The Australian Two Hat chef, on his maiden visit to the city, talks fresh produce and cooking Bombay Duck
Chef Scott Pickett; Pics/ Pradeep Dhivar
Dressed in his chef's whites, Scott Pickett strolls down Bandra's Pali market. Around him, motorists and drivers drum up a cacophony of horns. But Pickett, author and a Two Hat Victorian chef, is enjoying it all. "I had gone out the other night to watch the cricket match and was amazed at the number of people on the street. This city is organised chaos… much like the inside of my mind," he laughs.
Pickett is the owner of Estelle, ESP – Estelle by Scott Pickett, and Pickett's Deli & Rotisserie in Melbourne. This is his first visit to Mumbai, and India, as part of an event organised by Visit Victoria. Yesterday, he held an avocado masterclass and created a three-course dinner blending Australian and Indian food and ingredients.
Before that, we nudge him to step out of the kitchen and on to the chaotic street. At the small market at Pali Naka, he focuses on the stacks of fresh fruit and vegetables. At the first stall, he picks up an avocado, feeling it for firmness. "If they are hard, they are unripe. If soft, they are overripe; they are perfect when they are slightly firm. The trick to buying avocados is to first decide what or how to cook them," he suggests, as he picks out three unripe ones for his creation.
"This will go into a lobster sauce. I will be replacing the fat from the butter with the fat from this avocado. It adds a wonderful creaminess and delicate flavour."
Next, he buys small white onions to roast, and cherries to pickle and serve as a sweet and tart accompaniment.
Back home in Melbourne, Pickett is known for highlighting fresh, seasonal produce in an innovative manner. His restaurants serve dishes like Goat's Cheese Churros, Chickpea Fries, Hay Smoked Rockling and Veal Sweetbreads.
As part of his meal, Pickett also did his version of the bombil (Bombay Duck). "Whenever I visit a new city, I try and look for a link between the food we cook and the local eats. I was told that people here eat a lot of seafood, so Bombay Duck made sense," he explains. His version had the fish spiced with Australian wattle seed, and served with avocado.
When we meet him, he is yet to taste the fish, so we take him to Jai Hind Lunch Home nearby for his first taste. Pickett's excitement is palpable - he asks the kitchen to show him the raw fish because he has only seen filets; he learns how to pronounce bombil, and takes photos of the tandoori chicken and garlic naan to "show the boys back home". He shares stories of eating curry every Monday night when he was starting his first restaurant and got tired of eating his own creations; and of spending Saturday nights with his chefs making naan. "This is really good. It has spice and texture and is tasty," he says, breaking off crunchy bits of the rava-coated bombil. "May be I will try something like this the next time."
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