CaLdron Monthly Blogazine
there’s always something cooking
and his many hats
the legend of
fact or fiction?
BLACK CANDY in Kolkata
AWESOME RECIPES to break your fast with
How to Fast
Experts show you how to do it the healthy way
The ‘from scratch’
recipe you always wanted!
THE CHEF WITH MANY HATS
A chat with Michael Swamy who is a chef, writer, stylist and photographer, all rolled into one.
SLOW DOWN WITH CHEF FRANCESCO COSTAGLI
Parul was bowled over by Chef Francesco Costagli’s love and passion for slow food.
FASTING, THE HEALTHY WAY
We’ve all tried fasting at some point or the other. The experts tell us how to do it right.
YEARS OF DARKNESS
Jaswinder met The Balvenie at an evening he isn’t likely to forget for some time to come.
06 08 10 13 14 16
ONE OF A KIND
Nadeem visited Indian Accent and came back with a firm opinion about the restaurant.
IT’S 9: NOT YET TIME
Charis thought the food at It’s 9 Bakery Cafe needed serious looking into.
THE NOODLE BAR: ONE WAY OR ANOTHER
Vinita Bhatia checked out the Noodle Bar in Juhu and found at least one thing she loved about it.
A FULL HIVE
Ketan found a great, multi-faceted honey experience at Honey Hut.
LOW OVERHEAD HIGH VALUE
Maitre’d, waiter and chef all rolled into one at this little gem Antara discovered in Kolkata.
SOCIAL HOUR AT THE SHERATON
A fabulous concept that regularly repeats at the Sheraton, Bangalore. Even better, it’s all about wine and nations.
27 28 30 09 35 37 38 42 44 48
WHO THINKS #SIZEMATTERS?
We had a great time talking about Pizza Hut’s 23% larger pizzas on Twitter along with dozens of enthusiastic folks who loved pizzas.
ART MEETS COFFEE
The Le Meridien created an interesting mixture of art and coffee with the work of one barista and two artists.
CHEFS, COOKS AND BOOKS Chef Vikas Khanna was seen at the Culinary Club at the Imperial with his new book and a dish or three.
Different types of condiments make cooking fun and make it easier to add new flavors to old dishes. Here’s Nora’s recipe for Lemon Vinegar.`
SMOKED AUBERGINE DIP
Fasts must be broken the right way and this vegetarian recipe is a great dish that does it right.
GLUTINOUS CHICKEN DUMPLINGS
Chef Joergen Sodemann of Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz-Carlton Hotel, shares his recipe for fried chicken dumplings.
LASAGNA, FROM SCRATCH
Claudia shows us how she makes her Lasagna. Yes, she even makes the sheets herself and you can too.
FRUIT FANTASY WITH TANG
A refreshing summer drink made easily with Tang and fruits, for the last leg of this summer.
Learn how to make this classic Nepali soup from Kaajal Lamba. It can be both, vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
BRAISED ONIONS WITH WHISKEY
A delightfully quaint recipe that uses whiskey. There aren’t many of these out there and we thought it’d be an interesting addition to this edition.
We visited Aloft Ahmedabad and bring you our experience. We’re happy to say it passed our extensive QC with flying colors.
We’ve showcased one of Farrukh Shadab’s creations, who is a member and regular contributor to the Chef at Large group on Facebook.
Here we are with yet another attempt at a different medium of communicating with you - an ezine. This has been on my mind for a while though I didn’t think we could actually pull it off. It took a few well placed shots at my thick skull by Vinita to get this project off the drawing board. Nearly sixty pages of reviews, interviews, recipes and features, from a blog that didn’t quite get used to being one. Then again, you already knew that. Since we started as my little recipe blog, imaginatively named ‘Food’ in March 2007, we’ve constantly been testing our limits. It started with the blog changing it’s appearance and looking definitely unlike a blog, then came the Facebook Page, which grew, saw quite a bit of action, then gave way to the Facebook Group that’s the centre of all the food action happening in the country today. The Chef at Large Blogger’s Table arose, with a mission to enhance the reach of select food blogs in the country, which in turn gave rise to the Chef at Large University, that offers Table members blogging related courses free of charge. It takes seventeen of us to keep the buzz at Chef at Large going strong with a moderator even present in a US time zone and Natasha taking on the job of Associate Editor to help keep content quality high while I learnt how to lay out an ezine. If that wasn’t enough, we took on the job of reaching out to you in a different format; one we had no experience in and had never thought of before in detail. But hey, we’re churning out an average of fifty original articles a month, which is nothing to sneeze at! That, combined with the fact that we’re regularly covering Delhi/NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore, with Kolkata starting up soon, told us we really ought to do it. We’re going to plan our content better moving forward and your feedback would be invaluable to make that effort a success. This is an effort that’s here to stay and we’ll keep this ezine going. We’d love to hear from you on what works and where you think we can improve. Do write in as always and help us keep the fires going at Chef at Large.
Stay well Sid
The Chef at Large Team Founder & Editor Sid Khullar email@example.com
Associate Editor Natasha Ali
Listings Editor Parul Pratap Shirazi
Bloggerâ€™s Table http://chefatlarge.in/the-bloggers-table
Recipe Curator Nadeem Khan
Android Application http://bit.ly/calandroidapp
Subject Matter Experts Publishing, Vinita Bhatia Coffee, Sandeep Srinivasa Wine, Jaswinder Singh
Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/chefatlarge/
Special Projects Rituparna Mukerji Shruti Arora Reviewers - Delhi Charis Alfred Bhagianathan Parul Pratap Shirazi Jaswinder Singh Sandeep Srinivasa
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/chefatlarge.in Twitter http://twitter.com/yourchefatlarge Mail the Moderators firstname.lastname@example.org Mail a listing/press release email@example.com
Reviewers - Mumbai Vinita Bhatia Ketan Pandit Reviewers - Bangalore Natasha Ali Reviewers - Kolkata Antara Ray Megha Jhunjhunwala
OTHER CREDITS Cover Photo - Chef Vikas Khanna `
Moderators Antara Ray Mona Sharma Kapil Bahl Kaajal Lamba Nadeem Khan
REVIEWS - DELHI/NCR
One of a Kind
Nadeem visited the restaurant and came away with a unique experience.
Ghee roast boti, thin rumali pancake, chutney trioz
One of the most anticipated eating out events with my best friends turned out to be one of my most memorable. This was both due to the food and the prelude. We started our journey towards Indian Accent from Nehru Place (barely 4 kms away), depending on the GPS voice navigation, nearly lost our way and finally took a two kilometer detour to find our way, only to get stranded at Ashram Chowk with our car broken down. Nearly two hours later, our hands dirty and clothes sweaty, we managed to find our way to the Manor Hotel where Indian Accent is located. The first look of the restaurant conveyed an unmistakable fine dining ambiance. The seating was comfortable and cozy with two menus for food (tasting menus), an a la carte menu and a lengthy beverage list. I like to think myself a puritan and do not like neo-fusion. The first look at the menu therefore was a shock to me - the very naming of the dishes were ‘fusion’ in nature. Chef Manish Mehrotra has very painstakingly created the menu, and it was difficult for us to zero in on the dishes for our meal. After a long discussion, we decided on our starters - Wild mushroom Kulcha (325), Ghee Roast Boti (995) and Tandoori Bacon Prawns (1125). Between our wait for our starters, we were served a small portion of Cream of Mushroom soup with Garlic naan, which whetted our appetite, but not much. The anticipation of dining at one of the best restaurants in the city was too much for a little shot of mushroom soup to quell.
After a little wait, we were served our starters. Ghee Roast Boti, morsels of meat, slathered in hot and spicy masalas, and soaked in desi ghee, the taste reminded me of traditional dhaba meat. The spice levels met everyone’s tolerance though personally I would have loved it spicier and served with miniature roomali rotis, three chutneys and sliced onions. Prawns are one of the toughest foods to get right; they are usually either overcooked or undercooked. But this was one of the best cooked I have seen; wrapped with a nicely cooked strip of bacon it was not too spicy and went nicely with wasabi-spiced cream dip, the sweetness of the prawns going very well with the saltiness of the bacon and the strong wasabi. The wild mushroom kulcha tasted more like a naan, with filling of a strongly flavored mushroom mince, which went nicely to soak up the ghee from the ghee roast boti. page
After completion of the starters, we were presented with a tangy sorbet made of pomegranate and rock salt, which helped in cleansing the palate. It was now time for the second round table conference and we debated the many main courses, from which we selected Dal gosht (995) and Rice Crusted John Dory Meen Moilee (995). For the breads we zeroed in on Applewood-smoked Bacon Kulcha (325), Chilli-Hoisin Duck Kulcha (325) and Murgh Malai Kulcha (325). Dal Gosht was presented much like a kofta, with breaded balls of pulled lamb served in a sauce of various dals. The sauce was creamy, but the breaded meat was much too innovative for me. Meen moilee, a Kerala classic was again presented in a novel manner using rice crusted fillets of John Dory, which was plated with coconut-based sauce. The flavors were mild and aromatic and both the mains went very well with the three kulchas. We decided to skip dessert, but requested chef for Phantom Cigarettes, which came with one of the desserts, a request he immediately granted. Altogether, I believe our dining experience at Indian Accent was one of a kind, and I strongly recommend a visit. Photos courtesy, Indian Accent
Rolled john dory moilee
REVIEWS - DELHI/NCR
It’s 9: Not yet time
Sizzler at It’s 9
Charis liked the desserts and breads at It’s 9 Bakery Cafe, but thinks the rest of the food needs serious looking into.
