In Conversation With Chef Kunal Kapur: About Food And More

A chef who has trained under some of the most reputed institutions out there, who has a couple of television shows to his name, who is well recognised by all and sundry in Indian households, who has been a judge of the famed MasterChef India, who has been witness to some of the most exciting trends in the culinary world, who has had the opportunity to cook for the nation’s Prime Minister and the foreign dignitaries visiting him – that is Kunal Kapur for you, a celebrity in his own right. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity, recently, to attend a ‘Food Camp’ by the celebrity chef at the International Institute Of Hotel Management (IIHM), Bangalore.

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Chef Kunal Kapur demonstrating different techniques of plating and the basics of molecular gastronomy, at his Food Camp, at IIHM-Bangalore

I had gone to the event prepared with a set of questions for the chef, and was so glad the bloggers present were given a chance to have a little one-on-one conversation with him. Chef Kapur was happy to answer my questions, in his cool and composed and smiling manner.

Without further ado, here’s presenting to you the conversation I had with Chef Kapur, about food and more.

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Me: What is comfort food for you?

Chef: Ice cream and chocolate – these spell out ‘comfort’ to me (laughs). Also, homely, old-time stuff like daal chawal or khichdi are what I turn to when I need comfort.

Me: How do you think food has changed over the years?

Chef: I think everyone wants to order out these days. There are very few people today who really love cooking, and that is a sad state of affairs. Food has become fancy. Plating is of crucial importance now. Soon enough, actual home-cooked, simple food will be a luxury.

Me: How do you manage to stay fit, in spite of cooking so much, day after day after day?Β 

Chef: I try to burn whatever I eat – that is the only way. I think you can eat all that you want, but in moderation. And you have to work out, get moving, and burn fat.

Me: You are currently researching unique pickles across India for your latest book. Could you tell us more about this book?

Chef: Yes, you are right. I am travelling from one place to another in India, talking to people, trying to find out about various pickling practices used in the country. There are so many unique pickles made in our country, many of them unheard of by common people. That is the stuff I want to bring to light through my latest book.

This book will take me at least two more years to write. The Internet hasn’t been of much use in my research – this is something that needs extensive travel and first-hand research. I am in full-on research mode, for the book, as of now.

Me: What are the most unique pickles that you have come across, in the course of your research?

Chef: A very unique pickle I encountered, in the course of my research, was one made of mustard leaves, in Darjeeling. The leaves are pounded, put into a sack and buried under the earth for over a week’s time, to ferment. Post this, the fermented leaves are dried and pickled. This is something I had never heard of before!

Then, there was this mahani root pickle that I tried out in South India. The root is pickled in buttermilk, which is said to preserve the pickle. This completely blew me away. Commonly, when we think of pickles, we think of a whole lot of salt, spices and oil – but this pickle is so very different!

Me: What do you think are the best-kept secrets of Indian cuisine?

Chef: I would say, the dadis and nanis in Indian families, the grandmothers, are the best-kept secrets of the culinary world. These grandmothers possess a wealth of experience and knowledge. They have, in their repertoire, a number of culinary secrets and recipes that are, largely, unknown to the modern world. They are the best people we should be learning to cook from!

Me: You have been conducting food camps in different cities across India. What do you plan to achieve with them?

Chef: Yes, I have been conducting food camps in hotel management institutes in different Indian cities. These food camps are, basically, workshops where students can learn the basics of molecular gastronomy, plating, food trends and reinvention. These hotel management students are the chefs of tomorrow, which is why I want to work with them, to train them. I want them to get the benefit of my experience of all these years.

Through these workshops, I plan to bridge the gap between the trends prevailing in the culinary world, nationally and internationally, and the syllabus followed in these institutes.

Me: How was your experience cooking Sattvik food for PM Narendra Modi, on his visit to Bangalore? And for the visiting German dignitaries? Do tell us more!

Chef: Oh, it was a wonderful experience! I had a lot of fun preparing a slew of vegetarian dishes for Narendra Modiji, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the other honoured guests. I am so glad I got this opportunity to showcase the wealth of vegetarian dishes we have in India, to these guests.

You know, I was okay cooking Sattvik food for Modiji, since he is used to vegetarian dishes. I was actually scared of preparing vegetarian food for the German dignitaries, who are hard-core meat-eaters. What if they didn’t like what I had to offer them?, I worried. I needn’t have worried, though. Everyone loved the meal, German dignitaries included.

Me: Is there a memoir in the offing? Do you plan to write a book telling your fans all about yourself?

Chef: Oh, I don’t think I am accomplished enough to do something like that! I’m still learning about food, trends and different cuisines of the world. There are a whole lot of things about food that I want to write about – not myself.

If someone else wants to write about me, though, they are welcome to take it up (laughs). That is not a task that I want to undertake myself.

I hope you enjoyed reading our little conversation, folks! Do let me know!

 

 

 

Kunal Kapur’s Food Camp, IIHM-Bangalore: An Absolutely Enthralling Experience

Earlier this week, I was invited to be a part of ‘Food Camp’ by celebrity Chef Kunal Kapoor at the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), Bangalore. It was an opportunity I grabbed with both hands, because why would a foodie like me miss a chance to learn from a celebrity chef himself?!

This post is a sneak peek into the event, and what I learned therein.

About Kunal Kapur’s food camp

Since the start of this year, Chef Kunal Kapur has been conducting food camps in hotel management institutes in different Indian cities. Each food camp is basically a workshop, where he trains students of the institute in the basics of molecular gastronomy, plating, food trends prevailing nationally and internationally, and the like. In his own words, ‘these food camps are my way of bridging the gap between actual trends in the culinary world and what these students study in their institutes, as part of their syllabus’.

A sneak peek into the food camp at IIHM, Bangalore

This week, the camp was held at IIHM in Indiranagar, Bangalore. I got an opportunity to be part of the event, in my capacity as a food blogger. It turned out to be one of the best events I have ever attended, very interesting and enlightening. I am sure the things I learnt at this food camp are going to stay with me and be of use to me, for a long time to come.

The approximately 2.5-hour-long session began with an introduction to Chef Kunal Kapur (no one needed it, of course!). Then, the chef came up on stage to talk about how food and the way we perceive food has changed over the course of time.

