Remember my gastronomic meal at Zafran? We had a sampler dish from every corner of India!
Meet Chef Gaurav, the mastermind behind the delicious fare.
With an impressive culinary career including cooking for the Ambani’s, Chef Gaurav gets candid about his journey as a chef so far and has generously shared the recipe for one of my favorite dishes at Zafran: the Bengali inspired Prawn Coconut Curry. This mildly spiced curry is a perfect addition to the Iftar table.
Please tell us about your journey into the kitchen, and why you chose to be a chef.
My interest in the culinary arts began with the premature orientation I received in my mother’s kitchen, in my family home in a quaint city on the verdant hills in the north of India. In this pursuit I enrolled myself into the prestigious Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology in Mumbai and after successfully receiving my Diploma was selected as a Kitchen Executive Trainee in ITC Hotels’ prestigious Management Training Program.
Which restaurant lines have you worked for so far?
My maiden stint as a Kitchen Executive Trainee in ITC Hotels’ prestigious Management Training Program gave me a comprehensive and practical understanding of the trade in all culinary and support departments at various ITC properties in India. I was selected to specialize in North West frontier cuisine. Having completed my training, I furthered my skill and understanding of the signatures served at BUKHARA/ PESHAWRI/DUMPUKHT in several of ITC hotels’ across the country, including the Sheraton New Delhi, Chola Sheraton in Chennai, ITC Mughal Agra, Luxury Collection and ITC Maratha Mumbai Luxury Collection. In 2006, I was a Key member of ITC Hotels’ culinary team that travelled to Germany for the ITB Berlin under the banner of INCREDIBLE INDIA, NATIONAL TOURISM and received a certificate from Hon. Minister of Tourism Ms. Ambika Soni in appreciation of the culinary presentation at ITB, Berlin. I have had the pleasure of creating culinary memoirs for several visiting Heads of State and luminaries and as the chef in charge of the Peshawri at the ITC Maratha Mumbai, Luxury Collection strives each day to maintain the exalting standards that Peshawri culinary repertoire is famous for providing excellence attach culinary moment.
You specialize in Indian cuisine. India as a country has so many diversified cultures and food traditions. How have you managed to bring it all together?
During my tenure of working with ITC hotels in India, I was fortunate enough to travel between 7 states of India for assignments. This opened the window of learning and exposure for regional food, the eating habits and the ingredients used.
Which region of India are you from? What are the special dishes that hail from this part?
I am from the Northern region of India. Pleasantly the commercial menu is 60% dominated by dishes from this region such as Tandoori Chicken, the Tikkas , kebabs cooked over Sigdis like the Kakori Kebab, Seekh Kebab, the old time favorite curries like the Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka masalas, the Rogan Josh, and the Dal Makhani. Interestingly the region even offers some iconic desserts such as the Kulfi Faloodas, the Gulab jamun, Ras Malais etc.
What is your all-time favorite dish?
It’s Biryani all the way. I firmly believe making a succulent, flavorful and aromatic biryani is not an easy job. It is indeed a masterpiece in itself.
Tell us about a dish you have created that you are most proud of.
Chaap Anari is one of the most classic dishes which I’ve been proud of. These are basically braised lamb-chops cooked in a pomegranate sauce and spiced with 12 kinds of Khada masalas.
What is your favorite dish at Zafran?
Have you cooked for celebrities? Who was the most memorable, and what did you serve?
Yes I have. I have cooked for many of the Bollywood actors and actresses but the most memorable of the lot was the Ambani’s. Surprisingly this was a pure vegetarian meal which is normally not the focus of a menu but this was an exotic vegetarian meal. A few dishes on the menu were Kamal kakadi ke kebab, Safed Korma, Lal Mirch ka Korma and Hare Baigan ka Bhartha.
Every man would say their mother is their favorite cook. What is the one dish you loved best as a child from your mother’s kitchen?
Gugni which is black whole channa tempered with cumin and Indian spices.
Does your wife cook? Or is the home kitchen your territory?
No, my wife rules over the kitchen at home. I’d like to sit back and be the audience for once.
What special dishes will you be serving up for Ramadan?
Ramadan would offer a lavish buffet consisting of a variety of Indian and Arabic salads, starters such a samosas, tikkis,pakoras , kebabs like Murgh Malai, Chicken Tikka, Bhatti ka Murgh, Fish Tikka, specialty non veg gravies like Lal Mass, Butter Chicken, Zafrani Chicken curry, It would also serve a good choice for the vegetarians such as Paneer butter masala, Dal Bhukari, Jal Farezis. The Ramadan buffet will offer a specialty Chicken Biryani also. To end the meal there will be a selection of Indian and Arabic sweets.
Please share a special recipe for Iftar.
Coconut Prawn Curry – Serves 4
- Clarified butter – 1/2 cup
- Cinnamon – 1 stick
- Clove – 1/2 tsp
- Pommery Mustard – 4 tbsp
- Boiled Onion Paste – 3 cup
- Coconut Milk – 6 cups
- Turmeric – 2 tsp
- Green Chilli – 5-6 nos
- Salt– 1.5tsp
- Shrimps (size 10/15) – 12 pcs
- Water – 2 cups
- Heat clarified butter in a pot.
- Add cinnamon, cloves followed by boiled onion paste
- Allow it to cook
- Add pommery mustard, turmeric and salt. Cook this paste well for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and allow the curry to simmer.
- Add the shrimps & water (if required) and cook till done.
- Add slit green chilies for garnish
Serve this curry with steamed rice.