Tag Archives: filling

Akshaya Patra : Inexhaustible Efforts To Feed With Love

For the longest time I have been intrigued by the work done by The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF).  Striving to address the issue of “classroom hunger” and promote “education” by providing nutritious meals to children in Government and Government-aided schools, their journey began in 2000, with the feeding of 1,500 children in 5 schools in Bengaluru. Today, they reach 13,210 schools, feeding over 1.65 million children every day in 11 states through their 27 kitchens.

An opportunity to visit and experience their Surat kitchen first hand, seemed like an interesting proposition. At the crack of dawn, one morning, I set out, as the operations in the kitchen begin really early and in order to see the work force in action, one had to get there early.

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The sheer scale of operations was mesmerizing. I had expected to see a big kitchen yes, but certainly not of this magnitude. I was awestruck with the hygiene, cleanliness and state-of-the-art equipment. The work force seemed well-trained and were seamlessly carrying out their work. I was impressed by the fact that practices like daily shower, use of clean uniforms, caps to cover the hair, face masks to cover the mouth and nose area, gloves, gumboots, other protective gears and hand sanitisation are mandatory.

 

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A strict kitchen process is observed which includes certain mandatory routines to be followed by each member of the kitchen staff. Food Safety Management Systems are implemented in all the kitchens be it centralised or decentralised, in order to handle, prepare and deliver food.  All kitchens run by the organisation follow a scheduled menu. All cauldrons, trolleys, rice chutes, dal/sambar tanks, cutting boards, knives and other instruments in these units are sanitised before usage every single day. All vessels used in the kitchens are made of food safe stainless steel of 304 Grade which is capable of enduring high levels of temperature for long intervals.

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Akshaya Patra is one of the best examples of PPP (Public Private Partnership) model, where Central Government, State Governments, Corporates and individual donors contribute to the cause, and the Mid-Day Meal Programme of the Government is successfully implemented through the efficient workmanship of Akshaya Patra.

The pre-production begins as early as 2-3 am in the morning, when vegetables, grains and other ingredients for that day’s meal are readied. The cooking process begins a bit later and the mid-day meals are ready to go out to schools carried by the special vans by 8.30-9 am.

The roti-making machine in particular seemed fascinating. The manner in which the dough is made, rolled out in sheets, cut into circular rotis, cooked and even smeared with ghee before getting into the containers is a treat to watch and inspiring.

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Similarly I was enthralled by the manner in which large vessels were used to cook rice and pulao with steam. The attention to detail by the work force is praiseworthy as is their dedication.

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Standardisation of recipes is an important factor while maintaining high levels of nutrition along with taste and TAPF strictly follows this. In order to achieve these levels, a well-structured Quality Assurance programme is implemented at all stages of Operations— Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production.

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Watching the meal being prepared was captivating enough, but equally gratifying was a visit to the School no. 301, Shree Purushottam Ji Prathmik Shala, Punagam, Surat. The meals arrived piping hot to the school in the special vans and were lovingly served by volunteers under the supervision of the Principal Chaya Ma’am and her team of teachers.

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Girls and boys queued in a disciplined manner to avail of the meals in steel thalis. The kabuli chana pulao and dal was the meal for that day, as the menu changes daily. I spoke to several children independently and discovered that they enjoyed this meal even more than what they ate at home and looked forward to it each day. What’s more, I sampled the meal myself and could vouch for the quality and taste.

The teachers informed me that they have never faced any quality issues with the meals. The meals are first tasted by the teachers before being served to the children. The meal quantity too is sufficient to feed all the children to their heart’s content.

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The Akshaya Patra Foundation is continuously leveraging technology to cater to millions of children. In partnership with the Government of India and various State Governments and the inestimable support from many philanthropic donors and well-wishers, Akshaya Patra has grown. Today, Akshaya Patra Foundation is the world’s largest (not-for-profit run) mid-day meal programme serving wholesome food to over 1.6 million children in 26 locations across 11 states in India

By leveraging the unique resources of the organisation, Akshaya Patra is all geared to fulfil its mission of ‘feeding 5 million children by 2020.’

As I stepped out of their Surat kitchen, having witnessed the painstaking operations by the dedicated work force, I had a silent prayer on my lips. I earnestly wish that they are able to reach their goals soon and in future, every hungry child in India is well-fed so that education is not an option, but a priority.

 

 

 

Getting Cheesy

‘Say Cheese’. A common expression used by photographers when they want their subject/s to smile during a photo session. I am an exception. Cheese, makes me smile anyway, as I love it. Naturally then, the very thought of an entire promotion dedicated to cheese, at 1441 Pizzeria, Mumbai at Fort and Lokhandwala, Andheri West, titled’ Say Cheese Festival’ made me smile ear to ear. I was visibly excited.

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An entire new menu curated around cheese.  What more could a cheese lover like me ask for? Camembert and blue cheese pizza, buratta pizza, fromage blanc pizza, feta cheese pizza, smoky cheese pizza, were some of the exciting offerings on this menu.

