Chef Udit Maheshwari’s Pitaara Kitchen, the latest entrant on the home delivery front in Delhi, dips into several influences for his menu — childhood memories, indigenous cheese, and traditional Indian specialties such as Dogri meat curry and Syrian Christian stews.
Thirty-three-year-old chef Udit Maheshwari confesses that he was a fussy eater as a kid. The young boy turned his nose on most things, leaving his parents wondering what to feed him. One evening, at a relative’s house, he tasted a dish that he thought was a potato stuffed with paneer. He loved it and opted for second helpings.
Back home, he told his parents how delicious it was; they were naturally elated. When they enquired about the dish from the relative, they found that it was stuffed tinda (apple gourd) that the young boy had mistaken for stuffed potatoes. Fast forward a couple of decades, and Chef Maheshwari has replicated that dish — tinda stuffed with paneer and dry fruits, cooked in a tandoor and served with tomato gravy, reminiscent of a Marwari household.
At his recently set up delivery service in Delhi — Pitaara Kitchen — the tinda dish is accompanied with garlic naan. “It’s a middle path between how they would like to eat it and how I would like to serve it,” he says, admitting that most people make a face when he suggests that they try the tinda.
I have to confess, I was one of them too. But here’s the thing. If, like me, you believe tinda doesn’t deserve tummy space, try this dish and let Chef Maheshwari prove you wrong. The perfectly cooked tinda stuffed with paneer and dry fruits is full of flavour. The accompanying garlic kalonji naan goes well with the tomato gravy.
Pitaara Kitchen is the latest entrant on the Indian food delivery scene in Delhi. Chef Maheshwari, who worked with Café Lota, Monsoon by Café Lota and Triveni Terrace Café — restaurants that focused on regional Indian cuisine — for over seven years, is passionate about regional specialties and the diversity of Indian cuisine. “I always wanted to do something new with Indian food,” he says.
The cloud kitchen brings to us a menu focussing on underexplored ingredients, lost recipes and forgotten traditions. So, for starters, you have the Bandel cheese kulcha — where a crumbly, smoky cheese from an erstwhile Portuguese colony called Bandel, near Kolkata, is stuffed in kulcha dough and cooked in the tandoor. It is slathered with kasundi butter and served with spicy tomato chutney.
The kulchas are soft with a distinct flavour of the smoky cheese. The special cheese is sourced from one specific vendor in Bandel and the lockdown has impacted sourcing. “Thankfully we have stocks for a few weeks,” says Chef Maheshwari.
Having trained at Cordon Bleu, London, he has always enjoyed working with cheese. “I read about Bandel cheese and was fascinated. I wanted to showcase the indigenous cheeses from India. I also have a dish with Kalimpong cheese,” he says, referring to the bacon and Kalimpong cheese kulcha, a dish I did not try.
Other interesting dishes on the menu include Dogri meat – a traditional meat curry from the Dogri community of Jammu, and wild mushroom stew, inspired by the Syrian Christians of Kerala. The Dogri meat is meat-on-bone cooked with spices and has a lovely deep brown colour. The curry is flavourful and the meat soft. It is served with ragi phulkas though they tend to get hard in-home delivery. The instructions say they should be heated on the tawa for a bit, but eating them right off the tawa is not the same as reheating them.
The Dogri meat also evokes childhood memories for Chef Maheshwari. “I grew up with Kashmiri friends and loved the food at their home. Once, when I was visiting their home, they served Dogri meat instead of long-established Kashmiri dishes. That’s how I was introduced to it,” he says about the recipe he borrowed from a friend’s family.
The wild mushroom stew has mushrooms cooked in coconut milk and vinegar curry. As per the chef, it is best eaten with Malabar parathas which, too, have to be reheated on the tawa. However, they tend to soften post reheating. I enjoyed the dish just on its own and ate it like a stew.
Back to the starters, then. The beetroot Shikhampuri, or grated beetroot kebabs stuffed with hung curd and cooked on the griddle, is melt-in-your-mouth soft. They are slightly sweetish and best enjoyed with coriander chutney. The keema chop is a must-try for meat lovers. Inspired by the Anglo-Indian community of Kolkata, the spiced keema is stuffed in a potato ‘tikki’ and pan-fried. It is soft and full of flavour.
And, of course, no meal is complete without something sweet. We tasted both the desserts. The salted caramel kheer made of Barnyard millet or sanwa is cooked in milk and sugar and topped with date palm jaggery. It’s perfect — not too sweet and sanwa imparts it a good texture. The salted caramel chocolate tart uses 72 per cent dark chocolate ganache in a bajra shortcrust pastry, topped with jaggery-salted caramel. The ideal way to end a meal.
Pitaara Kitchen’s focus is on sourcing local and being sustainable. Keeping that in mind, the packaging is zero plastic. Even the cutlery, made with sugarcane pulp, is sent only on request. “I aim to deliver delightful Indian flavours to the comfort of your homes,” says Chef Maheshwari, who plans on opening a dine-in restaurant once the pandemic is over.
Currently, Pitaara is only delivering in south Delhi. Orders can be placed directly on their website. It’s closed on Tuesdays. Average meal for two costs Rs 1000.