The Incurable Cook Tells Us About Bombay Picnics
What is Bombay Picnics, you ask? It’s the ideal weekend plan. The kind where you enjoy a lazy afternoon out on a terrace, make the most of the weather and good company. All with a steady supply of nostalgia-inspired nibbles. We caught up with the brains behind Bombay Picnics, Rajat Mendhi, who also runs a food blog by the name The Incurable Cook. So far he’s hosted three editions, across two picture-pretty locations, with the promise of more to come! Here’s his story…
On leaving advertising to cook
“When I was growing up, I overheard a conversation my dad was having with my older cousin about work and career paths. He I think was quoting Confucius, when he said, “Most of us have two options, we can either do work that helps pay for the things we love doing or do the thing we love and never feel like we’ve worked a day.” At that time, I didn’t quite understand what this meant. I knew I loved food, cooking and feeding people, but I also thought it was a hobby. And how do you make a hobby a careers!? (Note: It was the ’90s)
By January 2015, I had done BSc Maths, had an MBA and had been working for 11 years in advertising and achieved reasonable success. I still loved food, cooking and feeding people, but this love just felt deeper now. Suddenly, what my dad said began to make sense. Moreover, Instagram and social media made it harder for me to run away from facing it because I saw incredible people doing incredible things with food and their love for it.
In June 2015, I took a break from work and went to Le Cordon Bleu, London, to study and deepen my understanding of food. From all the books I had read and friends I had spoken to, I knew it was a place I wanted to study at. After the course, I came back equipped with more excitement, focus and skills. I bottled all this up, and went back to advertising to shore up my saving for my life after.
I quit advertising in January 2018 and spent the next 6 months cooking at home every day to find myself and what I wanted to do. In September 2018, The Tight Slap was born – a pop up food stall that showed up at many flea and food markets across Mumbai in 2018 and early 2019. It focused on pimped-up skillet egg sandwiches with a tight slap of flavours and then in March 2019, Bombay Picnics happened.”
On nostalgia-fuelled Bombay Picnics
“Picnics, as an idea, came to mind when I was meeting a dear friend about doing a pop-up at her stunning bungalow-studio in Bandra. When I was looking at the space, the cooling shade of the jackfruit tree in her backyard, it transported me back to summer holidays in Jamshedpur and family picnics with freshly fried poori aloos.
I put the idea up as a post on Instagram and opened it up for registrations. In less than 24 hours I had hundreds of people signing up for invites. This just reinforced my belief in it and that’s how Bombay Picnics came about. We did our first picnic on 31st March.”
On the Bombay Picnics vibe
“The idea of ‘Bombay Picnics’ is simple: it’s a micro holiday. And we do this by getting out and around to open or covered spaces (depending on the weather) in Bombay with all the trappings and cosiness of the inside along with a bunch of interesting people, music and lots of food that evokes nostalgia, but with our contemporary take.
Keeping that in mind, the vibe and setting is open, airy, and casual. We throw in hints of nostalgia with bed-covers as table cloths, instant cameras for picnickers to take photographs with, a few board games, and lots of vibrant colours through the use of flowers and plants. It’s a picnic after all!”
On the (delicious) Bombay Picnics spread
“Since picnics for a lot of us are about nostalgia, our 5-course menu is about evoking that, but with our contemporary take.
In the past, we’ve turned the humble poori aloo from my childhood picnics into puff pastry pooris with shaada aloo and wasabi pea gremolata. We’ve super charged oranges that were handed to us at school picnics into a frozen citrus salad of Valencia oranges and Sriracha syrup sorbet, blood oranges and grapefruit, with a sesame vinaigrette and gochujang peanut brittle. These are just a few.
Here’s a taste!
“One of my favourites from my school picnics growing up was my mum’s egg salad sandwich. I love eggs and I love egg sandwiches. Maybe all of that love came from my mum’s egg sandwich. This recipe is my take on it where I’ve used my version of Sauce Gribiche, a classic French sauce made with boiled eggs that can also be an egg salad, over butter fried sourdough toast. It’s great for parties and Sunday breakfasts.”
5 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
3 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tsp of your favourite salad vinegar, I use malt vinegar
6 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp roasted fennel seeds, ground
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
3 tsp gherkins, roughly chopped
3 tsp capers, drained
2 tsp parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 slices of good sourdough bread, cut into halves.
Whisk together the Dijon mustard, the vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil to make the vinaigrette base.
Add in the roasted and ground fennel seeds, chilli powder and mix well.
Mix in the capers, some cracked black pepper, the chopped eggs, gherkins, and parsley leaves.
Season to taste, but first check the salt levels before you add any. There should already be enough from the Dijon, capers and gherkins.
Serve over hot toast that’s been fried in butter in a pan until it’s brown and crisp on both sides. I’m going to let you decide how much butter you want to use, I use 4-6 teaspoons for 4 slices of bread.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Bombay Picnics. Sign up here!