This post is a particular one. It’s about something really cool that I’ve had the chance to experiment thanks to Lab Noon. There’s an unusual element too, –unusual meaning it’s a little outside the zone of things I imagine to publish here on the blog– it’s one fantastic unusual element.
It’s a movie. Lasse Hallstrom‘s new movie. I’m talking about the director of Chocolat (that marvelous piece of movie full of cocoa, passion, Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp). Among the the producers there are Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey e the main actress is Helen Mirren. Hell, talk about expectations! It’s called The Hundred-Foot Journey but in Italian it has been translated (as often happens) to Love, Cooking and Curry! Now it’s easier to imagine it’s got something to do with me.
I’ve been invited by ChickenBroccoli, a very cool Italian blog about movies to the exclusive premiere with the director; in order to create a recipe based on the food shown in the movie. As passionate as I am about food, interculturality, France and India, all it took for me to fall in love with the movie was watching the trailer.
Actually, the plot of The Hundred-Foot Journey is quite simple; An Indian family of restaurateurs seeks asylum in France after a series of dramatic events and open a new restaurant in front of an old, classic, starred French restaurant which is only 100 feet distant. Now imagine that clash of traditions, cultures and people. And as it often happens, clashes help smooth the sharp angles.
Even though the movie serves the colorful, joyous India that is full of sounds, loud music and hot spices side by side of the well-measured, classic western France in an arrogant fashion, I found that The Hundred-Foot Journey is all about similarities rather than the differences. Not only between the two contestant sides of the story, but also between us and the characters of the film.The story is about finding a home. About feeling at home. And how it doesn’t really have to do much with the physical and geographical home at the end of the day. And to help you search it, recreate it, remember it, there’s food. “Food is memories.” says somebody in the movie. Beautiful, fresh, picturesque food. The excellent French one that’s narrated through some antique and classic cooking books and in the kitchen of the restaurant. And the Indian food; just as beautiful, with more colors, much more spices and much less discipline.
There’s something fairy-tale about this movie. Not only in the story but also in the photography; the warm light of the southern French country side, the happily-ever-after love stories and the view of the village which reminds you of the famous view of the Disney castle.
If you’re a romantic deep inside (like me), and you enjoy some good laughs while being touched by some deep and wise words that make you reflect, this is the movie for you. It’s definitely worth a cool Autumn evening.Socca, or Farinata as Italians call it, is a thin layered crepe made of chickpea flour. they say it originally comes from the Ligurian coast but I have come to know about it as a street food from the south of France.
This version is inspired by a recipe I read in the May issue of the Italian edition of Jamie Magazine. It lingered on my mind because it seemed easy and absolutely delicious and most especially because it didn’t really look too French to me. I imagined that adding some spices and replacing anchovies and olives with something else would easily turn it into something Indian. Later I discovered that socca-look-alike Indian chickpea pancakes actually do exist and they’re called Pudla.
Months passed and I never cooked this combination though I never forgot about it. (As a matter of fact I wanted to make it for a dinner with a celiac friend.) When I saw The Hundred-Foot Journey I knew exactly how I was going to recreate the fusion between India and France; by transforming this typical French street food and making it “Alla Hassan“. This recipe is naturally gluten free and vegetarian and without its yoghurt chutney would be happily vegan. (or maybe someone could suggest a vegan chutney for this. Yes, do comment please!)
- 125g chickpea flour
- 290ml water
- 1 tbsp e.v. olive oil
- 2 tsp curry
- a pinch of salt
- 4 large onions, finely sliced
- 1 tbsp unrefined cane sugar such as muscovado
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 1/2 tbsp garam masala
- a pinch of salt
- a handful of cashew nuts
- 3 tbsp e.v olive oil
- 250ml plain yoghurt
- a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)
- a pinch of salt
- In a large bowl mix the chickpea flour, curry, salt and water and whisk well until well combined with no lumps. Put aside to sit for half an hour.
- Heat the oil in a pan and turn down the flame. Add the onions and the sugar to the pan. When the sugar has melted add garam masala and turmeric and mix well. If you feel like the spices have dried up the mix too much add half a cup of water and let it cook for about 20 minutes on low heat until browned, thickened and very tender.
- Turn on the oven on 200C°/390F°. In a small food processor mix coriander (apart from some leaves for garnish), yoghurt and salt until you get a smooth sauce. the chutney is ready.
- Half the cashew nuts and toast them in a non-sticking pan until they smell fabulous. Take them off the pan otherwise they'll burn.
- Heat up a small crepe pan on a medium flame. whisk the crepe mixture one last time and pour 2-3 tbsp of the batter at a time to the hot pan. Move the pan in circular motion in order to speared the batter evenly. It shouldn't be too thick. It must cook for about a minute on each side.
- When all of your crepes are ready put them on a tray covered with baking parchment and top each one with 1-2 tbsp of caramelized onions. Add some toasted cashew on the top and bake for 10 minutes.
- Garnish with some fresh coriander leaves.
- Serve with the yoghurt chutney on the side.
Coming from Iran, she mostly develops her recipes by combining the aromas of the middle east with the flavors of the Mediterranean, specially Italy, where she has found her second home.