Time for some offsite fun!

A trip to God’s own country amidst hectic schedules, SKR’s Offsite was a refreshing break! It was all about fun, food and a fabulous time for the entire SK Restaurants team. The presence of my better half, Alyona made it all the more special for me and all the team members!

 

Read on to know more about this short yet productive vacation…

 

Day 1 (September 1, 2016): Destination: Kochi Marriott Hotel

The group got a super melodious and grand welcome with the chenda melam – a traditional music performance with the chenda, a percussion instrument. This was followed by a lavish lunch. The Marriott team outdid itself with this one! Post lunch, it was time for a cycle tour of the picturesque Fort Kochi – the team peddled their way for almost 2 hours in the area and other places of interest in the Old City. Super exhausted and hungry, we went straight for dinner before retiring for the day, and the next eventful day!

 

Day 2 (September 2, 2016): Yoga and Sadhya

Started on a healthy note with a yoga session on the helipad with a view to kill for! After a hearty breakfast, it was time for an exciting water polo match. There were 2 teams, Red and White. The Red team headed by Rajeev Matta played their way to victory!

The most awaited part of the day was the authentic sadhya (‘banquet’ in Malayalam) lunch – an array of pure vegetarian dishes traditionally served on a banana leaf.

After such a heavenly meal, a nap was in order. Soon it was time for the conference meeting where the team members time-travelled with a presentation that spoke about SK Restaurants in the year 2015. It ended with a trailer for FY 2016-2017 and a felicitation ceremony for Rajeev Matta, CEO, SK Restaurants for outstanding contribution throughout the years.

 

Day 3 (September 3, 2016): Trek and treat!

An early start to the day with an exhilarating trek at the Athirappilly Waterfalls – India’s answer to Niagara Falls! With munchies to snack on in the bus and an Ad-Mad game alongwith it, the 2 hour journey went off in a blink! Athirappilly Falls is situated in Athirappilly panchayat Thrissur district. Straight out of the movie Bahubali, the falls were a sight to remember! Photography sessions followed by fun in the water amidst flora and fauna – what a day! Reached the hotel for a lovely hi-tea. It was party time in the evening! All the team members were dressed to kill for the dance party, suspenders for guys and minis for the girls. Other than toe tapping music, the highlight was the Fun Awards. And the winners were…

·         Best Dancer (Male) – Saurabh Saxena

·         Best Dancer (Female) – Sugatha Menon

·         Best Dress (Male) – Rajeev Matta

·         Best Dress (Female) – Aditi Mehta

·         Best Entertainer – Anupa Das

·         Most Punctual – Rahil Aga

·         Human Vulture – Swapnil Jaiwant

·         Late Lateef – Amar Mhole

·         Surprise Buddy – Esha Makwana, Reshma Nair and Priyanka Chavda

Day 4 (September 4, 2016)

It was the last day and a day to revel in the beauty of God’s own country and what better way than to float languidly on the backwaters? The team departed for a cruise in a House Boat. Coconut water and endless cups of coffee added to the charm of the day. After lunch, the rest of the day was kept for leisure – some shopping at the nearby markets, a visit to India’s largest mall, Lulu and eating out! Just before leaving for the airport in the evening, SK Restaurants felicitated the team at Marriott with special gifts for their warm hospitality.

 

Ganesha’s Favourites

It’s that time of the year which every person from Maharashtra looks forward to with plenty of zeal, excitement and joy. For someone who is not from the state, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations are like a revelation. I had a couple of North Indian friends, visiting Mumbai for the first time during Chaturthi last year and I still remember how mesmerized they were with the fervor that takes over the streets during those 10 days. The larger than life aartis, for even larger than life Ganesha idols and the delicious food that follows – it is tough, even for a Mumbaikar like me to not to get lost in these 10 days of pious activity.

Between the joyous homecoming and tearful farewell of Maharashtra’s favourite god are 10 days full of festive fun which like any other celebration in India is studded with stunning food. I believe that bhog for the gods becomes even more special when you prepare it yourself because all that love, dedication and bhakti translates into the food better. So this year I am going to share with you 3 simple but delicious recipes which you can dish up this Chaturthi.

