Cooking and Cinema

This blog is about cooking and films from all over the world

SPAIN July 30, 2009

beMy Spanish adventure can be summed up as a feast of vibrant colors, tastes and personalities. The past week was festive with colourful platters of tapas and larger than life characters from Pedro Almodóvar’s films, a director who is now a major player in the world cinema scene. The tile of a 2006 film review in the New York Times best described the director’s style. It read ” The Darkest of Tragedies in the Brightest of Colors.”

Pedro Almodóvar’s films are a visual feast, a circus of sorts complete with clowns, ghosts, acrobats and drag queens. The stories are like roller coasters filled with unexpected twists and turns that will keep you hooked till the end. His characters are bold and memorable, most dealing with issues of misplaced identities. Much in the same way that Pedro Almodóvar often questions his own Spanishness in the films by avoiding the expected stereotypes and plots. And yet his films are distinctly Spanish with careful attention to local accents, mannerisms and the rhythm of any given place. And much in the same way, I used the basic traditional Spanish ingredients to create a variety of experiments throughout the week. The essential Spanish pantry ingredients like chorizos, piquillo peppers, manchego and pimenton (spanish paprika) can be paired with fish, chicken, eggs or vegetables to create some delicious and authentic flavors.

My favorites at the end of the week were Asparagus with Salmon, spicy sausage and cheese tortilla and Bad Education, a 2004 film with the famous Gael García Bernal Fele Martínez. A modern day film noir with a Almodóvar twist to it. A story of revenge, lost love and innocence, perverted priests, murder and chaging sexual identities. It is a film about a story in the past, told in the present with a film within a film. It has all the controversial moments typical to his films and yet it is like something you’ve never seen before. But don’t just take my word for it, you gotto try it for yourself.

So until next time, keep cooking with cinema. My next week will be form August 8th to August 16th. See you all then, in a new place with a hungry stomach and a plateful of exotic food

Some great tapa receipes


ITALY July 20, 2009

A clip from Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D A clip from Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicyle Thieves

From the ashes and pessimism of World War II came two incredible Italian exports; the pizza and the Italian neorealist movement. These two swept through the entire world and have changed our palates and films forever. While the invention of pizza dates back to the 18th century, it was only after the war that returning American and European soldiers took back with them the taste of this everyday Italian food. And just as we are indebted to the pizza that sailed across the oceans, we also have to pay our respects to a kind of cinematic movement that influenced post war sensibilities all over the world.

Italian neorealism was an answer to its times. When most people had lost everything in the war including hope, they needed art to find a way of expression that did justice to their cynical worldview. So directors all over Italy abandoned fantastical stories and took their cameras to the street where they captured stories of people struggling to come to grips with life each day. Neorealist gave up the studio settings, big budgets and heroic characters to focus instead on the small stories of its people played by non-actors. While the past had to be forgotten and the future looked bleak, the only option was to live in the present. These films abandoned conventional techniques of using flashbacks or flashforwards, and instead their stories unfolded in the present using new conventions of storytelling. These experiments in cinema gave us masterpieces like Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D, La Strada and Germany Ground Zero. Films filled with compaasion, humnaity and hope.

I spent most of last week revisiting many of these films while trying some classic Italian recipes to go along with them. And at the end of most meals I found myself with a full stomach and an inspired mind. And while these films have undoubtedly shaped my sensibility as a filmmaker over the years, the appetizing recipes I tried this week have definitely left me a bit of a changed cook too. Till recently I was a proud member of the ‘don’t mind eating preservative tasting foods’ group. But to my horror, at the end of this week you can accept this as my official resignation from this ‘eat out of store bought jars’ fraternity. I can’t help it. There is just something about a quick homemade pasta sauce or pizza with few and simple ingredients that feels right to me. And if good food and art can make better people out of us, then this week is a clear proof of that.

