“Food is the ingredient that binds us together.”
When we think of Indian food, the image that comes to mind is of elaborate curries studded with spices, heavy biryanis,and rotis to mop it all up. With the world becoming a smaller place, the Indian food stereotype is slowly changing, and the world is looking beyond naan bread and chicken tikka masala.There are many names in the food industry that have actively worked towards showcasing authentic Indian food on a global level and make it more accessible to a larger audience.
One name that has created a buzz in the last decade is Chef Rohit Ghai, who catapulted to fame for being the first India chef in history to win a Michelin star within 10 months of opening a restaurant! Chef Ghai has helmed many a prestigious restaurants and food ventures in his illustrious career, and we think that he is just getting started. Known for his focus, sharp business skills, and unique talent of presenting Indian food like never before, Chef Ghai has created a niche for himself and is hailed as one of the most innovative chefs in the UK.
A humble man who likes his actions to speak louder than his words, here’s what Chef Ghai has to say about his incredible journey.
Q: Please tell us about your journey to becoming a chef. How and where did it begin?
I grew up cooking with my mother in our family home, and fell in love with the processes, smells and conviviality of the kitchen environment. So for me there was no other back up plan. This is what I was born to do. I then went to catering college and learned the ropes there before embarking on my professional career. I have worked with some of India’s biggest brands and that helped me gain a deeper understanding of the business, beyond the food.
Q: What is your food philosophy? What kind of food do you like making?
I like making food which is a combination of traditional and modern. I like to bring out the culture and heritage behind a dish, but also present it in a way that pleases the eye and makes it a treat for the senses.
Q: Which is your soul food or cuisine after a long hard day?
I love my good friend Judy Joo’s Korean Fried Chicken – you can’t beat it.
Q: Which was the most memorable moment for you as a chef?
Gaining the Michelin star quicker than any Indian chef in history was truly special, it was a very proud moment for me. It sure feels nice to receive that kind of validation and love from the patrons, peers, and industry experts.
Q: How do you juggle the multiple ventures you’re a part of?
It’s just about being organised and making sure you have a good team. I’m lucky that my kitchen team have been with me for many years, so I can trust them implicitly. Although I like to be in the kitchen daily, with the team I have at Manthan and Kutir I can relax knowing it’s in safe hands.
Q: Please tell us about your book, Tarkari. What is it about?
It’s a celebration of vegetarian and vegan recipes that I’ve grown up with; comforting, home-cooked dishes that represent me and my past. It’s very special and I am excited to share it with the world.
Q: Are there more books in the pipeline?
That’s a tricky one! There are a lot of ideas cooking inside my head at all times, so we’ll just have to wait and watch!
Q: Who is your favorite chef of all time?
I admire and respect Pierre Koffman. He’s a talented man in the kitchen with an unrivalled palate, but also a lot of fun! He’s the perfect combination of genius and skill.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
Work hard, and stay focussed. It’s very easy to get swayed and try your hand at everything, but unless you find your specialty, you will not be able to develop it into your signature style. In my opinion, focus, practise and determination are the key to success.
Chef Rohit has shared some personal favorite recipes:
Rarah Keema Pao
- 200 grams lamb mince (lean)
- 100 grams dice lamb
- 75 ml oil
- 2 cloves
- 2 green cardamom (crushed)
- A small piece of cinnamon
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 bay leaf
- 100 grams onions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped green chilli
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 tablespoon Garam masala
- 100 grams chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon dry fenugreek leaves
- 50 ml double cream
- One handful of chopped coriander leaves to garnish
- Pao/ buns to serve
- In a heavy-based pan, heat the oil and add the whole spices.
- When they start to splutter, add the chopped onions and cook until they turn golden brown.
- Add ginger garlic paste stir and cook till the time raw aroma of ginger garlic goes away.
- Then add powdered spices and salt.
- Add the lamb chunks and cook for 10-15 minutes, on low heat.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to cook till tomatoes become soft.
- Now add the mince and mix everything well. Cook on a low heat for about 10-12 minutes.
- Finish with the dry fenugreek leaves (crushed), double cream and fresh coriander.
- Serve with buttered hot paos along chopped onions, some more coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Tip: You could also add in some potatoes or peas to bulk up the quantity.
A recipe of the royals, this one is ideal for when you’re hosting a party.
- 2 cups ghee or clarified butter
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 pods black cardamon
- 6 cloves
- 2 medium whole cinnamon sticks
- 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
- 6 lamb shanks
- 100 grams yogurt
- 3 tablespoons Rajasthani mathania chilli paste
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 4-6 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon ginger and garlic paste
- Salt to taste
- Charcoal to infuse smokiness
- Take a kadhai or pan, place on high heat, add ghee and all the whole spices.
- Then tip in your onions and cook until brown.
- Add the lamb shanks and cook until it’s golden and has an outer crust.
- Now add the ginger garlic paste and cook for another minute.
- Add the salt and mathania chilli paste. Stir uncovered for another three minutes.
- In a mixing bowl combine yogurt, turmeric powder, coriander powder, ginger, and salt to taste.
- Mix in with the lamb shanks uniformly and leave it on low heat for 90 minutes or until cooked through.
- Once the lamb is cooked, heat 1 tablespoon of ghee and add chopped garlic. Let it brown and add as a tempering on the lamb shanks.
- Now place a piece of burning charcoal in a katori and place the katori in the curry. Add a tablespoon of ghee.
- and cloves and immediately cover with a lid and allow the smoke to infuse with the laal maas for about 3 minutes.
- Remove the charcoal and heat it once again.
- Garnish with chopped fresh coriander and ginger julienne.
- Serve hot.
Tip: If you want, you could also cook this in a Combi oven at 90-degree Celsius for 8 hours.
Paneer Makhani/ Makhanwala
A popular dish from India that has gained a fan following all over the world, this one is a subtle tomato based gravy that can be mopped up with naan or rotis.
- 100 ml rapeseed/ cooking oil
- 1 kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons Kashmiri chilli powder
- 50 grams ginger, roughly chopped
- 30 grams garlic, roughly chopped
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 2-3 green chillies, roughly chopped
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 2 blades mace
- 300 grams paneer
- 150 grams unsalted butter
- 40 grams ginger garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon crushed kasoori methi
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
- 150 ml cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
- 1 tablespoon ginger julienned
- Salt to taste
- Heat oil in a deep kadhai or pan, add the tomatoes, half Kashmiri chilli powder, chopped ginger and garlic, cardamom, green chillies, bay leaves, cumin, mace, and pinch of salt.
- Add 450 ml water and cook until the tomatoes are pulpy.
- Remove from heat and set it aside to cool.
- Once cool, blend it and run it through a sieve.
- Dice the paneer and set aside.
- Heat butter in a pan, add ginger garlic paste, and cook till the rawness goes away.
- Add the rest of the Kashmiri chilli powder, blended tomatoes, and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes.
- Add the kasoori methi and mix well.
- Check the seasoning, add the honey, garam masala, and cook for another minute while stirring.
- Add the paneer pieces to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Finally add the fresh cream and turn off the heat.
- Garnish with coriander leaves, ginger juliennes and serve hot with bread of your choice.
Tip: You could also add some cashew paste or chopped cashews to amp up the richness.