Tag Archives: healthy

Soups for my soul

When the temperatures drop all of us crave for a soup. I know in Mumbai that almost never happens. I mean, it never gets cold, yet, I look forward to my hot soups. It could be a creamy thick soup or simply clear with veggies and meat or even a tangy pepper rasam made with lentils. Pan Asian favourites or even our very own desi shorbas and yes, healthy versions too. I relish them all.

Taiwanese Aromatic Miso Milk Bowl Shizusans signature soup and a one bowl meal

A great fan of red pumpkin, I love to prepare a classic roasted pumpkin soup and do a good job too. A piquant tamatar ka shorba, can be a great option.  Recently I tasted a tangy Sindhi tamatar ki kadhi as a a soup at JLWA in Bandra. It rendered me speechless.

Soups offer endless versatility in terms of textures, ingredients and flavour. That’s what attracts me the most to soups. The cheddar and Beer soup at Theory in Mumbai by Chef Clyde remains an all time favourite.

Taste apart, warmth and immunity are key in this season to boost one’s immunity and thus, the right use of ingredients plays an important role. A careful selection of ingredients can up the health quotient of these comforting soups. Dark green leafy vegetables and seasonal vegetables, are a must addition and should be included wherever possible. Ginger and peppercorns as spices, with medicinal properties, too can do wonders.

Root vegetables, mushrooms and barley with an addition of meat stock makes for a robust and filling soup infused with health benefits.

A roasted sweet potato soup can be nutritious and tasty, as sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients. Roasting the sweet potatoes first intensifies their flavour.

Soups in winter help one soothe and relax in an inexplicable way when one is down with cold, cough and fever. The spice quotient should be perfect to give heat, as well as soothe to the throat. It’s about using the right spices like cinnamon sticks, cinnamon (dalchini) powder, nutmeg (jaiphal) powder, ginger, fresh turmeric, white pepper powder and pepper.

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Who can resist a well-made Pan Asian soup with a myriad flavours? One can have it clear, or with noodles, meats and vegetables. Clear chicken soup with light, fluffy dumplings and a deeply savoury, salubrious broth could be the answer, if one is seeking a light but comforting Oriental soup. A Thai prawn broth with fish stock as the base and fragrant Thai spices is a good option as well, as is the Tom Kha with coconut milk to temper the spice element.

Shizusan has got to be one of my favourite places for versatile and flavourful soups. Chef Paul Kinny serves unique ones.

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Whoever said soups that satisfy you must be western classics or global concoctions only? Pepper Rasam owing to its spice content, is soothing and therefore is a perfect soup for winter. Various mildly-flavoured shorbas from traditional Indian cuisine,  made with vegetables, lentils and beans, are apt for winter. Paya shorba, a meat broth, generally lamb, where the meat is slow-cooked is a good choice as it is extremely healthy and keeps one warm.

 

Seasonal vegetables, meaty mushrooms, tender chicken or lentils. Add what you like to your fragrant soups this season, but make sure it is  hearty and provides you with the requisite nutrients. Bon appetit.

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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.

 

 

 

A Superlative Menu

Salads are not all that you need to eat when following healthy dietary habits. I am all for eating healthy food, yet, food packed with nutrients and flavours. Yes, taste is key. Insipid and bland food does not meet approval with my palate.

Thus, the new Super Foods Menu introduced by TGI Fridays, the global casual dining leader,  caught my attention and immediately I set out to explore this at the Palladium, Lower Parel, Mumbai outpost.

The menu, for 3 months, though limited offers enough variety. I noticed, that the offerings had super foods like beans, broccoli, blueberries, salmon, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts and yogurt in abundance. Being natural ingredients, these are loaded with excellent nutritional benefits.

Wasabi Miso Glazed Chicken, Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, Cranberry & blueberry couscous and Kale were some of the unique dishes. What was interesting was that, appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts, had all incorporated super foods in some form or the other, thus making the entire menu healthy.

The Fruits & Nuts Super Salad made with crisp lettuce, spinach, broccoli topped with walnuts, apples, dried apricots, cranberries, and blueberries, was a delightful medley of flavours that wowed my palate. No where was there any monotony at all.

Wasabi Miso Glazed Chicken

Next, I tried the Wasabi Miso Glazed Chicken. Bursting with simple and subtle flavours, this, lemon and olive oil-marinated grilled chicken breasts were drizzled with a spicy wasabi miso sauce. Served with toasted almond, cranberry and blueberry couscous and ginger garlic kale, this was a power-packed meal in terms of taste and nutrients. I only felt that the portion of the kale was a bit too much for the meal. One can only enjoy a certain amount of kale.

