Ismail Merchant works magic in the kitchen as well as on film

Just a few days before his film ``A Room With a View'' was awarded three Oscars, director Ismail Merchant spent an evening as guest chef here at Carolina's restaurant [see story on page 1]. His visit was part of the Philadelphia Visitors and Convention Bureau's third annual restaurant promotion, aptly titled ``The Book and the Cook.'' Forty nationally known cookbook writers - among them such culinary greats as Jeff Smith (the ``Frugal Gourmet''), Craig Claiborne, and Martha Stewart - made appearances at various restaurants in the city to give diners a chance to meet the authors, sample their foods, and purchase autographed cookbooks.

Here are some of the recipes from ``Ismail Merchant's Indian Cuisine'' (St. Martin's Press, $19.95).

Of this first dish he writes, ``While we were shooting `Quartet' in Paris, Maggie Smith succumbed to my Spicy Chicken Curry, served with Cashew Rice and Spicy Stewed Cauliflower and Potatoes. Later I prepared Mackerel in Coconut Sauce for her during shooting of `A Room With A View.'''

Spicy Chicken Curry (Murgh Masala) 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 large onion, sliced 6 peppercorns 1 cinnamon stick 4 cardamom pods 6 cloves 2 bay leaves, crumbled 1 chicken, about 3 pounds, in pieces 1/4 teaspoon turmeric 1/2 teaspoon chili powder 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger Salt 2 garlic cloves, peeled, pressed 1/2 cup plain yogurt 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add onion, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves, and bay leaves. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion becomes light brown. Add chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is seared on all sides. Sprinkle in turmeric, chili powder, coriander, cumin, ginger, and salt to taste. Stir in garlic. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until chicken is well colored. Add 13/4 cups hot water, cover, and simmer until chicken is just cooked.

Add yogurt and allspice and simmer 10 minutes. Serves 4.

Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes.

Gazpacho is one of the dishes being discussed during the dinner party in Merchant's film ``Jane Austen in Manhattan,'' when Anne Baxter's peas fall in the soup.

Broccoli and Lemon Gazpacho (Broccoli aur Nimboo ka Shorba) 11/2 pounds fresh broccoli, in bite-size florets 2 tablespoons butter 1 large onion, peeled, chopped 61/4 cups chicken stock Peel of 1/2 lemon Juice of 1/2 lemon 10 large garlic cloves, peeled, chopped 13/4 cups light cream Salt

Reserve a few broccoli florets for garnish and lightly steam remaining florets. Do not overcook, to retain color and crispness. Cool.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat, add onion and cook until it soft, stirring occasionally. Add broccoli, stock, lemon peel, and juice. Raise heat until soup barely simmers, turn heat to low, cover, and cook 15 minutes, until lemon is soft. Put soup, in stages, through a food processor or blender with uncooked garlic. Add cream and salt to taste. Cool and chill.

Garnish with reserved broccoli florets. Serves 6.

Preparation and cooking time: 40 minutes, plus chilling.

Savory Onion Rice (Bhuni Piyaz ke Chaaval) 2 tablespoons butter 1 medium onion, peeled, chopped 4 black cardamom pods 13/4 cups chicken stock 2 cups long-grain rice

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to brown. Stir in cardamom pods, then add stock and 11/4 cups water. Bring liquid to a boil. Add rice, cover tightly, and turn heat to very low. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Serves 8.

Preparation and cooking time: about 40 minutes.

Indian Rice Pudding (Kheer) 1/2 cup long-grain rice 53/4 cups milk 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup dried milk 1 tablespoon rose water 6 to 8 blanched almonds, chopped 10 to 12 shelled, unsalted pistachios, chopped 1/4 cup seedless raisins

Boil rice in 31/4 cups water until rice is very soft. Heat milk and sugar in another pan and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and stir in softened rice. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring, until mixture becomes thick. Add dried milk and stir in well. Add rose water, almonds, pistachios, and raisins and remove from heat. Let pudding cool and serve at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour, plus cooling.

Carrot Halva (Gajjar ka Halva) Pinch of saffron 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/4 pound butter 11/2 pounds carrots, peeled, grated 1/4 cup sugar 4 tablespoons raisins Seeds from 4 black cardamoms 20 blanched almonds, sliced lengthwise in slivers 1 tablespoon rose water Heavy cream, to serve, optional

Gently stir saffron into 2 tablespoons cream and gradually mix in remaining cream. It will turn saffron color. Do not beat. Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat. Add grated carrots and stir to coat well. Add and stir in sugar, raisins, and cardamom seeds.

Blend in saffron and cream mixture, then almonds. Sprinkle in rose water and cook 30 to 40 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Mixture will become a fairly dry, golden-brown mass.

Serve halva with heavy cream poured over the top, if desired.

Serves 6.

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