Experience A New High at Indigo Deli with Chef Amit Bajaj – Polka Cafe

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Move over molecular gastronomy as Indigo Deli is all set to roll out yet another innovative concept curated by Executive Chef Amit Bajaj and his brilliant team. Think Rum infused soup, Triple sec pumpkin pecan pie, Sangria braised short ribs, Sambuca grilled squid and lots more! Yes, you’re in for an intoxicating night as they are launching a brand new menu – the theme of which is alcohol-infusions. Boozy dishes made using local ingredients and different spirits, promise a new high in food with this 2-in-1 Chef’s Table.

We had a quick chat with the master chef himself on the city’s food scene, food trends and ofcourse, his new menu. Find out what he has to say.

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1) Alcohol – infused menu: now that’s an innovative concept! What is the inspiration behind it?
My team. The thought was sown by them – I just infused it with some alcohol and more.

2) The menu is quite extensive and I’m sure it must have been quite challenging to bring it all together? How did you go about with the pairing (e.g. which spirit to use with which dish?) How long did it take you to finalize the menu?
The pairing was quite a challenge for us. We wanted it to be appealing to all our diners and so we compiled it over a few trails and tastings. After almost 3 weeks of experimentation, we arrived at the final menu.

3) What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
The challenges were more in terms of acceptance of the combinations. To overcome this, we did a few trials and made sure that the flavors compliment each other and not confuse anyone.

Triple sec pumpkin pecan pie, blue cheese foam(1)

Triple sec pumpkin pecan pie, blue cheese foam

4) Indigo Deli has made its way into people’s hearts with its lip-smacking desserts and food. But this new menu is something completely different from the regular one. How do you think people will react to this new concept?
I am quite certain these desserts will be lip smacking as well. I agree, they are different, but then again I’m sure they will get acceptance from our guests. I’ve just gone back to old school basics.

5) Do you think alcohol – infused foods will soon be trending in the city?
It is an interesting concept and even though we do use alcohol in our regular menu, this menu composition has taken it to a whole new level. Trends are set by trendsetters and Indigo Delicatessen has always strived to be a game-changer, so you never know, this could be trending soon!

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Sangria braised short ribs, smoked cauliflower puree

6) What’s your take on the current food scene in Mumbai? 
The current food scene in Mumbai – is the best the country has to offer. Earlier there was a debate between New Delhi and Mumbai for the prime position, however, with the number of fantastic spaces opening in Mumbai over the last year – It wins hand’s down.

7) What, according to you, are the hottest food trends as of today? Which one would you like to see in the city? Any existing trend that you think is here to stay?
The hottest food trend as of today is food cooked with regional influences, organic produce, local ingredients etc. The local flavors and techniques are the big ‘in thing’ these days.

I would like the city to inculcate a value for local ingredients, seasonal vegetables and fruits. It has all become very commercial now. Genetically modified food is available all over and needs to be replaced with fresher, homegrown produce.

Yes according to me regional cuisine centric cooking will be around for a long time. It is here to stay, as people relate very closely to it and accept it for its true value.

8) What should one keep in mind while experimenting with a new concept? Any tips?
I guess experimentation has no boundaries. One needs to be open to everything and just delve into the very depth of it and do it with conviction.

So brace yourself to get tipsy with mains like Red wine mushroom ragout, Charosa Reserve Tempranillo lamb shanks among others and by chance if you’re still sober…. there’s dessert – Irish Whiskey Mascarpone parfait, frozen Chantilly espuma, Baba Au Rhum. Need we say more?

