recipe

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.

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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!

The Diverse Flavors of Shanghai

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Today I serve up a taste of the glamorous, vibrant “Paris of the East” I write from shiny Shanghai. Its the most modern, cosmopolitan city of China and it seems to be on steroids. Yet there is a core of history and the grace and elegance of it’s heyday in the thirties that still lives on. So I serve up a flavor  of two of the most icònic landmarks… the històric grand Fairmont Peace on the Bund (it’s founder Victor Sassoon and family made a lot of their wealth in Mumbai and India)  and the very modern Urban resort, The Puli.

LEGENDARY LANDMARK

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AT THE OLDEST SHANGHAINESE RESTAURANT IN THE PEACE ON THE BUND. CHEF MA, GEORGE WEE, JESSICA ZHANG

I not only soak in the luxury of this exquisite classical masterpiece but also lunch at the oldest Shanghainese cuisine restaurant of Shanghai here. The clàssic grand art deco històric Peace on the Bund (it s the only hotel in the world which has it’s own museum was the toast of the Far East in the 30s. It is located on the Bund (overlooking the HuangPo river) which is a centennial epitome of Shanghai itself. This classical architectural masterpiece started off as Sassoon House in 1929 and rich history tangos with modern luxury here. And whoa! Chinese Masterchef Ma coaxes the most vibrant flavors and textures using the traditional caramelised sweetness with soy sauce and more. Sweet and sour, the typical Shanghai taste  shines through and yet the original flavors of the raw ingredients are also preserved. Interestingly while he serves the most classical Shanghainese dishes he also adds contemporary interpretations and plates them artfully. The dynamic George Wee — who helms this landmark along with the ever helpful Jessica Zhang translate Chef Ma’s explanations. I revel in the most amazing bamboo shoots lacquered with soy, the crazily addictive, crunchy skinned Peace Duck , the creamy sago mango dessert to the crunchy marinated cucumbers (Masterchef ma generously shares the rècipe). All the while soaking in the històric rich red and gold details of the restaurant and the serene river view from the large Windows.

MARINATED CUCUMBER

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Cucumber:  500 g /Soya sauce: 80g

Sugar: 160g /Vinegar: 60g

Salt: 5g /Garlic (sliced): 10g

Ginger: 10g /Chili: 10g

Slice the cucumber and marinate with the above sauces for 24 hours and plate it.

MODERN MAJESTY

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MICHELIN STARRED PHENIX, AT THE PULI…Chef MICHAEL WILSON and KELLY KUO

What a super surprising contrast. Glimmering, shiny hoardings of the globe’s leading cosmopolitan brands festoon the gleaming buildings. And in the midst of this crazy cacophonic area in the throbbing heart of Shanghai is located a relaxed, zen like zone of Peace.  Handcrafted textures, the finest of natural materials weave a charming relaxed ambiance in the most modern icon The Puli.  Its been justifiably hailed as a “modern urban luxurious  resort”,  “a seductive sanctuary that guarantees a relaxing escape from the heart Racing city”. And in keeping with it’s sophisticated cosmpolitian essence, it’s French restaurant Phenix is not only hugely popular but has also been awarded a Michelin star. And further in keeping with it’s cosmopolitan essence, the Australian chef Michael Wilson creates light and delightful French masterpieces, which I enjoy with Kelly Kuo in the modren elegant restaurant overlooking the lush green park. Be it the Cod, the yoghurt compressed strawberry desert, violet ice cream.. Even the humble potato is elevated to luxurious creaminess. Its  a very simple rècipe, but its the ratio of the butter to the potato that is important as is the addition of the hot milk. The nutmeg gives it that special festive touch.

