From Nalli Rogan Josh to sous vide chicken, here's all you need to know about slow-cooked dishes
An image that will remain etched into the memory of every Indian, young and old, is the ubiquitous high-pitched whistle from home kitchens, that on many occasions would make the unsuspecting witness jump out of their skin. But with millennials taking over the kitchens, a homecooked meal promises be a much calmer experience. For starters, it could be the generation’s fixation with poke bowls and avo toast. Or if we were to go by Instagram and Pinterest trends it could be that the new-age digital chefs are looking for options that are fuss-free and champion the slow cooker’s ‘set and forget’ theme. Looking at one of the biggest food trends of 2019 among the millennials, chef’s across the city tell us why revisiting this trend might just be the key to a healthier and tastier meal while sharing their signature slow-cooked favourites.
Nalli Rogan Josh
Afghan Grill, The Residency Towers
We first heard about the executive chef of The Residency Towers, Ajeeth Janardhanan when he featured in BBC Two’s food host, Rick Stein’s book, In search of the Perfect Curry. His signature recipe, First-Class Railway Mutton Curry that made it into Stein’s compilation not only reflected the British influence in popular regional cuisine but the belief system that there is no shortcut to creating a perfect dish. “Indian cuisine has always been about slow cooking. A good dish cannot be made ‘Rambo style’,” he explains, talking about a style that includes throwing in seasoning and condiments one after the other and preparing a dish on high heat. Created in a brass urali by slow cooking the mutton with the spices for close to seven hours, at the core of chef Ajeeth’s signature dish lies a secret ingredient—heart. “I love slow cooked dishes. There is effort that goes into preparing a slow-cooked dish. You are involved with the process constantly and the love and attention shows,” says the chef, whose ethnic recipes always follow tradition. If you are looking at the best The Residency Towers has to offer, we recommend Chef Ajeeth’s Nalli Rogan Josh that is braised slowly on dum in a gravy of yoghurt, ginger, garlic, caramelised onion and varied spices.
Kovai Kitchen, Fairfield by Marriott
The humble pickle is deceptively simple by reputation. But the reality is that so much goes into the preparations that to dismiss this quintessential part of a meal as a mere condiment is a disservice. “Slow cooking doesn’t necessarily have to do with a dish like Dal Makhani that is cooked on a low flame for over eight hours. The process of letting the fruits or vegetables cook in the brine and before drying it in the sun and pickling it, is as much a slow cooking method as it is preservation technique,” explains Soma Shekar Gedi, executive chef of Fairfield by Marriott. While this accounts for the chef’s earliest memories of slow cooking from his growing up years, the real treat from his kitchen at Marriott is the GI-tagged Hyderabadi dish, haleem. A mutton-based delicacy that takes over 24 hours to prepare, this elaborate process uses 8-10 kg mutton on the bone, wheat, lentils and an assortment of spices and nuts, and ghee. “The mixture is constantly pounded and cooked over a slow flame to bring out the perfect consistency and flavour,” he says about this dish that has now become synonymous with the brand at food bazaars and pop-ups. “To cut down the cooking time at the hotel, we use boneless cuts of meat. It takes about eight hours to cook,” explains the chef. The Hyderabadi haleem requires a day’s notice.
Roasted Peking Duck
Red Pearl, Vivanta by Taj, Surya
It wouldn’t be your first instinct to associate slow cooking techniques with Chinese cuisine. After all, we have come to identify fried rice and stir-fries as part of a ‘Chinese’ menu staple. However, executive chef Saratchandra Banerji of Vivanta by Taj, Surya shares that red stewing is a slow-cooking technique that has been widely used in many parts of China. “These recipes are generally heavy in meat content,” he points out. The menu at the Red Pearl features a Roasted Peking Duck that takes about 24 hours, including prep and cooking time. A whole duck that is marinated in a five-spice powder along with soy sauce, ginger and spring onions is left to dry overnight before being broiled in an oven. It is then allowed to rest and flash fried in a pan to achieve the perfectly crisp skin. “The slow roast renders the fat on the duck and allows it to braise to perfection. This method ensures the minimal use of oil, making it a healthy option.”
Coffee and black pepper crusted steak with demi-glace
For executive chef Arul Selvan C, this technique extracts the maximum flavour. “Slow cooking seals and enhances the taste. One of my favourite dishes to cook is the steak, but that one element that elevates the dish to a whole different level is the demi-glace that takes almost 24 hours to create. This adds body and richness and can be used with steaks, soups, stews or used to make countless sauces.” That being said, this rich and concentrated glace is well worth the time. Prepared by browning bones and vegetables in a roasting pan before combining them in a pot of water, this stock has a pronounced flavour and deep colour. Simmered for anywhere between 12-24 hours, while skimming the fat every half hour until done, the final stock is strained through a very fine sieve and reduced further into a roux with a syrupy consistency. Offering the best cut of meat at Gokulam Park, chef suggests the coffee and black pepper crusted steak at that is served with a chocolate infused demi-glace.
The French Door
Shreeya Adka, the executive chef of The French Door swears by sous vide and confit to achieve the perfect texture and flavour combinations. One of the only restaurants to offer the two slow cooking techniques, the Chicken Roulade—cooked sous vide for four hours, and a Duck Confit prepared over a course of five hours are dishes that the 24-year-old is proud off. “The flavours are intact and meat is just perfectly cooked with the right texture.” Served with an olive tapenade and garlic aioli, their signature chicken dish is delicately seasoned and is finished off with sauteed vegetables and microgreens. “I think it is great that this generation is looking up slow-cooker recipes on the net. You keep seeing these recipes popping-up on your feed constantly. They are simple and deliver the most flavour.” Only a limited quantity of the dish is made every day, so order yours a day in advance.
The kitchens of ITC’s iconic brands like Bukhara and Kebabs and Kurries have showcased authentic and heritage slow-cooked cuisine like Dal Bukhara and Murgh Makhani over the years. But executive chef Bidhu Bhusan Das’—who has been a part of ITC’s kitchens for over 25 years—recommendation is the Sikandari Raan. “Anyone can put together a tandoori or grill menu. But the precision with which you know your ingredients and the cooking time that each dish requires is what matters.” Covered and braised in a preheated oven at exactly 350 degrees for two and half hours and then allowed to cool till 300 degrees before being air-dried for 10 minutes, everything about this slow-cooked dish from marination to plating is about accuracy and exact timing.
Moplah Mutton Biryani
Nothing spells a slow-cooked dish better than dum biriyani. “The word dum literally translates to air-cooked. This method of cooking refers to letting the dish breathe its own aroma and juices, making it more flavourful,” begins Sivanandam M, executive chef, Aloft. While the steamed pomfret with sour plum sauce also makes it to our list, the Moplah Mutton Biryani is our top pick. The biryani, which uses local spices, ghee and small-grained rice, does not follow the conventional dum method. Instead, the rice and the chicken are prepared separately and layered together for a final dum. “Here the vessel is sealed with dough and red-hot coals are placed atop the lid,” explains the chef, adding that the use of freshly ground spices and less oil, that is synonymous with the cuisine preserves the feeling of a home-cooked meal.