Panel Discussion: Resurgence Of Millets In My Plate

Last week, I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to be part of a panel discussion, titled ‘Resurgence Of Millets In My Plate’, by eminent personalities from the state of Karnataka. This discussion, organised by the Government of Karnataka’s Department of Agriculture in co-ordination with the Department of Home Science of the Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, was held at The Capitol on Raj Bhavan Road on December 7, 2018 .

The panel discussion was a lead-up to the next Organics & Millets International Trade Fair, which is scheduled between January 18 and 20, 2019, at the Bengaluru Palace. As always, the discussion opened up to me the immense world of millets, all that one can do with these wonder grains, in one’s own kitchen and at the country level.

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The event started with a welcome speech by Dr. K.G. Jagadeesha, IAS, Commissioner – Department of Agriculture. He spoke about the mammoth scale of the Organics & Millets International Trade Fair 2019, and of how the fair has already proved to be a great success in the past years.

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Dr. A. Sundaravalli, introducing the agenda of the panel discussion

Post this, Dr. A. Sundaravalli, Head of the Department of Home Science, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, spoke about the panelists and the agenda of the discussion, i.e. how to enable millets to make a come-back on the plates of the common man, after the ancient grains having been considered as ‘poor man’s food’ for so long. She spoke of how, considering the immense health benefits of millets, it is critical for them to start gaining a wider acceptance than they already are.

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The panel discussion started, moderated by Dr. Santha Maria, Dean, Faculty of Home Science, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.

Dr. Santha Maria, introducing the esteemed panelists to the audience

The esteemed panelists included:

  • Dr. Manjunath C.N., Director, Jayadeva Hospital
  • Dr. Mahesh D.M., Consultant Endocrinologist, Aster CMI and Medpoint Diabetes & Thyroid Clinic
  • Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy, President, Indian Dietictic Association
  • Mr. Sihikahi Chandru, Actor, Producer & Director
  • Mr. Prashant Parameshwaran, Managing Director, Soulfull
  • Mr. Vilasbhargav, Managing Director, South Ruchis Square
  • Mr. Suresh Hinduja, CEO, Gourmet India.com
  • Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal, Former Indian goalkeeper of Indian Hockey
  • Dr. Swarnalatha Chandran, Swarayu Wellness Clinic
The panelists, in the course of the discussion. From left to right: Ms. Swarnalatha Chandran, Dr. Mahesh D.M., Mr. Vilasbhargav, Mr. Suresh Hinduja, Dr. Santha Maria, Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal, Mr. Prashant Parameswaran, Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy, and Mr. Sihikahi Chandru

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Putting forth his views about the importance of using millets in today’s world, Dr. Manjunath stated that there has been a stark increase in the incidence of lifestyle diseases in India, in the last couple of decades, both among males and females. What is even more alarming is the age group among which the incidence of these diseases is on the rise – more and more people in their 20s and 30s are being affected by rising blood pressure and cholesterol as well as heart problems, which is something very serious. At this rate, the day is not far when India will be the ‘disease capital of the world’. There are several factors which are leading to this negative development, as per Dr. Manjunath – including improper food habits, sedentary lifestyles, improper work situations, high stress levels and rising air pollution. Millets can go a long way towards bringing this alarm-inducing situation under control, he strongly opined.

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Dr. Manjunath putting forth his views at the panel discussion

The primary prevention of most lifestyle disorders starts with food, Dr. Manjunath stated. A lot of these diseases that are prevalent among today’s Indian youth can be controlled by increasing the consumption of millets, as well as consuming more vegetables and fruits (at least the minimum recommended dietary requirement for an adult). Dr. Manjunath stated that awareness among people about the various health benefits of millets needs to increase further, which will in turn bring about a better acceptance of them.

He went on to appeal to the audience not to think that the consumption of millets will automatically resolve all of one’s health issues. Millets are not a panacea. They should be used in combination with other components in one’s diet, like fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fats, wheat and rice. Every food group is important, he said. A 60:40 combination of millets:other ingredients will go a long way towards making them more palatable to the general public, he stated.

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Dr. Mahesh then went on to further elaborate on the various benefits that the consumption of millets offers. He stated that millets are the only food that offer everything to the human body, from fat, protein and antioxidants to vitamins and minerals. They are of great help in exercising the gut, and ensure the slow release of sugars into one’s blood stream. Considering this, it is very important for millets to start gaining wider acceptance among the general public, he stated.

The panelists, engrossed in the discussion

Prevention is better than cure. To cut short lifestyle diseases before they occur, it is high time we start paying close attention to what kinds of foods we are putting into our systems, Dr. Mahesh stated. It is high time we started recognising the importance of these wonder grains called millets, and gave them pride of place on our dining tables, he added.

