Top chef Kshama Prabhu tests popular food app

CookBook is an award-winning app with international recipes. Kshama Prabhu, executive chef at Bar Stock Exchange, gives it a shot. Will it pass her muster?

Kshama Prabhu, executive chef, Bar Stock Exchange, raises an eyebrow in approval as she downloads CookBook on her phone. “A one-step registration. That was quick,” she says, scanning the app which brings together Indian and international recipes.

Executive Chef Kshama Prabhu and Chef Mahesh Behara try the chicken gyros
Executive Chef Kshama Prabhu and Chef Mahesh Behara try the chicken gyros

In September, the nine-month-old app, launched by Kerala-based John Mathew and five friends in February, won the Start-up Connect Program by Madhouse India, a mobile marketing solutions provider. A month before that it launched in 20 languages, including Spanish, Marathi and French. Mathew says that while recipes are crowdsourced from the Internet, they are released on the app only once their backend team tries it.

Prabhu forms the second-line of defence for two recipes.

Pressure test
She begins to jot down recipes of eggless chocolate brownies and chicken gyros. “The recipes are simple, so only taste will tell us how good they are. At first glance, the app seems to have nailed the details. For measurements, they have mentioned quantity by cups as well as grams, Celcius and Fahrenheit. I like the fact that the ingredients are not elaborate or expensive,” she adds. The app lets make a shopping list of ingredients.

The chicken gyros
Delicious and easy to assemble

The chicken gyros

“They have a vegetarian sushi recipe that replaces Japanese rice with a puree of cauliflower and pine nuts. This is smart because Japanese rice is expensive and tough to work with. Yet, it is tricky, as the texture of the puree should be correct,” she says, adding that the base of many dishes, such as pasta, pizza bread or pitas requires readymade ingredients. Targeted at amateurs aged between 24 and 34, the recipes are well-thought out, she concludes. “Once, during a seafood workshop, I taught participants how to fillet a fish. Most of them were not interested in learning it as they would tell their fishersellers to do it,” she grins.

Eggless brownies
Too chewy. This recipe can be improved

Eggless brownies

She excuses herself for a few minutes to ready the ingredients. We meet her inside the steamy kitchen 15 minutes later. Dressed in a black and white striped apron and her hair tied in a neat pony tail, Prabhu is ready for the job at hand. She works at lightning’s speed. Chef Mahesh Behara is the designated chef to help her with the challenge.

In a steel plate, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar powder, bowls of sugar and butter along with a jug of hot water, bottle of pure vanilla extract and chocolate chips are kept ready for Prabhu. “Instead of applesauce, I'm going to use strawberry sauce,” she says, as she puts the oven to preheat at 350 degrees.

In a bowl, she mixes the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and keeps it aside.

She takes the butter and chocolate in bowl and melts it on the stove for 40 seconds, then whisking it.

In another bowl, she takes the strawberry sauce, sugar and whisks it, adding hot water and vanilla extract. She adds the chocolate and mixes the batter. “I have my doubts, there is too much butter in the recipe, but we shall see,” she announces. She evens the mixture with a butter knife, taps the pan on the counter to get rid of the bubbles and in goes the pan for 25 minutes.

Without wasting a second, she promptly gets to work on her second dish, chicken gyros. She marinates the chicken with lemon juice, garlic, mustard and oregano and refrigerates it. In a small bowl, she mixes chopped cucumber, yogurt, dill and garlic. As she springs about the well-known terrain of the kitchen, her bright green shoes, which have earned the brown marks of usage, stand out. Twenty minutes on, she removes the brownie pan and pokes it with a toothpick. A lump clings to it, and she shoves it back in. “There is still some time to it. But it has risen well,” she thinks.

Now, she pan fries the marinated chicken, which sizzles and emanates a pungent mustard fragrance. It clashes with the sweet rising smell of chocolate and we can’t wait to give our taste buds a treat.

Prabhu places the grilled chicken on a wooden plate and mixes it with the cucumber yogurt dip and chopped onions. She slices a pita bread to create a pocket and fills it with the mixture along with lettuce. She takes a bite and smiles, “The mustard, yogurt and cucumber are packing in a fresh punch. Simple to assemble and delicious to eat,” she says. Not wanting to keep the brownies waiting too long in the oven, she removes the pan and turns into over on a wired tray to cool. After refrigerating for an hour, she cuts the slab into nine pieces. “The excess butter has made them chewy and the fruit sauce doesn’t enhance taste. There is room for improvement here. But, overall, they have to simplify the recipe for home chefs, and amateurs who are likely to be happy with the turn out.

“Overall, the app is pretty cool, for those who want to have fun in the kitchen and whip up restaurant-styled dishes,” she signs off.

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