Love gourmet food? Here are some recipes and tips from Etihad Airways’ in-flight chef Rajesh Shetty
During the lockdown, many found cooking with limited options a task, especially when it comes to preparing gourmet meals. But, for Chef Rajesh Shetty, an in-flight chef with Etihad Airways, who has been preparing food for guests 35,000 ft mid-air, “a confined kitchen does not mean confined meal options.” As an in-flight chef, he has been trained in preparing gourmet meals in a limited space with limited ingredients. So, to make most of our interaction with the chef for our readers at Indulge, we asked him to share some tips and recipes.
1. Always keep your pantry stocked with ingredients that are integral to your food prep like lemon (excellent for zest and fresh lemon juice and can be used for cocktails, mocktails, marinade and dressings), butter, fresh eggs, olive oil and vinegar
2. Find a substitute for ingredients that aren’t easily available. For instance,
holy basil (tulsi) for basil, kasundi (local ground mustard) for Dijon mustard, lemon juice for vinegar, cottage cheese for ricotta cheese and button mushrooms for exotic mushrooms. Also, one can always enhance the taste using flavoured oils
3. Be super-organised and plan-ahead: If you are trying out a recipe, ensure you have everything needed. Chores such as washing, cleaning and cutting of vegetables can be done well before the actual cooking process. Base sauces or gravies can be cooked and stowed away.
4. Have a clean work area: For efficiency and a smooth workflow, ensure you are working within easy reach of the fridge, sink and the cooking area. My classic mantra is to “clean as you go”.
5. Invest in good-quality basic kitchen equipment: Having a good set of knives or an efficient food processor goes a long way in reducing time while prepping food
6. Think about different ways of using one ingredient. For instance, apart from Bhindi Masala, Okra can be used for Bamya - a middle eastern okra stew, Sambhariya - a Gujarati style stuffed okra or to make crispy oven-fried okra with spice dust. Similarly, bananas can be used for smoothie, pancakes, bread as well as cookies.
1. Tadkewale Kumbh Palak
Ingredients: 500 gm spinach leaves, 2 tbsp oil, ½ tsp cumin seed, 2 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 1-inch cinnamon, 1 bay leaf, 1 medium onion (chopped), 1 green chilli (chopped), 2 tsp ginger garlic paste, 1 medium tomato (chopped), 2 cups button mushroom (sliced), ¼ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp chilli powder, ½ tsp Garamond masala, ½ tsp kasoori methi (optional), seasoning (as required)
• Heat oil in a kadai or a wok. Add cumin seeds and whole spices. Sauté till the spices release fragrance
• Add chopped onions and saute till golden brown. Add chopped green chilli
• Add ginger garlic paste and sauté till raw aroma goes away
• Add chilli powder and turmeric, followed by chopped tomatoes
• Cook till tomatoes are soft and oil releases from the sides of the mixture
• Add sliced mushrooms and mix well. Cook till the mushroom juices dries up and mushrooms start getting golden on the edges
• Add roughly chopped spinach and cook further for 5-6 minutes till the spinach has wilted
• Add garam masala and kasoori methi. Season as required.
2. Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Kebab Bowls, Cucumber Salad And Tzatziki
For marinating chicken: 900 gms boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 2 inch thick pieces, 2 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp lemon juice, 1 medium onion (puréed or grated), 4 cloves garlic (minced), 1 tsp tarragon (chopped - parsley or any other herb of your choice), seasoning (as required)
For the cucumber salad): 2 medium cucumbers (peeled), ½ cup red onion (sliced), ¼ cup dill (chopped), 1 tbsp lemon juice, seasoning (as required)
For the Tzatziki: 1 cup yoghurt, ½ cup cucumber (grated), 1 ½ tsp lemon juice, 2 cloves garlic (finely minced), seasoning (as required)
Cooked rice of your choice: 500 gms
For the chicken:
• Mix together all the ingredients, except the chicken pieces. Reserve a tablespoon of oil for grilling.
• Add chicken, making sure it is completely coated in the marinade.
