Karkidakam in Kerala is almost amoebic in its state.
The season is usually marked by restless climatic conditions served with a complimentary side of troubling ailments- particularly those targeting joints. Kitchens everywhere therefore, wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to preparing dishes fortified with medicinal herbs. Bowl upon bowl of Karkidaka Kanji and vaal adi soup make their soothing rounds.
Thinned down from its rather unctuous ancestor, the vaal adi or oxtail soup my mother prepares at home is almost consomme like in appearance; the otherwise reflective surface concealed by a layer of caramelized onions, curry leaves and bites of ginger. Even after the hardened fat deposit is removed, the ensuing broth is rich, peppery and comforting.
Vaal adi soup first made its appearance in my food memories in the cheerful form of Georgettan and his trusty earthen pot. Donning a kaili mundu, a pristine white vest, a thin, vibrant head wrap and a substantial moustache (below which sat an indulgent smile), Georgettan and his soup pot was a sight to behold.
As soon as zebra stripes of light and shadow stretch across the length of the street, neighbours start trickling out of their homes; a couple mid argument, grandparents carrying plump little cherubs, children of every age weaving through minuscule lanes, small time businessmen engaged in talks of trade and clutches of women revelling in a myriad topics.
The congregation pools into the badminton court right opposite my ancestral home. Almost like clockwork, Georgettan’s wiry frame adds to the rows of shadows as he makes his way down the road. On his right, he carries his hefty pear shaped pot of soup strung on a wire frame. The wire frame is then cleverly suspended above glowing embers of coal and whiskers of straw. The soup sloshes and bubbles eagerly within the pot, lulling the accompanying aromatics in gentle tumbles; slowly releasing their potency into the fatty bone broth. Chiming merrily on his left is a laudable collection of cutting chai glasses. A wrung out, rather spent grey wash cloth hangs down his waist.
One particularly harsh monsoon saw to the uprooting of several trees including our neighbour’s beloved coconut tree. Given the sentimental attachment the tree enjoyed, rather than being chopped up and thrown away, it was adopted as a makeshift seating arrangement in the badminton court. Given the duration of the evening exchange, this suited the crowd just fine. Georgeettan settles his pot of soup and himself on the coconut tree, whilst the humming horde surrounds him in anticipation.
A mouthwatering, piquant aroma fills the air as the soup pot reveals its inners. Picking up a freshly washed glass, Georgettan pours a generous ladleful of the vaal adi soup into it. The liquid is a glittering shade of amber with bites of onion and meat swirling in its vortex. Golden globules of fat crown the steaming soup and a halo of steam surrounds the mouth of the glass.
He serves the children and elderly first and they happily mill around him warming their hands on the toasty glasses. An inimitable natural networking of sorts happens where differences of all manner are tossed aside and people came together, heartened by their love of food and everything happy it entails. A large pot filled with water is placed near the coconut tree to rinse the glasses after use- this became a necessity what with the inundation of customers. After an hour or two punctuated by the steady buzz of conversation, farewell greetings are exchanged and people make their way back to their homes, swatting carelessly at curious bugs.
Georgeettan collects his empty pot and strings up the wet glasses. He raises his hand in a final farewell and slowly melts into twilight along with the last rays of the sun.
The badminton court sits in anticipation, echoing of footsteps and peace, dialogue and unity.
The idea took root whilst on travel and blossomed into a thriving business in a short span of time. Casaro Creamery is without a doubt, proof that the brightest of ideas are founded when one least expects it.
Founders and cousins, Anu Jose Palathingal and Freddy George have enjoyed widespread success with their ever expanding range of handmade cheeses and cheese based products.
“I had visited two cheese farms and took part in a few workshops while on a road trip to the US. Upon returning to India in 2016, I realized that getting good quality cheeses in Kerala was not easy” says Anu
Thus began the research and experimentation phases that provided a solid background for the Kattoor based brand. The cheeses and cheese based dishes were initially served to friends and family; their mascarpone attainted a unanimous nod and the first page in Casaro Creamery’s business.
With locally sourced milk as the raw material, production begins at 8:00 am every day. The cheesemaking process in its entirety is manual with a conversion capacity of 100 litres of milk.