Ukdiche Modak

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These little steamed semi-translucent rice flour dumplings stuffed with a sweet jaggery and coconut mixture are and will always be numero uno on the list. Lord Ganesh apparently loves these and I can totally understand why! One bite into the soft coating and you are welcomed by a sweet, juicy filling and the lightest aroma of green cardamom. Though mawa modak is also as amazing, when it comes to that actual feel, these white beauties win hands down. Divine indulgence for sure! Click here to take a look at the other types of modaks you can prepare – right from chocolate centered to melt in the mouth mawa ones to crispy fried modaks.

Puran Poli

puran-poli-ytThese thin wheat flour rotis with a generous sweet chana dal stuffing inside are something that every true blue Maharashtrian swears by! The stuffing known as puran is made with a mix of soft boiled chana dal, jaggery and cardamom powder and melts as soon as it hits your tongue. Served with a dollop of ghee or toop as it is known in Marathi, puran poli has its share of serious fanatics and is always in great demand during Chaturthi. You can also shape the puran into laddoos, top with a cashewnuts each and serve it up in a brand new avatar!

Choorma laddoos

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These are not really difficult to make, but can be a bit time consuming. Dough balls made with semolina and whole wheat flour are fried in good old desi ghee till they crisp up and go a gorgeous golden brown in colour. These are then crumbled and mixed with more desi ghee, melted jaggery, powdered sugar and nuts, shaped into laddoos and finally rolled in poppy seeds. These sweet earthy laddoos make one of the best bhog/ prashad items ever. Definitely Ganesh approved.

 

What are you eating this Chaturthi? Let me know in the comments section below.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to all!

Happy cooking!

Happy eating!

Ganpati Bappa Moriya!

 

 

Lessons from the past – The Chinese connection

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‘To invent you need a good imagination and a pile of junk’ Thomas Edison the inventor of the light bulb once said. In this series of ‘lessons from the past’ blog posts we talk about inventions that were even beyond the imagination of the creator himself. After the likes of chicken tikka masala, pepper, buttermilk and tea it’s time to talk about chopsticks.

Chopstick culture

Eating with chopsticks is like riding a bicycle – it can be tricky at first, but once you get a hang of it, it’s hard to forget. The history of chopsticks is as interesting as the experience of eating with them.

Chopsticks were discovered way before people actually started using them to eat in 400 AD. Initially they were used to stir around food while cooking. It was during the time, when the population of china was on a rapid increase that cooks in China needed to begin cost cutting. To save on cooking time and thus fuel, they started cutting food into small pieces before cooking. These small bite sized pieces of food could be eaten directly with chopsticks, without the need to use knives at the dining table.

Furthermore, the teachings of Confucius said that sharp objects like knives should not be present during meal times which should be peaceful and calm. Confucius’ disdain for knives at the dinner table increased the popularity of chopsticks. Eventually chopsticks were the preferred traditional method of eating food in China, Japan, Korea and several parts of South Asia. The earliest chopsticks were like tweezers, joined at one end. They were made of silver, bamboo or wood. Over the years they got modified and are now like the way we know them.

In China, chopsticks are also associated with several myths – it is said that if you drop your chopsticks during a meal it brings bad luck and you may end up missing your next flight, train or cab. Researchers say that eating with chopsticks helps improve memory and finger reflexes and also helps to learn the Chinese written script faster. I don’t know about that, but they sure are fun to eat with!

If you are just learning to eat with chopsticks then use wooden or bamboo ones as they are easier to use as compared to plastic or metal chopsticks. Practice with simpler dishes first and then graduate to the more difficult ones. As long as you can manage to get food from the bowl to your mouth you can use chopsticks effectively!

How about some coffee?

Why do people enjoy coffee so much? Is it because of caffeine being a stimulant to the nervous system, an instant energy provider or just a great mood enhancer? The bitter sweet taste of coffee is unique to the tongue and the scintillating aroma of the coffee beans is irresistible.

All the coffee lovers can thank a man named Omar from Ethiopia and the random expedition of, his search for wild berries. After discovering cherries with distinct seeds, he decided to boil them. With the assumption of being able to consume them, they in fact became hard and left a concoction behind. He had never smelled or seen anything like this, and decided to drink the caffeine infused liquid. The revitalized energy that he gained was spoken about, and soon the information about coffee spread all over. Countries went gaga over the effect; taste and aroma of the coffee bean, and there began the trade, from Ethiopia, to Europe and gradually the whole world. These are how most of the greatest inventions are made, with just a random stroke of luck!

