Women are better cooks than men: Rakesh Sethi
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Last Updated: Monday, December 21, 2009, 14:03
  
Women are better cooks than men: Rakesh SethiHe is the celebrity chef, who is known to prepare simple yet delicious food on his show Mirch Masala. Rakesh Sethi, senior executive chef at Ramada Plaza has about three decades of culinary experience and is credited with bringing healthy eating habits to the mainstream.

In a chat with Smita Mishra of Spicezee.com, Sethi clears some myths about Indian food, as also why some or the other homely woman accompanies him on his popular TV show.
Smita: You are a celeb chef- tell us about the journey till now.

Sethi: Well I didn’t want be a chef from the start, I wanted to join the Army or the Air Force. But my brother and I used to cook little things in our kitchen and used to experiment with food. I thought may be I will continue with this hobby in the armed forces as well. Then my brother seriously suggested that the kitchen may be my actual calling in life. So I casually gave the Pusa Institute exams, got through, studied well there and became a professional chef in 1982! I began with cooking for the President of India.


Smita: And how did you land up cooking on TV?

Sethi: That was through a competition. I was at the Oberois when a channel was holding auditions in various hotels. I got through all the rounds and we started shooting for a limited number of episodes of Mirch Masala. The response was so good that we kept doing the show and are doing it till date.

Smita: What do you like better- cooking in a studio or in a kitchen?

Sethi: Well in a hotel things are more organized and the chef can improvise a lot. In a TV show there are certain limitations- our target audience is well defined and we have to make food according to them. My show focuses on housewives mainly and we do recipes that can be easily cooked at home, for example.
Smita: Are men better cooks?

Sethi: Not really. Women are born cooks while men only follow in their footsteps. That is why I am always accompanied by a lady on my show who assists me in cooking. I simply feel more confident in their company. Women are better cooks hands-down.

Smita: Is Indian cuisine still evolving or are we caught up in the Mughlai era?

Sethi: Nobody wants to eat such heavy food on a regular basis now-a-days. People’s awareness- which sometimes stumps even the chef’s- forces experimentation and evolution in our kitchens. During my early days, I traveled extensively and got a wealth of information from the interiors of our country. Most of the cuisine of Indian hasn’t reached its cities- I am trying that by bringing some regional influences in my Indian cooking. Five star hotels don’t concentrate much on regional specialties; banquet system does offer that opportunity.

Smita: But aren’t clients more inclined to Western cuisine these days?

Sethi: Well our lifestyles are becoming increasingly western, so our food habits are also changing a bit. Globalisation has crept into our kitchens too. But essentially the palette still remains Indian.
Smita: Which regional food is best according to you in India?

Sethi: Our liking begins from the kitchens of Oudh and the Mughals. But various regions of India have their own specialty and increasing awareness about them is making people realize its worth. Kashmiri cuisine, Bengali cuisine etc. are so unique, you can’t tell which is the best. Just keep enjoying the good food!

Smita: That kind of food has only one global image- it’s too spicy.

Sethi: It’s a wrong notion cooked up by some westerners. The spices used in our food have therapeutically beneficial traits. If cooked with right ingredients and in the desired quantity, then Indian food is very balanced food.

Smita: Which is your favourite food?

Sethi: Personally I like only Rajma Chawal cooked by my mom- am a true Punjabi in that sense. But I like cooking and experimenting with Italian cuisine.

Smita: But Italian food has so much of cheese, it’s a health-conscious person’s nightmare…

Sethi: No that’s a misconception. The thing is people like cheese in their pastas and pizzas so the chefs can’t help but make cheesy Italian food. In actuality Italian food can be very wholesome and filling if it is made in moderation.

Smita: But will it taste good then?

Sethi: It will not taste like your cheese burst but then you decide how much fat or calorie you want to consume and the dish can be made accordingly. It will then taste as it should. How else do you think celebs stay fit- they know exactly what to eat and when.


Chef’s Exclusive Recipe: Chicken Mosaic /Paneer Mosaic

Ingredients:

Roll

1 boneless chicken breast ripped open and halved/Cottage cheese strip

1blanched spinach


1broad cabbage leaf


1boiled prawn piece /roasted almonds

Ratatouille

1 medium sized onion, chopped


3 cloves garlic, minced


1 medium or large eggplant, diced


1 can stewed tomatoes


2 medium zucchini diced into large chunks


Add herbs as desired (try basil)


Olive oil (enough to sauté onion/garlic)


Salt and pepper to taste


Sorrel sauce

2 cups sorrel leaves, chopped


1 1/4 cups fish / chicken stock/vegetable stock


1/2 oz butter


1 tbsp flour


4 tbsp light cream


Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Procedure:

Ratatouille

Sauté the onion and garlic until tender


Add eggplant and tomatoes, bring to simmer


Simmer, covered for 15 minutes


Add zucchini


Simmer for 10-15 more minutes until vegetables are suitably soft


Remove from heat.

Sorrel sauce:

Simmer the sorrel leaves in the stock for 5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then purée in a blender or food processor.


Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir over a gentle heat until blended.


Add the sorrel purée to the saucepan and simmer for 4 minutes, stirring. Add the cream and season to taste.

Roll

Flatten the chicken by beating it with the back of the knife. Rub salt and pepper. You can use cottage cheese as a vegetarian option. Place the prawn chunk at the centre of the chicken breast. (You can go for roasted almonds instead) Wrap the chicken or cottage cheese strip first with spinach leave and then with cabbage leaf.


Now tightly wrap around clean wrap and then with foil paper. Boil for exactly 10 minutes. Avoid over doing it.

Now remove from fire, rip open the wraps and cut the roll into thin slices. Serve with ratatouille and sorrel sauce.




First Published: Monday, December 21, 2009, 14:03


(The views expressed by the author are personal)
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