Kashmiri Wazwan @ Radisson Blu, Marathahalli

I consider myself incredibly lucky for having had the chance to visit Kashmir, the land touted as ‘Paradise on Earth’, not once but twice so far. I am glad I have had a chance to explore a little of the cuisine of this beautiful place, to delve deeper into the food that nourishes the people of this land. Kashmiri cuisine has always surprised me with its out-of-the-box (at least for me) preparations, the use of spices to make food magical, and its simplicity. So, when I was recently invited to partake of a Kashmiri feast at Saffron, Radisson Blu in Marathahalli, I absolutely had to go. I ended up having an absolutely lovely time here, with some great food being served.

This is one food festival you must head to!

Kashmiri Wazwan food festival at Saffron

Saffron, the restaurant at Radisson Blu, Marathahalli, is celebrating a Kashmiri food festival till August 20, 2018. Kashmiri chef Irshad Ahmad Wani and his team are all set to serve to the citizens of Bangalore a feast full of the flavours of his hometown.

The special menu curated for the food festival, called Kashmiri Wazwan, is available only for dinner at Saffron, on an a la carte basis. There are loads of options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, which is something I loved. I also loved that the menu encompasses more than Kashmiri pulao, kahwah and dum aloo, which is what Kashmiri food means to a lot of people.

If you are in ‘uru and have always wanted to try out food from the valley, this is your chance to do so! The food for the festival is being cooked by an actual Kashmiri chef and his team, and is hence as authentic as can be. How cool is that, right?

The ambience at Saffron

Saffron exudes an old-world charm, with its dark wood furniture, high ceilings, and large windows. The decor is simple and understated, yet elegant. There are little, classy pops of art here and there, which add to the charm of the place.

Glimpses of Saffron, the restaurant at Radisson Blu, Marathahalli

The restaurant feels airy and bright, in spite of having a generous number of seats. This is not a dimly-lit place, but one filled with natural sunlight, and I absolutely loved that.

The open kitchen at the back lets you have a view of all the behind-the-scenes action, building up your appetite in the process.

The service was impeccable, the staff attentive yet not hovering. They were brimming with Radisson Blu’s characteristic courtesy, warmth and friendliness.

Food and drinks

Now, let’s take a look at the food and drinks we sampled at Saffron!

We started our meal with Sabzi Badami Shorba, a light vegetable soup with slivers of almond in it. It was subtly spiced, the perfect foil for all the beautiful dishes that were about to be served to us in the course of the meal.

Top: Subzi Badami Shorba; Bottom left and right: Papads and fries with assorted dips

Along with the soup, we were presented a basket of papads and fries, with an assortment of Kashmiri dips. The dips – spicy onion, walnut and curd, radish, and green chilly and mint – were so very lovely. We loved munching on these, especially so because they brought back fond memories of hearty meals we have had while holidaying in Kashmir.

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The starters we tried at the Kashmiri Wazwan food festival. Top Left: Paneer Tikka (Picture Courtesy: Avril’s Food Journee); Bottom Left: Makai Malai Tikki; Bottom Right: Nadru Ki Shaami; Top Right: Zaam Doodh Kebab

Then came the starters. The Paneer Tikka (cottage cheese marinated in spices and grilled) and Makai Malai Tikki (corn and cream cutlets) were presented first, both of which were decent. The paneer was supremely soft and the corn tikkis melt-in-your-mouth, but, again, I felt they could have done with a bit more flavour.

The next starter, Nadru Ki Shaami, cutlets made with lotus stem, didn’t really titillate my tastebuds. They were really well done, but I would have loved some more flavour to them.

The Zaam Doodh Kebab or hung curd patties that were brought to the table next were beautiful – the star of the starters for me. They were just the right amount of sour, perfectly made, and the walnut stuffing within took the taste up several notches.

And then, it was time to move on to the main course.

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The main course dishes we sampled at Kashmiri Wazwan. Top: Assorted vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes; Bottom Left: Assorted flatbreads with Modur Pulav and a non-vegetarian gravy; Bottom Centre: My main course platter; Bottom Right: Al Yakhni, which stole the show for me

With some wonderful, pillow soft flatbreads, I sampled four vegetarian Kashmiri curries.

The Kashmiri Dum Aloo, baby potatoes cooked Kashmir-style with a yogurt- and tomato-based gravy, was just beautiful.

The Tamatar Chaman, deep-fried cottage cheese cooked in a tomato-fennel gravy, though, was just average.

The Schuk Wangun, baby eggplants cooked the Kashmiri way, with a tomato-and-tamarind base literally had me licking my fingers. Yes, it was that delish!

It was the Al Yakhni, a yogurt-based preparation with bottlegourd, that stole the show for me. It was so mild, so simple, yet so delicious! Who would have thought bottlegourd could be this fantastic?!

The Modur Pulav that came next – a sweet Kashmiri preparation with basmati rice, dry fruits, nuts and herbs – was brilliant too. It was so fragrant, so subtle, yet an absolute delight to eat.

Left: The First Kiss, a mocktail at Saffron; Top Right: Black Magic, another mocktail; Bottom Right: Kashmiri Kahwah

Along with our meal, we sipped on a couple of mocktails from Saffron’s extensive drink menu. I tried out The First Kiss, a medley of orange, apple and lemon, was very well made and refreshing. I also sampled Black Magic, a mocktail with cola, lemon, ginger and mint that I loved to bits. Please note that the mocktails are not part of the Kashmiri Wazwan menu, but they can be served to you from the regular bar menu if you so desire, at an additional cost.

We washed the food down with some Kashmiri Kahwah, a warm and mildly sweet concoction that was very well brewed.

Phirni and Kesar Ras Malai at Saffron

Our meal ended with the two desserts that are on offer as part of the Kashmiri Wazwan menu – Phirni and Kesar Ras Malai.

I have never been a big fan of the grainy texture of phirni or its taste so, as always, it didn’t excite me too much. The Kesar Ras Malai? Now, that was a different story altogether. It was so very well done, with just the right amount of sweet and thickness. Served cold, with a hint of saffron to it, it was heavenly!

In hindsight…

All of us had a thoroughly enjoyable meal at the Kashmiri Wazwan food festival. I loved most of the food that was served to us, and Saffron’s wonderful hospitality ensured that we had a great experience overall.

Like I was saying earlier, the food took us back to our holidays in Kashmir, making us remember some lovely meals we have had there. The food is, indeed, true-blue Kashmiri, or at least to the extent that that is possible in Bangalore.

Don’t miss this! Head to Saffron at Radisson Blu, Marathahalli, on or before August 20 for your fix of Kashmiri flavours.

 

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Highlights: World On A Plate – 2018

VR Bengaluru in Whitefield, Bangalore, saw a 3-day culinary festival, World On A Plate, happening between June 8 and 10, 2018. For the uninitiated, World On A Plate (popularly called WOAP) is one of Bangalore’s biggest foodie festivals, which aims to bring together food enthusiasts from all spheres, from across the globe – foodies, food brands, masterchefs, stalwarts from the food industry, restaurants, food critics, food bloggers and journalists, and the likes. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of World On A Plate – 2018, the third edition of this festival, which happens to coincide with VR Two, the second-anniversary celebrations of VR Bengaluru.

