Onam in God’s own country

Many years ago I found myself in Kerala during Onam. Did you know that it is a 10 day festival? The atmosphere in Kerala during Onam is simply so festive! It is like Diwali here. Almost every brand has a discount offer, shops are aglitter and everybody is on a buying spree.

Rasakalan

I spent Onam with a Malayali family to get a real taste of the festival. Onam is celebrated to re-welcome a much loved king to Kerala. Legend goes that Mahabali was a fine king who ruled over Kerala many centuries ago. During his rule, abundance and prosperity was the norm. Everybody was happy, so much so that they forgot the gods! This angered the gods and Vishnu came down to correct things. To cut a long story short, Vishnu managed to banish the king to the underworld(patal lok), but granted his wish, that once a year he could come to visit his people for 10 days and that day, things in the land would be as he left them. Hence there is an ambience of happiness and festivities for these 10 days.

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There are three highlights of Onam, which is most fascinating. Onam boat races, which appealed to the sport lover in me. I was lucky to be at the Ramada Alleppy during a Masterchef shoot. The property faces the Punnamada backwaters, this is where the boat race is held. The pookalam or the highly creative and beautiful floral rangoli outside every doorstep that appealed to the creative person in me and the elaborate sadya on the plantain leaves which appealed to the food lover me!

Aviyal

The novelty and joy of eating piping hot food and so many items on the leaf is unsurpassed. The items range from curries to dry vegetables preparations to pickles to chips and papad to the lip smacking payassams. Truly a feast fit for a king! There is a sequence for the food served. First comes the pinch of salt, the chips, the banana, the tamarind and ginger chutney (puli inji), the pickle (usually lime or mango) and the sabzi, usually French beans with carrot with a garnish of fresh coconut, pachadi (raita) and huge papaddums. This is followed by sumptuous curries like the olan – a mild curry with a coconut milk base and with vegetables like white pumpkin and brown eyed beans, sambhar – the universal favourite, kaalan – a sour, coconut curry with yam and raw plantains amongst other vegetables, errasseri – a roasted coconut based curry, aviyal – a mixed vegetable curry and of course piping hot and spicy rasam. The meal started with a spoon of ghee on hot rice along with a small helping of plain, unsalted dal. By the time I finished this sumptuous meal my shirt buttons were popping, still I didn’t let go off the palpayassam, thick, creamy, milky with fried nuts! Heaven in God’s own country!

Pal_payasam

I have another Onam trip to Kerala on my agenda and hope it materializes soon! Meanwhile, if you have Malayali friends try and snag an invitation to a Onam sadya, soon!

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10 most expensive ingredients in the world

And we are back with the #3 most expensive ingredient in the world, after the Kopi Luwak and the Matsutake Mushroom. This one’s a little tough to believe, because it’s a melon! Yes that’s right, a melon!

Melon

The Japanese Yubari Melons – perfectly round and smooth skinned, these hybrid melons are exclusively produced in the small Japanese town of Yubari. This pretty much explains the price and that’s why we rank it third on our list of expensive ingredients!

#3 – Yubari melons

Popularly known as “Dream Melons” these perfectly cultivated Yubari melons are Japanese in origin. Crossed with two cantaloupe varieties, these melons turn out to be distinctively tasty and orange-fleshed putting it in the category of uniquely expensive fruit. So, the next time you think of gifting something unique and expensive, consider these melons! A sure shot healthy gift!

Where do I come from?

The melons, as the name indicates are grown in Yubari. This small town in Hokkaido produces a limited number each year. Best produced in volcanic soil, this melon is an outstanding combination of Spicy Cantaloupe and Earl’s Favourite. This hybrid melon comes out perfectly and proportionately sweet and delicious. And that’s why it tops in the kingdom of melons.

Melon Pudina Cocktail

Worth it?

With the high price comes great taste and texture. The amount of care and maintenance that goes into the cultivation of this fruit is surely worth the price. The standard Yubari melons at the Japanese departmental stores range between $50 and $100. The superior ones are often auctioned in Japan at prices as high as $26,000 and more.

Yubari today!

Being such a big trend, this luxury fruit is now found on the shelves of most food stores in Japan, by virtue of being incorporated into various food products.