Currently, production is concentrated on the making of fresh cheeses- halloumi, feta, ricotta, mozzarella, bocconcini, mascarpone, cream cheese and sour cream. Equally famous are their cheese based snacks- halloumi fries, ricotta spinach samosa, halloumi barbecue skewers and pickled feta. Work on hard cheeses have already begun and plans are taking shape for launch in about 3 months’ time.
“Every cheese is identified by its texture, flavour and aroma. The flavour of cheese is greatly influenced by the type of milk used, the breed of animal it is attained from and the region where the animal was bred.” Shares Anu
“Fresh cheeses are best consumed on the same day as production. It has a slightly milky flavour. Hard cheese flavours range from mild to sharp and nutty with a much longer shelf life.”
While cheeses taste pretty delicious on their own, they combine beautifully with a variety of foods to present a wholesome flavour palette that is addictive.
Anu and Freddy suggest pairing their fresh ricotta with sweet maple syrup on pancakes or in a rustic dessert. Mozzarella and olive oil is a classic combination. It goes great in salads, sandwiches or as a highlight in an entrée. Perfect for grilling, their halloumi tastes great with a sprinkling of ground pepper, some chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil.
Cheese behaves as a great ingredient when stored and handled appropriately. Chucking it into the freezer is a definite out of the question. “Fresh cheese is best stored in an airtight container and placed in the vegetable crisper where the temperature is cool and stable” says Freddy. “We believe in fresh cheeses, made from farm fresh milk, minus any preservatives. We have home deliveries to Kochi and Thrissur every Thursday and Friday.”
With a rising number of customer base, Casaro Creamery aims at supplying organic cheeses across India. Anu and Freddy also plan to have a host of events to raise awareness on cheese varieties.
You can place your orders through the following channels:
Best animal welfare practices, nutritional value, social responsibility and two enterprising individuals. HAPPY HENS FARM, a brand that epitomises the listed causes has been making waves in the market. Founded by MANJUNATH M and ASHOK KANNAN, the brand specialises in free range eggs from healthy and as the name suggests happy hens.
As laymen our understanding of the types of eggs available in the market is limited. Which is perhaps why we tend to be satisfied with any generic egg brand without fully capturing its nutritional aspects or production background.
It is important to know that production wise there are many types of eggs available in the market: Regular or caged eggs, cage free or barn system and free range were some of the types listed by Manjunath.
Regular or caged eggs are received from hens that are kept in tightly packed wire cages their entire life. They are denied freedom and are unable to spread their wings or move around, a display of their natural behaviour is impossible. This is quite an unethical and inhuman way to raise hens.
Cage free or barn system eggs are from hens bred and raised within four walls ie a confined area. They are provided nest boxes in which to lay eggs and have limited space for movement. Due to the imposed restriction, the pens are often crowded leading to stress, pain and pecking.
Free range eggs are laid by hens that are allowed to roam in large open spaces and express their natural way of life. They have a pen for night shelter and nests in which to lay eggs in privacy. Fresh air, sunshine and plenty of exercise keeps them fit and healthy.
“At Happy Hens, we raise our hens in large pastures using the free range method. They are happy birds and hence lay the best eggs” says Manjunath “We work on the basis of three core values- A humane standard of raising hens that is natural and animal friendly, provision of quality diet for our chickens ergo producing nutritious eggs that taste great and promotion of social responsibility where we partner with small farms for sustainable growth.”
Manjunath poetically adds that an egg is 50gms of magic. It tastes delicious and is packed with essential nutrients. In order to attain this delicate balance, the hen’s psychological state and diet needs to be well looked after.
“A hen’s natural diet consists of worms, greens and foraged food particles. This diet can be accomplished only through the practice of free range farming. Hens like to socialize, have dust baths and sun bask; to help promote this is to help bring forth their natural behaviour. Hens that have a natural order of life produce eggs that are superior in quality when compared to eggs produced by hens cooped up in a tiny metal cage.”
