Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lets Celebrate International Mango Pickle Day aka #Aamachaarday

In continuation of my post on Celebrating more Indian Food Observance days, here is more. One of the first days on the list is International Mango Pickle Day or #Aamachaarday on Saturday, 22 April! A day to celebrate our ubiquitous Aam Achaar, that is made in infinite varieties across the country. From Chunky robust Aam achaars of the north to tender brined baby mango pickles from the south, from the sun cooked Gujarati Chundo of the west to the fiery bhoot jolokia and mango pickle of the North East! Aam Achaar most definitely deserves a day of its own!

What would an Indian meal be without a pickle ...or three to round it out?
Pickles flavor life’s memories for us. And there is an astonishing range to pick from. Every home will have an assortment lined up in ceramic and glass jars in a sunny spot in the kitchen or balcony. Jars that our Mothers or Grandmothers will carefull reach into ever so often, to replenish little pickle cruet sets at the dining table or to pack a bottle for us to take away when we live away from home. Bottles we will hoard and conserve, taking out spoonful ever so often to brighten up a meal of boring hostel parathas or dal rice. Pickles might occupy the tiniest areas of real estate on plates but explode with flavor on palates.

Mango Pickles are ever present!
While there are thousands of pickles in India, every home will have a bottle of their favourite mango pickle or two, ranging from fragrantly sweet to face-puckeringly sour to blisteringly hot. We have as many variations of mango pickles as there are dialects in our country; based on the fruit used, the stage of development its at, the method of preparation; the spices, oils, souring/ sweetening agents and the treatments. But there is also uniformity in this diversity. In the use of spices and the concept of pickles themselves.

Pickling season... 
With March passing the Mango season is here and we are reveling in ripe mangoes and aam ras. But it also means it is mango pickling season! Green mangoes are weighing down trees all over the country, swelling in the summer sun. Ready for some to be picked and pickled. And everywhere women are getting together to pickle them! An annual exercise that has taken place in the hot summer months of India for eons. It is an ideal time to celebrate the Mango Pickle! 
How to Celebrate?
So if you are as crazy about mango pickles as I am let us get together to celebrate International Mango Pickle Day! On 22 April, use the hashtag #Aamachaarday/ @Mangopickleday and share memories, pictures, videos, blogposts, recipes of mango pickles you love, where to find them and those who make them. Have pickle making parties or achaari potlucks and talk about them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, snapchat- everywhere! Let's make our _Aam Achaar_ an internationally recognised dish!

Also - Aam Achaar Day at APB Cook Studio
Also to support #Aamachaarday team APB has invited a few of our favourite pickle makers to teach us how to make their signature Aam Achaars at a pickle exchange. Like women in families get together to make pickles, pickle makers from the extended APB food family are congregating to make their community pickles. On the menu are a Hing Achaar by yours truly, Sindhi ‘Bhendi’ pickle by Usha Wadhwa, Maharashtrian pickle by Saee Koranne Khandekar and Gujarati chundo by my Mom. Rhea Dalal is going to make a Bengali aam chutney. We will make pickles, talk, gossip, share stories and food lore,have a lovely paratha pickle lunch with my Mom’s famous kairi nu shaak and at the end of the day take home a share of all the pickles! We might have 1-2 seats left if one of you wishes to join us, call 42152799 to check! And those who cannot join us, watch us on our Facebook and Twitter channels, where we will share the days activities as they unroll.

Happy #Aamachaarday folks, with all its piquancy! 

Lets celebrate more Indian Food Observance Days - here are 10 suggestions from me!

Just before Macaroon Day my husband commented on how we celebrate all these food days but there are so few Indian themed days. It got me thinking…  and googling. I discovered the concept of Observance days and the many, many  Food Observance days social media has been amplifying.

Special Observance days are usually the premise of governments or agencies of countries. In the US – which is a leader in this area - the President authorizes days. Other countries also have government driven festivals, Good France day was recently celebrated globally on 21 March. Food observance days were typically introduced by government bodies, trade organizations or PR firms as marketing moves to promote specific ingredients or foods and raise their popularity. And then thanks to the Internet the concept took on a whole new spin in 2011 when two bloggers declared February 5th to be Worldwide Nutella Day.