Details:
Venue – Indigo Deli, Palladium
Date – 3rd August 2016
Time – 8:00 PM (Dinner)
Pricing – INR 2000 without wine pairing and INR 3000 with wine pairing

Also on Polka Cafe – http://www.polkacafe.com/interview-with-amit-bajaj-3040.html

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In conversation with Chef Matteo Arvonio, Italian Chef, Mezzo Mezzo

With almost 23 years of culinary experience, Chef Matteo Arvonio brings with him a deep-rooted love for Italian flavors and authentic cooking styles. He strongly feels that a cuisine of a place reveals a lot about its culture. Having trained across the globe at various reputed hotels, Chef Matteo loves refining original recipes with creative presentations and modern cooking techniques. ‘Before joining a place, I take into consideration the project of the restaurant, the people, quality of food provided and other factors,’ he says. Currently appointed as Specialty Chef at Mezzo Mezzo, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, he is happy to be back here in Mumbai and is all set to pamper the Indian palate with his lip-smacking preparations. Read on as he passionately talks about Italy and its delectable food.

From Italy to Mumbai:
Chefs Take:
Food is one of our proud cultures – like art and language. Just like in India where every state has a different cuisine, similarly in Italy. If you don’t live there, you can never get it right as each region has something different to offer. Seafood couscous is a very famous dish available in a particular area in Sicily. If you don’t go to that area, you won’t try the dish anywhere else. At Mezzo Mezzo, I have only refined and revised original Italian cuisine by drawing inspiration from the various regions I have lived at in Italy – be it from street foods in Piedmont, local markets in Tuscany, fine-dining or gourmet restaurants in Sicily, Veneto or Sardinia. I am proud of my cuisine and I aim to keep it’s authenticity with every dish.

Fun Facts:
– Piedmont specializes in meat preparations while Sicily in meat and fish. Tuscany, on the other hand, is famous for its legumes, soups and stews while Florence is known for serving breads without salt. If there are twenty regions in Italy, each region has its own specific cuisine and if the region is big, you can find almost four – five different types of cuisines within that region
– Chefs across various regions prepare similar dishes using different recipes so each dish has its own unique flavor

Choice of Ingredients:
Chefs Take:
Every dish must be made using fresh ingredients. However, finding fresh ingredients is a challenge I face all over the world. Unlike Italy, where there are markets consisting of fresh products, here I have to work with the ingredients that are easily available. Herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage and basil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and tomato are main ingredients used to prepare a dish because they help to maintain a balance. I always prefer using light ingredients that add flavor to my preparation. If you taste my fish, you will taste the flavors but you will also get a taste of the fish. Italian food appears simple, direct and easy to understand but there is a lot of effort that goes into making a dish what it looks like. The power of some ingredients is also amazing. For e.g. a specific type of red prawn available in Sicily is best enjoyed with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Sea urchins with salt, oil and pepper tossed with a pasta promise a blast of flavors in the mouth. I love to work with pork too. Traditionally, roast pork is kept for 6 hours and is served for a family of 10 people. But I try to use modern techniques by maintaining the authenticity and flavor. So I slow cook it for 14 hours and the taste turns out to be something very unique. When I’m with family, I cook it the traditional way but when I’m at the restaurant, I cook it the fine dining way.

Fun Facts:
– In the North, people use a lot of vegetables, meat, beef and lamb while in the South, people make use of fresh pastas like Lasagna, Tortellini among others along with pork
– Meat also differs from place to place. In the coastal region, fish is the king of the menu because good quality fish is available in the area
– 90% recipes use extra virgin olive oil. Traditionally, butter was used in almost every dish but now since so many people are health conscious, it has been substituted with extra virgin oil as it makes the dish flavorful, lighter and healthier
– Apart from the choice of ingredients and vegetables, the cooking technique is very important too as it helps enhance the flavors and keep the ingredients fresh, light and crisp. Meat and fish need to be fresh too. While preparing a dish, the sauce shouldn’t be overpowering either.

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About the cuisine:
Chefs Take:
If they open a 5-star hotel in any part of the world, one restaurant will surely be Italian. The cuisine has evolved around the world because it is easy to understand. It’s like comfort food. Our work is to create a dish that is fresh, clean, direct, easy and flavorful.

