Here’s to the precious one!

You see your favourite food and exclaim – waah, mooh mein pani aa gaya! Ever wondered about this pani – what exactly it is and where does it come from? This very modest but extremely precious pani is nothing but the saliva inside the mouth, a thick, colourless liquid secreted by the salivary glands.

Before I jump onto the scientific information, let me share some basic facts about saliva, and what is the reason that actually makes it a wonder thing. Saliva is made up of 98% of water and the other 2% consists of components like electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, other enzymes, proteins, salts and buffering agents that help keep apt pH levels. The water that forms a major part of saliva comes from the blood and it is due to the mucus that the saliva attains its glossy appearance and thick texture. It will be difficult to believe, but the truth is unless our food is mixed with saliva, it cannot be digested!

Some other useful and protective aspects of saliva are :

•Saliva, and not just the taste buds, helps us to taste and enjoy our food, and this is proved by scientists and researchers. It is said that if you keep a strong tasting substance like salt on a dry tongue, the taste buds alone will not be able to taste it. However, when a drop of saliva is added to it, salt gets dissolved and results in a taste sensation!
•It is due to the enzyme ‘ptyalin’, also called salivary amylase in the saliva, that the digestion of the starch into a sugar called maltose takes place. The maltose gets further broken into glucose molecules in the small intestine.
•Saliva keeps a check on the correct amount of water in our bodies. Drying of mouth when we are dehydrated happens due to less production of saliva, which is an automatic indication for us to drink more water!
•Chemicals like lysozyme, lactoferrin, peroxidase and immunoglobulin A are found in saliva which help fight bacteria.
•Saliva has sodium bicarbonate that helps to neutralize acids in foods and drinks, which are otherwise harmful to the tooth enamel.
•Saliva washes away food particles, dead cells and bacteria in the mouth and thus reduces tooth infections and decays.
•Keeping the mouth moist, to help the tongue and lips make speech sounds and lubricating the food, so it is easy to swallow, are also some of the things that fall in the everyday to-do list of saliva! In addition to this, preventing the swallowed food from damaging the wall of oesophagus, is also done by saliva.

Now, coming to the more scientific terms – ‘submandibular glands (submaxillary glands)’, ‘parotid glands’ and ‘sublingual glands’ are the three main pairs of salivary glands which help in the production of saliva. Out of these three, parotid glands are the largest. Besides these, there are also about 600-1000 minor salivary glands that are placed in the mouth, throat and lips alongwith tubes called the ‘salivary ducts’ that help the saliva to leave the glands.

Submandibular glands – two in number and are located under the floor of the mouth. Responsible for producing a liquid mixture that consists of water and mucus.

Parotid glands – one each located in each cheek, front of the ear. Responsible for producing a watery liquid containing proteins.

Sublingual glands – two in number and are located under the tongue, in front of the submandibular glands. Responsible for producing liquid containing more mucus than the secretions of other glands.

In a day, the average saliva production ranges from 500 ml to 1000 ml in which 70% is produced by the submandibular glands followed by parotid glands which produce 25% and the remaining 5% is produced by the sublingual glands. The salivary glands continuously keep on releasing saliva, but the amount can vary during the day. The highest volume of saliva is produced before, during and after meals, reaching a peak at about 12 a.m. The production lowers down when we go to sleep in the night. Also, the reason of bad breath early morning is due to the fact that less saliva is made while we sleep as compared to when we are awake. Various other reasons can also affect the quantity of saliva production like nature of the food (spicy, sour, acidic foods), smell of the food, chewing, drugs, hormonal status, age, hereditary, oral hygiene and physical exercises.

Have you ever thought that why is it advisable to drink water sip-by-sip? Well, it has a very salivacious answer – the reason is – saliva, when mixed with water and had, helps neutralising the acidity in the stomach. Thus, you drink water sip-by-sip, move it in the mouth so that it mixes with the saliva in the mouth and then gulp it down. This is the best way you can keep your digestion process under control – seen animals and birds doing the same, and being much healthier than humans? I am sure we all can learn these nitty-grittys to stay fit from the nature around us!

