You can’t get more caviar and champagne than Cannes, but Indian masterchef Vikas Khanna plans to open celebrity eyes to the simpler pleasures of breaking bread in his short documentary Kitchens of Gratitude. To be shown at the 69th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, the 15-minute film showcases the binding power of food in different communities.
Khanna reveals his culinary experiences in the humblest kitchens of the world, from Sikh langars to Jewish synagogues, in an attempt to highlight how food “has the ability to bridge all differences” and create “oneness in communities across the world.”
Here’s a sneak peek at his film that will be launched on 14 May at 6pm by the India Ambassador to France at the India Pavillion.
Incidentally, Khanna also launched his book Utsav last year at the Cannes Film Festival. The gold-crusted ₹8 lakh book that weighed in at 15kg was dedicated to India’s transgender community, and featured 12 years of Khanna’s experiences of Indian festivals, ceremonies and traditions.
The first chef to release a movie and a film at the Cannes Film Festival, Khanna has shared eight spectacular recipes that he picked up from different community kitchens with HuffPost India (featured below).
This dish is cooked on Navroz, the Parsi New Year; recipe serves 3–4.
Parsis love eggs! Not merely because they symbolize new life and fertility, or because they are a complete food. They have a strong affinity for eggs that surpasses their love for any other food including meat or chicken. They eat eggs at breakfast, as main and side dishes, atop every conceivable vegetable and meat, scrambled, boiled, fried, shirred or stuffed.
Akuri is easily Parsi cuisine’s most loved egg dish. A spicy concoction of eggs scrambled with onions, garlic, chillies, tomatoes, turmeric and fresh coriander, it is a classic that is as versatile as it is delicious. A richer, blander version is bharuchi akuri, which includes fine shoestring potatoes, cream and dried fruit and nuts in a nod to Persian cuisine. The dish may have had its origins in the coastal town of Bharuch, which once housed many Parsis. Some prefer to add the dried fruit to spicy akuri and call it Bharuchi, which leads one to believe that it is the dried fruit and nuts that make the difference.
3tbsp butter or ghee
1 onion, finely sliced
3tbsp fine shoestring potatoes
2tbsp slivered almonds
1tbsp split cashew nuts
2tbsp raisins, soaked
• Combine the eggs, milk and salt in a bowl and whisk until frothy.
• Heat the butter or ghee in a pan; add the onion and sauté until soft but not brown.
• Add the egg mixture and cook on low heat, stirring continuously, until the eggs begin to scramble.
• Add the shoestring potatoes, nuts, raisins and cream and stir well to mix. Remove from heat and continue to stir for a few seconds—the eggs will continue to cook in the heat from the pan. Do not allow the eggs to set hard, they should be soft and fluffy.
This recipe is often prepared in Tibet and Sikkim during Losar, the Buddhist New Year; recipe makes 16 sha paley
Sha paley is the Sikkimese and Tibetan version of the fried hand pie, patty, turnover or pasty that features in almost every cuisine. Usually round or crescent-shaped with crimped edges, this crisp snack is a fixture on all festive menus. Beef is the meat of choice for these crisp patties, though chicken (chasha), lamb (lugsha), pork (paksha) and vegetables—especially spinach and cheese—are also used. Sichuan peppers (emma), the tongue-numbing berries, add a delightful zing to the filling, but use them judiciously or they will overpower the other seasonings.
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2tbsp cooking oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1tsp grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, crushed
500gms ground lamb or chicken
½tsp ground Sichuan peppers
½tsp ground black pepper
Oil for deep-frying
• Place the flour in a bowl. Add about ¾ cup water and knead for at least 5 minutes to make a soft, smooth dough. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave to stand for at least 15 minutes.
• Heat the oil in a pan; add the onions, ginger and garlic and sauté until the onions soften.
• Add the minced lamb and sauté until the meat has browned. Add the ground spices, salt to taste and ½ cup water and cook until the meat is tender and the mixture is dry. Leave to cool slightly.
• Transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll out as thinly as possible. Cut out 10-cm (4-inch) rounds with a cookie cutter. Alternatively, roll out small portions of the dough into 10-cm (4-inch) discs.
• Place a little of the meat mixture in the centre of each disc and fold over to make a half moon. Press the edges together, folding the edges over in a spiral pattern.
• Heat the oil in a wok or deep pan and fry the patties a few at a time until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve hot with a spicy sauce.
A staple during Mahavir Jayanti, the most important festival of Jains; serves 4
An Indian festival without kheer is like an opera without a prima donna. No matter how many dishes there are spread on a festival table, if the kheer is missing, it will not only be noticed but will leave one with a niggling sense of dissatisfaction. At its simplest, it is a rustic dish of rice cooked in milk and sweetened with sugar, but at its most luxurious, it is flavoured with saffron, enriched with cream, smothered with dried fruit and nuts and decorated with silver leaf in a final regal flourish. The Jain kheer is somewhere in between—neither too plain nor too grand, but just right for their muted celebrations.
¼cup rice, soaked for 30 minutes
¼tsp coarsely ground cardamom seeds
Small pinch of saffron plus more to garnish
1tbsp slivered almonds
• Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the rice. Mix well and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is almost tender.
