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
Please take a look at the photo, would you believe this is in the concrete jungle of Dubai? I love sniffing out hidden gems all over the world and this one is tucked into a fishing village . Run by a young husband and wife team, it serves up gems of wizardry. And guiding me to it are our very own revered and feared, media baron (Blitz) the late Russy Karanjia’s gorgeous daughter and granddaughter. Discerning gourmets, they are the toast of Dubai. High profile editor Rita Mehta Karanjia makes time from her hectic media and celebrity management work, Faarah Mehta Shewakramani takes time off her pioneering and fully booked up elective educational academy to lunch with me here. The ocean bounty is distilled on our plates. Evolving modern Asian cuisine with a Japanese influence the brilliant young Akmal Anuar serves up one masterpiece after another. The most fresh, delicate and crazily addictive Seaurchin, heady white truffles, refreshing ponzu-spiked Yellowtail tuna and more. The Hairy crab with Piedmonte white truffles dazzles and the feast continues. Ends with the delightful
Kadak chai (you read that right) ice cream. Our lunch at “3 Fils” hits gastronomic stratospheres but the price points are down to earth. Therein lies the magic.
Foodie-ism is the rocking new “ism” of our times. Even highfalutin fashion brands have jumped in to set up restaurants and hotels. I’ve dined Dolce Gabbanas Gold (humdrum except for the gold bar dessert), Armani (worlds worst Caesars salad), great swimming pool in Bulgari (London), a Gourmet stay in Palazzo Versace (Gold Coast). So when the jet setting glamorous gourmets and real estate tycoon couple Anurag and Meera Bhatia invited me to Italian fashion czar Ferragamo’s recently opened “Il Borro” it became worth my while to stop in Dubai just for this dinner. Loved the sleek, glamorous Tuscan bistro and it’s traditional Tuscan flavours, snowy buratta to the salt baked fish, crisp vegetables (all flown in from Ferragamo’s gardens of Il Borro in Tuscany). Mukesh Luthra, chairman of his beauty and wellness global empire, sparkled the evening and we raised a toast to his birthday. With Ferragamo’s “Il Borro” wine of course.
Delicious news! Mumbai is trailblazing and showing the way to Dubai. In more ways than one. Our very own revered and feared, media baron (Blitz) the late Russy Karanjia’s grand-daughter Faarah Mehta Shewakramani’s pioneering and fully booked up elective educational academy is the talk of the town. It is infusing culture, art and even gourmet (love that) knowledge . High profile editor Rita Mehta Karanjia makes time from her hectic media and celebrity management work, to be the supportive mother. Who would’ve thought that a dinner at a world famous Peruvian restaurant in Dubai would be all about shining the spotlight on Mumbai and India? Over the vibrant, fragrant and colourful dishes, I discover that Lilavati hospital in Mumbai is named after my other guest, the talented Liza Mehta Vyas’s philanthropic mother. And as though all these Mumbai connections were not enough, not only is Coya owned by the Indian Waney brothers but even the executive chef is Indian. Jai ho!
I cant stop smiling! I am at a unique and much cherished dinner. She’s twenty two years old and has won the world’s first vegetarian masterchef. He is 56 years old, a revered Michelin starred chef from Italy. She is a Gujarati born and bred in Abu dhabi and has majored in finance and business from a prestigious American university. Whereas Roberto Franzin is from a family of professional chefs and cooks, Nikita Gandhi grew up watching her mother cook (she has never baked). Having won the masterchef series zoomed Nikita into the international lime light (and she even assisted Sanjeev Kapoor in cooking for Prime minister Modi). Roberto honed his formidable talents under superstars: Spanish Chef Santi Santimaria, and the French chef Jean François Piège and his restaurant has been conferred the coveted Michelin stars.
SHHH! SECRETS AHEAD
Im about to share a very yummy secret with you. Correction: many secrets that will help you cook and eat healthy as well as tasty. And creating these recipes and sharing them freely is a slender, slim and sunshiny young girl. I was so rivetted by her instagram posts that I requested to meet her. Whoa! What an amazing success story…Karen McLean , this Australian-Vietnamese girl moved to Dubai only two years ago and since then has millions of fan followers. She’s a qualified CA who came to a foreign country (Dubai), loves cooking and her dad and grandpa are amazing cooks. But healthy eating recipes are her very own and it was accidentally that Karen started sharing them on her website and instagram and voila! her fan following hit sky high.
Is it possible? Can just one evening tasting session deliver the best of a city’s food-scene? The very best of cupcakes Gourmet shewaramas, salads et al? yup! possible, but only when the knowledgable foodie hostess and publishing consultant and whiz, the lovely Faarah Mehta generously sources and then equally generously opens up her stylish villa (private beach et al) for my Whats hot tasting session. As does her foodie husband, retailing tycoon, the dashing Saagar Shewakramani. High voltage, brilliant editor of a leading lifestyle magazine Kavita Srinivasan, Sridip Ganguly, software expert are foodies extraordinaires too.
MY DOUBLE TREAT
It’s a treat to beat all treats. A Double Treat, whichever way you look at it. And Im not only referring to the delicious nutritious dates (which I cant stop eating) but also my delightful dates from South India. The brilliant Executive chef Thirimalai Murugan ‘s award winning dish blends South India and Dubai so is it any wonder that the dish was given highly prestigious UAE award? The creative and hard working chef from kanyakumari has not only honed his talents all over the world, but has also spearheaded many a hotel pre-opening team.
A request. Please take a look at the accompanying photograph: would you believe I shot this in the hot, arid desert? Such a fabulous relief to be amongst lush tropical gardens and trees in this concrete skyscrapered Dubai! It gets even more exciting because here in the cosmopolitan, diverse Dubai, not only does this multi-talented, brilliant Executive chef share his recipe of my most favorite dessert, the Crepes Suzette but many an invaluable multi-cuisine cooking tip too. Here he is, flambéing the pancake dessert by drizzling the Grand Marnier liquor down the orange rind and swapping many an interesting culinary story too.