer, cashew nuts, cheese, chopped green chillies, chopped coriander roots and green olives. Apply the mix on the paneer slices and make it into a roulade. Make the marination with yoghurt, cheese, cream, green chillies, turmeric powder, saffron, garam masala powder, salt and chopped green olives. Apply the marination on the roulade for 30 minutes. Cook the marinated paneer roulade inside a pre-heated oven for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, baste with clarified butter. Serve hot with spiced orange chutney.

Spiced Orange Chutney
Ingredients: Orange (segments), 150 gms; Orange juice, 50 ml; Orange zest, 5 gms; Sugar, 5 gms; Star anise, 5 gms; Cumin powder, 5 gms; Black salt, 5 gms; Yoghurt (thick), 75 gms.

Method: In a pan, mix the orange segments, juice, sugar and star anise. Cook on a slow fire. Once the pulp cools, add roasted cumin powder, black salt, orange zest, and yoghurt. Whisk and serve the chutney with jaituni paneer tikka.

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