Pomegranate Honey Mustard Salmon cam next. A hearty portion, I thought to myself. Again, a lemon and olive oil basted grilled salmon filet topped pomegranate honey mustard vinaigrette. The tangy flavour were unmistakable, yet, teased my palate sufficiently.  The salmon was of exceptional quality and grilled to perfection. Unfortunately, the novelty factor of the toasted almond, cranberry & blueberry couscous and ginger garlic kale had worn off by now. Yet, I savoured the couscous.

Pomegranate Honey Mustard Salmon

Vegetarians need not despair. They can relish the Vegetarian Tex Mex Chili made with chipotle peppers, sun-ripened tomatoes, red onions and beans topped with yogurt, fresh pico de galloand jalapeno served up hot and spicy on a brown rice pilaf.

The quality of the ingredients, struck me as the best and the presentation was enough to make a person satiated already, feel hungry again. The food may seem a tad overpriced, but given the quality and portion sizes, one cannot complain.

Although we decided to skip dessert, as the meal had been too filling, the Fruit Crumble seemed inviting.  Jam-packed with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and juicy peaches, served piping hot and topped with an ice-cold scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt,  haunted me and I  have resolved to go back another day to indulge my sweet cravings.

Rating : 4.5/5

 

 

Soulful Soups

Ah! there is something about soups in this weather that is so comforting. If made with the right ingredients and spices, these can be nourishing as well as healthy too. Nothing like a steaming bowl or mug of soup especially for dinner. In fact, on most days I prefer just that.

Goan, Bokdiacho caldo (mutton soup) made from mutton bones, onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander leaves and dices of potato, salt and pepper, is my all-time favourite. It is filling and boosts my immunity too. Caldo Verde with potatoes as the base is also a light and flavourful vegetarian soup of Portuguese origin.

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Being from Kolkata, I am used to relishing a spicy Thukpa, a Tibetan soup made with mixed vegetables, mixed meats and noodles  when the mercury dips. There is something for every palate in global cuisines too. Mulligatawny, Tom Kha, Tom Yum, Miso soup, Lobster bisque. My mouth is watering now.

Be imaginative and play around with flavours and textures. Be experimental. And global soups are not your only options. A plethora of soups from our very own Indian cuisine are a delight in this weather. Soups made from dals or lentils, paya soup, tamatar ka shorba or even a murg shorba. The options are endless.

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Don’t forget to add seasonal veggies in your soups wherever possible for that extra health quotient. Pumpkin, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, work wonders. And yes, the right spices to for additional warmth and immunity.

Cinnamon works wonders, as do ginger and garlic. I love to add these in my soups where ever possible.

If the soup alone is insufficient, pair it with garlic bread, toast or add macaroni to your soups or even red rice, to make it more sumptuous.

There is nothing like a well-made soup, it is soulful and comforting in winter, keeping winter blues at bay.

 

 

Guilty Pleasures in Winter

Winter foods can be such a delight for the palate and one does not mind giving into one’s guilty pleasures in this season. After all, one needs more calories to keep oneself warm. So indulgence is allowed this cold season. Warmth is  a must of course, but comforting foods are what the body and soul need.

Spices and nuts should be a part of one’s meal, as should be meats, including lamb. Ghee, ginger, seasonal vegetables like turnips, brussel sprouts, raddish, peas, broad beans, carrots are a must-have to help the body fight infections and remain warm.

As the temperatures drop, one also likes to indulge in hot and delicious grilled foods. There is nothing more enticing than the aroma of slowly grilled meat, fish and vegetables.

Makki ki roti and sarson ka saag tops every foodie’s list. Not many know that sarson ka saag being rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, that are important antioxidants and a significant amount of iron, is ideal for winter.

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Beetroot is rich in minerals and helps in increased blood flow in the body, essential to keep one warm. Jaggery or gur is a great winter food too. It aids in digestion, purifies blood and keeps the skin free from acne. The best way to enjoy Gur is to eat it with make ki roti and white butter.

Interestingly, every region in India celebrates this season with typical dishes. If North India relishes their sarson ka saag and Kaali Gajar ki Kaanji, Gujaratis cannot do without their oondhiyo. It is eaten in winter because the main ingredients like papadi, tuar Dana, Lilua, for Oondiyo are available in this season.

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Nalli Ghosht and Paya shorba are popular winter dishes in most households in Hyderabad. Bengalis enjoy their Kosha mangsho a mutton preparation and also several leafy vegetables and sweets made from nolen gur or new jaggery.

So make sure you gorge on all the right foods this season and relish seasonal favourites, which are healthy for the body and equally comforting too as you beat the chill.

Dealing With Diabetes

With the alarming proportions, diabetes is assuming across the world and especially India, it is indeed heartening to see the husband wife duo, Seema and Manoj Pinto, proactively share their experience to inspire people to cope with diabetes through healthy eating and the Diabetic Food Trail is a positive step in that direction.

