Cheftalk |Unlock the destination with Chef Tanveer, Exc Chef, Le Meridien Gurgaon

“My two rules of cooking: keep it fresh and keep it simple.”
Mike Isabella

Unlock the destination with Chef Tanveer, Exc Chef, Le Meridien Gurgaon 600It did seem like a daunting idea to jump onto a chefs bandwagon at 7am. Yet with an itinerary that promised some fun unlocking of a destination, the journey was full of promise. That it was going to be so so fun was something I didn’t envisage. I would do this again in a heartbeat, so what if the mercury rose to almost 50C that afternoon as we literally spilled into the fish market! This is just a peep into the day we spent with the young, very affable, energetic, creative and impressive Tanveer Kwatra, the executive chef at Le Méridien Gurgaon.

We joined Exec Chef Tanveer Kwatra on a typical day as he took us on a culinary journey unlocking CR Park, microgreens, exotic seldom used local produce like phalsa berries and mango ginger etc. Later, he went on to create magic with the food we bought!

A step into the lobby, and the mood is set.  So pleasing to the senses, what welcomes you is a visual delight, a celebration of art! A Pareesh Maity work greets you as you enter, warmth exuding from the yellow figurine. A number of sculptures by Satish Gujral add to the character, as does the large  art wall behind the reception which illustrates natural forces weathering rock shores and land and has been beautifully depicted by PR Daroz.Le Meridien, GurgaonThe hotel has numerous art pieces which starts from the Tree of Life at the entrance by Vibhor Sogani to the chrome installation at the lobby that depict the transformation from day to night. Vibhor Sogani, Le Meridien, GurgaonCreative, creative, creative …it’s a feel good ambiance! ’twas a cracker of a start to the day as the three of us, Sangeeta, Ruchira and I, landed up in the well lit airy lobby, to be greeted by a bright and cheerful Tanveer. He’s one of those people you take an instant liking to – easygoing, friendly, enthusiastic, and as we learnt through the day, large hearted and very talented. Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, GurgaonWith Eye Opener shots that offered intriguing local flavours – ginger coffee {very new to me & refreshing} and mango jeera, we soon headed for a culinary tour of the property. Our first stop was Latest Recipe, the signature dining restaurant at the hotel. It offers bright, picturesque views of the garden outside the hotel and draws in natural daylight that lights up the space. We returned to the venue for all our meals that day!

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, GurgaonWith a delicious double espresso shot and a smattering of fresh tropical fruit  to awaken our senses, we headed into the chefs den. Well organised work spaces, the men were all busy at work. With the breakfast service already underway at Latest Recipe, the lunch menu was being prepped. Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon We were in the ‘Indian’ kitchen, such a delicious space. Local produce, native ingredients, native cooking utensils and methods of cooking. Butter paneer, dhungaar-e-butter chicken {the gravy smoky, earthy, lip-smacking good; very rich too}, a kachchi gosht ki biryani had our taste buds on red alert. Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon The chef of course got dizzily busy {was hard to keep up with him} readying up a line of the Le Meridien Gurgaons signature breakfast for us. Duck Khurchan Dosa with Mulligatawny Soup, Brioche Burger, Crab Omelette! Latest Recipe at it’s very best. Great beginning. Need I say more?

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, GurgaonLatest Recipe : An all-day dining restaurant featuring global cuisine presents guests with a sensory world cuisine experience. Located at the Lobby Level, the restaurant exudes a warm contemporary feel and a visual delight for the eyes; the bespoke music, styled to suit the mood of the day, the alluring aroma of food wafting through the restaurant, authentic & delectable world cuisine. It revolves around five interactive show kitchens displaying a sumptuous array of food, a dining concept that brings the excitement of cooking from the chefs.

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon What strikes you is the creativity at every meal, the small touches, the rustic and earthy feel, above all the chefs personal connect with how he presents things. Bursts of colour from Stappu and Le Crueset dance in the daylight, fresh fruit to make your heart sing, eggs sitting sweetly in ‘nests, ceramic baskets of spice, live counters functioning.

