Home Food Al Saray’s chef duo, Mahdi Zehri and Sampooran Singh Panwar, spice it up with these two recipes

Al Saray’s chef duo, Mahdi Zehri and Sampooran Singh Panwar, spice it up with these two recipes

by Shaan Bajaj

Time to take your tawa out for these two recipes!

By Shaan Bajaj

Dining at Al Saray is a unique experience, as their menu encompasses both authentic Lebanese and Indian cuisine, thanks to the expertise of their chefs: Lebanese-born Mahdi Zehri’s speciality lies in Lebanese cuisine, while Sampooran ‘Sam’ Singh Panwar is a master of Indian cuisine. I sat down to talk to them both about where their love for the culinary arts began.

“Since young, I love cooking and it is my passion,” Chef Mahdi tells me, citing his 14 years of experience. “Food is my life, and I was born to be a chef.” Meanwhile, Chef Sam learnt the craft by working his way up from a dishwasher to a chef, and now has 25 years behind him. “I also come from a family of chefs; I was intrigued by how my father could cook such tasty food and wanted to try it for myself,” he recalls.

At Al Saray, they both bring their combined expertise to create dishes that showcase their heritage and make people happy through food. Chef Mahdi’s advice to aspiring chefs is, “If you’re passionate about cooking, don’t be afraid to learn. When you’re passionate, you will succeed as your passion is born with you,” while Chef Sam nods in agreement and adds, “work hard and keep learning, there is always more to learn.”

They both shared with Masala a recipe each that represents home to them: Mahdi chose Baba ghanouj, a dish that he says is “special to me as I grew up watching my mum make it. It’s an easy yet delicious dish to make, and a classic dish in Lebanese cuisine”; while Sam shares his recipe for Shrimp tawa, inspired by the flavours of Indian street food. “This recipe is inspired by home-style cooking,” he tells me. “The spices and style used represent the type of food you usually make at home.

Follow along the recipe to make the dishes below!

SHRIMP TAWA

PREP TIME: 15-20 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 10-15 MINUTES
SERVING: 2 PEOPLE

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 600g shrimp
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp mustard oil

FOR THE MASALA:

  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp garlic, chopped
  • 100g onions, chopped
  • 250g tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp green chilli, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chaat masala powder
  • Salt
  • 10g fresh chopped coriander

GARNISH:

  • ½ tsp crushed coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp red chilli flakes
  • Fresh coriander leaves

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Clean the shrimp and set aside
  2. Clean and chop the vegetables and set aside
  3. Heat oil in a pan
  4. Sauté the chopped onions until light brown
  5. Add the chopped garlic and chilli, and sauté for 2-3 minutes
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt, and cook until pulpy
  7. Add the coriander powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, and chaat masala. Mix well
  8. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes
  9. Add fresh coriander, fresh lemon juice, and salt. Mix well
  10. Garnish with dry coriander seeds, chilli flakes, and coriander leaves
  11. Serve with naan, paratha, or basmati rice.

BABA GHANOUJ

PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 15 MINUTES
SERVING: 2-4 PEOPLE

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g smoked eggplant
  • 10g olive oil
  • 10g lemon juice
  • 5g garlic
  • 1g white pepper
  • 10g pomegranate molasses
  • 50g tomato
  • 500g smoked eggplant
  • 50g green capsicum
  • 5g spring onion and mint
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pomegranate seeds (to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Grill the eggplant over hot coals or in an oven until soft
  2. Run the eggplant under cold water to remove the skin
  3. Chop the eggplant into big cubes
  4. Marinate with garlic, salt, lemon juice, olive oil, white pepper, and pomegranate molasses
  5. Add tomato and green capsicum
  6. Mix gently
  7. Garnish with spring onion, mint, and pomegranate seeds.

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