Recipe

Veggie Wows in Hollywood

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I’m rejoicing! My ongoing global research on gourmet vegetarian food just got more exciting. In the past few months I’ve tracked the best of the best vegetarian in Japan, China, Russia, Austria and now in the capital of glamor and films…Los Angeles. I’m feeling like a million dollars as I report from a charmed frontier (Hollywood, where else?) where fantasy is blending into reality, and that too in it’s beloved and iconic landmarks. Both close to each other in the glamorously beautiful Beverly Hills. Every square inch of both bristles with star power. Both are the haunt of Hollywood and the global who’s who. Both are legends…

GLOBAL LANDMARK

In this legendary landmark, glamor and luxury drips in every practical detail and human warmth marks every hi-tech comfort. The iconic Beverly Wilshire “Pretty Woman hotel” (the movie was filmed here) turns ninety at the close of this year yet continues to rock with a youthful rhythm and beat.

Star spangled Hollywood dines, meets and stays here, it is also officially on the National Register of Historic Places of the United States. Superstars such as Elvis Presley, Warren Beatty and Steve McQueen have all lived in this luxurious landmark. As does our very own Bollywood. Over the years, I’ve had salad with Priyanka Chopra, muesli with Anil Kapoor and steak with Javed Akhtar here. A favourite of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Anil Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Karan Johar and others.

I love to soak in the cool sunshine in BLVD, their patio restaurant on the stunning sun-drenched, Rodeo drive designer boulevard to the world. I feast on the brilliant chefs freshest of seasonal California and watch the sun bronzed greek gods with their six pack abs and la-di-da babes with endless legs glide by. And today am doubly delighted: their  brilliant new executive chef is not only our very own Samir Roonwal but he especially cooks up some delightful pure vegetarian dishes which sparkle with the Californian and  Indian touch. Having worked in world famous kitchens and had the who’s who eating out of his hands Samir is now creating culinary magic here.

And it is here in BLVD, ( voted top “Power Tables” … Wall Street Journal) that I catch up with him as well as the dapper, high-energy Ben Trodd, who not only helms this landmark, but also spearheads nine other superb hotels. This discerning gourmet, well-travelled Vice President wears his success and his designer suit with equal panache. We trip out on the Crunchy okra smeared with the velvety dip, which makes for the perfect cocktail snack and I request chef Samir to share the recipe with us. After this the gorgeous Lauren Dutton Breen takes me up to show me Los Angeles very first “Glamping” site.

But that another exciting story…

P.S. Within this hotel itself is yet another superb restaurant CUT by America’s high-priest of cuisine Wolfgang Puck. It specialises in non-vegetarian food. A short stroll away is his landmark Spago, where I taste yet another veggie wow.

Chef Roonwal’s Crispy OKRA

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 cups: Okra Julienne

1 tsp: Toasted Cumin seeds

1 tsp: Chilli powder

1 tsp: Dry mango powder

1/2 cup: Chickpea Flour

1 tsp: Onion Seeds

1/2 tsp: Turmeric powder

Salt to taste

Method:

Wash okra well, dry them out completely and Julienne them.

Add all the dry spice powders and seeds, along with salt, to the okra.

Toss them well till incorporated and set it down for 5 mins.

Then sprinkle chickpea flour on top (start with a few tbsps). Mix them well. Add a few tsps water so the okra gets coated with the flour.

Deep fry them in oil. Serve hot.

Ingredient: Julienne Okra, Spiced Chickpea Flour, Dry Mango Powder

Garnish:  Pomegranate Seeds Fresh, Mustard Flower, Micro Cilantro

PUCK’s PARADISE

He has recently received his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame. So when this superstar celebrity chef, restaurateur, and occasional actor, Wolfgang Puck takes three hours off his busy schedule to lunch with me its celebration time. We do so in his three decades old landmark Spago which continues to play host to the who’s who of the world, to Oscar premieres restaurants and more. Wolfgangs catering services, cookbooks and licensed products are in great demand. We chat about his 27 (and counting) restaurants around the world and I trip out on the outstanding vegetarian tasting menu.  Though Wolfgang Puck is single handedly responsible to introduce gourmet pizzas to the world and his signature dish at his original restaurant, Spago, is House Smoked Salmon Pizza, he continues to introduce flavours from around the world.

Today, his brilliant young chef Tetsuya cooks up an amazing pumpkin baked in salt, tangy sweet plaintain salad served in a half coconut, a parmesan marshmallow and beetroot cookie flag off our multi-course vegetarian lunch which ends with a light and bright melon dessert. And in Wolfgang Pucks Hollywood flagship restaurant in Los Angeles, their Japanese chef cooks up the most deliciously creamy (hold your breath) baingan bharta. And my joy comes full circle.

