Food News

Christine Manfield is cooking a vegetarian Indian dinner in Melbourne

She’ll be joined by New York’s Babu Ji chef Jessi Singh, for one night only.
Chef Christine Manfield

Chef Christine Manfield (Photo: Supplied)

Veteran chef Christine Manfield is teaming up with Jessi Singh (of Sydney’s mod-Indian restaurant Don’t Tell Aunty) to host a one-off dinner at Melbourne’s Horn Please restaurant in February. The event will feature the chefs’ favourite meat-free dishes from the Indian subcontinent, and coincides with the release of a new edition of Manfield’s award-winning cookbook Tasting India.

Manfield – a member of a quartet of chefs (Neil Perry, Stefano Manfredi, David Thompson) who ruled Sydney’s fine-dining scene in the ’90s – has long held a love of spices in her cooking. She’s published a cookbook on spice, two books about Indian food and travel, has her own range of curry pastes and sambals, and has travelled to India countless times for research.

In Australia, she’s held in high regard as an authority on Indian cuisine. “She’s one of the few chefs in Australia who has taken Indian food very seriously and brought it into the mainstream,” say Singh. “Her love and knowledge of Indian food is incredible.”

Inside Melbourne’s Horn Please (Photo: Supplied)

On the night, expect a line-up of shared Indian fare, with some modern tweaks. Singh – executive chef at Horn Please, and owner of Don’t Tell Aunty (Sydney) and Babu Ji (New York City) – will be serving his signature Colonel Tso’s cauliflower, a dish incorporating Indian, Chinese and American culinary influences. The name riffs on the American-Chinese General Tso’s chicken, except instead of chicken, Singh steams and deep-fries cauliflower, then coats it in tomato-and-chilli-based Manchurian sauce.

Jessi Singh’s signature Colonel Tso’s cauliflower (Photo: Chris Chen)

The dish is typical of Singh’s “unique approach” to Indian food, says Manfield. “He’s great at exploring and expanding on the traditional boundaries with a modern interpretation of flavour combinations while still retaining their authenticity.”

As well as the cauliflower, the shared entrees will include Singh’s yoghurt kebab (a spiced yoghurt croquette with beetroot and ginger sauce), and Manfield’s sweet and sour tomatoes and green tea pakora.

For main course, each diner will receive a thali featuring six curries, the tamarind-based broth sambar, as well as rice, raita, naan and pappadums. To finish, there will be kulfi, the Indian-style ice-cream, and plates of syrupy gulab jamun, which resemble deep-fried doughnut balls.

Don’t Tell Aunty’s thali (Photo: Chris Chen)

To celebrate the new edition of Tasting India, all Manfield’s dishes come from the cookbook. On the night, diners will be able to buy signed copies of the book, meaning they can recreate the evening’s flavours in their own kitchens.

An Indian Affair: Christine Manfield x Jessi Singh

Wednesday 27 February, 6pm or 8.15pm

Horn Please, 167 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North, Vic

$60 pp (excluding drinks)

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