Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Special Ingredient | Chef Vicky Ratnani Showcases Multiple Ways of Using Cranberries

Chef Vicky Ratnani believes in showcasing ingredients as superstars of the dishes that he creates. On a recent trip to Delhi he curated a special pop-up to celebrate cranberries. These beautiful, sweet-tart berries were used in a variety of ways – in a brine, as a chutney, fresh as well as frozen, macerated and whole. “You do know that cranberries are a rich superfood,” he informed before we got to sample his latest creations.

According to US Cranberries, they are “America’s original superfood”! They are a versatile, nutrient-dense fruit that can easily be incorporated into sweet as well as savoury dishes. Before I go on to share Chef Vicky’s interesting usage of these berries, I’ll list out some of the health benefits of cranberries.
-        Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections: This is perhaps the most well-known health benefit of cranberries. It is believed that cranberries contain a compound that can help prevent UTIs by stopping bacteria from attaching itself to the lining of the urinary tract. In simple words, by flushing out the UTI causing bacteria. Now we understand {on a lighter note, of course} why Cosmopolitan is one of the most preferred cocktails of women ;)
-        Rich in Antioxidants: Consuming foods rich in antioxidants has been proven to be good for heart health, as well as lowering the risk of some infections and certain types of cancer.
-        Improve Digestive Health: The same compounds that help protect the heart also improve the functioning of the digestive system by protecting the stomach lining and prevention of ulcers.
-        Prevention of Dental Plaque: There is some evidence that cranberry juice can help to prevent dental plaque that builds up on teeth. Having the juice thus helps in prevention of gum disease as well.

As much as I enjoy good food, I love the idea of using food as medicine. When there are such delicious ways of taking care of one’s health, why would one avoid partaking of these superfoods! So without further delay I’ll share with you the delicious fare at Chef Vicky Ratnani’s exclusive cranberry-based pop-up at Delhi’s The Runway Project.

Cranberry Negronis with Appetisers.

We started the evening with cranberry-based Negronis. A tapas-style platter included mini pizzas topped with cranberry chutney and Bocconcini di Pollo. The latter is a fabulous chicken appetizer that is available on the restaurant’s regular menu. The chicken is brined and chargrilled, served with olive-cranberry tapenade, mint and kale emulsion.

A variety of dishes used cranberries in varied ways.

Other interesting ways in which the berries were used:
- In a cranberry, mushroom and green chilli risotto. I enjoyed the tart flavour of the berries in this; it literally livened up the risotto.
- The Imitation, another regular from the restaurant’s menu, turns out to be the star on this evening. The mock duck, spicy barley and chickpea preparation was zinged up with some cranberry coulis.  
- Another vegetarian delight was the cranberry gochujang smeared cottage cheese with black rice and pumpkin.
- Salmon, seared perfectly resulting in a crisp skin, came with a mix of cranberries, fennel and carrot and tricolor quinoa.

Left: Chef Vicky Ratnani in conversation.
Right: Cranexplosion.

Chef explained that cranberries can be used in an array of Indian dishes as well. Some of his favourites are cranberry and korma pulao and methi malai cranberry murgh. The berries can also be used in tangy recipes, in place of tamarind and even kokum, to add a refreshing twist. As we discuss other ways of incorporating the berries into our food, the Cranexplosion arrives. In this cigar shaped dessert, a chocolate cannoli met with cranberry tiramisu. The beautiful burst of flavours turns out to be the perfect end to our cranberry-licious evening.