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Chefs Sarah Todd and George Calombaris at the World On A Plate – 2018 media meet

Chef George Calombaris and Sarah Todd (both of the MasterChef Australia fame), famed Indian chefs Saransh Goila, Ajay Chopra and Ranveer Brar, and pop star-cum-culinary enthusiast Anaida Parvaneh were some of the chefs associated with the event this year. At the exclusive masterclasses held as part of WOAP – 2018, foodies got a chance to learn from these celebrity chefs. Patrons were also offered an opportunity to engage in a tete-a-tete with the chefs and to pose for photographs with them. This year, Chef Calombaris had also curated a special 4-course meal for WOAP-2018, in co-ordination with Toscano. I could not be part of the masterclasses or the Calombaris-special menu because of paucity of time (and thanks to not keeping too well!), but I loved the little of WOAP – 2018 that I insisted on being a part of.

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Chefs Saransh Goila and Ranveer Brar in a solemn mood, talking about celebrated food writer Anthony Bourdain’s recent demise, at the media meet

At an exclusive media meet held on June 9, Jermina Menon (VP-Marketing, Virtuous Retail – South Asia) spoke of her excitement at being associated with World On A Plate the second time in a row.

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Ms. Jermina Menon speaking at the media meet for World On A Plate – 2018

Kiran Soans (CEO of Gold Rush Entertainment, the principal organiser of this festival) said, “This edition of World on a Plate is bigger in scale and size and guaranteed to be an unparalleled culinary journey for connoisseurs and aspiring chefs.

He also spoke of GiftAMeal with HUG – an initiative to collect funds for the underprivileged as part of a hunger management program, something that World On A Plate and Gold Rush have supported for three years now. In the year 2018, the program aims at giving away 1,00,000 free meals, something that I absolutely love and highly appreciate.

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Mr. Kiran Soans speaking at the media meet for World On A Plate – 2018

The media meet was quite enlightening and interesting, with Chef Ranveer Brar speaking of the differences in food culture among the various cities of India. He spoke of how Bangalore is a great space for food innovation, thanks to the people being quite open to experimenting.
Chef Saransh Goila spoke about the need for a formal body to certify food bloggers and writers. He also went on to speak, very interestingly, about the need for a chef to balance humility with social media popularity, especially in these modern times.

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Top: Chef Saransh Goila, speaking at the media meet for World On A Plate – 2018; Bottom: Chef Goila’s Goila Butter Chicken, presented at the venue

The media meet also offered us, food bloggers and journalists, a chance to sample a few dishes put together by Chef Sarah Todd, Chef George Calombaris, Chef Saransh Goila and Chef Ranveer Brar.

Chef Goila presented his signature Goila Butter Chicken, which Chef Calombaris fondly referred to as ‘the best butter chicken in the world‘.

Chef Todd presented Kolhapuri Slow-Cooked Lamb On Betel Leaf, while Chef Calombaris presented Potato Skordalia With Black Garlic & Walnut.

Chef Ranveer Brar, known for his innovative fusion ideas, presented Burnt Miso & Chocolate Matcha Modaks.

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Left: Chef Sarah Todd speaking at the media meet for World On A Plate – 2018; Right: The Kolhapuri Slow-Cooked Lamb On Betel Leaf, presented by Chef Todd at the venue

I didn’t sample the non-vegetarian dishes, of course, but loved the two vegetarian ones that I did. Chef George Calombaris’s Potato Skordalia With Black Garlic & Walnut was exquisite, with curry leaves adding an Indian touch to the jacket potatoes.

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Left: Chef Calombaris speaking at the media meet for World On A Plate – 2018; Right: Potato Skordalia With Black Garlic & Walnut, presented by Chef Calombaris at the venue

Chef Ranveer Brar’s dish was utterly gorgeous! It was sheer beauty inside and out, a very well-executed blend of Indian and international cuisines. The green matcha modaks were oh, so pretty, the miso-and-chocolate filling complementing the exterior perfectly. The aam ras the modaks were served in added a burst of flavour to the dish!

Left: Chef Ranveer Brar speaking at the media meet for World On A Plate – 2018; Top Right and Top Bottom: The Burnt Miso & Chocolate Matcha Modaks presented by Chef Brar at the venue

Some of the best-known restaurants of Bangalore city set up stalls at the event, including Caperberry, Smally’s, Punjab Bistro, Sindh Kitchen, Nasi & Mee, Sodabottleopenerwala, The Whitefield Arms, Rajdhani and Siam Trading Co. The atmosphere at these stalls was charged, not unlike that at a fair.

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A few of the food stalls at World On A Plate – 2018, at VR Bengaluru

Many of these restaurants are places I have always wanted to try out. Every single one of these stalls had some really lovely food on offer, and I had a tough time trying to figure out what to taste and what not.

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The Sodabottleopenerwala stall at World On A Plate – 2018, at VR Bengaluru

Patisseries like Smoor, Aubree and Lavonne: Academy Of Baking Science & Pastry Arts offered some of their beautiful creations for sale at World On A Plate – 2018. I had a gala time walking through these stalls, checking out this and that, taking pictures.

Some gorgeous sugary confections on sale at the Aubree stall, at World On A Plate – 2018

I abstained from treating myself to a dessert, but was still on a high by the time I had finished ooh-ing and aah-ing over all of those delightful confections, merely by looking at them! 🙂

Top left: Melting Apple, a very interesting-looking dessert from Smoor; Bottom left: Cake pops from Lavonne; Top right and bottom right: Special desserts created for World On A Plate – 2018

I love events like this because they help me discover unique food products and ingredients. World On A Plate – 2018 was no exception. Soya-based vegetarian meat by Good Dot and beautiful, beautiful, organically grown cherries sourced from Jammu by Healthy Buddha were my cherished discoveries at the event.

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Left: Vegetarian Meat by GoodDot, on display at World On A Plate – 2018; Top right: Vegetarian Meat Chilli Chicken; Bottom Right: Vegetarian Keema

I loved the Vegetarian Meat Chilli Chicken and Vegetarian Keema that I sampled at the GoodDot stall and, now, I can’t wait to cook with these products in my kitchen!

The cherries from Healthy Buddha were so fresh and lovely, they disappeared within minutes of my bringing them home. Now, I’m all eager to get my hands on more of their gorgeous produce!

Left: A sweet decorative piece at World On A Plate – 2018; Top right: Green burgers at Smally’s; Bottom right: The gorgeous cherries that I picked up at the Healthy Buddha stall

Overall, it was such a beautiful experience for me, being a wee li’l part of World On A Plate – 2018. I wish I could have done more, explored more, tasted more, learnt more, but I am glad I got to do at least this. Well, next time…!

I hope you were part of the event this year, too!

Were you at World On A Plate – 2018, too? How was your experience there?

