Grilled New Zealand lamb chops
Its not often that an error leads to exotica. But thats what happened in the kitchen of an ITC hotel. A young employee mistakenly put a chunk of cheese on a grill. And a chef noticed that the grilled cheese looked interesting, and decided to put it in an oven to see what would happen to it once it was baked. It puffed up — and the end result was a delicious dish.
I can vouch for it. When I saw the large patty of Camembert cheese on the plate in front of me, I wasnt very sure that I wanted to finish it. But finish it I did. And happily.
This was a couple of weeks ago, at West View in ITC The Sonar, Calcutta. The hotel has a new executive chef called Mayank Kulshreshtha, and I was eager to meet him. I had also been told that West View — which does great grills —was adding new dishes to its menu. And Chef Mayank was putting his signature to it.
Its interesting what the chef has in mind for the restaurant. Unlike the West View at The Maurya in Delhi, which is simply huge, the one in Calcutta is compact. A band plays old songs that make you go all nostalgic, and there are live counters where you choose your ingredients and get them grilled the way you like them. I have had good times at the Delhi West View, so was keen to see what the chef had done in Calcutta.
I think hes on the right track, for the dishes were superb. We started with a fennel carpaccio — which consisted of thin strands of the aromatic vegetable, nicely salted. Then came the grilled Camembert with charred vegetables and olives. This was truly excellent.
The cheese was smoky yet melt-in-the-mouth moist. The grilled vegetables added a mildly sweet touch to the dish, while the olives were nice and tart. This is a great dish — and, as I found out later, very easy to cook (see recipe).
Chef Mayank likes to add a local flavour to his dishes. He was at The Mughal in Agra before moving to Calcutta. There he developed a concept called Agra ka swad. The chef and his team had a series of meetings with locals, and zeroed in on a host of dishes, which were then added to the menu.
In Calcutta, he is keeping an eye out on local ingredients. The prawns and lobsters that we ate, for instance, came (unwillingly, I bet) from the Bay of Bengal. The prawn had been served with an excellent sauce cooked with my favourite liqueur, Cointreau, and the lobsters — wonderfully fresh — had been grilled with just a butter sauce.
What interested me was it was grilled right in front of me on a black, California volcano stone. The block of stone had been heated up to 450°C — so that the stone could retain the heat long after it was removed from the heat. The lobster was chopped and grilled on that stone — and was cooked within seconds. The polished surface of the stone ensures that your food doesnt stick to it, it requires no oil and doesnt smoke.
The lamb chops again were chopped and placed on the hot stone, and then turned around a couple of times. I like my meat rare, so it took just a few seconds for the chops to cook. The lamb had been marinated with some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and crushed pepper and thyme. The sauce had been prepared with onions, Italian wine and lamb jus.
Chef Mayank — who has fed a host of celebrities (almost everybody, he says) — clearly has a creative side that flourishes when he is left alone in a kitchen. Of course, at home he likes his dal and chawal. But when he is working out new recipes, you can almost see the sign out there: Do not disturb — artiste at work.
Grilled Camembert cheese with exotic charred vegetables and bella di cerignolla olives
Ingredients (to serve 1)
160gm Camembert cheese
For the vegetables
50gm red and yellow bell peppers
50gm zucchini l70gm baby aubergine
50ml olive oil l50ml balsamic vinegar
For the dressing
50gm bella di cerignolla olives
Juice of 1 lemon
10ml extra virgin olive oil
2gm crushed pepper
For the garnish
1 basil sprig
Cut the vegetables and grill them on a charcoal grill. Toss them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Grill the Camembert on a griller till soft. Prepare the dressing by mixing lemon juice with olive oil, salt, crushed pepper, chopped parsley and bella di cerignola olive. Place the vegetables on a plate. Put the cheese on top of the vegetables. Add the dressing on one side of the plate. Garnish the dish with a fresh crisp basil sprig. Serve.
Grilled Bay of Bengal tiger prawns with orange Cointreau beurre blanc
Ingredients (to serve 1)
For the prawn
180gm tiger prawn
2gm crushed black pepper l10ml extra virgin olive oil
For the sauce
10gm onion l50ml white wine
100gm unsalted butter
100ml reduced fumet (concentrated stock)
10ml orange juice reduction
10gm orange segments
For the accompaniment
2 sheets of filo pastry
For the garnish
10gm icing sugar
Blanch the asparagus. Roast the pumpkin and make a purée with rosemary. Fill in the filo pastry and bake. Mix all the marinade ingredients with the prawn. Grill for a few minutes. For the sauce, boil chopped onion in a pan. Add white wine. Add fumet and reduce. Add cream and simmer for a few minutes, stirring continuously. Take the sauce out of the flame and stir in butter. Add reduced orange juice and Cointreau and then strain. Finish by adding orange
segments in the sauce. Place the pumpkin filo on a plate. Place the prawns on top. Pour the sauce over it. Mix all the garnish ingredients and bake by piping the mixture to the desired shape. Serve.