Friday, December 02, 2016

A little note on the FBAI/ IFBA Awards #IFBA2016

Image courtesy Saransh Goila
Its that time of the year again. The IFBA Awards and FBAI Dialogues are here! And I think there is just a little more excitement this year than there has been in the past. We are all anticipating meeting with friends in the food fraternity. 

I have been associated with the FBAI in various ways for about 4 years now, and I thought it was time I wrote about them.
As one of India's first food bloggers, I’ve watched the title 'Food Bloggers' go from being a nonentity to profanity (grist for a whole other blogpost). But, I will say this, however you look at us, Food Bloggers are here to stay, our tribe has grown and like all tribes we count good, bad, likeable and unlikeable amongst us. It is for the reader to pick the wheat from the chaff.  

Now that that’s out of the way, lets return to the topic of this post. The FBAI.

I credit blogging for setting me on the path that has brought me to where I am today. But I remember a time when food blogging was unrecognised. Way back in 2012 I also began to organise blogger meetups, the idea was to get us meeting, talking, coming together because I believed than as I do now that for Food bloggers to be a voice, we needed to come together. It was slow progress. Often frustrating. Then FBAI short for 'Food Blogger’s Association of India' came along in 2013. And changed the game.

I must admit here, that when the FBAI first began, I was skeptical about it. In fact I was possibly its biggest critic!

FBAI, spearheaded by Sameer Malkani, a former strategic marketing professional as it shares on its website, today is India’s leading food, drink and hospitality online medium. A news channel that reports, reviews & disseminates information on F&B products & services, restaurants, chefs and food events across India it has also been coming together as a cohesive and engaging community of food lovers, bloggers, chefs, writers, restaurateurs, hoteliers, F&B photographers, stylists, brand and service stake holders over the years.  Sameer reached out soon after FBAI began, he was planning the first FBAI Awards and needed some inputs. We connected, I was happy to help. As I write, we are a few days away from the 3rd IFBA awards. I have been part of these every year. And I wanted to stop to say something.

Over the years, I’ve watched as Sameer along with an able backup team of volunteers (Saloni, Bhisham and so many more!) have all worked together to give the FBAI shape and credibility. Our friendship has also grown in tandem. Sameer, to his credit, has also patiently heard me out at every turn, when I've been frank with criticism (ALOT), complained (a fair amount), made many, many suggestions, ranted (on the rare occasion), thrown fits (just 1 or 2) and generally driven him up the wall over the years (constantly!).

In my current avatar as head of A Perfect Bite consulting and APB Cooks studio, I curate events for a living. And I know how much energy even the smallest of events require. I have also learned over time, that it takes GUTS to stand up, year on year and orchestrate an event of the magnitude of the FBAI and IFBA.

So Sam, Saloni, Bhisham and everyone at the FBAI, this is my 'Hats off' (very sexy Aussie Akubra type hat, just so we are clear…) to all of you. Seriously, ‘Thank you’ for giving Food Bloggers a platform. For bringing the food fraternity together. And for pulling up those boots year on year to pull together a bigger and better Dialogues, IFBA and more. (Though Sam you could STILL get started on planning earlier!) I am glad to be a part of it. And I’m looking forward to FBAI dialogues and IFBA awards 2016!

And now a little more on FBAI, IFBA and its many initiatives for the ones who want to know!

FBAI began with organising blogger events, then the FBAI awards and over the years added on some  intellectual properties of note. The ones that I have been part of include The Great #FBAIFoodHunt (a food themed treasure hunt), The Stirring -  one of my favourite initiatives in which the FBAI bring together people from different streams of the food industry to debate and discuss topics like, ‘Going beyond traditional dining experiences,’ ‘Multiple Roles of Food Bloggers’ and ‘Farm to plate’. Discussions we as food people need to have. Earlier this year I was also happy to be part of a new initiative by FBAI #HomeChefMatters a one day conference for Home Chefs and Home Cooks to connect with leading voices from the food industry. There is lots more FBAI does, you can find out on their website.

Of course the Annual IFBA awards is one of their most recognised initiatives, closely followed by the FBAI Dialogues that usually precede the awards. This year #IFBA2016 is more exciting then ever!  

