After living with Ina when we were graduate students in New York City, I know a little about Indian cuisine. Ina taught me the basics and I have continued cooking and experimenting with Indian cooking ever since. I’m a foodie and my professional interests lie in all matters related to nutrition. You can imagine my excitement at the prospect of traveling to India for the first time to visit my brother, who currently lives in India. It so happens that I was travelling by myself for two days before meeting up with him in Goa, during which time I stayed at the Taj Vivanta in Whitefield, Bangalore — and it was there that I had the most amazing culinary experience.
One evening, I was dining alone at the hotel’s Terracotta Restaurant amid couples and groups of diners. I was therefore happy and somewhat relieved when the executive chef, Dinesh, came by my table to inquire about the food and engage in small talk. I had just finished the Murgh Punadi Soup and Cardamom Jumbo Shrimp, which were both amazing. The spiciness and medley of flavours were fresh and bright. I raved to Dinesh about his cooking and he looked very pleased. I must have impressed him with my knowledge of Indian spices because he asked me whether I would be interested in getting a tour of the “spice station” and kitchen after my dinner. Needless to say, I was thrilled. True to his word, Dinesh came to get me for the grand tour after I had finished my main course (boneless saffron scented kid lamb with okra with cumin and sesame seeds…my mouth waters just thinking about it). At the spice station, Dinesh took me through the main spices of Indian cooking. There were a few that I didn’t know, such as asafoetida and nigella seeds. Afterwards, Dinesh showed me every workstation in the kitchen. I watched naan and paratha being made by hand and lovely curries simmering on the stovetops. At the end of the tour, Dinesh asked whether I would be interested in cooking a dish of my choice the following day. “Only if you have time of course”, he added graciously. Time or no time, I was determined to be there.
The following day, I presented myself to Dinesh at noon for my one-on-one cooking lesson. Dinesh clearly revelled at the thought of turning me into a sous-chef and gave me an apron and chef’s hat. He introduced me to my two helpers (Lucky and Rajesh from Delhi) and showed me my station. I was ready for the task of preparing my very first Broccoli Jalfrezi. My helpers had fortunately prepped all the ingredients so all I had to do was listen to my instructors and not embarrass myself with my less-than-average knife skills. Over a blistering hot flame, I worked with a very hot (and heavy) wok. Not what I am used to in my own kitchen…starting with the oil, cumin seeds and garlic, I waited until everything browned nicely. The broccoli florets, diced red peppers and tomatoes followed. Once the vegetables started cooking, all the spices and onion were thrown into the mix (with constant stirring of the ingredients, of course). Honestly, I was petrified that I would burn (and ruin) my first attempt at cooking in an Indian kitchen. That disaster was avoided thanks to Lucky and Rajesh who were by my side giving their input and advice. I had such a good time. Lucky, Rajesh and Dinesh praised me for my efforts and after 10-15 minutes of cooking, I sat down to enjoy the fruits of my labour (not entirely oblivious to the curious stares of other diners). What a feast for the eyes and the palate…yum.
Taj Vivanta Hotel’s Broccoli Jalfrezi
- Blanched broccoli florets 250 g
- Bell pepper, diced 30 g
- Tomato, diced 10 g
- Onion, diced 10 g
- Cumin seeds 2 g
- Garlic cloves, minced 4 g
- Onion-tomato-masala 30 g
- Oil 30 ml
- Coriander powder 4 g
- Red chilli powder 2 g
- Chat Masala 2 g
- Lemon juice 1 teaspoon
- Kasuri methi powder 2 g
- Salt to taste
- White wine vinegar 1 tablespoon
- Freshly chopped cilantro to garnish
- Cream to finish
- Crackle the cumin seeds in hot oil. Brown the chopped garlic.
- Add blanched broccoli with the diced vegetables and sauté it for a minute.
- Add the onion-tomato-masala, the dry ingredients and sauté until the raw ingredients are cooked. Add some water if necessary to cook it further.
- Finish with cream and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.
Disclaimer: Big Apple Curry has neither ties to the Taj Vivanta Hotel in Whitefield, Bangalore nor to the Taj Hotel chain. We and our guest bloggers simply share our experiences with Indian cuisine and Indian cooking as part of our “Musings & Factoids” series on this blog.