I tried a piece each of some of the varieties at the Lokhandwala outlet and was blown away by the quality of the cheese. They had obviously used the best and that made all the difference to the taste of the pizza. The fresh ingredients and flavours were bursting and seeking attention. The techniques, precision and variety at 144 Pizzeria has always impressed me.

 

The Camembert and blue cheese pizza was delightful. The flavours in sharp contrast, yet complementary. The smoky pizza was, as expected, a treat for the palate with the smoky flavours, enveloping my taste buds. The crunch came in the form of veggies, olives, in many of the pizza.

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But the piece de resistance that evening was the coffee pizza. I have never eaten anything  quite like that before. Dessert pizza, with chocolates, fruits et al, in abundance, made by the best Italian chefs, but this coffee pizza was unique. The honey, spices, herbs, jalapenos, were high on flavours and then, the drizzle of strong coffee powder teased your taste buds, just the right amount. The contrast was evident and spectacular. I lauded the mastery of the person who created this concept and of course those, who were skilfully, executing it.

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The in-house Italian sauces, used in each pizza were lip-smacking and different. The usage of vegetables and other ingredients was apt, in the right proportion. Even the cheese did not overpower any of the pizza flavours. The crust, as always, was just perfect for me.

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The enthusiastic staff, their positive energy and desire to see a guest satisfied, is praiseworthy. I love the fact that they are well-informed and able to explain the pizza offerings on the menu exceedingly well to a guest.

I left, satiated and smiling. I was, inadvertently, saying cheese, as that was what was on my mind and in my stomach:)

On till, May 31, this ‘Say Cheese’ festival is not to be missed if you are a cheese lover or a pizza lover or both.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

Creamy Green n Red Pepper Pasta: Recipe

This quick and easy to prepare creamy Green Pepper Pasta can home handy when you are not in the mood for an elaborate meal but want something delicious made in a jiffy. One of my favourites, obviously.

Ingredients:

500 gms tagliatelle

1 Tbsp cooking oil

1 Green pepper

1 red pepper

300 ml parmesan cheese

100 ml double cream

200 ml creme fraiche

2 tbsp butter

salt and pepper

Method:

Boil pasta in water with salt and oil  till al dente.

Rinse with cold water

Dice peppers into cubes. Mix together with cheese, creme fraiche and cream.  sprinkle salt and pepper as per taste.

Place pasta in an oven proof dish.

Sprinkle chopped peppers. Pour over the cheese mixture and bake at 225 degrees C for approx 15 minutes

Remove from oven, let it stand and serve hot.

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Delicate Dumplings and Robust Chinese Breads: Mamagoto

My favourite Pan Asian cuisine restaurant, Mamagoto has a whole new menu with Dumplings & Chinese Breads. A lethal combination really, considering I love both.

Hearty comfort food with varied ingredients, textures and flavours, is yet again the hallmark of this new carefully crafted menu. There is a lot of variety and some of the offerings are unusual and relatively unknown. The vegetarian options too are plenty.

Jungle Shrimp Dumpling

Jungle dumpling, with a green coloured covering made of potato starch et al, arrived on our table. Soft and spongy, the dumpling melt in our mouth. The shrimps were soft and made for a great filling. Our taste buds really came alive. There is a vegetarian version of this too.

One can never go wrong with a Gyoza  or pot stickers as they are popularly known. The Old school gyoza proved us right. The chicken dumpling was light and had a flavoursome filling. Served with momo sauce, the right amount of zing was imparted to this dumpling. I specially love their thin covering and marvel how chefs keep it intact despite the generous filling.

My palate was sufficiently tingled with these two dumplings and I was looking forward to the rest, as Chef informed me there were 8-9 varieties to follow.

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To break the monotony, Chef sent us the Cheesy Veggie Bun. Steamed to perfection, this one reminded me of the ones I had eaten in the Chinese Market in Calcutta for breakfast quite often. The filling was a treat- stir fried pak choi, pine nuts, spices and cheese. The creamy cheese complimented the crunchy pine nuts. Pak choi added a unique flavour to it, making it an innovative fun bun. But yes, wholesome too.

The traditional Peking dumpling was something I was waiting for. Simple, with no fuss, this one was a delight. The chicken filling was tasty, but unpretentious. Dipping it in vinegar, soy and red chilies gave it a bit of a boost, although it was wholesome and delicious on its own too.

Chinese Chicken puffs were heavy in texture. Literally too. Minced chicken wok tossed in a 5 spice aroma and baked into a puff. Although well made, I think I preferred the good ol’ lighter dumplings. What struck me was how each dumpling was distinctly different from the other in appearance, flavour and texture. Full marks to the chef.

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The Tokyo Metro Mantou aka Chinese bread with aubergine for veggies and chicken for the carnivores, deserves a special mention. I have had nothing quite like this one ever before. Innovation at its best. The crumb crusted aubergines were a class apart. The typical slimy texture of aubergine had been so well masked and yet, the flavours were intact. Of course the chicken version was naturally better, although less innovative, I must admit.

