Franklin Woman Forges Community Ties through Indian Cooking

SULLIVAN — In planning her Indian cooking workshop, Gunjan Gilbert wanted students to prepare a traditional Indian “Thali,” which in Hindi means plate or meal, and in this case included a flatbread (bhature), basmati rice, two vegetarian dishes (sambhar and wada), and a creamy chicken curry (malai chicken).

As she directed the Sumner Memorial High School adult education class March 17, Gilbert interspersed her cooking instructions with anecdotes and information about her native culture.

Gilbert grew up in the western Indian state of Maharashtra where her mother taught her to cook mainly vegetarian dishes.

Although Gilbert’s mother worked, she also cooked for her family, often rising at 4 a.m. to begin food preparations before leaving for her job as an occupational therapist.

Forgoing an arranged marriage, Gilbert chose her own path and met her husband, Christian Gilbert, through the hiking group at Jackson Laboratory where she works in scientific services and he is in marketing.

The Gilberts have been preparing and selling Indian food from their home in Franklin for some time and planned to open a restaurant in late spring. However, given current economic conditions, they have decided to move more slowly.

Gilbert said in addition to preparing food to order from their home and catering parties, they will also serve an Indian dinner one night each week at the Franklin Veterans Club beginning in June. Part of the proceeds will go to charity.

For complete story, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.


This is a south Indian dish and usually pretty spicy. Modify the heat to adjust to your taste.

  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 1 cup of red lentils

Boil the lentils in a slow cooker overnight with four cups of water. Or boil it in a saucepan for one hour until cooked.

Vegetables needed:

  • ½ lb of green beans, washed and cut in one-inch pieces
  • 2-3 carrots washed and shredded
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 1 green chili
  • ¼ inch ginger, chopped
  • 1 green pepper shredded and chopped
  • 3 tomatoes chopped
  • Curry powder. If you can find it use Sambhar curry mix or substitute it with Madras curry powder.

In a deep saucepan add 2 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil. Add the chilis and then add onion and ginger. Fry them on low heat until the onions turn translucent. Then you will add spicy curry mix (Madras curry mix). Add tomatoes, beans, carrots, peppers, and lentils. Cook altogether with 1 cup of water. If you like your sambhar a little less dense, then add more water. Add salt, pepper, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Serve with rice or on top of wadas.

Malai Chicken

This is a wonderful chicken curry. It is quite flavorful. If you want to reduce some fat, you can reduce heavy cream in this recipe and use half of the amount and increase the water by ¼ cup.

  • Cooked rotisseries chicken, one full chicken shredded
  • 1 container of heavy cream
  • 2-3 Tbsps. curry powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ tsp clove powder
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • ½ cup of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • ½ Tbsp. grated ginger
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (more if you like garlic)
  • 1-2 chilies chopped (omit it you don’t like it hot)
  • 2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
  • ½ cup of water

In a pan heat up the oil on medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, ginger. Then add the curry spices, turmeric, clove powder, and add the chicken and tomatoes. Turn to medium heat. Add salt and pepper. Then add the water and bring it to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the cinnamon stick and heavy cream and simmer for a few minutes.

Nicole Ouellette

Nicole Ouellette

When Nicole isn't giving advice she's completely unqualified to give, she runs an Internet marketing company in Bar Harbor, where she lives with her husband Derrick and their short dog Gidget. She loves young adult novels, cooking and talking French to anyone who'll talk back. [email protected]