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Grains of Magic

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Strange but true! Here in this frenetic, cacophonic New York city, I am not only getting rare insights into Indian grains and spices but doing so in a treasure trove spread over two floors. And our very own Indian superstar chef Vikas Khanna has been getting accolades for incorporating Grains in American cuisines.  Sharing his insights with me is award-winning Michelin starred chef, cookbook writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and  judge of MasterChef India. To top it all, the dashing and yet down to earth Vikas Khanna has  been hailed as the “sexiest chef alive” He combines a rare humility, knowledge and passion and I am blown off my feet when he guides me into his favourite New York hot spot.

We are at this iconic Kalustyans set up in 1944. The haunt of many s great chef. Here, he gives me taste of the finest black garlic pistachios, turmeric a sniff of the finest Iranian saffron of butterflypea and a round up of amazing rare grains. Though he works a lot with vendors in Kerala, Mumbai and Tamil Nadu to bring more organic grains to North America and to find creative ways to incorporate them into American diets.

He always tells people that our ancestors ate much better food than us. Organic, disciplined and balanced. The use of different types of grains and organizing a healthy eating around them is pure heaven for him and me. I had no idea that there was such a staggering number of grains and each had several sub-types. For instance Wheat includes Bulgar, Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Farro, Kamut, Semolina, Spelt, Triticale. Rice (Red, Forbidden, White, Black) Corn (Flint, Dent, Waxy) Barley (Pot Barly, Pearl Barley) Sorghum (Johnson Grass, Broom-Corn) Millet (finger millet, foxtail millet, kodo millet, pearl millet, proso millet) and so on.

“I still remember the first time I entered Kalustyans. It was a much smaller store back then in 2001.” explains Vikas, “But was an eye opening experience, it was like being a kid in the candy store.”

He had come here to find fresh turmeric. It was not available then, but today it is. He has been a part of Kalustyan family since then. It could be buying new stuff or bringing chefs here or taking spices from here for chefs like Eric Ripert to Jean George’s to Daniel Boulud.

We both agree that spices are more precious than jewels. His latest research has been about Blossoms of spices and their evolution and metamorphosis through time. A lot like Vikas’s own fascinating journey…a boy born in Punjab with misaligned feet (not able to run until he was 13) and who learnt cooking  from his grandmother, came to America with no money at all and rose to be awarded and celebrated. And even today continues to be down to earth.

BARLEY AND ORANGE PUDHA

Vikas shared many a creative bread recipe with me, due to space constraint am able to print only one. Should you need more, please email rashmiudaysingh2017@gmail.com

A great tasting healthy bread made with whole barley flour, which is highly nutritious and recommended for a low-fat diet. Orange juice is added not only for a wonderful citrusy flavour but also because it helps to tenderise the dough.

1 cup barley flour

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 orange, zested and juiced

1 teaspoon chilli powder

Salt to taste

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Take the flour, onion, cilantro, orange zest, chilli powder and salt in a bowl. Gradually blend in the orange juice and mix well. Add a little water at a time to a smooth batter. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and smear the pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Spoon 1/4 of the batter into the pan and spread to it to even thickness. Cook for 2-3 minutes until crispy golden brown, then turn it over and drizzle a little oil around the edges. Continue to cook until the sides turn golden brown, about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve hot.

Food.. Cutting Edge Perspectives

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Foodies! Chew on it. Savor it. Here’s some food for thought. A mind-blowingly different perspective on food and its creation, on the world of food and chefs and restaurants.

I write from an amazing space, where food is not just being cooked but performed, boundaries are being pushed, new cultures discovered and knowledge exchanged. I write from the beautiful mountains of UpperAustria, from Gelinaz.

One thing is for sure, cooking is not just fine dining anymore. It touches different population segments across the world, and it needs to be both cutting-edge and playful, as well as in phase with worldwide pop culture.

And here in the beautiful mountains of Upper Austria I’m getting a taste of this amazingly different perspective. The worlds most brilliant chefs have flown in and are creating and co-creating together. And I am a voyeur.

SUPERSTARS CO CREATING MAGIC.

Every single continent seems to be represented here. The worlds superstar chefs have flown in. Rene Redzepi of Noma (Copenhagen), David Chang of Momofuku (New York), Virgilio Martinez (Of central Lima), May Chow of Little Bao Hong Kong, Heinz Reitbauer of Vienna, Margot Janse from South Africa, Manu Buffara from South America and a dozen more. Equally renowned artists, musicians, scientists, thinkers have flown in from all parts of the world. Is it about food? Is it about music? Art?  Its all this and more. Its “Gelinaz.” The curators Andrea Petrini & Alexandra Swenden are, in essence, ‘agit pop’ curators of a culinary hub that is pushing boundaries.

