Navneet Kumar Nandolia is the Indian-born chef at JLT’s innovative, quirky Indian restaurant, Spice & Ice.
After starting his career with Trident Hotels, he moved on to work with the Oberoi and the Taj Group of Hotels. Here, he describes the restaurant’s menu, philosophy and his ideas…
Tell us about Spice & Ice’s menu.
Our menu has a progressive, modern approach towards Indian food. It’s inspired by a diversity of regional cuisines from India, including street food. There are dishes inspired by cuisines such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese and many more. You can find dishes like chilli paneer gyoza, spinach and fenugreek ravioli and gulab jamun cheesecake on the menu. But we aim to serve traditional Indian dishes to keep the authenticity of the culture and cuisine.
You do some molecular gastronomy – can you tell us more about that?
We have many dishes prepared using molecular gastronomic techniques. We use different methods and products to make caviars, spheres, dusts, crumbles, foams, airs and many more textures. We also use liquid nitrogen and dry ice in some of the dishes for instant freezing and to add a visual appeal to the dishes. Some of our molecular menu options include the chaat trolley, deconstructed papdi chaat and nitro rasmalai.
What’s the most popular dish? Describe it for us.
Bhatti paneer is one of the most popular dishes on the menu. We marinate cottage cheese in bhatti masala, which is a blend of different spices including cumin, black pepper, mace, cinnamon and green cardamom. It’s then cooked in an oven and served with classic korma gravy and curry leaf-infused riso pasta.
How authentic is it?
All the flavours are authentic in the dish except one ingredient – pasta.
Why do you think there’s an upswing in molecular gastronomy in Indian restaurants?
Indian cuisine is vast, and there are many unaccounted flavours from all over the country, while molecular gastronomy happens to be a unique, trendy food concept of recent times. People have experienced the same Indian flavours for a long time. We believe molecular gastronomy now brings a different approach to the same food and flavours. It attracts the audience who enjoy these flavours, but also those who love to see beautifully presented food using modern food techniques. I think molecular gastronomy will spread much further, especially in India where people are now after something different.
What’s your favourite dish? On the menu? At home?
One of my most favourite dishes is laal maas, (see recipe, below) which can be found on our menu at Spice & Ice. It’s lamb cooked with mathania chillies and smoked with cloves. At home I love a regional dish of my state, Himachal Pradesh, known as lasode ki subzi, a vegetarian preparation of glueberry (Indian cherry).
What do you most enjoy cooking?
I enjoy cooking meat the most. I am big meat eater, so love cooking any type of meat.
Who inspired your career as a chef?
I have always been inspired by Chef Heston Blumenthal, and truly became motivated when I met Chef Amit Vashist. He is a big support and motivator to me, and is one who guided me to be what I am today.
You offer a number of different nights…which is your favourite?
My favourite night is Sufi night, which happens every alternate Saturdays. It consists of live Bollywood music sung and performed by talented artists and is always popular with the crowd.
Where will your career take you next?
I will be doing more experiments with Indian flavours and definitely cooking more molecular dishes. We are planning to open up a branch of ‘Spice & Ice’ in London, so maybe you will find me there!
Chef Navneet’s Laal Maas Recipe
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 18-20 red chillies
- 2 tsp. coriander seeds, whole
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 cup mustard oil
- 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped.
- A small piece of ginger, finely chopped
- 1/2 kg lamb, cut into pieces with bones
- 1 tsp. salt or to taste
- 3-4 pods cardamom
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 cinnamon stick
- A little bit of mace
- 1 pod black cardamom
- A handful of coriander leaves, chopped
- 1. Dry
- 1. Dry roast the red chillies to give a nice distinctive aroma, which adds great flavour to the dish.
- 2. Add the coriander seeds and cumin seeds.
- 3. Once done, grind into a nice fine powder.
- 4. Heat some mustard oil in a pan. Add the garlic and ginger to the oil.
- 5. Once the garlic turns slightly brown, add the lamb pieces.
- 6. Give it a good mix. This is also a good time to add salt.
- 7. Now add the chopped onions and mix well.
- 8. Once the onions have roasted well, add the whole spices, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, mace, and black cardamom. Give a good stir.
- 9. Now add the red chilly powder and let it roast for about a minute.
- 10. Now add enough water to cook the lamb. Cover it and let it simmer for a couple of minutes till the meat is cooked.
- 11. Once the meat is cooked, take out all the pieces on a platter and strain the gravy.
- 12. Straining the gravy gets rid of all the whole spices and keeps the essence and flavours intact.
- 13. Now add the lamb pieces you had taken out to the refined gravy and put it back on fire but on low heat.
- 14. Add about 1/2-cup water and some coriander leaves.
- 15. Let it simmer for a while. When you reach a good consistency of gravy, turn off the heat.
- 16. Serve hot.