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Gastronomically Speaking

Agra bounces back as Delhiites descend on it

The best way to unwind in Agra is to find a cosy nook and catch up on essential reading, but if
you wish to get moving, you must not miss its street food, quaint churches and old temples.

Sourish Bhattacharyya

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For purely personal reasons, I have spent the last two weekends in Agra, where I normally OD on the street food, having lost count of the number of times I have seen the Taj. I wish I could spend as much time at Fatehpur Sikri, which I find so much more engrossing than Shah Jahan’s monumental legacy, but I now love to spend my disposable time at Sadar Bazar and its famous bylane, informally known as the Chatori Gali, and my more recent discovery, Nayi Ki Mandi, the Mughlai food street. 

On my last two back-toback visits to Agra, necessitated by an extended family yajna, I had very little time for such edible diversions, but I discovered a thing or two about Agra as it emerges out of the shadow of Covid-19. I met my old friend, Rajat Sethi, General Manager of the ITC Mughal, one of Agra’s two oldest surviving five-star addresses, and I was expecting to find him downcast about the state of his business because of the sharp drop in international tourist arrivals, which seems to be here to stay as a result of the return of the pandemic in the United States and Europe. But he appeared to have no time to regret this substantial loss of business. 

One of the heartening fallouts of the extended lockdown has been the rekindling of the desire of Middle Delhi to spend weekends in neighbouring destinations—for just a change of scenery. On long weekends, especially, no one seems to be keen on staying at home. For many of these urban escapees, a long weekend in the past meant an opportunity to head in the direction of Dubai or Bangkok, but now, with people still chary of flying, destinations such as Agra have opened up as weekend hotspots—and how!

 With destination weddings in Thailand or Malaysia also ruled out because of the widespread reluctance to fly, Agra has regained its popularity among Delhiites as the go-to place to seal marriages. And with the upper limit for the number of guests allowed at such social occasions being raised from 50 to 200, hotel managers such as Sethi are breathing easy, especially because the period from November to January has 22 auspicious wedding dates. A number of families are also booking hotels for “post-wedding parties” to compensate for their inability to invite all their near and dear ones during the lockdown. 

The good news is that Agra hotels have regained their weekend business, and their weekday numbers are also expected to pick up, riding on the back of the impending wedding season. And just in case you pack up your bags and head for Agra without a marriage to worry about, do something different this time—visit the churches (the oldest being the Akbar Church, whose history dates back to 1600, and which still survives in the shadow of the grander St Peter’s Church), and the old English cemetery, or visit the city’s old temples, such as the Mankameshwar in the vicinity of Agra Fort, which, as legend has it, was built by Lord Shiva so that the child Krishna could see him from Mathura. There’s so much to do in Agra, but if you would like to just chill, take your must-read book along and keep reading it only to come out of your reverie for a meal washed down with copious quantities of beer!

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Gastronomically Speaking

Simple ways to include turmeric in your diet

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Turmeric is known as the wonder spice because of its magical properties which benefit us in different ways. It is used as a medicinal herb from old times. Dry turmeric is rich in vitamin A, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), vitamin C also contains a good amount of calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium and potassium. Recently science has started doing research with clinical proven studies, saying it contains compounds known as “curcuminoids” used as a medicinal spice to treat different associated diseases and illness.

Anil Khandelwal, Health and Wellness Expert, YOGIC SECRETS shares science-backed benefits of turmeric: Turmeric has curcumin in it which is a natural anti-inflammatory that helps to fight against inflammation caused by any disease or illness. Turmeric boosts the antioxidant capacity of the body as it neutralises free radicals on its own but also stimulates your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.

Curcumin in turmeric may improve cognitive function and also helps to protect brain functions by boosting the level of BDNF in the brain. Turmeric is a wonderful magical spice for joint health as it helps to treat symptoms of joint-related problems and reduce inflammation.

To check gastric problems: helps to relieve gas formation in stomach and indigestion discomforts.

Very powerful to treat Bronchitis: Take 1 tsp of turmeric powder with warm water 3 times a day it will make phlegm melt.

To give protection against Cancer: Add 2 tsp of turmeric powder in a cup of water stir and take it regularly twice a day. It has active compounds (curcumol and curdione), which have strong cytotoxic effects against certain forms of cancer.

To relieve pain and itching of skin: Mix turmeric powder with lime juice and little water to make a smooth paste. Put it directly on to herpes lesions, eczema, psoriasis, pimples, and even leprosy sores.

To relieve sprains and internal injuries: With just 1 spoonful of turmeric powder in 2 cups of milk simmer it, let it cool and drink it daily in the morning and evening for best results.

