Continental

Smoking meats

We learnt how to smoke meats during our practicals this week. The flavour produced was incomparable to any other cooking technique I have ever tried. The process was slow and required immense patience, but the delicious product we obtained was enough of a reward.

But it got me curious and I scoured Modernist Cuisine for answers. How does one cook meats with smoke?

Isn’t smoke just…floating soot?

Turns out smoking more complex than meets the eye. The smoke created from burning hardwood breaks down the cellulose in the wood. This cellulose turns into sugar, which caramelises thus creating pleasant flavour compounds. Lignin in wood changes into aromatics, which lend the smoky flavor to your food as well as play the role of a preservative by becoming a coating on the outside of meat that bacteria doesn’t flourish on.

So the flavour compounds generated in the smoke largely depends on the type of wood/fuel (like tea leaves, grape vine and… cow dung cakes, ew)you use.

Also, I was wrong. Smoke is much more complex than a simple gas. It is a mixture of all three states of matter: a blend of solid particles of soot, tiny droplets of liquid suspended in air and vaporised chemicals.

Now these vaporised organic chemicals float about in the smoke and land on the surface of the meat. They adhere directly on the food and adsorb (not absorb) which means they stick to the surface of the meat and the vapours, oils and tars from the smoke react with the tiny compounds on the surface of the food (amino acids, sugars and starches) and polymerises into a glossy resin sheen called ‘pellicle’.

These aromatic compounds slowly penetrate through the tissue channels and impart their flavour deep into the tissue of the meat.

Smoking also helps preserve food from going rancid as the volatile chemicals coat the food surface and slows down the bacterial growth and spoilage.

Few important points to be aware of:

  1. Tight control of smoke (temperature, humidity) in the chamber must be maintained to release the right volatile gases.
  2. The food should be moist enough to allow these organic compounds in the vapour to stick adhere to the surface and then diffuse deep inside.
  3. Humidity control is of utmost importance.
Challenges · competition · English

Intercollegiate Debate

A debate competition was conducted by The Hindu, India’s leading English newspaper in association with Rostrum, the Speaker’s club of The Alva Education Foundation on March 24th, 2017 at Alva’s College, Vidhyagiri, Moodbhidri.

My friend Suruchi Kaloti and I teamed up and competed against 82 other teams from 6 different districts of Karnataka. The competition was tough, many teams had such conviction in their speech and debated with such fierceness, it sent chills down my spine!

It boiled down to 10 finalists who spat fire with their words and indeed it was quite an intense round. But we fought harder and made sure our voices were heard and together, we beat them all and won first place!


The entire event was covered by the press and so we even featured in an article for their esteemed paper!

We even featured on the Manipal University LED Billboard!

And on their Facebook page as well!

Challenges · Creativity Challenge · desserts · Indian

Cometz 2017

The Department of Culinary Arts, Manipal, participated in the COMETZ 2017, a national level intercollegiate competition conducted by Sri Krishna Institution of Hotel Management and we were selected to compete against the other colleges in a number of events ranging from hot kitchen to solo dance and our college bagged the overall prize.

My teammate Venkatesh Lella and I were selected to participate in the Chef Competition wherein we had to prepare a 3 course menu in 3 hours.

We decided to prepare a menu based on the theme ‘India: a culinary masterpiece’. Using the recipes given to us by our Indian cuisine professor, Mr. Manoj Belwal, we tried to prepare a menu that encompassed the traditional regional recipes from all parts of India. 
STARTER 
The Emperor’s Obsession


Shah Jahan, the famous Mughal emperor was intrigued with the colour white which is clearly seen in his construction of the Taj Mahal.

We prepared Dahi ke Kebabs which consisted of fresh white hung curd stuffed with a tomato and onion seed paste and then deep fried. 

MAIN COURSE 

Unity in diversity


This dish has components hailing from all parts of India.

The coconut dish you see there is called ‘Daab Chingri’ which is a traditional dish of Bengal. This uses all parts of the tender coconut. Instead of using water in the gravy, tender coconut water is used. The gravy is thickened with coconut milk and cashew nut paste and even though the gravy is already quite rich in flavour at this stage, we’re not done with it yet. We transfer the gravy to the empty tender coconut shell, cover it and heat it directly over an open flame. 

Now is when the beautiful aroma of the burning coconut shell is slowly released while the tender coconut cream (malai) that lines the inside melts into the gravy making it super rich and velvety smooth. 

Accompanied with this is an aubergine stuffed with a toasted peanut, seasame and fennel paste along with Makni Gravy. 

The cones attached to the sides of the coconut are filled with rice of three different flavours: lemon, tomato and coriander. These rice dishes are typically seen in the south of India. Finally paired off with a bundle of Papads, this dish captures the essence of all the flavours of the various regions of India complementing each other beautifully. 

CROWN OF JEWELS

This dessert consists of rasmalai (again, a traditional Bengali sweet meat) flavoured with rose water and saffron and accompanied with flaked pistachios.