Dr. Mahesh also spoke about the criticality of inculcating good eating habits, millets included, among children and youth, which will go on to ensure that we grow up into healthier adults and a healthier nation. Educating them about healthy eating will go a long way towards increasing acceptance, he stated.

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Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy went on to bust some common myths about the consumption of millets in India:

  • There seems to be a misconception among some Indians that eating a dark-coloured millet like ragi or finger millet will cause one’s skin to become dark. That is so not the case! Millets do not affect the colour of your skin, or that of your unborn child during pregnancy!
  • Millets are not a panacea for all diseases. Increasing the consumption of millets in one’s diet does not mean that all one’s ills will be cured.
  • Millets cannot replace everything else in your lunch or dinner plate. Your meals every day cannot be all-millet. A balanced diet, including good portion of all food groups, is more important. Moreover, millets might not be suitable in large proportions for certain people, such as those with digestive ailments.
  • Using millets in any proportion and in any way does not help. Using a small portion of millets in a dish, while the rest is made up of sugar or fat is not a healthy way to consume them. You don’t get the health benefits of the millet in your system, that way.
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Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy putting forth her views about millets at the panel discussion

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Mr. Sihikahi Chandru spoke about how he started reading up about millets a while ago, when he heard about the numerous health benefits they possess. He was surprised to discover that millets are not some new-fangled marketing drama, but an age-old grain that has been in use in India since centuries. He spoke of how his grandparents and ancestors grew up regularly consuming millets, and lifestyle disorders never seemed to affect them. Further, he went on to speak about how, when he himself tried to inculcate millets in his daily diet, it took a while for his system to adjust to them. He urged the audience to give millets a chance, to give their bodies enough time to get used to them, to not give up on them too soon. Mr. Chandru also spoke about the need to cook millets in a way that is palatable to the general public, so as to improve their acceptance.

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Mr. Sihikahi Chandru, speaking at the panel discussion

In conclusion, Mr. Chandru stated that millets need to be made more affordable, so as to enable common men and women to consume more of them. The production, distribution and affordability of millets needs to be worked upon.

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Mr. Prashant Parameshwaran spoke about how his firm, Soulfull, is working towards making millets more palatable and acceptable to the kids of today and the younger generation. He went on to speak about how Soulfull is making millets easier to use, so that they can get wider acceptance by the general public.

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Mr. Parameshwaran also talked about how the onus of change (from a largely wheat- and rice-dominant diet to a millet-inclusive one) lies on several people, including doctors, media, teachers, bloggers, food critics and housewives. All of these stakeholders need to work towards this goal, for it to be successfully achieved.

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Mr. Vilasbhargav talked about increased awareness among his customers at South Ruchis Square, a fine-dining restaurant located in Bangalore, about the health benefits of millets. He spoke about how customers today are more willing to try out various dishes made using millets, and of how such dishes are getting a good response in his restaurant. There is scope to do a lot more using millets in the culinary world, he added.

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Mr. Suresh Hinduja spoke about the need to tackle the non-acceptance of millets among children and adults alike. It is critical to introduce millets to children early on, so they are more receptive of them at later stages in life, he rightly stated. Also, there is a need to educate adults about the many ways in which millets can help them lead a healthier life, he said, which enable them to accept the grains more readily.

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Mr. Suresh Hinduja, speaking at the panel discussion

Mr. Hinduja also re-emphasised the need to serve millets in a way that is more acceptable to the children and youth of today. Millet-based drinks, energy bars, chocolates, pancakes and snacks are good ways to introduce the younger generation to the wonder grain, he stated.

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Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal talked about how the inclusion of millets is important for sportspeople and those are conscious about their health. Millets are a gluten-free food filled with nutrients, thus making for the perfect pre-game food. He spoke about how he began including millets like ragi and jowar in his own daily diet and that of his team, at the recommendation of doctors, and how that benefited them hugely.

Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal addressing the audience at the panel discussion

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Dr. Swarnalatha spoke about how millets are loaded with health benefits, but might not be suitable for all types of personalities, all age groups, and all times of the day. For instance, she stated, the system of someone with a kapha-dominant personality would be more acceptable to millets rather than someone with a vata– or pitta-dominant personality. Millets take time to digest, which is why they should preferably be consumed earlier in the day, between 6 AM to 2 PM, she said. She also spoke of how what you consume the millets with affect what nutrients you absorb from them – for instance, cooking them with an acidic substance like lemon or tamarind helps in better absorption of the iron in them.

