Niven’s Spice Island of the Cayman Kind

GCM Niven Dinner A frame_withNiven_finalsmallThose of you in Grand Cayman are in for a real treat.  For the first time since returning to Miami this spring to assume the leadership role of our flagship kitchen, MGFD chef de cuisine Niven Patel heads back to the Cayman Islands today, his old stomping grounds, for not one but TWO events!  Tomorrow night at the Camana Bay restaurant, enjoy his “Genuine Family” dinner, a beautiful union of local ingredients and Indian flavors prepared the genuine way.  Then on Thursday, Niven will be among several local chefs each cooking for a table of 10 at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman at “Out of the Kitchen,” its annual event benefitting a local culinary scholarship fund.  For reservations, please call the restaurant at 345.640.6433 or email

Last night back home in the Design District, Niven shared a preview of the magic going along for the ride in two spice mixes, homemade sev (gram flour passed through the tiniest crank-run extruder imaginable,) and pani puri, sun-dried chips made from semolina flour and flash fried before our eyes into a crispy hollow vessel for something delicious.  In India, it’s typically a potato or aloo filling with tamarind water and cilantro, a refreshing street food treat!  One of the spice mixes is for his Local Vegetable Byriani, a pot-“roasted” or “fried” rice dish usually made with basmati, sometimes a protein, and spices.  Niven’s combines black cardamom, cinnamon, clove, tumeric, black pepper, coridander, cumin and dried mango powder, a special ingredient often found perking up chaats (savory street food snacks!)  The other intoxicating mixture is for grilled leg of lamb, including fennel seed, star anise, and something a little more exotic than we are used to but now want to get to know – fenugreek.  This plant is cultivated worldwide and used most commonly in Indian cuisine for its seeds, used in the preparation of pickles, vegetable dishes, daals, and spice mixes like this one, imparting a savory sweetness that is hard to describe but deliciously present in the background.   It is also used as an herb (dried or fresh leaves) and vegetable (fresh leaves, sprouts, and microgreens.)

Boy are we sad to miss out on our gentle Indian’s island adventure, and even more fearful of the hunger pangs that will be inspired by his Instagram, but maybe, if we are lucky, some of these dishes will creep back to home base!  Actually we don’t need luck. We have Niven : )