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Recipe for success

Kerala's new Tarla Dalal has a taste for the unusual...


Lekshmi Nair is the daughter of N. Narayanan Nair, director of the Academy of Law here. A student of literature, Lekshmi graduated in Law and proceeded to do her Masters in the same. And now, she teaches at the Academy. But that's not why we are talking about her. What is interesting is that she also teaches people how to cook. Lekshmi's cookery show, `Magic Oven', being aired on the Kairali TV, has completed its 100th episode.

"To be a culinary expert was never my dream," says Lekshmi, who grew up in an environment steeped in discussions on law. "My father and cousins would be engrossed in their case files all the time and I sort of soaked it up."

She harks back to her college days. "Every time I went back to hostel, I'd take jars of pickles with me. My friends would go gaga over my pickles. Studying for Hotel Management was unheard of then and my family wanted me to pursue law."

Marriage happened and studies continued. "He is the first to try the new recipes that I concoct." Her passion for cooking grew and she began experimenting with Chinese and Kerala cuisine.

On the second birthday of her son, Lekshmi threw a small party and cooked a variety of dishes. It was well appreciated and soon a friend asked Lekshmi to cater for her party. The party was a success and Lekshmi took the plunge into catering business. The first few assignments were for the Rotaract Club. "Money was not my first priority when I started off. For a year, I took up whatever work came my way. I believe in trying out recipes that would give my clients good value for money."

Lakshmi's home-based catering unit, `Caterina', has been doing good business for the past eight years. Today, she has come a long way from catering to kiddies' party for 15 to wedding receptions for 500 and more.

She was keen to advance her culinary skills in Thai cooking and went to Chennai for a crash course. Lekshmi took lessons from Piangjai, an expert. `Magic Oven' happened by accident and the response to this cookery show has been overwhelming.

With people being more health conscious than ever before, Lekshmi is devoting time to alter some of her existing recipes to make them fat-free.

In the next few years, she wants to promote the concept of health food. "I want to introduce Tofu, which is widely used in Thai cuisine."

"Tofu, made out of soya milk could well be a substitute for paneer and meat in non-vegetarian dishes. It is also a good source of protein and is cholesterol-free," she explains. "Since Tofu, has a short shelf life, I hope to start a manufacturing unit here. I'm conducting a market study for this purpose. I also wish to start an eatery in a few years that'll have a variety of spreads from Thai to Italian, Chinese and Continental." Another dream is to start a finishing school. She travels a lot and picks up tableware, knick-knacks and glassware for her cookery shows from places such as New Zealand, Bangkok and Doha.

She's also busy with her research on the `Legal dimensions of secularism'. "It's is my profession while cooking is my passion. I want to do justice to both," she adds.

At present, she is busy conducting a week-long cookery course at Doha's International Academy for Intercultural Development (IAID).

So if you're a foodie and would love to whip up something a la Italian with some spaghetti in creamy mushroom sauce, topped with parsley and basil leaves, and garnished with delicious Parmesan and Cheddar cheese, switch on your telly and stay tuned!

S.S.

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