How Mumbai chefs are using non-kitchen tools to cook up some delicious delights!

Apr 22, 2018, 07:11 IST | Jane Borges

From night lamp dehydrators to iron-toasted tortillas, here's how ingenious Mumbai chefs are putting non-kitchen tools to the test

Did you know that the hair dryer that sits on your dressing table can also be a handy kitchen equipment? And that, apart from blowing hair, it can be used to relight charcoals on the grill, soften chocolate and frost cake?

If that surprises you, New York-based food writer Helen Rosner recently gave more reason to elevate this luxury tool to a must-have kitchen appliance. In a post that went viral on Twitter last month, Rosner showed how she used a hair dryer to roast chicken.

The dryer, she explained, removes all moisture from the chicken to maximise the skin's crispiness, when roasting it. Needless to say, when it comes to experimentation, Mumbai's chefs aren't too far behind. Three chefs, who work around non-cooking tools in their kitchens, show us why the pantry shelf can be home to everything from a night lamp, laundry iron to a cane basket.

Laundry business
Chef Ajay Chopra, culinary mentor,
The Empresa Hotel, Andheri West
Trick: Uses iron to make quesadilla
The quesadilla is usually pressed on a hot plate to make it crisp. While trying to look for a more unusual and quirky way to prepare an Indian version of the same, I came up with the idea of a coal/steam iron quesadilla at my restaurant Reza in Jaipur. It's been on our menu there since last November.

Mumbai chefs

What's interesting is that the process is not very different. Just here, instead of placing the quesadilla tortilla bread mixture on a hot plate, I use an iron on both sides to crispen it. You can also use a regular steam iron to prepare this dish. Incidentally, the coal iron - used mostly by our dhobiwalls - can be used for other dishes, as well.

Mumbai chefs

If you open the lid of a coal iron, it's got burning embers, and that's not very different from the bhatti or grill set. So, you can cook anything and everything from seekh kebabs to tandoori aloo on it. While the flames won't be that high, it is a good alternative.

Coal Iron Quesadilla
Ingredients
20 ml oil, 10 gm garlic, 20 gm mushroom, 10 gm baby corn, 16 gm bell peppers, 10 gm broccoli, 15 gm onion tomato masala, 20 gm makhni gravy 15 gm deggi mirch powder, 5 gm cumin powder, 5 gm coriander powder, 10 gm kadhai masala, salt to taste
For tortilla flour 1 kg refined flour, 20 gm salt , 60 ml butter, 500 ml water
For Guacamole 10 gm avocado, 10 gm tomato, 10 gm jalapeno, 15 gm onion, 1 tsp lemon juice, 15 gm cheddar cheese, 20 gm sour cream, sea salt to taste

Method
Blanch mushroom, baby corn, and broccoli in water. Soak in cold water; drain and reserve.
In a frying pan, heat oil; sauté the garlic and then add the blanched vegetables; sauté till cooked. Now, add the onion tomato masala and makhni gravy. Add all powder masala and seasoning and cook further for a few minutes. Finish with kadhai masala.
For flour: Knead the dough mixture and divide into equal portion.
For guacamole: Chop all
ingredients and mix together.

Assembly
Stuff vegetables in tortilla flour, grate cheddar cheese and fold it into two. Use iron to grill the quesadilla from both sides till cheese melts down. Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Burning like sun
Chef Amit Bajaj, executive chef, Glocal Junction, Worli
Trick: Uses heat/night lamp to make sun-dried tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes make the flavour of the dishes more concentrated. It can be used in your curries, as well as to marinate your fish. You can also use it to prepare sun-dried tomato pesto sauce, which is an interesting option over basil pesto. All you need to do is slice these tomatoes and dry them under the sun for a few hours. However, in Mumbai, we do not have the privilege of clean and healthy air.

Mumbai chefs

There have been occasions in the past, where I received complaints from my guests about foreign particles in dishes where I had used sun-dried tomatoes. To counter this, I tried using a muslin cloth and net to cover the tomatoes, but it didn't help. That's when I chanced upon the idea of using the heat lamp. Alternatively, you can also use a night lamp to emulate sunlight.

Mumbai chefs

What I do is place the tomatoes on a bed of salt, and then heat it under the lamp for around 12 hours. The salt helps absorb the excess moisture. In my kitchen, I dry at least 3-4 kg of tomatoes every day, using this particular technique. This process enhances the flavour and aroma of the tomato. You can use the same technique to dry herbs, basil, curry leaves and grapes.

Apple pie
Ingredients
For crust: 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp sugar, 1/3 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/3 tsp ground nutmeg, 3/4 cup cold butter, cut into chunks, 10 tbsp cold water
For filling: 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 6 apples, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch, 1 tbsp butter, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp honey

Method
Combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Add butter. Stir in enough water just until flour is moistened. Divide dough in half; shape each half into ball. Flatten slightly. Wrap each ball of dough in plastic food wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Roll out one ball of dough on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle. Fold into quarters. Place dough into ungreased 9-inch pie plate; unfold dough, pressing firmly against bottom and sides. Trim crust to 1/2 inch from edge of pie plate. Combine all filling ingredients (except apples, butter and sugar) in bowl. Add apples; toss lightly. Spoon mixture into prepared crust. Roll remaining ball of dough into 12-inch circle. Fold into quarters. Place dough over filling; unfold. Trim, seal and give the desired shape. Cut 5 or 6 large slits in crust. Brush with melted butter; sprinkle with sugar. Cover edge of crust with aluminium foil. Bake 35 minutes; remove foil. Continue baking 10-20 minutes.

Shape of you
Chef Jerson Fernandes, executive chef,
Hotel Sea Princess, juhu
Trick: Uses cloth clips to cane baskets to shape raviolis and pies
I learnt both these tricks accidentally at home. My mum was making raviolis, and was struggling to get the shape right, when she chanced upon the clips that we use for drying our clothes. We tried using it to shape the raviolis and it worked well, because here, you are using pressure from both the sides [above and below] to shape it.

Mumbai chefs

Similarly, when shaping pies, you just need to place the cane basket above the dough to give it that round, circular pattern. Initially, there were teething issues as the dough would tear, after sticking on the basket. To avoid that, you need to add a little bit of flour on the cane.

Mumbai chefs

You can also shape your cookies by pressing it on the cane basket. But, make sure that the basket and clips are well-sanitised and clean. After use, place the basket/clips in hot boiling water for three to four minutes to get rid of food particles and dry it under the sun, before storing it in air-tight containers.

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