Travel is best enjoyed with great food. My mid-week trip to AGRA was about giving an interesting twist to heritage food and learning over a session with MasterChef.
Cooking is an art but cooking desserts is a master art. I know I am being biased but it is my sweet tooth which is to be blamed and not me. So recently, when PENDOWN got an invite to join a mid-week culinary getaway with a Master Chef who specializes in desserts and is lovingly referred as the ‘Dessert King’, I did not let it go. In the backdrop of the historic city of Agra, we not only discussed its most relished delicacy, Petha but also cooked ‘AGRA PETHA SAVOURY SALAD’ with Chef Dinesh, one of the top 3 finalists in season 5 of famous culinary show Master Chef India.
I started from Faridabad at 7:30 a.m. in the morning and reached Hotel Radisson Blu in Agra, a 5 star luxury retreat in the heart of majestic history and tales of love by 11:30. The event began with Mrs. Alka Ladhani, Executive Director, Radisson Hotel welcoming chef Dinesh and other guests, including the media and bloggers. The management and the chef seemed excited about the Master Class session which was about to take place after the introductions.
WHO IS CHEF DINESH PATEL?
Soon, Chef Dinesh took the center stage and talked about his journey so far. Chef gives the entire credit to his grandmother who inspired him to develop his love towards cooking. For all those who have a desire to follow their passion, you will be inspired to know that Chef Dinesh comes from a law background and he used to practice in London before taking part in MasterChef. He always had a strong passion towards cooking and baking and thus he did not let his career in law hold him back. In fact, he has been running a patisserie for eight years now. Master Chef was a platform which changed his life and gave him the opportunity to showcase his skills to the larger world.
As part of this event, a live cooking demonstration was done in which Chef Dinesh prepared a small 2-course meal which included a non-veg salad and a mouthwatering dessert. As the chef wanted to highlight the heritage of Agra, he named the salad as “Agra Petha Savoury Salad” which contained some chicken as well. The dessert was called “Shahi Tukra Summer Pudding”. First, we learned how to cook these and then we savored the special dishes. I am quite fond of cooking and experimenting with new dishes, thus I paid special attention to the little details. The recipe is produced as below.
RECIPE 1 : AGRA PETHA SAVOURY SALAD
Before cooking, marinate the chicken first (ensure that the flesh is cut at some places for marinate to reach inside).
Vegetarians can use cottage cheese (paneer) or tofu.
Add garlic, black salt, chat masala, coriander, curd and lemon. Chicken should be marinated in anything containing citric acid, in order to break the protein strands in the flesh.
Cut the petha into small pieces and boil it for 2/3 minutes to make it soft.
After boiling, caramelize the petha with salted butter until it’s slightly crisp, ensuring that the texture doesn’t change.
In a pan, toast some sesame seeds. Add some fragmented peanuts to give nuttiness and this to the caramelized petha.
Keep the fresh salad leaves, cucumber and sliced onions
Prepare a dressing for the salad from French mustard, eggs, black pepper and oil. Vegetarians can use honey, lemon and curd in place of eggs.
Add salt and chili to chicken just before cooking
Butter the pan and sear the chicken till it is properly grilled
Take the cooked chicken and shred it into thin slices.
To make the salad, take the caramelized petha, roasted sesame & peanuts and add cucumber, onions, lemon and fresh coriander. Add some chat masala, salt and pepper to season before adding 2 spoons of salad dressing.
Add more than half of the chicken slices to the salad and mix thoroughly.
To garnish, put the remaining chicken on the top of the salad mix and put some fresh coriander and edible flowers to make it more appealing and tempting.
Note: Petha can be substituted with finely chopped water-melon.
RECIPE 2: SHAHI TUKDA SUMMER PUDDING
Take a stale white bread, remove its brown edges and cut it into small triangles. A slice of bread can be cut into 8 small triangles.
Fry the bread pieces in salted butter until it becomes crisp and then, dip those in the sugar syrup for a moment and keep them aside for the bread to absorb some sweetness.
For preparing the mousse, take whipped cream and add cinnamon powder, elaichi powder, dry ginger powder and nutmeg powder.
Add rabri to the cream, the quantity of cream and rabri should be in ratio of 1:1
To prepare the compote, take 300/400gms of fresh strawberries and cook it with 3/4 spoons of water, some sugar and lemon juice. Ensure that it doesn’t get dry and it still contains some pieces of strawberry.
To serve the dish in a glass, put some mousse first. Put triangles of fried bread on the sides of the glass and put strawberry compote on it.
Repeat the above and finally, finish with the mousse on the top. Garnish the dish with some pistachio and silver varakh.
The best part of the cooking session was that Chef kept it quite interactive while sharing interesting tricks of cooking and using the ingredients.
RADISSON BLU, AGRA
Post the cooking class, there was a Q&A session with Mrs. Alka Ladhani and Chef Dinesh Patel. Chef Dinesh talked about his love for desserts. According to him the dessert section in our Indian menu still prefers to go with tried and tested formulae. It demands lot of innovation and experimentation. Mrs. Ladhani also informed that the two dishes which were cooked by Mr. Dinesh will be adopted as part of the “Chef’s Choice” in the restaurant menu.
Though Agra has a legacy of historical architectures, I have a special affinity to our very own and gorgeous TAJ MAHAL. I went there first and then started back home. Overall, it was a hectic but well-spent day, giving a break from the monotonous routine. Agra in Uttar Pradesh always makes for a nice getaway.