Meet In Your Kitchen | Nik Sharma’s Goan Coconut Curry

by eat in my kitchen

Nik Sharma

Spices, aromas, and flavors, and a great portion of tradition paired with curiosity create an exciting mix in Nik Sharma’s kitchen. Two worlds woven into his life feed the man’s inexhaustible creativity: India and the USA. The first country marks his roots, the land where he was born and raised, the latter represents his life since he was 19 and decided to leave the known behind and start an adventure that lasts till today.

Nik established a renowned food blog over the past few years, standing out from the start, visually and culinarily. A Brown Table  is loved for its eclectic recipes and stunning pictures. As a cook, Nik makes you hungry, as a photographer, he creates a unique mood that is captivating, appealing in a way that you want to frame his photograph and hang it on the wall and at the same time go straight to your kitchen and cook and eat the dish. He won Best Photo Based Culinary Blog awarded by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) two years in a row, quite an astonishing career for someone who only grabbed the camera professionally in his mid twenties.

The fact that his dad was a successful photographer in advertising might have influenced the young man’s feel for light and compositions, but Nik says there wasn’t that much of an exchange about his work between father and son, he only learned how to use a camera after he left home. But despite his parents’ warnings – they told him not to follow their footsteps – the photographer, blogger, and soon to be cookbook author did what many kids do: he did it anyway. His mother worked in hotel and restaurant management, she didn’t like cooking, but she had a huge folder full of recipes collected from newspapers and magazines. Nik was fascinated by the world of cooking and baking at an early age, he loved spending hours reading through Indian and western creations, he joined the family’s cook in the kitchen, and eagerly followed his maternal grandmother’s culinary activities. Her Goan heritage is still very present in many of his own recipes.

Reading the titles of Nik Sharma’s recipes makes your mouth water, you can literarily smell the warm aroma of cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and rosewater filling the kitchen: Imagine Masala Chai Pumpkin Cake, Khasta Kachori (Edamame-stuffed Fried Indian Bread), Honey Sage Turmeric Wings, Goan Coconut Cake, Cherry Black Pepper Cake, or his Toasted Pistachio Cake with Blood Orange Sauce. The recipe he shares with us for our Meet In Your Kitchen feature is a vibrant explosion framed in comfort food: Goan coconut curry with tender game hen and aromatic spiced rice.

The cook’s approach to food is scientific, Nik has an analytic mind and way to think about dishes, but at the same time he looks at things from a “feminine standpoint”, he likes curves and his styling reflects that. “I always think of ballet dancers when I shoot, I envision the dish being a solo dance performer on stage, the light’s only focused on the dance and everything else is dark. I always think of dance and curves, I find them very sensual, I find straight lines and diagonals a little harsh. Even if I do introduce them in my composition, you’ll see that there’s a circle cutting through, like a tangent. Again, I bring math into it because I’m a geneticist by training”.

You can be a gourmet, an aesthete, and share the beauty of life, but if you’re a critical mind, you know that there’s always more to talk about at the table: You can often see Nik’s hands in his photographs, to show the technique of a recipe, the preparation and instructions, but also to showcase that there are people from different backgrounds, that there is diversity behind the scenes of a restaurant. Nik says “We don’t really see them because they are never brought to the front”. There’s an imbalance in our society, a hierarchy in the way who works in the front or the back of a restaurant, and in the way people are paid and it’s our responsibility to talk about this imbalance and solve it.

Every Sunday you can find one of Nik’s beautiful recipes in his A Brown Kitchen column printed in the San Francisco Chronicle (if you don’t happen to live in the Bay area you can also grab some inspiration online on the newspaper’s website) and on October 2nd, 2018, his first cookbook Season will come out. Reflecting Nik’s unique style, the book combines the author’s roots and fascination for flavors with his journey as an immigrant in the US who lived in different states and experienced the culinary heritage from people coming to this country from all over the world.

And if you also want to eat in Nik’s kitchen, check out his supper club!

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Nik Sharma

 

Nik Sharma

Nik Sharma’s Goan Coconut Curry

Serves 4

2 medium red onions, peeled
2 cups grated coconut (unsweetened)
1 cup (240ml) boiling water
1 inch-piece (2.5cm) peeled ginger root
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
8 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
6 cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
2 whole garlic pods
2 Cornish game hens, patted dry
Kosher salt as needed
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
Boiled rice or bread (to serve)

Cut one onion into thin slices and keep aside until ready to use. Take the second onion and cut it into quarters.

Place coconut, water, ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, and the quartered onion in a blender and pulse on high speed until smooth and combined.

Melt the ghee in a medium-Dutch oven (or a heavy pot) on medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté until golden brown for about 8 to 12 minutes. Peel any extra paper off the garlic pods and trim about ½ inch (1 cm) off the top to expose the garlic. Add the trimmed garlic pods to the onion and cook for about 1 minute. Then add the ground coconut spice mixture into the pan and cook stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Place the two Cornish game hens in the pan snuggly and fill the pan with enough water to just cover the two birds. Increase the heat to high and bring the contents of the pan to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the birds are completely cooked and tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Garnish with the chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot with rice or bread.

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma11

 

Watch my interview with Nik in San Fransisco in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Nik!

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma10

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma13

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma14

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma12

 

Nik Sharma

 

Nik Sharma