A dream project!

Brand Sanjeev Kapoor has tied up with the HRD ministry to structure and design a special menu exclusively for the students of all the 598 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV) across the country. Needless to say, I am super excited about this venture!

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

Since its inception in 1986, the JNV residential schools have been catering to the extremely meritorious and talented children of rural India, regardless of their socio-economic background. The JNV education system is an exceptional model – 28 out of 30 JNV students appearing for IIT’s get through! And, in such an environment, food is definitely an important factor to bring out the best in the students. Proper nutrition would only lead to the overall well-being of these young ones.

To give you a gist about this quite a dream project for me – I had been in discussion with HRD Union Minister Smriti Irani for a while about how the quality of the meals provided to these children can be improved. I really feel that in today’s age, children tend to end-up eating meals that are not wholesome. Giving importance to nutrition at school levels is the need of the hour and this is the best way I can do my bit towards it. My team and I have been visiting these schools and the R&D is taking a great shape! One important thing here is that, keeping in mind the availability of local ingredients in the specific region, these menus will be customised. I have always encouraged the concept of farm-to-table and I intend to imply it here as well! Not to forget, alongwith making the dishes nutritious, the taste factor will not be compromised. So, its going to be a combination of wholesome yet delicious food!

As I end, with proper nutrition, everything surely falls into place. If the children are eating right, they will perform right and will definitely pave a way towards a brighter future!

Lessons from the past – Potato Bites

In this ‘lessons from the past’ series we have already spoken about the interesting origins of some of our favourite foods.  While several ingredients we spoke about have colonial pasts surrounded by mystery and speculation the invention of potato chips is a clear cut and almost funny story which is definitely worth a read.

Potato Chips

A chip on your shoulder

Who doesn’t love potato chips? Thin, crisp and fried to perfection, a bag of potato chips is a clear crowd pleaser! People may think that the potato chip is a result of years of experiments and innovation in the kitchen, but in reality it was produced in a fit of indignation. The story dates back to 1853 in Saratoga, New York, when an American Indian Chef, George Crum, was delivering an order of the standard French fries to a customer. This customer however, was unhappy with them as he said they are too thick and sent back the order. Chef Crum then cut up a slightly thinner batch and sent them out, which too were returned. This did not go down very well with Chef Crum and he decided to irk the customer by cutting the potatoes as thinly as he could, so they could not even be picked up by a fork. These chips were served to the customer who completely loved them, much to the surprise of the chef. These thin, crispy deep-fried slices of potatoes soon gained much popularity and were known as Saratoga chips. They began featuring on the menus of several restaurants in and around the area. Later, when Chef George Crum started his own restaurant called Crumbs house, these potato chips were served complimentary at every table!

The humble potato chip has since then been one of the world’s favourite form for munchies. Its popularity continues to grow because as you might have heard and probably also know from first-hand experience that – no one can eat just one!

You don’t have to feel guilty about cheating on your diet while eating potato chips. You can just as easily bake them in an oven tray instead of deep-frying them in oil. Then customize the seasonings to your specifications. My favorites are a hot peri-peri or a cool mix of dried mint and salt – depending upon my mood. What’s yours? Leave a comment below

Lessons from the past – La Tomatina

The next ingredient we are discussing in this ‘lessons from the past’ series is an indispensable ingredient in most kitchens of the world. Its origin and acceptance in the kitchen is surrounded by controversy. We are talking about plump juicy bright red tomatoes – read on and find out how these moved from being in an ornamental garden to your plate.

Tomatoes 1

Tomato trivia

Being considered a vegetable instead of a fruit is not the only misconception surrounding a tomato. This fruit is not new to controversy. It is odd that even though tomatoes were originally from America, they were not consumed there. Tomatoes were initially used as an ornamental plant, because of the pretty red berries on it. Tomatoes were not eaten because people thought they are poisonous. This belief arises from the fact that tomatoes belong to the nightshade family of plants, most of which are indeed venomous in nature. Tomatoes were initially called ‘wolf peach’ for the same reason. The strong nature of odours from the leaves and stems of this plant reinforced this belief. It wasn’t long before people realized that tomatoes are edible and can be used in several ways in the kitchen. By the early 1800’s tomatoes had become an integral part of food cultures all around the world. The popularity of tomatoes increased greatly after the discovery of the pizza and several other dishes from South Europe for which tomato was an essential ingredient. Tomatoes have ever since grown in popularity and are used in millions of recipes worldwide. They are now considered as one of the healthiest fruits – loaded with several beneficial vitamins and minerals that are anything but harmful for you. So go ahead and add several dimensions to your recipes with this great fruit.

Chef Kapoor’s Tip: Choose the smaller, flat, thin-skinned tomatoes for making sauces. They will not only give better quality sauce, even the flavour will be better and there will be less residue after straining the puree. You can freeze leftover tomato puree in ice cube trays and use it as and when required.

