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PhenomeNOMS: Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

PhenomeNOMS: Stephen Hawking
by Erin Parr

Welcome to the fourth edition of PhenomeNOMS, a look at famous geeks and the food that has either inspired them, or is inspired by them.  This week’s edition features a scientific legend, and one of the most influential theoretical physicists of all time, Professor Stephen Hawking.

Born in England in 1942, Hawking started his life with a great foundation for his scientific passion. Both of his parents were well educated and fostered an excellent environment for learning. Stephen’s early life was full of mathematical and scientific study that came easy to this brilliant mind. Through years of study of mathematics, physics, relativity and cosmology, Hawking later became professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a professorship that lasted 30 years. During his time as professor, Hawking published numerous books and articles on quantum mechanics, relativity, and cosmology.

Professor Hawking’s most famous book, A Brief History of Time, was published in 1988 and made a subject like cosmology accessible to the masses with it’s short, informative format. Later on, Hawking published a follow up to A Brief History of Time called The Universe in a Nutshell, which offered an illustrated guide to the big theories covered in his former work. When Professor Hawking turned 21, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which has gradually deteriorated his ability to move and speak. Hawking now uses a speech synthesizer which allows him to use eye and finger movement in order to communicate. Even though his ability to communicate was impacted, is work did not stop. Through the use of advanced communication devices and assistants, Hawking hs continued to write and give presentations. The unique voice that his speech synthesizer creates has stayed the same for Hawking since the 80s, and professor Hawking has stated he wanted to keep it that way since the voice is now identified as uniquely his own.

One of Hawking’s greatest dreams has been to travel in space. Though the professor has not had the opportunity to travel to the stars in his lifetime, he was taken up by NASA in a zero-gravity simulation over the Atlantic ocean in 2007 at the age of 65. Hawking enthusiastically communicated about his experience after, exclaiming,  “It was amazing. The zero-G part was wonderful, and the high-G part was no problem. I could have gone on and on. Space, here I come.”

Because of his brilliance, and his unique presence, Hawking has also become yes another modern science celebrity. Featured on television shows such as The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, Star Trek the Next Generation, Futurama, and countless internet memes and videos – the world has taken notice of Hawking’s brilliance. I have been fortunate enough to see Professor Hawking give presentations twice in my lifetime, and one of the most prominent memories I have is a young girl  in the audience asking Hawking was it was like to be on the set of Star Trek, and professor Hawking stating in his electronic voice that is was “very cool.”

Through some research, and since Professor Hawking comes from a British background, it is only right to present you with an Indian-inspired recipe. This dish is warm and comforting and full of complex flavor. Don’t be afraid of trying something new! Remember, in the words of Stephen Hawking, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – So if you’ve never tried or made Indian food before, give this a try! You might be amazed at how much you like it, and you’ll be smarter, too.*

While you’re cooking, why not watch this amazing video with Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and Arthur C. Clarke discuss, amongst other things, venturing to the stars and extraterrestrial life.

Stephen Hawking’s Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani)
Serves 4


1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt

1 small onion, chopped fine
1 whole jalapeno or serrano pepper, chopped fine (or more for more heat)
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
Approximately 1/2 inch nub of fresh ginger, grated (or 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger)
3 tablespoons of butter
1/2 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 cup half and half or cream
1 6oz can tomato paste
Juice of 1 lime, plus 1 lime sliced into wedges for serving
3/4 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup chicken broth

Spice mixture:

1.5 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if more heat is desired)

1 bunch cilantro and/or green onions chopped fine to serve (optional)
3 cups cooked steamed white rice to serve

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place a baking rack on top of the cookie sheet so there is space between the rack and the sheet. Combine the first 5 ingredients, making sure to evenly coat chicken breasts. Evenly space chicken breasts on rack. Bake for 10 minutes on each side, or until chicken is just barely pink in the center. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Melt butter and oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, ginger and peppers to the butter and sautee for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning. Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the spice mixture, tomato paste, and chicken broth. Stir to combine and let simmer for 5-8 minutes. In the meantime, slice your chicken breast into approximately 1 inch cubes and add to the sauce. Add your frozen peas and cream and stir. Set temperature to low and simmer for another 10 minutes. You can use this time to make your rice or finish watching the video with Hawking and Sagan.

As a last step, add lime juice and stir through. Service on top of steamed rice and top with cilantro or chopped green onions and lime wedges. This also goes smashingly with some freshly warmed naan bread.

*In theory, anyway. Hey, at least you learn a new recipe!

Some resources used: