Innovate with Super foods!

Innovation station has become a tradition for us at office! For those of you who don’t know about it, it is a cooking face-off between the extremely talented chefs at office held every year for the past 6 years. This year we went two steps ahead and included all the staff to be a part of it, everybody from accounts to production to editorial, put on their thinking caps and cooking aprons to come up with some fabulous dishes using super foods as main ingredients!

Each team was provided with one super food each, which was expected to be the star of their recipe. At the same time they were allocated a limited budget, time slot and had to face the pressure to plate up a never seen before dish in competition with colleagues. With 5 chefs heading the five teams, there were some extraordinary recipes that we had the pleasure to taste and a very difficult time judging. After much deliberation all of us picked a winning recipe and a winning team.

The Winning team! – Their recipe was called Beet it! This team led by chef Siddharth made a the most delicious lava cake with beetroot and white chocolate enclosed in a lovely spun sugar nest, it came with a creamy beetroot ice cream.  What enhanced this was flambéed rum poured over the sugar nest which caused it to melt and reveal the lovely lava cake and infuse it with more flavour. This dish was a perfect mix of the right textures, flavours, temperatures and felt like a party in your mouth. All in all a brilliant food eating experience!
Beetroot Lava Cake (white chocolate and beetroot lava cake, sugar nest, beetroot ice cream and beetroot chips)

Beet It
Runners Ups – Chef Shalaka put in all her years of experience in the hotel industry to create a platter so beautiful, that we admired it for a full 5 minutes before actually digging into it. With the main ingredient as Kiwi, they made a chicken roulade filled with a delicious tangy kiwi salsa served with a number of other components like a kiwi and feta leather pouches, beetroot caviar, delicious mushroom foam, and some pretty looking edible flowers and micro greens all washed down with a kiwi caprioska. With so many interesting components and flavour profiles this dish was great to taste besides, being a beauty to look at!  The dish scored full marks for presentation and spelt innovation in the true sense.

Kiwi salsa with chicken (Mushroom Foam, Feta Kiwi Leather and Kiwi Caprioska) –

Kiwi Salsa With Chicken

The enthusiasm and the spirit in which the entire competition happened, makes me feel proud to have such a talented and enthusiastic team of people to work with! They say when competition is healthy and it is fun, there is no losing involved; everyone is a winner so here are the other recipes that were part of Innovation station 2014 at Office.

Misthi Doi Pannacotta

Mishti Doi Panacotta (served with a yogurt brittle, yogurt mawa waffles, yogurt truffles and a khuskhus rabri)

Sweet Potato Mille Feuille with Cheese Sauce
Sweet Potato Millie Feuille with cheese sauce ( along with a sweet potato rosti, sweet potato falafel, and a sweet potato filling)

Tricolour Quinoa Timbale with Tomato Sauce
Tricolour Quinoa Timbale with Tomato Sauce ( grilled zucchini strips, pesto quinoa, tomato quinoa, mushroom quinoa and a cheese quenelle)
These recipes are great to taste and with a little practice, you should be able to make these in your home kitchen and if you do, let us know how it turns out! Also here’s wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous Diwali!

Basmati, the queen of rice

Basmati when literally translated means, queen of fragrance. If I walk into a home which has the aroma of Basmati being cooked wafting about, I surely don’t need much persuasion to stay back for a meal. So irresistible is its appetite stimulating fragrance!

In India, whenever there’s a happy occasion or there are guests over for a meal, out comes the Basmati rice. Duly soaked in water before going in for the boil, seasoned with aromatic spices, ghee and vegetables, it is truly food for the gods! As mentioned earlier the fragrance and taste of Basmati rice is so divine that it really doesn’t need any other enhancer, but yes, adding spices and other elements makes it even more appealing. The perfect rice for cooking up a pulao or a biryani, the Basmati even by itself is a great accompaniment with curries and yogurt.

Basmati rice in India comes from the Himalayan foothills and Madhya Pradesh. Some varieties make their journey from Pakistan. There are some key factors I look for while buying Basmati rice. I rub the grains of the rice in my palms and the aroma it releases tells me that the rice quality is good, and I am particular about the length of the grain too. Usually Basmati grows twice its original size post cooking, its best if the grains are uniform in size, so that it cooks evenly.  I have found all of these qualities in Daawat Basmati rice. So, in packaged rice, I go for Daawat Rice. It’s hygienic and branded. Don’t forget to check the packaging date, you don’t want expired rice.

