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Veggie around the world

NEETI SARKAR
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Book Asha Khatau's latest book, “Exciting Vegetarian Cuisines of the World”, busts the myth that there's not much vegetarian food outside home

A CULINARY JOURNEY Asha Khatau
A CULINARY JOURNEY Asha Khatau

T he queen of vegetarian cooking is all out to bust a myth with her new book. Asha Khatau's “Exciting Vegetarian Cuisines of the World” wants vegetarians in India to know that international cuisine is not necessarily non-vegetarian.

The book has seven sections and over 250 recipes for soups, salads, starters, main courses, accompaniments and desserts. Be it American, Continental, Mexican, Mediterranean, Italian, or Pan Asian, there is a recipe to suit every taste and palate.

“The recipes are a product of deep research, careful selection and, of course, are all recipes that have been tried in my own kitchen or at the classes I conduct. The thing about vegetarian cooking is that it has to be authentic, the right flavours and ingredients must be used, the method is important and the presentation is no less vital,” says the cook/author/teacher.

Indian palate

She adds: “From all my travels abroad, I came to realise that much of the food served isn't suitable for the Indian vegetarian's palate. Also, relevant ingredients for the typical vegetarian would be missing so in some sense I did have to recreate the recipes. Maybe just the basic idea and information is borrowed but the rest is my own way of making a particular dish. Also where a recipe can be made easy, I have rewritten it completely.”

Ask her what sets her cookbooks apart from others and she replies: “Each recipe is fresh and innovative. I never compromise on the ingredients and at all times I keep the Indian palate as a yardstick to measure if a particular dish would work or not.”

There are too many stereotypes people have about vegetarian food. The most common one according to Asha is that “people believe vegetarian cooking does not have much variety. But it is amazing how many delicacies can be churned out with just one vegetable. There are so many different methods to make the same vegetable, a myriad ways of presenting it.” For someone who started learning to cook from scratch when she got married, Asha has come a long way in her culinary journey. After 20 years of experience in providing memorable meals to her family and friends, Asha was eventually persuaded to start cooking classes several years ago, which she runs under the name Epicure. These classes feature cuisines from all over the world. She has also conducted demonstrations in India and several countries abroad. Her first book “Vegetarian Cuisines of the World” was awarded the Best Vegetarian Book in the World, at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2002 in France.

“Delectable Desserts of the World”, published in 2005, won honourable mention in the Best Foreign Cookbook in the World category at the Gourmand awards in 2006. These awards for food and wine books are considered to be the Oscars of the cookery world.

Being the fitness freak that she is, for her next writing venture, she's collaborating with a renowned dietician to put together a cookbook of health and fitness foods.

NEETI SARKAR

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