June 5, 2023

Maid Francis taught me sweet potato hummus

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maidBy Chef Ajay Thakur, Brand Chef, Mirah Hospitality From New Indian Express News Service

BENGALURU: My passion for food started at home, where mealtime was not just about eating food, but discussing it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved helping my mother in daily chores thus learning different household methods of treating ingredients in many diverse ways. A few simple analogies I made as a kid was how fascinating it was to eat the same food around the globe with simple change in the method of cooking & adding local fusions to authentic dishes. To name some; Baingan Bharta was known as Baba Ganoush to Arabics, Roti/ Paratha was known as Pizza to Italian, Clay Pot Tandoors being used in many North Indian regions had transformed to conventional oven in other parts of world.

I have done both – gone to college and travelled the world. It has been always fun and very rewarding experience.

My journey as a chef had started long before I was certified as a professional. My expedition in Grand Cayman, Cayman Island, has garnered me to the many varied cuisines. Being a tropical region most of the culinary art evolved around fruits and root vegetables. This local lady, Francis, who worked as maid to one of the North African migrant would cook for the family and had adopted their palette. She also worked as a housekeeper in my resort. It was one of the encounters I had with her where I had come across a very unique way of making hummus out of sweet potato. The twist to the recipe was she would pit roast the sweet potato on a BBQ griddle and once the potatoes are charred she would wrap it in a foil paper and leave it on the slow fired griddle till the potato is cooked through. The potato has a smoky flavour which is mellowed with tahini, garlic, dash of sesame oil and chopped habanero peppers. The sweetness from potato, bitter rich creamy sesame paste and spiciness from the peppers was a firework of flavours.

I learnt the recipe from her but even after trying a couple of times I was not so impressed with the final product. This one day I had made Francis taste it. The trick was to puncture holes in the potatoes after they are wrapped in foil, this is where I had gone wrong all this while. While the potatoes rest on the griddle, the holes ooze out sugar and water which is caramelized adding a unique flavour from BBQ smoke, sugar, water and trapped steam.

Experimenting over half a dozen of times, I have mastered the recipe, now I can even make it in my sleep!! The guests have loved it, the ones who had tried the same hummus elsewhere would brag about how unique the taste and texture was. I had called it “Sweet Francis Potato Hummus”, for the name I have nearly explained this journey of recipe to nearly everyone I have served it to.
Chef Ajay Thakur, Brand Chef, Mirah Hospitality.

For more on this story go to: http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2016/oct/21/maid-francis-taught-me-sweet-potato-hummus-1530455.html

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