Cooking Up A Storm With Neil Nitin Mukesh: 'I have been on a gluten-free diet for over a year'

Cooking Up A Storm With Neil Nitin Mukesh: 'I have been on a gluten-free diet for over a year'

In this fortnightly column, we offer you an exclusive pass to the kitchen of one of your favourite celebrities and get the stars to reveal one secret recipe from their family cookbook

Anita Raheja Updated: Sunday, March 05, 2023, 07:12 AM IST
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Neil Nitin Mukesh | Pic: Instagram/neilnitinmukesh

Neil Nitin Mukesh is very fastidious about his healthy diet. The concept of cheat days doesn’t exist in his vocabulary. He loves chocolate but settles for a piece of jaggery. In an exclusive conversation with The Free Press Journal, the actor shares his diet and more. 

First thing in the morning I have: My day starts with a date quite literally. 

My breakfast is: The most important meal. It’s the fuel to my engine that keeps me running. My breakfast comprises two elaichi kela (bananas) a handful of grapes, five almonds soaked in water overnight, two boiled eggs (only egg whites), a bowl of oats made in water and finally, a dried fig and a date. 

My dietary preference: I am a non-vegetarian. For the past two years, I have been on a very lean protein diet that comprises fish and eggs. In fish it would be either a pomfret, sea bass or a Norwegian pink salmon. I prefer to eat boiled eggs. An occasional half fry is welcome.    

My lunch is: I have been on a gluten-free diet for over a year. Hence my food is mostly home cooked food for all meals. Lunch generally comprises a bowl of white rice/chapatis, a mixed vegetable made in simple olive oil, two boiled eggs and a gravy, generally made with pumpkin puree or red and yellow bell peppers. 

A must with my meals: I have a sweet tooth, but I am conscious of eating desserts.

My evening snack is: Evenings are a little tricky. In my line of work, we are on the move either on a film set for shoot or office for production and writing, hence getting a good meal for the go is generally tough and one tends to cheat at this time. But I carry my snack at all times. This time of the day I prefer loading myself with a balance of carbs and proteins and sugars, since I work out in the evenings as well. 

For dinner I have: A light meal which ideally, I like having three hours prior to bedtime. It generally comprises a steamed well marinated fish in gravy, a bowl of rice, sautéed vegetables and mashed potato.

My favourite desserts are: Since I tend to be drawn towards desserts at night, like most Indians, I prefer staying away from them. To satisfy my craving, I limit myself to a piece of jaggery, or gajak, or sometimes a few raisins. Very rarely will you see me pick up any desert from a platter.  

To keep fit: I wake up early in the morning, meditate for about half an hour, and go for a walk. Then 30 mins after every meal, I walk for about 20 minutes. In the evening, I work out for about an hour which comprises weight training with some cardiovascular exercises. I prefer working out on one body part a day.    

For health reasons: The foods I avoid are processed foods, gluten products, fast foods (except French fries, which are my occasional indulgence), desserts and alcohol. I have been off desserts and alcohol since the last two years. 

I can cook really well: I believe I am a good cook. I find it therapeutic. Before I got married, I would make fantastic pasta, but then my wife tasted it one day. Ever since then, I am limited to cutting cheese and setting the platter.  

My favourite cook in my family: I am blessed to be surrounded with great cooks. My mother, my wife and our maharajji are all rounders and ace every dish and cuisine. 

My childhood memory: Would be the Trattoria pizza at the Taj President hotel, Colaba. It’s the best in the world. 

For a romantic meal I like going to: Where my wife prefers going to. 

My favourite cuisine: Italian. I simply love anything made in cheese. 

My comfort food: A packet of Doritos with some cheese sauce. 

The weirdest food combination I have tried is: Chunda with pasta was weird. But then I tried it with pizza and it tasted even better.  

One tip on food you like to give your readers: Remember, don’t live to eat, eat to live. 

Neil’s recipe for pasta in white sauce

Ingredients for the white sauce: 

4 tablespoons butter 

4 tablespoons flour 

4 cups milk

2-3 cheese cubes (grated)

Salt and white pepper powder (as per taste) 

4 to 5 basil leaves

Other Ingredients:

250 gms Penne pasta 

1 packet mushrooms (washed and cut into quarters)

1/2 red bell pepper (cut into cubes) 

1/2 yellow bell pepper (cut into cubes) 

6 to 7 florets of broccoli (washed well) 

12 -14 garlic cloves (finely chopped) 

6 -7 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste                                                               

1 teaspoon oregano or pasta seasoning 

Red chilli flakes (as per taste)

2 -3 cheese cubes (grated) 

3 to 4 basil leaves (to garnish) 

Method for the white sauce:

Lightly heat butter in a non-stick pan, once the butter melts add flour and sauté on a very low flame till it turns light golden. Gradually add milk and stir continuously to avoid lumps, preferably stir with a whisker to avoid any lumps. Continue to stir on a low flame till you feel the milk has started to thicken. Add grated cheese and keep stirring till the milk has thickened like a sauce (it should not be too thick). Switch off the gas, add salt and mix well. Cool the sauce and add pepper powder and a few basil leaves. Mix well and keep aside.

Method to make the pasta: Boil sufficient water in a big vessel. Add a little salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta. Boil it on a low flame, gently stirring at regular intervals till it is done. Drain out the water. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil over it and gently mix. Keep aside. 

In another pan, heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add chopped garlic and sauté on a low flame for a few seconds. Add mushrooms and sauté on a high flame till the mushrooms are done and the water has evaporated. Add the broccoli, bell peppers, a little salt and sauté till the veggies are done but slightly crunchy. 

To assemble the pasta: 

In a non-stick pan, lightly heat the white sauce, add the boiled pasta, sautéed veggies, some oregano/pasta seasoning and red chilli flakes and mix gently. Cook on a low flame till the pasta is well coated with the sauce. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and garnish with a few basil leaves. Serve hot with garlic bread.

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