It’s a world wide think tank of avantgarde chefs performing food and remixing each other’s dishes like in a DJ set giving form to culinary happenings where art, music and cuisine fusion in unexpected and improvisational ways.

NOT ONLY ABOUT COOKING.

Sure! cooking is a big deal, but today it’s not enough: contemporary cuisine needs to find new ways to get in touch with a wider, younger audience, mingling and dialoguing with art, music and other fields of expression.

And here, I am witnessing  how culinary talent and human qualities can coexist harmoniously inside the kitchen.

How, the main stage for a chef is the kitchen, a place where life and art, personal experience and interdisciplinary longings  find a means of expression.

NOT ABOUT COOKING COMPETITIONS EITHER.

After all the “Masterchef” competitions and fierce rivalry, suddenly here is a welcome space, a happy space, there is:

– no competition

– universal sharing

– experimentation in a collective way beyond meritocracy and classified roles (stars, lists etc..)

Instead the collective of chefs were,

– pushing the boundaries, performing food and take risk as a starting point

– discovering new cultures and exchanging knowledge

– exploring the unknown

– zooming in on the beauty of nature, its elegant chaos

FOOD IS BEING PERFORMED.

Here, in the award winning gastronomic, family run restaurant Muhltalhof of the family Rachinger, the experimental culinary performance is taking place. The brilliant father and son chef duo of Philip and Helmut Rachinger have chosen three core ‘Matrix’ dishes. We get to taste them in a magnificent multi-course dinner the night before. Today the international chefs have been working in small teams of three and four. These dishes are being deconstructed, dismantled, cut into pieces and remixed by the 24 participating international and Austrian chefs. Chefs are asked to freely reinterpret every dish, modify some of the original ingredients and add seasonal produce from Upper-Austria to their new creations. And we walked through the different stations set up by each group as they interpreted the three matrix dishes. Rene Redzepi of Noma used moss he had foraged, Virgilio Martinez from Peru and his team interpreted the gulasch in a dumpling, David Chang from NYC along with May Chow from Hong Kong set up under a tree and even served up Schnitzel shots. The finale dinner is to follow…a sit down seven course dinner with these brilliant chefs in orchestra together. Innovative music and art installations by Joachim Eckl reverberate with the sounds of the river flowing nearby. Though sublime, its not just a gourmet dinner anymore. It’s the pampering of all senses. Nature, art, music food, cultures of different countries, good vibrations, morph into a memorable magical experience.  A Magelinaz experience!

P.S

I couldn’t resist requesting for the recipe of the  three matrix dishes of the potato gulasch, freshwater fish and the summerbock venison

Please email rashmiudaysingh2017@gmail.com should you want them.

CHENNAI  FOODLINE

So exciting to be in the mountains of UpperAustria and be in touch with you. Thanks for keeping me plugged into the vibrant home catering food scene of Chennai.

For any queries or recommendations,  please mail rashmiudaysingh2017@gmail.com  or call 98840 65010 or mail anjalisharma966@gmail.com

  • Gazeenasulu Kunhamed from Ormes Road, Kilpauk specialises in exotic cakes and desserts such as the French Jaconde cake (an almond sponge cake), Choco Coffee opera and a variety of cheesecakes. Her latest offerings are jackfruit and tender coconut cake, mango and passion fruit cake, orange and pistachio cake, cherries and chocolate cake which are made with entremets ( layered desserts with multiple flavours and textures). No home delivery. Call 98409 70353  or mail gazeenasulu@yahoo.co.in
  • Harini Sankaranarayanan from Simply Chocolate is a home baker from Abhiramapuram. She can customise cakes according for to customer requirements for  specific flavours, fillings ( types of nuts or fruits) or themes. Home delivery with extra charges. Call 98414 28798.
  • Sudha Shankaran from Pondy Bazaar takes orders for nankhatais. Minimum order is half kg. Call 99400-62327 or mail srinivaas.sudha@gmail.com
  • Anu Prosper  from Mistletoe Cakes is a home baker based in  Choolaimedu. The latest cake flavours in her menu are cotton candy, butter popcorn and bubblegum. She is also taking orders for low carb pizzas and savouries such as chicken croquettes, cheesy bakes ( veg and non veg) etc. Call  9600116757 or mail  anuprosper@gmail.com or visit https://www.facebook.com/mistletoe.cakes
  • Shyamala Sivaraman from Shyamala’s Culinary Classes  is based in Arcot road, Kodambakkam.  She conducts four hours sessions from Monday to Saturday on baking (cakes, cookies, muffins, decorative cupcakes), bread and buns, tarts and pies, puff pastries. She also conducts intensive icing workshops. Call on  98402 51050.
  • Deepika from Aumly is taking orders for  Thai Sweet Chilly Sauce, which is both spicy & sweet, Whole Wheat Muffins which can be stored in the fridge for a week in the following flavours: Apple Crumble Muffin, Carrot & Walnut Muffin and Orange & Dark Chocolate Muffins, organic fresh curd, set in earthenware pots, Idli Podi and organic Curry Leaf Powder. Order by Wednesday for pick up on Friday. Call on 8939774319. Address: 12-Z, Rutland Gate, 4th  St, Aroshree Kailash, Ground Floor. 48 hours notice required.
  • Sara Koshy is conducting a Workshop  on Garden Parties.  On the menu:
  1.  Zucchini Loaf
  2.  Cauliflower Crust Veg Pizza
  3.  Green Olive Tapennade (on Brushetta)
  4.  White Choco Chunk Brownies

