Into the Pantry with chef and food writer Auroni Mookerji
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Copywriter-turned-chef Auroni Mookerjee’s kitchen is like an alchemist’s lab. Large glass jars filled with spices and berries steeped in myriad-coloured liquors are crammed against each other. These are Mookerjee’s precious collection of home-brewed bitters, something that adds to his repertoire as a mixologist.
In fact, one of the first things that I see when I walk into his home, apart from two languorous cats, is the giant pull-out liquor cabinet painted a cheery yellow. Mookerjee is extremely proud of his bar, which brims with everything from Japanese whiskies to small-batch sloe gins and craft ales from around the world. And of course there are little glass dropper bottles with his signature gondhoraj and garam masala bitters.
His love for shaking up a good cocktail permeates other shelves in his pantry. “I always have gondhoraj and Italian lemons because they make for great zest, which I use in my Old Fashioned and Sazerac cocktails, and once you have had a whisky sour with an Italian lemon, there is just no going back,” says Mookerjee.
His pantry is a reflection of a maverick cooking style that combines regional Indian flavours with Western cooking techniques and plating. Inside his refrigerator, masala sausages from the Jor Bagh Steakhouse in Delhi jostle against reindeer sausage from Scandinavia and handmade chorizo from Goa, while little glass bottles of dried spices and pickled odds and ends are stacked on the shelves. They feature everything from Himalayan jimboo (a wild chive) to juniper berries, gongura and dried mahua flowers from his parents’ farm outside the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Mookerjee’s pantry is like a palette—from which he picks different elements to create unusual marinades, spice blends and sauces.