Here is an overview.
The #IFBA2016 Awards are later (Saturday, 10 December 2016 - 7 pm onwards at the Maahi Banquet and Poolside JW Marriott Juhu). But I will talk about them first as there’s less to say. #IFBA is the only such award platform in India to date. As the title suggests this is the annual Award ceremony that aims to recognise and celebrate the finest in food blogging, felicitating Food Bloggers whose blogs have won awards across 15 or so categories every year. And let me tell you, #IFBA2016 promises to be the largest showcase of food bloggers yet!

And now for The FBAI Dialogues (Sunday, 04 Dec - 10am-6.30pm at Enigma, JW Marriot Juhu) 
FBAI Dialogues, is FBAI’s annual showcase conference that addresses trends, learnings, and innovations in the food, drink and hospitality industry. A platform on which food bloggers, restaurateurs, chefs and other food industry stakeholders come together. The day features panel discussions, individual Master Perspectives and more, covering current, relevant and compelling trends in India's culinary landscape.

This year's line-up of panels and speakers is so promising!
The Panel Discussions include "The journey towards becoming an informed and ethical food blogger" Chaired by Bhisham Mansukhani and featuring Chef Ashish Bhasin, Antoine Lewis, Rushina Munshaw- Ghildiyal and Kalyan Karmakar. Another on "The Rise of the Weekend Chef Vikhroli Cucina" Chaired by Antoine Lewis and featuring Mohit Khattar, Ashwin Suresh and Gitika Saikia. And there is another on "Baking Trends 2017" chaired by Pooja Khanna featuring Chefs Sanjana Patel, Irfan Pabaney, Himanshu Taneja, Anees Khan and Neha Sethi.

There are also some very promising Master Perspectives; Chef Rahul Akerkar (The next chapter in the Indian restaurant business), Chef Ajay Chopra (Evolution of a Chef – persistence, innovation, creativity), Chef Varun Inamdar, (The Chocolate Story- innovations, palate, cooking),  Saransh Goila, (Creating a niche out of India’s Famous Dish), Ranveer Brar (Cultural Responsibility and the Food Ecosystem), Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal (My affair with Indian Ingredients), Kunal Vijayakar, (The 5 big Indian food trends in 2017), Vicky Ratnani (5 big International food trends in 2017),  Nikhila Palat (Successfully managing food brands & personalities), Sonal Holland (3 key trends in wine that Impact the Hospitality Industry) and Sweta Mahanty (Global Cocktail Trends).

There are also quizzes, contests and more to keep things getting too intense. If your appetite is whetted and you are looking for more information or want to register, go to or email

See you all there!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

About Rivaayat E Puraani Dilli by Osama Jalali at Trident BKC

The Spread (representative selection of dishes)

If you are part of the food world and up to speed with food trends and happenings, chances are you have heard the name Osama Jalali. (If not, then which cloche have you been hiding under?) Bad jokes aside, if you don't know of Osama Jalali I am about to tell you. With the happy news, that you have a chance to meet him and the Jalali family. And taste their cooking at the ongoing Rivaayat-e-Purani Dilli festival at the Maya Restaurant, Trident BKC up to the 29th.

Osama Jalali, his mother Mrs Nazish Jalali and his wife Mrs. Nazia Jalali are the three wonderful individuals behind this festival. The family come from the princely of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh famous for its unique Rampuri cuisine. Osama grew up in the by lanes of Purani or Old Dilli. He has worn many hats in his career so far, but I believe he came into his own in his latest avatar, that of champion of lost recipes and document-er of the food heritage of India. A role he assays ably as a curator of community/Khandaan based (Awadhi, Rampuri, Shahjahani, Nizami) menus at hotels around the country and as owner of popular Facebook group Lost Recipes of India. He is the curator and spokesperson so we see him more but the Jalali ladies are equally inspiring. 

The Jalali Ladies
His mother Nazish, fondly called Ammi Jalali, (who I fell in love with the moment I met her) learned to cook from the khansamas (cooks) of the royal kitchens of Rampur. She is the driving forse behind the cooking that happens for all the festivals. His lovely wife Nazia is the researcher, documenting recipes from women in the zenanas of old families where the purdah still prevails and men are banned. Where the kitchens are still the domain of women, it is Nazia who learns the hierloom recipes from the experts of the home bastion bringing home culinary secrets in the code of pinches, handfuls and andaaz for Osama to decode.  Osama cooks right alongside his mother Nazish Jalali & wife Nazia Khan at the theme based Daawat’s and festivals he curates. 
Yours truly with the Jalali family.

