Eating Local + Re-imagining local produce: A Mid Summer Night’s Dream
This food pop-up titled the Mid- Summer Night’s Dream was an ode to childhood summer memories using produce available locally in summer
This Lébu Supper, Summer edition in association with Openout was a premium food pop-up serving a limited edition meal, meant to be like a summer interlude that you wished for appropriately titled ‘ A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’, with a relaxed vibe. It was our excuse to drink starfruit cocktails all afternoon while appreciating simple produce available in the Indian markets re-imagined into contemporary dishes.
‘Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind”. This song perfectly captured the mood as 16 people gathered at an open flat one summer afternoon. The Bangalore summer breeze floated in through the huge french doors of the balcony and as guests sat own at the table they had a view of colourful flowers and hanging planters overflowing with green foliage and a clear blue sky.
A few strangers, a carefully prepared degustation menu, appropriately titled ‘A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream’. What’s so special about it you say? Each dish celebrated a hyper local summer produce.
Now, a spotlight on local seasonal produce. The idea started taking shape when I as a food lover, would struggle to find vegetables been represented appropriately at restaurants. Sure,there are a few restaurants who are looking at local produce but I could count them on one hand. And that is not enough. So, I am always looking to bring local produce in the limelight. The fact is that the right way to eat is to have what is in season, how our ancestors ate, but we forget. Second seasonal produce tastes better. Somewhere living in big cities, with little time on our hands, we don’t even cook or eat the way we ate when we were growing up. I really feel that our generation has to bring back local food, cooking with local ingredients, cooking more ; for the sake of the earth & for the sake of how our future generations eat.
So, this food experience was created to focus on summer produce and give guests the chance to look at produce and think of possibilities. On the menu was watermelon, starfruit, muskmelon, cucumbers and ice apples. To complement there was Mahi Mahi fish and things which make Indian summers bearable ,like buttermilk.
A cool dip in the pool, Fresh watermelon with home-made ‘chana’ cheese and crackers
As people came in and introduced themselves , the conversation flowed along with a starfruit & whiskey cocktails (who knew whiskey can be a summer drink). The tart & sour flavour of the starfruit juice was refreshing with a pinch of salt & red chilli powder to complement. The next course was as cool as a dip in the pool; a muskmelon & mint gazpacho (or cold soup). The next course was with the summer classic ingredient; watermelon balls paired with home-made ‘chana’ or ‘cottage cheese’ flavoured with salt & oregano served with a sprinkle of crackers.
By this time the conversation was tinged with laughter and jokes, like old friends meeting. The community table set-up helped. What also added to it was that the food was served course by course with an interlude between each course where I took them through the inspiration behind every dish, every creation; all derived from a summer memory.
The next course was inspired by a particularly strong memory of the pond at our ancestral home, which was covered with water hyacinths, many a summer was spent to try not fall in that pond but the temptation was too real. This dish is inspired by that memory. a new take on the classic Peruvian dish, a Ceviche (raw fish cured & marinated with lemon) made of a summer special fish rolled in a cucumber roll and floating on a pond (reduction) made of tart & sour Mosambi (sweet lime) & chilli.
The next main course was from the memory of a wish, a wish that was conceived in childhood and fulfilled in adulthood. A wish to spend a summer by a river fishing.
The final main dish was a delicate sweet water river fish poached in buttermilk ,the fish was made soft with butter swimming in the cool buttermilk sauce with a few note of chives & served on a bed of mushroom rice. We had to end on a sweet note, like the summer romance that lasts for a fleeting moment but leaves the memory of a lifetime , so the dessert pudding made of refreshing ‘ice apples’ and milk had a lasting effect.
The lunch extended till 11 in the night , the conversation kept going on. I was exhausted from all the cooking, my husband , Vivek was tired from all the hosting and making drinks throughout the afternoon, but we were so so happy that people came and appreciated not just the food but the hyper seasonal produce. That they understood that we need to have more of the local produce, that there are beautiful ways to enjoy it. My biggest compliments of the evening was from a vegetarian guest who had tasted non vegetarian food maybe once or twice in her lifetime and loved the ceviche and the fish in buttermilk dish, also another guest simply loved the cold musk melon soup which he declared as the best soup he ever had. My job was done. Local & seasonal produce got their place in the sun.
This Lébu Supper Summer edition in association with Openout was meant to be like a summer interlude that you wished for appropriately titled ‘ A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’, with a relaxed vibe. It was our excuse to drink starfruit cocktails all afternoon while appreciating simple produce available in the Indian markets re-imagined into contemporary dishes.
Wondering about things to do Bangalore? Read about other Lébu Suppers here.
Lébu suppers are a series of pop-up suppers often inspired by travels, inspired by local & international cuisines but always made with local & often indigenously grown ingredients, all in intimate settings. The purpose is to appreciate the beauty of ingredients, foster a deeper connection with food and enjoy food that is created with the intention of leaving a memory of the familiar and new flavours.
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