Venue: The Gormei Market – 6, CIT Colony, 2nd Main Road, (behind focus gallery on TTK road), Mylapore, Chennai:4

Date: Aug 6th, Sunday. Time: 3:00pm to 6:30pm. Cost: Rs.1200/per person.

Call to register: 4217 2229.

Russia’s Veggie Wow And P.M. Modi

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I serve you a taste of Russia’s magnificent history and cuisine and with it a peek into our Prime Minister Modi’s most recent abode in the stunning St Petersburg. It’s awesome. It is Russia’s largest most beautiful Presidential suite and this is where our very own Prime Minister Modi stayed last month. It sprawls under a dramatic domed gold-leaf ceiling, has its own grand lobby and antique Carl Schroeder grand piano too. Two bedrooms, a private fitness centre, kitchen and this antique rosewood dining table under the magnificent handblown crystal chandeliers where we shot the photograph. In the past 142 years of it’s history, it has played host to global superstars, Hollywood movie moghuls, presidents and royalty. Bill Clinton, Whitney Houston, George Bernard Shaw and many more. The great Russian composer Tchaikovsky (my all time favourite) honeymooned here in the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe. This most iconic landmark has been witness to the history of the stunning St Petersburg.  Its Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau building is now classified as a historical monument.

RUSSIAN VEGGIE WOWS
It is here in this icon that I get a taste of  Russian history, art, culture and food. Here is the surprise…also vegetarian food. Which of course would please our very vegetarian Prime Minister to no end. The multi-talented Chef Ian Christopher Minnis ensures the finest gourmet dinners here. He also oversees the amazing plethora of restaurants here. From St Petersburg’s most gastronomique L Europe restaurant (serving authentic Russian masterpieces) to the legendary caviar bar to the new Asian restaurant Azia which also serves some Indian dishes and has an Indian chef Dev Kathait. I do a tasting of their Asian vegetarian (including delicious dal, kababs and tandoori) in Azia. And request them for a second taste of the most amazing creation of pumpkin dimsum and he is kind enough to share the recipe of  the very traditional Russian Borscht soup (pure vegetarian). Chef de Cuisine Larisa Kordik conjures superb dishes (tandoor, steam and wok cooking techniques) and Ekaterina Vasiljeva not only helps translate but also coordinates everything seamlessly.

BORSCH SOUP

INGREDIENTS

Beetroot 160 gms/ Cabbage 120 gms/ Onion 20 gms/ Carrot 30 gms/ Vegetable Oil 50 gms/ Vegetable Broth 800 gms/ Tomato Paste 15 gms/ White Wine vinegar 5 gr/ Sugar 25 gr/ Black Pepper  0.5 gr/ Bayleaf  0.5 gr/ Lemon 5 gr/ Garlic 10 gr

Method

  • Clean & cut carrots, onions ( julienne ) and sauté in vegetable oil.
  • Add cabbage as well, ( the cabbage should be cut into julienne the same way as the carrots and onions. Gently sautewithout color to the vegetables.
  • Add tomato paste to the mixture, and gently saute a little further until it is not bitter.
  • Blanch the beet root in the skin until it is fully tender
  • Peel the  beet skin and shred  through a food processor, or Slice in thin long strips, (Keep beet juice  and add to soup just before serving.
  • Add vinegar,vegetable broth, stir and stew.  Add the bayleaf& shredded beet root. mix
  • In 5-10 min till ready, add salt, sugar and spices.( lemon and garlic)
  • Do Not boil hard as the color will disappear.

CAVIAR MASTER-CLASS

What better place to learn about and do a caviar tasting than in the home-country of this supreme epicurean pleasure? And even better in Russia’s only caviar restaurant, Caviar Bar & Restaurant, which serves only the best caviar with ice cold vodkas you won’t find anywhere else in the world. And I am fortunate to do so under the tutelage of Russia’s only full-time vodka sommelier and most knowledgeable caviar master Alexander Dmitriev.