Chef Tanveer KwatraA young lad from Agra who has studied Down Under, he gathers experiences from as far as Fiji to closer at home doing Marwari wedding cuisines, his stories reflect how he picks up and learns on the go. For someone who is as enthusiastic about Agra ki dalmoth and flash fried prawns, Benaras ki chaat and okonomiyaki from Japan, food talk lights up his eyes! Mind you, through the conversation, nothing escapes his eye, what his staff are doing, if anything is incorrectly placed, a runaway crumb. The place runs like clockwork.

Chef tanveer Kwatra It was a packed day. As you read on, {LONG POST ALERT}, you will wonder how much we packed into a day. The chefs day was busier actually. He took loads of time out for us. Before lunch we took a recce of his well organised and well maintained stores, , we sneaked into the pastry room, watched the pastry chef make a TON of choux, piped some wriggly eclairs, inhaled the sweet smell of soft buns baking, then saw them get slathered with butter, got heady with the aromas of lavender and tonka beans … we were welcomed into every nook and corner!Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon That worked up an appetite and ‘those’ colourful dishes with the lunch menu beckoned our famished selves. We ate right off the kitchen counter! Roasted thyme garlic pumpkin with Evoo and feta {we polished it off}…I think it’s the best pumpkin I’ve ever had. Potato daphnoise, fish in a citrusy burre blanc, meaty mushrooms with chicken were just some of the fare. We couldn’t stop eating, pampered under the chefs indulgent gaze…

…and yes, love him or hate him, he swallowed anchovies with great pleasure!

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon Rolling out were colourful Le Crueset dishes prettily dished with dal, smoked butter chicken, gobhi masala, butter paneer…so much more. In the meantime the kachcha gosht ki Hyderabadi biryani that started cooking on dum in the morning was ready and was being lavished with ghee, saffron, vevetier. We dug in. WOW!! One of the best I’ve had, very authentic, fragrant and done right. On the side, their was a spicy, bursting with flavours mirchi ka saalan!

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon A quick pit stop at the lab, nice and neat, where food testing is carried out, and we tripped along to stop by at the cafeteria. What a well organised place, with huge vessels with a finger licking good dal, chicken, paneer, boondi raita and the works. Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon Stuffed as we were, we queued up to taste the communal lunch served to all the staff. Completed with refreshing glasses of Roohafza and crisp cucumber, pickles too, it was yet another meal to remember! We were joined in the cafeteria by David Hopcroft, GM Le Méridien, Gurgaon.

Fish Market, CR Park, New Delhi

CR Park, New Delhi With the day flying by, it was time to hop into cars and head into the city. Tanveer was going fish and vegetable shopping to CR Park and even though it was 47C, or more like 50C, we leapt to it. I have a never ending fascination with India {in particular Indian markets and sadhus in no particular order}. My first time in CR Park, my first time at the fish bazaar, and I was fascinated!

CR Park, New Delhi Later when I shared a few fishy images on FB and IG, I was welcomed by the local Bong community as one of their own! “full Bengali accredited” as one said. I was loving it. Tanveer bought loads of fish for dinner that night – hilsa, seabass, rohu, sardines. He was in his element!

CR Park, New Delhi Being a non Bong meant getting the right royal ignore when I tried to buy some block printed fabric. Was far more successful shopping for kasundi and earthenware matkis after we dug into the best mishti doi ever on Ruchira’s recommendation. She knows!! Tanveer bought some more mishti doi for a surprise back at the hotel, while we continued the food indulgence finally wrapping up with an addictive radhabollobhi kachauri. Sigh, the deliciousness!CR Park, New DelhiJust a little more shopping, vegetables this time, and the spring in ‘his’ step was infectious. There too he was in his element – mango ginger, jamrul or wood apples, falsa/phalsa berries. There was a glint in his eye as he thought of what he would make with his loot! One more stop on the way back, a small microgreens unit, where we picked up some beautiful beet greens etc, and we headed back to Le Méridien Gurgaon.Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon While we were ready to expire and were packed off to a much needed and very relaxing spa, the good Tanveer zipped off to get dinner ready. How we were pampered all day! Daylight was ebbing, but not our appetite! An hour or so later, back to the ‘now bathing in sunset’ Latest Recipe, we were gobsmacked to see his creativity. Out of the box thinking, fresh ideas, great pairing, perfect balance of flavours, a party on the palette I tell you! Here’s what he bought that day … CR Park, New Delhi and here’s what he did…

