Chennai's newest crop of home chefs has us drooling over pizza, pudding & pie!
Even as a multitude of city businesses struggle to thrive within the limitations set by lockdowns and COVID-19 regulations, the sole silver lining would have to be the success of home-based food businesses. As we explored the experiments and success stories, much to our delight we found a robust and busy movement out there catering to an ever-burgeoning market for home-delivered food. Within this community of home-based kitchen mavericks, offering menus where less is more, our attention is drawn to the newest crop of home chefs who believe in limited, personally-handled batches of specialized goodies that cater to niche markets.
A pie for your thoughts?
ActorVaralaxmi Sarathkumar has taken us by surprise by having a finger in this pie — literally. Cheesecake meets quiche is what comes to mind when you bite into the warm tart where the mildly tarty sweet filling is ample while the deep cup of crust pastry curiously has delicate savoury notes. Perfect when paired with an espresso, we found that lathering these deceptively humble-looking pies with marmalade made it a luscious dessert option! Dishing up this unique baked cheese tart, Varalaxmi tells us that Life of Pie started from her attempt to be productive and useful during the lockdown period. “I cannot sit quietly.
I have to be productive — even though I am not a kitchen person at all!” says the artiste whose completed projects are now being considered for OTT platforms (Danny is releasing in August on Zee 5). Talking about how she wanted to recreate the Hokkaido tart that she had tried when in Singapore, she adds that she noticed that it was not available anywhere in the city. “I like to be different. Whether it is my career or my baking experiments.” Incorporating ingredients that include eggs, yoghurt and imported Philly cheese, it took five batches of pies to get the recipe finalised. Busy taking care of her four-month-old pooch that she recently adopted, the new chef promises only two dozen tarts a day — and often finds herself booked for a week in advance, since she started on Instagram in June. Minimum order of three tarts at INR 400.
When we ordered pizzas from the month-old Solo Pizza a fortnight back, we thought for a moment the name was a Star Wars reference! “Solo means ‘only’ in Italian,” clarified Dylan Pereira, the barely-19-year-old home chef behind the menu that offers only three varieties of pizzas. Besides the classic Margherita, we tried the Popeye that featured mushrooms and spinach while Toco had smoked chicken sausages. One slice into the spread and we knew the secret to this delightfully fresh-tasting pizza — it is the gorgeous ‘crushed’ tomato sauce base. “Yes, they are imported tomatoes,” shares Dylan, who had stayed in Sestri Levante in Genoa a couple of years back and worked at a pizzeria there. Currently studying Culinary Arts, Dylan, whose mother is Italian, says that he wanted to replicate the traditional flavour that he remembered from his experience in Italy. Using a Gozney Roccbox single-pizza oven, Dylan tells us that it goes up to 450 degree Celsius and it takes about a minute to cook one pizza. “The day before the lockdown last fortnight was my busiest day — I sold 34 pizzas in two hours.” From INR 220 onwards.
When home baker Divya Mahadevan told us that her brand Sugar Momma has three primary flavours of cookies and is “all about those big fat chunks of chocolate” we didn’t realize that she was not kidding — till we munched on of one of the chewy creations. Thick, fudgy and generously sized, Divya’s signature Sugar Momma Chocochunk cookies are not-surprisingly one of her best-sellers, closely followed by the sweet, Salted Caramel White Chocolate. The former is stuffed with choco-chips and choco-chunks and is a veritable chocolate lover’s cookie dream, but it was the Peanut Butter variant that hit the spot for us. Stuffed with choco chips, it is rich and buttery — and works easily as a dessert. For those who are horrified at our glorious sugar fest — Divya who started baking about three years ago, is working on healthier options while her aim is to “specialize in cookies”. The busy mother of an eight-month-old tells us that her version of lactation cookies (on special request) works for all those who want a healthy cookie — it has jaggery instead of sugar, coconut oil instead of butter, nuts, seeds, brewer’s yeast and all things good. Box of five cookies priced at INR 220.
Mousse we spell it out?
Shrea Ashwin has been in and out of the kitchen from a very young age. “Thanks to my grandmother who brought me up,” says the mother of a two-year-old, who hails from a family steeped in the film industry. While her husband is also a film director, she is the daughter of late actress Sindhu and actor Raghuveer, and niece of TV artiste Sanjeev Venkatasubramanian. Shrea tells us that she launched her Pudding Company in April and was quickly flooded with orders. Specializing in puddings, she tells us they are eggless and gelatin-free.
A sampling session found us scooping into jars of gooey heaven — mousse-like and chocolatey, the Belgian is a quick favourite. However, do give the Choco Strawberry more time and scoop it from the bottom of the jar — and find out why this one is the winner. Other flavours include Lindt, Dark Chocolate, Double Chocolate (a combination of dark and white), and Choco Blueberry. With nearly 30 flavours up her sleeve, currently, Shrea is offering a limited variety depending on the availability of ingredients. INR 110 onwards (60ml jar).