Hemp pasta in basil pesto with vegetables and garlic bread, flourless jaggery chocolate cake, ragi-almond pan cake, five grain khichdi and immunity booster drinks, prawn 'kuzhi paniaram', 'annachi sundal', are some of the interesting new dishes that star hotel chefs in Chennai whipped up during and the COVID-19 lockdown period.
While some of the dishes have found their way into their hotel menu cards, a few more are on their way, chefs said.
According to the chefs, the whole focus in designing the new dishes is not only to guard against COVID-19 but also to offer wholesome healthy food.
"Hemp seeds have several nutritional benefits but are not largely used. We decided to come out with hemp pasta in basis pesto with vegetables and garlic bread," Gopi Thangaraj, Sous Chef, Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road said.
With hemp giving the flavour and the taste, the dish was not only tasty but distinct.
Apart from pasta, millets or hand pound ponni rice or seeraga samba rice or other exotic rice could also be used.
The other interesting item that Thangaraj has divined during the lockdown was the flourless jaggery chocolate cake made with cocoa, almond power, jaggery, eggs, butter and chocolate.
The dessert consistency was like slightly hardened mousse with a liberal dose of chocolate and almond powder delighting taste buds.
Star hotel chefs noticed that their guests were moving towards healthy food options and decided to offer the same with new ingredients and designs.
"We tried around 45 desserts and after receiving some constructive feedback, we worked on the finalised 18 dishes which are currently in our dessert options in our hotel menus," Thangaraj remarked.
WelcomHotel Chennai Executive Chef Suju George John found `work from home' and `work at home' a new experience during the lockdown.
George came out with two new items - The Perfect Ragi-Almond Pancake and the Bombay Pizza.
"Ragi is rich in proteins, iron and calcium and is good for digestion. These pancakes are easy and quick to make, serve as a nutritious breakfast dish and is now part of the hotel menu," George said.
On the making of Bombay Pizza, George said that one day it was decided to make home-made pizza; but there was not enough pizza base nor the normal meaty toppings that one commonly relishes.
However, he had a pack of tortilla wraps and some left over bhaji from the pav bhaji.
"So, the wrap base was a bhaji topping with home-made tomato concasse and a melange of cheeses. Voila! Out came the Bombay Pizza," George mused.
As for the dish name which will find its place in the menu he said it was inspired by the usage of the pav bhaji leftover which is essentially a Bombay thing!
At the Oberoi Group's Trident Chennai, Prakash Jayadevan, General Manager said that immunity booster Indian dishes like: Five grain khichdi (Cracked Wheat grains, Rice, Barley, Millet, Moong lentil cooked in rice with mild Indian spices), Kaloji ka Bharuwan Karela (Baby bitter gourd cooked in fresh onion tomato masala), Tadke wali bhuta palak (Corn kernels cooked in fresh spinach paste and tempered with garlic), Methi Magaz Macch (Fish cooked with fresh fenugreek leaves in onion tomato masala) have been added to the menu.
For breakfast, egg white omelet with Salmon spinach feta and asparagus (Egg white omelet with salmon and fresh spinach topped with sauteed asparagus) and Blueberry - almond overnight oats (Oats soaked overnight in almond milk and topped with blue berries and banana slices) were introduced.
On the other hand, at the WelcomHotel Kences Inn, Mamallapuram, Executive Chef Amruth Chakravarthy spent the lockdown period using his home terrace to work on a pilot that was planned at the Hotel - growing micro greens.
"This was later transformed as "chef-grown micro green salad session" at home. For the latter part of the lockdown I worked on collating a pop-up menu for the hotel with the focus on with pure seafood indulgence of the Coromandel coast which will be used for our Beachside restaurant," he said.
Chakravarthy came out with Mamallapuram Fish Roast and Prawn Kuzhi Paniyaram and Annachi Sundal which may be included in the hotel menu after some tasting sessions.
According to him, regional and sustainable produce transformed into healthy dishes on the menu are a big focus. As is cooking, with available ingredients and produce.