Cooking With Kelvin Cheung and Mumbai Boss

It’s been a while! Now that I’m back from my vacation, it’s time to get back to blogging! There was some excitement the weekend before my vacation as well, and I must share it now, as it is already late enough!

So I got a chance two weekends ago to watch and learn, from a cooking pro. One of my favourite websites, Mumbai Boss, had a little contest earlier in April where 10 lucky readers got a chance to attend a cooking demo with Chef Kelvin Cheung of Ellipsis in Colaba.

Fingers crossed, I entered and was absolutely thrilled when I got a spot.

So on April 28th, Sunday afternoon, off I went.

Chef Cheung is a  third-generation culinary professional from Chicago, and has been working in the kitchen since he was about 12 or 13, in his family restaurant. After culinary school, he worked at restaurants in Chicago and Belgium before making the move to Bombay. (Interestingly enough, he enrolled in medical school first, but opted out once he realized that his real love was food!)

The cooking demo was amazing! There was a cozy group of 6 of us and we got to watch Chef Cheung cook and talk technique at the open kitchen, and taste as well! It was a pleasure to watch- art, intuition and science all coming together to create a wonderful meal. What I loved was Chef Cheung’s approach to food- clean, simple, honest food using the freshest and best ingredients available. The menu, in fact, changes everyday to accommodate the fresh produce of the day.

The food was delicious- as per Chef Cheung’s philosophy, the ingredients are the heroes and all the dishes were subtly flavoured; not overpowering, not drowning in sauce or buried under strange garnishes. Fresh and elegant.

I’m not going to wax eloquent about the decor or the plating- because you could read that in any review. But here some things I learnt, and find useful for home cooks like myself.

  • Always wait for the pan to get hot before you add oil. Don’t be in a hurry. A hot pan needs less oil and your food will not stick. Chef Cheung used just a spoon of oil to sear the fish fillets!
  • A simple pan sauce tastes wonderful and is so very easy to make! (The market fish on a bed of greens is dressed with a pan sauce.)
  • Making your own stock at home is actually pretty easy- and tastes better than using cubes or stock-in-a-box.
  • The fresher an egg is, the stronger it is. Inferior eggs are often the reason why some desserts do not bake in time. While it may be difficult to get farm-fresh eggs in Mumbai all the time, if you can find a trusted supplier or andawaala, stick to it.

I took some pictures, unfortunately only with my smartphone.

Potato and leek soup

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The veggies for the fish
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Market fish with citrus greens20130428_165749

Chef Cheung preparing the creme brulee

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Creme brulee with chocolate cookie soil

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Rocky road!20130428_172356

If you live in Mumbai, are here on vacation or plan to visit, make time for Ellipsis. It’s totally worth it- I’d go just for the rocky road!!

Thanks Mumbai Boss, Chef Cheung and Ellipsis for a wonderful experience!

I Have A Bakers’ Complex

I have been away. For a while. Doing stuff and travelling. I have an excuse. He is 6 months old and recently started crawling. I’ve been trying to baby proof my house and prevent my son from hitting his head on table legs & chairs. Did I also mention that crawling after my son has also made me L-A-Z-Y? And T-I-R-E-D?

When I quit my job, I was all ready to become this superblogger mom. I had these big ideas in my head about how I would use this time away from work to unleash my creative side, find out what I was really good at, discover what made me happy, then spend my life doing that. I thought I was going to have one of those life-changing Oprah stories and become Awsome Superblogger Mom.

But you know what? It doesn’t happen as easily as that. It’s not like going to the kitchen to make a cup of hot chocolate and feeling charged up and happy inside after drinking it. It takes a lot of time, energy and planning. And if you want to be serious about being a freelance writer or blogger, you have to treat it like any other job and give yourself deadlines and schedules. (And lots of spiral-bound notebooks and lists, if you are a stationery slut like me. Seriously. Put me in a Staples store and I will go at those stacks of notebooks like they’re boxes of macarons from Pierre Herme.) So there. I feel like I have given enough reason for not blogging in a long time.

Getting down to blogging now- I have something to say. I’m not much of a baker. I lied about that part in my about section. Sue me. So far, all my ‘baking’ has been me assisting someone.

I’m one of those cop-out bakers who doesn’t have a real oven at home and uses my microwave on convection. Baking is…well…tough. Baking isn’t rocket science, but it’s still beyond my comfort zone. (Which reminds me- why is everything likened to rocket science? Why not brain surgery or derivative analysis? Hmmm.)

Like I said, I find baking a little daunting. It’s so exact; it’s so precise, and it’s way more scientific than making a curry. I prefer cooking by instinct and tasting along the way- that’s why I love curries. You can keep fine-tuning it and re-hashing the same stuff to suit your palate and mood. But baking- if one step goes wrong, than  you’ll end up with something wildly different than what you set out to make. There’s more room for disaster in baking- at least when I’m in the kitchen.

I’ve always been envious of people who bake well. Let’s face it- we all place a premium on the way things look before tasting; and baked goodies will ALWAYS grab your attention quicker. I mean, how many schools have ‘curry sales’ as opposed to ‘bake sales’ to raise money for an event? Baked goodies are prettyyyy. Like really really pretty. And everyone likes bright fluffy creamy puffy pretty things on their plate.

I might as well come out and say it: I HAVE A BAKERS’ COMPLEX. I can’t bake much and I get jealous of all those wonderful bakers who manage to put together beautiful creations which make you want to throw your diet out the window. And if you’ve noticed, good bakers have the glam factor– everything they make is gorgeous and picture perfect and oozing oomph. I’m not saying they don’t desrve it. They do. All I’m saying is, if it’s prettier, it usually sells. The poor cook who spent a whole day cleaning and cutting cubes of meat and marinating it and slow cooking it and making a curry
is left with something that’s tasty but not gorgeous. It’s a coloured thickened
liquid in a pot at the end of the day- and it tastes great, but if you put a rogan josh up against a chocolate ganache tart- the tart will always look prettier. It’s like Sanjeev Kapoor vs Nigella. ( I hate Nigella, but I just had to use her here as a comparison.)

Serioulsy. Look at that!

Courtesy womensday.ninemsn.com.au

Courtesy chow.com

This is one of the most beautiful pictures of rogan josh I could find online, but I’d still vote for the chocolate ganache tart on the glam scale.

The purpose of this post is that I need to get over my bakers’ complex and try being
one. I will not belittle bakers (the way a development journalist may belittle a fashion writer) but I will roll up my sleeves, turn up the heat on my convection microwave and take my baby steps into baking, unaccompanied.

Before I move on to the cake, I want to see if I can serve something without burning it. So over the next few days, I’m going to try baked pasta dinners. You know,like Rachael Ray. I’m pretty sure you can’t screw up a simple casserole…or I could be wrong. Fingers crossed!!

PS I fiddled around with my theme and got something a little brighter.