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Chef Sameer Sewak On Cooking With Spirits: Quality Of Liquor Makes All The Difference

By: Pratham Arora

food and spirits

We were in conversation with chef Sameer Sewak, a Dehradun-based pilot-turned-chef who specialises in Awadhi cuisine. We spoke to him about the use of spirits in dishes, a technique which seems intimidating at first, but is one of the most powerful tools at a chef’s disposal.

What role do spirits play in creating dishes from your menu? How much of an important ingredient are spirits to your cook?

“I cook with spirits mostly when prepping festive dishes, especially during winter or Christmas time. I use them to mostly enhance flavour but I can also use them as a tenderiser. For these dishes, the quality of liquor used really makes a difference between a good dish and a great one.”

Which from gin/vodka/whisky/rum make for the best cooking agent according to you and why?

“It really depends on what you’re cooking and what kind of flavour enchantment it requires. Vodka can give a briny flavour, while rum gives a more bitter-sweet flavour. Gin gives a more floral aftertaste.” 

Any traditional recipe that you think makes the best use of spirits?

“The Christmas cake which is a traditional Indian Christian dish is almost infamous for its use of Rum. Rum really brings out the best in every ingredient that goes in it. Soaked in rum for days, the raisins, dry fruits, peals etc really give it a rich, aromatic taste. When baked in the high-temperature furnace with the ghee-filled batter it gives an intoxicating soft cake, far greater than the sum of its parts.” 

Any dish you've tasted that you feel did absolute justice to the art of adding spirits in savoury cooking?

“The Indian Christmas cake and tiramisu.”

Could you share the recipe for one of your spirits-based savoury items with us?

Rum-glazed Mutton Chop 

mutton chop glazed in rum

Ingredients:

1/2 kg mutton chops
40 ml of Captain Morgan Spiced rum
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 green chilli paste
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tbsp ginger
1/2 tbsp garlic paste 
1/2 tbsp cumin powder
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 cardamom
2 tbsp coriander leaves
1 cup bread crumbs
2 mashed potatoes 
1 cup all-purpose flour
salt to taste
oil for frying

Method

Grind together mint green chilli, ginger, garlic, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom to make a fine paste. 

Add the ground paste to the mutton chops along with salt and Worcestershire Sauce.

Add a cup of water and cook for about 30 minutes or till the mutton has tenderised. Ensure the water has dried up and the mutton is 90 percent cooked. Now in a flat pan add some oil and graze the mutton chops with a dash of Captain Morgan rum. 

Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Mix the mashed potatoes with chopped coriander leaves and salt. Coat the rum-glazed mutton chops with the mashed potato mix. Mix the bread crumbs and all-purpose flour on a plate and mix together.

Coat the cooked potato-coated mutton chops with the bread crumbs and fry in hot oil till golden brown.
 

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