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October - November 2009


Lifestyle

Celebrating Indian food this Diwali

by Kanika Tandon


Sweets, crackers, diyas, fun, celebration and laughter everywhere – a perfect scene for this festive season, but it can be even more special if you make some sweet dishes for your loved ones instead of buying them from the shop.

Cooking has been an integral part of the Indian upbringing, but our fast-paced lifestyle demands quick-to-cook food. Here, we bring to you some of the finest chefs and food experts from Britain and India to guide you through a hassle-free Diwali dessert preparation. These famous five – Anjum Anand, Atul Kochhar, Tarla Dalal, Nita Mehta and Sanjeev Kapoor– share with you one exclusive recipe of their own design.

Besides this, they reveal how they entered and fell in love with the world of ingredients and cooking. Read their words of wisdom for those who dare not step into the kitchen or profess that cooking is not their cup of tea. Find out what’s keeping these masterchefs occupied these days. As you glide through the pages, you may actually start looking forward to the red letter day when Anjum Anand releases her own brand of Indian products or when Atul Kochhar releases his latest book titled Curries of the World. By the way, did you know that he has declared India as food destination by starting a gourmet tour to India?

So what are you waiting for? Turn the page and start your odyssey of a delicious and mouth-watering experience. You never know, you might be starting your own long journey of becoming a pro with the small step of trying out the recipes recommended by our guest experts!


Atul Kochhar

Celebrity chef and Chef Director, Benares Restaurant and Bar, London

Food has always been the central part of my life due to my father’s passion for food. Cooking is my life. In my opinion, everybody should know how to cook. It is a survival skill as important as swimming or as essential as breathing. Some people are born privileged to have food cooked for them all their lives and develop great palates, but when it comes to understanding the evolution of basic cooking, they are a complete failure.

There is nothing called NRI cooking. Whenever a family migrates to a new habitat, it takes its values and ethos of life with them. Over a period of time, everything mixes with the new culture and so does the food. It becomes a wonderful blend of two cultures and gets the name of “fusion”.

Fusion is not bad – it is really evolution. This fusion takes place within India everyday due to its cultural diversity. You really don’t have to become an NRI to do this. It has been happening within India for centuries. This is how Muslim food became a part of Indian food over centuries – otherwise, it is purely a foreign influence on our Hindu society.

Today, quick and healthy eating is a trend because in nucleus families both partners are working – there is no time to cook. There are zillions of combinations that can be made into this format. For an instant inspiration, most of the healthy street food salads from India would qualify for this.

Diwali cooking is special. For me, Diwali is the most significant day of the entire year. As a practicing Hindu, I take great pride in this festival and cooking pure vegetarian meal with all the ethos and authenticity is a norm in my family.

I have suggested Badami Phirni for Diwali cooking as it holds a special place in my life. My father used to make this every Diwali for us among zillions of other things and it has become a part of mine and my siblings’ Diwali celebrations.

I am looking forward to the release of my new book called Curries of the World

from Absolute Press, UK. It will be out in 2010 autumn. Also, there are numerous shows I will be appearing on. I have declared India as a Food Destination by starting a gourmet tour to India with Indian Odyssey from next year onwards. My most exciting project for next year is Sindhu – By Atul Kochhar on Azura–a new luxury super liner by P&O Cruises in April 2010.

Badam Phirni

Ingredients

· 12 nos. Almonds

· 4 tablespoons Rice flour

· Two-and-a-half cups Milk

· 5 tablespoons Sugar

· 8 strands Saffron

· 1 teaspoon Cardamom powder

Method of preparation

Blanch and grind the almonds to a fine paste with half a cup milk. Mix together the ground almond paste and rice flour and keep aside.

Bring the milk to a boil. Add the sugar and stir till the sugar dissolves. Keep aside a tablespoon of hot milk and dissolve the saffron in it. Add the almond-rice mixture into the boiling milk along with the saffron.

Stir continuously for a few minutes till the milk thickens and attains a custard-like consistency. Sprinkle in the cardamom powder. Take off fire and cool to room temperature.

Pour into individual bowls, garnish with almonds and pistachios.

Refrigerate till it cools and then serve.