Among the many dishes available in Italy, pasta or pizza are most popular all over the world. But for us, that doesn’t really give justice to Italian cuisine as that is just the middle course. Authentic Italian cuisine starts with an appetizer, is followed by a middle course that could include either a pasta, pizza or risotto depending on the area, a main course, dessert and cheese. Pasta has become the representative of Italy because it is easy to make and pizza because of its simplicity. Its more like street food. If you want something that’s faster and easier – go to a pizzeria. Since both are versatile, it gives chefs the freedom to create a recipe of their choice by keeping in mind the balance of the dish. That’s why they are so popular world over.

Fun Facts:
Pasta:
In Italy, there are two kinds of pastas – fresh and dry. Fresh is made with different kinds of flour like refined, wheat, semolina and whole wheat flour while dry is made with semolina flour. A strong flavored meat goes well with a strong flavored flour.
For e.g. whole wheat flour goes well with lamb, Tagliatelle goes well with bolognese, Spaghetti blends well with fresh tomato sauce or aglio-olio while Fucilli is best enjoyed with a tomato or pesto based recipe as it can keep the sauce inside.

Cheese:
Cheese is a great tradition in Italian food – each region follows a different one. Some regions have many varieties as they make their own cheese. Almost every shop will have approximately 15 different counters full of cheese. Some are regional while some will be easily available all over Italy
– Only 8-10 kinds of cheese are famous all over the world – very limited in comparison to what is available in the country
– Piedmont alone has around 80 kinds of cheese.

Pizza:
In Italy, a certain kind of flour is used for pizzas. This flour is only available in the country and cannot be exported to any other place. Hence, there will always be a difference in the pizza that is eaten in Italy in comparison with a pizza eaten anywhere else in the world even if the chef has used the same recipe at both places to prepare it
– Water also plays an important role. The quality differs from place to place. Even in Italy, the quality of pizza in one area will be better than another area because of the water used. There, pizzas turn out lighter and crispier than in India
– A perfect pizza also requires sufficient amounts of cheese. The type of cheese chosen, depends on balance & taste of the flavors. Mozzarella is used as a base to give the cheesiness but not to add flavor. For flavor, there are other kinds of cheese. Most pizzas in Italy use two or more kinds of cheese.
For e.g. While serving something strong like sausages, use a strong cheese like Gorgonzola with onions in between, or Mascarpone with salmon. While using asparagus, use a more delicate flavor otherwise it will overpower it. If a vegetable has a lot of taste, highlight it with goat cheese to get a kick of the taste

Bread:
– Breads of different shapes and sizes are available in bakeries. Some will be crispy while some will be special breads of the day made with different kinds of flour
– They are chosen as per taste and requirement. Few breads go well with appetizers, few with cold cuts, few with pizzas – it all depends on the flour and shape. It is something that is enjoyed all through the day, even more with a cheese platter.

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I had such an awesome time chatting with Chef Matteo and learning fun facts about the country and it’s varied culture. By the end of our conversation, I was very curious to know which place in Italy serves authentic Italian food. So I asked Chef and without a second thought, he promptly said, ‘Take a plane to Italy. When you reach, take a parachute and jump from the plane. Wherever you land, you’re sure to get authentic food.’

Cooking tip – Enjoy when you’re cooking. Be passionate. Go to the market, pick vegetables and smell the ingredients. If you are involved right from the beginning – through the process of buying, cooking and presentation, the dish will surely turn out well. Cooking is more about passion – knowledge comes with experience.

In conversation with Global Culinary Chef of Chili’s American Grill & Bar

Chili’s American Grill & Bar, the leading American casual dining restaurant chain is present in over  33 countries worldwide including India amongst several others. What started in 1975 in Dallas, Texas with 11 Southwestern-inspired dishes and trademark beverages, now serves some of the best appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, quesadillas and more in India. Located at the Hiranandani Business Park in Powai, Mumbai, this Tex-Mex restaurant is famous for its Big-mouth Burgers, Texas Cheese fries and lots more.