Happy Hens Farm has an extensive safety plan in place to ensure smooth running. They ensure that they do not rear a large number in a flock and the average flock size is restricted to about 2000 birds. This is their first step towards good bio security. Their beaks are not trimmed and their wings are not clipped. Their diet includes flax seed cakes to enrich eggs with Omega 3. The feed, augmented with seasonal herbs and organic natural medicine is free from non-therapeutic antibiotics and hormones. Happy Hens follows the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) set guidelines and provides 45sq ft of range area per bird, ie arounf 1000 hens in 1 acre.
“The hens we raise are improved indigenous breeds, chosen because they are best suited for backyard poultry. They instinctively love the free-range life and foraging for insects, worms and greens, all of which make for a rich diet. They spend their days wandering across green pastures or scratching under canopies of trees. As of date we have four varieties of hens on our farms.”An indigenous breed reared on Happy Hens Farm is the famous black plumed Kadaknath. Highly popular due to its environmental adaptability and medicinal properties, this bird along with its black plumage possesses black legs, claws, beak, comb and wattle. The meat and bones are dark as well.
“The availability of these native breeds is scarce and we depend on private institutions and government bodies for supply.”
On Happy Hen farms, comfortable, clean nesting boxes are provided to the hens. It allows them to lay eggs and brood in privacy in a secure environment. The eggs are however, infertile.
“The hens at Happy Hens are infertile. Infact, hens do not need roosters to lay eggs, they ovulate regularly. The difference here is that these eggs will be infertile and won’t hatch. If one is in the hen breeding business, then the eggs need to be fertile. There is no difference in nutritional content between fertile and infertile eggs.” Says Manjunath.
Located in two picturesque rural properties in Trichy, a region noted for its temperate climate, clean air and excellent water quality, the farms provide an impressive growth of trees and small copses that provide shade and shelter for the hens. Apart from their own farm, Happy Hens, after a stringent selection process, also employs farmers from surrounding farms who are as passionate and committed to poultry welfare as Happy Hens.
“We work closely with the local community and our farms predominately employ local women. We provide training to farmers and strive to engage women and farmers in an alternative agricultural model that provides a sustainable income source.”
Happy Hens works hard to protect the environment. They promote planting of trees and abstain from using chemical or synthetic fertilizers. Hen manure is used large scale for fertilization. The focus on sustainability goes beyond poultry farming with rearing native breeds of cow, ponies, sheep and goats, all of which further contribute to soil fertility. “As a brand we believe in sourcing hyper locally to reduce transport. Our packaging cartons are made from 100% recycles and bio degradable materials.” Add Manjunath.
The eggs produced at Happy Hens are machine tested for quality. A bright orangish and upright yolk surrounded by a firm albumin is guaranteed. Based on weight alone, the eggs are divided into three variants: Grade AA, Grade A and Grade B. Freshness being of absolute impetus, the eggs are packed on the third day from the date of laying thus assuring fresh eggs through the week. “Eggs need to be kept refrigerated and taken out only about 30 minutes before use. It’s always important to store eggs pointed down and in their cartons as they tend to absorb flavours and odours. It’s important to avoid washing them until they are ready to be used.”
Changes in shell colour can be owed to pigments called porphyrins which are deposited during the egg formation process. The colour change can be linked to the breed of the bird and is quite natural. It has no say whatsoever in the quality, nutritive value or cooking characteristics of the resultant egg.
“Happy Hens eggs vary in shell colour from tan to dark brown and, occasionally, white.”
Unlike the colour change in the shells, the colour of the yolk does say a lot about the quality of the egg. “Carotenoids, that naturally occur in plants, fruits and vegetables and in hen’s feed makes the yolks yellow. The higher the quantity of carotenoids, the stronger the shade of the yolk. While the yolk colour is not indicative of the nutritive value, a golden upright yolk signifies good quality eggs.”
The initial challenge faced was that of learning, given to their non-poultry background but the biggest challenge faced by Manjunath and Ashok is that is of consumer perception. “Consumers want uniform and clean eggs. A lot of stress is placed on aesthetics rather than nutrition. Happy Hens is a natural farm product and cannot take on the look of factory produce. If consumers are open to understanding the amount of input and work that goes into running a free range farm and the challenges involved in producing only the best eggs, then the price comparison with that of regular eggs will not occur. The rising trend in consumption of aesthetically pleasing food is quite alarming.”