I have often been asked about the right ways of soaking and cooking Basmati. Well, one has to remember it is only soaking the rice that will bring out its length and breadth. First wash the rice under running water 2-3 times. This removes starch and ensures that the rice does not stick. Do not rub it too hard while washing as the grains may break, be gentle. Post washing, soak it, the level of water for soaking should be an inch above the level of the rice. Soaking time is 15-20 minutes, whatever the quantity. After which drain off the excess water and let the soaked rice stay in the same bowl till you are ready to cook.

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There are two ways of cooking rice, one cooking by absorption method and the other is cooking by draining. If the rice is soaked for a good amount of time, the rice doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to cook. In the cooking by draining the water method, we can get to know if the rice is cooked by feeling the grains to see if it’s done. A batch of well cooked rice will not be sticky and you will not feel the hardness in the center. It will not have a mushy texture. Many bachelors and spinsters enquire with me on how to find if rice is well cooked.  It is simple, always add water in 1:2 ratio while cooking rice. If rice bends a bit when you press it; with your finger, know that its well-cooked, but keep in mind if you add too much water, it is sure to take revenge. Also, cooked Basmati is fragile, so don’t over mix it and handle with care.

Daawat, the specialists of the rice industry for decades brings to you Basmati rice in many varieties. Rice with aroma that stimulates appetite, grains that are extra-long and slender, sweet to taste, soft texture and extra elongation breadth wise, upto 24 mm post cooking! Daawat follows the unique Octa-Q process which guarantees perfect grains in every pack. Be it sourcing, ageing, milling or processing, quality is of paramount importance here.

Daawat also has different varieties meant for different dishes, like there’s a variety for biryanis and a separate one for jeera rice and pulavs. What’s more there’s a range of Basmati rice called Rozana that is meant to be eaten every day!

Basmati rice need not be used only for pulaos and biryanis; there is a mindboggling range of dishes that can be prepared with it! Try making rice stuffed parantha or even cooked rice fritters or with leftover rice.  Now shouldn’t Basmati rice be a regular part of your daily plate?

Try these delicious recipes using Daawat Basmati Rice and do let us know how they turn out!

Indian Traditional Steam Rice
Simple Jeera Pulao
Chicken Biryani Hyderabadi
Fried Rice
Vegetable Pulao

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Papa kehte hain…

A person gets his learnings from various sources like school, college, home, friends, society, religion and self. Learning never ends and continues till the last day of your life. One’s outlook has to be of open mind and that each one around you has something to offer. I have been a good student throughout my school and college days. By God’s grace, I’ve had some great teachers, so I just can’t pick the best amongst the lot. But one person whose impact changed me in my growing years, was my late father Shri Surinder Kapoor. I can very easily say that the teachings and lessons given by him are helping me till today, and it is because of him only I am what I am today. He was the most straightforward and transparent person I have ever come across.

Teachers-Day

 

He has taught me to be grounded in every situation; be very focussed in life; do one thing at a time but 100%; do only the right things and don’t even waste a moment over what is not right; don’t wait for best to happen, attempt good and better and one day you will reach the best; don’t cry over failures or loss, use it as right excuse for doing something new; respect all; look at the strengths of people around you and royally ignore their weaknesses; speak the truth on face and be happy, those who know you will not mind and others don’t matter; and so on.

Not only these, the cook in me had also been honed at a very young age and the credit certainly goes to my father, infact my entire family. Cooking has always been enjoyable for all of us in the family. My dad was a good cook and I have fond memories of everything he used to cook. He was a banker by profession, but cooking was his hobby. He gave me the initial boost to try out new combinations. My mother stays with us and still cooks fantastic food for us. My older brother made it a point to help my dad when he was cooking, and as I grew up seeing men cook, I started cooking with them when I was around 10 years old. My mother was vegetarian, anything not vegetarian in the house was cooked by my father. And he would create combinations that now as a chef I think ‘my God he used to do that so many years ago!’ He wasn’t afraid or worried who would say what. And those were the days when people would laugh at men in the kitchen.

Also, I picked up two things from my father. His need for constant knowledge and also his ability to think out of the box. When you combine these two, it becomes very powerful – gives you so much confidence and you can virtually do anything. I think about him daily before I start my day and things start falling in place as he is around me to answer all my confusions. It is his teachings which have kept everyone in our family emotionally well connected.

As always, he deserves a special salute from me this Teacher’s Day as well; feels great to know that when he is watching me from up-there, he must be a proud father, and that brings a smile on my face!