Anjum Anand

Celebrity food writer

I have always loved to cook but it was not something I did regularly until I wanted to cook healthy Indian recipes for myself. Ever since then, I have been hooked, at times obsessed. Cooking is my way of being creative and nurturing myself and others at the same time. I love to cook for others. I rarely cook just for myself anymore. Cooking is not so difficult, anyone can cook. You just need to step into the kitchen and have a good teacher to guide you. Simply enjoy the process of cooking, you have nothing to prove to anyone. Unfortunately, life is very busy and few people have the time to cook as our parents did. So meals have become something rushed and convenience-based even if flavours and nutrients have to be sacrificed to the altar of time.

The healthy-eating trend, though, is a good one. Indian food can be heavy and very salty and many people of Indian origin, even in the West, have a high incidence of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. It is in our own hands to minimise these predispositions and eating a healthy diet is the way to start.

Diwali cooking is special for me as I feel it is imbued with more love and care than other meals. The recipe that I share with you is from my book Anjum’s New Indian and uses lentils in a dessert. It may seem completely unappetising but you have to trust me here. Some of India’s best desserts are made with lentils and other such grains. I absolutely love it. The soft sweet lentil paste, crisp filo, fresh cream and desiccated coconut make it a wonderful and elegant dessert.

I am looking forward to my next book based on Ayurveda. I focus only on the nutritional side of Ayurveda and have tried to make it really accessible to those who are unfamiliar with it but are looking for better health. I talk about the three doshas, body types, and advise how one should eat to balance their dosha and be a healthier person. I am also planning on launching my own brand of Indian products which are there to make cooking Indian food at home a lot easier.

Sweet Lentil and Coconut Mille Feuille

Ingredients

· 150g Split Bengal gram (chana dal), washed well and soaked for as long as possible. I leave them overnight so they cook in 20 minutes

· 6 tablespoons of sugar

· ¼ tablespoon (tsp.) cardamom powder

· Small grating of nutmeg

· 1 packet filo pastry

· 100g butter, melted

· 240ml double cream

· 4 tablespoons desiccated coconut

· Icing sugar to finish

Method of preparation

Boil the lentils in plenty of water around (20-40 minutes) until very soft. When a scum forms on the surface, skim it off and throw it away.

Drain and purée with a hand blender adding enough water to make a fine paste. Place back in the pan with 4½ tablespoons of sugar and the spices. Cook for about 6-8 minutes or until the whole thing comes into a soft lump. It hardens as it cools.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

For the filo crisps. Take 3 sheets out of the roll at a time and cover the rest with cling film as you work. Brush each sheet with a liberal amount of butter, sprinkle with a little of the remaining sugar and cover with another sheet. Brush again with butter and sprinkle with sugar and place the remaining sheet on top. Brush with butter. Take a pastry cutter and cut out 6 circles. Repeat with another two lots of sheets of three. (It takes less time than it seems).

Place the 18 circles on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. If you want them to have a flat finish, top these with another sheet of the paper and another baking sheet. I like the top ones to have more character and colour so normally leave at least 6 un-pressed. They take around 5-6 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Whip the cream to soft peaks. Place the lentil paste in a piping bag (or in a sandwich bag and snip off the end. Pipe the paste in a circle on top of 12 discs, it should completely cover the base and be about ¾ cm thick. Sprinkle these with ½ tablespoon desiccated coconut each. Spread or pipe a heaped tablespoon worth of the whipped cream on top of the coconut. Make up your stacks by placing one bountiful disc on top of the other cream side up and top with a plain filo disc. You can serve them immediately or place in the fridge until ready to serve. Bring back to room temperature, dust liberally with icing sugar and serve.


Sanjeev Kapoor

Celebrity chef and famous food writer

I come from a family of foodies and good food has always been high on the list of our priorities. Since my father was in a transferrable bank job, we travelled quite a bit around India and were exposed to cuisines of different regions. Even as a kid, I used to dabble a lot in the kitchen during holidays. After school, when I took admission in the Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, it was natural that I chose the kitchen to specialise in.

Cooking means a lot to me. It can be an extremely therapeutic and rewarding experience, especially when you are tensed. I love experimenting and churning out new dishes. Very often I think of a new dish in my sleep. There have been times when I have got up and gone into my kitchen in the middle of the night and come out with tasty dishes which are much-appreciated by others. If you handle the ingredients with love and cook with concentration, you will surely be successful in churning out a tasty dish. It may take you a while to become an expert but with practice you can achieve a lot.

