“I have a confession to make,” I tell celebrity chef Shipra Khanna, whose show Snack In The Box premiered on Living Foodz at 5 pm on February 26th. I tend to binge eat at 4 pm, and I am always running out of snack options. “You are not alone,” she quips.
Her show, she says, will leave viewers with creative ideas and encourage them to try simple snack recipes that have been handpicked from across the globe. Some of them, she tells me, are special because they are part of her travel memories.
“I am always reading up on foods and researching to develop simple hacks for recipes. It is my passion to understand people’s likes and dislikes, along with keeping a tab on trends. If you follow snacking habits in different countries, you will see a common thread,” adds Shipra.
One of the rare and addictive snacks demonstrated on the show is, Japanese-inspired crackers. Boiled rice is flavoured with soya and tōgarashi powder along with paprika, chillies and garlic powder. Umami for the win!
Monkey pluck, Monkey eat
The habit of snacking, says Khanna, has been borrowed from our primitive ancestors, the apes. “Have you noticed that monkeys eat all the time? It is natural, and as humans we started to cook our food, instead of munching on raw items through the day. Snacking is the most natural thing to do,” she says, adding that the show, Snack in the Box, will give viewers creative ideas, which are easy to rustle up and would encourage them to try these recipes in their kitchens.
The experience of hosting and creating recipes for the show is an extension of her passion off camera, she tells us. “It was an organic process. When Living Foodz approached me with the idea, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” enthuses Khanna.
Hosting Snack In The Box, Khanna says, threw her the challenge of holding her audience while demonstrating recipes by being her chatty best. “You must look good, the food needs to be visually appealing and you need communicate in a fun and engaging manner,” says Khanna. Since the chef is a people’s person, it came to her naturally. “I am very friendly, and love sitting down and chatting about my travels and food with anyone who will listen,” she laughs.
Simple steps to tasty snacks
The author of three books, Spice Route, Sinfully Yours and the newest, Super Foods for Awesome Memory, Khanna emphasises that her focus is always on simplifying recipes.
“My intention as the host of a food show is to share recipes that you can cook at home; whether you are a housewife, single in the city, students living away from home and anyone toying with the idea of experimenting with recipes. Most amateur cooks are afraid to experiment, because recipes are complicated. It all boils down to basic ingredients and techniques. Simplifying is my focus because a recipe with 200 steps is terrifying. Today, no one has the time, and they don’t want to spend all of it in the kitchen,” explains Shipra.
Khanna advises mothers (and anyone who loves unhealthy snacks) to cleverly hide nutritional veggies in dishes. “Fussy kids will get creative mothers, thanks to Snack In The Box,” she says. Banana Oatmeal Cookies and Multi-grain nachos are a great snack for kids. “To battle fussy eaters, think beetroot burgers, soya samosas and banana muffins,” she adds.
Nostalgia, for Khanna, is her maternal home, Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. “I am a Punjabi and my mom and grandmom were great cooks. We would be planning dinner over lunch. We had friends and family coming over for meals all the time. My fondest memories are of the family sitting together and eating,” recalls Khanna.
A lot of countries are deeply rooted in the culture of community eating. The Spaniards and Brazilians, even Austrians and Germans are big foodies. We have picked some of their traditional snack recipes for the show.
“My favourite dish while growing up was, and still remains, gur ka halwa, made using semolina (suji), apart from gujiyas and dry fruit laddoos. Since Himachal has great produce, we had a lot of chilgoza (pine nuts) and gucchi (morels) and of course, rajma,” says Khanna, making my mouth water.
But she gets tongue-tied when we ask her to choose her favourite dishes. “My mother cooks really well and I've grown up eating a lot of Rajasthani dishes like daal kachori and home-made ghewar. My comfort food is as simple as it can get – daal and rice paired with seasonal veggies.
Shipra’s Punjabi kitchen is never without tubs of pure ghee, fresh seasonal produce, variety of daals and lots of meat. “Punjabis just need a reason to celebrate. Lohri and Baisakhi bring the family and friends together to dance, sing and feast around a large bonfire. For Lohri, we have Til Ki Gajak and peanuts with jaggery patti, while Baisakhi is all about makkai ki roti and sarson ka saag with homemade white butter churned out of farm fresh cow’s milk. There’s more - Chole Bhature, Daal Makhani, Guchchi ka Pulao and Gajar ka Halwa. These are my most loved festive food items,” she signs off.
Bite-sized questions with Shipra:
1. Fave street food: Dahi chaat
2. Your guilt-free indulgence on cheat days: Cake
3. Fave healthy treat: Quinoa salad with pomegranate and veggies
4. Recipe of a 5-min Snack: Baked Avacado Rolls
5. Fave spice and why: Vanilla. I love the aroma.
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