 The rasmalai is created by curdling milk with diluted vinegar and then only using the curdled milk solids while draining away the whey. You need to be careful about the kind of milk you use, the temperature of the hot milk, the fat content and even the concentration of acetic acid in the vinegar you use! After a lot of trial and error we finally cracked the code and achieved soft cloud-like rasmalai.

The honeycomb-like disk below the rasmalai is called ‘Ghevar’ which is a traditional sweet dish hailing from Rajasthan. This unique structure is created by slowly dropping a thin batter into extremely hot ghee. As soon as the batter hits the hot ghee, the water in the batter immediately turns to steam while the rest solidifies around it creating many air pockets. The batter is slowly poured layer by layer creating a thick disk. 

We drizzled some strawberry flavoured syrup over it to fill in the air pockets which beautifully complimented the flavour of the reduced milk sauce we served along with it. The soft, spongey texture of the rasmalai was contrasted with the crumbly melt-in-your-mouth texture of the rich Ghevar. 

The judges loved the menu so much that we won first place! 

desserts · French · patisserie

Soufflé 


 
Soufflés are quite finicky to make and require a great deal of attention to detail while preparing them. One tiny mistake can ruin the whole soufflé and make it collapse.
A soufflé has two main components: the base and whipped egg whites. 
The base- a soufflé can literally be made by using an egg yolk as a base and folding it into whipped egg whites. The only problem is that it would lack flavour and also would rapidly collapse as soon as it is out of the oven. To stabilise the structure of the soufflé, we use flour or cornstarch. 

A soufflé can be either sweet or savoury, and the base determines this. One can make an apple soufflé by cooking down apples to a very thick paste and then adding a bit of flour to create a stiff thick paste. But note that flour reduces the original flavour and hence should be used sparingly. You can make a savoury cheese soufflé using creamy cheeses like Brie, Gorgonzola, Camembert etc or hard cheeses like cheddar, Parmesan etc. A trick to retaining volume when using a hard cheese is to finely grate it to crest the base instead of melting it. When you melt the cheese, oils are released and it interferes with the whipped egg whites and reduces the rise of the soufflé. But when you grate the cheese, the cheese is still spread evenly throughout the soufflé but it doesn’t interfere with the whipped egg whites as much because by the time the cheese melts and releases its fat, the egg whites have already risen and stabilised. 

Whipped egg whites- it is the whipped egg whites that are responsible for the beautiful rise of the soufflé. Soufflé is derived from the French verb souffler which literally means “to blow up” and indeed that is what occurs in the oven when the air trapped in the whipped egg whites turn to steam and makes the product as light and fluffy as a cloud. But to achieve this, care must be taken so as not to introduce any trace of fat to the egg whites. Fat weighs the air bubbles in the whipped egg whites down and causes the soufflé to collapse. The trick in these cases is to encapsulate the fat in a thick starch based sauce so that it doesn’t reach the egg white proteins at all, and hence does not cause any collapse of the soufflé. 

Encapsulation of fats can be achieved through many different ways. The easiest way is to use a very stiff, almost solid, starch thickened sauce to surround the fat. A mixture of cocoa powder and cornflour is very suitable for chocolate, while corn- flour on its own is acceptable for cheeses. There are two methods that can be employed, either add the solid fatty ingredient in a finely grated form to a nearly set sauce, or add the fatty food to the hot sauce and beat really hard while the sauce cools to divide the fat into fine droplets that solidify and are coated by the sauce. 

American · Challenges · creativity · desserts · French · patisserie

International Chef’s day: Plated Cold Dessert Competition

Deconstructed S’mores

We had a Plated Cold Dessert competition today and were given a set of ingredients that we could use to create our own dessert.

My idea was to breakdown the original elements of the popular hot and sloppy s’mores and to turn it into a classy elegant cold dessert that you would serve at a fine-dining restaurant.

I prepared a Caramelised White Chocolate Bavarois and contrasted it with a Bitter Dark Chocolate Cremeux along with a Graham Cracker Crumble and finally finished it off with a Toasted Marshmallow Meringue

Austrian · desserts · German · patisserie

Linzertorte 

Linzertorte

Linz is the reputed home of the renowned Linzertorte. A Linzertorte is a tart made of a rich buttery dough accentuated by almonds, lemon zest, and cinnamon. The tart is traditionally filled with black currant preserves and topped with a lattice crust. In America, raspberry has replaced black currant as the jam of choice. Linzertortes are a traditional European Christmas pastry, a custom that is now enjoyed in the US as well.

Asian · desserts

Lapis Legit

Lapis Legit

In Asian cuisine class today we learnt how to make this layered Indonesian sweet butter cake. The cake has a very firm texture and is similar to Bebinca when it comes to the cooking procedure but the taste is entirely different.

It can be spiced with cinnamon, clove, mace and anise. The batter is mainly made of butter, flour and sugar with an approximate ratio of 1:1:2. Each layer is made by pouring a small amount of batter into a baking tin, which is then put into an oven and grilled from above until the layer has turned golden from the heat. The tin is then removed from the oven and the process repeated to build up the remaining layers. Traditionally, there are 18 layers.