• Add the sugar, cardamom and saffron. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring continuously, until the sugar melts.
• Garnish with almonds and a pinch of saffron, and serve warm or chilled.
Cooked on Baisakhi, the harvest festival of the Sikhs; serves 4.
Somewhere amidst all the Baisakhi festivities is a pot of stew bubbling away, the goat’s meat enrobed in spices and a chilli-spiked spinach purée. The meat, being expensive, is not everyday fare but reserved for special occasions. Lamb, kid or sheep are rarely cooked, with goat meat being the most easily available and most preferred option. Today, goat’s meat is being recognised the world over as a healthier, lower-calorie and more eco-friendly alternative to beef and lamb.
Most often, the meat is marinated before cooking to tenderize it, but in this case slow cooking will result in melt-in-the-mouth meat submerged in a flavourful gravy.
500gms fresh spinach
2 or 3 green chillies
4tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
2 green cardamom pods, split open
Pinch of asafoetida
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2.5-cm (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
500gms boneless goat meat or lamb
1tsp red chilli powder
1tsp ground cumin
½tsp ground coriander
3tbsp yogurt, whisked
1tsp dried fenugreek leaves
½tsp garam masala (optional)
• Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and refresh under cold running water. Drain well and place in a blender with the green chillies and grind to a smooth purée.
• Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan; add the bay leaf and cardamom pods and sauté until fragrant. Add the asafoetida, stir and add the onions; sauté until the onions turn soft and golden brown. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for a few seconds.
• Add the meat, chilli powder, ground cumin and coriander and sauté until the water has evaporated and the meat has browned. Add the yogurt and sauté until well mixed.
• Add the puréed spinach, salt to taste and 1½ cups water; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, on a low heat until the meat is tender and the gravy is thick, about 45 minutes.
• Add the dried fenugreek leaves and garam masala and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Serve hot with makki di roti or chapattis.
Cooked before Eid; serves 6–8.
Traditionalists would scoff at the use of ground meat in this dish, as the essence it is believed, lies in the long hours of stirring over gentle heat until the meat disintegrates into mush. Cooking “ithmenaan se” (with patience) is the key to the fine flavours of Hyderabadi cuisine. And patience is what haleem means in Persian.
Hyderabadi haleem, which is a thick meat and wheat porridge, is unique to the city, so much so that it has been awarded GI (geographical identification) status. There are many dishes that are labelled haleem, but are more akin to harees, a close relative with a mixture of lentils and barley thrown into the pot.
Haleem is the perfect Ramadan iftar (evening meal) dish, as a small quantity will rejuvenate flagging energies. It is also the first course served at Hyderabad wedding dinners.
250gms cracked wheat
2tbsp vegetable oil plus more for deep-frying
3 onions, finely sliced
750gms finely chopped or ground goat meat or lamb
1tsp red chilli powder
2tsp garam masala
1tbsp ginger-garlic paste
3 or 4 green chillies, finely chopped
1cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
½cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1tbsp thin strips of ginger
2 or 3tbsp lime juice
• Soak the cracked wheat in enough water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain.
• Heat plenty of oil in a wok or skillet and fry the sliced onions, until golden and crisp. Drain and set aside.
• In a thick-bottomed pan, combine the ground meat with the soaked cracked wheat, half the fried onions, salt, turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala and ginger-garlic paste, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring continuously.
• Stir in the yogurt and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low and cook until the meat and wheat are soft and tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
• Grind the mixture to a paste and return to the pan. Add the ghee, green chillies, cilantro and mint. Cook for a few minutes for the flavours to blend and until the ghee floats to the top. Add more water if necessary—haleem should be like a thick paste.
• Top with slices of ginger, sprinkle with lime juice and serve with naan.
Cooked on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year; makes 3 loaves
Challah has come recently to the Bene Israel community in India. The egg-rich bread, a favourite of most Jewish communities in other parts of the world was popularised by overseas Jewish organisations in India. The bread is prepared for the Sabbath meal and on other Jewish festivals, like Rosh Hasannah where it sometimes has a round shape to symbolize the cycle of the seasons.
Every step of the preparation process has a special significance linked to Jewish tradition and history with a prayer or blessing recited at each stage. An important tradition at the start of preparing challah is the removal of one small portion of the dough as a contribution for the kohen, or priest. At the start of a Sabbath meal a prayer is said over two loaves (challot), which symbolises the double portion of manna from heaven that was showered on the children of Israel during their exodus from Egypt on Friday the day before the Sabbath. Sprinkling salt, a preservative that does not decay, over the loaves during the blessing is another important tradition, symbolising the eternal covenant the children of Israel have with God.
In India, challah is often made without eggs resembling ‘water challah’, a type of loaf prepared by Sephardic Jews. The flour is also enriched with gluten as all-purpose flour available in India often lacks the necessary protein content and the pliability when kneaded into a dough.