And they are in Mumbai for the Rivaayat E Purani Dilli festival showcasing recipes from Shajahanbad (as the erstwhile walled city ofold Delhi that was the capital of the Mughal Empire was called). That said this food is not to be mistaken with the food you will find at Karim’s or Al-Jawahar in that area, which is more street food that evolved as sustenance for working populace of the area and leans towards being oily and spicy. This is the food from homes in the by-lanes of Urdu Bazar near Jama Masjid in Old Delhi and is far simpler, relying on select spices and flavors, subtly combined. Also unlike street food which is meat centric in Old Delhi, home cuisine is rich in vegetarian dishes too. Thanks to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb being vegetarian a varied repertoire of vegetarian recipes were developed during his reign and trickled down to the kitchens of earstwhile families of Old Delhi. This is food made in people’s homes every day, dishes made for daily meals or special occaissions based on what is seasonal, economical and available. Just like our mothers and grandmothers would cook.

Chef Ashish Bhasin who spearhead the Rivaayat series 
Now that we have gotten introductions out of the way, let me talk about my experience at the Chefs Table I was invited to by Chef Ashish Bhasin and the Trident BKC.

The menu was an array of 45 dishes ranging from Shorbas and appetizers to mains, breads, accompaniments and desserts largely from Purani dilli but with a smattering of Rampuri specialities. Rampur sits between Delhi and Lucknow and tends to be more evolved that rustic Delhi dishes with more refined gravies and spicing but not as refined as those of Lucknow which is the bastion of Mughal cuisine. I tasted about 24 or so of the 45 dishes on the menu albeit in small spoonful servings.

I was very full at the end of my meal, but the food sat very gently in my stomach; nothing was cream rich and acidity inducing-ly heavy, as much Mughlai food can be. Rather a parade of uncomplicated flavours on the palate, distinct in both flavours and textures. There was no ubiquitous gravy of onion and tomato in sight , in fact there wasn’t a single tomato in sight! Because tomatoes did not exist in the era of this food!

Almost everything I tasted was lovely. I highly recommend the Fried Chicken, Saufiyani Paneer ke Tikke, Macchi Tikka, Chana Dal Bharta, Aloo ka Bharta, Chicken Stew, and the Parinde mein Parinde. But one cannot favourite it all as much as one wishes to so here are my picks of the dishes I found truly memorable.

What I didn’t really like, because perhaps my palate is not evolved enough to appreciate them, were the rice dishes. The Mutton Biryani while flawless, I found underwhelming in flavour, this could be because this version is spiced with a very light hand. The Tahiri or Teheri (a staple in most North Indian homes during winters hit a slightly higher spice note, but still did not strike any chords.

The Kache Kheeme ki Tikkiyan (foreground)
Amongst the appetisers, the Mewa Mawa kebabs with their clever play of texture and spicing offset by the Paneer were really delicious. And the Kacche Kheeme ki Tikkiyan, with perfectly pounded, moist meat and subtle but distinct spicing were unforgettable! Amongst the mains, the earthiness of the Urad Gosht with the lentils and meat slow cooked till falling apart into a fantastic whole, as all meat and lentil dishes of this ilk are. But the showstopper for me was the Kheema Hari Mirch which had caught my eye immediately while I was reading the menu. It was phenomenal, fine kheema redolent of green chillies, so delicately done was the spicing that you could taste the 'green' of the green chillies and their cutting spiciness like you would in a hirva thencha. And among the desserts, it was a no brainer. The Gosht ka Halwa had to be it!

The Gosht ka Halwa is a Jalali specialty, resurrected by them from mere stories Osama heard in passing. Legend has it, this was made by for new bride grooms to boost their libido. And I must be honest, that story and the rather alien concept of meat in a dessert or sweet form had me wary. I tasted it with a lot of trepidation. But! But! But! I was floored! And I finished it in short order! It had just the subtlest under note of meat - you could almost miss it -and had been cooked down with milk sugar and spices.
Phirni, the Gosht Halwa and Zarda

The offerings on the menu are testament to their home-style roots, with everyday vegetables and dishes you would never see on exotic menus holding pride of place alongside their more glamorous, exotic brethren. Like the Kathal ki galouti, a subtly spiced soft, kebab of jackfruit, that held its own next to a rich mewa mawa kebab a rich textured blend of paneer and vegetables. Or the absolutely delicious Arvi ka salan, an unassuming dish of colocasia root – a vegetable often used as a last resort - braised with almond and yoghurt.