Going to the Yashwant Place shopping complex last weekend brought back wonderful memories of piping hot momos and cold beers during college. Tucked away in one corner, right next to Bikanervala, is a quaint place called It’s 9 Bakery Café. A small, forty five cover place, with lots of space to move around, it’s nice the owners didn’t try to pack in more seating. With cheery walls and lighting, it lends a feeling of comfort as soon as one walks in. I didn’t expect as extensive a menu as there was (I thought it’d be largely baked stuff), and was very pleased to see two separate counters for savory bakes and pastries/cake on one side, with a selection of freshly baked bread on another. (There were chocolate covered bread sticks that I’m most definitely going to pick up the next time I’m there.) As soon as I sat down, the Red berry smoothie (109), one of the specials, was strongly recommended – and am I glad it was! Cold, thick, slightly sweet, with the occasional crunch from berry seeds, this pink yogurt drink is a perfect pick-me-up. I could taste strawberries and raspberries, finishing the drink in just a few minutes. My friend asked for a Lemon iced tea (79), which tasted fine, but looked frothy and slightly odd. page
We started with a Chicken and Mushroom Quiche (69) from the savory bakes counter and found it to be generously stuffed. The crust was a little soft (perhaps because it had just been heated in a microwave) and the flavours were predominantly Indian masalas – not quite what I’d expect in a quiche with that name. We moved on to a signature dish, the It’s 9 Special Sizzler (299). Sizzlers are really the attention seekers of the food world, aren’t they? This noisy one came with a mutton cutlet (small and dry), a chicken steak (overcooked and dry), a chicken sausage (tasted more like a mixed meat sausage, but quite delicious), fries (decent), a fried egg (no runny centre), rice, and extra sauce on the side – always appreciated, unless the sauce is heavy, gelatinous, and too peppery, which it was. The Roast Chicken in Mushroom Sauce (229) was nothing much to speak of either; the chicken was over cooked again, and it was a struggle to get the knife through it. The rich sauce was creamy and full of mushrooms, so we ate it by itself, resigning the chicken to its sorry fate in one corner of the plate. Thankfully Fish and Chips (359) came next and saved the day. The fish was fresh, light, and tender, and the crispy bread-crumbed coating was fried to a perfect golden brown. The tartar sauce was completely acceptable and we polished off this dish, no complaints. After this we took a quick look at the pastry/cake counter and decided to try a Brownie Cup (89) and the recommended Blueberry Cheesecake (89). The Brownie cup was a hit: cake, cream, chocolate, and chocolate chips in a cup. Who wouldn’t love that? The cheesecake was not too sweet (which was great) and had a thick creamy centre (not wobbly and gelatinous). However, I do wish there had been more of the tart blueberry compote on top. It’s 9 Bakery Café specializes in custom-made cakes which they create on order. The ones I saw looked beautifully detailed. As I was told, anything you think of can be put on a cake. The desserts are pretty decent, and the breads looked good as well, but the food at It’s 9 Bakery Café needs a serious revamp. Charis Bhagianathan
LEMON VINEGAR Ingredients: • 1 medium lemon • 1 cup white vinegar • 1 cup dry white vermouth Method: 1. Extract zest from lemon. Use remainder of lemon elsewhere. 2. Combine zest, vinegar and vermouth in a suitable container. 3. Keep covered at room temperature for 10 days, stirring occasionally. by Nora Henshaw, Oklahoma page
REVIEWS - MUMBAI
The Noodle Bar: One way or another
Vinita found herself pleasantly surprised by at least one aspect of The Noodle Bar’s personality. For a 2-month old, The Noodle Bar in Juhu has been drawing quite a crowd. More interesting is this newbie holding its own despite the popular Café Mangii quite close by. Could it be the food, the service, the price or the ambience? Hungry to learn more, we visited them, coincidentally during an ASEAN Curry Festival. What luck! We were suggested Margaritas, a house specialty, we were told and opted for a Virgin Pomegranate Margarita (250), a Virgin Melon Margarita (250) and a Green Apple Margarita (450). The pomegranate drink was very refreshing with great flavors within and I felt it to be a lovely summer drink; as too was the green apple version. We started our meal with the Steamed Chicken Wonton (325). Expecting a simple steamed dish, we were pleasantly surprised to be served wontons tossed in chili sauce and crushed garlic, which gave the bland filling a nice, spicy fillip. The vegetarian in our group decided to try the Asian BBQ Cottage Cheese (285) with the verdict that it was a safe dish to order, especially for someone who is ignorant about South East Asian cuisine. Sweet and spicy with predictable appeal to an elderly auntyji and uncleji savoring Far Eastern fare for the first time we thought perhaps the management was playing it smart by Indianizing some dishes.
Lamb Massaman Curry
The Wasabi Prawns (390) was delectable – medium sized prawns, corn crumb coated, deep fried and served with a drizzle of mild Wasabi sauce; the perfect finger food with drinks. The Veg Momos (265) and Veg Sui Mai (265) however, were lackluster. The vegetable stuffing in the Sui Mai appeared raw and rather flavorless. Also, our grouse with the dumplings in general was that most wrappers just fell apart. Luckily, the three accompanying sauces that came with the momos were great, especially the spinach-garlic sauce.The Steamed Basa in Mountain page
Photo not from The Noodle Bar
Chilli Sauce (475) sounded intriguing. An enquiry informed us it was just a nice name conjured up by the chef which made us a little wary. Pleasantly surprising was the appearance of a well steamed fillet of basa topped with deep fried curry leaves. Chewing on the crunchy leaves along with a mouthful of the fish I thought was the perfect seasoning for the dish. I also thought the dish elevated by the slightly sweet sauce. Of course those who rather enjoy their fish spicier can help themselves to the assortment of sauces on the table. We tried the Chicken Lemon Pepper Coriander Soup (205) next, a clear broth with big chunks of chicken and perfect for a rainy night, the lemon giving it a zany edge. The Veg Manchow Soup (185) was nice too, especially it’s light texture, which the chef kept simple and flavorsome. For our main course, we decided to order from the ASEAN Curry Festival menu. The Kowloon Tofu (295) was our vegetarian diner’s initiation to tofu and she gave it a thumbs-up. As someone who has always loved spicy Thai Green Curry, it went without saying that we had to have it at The Noodle Bar. Luckily, the restaurant did not let us down by giving us a very creamy and thickened version. Instead the Veg Thai Green Curry (315) was the right mix of sweet, spicy and sour – a highly recommended dish when you visit The Noodle Bar. The photo of the Lamb Massaman curry (495) on the menu was so tantalizing that we had to try it – so glad we did! The slow cooked rich and fiery curry made of coconut paste, tomatoes and nuts makes for decadent, delicious food. It’s even better when eaten with long grained brown Fragrant Rice (235)! Dessert was the Fruit & Nut Sizzling Brownie (240), a regular chocolate brownie with some raisins and walnuts served with on a sizzling plate with an ice cream on top. At least the child was happy! The Noodle Bar does offer value for money, even if the dishes aren’t exotic. The portions of the dishes we ate took us quite by surprise – so generous that two people can easily share a portion. I recommend a visit or two for sure. Vinita Bhatia page
REVIEWS - MUMBAI
A Full Hive Ketan found a great, multi-faceted honey experience at Honey Hut though he did think their prices a little higher than expected. Honey Hut is a quaint little shop in Seven Bungalows, the first outlet in Mumbai. Having catered to folks in Shimla and Chandigarh they have now opened their doors for Mumbaikars. As the name suggests, the key theme is Honey. Honey will be served with most, if not all dishes, here. Honey Hut retails honey sourced from the Himalayas and has a variety of honeys to choose from – apple honey, honey and neem, honey and tulsi, honey and ginger etc… In addition to this they also retail honey based shampoos, soaps and green tea. The outlet at Seven Bungalows combines café and retail and offers a delightful menu with entrees, sandwiches, hot and cold drinks (teas, coffees and smoothies), cookies and ice-creams; everything with a side of honey. I found the honey fruity with a fresh glow about it. We stopped by for a bit and decided to take them up on their delightful looking Choco Walnut Pie. The crust was flaky and I could taste the freshness of the chocolate and walnut filling within. Totally yummy! The tea crazed nut in me wanted to sample all the teas on offer… but I wisely settled for a black tea with honey which arrived with the unwelcome addition of milk. On being told so, the Manager, Ms. Jani, very generously offered to replace it with another order, on the house! So I ordered a Lemon Honey tea, which apparently is their best seller. I would have liked a bit more lemon in it. Honey Hut is about 20 days old, has an excelstaff and a very good manager in Ms. Jani. through the journey of Honey Hut, intheir honey is sourced and their plans very nice experience. We picked up a Tulsi on our way out. Slightly pricey, but the at Honey Hut are totally try it out.
lent service She took us formed us how for the future; a bottle of Honey +
offerings worth it. Do
REVIEWS - KOLKATA
Low Overhead High Value
Antara thought Black Candy to be unconventional, cutely amateurish, good food - a must visit!
