While cooking is something a lot of people enjoy, it might be quite intimidating for someone who is just starting out. Having spent the past few days in lockdown, quite a few of us are really loving the endless hours in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes while some of us, not so much. However, we have got you expert advice that will help you out. Executive Chef Hussain Shahzad of the much-loved modern Goan restaurant O Pedro in Mumbai speaks to us about his discovery for the love for cooking, the dishes he has tried out in his kitchen during quarantine, his tips for new home chefs and more.
 
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And if you love Goan food, you're in for a treat as Chef Hussain has shared three popular recipes from the restaurant that you ought to try out soon. Here’s what he has to say:

What inspired you to start cooking professionally?

I was born and brought up in Chennai in a Bohri household. Over the years, watching my mum cook inspired me to do the same. She had to run a Bohri household with ingredients that were available in the markets in Chennai and made do with them by creating amazing dishes which were a cross between the Bohri and South Indian cuisines.

What are the kinds of dishes you’ve tried out during this lockdown?

As Chefs, we pretty much do not cook at home since we’re always in our restaurant kitchens but the lockdown has allowed me to do so. I love making pasta so there’s a variety of pasta dishes that I’ve tried. On the weekends, I love grilling steaks at home or trying out some of my mum’s dishes. Making breakfast is something that I’ve never really done pre-lockdown but I do make now. I saw an interesting video of Japanese souffle pancakes doing the rounds and so, one Sunday morning I tried making them. Since we have quite some time on our hands, it’s amazing to try out these new finds.

What is your advice to new home chefs?

Firstly, don’t be scared. Cooking can be a lot of fun and so when you do start, keep the intimidation out of the kitchen. Plan it out and be organised. It’s completely fine if your dish doesn’t turn out great at first. It’s also your dish and so, you can tweak it to your liking. It doesn’t always have to be someone else’s impersonation of a dish.

What are the top five ingredients to stock up in the pantry?

These ingredients are super important to me. First on the list would be hot sauce. It could be any brand you prefer. Next, good oil is a must – olive oil or any nut oil, one good form of an acid such as balsamic, apple cider vinegar, toddy vinegar etc, stock cubes are essential as they save you the trouble of making stock at home and most importantly the Indian masala box with Indian spices which help you make almost every kind of Indian recipe.

What according to you is an essential kitchen appliance or tool for a new home chef?

As for me, a pestle mortar and a good grater are one of the most important kitchen essentials. In terms of appliances, a microwave is my go-to.

Recipes From O Pedro Mumbai

Beryl's Fish Curry

Yields 4 Portions

Ingredients

1 kg silver pomfret darnes or black pomfret
½ cup grated fresh coconut
1 cup chopped onions
4 cloves garlic peeled
16 pcs Kashmiri red chillies medium sized de stemmed
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
300 ml Water to blend the paste
500ml water to cook the paste
800 ml coconut milk
2 tbsp tamarind paste
6 pcs dried raw mango
8 pcs tirphal
6 pieces spicy green chillies, slit
Salt to taste

Method

  • Cut the fish into darnes, pat dry.
  • Refrigerate reserve for later.
  • In a blender or masala grinder combine grated coconut, chopped onions, garlic, red chillies, cumin seeds and turmeric powder. Grind to a smooth paste with 300 ml water and 1 tsp salt.
  • Take a large saucepot and add the blended spice paste with 500 ml of water and simmer on a low flame .stir occasionally.
  • Reduce by half and Strain the liquid through a fine soup-strainer pressing solids through into a medium saucepan.
  • Add in the green slit chillies, tirphal, coconut milk, raw mango and tamarind bring up to a simmer on medium heat. Cook for 10 mins. Stir occasionally
  • Season with salt. When ready to serve, reheat the curry on low heat making sure not to scorch the pan.
  • The curry should be smooth and sport a bright orange colour.
  • Pull out the fish darnes from the refrigerator 30 mins prior and bring to room temperature. Season the fish with salt on both sides.
  • Poach the fish gently in the curry for approx 6-8 mins.
  • Check for seasoning and serve with boiled red rice.

Beryl's Fish Curry at O Pedro, Mumbai

Cauliflower and Bhindi Caldeen at O Pedro

Yields 2 portions

Ingredients

1.5 tsp cumin
8 nos whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
15 gms fresh turmeric
1 nos turmeric leaf
3/4th cup chopped onion
3 nos slit green chillies
3 cloves garlic
1” ginger
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
1 can (500 ml) coconut milk
1 head cauliflower
150 gms okra
50 gms cherry tomato

Method

  • Toast all the whole spices separately.
  • In a blender jar add in the garlic, ginger, toasted spices and turmeric and blend with 200 ml of coconut milk.
  • Strain through a fine strainer and reserve.
  • In a pan sweat the onions in oil. Add the turmeric liquid and infuse with the turmeric leaves.
  • Simmer and add the green chillies.
  • Then follow with the remaining coconut milk.
  • Simmer and season.Reserve the curry for later. Cut the cauliflower into half.
  • Season the cauliflower and Pan sear to get colour and finish cooking in the oven at 180c for 10 mins.
  • Season the okra with salt and oil and grill till soft and cooked.
  • In a pan reheat the curry add in the cauliflower, grilled okra and cherry tomato.
  • Taste and season with salt if necessary.

Cauliflower and Bhindi Caldeen at O Pedro, Mumbai

Panji Green Watana Rassa (with ‘Bhatura’)

Yields 4 Portions

Ingredients

2 cups dried green watana
1 cup chopped tomato
2 cups sliced onion
¼ cup cilantro leaves, packed
2 tbsp garam masala
½ tbsp fennel seeds
½ cup grated coconut
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
10 pcs curry leaves
4 slit green chillies, at a bias
4 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt
Sugar

Method

  • Soak the dried watana overnight in at least 8 cups of water.
  • Pressure cooks the soaked watana on a low flame with 6-8 cups of water and 1 tbsp of salt till they are soft but not mushy. Drain the watana and save the water.
  • In small sauté pan heat 2 tbsp oil on a medium flame, add all the sliced onions and caramelise.
  • Remove into a bowl add in the cilantro, garam masala, fennel and coconut and grind to a fine paste with 1.5 cups of water.
  • In a large heavy bottom saucepan heat remaining oil on a medium flame and add in the mustard seeds and let them splutter follow with curry leaves, and slit chillies.
  • Finally, add in the tomato and cook till the oil separates lower the flame and add in the masala paste at this point and stir continuously.
  • Once the paste is cooked out add the boiled watana and 5-6 cups of the reserved water depending on how thick or runny you want your rassa. Taste and season with salt.
  • Serve the rassa hot with Bhakri, Pao, chapatti or rice

Panji Green Watana Rassa with Bhatura at O Pedro, Mumbai

  Images and Recipes Courtesy: Chef Hussain Shahzad

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