I loved the way the menu was an amalgamation of classics and yet, the chef had added his own contemporary twist to these. Indeed laudable.

Each item on the menu was more unique than the previous one. There was a storm in my taste buds, as I relished a medley of flavours and textures.

The Grand Finale to the meal I was told, was the the seasonal Mango Coconut Sago Pudding.But alas! I was a bit disappointed. The sago was too tough, a bit undone. Should have been soaked a bit more perhaps? That took away the flavour and taste of the dessert. The mangoes on top too were not overtly sweet and so the dessert proved to be a bit of a dampner.

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But we were not complaining as our taste buds had been treated well with the dumplings and Chinese breads. I wanted that memory to linger longer in my taste buds.

Affordably priced, given the exotic fresh ingredients, used, this menu too is value for money. If these lil “pick me ups” or dim sums are what you enjoy, this new menu is just what you may be looking for.

Rating: 3.5/5

Easy on the Pocket & High on Taste Quotient: Gaylord’s Steal-a-Meal

It was a walk down memory lane. I actually stepped into Gaylord at Churchgate Mumbai after several years. Really don’t don’t why. Nothing had changed. The staff was still as warm and courteous and yes, my old favourite dishes were still a part of the menu.  Thank God. Of course several new additions were there too. Justifiably so.

For a change I was here to sample the new Steal-a-Meal. A set Indian menu for lunch which changes daily and offers a variety of non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. The Monday menu can be enjoyed again on a Thursday, Tuesdays and Fridays have the same offerings and what you eat on a Wednesday is there again only on a Saturday. So there’s a chance you will be trying new dishes each time you go there.

Our Non-veg platter arrived. The spread looked appetizing and was aesthetically presented. Goan prawns curry, Pindi chole, waldorf salad, pineapple raita, murg seekh kebab, jeera rice n rotis were part of the meal. Whew! That was a lot of food. Given the taste and quality of the food, that meal sure is a steal!

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A visit to Gaylord is incomplete without its Continental food, so I could not resist ordering their Chicken A la Kiev. Truly delectable. Made me so nostalgic. The creamy, butter mushroom filling simply melt in our mouths and the crusty covering over the chicken breast was done to perfection. Absolutely divine. The steamed rice and boiled veggies along side are the perfect accompaniment. We savoured each morsel, slowly and leisurely.

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The food there is value-for-money and the portions large. The attentive staff is there for the guests always, should you need anything. And it is service with a smile, that enhances the dining experience.

We rounded off our lip-smacking meal with a caramel custard, again, an old favourite. the caramel was made exceedingly well, with the right amount of sweetness and the custard, creamy, just the way I like it. I was satiated. But have to go back for Peach Melba and Baked Alaska. These are desserts very few restaurants today offer.

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So, if you’re around Churchgate for lunch, don’t miss this affordably priced meal.

Rating: 3.5/5

This Taste of Lebanon Still Lingers…….

Falafel’s, the Lebanese Haus, I heard had undergone a menu change. Why I wondered, as I loved its offerings anyway. One of the few places in Mumbai serving authentic Lebanese fare, albeit with a bit of a contemporary twist. A new exciting outlet at Gowalia Tank in South Mumbai  was what was the reason. And yes, there were some menu changes too, but, with the regular favourites in tact. Now that was a huge relief.

Their commitment to healthy, quality fast food has made them a favourite of many and I am no exception. I decided to check it out. I made my way to the small, bu swank QSR outlet at Gowalia Tank.

The falafel section in the menu, had increased, with some exciting options. There were some new multi-grain wraps too.

I opted for the Greek falafel and my colleague for the Mexican one. Mine came in a whole wheat pita and his in a wrap.

Hummus Platter

The falafels were crisp and the filling absolutely authentic. The soaked chickpeas were well grounded and seasoned with onions,spices like parsley, garlic, cumin and coriander et al. The fresh and juicy salad and sauces along with it were equally delightful. An exciting array of flavours flooded my mouth. An extremely filling meal it turned out to be.

The repertoire of hummus and dips that have been added are astonishing. I particularly loved the spicy tirokafetri.

The lemonade too was much more refreshing than before. It clearly has undergone a makeover.

Chocolate Nachos with vanilla ice cream is a new entrant. The dessert section now looks good. The nachos, made in-house are exquisite. Perfect texture and taste. Swathed in chocolate sauce, these were sinful. The ice cream however was a bit disappointing and took away the oomph factor from the dessert.

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A special mention must be made of the Oreo Date smoothie, which was more of a dessert for me rather than a thirst quencher. The balance of the two main ingredients was perfectly achieved. Not too sweet and yet, the taste of the dates was evident. Utterly refreshing. Kids are going to love this one. Full marks here to the chef.

The menu has a myriad options to tantalize various palates. Salads, wraps, hummus platters, combos, little bites. A plethora of options to choose from. There are Jain dishes too. For Lebanese cuisine to make this offering. is indeed unparalleled.

The overall experience at Falafel’s was a memorable one, both in terms of service and for the palate. I can’t wait to have one closer home in Oshiwara again.

Rating: 3.5/5