You’ll agree with me, that to meet a legend in her own kitchen is a treat. To watch her cook is even more delightful and then when this 70 year young sunshiny, cheerful legend starts to share the secrets not only of her cooking but also of her staying young, its time to raise a toast. Over the years I have been a great admirer of the Australian Maggie Beer, watched her on TV (Masterchef included), read her books and even tasted some of this cook, food author, restaurateur and food manufacturer’s delicious products. The list of awards conferred on her, is unending…from the Centenary Medal to
the “Senior Australian of the Year“, to
Member of the Order of Australia and counting.
Maggie is an inspiration! She turned all the obstacles in her life into stepping stones. Her parents faced issues with bankruptcy, she did not complete her high school education (even worked as an elevator operator) and has no formal training in cooking. Her parents became caterers and she went on to establish a hugely popular Restaurant in South Australia’s Barossa Valley . I ate at her café (alfresco in the cool sunshine) and not only tasted but also bought her range of gourmet foods, including Pheasant Farm Pate, quince paste, verjuice and gourmet ice creams.
I’m fascinated. I watch her smile and deftly toss and swirl and conjure up her signature dessert with her home made icecream. She smiles a lot and has a generous smile which lights up her eves and the whole room. Maggie explains that it all begins with your food shopping… “Think local and think seasonal” – it
ensures fresher food options. She advises to grow your own and to have a vegetable garden (Maggie’s is within 20 metres of her kitchen door)
We live in highrise apartments, I remind her. “Growing your own produce would have to be my best health tip ever, even if that means a tomato plant in a pot, or some herbs in a planter box on an inner city balcony, it will make all the difference to your cooking.” Put the season in a jar, is her next advice. Always cook from the heart, with ingredients at hand, never letting anything go to waste.
The time-honoured craft of preserving in times of plenty is one of the most effective guards against waste. So she advises the practice of making jams, chutneys, sauces and pickles, which means you will never throw away excess fruit or vegetables again.
How is she so positive inspite of her hard life in her younger days? “I love what I do” she says emphatically. “I, also, always wear rose colored glasses” she points out. Maggie values family relationships and ensures that she spends time with her two daughters and five grandkids. How does she stay so young and full of energy? Its all about eating fresh food, but food that is in season , no preservatives, “ moderation” are some of her tips. As is cooking with olive oil. Yes! she loves butter, but it’s all about moderation.
A request! Please read what follows very carefully. Not only will your gourmet tastebuds be satisfied but you will also glean amazing health tips that are not only useful but also usable.
I write from the heart-stoppingly beautiful heart shaped island country of Tasmania and am delighting in it’s healthy gourmet qualities. Ofcourse we all know about that it is Australia’s smallest state, has the most astonishing and diverse natural beauty, is a haven for wildlife, but I had no clue that Tasmania produced one of the highest quality of saffron in the world or that Sheeps milk cheese is infinitely more healthy than cows milk cheese. I taste my way through the picturesque landscape and here’s what I find…
I always thought that saffron (the most expensive spice valued for it’s intense unique color, flavor and medicinal properties) was cultivated in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Iran, and ofcourse in Jammu & Kashmir. Imagine my surprise when I find it here too. That is, the crocus flower from whose dried “stigma” saffron is produced grows here too. And behind it are the most gentle but enterprising couple Terry and Nick Noonan. They not only lay out a tray of yummies (scones, cheese) infused with their fine saffron but also explain how their “saffron tea” can heal macular degeneration, is rich in antioxidants has antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, digestive benefits too. Its a delight to see the saffron fields, to taste it…and to take home “saffron tea” for a friend with eye problems and the organic saffron for cooking up my “biryani” and “kheer”
KYA CHEESE HAI
Can cheese really be good for cholesterol watchers? Or be okay for those with lactose intolerance? “Yes! sheeps milk cheese is”, the young and brilliant Nicole Gilliver at Grandewe Cheese farms informs me.Sure! Sheeps’ milk contains Vitamins A, B, D & E which are all essential to good health but did you know that Sheeps’ milk can contain up to three times more protein than cows’ or goats’ milk? Or that the calcium levels in sheeps’ milk are double that found in cows’ milk? But what blows my mind is that those who are lactose intolerant can enjoy sheeps milk and it’s cheese because there is scientific evidence that proves the lactose in sheeps’ milk is far more tolerated than that from other milks. Since I do tend to be lactose intolerant I happily tuck into
Nicole Gilliver’s amazing variety of cheese. The well-informed Kim Dudson of Bespoke Tasmania takes me through even more of the healthy gourmet surprises here. I love the lightness and freshness of the Spring cheese. The richness of the vine wrapped one which she has created here. And the cheese is brilliantly paired with “pino paste” the sweet tangy paste from skins of pinto noir grapes. And we top off our fabulous cheese tasting with the amazing Whey liquor and creamy rich
Sheeps milk icecream. All of this produced in Nicole’s family run. Grandewe 80 acre farm.
