Zarine Khan in her cookbook Family Secrets reveals how Raj Kapoor was a big foodie, Zayed Khan’s lasagna is the best, and why her husband prefers lighter food like khichda, unlike Suzzane who loves brinjal and Hrithik Roshan chicken korma.
Among Raj Kapoor, RD Burman and Dilip Kumar, who was the biggest foodie and most fun?
As far as foodies are concerned, I’d say RD Burman and Raj Kapoor! If I were to rank them, Raj Kapoor would be the biggest foodie of the three. He used to host the most amazing parties, and the Kapoor home has been a household that has been known for its great food and dinner parties! My interactions with RD Burman were mostly due to his work with my husband Sanjay Khan, so the dinners and meals were usually the entire movie team working together at our home. Having said that, he was full of life, and a very free-spirited person, and it was a pleasure dining with him! Dilip Kumar has a little more sombre and serious personality compared to Mr. Kapoor and RD Burman, but it was always a joy to host him for dinners at our home. And of course, he had his favourites, too!
You credit your mom-in-law with honing your culinary skills. One lesson she taught you that has stayed with you?
My mother-in-law was a very special lady. There are many lessons she taught me that have stuck with me through time; but if it is about cooking, the first and foremost thing she taught me was that whatever I do, especially during the food prepping time, I should do it with love. She always said that love is a very important ingredient in cooking, and it plays a very important role! It is love that makes us prepare the meal or cook more wholeheartedly, and that is the first basic lesson she taught me. Till today, whenever I am serving a meal (not just while entertaining, but even the daily meals), I pay a lot of attention to details, and it is with a lot of love that the table is laid to make it a special meal. Not just with cooking, I believe that this lesson holds true for life, because when we do something with love, we do it with more deliberation, attention and patience.
Another lesson she taught me, something that is more technical, was that while plating and serving, colours play a vital role with the presentation. Two similar colours shouldn’t be served together, and there should be a contrast so that the feast whets the visual appetite, the first sense! She taught me how to serve and lay out the table artistically, something that is key to Western cuisines and dinner services.
Amongst Suzzane, Simone, Zayed and Farah, who is the best cook?
Zayed, is undoubtedly the best cook among my children, and it is also because he enjoys cooking. He finds it relaxing, and unwinds with cooking! He is a cook par excellence and I suppose it has been a genetically passed on trait from his father, who obviously got it from my mother-in-law. Zayed’s lasagna is
the best I have had to date, and it compares to the flavours and standards of authentic Italian cooking. His hara masala chops are exquisite too, and a favourite of Adi Godrej! He also likes to experiment a lot with food, and makes it look exotic and different. My daughters enjoy good food, and can cook as well, but are not as enthusiastic as Zayed is about food.
Among veggie dishes, which is the one, which is most difficult, and why, to make?
I do not think there is any one recipe that is difficult to cook in the book. All the dishes, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, are very simple, fast cooking dishes made with ingredients available at every household. With this book, I wanted to share with everyone some of the dishes we have enjoyed cooking and dining on, and for them to be able to enjoy cooking it for themselves, their families!
Possibly the baked mac and cheese would be the most difficult dish, but only because of the technique of baking that makes it a little more tedious. I believe that it is a false notion that more difficult and complicated a recipe, the more delicious; in fact I think it is the reverse, the simpler a dish, the better. The ingredients and the food shine through. And while complicated dishes may look more beautiful, simpler dishes are more delicious!
Do you plan on another book, to add what you probably could not in this one? Honestly, you never know! My children wanted me to share all these time treasured recipes that have been passed on to me, so graciously by my mother-in-law. But when I started working on it, it became a giant! When we cook at home, a lot of times, the spices are not measured but estimated, and to put it in a cookbook, we had to dissect the recipes.
The photography, done so beautifully by Ashima Narain, had to be exceptional to represent and showcase the dish in its glory, and it can be exasperating to make it all look just right! There are so many elements that go behind putting this together, and I may not have the energy to do another book, but like I said, you never know!