Udupi Sambar| Bangalore Hotel Sambar| Tiffin Sambar

I am a big fan of the sweetish sambar that is served with vada, dosa and idli here in several Bangalore eateries. Having been brought up in Gujarat, the tinge of sweetness in the sambar appealed to me,  and I fell in love with it the very first time I tried it out after shifting to Bangalore. It was much later that I got to know that this sweetish sambar originated in Udupi, a small city in the Karnataka, which is also famous for a number of other delicacies.

When the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group chose ‘Recipes from Udupi’ as the theme this week, I thought it was only fitting that I write about this sambar that I so love. This is a recipe I have tried several times over, failed at, and then perfected. The secret, I’ve realised, is in grinding the sambar powder fresh, in very little batches, and grinding it well. If that is taken care of, and the toor daal is cooked nice and soft, this recipe (which I learnt from my aunt, BTW), works like a charm.

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So, here’s presenting the recipe for Udupi sambar aka Bangalore hotel sambar or tiffin sambar.

Ingredients:

For the sambar powder:

  1. 2 tablespoons chana daal
  2. 1 tablespoon urad daal
  3. 1 teaspoon cumin (jeera)
  4. 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
  5. 4-5 dry red chillies, or as per taste
  6. 2 tablespoons coriander seeds (dhania)
  7. A 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon
  8. 2 tablespoons fresh grated coconut
  9. 1 teaspoon oil

Veggies:

  1. 8-10 fresh curry leaves
  2. 1 medium-sized carrot
  3. A handful of shelled green peas
  4. 2 small-sized onions
  5. 1 medium-sized ripe tomato
  6. A few sprigs of fresh coriander leaves

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 teaspoon oil
  2. Red chilli powder, to taste
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. Jaggery powder, to taste
  5. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  7. A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  8. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  9. 1/4 cup toor daal

Method:

First, we will get the spice powder ready.

  1. Heat the 1 teaspoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.
  2. Reduce flame, and add in the chana daal, urad daal, coriander seeds, fenugreek, dried red chillies and cumin. Roast on medium flame till the daals turn brownish in colour and begin to emit a nice fragrance. Stir constantly, and take care not to burn the ingredients. The roasting should take 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add in the grated coconut. Mix well. Roast on medium flame for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Ensure that none of the ingredients get burnt.
  4. Transfer the roasted ingredients to a plate. Let them cool down completely.
  5. When the roasted ingredients have cooled down fully, grind to a fine powder in a mixer. Keep aside.

Now, we will boil the toor daal.

  1. Wash the toor daal a couple of times in running water. Drain out all the water.
  2. Take the toor daal in a wide vessel, and add in just enough water to cover it.
  3. Pressure cook the toor daal for 4-5 whistles. It should turn very mushy.
  4. When the pressure has gone down completely, mash the cooked toor daal. Keep aside.

Now, we will prep the tamarind.

  1. Place the tamarind in a little vessel and add a bit of water. Place on medium flame.
  2. Let the water come to a boil, and switch off gas.
  3. Let the tamarind soak in the boiling water till it is cool enough to handle.
  4. Then, extract a thick juice from the tamarind, adding a little more water. Keep the extract aside and discarded the used tamarind.

Now, we will go on to prep the veggies you will need to make the sambar.

  1. Chop the onions length-wise or finely, as you prefer. Keep aside.
  2. Peel the carrot and chop into batons or cubes, as you prefer. Keep aside.
  3. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces. Keep aside.
  4. Keep the shelled green peas and curry leaves handy.
  5. Chop the coriander finely, along with the stalks. Keep aside.

Proceed to make the sambar now.

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in the same pan you used to roast the spices. Add the mustard, and allow it to splutter.
  2. Add the asafoetida and the curry leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  3. Add the chopped onions. Saute on medium flame for a couple of minutes, or until they turn brownish.
  4. Add the green peas and the carrot. Cook on medium flame, till the carrots are done. Sprinkle some water at regular intervals, if needed.
  5. Now, add the chopped tomatoes and the tamarind water. Cook on medium flame till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away, and the tomatoes turn slightly mushy.
  6. Add the cooked toor daal and 2 tablespoons of the sambar powder (or to taste) we made earlier. Also, add 1 cup water, salt, jaggery and red chilli powder to taste, as well as the turmeric powder. Mix well.
  7. Cook on medium flame till the sambar comes to a boil. Then, lower flame further and let the sambar simmer for a couple of minutes more. Taste and adjust spices/salt if needed. Switch off gas.
  8.  Mix in finely chopped coriander leaves.
  9. Serve hot with idlis, vada or dosas.

Notes:

1. I used the veggies that I had on hand. You can use any other veggies you want to. White pumpkin, capsicum and brinjals are some vegetables that go well in this sambar.

2. A Karnataka-special type of dried red chillies called Bydagi are usually added to the sambar in hotels, which is what gives it a deep brown colour. The colour of my sambar is different because I have used ordinary dried red chillies. The Bydagi does not have much heat, so if you plan to use them, you might want to mix them with some other variety of hot dried red chillies.

3. Dried coconut can be substituted for fresh grated coconut, in the spice mix.

4. I used refined oil to make the sambar. Using coconut oil instead would add in a lot more flavour.

5. Leave out the cinnamon from the spice mix, if you want to. I personally like it.

6. The jaggery is optional – add it only if you want to. In Karnataka hotels, jaggery is very much present, though.

7. If your dried red chillies are spicy enough, you can skip the red chilli powder.

8. Ensure that the spice powder is ground well and that the toor daal is well boiled and mushy, for best results.

9. The above measurements yields about 1/2 cup of sambar powder. The sambar, as stated above, needs only about 2 tablespoons of the powder. Store the rest in a clean, dry, air-tight box and use within 7 days or so. This sambar powder is best used fresh.

