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Women show off culinary skills at SIBF
Published on: Sunday, March 05, 2017

By Mary Chin
WOMEN from various parts of the world “showed off” their culinary skills at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) here, UAE, last year.

When India’s favourite MTV Video Jockey (VJ), Maria Goretti, appeared at the Cookery Corner in the avatar of a master chef, visitors, who did not know about her second passion, were wondering what she was doing at the fair.

Actually, the economics graduate was there to share two delicious recipes from her recently published cookbook, “From My Kitchen to Yours: Food, Love & Other Ingredients”, with her enthusiastic fans.

These are the red velvet brownie cheesecake and ragi pancakes with mushroom.

Not only that, she gave the audience, young and old alike, a step-by-step lesson on making them.

“Have fun with your food… that’s the main thing,” she said.

Few were aware that the established Bollywood actress, who had acted in the film Raghu Romeo, had penned a cookbook. Why? Was cooking always a passion or a recently developed interest, one may ask.

“I was never interested in enhancing my culinary skills, and hardly ever stepped into the kitchen.

But all that changed when my children Zeke and Zene were born. I had to ensure that the food they were eating was nutritious and the only way to do so was by cooking it myself.

“It is through them that I fell in love with cooking and food. And the rest is history,” Goretti, a one-time cooking show host, told journalists.

Her book contains 72 recipes covering salads, healthy soups, mains and of course delicious desserts.

“They are all simple, practical and healthy. Well, most of them are, and divided up under the twelve months of a year.”

According to Goretti, the inspiration to write this book, which took two years to put together, came from Ajay Mago, a publisher. “He chased me relentlessly to turn my food blog into a book,” she added.

The food blog has recipes, slice-of-life stories and poetry.

Another cynosure of all eyes was the gluten-free cooking demonstrations by UK Pastry Chef Henrietta Inman whose hallmark was making delicious desserts using high-quality ingredients.

The pastry chef, who specialises in using whole, natural and real food ingredients, conducted a series of patisserie demonstrations as part of the Fair’s Cookery Programme.

Initially, like other trained pastry chefs, Inman typically used butter, white flour and white sugar but found herself attracted towards better ingredients.

“I grew up in the countryside so I was lucky to have access to so many ingredients that are good.

So I decided to substitute them whenever I can. For instance, I use raw honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup and dates for sweetness instead of plain white sugar,” she said.

Inman made a raw blueberry and lemon mousse cake that was fluffy, delicious and sweet.

“Using natural, good quality ingredients is important but so is maintaining good flavour and having a great texture.”

Her cake, which is featured on the cover of her first book “Clean Cakes”, used no dairy. What then did she use?

“Whipped up cream of refrigerated coconut milk and creamed, soaked cashew nuts for that creamy, mousse-like texture.” Published in February 2016, “Clean Cakes” is all about delicious patisserie made with whole, natural and nourishing ingredients and free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar.

“Clean” cooking, Inman said, is a fad around the world but a lot of times ‘clean desserts’ is associated with dishes that are brown, nutty and heavy. “To me ‘clean’ doesn’t mean taking the soul and flavour out of cooking or seeing food as fuel and not something that gives you pleasure. It means dishes made from scratch with ingredients that are not processed,” Inman explained.

Advocating clean eating as a way of life, she believes in carefully selecting ingredients that are local, seasonal or organic, and have a positive impact on the environment. “Clean eating is not a buzz word that signifies salad leaves and a plant-based diet.”

Home cooking specialist Jennifer Farley flew all the way to the UAE from Washington, United States of America, to share her savoury creations with visitors of the SIBF. She is the creator of Savoury Simple, a food blog featuring delicious yet simple recipes for home cooks.

In one of her cookery classes, she took a recipe named Andouille Macaroni and Cheese from her new cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, and taught her students how to add sparkle to an otherwise mundane dish.

From the turkey andouille to the mild cheddar, all ingredients Farley used were fresh and fragrant, insisting that this is a prerequisite for creating a successful dish. Turkey andouille is a spicy, smoked turkey sausage with garlic seasoning.

As a multitasker, she had the andouille sizzling on a skillet while she gently whisked the cream sauce on another pan. Still, she advised her students to take up one task at a time if they were not confident about juggling between the two.

Apart from cooking, learning, trying new cuisines and reading books, Farley has been travelling the world in search of new culinary experiences.

“With some basic kitchen techniques and a willingness to experiment, anyone can be an amazing cook,” she said.

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