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.

IMG-20140806-WA0001

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!

The Sugar Free life

Many of us grew up using refined white sugar. Consuming too much of the nutritive sweeteners or sugar grains can result in numerous health issues, which includes diabetes, obesity and heart disease. 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.

Some of the excellent sugar substitutes are Table Sugar, Sugar Free Gold and Sugar Free Natura. Table Sugar is a natural source of sweetness. It is composed of glucose and fructose. Sugar Free Gold is made from a protein derivative ‘Aspartame’ and is ideal for your tea, coffee and lemon juice as they are 200 times sweeter than sugar. Sugar Free Natura 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 any of your foods and beverages. It is not broken down like sucrose and therefore not utilized 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 recognized by the body as sugar or even as a carbohydrate and is not metabolized by the body for energy. It does not affect blood glucose levels and does not have any effect on blood glucose utilization, carbohydrate metabolism or insulin production. Over 110 safety studies have been done on sucralose. It is absolutely safe to use them and has been approved by WHO,USFDA and FSSAI.

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.

But yes it does not perform certain actions that sugar does. It lacks the browning, tenderizing and moisture retaining properties provided by table sugar. Moreover, it cannot be caramelized or used to make candies. Certain modifications need to be incorporated while using sucralose. 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. With sucralose, you won’t be able to bake as good as done 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.

Substitute Sugar Free in your everyday diet and see the difference.

Live healthy, live Sugar Free. I live a Sugar Free life, do you?

Saying Hola from Spain!

Vegetarian Paella in Spain!

Currently in the land of senors and senoritas for work, but in a country like Spain its tough to stick to just work, a little play always follows! What is really great is that while work for me is all about food, even leisure and unwinding leads me to food! This is why I love Spain, there is never a dearth of the flavours, recipes and ingredients in this land. Everytime I visit, I take back home a new food experience! Amidst this plethora of food, there is one dish which shines bright like the pole star. This dish is the mighty Paella! Paella is to Spain what Biryani is to India, only more important. Different versions of this wholesome flavourful rice dish are created and recreated across the country. I have been fortunate to taste authentic Paella as well as some contemporary versions of this dish on this trip. Because I am on a work trip, writing at leisure is not one of the luxuries I have. So, I am quickly going to share with you 2 recipes for Paella.

One is a classic seafood Paella, which is how they make it in Spain. Another one is not really a Paella but a vegetarian spaghetti, that is cooked the Paella way and does live up to the taste of one. Now let me tell you a couple of things about Paella so when you try these recipes they turn out perfect.

  • Paella is a rice based dish. It is cooked a lot like a risotto. It uses short grain variety of rice. Paella is authentically made with Valencian Rice, which comes from a place called Valenciaon the East Coast of Spain. The idea is for the rice to absorb all the flavours of the stock and other ingredients in your Paella pan. Arborio rice is the closest easily available option to make delicious Paella.

  • Traditionally, the meats used in Paella would include snails, chicken, duck and/or rabbit meat. But don’t worry you can make an equally delicious Paella using other more easily available ingredients – it is a freestyle dish! Use sausages, chorizo, chicken, fish, clams, prawns, squid or just vegetables if that’s what suits your liking.

  • While making Paella keep in mind you cover and cook it on low heat. This ensures a crispy crust at the bottom of pan which is called socarrat. Perfect Paella should have a perfect crunchy base. These are the bits that everyone scrambles for in Paella.

  • A Paella pan is called a paellera. If you don’t own one, any 3-4 cm deep, medium-weight non-stick frying pan should do just perfect.

  • Two little ingredients that contribute a lot to the flavours of a Paella are – olive oil and saffron. So, make sure you skip out or compromise on these. Also, make sure the heat is evenly distributed – induction cooktops work great.

                                       CLASSIC SEAFOOD PAELLA

Classic Seafood Paella

Ingredients

200 gms prawns, shelled with tails and head intact and deveined

100 gms clams

3-4 small fish

1½ cups rice, half cooked

3-4 tbsps olive oil

12 garlic cloves, crushed

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, cut into long strips

1 yellow pepper, cut into long strips

Crushed black peppercorns to taste

Salt to taste

Sugar to taste

4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 cup fish stock

A few strands of saffron, dissolved in 2 tbsps milk

1 tbsp red chilli flakes

3-4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

10-12 fresh basil leaves

1 cup frozen green peas, soaked

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add garlic and sauté. Add onions and sauté till translucent. Add red and yellow bell pepper and sauté.

  2. Add crushed black peppercorns and mix.

  3. Add prawns, clams, small fish and sauté. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes.

  4. Add salt, sugar and tomatoes and mix well. Add rice and mix well. Add fish stock, saffron dissolved in milk and chilli flakes and mix well.