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Chef Kunal Kapur talking about the way food has changed over the years

He talked about how plating is a skill that is crucially important for chefs these days, because everyone expects their food to look good.

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The Chef, demonstrating different approaches to plating food

Then, to a spell-bound audience, the chef went on to demonstrate three of the widely used approaches to plating food – Classic, Linear and Asymmetrical. He plated the same dish – chicken breast with sauce – using each of these three approaches, something that won him a huge round of applause.

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Left: The classic approach to plating (food in centre of plate); Centre: The linear approach to plating (food arranged in a straight line across the plate); Right: The Asymmetrical approach to plating (as the name suggests, food arranged without any apparent symmetry on the plate)

Then, we were shown a variety of techniques to make sauces or purees look attractive while plating food. Using simple kitchen utensils – a juice glass, a spoon, a ketchup bottle – the chef went on to create awe-inspiring patterns on plates. So, so, so very interesting this was!

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A variety of styles in which sauces and other purees can be plated, as demonstrated by Chef Kunal Kapur. Picture courtesy: at200deg

Lastly came the most impressive, the most interesting, the best part of the entire event – a session on molecular gastronomy!

‘Molecular gastronomy is the ‘in thing’ in restaurants in India and abroad these days. It is nothing but the use of science in cooking and plating,’ said Chef Kapur. ‘Through its use, you can change the form of various ingredients in your dish, as you know them. Through it, you can reinvent the way a traditional dish looks like – change the clients’ perception of how a particular dish is supposed to look like – without changing its taste,’ he added.

‘We drink orange juice. We can use molecular gastronomy to convert the form of orange juice, so people can eat it. This is but one example,’ Chef Kapur said.

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Chef Kapur demonstrating how to make spheres from curd

Then, Chef Kapur literally spun magic on-stage, as he used substances like Soy Lecithin, Sodium Alginate, Agar Agar and Calcium Lactate to convert the form of certain ingredients as we know them. He converted orange juice into little beads resembling caviar, which burst in your mouth and create a burst of delightful flavour. He converted the imli ki chutney that we have all used a countless number of times in chaats, into foam that would stay put for some time and taste exactly the same as the chutney. He went on to create beautiful, beautiful spheres from sweetened curd and a thick, flavourful gel out of pomegranate juice. By this time, all of us were transfixed, riveted to our seats.

The session ended with a demonstration of Chef Kapur’s version of dahi papdi chaat, a dish that is no doubt delicious, but often isn’t very visually appealing. The chef reinvented dahi papdi chaat as we know it, with potato hummus, imli ki chutney foam, anar gel, and dahi spheres. Super-duper cool!

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Left: Chef Kapur’s version of a deconstructed dahi papdi chaat, Right: The dahi spheres that made up part of the dish (The picture on the right is courtesy of at200deg)

Overall, this was an event that I thoroughly enjoyed, an experience that I will cherish forever. Chef Kapur was such a sport, humble and sweet, answering questions in such a composed manner, open to sharing the knowledge of his years of kitchen experience with eager students. It made me look at the profession of a chef with new eyes, with new respect. This surely wasn’t an evening I am going to forget for a long time to come.

I can’t thank IIHM-Bangalore for this opportunity to get up close and personal with Chef Kunal Kapur. And, oh, I even managed a little one-on-one conversation and interview with the chef – coming up on the blog soon! Watch out for it!

Cook-Off With Chef Michael Swamy, at Fairfield By Marriott

I recently got the opportunity to witness celebrated Chef Michael Swamy in action, at a cook-off organised by Fairfield By Marriott. It turned out to be a fun evening, as Chef Swamy, alongside Chef Aniket Das (Executive Chef at Fairfield By Marriott, Rajajinagar) demonstrated a few recipes from Maharashtra and Karnataka. The best part? The Chefs showed the audience, consisting of food bloggers and foodies, how to cook these dishes in a healthy way, without having to compromise on the taste.

The cook-off began with Chef Das demonstrating a dish from his childhood in Maharashtra, usal made with moong sprouts. He explained how the dish is full of nutrition, thanks to the addition of moong sprouts and is made with extremely little oil. It can make for a lovely breakfast option, he said.

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On the left: Chef Aniket Das demonstrating moong sprouts usal at the cook-off, On the right: The usal that Chef Das created, served with pav, onions and slices of lemon

Next up, Chef Swamy showed the audience how to prepare Fish In Chinchoni Masala. Chinchoni masala is a special kind of spice mix used in the coastal areas of Maharashtra, that adds spicy and sour flavours (‘chinch‘, in Marathi, means ‘sour’). The masala can be prepared very easily at home, and imparts a beautiful reddish-orange colour to any dish that it is used in. The fish used in this particular dish was steamed (rather than fried) and cooked in very little oil, making this a healthy yet flavourful preparation.

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On the left: Chef Michael Swamy demonstrating Fish In Chinchoni Masala, On the right: The dish, prepared and beautifully plated

Lastly, both the chefs jointly demonstrated a Karnataka-special recipe – Ragi Shavige aka Ragi Vermicelli Upma. All of us know of the numerous health benefits that ragi (finger millet) possesses, and this upma is a delicious way to use all of that goodness, Chef Das stated.

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On the left: Chef Michael Swamy and Chef Aniket Das jointly demonstrating Ragi Shavige, On the right: The ragi shavige aka ragi vermicelli upma that the chefs jointly created

Both the chefs then expressed their desire to make Indian cuisine better known in the world. ‘India has such a vast culinary heritage. Every little part of the country has several indigenous foods to boast of, and yet, when the world talks about Indian cuisine, it is mostly understood to be just a few dishes like chicken tikka, masala dosa and chicken curry. That is so not the real picture,’ said Chef Das.

‘The only way to clarify this misconception is through masterclasses like this, where people get to know the real breadth of Indian cuisine,’ said Chef Swamy. That is so very true, when you come to think of it, no?

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Chef Aniket Das (left) and Chef Michael Swamy (right) posing alongside the three dishes they demonstrated as part of the cook-off

The cook-off ended with a beautiful high tea that showcased selected dishes from Maharashtra and Karnataka, like pao bhaji, podi idli, ragi dosa, bhel poori, vada pav, gobi manchurian, mirchi bajji, onion pakoras, thandai, cutting chai, filter coffee, and mango milkshake. Delectable much!

