Tag Archives: rotis

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.

 

 

 

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Rustic & Robust Flavours from A Village

Pind da khana sounds comforting at once. After all it means, food from your village. And here, if the ‘pind’ in question is Punjab, well, automatically it spells familiarity and comfort for me.

Baluchi at The Lalit, Mumbai is currently hosting a Pind da Khana festival till Saturday for both lunch and dinner.

My lunch began on a refreshing note with the Shikanji soda or lemonade with rock salt and soda. The right amount of sweetness and salt. Just the way I love mine. It helped me create an appetite.

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The menu was fairly exhaustive and I was in a dilemma. What shall I eat or skip? Amritsari Chholey kulchey, Patialashahi kadhai Paneer, Kadhi pakoda, Jalandhari barrah boti and Amritsari Machhi. I was impressed with the vegetarian options too. .

The traditional Atte Gond ka halwa, whole wheat flour sweet delicacy with nuts and natural gum- recipe which originates from Phagwara district- a sugar producing belt of Punjab as well as gulabi phirnee, gulab jamun et al, adorned the dessert section of the menu.

Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty came to my rescue and promised to send me small portions of some of the special dishes. I was sorted.

The chicken tikka and Macchi Ajwaini tikka arrived. A bite into the succulent chicken tikka and I figured out this was no ordinary fare. The tikkas were well marinated and the flavours of the marinade had enveloped the tikka perfectly. The fresh pieces of  River Sole fish with the right amount of spices that teased my taste buds, was equally a delight. No overdose of ajwain or spices here at all.

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Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty , Master Chef Rais Alam and his culinary team had surely whipped up an array of authentic, robust and flavourful delicacies, which I was thoroughly relishing.

The dhaniya mirch da kukkad with whole chillies, onion and coriander was a delectable medley for my palate, subtle yet, spicy. It paired well with the laccha paratha, besan ki roti and naan, the chef had sent. The methi matar preparation and the dhaba dal in the main course, got my vote instantly. For a change it was not the usual dal makhni but a tasty mixed dal with interesting spices. And the methi, rustic and appeased my palate.

The Rarah gosht and kukkad pulao looked inviting on the menu, but there was no scope to try more today.

Nothing in the meal was oily or greasy that made one feel uneasy. That’s what set this meal apart.

The aate gond ka halwa was easily one of the best I have ever tasted. The variety of textures- creamy, crunchy, were a delight, as were the flavours and the aroma of fresh ghee. The phirnee too was excellent, but today, paled in comparison.

The ambience and decor of the restaurant was in keeping with the theme and the service was warm, attentive and efficient, yet, unobtrusive, as it should be.

My experience at Baluchi, had actually surpassed my expectations. I was glad I had stepped in to savour such an exceptional meal. I knew for a fact, I was going to be coming to The Lalit Mumbai more often, if this is how Chef Angshuman and his team succeeded in luring food lovers like me.

 

 

JIWA : The Taste of Life

I am a huge fan of Rotis. Attribute it to my North Indian genes. So am always on the lookout for healthy, nutritious varieties of atta.  add to that my experimental nature. So naturally, the launch of JIWA atta spelt good news for me. The varieties of atta apart, I was intrigued by the different processes they use prior to the milling of the grains. What’s more, fortified with minerals and vitamins these range of attas are full of herbs, dehydrated vegetables catering to the nutritional needs of various sections. Basically, JIWA multi-food attas are a blend of multiple grains, dals and pulses, some natural dried vegetables & herbs, edible seeds and some other super foods.

Excited at the prospect of sampling rotis made with these attas, I stepped into Jiwa Cafe at Bandra, a suburb in Mumbai. Over a candid conversation with young entrepreneur Raghav Gupta,  I experienced the goodness of JIWA atta. Multi-grain, Slimming, Diabetic, Women special, youth plus atta  were on offer. The in-house Roti Master made me a slimming atta roti wrap with exotic veggies in balsamic. I opted for hummus as my sauce. Voila! I had a delicious wrap to bite into. The plain rotis made from multi grain atta and makki ka ata were equally a delight. Soft, tasty and wholesome. There is nothing to beat a piping hot roti. I can enjoy it sans any accompaniment. Other options were Butter Beans & Feta,  Tandoori Bhindi Aloo, Paneer Shazlik, Char grilled Fruits and Tofu Paprika. For sauces, too there was something to suit every palate – Mexican salsa, Greek yogurt, Hummus, Asian Wasabi, Desi Chutney, Nutty Peanut or a Pesto. The drinks need to be improved perhaps. Limited choice and quite diluted which rob it of the flavour completely.

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The cafe of course is simple and is there merely to encourage people to eat healthy rotis made with good quality nutritious atta. The cafe also sells the range of attas in smart looking packs of half and one kg. It is also available at various other stores in the city and many more are being added soon.

If JIWA lives up to its promise and continues to deliver the various attas for wellness, daily nutrition, health plus and so on, people in Mumbai are soon going to be healthy. Perhaps youngsters will give up junk food and maida rolls and frankies and take to these healthy rotis which are packed with nutrition.  We need more people like Raghav to be committed to helping people eat healthy and lead a healthier lifestyle. Way to go Raghav. I am going to spread the word. Are you?

Balti Prawns: Recipe

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Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped into four pieces

2 garlic cloves

1 inch ginger piece

coriander leaves or kotmir

Juice of two limes

1 tbsp crushed coriander seeds

1 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)

5 large tomatoes cut into wedges

700 gms prawns cooked

salt to taste

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp garam masala

Method:

In a food processor, mix onion, ginger, garlic, coriander, lime juice, coriander seeds and methi seeds, Blend into a thick paste. Heat oil in a kadai/ pan, add paste and fry for five mins. keep stirring. add tomatoes, cook for a few minutes till soft. add prawns, cook gently till done. sprinkle garam masala, salt and serve with rotis or bhakris.