Also, saliva happens to be the world’s best medicine. Again, take a look at the nature around us – animals, when they are injured, they treat that injury with their saliva itself by licking that injured area. Such is the medicinal quality of saliva! Same is the case with human saliva. Infact, the early morning saliva is the most powerful. To test – spit the early morning saliva on an insect, and watch it die! It is also advised that we should swallow the early morning saliva with lukewarm water so that all its medicinal properties are taken by the human body.

Apart from these highly useful features of the human saliva, the nature has provided some animals with such saliva that act as defence mechanisms for them. For instance, take the venomous reptiles and insects possessing poisonous saliva that is potent to such an extent, that it can not only kill their preys but also become super medicines for humans and treat some deadly diseases! Surprisingly, some bird species have a sticky saliva that help them build their nests. Such a saliva acts like a glue and helps stick materials together. Then there are some species, which make their nests completely of saliva as it hardens when comes in contact with air. These types of nests form the main ingredient of the ‘Bird’s Nest Soup’ which is a popular delicacy in many Asian countries. For obvious reasons, this particular dish is a pretty expensive affair and is made by washing the bird’s nest first and then cooking it in chicken or other broths to give it a taste. The nest forms a gelatinous texture when added to water and is said to have many health benefits. Still haven’t had the opportunity to try one, but I would definitely want to give it a shot if given a chance sometime!

By now, all that I’m trying to zero down on to is to tell you about the helpful nature of our very own dear saliva. There lies a major concern in doing this – whichever corner of India I travel to, I see Indians spitting away to glory and wasting this valuable medicine. To put it in numbers, its totally devastating to know that 125 crore Indians indulge in spitting and they actually don’t know what they are throwing away! And this business of spitting relentlessly occurs more with people who chew on tobacco, guthka and other such products. Doctors also say that they are spitting life’s most precious thing. By spitting, such people are not only spoiling the roads and environment, but also spoiling themselves; and to be honest it is quite a shame! According to doctors, the only condition when one can spit is when one has extreme cough, and in no other circumstance. And while doing so as well, make sure that you do it in the wash basins and not anywhere on the roads or where you wish to! Spitting can also be checked by eating paans minus the kattha and consuming them only with chuna (calcium). This calcium not just saves us from spitting and wasting the worthy saliva but also has its own wonders for the body. I’ve already written at length about the benefits of paan as well as calcium in my previous blogs, you can always refer to them to get a connecting link…

Last but not the least, it is very rightly said that whatever is required by the human body for its survival is supplied free of cost by God! So, why not use it wisely and live a healthier and a happier life.

Let’s all of us together, SOS (Save Our Spits)!

Khaike paan Banaras wala…

How fast things around us change! Every time I’m travelling and go back to any city in India, I always encounter something new, something that didn’t exist the last time I was there. Mumbai for sure, is changing every day that too at such a “blink and miss” pace. New malls, new buildings, new coffee shops and eateries have cropped up in every single nook and cranny of the city. However, one thing that remains unchanged, are the paan shops or paantapris as they are popularly called. Paan shops are omnipresent. They are found in every by-lane of the city and they all have their string of loyal customers. These paantapris are also a hub for catching up on all the local gossip. They sell things right from tobacco, cigarettes and bidis to biscuits, chocolates and wafers and even cold drinks, but the real hero is thepaan!

Chef Anupa Das at a famous Panwala at Juhu Beach, Mumbai
The betel plant is a creeper with leaves that are heart-shaped and glossy, bright green in colour. They belong to the pepper family of plants and that probably explains their pungent taste. The origin of betel leaves has been traced to Malaysia, however, they have been a part of Indian history and culture for centuries now.
For religious ceremonies, the paan leaves are always used with the stem intact. I remember, paan leaves and thesupari or betel nut as being an integral part of almost all religious ceremonies we had at home. Money and betel nut are placed on the paan leaves and given as dakshina to the pundits. Betel leaves are also used to adorn the mouth of the kalash(pot) because it is believed to purify the water. Also considered a symbol of hospitality, the paan is also used to honor and welcome guests.
Paan Leaves stored in cold water
In South India, paan, supari, haldi and kumkum are offered to married ladies during the ‘Varalakshmi Puja‘ and on all auspicious occasions like marriages and festivals. At a Rajasthani wedding, there is a ceremony called the “niyona” where the groom and his baraat will eat food only after the elders of the bride’s party put a paan into the mouth of every guest. Even till this day, the auspicious paan leaves are used in several ceremonies throughout India and South East Asia.
The uses of this versatile leaf are not just limited to pujas and religious ceremonies. The custom of chewing paan has been embedded in our culture and history for ages. Right from thenawabs of Luckhnow to the workers in a factory in Tamil Nadu and to the housewives of Bihar, you can find people from all walks of life eating paan. There are nearly 32 varieties of betel leaves, but in India, three types of paan leaves, namely Kalkatta, Banarasi and Maghai are highly popular. Of these, the Maghai paan, which is grown in Bihar is considered to be the best. Paan leaves can easily be bought from any grocery or paan shop. They can cost anywhere between Rs 20 to Rs 500 for a pack of 100 leaves, depending upon the type and quality of the leaves. The paan leaves are stored in a steel bucket that is filled with cold water or a wrapped in a moist red cloth called the “shaal-baaf” and then kept in a metal casket called the paandaani.
One of the many special paans available in the market today