10. Use more toor daal if you want a thicker sambar. 1/4 cup of toor daal works out just perfect for us.

11. Some people add a few black peppercorns to the spice mix. I usually avoid that.

You like? I hope you will try out this Udupi sambar aka Bangalore hotel sambar or tiffin sambar, and that you will love it, too!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Recipes from Udupi’.

 

 

 

 

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Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us Comes To Bangalore!

Renowned international toy brand Toys’R’Us made an entry into India last Saturday. The brand launched its very first outlet in India in Bangalore, at the Phoenix Marketcity mall in Whitefield. I was thrilled to be invited to the launch with the husband and the bub – a grand affair, with a number of fun activities for kids and adults alike arranged all day long.

The Bangalore outlet has two sections – Toys’R’Us, which stocks an unimaginable array of toys meant for children up to 11 years of age, and Babies’R’Us, which offers everything related to infants, from clothes and diapers and formula to breast pumps, potty seats, high chairs and princess beds.

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The entrance to Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us at VR Bengaluru, beautifully decked up for the launch

The store is huge, huge, huge and the three of us had a gala time walking through the aisles. We admired this and that, reminisced over the times when the bub was a little babe we could carry in the palms of our hands, had a fun time watching the magician’s performance, wishlisted a number of toys for the bub (and me, of course!), and even bought an early birthday present for the kiddo.

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Some of the stuff I loved at the store – a doll with a darkish skin tone; a doll that eats, drinks, poops and pees (yes!); the huge range of moisturisers for babies and moms alike; cutesy bows and hairbands on sale; a mermaid doll; and a pink princess bed that was straight out of a fairytale

There are a whole lot of toys available to the kids of today, I realise, a lot more opportunities to create memories and happy moments, for better or worse. Yes, there are a lot of toys and appliances that aren’t really necessary for the healthy upbringing of a child, and neither do they really help the child in any way. That said, there are a whole lot of toys out there that not only help keep a child engaged, but also help in developing creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and decision making, aid eye-hand co-ordination, and help in the development of motor skills. As a parent or a loved one, I think it is you who need to choose wisely, select the right kind of toys for a child. A walk through stores like Toys’R’Us act as an eye-opener to all that is available to a child today, allowing you to make an informed decision.

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More stuff off the shelves of the store – baby hand-print kits; travel pillows; feeding bottles by Dr, Brown’s (a brand that isn’t easy to come across in India); and cute, cute, cute clothes

I love how the store has a huge array of products for infants, toddlers and children, at different price points, from both Indian and international vendors. There’s something here for everyone, I am sure. You just need to take your time checking out different things and choosing what works for you.

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Some more stuff that caught my eye at the store – a Freddie the Firefly high chair toy; Superbottoms cloth diapers; a little piano; and a baby-proofing kit

Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us plans to open more stores in India in the near future, at Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai.

If you are in Bangalore, you must surely visit this pretty store!

This post is in collaboration with Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us. The views expressed herein are entirely mine, not influenced by anything or anyone, and completely honest.

 

PinStove: Home-Cooked Food At Your Doorstep

Imagine this situation.

You’ve been quite busy. Now, you are extremely tired and stressed out. Or you are unwell. And hungry. You are in no mood to cook, but you want something warm and nice to eat. What would you do? Order in from the nearest restaurant?

How would you feel if someone offered you comforting home-cooked food then? That is precisely where PinStove comes in.

What is PinStove?

PinStove, a very new entry in the foodie world in Bangalore, is a food delivery app with a difference. They offer doorstep delivery of fresh, home-cooked food at a nominal delivery charge. You get to choose the dishes you want to order, from any of the home cooks in your immediate surroundings.

How does PinStove work?

PinStove works on building relationships with home cooks across Bangalore (and Trivandrum, the only other place where these services are available, as of now). These home cooks can display the food they want to sell on the PinStove app, which are usually available at very reasonable rates. Main course for lunch and dinner, snacks, desserts, breakfast as well as bakery items are on offer on PinStove.

As a user, this is what you need to do, to order from PinStove:

  1. Download the app on your phone.
  2. Set your location.
  3. The home cooks in their network in your vicinity will show up. Choose the chef you want to work with and the food you would like delivered.
  4. Confirm the order. At a flat rate of INR 35, you can get the home-cooked food of your choice delivered to your home. You will be shown the approximate time it would take for the food to reach your place. You also have the option of pre-booking your meal.

My experience with PinStove

I ordered food twice from PinStove, from two different home chefs, at two different times.

The first time, I ordered lunch – phulka rotis, mutter paneer, corn pulao and sheera. All the food was delivered piping hot to our place, well packed, well within the specified time limit.

The phulkas were a tad thicker than the ones we are used to, but still, definitely not bad. The mutter paneer was a little watery, but the taste was lovely. The corn pulao was beautiful, very well done. The curd that accompanied the pulao was thick, but a tad sour. The sheera was lovely, both in looks and taste, garnished with dry fruits and nuts and dried coconut flakes.

The food was definitely homely, a far cry from the greasy, creamy stuff you get in restaurants usually.

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Left: The lunch that we ordered from PinStove, the first time; Right: That’s what the phulka rotis, curd, mutter paneer, corn pulao and sheera looked like

The second time over, I ordered some evening snacks – onion pakoras and sabudana khichdi. By the time the food reached my place, some of the packages had opened, food had spilt and gotten mixed up. The sabudana khichdi had been packed while really hot, and had got congealed into one big mass. We could salvage only very little food from that order – a real bummer when you are hungry and tired.