Dr. Swarnalatha addressing the audience, at the panel discussion

Dr. Swarnalatha went on to state that it would be wrong to say that millets cannot be consumed by goiterous people or those with thyroid issues. The consumption of millets only has a very small bearing on goiter and thyroid problems, she stated. It would be best to consult a qualified dietician or doctor for better clarity on these aspects, she added.

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The event concluded with the answering of audience questions by the panelists. This was followed by a vote of thanks to the panelists on behalf of the Department of Home Sciences, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.

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As always, there are several events planned to the run-up of the Organics & Millets Trade Fair 2019, including cooking contests, millet fairs, runs and more. Stay tuned! Also, don’t miss marking your calendars for the gala fair that is slated to happen in January 2019!

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A Class With Ben Ungermann, Of The MasterChef Australia Fame

If you have been watching MasterChef Australia, I’m sure Ben Ungermann needs no introduction.

Ben Ungermann, runner-up at MasterChef Australia 2017, was recently in Bangalore for a few days, conducting events for World On A Plate. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a masterclass by him, at Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts yesterday. It was an experience that I will cherish for a long, long time to come.

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Ben Ungermann, regaling us with tales from his MasterChef Australia days, at his recent masterclass in Bangalore

Ben demonstrated to us, a fascinated audience, some really unique dishes –

1. Beer Can Chicken With Smashed Potatoes
2. Coffee-Cardamom Ice Cream With Cream Cheese Mousse, Butternut Pumpkin Puree, Shortbread, Rum Caramel & Micro Greens
3. Fish En Pappilote Roasted Tomatoes & Fennel Mayonnaise
4. Sake Ice Cream With Matcha Microwave Sponge, Puffed Rice & Wasabi Mousse

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Ben at the masterclass, demonstrating Beer Can Chicken With Smashed Potatoes

Ben kept us spell-bound by creating these fantastic dishes right before our eyes.

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Ben demonstrating Fish En Pappilote Roasted Tomatoes, i.e. the French way of cooking fish in a bag

He wowed us with his understanding of various ingredients and cooking techniques.

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Ben demonstrating how fennel mayonnaise can be prepared in exactly 30 seconds, which is then used to plate the Fish En Pappilote Roasted Tomatoes

Ben regaled us with anecdotes from his life and MasterChef Australia 2017. He told us of how he had children early on in life, and how he was forced to make a living selling shoes back home in Australia while he actually wanted to cook in a professional setting, just because he couldn’t support his family on an apprentice cook’s salary. MasterChef opened the doors to the world of professional cooking to him, as risky as it was for him to take a chance, quitting his job to enter the competition. Ben also told us of how his quest to make good-quality, healthy ice creams for his family led him to open up Ungermann Brothers in Queensland, Australia – now, a bucket list destination for me. 🙂

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Ben demonstrating Coffee-Cardamom Ice Cream With Cream Cheese Mousse, Butternut Pumpkin Puree, Shortbread, Rum Caramel & Micro Greens, at the masterclass

All through the masterclass, Ben’s humility and down-to-earth nature, his warm and friendly personality, shone through. It is evident that this person takes pride in his roots, and that he loves being a family man. Cooking for his loved ones is the highest form of adulation for them, it was clear, and this did win us over.

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Ben involving the participants of the masterclass in little tasks

Ben made us smile by involving us in little ways throughout his demonstration. He spoke to us of how India will always occupy a special place in his heart, because of the immense love that the country has given him and MasterChef Australia in general. Being the sweet person that he is, he indulged us by taking posed photographs and selfies with us, giving us personalised autographs, and giving the go-ahead for short video clips with him.

 

Ben at the masterclass, indulging his big and little fans with autographs

At the end of it all, we felt we had met a friend, Ben, from Australia, not watched THE Chef Ben in action.

Ben, thank you for being the lovely person that you are!

World On A Plate, thank you for making this experience possible for me!

 

 

 

Dragon Food Festival @ InAzia, Sheraton Grand, Whitefield

I have had the pleasure of dining at InAzia, the Pan-Asian restaurant at the Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Center, a couple of times. Last week, I was invited to partake of another feast there, to check out their ongoing Dragon Food Festival, along with some other food bloggers.

Experience Chef Shishir Rai’s Magic At The Dragon Food Festival

The Dragon Food Festival, as the name suggests, will showcase dishes from the exotic land of China. The festival menu has been carefully curated by Jr. Sous Chef, Shishir Rai, who is also spearheading the campaign.

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Chef Shishir Rai, the mastermind behind the ongoing Dragon Food Festival at InAzia

I loved how the Dragon Food Festival menu has a good selection of dishes for vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians alike. Both exotic and popular Chinese dishes feature on the menu, which is something that won brownie points with me.

