spain

STAR STRUCK IN SPAIN

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for the box

I’m star-struck in Spain! From the sparkling with flavour and texture pintxos and other dishes to the superstar chefs I meet and dine with. From the legendary Juan Marie Arzak, the father of Modern Spanish cuisine to our very own Chef Vineet Bhatia who has just received a Michelin star. Even  the luxurious iconic century old San Sebastian  Hotel, named after Queen Maria Cristina is the superstar hotel of superstars. Not only was it a beloved of Liz Taylor, Bette Davis and others but even today  Ned Capeleris ensures that it magnetizes the best. Chef  Miguel Piniero distils delicious Spain on our plates. And somewhere through my gourmet  meal here,  I get to know that Shah Rukh Khan stayed and loved it  here too. Starry, starry Spain!

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INDIAN SUPERSTARS WOW THE WORLD

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Stop press. I report from gastronomy’s seventh heaven…what else can a city be called when it has the second largest number of Michelin stars in the world?  And not only is this stunningly beautiful seaside city of San Sebastian  the nurturing ground for these awesomely brilliant chefs but (aptly enough) hosts the world famous food conference  Gastronomika.

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GASTRONOMY-KA FEAST

High-octane discussions and talks by leading chefs, real time tastings while the cooking is taking place,  cooking classes, pintxo tours and more. The chefs from the third and fourth best restaurants in the world (Joan Roca and Mauro Colagreco)  share their secrets. At the glittering launch event,  Juan Marie Arzak the father of modern Basque cuisine graced the occasion, Michel Bras was felicitated by the dynamic director Roser Torres (who sportingly wore an Indian salwar kameez).Also sharing their knowledge and experiences  were many an awesome international chef. And to top it all, our very own Indian chefs were the guests of honour.

Together, they served up a delicious overview which was mind-blowingly comprehensive and at the same time personalized. India’s thousand-year-old tradition and the latest avant-garde innovations glittered with equal intensity.

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FIRST TIME EVER…

First time ever. An Awesome star cast of  award winning Indian chefs from around the world got together. Ive attended many an international conference, but never has there been such a constellation of superstar Indian chefs.

Each one a maestro in his own right gave the world a taste of incredible India. Literally too.  Happily ive not only dined at each ones superb restaurants in London  Bangkok Delhi Chennai Mumbai and Sanfrancisco but also given them  our very own Times Food Awards and applauded them as chairperson of the Indian  subcontinent of  Asias50best  and Worlds50best  Restaurant academies. Each one dazzled through their presentations and cooking demonstrations held in the huge auditorium of the  sprawling and well-equipped Kursaal .

Crowned Asias best chef  three years in a row and  the worlds7th best, Gaggan Anand enthralled the audience as he shared his secrets and cooked up his Indian progressive magic. Presenting  the philosophy and diversity of our cuisine was Manjit Singh Gill.

,the treasure house of knowledge Ayurveda and cooking. From San Francisco, Michelin starred Quilon’s Srijith Gopinathan kept us fascinated with his presentation of “India de luxe” As did our other Michelin starred  chef Sriram Aylur of London’s Quilon on “Extreme spices of the South”. Yet another Michelin starred chef  Vineet Bhatia  of Indego ‘s fascinating presentation  on “harmony and complexity” was followed by the deliciously riveting one  of the only Indian restaurant (from India) on Asias 50 best list, Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent’s talk and demo on  “Indian emotional avant-garde”.

The secrets of the North: “Dum” cooking were wonderfully revealed by Dum Pukht’s  Gulam Quereshi.

Exotic flavors of the South were brilliantly presented by Praveen Anand of Daksin as was “Tandoor explosion” by  Bukhara’s J.P. Singh Bombay Canteen s  gifted Thomas Zacharias  presentation on  “Wild India”  was eye-opening. “European language, Indian feelings” was the fascinating subject of Masala Library s bright young chef Saurabh Udinia’s talk.Team incredible India received thunderous applause. Well deserved. Kudos.

 SINCERELY VEGETARIAN

Timoori Alu (1)
Through it all, we were delighted at how each and every chef cooked and served up atleast one dazzling vegetarian dish. From Manish Mehrotra’s chat patta chaat with a twist to Royal Vega’s Varun Mohan’s “Timoori aloo”  . The highlight  is that not only Varun  himself vegetarian but Royal Vega our only purely vegetarian pan Indian fine dine restaurant.  He shares with us the recipe he demonstrated in the Gastronomika.