There was also the unobtrusive mangochi a dish made of ubiquitous Mung dal fried into dumplings tossed with spices. And an earthy Urad Daal Gosht in which meat was cooked with black lentils till it was falling of the bone.  and the fantastic Saag Kofta chicken mince dumplings in a spinach gravy that held their own next to a Kormas, Nehari and the Parinde Me Parinda, a preparation from Mughal times which had an egg stuffed in a quail, stuffed in a chicken, the whole cooked to perfection so both the quail and chicken were aromatic and tender.

The Parinde me Parinda, I must clarify is a Royal recipe. While the emphasis is on home-style comfort food sans frills Ashish and Osama chose to add a few dishes from Osama's repertoire of lost recipes and recipes he has resurrected from royal kitchens since this was his first showcase in Mumbai. He also does a variation in which the chicken is further stuffed in a duck! According to Osama the Parinde me Parinda is a dish that in its heydey was a delicacy in which the animals progressed up through 9 animals ending with a whole camel!
What I both admire and respect about Osama is that he is a rare combination of food intellectual, hands on cook and erudite articulator of his knowledge and experiences, the last being something many experts are unable to do. 

This is the latest in offerings by Trident, Bandra Kurla as part of their brilliant Rivaayat series. This series was launched in February 2015, with an objective to revive traditional Indian cuisine in modern times. So far they have hosted Punjabi Rivaayat with Sweety Singh in January, Lucknowi Rivaayat with Dr. izzat Hussain in February and Dakshin Rivaayat with Mrs. Shri Bala in early April. The ongoing Rivaayat E Purani Dilli festival is on till 29th April, with an unlimited thali for lunch, and an a la carte menu for dinner at the Maya restaurant, Trident BKC. Hats off to Chef Bhasin for the time and effort they are putting into the Rivaayat series. Thank you from the bottom of this food lovers heart. And Dear Reader, don’t. and I mean DON’T miss it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What I learned about Kids in the Kitchen from my kids...

Want healthy children? Teach them to cook.

I’m serious!

As I write we have just announced ‘Kids In The Kitchen’ a hands-on summer cooking camp for children, preteens and teens. A 10 day course designed to teach serious cooking skills with a balanced curriculum of fun and learning. I’ve been working on this course for 2 years, I’ve wanted to do it ever since I started the studio. This year I promised myself I would do it. And then, my son actually made it happen. By opening my eyes to how I was hobbling him by being overprotective. And as I researched and planned I came to learn so much about the positive aspects of Kids learning to cook...

As a mother, the one thing I want for my children is healthy, happy lives. And because I know that a large part of their health will result from good eating habits, my husband and I have worked towards steering them in that direction by ensuring minimal junk food in the home, and trying to do stuff with them in the kitchen to encourage awareness. So we did lots of cooking projects, under strict supervision, assembling pizzas, making cupcakes and the like. But we never really let them cook.

I'm an (un-apologetically) paranoid mother who has technicolor nightmares of things going wrong. So I usually choose to be safe over sorry. And the idea of letting my kids anywhere near the gas or electric appliances with all the dangers... I figured someday when they were old enough (read 21) I would sit my kids down, hammer every safety precaution in existence into them, gift them a fireproof suit and allow them to cook eventually. But a few weeks ago, an incident took place to show me how naive this blinkered outlook was.

Our children watch us. And they want to emulate us. With Shekhar and me being involved with food to the point of obsession and our kitchen studio being in focus 24/7, it was inevitable that our kids would eventually start chafing at the bit to cook. So our son, Aman, announced one day that he wanted to learn to cook. And with uncanny luck or immense talent, baked almost perfect bread from day one! 3 days down the line, he decided he wanted to make chocolate fondants. We told him to slow down, not be so ambitious; dissuaded him saying they were too advanced. We thought we had made our point clear and stepped out to run errands.

Only to find on our return, that we had not. As soon as we entered the house, we smelled something burning. He’d put the oven to preheat and forgotten to empty it of the tins and mittens stored inside! We averted a potential disaster and Aman had made the best fondants I had ever eaten. I was proud but more than that I was terrified! What if something had gone wrong?!

As I helped him serve up his fondants, I could not help remembering when he announced he was old enough to walk to school on his own. I STILL have palpitations when he walks out of the door alone. But I remember telling myself I had to let him go. How else would he learn? And then I thought to myself, now I had to let him do this, how else would he learn to cook if he didn’t make mistakes, have accidents, burn food, under cook things! That after all is the principle I believe in for the studio too! But, I could help him do things right, and we could teach him to be safe.

