Butter Chicken. The heart of Indian cuisine in the North. Who knew it would even steal the hearts of those in Spain? Taking our desi flavours global is the Indian pastry chef, instructor, and consultant Zareen Shaukat, who bagged the fourth spot at the World Tapas Competition 2023, recently held in Spain.
Giving an Indian twist to the Spanish delicacy of Tapa, Shaukat made Murgh Makhani Mille Feuille, derived from butter chicken, as she believed, “it perfectly represents our country’s taste, colour and vibrancy.”
For the unversed, tapa is a Spanish appetiser, served hot or cold, that is typically eaten at bars with a drink intended to complement the food, much like the French hors d’oeuvres and the Russian zakuski.
In an interaction with indianexpress.com, Shaukat revealed how she came upon her award-winning dish, even giving away some of the secret tips for making it. Read the edited excerpts to find out.
Q. Tell us about you, who is Zareen? How did you come to be a chef?
A: I began baking as a hobby. After garnering some (surprising) rave reviews from my friends, I began a baking business from home. To hone my skills, I researched courses, and applied to Sophia College in Mumbai, for their Baking and Patisserie course. To my shock, I was rejected. But then I found my true home, and what I think is the best decision I ever made, at Le Cordon Bleu, London. I trained under the tutelage of many international pastry chefs like Antonio Bachour, Karim Bourgi, and Nina Tarasova, to name a few.
Along with my professional training, a lot of constant failures, and the lessons I learned from them pushed me to improve and be better.
Q. How did you get to this ‘mukaam’, bagging the fourth spot at the World Tapas Competition?
A: I have nearly a decade of experience that came through only because of my late father, one of my biggest cheerleaders and supporters. This took a lot of hard work, effort, sleepless nights, and tears.
It was surreal. I did not expect to win, considering that my competitors were some of the most talented, experienced, and well-trained chefs in the world, associated with some of the best hotels and restaurants across the globe. A part of me always hoping though. That I could make my India proud and it happening was a moment of great joy!
Q. Why did you decide to make the Murgh Makhani?
A: The Murgh Makhani Millefeuille was something I settled on to showcase India’s rich culture and heritage. I made this using the traditional methods and made sure that I smoked my dish to impart its deliciousness. I also used some Spanish Saffron here, as an ode to the host country. This was topped with mint caviar and papadums. I also showcased my pastry skills by creating a puff pastry. The dish was then presented on an auspicious banana leaf and a brass box, as is the custom in India.
Q. What are your plans now?
A: I am back to imparting my knowledge as a pastry chef to my many students in India and across the world. And I am taking orders too for my delectable creations.
Zareen’s secret tips for making murgh makhani mille feuille
It’s always good to time and plan your dish. Make sure you have all the ingredients ready and time plan it. This will ensure smooth working.
Moisture is your enemy
To make the puff pastry absolutely crunchy, make sure to use dry butter, as it has less moisture.
Shortcuts are banned!
There are no shortcuts for making absolutely delicious Murgh Makhani, start from scratch right from marinating your chicken to grinding your own spices. It makes a huge difference in the outcome.
Balance is key
Make sure the taste is well balanced and that no flavour is overpowering the other. Balance is key here so taste as you prepare.