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RECIPE CORNER

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FARRO AND MUSHROOM BURGERS

INGREDIENTS: 

• 3/4 cup/125 g Farro

• 1/2 kg. /1 lb Red Potatoes (about 3 large)

• 1 sprig fresh Rosemary

• 1 sprig fresh Thyme

• 6 tbsp/85 g Unsalted Butter

• 1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper

• 1/2 kg/1 lb Button Mushrooms, finely chopped

• 1 1/4 tsp Sea Salt

• 5 to 8 tbsp/75 to 120 ml extra-virgin Olive Oil

• 3 small Onions, finely chopped

• 1 tbsp dry White Wine, dry Vermouth or water

• 1/2 cup/50 g finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

• 1 cup/50 g Panko Bread Crumbs

• Makes 10 patties

NOTE: If you can’t find Farro, you can make the burgers with quinoa or millet instead.

METHOD: 

Bring 2 1/4 cups/540 ml water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the Farro, return to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the farro is tender, for about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, fluff the Farro with a fork, cover, and set it aside.

While the Farro cooks, boil the Potatoes. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add the Potatoes, return the water to a boil, and cook until a paring knife easily slips into the centre of the largest Potato, for about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Once the Potatoes are cool, peel them and place them in a large bowl.

Remove the needles and leaves from the Rosemary and Thyme branches, and place them in a large frying pan along with the Butter and Black Pepper over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Once the herbs start cracking, after about 1 1/2 minutes, add the Mushrooms, and Salt. Cook the Mushrooms until they release their liquid and the pan is dry again, 6 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the potatoes and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of the Olive Oil over medium-high heat in the frying pan. Add the Shallots and cook until they are soft and just starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the Wine (or Vermouth or Water) and stir to work in any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and scrape the Shallots into the bowl with the Mushrooms, and Potatoes. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese along with the Farro. Use a potato masher or fork to mash the ingredients together.

Form the mixture into 10 patties. Place the Panko in a shallow dish and press the top and bottom of each patty into the panko to evenly coat. Heat 1/4 cup/60 ml olive oil in a clean large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 5 patties and cook on each side until nicely browned and crusty, 8 to 10 minutes total. Remove the patties from the frying pan and place them on a plate. Repeat with the remaining patties, adding more oil between batches if necessary. Serve hot.

-By Chef Suvir Saran

SOYA MUSHROOM KEEMA 

INGREDIENTS:

• 1/2 cup Soya Keema

• 5-6 Button Mushrooms

• 2 tbs Peas 

• 1 medium-size Onion

• 3 medium-size Tomato Puree

• 2-3 Garlic Cloves

• A small piece of ginger

• 1/2 cup Curd 

• Fresh Coriander 

• 1.5 tsp Ghee

• 1.5 tsp Oil

 SPICES:

• 1 tsp Cumin Seeds 

• 1 piece of Cinamon Stick 

• A small piece of Mace 

• Black Cardamom and Green Cardamom 

• 1 Bay leaf 

• 1 tsp Red Chilli powder 

• 1.5 tsp Coriander powder 

• 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder 

• 1 tsp Garam Masala

• Salt per taste

 METHOD:

Boil 1 cup water & cook 1/2 cup Soya Keema for 5-7 minutes. Drain water and wash Soya Keema with clean water. Squeeze out all the water (Keema should not be too watery)

In a pan, heat Oil and Ghee. Add Bay Leaves, Cinnamon Stick, Mace, Both Cardamoms, Cumin Seeds for few seconds and then add Garlic Cloves. Cook Garlic for one minute. Add finely chopped Mushroom and Onion. Add salt per taste

Cook for 10 minutes till you get a golden colour. This step is very important, don’t miss it. Now add Coriander Powder, Garam Masala, Turmeric powder, and Red Chilli powder. Mix and cook for few seconds. Now add Tomato Puree and fresh Peas. Cook Tomatoes for few minutes. 

Add pre-cooked Soya Keema. If required, add some water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on a medium flame. Add Curd and fresh Coriander. Serve with Masala Bread

-By Meghna Kamdar, Chef & Food Blogger, Supporter of the Right To Protein initiative

BERRY REFRESHING

INGREDIENTS: 

• 1 glass Buttermilk 

• Chopped Ginger

• Chopped Green Chillies

• 1 spoon Indian gooseberry (Amla) powder 

• Curry Leaves

METHOD:

• Take a mixer jar and add a glass full of Buttermilk to it

• Add some chopped Ginger and a Green Chilly 

• Add a spoon of Indian gooseberry powder to this mix

• Churn the ingredients well

• Make a tadka of Curry Leaves, and Mustard Seeds and pour it on the Buttermilk mix

• Serve chilled

-By Chef Jatin Mallick, Chef & Co-owner, TRES 

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Gastronomically Speaking

DISCOVER A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF CHOCOLATES

The various types of chocolates in the market are made by adjusting the ratios of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and other ingredients.

