It was all about following his dreams for Chef Sanjay Kumar Yadav, the 32-year-old executive sous chef at Punj-Aab, Calcutta. The journey — from working in a small restaurant to being mentored by the illustrious Jiggs Kalra — has been quite an unusual one.
Yadav was not from an affluent background and knew nobody in the culinary trade. He worked in a small restaurant in Varanasi for four years, learning to prepare curries and sweets. The turning point came when he joined Hotel Jaypee Vasant Continental, Delhi in 2004. He specialised in Indian cuisine and even participated in many food festivals there.
His skills brought him to Kalra’s notice during a Punjabi food festival. Kalra handpicked and trained him for a month. Yadav then joined the Five Rivers in Calcutta in 2009 (it has since closed). “I like preparing north Indian, especially Punjabi, dishes. Each spice has a different flavour and it’s a challenge to bring out the individual flavours in a dish,” he says.
He joined Punj-aab, Bangalore in 2010 before joining the Calcutta outlet in August last year. He shares three authentic Punjabi recipes.
Bharwan tangri kebab
Ingredients 4 large chicken drumsticks For the first marinade: 1tbs lemon juice 1tsp red chilli powder ½tsp salt For the second marinade: 1 cup thick hung curd ½ cup thick cream 2tbs grated cheese 1tsp shahi jeera, crushed 1tbs corn flour 1-2tsp red chilli powder A pinch of turmeric 1tsp garam masala 2tbs ginger-garlic paste 1tbs tandoori masala 2tbs chopped coriander 3tsp oil Salt For the stuffing: 100gm chicken keema 1 finely chopped onion ½tsp cumin seeds 1tsp ginger-garlic paste 2tbs chopped cashew nuts 1 green chilli, chopped ½tsp cumin powder ½tsp chilli powder 2tbs grated cheese 2tbs chopped coriander Salt
Method Wash and pat dry the chicken legs. Make a very deep cut lengthwise on the back of each tangri with a knife. But make sure that it does not touch the other side or else the filling will come out. Mix the ingredients of the first marinade and apply to chicken legs. Marinate for an hour. For the stuffing, heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds. When they splutter, add onion and sauté till transparent. Add ginger-garlic paste, green chillies and sauté till onion turns golden. Add chicken keema and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the remaining stuffing ingredients except cheese. Remove from flame, add grated cheese and keep aside. With your fingers make maximum space in the tangri cuts. Divide the stuffing in four rough balls. Fill each tangri with the stuffing. Mix the ingredients of the second marinade. Hold each tangri carefully and spread the marinade thickly over it. Marinate for 2-3 hours. Place the chicken on greased grill. Grill for 20 minutes at 180ºC. Baste with 2tbs oil and grill again for 15 minutes or till done. Serve hot with yoghurt mint dip.
Raan Patiala shahi
Ingredients 1kg mutton legs, washed and dried 3 onions, thinly sliced and fried crisp 2 onions, thinly sliced Paste of 12 garlic flakes, dissolved in a cup of water and strained 4 red chillies 8 almonds 2tsp garam masala 2-in raw papaya, made into paste 2-in ginger, grated 2 bay leaves ¾ cup beaten curd 2 pinches of saffron, dissolved in ½ cup of milk A few drops of kewra essence 2 tbs ghee Salt to taste
Method Grind red chillies, almonds and fried onions together into a fine paste. Make gashes with a knife on the mutton leg. To the beaten curd, add papaya paste, ginger, garam masala and salt. Pour this over the mutton and marinate for 6-8 hours. Heat ghee and fry the sliced onions till crisp. Add bay leaves and red chilli paste and fry till the ghee separates. Add the mutton and fold in well till brown. Pour garlic water and cook till tender. Add a few drops kewra essence to the saffron milk and pour this over the raan. Cook for 5 minutes. Serve the raan on a plate and garnish with fried onions.
As told to Suktara Ghosh; Photographs by Subhendu Chaki
Thought for food
The samosa is believed to have originated in Central Asia, before the 10th century. Known as samsa, it was brought to India by Muslim traders and soldiers. It was made with meat and spices, and served as snacks or during meals. Today, various versions of the samosa are available in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.