(For more pictures from the Dragon Food Festival, check out my Facebook post!)

What did I try out?

Chef Rai suggested the foods we absolutely must not miss out, from the food festival menu. Each dish came to our table beautifully presented, and most of it managed to bowl me over.

Here is a sneak peek into all that I tried out at InAzia’s Dragon Food Festival, the vegetarian, non-alcoholic part of it that is.

Cucumber & Cilantro Soup: Decked with slivers of cucumber, delicately flavoured with coriander, this subtly spiced soup was served warm to us. I loved how it was so simple yet hearty, neither overwhelming nor overly bland. It was done just right!

Assorted Mushrooms Truffle Blast: These dimsums were, again, simple but extremely delicious. The filling was a mix of hon Shimeji enokitake and shiitake mushrooms, scented with truffle oil, and I loved them to bits.

Top left: Cucumber & Cilantro Soup; Bottom left: Assorted Mushrooms Truffle Blast; Right: Vegetable Sichuan-Style Pan-Fried Dimsums

Vegetable Sichuan-Style Pan-Fried Dimsums: Stuffed with celery, carrot and asparagus, these pan-fried dimsums were absolutely perfect. They were mildly spiced, but so delicious! The garlic oil they were seasoned with added a whole lot of oomph to them.

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Wok-Tossed Tofu, Sichuan-Style, at InAzia’s Dragon Food Festival

Wok-Tossed Tofu, Sichuan-Style: Cubes of silken tofu were marinated, then tossed with Sichuan chilli paste to create this dish, which was a real beauty indeed. The outside was crunchy, the inside deliciously soft, the sauce a burst of flavours.

Jasmine Tea: We were served some jasmine tea, to cleanse our palates after the appetisers, in preparation for the main course. Now, I have had jasmine tea at a few places, but never loved it, thanks to it almost always feeling like insipid lukewarm water. The jasmine tea at InAzia was an entirely different story, though! It had a mild and subtle flavour, the gorgeous scent of jasmine, and the power to perk you up. Love!

Traditional Moon Fan: Here, steamed rice was flavoured with traditional Chinese five-spice, topped with sesame soy sauce and assorted veggies. This dish wasn’t bad, but felt quite bland to my tastebuds, as opposed to all the other dishes that were filled with taste.

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Left: Dry-cooked Hoo Fun Vegetable Noodles; Top right: Traditional Moon Fan; Centre right: Tofu, Asparagus & Water Chestnut With Malak Paste; Bottom right: Jasmine Tea

Dry-Cooked Hoo Fun Vegetable Noodles: I loved these flat rice noodles cooked with Napa cabbage, sweet peppers and bean sprouts. Flavoured with sesame oil and seasoned with fermented bean sauce, they were oh so flavourful!

Tofu, Asparagus & Water Chestnut With Malak Paste: With melt-in-the-mouth silken tofu, asparagus, water chestnut and green onion cooked in a sesame-chilli paste, this dish was such a flavour bomb! It was absolutely delicious, and paired beautifully with the rice and noodles.

Cranberry Mint Cooler: Along with the food, we were also served a Cranberry Mint Cooler, an extremely beautifully done mocktail. The sourness of cranberry and the freshness of mint leaves paired together really well. This was something I absolutely loved at InAzia!

Left: Chilled Mango Pudding; Top right: Rice Cakes With Ginger Syrup & Ice Cream; Bottom right: Cranberry Mint Cooler

Chilled Mango Pudding: This pudding with mango jelly was served chilled, with pieces of fresh mango and cream. I loved that the pudding had a mildly sweet taste, and that it was not tooth-cloying. I also loved the bits of fresh mango and cream (of course!), but overall, the pudding felt like it had a bit too much of gelatin in it. While I loved the taste of this dessert, I didn’t quite enjoy the satiny consistency.

Rice Cakes With Ginger Syrup & Ice Cream: This dessert was quite unusual, at least to me. A sweet filling made with adzuki aka red beans was stuffed into rice flour shells, then steamed, and served alongside a mild ginger syrup and vanilla ice cream. The rice flour cakes were not unlike the Tamilian kozhukattai, although a bit thicker. The red bean stuffing takes a bit of getting used to. The ginger syrup was simply brilliant, and went wonderfully with the vanilla ice cream. Overall, this made for a very interesting choice of dessert!

A must-visit!

Like I said earlier, I enjoyed my time previewing the menu for InAzia’s Dragon Food Festival. Most of the food I tried, I loved. I would highly recommend you to pay a visit too, and check out the many foods and beverages the festival menu has on offer.