A Lovely Afternoon With Sarah Todd, MasterChef Australia 2014 Finalist

I’m sure most foodies would know Sarah Todd, especially those who have been regularly following MasterChef Australia. For the uninitiated, Sarah Todd was the finalist at MasterChef Australia 2014, with a huge fan following from India, thanks to her attempting a few India-inspired dishes on the show. Recently, when The Little Black Book (LBB) – Bengaluru offered me a chance to participate in a masterclass with Chef Todd, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I’m so very glad I did – it turned out to be such a fun afternoon!

The event was held at Script, a concept kitchen and workshop venture by Godrej. This was my first time visiting Script, and I found it to be a charming venue, a must-visit for food enthusiasts in the city.

Chef Sarah Todd in a candid tete-a-tete with the audience at the masterclass

Sarah Todd’s career story is nothing short of inspiring. She became a model at the young age of 18, after which a decade-long career on the ramp followed. In the course of her work with brands like Hugo Boss, Pantene and Gucci, which entailed extensive travels across the globe, she began to develop a passionate love for food culture. In a candid moment at the masterclass, Sarah said, “One day, when I was still a model, I had to put up the exact same pose about 15 times, so the photographer could get the right shot. That was a sort of turning point in my life. It was then that I began to ask myself – ‘What am I doing with my life? Is this what I really want to do?‘”

The moment sparked some sharp introspection on Sarah’s part, and she decided she wanted to delve deeper into food. She went on to enroll herself at the famed Le Cordon Bleu, and trained in French cooking. For years, she worked as a chef, training alongside Michelin-star chefs. In 2014, she participated in MasterChef Australia, which, she claims, was another huge turning point in her life. She discovered herself, her cooking style, while at the show. She found that she leant more towards wholesome, healthy food that she could serve to her family, rather than elaborate meals that looked like magical masterpieces.

Apparently, Sarah’s love for Indian food began when she started dating Devinder Garcha, an Indian. While at MasterChef Australia, Sarah prepared a few Indian dishes, which earned her a fan following of over 50,000 Indians overnight. The next morning, when she logged into her social media, this had her completely stunned. She visited India soon after, in an attempt to figure it all out, and fell deeper in love with Indian food. She went on to open Antares, her restaurant in Goa, followed by another, The Wine Rack, in Mumbai. In the intervening years, Devinder and Sarah became parents to Phoenix, a lovely son. “I became all the more obsessed with food after becoming a mom. I wanted my son to taste everything, and I wanted to make everything myself. I wanted to know exactly what I was feeding him,” she said at the masterclass.

Left: Sarah, speaking about plating, at the masterclass. Right: The beatiful plating of the Citrus & Cocoa Tart (top) and Avocado Open Sandwich (bottom) that Sarah demonstrated at the masterclass

Sarah’s wonderful plating skills have always amazed. At the masterclass, she wowed everyone by demonstrating the beautiful plating of two dishes – a Citrus & Cocoa Tart and an Avocado Open Sandwich. “We eat with our eyes first. If you are presented the exact same dish in two different plates – one just dumped on the plate, and the other presented artistically – I can guarantee you will eat more of the latter. Presentation is of considerable importance,” she said at the masterclass.

Any kind of food can be presented artistically. Anyone can do it. You need to break free of the shackles in your mind first. Just let loose, and let your creativity rein in, while you are plating,” said Sarah.

Taste is just as important as presentation,” Sarah said. “For me, a dish just cannot just look very pretty, but be lacking in flavour. It has to be bursting with flavour, too!,” she added.

Chef Sarah Todd, demonstrating the preparation of two wholesome salads at the masterclass

At the masterclass, Sarah demonstrated the making of two wholesome salads in jars, perfect for busy-workday lunches.

She spoke of how a cook needs to take care of three core things for a dish to be successful – flavours, textures and presentation. “A great dish has to have a variety of flavours, to keep the eater interested – sweet, sour, saltiness, spiciness and some umami, everything has to be in balance. There have got to be at least a couple of different textures to the dish. Lastly, of course, it has to be presented beautifully,” she said.

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Chef Sarah Todd demonstrating the preparation of two salads-in-a-jar that can be filling meals in themselves

Speaking about her bond with India at the masterclass, Sarah said, “India is special. Indian food is so diverse, so amazing! I am constantly awed by the foods that I go on discovering in India – every new place I visit in this country, I end up with a new favourite food. There’s so much yet for me to learn, to discover. It is tough for me to point out just one favourite Indian food!

She spoke of how she does not want either Antares or The Wine Rack to be categorised as ‘an Australian restaurant’. “I want to cook Indian food, giving it my personal touch,” she said. “I can’t ever dream of competing with authentic Indian food, the way it has been cooked in Indian families over generations. How can one ever compete with that?! I want to take Indian food, and make it my own. I see I am making a difference that way, too,” she said at the masterclass.

I cook with the special, indigenous ingredients of the region, at both my restaurants. I make sure the ingredients are seasonal and procured fresh. Indian cuisine has a whole lot of wonderful ingredients that I am discovering – it is such a fun cuisine to be creative with!,” Sarah said.

She then went on to demonstrate the making of a fruity non-alcoholic drink, just perfect for hot summer days, at the masterclass.

Chef Sarah Todd demonstrating a fruity summer drink, at the masterclass

All through the masterclass, Sarah’s personality shone out. What a humble, down-to-earth, friendly and warm person!

The question-and-answer session with the audience at the end of the masterclass was what I enjoyed the best. It gave me a glimpse of the feisty, determined side of Sarah, the brains and talent behind the pretty face, the humane side of her that is trying to overcome her own shortcomings, the mommy in her, the career woman in her who is trying to make a difference in a world dominated by men.

All in all, it was a lovely afternoon, shared with fellow food enthusiasts from across the city. A fun time was had by everyone, I’m sure.

Now, I can’t wait to get to reading Sarah Todd’s blog and trying my hands at some of her recipes!

Amway Launches Nutrilite Traditional Herbs

I don’t think, as a brand, Amway needs much of an introduction. Most of us are familiar with at least one of Amway’s various products, right? Well, the brand added one more product to its extensive portfolio yesterday – Nutrilite Traditonal Herbs – a range of dietary supplements based on a combination of ancient Indian wisdom and modern science. Along with a few other bloggers across genres, I had the opportunity of witnessing the launch of the product at Amway’s spanking new Digital Experience Centre at Indirangar, Bangalore. The event commemorated Amway’s 20th anniversary as well.

Ms. Simrat Bishnoi – Head, Corporate Communication And CSR, Amway India – speaking at the event

About Nutrilite Traditional Herbs

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Nutrilite Traditonal Herbs, on display at the venue

Amway’s Nutrilite Traditional Herbs is a range of four dietary supplements, prepared using Indian herbs like Ashwagandha, Tulsi, Brahmi and Amla that are known for their medicinal properties. These supplements are recommended for anyone and everyone above 12 years of age, to help combat the negative impact of modern-day circumstances like high stress levels, unhealthy sleep patterns, improper diet and sedentary lifestyles.

