The Songstress and Spices:
Asha's Contemporary Indian Cuisine

By Kavita Chhibber

Asha Bhosle is a legendary singer and has regaled generation after generation crooning her melodies in a diverse variety of songs.

The diva has another talent that not many know about. She is an amazing cook according to those who have been fortunate enough to partake of her mouth watering culinary concoctions.

“I was always a foodie, but I started cooking only after I became a mother,” says the singer. “I began worrying that my kids will become like other kids and eat junk outside; I decided, then, to master the art of cooking so they don’t feel the need to eat out.”

And so began Asha Bhosle’s culinary journey. Whenever she liked a particular dish at someone’s house, she would ask for the recipe. “When you learn a new song or prepare for an exam, you repeat yourself and memorize. Similarly I would keep repeating the ingredients in that recipe all the way home and then try it out”.

Asha says people like pretty much all that she cooks but the late R.D. Burman loved the way she made paya, black lentils and shami kabab. “If I made paya, then R.D., Shakti Samant and members of the Raj Kapoor family would just pounce on the food,” recalls Asha Bhosle with a laugh. “One day after a dinner, R.D said to me, did you know I’m very proud of you? I laughed and said proud of my singing or my cooking? He replied, “I’m proud of your presentation in both. Just as you know how to sing each song, you prepare and present your cuisine, in the same meticulous and delectable way.”

People say that the diva was born with her special gifts for singing and cooking, but Asha says, that on the contrary, her outstanding achievements in both have been due to hard work, experimentation, and the sincerity and love she puts into each. “Both in music and cooking, presentation is the key. One time my youngest son Anand came home unexpectedly with some of his friends and said they all needed to be fed. At that short notice I created a dish of spicy rice and eggs and these young, very hungry growing boys ate very well. When they left, this then young, adolescent son of mine said to me with great aplomb, “I’m very proud of you! Now all the boys will go home and say Anand’s aai (mother) is an awesome cook!’ Now her 3 and a half year old grandkids are singing the same refrain. They don’t want the chef to make dinner; they want their grand mother to whip up all the dishes for them.

As all her family and friends were relishing the hundreds of recipes Asha had created and hundreds more, that she had picked up, the natural suggestion was to ask her to come out with a cook book. “But I refused,’ says Asha. “ I felt there are thousands of cook books lying all over the place. Learning from a written recipe is never the same as learning it hands on. Then my kids said okay let’s open a restaurant and you can train the chefs.”

And thus was born ASHA’S. Two supremely successful restaurants opened in Dubai and Kuwait, under that name, and a third one is about to open in Birmingham UK, highlighting everything, from Asha Bhosle’s recipes to melodious and other moments from her life.

Each restaurant is unique because apart from her own mouth watering recipes, the menu has recipes from celebrities and family members. There is the Chingli Chaap: Jumbo prawns marinated in spicy ginger-garlic yoghurt, breaded and deep fried. The recipe was courtesy the late Rahul Dev Burman.

Then there is her daughter Varsha's Fish Biryani, made with kingfish and flavored with exotic spices and almonds.

There is the Awadhi Dahi Machli: Hammour fillet cooked in spicy yoghurt gravy, courtesy the late actress Chandbala from the black/white film era and the Kesar Lamb Biryani with saffron flavor, courtesy of Raj Kapoor’s family.

The secret 'masala' for the dishes is made by Ashaji, and gives the food it's unique flavor. “I always make the spices from scratch, and that is how I have trained my chefs,” she says. People love her Biryanis and kababs and a mince meat curry that she has perfected. Her Goan fish curry is also to die for according to actor Shashi Kapoor.

The design of the restaurants is contemporary as is the music with Ashaji's unique hits thrown in for good measure, says her son Anand. However, the international clientele feels at home too because the music is not the typical sitar and sarod kind, associated with Indian restaurants everywhere. There are pictures depicting Asha Bhosle’s personal journey as well as with other Indian and international celebrities.

In spite of the rich ambience, service and fine food quality, prices are reasonable and competitive with any other fine dining establishment.

Ashaji pays special visits to the outlets whenever she can and quite frequently her friends and guests from bollywood can be seen dining at the restaurants!   

Do you have a favorite restaurant in your city that you would like to review for Kavita?

Email your piece to editor@Kavitachhibber.com.


SPECIALTY RECIPES

Here are two specialty dishes (one non-vegetarian and one vegetarian) courtesy of Asha Bhosle.

NASHEELI RAAN

Portion size 4

Leg of lamb   4 Χ 850 gms
Kashmiri chilli powder 200gms
Shahi jeera   50gms
Malt vinegar   12 liter
Ginger garlic paste  100gms
Green cardamom powder 30gms
Mace powder   30gms
Salt    70gms
Cinnamon sticks  20gms
Bay leaf   20gms

Method:-
Trim and marinade Raan with all the ingredients, Cook the Raan up to 95% in slow fire .Let it cool in same stock. Put the Raan in tandoor. Tandoor temperature should be 270c when the color emerges take out from the tandoor: cut in to pieces basting with butter, put lemon juice, chat masala, and serve with mint chutney.


VEGETARIAN SHAMMI KEBAB

Portion size   8Yam    750 gms
Banana raw   250gms
Potato big   250 gms
Kebab chinni   20 gms
Salt    5 gms
Ghee    200 gms
Turmeric powder  20 gms
Chana daal roasted powder 350 gms

For stuffing
Onion chopped  500 gms
Mint leaves   50gms
Chilly green   50gms
Yogurt    500gms

Method:-
Boil the yam and raw banana, potatoes with turmeric and salt. Grate three of them, put desired salt and kebab chinni powder and roast chana daal powder. Keep it at side. Make the reduction of curd, mint, onion, green chilies. Fill this reduction in that mixture. Make pan cakes as required. Put ghee in a frying pan place these pan cakes in the pan. Make them crisp and brown serve with mint chutney.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in your city that you would like to review for Kavita?

Email your piece to editor@Kavitachhibber.com.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the interviewee(s) and/or authors and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.


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