Chef Sunit Sharma talks about his favourite comfort foods

 

Chef Sunit Sharma has started Modern Restaurant Consultants after 22 years of leading some of the finest 5 star kitchens and teams in India and abroad. Previously he was heading the Culinary Team at Cidade de Goa Hotel and Resort from November 2012 as the Executive Chef. Prior to moving to Goa, he was a Pre Opening Executive Chef for Four Points by Sheraton Hotel and Serviced Apartments Pune overseeing the Culinary Operations of the hotel. A Chef of International experience and repute who has worked for more than 22 years with the world leaders of hospitality like The Ritz Carlton Hotels, Starwood Hotels, Planet Hollywood and Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces in and leading large kitchens, Chef Sunit has also created Guinness Book of World Records 2017 and 2018 in Goa through his accomplishments.

Chef Sunit is a firm believer in traditional and local food. He has worked hard to gather all the Chefs in Goa under one umbrella and currently is the Vice President of Culinary Forum of Goa. An active member and keen innovator his current objective is to make Goan food more popular by working on Inspired Goan Flavours through the Culinary Club of Goa.

How are you dealing with the current situation-the lockdown in India?

Hoteliers and chefs never get enough time at home to explore more about the traditional, native and home cuisine. With the lockdown they have ample time at hand and limited/simple kitchen ingredients at home, with guidance and recipes from mother/grandmother, unlike the professional kitchens with ready preparation and mis-en-place. The focus on simple/traditional/regional/healthy and light food will be seen when Chefs return back to their kitchens with a lot more inspiration and renewed enthusiasm. Culinary Forum of Goa, our Chefs Association have volunteered their kitchens/resources/team/skills to charity and cooking as well as serving food to the needy at this time. Over 1200 meals have been served till date.

 

What is your favourite comfort food?

My favorite home cooked food is multi-cultural Punjabi and Maharashtrian such as aloo paratha with curd and puranpoli with katachi amti.

 

Which foods do you recommend that we can cook easily at home these days?

Food should be simple, easy to digest, nutritious as movement and exercise is limited these days. I recommend one pot meals like masale bhaat, pasta, multigrain and vegetable paratha (thalipeeth) with curd and loni (homemade butter), vegetable pulao (if vegetables are available) and bisibelle bhath.

 

What does your favourite comfort food remind you of?

Comfort food is nostalgia for me, reminding me of my childhood and a simple life.

Please give us an example of one pot meals that can be made easily during this time.
One pot meals like masale bhaat, pasta, multigrain and vegetable paratha (thalipeeth) with curd and loni (homemade butter), dal dhokli (made with multigrain flour), vegetable pulao (if vegetables are available), puliogare, bisibelle bhath etc.

 

Do you think different regions in India have different comfort foods and can you name some?

The first and most well known comfort food is Khichdi for all of India though each state/region/community has their own comfort foods.
Bihar has litti chokha
Punjab has kadhi chawal and rajma chawal, chole bhatore and parathas
Bengal has khichuri
Gujarat has dal dhokli
Karnataka has bisibella bhath
Maharashtra has masale bhaath, waran bhaat tup,
Sindhis look for dal pakwan, seyal roti
South India has curd rice and annam sambar
Goa has Fish curry rice and cutlet pao
Rajasthan has dal bati churma and pyaz kachori
Uttar Pradesh has bedmi puri with aloo and Doodh Jalebi
Arunachal has Thukpa
Assam has Laksa
Madhya Pradesh has Poha jalebi
Chennai has kuttu parota

 

Which ingredients do you recommend for home cooking these days that people could stock up?

People need to stock up on essentials like whole wheat flour and millet (jowar, bajra, ragi) flours, pulses and grains (various types), refined oils (sunflower/soya), cold pressed oils like mustard and sesame, coconut oil, ghee, dry spices. Consume fresh vegetables and fruits as often as possible.

 

How do you plan to reinvent how you work?

The focus in the future will be more on health, immunity and hygiene so chefs will be more focused on their time away from work to increase their immunity and health.

Which ingredients during cooking do you recommend to increase immunity these days?

Some of the ingredients to build immunity and good health- turmeric, black pepper, lemon/citrus fruits, honey, green tea, curd/yoghurt, onion (is the base for many homeopathy and Ayurvedic medicines), tulsi (basil) leaves.

 

Please give us some examples of dishes and drinks that are immunity boosters.

It is a great idea to drink a lot of warm water and green tea throughout the day.
The Indian masala tea and homemade grandmother’s recipe of kadha (tea made with reduction of peppercorn, ginger, tulsi (basil) ajwain (carom seeds) cloves and sweetened with honey/jaggery).
Pro-biotic (Chaas, buttermilk, lassi,) solkadhi, shikanji, jeeratanni (cumin water), aam ka panna, bel ka sherbet, sattu (mixed with water) are not only great Indian thirst quenchers but also add to our health quotient.

Tell us about the concept of ‘farm to fork’ and how it helps to promote the idea of sustainability and good health. How do you think we can create awareness amongst more chefs and restaurants and hotels so that they contribute to this initiative?

Farm to Fork is a concept where the food is grown, harvested, processed, cooked and served at the location.
Basically it helps in reducing the food being transported from far places (reduces transportation and thus the pollution) and also assists in introducing the guests to see and explore how food they eat is grown (connect with food). In addition eating seasonal and local grown produce adds to health.

This local/national/international lockdown has hampered the supply chain but has opened new windows/perspective. Chefs are going to reconnect with local/seasonal produce. The awareness of Environment and Health is growing among the Chef’s community and this pandemic has actually given a big boost to this awareness. In the future Chefs will really focus more on seasonal/local/traditional produce.

 

For a long time, India had more vegetarians as compared to those who ate non vegetarian food, do you think we are going back to the previous times where more people are now
advocating vegetarianism? What is the reason for this change and how will it impact the food that we eat?

Vegetarianism (by choice) is increasing definitely as well as non-vegetarian eaters are increasing the intake of vegetarian foods.
This is due to the rising cost of non vegetarian foods.
People are also aware of the high environmental cost of industrial non-vegetarian food farming and processing and thus this is reducing the consumption (frequency and portion size) of non vegetarian food.
This has made the Chefs think of creating more vegetarian dishes and more vegetarian accompaniments to the meats.

 

Recipe of Multigrain spinach tikkis

Ingredients:

100 grams Mix pulses (red gram, Bengal gram, green gram, red lentils)
100 grams sorghum flour/millet flour
100 grams Whole-wheat flour
50 grams gram flour
250 grams Spinach leaves
1 tbsp Cumin seeds
3 tbsp Ghee
2 tsp Turmeric
7-8 cloves of Garlic peeled
2-3 Green chillies
¼ cup chopped Coriander leaves
2 tsp Sesame seeds
2 tsp Garam masala powder
2 tsp Chaat masala
Salt- as per taste

Method:
1. Wash and soak the pulses in ample water overnight.
2. Drain and grind with less water, along with cumin seeds, garlic, spinach and green chillies, until the mixture becomes like a paste.
3. Add the gram flour, millets flour and whole wheat flour, turmeric, garam masala powder and salt to the paste. Add just enough water to make a firm dough.
4. Divide into 2 parts and roll into a roulade shape (approximately 3 inches thick) and rest for 20 minutes in the refrigerator, covered by a damp cloth.
5. Steam the roulade for 15 minutes, remove and keep aside to cool.
6. Cut into 1 cm thick slices.
7. Heat ghee or oil in a pan, add sesame seeds and panfry the slices of the spinach multigrain tikkis, fry both sides till golden brown.
8. Sprinkle chaat masala and serve hot.

Jyoti Balani