Mr. Ajay Khanna – Category Head, Nutrition And Wellness, Amway India – speaking at the event

Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Ajay Khanna – Category Head, Nutrition And Wellness, Amway India, stated that the firm believes in the ‘prevention over cure’ philosophy. It advocates being pro-active about one’s health and avoiding ailments rather than rushing to a doctor only when illness occurs. Amway’s Nutrilite Traditional Herbs helps you be pro-active in terms of your health, Mr. Khanna stated. The Ashwagandha is supposed to support vitality; the Brahmi, mental agility; the Tulsi, immunity; and The Amalaki, Vibhitaki & Haritaki, digestion.

The four supplements included in the Nutrilite Traditional Herbs range

Further, Mr. Khanna talked about Amway’s commitment to being highly vigilant and personally involved at every stage of manufacturing of the Nutrilite Traditional Herbs range. The firm ensures the herbs are picked up only from 100% organic, non-GMO, Indian farms. Care is taken to ensure that the right species of herbs are used (there are, after all, several hundreds of species!) to provide maximum benefit to consumers. Their team of doctors and other experts ensures that the right part of the plant goes into making the supplements, under extremely hygienic and sustainable conditions.

The supplements are manufactured in Amway’s state-of-the-art LEEDS ‘GOLD’ certified plant at Dindigul, Tamilnadu, entirely untouched by human hands, and follows stringent quality control measures. These supplements have been extensively researched, formulated and tested to ensure that they are completely safe for use, and are FSSAI-certified. Every unit of Amway’s Nutrilite Traditional Herbs range comes with a QSR code which, when scanned, provides complete details about tAmway’s ‘Seed to Supplement’ approach is what differentiates it from other health supplement brands available in the market today, Mr. Khanna stated. The four supplements together are priced at INR 649, 60 tablets per container.

This makes Amway’s Nutrilite Traditional Herbs an entirely ‘Made In India’ venture, Mr. Khanna added, very much in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision.

Why Nutrilite Traditional Herbs?

Dr. CA Kishore, Ayurveda expert, also spoke at the event, clarifying the importance of nutritional supplements in today’s fast-paced world.

Dr. CA Kishore, Ayurveda expert, speaking at the event

“You might wonder why you should eat a Tulsi or Amla supplement when both of these are widely available in raw form throughout India,” Dr. Kishore stated. “This is so because of Amway’s commitment to providing the benefit of the right kind of herbs, the right part of the plant, in the right dosage, to customers via its Nutrilite Traditional Herbs range. The range is the perfect combination of ancient wisdom and modern science,” he added.

The supplements come in easy-to-carry, easy-to-use containers, Dr. Kishore said. You need to concern yourself with just consuming them, without any worries about sourcing raw ingredients. Amway has that part of it all covered, he added.

Personally, I don’t think I have the knowledge to comment on the ingredients or the health benefits. I will let the experts do the talking.

About Amway’s Digital Experience Centre, Indiranagar

Remember those days when Amway products only used to be available via dealers? Well, the firm still continues to sell majorly through dealers, enabling them to become entrepreneurs and better their standard of living, but that is not the only channel of sales now. One can also buy directly from Amway’s website. The firm is also in the process of opening up brick-and-mortar stores across India, where customers can check out all of their various products. Amway’s Digital Experience Centre in Indiranagar – a sleek, swanky blend of technology and brick-and-mortar – is a move in this direction.

Located on the bustling 100-Foot Road in Indiranagar, the Amway Digital Experience Centre has on display all of Amway’s products – including products for health care, skincare, personal care and home care, products for kids, as well as their newly launched Amway Queen cookware.

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Amway Queen premium cookware, designed to help one cook with minimal oil and water, preserving taste and nutrients

The store has facilities such as ‘Interactive Table Application’ and ‘Virtual Cart’, too, for tech-savvy customers. There is also a Beauty Zone in-house, where one can consult with skin and hair care experts to find out which of Amway’s products are best suited to them.

Some of Amway’s skincare products on display at the Beauty Zone, Amway Digital Experience Store

A ‘Virtual Make-Up Zone’ simulates how customers would look with make-up on, and what type of products would best suit their facial features.

So, so very interesting, right?

If you are in Bangalore, do drop in at the Amway Digital Experience Centre. Don’t forget to check out the new Nutrilite Traditional Herbs range!

‘The Taste Of Malabar’ Food Festival At Nook, Aloft, Cessna Business Park

What comes to your mind when you think of the Malabar region? For me, a mere mention of the place conjures up images of lush greenery, gorgeous beaches, swaying coconut trees, banana chips, appams and stew, toddy, little chai shops, red rice and a whole lot of other things that are quintessentially Kerala. That said, I don’t have any personal experience of visiting the Malabar, that coastal region in Kerala that runs from Goa to the southernmost part of the country. All the impressions I have about the Malabar region are purely based on things I have read and holidays undertaken in other parts of Kerala.

So, it was with great curiosity that I recently reached Nook, a restaurant by Aloft Hotels, in Cessna Business Park, Kadubeesanahalli, Bangalore. I had been invited to experience the ongoing ‘The Taste Of Malabar’ food festival at Nook, and was very eager to check it out. Let me hasten to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, savouring the lovely food that was served to me.

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The swanky, contemporary decor at Nook by Aloft, Cessna Business Park

The Taste Of Malabar food festival at Nook by Aloft

The festival is an attempt by Chef Aniket Das (Executive Chef at Nook) to showcase the cuisine of the Mapilla community from the Malabar coastal region. Mapilla – also called Moplah – is community of Malayalam-speaking Muslims in the Malabar, with a distinct cuisine of their own. There is a heavy-handed use of coconut oil and spices like dried red chillies, cloves, cardamom and pepper in Mapilla food, as is the use of curry leaves, tamarind, ginger, coconut and rice. The cuisine borrows heavily from the Arabic world, thanks to widespread trade relations between the two places. Though non-vegetarian food rules the roost in Mapilla cuisine, there are several vegetarian delicacies worth savouring as well.

Ambience and decor

I loved how the food festival brought Kerala to life. A little stall was set up to represent the chai kada (tea shop) of Kerala, complete with a variety of chips, bananas hanging off hooks and Malayalam newspapers. Coconut-leaf decorations adorned the ceiling, and most of the food was presented in earthenware utensils that are so typical of Kerala. Another small stall handed out tender coconut water to the guests who requested them. An exhibit showcased a few ingredients that are indigenous to Kerala – coconuts and red rice and red bananas. The front office staff were dressed the Kerala way too, with golden-bordered kasavus, white shirts, mundus and veshtis.

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A Kerala-style chai kada set up at Nook, as part of The Taste Of Malabar food festival

I am a sucker for attention to such little details as these, which indicate that research and thought have gone in into providing a complete experience to the customers.

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Assorted chutneys, chips and poppadums served in earthenware vessels at the food festival

Food and drinks

The food festival menu is in addition to the regular buffet at Nook, at no additional charge. A walk around the buffet showed me that it was quite, quite expansive, spanning a vast variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. I really mean it – the spread here is HUGE.

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The pretty bread basket that is part of the buffet at Nook

A live fish fry counter that had been set up for the food festival elicited sighs of pleasure from my fellow diners. I sampled only the vegetarian fare, of course.

