Mumbai Food: Chef Rahul Kulkarni reveals his cheat sheet for sand roasting

Sand roasting need not be a camp cooking endeavour. Chef Rahul Kulkarni reveals his cheat sheet for you

You first wrap the marinated veggies in silver foil and cover it with dough. Then place it on a tawa and cook it in sand
You first wrap the marinated veggies in silver foil and cover it with dough. Then place it on a tawa and cook it in sand 

For those who don't shy away from slow-cooking methods, sand roasting might be an option they'd like to try, feels Rahul Kulkarni, executive chef, Irish House. He first came across the technique during his days in Goa, where sand roasting is a popular group cooking activity, especially on camp nights. "It's popular in coastal areas, where sea sand is available aplenty. I've given it my own spin, so that you can pull it off too," says the chef.

Sand roasting involves marinating vegetables and meat in spices of choice -- Indian or continental, wrapping them in silver foil and covering it all with a flat dough, that resembles a chapati. A tawa or a baking tray is filled till half an inch of well-strained sea sand. The dough wrapped ingredients are placed on the sand and slow cooked.

"The process is similar to sand roasting peanuts which you see by the roadside. I follow this process a lot with tubers like yams and sweet potatoes, besides meat and fish of course. It's preferable to use a tawa for vegetables, in which case it takes half an hour. For meat, it can stretch up to two hours, in an oven at 300 degree celsius. And, for fish, this shouldn't take more than 40 minutes," he explains. "Once the main ingredient is baked, the sand sticks to the flattened dough, and it all comes off smoothly from the silver foil wrapping."

The beauty of this method is that there is no risk of the food getting burnt, no matter how long it is cooked. "When any ingredient comes in direct contact with the flame, there is always slight burning due to carbonisation. In this method, the sand ensures that the heat is spread evenly, so the food never burns. Some might find the process slightly tedious, but the results are fabulous." The challenge, however, is to source fine sea sand, he adds.

Owing to little or sometimes no use of oil, sand roasting can be a viable option for the health conscious too. "The flavour comes from the marination which should be done overnight. Glaze it slightly with oil. This is a perfect combination of tasty and healthy cooking. The flavours remain intact till the very last second," says Kulkarni, for whom sand roasting was a Saturday night ritual. "It's a fun group activity too, where everyone in the family or a group of friends can partake in the cooking process."

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