Their menu boasts 15 types of caviar, 12 Dom Perignon vintages, 35 types of vodka and 15 varieties of distillate.

What is caviar? Interestingly, like only sparkling wine made in France’s district of Champagne can be called champagne, only fish eggs produced by the sturgeon fish can be called caviar. Russia’s been eating caviar since before the 14th century. The real black caviar comes from the sturgeons ystick. And this large fish (the biggest is Beluga) lives in the Caspian sea, Siberia and Sakhalin .
Caviar differs in colour texture and size depending on fish AND how it is produced. I learnt all about the production methods of production and preservation(which determine the taste and price of caviar)
Am dazzled by the types of caviar black caviar…sturgeon/ albino caviar from an albino sturgeon. Sturgeon fish family…Beluga fish is the biggest (oldest prehistoric fish) and has the biggest grains. Oscietra fish (16 types) Sevruga Sterlet (smallest grains) and Bester are the main varieties.
I taste the finest caviar, it is creamy, has a fishy flavour, of seaweed and even walnuts. It is intense creamy and not too salty. Is non pasteurised and made by the traditional method. I do a vodka and champagne pairing with it too and end up sipping and tasting Russia’s history in its grandest historic landmark…Belmond Grand hotel Europe.

Moscow Magic

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Its true. A photograph is worth a thousand words. This one which I shot (on the glamorous rooftop lounge of Moscow’s most luxurious and iconic hotel) speaks volumes. We are overlooking the spectacularly beautiful Red square (flanked by the Kremlin and the cathedrals) which has been witness to centuries of Russian history and culture and art. It continues to throb with the vibrance of modern Moscow. The focus of the photograph is the knowledgable and brilliant French executive chef Yoann Barnard who not only knows Russian cuisine really well but also explains the centuries of connection between French and Russian cuisines. At my request, he is holding my favourite Russian Syrniki. It also seems to be the favourite of Russians because it is eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can be eaten as a dessert too (its has a mild sweetness) and heres the surprise…it is vegetarian.It is made of paneer or cottage cheese (chef Bernard generously shares its recipe with us). So you see how in one photograph there is history, culture, the Franco-Russian culinary connection and the vegetarian aspect of Russian cuisine. And adding yet another dimension is the fact that I shot this photograph in Moscow’s uber hotspot rooftop lounge, perched on the Ritz Carlton hotel which is  clad in the classical gilded luxurious glamor of the Nineteeth century Russia. And this is the destination where the super celebrities, the young and happening parties and rocks together. This landmark of Moscow straddles the deliciousness of modern and traditional Russia and does so with impeccable signature service and graciousness…therein lies the  magic.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

Did you know that during the reign of the Russian Tsars, the nobility spoke mainly  French? French food was the norm and many French chefs worked in the Tsars kitchens (including the famous French chef Anton Careme) and influenced Russian cooking. This French-Russian style continues to be popular even today. Chef Yoann Barnard explains how even the two cuisines have the same base.He works his magic through the magnificent restaurants of the Ritz Carlton. Here, where the dishes not only impress with their taste, but also delights the eye. Be it in the neoclassical Cafe Russe, the Lobby Lounge Bar in the style of a library with bookshelves and a fireplace hall also offers the  traditional Russian tea ceremonies. The ultramodern rooftop restaurant O2 lounge serves up amazingly vibrant fare.

All these restaurants are housed in the super glamorous Ritz Carlton with its Russian Empire style of the nineteenth century gilded, shimmering glamor. It is here that I first taste the delicious staples of not only the Russian French cuisine but also learn all about the Soviet cuisine.

A TASTE OF RUSSIA.

I learn all about how Peter the Great (ruled 1682–1725), invited a French chef in his court. It was during his reign that Russians began to serve meals in courses, rather than to serve all the food at once. Interestingly when French chefs returned home to France, they introduced popular Russian dishes too.

Also very interestingly Ivan III (ruled 1462–1505) and brought Italian craftsmen to Russia who not only built public buildings but also introduced pasta, frozen desserts and pastries to the Russian cuisine.

Then of course came the decline of Russian cuisine…during the USSR or Soviet period (Revolution in 1917 until 1981). In this period all restaurants were owned and operated by the government. There were food shortages and inefficient store management and food became very basic.  In 1981 President Mikhail Gorbachev started changing all that. Thankfully. And modern Russia began emerging. And there’s plenty more, of course there’s caviar, blinis…but that’s another story.