Recently, the renowned international chain celebrated 40 glorious years in the hospitality industry. To commemorate this success, Chef Michael Winkelmann, the Global Culinary Chef visited Mumbai. With over 30 years experience in the restaurant and leisure industry, Michael has spent the last 14 years with Chili’s and all other Brinker brands (international parent company for Chili’s). Based in the UK, he is currently responsible for not only the outposts in Europe, Middle East, North Africa and Asia but for also opening the first Chili’s in Belfast, Russia, Jordan, Portugal, Turkey, Singapore, India, Brazil, Colombia and next year in Tunisia.

Being Global Chef is no easy task. While it sounds exciting, it can be extremely challenging at the same time. Upon being asked about the challenges he faces, he said, ‘The only and main challenge is to keep the consistency in the food same across the world. If we need to innovate for a certain market, we have a test kitchen in Texas, Dallas and exclusive innovation chefs to overcome any issues.’

I was curious to hear his take on the different palates and perceptions of people he comes across in any five countries where Chili’s has an outpost. Here’s what he had to say: 

India:
There are many takers of Vegetarian food and we have the most veg items on our menu in India.

Middle East:
As they do not eat pork, they serve Beef Ribs & Beef Bacon instead. As even use of alcohol is prohibited, we cannot use vanilla essence.

Malaysia:
In Malaysia, people do not prefer to eat pork so we introduced Southwestern Grilled Lamb as an alternative to pork.

Philippines:
They love pork! An addition to their menu has been Pork Belly

Russia:
The only country where you can find a bottle of Vodka on every table

Michael Winkelmann, Global Culinary Contact, Chili’s American Grill & Bar

 

Luke Nguyen’s France

Australian-Vietnamese Chef Luke Nguyen’s passion for food leads him into France, a paradise for food lovers, where he explores the land that has shaped his native country – Vietnam. During this journey, he unearths a whole new side to French food, culture and lifestyle and learns about the art of regional French cooking from locals he meets along the way. He also interacts with the country’s top chefs and home cooks and whips up tantalizing dishes including classic recipes like melted goat’s cheese on sourdough and French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine.

Join him every weekday from 8pm to 9pm on TLC in LUKE NGUYEN’S FRANCE as he discovers France’s diverse cuisine and culture. Read on as he talks about the show and shares some interesting experiences.

In your latest show, Luke Nguyen’s France on TLC, you take viewers through your culinary adventures in France. How has the experience been so far? Can you tell us more about French cuisine, the people, traditions and culinary customs?
My show on TLC will feature everything that has to do with France and will try to give viewers a holistic experience. The show captures the rich culture, architecture, landscape, regionality and the beautiful people of the nation. Everything in the show is connected with food and I did a lot of research about the nation by actually meeting and talking to the local people myself. This eventually helped me get really deep into the country’s traditions and culinary customs.

As far as my experience is considered, I guess the most important thing that I’ve learned would have to be the varied and different styles of French cuisine. I think what most people around the world would say is that French cuisine is very difficult. I’ve learned that that’s not entirely true. French cooking can be a bit technical, but is quite simple. I’ve also learned how different French cuisine ranges from the North of France all the way down to the South of France. And it’s very, very regional and consists of flavors.

What are the ingredients that are widely used in French cuisine?
More than the ingredient it’s the techniques of cooking a French dish. The French use heavier kinds of butter – lots of butter. I learned so much about regional and French cuisine and how diverse it is. So, it’s basically the diversity of French cooking and flavors.

Tell us more about the French culinary style. How is it different from the others?
What I found most impressive about French cuisine was that throughout the country, every single person I met was a big foodie. People there have been brought up with a food culture and they appreciate food and have respect for the produce. When they cook they always use fresh produce and most premium quality.