• Place it in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour or preferably overnight.
• For cooking, you can either use a grill or if unavailable a pan could be used. Heat it on medium to medium-high heat with some oil. Traditionally, the kebabs are skewered but they can be tossed directly on a pan
• Grill the chicken pieces on all sides to get even golden brown colour and till fully cooked
For the cucumber salad:
• Cut peeled cucumber in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeded middle portion of the cucumber and discard
• Cut into thick ¼ inch slices
• Mix together cucumber, sliced red onions, chopped dill, lemon juice and seasoning
• For best results, toss the salad just prior to serving in order to retain its crunchy texture
For the Tzatziki:
• Place the grated cucumber in a medium strainer over a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let it sit for 10 minutes. Squeeze the cucumber to get rid of excess liquid
• Mix together yoghurt, lemon juice and garlic in a bowl
• Add drained cucumber and mix thoroughly. Check for seasoning
• Place in the fridge, until ready to serve
To construct your bowl:
• Place warm rice equally into bowls
• Top with crunchy cucumber salad
• Place succulent skewer or pieces of chicken kebabs
• Drizzle generously with Tzatziki
3. Classic Eggs Benedict
Ingredients: 3 egg yolks, 200ml melted unsalted butter, 500ml white vinegar, 1tsp black peppercorns, 1 bunch tarragon, 10ml lemon juice, 2 litres water, 3 tbsp white vinegar, 4 eggs, 2 English muffins, 4 bacon slices (substitute with turkey, vegetarian bacon or salmon rasher), Hollandaise sauce, 5 gms chopped chives, seasoning as required
For the Hollandaise sauce:
• Boil 500 ml vinegar with peppercorns and tarragon, reduce by half and strain. This liquid can be stored in the fridge and used for multiple portions for making Hollandaise.
• Boil water in a medium saucepan and reduce to simmer.
• Using a whisk beat together egg yolks along with 2 teaspoons of the vinegar reduction in a bowl (preferably steel) that fits snugly over the saucepan.
• Beat egg mixture vigorously till foamy. Avoid overheating, as the mixture may curdle. You should achieve golden airy foam and be able to form ribbons when the whisk is lifted.
• Remove off heat and whisk in a small ladle of warm butter little at a time, till all the butter is incorporated and emulsified.
• Finally, add lemon juice and season as required. Add a little warm water if the mixture is too thick.
Poaching an egg:
• Boil water in a saucepan. Bring down to a simmer. Add 3 tablespoons of plain vinegar.
• Break eggs into 4 separate cups or small bowls. Ensure the yolks don’t break.
• Using a spoon swirl the vinegar water in a circular motion. Slide egg in to form a nice round shape. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Ideally, the yolk should be of a runny consistency, unless you wish otherwise. Remove with a slotted spoon.
• Repeat using the above process for other eggs as well.
Assembly and plating:
• In a skillet on medium heat, add little butter and place bacon and cook. Flip over, until golden on both sides.
• Split English muffins into halves and toast them.
• Arrange bacon equally on top of the English muffin and place one poached egg on each muffin.
• Spoon Hollandaise sauce over the eggs and sprinkle chopped chives.
4. No-bake Dark Chocolate Oats And Banana Cookies
Ingredients: ½ cup smooth peanut butter, ½ cup milk, ¼ cup cocoa powder, 2 tbsp coconut oil (can be substituted with butter or pure ghee, if you are not fond of coconut oil), ¼ salt, ½ cup honey, 1 medium ripe banana (mashed), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 3 cups quick-cooking oats, ½ cup dark chocolate (chips or chunky pieces)
• Place a small pan over medium heat and combine together peanut butter, milk, cocoa powder, coconut oil and salt. Mix till smooth
• Remove from heat and add honey, banana and vanilla extract
• Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, fold in oats
• Line a baking tray with wax paper using a spoon or an ice cream scoop; drop a heap full of the cookie mixture on the prepared tray. Flatten gently into shape to form 24 equal cookies
• Press chocolate chips or chunks on each cookie
• Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving