To keep moving, is the mantra!

What happens when you receive immense gratitude and respect from people across the globe? There are expectations and a constant need to innovate things in and around you. That’s exactly what’s happened to me – it kept me working towards coming up with new things in and around the culinary world.

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I have been constantly trying to raise my bar – be it with my epic show ‘Khana Khazana’ on television, restaurants across the country and on foreign soil or range of ready-to-use masalas, pickles and chutneys. Done my bit for women empowerment with ‘Wonderchef’ cookware (solely run by women!) and fulfilled my dream of running a 24×7 food channel ‘FoodFood.’ And I must say with each step, the appreciation and love from people just kept increasing!

Live Demo

Into the stimulating world of culinary, food today is not just limited to taste and smell, but goes beyond perfection. People today, want to enjoy cuisines served with great presentation that is much more enhancing and brings sheer pleasure to eyes. After all, you eat with your eyes first!

Keeping in mind this evolving trend, it was just the right time for me to foray into a segment. And what better platform could I’ve possibly got than the Homedécor, Gifts & Houseware (HGH) Trade Show 2015 to finally venture into this direction. In collaboration with Trinity Kitchenware, the SK Brand will be now responsible in actively seeking licensing alliances with manufacturers, retailers, e-tailers and traders in the Lifestyle Houseware category. Also, Sanjeev Kapoor branded Table and Kitchen Linen and Cutlery products aim to bring the much-needed freshness into this aspect.

The Wonderchef Stall

Hence, day one, i.e. July 14, 2015 was marked by the official launch of Sanjeev Kapoor’s ‘Tangerine’ range of lifestyle houseware products in a grand press conference. Wouldn’t have been possible without the love and support of my fans, followers and the ones who have always believed in me! The SK Brand promises to enhance your entire kitchen experience and bring life at ease – from cooking to the way you present your food!

Sanjeev Kapoor Khazana Range of Chutneys

With this and lot more, we wrapped-up 3 days of engaging and exciting things at the show! As always, kudos to my team who put-up a great show! Everything from food demos to Wonderchef products to SK Restaurants to FoodFood’s Lounge embraced the show with their presence. Efforts by my teams at different verticals are definitely paying off!

Chef Anupa Das at the Live Demo

Under the guidance of Chef Anupa and team, we quite easily managed to add a tadka of food with our ‘Live Demos’ of International Delicacies. With this, Wonderchef’s Hurom Juicer was the star – people just drooled over the fresh detox juices that it made in a jiffy! For the health conscious, an array of micro greens were also displayed which we used in our salads and juices. The main aim was to educate people and encourage them to use these tiny-greens (that can be easily grown at home!) to retain nutrition in their everyday food. Besides this, Sanjeev Kapoor Khazana range of chutneys spiced-up the bland breads and salads! Response was massive, a big shout-out to all those who made it possible!

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From health to cuisines to kitchen gadgets, tools and concepts, the HGH 2015 notably covered all the aspects associated with the culinary space. With this power-packed event, I am definitely looking forward to the next one!

Keep innovating!

10 most expensive ingredients in the world

Back to the list of the 10 most expensive ingredients in the world.

Ever dreamt of a fungus with a price that touches the sky (almost!)? Yes, it’s the Matsutake mushroom a.k.a the ‘pine mushroom’ from the Pacific Northwest as well as Japan. And that’s why we are putting it at the second spot just after the rare ‘Kopi Luwak.’ The fact that Japan actually imports these mushrooms from other regions that produce them explains them being in great demand inspite of being uncommon and costly!

#2 – Matsutake mushroom

To begin with the basic facts – these mushrooms dwell under the base of Japanese pine trees that are 20-60 years old. Possess a texture that’s meat-like with a robust and spicy flavour (makes them great with chicken and fish). The health benefits are not less – rich in vitamins and proteins and low in fats. According to the Japanese Guidebook, the approximate cost of Matsutake mushrooms in 2014 was $1000 (INR 63630.45) per pound. Though there are cheaper varieties available in Northern California, Canada, Oregon, Idaho and along the Washington coast.

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Fungi as gifts!

Talk of mushrooms and sensitivity! The Matsutake is such an important mushroom for the Japanese that it is often gifted in wooden boxes in a ceremony to celebrate autumn. These are also common as wedding and corporate gifts. In fact, it is believed that the ones that are collected to be sold in the markets of Japan should never be trimmed.

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Less is more!

Much said, what we come to now is the taste and preparation of this pricey fungi. There’s a thumb rule when you are handling these – ‘less is more.’ As the flavour is pretty unusual, people often take some time getting used to it. But once the palate is developed, try these fungi the following way:

  • Sautés and tempura fries, as this the best way to have Matsutake mushrooms. This way the odour literally vanishes!