The making of a delicious paan is truly an art. Every paanwari has a unique style of paan making and uses different ingredients for the stuffing, which is often a closely guarded secret. The filling in the paan depends upon the type of paan you have ordered. Depending upon the betel leaf used and the ingredients that go into the stuffing, you have varieties such as Calcutta sada paan, Calcutta meetha paan, Banarasi paan, Chocolate paan, Masala paan, Luchknowi paan, Magai meetha paan, Magai sada paan and chooski paan, just to name a few.

The panwari applying katha and chunna to a paan leaf
To begin with, the paan leaf is de-veined and the stem is cut. This is done to remove the tiny earthworm like creatures often present in the betel leaves. The leaf is then smeared with chuna, which is essentially the edible variety of lime paste and katha or catechu – a brown-colored paste derived from the wood of the acacia tree, and these are briskly mixed together using the finger. Thereafter, various ingredients for the stuffing are placed on top. These can include desiccated coconut, meethi supari (sweetened areca nut shavings), saunf, elaichi, gulkand, powders of kaju, badam, nutmeg and cinnamon, candied cherries, laxmichura, etc. The paan leaf, complete with all the condiments and spices, is then folded into a triangle, called the gilouree and is held together with the pointed end of a clove. Alternatively, thegilouree is held together by a paper or foil folded into a funnel with the gilouree’s pointed end folded inwards. However, it is a rare practice these days. The more fancy and expensive paans are coated with silver warq.

For those who don’t like the taste of betel leaf, but relish the stuffing, can ask the paanwari for mava, which is nothing but a mixture of the ingredients that go inside a paan. Now days, the mawa that goes inside a paan is separately sold in tiny boxes or packets. If stored properly, this mixture can last upto a year. Indians settled abroad, who long for the very Indian flavours of the paan, but fail to get it easily, carry back mawa in substantial quantities.

A lot of people consider chewing paan as a bad habit. I beg to differ as thepaan by itself is good to eat, but it is addictive and toxic ingredients such as tobacco or supari that are harmful to the health. According to Ayurveda, chewing paan minus the harmful ingredients aids, digestion, keeps the mouth fresh, relieves hunger, reduces blood pressure and also strengthens the teeth. An application of ground paan leaves on the forehead near the temples, or few drops of the juice of the paan on the nostrils is said to provide relief from headaches. The choona that is applied on the paan has a very important role to play in the preparation of a good paan. It is the most natural form of edible calcium. However it is very important to get the amount ofchoona right as too much of it can cut the tongue.
To enjoy the full benefits of the paan, it must be properly chewed and swallowed. Spitting the paan is of no use, it is like spitting away all the benefits associated with it. As the paan is made with edible ingredients and there is no need to spit out any of it, unless of course there is tobacco, kathaor supari added inside. Chewing tobacco or supari is as harmful as smoking cigarettes.
Supari or chopped areca nuts

It causes discoloration of the teeth and gums, blisters, cardiovascular diseases, bronchitis and mouth cancer.Each year, several people die because of this addictive habit, especially in the South East Asian region where this is a common practice.

People who eat tobacco-filled paan and those who chew tobacco directly, have given the phrase “paint the town red”, a whole new meaning.Wherever you go, you can see walls and roads blotched with red-coloured spit. I strongly feel that those who dirty our cities and towns like this should be heavily fined. It is not only an unhygienic and dirty habit, but is also harmful to health in more ways than you can even imagine.
I am glad that the government has taken up this issue and is making people aware about the ill effects off chewing tobacco and spitting around carelessly. It is our duty, as responsible citizens, to create awareness about these things. Fortunately, most people are smart enough to make the correct decisions once they become aware of the ill-consequences.
The paan, ready to eat!
Paan is an acquired taste, you either like it or not, I am one of those people who love the taste of paan! Paan stuffed with elaichi, laung and gulkand is my favorite. It’s simple, tasty and effective. In fact, I have tried to infuse the flavours ofpaan into several of my recipes. While some of these dishes spelt disaster, a few of them turned out to be delicious! The paan-centered chocolates that we served during the recent launch of my book Aah!chocolate were a big hit with the crowd. Paan in savoury food, why not? Murgh Benarasi Beeda is a delicious starter. The betel leaves added to the marinade lends a completely new dimension to the dish! And then there is the delicious paan kulfi– which is an innovative blend of India’s two age old favorites, the paan and kulfi – This had to be great!
You can find a few more interesting and innovative paan recipes at Till then let me share the links to three of my favorite ones.
Paan Kulfi 
Murgh Benarasi Beeda 
Paan Chocolates

Vrats – the logical way!

That time of year has already begun when we, especially Indians, indulge in some hardcore fasting or vrat rules, and most of which is usually to please the God. The navratras, like always, have set the trend which will go till the end of the year with various other festivals of different religions. I really wonder how people can associate a particular time and day to please the God – isn’t it that if the almighty is there, looking after us and taking care, we should be thankful to him all 365 days and why only for 9 days? Instead of doing so, we actually nurture the mean human nature by keeping fasts and vrats on festivals, without even giving it a logical thinking as to why we actually do them. Even God doesn’t want us to starve and keep him happy, he wants us to be wise and keep our bodies, minds and souls pure, fresh and healthy. We should eat food not too less and nor too much, commonly termed as ‘yukta aahar’ and eating simple, nutritious and pure food even when not fasting is what is preached by the Bhagvad Gita as well.

Fasting or keeping vrats, according to me is all a part of applying self-discipline as the season changes. Scientifically speaking, our body constantly requires cleansing and detoxification, which, generally goes ignored by us humans due to the rustle-bustle of our daily lives, or I would put it this way that by nature, we humans are actually not disciplined. Thus, these vrats, in the name of God are doing nothing but helping us clean our systems in all possibilities and the most by consuming the right type of food. The message is simple – eat these particular foods and eat them at the right time, this is what was started long ago by our gurus and is still followed. To which the logic is simple – if there will be fear in the minds of the people in the form of Godly rituals, the right thing will be done at any cost! Body digestion processes are related to change of season, and most of the religions provide all the right reasons to indulge in a particular type of food at the right time, which help detoxify our bodies in the long run.

Look at this fasting thing in a practical way – getting food items, cooking them, eating them and finally digesting the food is a nonstop process in a human being’s life. Not to forget that all these activities also take up a lot of our energy and time. Food, though it provides us with energy, is not always good as certain foods do make our minds dull and agitated. So, simply to revitalize the minds, these fasting days come as a saviour by making us conserve our energy by eating light and simple food. Also, our bodies have a limit to tolerate any or all types of food and vrats are the best way to give a break and rest to the digestive system as well as the entire body. Most of the vrats call for vegetables and fruits in the diets, and I think it is absolutely necessary for the body to cater to these needs also and not just keep on indulging in our favourite foods all the time! Also, according to the tridosha theory of Ayurveda, our health is a result of the balance between the vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth and water). So, when we fast with a special diet on particular days, it helps in the health and wellbeing of the entire body by bringing nutritional balance.

Summing it all up, be it the Hindu navratras or the Jain paryushans or the Catholic Lent or the Muslim rozas – whatever religion the fast or vrat belong to, there is always a literal and scientific meaning attached to these which should be the reason for us to apply them as and when required as it only helps in adding to the betterment of our bodies. On the other hand, let me ask you a very simple question – will you still keep these vrats if there were no Godly rituals attached to them? If it’s the fear of God which makes us keep these vrats so appropriately and that all the non-doable things can be kept away by instilling this fear – then, can we apply the same logic in keeping mobile phones away? Why not introduce a ‘mobile vrat’ time in each month and be a part of it?

Well, on a lighter note, give a thought about this…because I would really be interested in knowing what you all have to say about this! But, do enjoy some of the recipes from that I’m sharing with you all –

Vrat ki Kadhi 
Kootoo Ke Aate Ki Puri 
Adrak Navratan

Tell me about the dishes you made this navrata!

Happy fasting!

Epicurean marvels at the World Gourmet Summit 2013

There’s something between Singapore and me – my connection with Singapore has been really long, so long now that I actually am forced to think that whether I was a Singaporean in my previous life! Well, jokes apart, I am back in this gorgeous, spick and span city of Singapore for the World Gourmet Summit (WGS) 2013 to share the gastronomy arts and heritage of the Indian region with Singapore and the rest of the world. My team comprising of Chef Saurabh Saxena and Chef Akshay Nayar is also here with me.

The WGS is not just Singapore’s most esteemed culinary event, but I really feel it is one of the finest in the world as well; and why not, when it celebrates the world’s finest flavours, most extraordinary wines and unique dining experiences. Encompassing a series of dazzling events like the gourmet golf experience, vintner dinners, special themed and celebrity dinners, it is a gourmet spectacular specially crafted for the discerning individual who appreciates great wines and fine cuisines. The WGS is in its 17th year now and is more extravagant this time because of the presence of some world renowned chefs like Matt Moran, Bruno Ménard, Sam Leong and the likes.

Singapore merely has a total land area of 697.1 sq. km. and counts as one of the smallest countries in the world, but the way the city has progressed over the years is just astonishing and quite remarkable. Not to forget that apart from being clean and modern, the city is one of the safest cities in the world and as I said earlier, it really feels like home being here!

My first day began with a Press Conference and Opening Reception at The Maritime Experimental Museum, Resort World Sentosa followed by the Opening Reception at S.E.A. Aquarium, Resort World Sentosa. Later, had a beautiful and tongue-tickling lunch at The Song of India restaurant alongwith some socializing with fellow chefs and colleagues.

The island of Sentosa on the southern coast of Singapore houses the integrated resort – Resorts World Sentosa. One of Singapore’s two casinos is located here alongwith other attractions like a Universal Studios theme park and Marine Life Park. It also has The Maritime Experimental Museum, the only museum in Singapore where Asia’s rich maritime history and Singapore’s past as a trading port can be experienced by visitors and the S.E.A Aquarium which is the world’s largest aquarium having more than 800 species of marine animals. Truly awe-inspiring as I came across the majestic ocean life!

The second day began with attending a function at Sunrise Culinary School which was followed by a fun interview at the 96.3 Masti Radio at MediaCorp, Caldecott Hill. The lunch was special – we had a special guest, fellow foodie and columnist Vir Sanghvi at The Song of India restaurant for our epicurean menu. Always good to chat food with him!

As for the coming days, don’t forget to follow my tweets and Facebook updates with pictures as well. Shall keep you all posted about the happenings as they unfold…

Going by the mood, sharing some recipes with the Oriental touch.

Chilli Chicken Singapore
Chilli Chicken Singapore 
Singapore Sweet Garlic Vegetables
Singapore Sweet Garlic Vegetables 
Singaporean Mango Jelly
Singaporean Mango Jelly

And I know it’s the navratras which would be keeping you all busy with vrats and all…but let me tell you that there is a lot more to fasting and the science behind it! Shall soon share some trivia about it in my next blogs…

All I would say is – eat well and eat right!

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Of karma and dharma this Gudi Padwa!

IPL has taken the entire nation by storm again. Last night’s match between SRH and RCB was so gripping, especially the super over! It is not every day that we get to see one of the world’s finest batsman, Chris Gayle facing the world’s fastest bowler, Dale Steyn! Hope the match on April 11, between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders is as interesting, because I will be flying to Bengaluru to present the prize to the winning team. Quite exhilarating, I must say! The 11th also happens to be Gudi Padwa, the Maharashtrian New Year. This year, however it will be a South Indian celebration of New Year for me. Here in Karnataka this day is celebrated as Ugadi.

Something about the festival – Gudi Padwa, the first day of chaitra, marks the beginning of the spring season for the Maharashtrians. An upturned silver or gold kalash called the gudi is placed on top of a stick and covered with bright coloured cloth and other decorations and hung outside the house. A paste of neem leaves, jaggery, tamarind and ajwain is made and eaten first thing in the morning on this day. The age old reason behind eating this bitter sweet mixture is so significant in our lives today! It indicates that life is a mixture of good and bad, happiness and sorrow. It is important that we gracefully accept everything that it has in store for us, because you never know the importance of light until you have been in darkness. In the Maharashtrian tradition, Gudi Padwa is one of the four most auspicious days of the year to celebrate weddings, house-warmings and inaugurations of business ventures and for buying gold, silver or property.

India is rightly called the “land of festivals” which is very true, as I really feel that there is a festival to celebrate in each month and the festivities just go on for the entire year! Be it a Gujarati, a Punjabi, a Bengali or for that matter a person belonging to any religion, one or the other festival is there to give a reason to be happy, eat, drink and be merry! But, have you ever given it a thought as to why these days have just become an excuse to get a holiday or a day-off from work? This is when dharma and karma come into the picture. Even the Bhagvad Gita teaches us that we should keep doing our karma without thinking of the results, but the trend with humans is that, they make dharma a reason to shirk away from their karma (work). I am definitely not against any religion, festivals or the traditional celebrations that happen during these, all I’m trying to say is that we should take these festivals in the right spirit and not just blindly follow the rituals and symbolisms associated with them. These are created by humans only, even the Gods did not preach about any of them – so, this year, let’s all together promise that we will follow the inherent message of Gudi Padwa, by being true and dedicated to our work (karma) which earns us our breads because by doing so our dharma will automatically get pleased and we will be happy forever! And then, some masti, here and there, is always a part of life and if we are happy on the whole, we will be able to enjoy it even more!

While I’ll be in Bengaluru enjoying some palate tickling Karnataka cuisine, I would recommend you all to try out some joints like Prakash and Aswadh in Dadar with their authentic Maharashtrian thalis along with the ever-favourite dishes like sabudana vadas, masala bhaat, shrikhand; special amrakhands at Samant Brothers in Vile Parle (E); puran polis at Diva Maharashtra in Andheri (W) and Mahim and delightful ukdiche modaks at Modakam in Prabhadevi and a lot more Gudi Padwa specialities that are available at these places, alternatively you could also try making some dishes at home.

Also, try your hands on some of the most popular recipes associated with this festival:


Let me know how the recipes turned out.

Here’s wishing all a very Happy Gudi Padwa. God bless.

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Calcium – Choona lagao!

Mornings are probably the most chaotic time of the day in most households. Preparing breakfast, getting ready for work, packing tiffins for everyone, sending the kids to school, and most of all urging the kids to drink that one glass of milk! The same drama unfolds in our house as well. Getting my daughters, Rachita and Kriti, to drink milk in the mornings is really tough. Alyona and I figured that the easiest way to accomplish this would be to lead by example. Since then we both have made milk an integral part of our breakfast. And when we started practicing what we preached to our children, they have become more forthcoming.

But why do we give so much importance to milk? This is because milk is one of the rich and healthy sources of dietary calcium. 99% of calcium found in our body is present in our bones and teeth and the remaining 1% is found in body fluids. Thus it is important to provide our body with adequate amounts of calcium, from healthy sources, to keep them strong and healthy. Besides promotion and maintenance of the structure of bones and teeth, calcium is also essential for blood clotting, stabilizing blood pressure, muscle contraction, nerve transmissions, and more. And if the body gets insufficient calcium, then it will draw it from the bones, in turn weakening them.

Calcium requirements may vary throughout the life span depending upon the age and sex. The average requirement of calcium ranges within 500 to 1300 mg amongst growing kids and 1000 to 1200 mg for adults. Plus, it is extremely important for pregnant and lactating women and those going through menopause, to also consume the recommended amounts of calcium. One of the best ways to avoid the risk of osteoporosis, in the middle years, is to include high sources of calcium in your daily diet right from childhood. Adequate calcium in the diet helps in the formation of healthy bones and teeth, which is why it is very important for growing children to consume the recommended amount of calcium, which they can largely procure from drinking at least 2 glasses of milk per day. The rest of the calcium required can come from other sources of calcium.