So things have changed at home. We still do cooking sessions, but I don’t hold back on the experience. First of all, we cook real food. Proper meals, albeit, fun ones. And the kids have to do everything. They cut and chop, wash and prep chicken (which they did not like but had to do) and they cook and clean up after. And I have seen some great changes in them. What a disservice we do to our children by not letting them cook!

   Children who cook, develop a stronger connect to food, are more open-minded to it and acquire lifelong habits. My daughter, Natasha discovered Kiwi after a Kiwi cooking session she attended. One day, she helped me crumb chicken strips. Until then she’d refused to eat chicken but that day she tasted it and loved it! She now eats many other chicken dishes including biryani and kebabs as well. Involving children in everyday cooking — picking out good produce at the market, plucking curry leaves from the plant, helping in decision making for menus — greatly increases the chance that they will try the finished dish that comes from these processes.

     Cooking helps children make healthy choices. Oh I am not saying that they’ll become paragons of virtue overnight. We’re not fanatic about it (I fantasize I’m super mom, but pizza and burgers are my kryptonite!) but our home has been relatively food free for 4 years now.  The conditioning of healthy versus unhealthy pays off. More and more my kids make the healthy choice. Fruit over fried food, homemade bread over store bought, water or juice over aerated drinks.  As children learn to cook, vital information like differentiation between healthy and unhealthy, nutritional content of food, food preparation and calorie information gets imbibed.

     Cooking helps children understand things they learn at school. Do the math! It’s almost impossible to cook without some core curriculum of what is taught at school coming in. Whether you’re picking colours for fruit and vegetables, talking about origins of foods, reading recipes, weighing things, totalling up spends, Halving recipes or just measuring out ingredients, cooking help children make practical application - in the real world – to curriculum and learn that it’s not as abstract as they think!

   Cooking helps build confidence. Aman, my son, is quite shy. Soon after he turned 14 he began baking voraciously and generously, for his friends and family. What’s great is that he has also picked up the remaining habits from his dad – cleaning up after himself, putting things away. And he helps at mealtimes too, laying the table, clearing up. Cooking instils pride in children. They can take care of themselves, perhaps even a sibling. They’re capable, they know what to do, and can get it done. And if you are worried about your kids making a mess in the kitchen, there is a simple solution... teach them to clean up as well!

       And imagine a hungry teen, secure enough in the kitchen, to put a few ingredients into a simple meal, a quick stir-fry or some leftover rice with whatever is in the fridge. While his non-cooking peer has to rummage for whatever ready options can be eaten straight out of a box or bag. Every time Aman bakes bread and brings it to me with a smile, I am proud, but I also am happy that he is fed for life! Whatever else he soes or doesn’t do, he will always eat well.

Children who cook become children who taste. Who eat well. Who say “I can,” not “I can’t.” Teaching our children to cook helps prepare them for the future. It will empower them when necessity or circumstances call them to cook their own food. Cooking is a basic life skill every child should be taught!

GYAN and Links
Want healthy children? Teach them to cook. OR send them to me!
For information on my Kids in The Kitchen courses in April. More rounds to come! 

 For Kids.

For Teens

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A food adventure to discover the #TasteofAus, visit #NomaAustralia and launching #APBfoodperiscope.

So my first post for 2016 (finally) and its more exciting then even I could imagine it to be! 

As I type I am all packed and ready to go off on a food adventure! In a few hours I’m flying off to Australia on a foodie walkabout. My trip starts with Adelaide, relatively undiscovered but very much a food hub. From there we travel to Sydney where I will join some of the finest foodies from India and the world for the Noma Australia pop up. And after that I head to Melbourne  where we will savour the Mebourne food and wine show and explore Victoria’s secret J!

I am travelling to Australia as a guest of Tourism Australia for the #NomaAustralia pop up. This is part of a grand extension to Tourism Australia’s #RestaurantAustralia’ campaign. The concept of ‘Restaurant Australia’ was developed to highlight the exceptional food and wine experiences Australia has to offer. In 2014 they invited the world to dinner. And now they have surpassed themselves by welcoming one of the world’s most influential restaurants, Noma, to curate a unique cross continental ‘pop up’.  Chef René Redzepi’s original Noma restaurant, located in Copenhagen, has been named Best Restaurant in the World four times and received two Michelin stars till date. Noma’s Sydney pop-up opened its doors on January 26 and already has a waitlist of 27,000 diners! The restaurant will run until April 2 at Anadara Building, Barangaroo, Sydney serving lunch and dinner to food fanatics. Redzepi has scoured Australia from coast to coast, travelling and tasting wild ingredients from Margaret River in Western Australia to South Australia’s Limestone Coast, Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, the New South Wales Northern Rivers region and off-shore - from the Tiwi Islands off Darwin to Tasmania’s Flinders Island.