Unusually named and unassumingly located on the lawns of a majestic old bungalow in Hindustan Park, Black Candy does enough to intrigue curious passers-by to sneak in and find out what it’s all about. At least that’s how we were tempted to hush-step inside the silent porch as we noticed a guy in a hoodie playing cards by himself. We did not want to disturb him or the serenity of the place, but then he got up and smiled and asked us where we would like to sit. One of us, the ever curious one, said “We’ll sit outside but we’d love to look inside”. The seating both indoors and outdoors is obviously amateurish and cutely so. A couple of retro pink chairs thrown around, garden umbrellas on the lawn, festively lit up trees lining the lawn, seating area extended to the garage as well; am not sure how many would agree with me but I like this offbeat homely feeling. It reminds me of some of the small towns I have been brought up in, where we would keep our expectations really low and in turn savour every small deviation from what conventional people term as normal. The hooded guy, Prithwi, not only made sure we were comfortable and took our orders, but also cooked and delivered it himself. I’ll be honest that when we saw no one else around, we were apprehensive of how Prithwi would manage the entire deal on his own. But mistaken we were, and how! Our apprehensions were put to rest when the food arrived in all it’s humble glory. Our order was rather modest as was our appetite that particular evening. We ordered a cream of mushroom soup and two plates of chicken momos (after the customary ranting by the boys about the absence of pork in the menu). The soup was good. Real good. Clear, light brown mushroom broth, not heavy with cornflour or other additives, and with enough chopped mushrooms in every person’s bowl so there was no soup fight (it’s not uncommon given the company I keep). The bigger surprise, however, still awaited us. It may be considered easy to dish out a fairly good soup (it isn’t) but making a good momo isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. These momos were huge, consistently sized, perfectly pleated, thinly wrapped with a sizeable chunk of ground chicken filling, correctly seasoned, served with the customary broth and a freshly made momo chutney that felt as if it had been coarsely grounded in a mortal pestle instead of a conventional mixer. Carefully done, they satiated our appetite, and ticked all the right boxes. Even though Kolkata is a city where momos are found in abundance at every street corner, these were by far the best momos I’d had in quite a while.
Chicken Momos. Photo not from Black C andy
Encouraged by these pleasant surprises, we decided to order something more and zeroed in on an American Chopsuey. It came as a bowl of crisp fried noodles topped with gravy and a fried egg. Sadly the noodles had lost their crunch by the time they landed on our table - something we attributed to the fact that both the noodles and the gravy were not thick enough to hold their own together. It was tasty, nevertheless, and we did mop up our the last bit of gravy from our bowls. Prithwi asked us if the food was good, and we gave him our two cents on the chopsuey, I suggested maybe it would be a good idea to serve the noodles and gravy separately to avoid that risk. He seemed slightly sad that it wasn’t perfect, and we complimented him on the momos and the soup to bring his smile back. “Did you make those amazing momos yourself?” we asked when he shyly nodded to his accomplishment; ditto when we asked him if he was the same fashion choreographer whom most of the city’s showbiz knew. I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps next time we will use our charm to get him out of his shell and share his story. Black Candy has quite an expansive menu (mostly Chinese and Tibetan regulars) considering its just one man running the show. And yes, they also serve hookah. Prices at Black Candy are quite reasonable if you ask me. We ordered 2 soups, 2 plates of momos and a Chopsuey and paid 320 bucks with full tummies and gladdened hearts. Antara Ray page
REVIEWS - BANGALORE
Social Hour at the Sheraton, Bangalore You really must check out the Sheraton Social Hour. Natasha did, and found herself having a wonderful time with friends, wine and great food. I have a special fondness for the brand Sheraton, with Sheraton Bangalore being a place I frequent and feel rather affectionate about. You see, the name Sheraton takes me back to my college days in Massachusetts. We used to attend conferences and events at the Springfield Sheraton, and I recently discovered (at the 75th anniversary celebration party of the brand) that that Sheraton, was the very first one in the chain! A few weeks ago, the Sheraton did a global ‘Toast around the World’, a wine and hors d’oeuvre evening that I attended with fellow food blogger friends. It was quite the evening, with the wine and conversation flowing and spectacular eats doing the rounds. The idea behind the event was that different chosen Sheraton properties around the globe would, on the same date, promote the Sheraton Social Hour. At Sheraton Bangalore, you can enjoy this wine time on Fridays from 6pm – 7pm at the Lobby Lounge. For INR 850++ per person, you get a wine flight of 3 varieties, red or white, and light snacks. Six wines were proffered from the American brand Chateau Ste Michelle/Columbia Crest. I generally go for red rather than white, but on this occasion, there was a Columbia Crest Riesling that called out to me, and I returned to that as the wine I wanted to finish the evening with as well, having tried some of the others. It was crisp, lightly sweet and on a hot summer evening, hit just the right notes. The Merlot and Syrah were quite good too. Interested attendees could sit at a beautifully set table and participate in a wine flight, and learn about each wine as they tasted it. The canapes kept coming all through the proceedings, and I have to give a special shout out to the very friendly and enthusiastic servers walking around bearing the lovely morsels. From salmon and crab, to roast beef and roast duck, and with equally tantalizing options for the vegetarians like mushroom and roasted fig tarts, we devoured them all. At evening’s end, we were all tipsy and giggly, but also enjoying the glow that comes from a good party. It was one of those times when you meet new people, have lively conversations, and a grand old time. Salude, Sheraton, for this lovely concept! Natasha Ali Photo by Ruth Dsouza
The Chef with Many Hats A chef, food stylist, writer, restaurateur, food photographer – Chef Michael Swamy does all of these and more. A chef, food stylist, writer, restaurateur, food photographer – Chef Michael Swamy does all of these and more. A graduate of London’s Cordon Bleu Culinary School, he had the opportunity to work with several Michelin-star chefs, who were impressed by this Mumbai lad’s inclination to be innovative with food and encouraged him to enter the world of food media. It helped that his mother was a successful documentary film-maker, and Michael could closely study various aspects of media from handling cameras to editing, since he likes to joke that he literally grew up in studios! This exposure to the technical aspects of food media, with his training as a chef is what set Michael down the path of food styling and photography. And in between these assignments, he travels the length and breadth of the country to discover different cuisines and blog about them. He has also written ‘The East Indian Kitchen’, which like the name suggests was about the food Michael grew up on, and which won the Gourmand Award, 2011 for India. He has worked with hospitality giants like The Taj Group of Hotels in Mumbai, Bombay Brasserie in London and as the menu planner for Kuwait Airways (Kuwait) before he decided to take the plunge as as restauranteur and set up The Bowl House chain of restaurants in India. But his moment of glory came when he was the food consultant on MasterChef India’s seasons 1 and 2, where he tried to impart his own quest for perfection in participants as they prepared their dishes to impress the celebrity chefs. Here he is in a free-wheeling chat with Vinita Bhatia. Vinita Bhatia (VB): What prompted you to pursue a course in the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School (LCB) in London? Was there any special subject that you were especially interested in? Michael Swamy (MS): It was a dream to specialize. I wasn’t happy with what was being done at the catering college here in Mumbai. In fact what we learnt in three years here, we did in 3 months at the LCB. I always wanted to get into the world of food media and that’s why I wanted to be a food professional before writing about food. I did the Patisserie course and then spent my scholarship time doing the culinary course. VB: You have quite an interesting career trajectory, don’t you? MS: You can say that! I am a graduate of HAFT from Sophia Polytechnic which I attended after finishing my 12th grade at St. Xaviers College in Mumbai. After finishing HAFT, I worked a bit at The page
Taj Hotel in Mumbai and then moved to London to work with with Noon Products before joining LCB. While I was in London, I worked with The Bombay Brasserie (a Taj property) and then headed to Australia, backpacked a bit and then headed to Kuwait where I was a Menu Planning Officer with Kuwait Airways. But I felt homesick and returned to India, to teach at a catering college for two years. After that I set up my base as a chef consultant and food stylist. VB: Impressive! Since you have travelled a bit and worked with all types of chefs, who are some chefs who you look at for inspiration? MS: I worked under UK’s famous Pastry Chef Claire Clark and Australian Chef Andrew Males as an assistant. I head the food team for Michelin-star Chef Vikas Khanna’s projects in India. The chefs that I look up to are Gary Rhodes, Anton Mossiman and Raymond Blac. Though considered old, these are the chefs who depended a lot on technique. VB: From a chef to a restaurateur, to a food blogger, to an author to a food stylist – how do you make the transition from one to another? Today, which of these hats would you like to doff the most? MS: When you look at the fact that everyone can cook, but only few can be chefs, you reach the point of ‘what next’. Most go the way of consultants but assisting a stylist and chef at LCB put me on the track of styling. With styling my creative skills are put to the test, wherein work goes beyond just cooking but creating.