Apart from milk and milk products such as curd, cheese, yoghurt, paneer, and butter, calcium can be found in high quantities in tofu, soya milk, cabbage, celery, spinach and other leafy vegetables, broccoli, almonds, sesame,flaxseeds, herbs and spices, oranges, a variety of beans, eggs and ragi. In fact, those who are lactose intolerant or have milk allergy can also fulfill their quota of calcium with these non-milk sources.

 These recipes are packed with ingredients that have high calcium content. Must try!

However, for the body to process the calcium properly, it also requires phosphorus and Vitamin D. The easiest and best way to get adequate quantities of this vitamin is to simply go for a morning walk and soak in the morning sunshine! For those who are unable to move out of their homes, spending some time in the balcony or sitting near a window that brings in plenty of sunshine, is also good.

Sadly, for today’s young fashion and zero-size-figure-driven generation, it has become far more important to stay thin rather than healthy. As a result of this fad, they skip some meals or eat less than is required by the body, or go on crazy diets, thus losing out on essential nutrients including calcium.

A lot of people these days prefer popping calcium and vitamin supplements instead of getting them from natural sources. This dependence on pills is justified by the highly over used “busy schedule” excuse. Tell me, how much of your time is it going to take to drink a glass of milk or eat a fruit? I’m sure any doctor will recommend you to get your daily requirement of calcium from natural food sources before turning to pills and supplements. Avoid buying over-the-counter calcium pills, unless advised by your doctor. The increased marketing of calcium and vitamin D tablets have almost convinced people that taking these supplements is necessary for staying healthy. A recent study has indicated that too much calcium can cause a build up in the arteries, affect cardiovascular functioning and can result in a heart attack and other heart related problems. This again goes on to show how important it is to have a balanced diet!

If your calcium levels are really low, the best way to increase it is by chewing on paan. Yes! Like most of the problems in our life, ayurveda has a solution for combating this condition as well! Spread some choona (calcium carbonate) on a betel leaf and stuff it with spices and condiments like elaichi, saunf, ajwain, laung with a bit of natural gulkand, can also help somewhat in making up for any calcium deficiency. However, for the paan to be effective in a positive way, you must make sure that you avoid any supari, katha or tobacco. It is also important to chew the entire thing and swallow it. Spitting out paan not only kills the benefits of it but is also a dirty and unhygienic practice.

The sedentary lifestyle that most of us have become accustomed to is the cause for several of these deficiencies, illnesses and stress in our lives. With small changes in our lifestyle, like eating right, exercising, and sleeping on time, it is very easy to live a happy life. We just need to be aware. If you know about the positive and negative effects of the choices that you make, you will automatically make the right ones. It is very similar in food. Some understanding about healthy foods, a balanced diet and the right cooking methods can go a great way in ensuring a healthy life. After all, a healthy life is a happy one!

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Quite ‘egg’citing!

Summers have begun and how! With temperatures already soaring high in March, I can only imagine how hot it is going to get by the time May arrives! With the heat, come suggestions about how to beat the heat! One of the most common one being “to avoid eating eggs during summer” which I find particularly hard to follow because simply I love eggs!

An egg done sunny side up, sprinkled with some salt and pepper is my go-to every time I am hungry and need a quick snack or a boost of energy after a tiring workout! Egg is also a source of complete protein, which means that it provides all the essential amino acids needed for our body. The quality of egg protein is so high that it is used as a reference protein for all other protein sources. To avoid eating eggs during summer sounds more like an old wives tale. I haven’t yet heard of any scientific backing to this myth. In fact, athletes and people who engage in a lot of physical activity, include upto 6 egg whites in a meal, be it summer or winter! I see no harm in eating eggs whatever may be the season. However, if you are suffering from high cholesterol or any heart ailment, you should eat eggs only after consultation with your dietician or doctor. As long as you refrigerate them, eat them freshly cooked and restrict raw consumption. Infact, eggs and summer sound like a perfectly good combination to me!

Eggs are quick and easy to make but it is not limited to that. There is a lot more to eggs than just omelettes and half fries! Infact, they are so versatile that there is an entire cult of people who call themselves eggetarians. Eggs are one of the most flexible ingredients we can use in cooking. They are used in cuisines worldwide and practically in every course, right from breakfast to lunch to dinner and even in desserts.

