Last week I shared a long, detailed blog post about the vegan demo and lunch at the Taj on 28th April and a video of a mini-demo by me at that event.
There was another such event on 5th May, and earlier this week I shared the video of me showing the participants how to make Chocolate Mousse. Today's post is about the rest of the event and as always, I took loads of pictures to share with you all. :)
This was the second in a series of vegan events that have been organised at Graze, the fine dining, European cuisine restaurant at Vivanta by Taj, in association with FIAPO - Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations. FIAPO's head office is situated at Delhi, where they were contacted by the people of the Taj, Bangalore when the idea of doing this event occurred to them. The people at Delhi got in touch with Himani Shetty at their Mumbai branch and she in turn contacted a few of us members of Vegan Bengaluru asking if we'd be interested to help the chef veganise food.
As a vegan food blogger, this opportunity interested me very much and I got in touch with Chef Uday Nathan and over the next couple of weeks, I helped him out with recipes and veganising tips. The first event on the 28th of April was a big hit among the participants and we were all looking forward to the second event too.
On Saturday, 5th May, I walked into Graze a little after 12 noon, the scheduled start time for the vegan demo, followed by lunch. Only a handful of people had arrived and Uday was in the main kitchen behind the huge glass window. He motioned me to quickly come into the kitchen where I found him frantically trying to whip the cashew sour cream in a large bowl that was placed in an ice bath. The cream just wasn't holding its shape because it wasn't thick enough. The problem was quickly solved by adding more cashew cream into the mix and it soon achieved the right consistency.
By the time we were done with the sour cream, Executive Chef Ramasamy Selvaraju walked in and introduced himself. I'd seen him before on my first visit to Graze and also when he made a brief appearance at the first event but we hadn't gotten a chance to speak. He was really nice and took me on a short, behind the scenes tour of the hotel kitchen system. I got to meet the head baker and the head chef of the room service section. I even got a peek at their awesome, top of the line oven at the bakery. I was so caught up in looking at everything that I forgot to click pictures. :( I would've liked to share a picture of him and a few of the gadgets with you all. Next time I'm there, I'll make sure to grab some shots.
What I did remember this time, was to click a picture of Restaurant Manager Ashvin Singh and the service team who took good care of us during both events.
I also managed to get F & B Manager Vivek Sharma in a few shots at the end of the event which you'll find at the bottom of the blog post.
After my tour through the labyrinths which connected all the kitchens of the hotel, I came out and took my place at the bar seat in front of the open kitchen. By and by more participants joined in and the area around the open kitchen was packed. This time there were more non vegans than vegans. By the time the last few guests arrived, it was a quarter to one and by then the Chefs had finished the basic prep work and the demo began. It was a slightly late start but much earlier than the first time.
The first thing we learnt how to make was the Chilled Gazpacho of Cherry Tomatoes. It was absolutely brilliant and hands down the best item that was served that day! It was bursting with the tangy flavour of the tomatoes, with a hint of sweetness from the red bell peppers. Amazing stuff. The little shot that was served to us got gulped down way too quickly. This is definitely a chilled soup that's to be served in large helpings.
Next, they showed us how to prepare a plate of salad of Marinated Beets and Fresh Greens tossed in Sherry Vinaigrette and Walnut Oil.
The artist at work. :oP
This was followed by a demo on making Spanakopita of Spinach, Tofu and Mushrooms.
Here's a video of the whole process, including how to fold and shape the Spanakopita.
I found the filling to be the tastiest part and I think I will enjoy it more as a stuffing inside bread.
The Spanakopita was served on a bed of extremely scrumptious Smoked Red Pepper Compote. They smoke it by placing the chopped peppers and other ingredients in a large pot and in the middle of this pot they place a small pot of coal doused in oil. They then cover the whole thing in aluminium foil and keep it on the stove. The smoke from the coal gets infused into the peppers and creates a remarkable flavour.
The second main dish was Pumpkin Risotto which was topped with Roasted Salsify, Crisp Shallots and Cashew Sour Cream.
Here you can see Pushpender adding the special rice for the Risotto into the pot. I asked if the Risotto could be made with local rices or other grains but Uday said he hasn't tried that out. I do intend to try it soon though. It's always fun to experiment with using local ingredients in world cuisine. Plus, we reduce our green footprints.
Most of the participants found the risotto to be a tad too sweet because of the apple juice added to the pumpkin puree, but I enjoyed it. I guess I have my Karnataka taste buds to thank for that. :)
One thing that everybody enjoyed in this dish was the Salsify. It's an imported root vegetable and not easy to find here. We were told that some local root veggies can be used in its place in this dish. Here's a shot of the Salsify being peeled. It has to be done very quickly because it tends to oxidise very fast.
After the main dishes were done being taught, I did my Chocolate Mousse demo.
For dessert, we had Chocolate Mousse in Almond Tart Shell along with Cinnamon Coconut Milk Ice Cream.
After the delicious lunch, most people left and a handful of us from Vegan Bengaluru hung out with Uday, Vivek and Ashvin and chatted about the success of the event.
They told us that after this kind of excellent response, they definitely intend to make this into a regular affair. Maybe once or twice a month on fixed Saturdays. Uday said that he wants Graze to be known for the monthly Vegan Demo-Lunches. Also, they will be launching a separate vegan section in their menu where all the dishes they make for these demos will be available.
I am very happy to have had this opportunity to be involved in the making of these events. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. :)