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