Suddenly a whole new world of delicious possibilities were available! Today we have at least 1 if not more food days for every day of the year! From Apple pie to Fried Chicken, Fresh Spinach to Bologna, Caviar to Junk Food, there are days for everything! Zuchinni bread, Lasagna, Watermelon to peanut, caramel to sriracha, Orange Juice to Beer! Deviled Eggs, Cotton Candy, Popcorn, Corn Dogs, S-Mores, Fortune Cookies Nacho’s all have days. Currently there are 3 days dedicated to Indian foods, Undhiyu Day on 14th Jan, Idli day on 30 March and a World Samosa Day that for some strange reason is on February 29 (which means it can technically be celebrated only in leap years!).

Good or bad? You decide. Personally, I love the idea. Of course some food days seem over the top. But so what? There is so much nonsense and negativity out there in terms of information that we all could do with something delicious to look forward to. And at worst, these days make us stop to think about something we love to eat or someone that cooks for us, something we can savour...  and it makes us smile. And I think that’s worth a bit of effort. Of course food observance days might not seem important in the larger scheme of things but as someone in the food industry I do wonder why we cannot have more Indian food observance days. After all we are the country whose national pastime is food – the eating and the talking about - of it, isn’t it?

And then on 20 March, as I prepared  to celebrate Macaroon Day I woke up to Twitter resonating over #PakhalaDibasa (Universal Pakhala Day) being celebrated by Odias worldwide. Pakhala is a dish of cooked rice washed or fermented in water, kind of like a conjee, accompanied by assorted condiments is a popular summer food in Odia cuisine. It has been in existence from the 10 Century AD if not earlier. On the day Odia people all over would eat pakhala to mark the Spring Equinox (20-21) post which the summer sets in and the diet changes with the season.
So if everything under the sun has a day, then why not Indian food? 

Pakhala Dibasa is a great example. A community came together, to celebrate a much-loved food via modern communication systems. As a result people all over the world cooked Pakhala, remembering its seasonal importance and perhaps also noting that summer was setting in and diets needed to change. Additionally, a whole lot of non Odias found out about an heirloom dish of our country!

Our traditional culinary practices evolved and transformed over time as our cuisine evolved. Geography, history, religion, rituals all played their part in its evolution. And our ancestors have codified many aspects of it. Ingredients, their uses, cooking methods, food combinations, a seasonal food calendar, Indian dietetics, and dinning etiquette have  all been built into a system of traditional practices. And behind every practice is a sound scientific reason for its existence that we are perhaps not aware off. 
Lets celebrate more Indian Food Observance days to promote & support traditional Indian ingredients, dishes, food-ways and recipes. Not just to celebrate Indian foods, but also because it a great way for us to follow the traditional food calender Indian cuisine has. So many of our food traditions are being lost, with us moving away from home, living busier lives and finding more convenient solutions. In the past, elders in our families and communities kept these traditions alive by ensuring they were observed. Maybe we do not have that guidance or we live away from home and do not have people to celebrate with. But that’s where the internet and its ability to make the world come closer kicks in.  

Indian Food Observance Days 
It is with all humility that I present the following days we can start with celebrating. These much loved Indian foods we can collectively celebrate mostly align with the traditional seasonal food calendar - of local and seasonal eating, drying and preserving foods and so much more. Some however are on this list for the fact that they are much loved by all of us. I will say here that I have also left many thigs out, so ohters in our food fraternity may take them on, like we must have a #ButterChickenday and I am hoping Chef Saransh Goila will carry the baton on that forward! And hopefully others amongst us will come up with foods we should celebrate as well! 

Aam Achaar Day - April 22, 2017 - #Aamachaarday #Mangopickleday
To mark the Mango pickling season in India. We have as many Mango pickles as we have dialects in our country (if not more) This day celebrates them! 

May 13, 2017 -  #PapadBadiday
Papads and Badis were dried in the hot months of May to use through the year. This day will celebrate the variety of papads and badis we make in the country.

May 20 #MasalaMakingday
Summers are when communities all over the country dry and grind the spices and spice mixes that give their community cuisines their characteristic identity. On this day we will remember to celebrate the unity in our diversity by making our Masalas.

June 12, 2017 - #GolaSharbatDay
Those Squashes, sharbats and icy golas! Need I say more! 

