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Cooking tips from an award-winning writer
Neelima Chimnani
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March 30, 2007

Eating meals at the right time is vital to good health," says Asha Khatau, cookbook writer and cooking teacher.

Her first book, Best of Epicure's Vegetarian Cuisines of the World, won an award in 2002 for the best vegetarian book in the world at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, known to be the Oscars of the cookbook world.

She has four more books to her credit -- Vegetarian Chinese, Vegetarian Italian, Vegetarian Cuisines of India and Delectable Desserts of the World

She has conducted cooking demonstrations all over the world, and during her travels she makes it a point to visit local markets and restaurants to get authentic recipes and ingredients.

Khatau shares her views about food and vegetarianism, and gives cooking tips.

How has today's lifestyle changed young people's cooking habits?

There is a positive change. Because of television, computers, travel and overall exposure to a global scenario, the young generation feels a lot can be done with food, too.

There is more awareness about different kinds of cuisines. I receive a lot of questions regarding how one can make one's food more appealing and how one can create more variety. They like to try out new dishes even at restaurants.

You cook only vegetarian food. Why?

People have realised that with the pace of life that they are leading, it is better to be vegetarian.

Vegetarian food is lighter, healthier, fresher -- especially seasonal vegetables. With non-veg, you're never sure.

Also, vegetarian food offers a lot of variety with many different vegetables that can be cooked in many different ways.

A few of my German friends who have lived in Mumbai got so used to eating vegetarian food here, that they started missing it when they went back. They found it difficult to digest the heavy non-vegetarian diet.

Vegetarianism is gaining popularity all over the world. In fact, I have been thinking of vegetarianising the Shawarma, which is made only of lamb, primarily.

Should one buy expensive organic crop?

Organic crop is grown in India in places like Mahabaleshwar, Bangalore, etc, but in limited quantities.

So, it is a more economical choice to use the regularly grown fruit and vegetables. Only, they should be thoroughly washed before use, to rid them of pesticides.

What is the average youngster's perception of food today?

Young kids, who are either studying or are in the initial stages of their careers, are not very focused towards timings of meals, nutrition in their food and balance between carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

They are phobic towards fats and carbohydrates, whereas our bodies need all three components.

Being hard pressed for time, young students and professionals don't pay attention to timings in their diet.

(Have) breakfast before leaving from home, lunch at lunch time -- not 4 pm -- and an evening snack like some biscuits or fruit, etc, and a light dinner (are important).

I advise my children a 30:40:30 ratio of fat, carbohydrates and protein. 

Slightly cooked sprouts are digested better and provide necessary proteins. However, if you wish to eat them raw, you must eat them with some sugars (carbohydrates), as they help in the absorption of protein.

Some handy cooking tips for our readers?

Always cook the paste for a little less than the recommended time because even after you switch off the gas, it cooks further in the heat. So, you might have overcooked pasta at the end.

Soak dry red chillies in hot water for 20 minutes before making into paste for deep red colour.

Always use eggs at room temperature for best results.

Place salad dressing at the bottom of a large bowl, pile up washed and chilled salad on top and cover with cling film and refrigerate until ready to use. Toss at the table, just before serving.

Boil green peas with a little sugar to keep the colour of the peas green.

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