Food – Air of East’s aroma

2010-09-24 12:39

Every year, as part of the Shared History – The Indian Experience festival, Indian chefs come to South Africa to showcase their ­culinary skills.

And in the case of the gracious Vikram Udayagiri and TS Nanaiah, to share their secrets and recipes.

The pair maintain that making Indian food from scratch is easy.

They hail from the ­Orange Peel chain of restaurants in India, which specialises in French cuisine and Western-style Indian food.

Udayagiri explains that this means they serve the food in ­courses rather than all at once.

All you need are a few ­store-cupboard staples and an ­exploratory spirit.

This year’s foodie focus at the festival is on the flavours of Kerala – in the southwest of India – and the food these two served up at ­Johannesburg’s Le Canard was an explosion of chilli and coconut, a delicious combination of heat and cooling fruit tastes.

Udayagiri spends three months of the year in France, but as a native of Kerala he is passionate about that region’s dishes.

Nanaiah, too, is from the area, though he explains he is from the more mountainous region where they grow coffee, oranges and ­spices.

It’s nicknamed the Scotland of ­India but as he ­describes it, it sounds like a much more fragrant destination.

While cooking in South Africa, the two were effusive about our fresh produce and also about the generosity of the people.

The two items they battled to source locally were banana leaves and curry leaves – but a good ­Samaritan heard their lament and returned to the kitchen two hours later with a bag full of curry leaves.

They were not so lucky with the banana leaves, which are used as a traditional serving platter in Kerala.

Udayagiri and Nanaiah say that if you stock up your larder with as few as five spices, you can jazz-up anything from chicken and lentils, to lamb neck and stringy beef.

» Quick-fix chicken
Chuck out that cardboard box of pre-mixed curry powder.

These two simple concoctions of spices, heat and acid are an easy first foray into do-it-yourself ­Indian food.

You can add chopped onions and tomatoes to both of these dishes, serve them with rice or dhal, or ­repeat the recipe with chicken wings and serve them up as ­pre-dinner snacks.

Alternatively, fry them in ­coconut oil for another variation or cook your rice and add a dessert spoon of desiccated coconut.

Method one

» Chicken drumsticks (2 per person)

» Lemon juice

» Ginger and garlic paste

» Cumin powder

» Red chilli powder

Put the skinless chicken drumsticks in a bowl and cover in lemon juice. Add a dollop of ginger and garlic paste, a good shake of cumin and as much red chilli powder as your heat receptors can take.

Marinade it overnight, at which time the lemon juice will have par-cooked the chicken.

Put the ­chicken in an oven-proof dish and ­finish it off at 180 degrees.

Method two

» Chicken drumsticks (2 per person)

» Lime juice

» Ginger and garlic paste

» Turmeric

» Tamarind paste

» Red chilli powder

Put the chicken drumsticks in a bowl with plenty of lime juice.

Stir in some ginger and garlic paste, a shake of ­turmeric, add some tamarind paste and as much chilli powder as you like.

Marinade overnight and finish off in an oven-proof dish in the oven at 180 degrees.

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