SYRNIKI

Delightful, soft and kissed with a mild sweetness, this all-time Russian favourite, Syrniki can be eaten on its own or drizzled with honey, sweet dressings, or jam. The ever helpful, brilliant chef Yoann Bernard who has travelled and worked all over the world takes time off to demystify Russian cuisine as do chefs Pavel Belyalov and Artyom Skotarenko. .

Ingredients

Cottage cheese — 200 gr /Eggs — 1 pcs/ Sugar — 10 gr/Flour — 20 gr/Vegetable oil — 20 gr/Sugar powder — to taste

Method

Mix together the cottage cheese, eggs, sugar and form rounds with a height of 2 cm and diameter of 6 cm by 40 cm each approximately. Sprinkle a little with flour and cook it on frying pan in the oil on both sides. Put it into the oven  (180°) for 6 minutes. Optional to devote with seasonal berries. Enjoy!

The Worlds Most Awesome Restaurant

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No two ways about it. This is the worlds most awesome restaurant. Here’s a restaurant where the worlds greatest chefs fly in from all over the world, to volunteer and cook ONLY for the homeless and the vulnerable. And to do so they use waste materials. This is it. The ultimate and most heart-touching and transformative use of gastronomy. It takes within it’s sweep a fight against food waste in support of social inclusion, feeding the homeless and the vulnerable. It’s a non-profit organisation, its aptly named “Food for Soul” and is founded by one of the worlds greatest, most brilliant chefs Massimo Bottura whose mindblowing “Osteria francescana” was judged the worlds best restaurant last year. Lara and Massimo Bottura are blessed alchemists and their non-stop dedication to this selfless work is truly awesome. “Chefs have risen to celebrity heights,” Chef Bottura commented. “I believe we, chefs, can reflect these lights to illuminate the most pressing issues facing society today. Cooking is a call to act.” And sure enough they are using this in many amazing ways to change the world. I could write a book on those, but  due to space constraint have to limit myself to Food for Soul today.

THE AWESOME COMMUNITY KITCHEN

It’s a privilege and a blessing. I came to London, only to be able to volunteer as a part-time waitress in Lara and Massimo Bottura’s truly noble and innovative “Food For Soul”. They’ve set up this community kitchen and restaurant  Refettorio Felix to provide lunch from Monday toFriday for the homeless and other vulnerable groups from surplus produce supplied by The Felix Project. The aim is to serve more than 2,000 meals using five tonnes of recovered food. The community kitchen is based on Food for Soul’s highly successful Refettorios established in Milan and Rio de Janeiro opened during the 2016 Olympic Games.

It was a great experience to be in the beautiful and elegant Refettorio felix. It was set up in St Cuthbert’s Centre in Earl’s Court the historic community space underwent an ambitious six-week makeover by Charles Wainwright and Ilse Crawford. It is a beautiful space infused with art and design  and it brings a new sense of dignity to the table, showing how aesthetics and ethics go hand in hand.

More than 30 leading British and international chefs have already accepted the call to action from Massimo Bottura to cook in the Refettorio.  Michelin starred chefs Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Jamie Oliver, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Jason Atherton, Monica Galetti, Nuno Mendes  and many more turning surplus ingredients into a delicious menu. I was privileged to watch the brilliant and highly gifted Michel Roux jr and his daughter Emily (of the legendary Le Gavaroche) and Jonny Lake (of the iconic Fat Duck) in action. And on the day that I excitedly watch Georgio Locatelli (of the award winning Locanda Locatelli) the dynamic Charles Reed, chief of the  trailblazing Worlds 50 best restaurant Academy was also there to support this noble venture.

 YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT TOO

Following the month-long June festival, Refettorio Felix will continue to operate and provide a vital community service for years to come. With the support of Food for Soul and its partner, The Felix Project, meals will be prepared by two resident cooks with  assistance from a guest chef. If you are a chef and visiting London you can volunteer to cook for a day. Should you be visiting London and want to volunteer to help to serve or help out you can do so too. Reach out to info@foodforsoul.it

MASSIMO’s Breadcrumb Pesto

Here’s the recipe which maestro Massimo Bottura cooked up on the very first day launch of “Food for Soul” Refettorio felix.

Ingredients
Serves 4- 400g Artisanal dried Pasta (spaghetti)/ 1 garlic clove/120g fresh basil leaves (if you don’t have enough basil, use parsley, mint, and gentle green herbs – not rosemary )/ 50g  breadcrumbs /salt (1g)/100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano / 70g extra virgin olive oil (preferably chilled 3 hours)/ 30g cold water

Place the garlic, bread crumbs, basil and mint, and salt in a food processor and pulse. While the machine is running, drizzle in the oil and the water alternatively through the feed tube, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Transfer to a large serving bowl and stir in the Parmesan.Cook the pasta according to the package directions (al dente).