As I mentioned earlier, more than the ingredient it’s the techniques of cooking a French dish. During my visit to France it felt like I was on this journey to learn a lot about them and the food. I want to show people how easy cooking can be. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Can you name some traditional French dishes that one must try in France?
French make the best baguettes. The French baguette is to be eaten with the food and not with the latter stuffed inside the baguette. They are on the heavier side and taste nothing like baguettes that we eat outside France.

France is known for its patisserie items, cheeses and wines. If you had to recommend one of each, which one would it be and why?
I would recommend trying everything.

Tell us more about French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine?
I wanted to immerse myself further into the culture and the cuisine. As you would know French colonized Vietnam for almost 100 years. So we can say that French cuisines have a great influence on the Vietnamese dishes and vice-versa.

I found that many dishes I grew up eating have actually been influenced a lot by the French when they were in Vietnam for almost a century. I interviewed a lot of Vietnamese who grew up during that time and are now in their 90s – some of them are 100 plus years old. I also met a lot of French who were in Vietnam during that time. I really wanted to find out what dishes and ingredients as well influenced the cuisine.

The French in the 1800’s brought over the very first coffee plant from France. And now, you find a  coffee shop in every corner in Vietnam. Things like that are the ones that have influenced not just the Vietnamese cuisine but also a big part of our culture and daily lives in Vietnam. And so, my mission was to go to France and really discover how the French have influenced our dishes. Luckily, I have a lot of family in France so it was also a great way to reconnect with my French family.

Can you name an age-old French-Vietnamese fusion dish?
Well, I’ve been researching the French connection to Vietnam for many, many years. Purely, for my own learning and I will have to say that I found out lots of dishes which saw the influence on one another. However the technique and style remains distinct. You can see the influence in one of the dishes call Pho – the beautiful bowl of soup. It is said that pho was inspired by the boiled French dish, le pot au feu.

Luke learns to master the art of French cuisines

Luke Nguyen cooks across France

Luke Nguyen in France

LUKE NGUYEN’S FRANCE airs Monday to Friday at 8 PM on TLC

India On My Platter

India’s youngest celebrity chef, TV host, anchor and food columnist, Chef Saransh Goila makes you travel across India with the launch of his debut book – India On My Platter. A combination of travel stories, recipes, food tales, adventures and fun experiences, it is more like a food travelogue than another run-of-the-mill recipe book. Upon being asked to describe the book in one word, Chef Saransh instantly said, ‘Different!’ A 20,000 km-journey spanning 60 cities and 25 states in 100 days all through India made him realize how diverse and beautiful our country truly is. ‘From a roadside truck shop to India’s biggest omelette centre to a kitchen in Kullu – this once in a lifetime opportunity made me cover it all. In fact it is not just a chef’s but a boy’s spiritual journey,’ he further added.

Read on as Chef Saransh shares some interesting anecdotes, his most treasured memories, different kinds of people he came across and more from his road trip.

India On My Platter

1) Name 5 unusual dishes you tried during your journey
– Kodra Ki Roti in Kullu:
In a small village in Kullu, there were six dishes on the menu. Kodra (type of local millet) ki roti, jaatu rice, kaathu (local spinach preparation), bhalle (yellow lentil dumplings), siddu (local buns stuffed with lentils) and rajma (kidney beans). There were a few accompaniments like locally produced cow ghee and fern pickle. The food was slow-cooked over wood-fire.

– Fish Outenga in Assam:
Fish Outenga, which was river fish cooked with a vegetable particular to Assam, called outenga or elephant apple. It was a very simple recipe that used freshly pound turmeric, which closely resembled ginger. On tasting the recipe, I realized it reminded me of raw mango that had been cooked in a curry.

– Badam Ki Jaali in Hyderabad:
Badam
means almonds and jaali means an ornamental lattice net. The design of the almond paste dough resembles the carved stone windows of the Nizam’s old palaces. These almond burfis, with old Mughal designs, were being made by two very dynamic ladies. The older of the two, Nafees, was carrying forward an old recipe, given to her many years ago by her mother- in-law.

