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Phoren flavours in desi kitchens

Want to try out an exotic Mexican dish in your humble kitchen that has only experienced the aroma of asafoetida and mustard seeds? Then grab a copy of Karen Anand's book on international cooking.

WHAT'S THE difference between tortillas, tamales, and tacos? Is Mexican cuisine close to Indian cuisine? Can Thai sangkayah nah gati be made in a conservative South Indian kitchen? Well, one should be asking Karen Anand. "Karen's skills are really quite unique," observes Peter Mukherjea, CEO, Star India. "Each time I've had the opportunity to enjoy one of her cooking sessions, I've asked her to write a book and share at least some of her secrets with the rest of us."

Gourmet specialist, writer, businesswoman, and television anchor Karen Anand did something better. She has put together a book that contains not just a good sample of culinary secrets of people she came across when she hosted the Good Food Guide on Star Plus, but also some of her own recipes, anecdotes, tips, and information boxes. "It has been quite a labour of love," confesses the lady with honey-coloured eyes. "We've tried to make it possible to try out `foreign' recipes in kitchen at home in India."

Karen Anand's International Cooking, published by Popular Prakashan, was launched by image stylist Prasad Bidapa at The Park Hotel recently. The book is divided into eight sections — Mexican, English, Italian, Spanish, Lebanese, Thai, Japanese, and Signature Dishes. The last section carries a whimsical collection of the favourite recipes of the rich and famous. Since the book is sponsored by Marico Industries, makers of Saffola Olive Oil, Karen has chosen recipes made with olive oil. "As a food consultant, I try to be associated with products that suit my image as a promoter of healthy eating," says the woman who was instrumental in bringing Britannia Malai Chaska to our tables. Incidentally, olive oil comes in different flavours just as wine. Karen Anand is brand ambassador for Britannia and Marico. She has written Food Lovers' Guide to India and Nepal (Penguin) and Lean Cuisine Curries (Harper). She also brought out a CD-ROM, Creative Cooking for the City Couple (Times Multimedia).

"Cooking was always a hobby with me," says Karen, who grew up in London and was educated in Paris (and there's not a trace of foreign accent!). She wanted to be a television journalist specialising in current affairs, but always enjoyed experimenting with food. She trained briefly in Alain Sanderen's three-star Michelin restaurants. Gul Anand, her husband, brought her back to India, and that was when she started the Karen's brand of whole fruit preserves, marmalades, salad dressings, and sauces.

"And then there was a jhatka," she says of the time when Gul Anand passed away, leaving her to fend for herself and her two boys. "After a very comfortable life, I suddenly woke up, made adjustments, and was forced to make my hobby a professionally-viable option."

Today, Karen's retails in major food outlets in the country, and is used in most of the five-star hotels. "Three years back, I married Yadu Sankalia, who was is the family business of arts and crafts. Without proper supervision, my food business took a bashing. That was when Yadu decided to quit his business and become totally involved with mine. Today, ours is an expanding business, and I really need to be very methodical, practical, and professional in my day-to-day affairs," explains Karen.

At home, Karen's Pune-based family prefers simple food. "But for special occasions, I enjoy making coastal food if it has to be Indian. Kerala cuisine is excellent. Goan food is absolutely great, and I picked up quite a lot of passion for cooking from my Goan grandmother," says Karen, who puts Japanese food, with its simplicity, as her personal favourite. "But the recipes in the book are meant to capture the flavour of many countries. There are aspirational restaurant recipes and many easy-to-make ones. Some are complicated and some extremely simple," she adds.

Yesterday, in my kitchen where I dish out rasam, sambar, and thayir saadam with gleeful speed, we made Mexican quesadillas with tomato and jalapeno pepper salsa (with some leftover chapatis as suggested by Karen), and the success has gone... well, to my stomach. Tomorrow it's going to be Italian parmigiana di melanzane and soon we're going to make baked pumpkin with tender coconut salad (they call that sangkayah nah gati in Thailand). If this whets your appetite, get Karen Anand's book with nearly 100 vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes, priced at Rs. 395.

Popular Prakashan can be contacted on 5598215 and 5092103.


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