Chef Michael Swamy at the Odisha Literary Festival
Making the transition is easy, considering I have a great team in Mugdha Savkar, Ganesh Shedge and Mrunal Savkar. Together we are able to adapt to different situations quite easily. I would be wrong to say I did it all by myself. The hat I doff the most is that of Food Stylist and Food Critic and one can carry it off well what with having a culinary backing.
The East Indian Kitchen, by Michael Swamy
VB: When did you open your own restaurant – The Bowl House? MS: Hotelier Vijay Kamath is a good friend and one day asked me to help him launch the restaurant which I did. Though it’s not mine on paper the attachment is still there. I wouldn’t dream of opening a restaurant in India – it takes a heart of iron to face the sheer craziness!
VB: Your book, ‘The East Indian Kitchen’ won the Gourmand Award in 2011 for India. But it does not get place of pride in bookshelves throughout the country! What’s wrong here? MS: Several reasons. Sadly in today’s internet age, most people don’t value research as it was done in old times. Neither do they value physical books – the trend of PDFs is on the rise at an alarming rate. The digital version of my book is doing great business. Another major reason is that bookstores don’t display the less popular authors. We don’t value our own culinary heritage so books on rare cuisines are hardly seen on the shelves. The books stores need to have more faith in other authors besides the popular ones. Publishers also need to support their authors. Yes, it’s understandable that they handle hundreds of books at the same time, but they need to understand that for an author, his or her book is the manifestation of months – perhaps years – of effort, struggle and study. VB: How was the experience as food consultant in MasterChef India Seasons 1 and 2? MS: As head of the food team my role was to support and drive a team who groomed and trained the contestants, designed tasks for each episode (Yes! The food team does that!), setting up the set and counters with all the ingredients and equipment and, keeping a record of all that was being cooked. Plus, we took care of food shots, formatting the recipes cooked by contestants to make them available on the website, made a full functional kitchen complete with exotic ingredients available in the middle of nowhere (this with the complete support of the Production Team) and put up with contestants’ tantrums! It was a fun but physically and mentally challenging time. The food team doesn’t eat or sleep – just delivers that too with no thanks or credit for it. VB: You often say that fantastic chefs in big hotels rarely get the appreciation they deserve. What’s the basis of this feeling? MS: One, they don’t get as much exposure by way of workshops, books, etc, and large hotels never put their Chef in the limelight – they always want the branding for the hotel. They need to understand that sometimes people will come to eat if they know more about the chef. In India if you are on TV you are considered a Masterchef. To be a Masterchef you have to do an international exam every 5 years, so are our so called Masterchefs qualified? Cooking on TV and cook page
ing in reality are two different things. We don’t give value for a Michelin star chef, more value is given to a TV chef and that is the sad reality. VB: That’s quite sad. But let’s move on to what your likes are. What’s your favourite cuisine? MS: The healthy and clean aspect of Japanese cuisine, the refined techniques in French cuisine are my favorites. I also like a dash of Italian for the freshness of the flavors. VB: How would you define your cooking style? MS: Mine is a contemporary style with a modern look. Taking comfort food and making it exotic. I play a lot with natural flavours and keeping the food on simple lines. A few spices can make a dish, dishes where one can taste the meat or the vegetables. VB: And what’s your go-to-comfort food? MS: Pasta and khichdi, when am sick or down these bring up memories of my childhood, cookouts amongst friends in days when it was the easiest thing to cook. VB: Who according to you is the best chef you have met. Please don’t say your mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, wife, father – that’s passe! MS: (laughs heartily) My mum and cook? She was a businesswoman first and after my father’s passing away, she had to become the ‘man of the house’ so cooking was never her thing. Her thing was going out to eat and we kids being dragged along which was good for I was hitting hotels at a very young age. Chef Claire Clarke, Chef Andrew Males and Chef Filip Tibos were instrumental in grooming me to go beyond cooking, to look at food as more than the obvious and achieve more. With Chef Vikas Khanna – he put Indian food into a whole new perspective for me.
QUICK QUESTIONS One dish that you never seem to get right? Dal. Even a simple dal is something I just don’t get right. The one celebrity you would like to cook for? President Obama, who is known for his love of good food, or Sonam Kapoor, the actress; not only is she a pleasant person and erudite, she is someone who I am sure will appreciate good food and give an honest opinion of it. If not a cook then what would you have become? Definitely a full-time wildlife photographer or travel journalist. Chef Michael Swamy page
Slow Down with Chef Francesco Costagli
Chef Francesco Costagli
Parul was bowled over by Chef Francescoâ€™s love and passion for slow food!
Humility thy name is Chef Costagli! Custodian of a Michelin starred restaurant, he blends into the evening despite his ethnicity, in the heart of the capital, at the ITC Maurya, New Delhi. Even though I love the food at The Pavilion and ITC is in one sense, home for me, I was here to meet a man who speaks a language I more than understand. Chef Francesco Costagli is a part of and promotes the Slow Food Movement, which is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional page
cuisine and encourages the farming of plants, seeds and the rearing of livestock native to the local ecosystem. He is also the ultimate locavore and is known as the 0 km chef because in his restaurant, Ristorante Albergacio in Castellina a village in Chianti, Italy, he serves dishes made with produce found in his immediate vicinity. Chef Francesco also works closely with many Chianti wineries as catering head chef and has a 1st level sommelier certification. I had the pleasure of partaking of a dinner he cooked... with him at my table; truly a treat! Even though we barely spoke each otherâ€™s language, it felt like that didnâ€™t matter because his gestures conveyed his passion and his flowing tone was evident of someone filled with love, patience and lots of history. My other dinner companion, the wonderfully engaging, Alessio Secci (Co-owner, Fratelli Wines, India) was kind enough to translate back and forth as we spoke of great food while we ate exactly that. I am personally intrigued by the concept of Slow Food; our dependence on fast foods troubles me no end and I strive as far as possible to cook with local produce, but this is a man who takes it up a notch. He makes traditional, regional Italian food, commercially! Fratelli Wines has brought Chef Costagli here to India in association with ITC. Since chef is also a sommelier, he has designed a wonderful menu complimented by exclusive Fratelli wines and is taking this menu across Delhi, Agra, Bangalore and Mumbai. I loved my time with Chef Costagli and I hope his movement gains momentum across the globe. We need to slow down and think about what we eat, what we put in our systems and those of our children; we need to start meeting at the table, like a family, commune over a meal and bring the good â€˜ol days back! I had a few questions for chef and he was more than kind to answer them, you can sense the way he feels about his country, his cuisine and his craft! Parul Shirazi: How challenging is it to be titled the 0 km chef and does it Inhibit you from excessive experimentation? Chef Francesco: With the belief that you are what you eat, I believe that food has to be healthy and fat free. It has to be balanced between carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. Taste and flavours are very important so fresh and tasty ingredients are vital in my cuisine. To guarantee zero Km cuisine, you need to live in a place, as mine in Castellina, where you can find and rely on local, high quality producers who provide me with anything that I may need. My cuisine is always made according to seasonal products. It is based on tradition but it does not mean I cannot innovate by using traditional ingredients with a modern interpretation. Parul Shirazi: How do you feel about reviving or keeping alive traditional recipes? Is culture commercially viable? Chef Francesco: What I cook, what I preserve from tradition is my life. So anytime I revive old recipes, I preserve and make it live my past. Most of my recipes were inspired during my adolescence, thanks to my grandmother. Many recipes that I propose also in India i.e. acqua cotta, is a flash back as my grandmother used to make it for me when I was 5 years old. Culture is our history and it is valid in all countries, hence it is a must to preserve it and the best way to achieve this goal is to make it commercially also. page
Chef Francesco Costagli at work
Parul Shirazi: Has real Italian food really reached global tables or are we still eating commercial Italian cooking? Chef Francesco: Real Italian food is reaching more and more global tables. Everything depends on knowledge and ingredients. If you really know Italian cuisine in depth, then you can use local ingredients to re-create the same flavours. We need not to adapt too much, our Italian cuisine to the given country where you make it, otherwise it risks to become too commercial Parul Shirazi: How hard or easy do you think it is to people who are not entirely familiar with Italian food? Chef Francesco: Not many people all over the world appreciate food like Italian one which is tasty but light. While having a good Italian dish you can easily recognize all flavours if fused properly. Italian food is so diversified that can easily meet any palate; veg
and non-veg for example. Parul Shirazi: Do you think ‘slow food’ as a concept can be adopted globally? And why? Chef Francesco: It is a mission to spread “slow food” culture. The more we go further the less time we have for ourselves and food sometimes is treated as a loss of time. Making food is instead the real momentum where you can sit around a table and share your daily life. Healthiness counts a lot and slow food is a guarantee of quality. In addition, it preserves tradition. This is true for Indian cuisine as well. Our kids shouldn’t grow with junk food. Parul Shirazi: Being a sommelier how do you grade Fratelli wines? Chef Francesco: The wines from Fratelli really surprised me. I never thought to find such high quality wines in India. Fratelli wines are fresh, tasty, elegant and very healthy. Each label is very varietal and perfectly pairs with Indian and Italian food. My favourite is Chardonnay among white wines and Sette together with Sangiovese amongst the reds. Parul Shirazi: What is your opinion on India and wine culture, are we ready for boutique wines? Chef Francesco: India has many common aspects with Italian culture especially on food. The basic ingredients are very common. Wine culture, as I see, is catching up in India, I feel Indian people are becoming more health conscious so they will become more and more aware about balanced food and drink. Wine is healthy, low on fat and calories as compared to hard liquors. Boutique Wines are always welcome but I believe in quality and that can be delivered. Parul Pratap Shirazi page
Who thinks #SizeMatters? The Indian market is all about value for money, paisa vasool (return on investment) being one of the most common concepts prevalent in a consumer’s mind, in more than 30 different languages. Every Indian looks for bargains, is undeniably attached to the sasta-tikaoo (cheap and long-lasting) paradigm and regardless of where on the globe he lives, will ask kitna degi (how much will it give) before he buys a car. Pizza Hut India (the only chain pizza in the country whose crusts I enjoy eating) obviously recognized this and decided to bring out 23% larger pizzas at no extra cost. Given that this new development translates to nearly one whole pizza free for every four pizzas bought, and our gratitude when it comes to all things free, I’m fairly sure the management of Pizza Hut India could run for public office and be elected without much hassle.
