I am introducing a new section on my blog called "Top 3 of the Week." It will focus on new books, products, etc that I review for the week.
To launch this section, let's chat about three new Indian cookbooks that have hit newsstands recently.
The first one is Modern Indian Cooking by Hari Nayak and Vikas Khanna with a introduction note from Daniel Boulud. This book is reflective of the charming chefs who wrote it - it is young and flavorful and provides some interesting twists on Indian dishes. I had a lot of fun with it and enjoyed the ease of the recipes.
1. What inspired you to create this book?
As a professional chef and an adventurous home cook, I often tend to try out different flavors & ingredients in my cooking. I love to cook Indian food but I also like to incorporate my experience and knowledge about other cuisines into whatever I create.
During this process a new style of cooking was created. I recreate Indian recipes that I cook with non Indian ingredients & my favorite western recipes that I love to cook with Indian ingredients & flavors. Food is all about flavors and inspiration for me. I love to explore the blends of tastes and flavors that occur between different cultural and ethnic cuisines, that is one of the reason that inspired me to write this cookbook.
2. How did you and Vikas collaborate?
Vikas and I are very good friends and we share a great professional rapport .I have known him for almost 15 years from the time we were in hotel & restaurant management school. Back then, we were involved in a lot of exciting culinary projects in India
âCooking for Lifeâ is an Award Winning organization, founded by Vikas and me in 2001 with the support of Worldâs Top Chefs including Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Gray Kunz, David Waltuck, Nobu Matsuhisa, David Bouley, and many more. It puts the glittering gastronomic events together to raise money and awareness for different causes around the World. An integral element of our organization is giving back to the community and those in need.
It has been an honor to be a part of this organization as a co founder. I have been the lead organizer with vikas for various fund raising culinary events for causes like Tsunami, Gulf Coast
I chose Vikas as my co-author for âModern Indian Cookingâ because our styles and vision match very well. And who could be better to collaborate with than my friend, mentor & a talented chef Vikas Khanna.
3. What is the difference between modern Indian cooking and say fusion Indian cooking?
I prefer not to use the term âfusionâ because it is used very loosely and often includes mish mash cooking without any distinct character. So in essence fusion cooking tends to become confusion cooking. Even though I have used non Indian cooking styles and ingredients in my cooking, the end result is strikingly Indian. There is no mistaking about that. I have created flavor combinations that are very well balanced and round up distinctly Indian.
4. Which is your personal fav recipe from the book? Can you share it with me along with a pic so I can post it on the site?
It is hard to pick just one recipe as a favorite, but i picked, Kokan Chili Prawns because, I grew up in the konkan region. Seafood was a part of most meals. I was inspired by the local restaurants, where they use soy sauce to bring out the flavors in most stir fry dishes. This is my take on the local version & it is very simple to make.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon, ginger, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
10 curry leaves
36 medium prawns, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
2 tablespoons dry red chilies chopped
Â¼ cup low fat yogurt, whipped until smooth
Salt to taste
2 tablespoon scallions, chopped
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or very large sautÃ© pan over very high heat until very hot. Add the ginger, garlic, shallots, and curry leaves and sautÃ© for 1 minute.
Add the prawns and cook just until they start to turn pink, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the soy sauce, lemon juice, chilies and cilantro, and cook, stirring often, 2 minutes longer. Add yogurt and cook until the prawns are just cooked through.
Season with salt. Serve warm garnished with chopped scallions.
My second pick is a book that I endorsed called, "Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts: Recipes and Remembrances of a Vegetarian Legacy by Ammini Ramachandran" It is a book that is for the armchair reader as well as the serious cook. I love her writings and the depth that she provides in all the recipes and the text. The book reflects the author - it is quietly elegant.
I spoke with Ammini about this treasure trove for vegetarians -
What inspired you to write the book?
Like most coastal cuisines, Kerala cuisine is perceived as primarily non-vegetarian. There are many good books about Kerala cuisine; however, most of them predominantly feature only meat and seafood dishes. Except for a few well known dishes, vegetarian food of Kerala remains obscure even to many Indians. I wanted to document the traditional food I grew up with for the younger generation of my family growing up in the United States. This book began as a family journal about the traditions, culture, and cuisine of my home for my sons, nieces, and nephews. After reading the initial drafts, the feedback I received from them, as well as their American friends, was most encouraging - They all wanted to read more about the food and stories about our food. Over the years my journal evolved into a web site -- peppertrail.com -- and now to this book.
What type of food did you eat growing up?
Until I moved to the United States I knew only one kind of food, the simple vegetarian cuisine of my home state Kerala.
Did your kids enjoy the same or did you have to alter recipes to suit their tastes?
My sons enjoy most of the traditional vegetarian recipes as they are. They love hot food and the only alteration I made in recipes to suit their taste was to add more chili peppers. Since they were raised in the United States they also enjoy a variety of other cuisines.
Tell me a little bit about how you selected the recipes?
All of the recipes are for traditional Kerala vegetarian food. Most of them were handed down from one generation to the next in my own extended family. I have included every day dishes as well as dishes prepared at religious, seasonal and family celebrations. I have also tried to preserve the originality of traditional recipes, and tried to make them accessible to all. Whenever possible, I have given Western substitutes following the traditional recipe. As recipes tell only part of the story of our cuisine, I have included notes on the historical facts and anecdotes associated with several of them.
What are your favorite recipes in the book?
That is a tough question. Let me share f couple of recipes that I prepare often. I guess that makes them my favorites!
Can you share two of them?
2 cup Indian chickpeas or garbanzo beans
Â½ teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 dried red cayenne, serrano, or Thai chilies, halved, or Â½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Â¼ teaspoon asafetida powder (optional)
12 to 15 fresh curry leaves
2 fresh green chilies (serrano or Thai), thinly chopped (less for a milder taste)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup freshly grated coconut
1 Medium green or semi- ripe mango cut into small cubes 1
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
Wash the chickpeas, and soak them overnight. Rinse them in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Place them in a saucepan, and add water to cover. Sprinkle them with turmeric, and cook over medium heat until they are very soft (or cook in a pressure cooker for six minutes or so, following the manufacturerâs directions). Drain well, sprinkle with salt, and set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add the halved red peppers, asafetida powder, curry leaves, and green chilies, and panfry. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan, and mix well. Panfry while stirring continuously for a minute or two. Sprinkle lemon juice over the chick peas and remove from the stove. Garnish with mango fresh coconut and cilantro leaves. Serve warm or cold.
Note: If using canned chickpeas wash them under running water in a colander and drain well. Sprinkle them with salt and turmeric, and proceed with the recipe.
Finally - there is a new book out called "The Bollywood Cookbook" by Bulbul Mankani. A really fun read, this book includes interviews with Bollywood superstars and then provides recipes for their favorite recipes. Find the recipe for Hrithink Roshan's favorite- phrini or Shah Rukh Khan's favorite - tandoori chicken.