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A sneak peek into the high tea at the cook-off! On the left: Gobi manchurian and vada pav, Centre: a variety of mini idlis, ragi dose, Maddur vade, On the right: Mumbai-style bhel poori, onion pakoras and mirchi bajjis

I have to thank the chefs as well as Fairfield By Marriott for this very well-presented, thought-provoking, and informative cook-off!

About Chef Michael Swamy

Chef Michael Swamy is a well-known figure in the Indian and international culinary world, with a career spanning over 20 years. This Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef has had the honour of having cooked for and served several prestigious personalities like Sir Andrew Pagewood and Prince Charles. He has authored two Gourmand Award-winning books, The East Indian Kitchen and Easy Guide To Pairing Indian Food & Wine. His third book, Comfort Food, co-authored with Mugdha Savkar, was released recently.

Chef Swamy has worked as food critic and feature writer for various magazines and periodicals, such as Jetwings and Jetlite (in-flight magazines in Jet Airways), Liquid, and Asian Photography. He has also contributed articles on various aspects of world and Indian cuisine, patisserie, desserts and sweets, for various newspapers, magazines and websites.

In February 2017, Chef Swamy launched his own restaurant, Nueva, in New Delhi, where he serves his take on South American cuisine.

About Chef Aniket Das

Chef Aniket Das heads the kitchen at Fairfield By Marriott, Rajajinagar, Bangalore. This culinary artistry expert has been associated with the Marriott group for over 7 years now, juggling various roles in different hotels in the group. He has also had international exposure with a 2-year stint at the Movenpick Hotel in Doha, Qatar, as Executive Sous Chef.

Chef Das believes in keeping his flavours authentic and his plating artistic.

A Lego Kiddie Workshop In Bangalore + Product Review: Lego Duplo’s My Town (10832)

I am sure the name ‘Lego’ needs no introduction, especially to the parents of young kids. Lego is known for its good-quality building blogs that are believed to stimulate creativity, and are coveted by children and parents alike. So, a while ago, when I was invited to attend a workshop for kids by Lego, at Orion Mall, Bangalore, I readily accepted.

Lego’s Build Amazing Workshop For Kids At Orion Mall, Bangalore

At the workshop, I saw first-hand how impressionable, creative and unfettered young minds are, and how moulding them the right way helps. The kids were offered a whole lot of Lego pieces in all imaginable shapes and sizes and colours, and were asked to create various thingsΒ  – ‘Make something that flies!’, ‘Build something beautiful!’, ‘Build something using only red Lego tiles!’ – and I was constantly amazed by all that they came up.

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Something that flies… who’d have thunk?!

At the workshop, I learnt that Lego is presently on a year-long campaign called ‘Build Amazing’, wherein it aims to introduce kids and their parents (from different walks of life, in different parts of the world) to its toys, educating them on how to use these toys to promote children’s natural creativity. To make Lego toys accessible to parents of all income groups, new and affordable Starter Sets have been introduced. These Starter Sets come in different styles and for different age groups, all priced between INR 399 onwards.

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Mr. Amit Kararia, Sr. Regional Sales Manager, South Asia, Lego Sinagpore PTE Ltd., speaking at the workshop at Orion Mall, Bangalore

Great initiative, this!

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A review of Lego Duplo’s My Town (10832)

Post the workshop, I was sent one of the new Lego Duplo Starter Sets to use in play with the bub and to review honestly. The product that I received was called My Town, numbered 10832. (There are other Lego Duplo ‘My Town’ products available as well, with different numbers.)

About the product

Lego Duplo’s My Town (10832) is meant for children between 2 and 5 years of age. As the name suggests, it includes blocks that represent ‘town’ life aka urban life, like balloons, a bespectacled lady, birthday cake, see-saws and presents. The package also contained a little chequered carpet that can be used wherever and whenever the child’s imagination dictates. The toy is meant for the kid to help create scenes from modern-day life.

Within the package, also, was a leaflet about the other Starter Sets I could buy to supplement these blocks, to create a bigger, more extensive collection.

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Left: The package that was sent to me for review, Centre: The contents of the box, immediately upon opening, Right: A close-up of some of the building blocks from the package

Price

This set is priced at INR 1299.

Availability

Lego Duplo’s Starter Sets are available in most toy stores, as well as on Amazon.

My impressions about the product – Low-down on the good and the bad

  1. I love the fact that there are no sharp edges or tiny pieces that I have to watch out for, constantly. The product is meant for little kids who would be sorely tempted to put things into their mouth, and I am glad this thing has been taken care of.
  2. I love the product quality. Every block has great quality, meant to last long.
  3. I am thrilled with the fact that this is such a gender-neutral toy. There are all colours in there – not only pinks or blues! The types of building blocks provided are such that be enjoyed both by little girls as well as boys.
  4. There are some really unique building materials in there – a bespectacled lady and balloons, like I said before, for instance. The materials are something that a kid living in a city like Bangalore would easily be able to relate to.
  5. I felt the number of building blocks are quite less, considering its price. In fact, when I opened the package, I wondered for a while whether I had missed receiving some blocks – there were too few of them! I would have liked for the product to have come with more blocks. There are just a limited number of permutations and combinations that you can (easily) come up with using the few blocks that have been provided. Eventually, one would have to scale up by buying other sets to supplement this product.
  6. I loved racking my brains and coming up with different ways to use the building blocks. I built a birthday party scene, then a garden scene, then one where two kids and their mother was decorating the terrace for their dad’s birthday – all pure imagination. The bub loved watching me building these scenes, and listened intently while I explained them to her. I am an adult with a creative bent of mind, and was still finding it tough to come up with more than these scenes – so I cannot fathom a very young kid (like my daughter) doing a lot of imagining and building using these blocks. Building with these blocks is, to be honest, sort of abstract and requires colourful imagination. Maybe, when the bub is a bit older – say, 4 or 5 – she will be doing a lot more with the blocks – for older kids, the limited number of blocks might actually force them to think out of the box and come up with extraordinary creativity. Maybe, for now, I should teach the bub other activities like counting, identifying colours, and so on, using these blocks.
  7. My 2.5-year-old daughter finds it a bit tough to join two or more blocks together or dismantle them, so she lets me do the job and just watches on. I am guessing more motor skills are needed to be actively involved and playing with these blocks.
  8. I felt the package lacked a guide of some of the things that can be built using these blocks – that would have been lovely. I mean, the box does have some illustrations depicting what could be built, but everyone knows that boxes aren’t for ever. A descriptive booklet indicating the various ways in which these blocks can be used would have been a great help.
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The three scenes I could imagine and build – Left: A kid’s birthday party, Centre: A park, with a see-saw, Right: A mother and her two kids trying to decorate the terrace for the father’s birthday

My verdict

Overall, I feel this is a good product, one that will endure for at least 3-4 years. However, I felt the price does not justify the limited number of blocks provided. I would probably look for discount bargains on this one, or try to buy a bigger product which has a more reasonable price.