June 18, 2017 - #Biryaniday
Biryani is a national obsession in India. We don’t need a single day for something we can all eat at any time, but something so well loved deserves a day of its own.

July 30, 2017 - #ChaiPakoraday
Because, chai and pakoras with the rain pouring down is a monsoon phenomenon that any Indian will subscribe to. We celebrate this in the height of the monsoon with our favourite combination of pakodas, vadas and fries with hot steaming chai!

September 24, 2017 #Chutneyday
Chutney! Just the name makes the mouth water. We have as many chutneys as there are cooks in this country. Here is a day to celebrate our favourite chutneys!

October 7 – #Ladduday
This is a personal favourite. Laddus are to India what cookies are to the world. When Indian moms and grandmoms want to make something with love they make laddus. For prasad, for homemade treats, for kids going away from home, for pregnant daughters. From Atta, to Maghaz to Til, to Gaund, there is a laddu for every reason and every season, all made with love and desi ghee! We celebrate Laddus and those who make them for us!

November 12 - PaaniPooriDay
Paani Poori, Gol Gappa, Puchka, does not matter what you call them, we love them! So we mark a whole day to eat them!

December 10, 2017 - #MuttonCurryDay
Mutton Curry is quintessentially Indian because we are the only ones that call goat-meat mutton. Comforting, warming, slow cooked mutton curry with steaming hot rice is something we truly savour in the winter. Here is a day to eat Mutton Curry in all its avatars!   

We are lucky to have one of the richest culinary heritages in the world. And it would be so good if we could keep it alive and celebrate it.

Read more about Pakhala in this beautiful post -  My Beloved Pakhala on the blog Lost Recipes of Odisha by Swetapadma Satpathy. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Make a date with French Cuisine today! Celebrating Goût de France/ Good France 2017 in India

The consul, Yves Perin with participating Chefs. 
Last week I had the good fortune of attending a very exciting ‘pot luck’ hosted at the residence of the French Consul in Bombay. The consul, Yves Perin and his wife Caroline played gracious hosts to what was formally called a reception, but for me it was the ultimate potluck! Now a general potluck is one where friends or family get together for a meal, carrying a dish each. But it was taken to a whole new level here because Chefs from fabulous restaurants all over Mumbai were cooking up a French dish each to kick off Goût de France or Good France celebrations in India. Now imagine that. To be able to have so many stellar chefs showcasing their best all at one meal!

My beautiful plate!
The 'Pot Luck' featured dishes by Artisan (BKC), Chef Ashish Bhasin of Botticino (Trident BKC),  The Chambers (Taj Mahal Palace, Apollo Bunder),  The Clearing House, (Ballard Estate), Fenix (Oberoi),  Olio (Novotel), Olive Bar and Kitchen, Ratatouille Diaries (Khushi, Indo)re, Rivea (Santacruz), Chef Irfan of The Sassy Spoon (Nariman Point),  Upper Crust Lounge (ITC Maratha), Vista (Bandra) and Indigo (Colaba). On the menu were Croque-Monsieur, absolutely delectable Toasts à la tapenade, Cherry tomatoes and mozzarella with lovely wines to wash it all down with as we met and talked. After a little toast to the chefs by the Consul, it was time to dig in! The table was overflowing with beautiful food, each dish equally fabulous! A lovely salad of a Goat cheese Brulee, caramelised figs and Berry coulis, Confit grapes, Crostini and Mesclun, Pain de courgettes, Salade de Roquette, Chicken fricassee, Tenderloin Riviera to die for, Navarin d’agneau, Rizotto aux poivrons. We had to remind ourselves to leave space for dessert, because we knew they were also fantastic. And soon we were savouring Profiteroles with salted caramel and chocolate mousse, a meltingly delicious Savarin aux fruits, tarte aux fraises (Strawberry tarts) and a fantastic Mousse au chocolat. Every dish was fantastic! I truly felt gratified to have been able to partake of it.

With fellow food writer and blogger friends.  

And 3 years ago the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development under the aegis of celebrated chef Alain Ducasse fashioned Goût de France or Good France, a global fête commemorating French food on 21st March every year to further strengthen the ethos of French cuisine and expand its popularity. For any of us in the food business, we have a deep and intrinsic connect to French cuisine. One of the few earliest cuisines to be codified (in the 20th century by Escoffier) French Cuisine has had an impact on cuisines and dining cultures the world over. It is also one of the most highly esteemed cuisines in the world, one that is celebrated the world over in restaurants of all sizes and one whose protocols are the backbone of culinary school curriculums the world over.