Yet another surprise was walking into the Ginseng farm, especially since I thought that this was a root grown only in Asia. Well established as a, stimulant, and even useful in type II diabetes treatment, or cure for sexual dysfunction in men.Ive had Ginseng in energy drinks, herbal teas and thrilled to find it in so many different forms here in Tassy. Grown here by the enterprising German couple Ziggy and Angelika Pyka of 41 degrees, along with their amazing bio-friendly salmon farm. I not only thrill in the walk but also enjoy the robust flavors of the salmon lunch.
Okay! So Im well acquainted with the flavors, textures and health benefits of Smoked salmon, but imagine my surprise when I come across port barrel smoked salmon, rich in smokey, woody flavors? Doing this is the colorful Roger Scales of Woodbridge who gets these barrels from France and it takes 6 days to complete the process. And the difference shows. In the Superb smoked Ocean trout too.
AN APPLE A DAY
Justifiably known as the “apple isle” Tasmania not only has over 800 variety of apples, but also it’s own apple museum and research centers. Im thrilled to visit these and also the 130 year old, fourth generation Willy Smith and sons organic aple farm and get a taste of their refreshing apple cider. Bursting with goodness and health,, these crunchy apples delight .”An apple a day, surely keeps the doctor away”
P.S. The final healthy fact that blows me away is that this heart shaped island has the worlds (Yes!) purest air and this is continouosly scientifically monitored in Cape Grim.
FOOD AND FITNESS
It’s the ultimate dream: to love food, enjoy it, and still remain fit and healthy. For most of us, that’s what it remains: a dream. It should be doubly difficult if you earn your daily bread through eating. There is however, a living paradox—author, columnist and food writer Rashmi Uday Singh, who manages to stay fit and svelte. She explains how Even the most intelligent and perceptive often remark to me: “You don’t look like a food critic.”
What these refined gentlemen and ladies mean is that I don’t hog mindlessly and that I don’t live up to their medieval, preconceived notion of a food critic. According to them, it’s blasphemy not to eat and drink to the exclusion of everything else. I’d only like to ask, are all wine-tasters alcoholics? And why on earth I do have to look like a stuffed samosa to live up to anyone’s idea of what a food critic should look like? Why do I have to be obese and suffering from the after-effects of too much eating and drinking, just to prove that I eat for a living? The truth of the matter is that I am passionate about food. It excites me! I cannot resist sinful desserts, ad I am a chocoholic, the darkest, most handsome love of mylife. I love restaurants and eat out all the time. However, being fit and being able to respond with all my senses to food, is equally important to me. And having scripted, directed, produced and anchored a weekly TV show, Health Today, I have been fortunate enough to find a way to devote myself to my two passions. The weekly show was telecast for one year and researched it for over two years. I had the opportunity to interview and spend time with brilliant experts in the medical field. I questioned them relentlessly, chewed on every single answer they gave and digested it. Nutritionists, heart specialists, ayurvedacharyas, oncologists, naturopaths, homeopaths …my cameras recorded every single nuance, be it the “Vatta Pacifying diet” of Deepak Chopra in Los Angeles or the “heart smart” diet of Dr. Naresh Trehan. Banglores Naturopathy Clinic supplied as many relevant answers as the Apollo Hospital in Chennai. Dr. Praful Desai of Tata Memorial explained how diet can actually prevent cancer, while nutritionists explained how food can lower stress levels. What emerged was something basic and fundamental. When some wise guy said “make your vacation”, he definitely had me in mind.