Disclaimer

I received this product free of cost, in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed herein are completely my own, not influenced by anyone or anything.

Have your kids played with Lego? Which are their favourite Lego sets? What would you think of this particular product?

 

Barnyard Millet Dosa| No-Rice Dosa Recipe

I’m new to cooking with millets. I know there is a lot of talk, these days, about how millets are extremely good for us health-wise and environment-wise, and how we should be cooking a lot more with them. I haven’t really used millets much, though. At the most, I have used just two varieties of millet – ragi aka finger millet and bajri aka pearl millet – and that too in just a couple of dishes. I understand there’s a whole millet world out there to explore – a whole lot of varieties of millet, a whole lot of things that I could do with them.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a talk by Mr. Jayaram HR, owner of The Green Path, a restaurant that serves a variety of foods made from millets, as well as some ‘forgotten foods’. He has an interesting life story, but that is for another day. His talk on how it is high time millets found more of a foothold in our lives acted as a catalyst for me – it inspired me to do more with them in my kitchen.

And then, close on the heels of this talk, the hugely successful Organics And Millets Mela was held at the Palace Grounds, which I managed to attend. The scale of the event, the effort made by the government to reach out to the commonest of people, and the sheer variety of millet-based dishes on display stunned me. The mela gave further shape to my dreams of cooking with millets. Campaigns by fellow food bloggers for the mela gave rise to the sharing of a huge number of millet dishes, wowing not just me but a whole lot of people.

To cut a long story short, all of this has ensured that I have, finally, jumped up on the millets bandwagon too. I have started cooking with other types of millets too – other than the two varieties I was used to. It’s too early to say whether this has had an good impact on my health or not, but I have started using them for sure, slowly and steadily. I will update you all about my millet journey, as and when I reach significant milestones.

For now, here’s presenting to you a tried and tested recipe for Barnyard Millet (‘Kudhiravaali‘ in Tamil) dosa, which all of us in our family love. These dosas contain absolutely no rice, and taste just like the regular ones – no one can tell the difference! They are supposed to be more filling, yet lighter on the digestive system, than the rice-based dosas.

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No-rice dosas using barnyard millet aka kudhiravaali

Here is how I make these barnyard millet dosas.

Ingredients (makes 15-18 dosas):

  1. 2 cups of barnyard millet aka kudhiravaali
  2. 3/4 cup whole white urad
  3. 1/4 cup sago pearls (sabudana)
  4. 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
  5. Salt, to taste
  6. Oil, as required to make the dosas

Method:

  1. Wash the barnyard millet 2-3 times in running water, or till the water runs clear. Soak it overnight in just enough water to cover it.
  2. Wash the urad thoroughly. Soak it, along with the fenugreek seeds, overnight in enough water to completely cover them.
  3. Soak the sago pearls overnight, in just enough water to cover them.
  4. In the morning, drain out the excess water from the urad and fenugreek seeds, and grind them to a fine paste in the mixer. Remove into a large vessel.
  5. Now, drain out the excess water from the barnyard millet and sago pearls, and grind them together to a fine paste in a mixer. Transfer to the vessel that contains the urad batter. Mix well.
  6. Add salt to taste to the batter.
  7. Keep the batter, covered, in a cool and dry place in the kitchen for about 8 hours, to ferment. Fermenting time might be less than 8 hours in case of hot summer days.
  8. Once the batter has fermented and risen sufficiently, keep the vessel, covered, in the refrigerate.
  9. Get the batter out of the refrigerator only when you are ready to make dosas.
  10. Heat a dosa pan till drops of water dance on it, and then reduce the flame. Spread out a ladleful of the batter in the centre of the pan. Spread about 1 teaspoon of oil around the periphery of the dosa. Cook for a couple of minutes, and then flip the dosa over to the other side. Let cook for a couple of minutes more. Transfer the dosa to a serving plate.
  11. Prepare all the dosas in a similar fashion. Serve hot with sambar or chutney of your choice.

Notes:

  1. You can substitute barnyard millet with any other type of millet, to make these dosas.
  2. Beaten rice aka poha can be used instead of sago pearls, in the same quantity.
  3. There is no need to add additional water while grinding the urad, sago, fenugreek and barnyard millet. If you feel you aren’t able to grind the batter well, add a little water.
  4. Do not keep the batter at room temperature for too long, after fermentation occurs. This will increase the chances of the batter turning sour.
  5. There is absolutely no difference in the proceedure of making these dosas, vis-a-vis regular rice-based dosas.

You like? I hope you will try out these dosas too, and that you will love them just as much as we did!

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Interested in reading about the other millet recipes on my blog? Here you go!

The Crowning Of Miss South India 2017, Crowne Plaza, Bangalore

Last weekend, I was honoured to be invited to the crowning of the Femina Miss South India 2017, at Crowne Plaza, Bangalore. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the star-studded event, and watched agog as one beautiful nymph after another walked the ramp, wearing one marvellous creation after another.

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The official sponsors for the event! Picture: My own

The event was judged by celebrities like Grammy award winner Ricky Kej, notable Kannada actor Suraj Gowda, World Billiards and Snooker Champion Pankaj Advani, Kannada actor Prajwal Devaraj, and Former Miss World Runner Up Parvathy Omanakuttan.

Ms Omanakuttan made a dramatic entrance on stage, resplendent in her white-and-black gown.

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Ms Omanakuttan makes a grand entry on stage. Picture: My own

She looked stunning, that is for sure!

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Ms Omanakuttan walking the ramp. Picture: My own

Prajwal Devaraj was absolutely charming, too – elegant and handsome in the sherwani he was wearing for the event.