We’re not sure if #SizeMatters, but we did have a whale of time talking about Pizza Hut’s 23% larger pizzas.
In any case, you might have noticed the ‘#SizeMatters’ in the title of this piece and enlightened soul that you are, might have associated it with some social media platform or the other. Considering the hashtags on Facebook appear to be on their way out for most part, if you thought ‘Twitter’, you’re right! No prizes though, sorry. In its quest to let a deserving Indian public know of their generosity (why not add the extra 2% BTW?), Pizza Hut India decided to run a series of campaigns on Twitter. These campaigns included Twitter biggies like Miss Malini and VJ Rannvijay Singha and also some of us little people who Lighthouse Insights generously calls ‘Influencers’. Our Twitter handle, @yourchefatlarge conducted a contest where we gave away INR 5k worth of Pizza Hut India vouchers to 5 people, for answering 5 questions related to pizzas. Apart from #SizeMatters trending for a few minutes in Delhi, the biggest surprise was the warmth and enthusiasm of the Twitter community we interacted with. In a little over 2 hours, we made so many friends, found so many connections and experienced so much spontaneity that it’s changed my perspective on Twitter and Tweeple! The winners were @tweety_cutey, @swaty_here, @Deckle_Edge, @twisted_al, @mehekmahtani. We had a great time and look forward to the next. Sid Khullar page
Burnt Sienna with a Dash of Espresso Le Meridien conducted an event around art and coffee, which was a first for me, and I had a lovely time. I’ve almost always seen Art paired with wine. Perhaps some artists require their work to be viewed in an altered state of mind or maybe it’s the overall sense of relaxation and reduction in inhibitions. Surprising therefore was the announcement of an event from Le Meridien, Delhi, where they promised to combine coffee and art into an event that I can only assume they wished to keep us thinking about, wide-eyed into the night. Poor attempts at humor apart, the event certainly was an interesting combination that we at Chef at Large, being the food people we are, are rarely summoned to. Hosted by Gallery ESpace at New Friends Colony Community Centre, the afternoon showcased the works of two artists, Suddhasattwa Basu and Mala Marwah. As I spent most of my time at the lower level, I could only marvel at the capabilities of Mr. Basu’s hands and the extent of his imagination – surreal imagery was brought into sharp focus through the use of muted, yet high contrast colors and his special talent in capturing the realism of motion on canvas. From afar, some of his work, especially the pieces that illustrated a garden appeared nearly photographic, such was the magic wrought by Mr. Basu’s brush. There was one piece that I thought had skewed 3D perspective, which I can only assume was an aberration, given the finesse of the rest of what I saw. These lovely, soothing works of art we were privileged to enjoy over cups of fine Illy coffee, each mug crafted by Barista and Trainer, Nicola Scognamiglio. Multiple styles of coffee were available to us, including Cappuccino Vienesse, Marocchino Caldo, Cappuccino Freddo and and the Espresso Greco, based on the powerful little shot of espresso. Sandeep Srinivasa, coffee aficionado said, One of the highlights of the meet was Nicola waxing eloquent about the number of variables in brewing a cup of espresso with the right amount of crema. Though I have attended many meetups over coffee (and indeed, very expensive coffee), I have never spoken to an expert in “making espresso”. Nicola was that man. tI was very intrigued when I saw him constantly fiddling with the grinder settings over the course of the evening. When asked about this, Nicola launched into a discourse about adjusting grind sizes with the number of people and humidity in the room to compensate for a superlative cup of coffee. We were able to pick up a few gems around brewing espresso by just talking to him for 10 minutes. This event was an awesome bridge between art and coffee, combining the best of both very gracefully. Overall, a very interesting event and one I hope to see repeated soon. Sid Khullar page
Chefs, Cooks and Books
The Imperial has a great on-going program that not only encourages engagement with it’s services, but is also informative for its patrons.
Going by the current efforts by brands today, it is heartening to see one that makes a genuine effort to connect with consumers. Connecting with customers in a city like Delhi isn’t easy. Spoilt for choice as we all are, it takes a great deal of innovation to get us off our easy chairs and present ourselves at a venue. Even when there, unless the event is truly engaging, quite a few of us would plead unavoidable business and leave. The brand I speak of here, is The Imperial and the effort in question is the Imperial Culinary Club. I attended two of their sessions; one in July and the other in August. The essential concept is of a professional grade cook (both sessions featured Chefs) illustrating the making of different types of dishes to a mixed audience. Chef Prem did the first event I attended, and he took the audience through a remarkable variety of dishes, starting with a ridiculously simple but inventive Hot Sweet Corn Fried Chaat with Peanuts to fairly complex creations like Warm Deep Fried Daily Milk and Toffee Chocolates, alongside showing us how to create spun sugar, which was very interesting.
Chef Khanna engaging his audience and demonstrating the making of s dish.
The second session was in partnership with Westland Ltd., featuring Michelin starred, Chef Vikas Khanna and his new book, ‘Savour Mumbai’. Watching Chef Khanna demonstrate recipes from
Corn flakes crumbed marinated spicy paneer by Chef Prem
his book was a treat. A thorough people person if I’ve ever seen one, Chef Khanna manages to connect with every member of his audience. He’ll make no bones about who he is and where he comes from, while simultaneously coming across as the guy next door. Chef Khanna demonstrated the making of Kaju Kothambir Vadi from Maharashtra, Khubani Ka Shahi Tukda from Lucknow, Guava and Cottage Cheese salad from Allahabad, Kacche kele ki Asharfi from Hyderabad and Chicken Cafreal from Goa. The recipes illustrated in both cases weren’t so simple so as to invite condescending disdain nor so complex that the average cook would feel it beyond their capabilities in the kitchen. Inquisitive home cooks usually have a bunch of questions, all of which were welcomed by the demonstrating chef, including Chef Khanna, who managed to find an anecdote for every other element or question during the session. I also had an opportunity to examine Chef Khanna’s book, ‘Savour Mumbai’ though I’m not quite sure if the phrase ‘his book’ applies considering it’s contents. It mostly comprises a selection of recipes of revered dishes from Mumbai’s iconic restaurants. The rest of the book contains recipes for a bunch of dishes from the streets of Mumbai. Each recipe is accompanied by an introduction, is similarly organised, has a picture and a well-explained method. An indicator of which restaurant the recipe belongs to would have been nice. The book has a nice Index that makes it easy to find specific recipes from a generic class; e.g. Balti Gosht (Wok cooked mutton) from the section Mutton, Beef and Pork. Another useful section is ‘The Indian Pantry’, which contains an explanation of a bunch of Indian spices, which presumably are used extensively in the book. If you’re interested in cooking and like the idea of spending an afternoon a month in the company of like-minded people, mostly ladies, I suggest checking out the Imperial Culinary Club. You’ll probably have a great time. Sid Khullar page
Ethnic Iftar at Kolkata, India
Fasting, The Healthy Way Vinita Bhatia
With people across religions and communities fasting for long periods, hereâ€™s a look at some ways that will improve lifestyle habits during this time, and result in a better sense of well-being.
Al Quba, the first known Mosque.