20gms active dry yeast
50gms sugar, divided
650gms all-purpose flour
35gms gluten powder
57gms vegetable oil, plus for greasing
1 egg, whisked (optional)
White sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Red chilli flakes, for sprinkling (optional)
• Combine the yeast and half the sugar in a small bowl. Stir in ½ cup warm water and set aside to froth.
• In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, gluten powder and salt. Add the remaining sugar, the oil and mix well. Pour in the yeast mixture and 1 cup warm water and knead to make a soft and pliable dough, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky and a little more oil if too dry.
• Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
• Grease a large tray baking lightly with oil and dust with flour.
• Divide the dough into 3 equal portions to make 3 loaves. For each loaf, divide each portion into 3 or 6 equal portions and roll into 2.5-cm (1-inch) thick ropes. Pinch the ropes together at the top and braid the ropes, pressing the ends together to seal. Place on the prepared baking trays, cover with a kitchen towel and leave for about 30 minutes to 1 hour until risen.
• About 15 minutes before the bread is ready for baking, heat the oven to 150˚C/300˚F/Gas 2.
• Brush the loaves with the beaten egg or water and sprinkle with sesame seeds and red chilli flakes. Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes until risen and golden brown.
• Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
A Diwali speciality; makes about 36 pieces.
They look like overblown jalebi and have often been mistaken for the yellow-orange spirals sticky with sugar syrup. But the differences are fundamental: the jhangri (or imarti) of South India is made of split back lentils, while jalebi is made of all-purpose flour. Jhangri is also noticeably plumper, and though juicier, is less sticky than the jalebi. The extra loops and flourishes on a jhangri give it a more opulent appearance worthy of the Mughal emperor Jehangir— for whom, some legends say, it was named—and a Raj Bhog or royal menu of which it is always a part.
The family of deep-fried squishy, sugary spirals includes the Bengali chhanar jilipi, fat brown spirals made of fresh cottage cheese (chenna), and Madhya Pradesh’s sumptuous khoya jalebi made with evaporated milk solids.
1cup split husked black lentils, soaked for 1 hour
2tbsp rice flour
Few drops of edible orange colour
Pinch of saffron threads
½tsp ground cardamom
Ghee for deep-frying
• For the batter, drain the soaked lentils and grind with a little water to a light and fluffy paste. Add the rice flour and food colour and mix well.
• For the sugar syrup, combine the sugar and 1½ cups water in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. When the syrup starts boiling, add the milk and skim off any froth that rises to the surface. Add the saffron and cook the syrup until it reaches a one-thread consistency (110-112˚C/230-234˚F). Remove from heat, stir in the ground cardamom and keep warm.
• Heat the ghee in a wok or deep pan over low heat. To make the jhangri, fit a piping bag with a fine round nozzle and fill it with the batter. Slowly pipe out the jhangri in concentric and looped circles into the hot ghee.
• Deep-fry on both sides until pale gold and crisp. Lift each jhangri out with a pair of tongs or a skewer, letting the ghee drip back into the wok. Drop the jhangri into the warm sugar syrup and leaveto soak for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove with a pair of tongs or a skewer, letting the excess syrup drip back into the pan, and place on a platter to dry. Repeat with the remaining jhangris.
• Serve the jhangri warm, or cool and store in an airtight tin for up to 3 days, or even longer in the refrigerator.
POMFRET RECHEADO, cooked on Christmas
A Goan Christmas favourite; serves 4.
Silver-white pomfrets with their delicate white flesh are a gastronomic delight and must feature on a Christmas menu. They lend themselves well to fragrant coconut curries and are equally good filleted and fried, or stuffed with a coconut and cilantro chutney, or a spiced red chilli and vinegar spice paste.
Recheado masala it is locally known, or recheio (stuffing),is a spice paste that is an essential Goan spice mix. A vinegary blend of dried red chillies and other spices, a jar of the masala is always at hand in a Goan kitchen. Used mainly to stuff fish or as a marinade for fried fish, recheado, which means stuffed, can also be used as a base for fish and seafood curries such as Goa’s famous hot and sour ambot-tik or baby shark curry.
1 whole pomfret (500gms)
3 or 4 tbsp Recheado Spice Paste (below);
Vegetable oil for frying
Recheado Spice Paste:
10–12 dried red Kashmiri chillies
½tsp cumin seeds
12 black peppercorns
½tsp ground turmeric
½ small onion, chopped (optional)
12mm (½-inch) piece fresh ginger, chopped
12 cloves garlic, chopped
Lime-sized ball of tamarind
• For the spice paste, soak the chillies and the dry spices in the vinegar for at least 30 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and grind to a fine paste.
• Transfer the paste to a pan and cook on low heat for a few minutes, stirring continuously, to remove the raw taste of the spices. Cooking will also help preserve the paste for a longer time. You should get about ½ cup paste.
• Clean and gut the fish and wash well. Slit the fish on either side of the bone to make 2 deep pockets. Rub all over with a mixture of salt and vinegar and leave to marinate for 15 minutes.
• Fill both pockets with 3 or 4 tablespoons of the spice paste.
• Heat the oil in a skillet; place the fish in the pan, and fry uncovered on medium heat for 7 minutes on each side until golden brown, turning the fish only once. Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Serve hot.
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