Some packaged stuff that you see when Yubari melon is on the shelf:

  • Yubari Melon Gummy – Well oh well! Who doesn’t like gummy bears and especially when in the pricey melon’s flavour?

  • Jelly – Yubari Melon jelly? Must try!

  • Kit Kat – Chocolate and the melon! Intrigued!?

Melon Slush

Here are some melon favourites of mine which can be easily done with these beautiful Yubari melons too. Like a refreshing Watermelon and Papaya Salad, a cool Melon Slush or go a little desi with Melon Pudina ka Cocktail or my very own Sago and Melon Kheer! The trick lies in just replacing musk melon with this one.

Watermelon and Papaya Salad

So, now on whenever you visit Japan, make sure to try this ‘Dream melon’, or if you can’t afford the fresh ones, try the foodstuffs with this melon flavouring.

As we continue listing our top expensive ingredients, you are welcome to share your experiences and feedback regarding the same. And don’t forget to share and leave a comment!

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.

FoodFood Lounge 2

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!

Sanjeev Kapoor range of lifestyle houseware products 1

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!

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?

Of fun, food and friendliness

This isn’t my first trip to the African continent but, it sure is one of the most memorable. We were there to attend the Good Food and Wine Show 2014, in Durban, South Africa. My colleague Chef Anupa Das and I headed straight from the airport to the beautiful Hotel Elangeni which by the way in Swahili and Zulu languages means ‘where the sun shines through’ and what better place could actually do justice to the word.

View from the top The hotel is located at perhaps the most beautiful spots in Durban, where your room faces the beach, and the beautiful promenade at the beach beckoned me to walk! Also, it was extremely windy all the time and later we got to know from the locals that we were quite lucky to get such a pleasant weather in Durban, otherwise it’s quite hot this time of the year! Fortunate enough is all I can say!
I started off saying this trip to Durban was one of my most favourite, the reason being Diwali. I definitely missed home, but the people and the celebrations in Durban during Diwali made sure I wasn’t very home sick. While we were at an interactive and fun conference cum cocktail party, we IMG_9101got invited to celebrate Diwali with this warm and welcoming Indian family.
They showed us the true essence of Diwali in Durban. This family has lived there for generations, their ancestors moved to South Africa decades ago, so the culture and traditions of the Indian community in Durban is a beautiful mix of Indian and South African culture. Spectacular lighting and pretty fireworks were on display. There was almost actually a pool table full of fireworks which went on through the entire course of the evening. Dinner was a very typical Durban style biryani made with the much used ‘sugar bean’ served with dal, unlike an accompaniment that would be served with a biryani in India. Strange combination, but an absolute palate tickling preparation!

At the Good Food and Wine Show - Durban South Africa (1)
At The Good Food & Wine Show

The next two days were all about the main event at the Good Food & Wine Show where I had some food demonstrations to be done.

At the Good Food and Wine Show - Durban South Africa (2)First, I dished up Pav Bhaji Martini, Motichoor Golgappa and Steamed Basmati Chicken Kababs and followed by Shrikhand with Stewed Berries, Matka Biryani and Prawn Curry in Green Masala, with crowd interactions simultaneously!

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It’s always exciting to see how people from different strata and regions of the world come on the same page when it comes to good food!
with Chef Maura Castano and Chef Reza Mahammad

The green room was actually a lot of fun with Chef Maura Castano of Cake boss fame and Chef Reza Mahammad chatting up about food, fun and philosophy. Did also, managed to squeeze in a couple of media interactions, like an interview with the channel SABC3. All this was followed by a grand Indian dinner at The Oyster Box.

During the 3 days I did my best, hopping to places to try the local food and to shop. Quite interestingly, the local food has much of an Indian influence with curries being a popular item. Crumb Fried Prawns with Chips

Even vegetarianism is widely followed here. Whether it’s the Mauritian dishes like Octopus Curry, Mauritian Prawn Curry and the likes at Restaurant Ile Maurice digging into the Banichka (a Durban curry served with bread) and Seafood Platters at the cafes on the beach promenade– the food in Durban is quite fascinating and are reason enough to keep visiting Durban.