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Live fish fry counter at Nook, set up for The Taste Of Malabar Food Festival

As we settled into our seats, little pots of Kerala delicacies were brought to us to munch on – assorted chutneys, poppadums, rose cookies, tapioca chips, sweet and savoury banana chips, and jackfruit chips. Every bit of this was thoroughly enjoyed by yours truly, especially the lip-smackingly gorgeous pumpkin, curry leaf and raw mango chutneys.

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Top left: A variety of chutneys; Bottom left: Poppadums; Bottom right: Sweet and salted banana chips and jackfruit chips; Top right: Tapioca chips; Top centre: Rose cookies

Next up, I tried out the somasi – wheat flour shells stuffed with different types of fillings and then deep-fried. I loved the two vegetarian versions, with paneer and mushroom stuffing within.

The onion samosa that I sampled alongside was also beautiful, crisp and perfectly done, the filling delicious.

I understand, from my non-vegetarian fellow diners, that the somasi with chicken and beef filling was exquisite too. The stir-fried squid and chicken was, apparently, very well done as well.

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Left: Mushroom somasi; Centre: Onion samosa; Right: Paneer somasi

The buffet also included three drinks (if I may call them so!) that are integral to Kerala – neer more or mildly spiced buttermilk, cumin-flavoured water, and water that is infused with a herb called pathimugam or sappanwood.

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Left: Water infused with pathimugam; Centre: Neer more; Right: Cumin-infused water

I chose some salads from the regular buffet to sample, next. I must say I absolutely loved the salad counter at Nook, it is so very expansive, with several types of vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions available. There are different types of chaats on offer at the counter as well.

I loved the Capsicum Salad here, with a sweetish dressing, served with bits of feta. The Jackfruit Salad (yes, you read that right! Nowhere else have I come across a salad like this!) was a close second favourite. The Ripe Fig Salad was good too, as was the Soya Nuggets Chaat (the latter, again, something I have never come across before).

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A few items from the salad counter at Nook by Aloft. Top left: Grilled pineapple, grilled watermelon and capsicum salad with feta; Bottom left: Soya nuggets chaat and pesto pasta; Bottom right: Fresh micro greens; Top right: Fresh fig salad; Top centre: The jackfruit salad that I so loved

For main course, I tried out the Kerala Red Rice with Ulli Theeyal, a tamarind-based preparation with shallots. While I loved the earthy taste of the red rice, I felt the ulli theeyal could have done with a bit more flavour. The Cabbage Mezhukkuperatti or stir fry that I sampled alongside was very well done, too, mild and simple, yet full of deliciousness.

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Left: Kerala red rice; Centre: Ulli theeyal; Right: Cabbage mezhukkuperatti

I also tried out the Vegetarian Pizza, Singapore Noodles and Hot-And-Sour Vegetables from the regular buffet, which I felt were just about okay. I loved the Paneer & Papad Sabzi I sampled from the buffet, too (Just how innovative that is, right?!)

As per my fellow non-vegetarian diners, the Mapilla Chicken Biryani was out of the world, and the appams with chicken stew were fantabulous too. I didn’t have space enough in my tummy to try out the vegetarian versions. The sheer variety of pickles that was part of the buffet – from chicken and prawn pickle to lal mirch ka achaar and mixed vegetable pickle – was mind-boggling!

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Some desserts on offer at Nook by Aloft. Left: White chocolate with roses and nuts; Centre: A decoration that caught my fancy at the dessert counter; Right: Chocolate gateau with a (surprise!) mango filling within

The dessert counter at Nook is vast, just like the salad bar, including stuff for every kind of sweet tooth there is. Thanks to the food festival, the dessert counter had typical Kerala sweet dishes like buckwheat halwa, Calicut halwa and Vattayappam (sweet steamed rice cakes made with toddy). This was apart from the regular sweet dishes like ice cream, pannacotta, mousse and various Indian desserts.

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Some of the desserts on offer at Nook by Aloft. Top left: Basboosa, an Arabic dessert; Bottom left: Calicut halwa; Bottom centre: Buckwheat halwa; Bottom right: Vattayappam; Top right: Mango and ginger mousse (stuffed with mixed fruit jam!)

I was able to try out very few of the desserts, of which I adored the chocolate gateau and the buckwheat halwa. The vattayappam, basboosa and mango-ginger mousse were so intriguing that I had to pick them up but, sadly, they did not hit the right taste notes with me.

Festival details

  • Type: Lunch and dinner buffet
  • Price: INR 1099 + +
  • Date: March 15 to 27, 2018
  • Timings : 12.30 – 3.00 PM & 7.00 – 11.00 PM.
  • Address: Cessna Business Park, Sarjapur – Marathahalli Outer Ring Road, Kadubeesanahalli, Bellandur Post, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560103
  • Phone: 08045101010

In hindsight

Overall, the buffet was quite interesting, not to forget vast. I loved how the kitchen has gone to great lengths to add that element of surprise to some of the dishes. Also, like I said before, I loved how the overall look of the place and the food makes the mind travel to Kerala.

A few of the dishes I tried out from the regular buffet were just okay, while the others were beautiful and par excellence. That said, the buffet menu changes regularly, so the items (and taste) I encountered might not be the case with you, when you visit.

Considering that Mapilla cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian, options for vegetarians are relatively limited on the food festival menu. However, the regular buffet more than makes up for it.

The buffet is definitely value for money, with or without the food festival, considering the huge spread. I don’t think I can try out all the items at one go, even if I tried to.

That was quite something, right? Do book yourself a slot at The Taste Of Malabar before the food festival ends!

Masterclass With Chef Tanmoy Sarvardekar At Cinepolis Coffee Tree

Famed Chef Tanmoy Sarvardekar, who heads The Winking Macaron in Bangalore, recently held a masterclass in association with Coffee Tree, Cinepolis, at the Royal Meenakshi Mall. I had the pleasure of attending this masterclass and ended up having a lovely experience while there.

For the uninitiated, Cinepolis is the world’s second largest movie theatre circuit, also touted to be India’s first international theatre group. Coffee Tree is the in-house gourmet coffee shop at Cinepolis, serving a variety of delicious snacks, beverages and, of course, coffee to cinema goers and mall visitors alike.

Chef Tanmoy Sarvardekar, all set to begin the masterclass

At the masterclass, Chef Sarvardekar demonstrated some of the signature snacks from Coffee Tree’s extensive menu. He started with one of his personal favourites – Chilli Cheese Toast.

Chef Sarvardekar demonstrating Cinepolis Coffee Tree’s Chilli Cheese Toast

The audience got to sample the Chef’s creations, and I loved this cheesy, spicy toast.

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Cinepolis Coffee Tree’s Chilli Cheese Toast, prepared by Chef Sarvardekar

Next up, Chef Sarvardekar demonstrated the preparation of a Chicken Burger, a la Cinepolis Coffee Tree. This snack, too, won the oohs and aahs of the audience.

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The Chicken Burger demonstrated by Chef Sarvardekar

The next dish that Chef Sarvardekar demonstrated was a Vegetarian Pasta Arrabbiatta, one of my all-time favourite dishes.