The cooking of Indians settled abroad is largely influenced by the climate, closely followed by the availability of the typical Indian ingredients. They may have altered the spice levels in their food, but primarily, we Indians have this knack of taking our food habits wherever we go and successfully adapting it with the local conditions.

Diwali for Indians means loads of good food that you can share with your loved ones. Since I always like to do things differently, I am sharing the recipe of Eggless Pineapple Mousse. It is easy to make, extremely delicious and I am sure it will be enjoyed by most. Pure vegetarians have always missed out on mousses because of the presence of egg. This eggless recipe of mine is perfect for them. But if you are watching the waistline, this dessert is best reserved for those very special celebratory moments!

I will soon be coming out with a book of recipes for the Diabetics. Besides there are quite a few titles which are in various stages of production and should be hitting the market one after the other in the very near future. We have also launched Wonderchef which provides a unique opportunity to housewives to form a business of their own marketing some of the world’s best cookware through networking.

Eggless Pineapple Mousse

Ingredients

· 6 canned pineapple slices, at room temperature

· 2 teaspoons gelatin

· ½ tin (200 grams) sweetened condensed milk

· 3 teaspoons lemon juice

· 250 grams cream

· A few drops of pineapple essence

· A few drops of edible yellow colour

· 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

· Glace cherries, as required

Method of preparation

Mix the gelatine with half cup water in a small pan. Heat on low heat, stirring continuously, till it dissolves.

Take the condensed milk in a bowl and beat till light and creamy. In another bowl mix the lemon juice with half a cup of pineapple syrup from the tin.

Chop five slices of pineapple. Add the pineapple syrup and pineapple to the condensed milk.

Pour the gelatine solution into the condensed milk mixture stirring continuously. Freeze the mixture for half an hour till it is thick.

Remove from freezer and beat till smooth.

Add two hundred grams of cream and set aside the remaining cream for decoration. Add pineapple essence and yellow colour and beat well and put it back in the freezer for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Remove from freezer and beat again till smooth. Pour into a serving dish and freeze for one hour or till set.

Whip the reserved cream with powdered sugar.

Remove the mousse from the freezer. Put the whipped cream in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and form rosettes on the surface of the mousse. Place a glace cherry on each rosette and serve immediately.


Nita Mehta

Celebrity food writer

I am a home science graduate and cooking is something which I find intensely rejuvenating and refreshing. The aroma of a freshly cooked meal rewards you with a joy and satisfaction that one gets from doing a job well done. The personal touch which you can add to the food you cook makes it special. Cooking unwinds you and is something I will recommend to everyone.

A lot of people who have never cooked before come to me for cookery classes. One such student had to cook a sweet dish for her parents-in-law soon after she got married. She told me later that her cooking was much appreciated and that her mother-in-law even gifted her with a gold chain. With many such instances to quote, I believe that food strengthens bonds and relationships. It is a well known idiom that the route to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

However, in today’s fast-paced world, we need to rush everything, even cooking. That is why I suggest people to keep prepared ingredients (chopped vegetables, puréed tomatoes etc.) ready in the freezer so that it’s easy when you want to cook in a jiffy. The stress today is to make the recipe simple, quick and least time-consuming, that is why many of my recipes focus on the need for jhatpat khana (instant food). Cooking should not scare anyone away from the kitchen. Anyone can cook and people can cook from a cookbook!

I have shared the recipe of Kesar Phirni as Diwali demands something special and sweet. Kesar Phirni is a dessert which is quite popular with the young and old. My family absolutely loves it. It is very simple to make with easily available ingredients, and it’s not too heavy on the stomach.

Diwali is a time to start new things. I have released two new books Snacks for Children and Cookbook for Controlling Diabetes. I hope people will like them the way they have loved my other works. We are also planning an all India network of cooking centres and have centres planned in Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Bangalore to start with.

