Wednesday 30 January 2013

Food event/ Tea and Food Pairing with Chef Vicky Ratnani

The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
The second shatters my loneliness.
The third causes the wrongs of life to fade gently from my recollection. The fourth purifies my soul.
The fifth lifts me to the realms of the unwinking gods. 
I just love drinking tea!! It is something that I can't imagine my world without. My day begins with a huge cup of tea and ends with one, not to mention the innumerable cups in-between. Nothings more comforting than a hot cup of tea, just a mere sip, enough to rejuvenate and melt away the entire day's tiredness. Being an avid tea- drinker, I have experimented with my share of tea brands and varieties of flavors flooding the market.
Last week, 'Typhoo Tea', a leading brand of tea in the UK, now also in India, organised a Tea and Food pairing session with Chef Vicky Ratnani at Aqua, Park Hotel, where he promised to perfectly balance the food with the right type of tea. Curious to learn how this humble drink could help enhance the flavors of the food and of course, the added advantage of meeting a celebrity chef, whose cookery shows I have been diligently following on NDTV, had me heading straight to The Park hotel to attend the session, hoping  to add a bit more to my intense love affair with Tea.

On arrival, we were served an interesting array of 'Typhoo fruit infusions'.  There was a selection of 'Lemon and Lime Zest', 'Black Currant Bracer' and 'Orange Spicer Shots' out of which I tried the Black currant bracer. Nice and tangy with a slice of strawberry floating in it, the drink was not only visually appealing but really refreshing too.

Then began our 'Out of the pot' experience with Chef Vicky Ratnani. The food bloggers and enthusiasts followed his every move in rapt attention as he went about cooking his Masala Tea Poached Chicken or as he called it his Adraki Chai ka Kukkad. While cooking, the Chef spoke about how just like wine, tea too can be successfully paired with food. According to him, tea helped not only to enhance and bring out the subtle flavors of food, but also, he remarked jokingly, you will not need someone to drive you back home after a party. 
I just love the way Chef Vicky cooks, chatting and interacting with the audience all the time, making even the most arduous of recipes look utmost simple and most important do-able. Here too, the chicken dish he made seemed simple and interesting. According to him, the inspiration for this chicken dish, came after a visit to Australia where he tasted a duck salad smoked with green tea. Fascinated by this unusual use of tea he thought of trying the same back here at home too.Thus, came about the idea for the Masala tea poached chicken. For making the dish, instead of water he used two Darjeeling tea bags, which he infused with cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and Mace, the tea giving a nice brown color to the chicken and the spices lending the aromas. 
With the accompaniment of masala mashed potatoes, julienned onions and cucumber ribbons, the plated chicken looked sumptuous and showed great promise. I just could not wait to taste it as the same dish was going to be served in the main course. 
After the demo, we were served a three course lunch. The first dish was Harissa spiced grilled veggies, mint and rocket leaf couscous chickpea puree served with Typhoo Moroccan Mint Green tea. Before starting the meal, we were advised by the chef to take a small sip of tea first, just to cleanse our palate and prepare us for the next course. The Cous Cous was cooked well and the grilled veggies nice and crisp. What I loved most was the Moroccon  Mint Green Tea which I immediately fell in love with, readily agreeing for a refill soon after.
Next came the Masala Tea Poached Chicken, a dish I was really looking forward to. Sadly, it was an utter disappointment!! Tasting it, I realized that it was quite bland with a thin oily gravy, which looked totally unappetizing. The Masala tea flavors too seemed to be totally missing from the preparation and the only saving grace in the dish was the Masala Mashed Potatoes.
Our last course was The Park Chocolate indulgence, which was a chocolate brownie accompanied with fresh strawberries in a waffle cup. The dessert was served with Assam Tea, a strong black tea. The tea was excellent, rich and powerful in taste. I wish I could say the same about the dessert, which also sadly fell a little short of the mark.
But on the whole, it was a great learning experience discovering that tea is not just a "stand-alone" drink but also beautifully complements our food. If you are a tea lover like me, go ahead and try experimenting pairing different flavors of tea with different kinds of food. Its worth trying out!!
Pairing food with tea can be a great journey in flavors. Some popular combinations are:
Green tea   -  seafood, Chicken and salads
Fruit infusions - kachoris, bhajias
Earl Grey - creamy desserts, rabdi, faluda, orange cakes.
English Breakfast - eggs, ham, toast, bacon and aloo paranthas
Darjeeling tea - Mawa cakes, scones and creamy desserts
Assam tea -  samosas, bacon, red meats, pizza,chocolates and cake desserts.
"When the world is all at odds
And the mind is all at sea
Then cease the useless tedium 
And brew a cup of tea.
There is magic in its fragrance,
There is solace in its taste;
And the laden moments vanish
Somehow into space.
The world becomes a lovely thing!
There's beauty as you'll see;
All because you briefly stopped
To brew a cup of tea.
- Annonymous

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