Friday, October 25, 2019

Amrita's Sharad Thaali and some #Foodle Inspiration

A Foodle after a long, long time!

Inspiration to create can come from anywhere…  and also catch one TOTALLY by surprise... A beautiful meal I recently ate, got me inspired to #Foodle again. And I thought that something this momentous deserved a blogpost too, so… here we are!

I have a lot happening in my life, and off late, I've made some big decisions, had some sad things bring me down. I took time out, used the pre-Diwali time to de-clutter; my home, my life, my emotional and creative mind-space and just rejuvenate. I'v actively sought out people, and things that make me feel happy. And it all seems to be bearing fruit already!

Last Sunday I finally made it (been wanting to go for ages) to my friend Amrita’s most recent pop-up. Themed on the Sharad Ritu or Indian Autumn this was a seven-course Ayurvedic lunch, using seasonal ingredients sourced from local markets and farmers and took place at the all new The Classroom by La Folie (which is pretty cool too BTW).

According to Amrita,"Everything can be Ayurveda if you apply the principles correctly, and make it something we can relate to." Ayurveda says that the Indian monsoons, leaves a lot of Pitta or heat in its wake. "The sun is directed on us and Pitta is high all around, in nature, and in us." To counter this, Ayurveda suggests Pitta balancing foods. "The premise is simple. All creations are made of 5 elements including humans. These elements vary in different people based on our own dosha and prakriti (nature). We can balance our doshas with diet. Sharad is when we need immunity building foods, it is the perfect time to incorporate and acclimatize to foods that will come into season in the winter."

In keeping with this philosophy, her Sharad menu she was  made up of grounding, cooling foods, using seasonal ingredients such as Kashmiri Apples, Sitaphal, Baalam (a large Indian Cucumber indigenous to parts of India), fresh Singhada (Water Chestnuts) supplemented by indigenous grains and wild greens and vegetables from the Sahyadris, supplied by Triple OOO, Vrindavan and Offerings Farms. The meal stared with a chatpatta Green Apple Panna. Then came six courses served up with stories by Amrita.

Vanvaas was the first course, and it was dessert! No I'm not kidding! "Ayurveda recommends dessert first, as it is the hardest to digest. This plate is inspired by Ramayana and the way Sita, Ram and Laxman ate during their legendary Vanvas (exile). Sita was sad and refused to eat but loved Sitafal which is also cooling so there is a Spiced Sitaphal Cake, and it is said that while she was captive, Indra sent her Payasam, so there is a Black Rice Payasam inspired by that and a smidgen of Chavanprash to represent the Sanjeevani Booti.” Whipped coconut cream, kand chips and crisp poha finished the plate. And I ate it all for once! Because it had all the good stuff. I was not terribly enamoured of the Chavanprash bit of it, but the rest of it, especially that Sitaphal cake was worth every footstep I counted later!

The next course was "Kand" inspired by root vegetables. "Earth colour foods and root vegetables make us feel grounded. Whole foods, especially roots and tubers offer maximum energy, in fact they have been survival foods in times of famine and drought throughout the world. Roots actually root us." I have to say that, that bowl of earthy, chewy Farra (a rice pasta from Chattisgarh) inspired gnocchi, made from Karanda (as the tribals of Sahyadris call air potatoes) topped with browned ghee and something tangy I couldn’t identify, was my absolute favourite course!

Then came Baalam a course meant to hydrate the system. "Baalam kakdi are giant cucumber that are in season now, there are two main types, one form Jhaaba and another from Sailana, they are soft and sweet (unlike regular cucumbers) and super hydrating. Ideal for people of pitta dosha but also fab for this season when pitta is high. With the diced cucumber there is beetroot and pumpkin and on the plate are also bitter Bhrahmi and sour Sorrel (Gongura) leaves with a dressing of coriander and buttermilk on the side." The light and refreshing salad was ideal as a precursor to our next course.

The Diwali Gujiya Course, in which Gujiya shells made of Khapli Gehu and jowar, were customised with fillings based on individual doshas of the diners and served with teekha and meetha chutneys. (We had each been asked to fill in a form that would determine our doshas earlier). Based on the same, those with a Vata dosha got a badam and paneer filling, those with a Pitta dosha, got a filling of pumpkin and greens. And those with Kapha dosha got a filling of greens and mushrooms! (Mine was the Pitta option, a crisp casing filled with a moist filling of pumpkin and greens that was so good that it did not need any of the accompanying chutney.)

Next came the Sharad Thaali. The main course made of seasonal produce, cooked into dishes Amrita remembered from her childhood. Fresh Singhada (water chestnuts) cooked into a dry subzi with bhuna masala, Pakoda Kadhi with wild Taakla bhaaji in the pakodas, Beet Raita, Charred Guava Cachumber, Chana Dal Pulao, Jowar Roti, Green Veggies Masala Puri and Sabudana Papad. I loved the beautiful colours and textures on my plate and the guava salad, kadhi and raita were so good I  asked for seconds of them all!

Rounding off the meal was Mukhwas, a signature offering from Amrita, a paan leaf topped with a delicate, subtle coconut water jelly, crunchy fennel seeds, dry rose petals and a drizzle of sweet Gulkand. Rolled up, it all came together into a perfect end to a beautiful meal.

And the meal was beautiful… nuanced, full of good ingredients, colours, textures and positive vibes. I could gush on about it but that would do it a disservice. The fact that I came away inspired enough to spend 4 days illustrating it, says it all! I’ve known Amrita for years, having followed her journey on, through all her experiments with food, including the OMG Bacon Jam years, going vegetarian years and exploring Ayurveda years. Today as a certified Ayurveda practitioner, she seems to be in her element showcasing Ayurvedic principles for everyday use and her passion shows in the detailing she puts into her cooking workshops, pop-up meals and more. I think she might have found her calling… and I look forward to lots more learning and beautiful experiences curated by her (that hopefully inspire some more foodling too…)

Gyaan and LINKS
Follow Amrita on Instagram

For local farmers follow Offerings Farms , Vrindavan Farm
Connect with Triple OOO farms, call/connect on whassap at 9116666066 of follow on their Website  Instagram 
The Classroom by Lafolie is a state-of-the-art studio for interactive cooking learning and will soon launch Mumbai’s first Bean-to-Bar experience.

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