Man of many pasta-bilities

Manish Uniyal

My professional journey began 19 years ago and it has been rewarding and educational. When I joined the kitchen for the first time after graduation, I realised how different it felt. Not only did I learn about different cuisines and cooking techniques, but I also learnt about the flavour palates of customers hailing from different regions. 

As long as I can remember, I liked cooking. I enjoyed helping my mother a lot in the kitchen. 

In the 90s, there were a lot of new hotels and restaurants coming up. I also took a great interest in the cooking shows that came on TV. Years later, when I had to decide what I wanted to do for a living, there was no doubt in mind that the culinary industry is where I want to be. Nothing else in the world gives me joy as much as I knowing that people are enjoying my food. 

The first few years of my career laid a strong foundation. My first boss, chef Vijay Nagpal, influenced and shaped my views on the importance of the basics and laying emphasis on taste, technique, and presentation while creating menus. Later on, during my days as a sous chef at Hyatt Regency Mumbai, chef Deepak Bhatia encouraged me to develop an unhindered approach in carving out my style of cooking.

The most distinguishing feature of my work as a chef, I believe, is a great team ethic along with a passion for excellence. I compare my work to that of an orchestra conductor — he is a pro at playing various instruments but standing on a rostrum with a baton, he is able to put his thoughts and compositions in one single piece of art.

Even with my varied knowledge of cuisines, Mediterranean is my favourite. It is one of the healthiest cuisines too. I love using olive oil, fresh veggies herbs, whole grains, light meats, fish and cheese. It is really amazing how a single region can bind various cultures, countries into one single distinct cooking style. 

At my first job, I received an opportunity to work with expat chef who taught me a lot. He was easy in his ways and in some way this was a turning point in my career. One day, he rustled up a very rustic dish – The Timballo di Melanzane translated to ‘a mould of brinjal or eggplant’ with cheese and pasta. This dish though very simple and easy to make requiring no professional set up was delicious. This stuck with me and I modified and presented versions of it in different menus. After 20 years it is still very relevant and this dish is what I would love to share with others. 

(Manish Uniyal is the head chef, Hyatt Centric MG Road Bengaluru)

Recipe: Timballo diMelanzane


Timballo diMelanzane

Ingredients

- Eggplant, 2 

- Tomatoes, 2 

- Green peas, ¼ cup

- Boiled macaroni, ¼ cup 

- Mozzarella grated, 1 tbsp

- Crushed garlic, 3 cloves

- Olive oil, 3 tsp

- Basil leaves, 4 

- Oil to deep fry

- Salt to taste

- Crushed pepper to taste

Method

- Slice the eggplant into thin slices, sprinkle with salt and leave to rest on a kitchen towel for 20 minutes.

- In a pan, boil some water and blanch tomatoes for about 8 seconds, drain the water and refresh tomatoes in an ice bath.

- Peel off the skin and remove seeds. Roughly chop and set aside.

- In a saucepan, heat olive oil, add crushed garlic green peas, tomatoes and pasta, cook for some time and add torn basil and, season with salt, pepper. Remove from heat and add grated mozzarella.

- Deep fry the sliced eggplant and drain on a kitchen towel.

- Take a small ceramic bowl and line it with the eggplant slices, draping them lengthwise and overlapping them up to the sides of the bowl.

- Fill up the bowl with prepared mixture, fold the overhanging slices of eggplant in over the top of the bowl; the mixture should be completely encased by the eggplant.

- Now the Timballo is ready, cook it in the microwave for a minute on medium power.

- Invert the bowl onto a plate and remove it to present.

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