It happens only once in a lifetime. All my senses are getting pampered. And how! Im seeing the most delicious dish being cooked by the lovable legend 84 year young Asha Bhosle AND Im hearing her sing at the same time. And as though this wasn’t bliss enough, I get to touch and then taste the “Chingdi chaap “ Its made to the famed RD Burman’s recipe and it gets even more exciting when Asha ji shares that recipe with me. Her mellifluous honeyed voice sparkles the kitchen in her iconic Dubai restaurant. Almost fifteen years ago, I’d watched her cook in her Mumbai home kitchen when she’d shared her invaluable recipes for my cookbook. I was blown away by her gusto and passion and consummate cooking prowess. How does she stay forever young and exuberant? I got the answer when I tasted the new menu. She tunes in with the times, evolving herself and remaining contemporary and flexible. So while I tasted the classical biryani and chingdi chaap ( RD Burman ‘s recipe) I also tripped out on her brand new barrah lamb chops paired with carrot coconut cream, fried fish with avocado cream and baby chicken with bok choy and makhani sauce, all deliciously made by the brilliant young chef Bobby Retnakumar Geetha. With us is Asha ji s amazing and talented family and also one of the chiefs of Mashreq bank Richa Madan who not only sings well but also cooks equally well. And needless to add is a big fan of Asha ji.
All this was in her elegant flagship Dubai restaurant. The gorgeous singing legend’s award-winning culinary destinations transcend cultures and cross continents and are now in 13 locations in The UK and in the Gulf. Asha ji personally oversees the work of the restaurants’ spice master to ensure the essence of her culinary philosophy is imprinted in every kitchen, and in the experience of every diner.
But, of course, what she is best known for is her singing. She has sung more than 20,000 songs in eighteen languages, and has been showered with national and international awards.
BIRTH OF A GOURMET CHEF
‘I started cooking when I was ten years old,’ Asha explains in her soft, melodious voice. ‘My mother never used to cook, but I really learnt a lot when I had to cook for my father’s shradh . . . puranpoli, kheer, bhajiyas.’ Asha’s father, Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar, taught her singing and coincidentally, Asha sang her first song ‘Bolte chala chal nava bala’ at the same age as she learnt to cook. Born in Sangli, when they moved to Bombay, Asha led a rigorous and hard life, leaving home at six in the morning and recording till the wee hours. All this seems to have only made her stronger.‘Mera vishwas hai that you must have will power,’ she asserts. ‘I used to love playing gulli danda on the streets and could play all day.’ She also used to borrow a lot of books from a library near the Dadar station, stay awake reading in lamp light and return them the next day. Till today she has retained her curiosity and wonder of the world around her. Her interest in cooking has much to do with this.
So fabulous is her cooking that Randhir Kapoor had once joked to her “aapke gaane se aapka khaana accha hai”. Her enterprising and dynamic son, the driving force of her restaurants, Anand sums it up in one sentence: ‘The world has lost a chef to a singer.’ To which I wanted to tell him, ‘But you have both, you lucky guys!’
THE LEGENDARY RECIPE
200 grams Prawns (tails on headless)
100grams Panko bread crumbs
1 grams sakura cress ( optional for garnishing)
2 grams coriander chopped
2 grams chili powder Kashmiri
10 ml lemon juice (bottle)
10 grams salt iodized
10 grams heirloom tomatoes (for garnishing)
25 grams ginger
25 grams garlic
30 grams kohlrabi salad (for garnishing)
30 grams red onion
1 raw egg
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Ø Remove the shell of the prawns keeping the tail on and clean in chilled water.
Ø Marinate the prawns for at least 3-4 hours before use.
Ø Using a blender, make a paste of onion, garlic, ginger, lemon juice. Add chili powder, salt and coriander chopped.
Ø In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg and add it with the onion & garlic mixture.
Ø Crumb the prawns, deep fryer it for at least 5-7 minutes with a temperature of 350 degree.
Ø Remove from the fryer; drain the excess oil using a paper towel tap slowly.
Ø Garnish with Kohlrabi salad, Heirloom tomatoes & sakuracress