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Tikkas, truffle and tips

Coimbatoreans turned out in droves to learn a thing or two from high priestess of cooking, Nita Mehta, writes PANKAJA SRINIVASAN

MIXING IT UP With Nita Mehta (Top right) Chocolate cake with truffle topping (bottom) Paneer makhni Photos: K. ANANTHAN

A moment of panic as the sieve goes missing. And the baby corns haven't been blanched yet. The cream is not quite up to the mark.

"Water, water," she says urgently as she sweeps past from one table to another clutching a blue mug in hand.

Selecting a carrot here and a bell pepper there, chopping, peeling, grating and giving directions all without missing a beat.

This is high drama. One is watching an expert at work.

Resplendent in an orange sari, culinary queen Nita Mehta prepares for a cooking demo. How to turn out great food in a jiffy — all in a microwave.

Ideal Stores and Panasonic organised an event called Mrs Microwave, and invited Nita Mehta to share her expertise in Microwave cooking with cooking enthusiasts of Coimbatore.

By the end of the programme, a number of women who had declared that microwaves were only good only for reheating or at the most roasting paapads ate their words and lots besides.

Microwave magic

The evening begins with paneer makhni. A beautiful glass bowl with chopped red tomatoes. A deft sprinkle of green chillies and ginger and in it goes into the microwave.

As that simmers, there is a flurry of activity. Paneer is chopped, cashew soaked, cream is beaten and appetites worked up.

There is something about food being made by these celebrity cooks.

Everything looks tantalising. Tomatoes are a fire-engine red, not a single stalk of coriander dares to wilt, peas look perky and fresh and paneer has never been so white and soft...

Demo queen

Talking all the while, Nita gives a step-by-step demo of how to make the best paneer makhni in town.

And in between the garam masala and the coriander step she dispenses some handy tips (see box).

As the makhni simmers, she is a step ahead preparing to bake a chocolate cake with truffle topping.

Twenty minutes is all that it takes (for her at least). While it is rising in the oven, she tells the pure vegetarians in the audience how to make the same cake without any eggs.

A mad scramble for a pen and paper and a young Marwari aunt and niece scribble down the recipe. Preeti is only in class six and she proudly says how she loves cooking and already knows how to make poha and semiya.

In the next row is retired Mr. Rajappan, a former additional commissioner of Income Tax. "I never had the time to cook before and I plan to learn now," he says as his wife looks on, expectations writ large on her face!

A motley crowd with a fair sprinkling of men in it has begun to look eagerly at the oven.

`Will it, won't it?' is the unspoken question in everyone's eyes. The cake rises beautifully to the occasion (dare it do otherwise when Nita is baking?)

A little coaxing and the cake comes out clean onto the rack — a perfect ring. A slice of mango is artistically cut and placed in the centre, truffle is poured over the cake and the final touch is the cherries on top. Nita Mehta makes it look all so easy that even the most incompetent cook in the audience is fooled into believing he or she can nail it!

The feeling of happy confidence grows with the tikkas, both veg and non-veg.

Did you know?

Cooking tomatoes in the microwave preserves Vitamin C, a great anti-oxidant

Tomato-based gravies should be refrigerated if they are to be served after a few hours as they do not keep for too long.

Rubbing kasoori methi between your palms helps release its flavour better.

While cooking something in the microwave for more than 10 minutes, stir the contents halfway through

Cashew or almond paste recommended in the recipe should always be added towards the end of the cooking time.

Sugar and honey have the same calories. Only, honey is nutritious while sugar has empty calories.

Food taken out of the refrigerator cooks better if it is first brought to room temperature

If self-raising flour (recommended in some recipes) is not available, use plain flour with baking powder, the proportion being a teaspoonful of baking powder to a cup of maida.

(Nita Mehta has recently won a prestigious award in France for the best Asian Cookery Book. And she has nearly 200 cookbooks to her credit. To know more, visit or

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