Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna is on a spiritual high these days. No, he isn’t chanting hymns in his kitchen. After launching his book, Flavours First, in India recently, and then cooking Indian delicacies for US President Barrack Obama at a grand dinner ceremony, the Amritsar-born chef is now working on a film that will feature the Dalai Lama.
"The next film from my Holy Kitchen series will see his holiness Dalai Lama in it… it’s based on the traditional Buddhist kitchen. I was in awe of the Buddhist mealtime philosophy, where every morsel of food is had with reverence, with a prayer and thought that says, ‘Am I worthy of it?’" says the 40-year-old chef, who spent a "short vacation" with the Tibetan spiritual leader in Bodh Gaya in February, and says it left him "at peace" after the tight schedules of MasterChef 2.
Ask the New York-based chef what he considers as the benchmark of success? "To be able to cook a perfect bowl of daal," beams Khanna. "Good food is all about the perfect flavour. That’s the essence of my book too — the story of the journey of an individual, who adapts to a foreign culture without losing his roots," says Khanna.
Jalapeños Stuffed with Cashews and Coconut
(Makes 24 peppers)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 pound russet potatoes ( about 3 medium potatoes)
1/3 cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
12 jalapeño peppers (see note)
1/2 cup gram (chickpea) flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp carom seeds
1/2 cup water
Vegetable oil for frying
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a baking sheet with oil and arrange the potatoes on top. Bake until a bit overcooked. Let it cool, peel and cut in half. Grate potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. Place them in a medium-mixing bowl.
Combine it with cashews, coconut, cumin, and 1 tsp salt. Cut a short slit into each jalapeño pepper. Remove as many seeds as possible. Stuff jalapeños with the potato mixture. In a bowl mix the flour, carom seeds, and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt.
Add 1/2 cup water to it. Whisk until the batter is slightly thickened and has a smooth consistency. Line the baking sheet with paper towels. Heat a deep-fryer or a large saucepan filled with at least 2 inches of oil to about 350°F.
Test the oil by putting a few drops of batter in the oil. The batter should begin to bubble and brown within a minute. Dip the jalapeños in the batter and frying till evenly brown. Serve hot.
Chocolate Basmati Rice Soufflé
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into even chunks
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar; 1 cup milk
5 tbsp basmati rice flour
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 egg whites
Melt chocolate and set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom and sides of six 6-ounce ramekins with butter and sprinkle sugar evenly. In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tbsp butter. Stir in rice flour and cook until the mixture begins to bubble.
Add milk, chocolate and salt and cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool. Whisk in beaten egg yolks and vanilla. In a bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.
Add sugar, beating until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and pour into soufflé dishes. Sprinkle a little extra sugar on top of the soufflés. Bake until puffed and browned. Serve immediately.
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