Strain the Pasta without rinsing, add the pasta to the bowl with pesto, stir gently and serve warm. Enjoy!

Romancing China

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It does not get more romantic than this, in China. I’m surrounded by  the magnificent, shimmering and tranquil West Lake in Hangzhou, as I dine in the award winning Jin Sha. Nestled amidst an exquisite garden along the shores of a lake deemed heaven on earth by explorers of old, Four Seasons Hangzhou  is rooted in centuries of dynastic lore. It is a 21st-century luxurious prism through which the past is reflected. It’s luxury amid nature that pampers and the masterful Chinese fare seduces. I sit by the beautiful glassed in dining area of Jin Sha set amid 17 acres of landscaped gardens and interconnected lily ponds and I’m luxuriating in MasterChef Wangyong’s flavour and textural masterpieces  be it marinated blackfungus with  lilybuds, a dramatic colourful  salad of organic vegetables and fruits too. I love the  roasted cauliflower with truffle and the simply made pickled radish delights with it’s tangy crunchiness. I also eat the worlds best Crispy chicken with salt here.  The dapper Wayne Tan and Alleen Woo helpfully translate and also explain the intricacies of Hangzhou and Shanghainese cuisine.

No wonder Jinsha has been declared the only four-star restaurant in Hangzhou by Forbes Travel Guide and is in the most prestigious list of China’s 50 Best restaurants too.

MY CUP OF TEA

Grown right here is the worlds most fabulous green tea. And I get my first taste of it in Jinsha. I’m feeling like the empress of china sipping on the famous and incredibly addictive and prized Longjing tea which was granted the status of GongCha, or imperial tea, in the Qing dynasty by the Kangxi Emperor. It continued to be the favorite of emperors. And they came specially to Hangzhou where it is grown. Much like champagne even longjing tea to be called longjing has to be grown in Zhejiang province in China, in the West Lake area in Hangzhou or within the Xihu District.
Like most Chinese green teas it is roasted early in processing (after picking) to stop the natural oxidation process, which is a part of creating black and oolong teas. This is done by “firing” (heating in pans) or by steaming the leaves before they completely dry out. So Longjing tea leaves experience minimal oxidation. I love the mellow yellow-green color of the tea when the leaves are steeped in hot water. And the complex long finish.
The tea contains vitamin C, amino acids, and, like most finer Chinese green teas, has one of the highest concentrations of catechins among teas. It is excellent for health, digestion and even weight loss. What can be better than the imperial Longjing tea? It’s the fabulous hightea in which Chef Stanley infuses every pastry and bagel with longing tea. Macaron, green tea cheesecake green tea chocolate mousse and green tea scone too.

Its known as sipping your tea and eating it too.

BLESSEDLY VEGETARIAN

Right after lunch and high tea, I pay homage to  the most sacred, largest and most visited of Buddhist temples Lingyin, located a few minutes drive away. And this temple was founded by our very own Indian monk 1600.years ago. I’m dazzled  (in the center of the Hall of the Heavenly King) by  the statue of the fat, bare and bellied Buddha with a smiling face – the laughing Buddha.

And then I go into the temple’s restaurant for a taste of the inexpensive and pure vegetarian meal. In the functional, clean eatery, which serves slippery moist prosperity noodles, longevity noodles (10 RMB, roughly Rs 90  each) served in large bowls.  After Jin Sha’s  dazzling meal,  heady high- tea, amid beautiful nature and Lord Buddha’s blessings… I came away feeling rejuvenated and

JINSHA’S PICKLED RADDISH

White radish 1kg//Soy sauce 35 gms/
Monosodium glutamate (optional) 3 gms/ Sugar 75 gms /Dried chilli 1gm /Dark soy sauce 6,5 gms/ Garlic 2 gms

Wash the white radish; peel and cut white radish into julienne. Marinate the white radish with salt for one night than wash  off all the salty and spicy flavors. Dry it- Put soy sauce, monosodium glutamate, sugar, dried chili, dark soy sauce and garlic together and boil it until the sugar melts. Cool the sauce. Immerse the raddish in  the sauce for 24 hours. Serve it to add crunch and tang to your meal.

Homebakers & Home-Caterers of 2017

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#Homebakers & #HomeCaterers, I am thrilled with the response! Here’s where you can taste the creations of some talented Home Bakers and Caterers. Do share your experience in the comments below and I will try your favourites and recommendations soon. Should you want to be listed here, write to me on rashmiudaysingh2016@gmail.com along with your menu, contact details, pictures & social media handles.