Pomme puree

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1kg  potatoes /Good quality butter

Nutmeg /Salt /Fresh truffles (optional)

Peel and cut potatoes into equal size pieces

Boil in salted water till tender

Strain and leave for 3 mins for residual water to evaporate

Mash potato by pushing through a fine sieve. For every 500g of potato add 200g butter.Mix the butter into the potato and add some hot milk to thin the mix

Season with salt and nutmeg

When availaible shave fresh truffles on top just before serving

Luxurious Veggie Wow

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Luxury gets redefined, Claire Huang, Jasmine Webb with Chef Dayan Hartill-Law at Vanitas

I’m in “the worlds most stylish restaurant” . And what am I getting most dazzled by? I am not only amazed at how vegetables parade in their classical, sophisticated swagger yet burst with flavour and freshness, but also with the flavours of our very own Madras Onion and curry powder which is elevated to stratospheric heights (please see photo and recipe) .  Can vegetarian dishes be so luxurious? Or wow with their masterly balance of  textures and flavours? Be art on a plate and a seduction of the palate? For sure. And where else except in Vanita’s, which the internationally acknowledged Harpers magazine justifiably declared  the worlds most stylish restaurant.

It preens stylishly in the worlds first ever fashion-branded hotel, Palazzo Versace which is raising the gold standard here. Palazzo Versace  sprawls luxuriously in the Gold Coast. The transcendence of Italian design shines through the marbles and mosaics, vaulted ceilings hand-detailed in gold.

And luxury just became more unique and bespoke as the stunningly beautiful and everhelpful Jasmine Webb takes me on their unique “Glamour E Lusso“ in their custom made Rolls Royce phantom (Versace cushions et al ). We glide  to the recently revamped  and magnificent Pacific Fare. Not only does the expert stylist guide me through the amazing mall,champagne and chocolates et al  but we also stop by for the Chinese Yumcha.

And on return,  a stone and seasalt Japanese therapy gets me all rejuvenated for Chef Dayan  Hartill-Law’s gourmet dinner in the Vanitas restaurant.

Having honed his skills under the worlds best chefs, like Heston Blumenthal  and helmed many a leading restort, Chef Dayan has developed his own inimitable style. Finedining gets redefined. Dom Perignon sparkles our  winepaired degustation  dinner. Freshest of produce & vibrant flavors implode on our taste-buds. I opt for a mainly vegetarian menu. I love the Evolution of seasonal snacks  from the ceviche  (juicy watermelon, crunchy radish and fingerlime ). The humble potato is elevated to a gourmet status as it is paired with kombu, the fleshy  portobello  and the flavor packed porcini. Its the  Madras onion  that fascinates.  Of course I do try the superb Lamb made intense  with black garlic jus  but its Chef Dayan’s  vegetarian fare that suprises and seduces. The finale  dessert  of the finest French chocolate  and peppermint leaves the sweetest taste. As does my conversation with the vivacious and brilliant Claire Huang  who  helms this iconic landmark. She epitomises style as well as substance, much as the superstylish “Palazzo Versace” does.

Palazzo Versace’s Madras Onion

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Madras curry powder

2 tbsp coriander seeds 1 tbsp cumin seeds /1 tsp fenugreek

1 stick cassia bark /10 cardamom pods /1 tsp black peppercorns /5 dried red chillies /25 small curry leaves

2 tbsp ground turmeric

Toast all individually until fragrant, then grind till all smooth.

Onion

4 brown onions /4 heaped teaspoons curry powder

100ml olive oil /5g sea salt flakes

Peel onions down to the size of a small apple, leaving the top and bottom intact. Place all in sous vide bag and compress on highest setting then, cook at 68 degrees for 8 hours.

Raspberry pickle

500ml white wine vinegar / 1 punnet raspberries

Bring to a simmer and allow to infuse for 2 hours.

Carrot pickle

1 bunch baby carrots / 500ml above pickle

Peel and clean carrots. Then slice on a mandolin at 3mm thick. Then pour over warm pickle and reserve for 1 hour. Once cooled remove the carrots from the pickle and roll into cylinders.

Chef had also included Onion foam  and  carrot and botrytis in the recipe but this maybe difficult to make at home since ingredients are not available here so am not including it. It does take away from the final dish but even just the onion with the carrot and raspberry pickle tastes and looks superb,

Place the cylinders of carrot (carrot pickle)  around in a circle big enough to fit the onion on, Then cut the base of the onion off  and place on the carrots. I tried this myself and home and soft and fleshy onion tastes sublime with tangy carrots.

My Paradise Peru

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Dining at the most Romantic South American resort, with Thomas Moons and Tula Casteneda.

