After his show featuring his culinary adventures in Peru, celebrity chef Vicky Ratnani is ready with the second season of Vicky The Gastronaut, where he will be taking viewers on a trip to the continent Down Under to explore the cuisine there.
Starting his journey in Melbourne, the chef decided to introduce his viewers to the city’s iconic restaurants. “I had the most amazing experience there. We started our trip on the Great Ocean road, one of the most beautiful coastal routes in the world. We participated in a few activities, visited some great sights like The Twelve Apostles, which is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park. We also went to the Split Point Lighthouse which is a lighthouse in a small town called Aireys Inlet along the road, and we stopped at a few great restaurants. But that’s not all, knowing me, we also managed to do some cooking along the way. We made a delicious French lobster preparation,” he says.
The series sees him making his way to South Australia, to the Barossa Valley near Adelaide, followed by the island state of Tasmania and then back to Gold Coast. “Australia is a melting pot of cultures, traditions and flavours. Each part of the country has its own cuisine, somewhat like India. But you can’t compare the complexity and variety of Indian food to Australian cuisine,” he says, adding, “You’d be surprised if I told you that you can find the best Greek food, outside Greece of course, only in Australia. There’s something for everyone to eat and relish.”
Talking about Australia’s culinary culture, the chef says, “The cuisine there is all about the local produce. Besides Australia’s very well-known love for kangaroo meat, sea food is also quite popular. They also produce good quality olive oil. A few chefs are making it a point to use indigenous ingredients and put it on the menu. The Moreton Bay bug, which is internationally known as Flat Head Lobsters or Slipper Lobsters, are found in Moreton Bay, near Brisbane, Queensland, so that is a local delicacy. Then there are some things that are used by the Aboriginals, like quandong which is a type of fruit, it is also called native peach. Then there’s paperbark, which is a leaf that they use to cover and cook food just like we use the banana leaf. There are some very typical Australian fish we came across as well, and how can I forget Macadamia nuts?”
But he didn’t just go around travelling, sight-seeing and relishing the delicious food that the country had to offer. Ratnani’s main motive was not just to discover the cuisine of Australia, but to use this knowledge to create innovative Indo-Australian fusion dishes.
“I realised one thing — if you’re using Indian spices, you’re not just making a curry, you know. The spices can be added or treated in many different ways,” he says, adding, “When I was making these fusion dishes, I was using minimal ingredients for flavour, like salt, pepper and cumin. For another preparation, I just used salt, garam masala and turmeric. So this made me realise that you don’t have to overload your food with spices as, at some point, you want to taste the product you’re making, the main focus of your dish. We, as Indians, often tend to layer our food with a whole lot of spices. But if you have good produce, I suggest you use spices in a prudent way.”
He talks about the interesting fusion recipes he tried out on his trip. Since the Australians love their meat grilled, Ratnani cooked a Laal Maas-inspired barbecue. “I love Laal Maas, it’s a Rajasthani dish. The meat is cooked very slowly with red chilli powder, salt, old spices and roasted in ghee,” he says, adding, “I tried a fusion dish with abelone, a typical Australian sea food, where I used Sambhar masala. I also made a Lavender Khichdi.”
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You can watch The Gastronaut on Vicky Ratnani’s channel on YouTube and his Facebook page. This second season will have 17 episodes. New episodes will release every Monday