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The quality of chocolate we use in baking is all-important in determining the quality of the end product. The proportion of high-quality beans in the blend is very important. The cacao tree’s seeds, or nibs, are used to make chocolates. They’re roasted and ground to make chocolate liquor, a liquid or paste that can be divided into cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The various types of chocolates in the market are made by adjusting the ratios of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and other ingredients. The FDA maintains industry guidelines for chocolate labelling to keep it legal.

Chef Anees Khan

The different types of Chocolates used for baking cakes are:

BAKING CHOCOLATE – This chocolate is used in baking. Often known as dark chocolate or unsweetened chocolate. There is no added sugar to this strong chocolate liquor, which contains 50% to 58% cocoa butter. Cooking and baking are the best uses for this product.

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE – This chocolate has a bitter aftertaste. It’s the darkest of all chocolates for eating. It has the most intense chocolate taste and at least 35% chocolate liquor. Some luxury labels produce 70% cocoa butter and cocoa solids or more. It›s ideal for baking, cooking, and eating.

SWEET CHOCOLATE – It has more added sugar than semi-sweet, and contains at least 15% chocolate liquor. It’s best for cooking, baking, and eating.

COMPOUND CHOCOLATE – Compound or coating chocolate is a product made from a combination of cocoa, vegetable fat and sweeteners. It is used as a lower-cost alternative to true chocolate, as it uses less-expensive hard vegetable fats such as coconut oil or palm kernel oil in place of the more expensive cocoa butter. This also comes in dark, milk and white variants and is used in making confections, cakes, piñata, and garnishes.

COUVERTURE CHOCOLATES – The technical name for the type of chocolate used to make cakes, candies, bars is “couverture” and is made with cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla & lecithin. Dark, milk and white couverture are used to make a vast majority of cakes, gateaux and desserts. Favoured by candy-making pros. Contains at least 32% cocoa butter, which makes it very glossy and allows it to flow more easily when it›s melted and tempered. It comes in bars or coins called pistoles. It’s best for melting and baking.

MILK CHOCOLATE – To offer it a sweet and creamy flavour, it contains at least 10% chocolate liquor and at least 12% milk solids. This is the best for eating.

WHITE CHOCOLATE – Since it lacks chocolate solids, it is not considered “full” chocolate. At least 20% cocoa butter is present. Foodie Fact: White chocolate can no longer be branded as such when the cocoa butter is substituted with other, less costly fats; instead, it’s marketed as almond bark or confectioners’ coating. It’s ideal for baking, cooking, and eating.

COCOA POWDER – Can be sweet or bitter. Made by drying and grinding chocolate liquor and removing most of the cocoa butter, but must still retain 10% to 22% cocoa butter. «Dutched» or Dutch-process cocoa is treated with an alkalising agent to make it darker, less bitter, and more soluble in liquids. It’s best for baking and drinking.

COCOA NIBS – Cocoa beans are roasted and broken up to make this drink. Gives cookies and cake garnishes a crunch. It’s ideal for baking.

The writer is Chef and Founder of Star Anise Patisserie, Lokhandwala and Colaba.

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Try these easy-to-make Tricolour recipes at home

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As the nation celebrated its 71st Republic Day, we being to you a few specially curated recipes, inspired by the colours of the National Flag to help you celebrate the joyous occasion with your loved ones.

Chef Rajiv Das, Executive Sous Chef, Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai, shares his creative expertise that are both delightful and Instagramable.

BERRY BERRY PETITE GATEAUX

PORTION: 15 PIECES

Ingredients

Butter: 250 gm

Grain Sugar: 250 gm

Whole eggs: 5 nos

All-purpose flour: 250 gm

Baking powder: 5 gm

Mixed berries: 100 gm

Vanilla Essence Few drops

Sugar fondant: 400 gm

Food colour (orange and green): As required

Method:

Cream the butter at room temperature, add sugar and keep creaming. Add the whole eggs one by one and keep creaming, until mixture becomes soft and fluffy Add all the dry ingredients and fold well. Add berries and mix with a light hand. Line small square silicon mould with butter and flour and pour the mixture. Bake at 180 degree pre-heated oven for 15 mins. Check the baking and if needed, cook for 5 mins more. remove it and allow it to cool.

Divide the sugar fondant into three parts, add orange colour in one, mix well, add green colour in other and mix well and keep third part as white. Roll each sugar fondant with the help of a rolling pin. Cover each small cake nicely with the trio of fondants so it resembles the colours of the Indian flag. Decorate it with fondant flowers and leaves.