Intrigued? The Dragon Food Festival is on at InAzia till September 30, 2018, from 7 PM to 11 PM, and a meal for two costs about INR 2,000 plus taxes.

Berry Vanilla Gateaux @ The Academy Of Pastry Arts, Bangalore

Desserts are like mistresses. They are bad for you. So, if you are having one, you might as well have two,” said French chef Alain Ducasse once, and I heartily agree.

Desserts are important in my life. I have a huge sweet tooth, and absolutely love desserts. They are something I always, always save space for, especially if they are made of good-quality chocolate. That said, I don’t stop at just chocolate – I believe in exploring different types of dessert, going through dessert counters systematically, trying to figure out what I like the best. It might not be the best thing for me to do, considering my constant battle with increasing weight, but hey, I’m not one to spoil a day of indulgence with guilt.

With this background, you can imagine just how thrilled I would have been, recently, to receive an invite from The Academy Of Pastry Arts, Bangalore, to be part of a dessert demonstration. It did turn out to be quite a scintillating experience. Yours truly, alongside a bunch of other food bloggers from across the city, watched agog, as Chef Kimberly Rozario of the Academy gave us a live demonstration of a magnificent Berry Vanilla Gateaux.

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Check out the Berry Vanilla Gateaux that we learnt to make at the Academy. Isn’t she a stunner? Don’t miss those gorgeous fresh berries and tiny macaroons on top!

Making the Berry Vanilla Gateaux

Baking requires a lot of precision and patience, specially so when making as elaborate a dessert as this Berry Vanilla Gateaux. This particular cake required a number of steps, some quite complex and requiring special expertise – first making a chocolate sponge, then vanilla mousse, berry jelly, the red glaze that goes on top and, finally, the gold button, chocolate belt and little white macaroons that are used to decorate the cake. Each of these components was then assembled masterfully to create the stunning whole – the Berry Vanilla Gateaux.

Some pictures from the live demonstration of the Berry Vanilla Gateaux. Can you tell how many painstaking steps lie behind that one finished product?

Chef Kimberley took us through each step of the process very patiently, talking about the right kind of ingredients and apparatus to choose, clarifying doubts, answering questions and sharing her expert tips throughout. She made the entire process look almost magical, I must say, flawlessly building up that red confection from scratch.

Chef Kimberly Rozario of The Academy Of Pastry Arts, Bangalore, with the Berry Vanilla Gateaux that she demonstrated to us

We also got to sample this red beauty and, I must say, she blew my mind away. The flavours of vanilla, berries and chocolate came together so beautifully!

Chef Kimberly with her team at The Academy Of Pastry Arts, Bangalore

Head to my Facebook page to see more pictures from the demonstration!

About The Academy Of Pastry Arts

The Academy Of Pastry Arts is an esteemed professional culinary and dessert school with a Pan-Asian presence. In India, the Academy has branches at Bangalore, Delhi NCR and Mumbai, with the Bangalore branch being located on Sarjapur Main Road, Jakkasandra. Apart from this, they also have a presence in the Philippines and in Malaysia.

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The reputed chefs who are part of The Academy Of Pastry Arts, Bangalore

The Academy boasts of having a number of world-class chefs on board, who work with the school either on a permanent or visiting basis. State-of-the-art infrastructure and cutting-edge technology are their points of pride. There are several long-term and short-term courses on offer, wherein students can learn various aspects of culinary and dessert arts. The Academy assures small batch sizes, one-on-one attention to every student, hands-on training, the passing on of top-notch culinary dexterity, internship with hospitality brands of repute, and placement in five-star hotels and patisseries on the completion of courses.

From the walls of The Academy Of Pastry Arts, Bangalore

The Academy Of Pastry Arts has participated in several national- and international-level competitions, winning a few of them too.

The Academy Of Pastry Arts in the news

In Conclusion

As an amateur baker, I was way out of my depth in the demonstration of this beautiful, but complex cake. However, I was impressed with the clean kitchens and the state-of-the-art technology the Academy uses, not to forget Chef Kimberly’s expertise and patient handling of us. For someone who is serious about making a career in the culinary or dessert arts, this is definitely a place to head to.

Details

Address:

Bangalore Centre
9, 1st Block, Sarjapur Main Road,
Jakkasandra, Koramangala,
Bangalore

Phone:
+91-8095719222
+91-8095442277
+91-8025505222

E-mail:
info@academyofpastryartsindia.com

Website:

http://academyofpastryartsindia.com/

 

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 quite 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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I’m sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #237. The co-hosts this week are Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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.