The Diabetic Food Trail 2016 is all set,  to begin on November 12. The aim is to offer Diabetics, Pre-Diabetics and Health conscious individuals, a wonderful culinary experience at over 200 restaurants across Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore & Pune, where Celebrated chefs from acclaimed restaurants across the country will get a chance to showcase their culinary talents to an all new set of target audience that did not have many options for healthy and diabetic food earlier.

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I was fortunate to have experienced this in Mumbai at Meluha-The Fern Hotel in Powai, where, Executive Chef Parimal Sawant, along with his team demonstrated several recipes including a salad, soup, main course and dessert which are healthy and suitable for diabetics. The demos were fun and interactive, with Seema constantly asking chef pertinent questions and the chef sharing helpful tips.

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Apart from being simple recipes, what appealed to me was that the ingredients were ones which could be easily procured as opposed to exotic ones usually suggested. The chefs at Meluha-The Fern exhibited a great deal of innovation in crafting those recipes.

Furthermore, I was glad to know that the Diabetic Food Trail will also introduce a special Healthy Dessert Trail which will allow diabetic patrons to sinfully indulge in  their guilty pleasures-desserts as these desserts,  do not contain any processed sugars.

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Seema Pinto – Director, Semora Entertainment Works and the brain behind this initiative says, “The focus of the second edition is on Diet and Fitness in effective Diabetes management. For a person with diabetes, eating nutritious and well-balanced meals with a regular fitness routine is vital in managing diabetes. This applies to pre-diabetics and the health conscious too”

The aim of this masterclass is to help individuals understand the ingredients, nutritional values, read packaging labels, learn exciting recipes which will help elevate the eating habits of diabetics without compromising on taste. These masterclasses will be held by renowned nutritionists and chefs across the 5 cities.

 

Some of the participating restaurants include Sassy Spoon,  Zaffran, Copper Chimney, Lemon Leaf, Boveda, Fern Hotels, Renaissance-Powai,  Woodside Inn, Mirchi & Mime, Smoke House Deli, Faasos, to name a few.

That’s not all, Seema has put together some well-researched  recipes in a small book which can benefit diabetics a great deal, which you can enjoy cooking too.

So eat healthy and stay fit and yes, diabetes can be controlled with eating right, apart from exercise.

 

The Long & Short Of The New Menu

The Dome may be the most sought after place at InterContinental Marine Drive, but for me Long & Short, the casual dining and lounge is equally a star. The reason being the eclectic menu, fun cocktails, affordable menu and of course great service. It is a place where one can unwind, relish good food and prompt service.
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Executive Chef Arzooman Irani, being the creative genius and restless person that he is has introduced some new exciting dishes in the already exhaustive menu, thus revamping parts of it.
Wanting to keep it global, Chef Irani was keen on ensuring that comfort food was the focus. “Guests should be able to dine in a fun and relaxed atmosphere with the food being light and enjoyable. Of course, apart from comfort food, there is a section for those seeking healthy food too and that need not be boring. Low cal, low carbs or no carbs, gluten free and so on. There are plenty of options. And of course those wanting to indulge can do so as well,” Chef Arzooman elaborated.
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We started with the crisp lavash dome, almost customary here. Crunchy and laced with herbs, it set our taste-buds tingling. The platter with starters was a treat for the eyes, as it was for the palate. The springs rolls with varied fillings were crisp and luscious, the wasabi prawns fresh and delectable and the chicken boasted of distinct Pan Asian flavours. The presentation was appealing yet, devoid of unnecessary gimmicks.
The crisp pea shoot salad  from the healthy food section, was a delight. It was as fresh as it could get. With a subtle flavoured dressing, the medley of textures of the lettuce, seasonal fruits, micro greens and cherry tomatoes, came out trumps and it was a veritable feast for the taste buds. Healthy food can certainly be delicious.
Mushroom feta cheese waffle from the petit toasties section caught my eye and struck me as innovative. But then, Chef Arzooman is legendary for his innovative streak. Equally unique were the slider offerings, I thought. Butter milk fried chicken, sriracha mayo was certainly out-of-the-ordinary. I made a mental note of it for my next visit.
The brie & potato gnocchi surpassed everything that I have ever tasted before. The garlicky creamy sauce, wrapped over the potato gnocchi made me slip into a food coma. But what got my vote instantly was the zucchini spaghetti. No, not spaghetti with zucchini but spaghetti made out of zucchini strips and tossed in aglio olio. It was outstanding and  yet another testimony to the chef’s creativity.
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Comforting curries, Mumbai street food, pizza, salads, care has been taken to ensure that the menu caters to every palate. Vegetarian options abound too.
Surprisingly the dessert did not wow my palate as expected. The salted caramel oreo tart was not the hero of the evening as the chocolate drizzle overpowered all other flavours, relegating them to the background.
With alert staff, warm hospitality and first-rate food, the  experience at Long & Short was memorable and the new menu is clearly a winner.
Rating: 4.5/5