TIRANGA MOCKTAIL

Ingredients

Kiwi Chunks: 8-10

Kiwi syrup: 10 ml

Cream based sparkling water: 200 ml

Orange syrup: 30 ml

Fresh mandarin slice: 1

Mint leaf: 1

Method:

Muddle kiwi chunks in the kiwi syrup and pour it at the base. Put a layer of crushed ice in the glass and add cream soda. Top it up with orange syrup. Garnish it with fresh mandarin slice and a mint leaf.

TRIO OF BAVARIAN MOUSSE

Ingredients

Agar-agar: 2 Sheets

White chocolate: 200 gm

Dairy cream: 100 ml

Mascarpone cheese: 150 gm

Orange juice: 60 ml

Vanilla essence: Few drops

Kiwi crush: 100 ml

Raspberry compote: 1/2 TBSP

Whipped cream: 300 gm

Method:

Bloom agar- agar in water and keep aside. To make white chocolate ganache, heat the dairy cream on low heat and add white melted chocolate. Whip the cream till soft peaks, add cold white chocolate ganache, mascarpone cheese and agar-agar. Divide the above whipped cream mixture into three parts and add reduced orange juice in one part. Add Kiwi crush in another part and keep third part as it is.

Take a presentation glass and pipe the above mixture with the help of piping bag. First pipe green kiwi mixture, then white and lastly, the orange mixture. Decorate it with raspberry compote.

IANS

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INDUSTRY VETERAN CREATES NEW MARKETPLACE FOR SMART LIQUOR BRANDS

Sourish Bhattacharyya

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In the 10-15 minutes of free time he got before my phone call, Rahul Gagerna, co-founder and Managing Director, Boutique Spirit Brands (BSB), had already thought of 10-15 names of future products and asked one of his managers to start getting them registered. Indeed, the former Radico Khaitan top executive and alumnus of the prestigious Booth School of Business, University of Chicago, is a man who doesn’t wish to let any opportunity go by. His business, after all, is all about finding unmet needs, or cracks of unseen opportunity, in what appears to be a saturated alcoholic beverages market.

Gagerna’s hard work over the last three years seems to have paid off. His portfolio now has five brands—G ladius Blended 10YO Gold Reserve Rum (the latest) and its citrus equivalent, Gladius Limoni; Zeus XO (brandy); Jordy’s Bar (whisky); and Cliff Hangar (vodka—all sleekly packaged and targeted at the experimental younger generation “who do not wish to be limited by the choices available to their elders”. Together, the five BSB brands are commercially available in 13 states and Union Territories, and they had notched up Rs 225 crore in the last pre-Covid financial year, 2019-20.

As it moves towards its conclusion, 2020-21 doesn’t look all that gloomy. In December 2020, Gagerna informed us, his sales numbers were the same as what they had notched up in the same month a year back. Unsurprisingly, he is already planning the launch of three to four brands in the year ahead. He needs all the new names he can conjure up.

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INDIA’S FIRST ONE-STOP SHOP FOR SAVOURY SNACKS TAKES OFF, AND HOW!

Ashish Nichani and Sudarsan Metla look delighted to pose with a selection of their products; Postcard’s tribute to its home city, Bengaluru.

Sourish Bhattacharyya

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Ashish Nichani and Sudarsan Metla laughingly insist they could be characters out of 3 Idiots—they attended engineering colleges, followed by management schools, and ended up in banks, hot in the pursuit of careers riding on money. Till the boredom of their work drove them into the warm and welcoming arms of food. It is the vertical they have been in since 2014, when they launched their online marketplace for hyper-local food products—more than 4,000 of them from 400 local producers spread across 124 locations.

Nichani and Metla’s CVs are quite similar to those of the food industry’s new leaders, such as the founders of Zomato, Swiggy, The Beer Café and Chai Point (and many others), and the reason I couldn’t wait to get to know them better was the way they have created a national marketplace for sleekly packaged savoury snacks—35 in all, including two pickles and six desserts—drawn out from the culinary banks of our cities and towns. Postcard is what Nichani and Metla call their brand, because each of their snacks is like a postcard for the city or town they represent.

It is only while digging the Bengaluru Harigalu, a spicy mix of groundnuts and pulses, I learnt that the name Bengaluru was the compound of two words—‘benda’ and ‘kalooru’, which combined together means the ‘land of groundnuts’. Or that Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, was to be the original site of the Taj, till it was found to be too far away from the source of the pure white marble that went into the construction of the mausoleum. Not that we are any poorer, for its peppery gathiya, an ideal match for the town’s kala jaleba (black jalebi), is more than adequate compensation.

Examples such as these abound across India, from Gujarat’s savoury and sweet Jamnagari chivda to Tamil Nadu’s Sattur Seeval from Tamil Nadu, and because Postcard insists on getting their products prepared at their places of origin, their authenticity can be guaranteed. It also justifies the claim of the company’s founders that they would expand their range to 150-170 products sooner than we would imagine.

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