Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Pluck's Kitchen Garden Ensures That The Freshest Ingredients Reach Your Plate

The lush kitchen garden at Pullman New Delhi.

Life has come a full circle for Chef Shyam Dhar Rai. Hailing from a farming family in Azamgarh, UP, Chef Shyam was the first amongst his kin to venture out of the state that he was born in. Now after working for half a decade in the US, he is back to his home country. This time, he is heading a restaurant where farming is key. For four years now Pluck has been known for its farm to fork cuisine, with the freshest ingredients literally "plucked" from the 5,000 square feet kitchen garden in the heart of Pullman New Delhi. Lettuce, spinach, red peppers, brinjals, lady’s finger and many herbs like mint, cilantro, thyme, ajwain, basil, oregano, lemongrass, chillies, parsley, are all grown in this verdant, chemical-free haven. Fruit trees line the kitchen garden to give shadow to the smaller plants. “In winter we grow a variety of edible flowers that we use on all our dishes as well as desserts,” states Chef Ajay.

Chef Ajay Anand and Chef Shyam Rai.

While the kitchens of Pullman and Novotel have the inimitable stamp of Chef Ajay Anand, who is the Director of Culinary for both the hotels, Chef Shyam has introduced a range of fantastic modern Indian and modern European at the all-day dining restaurant, Pluck. Regulars will be happy to know that there are 28 new dishes on the menu. 

But before we get to sample some of the new creations, we are given a tour of the kitchen garden followed with planting some mint, spinach and brinjal that we got to carry back with us. Since we know for sure that the satisfaction, as well as nutrition, gets enhanced multifold when you eat freshly grown produce, we collated the following tips that both the chefs shared with us on growing our own food.
-       Instead of regular soil, plant seeds in coco peat. Made with dry coconut husk, coco peat can hold a lot of water and stays moist for much longer. A small brick-like quantity can expand upto five times once it is soaked in water.
-       It is best to plant seeds in a mixture of coco peat and natural compost in the ratio of 4:1. Natural compost is like food for the plants. Although you don’t have to use it, but if you do you’ll notice that plants grow much healthier and even faster.
-       Sow the seeds about an inch and a half under the soil/peat to allow it to germinate easily.
-       In summer, it is advisable to water the plants every morning, after the sun has gone.
-       Every few days use a ‘khurpi’ with a flat blade to work the soil so that the top layer doesn’t become too dense, otherwise air, light and water will not permeate easily.
-       Seeds like spinach can be scattered sporadically in a pot, but those of chillies should be planted at an ample distance from each other because every seed has the possibility of sprouting one plant each.
-       It is said that once you plant mint, even with minimal care and watering, it will continue to grow for many years. Hence it is considered a good investment.

Clockwise from Top Left: Lobster Bisque; Amaranth Salad;
Dark Chocolate Mousse and Orange Sorbet; Lamb Shank with barley pulao.

After a fun session in the sun, we’re treated to a delectable four-course meal that comprised delicious lobster bisque, an amaranth salad, lamb shank with barley pulao and a sinful chocolate and orange dessert. While the lobster bisque is a luscious, flavourful broth and the amaranth salad showcases this indigenous plant three ways (boiled, fried and crisp), the mains remain the highlight. The lamb shank is dusted with podi masala, served on a comforting, kichdi-like barley pulao and topped with a dal makhni crisp. Although the presentation is ultra modern, the flavours are reminiscent of an Indian home-cooked meal. Similarly, the sepu vadi (a dish that you’re unlikely to find in any other five-star hotel) is served with drumstick salsa and couscous upma. “I got this recipe from a Kumaoni kitchen executive’s mother,” says Chef Shyam proudly. He, of course, has given it a progressive look, but this dish captures the essence of the food at Pluck: Be it modern Indian or Modern European (both the cuisines at this restaurant are at par), the food, very simply put, is delicious!

Details: 
Pluck, Pullman New Delhi Aerocity.
Time6:30am to 11:30pm.
Ph: 9643100661

An edited version of this article first appeared on LivingFoodz.com on May 30, 2018. 



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