Feasting with Master Chef Vikas Khanna
New York’s own rock star of an Indian chef, Vikas Khanna, is certainly going places. India, to be precise!
He is the new host and judge of Star Plus TV’s popular show MasterChef India Season 2 and is going to get a lot of eyeballs with the show which can be seen in India and the diaspora. The second season showcases different cooking styles and presentation of food, using Vikas Khanna’s food philosophy of fresh ingredients juxtaposed in innovative ways.
A Look at the new MasterChef – Vikas Khanna
Vikas, who was voted New York’s hottest chef by Eater, is certainly on a roll. Junoon, the much-talked of restaurant where he creates the cuisine, received a Michelin Star recently. He’s also been featured on the cover of Manhattan Magazine as one of the Top chefs on New York City. And oh, yes, he’s also been awarded the 2011 New York Rising Star Chefs Award by Star Chefs: “Every Rising Star has a quality that makes it clear to us that he or she is going to shape the future of the culinary industry. They are leaders in creativity, ambition, discipline, and, of course, cuisine. They don’t simply survive the rough and tumble New York restaurant scene—they thrive on it.”
For those who haven’t been able to get to Junoon for a Vikas Khanna feast, here are some unexpected and innovative snack recipes from his new book ‘Flavors First’ :
Both recipes mix known and familiar ingredients with less-known ones, and sometimes it’s a marriage of unlikely ingredients which can be very successful! Mirch pakoras are a popular treat but here Vikas uses Jalapenos which are from the Mexican lexicon – interestingly Indian grocery stores are carrying Jalapenos in large quantities, which means they have the desi stamp of approval. In this recipe they are stuffed with cashews and coconut, which you don’t usually see in the traditional mirch pakoras.
In the other featured snack here, spinach pakoras or fritters are given a new twist by the addition of kela or plantains. Life is full of unexpected pleasures – and this may be one of them!
Jalapeños Stuffed with Cashews and Coconut
Kaju aur Nariyalwali Bhari Mirchi
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 teaspoon cumin powder
1 ½ teaspoon Salt
12 Jalapeño peppers (see note)
1/2 cup gram (chickpea) flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon carom seeds
¼ cup water
Vegetable oil for frying
Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spray a baking sheet with oil and arrange the potatoes on top. Bake until a bit overcooked, about 45 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle, peel and cut in half. Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater. Place potatoes in a medium-mixing bowl.
Combine the potatoes, cashews, coconut, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut a short slit into each jalapeño pepper. Remove as many seeds as possible with a small spoon. Stuff the jalapeños with the potato mixture.
In a small bowl combine the flour, carom seeds, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and mix well. Slowly add water, about ¼ cup, to the flour mixture, whisking constantly, until the batter has a slightly thickened and very 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 350º F. Test the oil by putting a few drops of batter in the oil. The batter should begin to bubble and brown within 1 minute. Dip the jalapeños in the batter and carefully drop them into the hot oil, frying in batches of 6 to 8 at a time; cook for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown evenly.
Note: Wear latex gloves when removing the seeds or be careful not to touch the seeds with your bare fingers – the seeds can burn. Wash your hands well immediately after handling.
Plantain and Spinach Fritters
Kele-Palak ke Pakore
1 cup chickpea flour
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon Salt
1 medium egg
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground asafetida
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ cup water
2 yellow plantains, peeled and coarsely
grated (See Note)
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and wrung dry in a
kitchen towel (See Note)
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, and salt. Add the egg, cayenne pepper, asafetida, turmeric, and water and whisk vigorously blending until smooth. Fold the grated plantains and spinach into the fritter batter and gently combine.
Line a sheet pan with paper towels. Heat a deep-fryer or a large saucepan filled with at least 2 inches of oil to about 350° F. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil by dropping in a small piece of batter. The oil is ready if the batter bubbles immediately upon contact with oil and floats. Drop the fritter batter into the hot oil by the spoonful
( about 2 tablespoons each), 8 to 10 fritters at a time, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once to evenly brown. Remove the fritters from the oil, and drain on a lined sheet pan.
Notes: Be sure your plantains are yellow and haven’t started to turn black. As plantains ripen, they go from green (starchy) to yellow (sweet, like bananas) to black (mushy). Yellow plantains have the right taste and texture for this recipe.
Fresh spinach can also be used. Sauté 1 pound of fresh spinach, well washed, in
1 tablespoon olive oil until wilted. Let the spinach cool, squeeze dry and chop finely.
Also check out this insightful piece about Vikas Khanna by Andrew Blackmore-Dobbyn in The Huffington Post