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Israeli Funk

Friday, 19 April 2013 | Pioneer
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Prerna Sharma savoured luxury lamb mince and chocolate dessert with sea salt at the nation's 65th Independence Day celebrations at Hyatt Regency

These days Hyatt Regency is filled with the fragrant aromas of Israeli cooking.

Food from the ancient land has made its way here, in the company of two celebrated chefs, Z Bukshester and Eran Zino.

The pair will give us a taste of food from their homeland over lunch and dinner, during a week long food festival to be held between April 15-21 at The Café.

Israeli food is subtle, we learnt, glancing at varieties of breads before us, with different sauces. 

The hummus, with its olive oil, chickpeas and herbs, and the falafel, were both freshly made.

Israelis love vegetables and our Tabouleh and Madbukha were done to perfection.

The latter is just a simple blend of tomato, garlic and olive oil, with herbs; amazing burst of flavours. The Balad (village) Eggplant was skinned baingan, regal in a cream and olive oil base.

Chef Eran specialises in vegetarian dishes. He said, “I play herbs, nuts and celery. For the event today, I ordered eight kilos of pulses. The hotel staff wondered what I was going to do with so much. But when the preparation was through, neither grain nor pulse was wasted.”

His cohort chef Bukshester, is a well-known media personality, known for his intellect and sense of humour.

He hosts popular television shows on food and has written restaurant reviews. He is also a well-known food stylist.

His style is innovative. He uses grills, roast and other mediums to cook food. Instead of machine minced meat, he prefers it hand chopped. “It tastes better. Nutrients are not lost.”

We were told that Israeli food can be summarised in two words — clean and fresh. From herbs to chicken to fish, even their handmade kebabs were delicious.

Smoking hot, they were served with cinnamon sticks — the aroma filled the restaurant.

Apparently they had considered Indian palates, so this spread wasn’t atypically Israeli.

Eran explained, “The structure of the menu was decided by the hotel. But we chose the dishes. Not all ingredients were available here. So we studied the Indian market for what you could source.”

Chef Eran first visited India two decades ago, after a stint in the army.

“At that time, I didn’t know what to do. I was looking for somebody to sponsor a trip to India. I didn’t find one and tried to enroll for an architecture course. That did not happen, so I joined cooking class, because I love food. Gradually my interest became a passion and the urge to create was unstoppable.”

Working his way up to be chef in well-known Israeli restaurants, then as a boutique caterer specialising in luxury events, Eran represented new Israeli cuisine at festivals in Hong-Kong and Tuscany.

Complexity set in with the next dish — Maffon are lamb rolls in tomato confit.

This was minced lamb, rolled, egg washed and fried again. The tomato gravy with it was fresh and chunky. But the final dish was the star — mushrooms filled with chicken and cheese, served on a bed of cream sauce.

The stuffed and fried mushroom balls coated with bread crumbs break into a multitude of flavours in your mouth. And the sauce — reduced cream with garlic and basil — was finger-licking yellow heaven!

The desserts also get points with Malabi for instance, a pudding flavoured with rose water and topped with nuts.

It was served with coffee sauce and cinnamon chocolate ganache — cream of chocolate. It was topped with hazelnut, pine nut, fresh herbs and sea salt with chocolate.

The dish also consisted sticks of pure dark chocolate embedded with cashew.

Apart from malabi, the tarts and mousse of fresh fruit with grapes and mulberry were equally delicious. These flavours will only be around for the weekend, so try and experience them before that.

 
 
 
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