This chef has cricket greats eating out of her hands

This chef has cricket greats eating out of her hands

Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji

From childhood, I have grown up seeing my mother, Manjit Arora, cook delectable dishes for the entire family. She inspired me to learn what a fascinating art cooking could be. I became interested in the field and decided to become a chef early on.

I belong to a broad-minded Punjabi family. When almost all my relatives were not in favour of me pursuing hotel management, because it was not seen as a suitable profession for girls, my parents supported my decision and stood by me. I made sure to make them proud by receiving the certificate of merit and medal for dedication in academics from Dr D Y Patil, former Governor of Tripura and West Bengal and Dr Vijay D Patil, the man behind the fantastic D Y Patil Stadium at Navi Mumbai. I am also blessed to have a supportive and motivating husband.

It has been a fantastic journey since then. I have had the chance to plan menus and prepare dishes for former President Pratibha Patil, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid among other dignitaries and eminent personalities. I have also handled special food preparations for IPL and T20 matches. 

However, the moments I spent with my students in the kitchen hold a special place in my heart. These budding chefs of tomorrow make me very proud. 

When I prepare dishes, I make sure to capture the exciting range of flavours, textures and aromas that Indian cooking is known for while creating something unique.

For example, when we think of monsoon, the first combo that comes to our mind is ‘pakoras’ and ‘chai’. I thought of preparing something special that is delectable as well as healthy.

Beetroot Falafel is rich in plant proteins and fibre. Beetroot is a great anti-oxidant and you can even skip deep-frying it and bake it.


Beetroot Falafel with Cilantro Tahini


Preparation time: 8 hours, including soaking of Chickpeas overnight
Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes
Chilling time in refrigerator: 2 hours
Makes: 10 balls


Dried chickpeas- ½ cup
Beetroot, cooked and roughly chopped- 1 no. medium sized
Onion, roughly chopped- ½ cup
Parsley, finely chopped- 1 tbsp
Cilantro, finely chopped- 2 sprigs
Garlic cloves- 3 no.
Cumin, lightly roasted- ½ tsp
Salt- to taste
Bengal gram /refined flour- 2 tbsp
Vegetable oil- as required for deep frying

For Cilantro Tahini Sauce

Tahini- 1/4 cup
Garlic cloves- 2 nos
Cilantro, chopped- 1/4 cup
Lemon juice- 1 tsp
Salt- to taste
Pepper- to taste
Ground cumin- 1/4 tsp


Wash and put the Chickpeas in a glass bowl with enough water to cover it.
Soak overnight.
In the morning drain off the water and wash the chickpeas thoroughly. Let them dry for a little while.


For Beetroot Falafel

Place the drained and uncooked chickpeas in a food processor. Blend it along with beetroot, onion, parsley, cilantro, garlic, cumin and salt to taste.
Add Bengal gram/refined flour and mix. Ensure that it blends properly but is not pureed.
Place the mixture in a covered bowl and keep in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Form the mixture into 10 balls and deep fry in hot oil.

For Cilantro Tahini Sauce

Mix garlic, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth.
Add tahini and lemon juice; process only for 30 seconds. Add water to adjust consistency and whisk well.

Chef Tips: You may add herbs and freshly ground black peppercorns in the Chickpea mixture before it is refrigerated.

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