Here are some of my tried and tasted and tested tips:
It’s all about the appetite mechanism: Okay, so you know it all, but it still might help to read what follows. Because it is only when one understands appetite mechanism that one realises that bad eating habits don’t just mean calorific and junk food but also being out of harmony with the way you eat. Ever wondered why eating and emotions are linked? Our appetite is coordinated in an area called the hypothalamus and it is this area, which controls a lot of our emotions. The “feeding” centre is divided into “hunger” and “fullness” centers. The number of signals reaching these centers dictate whether you feel hungry or full. It’s important to feel pleasantly full after a meal, because you are less likely to binge in between. Basically, you need to get tuned in to the ‘satiety’ value of eating. These ‘satiety’ signals are sent back in different stages.
Chewing: Nobody ever told e why should I chew my food well and slowly. Sure, it helps in the production of saliva and digestion, but what it also does is send signals of satiety to the brain. So, the more you chew, the more time you take over eating, the greater the perception of satiety. This is because within the jaw are stretch receptors which respond when you chew.
Exciting the taste buds: Foods that turn you on are called ‘organoleptic’. And the great news is that organoleptic foods [foods which smell, look, taste and feel good in the mouth] are actually good for you. They register satisfaction quicker and they increase the production of saliva and digestive juices. If you have exciting flavours, varying temperatures and textures within a meal, your mouth has a far greater opportunity to send satiety signals.
Lifting the arm: It may sound really strange, but the more you lift you arm to eat, the greater will be the filling of fullness. That’s because you give your brain the time and the chance to register those signals.
Trust your stomach: Within the stomach wall are stretch –receptors which send signals of fullness to your brain when there is food in your stomach. When you eat sugary, refined or fatty food they pass through your stomach quickly and satiety signals are not sent back to the brain. So, you tend to eat a lot more than you actually need to. But, when you eat high-fibre food (fruits, veggies, whole grains) they stay in the stomach longer and send satiety signals to the brain. So, while I taste almost everything, it’s the high-fibre food that I concentrate on.
Food and mood: It might help to know that it’s not just alchohol which is a mood-altering substance. Our everyday food does affect our moods too. Within the brain, chemicals help transmit messages from one nerve cell to another. There are two such substances known as endorphins, which affect our moods—serotonin and norepinephrine. The body makes these particular endorphins from the food we eat and therefore, we can, to a certain extent raise the level of these substances in the brain by eating specific foods. The main source of these endorphins is sugary carbohydrate-rich food. This explains why many of us feel happier when we eat chocolates and sweets. However the problem with eating too much of these is that sugary foods are absorbed rapidly into the blood. And though this causes a serotonin rush, it is broken down rapidly and eventually leads to a drop in blood sugar and endorphin levels. So, such foods can leave you feeling even lower than before. On the other hand, natural sugars give you a steady high. Feeling low and depressed is also linked to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals and therefore, to improper eating. A huge database of research points in the direction of eating right and light. So, for the sake of your mood, it is best to stick to natural sugars and natural starches. Natural sugar are found in fruits and veggies (as opposed to refined sugars in honey, cakes etc.) and natural starches occur in wholegrains, brown rice, beans, fruits and veggies (as opposed to refined starches in white brad, pastas etc.). these natural foods keep you clear-eyed and energetic. The reason? They release energy at a slower steadier pace, do not slow down your metabolism and and so don’t end up channelising the blood supply away from your brain. In other words, they keep you feeling fresh and in a good mood. Naturally!
Helpful tips on eating the right way
Position of eating: slouching is bad idea. Sitting upright helps. It places your stomach in a position where gravity helps rather than hinders.
Relax while eating: Digestion requires the flow of blood to your stomach but when your are under stress or upset, the stress hormones in your blood make much of the blood stream go to your limbs, this hinders digestion.
Your environment is important: If you eat live and treat your meals as just a fuel-stop-over then you may actually be hindering you health. You must value meal times as enjoyable pastimes. I make it a point to picnic, to set up candlelight dinners, to have interesting company, to eat with one’s love and of course, to eat in restaurants. All these environments relax me amd make my digestive juices flow, thereby helping swiftly and effortlessly digest all that I have eaten.
Who wants to kiss and ashtray?: Smoking kills…the tastebuds. Moreover, cigarettes discolour your nails and lips and ages you skin. And anyway, who wants to kiss an ashtray?