Some successful recipes from this week
Chicken Marsala –
Ribollita –
Spinach and Spring Onion Pasta Sauce – My uncle’s recipe

Important Films & Directors of this movement
The Bicyle Thieves – Vittorio De Sica
Umberto D – Vittorio De Sica
Germnay Year Zero – Roberto Rossellini
Stromboli – Roberto Rossellini
Paisa – Roberto Rossellini
Rome, Open City – Roberto Rossellini
La Strada – Fedrico Fellini

For this week, we take a quick train ride to SPAIN! See you there


Thailand July 6, 2009

Panang Curry with CHicken and vegetablestropical maladyI usually like my cooking to be simple and my films to be complex and Thai week was exactly that. It was all about fresh, bold herbs in the kitchen and fresh new ways of filmmaking on the screen. I choose films made by a young Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004 for his film, Tropical Malady along with several prestigious awards for his other works. He is a quiet, unassuming director whose films are uncompromisingly his own- bold and innovative.

Tropical Malady stuck with me the most compared to his other films. The film is intelligently crafted and challenged me as a viewer. While its landscapes were detailed and descriptive, the story was evasive and open-ended. Characters disappeared half way through the film, abandoning the story and taking on mythological personas. Nothing is explained and a lot is left to the imagination. A kind of film that stays with you and creeps up in your mind ever so often, unexpectedly making you think about it. And just as opposing flavors in thai cooking blend into in a simmering pot, contrasting styles of filming create an experience that delicately balances on the brink of reality and fantasy. And yet by the end of the film, we can never really be sure as to which half of the film was more ‘real’.

But watching Apichatpong films, made me change my approach in the kitchen too. I started this week with safe ingredients. But watching his films loosened me up a bit. He celebrates experimenting and in tune with his films, I embraced exciting ingredients like smelly mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves, black (wood) fungus, anchovies, galangal and rice noodles of varying thickness. And while some meals left us wanting for more, others were quickly forgotten. And since no humans were injured or sick in the making of these meals, you can all give a collective sigh of relief.

So at the end of the week, I’m happy with what I cooked and I loved the films I watched. My regrets are far and few compared to the ideas I have for next week when I’m heading to Italy. But due to some “Real Life Stuff” my cooking week will start a bit later from July 11th to July 19th. Make sure to join in and I can’t wait to see you there.

Essential herbs and other flavoring ingredients: Kaffir lime leaves (more important than basil), plenty sweet basil leaves (buy then cheap at any Asian supermarket), galangal, shrimp paste, good quality fish sauce, coconut milk and brown sugar. Total cost for these and some other speciality Thai ingredients=$30.00

Some Memorable Recipes:
Panag Curry ( – I added chicken, pineapple and peanuts
Green Curry with sweet potatoes and eggplant!
Pad Thai (

Blissfully Yours
Tropical Malady
Mysterious Object at Noon

P.S.- Please do let me know your reactions and if you would like to see something more or expect anything different in the blog.


welcome to my experiments in world FOOD and CINEMA June 28, 2009

Hello family, friends, filmmakers, foodies, bloggers and passerbys alike,

I am a filmmaker by profession and a food lover by instinct.  This combination along with the recession, lack of a job, an overactive mind and a recent trip to the South of France are all responsible for this sudden urge for me to do the unthinkable-  TO COOK.  I am about to begin experimenting  in my kitchen starting tomorrow and thought of inviting you all for the ride.   There are no guarantees of how long I can actually do this and I wonder when it would be before I run out of ideas, ingredients and enthusiasm.  But while I’m still riding on this gastronomical high, I figured I’ll make the most of it.  

I am carrying my love and interest of world cinema into the kitchen.  Just as I make quick trips all around the world through these film images, I’ll make the food from these places that can (somewhat) complete my travel experience.  Every week  I will pick a new country, cook recipes and watch film/s from there for seven days before moving on to another country and another food.   I think one week would be enough time for me to explore the food and also to use up most of those specialty ingredients I shop for.  At the end of the week these audio-visual and gastronomical experiments and experiences will find their way on my blog and that’s where you come in.  I would love to get your suggestions,  reactions, feedback, ideas, inspirations or hear about your own cooking /film experiments.  

So please put on your seat belts and fold up your tray tables, we are about to take off.  Your first destination – Thailand! 

See you there.