What are your two favourite recipes in the book?
This is always a tough question, as I have created these recipes as a tribute to my journey with so much love. However, Peeli Dal (yellow lentils with ginger and turmeric) and Lavender Chicken are very close to my heart.
Your book says you learned a lot while cooking in the kitchen alongside your grandmother. Share some tips that you still remember?
She taught me the power of patience in cooking. Everything you cook needs to be given time to release its flavours. She also taught me that spices have to be ground fresh, every time you cook. Her meditative mode and simple cooking is the foundation of Junoon’s kitchen (his restaurant in New York).
How much time did it take to compile this book?
This is the first time I have written about my stories of growing up, from making sweaters, starting our first business to my first Christmas in America. I wanted to do full justice to this journey and took about two-and-a-half years to put together.
What is unique about the recipes you have shared?
The recipes are a celebration of my two homes — India and America. The new ingredients that I found in American kitchens have been incorporated into my old techniques, and cooked using Indian flavours. Similarly, I applied Western techniques to Indian flavours to bring more depth to them.
How should readers use this book?
This is a semi-biography, which contains stories of failures and triumphs, as well as a recipe guide; use it
Your book says technology makes cooking easier in some ways but it can also take away the unexpected joys that come from old-fashioned work. Today, when people are pressed for time, how can they preserve traditional methods of cooking?
Traditional ways to cook will always be like Lata Mangeshkar’s songs — timeless. But it’s absolutely fine to use short cuts when you have little time and you want to give fresh healthy meals to your family. As long as you can do it, it’s ok.
Flavours First by Vikas Khanna is published by Om Publishers
Top three recipes
Mango and Orange mousse with pomegranate
1.25 cup canned mango puree
1.25 cups orange juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp gelatin softened in 2 tbsp water
3 cups heavy cream, whipped
to stiff peaks
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish
* In a saucepan, heat the mango puree, orange juice, and sugar over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Add the gelatin and stir to melt and combine.
* Strain the mango mixture into a bowl and place it over an ice bath. Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula and when it just starts to set for about 20 minutes, fold in the whipped cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
* Serve chilled, garnished with pomegranate seeds.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 2-inch long piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp nigella seeds
2 dried red chilli peppers
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 medium tomato, diced
1 pound baby eggplant
1.5 cup water
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt Juice of 1 lemon
* Blend brown sugar, vinegar, garlic, and ginger until smooth.
* In a heavy bottom pan with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add cumin seeds, nigella seeds, and chillies, and cook until fragrant for about a minute. Stir in the sugar-vinegar mixture and the remaining ingredients. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the eggplant is tender and cooked for about 20 minutes.
* Cool to room temperature, and adjust salt to taste. Refrigerate in an airtight container for two weeks.
Lamb in Vinegar and beet curry
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
Two-inch-long cinnamon sticks
6 green cardamom pods
3 bay leaves
2 pounds lean, boneless lamb, preferably leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/3 cup tomato paste
4 medium beets, peeled and cut
into 1-inch cubes
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
* Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, for 1-2 minutes
* Add the lamb and cook, stirring for 2 minutes; add vinegar, tomato paste, beets and chicken stock and mix well. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the lamb is tender for about an hour. Make sure it doesn’t get too dry and stick to the bottom; add a little water if needed.
* Add the cream and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Season with salt to taste, add the cilantro, and mix well. Serve hot.