Our menu is about the flavours of Australia,” said Chef René Redzepi. “The last few months have been about experiencing first-hand where produce comes from, then trying to recreate it in situ, adding our own touch. We began by getting an understanding of the landscape. Visiting the people, seeing what they eat and how they cook, filling ourselves with those experiences and images. Then we went on to decide the direction of the food and the cooking style. On my many trips around Australia I’ve seen larder that is so foreign to me. Foraging for abalone, eating fresh muntries, nibbling on pepper berries and cracking open a bunya nut – these experiences are so wild compared to what we’re used to in Europe. Spending time with indigenous communities in places like Arnhem Land, have left the biggest impact on me and the team. For instance, seeing the use of fire as the main way of cooking ingredients inspired us. Most of what we’re cooking at Noma Australia will be cooked over fire.  We’ve built a menu based around the ocean and the coastal ranges. Clams, crabs, marron, the seafood is so pristine in Australia that we’ve had almost too much to choose from.”
Chef Rene has taken Australia’s culinary offerings to the global map by showcasing the country’s heritage and people, its stunning locations and extraordinary array of produce, including wonderful ingredients indigenous to Australia. And I cannot wait to experience what he has created.

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, Chef Vicky Ratnani, Chef Ranveer Brar, Vir Sanghvi, Rashmi Uday Singh and Marryam Reshii are also going to be part of this gastronomic sojourn and I cannot help being excited to share and learn from such industry stalwarts! Not to mention the crème de la crème of the global culinary industry will be coming together that night! A meal out of my food fantasies as interpreted by of one of the world’s best chefs with such fabulous company!

But wait, there is more! You know how we always say wish you were here when we are having a great time while travelling? Well this time I can invite you along! Food lovers in India who can’t be there will be able to savour this gastronomic extravaganza with front-row seats! Join me and all of the others as we travel around Australia, bringing Australia’s food alive through Q&As, live Periscope broadcasts, master classes, videos, photos, live tweets and more #OnlyOnTwitter!

In fact, Twitter will be home to all things food trough March. Twitter India and Twitter Australia in collaboration with Tourism Australia will also host one of Twitter’s iconic food properties: #TweetWhatYouEat on March 2nd at 9.30 am IST at the all-new Twitter Sydney office! For two hours, Twitter users will be able to ask questions, converse and engage directly with all of us through Twitter Q&As that will be held at the #BlueRoom in the Twitter Australia office. Joining us will be Adam Liaw of Masterchef fame.

And for you my dear reader, I would like to share that we have launched #APBfoodperiscope today. This means that I and my team at APB Cook Studio will be sharing much food porn as I head out to #RestaurantAustralia #TasteofAus and Team APB Cook Studio live broadcast bits from our classes and events over the next few weeks..

I have always loved Australia, I once wanted to live there. That did not happen but my sisters did migrate there. And thanks to that I have been able to really discover amazing Australia long before Masterchef put it on the map. But this trip is one I never anticipated in my wildest dreams! A incredible backdrop in Australia, which is vast, full of beautiful landscapes and home to the finest produce and wine. Add to it the best chef (Rene Redzeppi of Noma) in the world create a meal of food fantasy. Fabulous company to share it with! If you had asked me 12 years ago whether I saw myself being here at this moment in time, I doubt I would have had much to say! I'm not sure what other women dream of but all my fantasies have revolved around food for a really long tiime. This, however has pretty much surpassed most of them. Excited and humbled and excited and thrilled all at once!

Here is the Periscope video where I launched #APBfoodperiscope . I was awful in this one but there will be a lot more food and lot less me from down under so do follow me on #Periscope which is an awesome app on twitter that allows live broadcast from anywhere. Come trip the food fantastic with me Down under!

Never has food been celebrated at so large a scale, kudos Tourism Australia for such vision and more so for seeing it through! And @TwitterIndia thank you for coming on board for this mad scheme! I love your enthusiasm and support of food, lets make this delicious!.  