There were issues with the packaging, maybe, or the food got jolted a bit too much during the delivery – I am not sure. I wish such issues are resolved.

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The food that arrived all mixed up, the second time around

My thoughts about PinStove

  1. The app is a little cumbersome to use. I had to fidget with it to place an order initially, but then I got the hang of it. That could be because the platform is very new. In time, I hope the interface is worked upon to become more user-friendly.
  2. There are very few home cooks I could see tied up with PinStove in my vicinity. I am guessing that with time, as more chefs get on board, customers would have a lot more to choose from.
  3. I really loved the concept of PinStove, and I think it would be a boon to health-conscious individuals who are in a time crunch. Using PinStove also means supporting home chefs, giving them a respectable identity, helping them earn some extra bucks, which I love.
  4. Both the times we ordered from PinStove, the delivery was within the specified time limit. The food was delivered piping hot.
  5. The first time I ordered from PinStove, the food was really well packed and arrived home in perfect condition.  The second time around, our experience wasn’t all that great. That said, I believe this is something that can happen while ordering from anywhere, restaurants included. I would still love to order from them, because I love the concept of getting home-cooked food delivered at my doorstep.
  6. The food is usually delivered in plastic containers, as is usually the case with home delivery of food. I understand this is for ease of packaging and transit, as well as budget factors, but it would be great if PinStove could introduce eco-friendly packaging as well. I’m not sure if that would work out within the price range they offer, but one can hope, can’t they?
  7. I found the price of the food to be quite reasonable. The first order cost about INR 400 and the second one INR 170, both including delivery charges.

So, the next time you are hungry and unable to cook at home, you know where to turn to! Do try out PinStove!

I was approached by PinStove for an honest review about the app, and that is exactly what this is. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own, not influenced by anything or anyone.

Kapoor & Daughters, Now At HSR Layout

The HSR Layout outlet of Kapoor’s Cafe  now has a beautiful new addition – a one-stop bridal shop! Here’s introducing Kapoor & Daughters!

This new store will stock dresses for to-be brides and their near and dear ones, all designed by Mukulika Kapoor, wife of Kapoor’s Cafe owner Arpit Kapoor. The garments are stitched in-house, some lovely statement pieces included.

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Left: Mukulika Kapoor, showcasing an embroidered saree from her collection; Centre: Some of the pieces on sale at Kapoor & Daughters; Right: A gorgeous red bridal lehenga at Kapoor & Daughters

In time, there’ll be jewellery and footwear on sale too. Customisation facilities are available as well.

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Left, Centre, Right: Some of the statement pieces on sale at Kapoor & Daughters

Kapoor & Daughters officially launched recently, to drumrolls and much fanfare, and I was thrilled to be a part of the grand opening.

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The dhol wallahs at the grand opening of Kapoor & Daughters, HSR Layout

All ye brides to be, take note! Now, you can shop till you drop here, and then eat your heart out at the upstairs all-vegetarian Punjabi eatery!

Lunch At Misu: An Extremely Satisfying Affair

Considering our love for Pan-Asian food, the husband and I had been eagerly waiting for a chance to visit Misu on St. Marks Road. The place had been on my must-check-out list ever since it opened up, recently. Rave reviews of the food here by several food bloggers ignited the fire further. We decided to descend upon Misu one weekend, for lunch, and were not one bit disappointed. We absolutely loved the food we had here!

Ambience

The vibe at Misu is nice, warm and welcoming. The eatery is medium-sized, neither too cavernous nor too tiny.
The decor is simple and elegant. The mirrors on the ceiling, the long windows letting in the sunlight, a mural of a lady holding a fan across her face – everything adds to the charm of the place.
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Left: A view of the interiors at Misu; Right: A close-up of the lady with the fan, whom I loved
We found the seating here to be comfortable.

Cuisine

Misu serves Pan-Asian food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. There are plenty of options on the menu for both varieties of patrons.

The food and drink

Most reviews of Misu mention their Rainbow Dumplings – colourful, pretty, bright, happy little things. I love the look of them, and so the vegetarian version of these dumplings were the first thing we ordered here. The dumplings came to our table looking pretty as ever, but sadly, they weren’t really our cup of tea. We weren’t bowled over by them. The bok choy stuffing within was something that failed to excite our tastebuds.
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Left: Fried Turnip Cake; Right: Vegetarian Rainbow Dumplings, both at Misu

The Fried Turnip Cake that we ordered next was brilliant, and we absolutely loved it. Never would I have thought that something with turnip in it could be as beautiful in taste as this savoury cake was. The balance of sweet and sour and spicy was just perfect in this dish.

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Left: Sweet Lemonade; Centre: Virgin Mojito; Right: Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup, all at Misu

To go with the starters, we ordered a Sweet Lemonade (without soda) and a Virgin Mojito. We loved the Virgin Mojito, and felt it was very well done. The Sweet Lemonade was good too – not extraordinary, but not bad either.

The Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup that we ordered next was absolutely lovely. It was just perfect, neither too watery, nor too thick, very different from the watered-down stuff you get in the name of Tom Yum Soup in most Asian eateries.

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Left: Vegetarian Khao Suey at Misu; Right: Assorted pickles and dips we were offered at Misu

Next up, we ordered some Khao Suey, which was, again, just perfect. The coconut milk broth was extremely flavourful, and we loved it to bits.

