Benares’ Atul Kochhar wows Sheffield

Yesterday and today, the 14th annual Skills for Chefs conference is taking place at the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire.

The conference has become a leading annual event, bringing together award winning chefs, industry professionals and catering students.

Chefs take to the stage kitchen to produce mouth watering dishes, whilst passing on snippets of their wisdom to the audience through the following Q & A sessions.

The opening demonstration this year was Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar, chef patron of the acclaimed Indian restaurant Benares in London’s Mayfair.  In less than 40 minutes, he had put together a feast of three Indian dishes, including chicken livers with garlic and ginger, marinated spiced John Dory and chicken curry, explaining as he went about the nuances of Indian cookery and cuisine.  It was fascinating to watch a master chef at work and to listen to his hints and tips.

Atul was keen to share some of the hidden secrets of cooking great Indian food and was at pains to stress the importance of working in harmony with spices.

“Spices should be used in just the same way as one would season with salt and pepper,” he said “each one is just part of the seasoning balance.”

His top tips went on to include the following

  • ease up on the chilli – “you shouldn’t be trying to prove something by adding great quantities of chilli”
  • oil should be very hot before frying spices, so that their essential oils are released into the dish – do a pinch test to see if they sizzle before adding them
  • think about what you are cooking and use fresh, seasonal ingredients whenever possible

We were lucky enough to be in the front row to watch Atul do his stuff and must admit, it has made a trip to Benares very tempting indeed!

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