Across my Table

Across My Table - Shazia Khan

Wednesday, January 04, 2017ruthdsouzap

Being a woman who has pursued a passion myself and made a career out of it, I totally relate to the many strong women I know who have done the same. For all the followers of Masterchef India, I am sure the name of Shazia Khan is something you will recall instantly. I thought of starting this year's blog posts with an interview with Shazia Khan, one that I had done a while ago, but as fate would have it, has seen the light of day only now. 

Shazia Khan always wanted to create an identity for herself but never thought it would be through her passion – Food. This first runner-up of Masterchef – India Season 2 now has a cook book on the stands where she shares recipes that she has grown up with, and which she promises will make you love cooking. All the images of the food in the book are by good friend Saina Jayapal.

Who was Shazia Khan before Masterchef happened?
I was just as any woman is expected to be. I was married at an early age and became a mother, and right until Masterchef was a happy homemaker. Cooking was something I have always been passionate about, right from my childhood. I spent time with my mother, my grandmother and then my mother-in-law, and my passion for food continued to grow. I loved to feed people even before Masterchef. 

I always had this desire, though I did not know that it would happen through food, to make an identity for myself. I didn’t want to be just my father’s daughter or my husband’s wife. I wanted to do something more. 

How did Masterchef mould what you have become today?
I auditioned for the second season on the behest of my family and did not harbor any hopes of receiving a callback. But I did get that call and then went on to be selected in the top 100, the top 50 and finished as the first runner-up. It has been a life altering experience, to say the least.
After Masterchef, my passion for food has become clearer and larger. From just looking into the flavors of food, I now also delve into presentation and experiment quite a bit. Interacting with the chefs on the show has broadened my perspective in many ways. 

What can a reader and cooking enthusiast expect from your book?
I have always loved collecting recipes and have a huge collection of tried and tested ones. Immediately after the show, life was hectic with TV shows and the like. Once things began to settle down I was sure that I wanted to write a book and share my recipes. It was difficult initially as I did not find a publisher, but things fell in place and What’s on the Menu saw the light of day.
The book is basically my life story through recipes. It also contains recipes of food that I have grown up eating. These are dishes that I have made in my kitchen and which have been loved by all. Everybody has wonderful memories associated with food, and I am sure this book will nurture the reader’s love for good food.

The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs, which quite literally make you want to cook and eat them all up! I have also ensured that the ingredients are not exotic and are easily available. Another important factor is that there are recipes for the novice cook, right up to the experts.

In today’s world of online references for cooking, what goes into making a recipe book interesting enough?
It is difficult for a cookbook to do well in an age when there are scores of recipes available at the click of a button. That being said, a cook book enthusiast is always going to buy a book. Also, a book does not give you an overwhelming number of choices for a particular recipe. You are sure of having a recipe that is tried and tested. A cookbook is something that you will always come back to. Cook books also have recipes that are passed down through generations, and these are not going to be available online.

What are your observations on the way home cooking has evolved in the last few years?
I think home food has gone through two phases. The first was when our grandmothers stuck to the sil-batta style of cooking and the other is when we made the move to machines – pressure cookers, oven, mixer-grinders and more. I remember my grannies mixing cake batters by hand. But today, we have machines for this job. Today, as we continue to learn new things, I see a return of the olden methods of cooking. I see a better understanding of why these old techniques were necessary to bring out flavor, and we are going back to them again. Things are going full circle. Thanks to food shows, people are more aware of techniques, cuisines and dishes and are not scared to try new recipes. 

What is the one memorable food experience you have?
This has to be on the fisherman’s boat that we shot on for a food show that I was part of. I have never cooked on a boat and it was an experience of a life time in Kerala. The fishermen on board, cleaned the fish they caught, cooked it up immediately with minimal ingredients. It was the best seafood I have ever tasted. 

What would you serve at an impromptu party at your place?
Impromptu parties happen at my place all the time. I always have a well-stocked fridge so I always have the trappings for a good meal. I can also always whip up something in 20 minutes that will be high on flavor, be ghar ka khana, yet be something novel.

What's On the Menu
The cover of What's On the Menu, a book that promises some great meals. Click on the image for the Amazon link to purchase the book.

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