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  Age on Sunday   26 Nov 2017  The art of plating

The art of plating

Published : Nov 26, 2017, 4:18 am IST
Updated : Nov 26, 2017, 7:35 am IST

Growing up in a family of foodies who also loved travel, Viraj always got to experiment with different cuisines.

Pasta dough
 Pasta dough

Pre-plated modern world cuisine is Viraj Mohan’s passion. He loves this type of food because of its confluence of flavours, and different elements. “When I cook I am looking for presentation, to see what the plate reads like. It’s all about textures and flavour,” he says.

Take for example, the below recipe, a pan seared scallop with bell pepper coulis and lemon air. There are three different textures to the dish. Buttery long finish from the couli, a meaty bite from the scallop and the air just adds texture with a hint of lemon and the acidity.

Taking about his culinary journey, Viraj reveals, “I started off when I was in school and my mum used to say, ‘this is what my kitchen serves. If you don’t like it there are a stack of cookbooks there, pick a recipe and I will get you the ingredients to cook it.’ That is how it all started.”

Growing up in a family of foodies who also loved travel, Viraj always got to experiment with different cuisines. His choice of college contributed to the journey too.

His university was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, an old town with a bunch of great restaurants. One eatery there was Strawberry Hill, “The chef was a huge influence. He would showcase the ingredient. It was his hero.”

But the turning point came when Viraj went to London for a month to study theatre after winning an award for it in college. Since he had some free time he enrolled in Cordon Bleu.

“When I went back to college I, was cooking better as I learnt new techniques. As I was cooking from a young age, Cordon Bleu rounded off the technique. Rest was just passion and interest. Food for me is a constant form of exploration. I leave no stone to find good food and ingredients.” Living in India and cooking Indian didn’t appeal to him. Why? “My travels and exposure have led me to experience flavours of the world and for me it’s more fun and challenging to put that on a plate.

“So, today I put together a zucchini and truffle tart. A seared scallop with bell pepper coulis and lemon air. A pumpkin ravioli with burnt butter and walnuts and a chocolate ganache with orange jellies, Cointreau sauce, honey comb and rosemary mascropane ice cream.

“I want to start off with something light to tease the palate and as the meal progresses I like the meal to get more complex till we reach a level of decadence. When I cook a meal I want your hand to come back for more. By the time you are eating the second course, you will be thinking when can I come back for dinner. And I love feeding people.”

Bell Pepper Coulis
Seared Scallop with bell pepper coulis and lemon air

2-3 red bell peppers
1-2 small onions
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Large scallop, cleaned and thawed
Grape seed oil
Sea salt
Lemon Air
2 cups water
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp soy lecithin

Bell Pepper Coulis

Roast the peppers until the outer skin turns black all over. Heat the olive oil and shallots in a sauté pan over medium-high heat for about five minutes. When the shallots are softened, add the peppers and then the stock. Simmer and stir until slightly reduced, about five minutes. Puree the pepper mixture in a food processor or blender, be very careful with the hot spinning liquid. Pass it through a strainer. Add more liquid if desired, and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add scallop and sear about two to three on its side. Now flip and sear on opposite side for about two minutes till you get a nice colour. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

Mix water, lemon juice and add one large table spoon soy lecithin granules. Using a hand blender mix well and refrigerate the mixture till required

Use an aquarium stone and pump to introduce air to the above mixture. The foam will form as the air passes through. This will be stable. Scoop as required during plating.

Pasta dough
Pumpkin Ravioli with burnt butter and walnuts

20/20 flour about 2 cups
1 full egg
1-2 egg yolks
Olive oil
Mix ingredients and work into a ball, knead all the way thru, and rest for about 20 minutes in the fridge.
Form pasta sheets following the rolling instructions on your pasta maker or roller
Ingredients for filling
750 gm pumpkin
1 onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable stock

Remove skin and seeds from the pumpkin, and grate. Boil covered in stock till cooked and drain, reserve the stock.
Puree the pumpkin and add back to pan, using reserved stock if required.
Add finely chopped onion in the pan. Cook and season with salt and pepper.
Fill and form the raviolis using pasta sheets and above mixture. Make sure to seal well.  Bring salted water to boil, add olive oil and raviolis. Cook for about two to four minutes or till they rise.
To make walnut and burnt butter sauce, bring a generous knob of butter onto the heat and let it foam. As it starts to turn brown, add fresh pepper and chopped walnuts.
Now add cooked ravioli and cook for about 30 seconds. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan and basil.

Rough Pastry
Zucchini and truffle tart

Make a pastry using 1:2 ratio, firm butter to flour. If required, you can use a small amount of chilled water, rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Roll pastry to about three mm thick, in desired shape. Blind bake at 2000C for about 10-12 minutes or till the pastry is almost cooked.
Slice Zucchini into thin rounds (I use a mandolin) and reserve
Take a cup of ricotta cheese and hand full of grated parmesan cheese mince two to three  cloves of garlic, a tea spoon of smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

Rough Pastry

To assemble tart, cover with a four to five mm thick coat of the ricotta mixture, arrange zucchini in circular pattern over the cheese mixture, brush with olive oil, and bake for seven to 10 minutes at 1500C.  Remove tart and brush with truffle oil and shave fresh truffle before serving.

Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate ganache, with cointreau sauce, orange jellies, honey comb and rosemary marscapone ice cream

Add  200 grams dark (74 per cent) chocolate in a double boiler. Bring 150 ml cream to almost boil. Add to chocolate and mix till chocolate is melted. Pour into molds to set and refrigerate. Once firm, dip into tempered milk chocolate, to get a nice crisp outer shell. Put aside in the fridge till you are ready to use it.

Orange jellies: Bring 250 ml orange juice and 50 ml lemon juice to the boil. Add one teaspoon agar agar powder, and cook for three to four minutes.  Pour into molds and set in the fridge.

Cointreau Sauce: Bring 100 ml Contreau and two table spoon sugar onto the heat, and reduce slowly till about half. Pour into a squeeze bottle.

Chocolate Ganache

Honey Comb:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp glucose

Mix the above ingredients and add 100 ml Water. Heat, gradually wiping down sides with a basting brush to insure there are no sugar crystals  
As the mixtures browns to a carmel, remove from the heat and add 1 large tablespoon of baking soda.  Stir vigorously, and pour into a lined large high bowl and put aside till it sets.
To make rosemary, marscapone ice cream, heat 250 ml milk and 250 ml full cream with a sprig of rosemary to infuse, for about 1 hour.
Whisk 3-4 egg yolks and 1/2 cups sugar in a double boiler to this add milk and cream mixture, and a container of marscapone (softened) cheese (about 200 gm).
Keep stirring on heat till the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon.  Chill this mixture over a water bath and churn in an ice-cream maker as per the manufacturers guidelines.
Place all elements on the counter to plate up.

Kitchen advice

  • Always follow your instinct. the Most important thing is to cook with heart. This is the secret to a yummy dish.
  • Never compromise on the ingredient. It should be the hero of the dish.
  • Be open to new technique like airs, foams, sous vide (A form of cooking where food is vacuum sealed in a plastic pouch and then cooked in water or steam sometimes for many hours at a time. This is to ensure the food is evenly cooked both inside and out and it retains its moisture.)
  • Do not be afraid to use gadgets that help you in the kitchen like smoking gun or ISI whip.
  • Play with flavour. you never know what might work.

Tags: cooking, cuisine, pasta dough