The first of the two kinds of coffees, is called Arabica, and is grown in the hot and humid climate of the middle-east. This strong scented bean, has a milder flavor with sweet undertones. This is the finest form of coffee and is consumed by 60% of the world’s population. Where- as a lot of people prefer the taste of the sharper and bitter kind, called Robusta. Largely grown in Vietnam, and is used in production of the ever famous instant coffee and cappuccino. Everyone has their days where they want to just enjoy the soothing taste of coffee; mood for Arabica, and also a day where they need a kick start to their day and mood with strong caffeine; mood for Robusta.

Coffee is famous all around the world, and majority of the people start and end their day with a nice cup of coffee. And with the widespread use of coffee, it has reached beyond the consumption of just as a beverage. A substantial rub of flavorsome coffee on steak is something unusual but very tasty, a popular additive in various bakes like brownies, cakes and the ever famous Tiramisu, and also an ingredient in vinaigrette for the dressing of salads. Isn’t it great, how the flavours of coffee can be tampered with, from extreme bitter, to flavorsome and also sweet enough, to satisfy all the ends of the palate?

When a bean is in such high demand, one wonders what the benefits are. Many will be surprised but the consumption of coffee reduces physical pain, stress and the chances of heart diseases. With the abundance of many antioxidants and nutrients, it aids in boosting the immunity and energy levels.

With so many health benefits and ways in which it can be cooked, coffee remains one of the best inventions in the world. Because no one needs an excuse to have coffee, it’s a mood enhancer, conversation starter and stress reliever. As the say, you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy coffee and both are pretty much the same.

How to bake a Sugar Free cake..!!

What if we told you get all that awesome sweetness and rich buttery flavour of a pound cake without any of the calories and ill effects that come from using sugar? Well, where there is a -whisk there is a way and where there is SugarFree you can indulge your sugar cravings without any worries every day!

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First things first – measure out one cup of Sugar Free Natura Diet Sugar. Then heave a sigh of relief knowing that your cake is going to be a deliciously sweet one, but minus any calories and ill effects of sugar.

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Mix it in with 1 cup of butter…..

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And blend away with an electric whisk till the mixture is light and fluffy and has gone a shade lighter than what it originally was.

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Add a total of 3 eggs – one at a time and whisk well till it is well incorporated in the creamed butter sugar mix.

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Next, it’s time to bring in the dry ingredients – 1 cup of refined flour and a teaspoon of baking powder sifted into the wet ingredient mix.

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Fold in the mixture carefully with a spatula ensuring the air that you so carefully whisked in, doesn’t get out. This keeps the cake light and fluffy.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence to get rid of any ‘eggy’ smell and add a hint of flavour also a little milk in case you need to adjust the consistency of the batter.

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Pour it into a greased baking tine and your Sugar Free cake mix is ready to go into the oven. Bake it at 180 degrees Celsius for about 20-30 minutes. Till it goes from this…

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……to this

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Cool on a wire rack, cut into wedges and serve.

Now that your basic pound cake is ready you can serve it up just like that with a light sprinkling of Sugar Free Natura Diet Sugar or serve it up with a delicious berry compote or just fresh fruit and whipped cream.

This recipe is one of the easiest ways to indulge your sweet tooth without any guilt of the harmful effects of consuming sugar.

Check out more recipes made with Sugar Free Natura Diet Sugar, the latest international zero-calorie sweetener on sanjeevkapoor.com

 

 

Lessons from the past – The king of sandwiches

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This ‘lessons from the past’ series of blog posts has been quite a revelation when it comes to the discoveries and origins of some of our most common food and ingredients. The next post in the series is a story of the humble sandwich – not really of how it originated, but of an interesting story of how it got its name and worldwide recognition.

No spoon or plate – that’s why sandwiches are great!

 A sandwich is one of the easiest things to put together in the kitchen. Two slices of bread and any filling in between them – literally any filling! Ever wondered who thought of this brilliant idea? Well, turns out the mighty old sandwich was created as a result of a gambling obsession of an Emperor!