For Goût de France 2017 the celebrations have more than 2000 chefs participating globally and one of the most enthusiastic participating countries is India with 65 reputed chefs showcasing special French menus to mark the day. Reservations are already underway and one can book a dinner for the said date on Zomato or find more information on And to add to the excitement of Gout de France, the French Embassy in India in collaboration with Atout France, Air France and Relais & Châteaux are holding a selfie contest!  One lucky food lover who posts a selfie to his/her social media handles with his Gout de France menu and #GoodFrance stands to win a marvellous trip to the French Riviera. So let’s all get together to celebrate French cuisine today on Good France Day!

Friday, March 17, 2017

{Announcement} #WorldMacaronDay 2017 collaboration with La Folie

Remember the #MirchiKairi Macaron I made with Sanjana for World Macaron Day last year? 

Well #WorldMacaronDay is back! And I am doing a whole bunch of flavours this year! Yes, Sanjana has allowed me to go completely crazy in her kitchen this year to create a set of signature #APerfectBite @Lafolie Macarons in true Rushina style! (Err.. which USUALLY involves breaking some rules.....). With summer here, I have curated a selection of flavours inspired by memories of an Indian childhood Think tangy Kairi dipped in chilli salt, chilled cumin scented Chaach or fresh Malta squash, now imagine these pops of intrinsically Indian flavours in Macarons! 

Here are the details on the specials, I will update with pictures soon!

#APerfectBite by Rushina @Lafolie Box 

#MirchiKairi Think of a hot summer day, the kachi kairiwalla at the gate of school, scrambling for a few coins, mouth drooling already as you recieve the damp newspaper bundle of green mango doused with salt, eating it on the way home, mouth and lips burning as the sourness make you pucker! That's my Mirch Kairi flavour.

#JeeraChaach is inspired by the chilled cumin scented yogurt beverage flecked with chillies, my grandmothers made me drink in the summer. 

#KadipattaTadka is inspired by my Rascalla Masala, the aromatic flavours of South India, and the fragrance of a hot tadka spluttering on cold coconut chutney.

#MethiChonka is inspired by the pumpkin subzi my chachi makes in Garhwal, sweet pumpkin offset beutifully by the earthy notes of fenugreek and dried red chilli! 

#HaldiDoodh - in memory of all those "Turmeric Lattes" or Haldi Doodh my grandmothers made me drink! I hated the milk part of them so this is a most appealing way to get my haldi dose! 

#BadiyaSantra - Orange Candy on a stick and those chuski's and golas made of orange squash! I still love orange in all forms, but I've given them a slightly more adult twist with a sprinkling of Star Anise and chilli, one of my favourite combos tocook with! 

And because no childhood is complete without it, we have #MasalaMaggi - this one you need to try! 

And that's not all.  There are a whole lot of flavours being curated by amazing food people like Chef Saransh Goila (Thandai) Food Bloggers Karishma Sakhrani (Mango with Coconut Vanilla Bean Cream) Shivesh Bhatia (Yuzu Cream and Hazelnut) Nida Khan (Cookies and Cream) Ankiet Gulabani 9Miso Butterscotch Caramel)  and Alok Verma (Butter Pumpkin Spice). 

All of these special flavours will be availabke at @lafolielab and @lafoliepatisserie on March 20 and 21.  Proceeds from this collaboration will go to iContribute. Don't miss this chance to indulge yourselves and give back at the same time! 

Here are the details - 
Where: La Folie Patisserie in Kala Ghoda and La Folie Lab in Bandra
When: Monday and Tuesday, 20th and 21st March, 2017
Time: La Folie Patisserie - 12 noon to 10.30 pm
          La Folie Lab – 8.30 am to 11 pm
Contact: La Folie Patisserie - +91 9167722181, 022 22672686, 
               La Folie Lab +91 9167937019

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

South Indian Filter Coffee for a #KaapiBreak

Filter Kaapi - Picture by Mrigaank Sharma for A Pinch of This, A Handful of That
In India, one's daily 'Cuppa' is an intensely personal choice, because there are as many preferences as there are people in India. And nowhere is this more underscored than in Mumbai, the city of millions. As universal as Chai is in India, Coffee is popular in the South. And while Mumbai is fueled by copious amounts of Chai peddled at every corner by Chaiwallahs, one finds the best South Indian style Filter Coffee in the bastions of South Indian Cuisine - Manglorean and Udipi restaurants in Mumbai. 

