Skip to main content

Lunch with Neha Sen – Masterchef’s dancing cook




Small in size but extra big in personality, Neha Sen graduated from burnt rice and carbonised dahl to the Masterchef kitchen in just six years.

Her elimination over a silly baking paper mistake is now history but nothing is going to stop this girl from taking on the cooking world like a culinary whirling dervish. I expect it won’t be long before I can walk into a supermarket and buy Neha’s delicious  King Island Kulfi  with a sesame snap (looks like ice cream, but denser and creamier and tastes like heaven) straight of the shelf. 

I lunched with Neha and her husband Marcus on the back deck of their inner city Brisbane home enjoying Neha’s Indian/Australian fusion recipes including Kangaroo Kurry with Coconut Rice (see the recipe below).

Although her conversion to cooking is recent, there’s no doubting Neha’s expertise. One mouthful of the Kangaroo Kurry confirms she has a deft hand with flavours but according to Neha, some members of her family still need to be convinced.




"I didn't learn to cook at all until I came to Australia from India to further my education," she says.  "I was living in Townsville attending James Cook University and living on takeaway pizza and Coke when my Singaporean- Indian landlady took me in hand and introduced me to cooking.

"I also started Skyping with my mother back in India and had quite a few long distance cooking lessons. That was really the beginning of my fascination with blending the flavours of India and Australia.”

Blending has been a key word throughout Neha’s life. As a child, Neha travelled throughout India and gained an early understanding of its diverse regions and customs.

"Both my parents are doctors and my father served in the Indian Army for more than 20 years. Every few years he would be transferred and I was exposed to different cultures, languages and food every time we moved.”


Neha filled the water jug with mint and slices of lemon and cucumber which was deliciously refreshing.


It was a laugh-filled lunch as Neha shared stories of her fabulously eccentric family, her early cooking disasters and her journey from living on takeaway pizza and Coke to the kitchens of Masterchef.

Neha holds a Masters in Information Technology and an MBA from James Cook University and has been working as a senior marketing and communications adviser for an information technology company in the Brisbane CBD, but she now intends to make food the focus of her professional life.

"I am passionate about the food of India, but also about all that Australian food has to offer. I want to devote my energy to projects that showcase the food and dance of each country to the other, that combine the two in interesting ways.”
"Being in Masterchef exposed me to some of the best chefs and industry professionals in Australia. It made me realize that food was where my future lay and that it was up to me to pursue my dreams."

"Masterchef undoubtedly increased my culinary skills and brought me a step closer to doing this but now the hard work really begins."

"My long term goal would be to own a restaurant serving contemporary Indian and Indian-inspired dishes that express who I am as an Indian Australian, an elegant place that showed my love of art, design and food. However, my immediate venture is to work on Indian inspired ice creams for Australian palates. I’d love to work on TV shows with a mix of food and culture - a bit like 'Food Safari' but with the dance floor in the mix!"

"I’m happiest when I’m cooking, sharing and eating in the company of family and friends. I want to move this love for food from being my passion to my profession."


Neha's cardamom kulfi

Filled with the warm inner glow that comes from time spent in good company with good food, I can only wish Neha every success.  Not that she will need it once the world tastes her kulfi.


Coconut rice and Kangaroo Curry are the front two dishes

Neha’s Kangaroo Kurry with Coconut Rice

 

Kangaroo Kurry

Ingredients:

1 kg kangaroo meat diced into 1inch pieces
4 tbsp yogurt
2 tsp garam masala powder
4 tbsp veg oil
4 medium sized onions chopped fine
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp ginger finely chopped
2 tbsp garlic finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilli powder- add more if you like the curry hot
2 large tomatoes chopped fine
2 tbsp ghee
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
Sugar to balance flavor
Half bunch chopped coriander

Curry Powder mix:

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
7 cloves
2 inch cassia sticks
2 bay leaves
6 green cardamom pods
2 pieces of mace
2 tsp nutmeg powder

Method:
 
1. Marinate the kangaroo in yogurt and the garam masala overnight
2. In a heated pan, add all the ingredients of the curry powder mix expect the nutmeg and roast till they are aromatic. Allow them to cool and grind them in a spice grinder. To this powder, add the nutmeg powder, mix together and keep aside.
3. In a pot, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds and let them splutter. Add the onions and sauté them till they are light brown and soft.
4. Add the ginger and garlic along with 2 tsp of salt and continue to sauté for another 10 minutes till it starts to become a paste. Add a bit of water, if the mixture starts to stick at the bottom of the pot.
5. Add tomatoes, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for another 10 minutes till the tomatoes are cooked and merge with the paste consistency. Add a bit of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and check if it is sticking to the base of the pot. If it does, add a bit of water and mix.
6. Add the marinated meat and mix and cook for 5 minutes. Cover the pot and let it cook for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, uncover and check the meat. It should have left its own water.
7. Add the curry powder mixture and mix, cover the pot and let it cook for an hour. Check the pot from time to time to see if it needs a bit of water, mix and let it cook again. If you like a thicker curry, uncover the pot and reduce the water content of the curry.
8. Once the mutton is tender, check the seasoning, add the lime juice and stir in the coriander and serve.