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Two of the judges – Kannada actor Prajwal Devaraj (left) and billiards player Pankaj Advani (right). Picture: My own
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Ms Omanakuttan takes her seat, along with Kannada actors Suraj Gowda (left) and Prajwal Devaraj (right). Picture: My own

The pageant began, to a packed audience, with a presentation on the long journey that Miss Femina India has been on, ever since 1964. Every Miss India since then made a brief appearance on screen, talking about the moment the crown was placed on her head. Wow moments, indeed!

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Former Miss India Sangeeta Bijlani talks about her ‘Miss India moment’. Picture: My own

Then, we were introduced to the 15 contestants who were competing for the title of Miss South India 2017 – meticulously chosen from across the five Southern states of Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. With each girl looking gorgeous and confident, we were left with nail-biting excitement to wonder over which of these would, finally, win the title.

In the first round of the pageant – the Modern India round – each of the 15 contestants donned beautiful, beautiful white dresses from acclaimed designer Shravan Kummar’s collection called Resplendent Whites.

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The 15 contestants on stage in Shravan Kummar outfits, for the Modern India round. Picture credit: Femina

In the next round of the pageant, the contestants donned glamorous, modern outfits from fbb. This was followed by a super enthusiastic performance by Indian playback singer Jubin Nautiyal.

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Jubin Nautiyal’s performance at the event. Picture Credit: Femina

The final round of the pageant saw the 15 contestants wearing lovely evening gowns by designer Bhawna Rao. Each one of the girls looked stunning, filling the ramp with colour as they walked around.

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The contestants dressed in Bhawna Rao evening gowns, for the last round of the pageant. Picture Credit: Femina

And, then, finally, the moment all of us had been waiting for arrived – the moment of the crowning. Before this pageant happened, each of the contestants had already been judged on various factors (ramp walk, talent, skin, congeniality, et al). The final winners were chosen on the basis of the points they had earned in total, this pageant as well as the earlier contests included.

Srishti Vyakaranam (Andhra Pradesh), Sherin Seth (Tamilnadu), Mannat Singh (Kerala), Ruhika Dass (Karnataka), and Simran Choudhary (Telangana) were the chosen winners.

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The winners of Miss South India 2017, who will be competing for the fbb Colors Femina Miss India 2017 grand finale. From left to right: Srishti Vyakaranam (Andhra Pradesh), Sherin Seth (Tamilnadu), Simran Choudhary (Telangana), Mannat Singh (Kerala), and Ruhika Dass (Karnataka). Picture Credit: Femina

These five lovely ladies will represent South India in the grand finale of fbb Colors Femina Miss India 2017, which is scheduled to be held in Mumbai. Phew! Choosing the winners must have been a very tough call, indeed!

Now, I’m eagerly looking forward to this year’s Miss India pageant. I’ll be watching out for more updates about the pageant from other states as well. How about you?

Luxury Italian Modular Kitchens By Stosa Cucine, Now In Bangalore!

I was recently present at my first event for the year 2017, the launch of Stosa Cucine, luxury Italian modular kitchen store, at Jayanagar in Bangalore. Little did I know, when I accepted the invite to attend the event, that I would end up not only gawping at some gorgeous, gorgeous kitchens, but also gorging on some very beautiful food.

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The venue, all decked up

About Stosa Cucine:

Stosa Cucine is an Italian firm that specialises in creating luxury modular kitchens of the finest quality, customised to your home and your tastes and preferences. The firm, with a 50-year-old legacy, has now entered the Bangalore market, after having a strong presence in several other Indian sites, including Indore and Rajasthan.

Stosa Cucine operates in collaboration with Mirius Interni in India, aiming at providing a complete kitchen solution to Indian families. The launch party of Stosa Cucine in Bangalore was organised by Mirius Interni, in association with Good Homes India magazine.

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The philosophy by which Stosa Cucine abides

The launch party

The launch party was very well organised, with some extremely beautiful decor. It showcased some of Stosa Cucine’s best kitchen designs, like Maya and Infinity Diagonal. Each one of the kitchens we saw at the launch was simply beautiful, executed perfectly, with some cleverly designed instruments.

Once you get in touch with Stosa Cucine with a request to do up your kitchen, the team comes and inspects your home. Then, within the range of your budget (the luxury kitchens are priced upwards of INR 3.5 lakh), the team designs a kitchen for you that is in harmony with the rest of your home and staying true to your personal tastes and preferences. They assure the use of the finest-quality fittings and materials.

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One of the luxury kitchens by Stosa Cucine, on display at the launch party

There’s something for everyone with Stosa Cucine – for those who would love a farmhouse-style kitchen, those who would love a kitchen with stark and clean lines, and for those who desire a pop of colour in their kitchens.

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I gawped and gawped and gawped at this kitchen – totally my style!
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Another luxury kitchen on display, for those who love colour!

Post the grand ribbon cutting, the food and home decor bloggers present at the venue were explained, very patiently, by the Stosa Cucine team, about the firm’s design and work philosophy.

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In conversation with Ashita Parmar, the COO of Mirius Interni
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The Stosa Cucine team, including Mr. Leonardo Sani, Export-Sales Director – Stosa Cucine, who came down from Italy for the occasion

While the speeches and ribbon-cutting were in progress, we bloggers got to gorge on some very lovely appetisers.

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Some of the appetisers at the launch party

We were thrilled to know that the appetisers and (later) dinner was catered by Broadway – The Gourmet Theatre of HSR Layout, Bangalore, an eatery that has been making news in the foodie circuit of late and which I have been dying to try out. Chef Tanvi of Broadway stuck to an Italian theme for the appetisers and dinner, of course! πŸ™‚ We also had the pleasure of meeting the very humble Chef Tanvi.

The food was finger-licking lovely, as were the desserts. We loved the live pasta counter at the venue, and the cute little carts on which the food was presented!

Stosa Cucine contact details:

Address:

770, 10th Main, Jayanagar 4th Block, Bangalore 560011
Phone:
099201 01200
Facebook:

GoCheeseTasting At The Biere Club, Bangalore

I had the good luck to attend a gourmet cheese tasting session, organised by Go Cheese in conjunction with Femina, at the Biere Club, Bangalore, yesterday, along with several other food bloggers. The star attraction at the event was a visit from celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, ambassador for Go Cheese, who flew in from Delhi specially for this occasion! πŸ™‚ I’m so thrilled at having had the chance to hear him speaking about cheese, not on TV but live!