Chef Sarvardekar preparing Vegetarian Pasta Arrabbiatta, off the menu of Cinepolis Coffee Tree

The chef paired the Pasta Arrabbiatta with a Masala Lemonade from the Coffee Tree menu, a cool and refreshing drink that I absolutely loved.

The Vegetarian Pasta Arrabbiatta prepared by Chef Sarvardekar

Post the cook-off, four volunteers from the audience contested in the preparation of a Double Decker Sandwich and Virgin Lemon-Mint Mojito.

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One of the contestants and fellow food blogger Madraasi Deepa, busy preparing her Double Decker Sandwich
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Another contestant, preparing Virgin Lemon-Mint Mojito

Chef Sarvardekar then sampled the creations of all four contestants, offering them comments and suggestions for improvement.

Speaking about the masterclass, Chef Sarvadekar said, “The experience of collaborating with Cinépolis was an exhilarating one. The response from the audience was very warm and encouraging. Coffee Tree, as a concept, is very unique and has some good offerings in terms of food and beverage options, which people always look for while going for a movie watching experience.”

All in all, it was a delightful afternoon, where much fun was had by all.

 

Glimpses From The International Kite Festival 2018, Ahmedabad

The city of Ahmedabad has been hosting the International Kite Festival every year, ever since 1989. The event is held in January, to commemorate Uttarayan, one of Ahmedabad’s most-loved festivals. It was something that started off as a small celebration, and grew huge over the years, especially in the last 4-5 years or so. The kite festival today attracts big, big, big crowds and celebrities, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi included. The event sees participation from master kite flyers from across the world, who come in to showcase their beautiful kites and talent.

Sadly, I never, ever, attended the kite festival when I lived in Ahmedabad. I have seen scenes from the festival on TV and pictures in newspapers, though, and know just how festive the atmosphere gets, with hundreds of people flying their unique kites side by side, which get cut off one by one till there are very few ‘survivors’. All this to cheers and claps by thousands and thousands of excited watchers, in the midst of cultural programmes and lots of media frenzy. This year, our visit to Ahmedabad coincided with the beginning of the International Kite Festival 2018, and we decided to drop in to get a feel of the fervour.

When we visited, the festival had just begun, there wasn’t much of a crowd, and there were few participants in the arena, trying to fly their kites. We passed by for a short while, thanks to a cranky bub who refused to walk one bit. Still, the atmosphere managed to fill our hearts with awe and joy.

I leave you with some pics from our visit to the International Kite Festival 2018.

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The entrance, shaped like a kite. Creative, no?

I loved the biiiiigggg food court that one came to as soon as they walked through that entrance. Gujarati specialties like dhokla, khaman, gota, khichu, undhiyu, Uttarayan-special varieties of ice creams, and loads of winter delicacies graced the numerous stalls that lined the food court – what a great idea to promote the wonderful, wonderful food that Gujarat has to offer?! The food court right at the entrance proved to me something that I have always known – that food comes before everything else for the fun-loving Gujarati!

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A couple of participants, caught in action

After the food court came a huge arena, which was surrounded by onlookers and media. In the arena were a few participants, trying to get their kites off the ground. That wasn’t really a problem, considering the pleasant breeze that wafted through the venue, thanks to the Sabarmati waterfront right next door.

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A beautiful tiger kite that caught our fancy, at the International Kite Festival 2018

There weren’t many kites up in the air when we visited, but we did spot some really unique ones. I could only imagine the out-of-the-box kites that would be dotting the sky as the day of Uttarayan came closer.

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Pretty, pretty, no?
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So colourful, eh? And, no, that is not a bird in the background – it’s a kite!

Some of the kites were eye-catchingly colourful. Some were decked with the colours of the national flag of the participants’ countries Some were huge. Some were in the shape of animals. Some had the face of celebrities imprinted on them.

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A couple more participants at the International Kite Festival 2018, caught in action

Some of the kites were so big they refused to lift up in the air. Some required roller skates and two or more sets of threads to balance them.

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I couldn’t make out what this was, but it sure looked fascinating, gliding gracefully in the air with its long tail!
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Jellyfish?

We were to leave Ahmedabad much before the day of Uttarayan (January 14), but the brief glimpse of the International Kite Festival was enough to carry back with in our souls.

For more pictures and information about this year’s International Kite Festival, check out the Gujarat Tourism website.

Christmas Buffet At Plaza Premium Lounge, Bengaluru International Airport

The uber-luxurious Plaza Premium Lounge at the Bengaluru International Airport served a special lunch buffet for Christmas this year. The honour of getting an exclusive preview of this Christmas menu was bestowed on me, along with a few other food, travel and lifestyle bloggers. Read on, to know how I found the spread!

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This menu, specially curated by Executive Chef Ankit Mangala for the occasion of Christmas, was served at Plaza Premium Lounge on December 24 and 25, 2017. 

Apart from a sumptuous Honey-Glazed Turkey (of course!) served with cranberry sauce, the extensive spread also included some Christmas-sy desserts like Pumpkin Pie, Plum Cake and Yule Log, as well as some very traditional Indian dishes like Daal Makhani, Butter Rice and Peas Pulao for the benefit of international travellers who would love a taste of India.

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Some of the dishes from the Christmas-special buffet: The turkey in the centre, surrounded by Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon & Basil Salad, Paneer Butter Masala, Creamy Pesto Chicken Casserole, Parsi Chicken Dhansak, and Peas Pulao (clock-wise direction from bottom left)

I tried out the vegetarian dishes, and found most of them to be well-executed, beautiful in taste and presentation. Though I felt several of the dishes didn’t really have a Christmas-sy touch to them, the menu was well thought out, from the angle of an international traveller who might have a couple of hours to kill at Bengaluru Airport on or around Christmas day.

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A close-up of the Honey-Glazed Turkey, presented beautifully with assorted vegetables

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Here’s what I loved the most from this spread.

1. Pumpkin & Roasted Garlic Soup

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Pumpkin & Roasted Garlic Soup at Plaza Premium Lounge

The pumpkin soup was simply beautiful, expertly prepared. It had just the right texture to it, neither too thick nor too watery. It tasted lovely, with bits of roasted garlic adding a lovely depth to the flavour. I loved this one to bits – it was perfect for the cold evening we visited!

2. Roasted Potato Salad With Lemon Vinaigrette

This salad, served cold, tasted absolutely lovely. The potatoes were cooked just right, and the lemon vinaigrette – mild and subtle – made for a beautiful complement to them.

3. Daal Makhani and Peas Pulao

The daal makhani was the star of the meal, for me. It was rich and creamy, without being greasy or overwhelming. The taste was stunningly gorgeous, and it coupled just perfectly with the mild and simple peas pulao.