  5. Add 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil. Chop basil leaves and add to the Paella pan.

  6. Add green peas and mix well. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes.

  7. Sprinkle some extra virgin olive oil.

  8. Transfer in a serving plate. Sprinkle some more extra virgin olive oil and serve hot.

                                                                   

                                 SPAGHETTI VEGETABLE PAELLA

Spaghetti Vegetable Paella

Ingredients

200 gms brown spaghetti

1 large potato

¼ large red capsicum

¼ large yellow capsicum

¼ large green capsicum

¼ cup green peas

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion

1 tbsp chopped garlic

Salt to taste

2 cups vegetable stock

2 medium tomatoes

¼ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp red chilli powder

Few strands of saffron

1 lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

Method

  1. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick pan. Halve onion, slice horizontally thickly and add to the pan and sauté. Quarter and slice potato and add.

  2. Chop red, yellow and green capsicums.

  3. Add garlic to the pan and mix. Add capsicums, mix and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add green peas and salt and mix.

  4. Break spaghetti into smaller pieces and add to the pan and mix well. Add vegetable stock and mix well.

  5. Slice tomatoes. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and a few strands of saffron and mix well.

  6. Add tomatoes but do not mix. Cover and cook.

  7. Cut lemon into thin wedges and remove the seeds and centre pith.

  8. Add juice of ½ lemon and mix, cover and cook till the vegetables and spaghetti are done.

  9. Transfer into a serving dish, garnish with lemon wedges and serve hot.

Hope you guys try these recipes, leave a comment below as its always great to hear from you guys.

Given to a foodie that I am, it makes most sense to end with a Spanish phrase barrigallena, corazon content” which literally means “full stomach happy heart.” 

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Adios Amigos! Till I write again.

Happy Cooking!

Ramadan Kareem!

The holy month of Ramzan calls for Muslims all over the world to keep a strict roza fast from dawn to dusk. According to the Holy Quran: “One may eat and drink at any time during the night ‘until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight’; then keep the fast until night”. Post sunset, when the fast is to be broken, delicacies of all types are indulged in. The real spirit of the festival is about helping the needy while being grateful for everything god has given you. Sitting down with family and friends to break the fast together is an important part of the festive rituals. Ramadan as a festival has always been close to my heart because it shows us the power of faith, gratitude and love.

Nalli_Nihari-SKK

In most parts of the India, tiny lanes and gullies are filled with vendors selling different type of ramzan special food preparations like kebabs, naans, biryanis, breads, fruits and of course sweets like sheer kurma *yumm*. Out of all these my favourite place for an iftaar meal is Mohammad Ali road in Mumbai. There is this old guy who sets up cart each day during the holy month and dishes out the most delicious traditional rustic meaty ramzan treats – nalli nihari, paya soup and a bara handi mutton masala. Just three dishes, and all of these are served with a pile of beautiful lachcha paranthas, ideal to soak up the juices and flavours of these curries!  However eating out regularly may be great for your taste buds, but certainly not for your health. You can now make these delectable dishes on your own, plan healthier meals and enjoy them without being worried. So get into the festive spirit, put on your aprons and get ready to whip up some nawabi dishes in your home kitchen and surprise your family and friends with your home cooked delicious iftaar meal! Over and above don’t forget to share any fabulous recipes with us, so we can share it with the rest of the world!

FALOODA-STREET_FOOD

Try making yummy street food recipes like – baida roti, keema kaleji, falooda, seekh roti and Pudina lachcha parantha and mutton rogan josh and my favourite mutton shorba!
We have got all these recipes and more on the brand new version of http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com

Also sharing a recipe for burnt garlic and mint chutney – which goes great with almost all Ramadan eats!

Burnt_Garlic_and_Mint_Chutney--Tandoori_at_Home

BURNT GARLIC AND MINT CHUTNEY
Ensure that you have loads of this as it is always a super hit!
Ingredients
20-25 garlic cloves
3 cups fresh mint, roughly torn
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon black salt
1 inch ginger, roughly chopped
2 green chillies, roughly chopped
1½ cups yogurt, whisked
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt to taste

Method
1. Heat the oil in a pan; add the garlic and sauté. Sprinkle black salt and sauté till well browned.
2. Grind together the fresh mint, ginger, green chillies, sautéed garlic and two tablespoons of water to a fine paste.
3. Add the paste to the yogurt and mix well. Add the lemon juice and salt and mix again.
4. Pass the mixture through a piece of muslin, squeezing well to get a smooth chutney.
5. Serve chilled.

Ramadan Kareem to you and your loved ones! Stay pious stay blessed!