Sugar Free – 5 most frequently asked questions

Are you one of those who are super health conscious or calorie counting with every morsel or need to keep a check on your cholesterol levels? If yes, then Sugar Free products are the one-stop solution for you. Presenting some FAQ’s that’ll help you get to know the product better.

SFN Carton 100 Sachets Sikkim

  1. Is sugar Free meant only for diabetics or can it be consumed by people without blood sugar issues too?

While Sugar Free products are ideal for diabetics, they can also be consumed by people who suffer from health risks such as obesity and high cholesterol levels. The range of products is also apt for those who want to watch their weight, control calorie intake and stay fit in general. However, it is advised to avoid using sugar free for kids.

  1. Can sugar free be heated or is a product only for table top applications?

Unlike other artificial sweeteners, Sugar Free is stable when heated and is appropriate for cooking or baking food products. So, you can bake a number of delicious cakes, cookies and other similar delights minus any added calories from sugar with just this one product.

  1. Is it okay to consume it on a daily basis?

If you consume sugar every day, there is absolutely no harm in consuming Sugar Free too because it gives you the taste of sugar minus the calories. Plus, it is a natural source of sweetness composed of glucose and fructose which leads you to a healthier lifestyle one day at a time.

  1. Sugar Free products are dangerous for health?

Sugar Free products are approved by the WHO, USFDA and FSSAI – some of the most reliable health organizations of the world. It doesn’t provide you with any nutrition but it doesn’t harm you any way either – Sugar Free is a non-nutritive sweetener, which passes through your body virtually unchanged so you just get the sweet taste without any side effects.

  1. Does Sugar Free has and unpleasant aftertaste?

Sugar Free doesn’t have an aftertaste. In fact it has a natural taste just like sugar. It comes in two varieties made with Aspartame which is 600 times sweeter than sugar and Sucralose which is 200 times sweeter than sugar. So, just a drop or a tiny spoonful is more than enough to give you sweetness like a load of sugar would.

Have any other questions about Sugar Free? Shoot them at us in the comments section below and we will try our best to answer them!

Ever heard about rotten potatoes being a delicacy?

Yes, the locals of North East India actually relish rotten potatoes as you and me would, a butter chicken! Quite obvious, this time we bring a list of some of the unusual or lesser heard dishes/ingredients that the very, otherwise vegetarian, India offers! Check these atrangi stuff out and make sure you give ‘em a try, whenever you can!

  1. Ingredients – popular or exotic, you decide!
  • Halim – nah! not the popular Hyderabadi dish. This one’s an edible herb, also known as ‘garden cress,’ that basically comes from the British and European nations. Peppery and tangy, this is great to garnish salads, sandwiches, laddoos and kheers.
  • Dor – thinking about the movie? Well, don’t! These are the tiny, green and extremely tart berries that you find in your pickles. Popular in North India as karvandas or karaundas, the raw ones are light pinkish. Can also be used in jams and wine.
  • Hilsa eggs – these are the very bangla version of caviar! Hilsa fish roes are coated with spices and fried to perfection in pungent mustard oil – a quintessential Monsoon delicacy in West Bengal.
  • Amba haldi – Also known as ‘mango ginger’ or aam aada in Bengali, this one’s a hybrid between a ginger and mango! It looks like fresh turmeric/ginger and tastes like a raw mango! Great for making chutneys, pickles and candies.
  • Black rice – super popular in Manipur, North Bengal and Kerala. Is packed with health benefits and also known as Magic Rice or Forbidden Rice or Purple Rice.
  1. Dishes some preparations of our country that are purely not ‘regular!’ The list can go on and on, here are just a few…
  • Chakki ki Sabzi, Rajasthan – this dish is specially dedicated to Jains for their paryushan months when they are prohibited from eating even green vegetables. Gluten and a handful of spices is what you need to dish this up!
  • Haldi ka Halwa, North India – a Makar Sankranti special made from fresh turmeric. This unique halwa is even known to fight cold and coughs and strengthen immunity.
  • Phan Pyut, North East India – take some potatoes, put them in soil and allow them to rot! Take ‘em out, slather with some spices and they are good to go as a relish!
  • Khorisa, Assam – grated bamboo shoots fermented raw or in a pickle form. Best had with fish.
  • Chaprah, Chattisgarh – a spicy and pungent chutney made with red ants and their eggs! These red ants are also used as a garnish on other dishes to make them hot! A delicacy for the Chattisgarhis.
  • Mahni, Himachal Pradesh – a sweet and sour dessert made with black gram, jaggery, dried ginger powder and other flavourful spices.
  • Snail Stew, Nagaland – snails simmered in a flavourful stock with aromatic herbs and spices makes for a hearty meal while you are in Kohima. You can have it just as it is or accompany with garlic bread.
  • Daulat ki Chaat, Delhi – this one’s from the rustic lanes of apna Chandni Chowk in Dilli. Winters are best with this sweet chaat – light fluffy cream done by churning milk for hours, topped with khoya and pistachios.
  1. Fruits – Meghalaya has various types of wild fruits that are all over the state and the locals swear by them.
  • Sophie nam – these are tiny round sour ones available in red (good to just pop after spicy meal!) and green (great for pickling!) versions.
  • Soh thri – these are small fruits grown in bunches and are as sour as vinegar!
  • Soh phlang – these are tuber-like which are boiled, peeled and eaten with u nei (black sesame chutney).
  • Soh liang – these are seeds of a wild poisonous fruit about the size of lemons. The seeds are washed, cut and eaten.
  • Soh ot rit – small Khasi chestnuts.