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Top left: Peas Pulao, Top right: Roasted Potato Salad With Lemon Vinaigrette; Bottom right: Garlic Vegetable Fried Rice; Bottom left: The star of the meal for me – the Daal Makhani

4. Stir-Fried Vegetables With Tofu, Ginger & Chilli Sauce, and Garlic Vegetable Fried Rice

This was yet another beautifully executed dish at Plaza, a huge hit with me. The runny gravy had a lovely gingery flavour to it, without being overloaded with spice, just enough to warm the cockles of your heart. The curry had a generous amount of vegetables and tofu in it, and made for a lovely, lovely complement to the mildly spiced garlic vegetable rice we were served.

5. Butterscotch Pastry

We were served a tasting portion of a few of the desserts that would be part of the Christmas-special buffet at Plaza Premium Lounge. Of these, I loved the butterscotch pastry the most – it was light yet sinful, delicate yet full of flavour. Very well done!

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A few of the desserts from the XMas-special buffet at Plaza: Christmas Star Cupcake, Butterscotch Pastry, and (don’t miss this!) an Oreo-And-Strawberry Santa!

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What could have been better

  1. I loved how the menu offered a taste of India and how the team had added little Christmas-sy touches to certain dishes (the Couscous Salad, With Zucchini, Mint & Cranberries, for instance). That said, with all due respect to the Chef and his team, the menu (main course, especially) could have been a bit more festive, a bit more significant of the occasion.
  2. I felt the vegetarians had limited (albeit delicious) options to choose from. Vegetarians should have had something equally enticing as the Honey-Glazed Turkey or the Chicken Dhansak or Creamy Pesto Chicken Casserole.
  3. Taste-wise, the desserts (except for the Butterscotch Pastry) could have been better. 

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Plaza Premium Lounge, a warm note of thanks for making this sneak peek possible!

So, people, the next time you have a few hours to kill at the Bengaluru International Airport in between flights, you know where to head to! Christmas or not, Plaza Premium Lounge dishes up some wonderful meals all right!

The Culinary Symposium Of Millets, With Shri Krishna Byre Gowda

It was an enriching and enlightening experience for me to be part of The Culinary Symposium On Millets, held recently at MS Ramaiah University, New BEL Road.

Dignitaries like Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, Hon’ble Minister of Agriculture for State, Government of Karnataka; Karnataka State Agriculture Commissioner Shri Satheesh; Executive Chefs from The Oberoi, The Taj and a number of other hotels of great repute, representatives of eateries like SodaBottleOpenerWala and MTR as well as from food delivery services like FreshMenu, producers of millet-based foods, food critics and other well-known figures from the food scene in India, as well as select food bloggers.

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Left: Shri K Satheesh, Shri Krishna Byre Gowda and Mr. Ramaswamy Selvaraju (Executive Chef of Vivanta By Taj, Bangalore, present at the event; Right: Shri Krishna Byre Gowda making a point at the Symposium

The Symposium was a run-up to the Organics & Millets International Trade Fair 2018, which is to be held at the Bangalore Palace in January 2018. The event was a huge success in 2017, and it is expected to be even bigger and better in 2018!

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Left: Veterans from the hospitality industry in India, discussing their expectations and plans for the Organics & Millets International Trade Fair 2018; Right: Ms. Priya of MS Ramaiah University, who has made a significant contribution towards the millet cause, in co-ordination with the Government of Karnataka

The event served as a meeting point for various stakeholders to meet and discuss the road map to the very promising Organics & Millets International Trade Fair 2018. Restaurants, food bloggers, social media experts, home chefs, hotel management institutes, culinary studios, everyone has a role to play to make the upcoming event a success all over again, something that was discussed in great detail at the symposium.

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A discussion in progress at The Culinary Symposium On Millets. Dignitaries from the Government of Karnataka, food bloggers, experts from the Indian hospitality industry, representatives of various restaurants from Bangalore, and producers of packaged millet-based foods were all part of the discussion.

Some of the key points discussed were:

  1. What restaurants could do to educate patrons on the importance of consuming millets and how to gain better acceptance for them.
  2. Organising millet-based cooking competitions to encourage more people to cook with millets, especially homemakers.
  3. Organising workshops at various places to teach people how to cook using millets.
  4. Involving street carts and stalls in the millet cause, and encouraging them to use more millets in their offerings.
  5. Including millets in the curriculum at hotel management institutes.
  6. Introducing healthy millet-based foods in school and college canteens, as well as hospitals.
  7. Training of the staff at hotels in how to use millets in cooking.
  8. Ensuring a steady supply of various kinds of millets to restaurant kitchens.
  9. Spreading awareness about the benefits of consuming millets, in schools and colleges.
  10. Spreading the word about millets through Instagram and other social media networks, so that the campaign can reach the younger generation.

Another reason for the organisation of this Symposium was to showcase the huge variety of foods (traditional as well as contemporary, vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian) that can be prepared using millets. These dishes were all thoughtfully conceptualised and prepared by students and chefs of MS Ramaiah University.

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SOUP: Left: Some very delicious Ragi And Tomato Soup and Right: Sorghum And Chicken Soup, both presented at the Symposium; Centre: The pretty ladies who prepared these soups

I was surely awed by the sheer variety of millet-based dishes on display! Mind = Blown! I could see the other guests at the Symposium having the same awe-struck reaction on their faces, too. Of course, how could they not?!

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SALADS: Top left: My personal favourite dish at the Symposium, a sweet-sour-salty-crunchy-spicy-nutty salad made with baked millet sprouts and a lot of nuts; Below: The millet sprouts used in the salad and another presentation of the same beautiful salad; Top right: A salad made with ragi crisps and millet sprouts; Bottom right: A salad made with fruits and assorted millets

Along with the other guests, I sampled the dishes on offer – the vegetarian part of it, that is. Most of what I tried out was absolutely, finger-lickingly delicious!

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APPETISERS AND MAIN COURSE: Top left: Jowar Pasta in the making, along with jowar-based white sauce to go with it; Below: Stuffed Chicken made with millets and Kaalu Saaru, a gravy made with millets and green gram; Top right: A tasting portion of the Jowar Pasta; Bottom right: Sorghum Tacos

Drooling yet? No? 😦

Well, the desserts will make you drool for sure! Take a look at them!

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Left and centre: Jowar Jalebi in the making!; Right: The beautiful jowar jalebi served with rabdi
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Top left: Millet brownies; Below: Millet Fruit Tarts; Bottom Right: The bajra and jaggery halwa that I adored; Top: Lavang Latika made with sorghum (left) and Chocolate Millet Bars (right)

Mind you, this is just a small part of the millet feast that was on display at the Symposium – this is just for the purpose of representation; there was much more!

I hope you enjoyed the visuals! Do drop in a note, through the comments, to tell me what you thought of this post and the pics.

May this inspire all of us to do more with millets in the days to come! And, oh, don’t miss visiting the Organics & Millets International Trade Fair 2018!

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For more pictures from the event, check out my Facebook album here!

The Inner Chef Pasta-Making Workshop With Chef Michel Basaldella

“About a decade or so ago, most restaurants in Italy would make fresh pasta for the customers. They would begin to roll out the pasta only as a customer got in the door, and to serve anything less than just-made, hand-crafted pasta was a sin. Today, though, there are hardly any eateries who do that, in Italy or the rest of the world,” said Chef Michel Basaldella as he began the ‘pasta-making from scratch’ workshop last week.

