Culinary chef Natarajan Kulandai, from the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, lets us in on how to use mangoes in mocktails, appetizers, entrées and, of course, in a yummy dessert.
Chef Natarajan Kulandai joined Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces soon after his post-grad in catering technology in 1981 and has been creating mouth watering culinary delights ever since. Having risen to the position of executive chef in less than six years is no easy task, certainly not at Taj, which has been his second home for more than three decades. The first restaurant he headed was Rendezvous, a former French eatery at Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. Today, he is at the helm of the entire food and beverage operations across their Gateway Hotels brand in the capacity of corporate chef and has 24 hotels under him and counting.
The 58-year-old chef ’s contribution to the culinary industry includes the launch of several restaurants at Taj, including Southern Spice at Taj Coromandel which was awarded the best restaurant in Chennai last year by US-based Glam Media’s Foodie Top 100 Restaurants. He has extensively researched food and has helped develop talented chefs around the world, training them in South Indian, Mediterranean, Pacific Rim, Creole, Southeast Asian, Sri Lankan and Indian cuisines.
Chef Nat, as he is popularly called, won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Culinary Forum in 2013 and is one of the few chefs in India who is certified by the World Association for Chefs Society. He has also held the position of the president of the South India Culinary Association and is a member of Chef Guild of Sri Lanka.
Priti Salian: What influenced you to become a chef?
Natarajan Kulandai: Growing up in Thanjavur, which is located close to the coast in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, I had a great time tasting different kinds of seafood. My mum cooked different varieties of fish and often tried new recipes. This got me interested in eating and created an awareness of cuisine in me. So, when the time came to choose my career, I was sure I wanted to be a chef.
PS: Given a choice, what would you like to cook for your guests?
NK: Seafood, undoubtedly! To date, it remains my favourite.
PS: What have you enjoyed most about your work?
NK: I’ve enjoyed sharing my knowledge about food and training chefs in different countries. I’m thrilled when they call back to say thanks and tell me they’re doing well in their profession.
PS: Do you have a dream you’d like to share with us?
NK: I desire to open a seafood restaurant of my own in Chennai after I retire. I also hope to give underprivileged and physically challenged individuals the opportunity to come aboard for training and to work in the restaurant. There’s so much I’ve received, it’s my turn to give back to society now.
PS: Why do you think mango is such an amazing ingredient in food?
NK: Mango not only makes food delectable, it has great health benefits. In our recipes, we have used a combination of raw and ripe mangoes and introduced some tangy flavour to cut down the sweetness. In the chicken dishes too, the spices and fruit have been used in the right proportion to keep the flavour of the mango and yet not cover the taste of the chicken.
Char-grilled Aam Malai Murgh Tikka
(Char-grilled Mango Chicken Tikka)
200 g chicken legs, boneless
For the Marinade
50 g raw mango, pureed
50 g ripe mango, pureed
10 g fresh cream
20 g hung curd
10 g ginger-garlic paste
Salt and black pepper to taste
For the Mango Sauce
50 ml raw mango, pureed
1 ml lemon juice
1 g onion seeds
Salt and black pepper to taste
For the Raw Mango Salsa
15 g raw mango, diced
8 g onion, chopped
8 g jalapeno, chopped
8 g cucumber, chopped
2 g cilantro, chopped
5 ml lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
For the Garnish
Raw and ripe mango juliennes
Prepare the marinade by mixing the ripe and raw mango purees, ginger-garlic paste, salt, hung curd and fresh cream. Marinate the chicken for 4 to 6 hours. To prepare the mango sauce, add lemon juice to the raw mango puree, and season it with salt and black pepper. Temper with onion seeds. For the raw mango salsa, mix all ingredients well and keep aside in a bowl. Cook the marinated chicken in a tandoor at a temperature of 250 degrees F for 10 minutes or until cooked thoroughly. To serve, arrange the chicken on a plate, pour the raw mango sauce over it and garnish with raw and ripened mango juliennes. Serve with mango salsa.
Khatta Meetha Aam Ka Shorba
(Sweet and Sour Soup)
400 g ripe mango, pureed
(Alphonso, if available)
200 g raw mango, pureed
150 ml water
5 ml fresh cream
10 g freshly ground cumin powder
50 g mint leaves, roughly chopped
Black salt or rock salt and black pepper to taste
Mix the fresh and raw mango purees and add water to adjust the consistency. Boil for about 20 minutes and season with black salt, black pepper and cumin powder. Add fresh mint leaves. Keep boiling for another 10 minutes or until you get desired consistency. Remove from heat and add the fresh cream to the soup. Serve hot garnished with diced raw mango.
Mango Grenadine Cooler
150 ml fresh mango pulp
100 ml fresh mango juice
50 ml grenadine syrup
30 ml coconut syrup
3-4 ice cubes
Half a portion of fresh cut mango for garnish
Blend 35 ml of the grenadine, the coconut syrup, the mango pulp and the mango juice. Pour 15 ml of the grenadine syrup in a pilsner glass and top it up with ice cubes. Pour the blended mixture over the ice. Garnish with the cut mango.
100 g raw mango, diced
80 g fresh mango pulp
50 g jalapeno, chopped
10 basil leaves, chopped
10 ml lemon juice
5 g parmesan cheese, grated
15 ml olive oil
Mix all to make mango pesto.
Char-grilled Marinated Mango Salad with Raw Mango Salsa
80 g mango, sliced
10 g mango pesto (see previous recipe)
20 g lettuce
10 g cherry tomatoes
5 ml olive oil
5 g mango reduction
100 g raw mango salsa (see recipe above)
Salt and black pepper to taste
For the Mango Bread Slice
1 slice of a French loaf
75 g raw mango salsa (see recipe above)
25 g butter for coating the bread slice
Marinate sliced mango in mango pesto and grill it at 200 degrees F for 4 to 5 minutes. Dice grilled mango and put in a bowl and add cherry tomatoes and chopped lettuce. Mix well. Add black pepper, olive oil and salt to taste. Put mango salsa as base in the serving dish and add the salad mix. Drizzle mango reduction on the salad mix. (To prepare the reduction at home, reduce fresh mango juice seasoned with salt, white pepper and sugar to half by heating on slow flame.) To prepare mango bread, apply butter to a slice of French loaf cut vertically and toast it. Apply the mango salsa and toast it again. Serve the salad cold with freshly toasted mango bread on the side.
Duet of Raw and Fresh Mango Muzzaffar
(A Sweet Dish)
200 g raw mango
200 g ripe mango
50 g sugar
150 ml water
20 g dried whole milk (mawa)
10 g pure ghee (clarified butter)
25 g blanched pistachios
1 silver edible leaf (vark)
Peel and deseed the fresh and raw mangoes and grate them separately. Prepare the sugar syrup by mixing and reducing sugar and water until thickened. Divide mixture in half and put grated fresh mango in one portion. Continue cooking mango and syrup until moisture is absorbed. Repeat the process with the grated raw mango and the second half of the sugar syrup. Add half the pure ghee and grated fresh dried whole milk to fresh mango and cook until the mixture stops sticking to the pan. Repeat with the raw mango compote and the other half of the ingredients. In a round vessel, arrange layers of fresh and raw mango compotes alternately. Garnish the top layer with vark, fresh mango and blanched pistachios and serve either hot or cold.
BY PRITI SALIAN
Photography courtesy Chef Natarajan
PUBLISHED IN THE HEALTH & WELLNESS ISSUE/SUMMER 2014
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