From banana bread to gourmet pizza, people are taking to Instagram with photographs of all their drool-worthy quarantine cooking. We’re sure you’re craving and dreaming of meals from some of your favourite destinations. With all the extra time at home, why not recreate some of that travel magic right where you are? We talk to Chef Rajesh Shetty, inflight chef, Etihad Airways, about using tips from 35,000 feet up in the air on your home turf. By Ananya Bahl
The life of an inflight chef isn’t easy: creating gourmet meals in a confined environment, thinking out-of-the-box, and being prepared are just some of its many facets. Life in quarantine isn’t very different either. You’re confined to a few ingredients, can’t go out much, and have to think creatively when it comes to using home tools and limited resources. We got in touch with Chef Rajesh Shetty, inflight chef, Etihad Airways to get tips on three of his favourite dishes to prepare, each of which draws inspiration from a city the airline flies to. The best part? He shares insider tips on how you can do this in the comfort of your home.
1. Tadke Waale Kumbh Palak, inspired by New Delhi (Serves 4)
Recreate it as seen onboard: Be careful with the temperature of oil while tempering your spices. If it’s too hot, it could give the dish a burnt taste. However, if it’s too cold, the flavours won’t come through.
- 500 grams of spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoon oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 cloves of green cardamoms
- 1 clove of black cardamom
- 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 1 green chilli (chopped)
- 2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
- 1 medium tomato (chopped)
- 2 cups of button mushrooms (sliced)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon sun-dried fenugreek leaves or kasoori methi (optional)
- Seasoning as required
- Heat oil in a wok and add cumin seeds along with the other whole spices to it. Sauté until they smell fragrant.
- Add chopped onions and fry until golden brown.
- To this, add green chilli, ginger-garlic paste and cook.
- Sprinkle chilli powder and turmeric to it.
- Next, add the chopped tomatoes and cook.
- Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they turn golden on the edges.
- Add the spinach and cook for another five minutes.
- Finish it off with garam masala, kasoori methi and season as required.
Chef’s quarantine tip: A lot of Indian dishes use the same base sauce. For instance, you can prepare a basic tomato onion gravy – comprising of tomato, onion, ginger and garlic –and use it for multiple dishes such as methi paneer, chana masala, and palak aloo.
2. Eggs Benedict, inspired by New York City (Serves 4)
Recreate it as seen onboard: It’s all about timing! Keep all the ingredients ready and prepare the hollandaise sauce first.
- 3 egg yolks
- 200-millilitre melted unsalted butter
- 500-millilitre white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 bunch of tarragon
- 10-millilitre lemon juice
- 2 litres water
- 3 tablespoon white vinegar
- 4 eggs
- 2 English muffins
- 4 bacon slices
- Hollandaise sauce
- 5 grams chopped chives
- Seasoning as required
For Hollandaise Sauce
- Reduce a boiling mixture of vinegar with peppercorns and tarragon to half and strain.
- Beat together egg yolks with two teaspoons of this vinegar reduction in a steel bowl over a saucepan filled with simmering water.
- Whisk until foamy, but avoid too much heat to prevent curdling.
- Once this foam is golden and forms ribbons, remove it off the heat and whisk in a little warm butter until it is combined.
- Add lemon juice and seasoning as per taste.
Poaching the Egg
- Bring boiling water to a simmer and add three tablespoons of white vinegar to it.
- In a separate bowl, break the eggs without splitting the yolk.
- Stir the boiling water in a circular motion and slowly slide in the egg and cook for two minutes. Ideally, the yolk should become runny.
Assembly and Plating
- Cook the bacon in butter on a skillet until it is crisp on both sides.
- Split the muffins into halves and toast them.
- Place the bacon and a poached egg on each half, spoon hollandaise sauce over the egg and garnish with chopped chives.
Chef’s quarantine tip: You can replace the English muffins with toast, and bacon with turkey bacon, vegetarian soya bacon or smoked salmon. Use whatever you can get your hands on at the store.
3. Singaporean Chicken Laksa, inspired by Singapore (Serves 4)
Recreate it as seen onboard: The preparation time for Pan-Asian fare is greater than the cooking time. Ensure you have the ingredients ready before you begin.
- 750 grams chicken (skinned and cut into pieces)
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 3-centimetre ginger (sliced)
- 2 lemongrass stalks (crushed)
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soya sauce
- 200 millilitre light coconut milk
- 3 garlic cloves (sliced)
- 3 red chillies (deseeded and sliced)
- A handful of fresh coriander (chopped)
- 1 bunch of spring onion (sliced)
- 300 grams of cooked rice noodles
- 10-12 mint leaves (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil (optional)
- Place the chicken with coriander seeds, ginger, lemongrass, lime zest and salt in a pot with cold water and bring to a boil.
- Simmer until the meat separates from the bone. Take these pieces out and cool.
- In the remaining stock, add fish sauce, soya sauce, coconut milk, garlic, chillies, and coriander stalk. Let it simmer for two minutes.
- Add the chicken, and cook for another five minutes.
- Next, add spring onions and lime juice.
- Place boiled noodles in a bowl, and pour the soup over it.
- Garnish with coriander leaves, mint and sesame oil.
Chef’s quarantine tip: Procuring certain ingredients and dietary requirements can pose concerns. Substitute lemongrass with coriander stalk; fish sauce with soya sauce and lime juice; and rice noodles with ramen.