Happy Hens will be exploring Northern markets shortly. They have also developed and are in the process of implementing a home delivery system based on a subscription model.
With the world making a noticeable turn towards organically sourced, naturally nutritious ingredients, one super food that has made a global impact is the small but mighty MICROGREEN. Akash Sajith, CEO of Bangalore based, Living Food company gives Letsstalkfood an in depth look into the health benefits of microgreens.
After having worked with several multinational companies, Akash and Niranjan KS (CXO) founded Living Food Company, a venture that specialises in microgreen farming.
Having witnessed the devastating effects of carcinogens on his family, Akash took it upon himself to make a difference. “We don’t know where our food comes from. Even certified Organic food can also contain harmful substances through groundwater and soil contamination. For instance spinach, which is grown on the ground can contain high levels of arsenic even if it is organic. Most of the food we eat, organic or not, may not be safe for us.”
Akash explains that industrially processed or prepared foods are heavily laden with cancer causing chemical pesticides and fertilisers. It is designed to be frozen, shipped across hundreds and thousand of kilometres and produce high calorie, low nutrient food.
The duo thus decided to create foods rich in micro nutrients, that is safe to eat and hygienic in the most sustainable way possible.
Quite simply put, microgreens are vegetable and herb seedlings. Once the seed of a herb or a vegetable grows, it is termed a sprout and once the sprout begins to grow, the baby plant is considered a microgreen.
“Microgreens are much more nutrient-dense foods than their fully mature counterparts, almost 40% more! This is because they take all of the important vitamins and minerals found in the mature plant and manage to cram them into a much smaller package. Moreover, these tiny greens are absorbed faster in the bloodstream, making them an efficient source of high quality nutrition. Our microgreens maybe small, but they pack a big punch!” Says Akash
The extensive range of microgreens grown by Living Food Company provides for a diverse array of nutrients. For Eg. Swiss Chard is especially high in Vitamins K, A and C; while beets are replete with manganese and folate. Customers have the liberty to pick and choose microgreen products to address a particular deficiency.
Living food company specialises in microgreens, herbs, edible flowers as well as certain handpicked vegetables that are rich in micronutrients, prevents cancer, cardio vascular issues and builds immunity. Its powerful antioxidant properties also help repair our bodies.
With a strong belief in democratising health and allowing people to make a healthy choice, Akash shares “We decided to go mainstream with microgreens since no other player in the country was doing it. This is mainly because microgreens are considered to be a gourmet product, made only for fine dining chefs. This did not make sense to us. Produce with such outstanding health benefits should be accessible to everyone and that’s why we are bringing highly nutritious microgreens to the average Indian consumer.”
Microgreens saw its beginnings as a joint effort between chefs and farmers to find new and exciting produce. “The chef didn’t quite want to walk through a crowded market to buy produce, they are out in the country side exploring every facet of farm life. It was during one of these collaborations that the chef stumbled into the farmers nursery where his seedlings had just begun to germinate. The chef was amazed by the assembly of colour, shape and texture he had happened upon and as an added bonus, a plethora of flavour and taste!”
Microgreens are not to confused with sprouts. Sprouts are usually grown in water ad harvested within two or three days while microgreens need a porous and dense growing medium, sunlight and are harvested within one to three weeks of growth; when they are approximately 3-4 inches tall. Flavours depend on the mother plant and it can range from mild to tangy, spicy to peppery and earthy.
Using cutting edge climate controlled farms, Living Food Company monitors several data points at every planting stage and harvest. There is constant review, testing and improvement of the growing system through every farm cycle.
“We use LED lights to create a specific light recipe for each plant, giving the greens exactly the spectrum, intensity, and frequency they need for photosynthesis in the most energy-efficient way possible. This engineered lighting allows us to control size, shape, texture, colour, flavour, and nutrition with razor-sharp precision and increased productivity.”
Working alongside some of the top researchers and scholars in Nutrition, Agriculture and Social impacr, the enterprising duo identify themselves as urban farmers. Akash and Niranjan ensure minimum use of fossil fuels for transporting their products. They assure that the nutrient and taste profile of their products are intact until it reaches their customers kitchens.