– Dal in Vishakhapatnam:
My favourite dish in Vishakhapatnam, among the many, was the dal, which had gongura leaves in it. The leaves are like wild spinach and are from the hibiscus family. They are slightly tangy and bitter. Gongura chutney is now popular all over India. The North Indians like making dal palak, similar to dal gongura in Andhra.

– Sunga Kukura in Assam:
Chicken cooked in a hollow bamboo, also called Sunga Kukura. The chicken is marinated with fresh turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander, fermented bamboo shoot water, and fermented bamboo shoots and is then stuffed into the bamboo shoot and sealed using a fresh turmeric leaf. The shoot is then put in the fire, standing up, to cook for about 40 minutes.

2) Tell us a ‘Saransh Goila’ version of a few dishes you tried and would want to experiment with
– Beetroot Halwa was one of the most amazing desserts that I had on the journey and I would present it in a slightly prettier format. ”Beetroot Halwa quenelles on Saffron toast with pistachip rabri and chocolate almonds.”

– Learnt the traditional Biryani in Hyderabad. Just so vegetarians don’t feel left out, I created the ”Gobhi Mussalam Biryani.” A medium sized cauliflower gives it that weight a vegetarian would appreciate. Also yum!

– Kheer was amazing in Karnal – made with fresh milk from cows. My favourite ingredient is Chocolate – so I made a ”Chocolate Kheer” out of it.

”Kuliya ki Chaat” – A popular chaat in UP is a very innovative dish. These are vegetable and fruit buckets that are stuffed with fruits and lemon juice. I chose to stuff it with my version of chaat and take it a notch above.

3) Can you tell us about the different kinds of people you came across
India changes every 200 kms. People, food, language, festivals, fashion and more – every aspect is unique. To recall a few  –

– I made my way to the house of Nawab Masood Mir Abdullah, last of the Nawabi lineage of Awadh, who had invited me to celebrate Bakra Eid with him. Nawab Abdullah was present in his house with his brother Nawab Jafar. With their typical Lakhnavi accent (a mix of Hindi and Urdu), they explained the reason behind the celebration of Bakra Eid to me. They were also dressed in chikan-embroidered kurtas for the occasion, with the customary taquiyah (an Urdu word for short-rounded skullcap) on their head.

– I met this incredible entrepreneur with a mobile kitchen who would wait every day for passers-by to get stuck in a jam at Rohtang Pass (en route to Leh). His mobile kitchen comprised of Indian chaat items like matra kulcha and more. He would sell 100 plates in a day just because of the traffic jam. It does need some business acumen and guts to do this! He has served food to people from at least 50 countries. Upon being asked about his venture, he said, ‘Sahab, I’ve served everyone, from Amreeka to Dilli and I feel blessed and thank God every day for this opportunity.’

– I met the fourth generation of Pandit Raja ki Mashoor Thandai. This gentleman had quite a formidable personality. Vinod Kumar Tripathi, a.k.a. Raja, literally meaning king in Hindi, met me at the front of the shop to introduce me to thandai. Before we could even begin the conversation, he said, the who’s who of the country had visited his shop.

– I wanted to know more about the culture of Puducherry and the people who lived there. That is how I met Kasha, at Surcoufe Street. It was a store with an attached café, run by local women and owned by an American lady called Kasha, who had settled in Puducherry nine years ago. The store sold handicrafts, jewellery and clothes, all made by local craftsmen and artisans.

– En route to Karnal, I got off the car and spoke to one of the truck drivers named Kartar Singh. He was wearing an old blue T-shirt and a lungi (sarong-like garment wrapped around the waist and extending to the ankles, usually worn by men) and with his curly hair and messy beard looked every bit like a regular truck driver. Kartar Singh explained that he was usually away from home for 11 months. Because of his job, he considered the roads his real home. After I had a word with him, Kartar immediately and very generously, offered to cook dal and rice for me.

