Weekends in Pune can be a social whirl . With a bewildering choice of events to attend, from book readings to jazz concerts, presentations on the craft of stained glass, art show openings accompanied by the requisite wine and cheese, and one is hard put to decide which occasion to go to, since most of these are free and open to all.
Many events now are built around the still relatively new interest in food. Farmers markets with nary a farmer to be seen, Organic Fairs with a lot of additives , restaurants hosting flea markets and such like are the order of the day.
Several of these events are held in five star hotels as they have large spaces but now malls have jumped into the fray of events to attract more visitors to their stores.
Nitesh HUB, till recently known as Koregaon Park Mall , had organised a chef interaction on their premises recently with Altamash Iqbal, the chef behind Riwaz, a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Bangalore. showcasing the cuisine of the North West Frontier, a new, rather dashing term for what basically remains tandoori and dum pukht.
Chef Altamash chose to demonstrate two dishes , strangely enough vegetarian, from a region known for the predominance of mutton , dairy and lentils in their cuisine. I mean its Baluchistan, Peshawar and Malakand!
Nevertheless he spoke to an interested audience. On show were a Mushroom Galouti with Porcini and Morel Soil, and a Stuffed Potato with Kadhai spices and Curried Yogurt.
What was interesting about the galouti was the morel soil, which was made with toasted almond flakes served along with a porcini espuma made of pureed porcini. The mushroom cutlet was made of ground field mushrooms cooked with onions, ginger garlic , cashewnuts and some spices. It was smooth and very kebab like and the porcini foam and shimeji mushrooms added a rather special flavour. Beautifully plated, with edible flowers and a smidgen of mango sauce, it was a pleasure to eat and we could all have done with seconds.
The stuffed potato was a scooped out potato leaving a shell. While the chef had pre cooked the potato shells to save time, they are to be deep fried till golden. He then made a tasty mix of cottage cheese, crushed almonds. ginger peas and chillies , sauteed and lightly mashed and filled into the shells. This was then marinated in yogurt and powdered spices and baked for a few minutes. The yogurt was tempered with kadhai spice , made of coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Again the plating was interesting, the stuffed potatoes sliced into perfect rounds and served with the tempered spiced yogurt and a sprinkling of micro greens which were delicious ... this one being from sprouted green gram.
Chef Altamash, a personable young man with an obvious relish for creating new dishes, fielded questions from the audience while cooking and even shared a few interesting tips with us. He said most people today use foil instead of a pastry to seal the dish for dum pukht and the trick to making an unforgettable Dal (Bukhara/Makhani/ Kala / Maa) call it what you will, is to add some rajmha and channa dal to bind the dal plus an amount of cream and butter equal to the weight of lentils used !
My afternoon was well spent , having picked up some valuable tips for my home cooking from a true professional and an introduction to several ingredients new to me. Not to mention the delicious food !!