The event started off with a stand-up comedy event by renowned comedian Sahil Shah, who had all of us in splits with his beautiful comic timing and one liners.

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Sahil Shah performing at the Go Cheese tasting session

Then, Mahesh Israni, CMO, Go Cheese India, took the stage, and educated us about the many cheesy offerings that his firm has come out with. He told us of how Gujarat ranks the first in India in terms of cheese consumption, closely followed by Maharashtra, while Bangalore and Delhi rank third and fourth respectively.

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Mahesh Israni on stage at the Go Cheese tasting event

Apparently, Gujarat leads in innovating a variety of recipes using cheese, rather cheesifying (yes, I just coined that word!) very Indian recipes like bhel poori, pani poori, dosa and the likes. I’ve been there, done the cheese paav bhaji and cheese bhel poori, and loved it too! πŸ™‚ Bangalore, on the other hand, is, largely, a consumer of European-style confections using cheese, like canapes, nachos, crackers and pizzas. For some reason, this fact stuck with me.

Post this, it was the turn of the star attraction, Chef Ranveer Brar, to step up on stage, which he did to many hoots and claps. He spoke at length about different ways in which one can serve cheese and little ways in which everyone could incorporate cheese in their household menus. He also explained in detail how to pair different kinds of cheese with the right kind of wine.

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Celebrity chef Ranveer Brar on stage

It was a pity there were no cheese recipes demonstrated live by the chef at the session, but he surely gave everyone present there a whole lot of food for thought. I’m already itching to try out some of the things he talked about, piled with cheese of course!

I also got to know that the dapper Chef Brar has recently published a book called Come Into My Kitchen, a memoir about his growing up days in Lucknow, interspersed with other foodie memories, stories and recipes. I so want it now!

We were offered a platter containing three cheeses offered by Go Cheese, all made in India, along with fresh fruits, crackers and a dip. We were encouraged to try out our own combinations, and figure out which cheese goes well with what accompaniment. It was so much fun doing that!

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The cheese platter that was put before us – with Gouda, Orange Cheddar and Colby cheeses

We were then offered samples of some cheesy snacks, thought up by Chef Brar. As we hogged on them, he encouraged us not to follow his recipes, but come up with our own unique recipes to use the different kinds of gourmet cheeses available to us today. I’m surely going to do just that, Chef!

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The lovely cheesy snacks that we thoroughly enjoyed

The snack platter contained a Beetroot Carpaccio With Herbed Almette And Mini Greens (centre), which was one of the snacks most loved among the present food bloggers. Now, that is some innovation, right?

The Cheddar And Monterey Jack Cheese Nachos With Avocado Salsa (to the right of the beetroot carpaccio) and the Sliced Cheese, Biere Mustard, Tomato And Olive Bruschetta (exactly below the carpaccio) were my personal favourites.

Apart from these, the platter also contained a Cheesy Pepper Agrodolce Calzone (to the left of the carpaccio) and Crumb-Fried Cheese With Chilly Grape Chutney (to the top of the carpaccio).Β 

Next up were two beautiful, beautiful desserts containing cheese, again Chef Brar’s innovations. I loved both – a Saffron Cream Syllabub With Fresh Fruits And Biscotti Crumbles (on the left) and an Amlette Cheese-Topped Hummingbird Cake With Edible Flowers (on the right).

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The two beautiful cheese desserts that we were offered

It would have been great to have been handed the recipes for all of these lovely confections, to try and replicate them at home, but then I sort of understand why that didn’t happen.

At the end of this enlightening session, we left with a sumptuous Go Cheese goodie bag, hearts and tummies sated, with a whole lot of ideas brimming around in our heads.

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The contents of my Go Cheese goodie bag – can’t wait to use these beauties in my kitchen!

I do have some cheesy recipes coming up on the blog soon, so do stay tuned. Till then, be good and take care!

Sampling The Vegetarian Delights At Paradise, Whitefield

Paradise, that legendary seller of biryani and kebabs in Hyderabad, came to Bangalore sometime in 2015. The husband and I had always wanted to visit Paradise, but somehow kept putting it off – we had a feeling we might feel out of place, considering that we are vegetarians and that the eatery predominantly specialises in non-vegetarian food. So, a couple of days ago, when I was offered the opportunity to visit the newly opened Paradise outlet at Virginia Mall, Whitefield, and sample the vegetarian fare there, along with a group of other foodies, I was more than prepared and thrilled about it.

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Wow!

First things first, I loved the simple and functional, but tasteful decor of the place.

There are two seating areas, one at ground level and the other upstairs. There is a separate takeaway counter – quite spacious and decent, unlike the cramped ones I have seen at many other restaurants.

The eatery has a comfortable vibe to it.

I especially loved this ‘spice wall’ (as I prefer to call it) in the upstairs dining area. The wall showcases jars of spices that are commonly used in the preparation of the star dish of the eatery – biryani! Lovely idea, I say.

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The spice wall – beautiful, no?

The photographs on the walls – many of them from the kitchens of Paradise, I assume – are beautifully shot. They add a whole lot of atmosphere to the place, and only serve to increase your appetite for the biryani. πŸ™‚

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Some of the photographs on display on the walls of the outlet

Some of the wall decorations had little nuggets of the history of the biryani and about how Paradise cooks it, all of which made for very interesting reading. So, if you have time to kill at Paradise, ever, you know exactly what to do!

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History of biryani, anyone?

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Now, let’s get to the food part of the visit, shall we?

We were served a pre-set menu, showcasing the best of what Paradise has to offer. There was no need to sit and pore over the menu, leaving us with enough time to chat, sit back and relax, and really taste every mouthful. I love that feeling, I have come to realise. πŸ™‚

Starters

First up, the vegetarians were served three of their starters – Achaari Paneer, Paneer Tikka, and Subz Aur Moongphali Seekh. In both dishes, the paneer was tender and fresh, breaking at the touch of a fork. I would rate the Achaari Paneer as good but not great. The Paneer Tikka was good, but could have done with some more flavour. I loved the Subz Aur Moongphali Seekh – it was perfect in texture and flavour, I would say.