Most Asian restaurants bring you the Khao Suey in a bowl, all ready. Quite unlike that, at Misu, the various components of the Khao Suey are brought to your table – the broth, the peanuts, the veggies and the noodles – and you get to mix them up just the way you would like. That is something that initially overwhelmed us, but an experience that we came to love eventually.
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Left: Mango With Sticky Rice; Right: Chocolate-Chilli Truffles, both at Misu

We were presented with some Chocolate-Chilli Truffles post this, something that isn’t on their regular menu, but only offered to diners on a complimentary basis. They were brilliant too, so very well done. We loved everything about these truffles – the Bournvita-and-sugar-coated exterior, the gooey chocolate interior, the hint of bitterness, the beautiful fragrance of good-quality chocolate, the chilli that kicked in after the sweet taste of the chocolate had almost left our tastebuds! Yum!

We also ordered Mango With Sticky Rice, which was lovely too. It was simple and elegant, mild but delish, the way it is supposed to be.

Service

Service was quite fast, we felt. We reached Misu just a bit before lunch hours closed, and everything we ordered arrived at our table super fast. The staff was courteous, polite and helpful.

Prices

The prices here are on the higher side. We paid about INR 2500 for this meal – high, but we are definitely not complaining about the quality or taste of the food here or the experience we had. We’d definitely love to come back here to sample more of the Pan-Asian delicacies on their menu.

Have you been to Misu yet? If so, how was your experience? What are your favourites on their menu?

Making Modaks With Chef Kunal Kapur, At The Masterclass By Whirlpool Built-In Appliances

Last weekend, a day after Ganesh Chaturthi, I was at the Something’s Cooking Culinary Studio, making modaks. These were no ordinary modaks, let me tell you, but very unique savoury ones, stuffed with a salty onion-garlic-green chilly-coconut filling. These modaks were later plated in a sea of coconut milk moilee sauce, and served with a dab of kokum foam on top. I, along with a bunch of other food bloggers, was attending a Masterclass with celebrated Chef Kunal Kapur, organised by Whirlpool Built-In Appliances. These modaks were specially innovated by him, for the class.

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Food bloggers and foodies discussing the menu, with Chef Kunal Kapur

Food bloggers as well as foodies from different walks of life were present at the Masterclass, and were divided into teams on the basis of their dietary preferences. All of us, together, cooked. The aim was for us to experience Whirlpool’s built-in kitchen systems and a whole host of kitchen appliances, using them to cook a special menu designed by Chef Kapur for the occasion.

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Some scenes from the culinary Masterclass by Chef Kunal Kapur

The event was also a means to commemorate the second anniversary of Haute Kitchen, am experiential centre for Whirlpool’s built-in appliances in Koramangala, Bangalore.

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Left and Centre: Two different teams, busily and happily cooking; Top right: The fancy-schmancy modaks that our team prepared; Bottom right: The ande ka halwa that our team prepared

I was in the ‘eggs only in desserts’ team and, together, we followed the instructions on the menu to cook up these unique savoury modaks. We were taught how to make foam that would stick to a spoon when inverted, instead of falling off, using kokum – a basic molecular gastronomy trick using soy lecithin. This foam, we used to deck up our savoury modaks with. We also made ande ka halwa, an egg-based sweet dish, which is, apparently an old Hyderabadi recipe. The other teams made a non-vegetarian version of the modaks, using prawns and fish. As we cooked, Chef Kapur demonstrated the making of the prawn-and-fish modaks.

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Left and centre: Chef Kunal Kapur demonstrating the preparation of the prawns-and-fish modak at the Masterclass; Right: The beautifully presented non-vegetarian modak prepared by Chef Kunal Kapur

All in all, a fun time was had by everyone, and much learning happened. I know for sure that I am surely going to prepare these modaks again, at home.

Thank you, Team Whirlpool India and Something’s Cooking Culinary Studio, for making this possible!

About Whirlpool’s Built-In Kitchen Appliances

Whirlpool has introduced a host of smart built-in products with European design and functionality. These products – from coffee machines and hoods to built-in dishwashers and refrigerators to stackable washers and dryers – are highly versatile and technologically advanced, at the same time being very innovative and stylish. Whirlpool built-in appliances feature the advanced 6TH SENSE Technology, which intuitively senses all your needs and adapts to your culinary techniques. In other words, the appliances contain intelligent sensors and features that orchestrates the entire cooking process, observes the energy output, adjusts the cooking time, and keeps everything in your control.

At the Whirlpool Haute Kitchen (No. 11, 3rd Main, 80-feet road, K.R Garden, 8th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore – 560095), you can ask for a demonstration of various built-in kitchen appliances.

About Something’s Cooking Culinary Studio

Something’s Cooking Culinary Studio is a place that believes in bringing people together through the power of cooking. Cooking classes, workshops, corporate team events and blogger events are just some examples of all the fun stuff that happens here. The studio is located at 580, Aswan Plaza, 20th Main, 8th Block , Koramangala Ganapathi Temple Road, Bangalore – 560095.

The Husband’s Birthday Lunch At Farzi Cafe: An Underwhelming Affair

Farzi Cafe had always been on my list of eateries to visit in Bangalore, thanks to a number of blog posts I have read praising the place. I was in awe of the very innovative ways in which the cafe presents its food. So, it was Farzi Cafe in UB City that we chose to celebrate the husband’s birthday recently, and headed to for lunch. True to the reviews that we had read, the cafe did dish up food in very different ways, but we, sadly, ended up underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Ambience and decor

Located in the posh UB City, Farzi Cafe has an ambience that I would call ‘buzzing’. The eatery was teeming with people when we visited, and most of the ample seating area was occupied. Thankfully, though, we didn’t have to wait for long for a table to open up.

The seating was quite uncomfortable, we felt, a fact that has been pointed out in several Zomato reviews. The place tends to get quite noisy too (something we noted during our lunch, and on several past visits to UB City), so it is definitely not somewhere you visit if you want to have an uninterrupted conversation.

Cuisine

Farzi Cafe has a varied and extensive menu, including Indian as well as fusion dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The eatery is known for its off-beat take on popular foods as well as innovative presentation styles.