RECIPE.. TIMOORI ALOO

 Serve: 4

½ kg              Baby Potato

2 cup              Greek yoghurt plain

Salt         To taste

½ tea spoon    Fresh lemon juice

1tea spoon      Green chilies paste

1 tea spoon     Ginger paste

½ tea spoon    Timoor freshly pounded (Himalayan Pepper)

½ tea spoon    Red Chili flakes

1 tea spoon     Cardamom powder

¼ tea spoon        Nutmeg powder

¼ tea spoon    Mace powder

1 cup              Cream

2 Table spoon Ghee

2 pieces   TejPatta

¼ tea spoon    Cumin seeds

½ cup    Onions, finely chopped

¼ tea spoon    Saffron, dissolve in a tea spoon of warm water

Preparation:

Wash, pat dry, prick cut potatoes into halves

Boil  with salt until  tender.

Drain and cool.

In a bowl add yogurt, lemon juice, ginger paste, green chili paste pounded timoor, red chili flakes, cardamom, nutmeg, mace powder, salt and cream, mix well.

 Marinate potatoes in this mixture. for 35 – 40 minutes.

On medium heat, in a heavy bottom pan, put ghee tejpatta, cumin, stir 30 seconds, saute onion.

Add marinated potatoes. Bring to boil, stir. Cover. reduce heat. cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle saffron. Serve.

 

 Arzak Family

P.S. Aptly enough, I was taken to lunch to KM.0 (hold your breath)   a pure vegetarian restaurant  by  Gemma Moliner and dream team. It served up delicious and amazing creations. And ofcourse I feasted on Michelin starred restaurants…what a line up…Arzak (Juan Marie Arzak and his daughter Elena Arzak thrill) Mugaritz, Akellare, Mirador de Ullia…Was dazzled by them. As by the Gastronomika and our very own team Incredible India.

Historic Celebration

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I was privileged to get a taste of modern era’s culinary history-in-the-making. It was a historic feast in every sense of the term. Never before have such great chefs come together and shared their views on the future of gastronomy… Ferran Adrià (Spain), René Redzepi (Denmark), Joan Roca (Spain), Massimo Bottura (Italy) and Daniel Humm and Will Guidara (partners; New York). Each of their restaurants has been at No. 1 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants over the last decade. The who’s who of gastronomy flew in to Barcelona only to celebrate the World’s Most influential giant of gastronomy, `World’s 50 Best Restaurant Academy’s’ 15th birthday. Since inception, the `World’s 50 Best’ has been shaping the global culinary landscape. It has once again created history. May your 15 turn to a 115. Happy 15th Birthday!

The Edible Heart Of Art

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I’m thrilled to art  in sunny Barcelona. Every conceivable form of art, breathing art, seeing art, hearing art and of course tasting art. Over the years, Barcelona has been my most favourite city which has nurtured global superstars of art, architecture and cuisine. I’ve been a constant and ardent fan of trailblazers Antonio Gaudi, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and of course my culinary hero Ferran Adria. I have luxuriated in their immortal art forms and dining at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli was an experience I’ll treasure forever. And this time, thanks to my ever helpful friend in China, Vito Romeo, I even stay in the aptly named and the stunning Hotel Arts, designed by the globally renowned architect Frank Gehry.

Please take a look at the accompanying photograph, the intriguing flying Fish sculpture that you see, is named after a  Spanish dance (Sardana) performed in front of the cathedral and for sure the Hotel Arts, while not a cathedral has a similar dominating presence. And standing below is the brilliant Calatan chef Antonio Saez , who at a very young age worked as chef de cuisine in a three Michelin starred restaurant. He masterminds the wealth of dining options here and shares with me amazing insights about Spanish cuisine. The dapper and dynamic Raul Salcido helms this 25 year old iconic landmark and ensures that it delivers superb food and equally superior service.

DINING IN THE ARTS

All under one roof; A mind blowing wealth of dining options, I dine at two Michelin-starred Chef Paco Pérez’s Enoteca. And am blown away by his sheer genius and creativity which fuses textures and flavours into a delicious parade of dishes.

Lunching on Michelin starred Chef Sergi Arola’s fresh ingredients straight from the Boqueria market is a treat.

Seafood from all the coastlines of the world dazzle at Marina, which is situated in the gardens with views of the Mediterranean.

Its always been my most favourite summer soup. The very simple to make, Gazpacho. Not sure whether it’s recipe finds place in the first ever culinary book which was written in Barcelona in the 12th century.