The story dates way back to 1762, London. The fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montague was too involved in his gambling routine to even stop for a meal. He asked the cook to bring him roasted meat between two slices of bread, so he could continue with his game while he ate his meal and that is exactly what happened. The Earl played nonstop for 24 hours and only ate ‘sandwiches’ in between. This trend kind of caught on with people ordering ‘the same as sandwich’.

Apparently the 1st Earl was to undertake the title of “the earl of Portsmouth” but took the title of “the earl of sandwich” instead. Had he not changed his mind, a sandwich could have easily been called a “Portsmouth” instead.

The sandwich has evolved a hundred folds since then. The possibilities of the combinations of the bread and the stuffing in a sandwich are endless. It could be vegetables, cheese, meat, eggs, tomatoes, jam, beans, lentils, dips, sauces stuffed between slices of any kind of bread. Tortillas, quesadillas, burgers and shawarmas are all types of sandwiches. With the varieties of sandwiches we have today did you ever think that it could be the product of an Emperors humble request?

Picking a favourite sandwich out of all the fabulous ones of the world is quite a herculean task for me. Yet I am going to pick a vegetable triple decker sandwich because I can never bring myself to refuse a slice of it. It is made with bread slathered with butter, green chutney, loaded with veggies and a bit of cheese then grilled. Filling, delicious and very simple to build – just like how a sandwich should be– here is the recipe.

Sugar to Sugar Free…

 PicMonkey Collage1 All of us grew up using refined white sugar. And the ugly news associated with sugars was that most were processed into all kinds of foods we ate. These sugars often carried a high glycemic index rating which means that the sugars were absorbed into the bloodstream faster.

Hence, consuming too much of these nutritive sweeteners or sugar grains resulted in an ‘n’ number of health issues like diabetes, obesity and other heart diseases. So, with some innovation and the human grey matter working at its best, came the invention of artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes that could give us the benefit of enjoying the sweet taste minus the excessive calorie intake. Yes we are talking about the Zydus wellness prodigy Sugar Free, where the products were a lot more times sweeter than the plain white sugar, yet did less harm to the body. And even the doctors didn’t hesitate in prescribing these for a much healthier lifestyle.

However, with changing times and the constant increase in stress levels due to the super-hectic lifestyles, human health woes increased by leaps and bounds. And the fact that we cannot have a diet completely free of sugar is also true! So, what did we do? Just relied on Sugar Free and ultimately made it a lifestyle product that could be bought off the supermarket shelves – anytime, anywhere! Not anymore did we wait for a specialist to tell us that we need it. We actually knew how much and why we needed it, and helped ourselves!

Sugar Free is a product that comes in various forms, shapes and sizes that can be used in almost every way that you use sugar in. The best part is that it gives you all the goodness of sugar minus the calories. Right from baking luscious desserts to sweetening our daily cups of chai and coffee to creating marvelous mithais – the range of Sugar Free products comes handy in every way. It is meant for people from all walks of life – the only criteria being the need to live a fitter and healthier lifestyle.

Available in several forms to make your life simpler, Sugar Free comes in the form of a drop, powder and pellet.

1 drop of Sugar Free Natura Sweet Drops = 1 teaspoon of sweetness

1 sachet Sugar Free Natura = 2 teaspoons of sweetness

1 pellet of Sugar Free Natura = 1 teaspoon of sweetness

So choose your pick, depending on what you want to do with it. These are freely soluble in water at both high and low temperatures and therefore, can be used in most food products. It is also heat stable and ideal for cooking and baking without any loss in sweetness. It can be used for making a wide range of foodstuffs besides being used as a tabletop sweetener like in tea, coffee, lassis and it also churns out delicious ice creams.

And before the end, just a little tip, all sugar free sweets and desserts need not necessarily be completely free of all sugar. It actually depends on the ingredients of the sweet preparation. If it has fruits and dry fruits, they have natural sugars. In case you do pick up any food item with the label ‘no sugar’ or ‘low sugar’ or ‘reduced sugar,’ remember that they all contain carbohydrates! For more tips & Recipes Visit www.sanjeevkapoor.com