1. Kavita’s Delicasies

Company Name: Kavita’s Delicasies

Contact No: +91 8010878000

Website: http://www.kavitasdelicacies.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kavitas-Delicacies-510359442414381/

 

2. Chocasm

Company Name: Chocasm

Contact: +91 9820744934

Instagram: @Chocasm

 

3. Sugar Trail

Company Name: Sugar Trail

Contact No. : 9167068950

Website: http://www.sugartrail.in

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SugarTrailMumbai

 

4. My Yummy Spatula

Company Name: My Yummy Spatula

Contact: rajeshwari.kanodia2004@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/myyummyspatula

Spicy Secrets

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I’m so excited…here in China, in the finest global capital of spice, I’m sniffing out the spicy secrets of the king of spicy cuisines…Sichuan ( also called Schezwan). In India, not only do we  love Chinese food but it’s the spicy Sichuan version that we all enjoy. This ancient cuisine is the cuisine of the South Western Sichuan province of China And here in Chengdu, the fast growing capital of Sichuan I am not only getting a taste of the authentic Sichuan but also learning it’s secrets. And Im doing so in the best of best places and from the greatest most knowledgable chefs.

 

SPICES…signature Sichuan dishes

Whoa! Big live woks sizzle and I actually take part in a cooking session by the brilliant chefs under the leadership of Master chef Frank Zhuang. All the ingredients are on display in Spices, this vibrant restaurant of the most luxurious landmark of Chengdu, The Ritz-Carlton. A truly seductive taste of Sichuan here is due to their global “scenography” (sense of place) reputation. Here too the local Sichuan flavors are vibrant and palpable and delicious. And the Kungfu tea show is mindblowing.

Here, in Spices, the fiery wok creations and local favorites like Kung Pao chicken, ma po tofu and twice-cooked pork complement delicate dim sum at the live Chinese stations. World cuisines are on offer here too but I am focussed on the Sichuan. Im happily surprised by the exquisite vegetarian masterpieces at the  renowned fine dining Chinese restaurant, where the dynamic Vito Romeo (who honed his skills under the likes of Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon) and Chef Michael impressed with their knowledge and flavors of sophisticated interpretations of classic Cantonese and Sichuanese dishes. Each time, it’s the unmatched standards of excellence, be it in service or food that dazzle.

In Spices, Vito and Chef Steffen Gube not only guided me through the daily creations inspired by Chengdu’s rich “Tea Culture” but also of course the step by step cooking of the two main signature Sichuan dishes… Mapotofu and Kung Pao chicken.

Ooh and I’m addicted to the signature Kung Pao chicken (named after Ding baozen, governor of Sichuan in the Qing dynasty. His title was Gongbao, literally “palace guardian”)

 

Chef Frank’s  KUNG PAO CHICKEN

Ingredient: Chicken breast, fried peanuts, vegetables, chilli peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, ginger, sugar, vinegar, Shaoxing wine

Method: Marinate the diced chicken in Shaoxing Wine and salt for 10 minutes. Rinse it. /  Boil the oil on low fire, drop peanuts into the wok then deep-fried until golden brown and take out for later use / Heat the oil over big fire, add in the chicken, flash-fry till chicken turns white and take out for later use/ Add the chilli peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, soy, sugar, vinegar and vegetables into the wok and stir to mix them all /  Put back the pre-cooked peanuts and chicken into the wok, mix everything up and dish up. Yum!

 

THE SOUL OF SICHUAN CUISINE

I’m excited to learn the basics of this bold spicy 4000 year old Sichuan cuisine in the Sichuan province itself. Guided by brilliant chefs Michael and Frank and also in the worlds first museum dedicated to a regional cuisine. If Sichuan pepper and chilli pepper are the heart of Sichuan cuisine, then doubanjiang Chilly Bean paste is the soul. Sichuan’s version is made with dried fava beans, also known as broad beans, mixed with fresh red er jin tiao chilli peppers and salt (and wheat flour) and fermented.Did you know that this chilly bean paste is as painstakingly made as champagne? ..almost.
They have different vintages for it…put it through “dewing” flipping” (like the champagne riddling) and “sunburning” I happily only take part in this “flipping” amid the stunning array of standing pots of fermenting chilli bean sauce (doubanjiang), which is churned twice daily for a year, with exposure to the sun and open air.

Here’s the soul of this addictive “chillybean paste”. Sichuan peppercorns were used over 2500 years ago. Garlic  was brought in when the trade route was opened in the Han dynasty 2000 years ago, Chillies were introduced during the Ming dynasty 400 years ago. And so was born the Chilly bean paste.

P.S. Thank you Vito Romeo, Sue Fan and Chefs  for  this authentic taste of Sichuan…and it’s seven basic tastes…Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, heat (from chillies) numbness ( from Sichuan peppercorns) and spiciness.