MasterChef contestant Shazia Khan digs into family recipes for her book

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MasterChef contestant digs into family recipes for her book, What’s On The Menu

Born into a joint family in Bengaluru, chef Shazia Khan grew up with the tacit understanding that cooking could never be a chore in her household. On the contrary, for Khan and 30 members of her family, it was a celebration of food; a way of serving love. “All the women — right from my grandmother to aunts — would congregate in the kitchen and prepare meals on a grand scale in large earthen pots. They would chat and bond over food,” says Khan, first runner-up in the second season of MasterChef India, (2012). The delectable Murg Haleem, Gosht ka Sherwa (mutton soup) and Shammi Kebabs that the women perfected over the years, have found their way into the 39-year-old’s debut cookbook, What’s On The Menu.

Shazia Khan
Shazia Khan

The 90 recipes are a compilation of kitchen secrets that Khan was privy to, along with a host of other vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, many of which are her own innovations. “Fortunately, I got married into a joint family that, again, had wonderful cooks. In fact, Anday Ki Mithai (egg halwa), a recipe that comes from my mother-in-law, is one of the highlights,” she reveals.

Tandoori chicken Roulade
Tandoori chicken Roulade

Prepared using khoya, eggs, sugar, almonds, clarified butter and saffron, it is a healthy sweet dish, prepared mainly during winters and one that can be preserved in jars for more thana week. “People invariably get surprised when I serve the dish, because nobody believes you can make halwa from eggs,” she laughs.

Halwa Chonga
Halwa Chonga

While her repository of recipes could translate into heaps of books, Khan has she been careful on what made the cut. “Since I came with no formal training in cooking, my target audience is one with little or no experience. I have chosen dishes that are easy to prepare, tasty and can be supported with good pictures. You cannot entice people into cooking without pictorial support,” she says. Some dishes like the Rote (pronounced wrote), a slightly sweet bread, usually made in the form of a circle and enjoyed with tea, aren’t featured because of their tedious preparation. “The method is complicated and involves overnight preparation which is not feasible for the average reader.” Khan has also tweaked traditional items like the tandoori chicken by adding a French twist and calling it tandoori chicken and spinach roulade.

“These are nutrient rich rolls that make for a healthy option for kids too, where you can trick them into eating greens. You can experiment with the fillings and try a new variation each time.”

For vegetarians, she recommends the upma which she has reinvented using grilled semolina, cream, parsley and mushrooms and cut into slices. “You’ll never see upma the same way again, in a good way, of course,” she smiles.

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