Living Food Company has about 25-30 variants of microgreens ranging from Chinese Rose (Pink Radish) to Italian Dandelion and seeds that have come from over 12 countries around the globe. “We are focused on creating micronutrient rich food – mostly the ones that cannot be grown in Indian climatic conditions.”
Elaborating on health benefits, Akash had this to share “A study by researcher Qin Wang, Assistant professor at the University of Maryland found four to forty fold more nutrient concentration in microgreens than their mature counterparts. They were so stunned by the results, they to double and triple check them!”
A recently published study conducted by USDA researchers assessed the nutrition content of 25 commercially available microgreens. “Microgreens won leaves down, possessing significantly higher nutrient densities than mature leaves. For eg: red cabbage microgreens have a 6-fold higher concentration of Vit C and 69 times the Vitamin K than mature red cabbage!”
A sustainable food culture is the need of the hour and Akash could not agree more! “A sustainable food culture ensures that producers and consumers have minimum negative impact on the environment. We keep the interest of the planet at heart in everything we do. It also means being honest and truthful to the consumer. There is much to explored and admired in the wonderfully small world of microgreens. It is a little leaf abundant in health, wellness and culinary senses.”
Products from Living Food Company are currently available on order in Bangalore. They are in the process of setting up their farms in Bombay, Chennai and Delhi
For more information on this spectacular super food, visit:
Christmas is a joyous season indeed. All through the month of December, spilling into January, the sheer delight of the festivities keeps us on a holiday high! Best wishes and love in abundance flow for our loved ones and what better way to further Christmas cheer than with delightful little gifts for one and all?
Edible gifts are all the rage now and nothing embodies Christmas more than a simple, stunning edible hamper replete with familiar tastes conditioned to this beautiful holiday. Tantalising whiffs of Cinnamon and nutmeg, dried plums and rum, peppermint, citrus peels and gingerbread fill the air as bakers across Cochin plunge themselves headlong into what they do best. The goodies are extensive and thoroughly delightful, ranging from rich, moist, rum soaked plum cakes and dessert jars to good old fashioned homemade caramels and chocolate chip cookies.
The choices are endless and as a food writer with absolute goodwill for bakers, I’ve decided to compile a comprehensive list of Christmas hampers available in Cochin to keep your foodie radar up to date and help your decision making a little easier! The list assembled in alphabetical order is complete with pictures of the hamper, a description of its contents and a price estimate (for exact price and customisation, you will need to contact the baker). A link to each baker’s social media and contact number has also been provided so you can contact them for orders and enquiries right from this blog.
1)Beurre De Vanille
Gauri’s hamper is a true delight for anyone with a sweet tooth! Apart from some Christmas familiars, this hamper has a few surprises that are mouthwateringly unique!
The hamper can be customised as per requirement.
Hamper contents: Irish Fruit Cake (300 gms) – Chocolate Babka – Cookie Butter Spread – Fudge Brownies – Gingerbread Cookies – Rum Balls – Saltine Toffee Crackers – Cinnamon Rolls – English Lemon Cake – Chocolate Snaps with Dry Fruits
Vinoshnee has gone old school with moist rich fruit cakes for Christmas. A popular choice for cakes in Cochin, D’pastry School has fruit cakes from 250 gms to 850 gms. They also take bulk Christmas orders.
Price: Rs.230 onwards (Rs.230 for 250 gms)
3) Eva’s Healthy Bakes
Jeemol brings to you a gorgeous and delicious hamper; ‘Box of Love’ filled with healthy goodies high in nutritional value and free of synthetic additives, preservatives and ingredients. The hamper comes at Rs.2000 for EARLY BIRDS!
Hamper contents: Grandma’s rich fruit cake – Signature Belgian chocolate and organic wheat bran brownies – Organic Peanut and flax meal spread – Organic lemon and chia loaf – Special handmade fruit and nut Granola – Belgian chocolate marble loaf – Farm fresh aromatic cardamom – Organic rolled oats high fibre digestive cookies (sugar free) – Organic multigrain cinnamon rolls – Italian Panettone.