Kesar Phirni

Ingredients

· 3½ cups (700 gm) milk

· 1/3 cup Basmati rice

· 1/3 cup sugar (slightly less than ½ cup) or to taste

· 25 almonds, blanched and ground to a paste with some water

· 4 almonds (badam)-shredded

· 5-6 green pistachios-soaked, peeled and sliced

· 2 small silver leaves, optional

· Powdered seeds of 2-3 green cardamoms (chhoti illaichi)

· One drop kewra essence or 1 tablespoon ruh kewra

· A pinch of yellow colour for decoration

· A few rose petals dipped in cold water, a few strands kesar (saffron) soaked in warm water

· A few fresh anaar ke daane (Pomegranate seeds).

Method of preparation

Soak rice of good quality for about 2-3 hours and then grind very fine with 4 to 5 tablespoonfuls of cold water to a paste. (You may soak rice overnight & keep in the fridge.)

Dissolve the rice paste in ½ cup milk and make it thin.

Mix the rice paste with the remaining 3 cups milk in a heavy bottomed pan. Keep on fire and cook on medium heat, stirring continuously, till the mixture is of creamy consistency, about 5 minutes.

Add the kesar (saffron) water or a drop of colour, sugar and cardamom powder and stir. Simmer till sugar is fully dissolved and then boil for 5-6 minutes on medium heat.

Remove from fire. Add almond paste. Mix well.

Add ruh kewra or the essence and half of the shredded almonds and pistachios.

Pour the mixture into six small earthen containers. Allow it to chill. Decorate each dish with a silver leaf, rose petals, kesar and the remaining shredded nuts. Top with some fresh anaar ke daane (pomegranate seeds).


Tarla Dalal

Celebrity food writer

My experiments in the kitchen began soon after I discovered that my husband was an avid food lover. He was instrumental in encouraging me to try cooking different kinds of cuisines at home. So, I began researching and working on the conversion of non-vegetarian recipes into vegetarian recipes. Soon, non-vegetarian Italian, Mexican. Chinese recipes were all converted into vegetarian dishes, which was unheard of at the time.

Today, my focus has shifted to total health as that is the need for the day. I have now written special recipe books for diabetes, cholesterol, pregnancy etc. thereby proving the phrase “Your health starts in your kitchen” right.

Cooking today is as much a science as it is an art. You should make an effort in the kitchen to try some simple recipes. Do not take cooking as a burden. People should not shy away from cooking. It is not difficult to cook. If you make an effort in the kitchen, cooking can become an enjoyable experience.

Anyone can learn to cook if they follow some basic guidelines. The first rule is ‘don’t panic’. Relax and take it easy. You should begin by familiarising yourself with the kitchen and the ingredients. Start by choosing a simple recipe from your favourite cookbook and then move on to dabble with the more complex ones.

The festival of Diwali is synonymous with mithai or sweets, and households across the country still spend considerable time and effort in making a wide variety they can share with friends and family. For this Diwali, I would suggest Rose and Almond

Ice-cream for all the health freaks. With the goodness of almonds and the freshness of rose petals it is ideal for the occasion of Diwali. It is a truly delicious combination of rose petals, which act as natural coolers, and almonds, which enhance brain function! Take care to select fresh, pink-coloured rose petals, and wash them thoroughly before use. They are easily spoilt so buy them fresh just before you plan to make this lip-smacking dessert.

I have just released Mumbai’s Roadside Snacks and Wraps & Rolls for which I received thrilling reviews. I would soon be coming out with my latest book on post-pregnancy weight loss.

Rose and Almond Ice Cream

Ingredients

· 2 cups of low fat milk (99.7% fat-free, readily available in the market)

· 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of corn flour mixed with ½ cup low fat milk (99.7% fat-free, readily available in the market)

· 3 to 4 sachets sugar substitute

· ½ cup fresh rose petals (pink)

· 2 tbsp chopped almonds (badam), lightly toasted

· A few drops rose essence

Method of Preparation

Heat the milk in a broad non-stick pan. When it starts boiling, add the corn flour mixture, mix well and simmer till it coats the back of a spoon, stirring continuously. Keep aside to cool.

Add the sugar substitute and rose petals; mix well and pour into an airtight container. Refrigerate for at least 4 to 6 hours.

Blend in a mixer till slushy in consistency; add the almonds and rose essence and mix well. Pour back into an airtight container and freeze till the ice cream is set. Serve chilled.

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