Let me share some interesting trivia about eggs.

Did you know?

•The egg shell is made of calcium carbonate and has tiny pores. The pores help to retain the moisture in the egg and also help in air circulation.

•Ninety percent of the egg white is made of water and the rest 10% is made of proteins. It helps to protect the egg yolk.

•Egg yolk is a rich source of fat. It is surrounded by the egg white. As the yolk ages, it absorbs the water from the egg white and increases in size. The yolk in a fresh egg is nice round and plump, whereas that in an old egg is flat.

It is very important that you get the cooking processes and times correct if you want to cook perfect recipes with eggs.

Cooking Of Eggs:

Eggs contain a good amount of protein and hence they should not be cooked for more than the required time. The protein tends to coagulate and if cooked for more time, it tends to become tough. If the eggs are boiled for more than 10-12 minutes, you can see a dark ferrous sulphide ring around the yolk. This occurs due to the chemical reaction between the iron in the egg yolk and the sulphur in the egg white. To avoid this, you can plunge the hard boiled eggs in chilled water to avoid carryover cooking or overcooking due to the internal heat of the egg.

Boiled eggs are made by adding whole eggs to cold water and then bringing it to a boil without a lid. It is important to ensure that there is not much activity in the vessel so that the egg shells remain intact and don’t crack. Some salt should be added to the water to speed up the cooking process and of course, for taste.

•Soft boiled eggs- Make sure that you have a pan of boiling water. Slip the eggs carefully with the help of a ladle so that they do not crack. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove, peel and use. In this case the egg white is firm and the yolk is runny.

•Medium boiled eggs- Add the eggs in boiling water with the help of a ladle and cook for 5-7 minutes. Drain, peel and use as required. In this case, the egg white is firm and the yolk is slightly less firm.

•Hard boiled eggs- The cooking time for hard boiled egg is about 8-10 minutes. Here the egg white and yolk both are firm.

Poaching of Eggs
Poaching is basically cooking the eggs in the hot simmering liquid. The egg is broken in a bowl and is gently slid into simmering water. The cooking time in this case is about 2 minutes, if the eggs are at room temperature. The yolk is runny and the white is firm. A little amount of vinegar is added to the water so that the water becomes acidic. This speeds up the process of coagulation of protein present in the white of the egg while the yolk is still runny. It also prevents the egg white from spreading too much, hence giving you a perfectly poached egg.

Scrambled eggs
These are similar to our very own desi bhurji. The only difference is that unlike the bhurji, scrambled eggs are made without any onions, tomatoes and spices. The egg is beaten well to completely blend the yolk and white. It is then added to a pan and cooked till the mixture is not runny in texture. Generally milk/fresh cream is added to retain the moisture of the eggs and they are seasoned with salt and pepper. This is normally served with toasted breads.

Using these simple and basic methods, you can create many more egg-based recipes. Eggs are fast food in the literal sense, as they are fast to cook. Eggs are fuss-free and are widely used in several regional Indian dishes. Be it akoori, the Parsee equivalent of bhurjee or the egg rolls from Kolkata, the very Mumbaiya anda-pav or the egg masala of which every household in India has a special version.These are exactly the kind of dishes that bring out the beauty of an ingredient as simple as an egg!

While we are on the topic of eggs, I must mention about ‘The Faberge Big Egg Hunt’ that is on in London presently, as a part of the Easter celebrations. The hunt involves identifying the locations of 210 eggs hidden through London. All these eggs will be displayed together for the first and the last time at the Covent Garden during Easter. As part of the event, a charity auction of designer eggs was held where in they managed to raise an astounding 667,000 pounds, with some eggs being bought for as high as 70,000 pounds! Who would have thought that an event of this scale would be based on the humble egg? There is a song in a Bollywood movie which sings praises of this humble food item and says “aao sikhao tumhe ande ka funda, yeh nahin pyaare koi maamuli banda”. So sing this song aloud as you cook your favorite egg dish. And don’t be worried, it is very difficult to go wrong with eggs! The only difficult thing related to eggs is the answer to this question – anda pehle aaya ya murgi?

Try out these recipes while you ponder over the answer to this question!