Price: Rs.2000 onwards
Contact: 9526634777 / 9526834777
4) Fluff in a Cup
One of the most creative bakers in town, Sarah teams up with the spectacular florist and personalised gift planner, Fiorie to bring you two absolutely stunning Christmas hampers named Box of Joy and Merry in a box.
Hamper contents: Box of Joy– Cupcakes – Nutella Brownies – Cakesicle – Chocolate chip cookies
Merry in a Box-Cupcakes – Chocolate Chip Cookies – Red velvet brownies-Cakesicles – Oatmeal cookie premix (for those who love to bake) – Customized Chocolate Bar
Get ready for decadence with Anna’s Christmas in a bucket! (Given below) Yes a literal bucket! It consists of five layers of rich chocolate cake with varied fillings in each layer – Creamy ganache, crunchy caramel and chocolate cheesecake. The cake is then toopped with loads of Nutella and an assortment of premium chocolates- Ferrero Rocher, Maltesers, Twix, Snickers and Mars. The Christmas in a bucket is available in 1 kg and 1.75 kg.
Apart from this innovative treat, Christmas hampers and pull apart wreath and Christmas tree cupcakes are also available.
Hamper contents: Grand Christmas hamper- Rich fruit cake – Christmas themed cupcakes – Assorted brownies – Macrons – Homemade grape wine (Small) – Assorted chocolates and fudges – Assorted Christmas themed cookies – Choco-caramel jar cake
Well known for her exceptionally crafted desserts, Shazneen has some pretty Christmas themed desserts coming your way this holiday season. You can purchase the whole hamper, mix and match to create a personalised one or simply order a single dessert just for yourself!
Classic french pastries can only bring to mind Rumana. Incredible Art will be churning out Incredible Desserts this Christmas; cakes, truffles, mediants, brownies, you name it, she has it!
Apart from Christmas fruit cake tins and French chocolate cake tins, Rumana has a mini macaron tower and a gorgeous hamper that one can customise from a list of delectable desserts
Hamper contents: Choose 3 goodies from list A- Hazelnut dragees – Almond dragees – Almond Ronia cookies – Black sesame and coconut nougat – Florentines
Choose 2 goodies from list B- Christmas fruit cake – French chocolate cake – Macarons – Walnut and Belgian milk chocolate blondies – Chocolate blisters – Chocolate indulge (An assortment of Belgian chocolate bon bons, chocolate mediants and chocolate caramel fudge)
Jeny’s Christmas hamper has something in store for everyone! The prettily wrapped sweet treats are available in three sizes: Full size, small and mini, all exceptionally delicious. The best part is that shipping across India is available. Corporate orders are also undertaken.
Hamper contents: Rum pound cake – Dessert jar – Christmas themed cookies – Themed crumble bars – Themed chocolate barks – Themed cakesicles
Synonymous with couverture chocolates of exceptional quality, Kerala based chocolate manufacturer Liso has some chocolatey goodness up its sleeve. A versatile hamper, one can mix and match as per requirement.
Hamper contents: Neapolitans- couverture milk- Dark- 70% dark – White chocolate – Hazelnut spread – Vanilla hazelnut spread – Pan bon gift jar – 7 Pan bon cassette flavours – 2 flavours of Medium fruit and nut bars
Price: On request
Contact: 9061203322/ 7510529333
You can also visit their website: www.liso.in to view the entire holiday hamper range
Beautifully packed and presented, this Christmas hamper from the extremely talented and versatile baker Candy is one to please any giftee. Chock a block with a myriad flavours and textures, it is pleasing to the eye as it is to the taste buds. The hamper is available in three sizes: Large, medium and small.
Jaya has some delicious treats up for grabs in her holiday hamper. Apart from her regular hamper, she has an extra special one on request. It’s called the ‘boozy’ hamper and quite obviously guaranteed to provide a lift in ones Christmas ‘spirits’!
