Shortcut to internal peace in locked down Chennai: Desi pizza, homely kaya jam, and frozen cookie dough that makes baking a breeze


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Last yr, this time, Vijay Charan was working within the high-tech kitchen of Michelin-starred Gaa by Garima Arora in Bangkok. Now, he’s in his mother’s kitchen in Chennai, baking pizzas in a small OTG.

“Actually, my strategy is impressed by the Japanese concept of ikigai,” he says contently. “If you do something too easy you get bored. If it is too complicated you get anxiety. I wanted something to engage me. So I started making pizzas.”

As far as lockdown philosophy goes, Vijay appears to be on the perfect path. With provide chains collapsing after the primary all-India lockdown, and an all pervasive concern financial system, this can be a time for sensible, measured and small steps ahead. Fortunately for Chennai, gifted cooks are cautiously exploring methods to succeed in shoppers once more, principally with small batches of meals cooked at residence, and ordered upfront. A refreshing change from the quick meals on-demand mannequin we have now obtained used to over time because of burgeoning cloud kitchens and supply platforms.

Over the two-and-a-half years at Gaa, Vijay developed a fascination for fermented meals, which explains the fiery jars of Guntur chillies lining his kitchen. “Garima had a Scandinavian approach, influenced by what she learnt when she worked with Noma, lots of curing, fermentation and pickling,” he says, including that she discovered inventive methods to merge Thai elements and her Indian influences. “It was an eye opener.”

Inspired by The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani, Vijay has been working incessantly on his approach in a quest for the right crust. And he insists on utilizing solely native elements. “Cooking should be intuitive,” he says, explaining that he believes in making a product that expresses and evolves with its location, and the instances.

Working with native flour is difficult, so he makes use of a non-conventional methodology of constructing dough utilizing a pre-ferment referred to as biga, which is mixture of flour, water, yeast — and time. Left to ferment in a single day, it leads to a satisfyingly chewy pizza base with billowing edges. His sauce, impressed by his mother’s curries, makes use of contemporary tomatoes and Guntur chillies, fermented to focus on flavour and mellow the warmth.

Right now there are simply three pizzas on the menu, a basic Margarita (₹270) with Kodai cheese, lamb pepperoni (₹300) and the home particular (₹270) along with his scorching sauce, contemporary mozarella, hen sausage and native chillies. He plans so as to add a vegetable pizza with charred bell peppers, solar dried tomatoes and feta cheese subsequent.

The pizzas are satisfying and unapologetically desi, with a beneficiant quantity of sauce and small dollops of cheese. These don’t aspire to be Italian: as an alternative Vijay says he desires to show that anybody could make an excellent pizza at residence, with fundamental elements, some creativeness and persistence. For these of us missing two out of the three, fortuitously, he delivers (through Dunzo).

Order your pizzas a day upfront. Call Vijay on 9790959997 or 9840788862

It could also be some time earlier than you possibly can hop on a airplane to Malaysia for a restorative week of mall hopping, teh tarik and kaya toast. Fortunately, Dasha Sendhil is bringing a dollop of trip cheer to Chennai along with her home made kaya, a slow-cooked, coconutty unfold fashionable is South East Asia.

Dasha’s model is a affected person and considerate mix of native elements, and is available in two variations. Traditional kaya, with coconut milk, jaggery and egg. And a vegan model, made with pumpkin. (Both are ₹250). Yes, I do know what you’re considering. Suspicious of greens sneaking into my jam, I prevented the vegan model as nicely. But after I lastly tried it, it was an eye-opener — creamy, refined and never too candy. A heartening breakfast: particularly for those who do it the normal manner and eat your kaya on toast, topped with beneficiant slices of chilled butter. The unique kaya is sweeter, but additionally comfortingly mellow and acquainted. And in contrast to industrial jams, that is straight from Dasha’s kitchen, utilizing only a handful of elements, and no preservatives.

Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Dasha says this was all the time a staple at residence. Her mother and father then moved to the UK the place her mother is at present chef on the household’s café, serving Malaysian meals to Newcastle.

“I was chatting with my mom, and I suggested she add kaya to the menu. Then, I thought why don’t I try it here,” she says, including that she spent a lot of the final month in her kitchen making batch after batch, until she obtained a model she was proud of. “It is a long process. I slowly cook it in small batches, to ensure taste and consistency. For the first week I was in the kitchen for 10 hours a day,” Dasha laughs, including “I am more efficient now, thankfully.”

Orders should be given a day upfront. Call Truly Kaya on 6379901750

Although Aswini Srinivasan did a diploma in baking and patisserie on the Chennai-based Food Consulate a yr in the past, it was solely throughout lockdown that she began baking in earnest. A associate in 80 Degrees East, a vegetarian 24-seater café, like many others she discovered herself going through a indefinite outing due to COVID. “We can’t restart the café, since our staff have gone back to their hometowns, and financially we took a hit,” she says, explaining how she turned a pastime right into a enterprise.

“I have a four-year-old nephew who loves cookies, so I started to freeze cookie dough so he didn’t eat too many everyday.” Realising that the frozen dough made it a lot less complicated to rapidly bake cookies, she started sending out baggage to family and friends. “Although anybody can bake, baking is an art. If I make the perfect dough, everyone can get the experience of making the perfect cookie,” she says.

The Dough Co’s classic chocolate chip version

There are two variations, basic chocolate chip (₹300) and the darker, double chocolate chip (₹350). They arrive frozen: you simply want to position the cookies on parchment paper (which she thoughtfully consists of within the package deal), and bake them in an oven or a strain cooker. (The pack explains how.) The result’s crisp on the sides and satisfyingly chewy with delicate hearts. If you’re already a professional at baking cookies, this isn’t for you. But it is a perfect method to acquire confidence for a newbie.

Besides, given how this yr has been going, an emergency stash of cookies is all the time reassuring.

Call Aswini on 9962555294 to order frozen cookie dough.

This weekly column tracks town’s shifting culinary panorama. Heard of a brand new meals enterprise? Tell me: [email protected]

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