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Paneer Tikka at Paradise

The non-vegetarians among us were served an assortment of starters, including Chicken Garlic Kebab, Chicken Tikka, Mutton Seekh Kebab, Fish Tikka. Every non-vegetarian starter served was much loved, but the Mutton Seekh Kebab was voted as the winner.

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Chicken Tikka and Mutton Seekh Kebab at Paradise

Main Course

Then came the biryani, which all of us had been eagerly waiting for.

The vegetarians were served a Vegetable Biryani, which was quite flavourful and well cooked. The paneer in the biryani was moist and succulent, and the marination was very well done. This was my first-ever tryst with Hyderabadi biryani, so I can’t say how it compared to the original biryani from Hyderabad, but I liked this quite a bit. The raita and salan served with the biryani were tasteful, too.

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Vegetable biryani at Paradise

For the non-vegetarians, there was Chicken Biryani and Mutton Biryani, of which the mutton one was hugely loved.

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Mutton biryani at Paradise (Photo Courtesy: http://www.akshayamrecipes.com, reproduced here with permission)

Apparently, Paradise makes all its biryani using the ‘dum‘ method and a layering technique. The first layer is that of good quality rice that has been a little cooked, on top of which goes a layer of well-marinated meat or vegetables. This is followed by another layer of rice, this time a little more cooked than the first layer. On top of this is a layer of marinated meat or veggies, followed by another layer of rice, this time almost fully cooked. The container is then sealed using atta, and the biryani is allowed to slowly cook.

This technique is what brings about most of the flavour of Paradise’s biryani, we were told – that and the use of the best quality of rice, the choicest of vegetables and meat, good quality spices, and the precise cutting of the meat and vegetables.

We were also told of how you can customise your biryani at Paradise, depending upon your personal spice preferences. All you have to do is explain your prefences to the staff waiting on you, and they will make the biryani as spicy or as little spicy as you want it to be.

Drinks

We were served fresh lemon water and lemon soda along with our biryanis. I think it is tough to find a good glass of lemon water, and this one was just beautiful. I am not normally a fan of lemon soda, but I loved the one that was offered to me at Paradise.

Desserts

Next up for grabs at Paradise were their desserts, which were a huge, huge, huge hit with me. I loved both the desserts served to us – Double Ka Meetha and Qubani Ka Meetha – to bits!

For the uninitiated, the Double Ka Meetha is a Hyderabadi specialty, a sweet pudding made using bread, milk, and sugar. Bread is often referred to as ‘double ki roti‘ in Hindi, considering that the bread dough rises to double its size after the addition of yeast – whence the name of this pudding.

The dessert was very well made, served warm, and tasted gorgeous. My cupful was gone in absolutely no time!

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Double Ka Meetha at Paradise

The Qubani Ka Meetha is another Hyderabad-special, a sweet dish made using stewed apricots (locally known as ‘Qubani‘). This was simply beautiful, mind-blowing I would say. The apricots were sweet and juicy, and added a whole lot of flavour to the dessert, which was served warm. The Qubani Ka Meetha was, I think, my personal star of the entire visit.

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Qubani Ka Meetha at Paradise

We left with our tummies full and our hearts sated. And that was the end of a very good afternoon. πŸ™‚

I am definitely going back to Paradise again, the next time with no qualms.

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Disclaimers and notes:

  1. All of us at the Bloggers’ Table at Paradise were invited by the restaurant, and the meal was served to us free of cost, in exchange for an honest review of the place.
  2. Like I said in my post, this was the first ever time I had Hyderabadi biryani, so I wouldn’t be the best person to judge how it compares to the original from Hyderabad. I liked the vegetable biryani that was served to me, though.
  3. A meal for two at Paradise can cost between INR 700 and 1000, including starters, main course, and dessert.
  4. I would definitely not recommend going to Paradise and eating only the biryani there. They have some lovely starters there, and some beautiful desserts. Don’t miss out on them!
  5. The portion size of the biryani at Paradise is large, one platter good enough to serve two to three people. Do keep that in mind while you order.
  6. In spite of being one of the very few vegetarians in the foodie group, I did not have any problems eating at Paradise. There are no unpleasant smells or sights, if you are concerned about that. There is a decent enough menu selection for the vegetarians, including starters, curries, and rotis.

The Diabetic Dessert Trail 2016: A Wonderful Experience

I was recently offered the opportunity to be associated with the Diabetic Food Trail (Second Edition this year), and grabbed it with both hands. I got to be a part of the Diabetic Dessert Trail 2016 in Bangalore – a compilation of ‘diabetic-friendly’Β  dessert recipes put together by the chefs of some of the top-notch eateries in the city. Along with some other food bloggers, I got to sample the desserts that these experienced chefs have come up with. What an enlightening, wonderful experience all of it has been!

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For the uninitiated, here is a a bit of background about the Diabetic Food Trail.

Seema and Manoj Pinto, husband-wife duo and the brains behind this trail, have had a long-standing association with diabetes in their families, and have seen first-hand how the disease wreaks havoc on one’s body. In spite of over 75 million people affected with diabetes in India, Seema says, it is shocking to see the lack of awareness about the disease and its complications. So many people go on to suffer from diabetes, year after year, kids included, when all of it could be avoided with just a few lifestyle changes and the right sort of diet.

That said, Seema says it has been a struggle to find the right sort of healthy food, fit for diabetics, on Manoj’s and her extensive travels across India. ‘Healthy food’ has often been equated to bland or tasteless food that no one would want to eat. The Diabetic Food Trail was launched by Seema and Manoj, in 2015, as an attempt to change all of this. Over 120 eateries across India were brought on board, in different cities of India, including Bangalore. Each of these restaurants served specially designed healthy food that is not bland and tasteless between November 14 and 30, 2015 (considering that November 14 is World Diabetes Day).

This year, 2016, the Diabetes Food Trail is bigger and better. Fava, Caperberry, Tea Trails, Little Italy, Barleyz, Nimisserie, Via Milano, Green Theory, Smokehouse Deli, Chianti, Anjappar, Arbor Brewing Company, The Ritz-Carlton, and Republic of Noodles are some of the eateries in Bangalore that are participating in the Trail this year.