  • Apart from the above, use these in dishes that have loads of butter or cream! These pair well with them.

  • Dry these out, powder and flavour your dishes with it.

  • Traditionally, these can be used alongwith Japanese rice wine ‘sake,’ kelp and soy sauce to cook meals.

  • For best results, don not overcook! Keep it simple and serve when they are still firm.

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Store wisely!

You won’t find the Matsutake in Indian markets in large quantities even today, and especially if you want the fresh ones. So, make sure if you get your hands on these, preserve them well to keep them for longer. To preserve, you can either freeze these after dicing or slicing. Or just wrap them whole in aluminium foils, put in plastic bags and freeze.

As of now, the best thing that you could do is go search for these and try dishing-up some cool recipes. For keeping it real simple, try a Matsutake Mushroom Chowder or probably a Matsutake Mushroom Risotto! It’s time for me as well to get my hands on these and try dishing-up something desi with these. Innovating as always!

Till then, if you really manage to create a marvelous Matsutake dish, do share the recipe alongwith the images with us. We will be more than happy to receive them!

As of now, we shall wrap-up our list of the most expensive food ingredients in the world. Watch out for the next one in this series…

And of course we will be waiting to know from you about your expensive experiences with food and ingredients.

10 most expensive ingredients in the world

Food is a basic necessity of life, but some of these foods are not really what you would call basic. Right from coffee beans processed in the digestive tract of a wild cat to delicate spices grown only three months in a year – in this series of blog posts we tell you about food ingredients which are sought after for their exclusivity and the beautiful magic they create in your food, but also burn a huge hole in your pocket.

#1 – Kopi Luwak

The first ingredient on this list is something that most of us can’t begin our days without, yes coffee, but not just any ordinary coffee; we are talking about Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive and rarest coffee. The reason why it is numero uno on this list is not just because of its sky high prices, but because of the very interesting process of creating it.

It might be the world’s most exclusive brew ever, but its making does have a kind of repulsive charm attached to it. Exclusive to Sumatra in Indonesia, these coffee beans are processed in the weirdest way which gives it a slang – cat poo coffee.

Civet cats, which are raccoon like wild cats play a very important role in the production, final taste and aroma of this coffee. These cats feed on the sweetest and best coffee cherries from plantations, but are unable to process the beans which then come out along with the excreta. These beans are then collected, cleaned, roasted and processed to give you a coffee that costs around 40,000 Indian rupees per pound.

This process of picking coffee beans might seem gross but it is what gives it its brilliant flavour, musky aroma and also takes away much of the acidity that coffee is associated with. The reason for the fabulous taste of this coffee is because the cats pick out the best coffee cherries. Also, when these beans pass through the digestive tract of the civets they blend with enzymes that add to its characteristic taste and smell. The painstaking and rare method results in very small quantities of final processed coffee – just about 500 kilograms a year; the rarity is what puts this coffee on the list of most expensive ingredients across the globe.

The impeccable taste and high prices of the kopi luwak coffee, comes with its share of cons. The popularity and profitability of producing these coffee beans resulted in industrialization of the process and poaching and caging of the wild civets. This cruel treatment of civets faced much flak from animal rights activists and coffee loyalists alike. Not just is the breeding horrible for the wild cats, it also alters the taste of the coffee because the cats are often fed only the coffee cherries.

So if you ever get a chance to have a cup of kopi luwak make sure it is guaranteed wild. Also beware of the fakes as there are plenty in the market.

This very interesting story of the kopi luwak coffee is the first of the 10 out of budget ingredients on our list. Going forward we will share with more interesting stories, anecdotes and trivia on the most expensive food ingredients in the world! Watch this space to find out what’s next.

Let us know how you liked this post and also tell us about the most expensive food you have eaten!

Leave a comment below!

Gaggan – Touching the culinary sky!

Quick question. Which is Asia’s no. 1 restaurant?

The answer is Gaggan in Bangkok. A ‘progressive Indian cuisine’ restaurant, by an Indian – Gaggan Anand. It topped the new list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. The awards ceremony was at Capella, Singapore.

Incidentally Anand is the first Indian chef to undergo an internship at the famed El Bulli, the influences really shows up in his cooking style.

Along with this influence, Chef Gaggan also draws on his memories of the street food of India and the diversity of its cuisine, marries it with science and technology to create modern reinterpretations of traditional recipes and viola! Asia’s number 1 restaurant is born!