Here are all the handles and #Hashtags you need to follow on Twitter:
Follow (if you don’t already ) @SanjeevKapoor, @VickyRatnani, @RanveerBrar, Me (@RushinaMG), @VirSanghvi, @RashmiUdaySingh, Marryam Reshii - @Reshii, @ReneRedzepiNoma and @AdamLiaw.  
And the hashtags are #TasteOfAus (an exclusive hashtag coined specifically to capture the Australian culinary journey of only the Indian influencers travelling to Australia. Also follow #NomaAustralia, #RestaurantAustralia and #TweetWhatYouEat and #APBfoodperiscope.
On Instagram and Facebook
Follow @Australia and click on #SeeAustralia and #RestaurantAustralia 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

An Exploration of Garhwali Daals

 From left to right: Kulith or Gehat Daal. types of Navrangi Daal. types of Bhatt Daal, Pahari red rice, Types of Rajma, Pahari Sabut Masoor, Bhaang, Pahari Urad, Tor ki Daal, Jhangora millet. 

Above is a representation of just some of the Daals eaten in Garhwali cuisine. Summer, winter, monsoon, whatever the season, there is nothing like sitting down to a meal of steaming aromatic Basmati rice mounded on a thaali, with hot daal laddled over and a dollop of danedar, ghar ka ghee melting into glistening rivulets down the sides!

Not too many people are aware that I have been researching and writing a book on Garhwali Food for a while now. You see my husband, Shekhar is Garhwali. And years ago, when I married and discovered this relatively unknown cuisine, I was fascinated. One of my favourite things to do is culinary profiles, and writing this book has been a labour of love as well as a journey of discovery. With time, as I learned to cook it, discovered the nuances of the indigenous ingredients, and traditional practices of the culinary culture, I decided to document it. Last year, my book got into another snag in a line of many that arrested its publication. I was disappointed, but soon on the heels of that dejection came the realisation that I do not have to wait for a book to talk about the food. I can cook it for people to give them a taste of it. 

So since then, every January I carry back ingredients from Uttaranchal after our annual trip home to Dehra Dun and cook up a meal based on what ingredients I can get my hands on. Many things are not easily found so one has to go to different people and sources for them. Last year I cooked winter specials. This year, I was only able to finalise the menu the day I was travelling back, based on ingredients available little Garhwal stalls that spring up on fringes of craft melas in Dehra Dun. Yesterday I served up my latest one, titled An exploration of Garhwali Daals. 

To give you a small gist of its background, Garhwali food is the food of the Garhwali people of Uttarakhand, in North India.. Garhwalis also call themselves Paharis and their cuisine is also comonly referred to as Pahari food. However it is distinctly different from other high altitude regional cuisines of India such as Kashmiri or Himachali cuisines. Garhwali or Pahari food is not exotic, glamorous or rich. In fact it is in fact one of the simplest I have ever come accross! The ingredients of most of the dishes can be counted on both hands. Traditionally life in the hills is a hard one, so the cuisine has evolved to be quick to cook, but offers optimum nutrition, satisfaction and flavor. It is unpretentious, based on easily obtained seasonal ingredients and has distinct menus for summer and winter. At every meal food comes to the table freshly cooked, aromatic and tempting. Based on staples like Rice, indigenous millets, flat breads made of wheat flour and millet flour, that are eaten with a variety of Daals and Daal preparations that are the primary source of protein, accompanied by seasonal vegetables dishes.

Pahari food splits into two dialects — Garhwali food from the Garhwal region and Kumaoni food from the Kumaon region. Each of these community cuisines stem from the same roots and have many common dishes but with distinct regional variations, sometimes in the style of preparation but mostly based on locally available ingredients. For example while both cuisines depend on a variety of pulses for protein, Garwali cuisine leans heavily toward recipes based on Urad dal and celebrates Tor and Gehat whereas Kumaoni cuisine leans toward a predominance of Bhatt or Soya dal

This year, I realized that I had bought many daals. And it struck me then, that daals are the mainstay in Garhwali cuisine, so I decided to curate my menu around signature Garhwali Daals  (I have saved Kumaoni for another day.) that had been sourced from the higher reaches of the hills. Here is a small showcase of the ingredients and what I cooked yesterday though; 
Pinni ka Soup with Lehsun Ka namak ~ a Sesame broth inspired by Nani, spiked with pahadi green garlic salt.
Pinni Soup
Pahadi Namak
This is not a traditional recipe butsomething I created inspired by family stories of a Pinni ka Saag that Shehar’s Nani used to make. According to my Ma-in-law, in the old days, sesame was pressed for oil. Nani would use some of the leftover oil cake (comprising solid bits of sesame and husks) and make a saag or gravy of it that she served up with steamed basmati rice. I have never tasted this dish, but it fascinate me and I thought a thinned out version would be ideal as a shot of soup to kickstart my meal. Pahari Namak, is a flavoured salt – we use a lot of flavoured salts in Pahari food – is something we serve up with Jhangora (millet) porridge. It made the perfect topping.