The food and drinks

First up, we ordered the Mac N Cheese, served not the usual way, but in the form of deep-fried balls. The taste was strictly okay.

The Orange OK, an orange-based mocktail, that we ordered was just average too.

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Left: Orange OK, Centre: Mac N Cheese; Right: The complimentary Mishti Doi Shots

The Vada Paav we ordered next – paav inside the vada, and vada outside the paav, deep-fried – was presented beautifully, but, again, we found it just okay taste-wise.

For main course, we ordered their English Paav Bhaji, paav bhaji made with ‘English’ vegetables and served with foccaccia instead of the paav that usually comes with it. Presentation-wise, it was terrific, and the taste was definitely not bad, but we didn’t find it really out of the ordinary. I typically use all sorts of veggies to make paav bhaji at home, and this was the same.

We were offered a complimentary tamarind palate cleanser in between the two courses, with great fanfare, the sticks plucked out of a large white ceramic tree. It was okay, and I’m not complaining about that either.

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Left: Vada Paav, Centre: The tamarind palate cleanser offered complimentary in between courses; Right: English paav bhaji

The Rasmalai Tres Leches Cake that we ordered next was good. The presentation was good, and the taste was good, too.

We were given some complimentary mishti doi shots, which we loved. The paan (cotton candy shells filled with dehydrated paan mix) was good, too.

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Left: Rasmalai Tres Leches cake; Centre: The complimentary paan; Right: The typewriter in which our bill was presented to us!

Service

We found the service to be okay – the staff was polite and courteous, but they took ages to bring each dish to the table. It wasn’t really a problem, because we did want to have a leisurely meal.

Prices

We felt the food to be quite expensive here – like everything else in UB City is. We paid INR 2500 for this meal.

In hindsight…

We felt more than a bit underwhelmed by this birthday lunch at Farzi Cafe, a fact that is as sad as it gets. Overall, I guess, we had built up too much of expectation thanks to all those rave blog reviews, and those didn’t match up to the reality. Maybe, we are purists who don’t like their food to be tampered with too much. Maybe, we just didn’t choose the right dishes. Maybe, it just wasn’t our day – we kept feeling like the lunch we had had here wasn’t a hearty affair. Maybe, this is the sort of place where presentation is key, and that isn’t always the lookout for us.

I’m confused about whether I should give this place another go or not.

It’s Falooda Time At #SwensensIndia!

#swensensindia #faloodaevent

What do you think of when you think of falooda?

I think of glasses filled with pink, pink, pink milk lined up on a street-side cart, vermicelli and chia seeds swirling around in it. I think of people grabbing these glasses with sweaty hands. I think of them gulping all of it down in one go, an attempt to sate their parched throats on a hot summer’s day as well as to placate rumbling tummies with the cool, sweet, rose-laden drink.

When I encountered the falooda at Swensens, at a recent event for food bloggers, it both matched and did not match the picture in my head. The event aimed to familiarise us with the latest introduction on the Swensens (India) menu – the falooda – or, rather, the chain’s version of it. We also met Director – Swensens (India), Mr. Pinaki Mukherjee, who talked to us about the salient features of this  falooda.

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Left: Mr. Mukherjee talking to the food bloggers about the Swensens falooda; Right: The three versions of the Swensens falooda (small, medium and large) that are currently available

The Swensens version of this dessert is classy and beautiful, all jazzed up, as against the street-side version. It is made with quality ingredients, all the little things that have always comprised the falooda. It is just as cool and refreshing, too. The rose and the vermicelli are there, but no chia seeds or milk. I would say it is Swensens’ attempt to recreate the falooda, without deviating entirely from the way the drink originally tastes.

At the event, we were shown how the Swensens falooda is made – layer by layer by layer. Each layer is built to give a different taste, a different feeling, to the eater. We watched in wonder as waffles (crushed and whole), rose syrup, saffron syrup, saffron-flavoured ice cream, broken cashewnuts, saffron-flavoured vermicelli, rose petals and the signature Swensens cherry all went into the making of the falooda.

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Left: The Swensens falooda, standing tall and pretty; Centre and Right: The team demonstrating the various steps in the making of the Swensens falooda

Mr. Mukherjee told us of how each ingredient used in the falooda is sourced with great care and caution, to ensure good quality and consistent taste. The Maraschino cherries that are a part of all Swensens ice creams come from a farm in the US of A – apparently, the entire crop of the farm is booked by Swensens in advance, every year. Similarly, the roses and saffron (for the rose and saffron syrups used in the falooda) comes from select fields in India. Also, the vermicelli used herein is cooked fresh every morning, infused with saffron, unlike the plain vermicelli commonly found in falooda elsewhere.

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Isn’t she pretty?!

I’m not a big fan of falooda, I admit. I never have been. This version of the falooda did win me over, though. I liked the way it tasted, each layer contributing towards the delectable taste of the whole. I love the fact that Swensens offers the falooda in small, medium and large sizes, so patrons can choose the exact quantity they would like to have. The large size is like a complete meal in itself!

This is definitely one dessert that I would love to have again, if I can look past the Sticky Chewy Chocolate Fantasy that grabs my fancy every single time I enter Swensens!

Why don’t you go ahead and try out this pretty and delicious dessert, too?

  • Where?: At all Swensens outlets
  • When?: Limited edition for about 3 months, ongoing now
  • Price?: INR 99 for the small (Happy Falooda), INR 149 for the medium (Carnival Falooda), and INR 229 for the large (Crispy Crunchy Falooda)

I was invited to sample the product, and to share my feedback about the same. The views expressed herein are entirely honest and my own, not influenced by anything or anyone.

Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs, Day 2: How To Cook With Millets

If Day 1 of the Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs was enlightening, Day 2 was even more so. Day 2 was when all participants couldn’t take their eyes off stage, when they watched goggle-eyed the magic being spun before them, riveted to their seats. Day 2 was as full of practical sessions as Day 1 was of technical ones, with a number of chefs coming up on stage to demonstrate all the delicacies that can be cooked using millets.

The point was to prove just how versatile millets are, how they can lend themselves to a variety of dishes, Indian and international, healthy and not-so-healthy, simple and five-star-menu worthy, sweet and savoury, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Together, I think, the chefs more than proved this!

Here is an overview of Day 2 of the workshop, for your viewing and reading pleasure. I think I’ll mostly let the pictures of the food do the talking – that left all of us speechless, for sure!

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Day 2 began with Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, Honourable Minister of Agriculture for the state of Karnataka, addressing those present. In his speech, he recapped most of what was discussed on the first day – enunciating how exactly millets are good for you, for the farmers, and for the environment as well.

(Check out my detailed post about the key take-aways on Day 1!)

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Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, in his inaugural address on Day 2

Then, Dr. Bhaskarachary of the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad, came up on stage to talk about the role of millets in today’s society. He talked at length about how the inclusion of millets would go a long way towards creating a balanced diet, as opposed to the wheat- or rice-heavy diets that most people these days seem to use. He spoke of how the high nutritional value of millets is not something that we should miss out on, especially now, when lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are on the rise. Dr. Bhaskarachary also stressed on the role of chefs, dieticians, home cooks and food bloggers to spread the right information about millets, and to encourage more people to include them in their diets.

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Dr. Bhaskarachary addressing the participants of the workshop

After this, some heavy-duty action began on stage! It was the turn of chefs from all over Bangalore to showcase their delectable millet confections!

Chef Ramaswamy Selvaraju, Executive Chef of Vivanta By Taj, Bangalore, went first. He demonstrated how to make a beautiful Spinach-Stuffed Millet Ravioli With Primavera Sauce, as well as some Pan-Seared Chicken With Millet Stew And Sauternes Sauce and Smoked Chicken And Baby Pineapple Salad With Crispy Foxtail Millet.

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Left: Chef Selvaraju demonstrating his recipes; Right: Top – Spinach-Stuffed Millet Ravioli With Primavera Sauce, Centre – Pan-Seared Chicken With Millet Stew And Sauternes Sauce

Next, Ms. Vani Anamdas, Manager – Housing & Food Services, International Crops Research Institute For The Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, came up on stage. Her team demonstrated the making of Finger Millet Cake With Hot Garlic Sauce, Millet Manchurian, and Millet Kashmiri Kofta In Palak Gravy.

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Left: Ms. Vani Anamdas addressing the participants; Centre: Top – Finger Millet Cake With Hot Garlic Sauce, Bottom: Millet Manchurian With Gravy; Right: Top – Millet Kashmiri Kofta In Palak Gravy, Bottom – Dry Millet Manchurian

Ms. Anamdas’s team from ICRISAT also went on to demonstrate how to make Ragi Shots, Sorghum Stuffed Kulcha, Millet Waffles, Ragi Banana Bread, and Sorghum Flakes-Fried Chicken.

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Top left: Ms. Vani Anamdas’s team demonstrating millet-based recipes; Bottom left: Sorghum Flakes-Fried Chicken; Adjacent to bottom left: Ragi Banana Bread; Bottom right: Millet Waffle; Top of bottom right: Sorghum Stuffed Kulcha; Top right: Ragi Shots

Post this, Chef Nagarekha Palli of Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences (RUAS) came up on stage to demonstrate two more millet-based recipes – Foxtail Millet Crisps With Millet Sprouts and Smoked Kodo Millet Kabab With Yogurt Dip. She also demonstrated how to get millets to sprout beautifully into long, delicate, green shoots, over a period of four or five days.

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Left: Chef Nagarekha Palli demonstrating on stage; Centre: Foxtail Millet Crisps With Millet Sprouts; Right: Smoked Kodo Millet Kabab With Yogurt Dip

Chef Shyam Prasad of RUAS then came up on stage to show the audience how to make Millet Paella (yes, you read that right!) and Finger Millet Tacos.

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Left: Chef Shyam Prasad demonstrating his dishes; Centre: Millet Paella; Right: Finger Millet Tacos

Chef Shashi Sharma of RUAS then showed everyone the method of preparation of his Millet Paneer And Spinach Tikki and Millet Chicken Risotto.

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Left: Chef Shashi Sharma on stage; Centre: Millet Paneer And Spinach Tikki; Right: Millet Chicken Risotto

After this, Chef Sridhar Krishnan of RUAS demonstrated how to make two beautiful, beautiful, beautiful millet-based desserts – Greek Yogurt Cake With Citrus Glaze and Toffee Chocolate Tart.

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Left: Chef Sridhar Krishnan on stage; Centre: Greek Yogurt Cake With Citrus Glaze; Right: Toffee Chocolate Tart

Day 2 of the workshop concluded with a panel discussion, where participants could ask relevant questions to the experts on stage. The experts included Chef Shashi Sharma, Chef Shyam Kumar, Chef Sridhar Krishnan, food blogger Ruth D’Souza Prabhu of the Bangalore’s Restaurants fame,  Chef Nagarekha Palli, Chef Vani Anamdas, and the Joint Director of Agriculture, Mr. Jayaswamy.

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The experts on stage, for the panel discussion

Key take-aways from Day 2 of the workshop

~ Millets can be used to cook a huge variety of dishes, ranging from traditional Indian fare to the highly exotic. And millet-based food can look great, too!