Drinking plenty of water: I begin my day and end it with warm water. Deepak Chopra advises sipping hot water through the day if you want to lose weight and flush out toxins.
Moderation is the name of the game: Moderation may be a boring word, but it works. You can taste everything, relish it, enjoy it and do so as intensely and passionately for the rest of your life. It’s not about denial and fanaticism, it is about celebrating food and savouring it in all its delicious forms. It is about enjoying it!
There is plenty more to say, but even plenty more to learn as I eat my way through life. As I said before, I eat for a living and have a huge appetite for finding out more ways and means of eating my way to more health and fitness.
I raise a toast with the delicious“Iron man” juice and ask a few questions: Can delicious also be nutritious? Tasty food be healthy? Contradictory? Not possible? But worth finding out, don’t you agree? After all, food delivers the much-needed energy and the vitality to work and to enjoy life in all it’s manifold aspects. And so it’s been my life-long quest to find food that combines taste with health. And especially in restaurants. Having eaten my way through all my travels around the world and through all my 33 books, I have to admit that very, very few restaurants serve up food that combines these two aspects. Most coax flavors and enhance textures with dollops of fat, frying to a crisp, layers of cream and so on. India’s restaurantscape continues to grow and expand with multiple cuisines and options. And each year, as I research The Times Food Guides I eat non-stop in restaurants here.
You can imagine my delight when in the heart of bustling South Mumbai, I find a cafe, an oasis of calm which creates, innovates and serves up the most amazing spa menu. And this is a glassed off space ( outdoor verandah et al), surrounded by trees. This jewel of a open-through-the-day café is part of the Taj’s Wellington Mews, their swanky serviced apartment property. Sure! You can imbibe the tranquility and coffee and snacks but even more exciting is the light and delightful menu of the Jiva spa complemented by a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Ofcourse, the comprehensive short menu with it’s sandwiches and pastas also offers a flavorsome Goan prawn curry and the ever popular Chicken kathi roll. But it’s the healthful yet yummy Steamed Sea Bass, the Mediterranean-spiced Chicken Breast and the healthy Wholewheat Ravioli with Spinach and Mushroom and Stir-fried Spring Vegetables served with Tofu that Chef Shrutika Koli excels in. Here I not only trip out on their crisp salads, but also their addictive roasted pumpkin soup spiked with cumin and the homestyle drumsticks.
From chef Shrutika Koli and the dynamic, health-buff Parveen Chander Kumar, who helms the serene spa and the property, I get a rejuvenating taste of health. “The soup is full of antioxidants” explains Parveen and I chip in “and what a unique lingering whisper of cumin it has”.
P.S. The Iron Man is a refreshing apple, guava and pear juice. Weli Deli’s Pineapple and Ginger with Mint and Celery is another favorite of mine too.
HEALTHY COOKING TIPS
Chef Shrutika shares some of her tips and recipes with us.
· Always use only seasonal and fresh vegetables and herbs, instead of canned or dried ones.
· While making juices of fruits and vegetables try and squeeze last minute without adding any sweeteners .
· · · Try to best capture flavors retain the nutrients in food without adding excessive salt and fats
· Cooking with minimal heat and a la minute tossing of food help to maintain colour and texture of food .
· Avoid excess use of all the white food stuffs eg. Sugar , salt , rice , milk, refine flour …..
CUMIN SCENTED ROASTED PUMPKIN BISQUE
Amount Measure Ingredient Preparation Method
500 grams pumpkin red
15 grams cumin seeds roasted and powdered
15 milliliters extra virgin olive oil
10 grams sea salt to taste
10 grams pepper corn crushed
20 grams shallots chopped
20 grams garlic chopped
20 grams leeks chopped
Peel & cut pumpkin in to wedges. Marinate pumpkin with olive oil, salt, peper & garlic.
Roast marinated pumpkin in the oven until well-done. Puree the roasted pumpkin to a fine paste.
Sauté garlic, shallots, leeks, cumin seeds & add pumpkin puree. Add vegetable stock, and seasoning.
Simmer the soup till smooth and creamy. Strain and return to fire.
Check for seasoning, color and consistency. Serve hot garnished with roasted cumin powder.
THE PERFECT PUMPKIN
- Very low calorie (100 gms of pumpkin has 26 calories)No saturated fats or cholesterol.
- Pumpkin has many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
- but rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins.
- Recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
- High quantity of Vitamin A, a powerful natural anti-oxidant.
- Plenty of B-complex group of vitamins.
- A rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Surprises ahead! I confess, I am very surprised myself too. Here I am, a regular at the haute temples of gastronomy, a worshipper at the masterly great restaurants of the world. I preside over several global jurys for awarding great restaurants and having eaten my way through 34 food books would go to the ends of the world for sublime food that has the firm grasp of the art and science of cooking. And here I am actually admiring and going over the moon for food that is not even cooked, but is mostly raw (you read that right). And yet it seduces not only my tastebuds but also my eyes. And heres the bonus: it is bursting with energy and goodness and not only kickstarts my system into high energy but also calms my mind and makes me smile.
Welcome to paradise! Here sense-pampering is in erotic union with holistic health, here taste and flavor burst with nutrition and healing. It is from here that I’m mailing you this great news
Please take a look at the accompanying photograph that I just shot. Before I tell you more about it, all I can say is that if it had a video track you’d be able to hear the peacocks (they preen all over the 50 hectares of lush land) the chirping birds, the soft breeze. But what you can see is the ever-smiling chef Lucrecia Buking holding up the most delicious “Beet Canneloni“ and pecan dessert . The dapper Michael di Lonardo who helms The Farm in San Benito (its two hours away from Manila) smiles with Mishi ( his Lhasa Apso mix from Lonavala). Actually Michael being a brilliant chef himself (having worked with great chefs in Los Angeles and had the Hollywood stars eating out of his hands) also has plenty to do with the gourmet fare here. He is also driven by the conviction that “the farmer is the star’ and it’s the “quality of the soil and the organic produce that make great food”. Having worked three years in India (and loved it) Michael feels very strongly that “India should go against genetically modified food and Monsanto.”
And so here at this holistic healing and wellness mecca where mind, body and spirit get balanced, all the vegetables are organically grown within the Farm area. As are all the healing herbs. So much so that even the virgin coconut oil, the coconut water we drink is all from their own plantations. “From the farm to the table” is a delicious visible reality here. And creating amazing dishes is the chef and her team.
She was detected with third stage breast cancer three years ago and given six months to live. Today, Chef Lucrecia is not only fit and healthy but also weaving magic in the kitchen. She herself is living proof of the principles The Farm is rooted in, that all health stems from the gut and looking after and nurturing it with live foods will restore harmony and health.
Having learnt the fundamentals from the Living lights culinary arts school in San Francisco, she ensures that more than 85% of her food is raw (grains are soaked, seeds are sprouted, vegetables soaked in apple cider vinegar) and even the rest is very lightly cooked. “Raw food preserves the antioxidants and nutrients” she points out. no oil. No cooking, no sugar, no preservatives and yet bursting with taste and variety and color and flavor. Gastronomy redefined.
P.S. Theres plenty more to The Farm than this life giving cuisine, detoxing and recharging…I’m still here but already planning my next visit…saving up all my earnings (like I did for this time too)… it’s the best investment ever.
THE FARMS RECIPE
Try it. Its so simple, just chopping, slicing, soaking, mixing, processing and assembling. A visual and tasty and nutritional treat.
Red Beet Cannelloni
5 red Beet thinly sliced
For the “almond or pista cheese”
Tsp olive oil/ Cup almonds or pistachio nuts (soaked and peeled / Sea salt, Lemon, White pepper/ Tsp Nutritional Yeast (if unavailable then use miso paste / Tsp onion Powder
/ Tsp Tarragon leaves Chopped /½ Cup red Onion ( minced)/ ¼ Cup Chives (chopped)
For the “cashew sauce”
1 cup cashew nts/ 1 cup pine nuts/ 1 cup water/ 1 tsp hone/ ½ cup lemon juice/ 2 cloves garlic/ 1 tsp salt/ ½ tsp white pepper/ 2 tbsp fresh dill.
Put all these ingredients (except dill) in a blender until creamy. Add water if needed. You can use this sauce on any dish.
Slice and Marinate the red beet and set it aside. For the “cheese” put in a food Processer all the ingredients for the cheese. Keep “cheese” for a few hours before filling the beet slices with the “ almond cheese” and asparagus. Roll it up. Drizzle with cashew sauce. Enjoy