Celebrity gastronome Terence Pillay goes in search of authentic Indian cuisine and finds himself at Jeera on Durban’s beachfront.
Pictures: CHRIS LAURENZ
When my friend Nic Burden and I socialise, it usually involves food. As foodies, we both enjoy trying new and inventive menus at a variety of restaurants. And this is how we happened on Jeera, Suncoast Hotel and Towers’ signature restaurant on Durban’s Golden mile.
Both Nic and I eschew buffets but Jeera’s colourful menu allows for a culinary exploration of an array of delectable authentic Indian dishes from all corners of India; and all in a buffet setting that’s reminiscent of a wedding reception in Jaipur.
The name Jeera is therefore particularly apt since jeera is in fact the Indian word for cumin.
Cumin, sometimes spelled cummin is a flowering plant native that’s found anywhere from the east Mediterranean to India. Its seeds are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, particularly Indian, in both whole and ground form.
Jeera is a stylish, modern restaurant that caters to anyone looking for fine Indian cuisine. At the helm of the restaurant’s sophisticated and appealing approach to food is Executive Sous Chef Sandren Govender. When it comes to spices, you would be hard pressed to find anyone more knowledgeable about the subject than this quietly spoken, talented chef.
Sandren says while he trained as a chef, his passion for food, in particular Indian cuisine, was ignited early in his youth, by his mother and grandmother from whom he learned traditional techniques and flavours.
So now when he blends spices for what are fast becoming legendary dishes at Jeera, he nods back to his days as a youngster intently watching his mother cook and learning from the experiences.
The Jeera menu is vast and sumptuous and there’s something for everyone. And if the buffet doesn’t take your fancy, then a la carte is an option.
But of course with dishes like an array of delectable curries, butter chicken, a variety of salads, pickles, Indian condiments and desserts, the buffet is the way to go.
If you’re ordering a la carte, the whimsical Millionaire’s curry – a luxurious feast of crayfish, prawns, scallops and line fish will take your taste buds on a luscious spice journey. This dish is at top of the menu, in my opinion, and caters for those who fancy a bit of opulence on their plate.
At the extreme end are the chef’s gourmet bunny-chows that come in a tasty variety of butter chicken, lamb curry and prawn curry filling all on one plate. Diners now have the opportunity to sample all three vibrant flavours in specially baked petite bread cases.
“Durban is the home to the humble bunny chow,” Sandren explains.
“We on the other hand have decided to re-invent this popular dish by adding a five star touch to it. We have created a gourmet experience by serving this dish with premium curries served in custom made bread. It doesn’t get better.”
After a chat with Sandren I found out that Jeera prides itself on using fresh, hand-ground spices in all its dishes and Sandren sources prime cuts of meat and poultry, and a premium selection of fish and shellfish for the restaurant.
And as if this isn’t enough, Suncoast Towers Hotel Spa is bolstering its own therapeutic menu to compliment the authentic Durban Indian flavours served at Jeera; a first for the city.
The experience begins with a cleansing ritual using a sandalwood scented scrub paired with a chai tea drink to warm you up before the starter, which is a lime, jeera and mandarin exfoliation paired with a smoked salmon blini topped with lime and mandarin dressing.
For mains, you can indulge in the cinnamon, clove and mustard full body massage followed by a yoghurt, mint and honey body wrap. This is complemented with an aromatic chicken tikka wrap served with a braised jeera raita.
The rose water and coconut pedicure is incorporated in the dessert course and paired with the sweet decadent flavor of traditional Indian sweetmeat, coconut ice.
It really doesn’t get any more luxurious than this!
For booking you can contact Jeera on 031-3147878 or visit them at Suncoast Towers, 20 Battery Beach Road, Durban.
Lentil, Spinach and Cashew Nut Curry
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cup masoor dhall (brown lentils)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
- 1 (14 ounce) can light coconut milk
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1/3 cup whole cashews
- 1 cup fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- Fresh coriander
- In a large pot saute the onion in the oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
- While the onion cooks get the rest of the ingredients ready to go.
- Add in the curry powder, mustard seeds, turmeric and Brown lentils – cook for another five minutes.
- Be careful not to let the lentils stick to the pan by stirring frequently and/or adding more oil if necessary.
- Mix in the coconut milk, salt and water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low,
- Cover the pot and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent it sticking.
- It’s unlikely, but if you find the lentils have absorbed all of the liquid and is still not cooked, add a bit more water.
- Once the lentils are cooked they will break down quite a bit and you’ll have a reasonably thick consistency. Stir in the cashews and spinach, along with coriander
- Give those ingredients about 3 or 4 minutes to warm through and then you’re ready to serve.
- Garnish with additional coriander