Food’s the best way to bond: Chef Kunal Kapoor

Gurgaon, Feb 12: From “chief stirrer” in his father’s kitchen to executive sous chef at a leading five-star hotel and hosting reality TV show “MasterChef India” — it’s been one high after the other for Kunal Kapur, who has just released his debut book “A Chef In Every Home”. Kapur maintains that “food is the best way for friends and family to bond”.

“Food is a great conversation starter… it’s the best way to bond,” Kapur said at the book launch Tuesday as he skilfully dished out a tomato bruschetta, a prawn moilee and a baked yoghurt before a select audience at the Leela Ambience hotel here.

“I belong to an extended Punjabi family where all the men would gather in the kitchen to cook the Sunday lunch. I had the rather exalted job of being the chief stirrer while my father oversaw matters,” Kapur told IANS as his two-year-old son Ranbir looked on.

“The big advantage of being chief stirrer was that my father would teach me the names of the ingredients that went into whatever I was stirring… what he managed to do was to teach me a glossary of ingredients that would one day become my life and my very reason of existence,” Kapur said.

“I have attempted to demystify the art of aspirational or gourmet food by using simple, fuss-free recipes and providing tips that would inspire amateurs to try their hand at this art,” he added.

“This book is dedicated to the uncelebrated home cook. I have designed all the recipes that use ingredients from an humble Indian home kitchen,” Kapur noted.

Describing the journey that led to the writing of the book, Kapur says in the Introduction: “It was at the auditions of MasterChef India (2010), when I saw thousands of home cooks line up with amazing home-cooked food that made me realise something is important: Good food can come from anyone.

“After four seasons of ‘MasterChef India’, travelling across the country, hunting for talent, seeking out good food, I stumbled on the truth that there is a chef in every home,” he adds.

To this end, the lavishly illustrated “A Chef In Every Home” (Random House India/157 pp/Rs.599) explores an extensive variety of cultural delicacies, being an amalgamation of appetizing starters, salads and soups for the soul, wholesome and hearty main courses, healthy and fun option for kids, breads and rice and out-of-the-ordinary desserts.

As Michel Koopman, general manager of the Leela Ambience, put it: “This book is all about comfort food, soul food.”

Here are a few recipes one can try out in one’s kitchen.

Chicken Porcupine (Serves four) –

This Asian steamed dumpling has raw rice rolled over the chicken mince. Once steamed, the rice puffs and swells, resembling a porcupine. It is a delight to look at and is equally healthy and delicious to eat.

Preparation time: 20 minutes, Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 250 gms chicken mince; 1 tbsp garlic; chopped 3 tbsp carrots; finely chopped 3 tbsp spring onions; finely chopped 1 tbsp ginger; finely chopped 1 tbsp soya sauce; 1 tbsp oyster sauce; 1 tsp sesame oil; 1 tsp pepper powder; 1 egg 1/2 cup; rice (small, thin grain). Oil for greasing. Salt to taste.

Wash and soak the rice for two hours. Drain the water and keep aside. Place the chicken in a bowl. Mix the ingredients and divide into equally-sized balls. Roll the balls in the soaked raw rice and carefully place the small porcupines on a greased plate. Steam on high heat for 15 minutes. Remove the cute chicken porcupines. Serve with soy sauce on the side.

Aubergine and peanut chutney –

This unique recipe is somewhat similar to the Hyderabadi dish of sweet and sour eggplant. Together, the sourness of the tamarind and the sweetness of jiggery combine for a great flavour.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: (Makes one small jar) Six cups aubergine diced; 1/2 cup olive oil; 2 tsp kalonji; 1 tbsp jeera; 1/4 cup curry leaves; 2 cups tomatoes chopped; 2 tsp red chilli powder; 1 tsp turmeric; 2 cups jaggery grated; 1 cup tamarind pulp; 1/2 cup peanuts roasted. Salt to taste

Heat olive oil and add kalonji and jeera. When it crackles, add curry leaves and immediately add the tomatoes. Saute for a moment. Add red chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Stir for a minute. Add the aubergine and cook for three to four minutes. Add tamarind, cover and simmer on low heat for two to three minutes. Add jaggery and peanuts. Check for seasoning. Remove and allow to cool. Store in a tight-fitting jar.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at vishnu.makhijani@ians.in)

IANS