I write from foodie Paradise.  And what a magnificent gigantic one.  From the frozen peaks of the Andes to the roaring Pacific ocean, the deepest jungles of the Amazon, sand dunes, ancient Inca civilizations, Machu Picchu and the bustling gastronomic capital of Lima. Each region produces a staggering wealth of produce, vegetables, fruit, herbs, grains…you name it. And this great geographic and cultural diversity has brought ingredients ranging from highland tubers to tropical jungle fruits to a complex cuisine of Spanish, indigenous, African and Asian influence. For sure this vast country translates to paradise for us foodies. Ceviche with slivers of fiery chili and corn, slow-simmered stews, velvety Amazonian chocolate. I explore the bounty of food markets, sample grilled anticuchos (beef skewers) on the street corners  and (thanks to my co-chairperson of the Worlds 50 Best Restaurant Academy,   Diego Salazar) dine at the finest restaurants of Lima. But most excitingly, I check out Peru for Vegetarians (ably guided by Maria Jose, Sabrina Chaves, Elda Cantu) It’s a deliciously gourmet Vegetarian paradise too.

FROM LIMA TO THE SACRED VALLEY

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Lunching in the Sacred Valley with Chef Cesare Landau and Cesare Chiara

Please take a look at the accompanying photograph shot in the  globally awarded “Most Romantic resort of South America”. Im feasting not just on the superb Peruvian food but also on the stunning views. Dining on this luxurious rooftop with the glorious coastline of the Pacific ocean below,  is one of the many  memorable experiences that Belmond Miraflores Park serves up.  Helming it is the dynamic Thomas Moons with global experience and training as a chef too.  Lima born Tula Castaneda delights with her knowledge of  Peruvian cuisine. I lunch with them at their renowned  Tragaluz restaurant, chef Jean Paul Barbier’s quinoa tabouleh with  beetroot, mushrooms, watercress, makes a masterpiece out of potatoes with the Peruvian Yellow chilli,porcon mushrooms with truffle sauce and more. August Baert’s Tragaluz delights. Not only is the finest Peruvian chocolate used here, but their superb spa gives me a Chocolate massage too. This is definitely my idea of having my chocolate and eating it too.

In the Sacred valley ( an hour’s flight away from the bustling city of Lima) nature preens in all her magnificence. And it is here in the Belmond Rio Segredo,  that I lunch by the shimmering River Urubamba with the brilliant chef Cesar Landau. In the mellow sunshine of the Sacred valley, Chef Cesar’s creative cuisine with Peruvian ingredients delights, be it the tomato tree with water melon gazpacho, vegetarian ceviche with asparagus, mushroom and seaweed from the lake or the quinoa risotto.

I also get a superb Pisco tasting session from the knowledgable Cesar Chiara.

This award winning national drink is the purest brandy, and from the 8 grapes, two types of Piscos (aromatic and non aromatic)are made. I learn all about that famous  lemon, sugar and white of egg based cocktail Pisco sour. All this in the beautiful glassed in bar and restaurant overlooking the stunning gardens of the Rio Segredo. Close by the salt mines of Maras produce the delicious Maras salt from the ancient  times of the Incas. I can taste this vibrant salt in all my food and when it is used as a scrub in the Willka spa, it revitalizes me and Im ready to feast on Rio Segredo’s banquet again.

QUINOA RISOTTO

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Veggie Peru on a plate: Quinoa and avocado in the sacred valley’s Rio Segredo.

Here’s Chef Cesar Landau’s recipe . A delicious creamy way to  cook  the healthy, protein rich, gluten free quinoa. You can add or omit the vegetables.

Ingredients:

70 gr quinoa/40 gr mushrooms/20 gr zucchini

50 gr cream of milk/30 ml broth of vegetables/ 30 gr parmesan cheese/

2 gr chopped garlic/3 spears of asparagus/ 1  cherry tomato/

20 ml olive oil/5 ml truffle oil/Salt

Black pepper

Method

Boil water with rosemary in a pan. When the water is boiling add the quinoa. Cook for 20 minutes. Rinse the quinoa and let cool

In a frying pan, add olive oil, garlic and let cook till garlic turns golden. Then add the mushrooms, the zucchini and sauté. Then add the quinoa and the cream and let it reduce.

At the end check the salt and the parmesan cheese.Before serving, drizzle with  truffle oil.Grill the asparagus and served on  top.