4) What about the different cultures and traditions you came across
Like people this list is a long one too. Few of the special ones I can count on my fingertips are these –

– Sikkim:
In Sikkim – The most popular tribes are the Lepcha, the Sikkimese and Nepalese. I feel that one of the best ways to explore a culture is by attending a wedding and taking part in the ceremonies. Most of us have been to a Hindu, Muslim or even a Christian wedding, but attending a wedding in Sikkim is a rare affair. I had the pleasure of being invited to a khim gyapa, a Bhutia wedding. One of the main communities of Sikkim, the Bhutias are a matriarchal society. So, while I was at the residence of the bride, the groom arrived laden with gifts for the girl’s family. The boy’s family was greeted with silk scarves called kharas. Two kilograms of pork, a bottle of wine and cookies made of rice powder called zhedro were presented to the bride. I realized how food was such an important catalyst for cultures to express emotions and to celebrate special occasions.

– Jammu & Kashmir:
Jammu has a sizeable Dogri population and they are known for their cuisine, which has a distinct taste with local flavours. Mr. Mangotra, who has lived in Jammu all his life, had invited me to taste and learn the basics of Dogri cuisine. He explained, ‘The Dogris inhabit the hilly tract bounding the mountains of the Kashmir Valley on the south and extends to the plains of Punjab. They are descendants of the Aryan race and speak the Dogri language, a mixture of Sanskrit, Punjabi and Persian, whose origin goes back to the Indo-Aryan branch of Sanskrit.’ He also mentioned that Dogri people are fond of singing folk songs and are passionate about their art, culture and food.

In Kashmir (at Javed Bhai’s house – our host) I sat down on the floor with a group of four men – each facing the other. While explaining to us about Wazwan, Javed said, ‘Wazwan is a unique concept in which “waz” means the chef who has rare culinary skills passed on to him through generations. He is an artist who is passionately involved with his art and carries the great Kashmiri tradition within him, and “wan” is a shop with the abundant supplies of meats and delicacies.’ These meats are then used for detailed preparation of delicacies and presented traditionally to showcase the charm and nobility of Kashmiri cuisine. This meal is served on a big copper plate called trami containing the steamed rice on which the varieties of meat, that include methi korma, seekh kebab, tabakh maaz, zafrani murgh and daniphul, are beautifully placed dividing the trami into four, so that four people can eat from one plate itself to enhance the bond of brotherhood.

5) Traveling, they say, is the best teacher. Is there anything you learnt during these 100 days?
After traveling for 100 days by road and covering as many cities all over India, meeting different people and exploring local cuisines and recipes was not an easy job – but it definitely was a wonderful one. As I documented the diversity of Indian food and its regional cuisine, I had noticed that it changed every 200 kms. There is so much the world doesn’t know about India and its food, the whole idea of writing this book was a daunting thought. I now urge people to choose Varanasi before Venice, or Gujarat before Geneva, the next time they plan their holidays!

On the personal front, I realized that at the end of the day we are all simple people. We appreciate gestures that are human and basic. I also learnt that food is not a luxury, it is still a necessity but we just love it a little more now.

Chef Saransh cooking at Gurudwara Anandpur Sahib

Chef Saransh learning to ride a tractor in Amritsar

Pehalwan teaching Chef Saransh about almond milk

Celebrating Eid by cooking in Lucknow

Good luck Stupas post Rohtang Pass

Some peace and prayers in Krishna Mutt Udipi

5 Fun Facts about Lebanese Food

Chef Maher Omran, Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s Arabic Chef, recently conducted an exclusive ten-day festival, ‘With Love from Lebanon’ at Sofitel Mumbai’s Pondichéry Café. Food connoisseurs could pick from a wide selection of Chef Maher ‘s speciality dishes like Hummus, Falafel, Shawarma, Motabale (grilled smoked eggplant), Mouhammara (toasted whole nuts and tomato puree), Eggplant Musaka (oven roasted eggplant in tomato stew) and more.

