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Food and Film, an Oscar Celebration: Slumdog Millionaire and Balloon Bread

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The Oscar's, or Academy Awards, have become an international yearly tradition for film fans the world over. Millions of people look forward to the one day of the year when a gold plated little naked bald man takes over the media universe. Whether you love or hate the choices of the academy members, the fact-of-the-matter is, the Oscar's are a cause for celebration -- and what better way to celebrate than with food! This year we'll celebrate with some great food from the films which have taken home the Oscar for Best Picture.

Slumdog Millionaire (Best Picture, 2008): If you have never seen Slumdog Millionaire, one of the best coming-of-age films to escape Hollywood in quite some time, you are in for one special (yet sometimes disturbing) movie. It centers on a young man from the slums of Mumbai (India) and how his life changes, for good and bad, due to his participation in a televised game show. Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for ten Oscars and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Director (Danny Boyle), Best Writing/Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song and, Best Sound Mixing.

Through Slumdog Millionaire you see scenes of the vibrant street action of India, including some marvelous food vendors. One of the most popular foods from vendors in India (and one of the most inexpensive) is a bread known in America as Balloon Bread.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite international breads. It is as much fun to make as it is to eat. I love watching the clumps of dough being dropped into the hot oil and then inflating and turning an absolutely lovely golden color. You won't find this bread in any bakery, but you will find it in abundance if you ever have the pleasure of visiting one of the most beautiful places on earth, India!

The bread gets it's name due to the fact it blows up like a balloon. What I really love about this bread, aside from the fact it is quite beautiful and fun to make, is the taste. It is the perfect definition of a savory bread. You can eat this bread alone or due to the fact it inflates, you can also use it as a savory and delicate Pita style of bread.

So take all those thoughts out of your head that Indian food is nothing but curry and tandoori chicken. Real Indian food is indeed a culinary treasure to behold.

This is a very easy and quick bread to prepare. There are no rising times and very little kneading.

Ingredients needed to make Balloon Bread (makes 14 pieces):

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbs. melted butter
  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Peanut oil for frying

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and cumin. Stir in the butter, yogurt and water to form a dough.
  2. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead about 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest 30 minutes.
  3. In a large saute pan or skillet, add enough peanut oil to deep-fry (a few inches) and bring to 375 on a deep-fry thermometer.
  4. Knead the dough about 2 minutes and then separate into 14 pieces and roll each out into a 2-inch disc of 1/8-inch thickness.
  5. Carefully place, in batches, into the oil and deep-fry until puffy and golden brown.
  6. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool on a rack.

The internationally bestselling cookbook from Chef Larry Edwards, "Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals," is now in it's third printing and available worldwide in both hard cover and e-book versions. The paperback version will be released March 4, 2014.

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