~ Millets can be used to create healthy dishes as well as junk food like manchurian and calorie-heavy dishes like cakes and other desserts. The dishes demonstrated at the workshop were a mix of both these types. I admit some the dishes shown to us weren’t very healthy, but I guess the aim of the workshop was to demonstrate the vast range of possibilities. Also, as the experts stated, people would be more amenable to using millets if they saw them being used to make contemporary food that is tasty as well.

~ While cooking with millets, one needs to be aware of the inherent properties that each type possesses. Some types of millets, for instance, needs to be soaked for a while before cooking, to ensure that they are cooked well and not very chewy. This understanding comes with trial and error, experimenting with millets in your kitchen on a regular basis.

~ Baking with millets can be a tad tough, since they do not possess any gluten. Hence, it becomes essential to mix maida or whole wheat flour with them, to get a good-quality finished product.

~ When you substitute millets for rice in a dish well-known to you, there might be a change in the texture of the dish as it is known to you. This is something you must be ready for, when beginning to cook with millets.

Well, that was all about the beautiful millet workshop I attended. I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it will be of help to you.

Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs, Day 1: An Overview

The 25th and 26th of July, 2017, saw a beautiful workshop on millet foods being conducted at the MS Ramaiah campus in Matthikere. This workshop – Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs – was organised by the Government of Karnataka, in association with MS Ramaiah Institute, with the intention of spreading more awareness about millets and millet-based foods. This is an extension to the #LetsMillet campaign being vigorously undertaken by the Government of Karnataka, an attempt to reach out to the masses after the hugely successful Organics And Millets Mela held in April 2017.

I am thankful to have been offered an invite to attend and cover the workshop which, I think, was just as successful as the Organics And Millets Mela. It was met with a wonderful, enthusiastic response from chefs, dieticians, students, home cooks and various dignitaries from the worlds of food, nutrition and politics.

To say I am overwhelmed and enlightened by the experience of attending the workshop would be an understatement. I’ve learnt so much in these two days; watched so much of magic being unravelled; life in my kitchen is never going to be the same again, I’m sure.

Some of the most commonly asked questions about millets were answered, this first day of the workshop. Here’s a glimpse of all that happened on Day 1 of the workshop, and the key take-aways, for your viewing and reading pleasure.

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The workshop began with an address by Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, Honourable Minister of Agriculture for Karnataka. He spoke about how millets are the need of the hour, speaking about what exactly millets are and the need to inculcate them in our daily diets

We’ve been hearing about this ‘millets’ thing day in and day out. But what are they, really?

Millets are actually grasses with tiny seeds, something that has been cultivated in India since ages. They are hardy crops that can be grown with little investment and little usage of water, and hold immense nutrition within their tiny selves.

If they are so good for us, why aren’t we using more of millets?

Once upon a time, millets were consumed in generous quantities by Indians, and were extensively used to feed cattle as well. However, with advancing times and the increasing influence of Western culture, millets began to be looked down upon. They began to be called ‘poor man’s food’ or ‘cattle feed’, and our diets changed to include primarily wheat-  or rice-based products. Our consumption of millets has gone down drastically, both in urban and rural areas, so much so that it is negligible. People have forgotten how to use these ancient powerhouses of nutrition aka millets.

Why millets?

Today, when global warming is a scary reality that we are slowly waking up to and water conservation is the need of the hour, millets can be of great help. Growing 1 kg. of rice consumes about 4,000-5,500 thousand litres of water, while growing a kg. of millets needs just about 20% of that. Moreover, millets can be grown even in bad weather conditions, in poor soil conditions. They are sturdy crops that aren’t usually infested by insects or diseases and, hence, require little or no pesticides and fertilisers. Therefore, the cost of growing millets is much, much lower than that of cultivating wheat or rice.

Sadly, though, there is little demand for millets today. Today, millets are grown only by those farmers who are unable to grow anything else, because they are extremely pressed for money or have land that has extremely poor conditions. Millets are good for the farmer in a lot of ways. So, if you begin to include more millets in your daily diets, you are actually helping the poorest of farmers, saving them from a life of misery.

By buying millets, you also contribute to environmental good health, by reducing the stress on already stressed-out water resources. You also help in cutting down the use of fertilisers and pesticides. Millets are, therefore, good for the environment, too. 

This is not all. Millets are good for our health, too. Today, non-communicable or lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol are rampant in rural and urban India. Many of these diseases occur because of our sedentary lifestyles, increasing stress levels, and an unbalanced diet (read: increasing use of junk food and drinks, a high level of wheat- or rice-based foods, and a lack of inclusion of different types of fruits, grains, vegetables and other ingredients). Thanks to their high nutritional content, the inclusion of millets in our daily diets can be one of the ways out of this situation. It is rather sad that people today are turning to foreign grains like quinoa and oats for their nutritional values, but ignoring our very own millets, which are far superior to these foods (even to rice and wheat, in case of most nutrients).

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Shri Krishna Byre Gowda releasing a special cookbook containing millet-based dishes, at the workshop, along with other dignitaries

What’s this #LetsMillet thing? Who are the various stakeholders?

The Government of Karnataka is presently on a mission to propagate awareness about millets through workshops like this one, to encourage people to use more of them, and to teach them different ways in which they can do so. Check out the #LetsMillet hashtag on Facebook and Instagram to take a look at the considerable work that has been done in this regard.

Chefs, dieticians, food bloggers and other social media influencers have an important role to play in contributing towards this end.

So, millets can be used just to make stuff like ragi mudde, right?

Millets can be used in a variety of dishes, traditional and contemporary, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Also, people take millets to mean just ragi (finger millet) or bajri (pearl millet), while that is so not the case. These are just two types of millet – there’s a whole millet family out there, for you to explore and get the benefit of. Pearl millet, kodo millet, little millet, proso millet, finger millet, barnyard millet.. there are so many varieties of millets! Most people today don’t even know what these grains look like! 

