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A French toast

As a city restaurant hosts a French food festival, the chefs explain why the cuisine is complex, uncommon and often misunderstood in India

india Updated: Apr 19, 2013 17:12 IST
Serena Menon
Serena Menon
Hindustan Times

When was the last time you heard of an Indian eatery that serves French cuisine? Apart from the few odd dishes spotted at Mumbai’s European joints, it isn’t easily found. Mahalaxmi’s Olive Bar and Kitchen’s on-going festival hopes to change that. Presented by France’s Le Bistro du Parc, Bistronomy At The Racecourse (on till April 23) brings together the expertise of Naina de Bois-Juzan (partner at Le Bistro du Parc), French chef Stephane Mathonneau and Olive’s chef de cuisine Mayank Tiwari.

SeafoodBistronomy is a fusion between French bistro and gastronomy and involves using modern cooking techniques for traditional dishes.You’ll be happily disappointed if you’re expecting French food with an Indian twist, though Mathonneau does admit that he spent weeks tweaking the recipes for our tastes. "I’ve been working to make them tastier for the Indian palate; not by using more spices, but by adding garlic and black pepper. I want the food to appeal to the Indian palate without using coriander, cardamom or other such spices," he says. Interestingly, during one of his tasting sessions, when Mathonneau attempted a dish with Indian flavours, the expats enjoyed it, but the Indians didn’t. "They want real French cuisine," he says.

Yet, there seems to be a dearth of authentic French food in the city. "There are few institutions, mostly at premium hotels," says Tiwari, adding that this fest attempts to explain the cuisine. "People get away with calling it continental, but what a French bistro offers is different. It isn’t about boiled vegetables or bland flavours," he says. The cuisine is definitely more complex than others. "Why is Italian food popular in India? Because you can go home, chuck pasta in water, add what you have in your fridge and be done. With French food, you need to think about the alliance of the ingredients and be careful with the cooking process. It does require some skill," says Mathonneau, smiling.

Can we expect him to fill the need for a true French bistro in the country? “Yes, but we are not planning to open just one bistro. The first one will come up in New Delhi, but I don’t want to go too fast,” he says.

Pan-Fried Squid

1 kg fresh squid n 200 gm cherry tomatoes n 150 gm kalamata olives n 20 gm garlic n 1 bunch of basil n 125 gm polenta n 500 ml milk n 1 lemon n Garlic puree n Salt and black pepper n 300 ml olive oil n 100 gm butter


Blanch the peeled garlic four times in boiling water, for two minutes each time. Pour garlic into a pan and cover with olive oil. Warm up at 70 degrees C and leave to soak for an hour (confit). Cut the cherry tomatoes and olives in two. Blanch basil leaves and pour them into iced water. Press them and blend with olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Clean the squid and score them on the internal side. Boil the milk with the garlic puree, salt and pepper. Pour the polenta and cook for five minutes. Add a bit of olive oil and butter, spread on a tray and let set in the fridge. Pan-sear a piece of polenta. Sear the squid in hot olive oil for a minute, add olives, tomatoes. Cook for two minutes, add garlic confit and lemon supreme. Serve polenta on a plate and squids on top. Finish with basil oil on the side.

Goat Cheese Mille Feuille

150 gm goat cheese, 75 gm cream, 5 gm black pepper, 10 gm garlic puree, 3 red bell peppers, 2 yellow bell peppers, Olive oil, 1 red onion, 2 tomatoes, Coriander, 2 lemons, 20 gm almond

Burn the skin of the peppers on a flame till they are black. Wash under water to peel skin. Remove seeds, coat with olive oil and cook in oven at 100 degrees Celsius for three hours. Boil cream, pepper and garlic puree. Pour mix on goat cheese and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate. Cross the eye of the tomatoes and blanch them in boiling water for a minute. Peel, de-seed and finely dice. Dice onion. Peel lemons, and get supremes (remove the skin from the lemon inside) off. Toast almonds at 180degree C for eight minutes. Crush. Chop coriander. Mix tomatoes, onion, coriander, garlic puree, thinly diced lemon supremes and almonds. Cover mix with olive oil. Refrigerate. Cut strips of peppers. Pour goat cheese into a piping bag. Build the Mille Feuille (layered preparation). Start with a strip of red pepper, pipe goat cheese cream, add a strip of yellow pepper, then pipe some more goat cheese. Top with red pepper. Serve with sauce.

Lemon Flan and Lentils Salad

400 gm cream n 100 gm milk n 15 lemons n 300 gm sugar
250 gm salt n 2 ltr of water
2 eggs n 2 yolks n Pepper
Garlic puree n 250 gm black lentils n 1 carrot n 1 onion n 1 parsley spring n 1 thyme spring n 1 bay leaf n 20 gm butter n Olive oil n 15 gm white wine vinegar

Boil 10 lemons in water for seven minutes. Cut them in four and put them in a pan with salt, sugar, water. Slow boil for four to five hours. Scrape the pulp off the skin and blend with cream, milk and zest of the five lemons left. Add pepper and garlic puree. Add eggs and yolks and pass through a sieve. Cook in a bain-marie in an oven at 135 degree C for 20 to 30 minutes. It is cooked when a blade comes off clean. Thinly dice carrots and onions. Sweat them down in a pan with butter. Add lentils to a pan with parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Bring a litre of water to a boil. Skim until lentils are cooked and crunchy, not overcooked. Blend the lemon pulp with vinegar and olive oil. Rectify by adding sugar or vinegar and black pepper. Mix a bit of this dressing with some drained lentils. On a plate, serve the lemon flan with some lentils on the side.

Attend the festival, Bistronomy, at the Racecourse at Olive Bar and Kitchen, Mahalaxmi, till April 23. Call 4085 9595 for details.

First Published: Apr 19, 2013 12:56 IST