I was in Bangkok last month with my team, and needless to say, ek meal Gaggan mein toh banta hi tha. So off we went, with great expectations and here’s an account of our time there.

The first impression of Gaggan is etched with the décor. Set in a beautiful, white colonial style wooden house, it exudes warmth and we find plenty of it inside too. Gaggan Anand is at the entrance to welcome us.

We chose to sit on the upper level, the crowd was a motley mix of Indians and westerners. I was touched and amused to hear Gaggan Anand talk about how he has followed my journey since he was a child, he actually quoted stories which I had shared on my Khana Khazana shows, way back!

And now for the meal. We opted for the Best of Gaggan menu. A staggering 21 dishes in all.

On the menu wherever there was a non-vegetarian dish, the vegetarians were adequately compensated with an equally good vegetarian dish. Here’s what impressed me the most.

What came first was the Amuse Bouche (Complimentary, bite-sized food portions, served before a meal or in between courses). It was burnt aam panna sorbet with cucumber caviar. Served in a branded wooden box with a wooden spatula on which the caviar rested. Food first impression…rocking!

This was followed by assortment of molecular chaat- Yogurt explosion, edible plastic spiced nuts, white chocolate pani puri, jhal muri cake…In between each course Anand would walk in and explain how and what made him come up with such creations. That’s when we got to know of his connection with Kolkata, the influence of Bengali cuisine is evident in the menu.

What came next like a piece of rock, it was a casing for a soup! The Down to Earth soup as it was called. A simple, yet delicious veg soup with an egg yolk floating in it, it was runny as they claimed it was cooked at 62 degrees. It exploded in our mouth in runny awesomeness!

The next dish on the menu called Charcoal was phenomenal. When it came to our table we couldn’t really see it because it was covered with a cloche which had trapped in all the smoke. The hostess didn’t reveal any details and left it to us to guess what it was, of course she assured us of an explanation later. When I cut into the charcoal it was soft, ate it, it was smoky and it was delicious fish which had all the wonderful flavours of Bengal. We also had a deconstructed samosa, called the Potato 2-some-crispy and liquid, it doesn’t look like a samosa, doesn’t taste like a samosa but has all the elements of one, the chutney, the potatoes and everything else. Delicious!

We decided to take a break, to ease our full bellies, to go have a look at the kitchen. Meanwhile I presented my book The Yellow Chilli to Chef Anand, after a photograph and autograph session we started our tour. Impressed once again! The molecular section was phenomenal. Everything modern and latest. I observed the precision with which each food plating was done, it was identical, hats off to the team, it takes a lot to be that accurate! I saw a drilling machine, it was to make holes in the golgappa. That kind of perfectionism floored me! Applause worthy indeed!

His refrigerator did not have much storage space, which means he gets his produce fresh, everyday. Another plus.

We got back to our food, and it was Land of Lungis for us now, it was one of the dishes mentioned on the menu and had caught my attention right at the beginning. I was looking forward to the drama on the plate. Land of Lungis was a gorgeous lobster claw cooked in Malabari curry and was served with rice. Vegetarian version was called Comfort Food, where instead of lobster, Chana Masala was served with rice. The chana masala was not the best you could get, but then one doesn’t go to a place like Gaggan and expect familiar stuff.

The desserts were grand. Made in Japan was a hit, because it had matcha, a green tea powder as the main ingredient and I like matcha. So it was matcha ice cream and matcha tea cake with mascarpone cream, vanilla salt and fresh wasabi. Unusual yet palate tickling!

Gaggan cuisine is high on impact, yet doesn’t compromise on taste. If you go there looking for the usual butter chicken and choley, you will be disappointed. But if you go looking for a new experience, for the food top restaurants are doing today or for modernity and variety, you are at the right place.

Nutralite –flavour and health at your table!

In a bid to find a balance between great taste, health and fitness, Zydus wellness offers you Nutralite with omega 3 as a healthy alternative to butter. A premium table spread which is free of cholesterol and hydrogenated fats, Nutralite also has PUFA (poly unsaturated fatty acids) and MUFA (mono unsaturated fatty acids) which are known cholesterol fighters. Using even a spoonful of Nutralite table spread is good enough to add a tinge of oomph to the recipes.
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Nutralite with omega 3 has a fabulous taste just by itself, but we are always pushing the envelope a little further to deliver the best to you. This is why I am sharing with you a little tip or let’s say a trade secret which has helped me turn even the simplest of meals into a masterpiece.
What if I told you a way to add to the already fabulous taste of Nutralite? Yes you can customize your box of Nutralite table spread by adding your favourite flavour. I can tell you all by my personal experiences, flavoured table spread is a secret weapon to turn a rather usual dish into an elegant one. Be it shooting a recipe on TV or dishing up a meal for guests or cooking for my family, I have used flavoured Nutralite everywhere and trust me, the results are absolutely gorgeous!

