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Monday, March 19, 2018

Exercising Away To FBAI Dialogues- A Conference: Part One

It’s a choice we make, sometimes we have to cancel one event to attend another event and eventually might disappoint somebody during such decisions. But I have wonderful friends who understand me and did not crib when I cancelled my weekend trip to Pune with my group of friends and decided to attend this #wellness conference organised by FBAI at JWMarriot-Juhu.

It was worth it. Really. There is always something new to learn. I agree, most of the things you hear in any conferences, are mere repetitions, you have heard them many times, but still, you read between lines and there is always one thin layer of knowledge that clings to you.

So here I was, early in the morning (shooing away my maid to finish her chores quickly so that I could step out. Registration, coffee and meeting everyone with brief hello (I am listener, I talk very little , i am more of an observer and I am boring too) so it was best to walk into Yamuna room. The session started with exercises and Yoga - thus the group of foodies and bloggers were charged with wellness #FBAIdialogues.

The session started with Vicky Ratnani, who took us to Sasson docks through his short film and gave us the experience of shopping for fish early in the morning. His message was clear, “Eat fresh, eat local” He gave the example of eating tomatoes, which when cut fresh, you just add lime, salt, pepper and olive oil and it tastes so good but if you store it in fridge for a week and then eat, the same tomato will taste different. The nutrient are much higher when fresh. He stressed the need to buy local seasonal food and support farmers. Indians have always been eating turmeric and other spices, they have always used coconut oil in cooking but its western culture who are now discovering the nutrient value of Indian way of cooking. “Its better you pay the farmers than you paying the doctor” he said.

This was followed by the conversation with Fitness blogger – Anandita De, Founder of Risqueby. The discussion was on (What else?) fitness ofcourse. How to stay fit by eating right kind of food. She stressed the need to be aware of what you eat. “Avoid white color food, avoid oil, and in short eat in moderation.”she said

Mr CSNageshwaran of Vikroli Cucina spoke about Godrej food trends 2018  and made us aware that people are moving towards healthier food habits.

Trupti Gupta spoke about including Walnuts in our daily diet and how it can take us to healthy lifestyle. There are hundred types of diet and there is no formula for following it in a particular way, we have to eat in moderation and understand what are our body’s need. Including nuts in our daily diet is very important. “Walnuts are good for brain. They are lightest in digestion and they help us fight stress and pollution” she said.

Naina Setalvad gave her real life example telling us what to eat to keep healthy. Today’s food promote gluttony, increasing illness, violence and creates criminal minds. You are what you eat. You become selfish and irritable when you eat wrong kind of food. She stressed the need to go back to traditional way of eating, to avoid junk food, processed foods and fat. “No spices can be absorbed by fat” she said.

A short break for brunch was very satisfying with well thought out spread of nutritious food. There were salads, soup, desserts and fruits. Loved the Goan Fish curry..Yummmmmmm!! loved it..I am still drooling...want to go back for more....

Post lunch, a session with Sameera Reddy who spoke about magical Mom’s diet.

In a panel discussion of well balanced meal, moderated by Sameer Malkani, there was interesting discussion with participants Payal Kothari, Tara Mahadevan, Mira Manek and Kunal Vijaykar. We all are born with hunger instinct. We have conscious and sub-conscious mind. When we understand all kinds of cravings and make our diet to suit our body’s needs, twisting the traditional food with healthy diet, we can make a proper decision about what is good for us. We all are conditioned to eat certain kind of food, we have to journal our activities and write about our craving and what we have to avoid. “Ask yourself if you are healthy, what and how you should eat.” Said Kunal who has lost weight by adopting the right kind of diet.

Tanushree Mukerjee in conversation with Saloni Malkani spoke about mind,soul and body transformation. Everything is in our mind. You have to make a decision to stay healthy and you can achieve a goal. She does everything: yoga, exercises, weight lifting. While travelling she carries fruits. "You have a choice to choose right kind of food. Feed your body, not your emotion” she said.