The world over, devout Muslims are observing roza, a fast from sunrise to sundown, during the ongoing month of Ramadan. Jains too fast rigorously during Paryushan, during which some pious Jains observe Ekasana (having boiled food once a day) from a period ranging one day to a month, while others stick to drinking boiled water. Hindus too fast during the month of Shravan, but their regime is more forgiving since they prefer to abstain from meat and alcohol. Irrespective of the religion in question, in most cases these fasts culminate in a feast. Fasting then feasting and fasting again puts the body on a dangerous yo-yo diet which can have severe repercussions. Fasting has its upsides and we are not talking merely about the religious aspect here. During fasting, the body can better flush out accumulated toxins and the digestive process is rejuvenated since the digestive organs get some much deserved rest. This results in better digestion, clearer skin, weight loss, detoxification, and better immunity, combating the very ills that contemporary sedentary lifestyles wreck on the system. Chef Joergen Sodemann of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Oman, adds that fasting can lower the risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, influences a change in blood cholesterol levels and reduces other cardiac risk factors too. More importantly, fasting is known to promote healthy eating habits and boost immunity. There are the downsides to fasting too, especially amongst those who fast for prolonged periods. The body needs to adjust to any change in the dietary pattern and sometimes this could result in headaches, nausea, tiredness, stomach cramps and assorted muscle aches. Usually these side effects ease up after a few days of fasting, once the body is used to the regimen. Nutritionists however, warn that itâ€™s important to fortify the body and replenish it properly while observing any fast. page
Bad Habits Inculcated During Fasts Though said to be a purifying experience, some folks inculcate some bad eating habits while fasting. The most common amongst them is to eat excessively when they break their fast, for instance at Iftar during Ramadan. Binging after a long day of fasting burdens the system and causes indigestion, leading to acidity, heartburn and nausea. The other bad habit is indulging in fatty foods in the mistaken belief that the body needs more calories after a long period of fasting. But wellness instructor and nutritionist Karan Hebbar warns that high calorie intake, courtesy deep fried food and red meat, coupled with inactivity can put one at high risk of gaining weight. Similar is the case with the consumption of sugar-rich food and drinks. “Sweets and juices are concentrated sources of empty calories that will contribute to your weight gain. Hydrate yourself with water and opt for dried fruits, fruit popsicles and dark chocolate instead,” he advises. He recommends that before starting a fast one must try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables as these are treasure troves of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Chef Sahil Sabhlok, Executive Sous Chef, Taj Lands End also warns against the tendency of people to skip their breakfast before starting a fast, case in point being the Suhoor during Ramadan. “The pre-dawn meal should be a wholesome, moderate meal that is filling and provides enough energy for many hours. Avoid fast-burning foods that contain sugar and white flour or fatty food like cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets,” he recommends. Often it is said that one should also try to break a fast with water first and keep drinking small amounts frequently. Why water? Fiona Hunter, Consulting Nutritionist at Just Falafel notes that this is because it is easy to confuse thirst with hunger. “So if you satisfy your thirst first you are less likely to overeat,” she says. Fast Unto Health There is a reason why Muslims prefer to have dates or dried figs first during Iftar. These foods provide an instant burst of sugar and energy. After imbibing these energy-rich foods, one should
KEEPING FIT WHILE FASTING • Eat complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats with adequate protein like fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes and grilled lean meat. • Break your fast with small sips of water and then aim to drink at least 5-7 glasses of water before and after your fast. • Try to engage in basic physical exercise regularly to keep fit and avoid inactivity. • Avoid sleeping immediately after you have broken your fast. • Limit your intake of coffee and concentrated fruit juices. • Avoid overeating. • Avoid eating lot of pickles, spices and pepper. page
wait for a while before eating the main meal, which should have a generous portion of salads, like Baby Green Salad with Date Blue Cheese, Honey Vinaigrette and bite-sized nibbles like Glutinous Chicken Dumplings.
Executive Chef Joergen Sodemann - Al Bustan Palace.
And one should avoid sleeping immediately after breaking their fast or catch up on their daily consumption of caffeine by drinking several cups of coffee into the night. Fiona Hunter points out that while breaking a fast in a communal environment like an Iftar it’s very easy to eat too quickly and eat too much, particularly if one is presented with a vast spread of food. This can lead to problems like indigestion. “Also it’s a time when people often compensate for the fasting period by overindulging, particularly on foods that are high in fat and or sugar when they can eat, so this can lead to weight gain,” she cautions. Chef Joergen Sodemann puts it nicely when he points out that the body is like a dry sponge. Your blood sugar level drops down during the day pretty much while fasting and all of the body’s systems will react very sensitively to any intake of food and fluid. The optimum way to supply water to the body while breaking a fast is to drink small amounts of warm water or tea over a longer period. People often presume that they will be awarded with a lean and mean physique after they have
SMOKED AUBERGINE DIP A great recipe to break a fast with. Ingredients: • 2 aubergines, about 350g each • 3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped • 1 tablespoon lemon juice • 2 teaspoons ground cumin • 1 teaspoon ground coriander • 3 tablespoons olive oil • Seasoning, to taste • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander • Freshly ground black pepper • Seasoning, to taste Recipe by Just Falafel.
Method: 1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. 2. Prick the aubergines all over with a fork and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes until the skin is wrinkled and the flesh is soft. 3. Allow the aubergines to cool. Then cut it in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. 4. Place the aubergine flesh, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, ground coriander and olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth. Stir in the chopped coriander and season to taste. Chill until required. Serve with oatcakes or wholemeal pita bread. page
A street vendor vendor selling food for Iftar.
fasted for a few weeks. But a look at the mirror after the fast speaks of a different story, leading to disappointment. The answer lies in the way people fast, whether for religious purposes or sometimes to try and shed weight. Karan Hebbar explains that fasting is sometimes as harmful as feasting in terms of fat gain. “The body tends to go into storage mode due to long gaps between meals. Also there is a certain amount of muscle loss due to infrequent feeding and hydration. This leads to lowering of metabolism which can lead to further fat gain and muscle loss,” he says. The way out is quite simple. Include complex carbohydrates, fiber and vitamins in the diet in the form of whole wheat products, vegetables and fruits. Avoid white bread, fizzy drinks, fried food, excessive sugar and sweets and don’t forget to drink lots of water. Fasting should be about moderation in all aspects, whether it be the diet, exercise regime or one’s approach towards life. For instance people worry that exercise while fasting will lead to weakness. But on the contrary, health experts say that by engaging in moderate activity while fasting helps the body to burn fat in our cells in an optimum way. This minimizes the risk to gain weight and increasing the body fat during the fasting period. A good idea would be to prepare for the fast a few days before you intend to start the actual fast. “A trained body can store more water and absorb more oxygen which makes one’s body more resistible against headache, dizziness, lack of concentration and weakness,” suggest Chef Joergen Sodemann. Fasting can offer a number of health benefits, but only if one monitors their diet and doesn’t use it as an excuse to become indolent. More than knocking off the kilos during fasting, one should use it as a time to adopt healthy habits and gain a more relaxed perspective of their life. page
Fried, Glutinous Chicken Dumplings Ingredients for about 12 dumplings: • • • • • • • •
Glutinous flour 150 Grms Minced chicken 100 grms Chopped black Chinese mushroom 50 grms Chopped Spring onion 25 grms Chopped ginger 10 grms Soy sauce 10 ml Sesame oil 5 ml Corn oil 250 ml
Method: 1. Mix 100 c boiling water with glutinous flour keep mixing until you obtain a smooth dough 2. In a wok, heat little corn oil ml corn. 3. Sauté the spring onion and ginger so to get the flavour of the two ingredients. 4. Add the minced chicken and sliced mushroom to it and keep stirring in the wok until the chicken is cooked, around 3 minutes
5. Season with salt, soy sauce and sesame oil stir well for another 2 minutes, set aside 6. Using a pastry roller, roll out the dough thickness of 0.4 cm amd cut out circles of about 4 cm in diameter 7. Divide the chicken stuffing equally in half of the circles, then cover with the remaining dough pressing the edge tight together 8. Fry the dumpling in hot corn oil to a golden color 9. Serve with a sweet chili or Soya sauce
Recipe Courtesy: Chef Joergen Sodemann of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel page
Spinach and Chicken Lasagna. Photograph of actual dish
Spinach and Chicken Lasagna Haven’t you always wanted to make Lasagna from beginning to end, including the sheets? Most of us want that ‘from scratch’ experience at least once in our cooking careers, so we know we can do it. Claudia Barbara Tanna takes us through her Lasagna recipe.
A flavor variation witih lamb and tomato.