Coconut Rice:

Ingredients
¼ cup coconut cream
¾ cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1 cup basmati rice
2 bay leaves
2 cassia sticks
4 green cardamom pods
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Method:

1. Soak the rice in water for an hour and then drain the water.
2. In a pot, heat the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the bay leaves, cardamom and 
cassia sticks and fry for a few seconds till it is aromatic.
3. Add the rice to the pot, and fry in the spices for a minute.
4. Add 1 cup of water, coconut cream and milk and stir.
5. Add sugar and salt and cover the pot and cook the rice till done.
6. Serve hot.

Kerry Heaney

Disclaimer: Ed+bK was invited to lunch with Neha.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Brisbane's top 10 'chew with a view' restaurants and cafes

It's a beautiful day! Where can you go and dine in the warm sun with a view that you'll never want to leave?

Here are ten top places in and around Brisbane to while away a lunch hour or a whole afternoon when the weather is warm and the skies are blue .

River Quay, South Bank

South Bank’s River Quay precinct has plenty of opportunities to relax in the sunshine and just about any restaurant at River Quay will offer a great spot for a winter lunch with a large, grassed lawn rolling down to the river bank.  You can even lie in the sun if you so desire.

Stop for champagne, oysters and more at Cove Bar and Dining, enjoy French provincial food at Aquitaine Brasserie, take in the river view from a Balinese daybed while you tuck into the contemporary menu at The Jetty, feast on Italian cuisine at Popolo or sip a long drink on the riverside deck of Stokehouse Q where the menu draws on local produce combined with bold flavours from the Mediterranean.

River Quay is the spot for Sunday …

Thar she blows - how to hunt whales the friendly way

A grunt and a spurt of seawater rising into the air show the position of a mother humpback whale and her three-week-old calf.

I'm on purpose-designed whale watching boat and we have motored for an hour over the calm seas of the great sandy straits up the coastline of Fraser Island





Captain Phil tells the 50 or so people aboard that the tip of the island is where we will see the whales and he is right.

Our first mother and calf are a little shy at first, keeping the boat at a good distance but I can clearly see the much smaller calf swimming strongly beside its mother.




I'm fascinated by the large circles of calm water that float past us and Phil tells us these are whale footprints

"They break the water tension when they flick their tails to swim down resulting in the clear circles on the water,” Phil says.

Sailors used whale footprints to track whales back in the bad old days when whales were valued more for their blubber than their beauty.

Our next mother and calf are a l…

Lunch amongst the lavender in the Scenic Rim

It was time to brush the cobwebs off the motor bike over Easter and head out of Brisbane into the beautiful Scenic Rim.

We started down the highway towards Beenleigh in beautiful autumn sunshine and stopped for a coffee at The Outpost Cafe at Canungra.  This is a well known bikies hangout but don't expect too much in the way of chains and dreadlocks - it's more favoured by the middle aged bikie enjoying the freedom of the road second time round.

The road less travelled is always our favoured route for this type of outing and we back tracked through Rathdowney before reaching our destination for the day, Kooroomba Lavender Farm about 65 minutes from Brisbane in the Scenic Rim at Mt Alford near Boonah.

Autumn is not the premium time for viewing either the vineyard or the lavender but the view across the valley to the mountains was still outstanding.  The building has a New Zealand lodge feel to it with plenty of stone walls both inside and outside, complimented by timber and ex…

Ten top things to do in Noosa Heads

It doesn't matter how many times I head down the hill on Noosa Drive towards the ocean, I still get a little shiver of excitement every time. This very special part of the world has achieved international recognition for its unique environment and I am privileged to be able to dip my toes into it on a regular basis.

Here are ten of my favourite Noosa pastimes.





1. Although it’s always tempting to sleep in, I don't like to waste a moment of the day when I wake up in Noosa. The best way to start is in the coffee queue at Sails on Hastings Street and then a stroll along the winding boardwalk to the National Park, koala spotting along the way.





Depending on my mood and energy level, I continue the walk through the park to enjoy the beachside views. Some like to run it. You can pick up a coffee at the information hut in the national park as well.





2. After a bit of exercise there's nothing like a big breakie at Aromas and a spot of people watching. With t…

Lots to explore at Brisbane's South Bank

Four markets in one day - what a way to spend a Sunday!

We started at the organic markets at Downy Park, Windsor which was not such a good idea. Why? Well we took the dog and the place was full of puddles - he's a corgi with very low legs - it all ended up being very messy.

Also, these markets definitely finish up on their advertised closing time of 10.30am.  Call me slow or just plain lazy but I find it hard to get out and about early on a Sunday morning. We arrived primed for breakfast at 10am just as everyone was shutting up - they had even run out of bread for French toast!

However, this market was just the first on our list. Next, we drove to South Bank Parklands to explore the Young Designers Market and the Granite Belt Flavours Market - both on the same day.

Several designer/clothes/jewellery purchases later, K2 subdued his inner male and agreed to look for the Granite Belt Flavours market which was not in its usual spot.  On the way, we walked through the regular South Ba…