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If a healthy vegan lifestyle is what you’re aiming for, will you seek advice from the portly film director David Dhawan? If yes, then you should pick up a copy of Anuradha Sawhney’s The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!. Sawhney takes the rotund Dhawan’s favourite breakfast — aloo paranthas with curd — gives it an unimaginative vegan twist (substituting flour with ragi or jowar accompanied with non-sweetened, non-dairy curd) and offers it as one of the many vegan recipes in her new book. Sawhney, the former head of PETA India and a hardcore vegan, compiles her interactions with some famous (and not-so-famous) Bollywood personalities along with her own tips in a bid to spice up the limited culinary spectrum of India’s growing vegan population. (A vegan is one who doesn’t use any milk or milk products.)
In a rather dull introduction, Sawhney explains in painstaking detail factoids that are routinely splashed in the health pages of magazines and newspapers: “If you consume a healthy diet which is rich in vegetables, mushrooms, fruit, walnuts and almonds, flax seeds, avoid animal products...walk everyday, you will do fine”, or “Your aim should be to add fibre to your food”. While she busts a few myths about vegans being deficient in Vitamin B12 (even hard-core non-vegetarians need to monitor their B12 levels, she says) and suffering from anaemia (on the contrary, she says, eggs “appear to inhibit iron absorption”), there isn’t much that isn’t already known.
What prompted Sawhney to write this book was her own health — despite being a vegan for ten years, she was told in 2010 that she was on her way to being diagnosed with a heart disease and maybe even diabetes. And so, she adopted a nutrition-based vegan diet accompanied with light exercise. This meant throwing away the “wrong kind” of vegan foods — processed chips, chiwda and pakodas. Naturally, her cholesterol and sugar levels came crashing down to normal.
Her recipes, fortunately, reveal that for vegans, there is life beyond the blandness of soya. Her collection of “Bollywood stars” (Isha Koppikar, Jackie Shroff, Tinnu Anand) fails to inspire much confidence; their favourite recipes, however, are wholesome, nutritional and from the looks of it, appetising. Sample, ’90s badman Gulshan Grover’s brown rice poha or actor R Madhavan’s grilled mushrooms with lemon and thyme. It would do you good to try out fitness fanatic John Abraham’s “exotic vegetables with almonds” with a pitcher of designer Wendell Rodricks’ tangy fruit smoothie. If you’re hosting a party for vegans and non-vegans alike, Sawhney suggests singer Anoushka Shankar’s avocado and tofu dip, rich in vitamins A, C, E, K and B6 which can be enjoyed as a sandwich spread or as an accompaniment with peta bread. Vidya Balan, the new postergirl for curvy, voluptuous women, shares her recipe for Kerala pachadi (red pumpkin with coconut).
Unsweetened dark chocolate. Non-dairy sweetened cream. Extra-firm silken tofu. Can these make a gooey, sumptuous dessert? Yes, according to Sawhney and her celebrity friends. It is in desserts’ section that Sawnhey’s book shows some ingenuity be it in the “chocolatey” walnut-date muffins made from oatmeal and vegan butter (margerine presumably), or the lime mousse made from tofu. While the flavour and taste can only be ascertained after trying out Sawhney’s recipes, the images in the book are pretty mouth-watering.
Sawhney also offers some interesting tips: how to “fry” onions without oil and sprucing up non-dairy yoghurt at home with rice, peanut, cashew, soya and almonds. So pick up the book for its quirky recipes, if not for some of its lacklustre celebrities.
THE VEGAN KITCHEN: BOLLYWOOD STYLE!
Author: Anuradha Sawhney
Price: Rs 495