Baking Dish Size: 22 cm / 8.5 inches Ingredients: For the Lasagna Sheets • 150 gm Flour • 1 to 2 Eggs • ¼ tsp Salt • 50 ml Water (approx.) For the Filling • 2 tbsp Pomace Olive Oil • 1 Soup Cube (Maggi Magic Cube) • 250 gm Chicken, minced • 2 Onions • 2 to 3 pods Garlic • 1 Packet Button Mushrooms • 1 Bunch fresh Spinach • 100 ml fresh Cream (Amul Tetrapack) • 100 gm grated Cheese • Some Pomace Olive Oil for the Baking dish
Method: 1. The Lasagna Dough 1. Sieve the Flour in a bowl or on the platform. 2. Make a well and add the eggs and the salt. 3. Start stirring with your fingers and slowly add water until you have a soft dough. 4. You should knead it for about 10 minutes to loosen out the gluten and to avoid lumps. 5. Wrap with cling-film and keep aside. 2. Preheat Oven to 180°C. 3. The Filling 1. Clean and finely chop the mushrooms and spinach. 2. Chop the onion and garlic. 3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok or frying pan. 4. Add the minced chicken, onion and garlic and stir-fry for 5 minutes. 5. Add mushrooms and spinach and stir for 5 more minutes. 6. Add some water, the soup cube and the cream 7. Add salt and pepper and a teaspoon of Herbs de Provence. 8. Let it simmer for five minutes and keep aside. 4. Grate the Cheese. 5. Make the Lasagna 1. Divide the dough into 4 portions. 2. On a lightly floured surface roll out a thin sheet of dough as per the size of your dish. 3. Cut it into shape and place the first sheet on the oiled dish. 4. Add 1/3 of the filling and spread it out evenly. 5. Sprinkle some cheese over it. 6. Add the next layers of dough sheet, filling and cheese 7. Finish with a layer of dough, some liquid from the filling and a litle cheese. 6. Bake either with a lid or cover with aluminum foil. 7. After 30 minutes remove lid/foil and bake until cheese is slightly browned. 8. Cool for 5 minutes before serving (cutting gets easier). Claudia Barbara Tanna
Savour Mumbai Chef Vikas Khanna’s new book isn’t as much about home cooking as it is about cooking at home. He takes the reader through a series of recipes of some of the best loved dishes from some of Mumbai’s best known restaurants. A sprinkling of street food recipes some indications of a great team behind the book later, and you’re left with a book that I really can’t call a tribute to great cooking, which I can definitely say is one for your bookshelf. Published by Westland Books. Retail price: Rs 895 ISBN: 9789382618959 Format: Hardback, 332pp
Fruit Fantasy with Tang The last few weeks of summer heat are in progress and here’s a recipe shared by Tang to make them interesting. It’s an easy one that’s great for friends and family alike. Ingredients: • 1 Tbsp Tang orange flavor • 3 Tbsp Tang mango flavor • ½ cup kiwi slices • ½ cup melon cubes • ½ cup watermelon cubes • ½ cup diced strawberry • Sugar as per taste • 5 cups cold water • 20 ice cubes • Melon and watermelon slices for garnish Method: 1. Combi`ne Tang orange and mango flavor and required quantity of sugar with water 2. Stir till the mixture is dissolved. 3. Transfer into big jug. 4. Add fruits and ice cubes in 10 glasses and pour over. 5. Garnish with watermelon and melon as desired.
Poorna Banerjee’s Lasagna recipe from her blog ‘Presented by P’ will probably go well with this drink! She’s made it with minced meat, tomatoes, garlic, cottage cheese, heavy cream and mozzarella cheese. Doesn’t that look divine? http://bit.ly/cal-lasagna
Learn how to make Kaudi soup from Kaajal Lamba. The dough is made to look like sea shells hence the name ‘Kaudi’, which in Nepali means ‘sea shells’.
Ingredients: For the Kaudis • 2 cups Maida • 2 pinches Meetha Soda • Water as required For the Chicken/Vegetable Broth • ½ kg Chicken and some giblets • 4 cups Mixed Vegetables, cut medium size • 1 large Onion, quartered and separated • 1 large Tomato, cut into medium size pieces • 2” Ginger, crushed
• 1 tbsp Soy Sauce • Salt to Taste For the Spicy Tomato Chutney • 2 large Tomatoes • Chilies, preferably red • 3 - 4 small pods Garlic • Salt to taste For the Garnish • Chopped Onions • Chopped Coriander leaf
Method: 1. In a pressure cooker (I used a 3 litre cooker) add a little oil and sauté the quartered onion for 2 minutes. 2. Add the crushed ginger and the chicken. Fry for 4-5 minutes. 3. Add a little salt and some water (at least half the cooker). Bring to whistle on high heat. Lower heat cook it for another 2-3 whistles. 4. Sift the flour with mitha soda/baking powder. Knead a tough dough using water and let it rest for sometime. 5. To make the Kaudis, take pea-sized piece of dough. Using your index finger roll it in the palm of your other hand and then press hard in between. It kind of sticks to your palm, and then lightly roll it off your palm. Keep dusting the kaudis with dry flour so they do not stick to each other. 6. In a large pot add a little oil and sauté the vegetables for 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken broth to it and bring to boil. 7. Once boiling add the kaudis and soya sauce and simmer for at least 15 minutes or till the kaudis are cooked. If the soup is too thick add some broth or water. This soup usually has a thick consistency due to the maida. Adjust seasoning. 8. For the chutney. Boil the tomatoes. Once cooked remove the skin and let it cool. Put in a mixer along with chilies, garlic & salt and make a paste. 9. Now serve the Kaudis garnished with chopped onions, coriander & spicy chutney.
Recipe and photos by Kaajal Lamba
Formed, uncooked Kaudi
Notes: • Add vinegar and soy sauce as per your liking. • I used dalle the local red chilies found in Kalimpong and Sikkim.
Years of Darkness:
An Evening to Remember Jaswinder spent an evening in the company of the many faces of The Balvenie, a single Malt with a reputation, and came back with only good things to say. There was an invite in the inbox one beautiful day, announcing a night with Balvenie Single Malts. In true Punjabi fashion, whiskey-shiskey has always been a preference. Just to clarify here, whiskey is whiskey, the ‘shiskey’ part covers wine, Scotch and Cognac. There was a time I did not get the heads or tails of single malts. I guess I was keeping company that had the inclination to just get high with anything they could lay their hands on. Some growing up and research later, I’m happy to announce that things have changed for the better. Learning about the drinks business and the making of various tipples has been one of the most fulfilling hobbies I’ve picked up over the years. The process of brewing, tasting, blending and aging gives me an altogether different high that no spirit can. Coming back to Balvenie. The Hilton Gurgaon is one of the most beautiful properties I know of. The evening kicked off to a great start with the Triple Cask 12 Year Old. I have a personal rule when selecting whiskey and single malts: never less than 12 years old. That doesn’t make me James Bond, but close. Actually, a little better. The Balvenie 12 Year Old Triple Cask comes with a long nose of sweetness with hints of vanilla, dried apricots and a liberal smattering of cinnamon. The palate is smooth and sweet with undertones of vanilla and cinnamon very elegantly placed in contrast with the toasted oak from the barrels. If you think that’s the best there is from the house of Balvenie, you’re wrong. I’ve tasted two other Single Malts from the Triple Cask series of Balvenie on another occasion. The 16 Year Old Triple Cask is smoother, with richer texture hiding under the amber sheen with vanilla and well-rounded toasted oak. Undertones of honey and licorice on the palette make this a drink worthy of nobility. Just like a person, every drink mellows down as it ages in a cask. The harshness of aggression gives way to a gentle aura of experience and maturity in expression. That’s what the Balevnie 25 Year Old shows, on the nose and the palette. A superbly rich texture entwined in layers of aromas of gentle spices, cinnamon, cloves, hints of nutmeg and cardamom with a palate of honey-dew, licorice and dark chocolate on the long, warm finish, the 25 Year Old Triple Cask is a class apart when it comes to single malts.
This is not to say that the 12 Year Old is any less than its 16 and 25 year old siblings, it’s just that I would prefer a 25 Year Old Triple Cask any day. However, not all 12 Year Old Single Malts are the same. In fact, take a dram of the 12 Year Old Double Wood from Balvenie and a whole new experience awaits you. As the name suggests, the whiskey goes through a process of maturation in two different types of wood casks. The first stage is in a traditional whiskey cask that lends a softer note and adds to the whiskey’s character. The second stage is in a first fill European Sherry cask, giving the whiskey a fullness that is rare for a 12 Year Old. The Balvenie 12 Year Old Double Wood comes with a nose of honeydew and vanilla and tastes of bitter-sweet toasted nuts, cinnamon and sherry on the palette with a long finish. There was a surprise for the evening. A 17 Year Old Peated Cask from the private stash of the master blender David Stewart. Only 65 odd bottles of this beauty were ever rolled out to Indian shores and one of the last few was opened up for the guests. An experiment by the Master Blender at Balvenie in 2001 produced the extremely rich, smoky, floral, spicy notes in this whiskey. The nose on the 17 Year Old Peated Cask is long and deep with notes of lavender, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla engulfed in peated oakiness. The palette offers a layered oakiness, smoothened out by sweetness of honeydew, cinnamon and vanilla with hints of nutmeg. The chef at The Hilton had prepared an eclectic menu to pair with the whiskey. But, like always, I was not paying as much attention to the food as I paid to the whiskey. It is a misnomer, especially in the Indian context, that whiskey and scotch is for chugging or you can drink it with anything on the table. On the contrary, whiskey and scotch pair with food just like wine. The taste, the texture, the aroma, the finish – everything matters. Chugging is for kids who have yet to learn a lot, about a lot. So much ‘gyaan’ about whiskey-shiskey? Well let me end with one more line of ‘gyaan’ – please do not drink and drive after that much whiskey. I don’t. Jaswinder Singh
BRAISED ONIONS WITH WHISKEY A quick recipe that you can try with a Single Malt as well if you like. • • • •
2 tbsp Olive oil 2 tbsp Butter 4 Onions, sliced 1 tsp Salt
• 1/2 tsp Finely ground pepper • 1/4 cup Beef or chicken broth • 1/4 cup Whiskey
Melt oil and butter in a saucepan. Add onions and cook over high heat for two minutes. Add salt, pepper and broth, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add whisky and let the sauce cook down slightly. As a variation, soak two tablespoons raisins in the whiskey before you cook the onions, and add this at the end. page
Stylish, fun and different
We were invited by Aloft to check out their new property at Ahmedabad, by staying as a guest for two days, along with more folks from the industry and media. Hereâ€™s what happened.
