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#BridgingCultures: Indo-French fusion cuisine inspired by The Hundred Foot Journey

“‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ is the one-hundred-foot divide between cultures”, said Oprah Winfrey about the new film that she has executive produced and so tirelessly promoted.

“It’s more than acceptance.  It’s about human beings coming to understand other human beings”, the American talk-show queen adds.

It’s all quite profound and the film, about an Indian family who moves to a particularly idyllic part of the French countryside and sets up an Indian restaurant across the street from a Michelin-starred French eatery, is thought provoking about myriad issues.

Ultimately however, ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ – which stars Oscar-winner Helen Mirren and Bollywood veteran Om Puri – is all about the food and how two great world cuisines square up to each other and offer the tantalizing prospect of fusion.

However, whilst enticing, achieving true fusion of the two cuisines would be a challenge for most people, not least given the rich history, traditions and insularity associated with both Indian and French cookery.

One of the most successful chefs to have achieved a successful fusion is the late, great Rajji Jallepalli who made waves in New York in the early 2000’s with her stunning Indo-French cuisine.

South India-born Jallepalli was the head chef of New York’s iconic Tamarind restaurant and became renowned for combining classic French techniques and ingredients with traditional Indian spices.

Here are some of Jallepalli’s best-known recipes for a perfectly sumptuous late summer dinner to tempt you ahead of the release of ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ on 5 September.

CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP WITH DILL AND MUSTARD SEEDS

Ingredients (Serves 6):

2 Tablespoons Rapeseed Oil
1/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds
2 large cucumbers
4 cups buttermilk

Method:

Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the mustard seeds and sauté for about 2 minutes or until the seeds begin to take on some color and are very aromatic.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Peel and seed the cucumbers.  Cut into 1/4-inch dice and place in a large non-reactive container.  Stir in the buttermilk, dill, salt and mustard seeds.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until chilled.  When ready to serve, pour into a shallow soup bowl and serve.  Pan-seared Scallops with garlic-scented dill and mustard seeds

PAN-SEARED SCALLOPS WITH GARLIC-SCENTED ZUCCHINI


Ingredients (serves 6):

24 medium scallops
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped
1/2 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed ajwain seeds
6 Tablespoons ghee
6 sprigs fresh sage
A pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Method:

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the zucchini, jalapeño, garlic and ajwain and sauté for about 4 minutes, or until the zucchini is slightly soft but remains bright green.  Remove from the heat and cool the mixture slightly.  Place in a food processor and process until it has a very thick and smooth texture.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.  Combine 1 teaspoon salt with the sugar and season the scallops with the mixture. Rub each scallop with a bit of ghee.  Heat the remaining ghee in a large sauté pan over high heat.  Add the scallops and sear for about 3 minutes, or until the scallops are golden and just cooked through.

Place a portion of the zucchini in the center of a warm plate.  Push 4 scallops into the zucchini purée on plate and serve, garnished with a sprig of sage, if desired.

BABY LAMB RACKS WITH CURRY LEAF AND BLACK PEPPER CRUST AND CURRIED BLACKBERRY SAUCE

Ingredients (serves 6):

2 Tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup fresh blackberries, well washed, picked clean of stems, and patted dry.  You can use a good quality frozen variety.
1 teaspoon curry powder (can be roasted curry powder)
1/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons black peppercorns
1/4 cup fresh curry leaves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
Three 8-rib baby lamb racks, frenched, meat removed from top of the bones
3 cups rapeseed oil
Approximately 6 Maris Piper potatoes, cut into twenty-four 1/4-inch thick slices
6 sprigs fresh purple basil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Method:

Heat the peanut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the blackberries and curry powder and stir to combine.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.  Pour the sauce into a blender and process until smooth.  Season with salt.  Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200 Degrees Celsius.  Place the peppercorns in a small sauté pan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, or until the peppercorns are nicely toasted.  Process in a spice grinder until finely ground.  Combine the ground pepper with the curry leaves and salt to taste in a small bowl.  Add the olive oil and stir to blend.

Rub the spice mixture on the lamb racks.  Wrap the bones with aluminum foil to keep them from burning while roasting.  Place the lamb racks in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before carving.

While the lamb is roasting, prepare the potatoes. Line 2 baking sheets with a double layer of paper towels.  Place the oil in a deep-fat fryer over high heat.  When the oil begins bubbling, add the potatoes, a few slices at a time, taking care not to crowd the pan.  Fry, turning if necessary, for about 4 minutes, or until tender and beginning to brown. 

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to one of the prepared baking sheets. Continue frying until all of the potatoes have been browned and are well drained (on the same baking sheet).  A few at a time, return the potatoes to the hot oil and fry, turning if necessary, for about 2 more minutes, or until crisp.  Drain the potatoes on the clean paper towel-lined baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the blackberry sauce onto the centre of a dinner plate.  Carve the lamb racks into chops, allowing 4 per person.  Stack 4 potato slices in the center of the plate and crisscross the lamb chops over the potato stacks.  
Serve.

