Meet Vanie Padayachee, Executive Chef at new Franschhoek hotspot Marigold where she makes magic with her innovative and utterly mouthwatering take on North Indian cuisine.
VANIE, YOU’VE HAD A BUSY FEW YEARS! TELL US WHAT YOU’VE BEEN UP TO?
In 2013 I came back to Le Quartier Français, the restaurant where my culinary journey began and on my return we started offering Spice cookery classes for hotel guests. I had missed cooking Indian food, which I absolutely love, and soon the classes became weekly fixtures. When the Leeu Collection bought the hotel, I stayed on as the chef for Marigold where we serve absolutely authentic North Indian cuisine.
WHAT STYLE OF INDIAN FOOD WILL WE FIND AT MARIGOLD?
Being a born and bred Durban girl, I had been exposed to South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine but not North Indian, and so I took myself off to Dehli in order to learn more. I was fortunate to have had a private tutor who enabled me to understand the true authenticity of the cuisine, with this knowledge I was able to build a menu that has integrity.
WHAT ARE THE HALLMARKS OF NORTH INDIAN CUISINE AND HOW ARE YOU REFLECTING THEM ON THE MARIGOLD MENU?
Fresh ingredients are everything in North Indian food and ghee, cream and butter are very important components too. I’ve opted to create lighter versions of traditional North Indian cuisine using less of the fats – it’s more about the flavour and less about the dishes being too rich.
HOW ARE YOU REFLECTING THE CURRENT SEASON ON THE MENU?
I’ve always been passionate about sourcing fresh local vegetables that are in season and that has continued at Marigold. Currently a supplier brings me beautiful young Okra (Bindi), and any other interesting and relevant produce that I find gets incorporated into our menu.
WHAT SIGNATURE DISHES ARE PEOPLE RAVING ABOUT?
Some of our most popular dishes are the Palak Chaat (fried spinach with yoghurt), and our Murg Makhani (Butter Chicken) in a smoky tomato gravy. Our Lamb Rogan Josh is a big favourite – I use lamb knuckles which make it that much tastier. Our Kulfis (also known as Indian ice creams) are also a hit – we make a different flavour every day.
WHAT FEEDBACK ARE YOU GETTING FROM CUSTOMERS AND CRITICS?
Our customers love the layers of spice that come through in the dishes. I’ve also had comments on our use of aubergines which we cook in the tandoor oven. Once they’re cooked, we chop and braise them with fresh coriander, tomatoes and ginger. Also, people seem to love the care we take in presenting our dishes – and the huge selection of side dishes are also a hit. Of course the presentation is a big talking point and I try to make things as interesting as possible without losing out on the integrity of the dish and the flavours.
WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT LIFE IN THE MARIGOLD KITCHEN?
Everything! I love the smells wafting through the kitchen when the curries are braising, the smell of the tandoor when the breads are being cooked and the smell of fresh ginger and garlic being braised. It feels like I’m a child again in my childhood home.
WHICH SPICES EVOKE MEMORIES FOR YOU?
The smell of cumin, coriander, curry leaves, ginger and garlic being braised takes me straight back home. My gran was a great cook and she used to cook on open fire – the food really was so much more delicious.
WHAT IS THE MOST VERSATILE SPICE IN YOUR KITCHEN?
I love cumin, coriander and Kashmiri spice. Cumin and coriander are beautiful spices, they are just so robust and full of flavour and Kashmir spice adds colour and a bite to the curries.
If you’d like to enjoy Vanie’s delicious North Indian cuisine for yourself, call Marigold Restaurant on 021 876 8971 to make a reservation, or click here for their website.
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