Falsa berries – Burrata with Balsamico Scented Falsa and Ciabata Toast
Jamrul & Mango Ginger – Cabbage Onion and Edamame Bean Salad with Jamrul and Mango Ginger, Ponzu Dressing and Wakame
Seabass & Mango Ginger – Pan fried Seabass with Mango Ginger Chutney and Pan Roasted Sweet Potato
School Shrimps & kasundi – Crispy School Shrimps with Kasundi and Apricot Sauce and Burnt Garlic
Mishti Doi – Mishti Doi Eclaire topped with White Chocolate and Popped Amaranth

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon Well here’s what we did. W I P E D  I T  A L L  C L E A N!! Not a crumb left. I thought I wasn’t a fish person. I’m not, but am certainly a cooked by Tanveer ‘fish person’! Gosh those school shrimps in the kasundi and apricot sauce with burnt garlic. Mind blowing flavours. Each and every dish was outstanding. I could eat that burrata all day. Paired with falsas & pine nuts, it was to die for! The edamame bean salad saw the flavours waltz off the palette, making magic with textures. And the sea bass with pan roasted sweet potato and beet greens was brought ALIVE with a sharp chili mango ginger ‘kutti’ chutney. AMAZING stuff and so well presented!

Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon …and an amazing way to finish the day! I LOVED that there is huge focus on local produce, an inclusion of native flavours in the menu, that as far as possible, the ingredients are locally procured. There is a system in place, efficiency is high and the place runs like clockwork. It was a day I will remember for a long time, twelve hours that flew by in a heartbeat in the peak of Indian summer!

Thank you Chef Tanveer and Le Méridien Gurgaon for hosting us.

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Food Styling | Lights, Camera, Props … letting the food talk #foodstyling #workshop #foodphotography

“Food photography philosophy is based on an organic approach: real food, beautiful ingredients & natural light”
Penny De Los Santos

Food Styling & Photography Workshop, NCR, IndiaAre you obsessed with good food pictures? Do you spend hours all day whiling your free time away hopping between Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and numerous others photo sharing sites and blogs drooling over food pictures? If yes, then you are like me. My days are filled dreaming about and shooting food, my dreams filled with virtual shoots. They say it’s called an obsession! They also say it’s infectious!!

Coffee Shortbread Cookies IMG_5602 600 3 The more you play with the camera and light, the more addicted you get to it. This is the language of food, how a food picture talks to the viewer.  Come join us for a food styling workshop where I share what I enjoy, how I shoot, how I play with light and angles. Also the use of props, or shooting with minimal props, keeping the star {food} in focus, backgrounds, tips I’ve learnt along the way. We also have a mentor, the very sweet Prasad @ Desi Traveler to touch on the basic principles of photography, the holy triangle! indexI virtually shoot on auto, with baby steps into the AV mode, so let the technicals not scare you. We’ll explore this very creative passion, shoot with you in your comfort zone to give you a heads up, help you frame, help you discover your personal style … that’s why the seats are limited.

Blogadda Workshop @ Olive, 22Sep 2012, Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mehrauli, Delhi

Come join us at a Food Styling and Photography Workshop at the stunning Olive Qutub {seen above}.

This haveli restaurant, nestled under the Qutub Minar, remains one of my favourite spots to shoot in the NCR. Beautiful ambiance, great natural light, banyan trees, rustic setting, everything that inspires! Keeping us satiated will be Chef Sujan, hailed as one of the brightest stars in London’s culinary gamut after consecutive nominations for National Chef of the Year and London Chef of the Year. His food will make you happy, give you plenty of food for thought, and will help create delicious memories.

Pasta Marinare @ Olive Bar & Kitchen Mehrauli, New DelhiWe’re happy to have I Say Organic and Urban Dazzle sending us some stuff to shoot for the workshop. Come join us for a day of fun, loads of banter, endless shooting, plenty of food, great ambiance and like minded folk! With only a few seats to go, you can find more information and sign up at Darter.in . Do drop me a mail at deebarajpal{@}gmail{dot}com if you need anything or have any questions etc. I’ll be happy to help.