ROAMING ROVER Day 1 0710 - Reached Terminal 1D at Delhi and was amazed by the crowds clustered around the entry gates. I was looking forward to a breakfast of bacon, eggs and butter slathered toast with hash browns at Fresc Co. Didnâ€™t look like that was about to happen. Once inside, the crowds were even more threatening, with a collective conspiracy actively working against my dreams of a piggy breakfast followed by a leisurely cup of coffee accompanied by the morning paper. I love airports, and look forward to flights with breaks in between, trying to schedule loads of time between connecting flights, wandering around the premises. Yup, me and Tom Hank, both. 0735 - Checked in, security checked and tried hard to visualize gobbling rashers of bacon, gulping the coffee, paying the bill and leaving within ten minutes. Sighing, I accepted the inevitable and proceeded to KFC, coming away with a packed Zing Kong box (fried chicken, chicken burger, coke, fries) and made a beeline for the smoking room. A chap asked if he could bum a cigarette. I held out the pack, telling him anyone in the room would be happy to help him out; after all what right did he have to live any longer than the rest of us? 0830 - Ate cold, oily chicken, tough, leathery chicken burger and limp, soggy fries. This stuff wasnâ€™t meant to be eaten cold. Tried hard to sleep. Tried.
dot.yum, the 24 hour restaurant.
1030 - Reached Aloft after being promptly picked up at the airport by a friendly Aloft driver who was kind enough to find me a matchbox. Shared the ride with Michael Swamy, a very quiet man with an unassuming manner and a lovely smile. We agreed it bored our knickers off when people insisted on talking only food around us. A chilled, damp towel later, as we signed pre-filled
registration forms, I noticed a signature area labeled ‘Talent’. I asked the lady at the counter who was busy checking in another guest. To my surprise, the chap who was handing out chilled towels, who I can only assume was a very junior member of the staff, answered, “That’s for a staff member’s signature Sir. At Aloft, all staff members are designated as talent”. Suitably impressed, both by the young man’s quick response and the Aloft orientation programme, which I assume exists, I collected my room keys and Starwood Preferred Guest card (loyalty card) and reached my second floor quarters.
Manchow soup for lunch.
1050 - Walked into a small, well appointed and neatly furnished room. A utility desk, similar study desk, both window facing, with a neatly made bed facing a nice, large LCD TV were what I first saw. The room also contains a couch (convenient, considering there’s no place for extra chairs), an ironing board and everything else one expects in a hotel room. The telephones were wireless, a nice touch. The air conditioner wasn’t working, which was fixed in ten minutes. My free wi-fi was enabled very quickly and was blazing fast. Caught up with work, posts, Facebook and emails, then grabbed a little shut-eye before making my way downstairs for lunch. 1300 - Joined the rest of the very interesting group of journalists from all over and introductions went all around. Starting with mildly spiced Paneer Tikka and Murgh Malai Tikka we lunched on Dal Makhani, Mutton Curry, Navratan Qorma, Shahi Paneer and hot tandoori rotis. Very balanced homestyle food, with neither a surfeit of flavors or oil, except for the sweet overtones in the paneer of course. Michael explained that the sweetness found in Gujarati food began due to the salty nature of water found natively, continuing on as a matter of tradition or habit thereafter. 1500 - Checked out the Four Points by Sheraton close by, a property I stayed in a few months ago when it was the Royal Orchid, an experience I wouldn’t care to repeat. Stayed for tea and a spread of snacks whilst the GM expounded the virtues of the brand, including a special section on the care given to selection of the beds. 2000 - After a little rest, descended to Lobby level for a banquet of sorts, with guests and page
customers of the property. Quite like a gatecrashing a wedding, to use a phrase coined by my fellow writers. The food and arrangements were reminiscent of one too. 2200 - Returned to my room and chatted away with new found friends and discovered the possibility of Aloft investing in Neuro marketing; subliminal advertising to be more precise. As I mentioned earlier, Aloft has cordless phones installed in the rooms, which are a great feature. They should however, have important extensions printed on them, as should the main phone unit. also, some bathrooms have soap racks and some didn’t, one of a few inconsistencies, which the folks at Aloft may like to remedy. Interestingly, Avnish’s TV had four Gujarathi channels while the rest of us had the whole lot (new opening issue). DAY 2 0830 - Breakfasted from a buffet at dot.yum. A hotel should be able to do a better job than an airport lounge. The service though was prompt and impeccable. Returned to my room to find it cleaned and prepped, which was surprising, since the ‘Do not disturb’ switch was still on to the best of my knowledge. I don’t like people entering my room when travelling and usually keep the switch on throughout the duration of my stay. Why would they enter? Going to photograph the property shortly.
1330 - Visited Swati Snacks, Gandhi Ashram alongside the Sabarmati river and Vishala, which besides being an outdoor restaurant that serves traditional Gujarati food, is also home to a museum housing a page
Hot Pooris for breakfast.
1200 - Hung around for a while, then attended the press conference, where the Global Brand Ambassador of the brand, Brian McGuinness introduced the Aloft brand and what it stood for (though I didn’t seem to have an Apple TV in my room or much options at Re:Fuel as shown in the slideshow), Dilip Puri, Managing Director of Starwood Hotels in India and Regional VP of South Asia, reaffirmed their commitment to the state and the city, whilst introducing journalists to the owner of the property Kumar Sitaraman, Chairman of Auromatrix Holdings Pvt. Ltd.
Hot and spicy paneer tikka at dot yum.
large number of traditional Gujarati cooking utensils and related implements. Also figured out why Housekeeping entered my room - the DnD light wasn’t working. 1930 - The bar, wxyz, home to a small mocktail menu, naturally, and very cosy wood-floored interiors, featured a group of three singers with unplugged instruments who put up quite a nice show. Finger snacks did the rounds, of which their version of Seekh Kebab was nice, though I wouldn’t quite call it that. An inconclusive game of pool at the lobby level between Avnish and I, a short trip to the street market at Law Garden followed by a filling vegetarian, Gujarati meal at Agashiye was the end of our day. DAY 3 0730 - Breakfasted on a cheese omelette, chicken salami, chicken cocktail sausages, baked beans and melon, then rushed to the airport, forgot to buy snacks for Sandeep and returned to good ‘ol page
Cereal for breakfast at dot yumm.
alcohol-enabled Delhi. Which reminds me - the hotel is happy to arrange for alcohol licences for guests who’re staying for more than three nights, per government regulations. To conclude, let’s take a quick look at what’s great about Aloft, Ahmedabad? • Friendly, effective staff • Low overhead, easy to interact with features • Easily accessible, very social lobby level • Comfortable rooms, with most amenities available without asking for them • Very fast, free wireless Internet ... and what needs improvement at Aloft, Ahmedabad? • The food and drink • In room inconsistencies and ergonomic/usability issues
Front view of Aloft Ahmedabad.
Aloft, Ahmedabad is a lovely hotel, resplendent with all the features Aloft has plugged into it’s properties to make them friendlier for the business or budget traveler. A few bugs exist, that will be ironed out shortly, considering it’s a new property. Having said that, I found the staff effective (bottle of water delivered within 10 minutes to my room, at 3:00am), eager to please and most promises made by the brand, met. The only area I’d suggest immediate improvement in is the food and beverages, which were average at best and lackadaisical at worst - nothing earth shattering; improvement here will add yet another badge to their already impressive bling board. They very easily made it through with high points on our checklist, which is saying a lot, considering the list consists of 155 check points of pure grouchiness. If you’re visiting Ahmedabad, a stay at Aloft is highly recommended. It offers all the comfort of a five star, in a format that ensures you’re always at ease and well taken care of. Sid Khullar
Prawns with Kiwi and Leek, by Farrukh Shadab, a regular group contributor. page
Chef at Large
Published on Sep 12, 2013
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