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Mumbai food: Andheri workshop teaches healthy vegan cooking

With vegan diets being the rage, a workshop is encouraging cooks and maids to learn how to go easy on the oil and heavy on veggies

On A weekday afternoon, a group of cooking enthusiasts braved the rain to attend a food tutorial at nutritionist Bhavna Kapoor’s Yari Road residence. It is their first session today, and, while they aren’t strangers to the kitchen, their nervousness is palpable.

At the food tutorial, the cooks were taught to prepare vegan smoothies, soups and sabji. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
At the food tutorial, the cooks were taught to prepare vegan smoothies, soups and sabji. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

That’s because for this group, ‘vegan cooking’ is still alien. Yet, on the insistence of their employers, these reluctant house helps and cooks have taken time out to learn something new.

Ambat varan (tangy dal), made using oil-free tadka
Ambat varan (tangy dal), made using oil-free tadka

A table full of spices, herbs and veggies, is placed in front of them. They carefully observe and then pore over the Hindi translation of recipe books that they’ve been handed. There is some whispering about the absence of certain ingredients.

When Kapoor begins the class, she is faced with these questions: how can you prepare dal tadka without oil; why do you use date paste instead of sugar; how is kadhi prepared without the base ingredient, curd. But, she has it all figured.

As founder of Health Nut, a health coaching programme, Kapoor (37), has been promoting healthy eating to clients since 2014. “I turned vegan five years ago, when I was battling health problems. This diet also leaves the lowest carbon footprint on the planet,” says Kapoor. “We do not include meat, eggs or any dairy product.”

After explaining the nitty-gritties of veganism, Kapoor starts with her first dish of the day. “It’s a green smoothie,” she says. To it, she adds a few chopped bananas, two spoons of homemade date paste, some coriander and a few mint leaves. It all goes into a mixie. What comes together is a drink that could be the answer to getting that quota of greens every day. She then reveals how to prepare sabji without oil. “Just steam the veggies for a few minutes, and mix it with the onions and tomatoes that have been sautéed, with salt, on low heat.” When Kapoor cooks the oil-free dal tadka, Shankar Thapa, a Nepalese cook, helps her. He had attended an earlier workshop conducted by Kapoor, and has now, become an expert in cooking millet khichri and green smoothies.

After every dish that Kapoor prepares, she advises the cooks to try them, and get back to her, if they get it wrong. “Cooking without oil requires a lot of patience. One needs to continuously stir, or you risk burning the food,” she says.

Twenty-year-old Maya Singh, who works for a family in Malad (East), tried out the pesto with zucchini salad at home. “We all loved it,” Singh’s employer, make-up artiste Ayesha Seth said. “I really enjoy cooking, but honestly, I can’t do it every day. So, when I learnt about a workshop that teaches healthy cooking, I jumped at the idea. My husband and kids love what Maya prepares.”

Incidentally, Seth’s family isn’t vegan. “But, it is fascinating to see Maya incorporate certain elements from the vegan-style of preparation to make great non-veg meals.”

When: July 12, 1 PM — 4 PM
Where: B 305 Achal, Kalyan Complex, Yari Road, Andheri (W)
Entry: Rs 2,200
Call: 9821524977

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