And though Barcelona  has assimilated cosmopolitan cultures, over a 1000 years, it continues to hold it’’s own roots, culture, language and cuisine in high regard.

I am fascinated by this complex yet amazingly simple cuisine and the high state of gastronomy in Catalonia. And thanks to Chef Antonio Saez I taste and learn more about it.

GAZPACHO

Interestingly, Gazpacho may be served as a starter, main dish, or tapas. Its old and original recipe includes garlic paste, bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Chef Antonio points out  “You can many different kinds of gazpachos. Cherry gazpacho, beetroot gazpacho or peach gazpacho”, he explains, “What you need to do is, change 1/3 of the weight of the tomato for cherries, peach or beetroot.You will have a totally different gazpacho.”

 1.5 kg of plum tomatoes/400g of cucumber

150g of green capsicum/50g of onion

500ml of mineral water/½ garlic clove

250g of Extra virgin olive oil/25g of cider/ vinegar/ Salt

Blend all the ingredients, but not the vinegar and salt. Using an upright blender, blend for 5 minutes at maximum power, pass through a fine sieve and keep in the fridge. Adjust seasoning with the salt and vinegar. 

Serve very cold in soup plates, finish with garlic croutons, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

MORE GREAT SPANISH RESTAURANTS

ELBULLI

Crowned the “worlds best restaurant” five times over, Spanish wizard Ferran Adria’s “El Bulli” was a phenomenon. I was fortunate enough to have dined here, before Adria shut it. This is where Ferran Adria coaxed science to copulate with imagination and deliver brilliant surprises in texture, temperature and taste. His innovation of  “molecular gastronomy” (though he hats the word) continues to inspire the world.

CELLER DE CAN ROCA

Multi-sensorial Techno-emotion cuisine seduces at worlds best (twice over)  Located an hours drive out of Barcelona, the three Roca brothers fuse science, poetry, melody, into an orchestra of flavours & textures & memories & stories. This is my second dinner here and once again I come away thrilled.

DISFRUTAR

My last meal at the Michelin starred Disfrutar (means Enjoy)  more than lives up to it’s name. The brilliant chefs Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch conjure a delicious extravaganza of innovative surprises.

Healthy Gourmet

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Award winning SHA Wellness clinic with Alfredo Bataller Pineda. Chefs Carlos Garcia and Andres Moran.

I am feasting  non-stop. And I’m on a “controlled diet” in a state of the art wellness clinic in the stunningly beautiful Spanish Mediteranean coast. Not only is the food delicious and views delectable but I’m also devouring facts about food at a rapid pace.

Ancient wisdom is tangoing with the most advanced
western techniques. Here in the globally acknowledged SHA wellness clinic, nutrition and natural methods are the core. Healthy-Ageing and non-invasive Aesthetic Medicine completes this well-being of the mind and the body of the SHA method.

How amazing is this? SHA ‘s healthy and therapeutic  menu was awarded the Millesime ́s highest recognition for the Best Gastronomic Trend Grand. Healthy can be gourmet and this propelled me to take cooking lessons in their Mediterranean and Japanese Macrobiotic  traditions.

The SHA food pyramid upholds the recommendations from the World Health Organisation

Driving this award winning wellness clinic is the Battaler family, Not only did the father Alfredo Battaler set up this clinic because he found a natural and unique solution to his life threatening health problems but his three sons take an equally passionate interest in it. I’m thrilled to meet the dapper Alfredo Bataller Pineda and watch chefs Andres Moran    and Carlos Garcia     in action. I also attend a chefs studio class and get the recipe of the unique gluten free, sugar free, dairy free carrot cake which also has ginger and turmeric and lemon. Should you want the recipe please tweet Instagram @rashmiudaysingh email me rashmiudaysingh2017@gmail.com

Best of the best

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SHA MAGIC: ALFREDO BATALLER PARIETTI AND CHEF ANDRES MORAN

East is meeting West. Ancient wisdom is tangoing with the most advanced
western techniques. Here in the globally acknowledged wellness clinic (aptly called SHA, which means luminosity or king of kings in Arabic) nutrition and natural methods form the core of the fabulous SHA Method. Healthy-Ageing and non-invasive Aesthetic Medicine completes this well-being of the mind and the body.

Here,  I am feasting on the amazing food, the knowledge and the brilliant sunshine and views. SHA wellness clinic sits like royalty  on a beautiful Spanish mountainside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, part of the Sierra Helada Natural Park, by the picturesque ancient town of Villa de Altea. This mild micro-climate of the area guarantees fantastic temperatures all year around, the area recognized by the World Health Organization as having one of the World‟s best climates, this in itself being an important factor for the maintenance of optimum health.

INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE

Turn your stumbling blocks into stumbling stones seems to be the life mantra of the dapper and dynamic Alfredo Bataller Parietti. He suffered from serious life threatening health problems for over thirty years. He was lucky enough to meet a doctor who was a leading expert in nutrition and natural therapies, who is now a member of SHA medical team.  Mr Bataller experienced the body’s auto-healing power through a natural diet and natural therapies, And so was born  his desire to share this knowledge and well-being and health. And SHA wellness was set up in the very location of their family home.This is how SHA Wellness Clinic was born. The SHA Method combines the effective elements of healthy nutrition and the curative powers of natural therapies with SHA Academy, a dynamic and practical programme of educational activities.

HEALTHY GOURMET

How amazing is this? SHA ‘s healthy and therapeutic  menu was awarded the Millesime ́s highest recognition for the Best Gastronomic Trend Grand of 2009 and a Sun in the Repsol Guide 2011. Healthy can be gourmet and this propelled me to take cooking lessons and learn more about it. SHA‟s main restaurant, SHAMADI, offers the most select modern cuisine, fusing Mediterranean and Japanese Macrobiotic  traditions, and always prepared with natural organic ingredients.

The SHA food pyramid upholds the recommendations from the World Health Organisation and to a great extent it is in line with what the Harvard University of Medicine proposed as being the most suitable diet for humans.

Interestingly, the philosophy of macrobiotics goes back 1000s of years; and here they combine it with the Mediterranean Diet too. Most of the foods used at SHA have also been eaten by the world’s most healthy and long standing cultures including China, Japan, India, Middle East and the Mediterranean. SHA offers wholesome, honest food, grains, beans, vegetables, sea vegetables, nuts, and seeds,plus various seasonings, herbs, sugar-free desserts and fish. Most of the foods are living, local, organic, and seasonal which means they are full of energy, nutrition, and antioxidants. They help to keep us young and vital.  And chef Andres Moran, the patisseur extraordinaire’s desserts, be it the gianduja, the tiramisu, chocolate mousse dazzle with their taste and nutrition.

SHA RECIPE

GLUTENFREE, SUGARFREE, DAIRYFREE CARROT CAKE

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THE THERAPEUTIC SHA CARROT CAKE

Here im learning at a rapid pace, attending talks, yoga, tai-chi, chi-kung, relaxation, breathing and laughter therapy and take a lesson in cooking at the Chefs studio. Chef Raquel Rocha shows me a step by step method to bake a gluten free, sugar free, dairy free carrot cake. It also has ginger and curcumin (turmeric) and lemon zest. Its yum.

Ingredients for cake  12g Arrow root,130g Corn flour. 85g Rice flavor, 4g Bicarbonate

10g Baking powder.2g Salt

2g Ginger zest, 5g Lemon zest 3g Cinnamon powder.250g Agave syrup

100g Sunflower oil.150g Rice cream

300g Zest of carrot

Preparation

Mix all ingredients, the liquids first and then mix in the dry ones. Put this batter in a cake tray  in the oven for 30min in the temperature 160oC.

Ingredients for cream

800g Coconut milk,200g Rice syrup

15g Cinnamon sticks,15g Orange zest

1gr Curcuma, 8g Agar agar

Preparation

Mix all ingredients and  warm till boiling. Cover the pot and leave for 10min to infuse. Run through the strainer and leave for cooling.

Blend till reach creamy and smooth texture and layer onto the cake. Decorate with carrot crisps (optional)  and edible flowers (optional).

Enjoy! Guiltfree!

GASTRONOMI KA HEAVEN

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Fellow foodies, come join me on a taste of the worlds most cutting edge gastronomical showcase. Here in sunny Spain there is so much to taste and see and do that Im sharing my experiences in  three snapshots…after all a picture is worth a thousand words. Its been four day feast of brilliantly organised talks, discussions, cooking, tasting of food,  wine,  cider, oil and more. The dynamic Roser Torres has ensured that the Gastronomika remains a global standard for haute cuisine.

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ART ON THE PALATE

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I am breathing art, seeing art, hearing art and ofcourse tasting art. In Barcelona, this city of culture, knowledge,creativity and innovation Spanish genius has been nurtured  over centuries…be it Gaudi or Dali or Picasso. Culinary heros like Ferran Adria have blazed global trails and now many more are making an international impact. Infact the first ever culinary book was written in Barcelona in the 12th century.  Barcelona with it’s  architectural masterpiece buildings with floral motifs, stained glass windows, wrought iron balconies and neo gothic details really is like an open air museum.