Lunching at Lupa

One sunny afternoon found me at Lupa, a spacious 5,000 plus square-foot restaurant in Central Hong Kong. Lupa is owned by my old friend Sandeep Sekhri, so it’s a special lunch invitation from his wife Rosy and him. I look around at the rich interiors and am particularly attracted to the patio which has a green vertical garden and ambience that makes me want to spend a little more time in the place. The place impresses me with its buzzing energy and most people are having the buffet, which has everything from pizzas to pastas.

I’m looking forward to the meal as I’ve heard a lot about the food. About their extensive Italian menu and I’m determined to make the most of it. Since I’m a special guest, I am served on the table, the select dishes, the signature specialities. Lupa is by Chef Mario Batali and what interests me most about the meal is his concept of Italy in New York. Mario has an impressive portfolio of restaurants in New York, LA, Las Vegas and Singapore. I have dined at his Del Posto in New York, and needless to say the anticipation is high!

Chef Mario Batali
For starters it was Caprese which is Italian buffalo mozzarella with cherry tomato and basil, followed by Burrata which was a delightful combination of creamy cow’s milk cheese with grilled vegetables. And then it’s a sinful Frittellediricotta, melt-in-the-mouth Ricotta fritters with mixed mushroom and black truffle. Last starter was the Carpaccio di Tonno, Bluefin tuna carpaccio with sun dried tomatoes, olive pesto and candy ginger for the sweet surprise touch, a personal favourite.

The service is attentive and unobtrusive, and they are good at recommendations. I am told that the wine list of Lupa ranges from affordable to very premium and they serve wine by the carafes that are ideal for two on a date. Nice! If you are here for just wine with your beloved, you can pair it with some great cheeses and meat platters, or if like me you are here for a satiating lunch, what I’m eating comes highly recommended. It’s pasta time and here’s what I feasted on. Tonnarelli al granchio, square spaghetti with spicy crab and fennel, what a feast of flavours it is! Next is the Tortelli di burrata which is tortelli stuffed with burrata cheese, eggplant pesto, sun dried tomato and pine nuts.

Can I eat any more? Not really, but the heart wants more! So it is Ravioli di ricotta e spinaci which as the name suggests is ricotta cheese and spinach, tomato sause and parmigiano and last but not the least is the Tagliatelle al porcini, tagliatelle (a type of flat Italian pasta) with porcini mushroom and taleggio sauce. By the time dessert arrives I am feeling rather full and happy, but then which Indian foregoes dessert? So it was a lovely platter of lychee mousse, chocolate semifreddo, pistachio macaroon, vanilla panna cotta with mango, passion fruit sorbet, wine chocolate and mint crème brulee. No I couldn’t finish all of them, nevertheless tasted all and my senses were doing a merry dance in dessert heaven!

Lunch with the team at lupa
Lupa  by Mario Batali,3/F LHT Tower, 31 Queen’s Road,Central Hong Kong, 2796 6500

Why Sugar Free everyday?

There are two types of sweeteners – nutritive and non-nutritive. Nutritive sweeteners provide calories or energy to the diet at about 4 calories per gram. Non-nutritive sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners do not provide calories and will not influence blood sugar levels.

An excellent sugar substitute is Sugar Free Natura which is Sucralose – a non-caloric sweetener made from sugar. It is derived from sugar (or Sucrose) through a multi-step patented manufacturing process that selectively substitutes three atoms of chlorine for three hydroxyl groups on the sugar molecule. This change produces a sweetener that has no calories, yet is 600 times sweeter than sucrose. It tastes like sugar and does not leave an unpleasant aftertaste.

Since Sucralose is non-caloric it adds no calories to the foods and beverages it is added to. It is not broken down like Sucrose and therefore not utilised for energy in the body. It passes rapidly through the body virtually unchanged. Food items made with Sucralose however may contain calories from the other ingredients that are used to make them.

It has been proved through research and clinical studies that Sucralose can be safely consumed by diabetics. It is not recognised by the body as sugar or even as a carbohydrate and is not metabolised by the body for energy. It does not affect blood glucose levels and does not have any effect on blood glucose utilisation, carbohydrate metabolism or insulin production. Over 110 safety studies have been done on Sucralose and also approved by US FDA.

Scientific studies have also shown that Sucralose does not promote tooth decay since it does not support the growth of oral bacteria.  It is freely soluble in water at both high and low temperatures and therefore can be used in most food products. It is also heat stable and ideal for cooking and baking without any loss in sweetness. It can be used for making a wide range of desserts and mithais besides being used as a tabletop sweetener like in tea, coffee, lassi and yes can also be used in the making of ice creams.

