Fall is the time of year when we return to classic comfort dishes that we know and love. Since variety is the spice of life and Bal Arneson is our Food Network Canada’s resident "Spice Goddess," I chatted with the charming cookbook author and food personality about her Thanksgiving plans and how you can put some interesting twists on heart-warming favourites this autumn.
FNC: What is a typical Thanksgiving Dinner like for you and your family?
BA: It’s very traditional and North American, sweet potatoes, etc…but each individual dish will have my spicy touch to it. I do an Indian-style turkey. Sometimes I like to use star anise and cinnamon sticks and pack them right into the turkey. In between the skin and the meat, I’ll take a handful of dried herbs, like paprika, and rub it all over!
FNC: Obviously with your flare for food, are you the kind of person to undertake the entire cooking process yourself, or is it a family affair?
BA: My biggest pet peeve is having too many people in the kitchen. I like to be alone with some Bollywood music on, maybe some chai tea or a glass of wine. Get out of the kitchen and let me have a good time! But [my kids] will have to do the dishes, because they know I’ve been working hard all day!
FNC: What is the best part about spending the holiday with your family?
BA: Coming from India, every second month we had a festival. Families take part, sharing amazing food. Having family gatherings is so close to my heart.
FNC: Do you have a tried and true family dish that is always on the table every year?
BA: I do make one traditional Indian dish. There’s always butter chicken. There has to be, it’s our tradition!
FNC: Mashed potatoes are always a family dinner staple. What is one way you like to spice them up?
BA: When I’m mashing [the potatoes] I start adding my spices. I toast some coriander, cumin, curry leaves and mustard seeds for about ten seconds on low heat. I get a mortar and pestle, crush it, and sprinkle it, mixing it into [the potatoes]. This way you get a really nice texture and flavour.
FNC: Alright, pumpkin pie. What's a good Indian-inspired twist on this traditional pie?
BA: I grew up in India and we didn’t have ovens. Honestly, I’m not a baker, but my son loves to bake. He wants to be the next Jamie Oliver. He knows to use the sweet spices, so he’ll always go to cloves and cardamom. He’s only nine, but he’s the little chef of my house.
||Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.
by Dan Clapson