Patudi with Ma's Hing ka Achar ~ griddle cakes of leafy greens with asafoetida mango pickle
Patudi are a quintessentially Uttarakhandi dish that are ubiquitous at our table when really good greens fresh from the garden are available. And the winters in Doon are perfect for this when the garden is a bounty of greens, with rye (mustard greens), fenugreek, white raddish leaves, spinach available. But they can be made at any time, really, being so quickly done. Especially good with the traditional accompaniment of Heeng ka achar (green mangoes pickled in asafeotida salt and red chillies). And I like to wash them down with Hot Chai!  

Til walle Aloo ~ Spicy tangy sesame potatoesThis is a dish Rekha Mami, Shekhar’s aunt makes for every celbratory occaision. I have been in love with it ever since the first time I had it. Potatoes tossed with Sesame paste, chillies and yogurt, it is addictive both as a chaat or a subzi.

Chawlai ki Subzi - Amaranth tempered with Jakhiya and red chillies is a popular vegetable dish. Cooked so that the onions stay crunchy. Ideal with Rotis or daal rice. 

Pahari Mooli Ki Thichwani ~ Bruised Mountain Radish and potatoes cooked with sesame
Thechwani is traditionally made using Pahari Mooli (White Radish), which is round in shape or potatoes or a combination of both. I have had this just once when one of my husbands relatives from higher up in the hills came a visiting and brought these Moolis with them. Normal Mooli or White Raddish can also be substituted. The preparation is called by this name as the radish root or potato is never cut, but crushed (thinchao) into pieces.

Pahari Tor ki dal ~ Winter special Dal of pigeon peas smoked with jambu herbs.Tor Daal is relished to the point of obsession in our family during the winter. Pidgeaon pea, this is a relative of the tur dal eaten all over the south and western parts of India, but is dried whole wiht the skin on. See how any Pahari's eyes light up at the mention of Tor Daal. 

Gehat ka phanu
~ Winter special preparation of pounded horsegram
 dal. Phanu is also made of daal like Chainsoo, but in this case the Daal is soaked in water for about 4 to 6 hours before its use. Different daals like Gahat, Arhar or green Mung can be used to prepare Phanu.

Jhangora Ki Kheeer
Bal Mithai

This event was part of the #APBCCulinaryLegacy series of events that celebrate the diversity of Indian cuisine through its home cooks.  THe series was created by Me at APB Cook Studio to preserve and propagate regional Indian cuisines that are slowly being forgotten. These events feature authentic ingredients and recipes often sourced directly from that particular region and showcased by #CulinaryHeroes/Sheroes, that are passionate ambassadors of their regional culture and cuisine. For more information please click through to

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

#PerfectFoodles - Citrus salad with feta and parsley

My love for Citrus borders on obsession as you know. So I was pretty excited to get my hands on some fab Organic Santras (as oranges are called in India) last week from Luv Thy Farmer. They were wiped out by the kids before I could say Orange juice! I did manage to make a marmalade out of a few so I could preserve some of the sun warmed goodness of our pure Indian Santras - pure Santra in a bottle but that's more or less over as well. And one afternoon when Aman was at school and Natasha was asleep, I indulged in a bowl of this lovely salad I had foodled a while ago. I developed it a few years ago for My Nature's Basket Salad series. I used up the last of some Feta in olive oil I had in the fridge and snipped up a handful of lovely flat leaf parsley. Santras are still around; try this before they are all gone!

Citrus Salad with Feta and Parsley 
Serves: 4 Time: 15 mins

3 c orange segments
½ c whole leaves of flat leaf Parsley
1 ½ c feta or fresh paneer, cubed
1 ½ tbsp fresh or preserved red chillies sliced thinly
1 tbsp Zest of Orange
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything in a mixing bowl. Toss well and chill until ready to serve.


GYAAN and Links
Find Feta and Parsley at Natures Basket 
Order Oranges and Mosambis straight from a farm at Luv Thy Farmer