Aditi Dugar, the owner of the beautiful restaurant Masque spoke about power of regional cooking. Food is about personal story. Every household have their own signature garam masala. Culinary journey is to know what food is all about. Many are retelling their story in a modern way. If the story is based on culture of Kashmir, for example, their techniques, their seasonal food , their spices, makes  all the differences. She has travelled widely to understand the different culture and she employs modern concept to the regional cooking at her restaurant.

I am very sleepy now...can't write more..zzzzzzzzzzzz.....

To be continued……… stay tuned....

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Assamese Food Festival. Part Two

During my growing up days, going to a restaurant was a treat, most days we ate at home, a traditional Sindhi meal- Curry Chawal, Sai Bhajji or simple vegetables (fried or stewed). Snacks and salads were made on special occasions. A simple curd and Papad was always served at the meals. When we visited our friends, we ate their speciality,Gujarati cuisine at Guju friend’s house, idli-dosa at south indian friend’s house, heavy ghee laden paratha in our Punjabi friend’s house. We never shared recipes, we hardly talked about food..eating food was sheer enjoyment and we came back satiated.

We have come a long way now. We hardly find sindhi food made regularly at Sindhi homes, it is more frequently made in my non-Sindhi friend’s home. We have become international. Pastas and sandwiches are more common now and eating out on week-ends is so very fashionable.

So now we have food festivals to bring back the culture of a certain place. Many restaurants have adopted this food festival  trends to boost their business. People have begun to enjoy different regional cuisine. 

Its fun more topic to discuss besides the juicy topics of who is dating whom and who is the better sinner. You go to a friend’s house for lunch and you dissect the food, inquiring about the recipe and how it is different from your traditional one. You click pictures instead of saying prayers, with oily hands you jot down notes on ingredients and cooking method (if you don’t trust your memory) and have to discover new words to describe a dish..a boring words like “tasty” or “delicious” is so very childish.

So while you are chewing, you are learning…same vegetables but cooked differently in different parts of the world. A humble potato, when boiled and mashed becomes a side dish.

Recently, I attended Assamese Food Festival at Special School at Belapur. I stood side-by-side with children to learn about this cuisine. I have never before tasted meal from that part of India, so naturally I was curious. Assamese Chef Mamoni Gogoi and her daughter were invited to cook in our school kitchen and a great variety of food was cooked.

Mamoni had brought few raw vegetables that are available in her part of the world. We discussed in great details about the use of Elephant Apple, lime and those red hot chilis

Be careful, don’t touch the red chili, your hand will burn” 

she warned me when I tried to inspect Bhut Jolokia chili. You can imagine its effects on your tummy lining then… (I am used to hot and spicy food..but for delicate people, it is compulsory NO)

The smallest morsels can flavour a sauce so intensely it's barely edible. Eating a raw sliver causes watering eyes and a runny nose. An entire chilli is an all-out assault on the senses, akin to swigging a cocktail of battery acid and glass shards.

I asked her to cut the Elephant Apple because I wanted to taste it. But she said that it cannot be eaten raw. It is boiled or cooked to make sauces or jams. It can be used to aromatimize curry.

Preparing elephant apple isn’t an intuitive process: if eating the fruit raw and out of hand, the edible portion is the gelatinous flesh surrounding the pistons, as well as the crunchy “petals.” These may be cut lengthwise into strips, pressure cooked with a pinch of turmeric to soften, and then sautéed and stewed as a curry fry.

Not sure if she used these ingredients in her cooking, but the fragrance from school kitchen was heady.

There were soft hunger pangs that were beginning to knot my tummy but I am not allowed to be greedy, (children should be fed first, no?) so I diverted my attention to clicking pictures.

Masoor Bor

Mati Dhal


Aloo Pitika

Labra (Assamese style mix vegetables)

Tomato Tok

Papaya Khar

I have blogged in great detail about this event on my other blog for school. … read HERE

Many of our students were aware of the food that they were served on that day, because they were shown flash cards of the dishes many days in advance and some of the dishes were discussed in great details,

Every child had grasped the subject according to his ability but all enjoyed the real food.