With over a decade of experience in Lebanese cuisine and a unique gastronomy style, Chef Maher says, “The fact that Middle Eastern food is low on fat and uses plenty of fresh vegetables without compromising on flavors, accentuates its taste.”

With fresh herbs, spices, ingredients, mint, parsley, oregano, garlic, nutmeg, and cinnamon, Lebanese cuisine is light, delicious and is popular among gourmands all across the globe. Read on as he shares 5 fun facts about Lebanese food.

Chef Maher Omran

1. Lebanese salads often make use of ‘Samak Powder’ in dressings. Instead of lemons, or any other citrus, this is the element that adds the sour note to dressings.2. Vegetables and certain fruits such as prunes and apricots, are often sun-dried and stored to be used in the future, during the off seasons, when they are not as abundant. They are often served in between courses as palate cleansers.

3. There are no short-cuts in Lebanese cooking. For a delicate cuisine, the ingredients are prepared with as much time as they require and often sees methods such as braising. For instance, hummus preparation requires the chickpeas to be soaked in water overnight.

4. The cuisine makes use of a lot of preserves such as olives, preserved wine leaves and pickles, thereby imparting a distinct flavor to the cuisine.

5. Non-vegetarian dishes often use raw meat, such as raw lamb loins. However, this is not ideal for restaurant kitchen environments, as the freshness of the meat cannot be determined. Dishes such as “Kibbeh Nieh” (a kind of Beef Tartar) are generally seen only in home cooking.

Hummus

Babaganouj

Salad

Seafood Tajine

In Conversation with Pooja Dhingra

Pooja Dhingra, popularly known as the ‘Macaron Lady,’ is the owner of the famous French-style dessert paradise, Le 15 Patisserie. A Le Cordon Bleu graduate, Pooja introduced the city of Mumbai to her delicious macarons at the age of 22 thus providing us with a taste of Paris in the city. One bite into her first macaron and she knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. She firmly believed in what she loved and made her passion her profession. Her desserts are popular among Bollywood celebrities, socialites and the who’s-who of the city. She is not only known for her macarons but is also famous for her delicious cupcakes, cakes, choux pastries, tarts and Nutella brownies.

A quote I once read –  ‘Do it with passion or not at all,’ applies so perfectly to Pooja. She inspires me and many other 25 year old’s, each day to do what we love most. Read on as she talks about her favorite quote, the best and weirdest dessert she’s ever tried and more.

Pooja Dhingra

1. Describe Le 15 Patisserie in 5 words
Happy, Love, Delicious, Pretty and Fashionable

2. If you had a dream macaron, how would it look and what would it taste like?
A Giant macaron, layered with dark chocolate, caramel and passion fruit

3. Your most favorite dessert in the world
Anything with dark chocolate!

4. If you had to describe yourself as a cupcake, which one would you be and why?
A red velvet – happy, sweet and bright

5. The weirdest dessert you have ever tasted
A blue cheese and mushroom chocolate fondant

6. Mumbai or Paris – which city do you love more?
Mumbai

7. What’s your definition of success? What three things do you need to be successful in your field? What are deal killers for you?
To me, success is achieving the goals you set out for yourself. You must be passionate, dedicated and patient. Deal killers are people who don’t respect your time.

8. Where do you see Le 15 Patisserie 10 years from now?
All over the world 🙂

9. A quote that inspires you the most
This too shall pass. It reminds me that it doesn’t matter what phase of life you’re in – it can be hard or happy, it will pass. It encourages me to live in the moment.

10. If you had to give some advice to a 20 year old Pooja, what would it be?
I would tell her to not be afraid and to always dream big.

Happiness in a Box at Le 15 Patisserie

Macaroons – Made with love

Red Velvet Cupcake at Le 15 Patisserie

Choux Pastries at Le 15 Pattiserie