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What’s cooking, Hayden?

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TWIN PASSIONS Hayden at work as chef Praveen Anand looks on
TWIN PASSIONS Hayden at work as chef Praveen Anand looks on

Cricketer Matthew Hayden displays his other talent — cooking

What do cricketers pack? Clothes? Sure. A bat? Of course. A bread maker? Certainly… if we’re talking about Matthew Hayden. So, the next time you’re behind him in an airport queue, you know what that oddly shaped object in his baggage is. Legendary for feeding his teammates even when they travel, Hayden’s preferred method of conjuring up a meal involves significantly more effort than pressing ‘0’ and waiting for operator assistance. “I carry a bread maker and just one burner,” he says matter-of-factly, adding, “And a saucepan.” Who needs five star chefs when you can cook up pasta in your own room?

Ironically, Hayden does. Currently touring the country for the IPL, he’s letting the five star chefs take care of his daily bread while he gleefully investigates the kitchens. Clearly, he’s simultaneously soaking up recipes as well as the powerful aromas of his favourite spices.

At a cook out by a hotel pool in Chennai, where he’s showcasing a couple of rather elaborate recipes from Dakshin, which he’s learnt from the hotel chefs, Hayden begins the session by adeptly throwing sliced onions into a pan. Chilli powder follows. Then a generous lashing of turmeric. He lavishes the result with delight and garlic. By now the chefs are looking a little confused. Executive Chef Praveen Anand is unfazed. “He seems to be developing his own style,” he smiles. The cricketer, famous for his powerful left hand, and as an opening batsman, amassed a world record of 380 runs in a match against Zimbabwe in Perth a few years ago.

What you probably don’t know is that he made himself a meal of smoked ham and pumpkin soup the night before, and considers it one of his favourite meals ever.

So it’s hardly surprising that he eventually chose to combine his two passions, writing and cricket, with the Matthew Hayden Cookbook, featuring recipes he learnt from his travels around the world for matches. The Matthew Hayden Cookbook 2 followed, again with recipes from everywhere, ranging from the backwaters of Kerala to a New Zealand vineyard.

Judging from the rather prosaic titles marketing the books wasn’t really foremost in the mind. He laughs as he passes around his first concoction, Really Spicy Potatoes, saying he didn’t worry too much about sales. “Both the books are a collection of memories,” he says.

As he begins his next dish, a lobster stir-fry of sorts, he pulverises a flurry of lemon wedges, delightedly squeezing their juice all over his palms and the dish. “I love the colour of the food here,” he beams, adding that he finds cooking very relaxing.

“I go into kitchens, I talk to chefs… we talk about food,” he adds, as Chef Anand, gently nudges him, saving the dish from burning. It’s finally off the stove. “Too much salt,” he asks? “A little,” says the chef. “It’s also slightly rubbery,” Hayden adds, with disarming honesty. “It’ll be perfect the next time,” the chef smiles. Hayden makes a mental note. (Ironically, he doesn’t use a recipe book himself.)

Judging by how Hayden’s relishing his lobster, it might just be destined for his next cookbook. (A wild guess at the title — Matthew Hayden Cookbook 3?)

So, don’t be too surprised if you get tantalising aromas of sizzling lobster at any five star hotel, the next time Hayden’s in town.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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