Cooking and baking made easy

Nirmal KhannasNEW DELHI: A steaming bowl of soup is just what one needs on cold winter evenings, and chef and author Nirmal Khanna’s new book is the perfect key to whip up delicious bowls of warmth right in one’s personal kitchen.

Khanna’s book — “Cook and Bake: The Easy Way” is a revamp of her earlier book of the same name, published 35 years back in 1982.

It features over 100 recipes, including some favorites from the earlier edition.

According to one of Khanna’s soup recipes, some finely chopped mushrooms, a little butter, sauteed with onions and flour, in chicken or vegetable stock, is all one needs to make a comforting bowl of mushroom soup.

She does not specify the kind of mushrooms, but adds a quick tip for the more adventurous cooks who might like to experiment with varieties like shiitake, morelle or chestnut, for an intense flavor.

“…(the soup is) perfect for a special party dinner,” she writes.

To ensure that her recipes from the older book continue to cater to contemporary palates, she has updated them to make the process easier and “more modern”.

Having travelled over 60 countries, it was almost inevitable for the gastronomical experiences from her sojourns to not creep into the book.

Khanna was blown away by the cheese and caramelized onion muffins she first tasted at a party in London, and decided to create her own version of the savory.

Her mini-onion rolls served with a dollop of rich and sweet date chutney have now become a regular at teatime as well as her cocktail parties.

Khanna’s love affair with food began in the 1960s after her marriage.

As part of entertaining guests at home, she developed a wide ranging repertoire of Western dishes in no time, gaining unprecedented popularity among her friends.

“I picked up recipes from friends from the USA and Europe, and quickly earned a reputation for putting out a spread that was quite different from what was usually served at home,” she said.

The book, that features recipes of everything ranging from salads, soups and breads to appetizers, main course and desserts, is an attempt to popularize western cooking among the current generation of chefs.

Khanna adds that the ingredients she uses are among the most easily available ones in Indian markets, particularly to encourage the beginners.

“The ingredients are easy to find in India, and I have simplified the procedures, so that even the most nervous, novice cook can produce delicious dishes,” Khanna says.

For instance, the caprese salad requires barely two ingredients – ripe tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, and can be served not just as a starter but also works great as part of a buffet.

The five-step procedure of slicing the tomatoes, arranging the slices with cheese, drizzling with olive oil and basil leaves, seasoning with salt and pepper, and finally serving at room temperature is only a matter of few minutes.

For Khanna, cooking is as much a skill as it is a hobby, and her book is her way of sharing the joy with fellow culinary enthusiasts, in the hope of bringing together families and friends over lip-smacking spreads.-PTI