Easter feasts, associated largely with long eared bunnies, hot cross buns and eggs filled with chachkies, are getting a makeover in Bernardo’s kitchen. Owned and run by Crescentia Fernandes, an Anglo-Indian who grew up in Kerala and married a Goan, is bringing the best of both the lands together for a special Easter menu, consciously steering clear of the more standard Easter treats, at her cosy restaurant in Gurgaon. Playing to her strength, she has stuck to Goan cuisine and roped in friend and popular Delhi-based home-caterer, Prima Kurien, for traditional dishes from Kerala. The coming together of the two “spice girls”, a moniker gifted to them by Ravitej Nath, Fernandes’ partner at Bernardo’s, hopes to celebrate the tradition of home cooked Easter food that the two ladies grew up on.
Both Kurien and Fernandes admit to relying heavily on the recipes that they have inherited from their respective families and perfected over the years. “When I visited Goa with my husband in 1984, they had a little ceremony for us and I remember the most delicious Goan food was cooked. The xacuti was made by a neighbour who was somehow related to us, in the way that people were back in the day. I requested her to teach me how to make it. Hers was a tedious process that I follow till date because no other method gives you the same results. Each ingredient is roasted separately and then ground together. We have it on the menu,” said Fernandes.
Evoking the shared Portuguese influence, that, over the years, has melded with the Hindu and Muslim culinary cultures of the two states, a three-course menu was designed with one vegetarian and two non-vegetarian options. It includes their signature dishes such as Fernandes’s pork vindaloo and pork chorris pao, and Kurien’s mutton biryani with pachchadi. “My mother would start the biryani preparations days before Easter. We would come back from the church and the entire house would smell of masalas that were slowly cooking on the fire. But my recipe is a mix of my mother’s and aunt’s preparations. I’ve taken the best from both,” said Kurien.
The sizeable menu also throws up lesser- known delights that often escape even the most sought after regional menus like steamed, fermented rice cakes called sannas, a delicate yellow curry made of raw papaya and lithe Netholi fritters. The meals are curated like feasts that traditionally follow the 40 day period of fasting and sunrise service.