Toque of the Town

Inspired by the cuisines of the North-West Frontier,celebrity chef Ajay Chopra brings some signature dishes to the city

Written by Debjani Paul | Published: September 21, 2013 4:13 am

Bahadur Shah Zafar was known as the weakest emperor of India. His real strength lay in his knowledge and taste for fine food. There came a time when he began to lose his teeth with age,but his desire for good food only grew,and he ordered his cook to find a way to make his food soft and succulent. The cook came up with a new kind of kebab that was so soft that it melted in the mouth. And that is where it got the name,Gilawati kebab,” says celebrity chef Ajay Chopra. He adds,“The cook himself was a one-armed man,whom everyone fondly called “tunde”,and that is where the kebab got its second name — tunde ki kebab.”

Even Zafar would have been pleased with the spread that Chopra has planned to introduce in the city during the Kitchens of Kangan festival at The Westin. Each item is a treasured recipe from the regal traditions of the Nizami,Nawabi and North-West Frontier cuisines. “The North-West cuisine has its origin in Afghanistan and Pakistan,where they would cook and grill on open fires. These regions were all part of India once,and we shared a lot of cultural aspects,including food,” he says.

Chopra has his own signature recipes from the cuisine,Gilawati kebabs being one of them. “Koh-e-Peshawar is another highlight. It’s a curry of chicken,which as the name suggests,hails from Peshawar. It’s a white gravy with a paste of cashews,white onions,whole garam masala and chironji. It’s aromatic,but at the same time,light on the stomach,” says Chopra.

While the North-West Frontier is his muse for the festival,when it comes to TV shows,Chopra looks to the entire world for inspiration. His show High Tea,on Food Food channel,often features recipes from cuisines as diverse as Mexican and European. “Chai is such a big deal in India. But when it comes to what we eat with our tea,we’re usually limited to samosas and pakoras. I try and bring out quick recipes of dishes that can be savoured with tea. It could be crispy chicken quesadillas,or jalapeno empanadas,or even a chocolate samosa,” he says.

Chopra,who also features on Sanjeev Kapoor ke Kitchen Khiladi,was one of the judges in the first two seasons of MasterChef India,and credits the changing tastes of Indian foodies as well as the increasing culinary ambitions to the advent of such shows. “The food scene in India is changing in a huge way. Those who would limit themselves to ghar ka khana and go out once a month,are now experimenting with food even at home. These shows are exciting people not just to eat new things,but also to cook new things,” he says.

Chopra enjoys the shift too. “It’s very endearing to see Indians coming out in the open to showcase their skills. It’s not easy to cook under pressure. And so many of these people have left their jobs,changed their lives to be part of these shows,and to live their dream,” he says.

Koh-e-Peshawar

(Serves 4)

600 gms chicken (boneless)

50 gms poppy seed

20 gms charoli

30 gms desiccated coconut

10 gms pistachio

20 gms cashew nut

5 gms lotus seed

5 gms garam masala powder

200 gms ghee

100 gms cream

400 gms onion

50 gms curd

10 ml kewra water

(kewra essence)

5 gms kashmiri chilli powder

5 gms yellow chilli powder

salt to taste

a few drops of Rose water

Method

1) Marinate boneless chicken with oil,ginger and garlic paste and green chilli paste

2) Heat pan with oil put royal cumin for tempering

3) Add brown onion paste,poppy seeds paste,charoli

and cashew nut paste and saute till brown

4) When gravy is cooked,add marinated chicken and cook for eight to 10 minutes on slow fire

5) Finish with rose petal,charoli and drizzle with fresh cream

6. Garnish with rogan oil and a drop of rose and kewra water

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