Owner and executive chef of Sidart, Cassia and Sid at the French CafĂ©, Sid Sahrawat has cemented himself as one of the country’s most celebrated chefs. With a string of successful restaurants to his name, he is now expanding his empire with Cassia at Home, a curated selection of sauces, spices and blends for at-home cooks.Â
The idea for Cassia at Home started when… COVID-19 made us pivot to offering takeaways, some of our guests asked if we could just sell them some Cassia sauces so they could mix in their favourite proteins at home. Some guests who are vegetarian wanted to try the Korma Sauce with paneer but as itâ€™s paired with market fish on our menu they couldnâ€™t try it. So Cassia at Home is really borne from our regulars who supported us through COVID-19. Â
A dish or two I love to create with the sauces… confit (slow cooking) duck legs and then adding our Makhani SauceÂ which is essentially butter chicken sauce but without any cream (itâ€™s made with cashews). I call it butter duck and itâ€™s a great one for Sundays. Another one is taking a whole cauliflower and marinating it overnight with our tandoori spice mix, yogurt and salt. The next day you drizzle some oil and roast the cauliflower for an hour and you have a delicious whole roasted tandoori cauliflower that you can enjoy on its own or with some of our Cassia at Home Korma Sauce.
Cassia’s Butter Duck with Makhani Sauce
My journey into cooking started when… I left for culinary college after Year 10, not knowing where exactly I would end up as I wasnâ€™t academically inclined. I thought I would be at the front desk of a hotel making my way up to management level but when I was doing my rotation in the kitchen I fell in love with cooking and the creative aspect of it. I havenâ€™t looked back.
I hope… that Cassia at Home sauces become a staple for home cooks turn to when they are in a rush but need something delicious for dinner, something they can trust and rely on for weeknight dinners. For those of who do have the time I hope our Cassia at Home Spice Kits provide a resource to experiment and create new and exciting recipes. Once you start infusing spices into your meals you wonâ€™t look back and the possibilities of what you can create are limitless.Â Â Â
My favourite food memory… as a kid, eating Aloo Parathas that my nanna made for me each Sunday. My nanna would add ground cumin, ground coriander, ground chilli, salt and a touch of ground turmeric to mashed potatoes then roll out a wholemeal flatbread. She would put a dollop of the mashed potatoes to the middle fold the dough around the potatoes and roll out a perfectly round paratha. The hot griddle sizzled with ghee and she flipped the paratha and lightly fried it. Nanna served it with a dollop of home-made butter. I used to be fascinated watching her roll out paratha after paratha until my tummy was so full it felt like I would explode. To this day I can demolish a few parathas for brunch given a chance.
The best culinary lesson I’ve learnt… cook with instinct! If you feel like a dish needs something more be it a herb, seasoning or spiceâ€¦ just go for it. The worst that can happen is that the dish wonâ€™t turn out how you expected but you would have learnt a lot. On the other hand, you may have unknowingly created a masterpiece.
Chand and Sid Sahrawat at Cassia, photography by Greta Kenyon
My food hero is… Rene Redzepi from Noma, he constantly evolves his restaurant experience and pushes boundaries. From putting ants on the menu to completely changing his restaurantâ€™s location and now dealing with the impact on COVID-19. Noma is regarded as the best restaurant in the world and Rene quickly adapted and started selling burgers to help his business survive and keep his staff employed. I have huge respect for that.
A kitchen rule I like to break… they say cook with wine you are happy to drink. Well, I break that one as I am not putting some of my cellar wines into a coq au vin! We keep some wines under $15 aside for cooking with so itâ€™s not cask wine but decent enough, that way the great vintages stay in my glass.
A kitchen rule I would never break… resting meat after cooking it. There is no reward to rushing it and not letting the meat relax back after its been touched by heat – unless you like to eat chewy meat that is.Â
Five local restaurants I love… Apero for beautifully cooked French cuisine and perfectly paired wines.Â Gochu because I love bold flavours and Korean food at Gochu doesnâ€™t disappoint – ever. Chef Casey McDonald is cooking some amazing dishes at the restaurant at Craggy Range in the Hawkes Bay. I donâ€™t go to bars often but I like Clipper in Ponsonby, their take home cocktails borne out of COVID-19 are spectacular.Â Nanam in Takapuna is another familyÂ favourite, our kids love the taco pao and longganisa there.Â
Chef Jason Kim’s Gochu is a favourite dining spot for Sahrawat
The best book I’ve read recently… Eleven Madison Park – The Cookbook by Daniel Humm. The book has some awesome techniques and flavour combinations in it that are very interesting.
In the last six months, I’ve learnt… Normality and the routine life seemed mundane before but 2020 has made me appreciate the value ofÂ “same old every day” because we canâ€™t take our daily life and routines for granted any longer. Going to the gym, going to work and cooking for dine-in guests, eating out and travelling are freedoms I have come to be grateful for.
If I weren’t a chef, I would be… playing sport professionally either tennis or cricket.
My dream dinner guests…. Ferran Adria from El Bulli, Robin Williams and my late father.
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For my death row meal… I would want a feast. If I had to choose one dish it would be a nice tomahawk beef with a side of truffle mac nâ€™ cheese and fresh shaved truffles.Â
The Cassia at Home range is available now from the restaurant, online at cassiarestaurant.co.nz and sauces available at Farro Fresh.Â
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