Break the rules and be mad, urges chef Sanjeev Kapoor as he demonstrates some party tricks that will leave your guests gasping in admiration

Drop amla, carrot, tomato, slightly cooked beetroot, fresh ginger, mint, salt to taste and lemon juice into a juicer, hit the button and watch as it transforms itself in seconds into a healthy energy-drink. Pour into shot glasses and, voila, the ruby-red beauty is ready to serve as a party drink. “That is the idea,” says Sanjeev Kapoor, as he warms up for the next few hours to be spent with enthusiastic cooks in Coimbatore for the show presented by Globuse Realtors at Vivanta By Taj Surya.

That is, in fact, the underlying theme of the day — lending the X factor to your dinners. Every one has recipes or easy access to them, but when a chef of the standing of Sanjeev Kapoor shares his party tricks with you, you listen, and learn.

“The next big in thing is elegant home-style cooking” says the chef as he gives the pedestrian rajma and kadhi chawal a glamorous makeover. “The focus these days is on lighter, more flavourful and healthy recipes,” he says. Pressed-for-time hosts just need presence of mind and an out-of-the-box approach to tweak even the most ordinary food into something extraordinary. You just need to think a little ahead. For example, when you cook rajma, keep some of it aside. When guests drop in, instead of just emptying out the potato chips onto a plate, serve it along with the rajma that has been garnished with delicious tomato-onion salsa and topped with grated cheese.”

Kapoor not just tells us how to make the stuff he is talking about, but makes it there and then. Pav bhaji will never be the same again if you follow his suggestion. He takes sparkling Martini glasses, spoons in some melted butter into the bottom where you can see it in its sunny yellow splendour. He cuts out a round of toasted bread, puts that into the glass, being careful to leave a gap between the butter and the bread. Then, with a flourish, he ladles in the bhaji on top. A three-layered exotica in a glass tumbler is ready. Not only does it look glam, it also keeps the butter separate for those who do not want so much of it. Those who want the butter, can dig in with the spoon and mix it all up.

It is the Martini glass to the rescue as Kapoor scoops out perfect balls of water melon and musk melon, drops them into the glass and garnishes with salt, pepper, feta cheese and a dash of lime. The result is a really pretty dish that can be served as a salad in individual portions.

The X Factor

Dramabaaji is the key, he smiles, as he whips up a fragrant vegetable biriyani. He cooks it in a glass-lidded pan, and it seems to take no more than 15 to 20 minutes. But, he is not done yet and the X factor comes into play when he shows the biriyani he has cooked in individual mugs! According to Kapoor, you may have slaved over the biriyani for hours and all you may get is a perfunctory nod. But serve it in a coffee mug, and watch the tongues wag!

Kapoor bedazzles with tips that make you go, ‘Damn, why did I not think of that before’! He says the idea is not to be intimidated by cooking. Some thought, some playfulness and a twist in the tale can end in dramatic results. Kapoor de-mystifies recipes that are usually considered formidable challenges. He calls the Italian risotto “very expensive khichdi” and demonstrates how un-frightening it actually is to make.

The key is good quality ingredients, he says. Kapoor regales the gathering with his Master Chef experiences, his travel stories and the gadgets that he simply must have in his kitchen. The day ends with lunch and clicking of cameras as every one wants a photo with the celebrity chef and one last cooking tip. But we love him best for saying, “Do yourself a favour, there are good sauces and purees easily available in the market now. Get them and cut down your hours in the kitchen.”

Sanjeev Kapoor will be back soon, this time with a 240-cover restaurant in Coimbatore, because he is convinced, “Tier two cities are where all the action is.”

TIPS FROM THE CHEF

To make an eggless cake, take a tested chocolate cake recipe and substitute every three eggs in it with 50 gm of maida, 50 gm of sugar and 50 gm of oil/butter. Add an extra teaspoon of baking powder to the recipe, and four tablespoons of milk.

If you are using a recipe with baking soda in it, ensure there is acidity to balance it out. Use orange juice/yoghurt or vinegar.

To retain the vibrant green of your beans, cook uncovered with a little water so that it does not catch. For greens, blanch in boiling water and refresh in cold water so that it stops the cooking process and keeps the colour.

For a quick yet unusual dessert, take shop-bought gulab jamuns, preferably the small ones. Wash them in hot water to lessen the sweetness. Put them in bowls and cover them with phirni or ice cream and set them. Watch as your guests dig in to the bowl and enjoy their reaction when they encounter the hidden jamuns!