The specialty of Sucralose is that you can add it during cooking and heating doesn’t affect the taste or leaves an after taste in the mouth. It has come like a boon to the cooking and baking aficionados.
But yes it does not perform certain actions that sugar does. It lacks the browning, tenderizing and moisture retaining properties provided by table sugar. Also it cannot be caramelised or used to make candies. Certain modifications need to be incorporated while using Sucralose. Like when the recipe calls for beating ingredients like butter, sugar and eggs together you will need to beat the ingredients a bit longer to incorporate enough air into the mixture. Baking will not brown as well as when made with sugar. Therefore, addition of cocoa or other dark ingredients may be necessary to get the browning effect.  Also ingredients like buttermilk may be needed for moisture retention. Baked goods will get done faster so one will need to check for doneness a bit earlier than the time that a recipe with sugar calls for. Furthermore, these foods will last longer if stored in a refrigerator.

Tip
One little word of caution though. All sugar free sweets and desserts need not necessarily be completely free of all sugar. It actually depends on the ingredients of the sweet preparation. If it has fruits and dry fruits, they have natural sugars. In case you do pick up any food item with the label ‘no sugar’ or ‘low sugar’ or ‘reduced sugar,’ remember that they all contain carbohydrates.

I love my India!

I recently got an interesting tweet from Matt Preston, the famous chef from Master Chef Australia, about India and its glorious cuisine. Now I’ve been pretty vocal about my love for Indian cuisine and wanting to make it numero uno in the world, which is what lead Matt to ask me about my top five reasons to love Indian cuisine after he tweeted about his.
There are a million reasons for me to love Indian cuisine and limiting my answer to only ‘five’ sounded a little difficult! However, I did manage to zero-down to my top five reasons to love Indian food.
  1. ‘V’ for versatile: For a very simple reason, that in India, at every 50 kilometer, the language and food changes and how! This vastness and diversity attracts me the most.
  2. Spicy story: Being an Indian and growing up on this food, I can vouch for the fact that almost every Indian dish has atleast 10-15 spices and  herbs, at times contrasting flavours and tastes as well.
  3. Rich history: Indian cuisine has evolved over the years with foreign influences like Persian, Portuguese, Moghul, Chinese, British and more which creates variety like no other.
  4. Vegetarian variety: The sheer variety of vegetarian food available in India is mind- boggling, it is not possible to taste all the vegetarian delicacies available in India in one lifetime!
  5. Well kept secrets: Foodies should definitely look-out for the lesser publicized coastal seafood repertoire from the Western, Southern and Eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent. I highly recommend it!
Adding to the above, I would also say that after travelling all over the world, my verdict is Indian food is the most balanced meal. Even by default, it covers all nutritional parameters required by the body.
And when I’m talking about my favourite cuisine, how can I not share the plethora of desi recipes that are liked by me. Click onto http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com and you shall enter the world of many such recipes. For the video fanatics, clicking onto ‘sanjeevkapoorkhazana’ on YouTube would just about do the same thing!
Absolutely Indian and proud of it!

DIVINE BEAUTY

Every morning I walk into office to be greeted by the most beautiful and unusual tree right outside my window. The leaves are bright green and large, like a million leaves I have seen before, but the flowers! Oh! The flowers are something else! Like soft pincushion balls. The buds like tennis balls. I can’t help marvel at the beauty of nature every time I see this tree. To find out more I googled it and here’s what came up.

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Turns out the tree is the Kadamb. Botanical name being Anthocephalus Cadamba. It is usually planted around temples. Why? Because according to Hindu mythology it is a favourite of Lord Krishna. He used to play the flute under this tree and play with the cowherds. Another name for the tree is Haripriya, a favourite of the gods! The Kadamb tree has religious value not only in India, but also in Java and Malaysia. It is said that Goddess Durga lives in a Kadamb forest.

The flowers are a favourite with bees too, you see them flocking around the flower, one day I happened to smell it and was pleasantly surprised with the fragrance. Talking about fragrance, one more fact came up on research. Kadamb flowers are used in the making of attar and this lovely tree has medicinal properties too and is a cure for many ailments. Beauty with purpose!

Another interesting fact that came to light was that the tree is used for soil reclamation. The large amount of leaves and other components it sheds enhances the physical and chemical properties of the soil.

Just when I was wondering if with all the uses it was edible and whether I could think up some recipes with it, I got to know that the leaves are sometimes used as plates. That’s the closest it comes to the food area.

It is believed in some parts of India that planting a Kadamb close to rivers and ponds brings happiness and prosperity. I offer a silent thank you to the person who planted it outside my window, may the gods bring him happiness too!