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We visited this little shack called the appy chappy, which is very popular with the locals and in their accent sounds really different– hence it took us a while finding the place. The Mutton bunny chow and the chicken curry and roti we ate here were completely worth the search, probably more!Bunny Chow
The soul of Durban not just lies in its picturesque land, but the people and food as well! From kids to oldies, what is common is the fabulous spirit of the people!
All in all, I would end by saying that it was one amazing trip! South Africa is very welcoming and I definitely look forward to visit another parts of this beautiful land in times to come. Maybe I should start planning my next restaurant venture there or… you never know! Keep guessing!

Basmati, the queen of rice

Basmati when literally translated means, queen of fragrance. If I walk into a home which has the aroma of Basmati being cooked wafting about, I surely don’t need much persuasion to stay back for a meal. So irresistible is its appetite stimulating fragrance!

In India, whenever there’s a happy occasion or there are guests over for a meal, out comes the Basmati rice. Duly soaked in water before going in for the boil, seasoned with aromatic spices, ghee and vegetables, it is truly food for the gods! As mentioned earlier the fragrance and taste of Basmati rice is so divine that it really doesn’t need any other enhancer, but yes, adding spices and other elements makes it even more appealing. The perfect rice for cooking up a pulao or a biryani, the Basmati even by itself is a great accompaniment with curries and yogurt.

Basmati rice in India comes from the Himalayan foothills and Madhya Pradesh. Some varieties make their journey from Pakistan. There are some key factors I look for while buying Basmati rice. I rub the grains of the rice in my palms and the aroma it releases tells me that the rice quality is good, and I am particular about the length of the grain too. Usually Basmati grows twice its original size post cooking, its best if the grains are uniform in size, so that it cooks evenly.  I have found all of these qualities in Daawat Basmati rice. So, in packaged rice, I go for Daawat Rice. It’s hygienic and branded. Don’t forget to check the packaging date, you don’t want expired rice.

I have often been asked about the right ways of soaking and cooking Basmati. Well, one has to remember it is only soaking the rice that will bring out its length and breadth. First wash the rice under running water 2-3 times. This removes starch and ensures that the rice does not stick. Do not rub it too hard while washing as the grains may break, be gentle. Post washing, soak it, the level of water for soaking should be an inch above the level of the rice. Soaking time is 15-20 minutes, whatever the quantity. After which drain off the excess water and let the soaked rice stay in the same bowl till you are ready to cook.

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There are two ways of cooking rice, one cooking by absorption method and the other is cooking by draining. If the rice is soaked for a good amount of time, the rice doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to cook. In the cooking by draining the water method, we can get to know if the rice is cooked by feeling the grains to see if it’s done. A batch of well cooked rice will not be sticky and you will not feel the hardness in the center. It will not have a mushy texture. Many bachelors and spinsters enquire with me on how to find if rice is well cooked.  It is simple, always add water in 1:2 ratio while cooking rice. If rice bends a bit when you press it; with your finger, know that its well-cooked, but keep in mind if you add too much water, it is sure to take revenge. Also, cooked Basmati is fragile, so don’t over mix it and handle with care.

Daawat, the specialists of the rice industry for decades brings to you Basmati rice in many varieties. Rice with aroma that stimulates appetite, grains that are extra-long and slender, sweet to taste, soft texture and extra elongation breadth wise, upto 24 mm post cooking! Daawat follows the unique Octa-Q process which guarantees perfect grains in every pack. Be it sourcing, ageing, milling or processing, quality is of paramount importance here.

Daawat also has different varieties meant for different dishes, like there’s a variety for biryanis and a separate one for jeera rice and pulavs. What’s more there’s a range of Basmati rice called Rozana that is meant to be eaten every day!

Basmati rice need not be used only for pulaos and biryanis; there is a mindboggling range of dishes that can be prepared with it! Try making rice stuffed parantha or even cooked rice fritters or with leftover rice.  Now shouldn’t Basmati rice be a regular part of your daily plate?

Try these delicious recipes using Daawat Basmati Rice and do let us know how they turn out!

Indian Traditional Steam Rice
Simple Jeera Pulao
Chicken Biryani Hyderabadi
Fried Rice
Vegetable Pulao

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