Further, these grains can be used to make anything from gobi manchurian, dosa, idli, curd rice and bisi bele bath to risotto, ravioli, cakes and breads. For the last two years or so, chefs, home cooks and food bloggers have been experimenting with different types of millets, and there is now a wealth of recipes to be explored. So, millets does not translate into just stuff like ragi mudde.. almost anything can be made from them! They can be used in place of wheat and rice in all the dishes you commonly consume today, like curd rice or sambar rice, and they can be made into delicacies like payasam and kesari bath, too. That said, millets possess certain qualities that are inherent to them, and a chef should work around them while trying to develop dishes with them. 

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Some of the exhibits at the workshop. Left: The various kinds of millets, and some other grains that we should be consuming; Centre (top): Palak dosa made with navane (foxtail millet); Centre (bottom): Different types of breads and cakes prepared using millets; Right (top): Various snacks prepared using millets; Right (bottom): Thalipeeth prepared using bhajni (a flour made with mixed millets and grains)

Should I use millets just because my ancestors used them?

The Honourable Minister of Agriculture ended his speech with a request to everyone to consider increasing the use of millets in their daily diets. He stated that he does not solicit people’s co-operation because increasing consumption of millets is a political agenda, or because our ancestors used these grains, but because they are good for us in so many different ways, a fact that has been backed up by a whole lot of systematic scientific research.

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Dignitaries speaking about various aspects of millets, including their nutritional values and the way in which they should be introduced into one’s diet. Among the dignitaries who graced the occasion were Dr. Vilas Tonapi, Director – Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad; Dr. Bhaskarachary of IIMR, Hyderabad; Dr. Vibha Shetty, Professor of Prosthodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences, MS Ramaiah Dental College and Hospital; Ms. Hema Arvind, Chief Dietician, MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital; and Dr. Govind R Kadambi, Pro VC-Research, MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences.

What are the various nutrients that millets possess?

  • They are high in dietary fibre, so they fill you up with lesser portion sizes. Therefore, they are helpful in weight management. They also help in lowering constipation.
  • They possess a low Glycemic Index (GI), and are thus useful in controlling diabetes.
  • They have anti-tumour and anti-carcinogenic properties too.
  • They are low in sodium, so they are helpful in the management of hypertension.
  • They help in the lowering of serum cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • They possess a highly alkaline nature, thereby helping in preventing and lowering the effects of irritable bowel syndrome, acidity, gallstones and stomach ulcers.
  • They are rich in anti-oxidants.
  • They possess hypo-allergenic properties and, hence, help in preventing allergic reactions.
  • They are rich in iron, thereby helping in the prevention of anaemia. 
  • They are useful in the prevention of liver disorders.
  • They are completely gluten-free.
  • Millets are far superior to wheat and rice and even quinoa, as far as various micro-nutrients are concerned.
  • They are quite high in protein, and hence, play a crucial role in a vegetarian diet, wherein protein sources are limited.
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A panel discussion on millets by experts from various fields. The experts include food blogger Archana Doshi, reputed dietician Geetha GH, Yogen Dutta – Executive Chef of ITC Gardenia (Bangalore), and Dr. Vibha Shetty – Professor of Prosthodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences

If millets are so high in nutrients, should I be switching over to an all-millet diet then?

No, that kind of extreme switching over in diet is not advisable, not recommended by dieticians or nutritionists. Yes, millets are very high in nutrients, but they do need to be supplemented by wheat, rice, pulses, vegetables, milk, meat, eggs and a variety of other foods, so as to provide complete health to a human being.

What is advocated, really, through campaigns like this is an open mind, an acceptance to trying out different kinds of millets, at least a basic introduction of millets in your daily diet. All meals/snacks that you consume in a day need not be millet-heavy, but it would be great if at least one of them is.

Also, millets are not a miracle cure for all your ailments. The increase in lifestyle diseases in today’s times in not just a product of an imbalanced diet, which can be cured by the introduction of millets in your diet. There are other steps that need to be taken, too, to curb this, such as lowering overall stress levels, incorporating more physical activity in our lives, etc.

What are the things that I should keep in mind while introducing millets in my daily diet?

  • Millets can be used by people of all age groups, from a 6-month-old baby to a geriatric person, irrespective of their health condition. However, millets are believed to be goitrogenous in nature (i.e. they can enlarge one’s thyroid gland) and, hence, it would be advisable to consult a doctor before beginning to consume millets if you have a thyroid condition. If you have any other chronic ailment, too, you should ideally consult with a doctor to check on how much of millets you should consume in your daily diet, and in what form.
  • Soaking millets and throwing away the water, sprouting, cooking, roasting and fermenting are some techniques that are recommended to reduce the negative goiterogenous properties of millets.
  • Do not get carried away when you are just beginning to introduce millets into your daily diet. Do not go overboard. Introduce them slowly, little by little, into your diets, and wait and check whether they suit you. To start with, you may consume just one type of millet for a while, mixing it with rice or pulses, about twice a week, to see how they agree with you. Slowly and gradually, you may increase the quantity of millets you use.
  • Since millets are non-glutinous, baking with them can be tough. You might have to mix whole wheat flour or maida to them, to get good results.
  • There might be a slight difference in texture, when you substitute millets for rice in a dish known to you. For instance, pongal made with barnyard millet or proso millet might be grainier in texture as compared to that made with rice. That is something you should keep in mind while using millets.

Well, that’s how Day 1 of the workshop ended. I hope you enjoyed reading the post, and found it informative!