In the heart of it all, is the oldest Majestic which opened it’s doors in 1918. It  is  timeless, elegant and luxurious and always has been even when it’s nightly rate was just oven ten cents. Today the third generation of the founding Soldevila-Casals family continues to ensure that this “art hotel” not only houses a collection of priceless art but many great artists like Picasso and Miro have lived here too.

VIVA CATALONIAVIVA CATALONIA

Did you know that Barcelona is the capital of  Catalonia, a small nation pursuing independence within a united Europe?  And though it has assimilated cosmopolitan cultures, over a 1000 years, it continues to hold it’’s own roots, culture, language and cuisine in high regard.

I am fascinated by this complex yet amazingly simple cuisine and the high state of gastronomy in Catalonia. Daylight bathes the timeless elegance of the Majestic located in the throbbing heart of Barcelona. It is here that Michelin starred chef Nando jubani weaves his magic.  Along with the masterpieces which regale the diners, it is here too that I request to taste the most Catalan of all dishes…the simple (and now in season)  “Calcotada”.Please take a look at the photograph and you’ll see what I mean. There is an art to eating this specialty which takes a little practice: tip the head back and open your mouth wide, then hold the long white stalk high above and then bring it between your teeth and enjoy it…it’s the ancient ritual of Calcotada, the great green onion feast, which attracts thousands of devotees ever year and has acquired an essential place in the economy of the entire region. It is said that Xat de Benaiges was the first to grill the green onion over a flaming fire over a hundred years ago.  The green onions (harvested November till January) are grilled in advance . I request Chef David Romero to make this ancient specialty and voila! What a fantastic job  he does.  As done for more than a century, the dynamic Santiago Martin, the knowledgable Montse Subirana and I  peel away the smoke-blackened skin and dip the  green onions  in the”salbitaxada” sauce, a piquant sauce of tomatoes, almonds, peppers, vinegar and oil and the simplicity and freshness of the flavors not only seduces but also energises me.

RECIPE: SALBITXADA

Sauce for the calcots …green onions

2 tbsp blanched almonds, 2 bitso peppers, (substitute with red chilli peppers)6 cloves of garlic,  2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and iced, 1 tbsp chopped parsley, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, half cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Method…Heat a dry skilled and toast almonds, crush them coarsely in a morter pestle. Chop garlic and peppers (after deseeding) coarsely, mix with almonds. Add tomatoes, parsley, vinegar and then pour in olive oil gradually. Whisk into a thick paste. Tip: you can use a mixi if you are short of time.

 

It is only in Catalonia that even the war which they lost (in 1714) is celebrated by Michelin starred chef Jordi val in his restaurant “300 el born” where typical Catalan dishes are cooked to their hearty recipes interpreted by jordi in his own brilliant way.

THE BEST OF THE BEST

I landed  in Catalonia only day before and have already been regaled by the most amazing restaurants…At the hot, happening, new bar Brutal Can Cisa in the old city, not only are amazing Catalan Tapas served but also only “natural wines”.

I taste it all…from the three Michelin starred Carme Rustadilla’s  masterpieces in texture and flavor to the homestyle Catalan flavors of the Garrega family kitchen. The 62 year young Carme weaves magic in her seafront restaurant. Each dish is a work of art and artistry and our three hour long meal is a memorable parade of 23 courses. At “Tickets” the Adria brothers, vibrant and fun tapas bar with a twist (and what a twist) wizardry and skill  results in quivering spheres which look like olives and implode with olive flavor, tempura pistachio, artichoke ravioli, the worlds first gourmet beer (with hints of fennel and liqourice) which pairs brilliantly with he food…all created by the famous El Bulli brothers Adria. At their Peruvian-Japanese fusion “Pakta” I am blown away by the ceviches and sushi withPeruvian overtones and Bodega 1900 is a nostalgic return to the good old days. Tomorrow early morning I leave for Girona to eat in the “Worlds best restaura nt” crowned by the London based “Worlds 50 best restaurant academy”..it is called “El Celler can de Roca” and it is a part of Catalonia. Viva Catalonia!

Dinner at El Celler de Can Roca

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The world’s best restaurant”  “El Celler can de Roca” and it is in Gerona,Spain. Viva Spain!