I have sate on the fence between tea and Coffee all my life! While Tea was the beverage at home, I switched loyalty to instant coffee in boarding school. Much later I discovered that while it seemed cool, I had no idea of what real coffee was! 

My parent's office was right next door to a coffee shop - that sold fresh ground coffee. And required me to pass by the heady aroma of freshly roasted coffee every single day after school! But it was much later in my teens that I discovered this magic that was South Indian Filter coffee. I spent school holidays, making myself useful at the office. What this meant was that I would wake up, get dressed and travel with one of the parents to the office. Initially, like every new trainee, I would be given some mindless job to do, but that slowly changed to more serious work. Lunch was often "Idli Sambhar dubo ke" from Lalit restaurant, the Udipi establishment that did brisk business, just opposite. We asked for our idlis to come dunked in sambhar because we figured out we got more sambhar that way. We ate it with coconut chutney and washed it down with Filter Coffee - hot enough to sting after the spice from the meal. 

The Filter Coffee would be delivered in a special pair of utensils. THe waiter would ritually pour the coffee back and forth through the two utensils. There would be a tumbler accompanied by a dabarah or 'davarah', a wide metal saucer with lipped walls. Traditionally to pour the coffee back and forth with arc-like motions of the hand to cool (its gained major swag as metre coffee now!) But that stuff was for experts! Novices like me settled for merely spinning the coffee around in the davarah to cool it. Which got one cool coffee, but without the thick layer of froth that formed on top from pouring it back and forth.

South Indian Coffee 
South Indian Coffee also known as Madras Filter Coffee or Kaapi, is a sweet milky coffee popular in the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. I learnt to make my filter coffee from my friend Mita's husband Venkat. It is also from them I learnt that South Indian food does not begin and end with Idli and Dosa. But that is for another post. The first time I made this coffee at home I had to wait an hour for 1 cup of coffee and have since learnt that this whole exercise is better done at night so you can wake up to your morning cuppa. Since 6-8 tablespoons of coffee powder can take the decoction upto 6-8 hours to collect in the lower receptacle, I also usually do some extra and keep it in the fridge. Also to make South Indian Filter Coffee, you will need a South Indian Coffee Filter (a tinned brass filter is best but a stainless steel one will also do in a pinch). This traditional percolator is a metal device made of four parts, two cylindrical cups, the top one with a pierced bottom that nests into the top of the lower "tumbler" cup. The upper cup has two removable parts that go into it: a pierced pressing disc with a central stem handle and a covering lid. Rinse the coffee-making device and other utensils thoroughly in hot water before use and dry.

Time: Overnight + 10 Minutes; Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients (for 2 cups)
4-6 tbsp/ 60-90 g dark roasted Coffee Beans (70%-80%) ground with Chicory (20%-30%) Store bought coffee powder can be substituted (not instant coffee though!)
300 ml boiling hot Water for percolation + more if required for dilution
100 ml Milk or to taste
2 tsp /10 g Sugar or to taste

Ensure your water is on a rolling boil before you begin making your coffee. To use your coffee filter, uncover, remove the umbrella and fill to capacity- never less than three-fourths (2-3 heaped tablespoons of coffee powder per cup ideally). Press down with a spoon to pack it in. Replace the umbrella and gently pour in boiling hot water. Cover with the lid. The water will slowly percolate down depending on the quantity of powder used. If you OD on the coffee powder, there would be less water percolating through, resulting in a concentrated but lesser quantity of the 'decoction'. In this case once the decoction collects below, add more boiling water to the top and collect the concentrate 2-3 times (although first decoction is best). Keep in fridge and use as required. 

To make coffee - Always add freshly boiled water to coffee - not vice versa, for optimum taste. The ratio of coffee powder to water is usually 1:15. Pour out coffee from lower part of filter into cups. Serve with milk and sugar to taste, separately. Use milk in a ratio of 1:3 to coffee and NEVER, EVER use over-boiled milk- it ruins the flavour.

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