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.

Lessons from the past

After speaking about the origins of chicken tikka masala and the king of spices pepper, it’s time to get to the origins of one of my all-time favourite thirst quencher in this ‘lessons from the past’ series of blog posts – let’s talk buttermilk!

buttermilk

Nothing better than butter milk

Buttermilk is easily one of the most refreshing beverages you can ever drink and it is also one of the oldest. Ages ago, it was made more or less as a way to use up leftovers – when households in India and America realized that the residue water and little bits of butter left over after butter had been churned made quite a refreshing, delicious drink. What used to earlier be given to cattle and farm animals, soon this got really popular with the locals and after a point people would especially churn butter to drink the liquid left behind.

Sometimes the buttermilk was left out to set up with natural bacteria, thicken in consistency and become sour in taste to be seasoned with salt or sugar. This liquid began finding use in baked goods and in marinades.

Many years later when butter started being made with the help of machines, this liquid would often go to waste. But by then people had discovered the magic of fermentation and of yogurt, making buttermilk available for everybody to enjoy.

Over the course of time it has also had quite a few identity crisis situations – from the tasteless residue from making butter to the fermented tangy drink we know it as today. Buttermilk has come a long way and is indispensably used in the kitchen – as an important ingredient in baking, for marinades and also to get that crispy coating in fried food.

However my favourite avatar of it will always be in the form of the refreshing beverage that it is! I like my buttermilk with some black salt, a hint of roasted cumin, fresh green chilli and plenty of fresh mint and coriander. Preferably post a big lunch or dinner.

How do you like your buttermilk? Let me know in the comments section below.

Time to get wasted!

This year is definitely going to be all about throwing very little waste away! Trending in 2016 is the ‘root-to-stem-dining’ concept wherein chefs all over the world are using everything from the tender stems and leaves to flowers and what not of the vegetables. 1

You can use these so-called veggie trashes in almost every kind of preparation – soups/stews, salads, sauces, sautés, roasts, side dishes, pickles, garnishes and even desserts. However, the simplest strategy to use the veggie wastes has to be the super flavourful yet exceptional ‘vegetable stock’ that you can make with them. Just simmer them in water alongwith the basic ingredients that you use. Once the stock is done, use it in the preparation of other dishes like you do and experience the burst of flavours – trust me, it is going to be on another level! Your homemade vegetable stock can easily become the star for any dish!

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Besides this, here is a list of my top picks of wonderful wastes. Read on…

  • Stems and stalks – Awesome pickles with asparagus and cauliflower, healthy smoothies, juices and soups with celery and candied fennel stalks. Did you know that you can even substitute the simple syrup in drinks with fennel stalk syrup?Raddish-Mooli

  • Greens – Add these tender greens/leaves in salads for the ultimate freshness – beet, radish, broccoli, cauliflower and leek. Leek

  • Young tops – Blanch tender carrot tops with the leaves and use in sautés, salads, stir-fries, pestos and smoothies. The onion tops can be chopped and added to mashed potatoes with herbs for a great sidey. Needless to say, both can also be used as pretty garnishes! Fennel Bulb

  • Others – Don’t throw away the jackfruit cores. Instead, use them with the flesh to make a spicy kathal ki sabzi or just grill them on a barbecue. Roast watermelon seeds, season and use as a crunchy nutritious snack. And then lemon and orange peel zests have always played their part in making a dessert classy!

P.S. – Talking of discards becoming delicacies, Indian cuisine has always had this technique, especially with the Bengalis. Like the omnipresence of the entire banana plant in their culture. Read mochar ghonto – an earthy preparation made of tender banana flowers (not exactly a waste!) with Bengali spices and thorer ghonto – a similar preparation with the banana pith/plantain stem (now that’s definitely a waste!). These are just two, while the list is endless!

I can tell you with my personal experiences that these arty people somehow have a knack to use the wastes. Amongst the popular ones, the variety of preps that they come up with, even with the peels/skins of veggies is something quite unbelievable – that is, until I tasted them! Everything from the unusual pumpkin, bottle gourd and green banana peels to the usual potato peels get used. They are simple, subtle yet unique in their own way!

As someone rightly said, ‘Rather than preaching about wastefulness, why not start with the satisfaction of good cooking?’ True that.

So, get onto the bandwagon and make this as your practice for it does all good, and no harm! And share your favourite recipes, tips and tricks on how to master cooking with wastes.