The vivacious Rakhee Vaswani’s uncanny resemblance to “domestic goddess” and baker extraordinaire, Nigella Lawson is striking. But the Indian celebrity chef has more in common with the Britisher than just good looks and charm. Equally talented and gifted when it comes to all things culinary, Vaswani started off her cooking school/studio in a tiny garage in Mumbai. Today, she’s jetsetting across the world, holding workshops, collaborating with other celebrity chefs, hosting TV shows and authoring cookbooks. In the city for the launch of her debut book, Picky Eaters, we talk to her about her journey with food.
“At age 11, I realised I’m blessed with a strong palate. I was confident as I knew I could go to the kitchen and cook something delectable with the help of my mom, aunts or neighbours, in case I went wrong somewhere. Having realised my capabilities and passion at such a young age, I always found solace in the kitchen and picked up tricks and traits from home-chefs around me,” begins Vaswani, who was certified by Le Cordon Bleu from Gordon Ramsey’s Tante Marie in London, much later on in life, thanks to her husband’s support. A bit of an all-rounder when it comes to food, Vaswani’s expertise spans cuisines like Indian, Lebanese, Japanese Chinese and Mexican, not to mention sugarcraft and baking.
While the culinary expert is a thorough foodie who will consume anything ‘as long as it tastes good’, she reveals that she has a soft spot for stir fries, wok fries, fresh herbs and fresh ingredients. And though her workshops cover recipes that aren’t the easiest to pull off, for Vaswani, it’s simple food and clean flavours that rock her boat. “Asian is my favourite cuisine. It’s so simple,” states the chef, whose love for Bengaluru is the result of her fondness for Airlines Hotel’s upma and RR and Nagarjuna’s Andhra biryani.
Christened the ‘Desi Nigella’ by her fans, the witty Vaswani has a few things to say about the moniker. “It’s an honour to be called Desi Nigella! Her shows are simply therapeutic. I find people aking me if I copy her. Lol! But you can ask the ones who know me or even the ones who have watched my shows or attended my classes, I’m born with drama and it comes to me naturally. I don’t copy anyone! (sic),” she quips.
Panini Sandwich with Onion & Aubergine Relish
1 large aubergine, chopped
2 medium onions, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
l ¼ cup wine
1 tsp balsamic
Salt and pepper to taste
A few lettuce leaves
In a pan, heat some olive oil and sauté onions on a low flame.
When slightly brown, add the brown sugar to caramelise onions.
Next, add chopped aubergine and cook till done but yet crunchy and maintains texture.
Add the wine and balsamic vinegar.
Add all the seasoning.
Butter the panini and toast in a griller.
Place the lettuce leaves on the panini.
Put a layer of onion & aubergine relish and add some slices of KERRYGOLD
Serve your panini with ketchup or whole grain mustard.
Watermelon and feta salad
2 pieces of watermelon cut into roundels
50 gm feta cheese
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Place the watermelon roundels on a plate.
Crumble feta over it.
Season with salt and pepper.
Throw in some fresh basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze.
Dress it with toasted pine nuts.