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Cooking | Kadhi {Indian vegetarian yogurt curry} … #CreateFearlessly with Hamilton Beach Multiblender

“It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.”
Emmet Fox

Kadhi  indian yogurt curryKadhi {Indian vegetarian yogurt curry}. Ask me to pick my favourite Indian curry, and chances are that kadhi will be the first thing that comes to my mind. It is the best comfort food ever, leaves me deeply satiated, fills me with nostalgia right from the aromas that rise from the first tempering. As the flavours of aesofoetida and curry leaves dance wildly in the summer air, I am transported to the air cooled house of Sheela Aunty, my mothers friend from Delhi University.

tadka spicesShe passed away several years ago, but a large part of our growing up unfolded under her wings. It is rare for even a few days to go by when we don’t exclaim like her, and then dissolve into giggles. Large-hearted, earnest, easily shocked, far too loving, the best collection of crisp summer sarees, jewellery to make the heart sing {after all she was born into one of Delhi’s leading jewelers families}, too humble, a great Indian vegetarian cook, she left a deep impact on us.

Kadhi  Indian yogurt curryI wasn’t foodily aware or obsessed at the time she was around and still rue the fact that I didn’t get a chance to chase her with paper and pencil to record recipes …I did that a lot {A LOT} after I got married in the mid 1990’s. Pages and pages were filled and I am glad I managed some. Aesofoetida was introduced into our rather differently spiced house thanks to her.

Spice Market, Khari Baoli, Old Delhi Spices became a fascination, hing or aesofoetida ‘the spice’ I fell in love with. I have grown to love the spice, not very well known in the West, very popular with Indian vegetarian food, and extremely popular down in South India too. Surprisingly enough, you see influences of the spice in non-vegetarian cuisine in Kashmir too! {One of my favourite haunts is Khari Baoli, Old Delhi to visit the spice market seen above. That was at the Lumia shoot 2 days ago}

Kadhi  indian yogurt curry tadkaNo tadka or tempering is complete without this magical ingredient, the nostalgia lingers on. So that morning when I looked at the Hamilton Beach MultiBlend Blender and Chopper on my kitchen counter, I didn’t have to think of what to make for lunch. With buttermilk and homemade yogurt in the fridge, I knew it was time for my favourite summer curry.

Kadhi  Indian yogurt curry Sometimes it seems like a bit of work, the pakoras or dumplings actually but in time I have cut the work out for me. Blenders the way to go for curry always, and the Hamilton Beach Multiblender did the job to perfection. In seconds. It also cut the work out when it came to making pakoras, or the dumplings. A friend whatsapped me the other day to say she was waiting for my review as she wanted to know how the onions got cut in the bender. A 100% good I have to say! Finer than I could ever manage, and within seconds. I love that there are two separate jars, complete with blades etc which allow you to multitask!

Hamilton Beach Multiblender chopped onionsI’ve been doing a lot more with the multiblender. Grinding oats as I develop recipes for Fit Foodie.

oatmealWhisking up delicious smoothies inspired by Aditya on Instagram. #CreateFearlessly is a great hashtag to carry. Goes in line with the ‘Good Thinking’ that spells out the Hamilton Beach line of products! ‘Really Good Thinking’. I’m loving it.

Papaya Yogurt SmoothieDid I tell you we’re not the only ones who are in love with papaya and smoothies this summer? There’s a little someone who shares every papaya that is cut in the kitchen. She makes a meal of quarter at least before it gets to the blender!

Coco & PapayaThen there is someone else smitten with the blender. The lad wakes up every morning in a somnambulent state and glides into the kitchen to make himself a frozen strawberry almond smoothie. Goes on to slurp his way through, enjoying it to the last drop, then even washes up the blender! On Mother’s Day, he  burst into my room with a tall {and really really good} glass of Guava+Strawberry+Lychee Smoothie that he conjured up for me.Guava, Strawberry, Lychee SmoothieHonestly, this is one kitchen companion I am enjoying fearlessly! There have been glasses of cold coffee, mango shakes, papaya flax seed smoothies, 3 batches of kadhi, buttermilk lassi, pineapple apricot coolers, watermelon strawberry delights, aam panna … and plenty more this last month.

Cold coffee

Smoothies etc

aam pannaThe upside is having one kid enjoying it even more. The downside? Yes there is one! The daughter has now threatened to take the Hamilton Beach MultiBlender back with her when she goes back to uni after the vacations. #CreateFearlessly might well reach the battleground between the two kids!

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