London like never before!

It was more than time for me and my family to unwind. And this time the destination that was selected pretty unanimously by all of us at home was London! London is definitely one of my favourite places to visit anytime! So, we just packed our bags for some London thumak da time!

Also, like my other trips, that end up being more of work and less of recreation most of the times, this time I had decided that its going to be vice versa! And when it’s London, its pretty much useless to prepare an itinerary from before because there is so much to do, see and eat in this British city!  So, from the ‘Eye’ to the ‘Big Ben’ to the natural ‘Hot Springs’ and the ‘Stonehenge’ – I intend to tick off maximum, if not all, items on my London Bucket List this time!

Cannot really share each and everything from my trip, for this tiny city is HUGE for sure *pun intended*! So, here are some of the best things to happen till now! And in imagery, because a picture is worth a thousand words!

At the iconic London Eye and Big Ben with family – these are definitely getting framed on my wall, back at home in Mumbai!

 Bus tour

The Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour – can never miss this one even today! It’s absolutely crazy to explore this beautiful city as a tourist! Don’t miss Alyona in the background and the weather! 

     

Trafalgar SquareAt the very popular Trafalgar Square, this time minus the pigeon-feeding session! Did you know that the Nelson’s Column was built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805?

 Wiltshire, stonehenge

At the prehistoric Stonehenge in Wiltshire. This monument is over 5000 years old and was supposedly built to cremate the dead at that time. It is also believed to be older than the Egyptian pyramids!   

Glimpses of the city of Bath, a UNESCO certified World Heritage Site.

Bath is a major tourist centre with 1 million plus staying visitors and 3.8 million per day visitors per year. While the city has many tourist centred places like theatres, museums and other cultural and sporting venues, it also has very active and evolved software, publishing and service-oriented industries.

 

Bath is also known for its natural hot springs of the Roman Era and 18th-century Georgian architecture.

Bath 3 At the magnificent, peaceful and serene Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Bath. Did you know that the church has a cruciform plan that is, having a shape of the Christian cross and a seating of 1200? 

 Birthday celebrations with the familyAnd this one is one of my favourites! Cutting the customary birthday cake arranged by my family as a part of the typical English breakfast – wish time just stopped!

 

As I end, sharing a favourite tea cake recipe that goes with all the London vibe! Yes, there’s a slight twist to it, but it still is as fabulous as the authentic one! Enjoy…

 

 

   

 

 

Lessons from the past – To the tea

Mark Twain once quoted ‘accident is the name of the greatest of all inventors’ and the past few posts in this ‘lessons from the past’ series are perfect testimony to that. After a bunch of interesting stories about the origins of chicken tikka masala, pepper and buttermilk  time to get to something that is quite the lifestyle essential for a large chunk of people around the world. Let’s talk chai!

Tea

Tete a tete with tea

 Drinking tea is such a routine part of our lives, we hardly even realize the importance of it unless we miss out on one of those early morning cuppa’s! It’s kind of cool that tea was accidentally discovered by a Chinese emperor some 4500 years ago, when he was boiling water under the shade of a tree and some leaves accidentally fell into the water, he tasted this and found it delicious. The word eventually spread and tea became popular under the name kia. The word for tea kept changing over the years as did the flavours, taste combinations and ingredients used with it. Tea plants that were already growing as wild shrubs in parts of Assam were developed into tea plantations by the British, during their rule in India.

India, as we know now, is now one of the largest producers of tea in the world. Today the types worldwide are innumerable – from the widely used Earl Grey tea to the Japanese Oolong variety to our very own Darjeeling blend, Tea is the most popular and most consumed beverage in the world. It is not just about the refreshing taste but also the benefits attached to it. Tea, especially herbal and green varieties contains anti-oxidants, builds immunity, increases metabolism and is known to reduce susceptibility to many forms of cancer. Its fabulous flavour has resulted in it being used to impart flavour in an array of sweet and savoury recipes. Tea has definitely come a long way since its accidental discovery.

Did you know like tea, tea bags too were an accidental invention? An American tea merchant created tea bags to give away samples of the tea to his customers, who found it simpler to just brew the tea while it’s still in the porous bag rather than the loose tea.

Tell us how you like your tea – leave a comment below.