Chef Amir Nizam – from Mumbai to Boksburg
In the 20 years that he has been in the culinary industry, Boksburg resident Amir Nizam has trained at some of the best hotels in the world, including the Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai, the Oberoi Hotel Mumbai and the One and Only Hotel in Cape Town.
Now he can now be found sharing his expertise and advice with the students at Capsicum Culinary Studio’s Boksburg campus.
Says Nizam: “Training is my passion, it helps me to connect and share knowledge, and it also means I can instil the basics in future chefs right at the very start of their careers.
“My advice to my students is that if you want to be successful you have to have a passion for the field that you have selected and you have to work hard, be self-disciplined, humble and never give up.”
To find out more about the person behind the chef’s apron, we asked the amiable Nizam a few questions:
What was your biggest food influence growing up?
The incredible street food in Mumbai and a small bakery in the city that was a family favourite. They used to produce the most amazing breads and pastries.
Did you have anyone special who mentored you in your career?
Chef Satish Arora, a veteran of 50 years at the famed Taj Group. He has trained more than 5 000 chefs in Indian cooking and many of them are now Michelin-starred. He is said by many to be the ‘godfather of Indian cuisine’. Also, Chef Matthew Arnold who is an incredibly talented pastry chef.
What is your motto?
Never give up.
Name four things always in your fridge or pantry:
Red chilli powder, eggs, butter, hot sauce.
What would be your last meal?
A mutton biryani.
Is there anything you do not eat?
If you had to cook dinner for five famous people, who would they be and what would you make them?
Shah Rukh Khan (Indian actor), Salman Khan (Indian actor), Usain Bolt, Deepika Padaukun (Indian actress), Amir Khan (Indian actor) and I’d make them my mutton biryani.
Do you have a favourite celebrity cook?
Chef Vikas Khanna. He is an Indian chef, restaurateur, cookbook writer, filmmaker and humanitarian. He is also one of the judges of MasterChef India.
What are three latest food trends?
Gastronomic foods, chocolate art and sugar garnish
What chef do you admire most and why?
Chef Satish Arora. Because he is so versatile chef and can cook just about anything – from Indian to continental cuisine, he can do it all and he does it magnificently.
Finally, we asked Nizam to share his Mutton Biryani recipe with us and here it is below.
1 kg mutton shoulder, cut into bite-size pieces
½ cup curd
¼ tsp turmeric
1½ tsp salt
2 tbs ghee
2 tbs oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
½ cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
3 onions, thickly sliced
1 tbs ginger garlic paste
3 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp garam masala
½ cup milk¼ cup water
Wash and clean the mutton and pat dry with paper towels. Place the mutton in a large bowl. Combine the curd, turmeric and salt and pour over the mutton. Mix well and cover and marinate for at least 2 hours. Add ghee and oil to a large pressure cooker and allow it to heat up on a medium flame. Add cumin seeds, cloves, bay leaf, cardamom and cinnamon and fry for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add sliced onions and fry for 2 minutes or until the onions are slightly browning. Add ginger garlic paste and tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the marinated mutton and cook on high for 4-5 minutes till the mutton starts browning. Add chilli powder and garam masala and stir to combine. Add the milk and water, stir and ensure that they are well mixed. Tightly seal the lid and pressure cook on medium for 25-30 minutes. The mutton, once cooked, must be fork tender, but should not fall apart.
Serve with cooked basmati rice.