“Consider yourselves very lucky to be able to experience hand-made pasta just out of the pan,” he added. I acquiesced, as did the few other food enthusiasts on board. We were at Cafe Onesta in Koramangala, eager to begin learning how to make pasta the old-fashioned way, at a workshop organised by InnerChef. I was lucky, indeed, to be able to learn from the Italian maestro himself, lucky to be invited to the workshop in my capacity as a food blogger. I was lucky to be able to get a bite of Provence, where Chef Basaldella hails from – that place I’ve always dreamt about after reading Peter Mayle! –  from the hands of the Chef, who has an extensive experience of working in Michelin-starred restaurants in London and Paris. Woah!

And the workshop began on that promising note, making it an evening that panned out so, so, so beautifully I am sure all of us present are going to cherish for a long time to come. Chef Basaldella teamed up with Chef Armando Di Filippo (who is a native of Rome, and is presently Consultant Chef with Onesta) to demonstrate quite a few varieties of hand-made pasta. I will take you through my memories of the lovely evening, through my pictures.

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Left: Chef Basaldella mixing the dough for the pasta, Centre: The pasta dough being bound, Right: Chef Basaldella rolling out the dough after it has rested

“Different regions in Italy prepare pasta with slight variations in the proceedure. Some add in about 12 eggs for 1 kg of flour, while some add in about 6. And a splash of white wine is an absolute must, for a great-tasting pasta,” quipped Chef Basaldella, as he mixed the dough for the workshop.

Into the mixing bowl went a kilogram of maida (a good substitute to the 00 flour – a very fine flour made from wheat – that is commonly used in Italy for the purpose), three whole eggs, the yolk of three eggs, a dash of white wine, olive oil, a pinch of turmeric (for that mild yellow colour – because the egg yolks in India aren’t as yellow as those in Italy), and just a pinch of salt, for all of it to be mixed together with gentle hands. The flour and other ingredients were then tipped onto the table, and bound together into a firm but soft dough.

“Every family in Italy has a wooden table, where generations of women have stood and made pasta by hand,” Chef Basaldella quipped. “Here, though, we’ll be using this metal surface,” he said, almost apologetically.

The dough was then stretched and pulled and pushed to release its glutens, then bound up in cling wrap and allowed to rest. “If you think you cannot do all that pulling and pushing, think of your spouses,” Chef Basaldella said jokingly, “and you will automatically start punching the dough.” Ha!

It was after this that the magic began, and the audience watched on, spell-bound. Once the dough had had time to rest (about 20 minutes), one shape of pasta after another emerged from the skilled hands of Chef Basaldella and Chef Di Filippo. “There are over 3000 different shapes in which pasta has been made – only the documented versions, that is,” Chef Basaldella said, eliciting a ‘Wow!’ from the audience.

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Left: Chef Basaldella making thin strips of the dough using a pasta machine; Centre: Chef Di Filippo demonstrating how to make pasta without a machine, using a rolling pin; Right: Ravioli in the making

Chef Basaldella went on insert a little of the prepared dough into a pasta-making machine, specially flown in from Italy for the purpose. The output was a thin, stretched-out sheet of dough. This dough was then folded and folded again, again inserted into the machine, to get an even thinner sheet of dough. This process was repeated 8-10 times, at the end of which a highly pliable, super thin and soft sheet of dough was obtained.

Chef Di Filippo demonstrated the same process with a rolling pin, for the benefit of those who do not have access to a pasta-making machine. He rolled out the dough thin, thin, thin, folded it and folded it again, rolled it out again, quite a few times. The end result was, again, a thin and pliable sheet of dough.

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Left, Centre and Right: Chef Basaldella and Chef Di Filippo demonstrating how to make different shapes of ravioli

Chef Basaldella and Chef Di Filippo then showed the audience how to make ravioli in different shapes using simple things like glasses and cookie cutters. The filling used in the ravioli was customized, using ingredients that are very commonly available in India – paneer, salt, spinach and nutmeg, for instance, among other things.

The hands of both chefs flew as one shape after another emerged – from the classic round and square shapes of the ravioli to the very exotic ‘mezzaluna‘ (‘half moon’ in Italian.

The ravioli cooked in boiling water tasted absolutely fresh and amazing, a far cry from the out-of-a-store-bought-packet pasta I have had so far.

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Top left: The fettucine pasta that the chefs dished up for us, made from scratch; Bottom left: The fettucine pasta being cooked; Top right: The pasta machine that the chefs used, and how the fettucine was made using it; Bottom right: Fettucine pasta being made by hand

Next up, Chef Basaldella demonstrated how to use the pasta machine to make thin strips of fettucine, from the sheets of dough he had prepared earlier. Chef Di Filippo showed us how to cut out strips of fettucine from the dough, using a sharp knife.

The fettucine was then cooked in boiling water and served with Chef Basaldella’s signature basil pesto sauce. Oh my God, was this delicious or what?!

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Left: Broccoli being shredded; Centre: Chef Basaldella’s version of broccoli pasta in the making; Right: A tasting portion of broccoli pasta for us

Next up, we were witness to a demonstration on how to cook dry pasta out of a packet (excellent-quality pasta that came all the way from Italy, specially for the workshop) with broccoli, Chef Basaldella’s way. Chef Basaldella cooked dry pasta along with shredded broccoli (in the absence of the Italian ‘rabe‘), in boiling water. The sauce was very simple – just olive oil, garlic, a little of the shredded broccoli and some of the pasta water. Again, another delectable, delectable dish!

The workshop ended with a sampling of this gorgeous pasta, and a little question-and-answer session with the audience. It was amazing to see just how humble both the chefs were, ready to answer any query. This was followed by a delicious high tea courtesy of Onesta and Inner Chef, the relatively new food delivery service in Bangalore.

I am still reeling with all the excitement of the workshop. I can’t wait to practice all of that at home. The workshop has, effectively, changed the way I see pasta – I don’t think I can ever be eat pasta out of a packet all that comfortably now.

Onesta and Inner Chef, I can’t thank you enough for this wonderful experience.

Some notes from the workshop:

  1. Instead of making pasta dough entirely using maida, you can use a mix of 70% maida and 30% whole wheat flour.
  2. Pasta can be made without eggs as well. However, dough made without eggs might yield slightly thicker pasta and might not be pliable enough to make ravioli and the likes.
  3. A pasta machine is a good investment if you want to make pasta at home on a regular basis, and experiment with different kinds of flours. If you have made thin rotis the Indian way, though, a pasta machine might not be necessary.
  4. Use the pasta water to make the sauce. This infuses a beautiful flavour into the sauce.
  5. Pasta should always be cooked al dente, as per the chefs – cooked just enough, neither undercooked nor overcooked. Undercooked or overcooked pasta might cause issues with digestion, but al dente pasta never will.
  6. Always use only Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the best quality you can manage to find. The bottles marked only ‘Olive Oil’ aren’t really worth it, the chefs say. 

Did you like reading this post? Do tell me by dropping in a note in the Comments section.