A Fusion of Sweets and Savory In The City Of Taj Mahal

Chef Dinesh Patel

While every tourist who visits Agra never seems to get bored of the majestic Taj Mahal; on our recent trip to the city of love we discovered a different kind of romance — an affair of flavours on a platter, courtesy chef Dinesh Patel. The Master Chef Indian season 5 finalist, who shared his love for food with us over the kitchen counter, showed us some really awesome ways to fuse flavours using simple cooking techniques.

The mid-week culinary escapade was hosted for the media at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Agra by Paritosh Ladhani, Executive Director of the hotel. While it took us almost 4 hours to reach the Agra from Delhi on a weekday, the hotel staff welcomed us with beverages and some yummy snacks before the chef started his workshop for the food enthusiasts.

Chef Dinesh, who is also known as the “dessert king”, experimented with two famous dishes from Agra and recreated a starter called “Agra Petha Savoury Salad” and a dessert called “Shahi Tukra Summer Pudding” using local ingredients.

Chef Dinesh mentioned that he grew up in London and practised law before he decided to follow his cooking dreams. He told us that he started baking at a very young age of 14 years and when he came to India to be a part of Masterchef India, he learned a lot and connected with his roots. He said, “It’s always an amazing feeling to meet new people and cook for them. I’m so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to share my love of cooking and food with so many people through this master class.”

The talented chef was inspired by his grandmother’s cooking skills, which enabled him to take this up as a full-time profession. The co-host of the event, Alka Ladhani, also spoke about the food heritage of Agra and thanked the chef for his unique fusion techniques.

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If fusion cooking is your thing, then these two recipes by Chef Dinesh Patel are a must-try for you are home. Enjoy !
Recipe 1: Shahi Tukra Summer Pudding

  • Take stale bread – a bread which is one or two days old. Cut them into triangles.
  • Then fry that bread in salted butter until it turns golden and crisp on both sides.
  • Dip that bread into a chashni made of 2 parts sugar, 1 part water – the chashni should not be too thick, it should just be less than just 1/3rd consistency.
  • Once it’s dipped, quickly leave that on the side while the bread absorbs a little bit of that chashni.
  • Now for the mousse, take whipped cream – around 2 or 3 cups of it.
    To that, add 2 or 3 cups of rabri – rabri should be made very simply by just reducing the milk – it has elaichi, nutmeg and sugar.
  • Fold the rabri into the cream until it gives a nice and soft texture – don’t get rid of the lumps of the milk, let those remain as it will give a textural difference.
  • Into the mousse, add nutmeg powder, ginger powder, cinnamon powder and elaichi powder just for taste – you can start off with around a quarter tea spoon of each but you can adjust this as per your taste.
  • Once the mousse is mixed, move on to the compote which is of strawberries.
  • Take around 300-400 grams of strawberries and add 3-4 table spoons of water, 1 table spoon of sugar and a squeeze of half a lemon into that. Allow that to cook down until it’s a nice jammy consistency but not dry at all.
  • Let the pieces of strawberries remain intact – you can let that cook down a little bit but not too much.
    Once that’s done, leave this on the side as well and let it go completely cold.
  • Now you are ready to assemble.
  • Serve this in a glass, hence first put a little bit of the mousse.
  • On the sides, add the smaller triangles of the fried bread that was prepared which by now will be nicely soaked.
  • In the middle, add the strawberry compote and then again repeat – the mousse, bread, compote and then finally finishing with the mousse.
  • On top, you can do a nice and generic peeked piping and garnish with fresh pistachios which are slivered, almonds if you wish as well, edible flowers and the silver varakh for a traditional touch.

Recipe 2: Agra Petha Savoury Salad

  • Take the Agra petha, boil it for 2 -3 minutes and allow sugar to dissolve a bit.
  • Take the petha, chop it finally and then caramelize it with one two table spoons of butter until its slightly crisp – not too much as we want the texture to remain.
  • Now to marinate the chicken, take the chicken breast, make perforations with few cuts here and there.
  • To make the masala, take chat masala, yogurt, fresh coriander, dried coriander powder, red chili powder, green chili, garlic and garam masala. Then marinate the chicken for around 10-15 minutes.
  • Now sear in a hot pan with the touch of butter until the chicken is charcoal grilled and let black bits to come on the chicken. In the same pan, toss some sesame seeds and peanuts for a textual difference.
  • Alongside take lemon, cucumber and onion and a French dressing made from black pepper, eggs, oil and French mustard.
  • For the dressing, take 3- 4 egg yolks, 2 table spoons of French mustard, to that add oil very slowly whisking all the time – around 100 ml – 150 ml depending on the size of your egg yolks.
  • Add salt and black pepper to that and that’s the dressing done.
    Now you can assemble the salad.
  • Take the toasted sesame seeds, peanuts, take caramelized Agra petha. Into that, add juliennes of cucumber, sliced onions, lemons, extra fresh coriander, a pinch more of the chat masala, salt and black pepper to season.
  • By now the chicken will be cooked – allow it to rest for 5-6 minutes.
  • Now slice the chicken (very thin slices), almost shred it and add to the salad at very end.
  • Now mix the slices of lemon, cucumber and onion to tossed sesame seeds and peanuts and add two table spoon of the French dressing to it. Now add the salad leaves into that.
    Add a little more fresh lemon and extra fresh coriander and now add only half of the shredded chicken into it.
  • Mix it thoroughly.
  • While serving, garnish it with further chicken on top, a little more of sesame seeds, a little more of fresh coriander and touch of lemon, edible flowers just for the color and pop to make it look tempting.

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