Do read ‘Assamese Food Festival – Part One on my other blog.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dal Divas Potluck

There was rice, bread, papad, achaar and then there were dhals..a great variety of dhal from different parts of India. All dhals were carefully cooked with great interest and all tasted good! Rushina Ghildiyal, the main flame behind this event of celebrating Dal Divas, invited us all to her APB Cook studio to showcase our speciality.

How could I miss?…since I was in Mumbai this time, I was keen to attend this one.

Rushina has been promoting Indian cuisine since some time now and there have been series of events organised by her, observing different days like Biryani day, pickle day, bhajiya day, masala day, vadi day, but I have always missed it for some reason or other….

Although I have blogged on it..whenever I could... you could read it

Chutneys my family enjoys around the globe

Dhal Divas too, I would have missed because there was another commitment that got cancelled and luckily I was able to attend.

It was a potluck with all the women showcasing their speciality. Rushina made a list so that there were no repeatition.

I was asked to make green split dhal. Now dhal is a comfort food, not that I eat everyday (no, not when I make Chinese, Italian or continental, not even when I make non-veg) when I eat dhal..its only dhal. A complete meal by itself.

I was asked to share my recipe… it is…I cook with instinct, no measurements, no fixed methods..

I boiled 2cups of green split dhal, adding 1tsp of turmeric powder in a pressure cooker. After 3 whistles, I put off the gas and went for a bath.

Till then dhal had cooled off and it was safe to expose it. Mixed it well, added 2 cups of water and kept it back on the burner. Boiled dhal also tastes good, if I would just add salt and black pepper and eat as salad,it would be nice but I  decided to cook it.

Added 3 chopped tomatoes, 2 inch grated ginger, 5 green chilies and a small bunch of chopped coriander leaves. The phone began to ring.

“What are doing? Are you free today?”
“No, I am making dhal for Dal Divas day”
“I want too”
“Ok ..will send you.”

Went back to the kitchen to mix the dhal. Chopped spring onions and garlic.

Another phone call for another small chat. This one wanted to taste too. I must remember to make bigger quantity next time. (Or not answer the calls when cooking small quantity)

Also must remember to keep my phone away from kitchen.

Kept a tiny deep pan on another burner. Deep fried spring onions in 2tbsp of ghee. Added the burnt spring onions to the dhal.

Added more ghee to the pan and deep fried chopped garlic till it was dark brown. Added this to the dhal mixture.

I must taste to check if it is proper. Added salt to adjust the taste, added mango powder to add sourness, added peri peri sauce for pungent taste and added cardamom powder for flavour.

If I like it, its good enough.

Got dressed and left for the potluckparty. Reached the venue after one hour, a bit delayed because of too much traffic.

I was in for a surprise. Chef Ashish Bagul of BKC Trident was to demonstrate four different dhals from East, West, North and South of India.

There were cholar dhar

Mohini moong dhal fit for royalties

Vala chi amti

Khade maash ki dhal

I am reminded of my NRI friend who had visited India and was amused when she heard series of pressure cooker whistles from different kitchens at lunch time. Dhal is best cooked in pressure cooker and then there is tempering done that is not only for flavours but also for improving the nutrient value of the dish and helping to absorb many hidden nutrients in the vegetables.. Pure ghee is the perfect choice for tempering dhals and different regions of India use different combo of tempering depending upon the climate and the culture of that place.

I am not sure if any other place in the world has such a big variety of dhal preparation like in India. But it’s the tempering that makes Indian dhal so interesting and so aromatic.

The kitchen was filled with strong aroma of food..such lovely fragrance of ghee and spices, that I couldn’t wait to taste.

I wanted to taste all the dhals…24 different dhals. I tasted them all and relished it. All these ladies are great cooks. (You might wonder if I have large appetite to try them all..but I did not eat accompaniments, no rice, rice, no bread, no roti)

Made new friends, learnt new techniques, a great day to celebrate.

DalDivas was fun……. What did you cook on 25th Jan? share the link of your dhal if you did…..

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