It’s not every day that you get a chance to cook for a celebrity chef. Luck favoured Marhaba’s Havovi Rabadi who got to cook for a two-time Michelin Star winner, Qatar Airways culinary ambassador, owner of award winning restaurants and a super cool person. Read on for celebrity chef Vineet Bhatia’s luncheon date with Marhaba.
A bit of background story – it was in a very casual conversation that Havovi piqued Chef Vineet’s interest in Parsi cuisine. Among the many things the Parsis brought to India is their cuisine, which is known for its unique flavour and the many ‘secret ingredients’ used. Being a Parsi herself, Havovi promised to prepare an ‘authentic Parsi lunch’ and Vineet accepted with a smile.
The lunch date
With Havovi’s Parsi delicacies in a cool bag, we meet Vineet at the famous Saffron Lounge in Katara. Having watched ‘Twist of Taste with Vineet Bhatia’, read plentiful articles about his storied culinary career and followed him on Twitter and Facebook, we were thrilled to bits to meet him in person. And from the moment you strike a conversation with him, you can’t help but wonder at how down-to-earth a person he is!
Without making any bid to hide his curiosity Vineet makes sure Havovi has got the promised Parsi lunch. We settle in for a pre-lunch chat as the kitchen team takes away the food to be heated and served with Saffron chinaware and cutlery.
The luncheon chat kick-starts with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ about Indian food. From Britannia & Co’s famous sali boti (spicy mutton gravy with crispy matchstick potatoes) to the street food staple bhel puri (salad of tomato, cucumber, chilli, herbs and puffed rice), the ‘Vineet and Havovi’ duo took us on a culinary ride to the famous kitchens of India, rich with the aroma of melting butter and garam masala, to the street-side kiosks selling pav bhaji (spicy blend of vegetables served with butter toasted bun), and back to the elegantly set Tea Lounge at Saffron rich with the aroma of dhansak!
No Parsi lunch is complete without a generous serving of dhansak (thick mutton stew served with cardamom-scented brown rice) and Havovi has made sure that she has prepared the
most authentic version of it for the Michelin-starred chef. Havovi’s Parsi lunch menu includes dhansak, masala prawn, and kachumber (vegetable salad). She notes that dhansak is to be served with these side dishes to complete the flavour.
Vineet is not a person to hide his excitement, especially with a complete Parsi treat laid out in front. He started with a generous serving of brown rice (dhan), topped with kachumber and dal (lentil aka sak). We watch with great curiosity and delight as Havovi went pink when Vineet exclaimed how good it feels to eat an authentic dhansak after a long while.
Ignoring his diet plan for the week, Vineet went for a second serving before refilling our plates with the dhansak, masala prawns and kachumber combo.
Despite being on a tight schedule, Vineet sat through the luncheon, spoke about his new restaurants in the UK, his passion for cooking and more. We were glad to learn that Vineet is working on a book on healthy Indian eating that promotes the concept of choosing the right mix of food for a healthy diet.
With a promise to meet us on his next trip to Doha, Vineet waved us goodbye as Pravish Shetty, the very chirpy manager of Saffron, handed over Havovi’s lunch bag. On the way back home we open the bag only to find Saffron special juicy Rasmalai (milk based Indian dessert) – just Chef Vineet’s way of saying ‘Thank You’!
A very excited Havovi says:
It was a real pleasure to cook for him and very flattering when he liked our indigenous Dhansak! My daughter Skyla said she couldn’t believe I cooked for a Michelin chef!’
Planning a Parsi lunch? Here are the recipes.
- Rice – 2 cups
- Olive oil – 1 tbsp
- Saffron – A few strands
- Sugar – 1 tbsp
- Salt – To taste
- Spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, whole cumin seeds, fried brown onion, garlic (1 clove, thinly sliced)
- Soak rice in water for 20 minutes
- Heat olive oil in a frying pan
- Fry sugar
until it caramelises
- Add spices
- Add rice and mix everything together
- Add salt to taste
- Add a few strands of saffron
- Transfer to a microwave-safe dish and add water just 1 inch above the level of rice
- Microwave for 20 – 25 minutes
- Toor dal – 2 cups
- Yellow moong dal – 1 cup
- Lamb – 1 kg
- Masala (Motilal dhansak masala – 2 tbsp, Parsi sambhar powder – 1 tbsp, dhansak paste (ready-to-cook) – 1 tsp, cinnamon powder – 1/2 tsp, clove powder– 1/2 tsp, red chilly powder – 1 tsp, cumin powder – 2 tsp, coriander powder – 2 tsp, black pepper corn – 1 tsp)
- Salt to taste
- Garlic – 4 to 5 cloves
- Ginger – 1 tbsp, chopped
- Onion – 2 large nos, sliced
- Tomato – 1 large, cut into small pieces
- Small pumpkin – ½ of a small one or Carrot – 1 large
- Methi spinach or any spinach – 1 fistful
- Green chillies – 4 nos
- Red chillies – 4 nos
Preparation (In a pressure cooker)
- Fry meat in oil
- Add all the masalas
- Add half a litre of water and cook for 20 minutes on a high flame
- Transfer meat to a large sauce pan
- Pressure cook dal and all vegetables for half an hour
- Allow to cool, puree and add to the meat in the pan
- Simmer gently
- Add 1 tbsp of ghee and a few strands of saffron
- Prawn – 1 kg, peeled and deveined
- Tandoori masala – 2 tsp
- Chilli powder – 1 tsp
- Garlic powder – 1 tsp
- Onion powder – 1 tsp
- Cumin powder – 1 tsp
- Coriander powder – 1 tsp
- Black pepper powder – ½ tsp
- Mango powder (Amm Chur) – ½ tsp
- Chopped coriander leaves – ½ cup
- Cooking oil – For deep frying
- Mix everything together, set aside in the refrigerator for 30 minutes
- Heat oil in a frying pan and fry prawns on high heat
- Transfer to a serving dish
- Garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately
- Onion – 1 large, diced finely
- Tomato – 1 medium, diced finely
- Cucumber – 1 medium, diced finely
- Coriander leaves – 1 fistful, chopped
- Salt – To taste
- Sugar – ¼ tsp
- Lemon -1 (sliced in 4 pieces)
- Mix everything together and serve
Serve all the above dishes together.
Author: Lubuna Jeffin