“Our vision is to see a healthy, diabetic-friendly menu served in every restaurant in India, so people with diabetes can make an informed choice about what they eat,” say the founders of the trail.

For more information about the Diabetic Food Trail, do visit the website.

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The Diabetic Dessert Trail that I was a part of is a sub-section of the Diabetic Food Trail. It is an attempt to showcase healthy desserts that diabetics (as well as health-conscious people) can enjoy in a guilt-free manner. It is aimed at teaching people that healthy desserts don’t need to be boring – all they need is a different sort of thinking.

Now, enough of my blabbering, eh? Let’s move on to all those wonderful desserts that we sampled for the Dessert Trail!

Fava, UB City

The first pit-stop for all of us food bloggers undertaking the trail was at Fava, UB City.

I loved how paper placemats had been used at the tables to debunk various common myths about diabetes. Way to go! I can now safely say I understand diabetes quite a bit better than I used to, thanks to the trivia and the pep talk by Seema and Manoj.

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Places set with mats indicating diabetes-related trivia, at Fava

Well, at Fava, we were served the first dessert of the trail -Fresh Ricotta and Red Grape Timbale with NutriChoice Essentials 5 Grain Cookie Crumble and Organic Honey. What a beauty! It tasted just gorgeous – the ricotta was super fresh and melt-in-the-mouth, the organic honey and grapes lent it a beautiful, beautiful flavour. I am quite sure I am going to try this out at home some time! (PS: NutriChoice Essentials is the title sponsor for the event)

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Fresh Ricotta And Red Grape Timbale

The second dessert served by the Fava chef was a Sugar-Free Callebaut Belgian Dark Chocolate Sorbet With Cut Fresh Fruits. To a chocolate lover like me, this was a glimpse of pure heaven!

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The chef explained to us how his team had just whipped up some high-quality sugar-free chocolate to create the mousse, with nothing else added in – which was what gave it its clear, slightly bitter but gorgeous pure chocolate taste. The sorbet was perfectly complemented by the fresh cut fruits that it was served with.

Caperberry, UB City

The next two desserts of the trail were courtesy of Caperberry, UB City.

First to go was the Sugarfree Belgian Chocolate Decadence with NutriChoice Essentials Oats Cookie Crumble and Fresh Berries. This eggless dessert was so, so, so beautiful – I was left licking my spoon, literally!

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Sugarfree Belgian Chocolate Decadence

Next up was the Eggless and Sugarfree Pannacotta with Orange Compote, Vanilla Sauce and Crunchy Tuille. What loveliness, I tell you! The tang of the orange, the scent of vanilla and the melt-in-the-mouth pannacotta complemented each other just perfectly.

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Eggless and Sugarfree Pannacotta with Orange Compote, Vanilla Sauce and Crunchy Tuille

Smally’s Resto Cafe, Church Street

To sample the next two desserts on the trail, we headed to Smally’s Resto Cafe on Church Street.

Here, we were served a No-Bake Muesli Cheesecake With NutriChoice Essentials Oats Cookies. It was a lovely, lovely confection made of hung curd, muesli and the graininess of biscuit crumbs. Light and frothy and delish, it was something you could have for breakfast or at any time of the day.

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No-Bake Muesli Cheesecake

Next, we were served a Twisted RagiChoco Cake with NutriChoice Essentials Ragi Cookies. This dessert had the beautiful crunch of peanuts, which went very well with the crumbled ragi cookies and dark chocolate used in it. What an idea! I am definitely going to steal it soon.

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Twisted RagiChoco Cake

The Ritz-Carlton, Residency Road

We headed to The Ritz-Carlton on Residency Road for the next part of the trail, where decorations and preparations for Christmas celebrations have already started.

We were each served a plate consisting of Apple-Plum Strudel, Apricot Cranberry Cupcakes with NutriChoice Essentials Oat Cookies, and Blueberry Mint Parfait with NutriChoice Essentials Oats Cookies.

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The plate of desserts we were served at The Ritz-Carlton

All of these desserts had nil to very little sugar, most of the sweetness coming from the fruit/s that had been added to them. They were just the way healthy, diabetic-friendly desserts are supposed to be – though a tad tough for an average person to gulp down, sadly.

Post the dessert session, one of the restaurant chefs demonstrated the technique to make the Apricot Cranberry Cupcakes that we had just had.

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A Ritz-Carlton chef demonstrating how to make Apricot Cranberry Cupcakes
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Decorating the cupcakes with fresh cranberries!

Then, Seema Pinto went on to brief us about the short cookbook that she has designed, along with her husband Manoj, for diabetics. It is a work-in-progress, she said, to which they are hoping to add a whole lot of new recipes. That said, the book still has a lot of lovely, healthy recipes that I am definitely going to try out. Each food blogger present at the venue was gifted a copy of the cookbook, which I am waiting to use.

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Seema briefing us about the healthy recipes in the cookbook

And that was the end of a very interesting, very enlightening experience. πŸ™‚

Here’s wishing the Diabetic Food Trail and all those associated with it the best of luck. May they be successful in their mission to spread awareness about diabetes, and help in the prevention of at least some part of it. May there be healthy food available across the world, out of home, to everyone who wants access to it.

Notes:

  1. Some of the sugarfree desserts we were served at Fava and Caperberry had used Stevia as a sweetening agent. Unlike artificial sweeteners that are chemical-based and believed to have carcinogenic properties, Stevia is plant-derived and relatively safer to use in desserts, tea and coffee, and other savoury preparations for everyday use. If you want to read up more about Stevia, please go here. I don’t have the necessary knowledge to comment on how safe it is to use Stevia, so I will refrain from doing that. Personally, though, I would rather use fruits, honey or palm sugar as a sweetener for a dessert, if I don’t want to use refined sugar.
  2. Honestly, none of the desserts we were served at Fava, Caperberry or Smally’s tasted bland or bitter or uninteresting. They were all gorgeous confections, pieces of art that tasted as great as they looked. I wouldn’t mind it at all if these restaurants continued to serve these desserts even after the Diabetic Food Trail ends on November 30, 2016. I would surely love to taste them again!
  3. The desserts were served to us, free of cost, in exchange for an honest review on our respective blogs. The views expressed herein are completely my own, and haven’t been influenced by anyone else.