When East(er) Meets West
Traditional Easter specialties are peppered with regional influences in India. Meet a chef who shares her most-loved Easter memories along with a recipe from her grandmother
For Christians, Easter is one of the most auspicious times in the year after Christmas. Chef Nicole Gonsalves, who also heads product development at Nilgai Foods, remembers how her entire family came together to celebrate midnight mass on Easter Sunday. “I was born and brought up in Mumbai where Easter mass was a big deal. I remember my entire family joining us for service before Easter,” Gonsalves reminisces.
The favourite part of Easter for Gonsalves, like many others, is the food that everyone enjoys on Easter. Coming after 40 days of Lent fasting, food occupies a special place during Easter. Dishes prepared for this occasion are savoured by the whole family who feast on offerings through the day.
For children especially, no Easter is complete without the mandatory Easter Eggs. Gonsalves says that mostly we used Easter eggs made from marzipan until a few years ago. “It is only now that chocolate Easter eggs are in vogue,” she adds.
Easter came to India through the British who introduced their culture in our country. The Christian community in India has created various regional specialties in addition to dishes that are considered traditional in the West. For example, in the West there is a tradition of having simnel cakes during Shrove Tuesday whereas Christians in Kerala prepare rice cakes for Easter.
This is just one of the food differences between Easter in India and the rest of the world. Gonsalves, who trained as a chef in London for many years, remembers how spring vegetables like parsnips and rhubarbs are used along with three-week old spring lamb to prepare a rack of lamb for Easter. She adds, “In India, I remember we had Potato Chops stuffed with beef, Sorpotel (a pork dish), Vindaloo, Paan Poley and Kori Sukha for Easter as traditional dishes. For vegetarians, we just had Vegetable Pulao and a simple salad”
These are dishes that the Gonsalves family still cooks every Easter as part of an ongoing family culture. “I use my grandmother’s tattered recipe book to prepare these dishes and I am proud of these dishes that bear testament to our rich heritage,” the chef says adding that this year she has already decided to prepare Potato Chops for starters along with Sorpotel, Roast Chicken and a vegetable dish with her mother and mother-in-law.
Gonsalves, who grew up with a Manglorean mother and a Goan father, thinks their food choices definitely made their Easter feast worth celebrating. Paan Poley (Neer Dosa) and Potato Chops, for example, came from her mother’s side and are dishes that she enjoys the most.
Since chefs love to experiment with food, we wondered if Gonsalves has ever tinkered with these classic dishes. With a slight pitch in her voice she says, “I wouldn’t touch classic recipes because I feel traditional dishes that have been passed through generations need to stay authentic. How else will you reminiscence your past if you change it?”
As a parting note, she agrees to open her grandmother’s book of recipes to share the preparation method of Kori Sukha for us. Here it is:
Kori Sukha (Dry Chicken with Coconut)
- Chicken- 1 kg
- Coconut (grated)
- Onions for frying- 6
- Ghee/Oil- 3-4 Tablespoons
- Salt to taste
- Coriander for garnishing
Masala to Grind Fine
- Long Red Chillies- 8
- Short Red Chillies- 4
- Coriander- 1 teaspoon
- Cumin Seeds- 1/2 teaspoon
- Pepper corns- 6
- Cinnamon- 1 inch
- Cloves 3
- Garlic- 5 Flakes
- Tamarind- a lime size ball
- Turmeric- 1/2 inch
- Mix the ground masala with the chicken pieces.
- Add salt and masala water and boil it.
- Mince the onions and fry them till brown. Take out and keep aside.
- In the same oil/ghee fry the boiled chicken adding the gravy slowly.
- Add in the fried onions.
- Add a little water if needed.
- Add grated coconut and cook on a low flame till coconut loses its raw taste and the chicken is completely cooked.
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve.
Images courtesy: Shutterstock
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