Friday, April 18, 2014

Meeting Sergi Arola and my first animated foodle!

Bombas De Patatas!
Last month I finally got a chance to try Arola (the restaurant) at the JW Marriot. Two Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola was in Mumbai to launch his new menu at the restaurant and kindly agreed to teach me a few tricks about Tapas Arola style. We met in the afternoon in a quiet Arola over a cuppa. (hot water for me and ginger tea for him). Ginger is his favourite ingredient discovery in India! It was one of the most interesting afternoons I have had in a long time. Its always such a pleasure to meet passionate artists and Sergi most definitely fits the bill!


I did the above animation on my phone with an animation app. I've been playing with the idea of animating foodles. Sergi has a tattoo of a Cherry Bomb that inspired the Bombas he has introduced to his menu at Arola. They seemed perfect to animate!

A little about Sergi, who I have been intrigued by ever since he first came to India. Sergi began cooking alongside his grandfather when he was 12. And unlike most food celebrities I meet who say they were born cooking, Sergi shares that he grew up dreaming of being a rock guitarist and actually began working at restaurants to fund the expensive lifestyle of an aspiring rock musician! He even attended culinary school in Barcelona with the same goal in mind. But “It turned out, I was an okay guitarist and composer but a damn good cook!” So post graduating, he chose to make music his hobby and embraced food as his profession. Continuing to work in restaurants, till in 1995 he came to work with Spain's most celebrated chef, Ferran Adria. The rest, as they say is history. Trained under two of the world's most influential gastronomic geniuses —(after Ferran he went on to work with Pierre Gagnaire) today he has earned countless accolades and simplified the art of cooking with his book 'Cooking is Fun', featuring signature recipes and techniques from his award-winning restaurant La Broche in Madrid, Spain.

Sporting an athletic, much tattooed frame Sergi speaks simply and directly in an endearing Spanish accent. Tattoo’d, unconventional, rebellious, the quintessential bad boy with no qualms about saying it as it is or as he wants to say it, you will know what I mean when I say that what followed was an interesting, energized conversation that touched on many topics…

On his special brand of fuss-free modern Spanish food -  “My hell is starter, main course, dessert. It is most boring. I like food that offers a variety of flavours. The menu degustation that came to be in the 70’s was made for people who don’t like to eat.

On his favourite ingredients – “The most important ingredient in the kitchen is water. Not only is it impossible to cook without water but the water used in a dish has an impact on the overall dish. The change of water changes the way a dish tastes. Take lentils for example. Lentils taste completely different here than in Spain because of the change in water.”

On India and Indian food – Coming from Europe, India was different and difficult to define. For all the hygiene in Europe, we have also become very aseptic, bored… clean… But In all of Asia, India is closest to the Mediterranean. I often say India is like Spain was 50 years ago. I love the pure spirit of the local markets.

On Indian Food -  I love the food. The flat breads and the tandoori grills… [breaks away into a tangent] You know some concepts are worldwide as far as cuisine is concerned. Wherever you go, any cuisine you eat will be a combination of grain and protein. Rice and meat, bread and meat, rice and lentils… It shows that purity of the roots of culinary tradition and gastronomy. [and comes back] I also love the Thali at Thakkers. Then he holds up my book and points to the Thali on it “like this! I love the little bowls of different flavours and textures…  [And then we go off into the most interesting part of our conversation] ‘Imagine a thali like this but with desserts! Spain got its desserts from the Arabic influence via INDIA. Indian desserts had evolved long ago; the Arabs brought sweet goods to Spain. [I went into a little speech on Indian sweets at this point] and suddenly Sergi had a Eureka Moment! 

He exclaimed, his accent getting more pronounced!  “ Now I see clear…  The Arola Dessert Thali .. with saffron something, a little bowl of chilli chocolate, some berry soup…” and we were off with the ideas, as he took me into the kitchen and as we made his Pina Bravas and tasted the  Bomba De Patata appetizer. Two new introductions on the menu at Arola Mumbai.

So when the Arola Thali hits Mumbai, you know who to thank (in part at least!) Until then I'm going to leave you with these recipes for Tapas. 

Bomba De Patata (Potato Bombs)

Sergi has a tattoo of a cartoon style cherry bomb and that is what inspired this dish of spicy mince enveloped in potato.

1 Whole Potato                
100 g Chicken Mince      
10 g Parsley       
10 g Garlic, chopped
.5 g (pinch) Thyme
.5 g (pinch) Rosemary
.5 g (pinch) Chilly
1 Onion               
2 slices Bread    
20 g Spicy tomato Sauce
2 tbsp Oil                            
Salt and Pepper to taste

Roast the whole potato at 180 degrees till cook. When cooked, remove the skin and mash.
Chop the herbs along with chilly and garlic and add to chicken mince.
Cook the chicken mince and cool down. Mix cooked chicken mince and roasted potato together and check  the seasoning. Roll into round balls and keep aside.
Cut the onion in small pieces and roast in oven along with white bread slices at 200 degree till black.
When cool blend together until it becomes a fine powder.
Finally coat each potato bomb with this powder, reheat and garnish with spicy tomato sauce and micro herbs.

Pineapple Brava (Pina Bravas)

1 Pineapple
100 ml Coconut Puree   
100 ml Cherry Puree      
1 g Agar Agar     
.1 gm Chilly          
100 g White Chocolate  
37 g Coco Butter
1 Lime    
Cut the Pineapple with a pineapple corer. Make juice of the leftover trimming.
Cook the pineapple in this juice till the first boil comes, remove and keep aside for 15 minutes. Drain away the juice, arrange the pieces in a tray and put in the deep freezer.
In the mean while, make the coconut mousse. Heat the coconut puree, add .5 gm agar and boil. Strain and keep aside. Heat the cherry puree, add .5 gms agar, boil and keep aside to cool.
When both cool blend to puree again and fill in squeeze bottles and refrigerate.
Remove the pineapple from the deep freezer, make a small hole in the center, put a toothpick in each piece and put back in deep freezer.
Melt the cocoa butter, add white chocolate, mix well and make a bath. Remove the pineapple from deep freezer and coat with this bath.
Now keep in refrigerator till soft. When soft, remove the tooth pick.
Finally fill them with the cherry sauce and coconut mousse and garnish with lime zest. Serve.

1 comment:

evolvingtastes said...

His shirt with the name printed (or sewn) in devanagri is so cool. And great interview Rushina! And Congratulations on your book (I know I am so late to the party).