SWORDFISH RUBBED WITH TAMARIND-GINGER CHUTNEY

Ingredients (serves 6)

Spinach Purée (recipe below)
Fried Leek Nests (recipe below)
3 Tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 Tablespoons black lentils
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 dried cayenne peppers
1/2 cup tamarind pulp (recipe below)
1/4 cup fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons jaggery
1 1/2 pounds swordfish (or any meaty fish like tuna or halibut).  Steak should be cut into 6 equal 1-inch thick pieces.
12 chives (optional)
Coarse salt to taste

Method:
Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the black lentils and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the mustard seeds and stir for another minute.  Stir in the cumin seeds and sauté for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is very aromatic.  Add the chillies, tamarind and ginger, and cook, stirring frequently for about 3 minutes, or until the ginger has begun to soften.  Stir in the jaggery and cook for an additional minute.  Scrape into a blender and process until you have a purée.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.  Allow to cool slightly.

Place the swordfish in a dish and generously coat all sides with the tamarind chutney.  Cover and marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius.  Place a large, ovenproof, nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the marinated swordfish and sear for 2 minutes per side, or just until golden.  Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the swordfish is firm to the touch.

Spoon 3 tablespoons of the Spinach Purée in the centre of each of the 6 dinner plates.  Lay a swordfish fillet in the center of the puree on each plate.  Place a Leek Nest on top of each piece of fish and serve immediately, garnished with chives.

Tamarind pulp
Combine a 1 pound block of tamarind with 4 cups of cold water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the tamarind is very soft.  Pour into a blender and process for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture is of a soupy consistency, adding cold water, a bit at a time, if necessary.  Strain the mixture through a medium sieve, pushing with a spatula, to separate the fibres and seeds from the pulp.  Store the pulp in 1/2 cup amounts, preferably in zippered plastic bags, in the freezer.

Spinach Purée
3 pounds fresh spinach, well washed and stems removed
3 Tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Coarse salt to taste
Wash spinach thoroughly.  Spin or pat dry.  Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Stir in the spinach, a bit at a time, and sauté for about 3 minutes or until it is wilted.  Scrape the spinach into a blender or food processor.  Add salt to taste and process until spinach is a thick purée. Scrape the spinach purée into a nonstick saucepan and place over very low heat to keep warm until ready to serve.

Fried Leek Nests
3 leeks
4 cups vegetable oil (approximately)
Pinch of ground cumin
Coarse salt to taste
Trim the leeks of all but 1 inch of the green part, wash thoroughly.  Cut lengthwise into a fine julienne.  Pat dry. Lay a large double layer of paper towels on a clean counter.  Heat the oil in a deep saucepan or deep-fat fryer over high heat.  When the oil begins cracking, add the leeks, a few at a time and fry until golden brown but still soft and pliable.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the leeks to the paper towels to drain.  When cool enough to handle, use your fingertips to shape the fried leeks into 4 small nest-like shapes.  Season with cumin and salt.  Transfer the nests to a baking sheet lined with a double layer of paper towels. If the nests cool, put them in a very low oven for a minute or two before serving.

SPICED BASMATI RICE WITH FRUIT AND PINE NUTS

Ingredients (serves 6):

3 Tablespoons ghee
1/2 cup onion, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
3 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods
One 2-inch cinnamon stick
2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup finely dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
Coarse salt to taste

Method:

Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick and sauté for 5 minutes.  Stir in the rice and turmeric and continue to sauté for about 3 minutes, or until the rice is shiny.

Raise the heat and add the water, coconut milk and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan.  Cook for 10 minutes; then stir in the raisins and apricots.  Cover again and cook, without lifting the lid, for 10 more minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and, without lifting the lid, allow the rice to steam for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and stir in the pine nuts. 

PAN-SEARED PEACHES WITH BROWN BUTTER AND JAGGERY

Ingredients (serves 6):

12 firm but ripe small peaches, (plums, apricots or nectarines may also be used)
1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup jaggery
2 Tablespoons sherry or port wine (optional)
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Wash the peaches and pat dry.  Cut in half lengthwise, remove the pits, and season the cut sides with salt and pepper. Place the peaches, cut sides down, on a platter, and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Heat the ghee in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the peaches, cut side down, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the fruit and ghee begin to brown. Add the jaggery.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the peaches begin to soften and the ghee and jaggery mixture is golden and syrupy.  Add the sherry and cook for an additional minute.

Place 4 peach halves, cut sides down, in a shallow dessert bowl or soup plate.  Pour syrup over peaches and serve.

‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ is in UK cinemas 5 September.

 

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