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One chef, one recipe: Chicken Cafreal by Chef Himanshu Saini

Chef Himanshu Saini, Corporate Chef at Tresind Dubai, Mumbai and Kuwait, shares this special Chicken Cafreal recipe that is easy to make but has a gourmet flourish to it.

Chef Himanshu Saini loves telling stories through his food. A dish, for him, is not just a mix and match of ingredients cooked following a time-tested recipe but an avenue to pay homage to a nostalgic past while incorporating modern elements of the present. The result is a creation that is rooted in Indian philosophy even as it embraces western and eastern culinary techniques, this special Chicken Cafreal recipe being a great example. Through every recipe, he aims to elevate the dining experience to make it interactive, engaging and international.   

Chef Himanshu Saini
Chef Himanshu Saini, Corporate Chef at Tresind Dubai, Mumbai and Kuwait, through his creations, displays influences of global cuisines while still retaining the essence of Indian food.


It is no wonder that every menu that he curates at his famous restaurants – Tresind Dubai, Kuwait and Mumbai, Carnival by Tresind and Tresind Studio – display influences of cuisines from around the world while retaining the soul of Indian food. Of late, the young chef has been embarking on a new journey – that of collaborating with chefs from around the world and inviting them to his kitchen to whip up recipes where both seek inspiration from the other’s cuisines and present a menu that is a true amalgamation of two cultures. “It’s not just a lot of fun, I also get to learn a lot from these collaborations,” says Himanshu. 

Shiso leaves
Shiso leaves, used in a Japanese and South Asian cuisine, is one of the influences that the chef displays in his version of Chicken Cafreal. There are two varieties found, green and purple.


One of the defining traits of Himanshu’s cooking is that he never lets the presentation and gimmicks overtake the essence of a dish. So, while an item on his menu might have an eye-popping presentation making it instantly Instagram-worthy, there is no compromise on the flavours of the recipe which remain as earthy, robust and relatable as ever. 

Smoked Aioli
Smoked aioli is yet another global influence seen in this rendition of Chicken Cafreal. Found in the cuisines of northwest Mediterranean, this sauce is made of garlic, salt and olive oil.


Another interesting aspect about his cooking is that he does not prefer to have a ‘signature’ dish. “I don’t believe in the concept because having a signature dish means there is a finality to it leaving little scope for more experimentation,” he says. “I would rather prepare a dish that leaves room for more elements to be added to it later.” 

The Chicken Cafreal is one of his favourite recipes that has all the ingredients of a typical Himanshu Saini creation – a lot of Indian spices, a few dollops of Japanese ingredients and delicate with almost French-like precision in presentation. International but Indian at heart – quite like the chef himself.  

Chicken Cafreal

Chicken Cafreal recipe

Ingredients 

  • 700gm coriander
  • 30gm coriander seeds
  • 7gm black pepper whole
  • 3gm green cardamom whole
  • 5gm star anise
  • 5gm fennel seeds
  • 10gm cumin seeds whole
  • 3gm cloves
  • 3gm cinnamon stick
  • 10gm ginger
  • 20gm garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 small onion whole
  • 500ml white vinegar
  • 10gm refined white sugar
  • 30ml refined oil
  • 15gm tomato ketchup
  • 15gm cream
  • 250gm ghee

For the Cafreal

  • 160gm chicken juliennes (raw)
  • 80gm onion juliennes
  • 80gm green capsicum juliennes
  • 20gm fresh coriander leaves
  • 10 shiso leaves
  • 80gm tempura flour
  • 60-80ml water (depending on thickness of batter)
  • 20gm corn flour
  • 40gm smoky aioli

Preparation

Soak all ingredients for the base in vinegar for over an hour.

Once soaked, grind it to a fine paste. Retain the remaining vinegar.

Take the chicken juliennes and deep fry them until it is cooked from the outside, drain the oil and keep aside.

Add a spoonful of oil and sauté onion juliennes as well as the capsicum juliennes until soft. Drain the oil and keep aside.

In a medium pan, add oil and allow to heat. Once the oil is hot, add the Cafreal base and allow it to cook. Once cooked, finish it off with the tomato ketchup, cream and fresh coriander leaves.

Add the fried chicken juliennes, onion juliennes as well as the green capsicum juliennes and toss.

Allow the chicken to cook throughout, for approximately 2-3 minutes, check seasoning.

For the shiso leaf, make a batter using the tempura flour and water. Whisk it well and pass through a fine strainer to get rid of all the lumps.

Take four leaves and dust them with corn flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the leaves into the batter and deep fry in ghee until crispy.

For the remaining shiso leaves, take a ring cutter and cut roundels from the leaves and put into ice cold water to retain its freshness.

For plating of the Chicken Cafreal dish, take a plate and place a crisp tempura fried shiso leaf on it. Take a spoon and spoon out some of the cooked chicken mixture into the leaf. Make a spiral of the smoky aioli on top of the mixture and place three shiso roundels on top of the smoky aioli. Garnish with edible flowers.



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