Whether you make a simple bake or a roast, steam or toss up some veggies with some meat or make some easy pasta, adding flavoured Nutralite to your preparations will definitely add some glamour and create great exciting flavours on the palate. This way the whole meal turns out to be really special, rather intriguing for the one who will eat it. To top it all, it is incredibly easy to make flavoured Nutralite– all you need is a box of Nutralite with Omega 3 and the type of flavouring that you want to add to it. Turn to your refrigerator or kitchen shelves for inspiration, stir up the ideas and blend it in with softened Nutralite table spread. Voila! You have created a table spread with your choice of flavouring that would go with any dish you would want to pair it up with. You can even prepare your flavoured Nutralite table spread loaded with the benefits of Omega 3, pretty much in advance.
All you need to do is take a portion of Nutralite table spread and let it soften at room temperature. Then add your choice of flavouring and mix it up really well – finely minced garlic, parsley and chilli flakes are my basic favourites. Wrap this in cling film and freeze, so that the next time guests arrive without notice, you already have something fancy done and ready to be used!
A way to glam up something as a simple as breakfast of bread toast, keeping it super healthy!

There is a list of ingredients that you can choose from to make your very own flavoured Nutralite table spread. I am sharing some options with you all, but you don’t have to stick to these! Go ahead! Experiment and when you do, make sure you share it with us!

Go herby with thyme, rosemary, dill, chives, basil, oregano, sage, etc.
Unusual ones like capers, olives, sun dried tomatoes, radish, lavender and others.
Those with a sweet tooth can go for pineapple, mango, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, figs, prunes, dates, raisins, apricots, etc. or even add a mix of finely chopped up pieces of fruit jelly!
Get nutty with walnuts, almonds, cashewnuts, pistachios, pinenuts, chia seeds, hazelnuts or any nut of your choice for a delicious crunch. You can experiment with bits of hardened caramel of butterscotch too!
Spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, five-spice, all-spice and the very Indian garam masala powder makes it great too!

Also sharing some basic recipes for flavoured Nutralite table spread with you. Try them!
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To make parsley Nutralite table spread, combine ½ cup chopped fresh parsley and 500 grams softened Nutralite in a bowl and mix well.
To make chilli Nutralite table spread, combine 2 tablespoons red chilli flakes and 500 grams softened Nutralite in a bowl and mix well.
To make garlic Nutralite table spread, combine 2 tablespoons chopped garlic and 500 grams softened Nutralite in a bowl and mix well.
Cover each in cling films and freeze till used.

So what are you doing on 31st?

This is the most asked question this time of the year. It is de rigueur to be doing something on 31st December, read partying. Over the years on the 31st, I’ve been away from home on business trips, been abroad with family, partied with friends, but never at home not ‘doing’ anything on 31st. This year, call it getting wiser or what you may, I want to be home on 31st. I don’t want to be bringing in the new year screaming my new year wishes to people that matter, over the party din, I want to bring in the new year on a meaningful note. I want to convey what I want for my loved ones in the new year in a way they can hear, clear and in the tone it’s meant to be heard in. I believe that at the end of the day the true meaning of the word enjoying is doing something that brings you joy, it’s not about letting the world know that you were at XYZ’s party or aboard a yacht or at this hip club. Do what brings you joy. Do what makes you happy. Do what will go into your life’s scrapbook in that mellow shade of gold, after all every new year deserves a fresh start.

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So what are you doing on 31st?

What next?

Like the rest of the world I too watched the news about the killing of innocent children in Pakistan, in shock, rage and grief. I can’t even begin to fathom what the parents of the slain children are going through, what kind of pain and trauma the survivors are going through, what the helpless dead children went through when death came in the form of uninformed, ignorant, evil fiends. Militants who are a blot on humanity.

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What kind of a world do we inhabit? What kind of a world are we leaving to our children, our future? We are leaving behind hate, hurt, anger…We’ve always been taught that good triumphs over evil, truth finds its way and shines brightly through the darkest lies…when will it all happen? After half the human race is wiped out?

The need of the hour is for the world to shun borders, differences and political agendas and come together to fight evil. Millions of dollars are poured into advancing technology, improving gadgets, conquering space, but if you ask me, I would say that all that money should be spent on eradicating evil from the face of earth. The world can do without another hi-tech cellphone, but it cannot do without its children!

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What we need is world peace, at any cost!