Hamper contents: Christmas Hamper- Christmas Rum fruit loaf cake – Chocolate Fudge Brownies – Cake in a jar – Homemade chocolates – Caramel tarts – Butter cookies
Boozy Hamper- Rum soaked fruit cake – Rum cake in a jar – Boozy fruit tartlets – Boozy salted caramel sauce – Spiked mint chocolates – Rum Balls – Homemade grape juice
Price: Rs.2000 onwards (Christmas hamper)
Price on request for Boozy Christmas Hamper
Bhavana bakes classic, vintage beauties and her Christmas hamper is no different. This year she presents two elegant hampers: Mrs Claus and Rudolph’s sleigh with a range of delightful goodies. I could stare at the boxes all day long!
Hamper contents: Mrs Claus Hamper – Rich fruit cake – French Macarons – Double chocolate walnut brownies – White chocolate blondies – Assorted cookies – Almond florentines – Homemade chocolates/cupcakes
Hamper contents: Rudoph’s Sleigh – Chocolate and salted caramel jar cake – Double chocolate walnut brownies – White chocolate blondies – Assorted cookies – Almond florentines – Homemade chocolates or cupcakes
Tresa and Rekha have an adorable Christmas hamper that’s a lot of fun to customise. You get to choose what goes into your hamper from a sweet treats list. A minimum of 8 items need to be chosen; of course you can go the whole hog and order all 11 after all, it is Christmas!
Hamper contents: Pick and choose from the following 11 treats. A minimum of 8 need to be selected- Cupcakes – Chocolates – Snowballs – Tartlets – Cookies – Cake – Dessert Jar – Passion fruit juice – Banana Jam – Brownies – Millennium squares
It is only when we interact with bakers that we realize how much we take baked goods for granted.
Take for example the humble bread. Bread has become so mundane a part of our daily routine that we fail to appreciate and acknowledge the science and the art behind its construction. I used to be a part of the same family believe me. And it was not until I had the pleasure of interacting with SUJIT SUMITRAN, the acclaimed bread whisperer from Goa, that I came to understand that one needs more than flour, water and salt to make bread…one needs sheer passion and utmost dedication.
For Sujit, Sourdough is not just about great bread, it is about falling in love. “It is about the journey being the true destination. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it seems elusive. The results are ok but not what you are looking for. At times like this, let it come to you. It is not about you being the master; it is about you being the facilitator and letting whatever wants to emerge, emerge!”
An Executive and Leadership Coach and Change Catalyst, Sujit works with large corporations and supports them in their people development initiatives. His love for baking is deep rooted “I am a home baker and I love infecting people with the urge to bake bread for themselves. I bake mainly for my friends and family and while I don’t sell bread, I teach sourdough bread making through hands on workshops.”
At 50 Sujit figured that there was more to life than just working. Thus the joy of baking was discovered. “I decided to open up a boutique consulting practice and used the time I had on hand to fuel my passion.” Bread is Sujit’s forte with sourdough being his area of expertise. There is a lot of learning that goes into sourdough making. On levels of complexity, it ranks far about other types of breads. The dough or starter from which the sourdough takes form needs care and nurturing much like a mother cares for her child. This for its most part is a continuous process. “Sourdough is the final frontier of bread making. Once you’re hooked on sourdough, regular, commercially yeasted bread just won’t do. So I went hammer and tongs and read up everything I could lay my hands on and I experimented almost every day, that’s how I became a self-taught sourdough baker.”
According to Sujit, sourdough is one of the simplest and more inexpensive ways of making bread. “But it does demand that you slow down, be gentle and give the dough the time it needs to develop” he adds.
The process of sourdough making begins with understanding the very basics and it has everything to do with the starter. Available in dehydrated forms that can be bought online and stored frozen, the starter consists of a fermented mix of flour, water, salt and levain. “The levain is essentially an ecosystem of lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast. The bacteria acidifies the dough and provides lots of benefits while the yeast leavens the bread and makes it light. Good sourdough is all about slow fermentation. Time is a vital ingredient.” While commercially yeasted bread is ready in about 5-6 hours, sourdough takes about 18-20 hours from start to finish. The final result however is worth the effort!
There is a sudden wave of interest and a noticeable lean toward baking and consumption of sourdough. While this may be attributed to food fads across the world, most people are catching up on the benefits offered by this particular type of bread. Being naturally acidic, the bread stays at room temperature for upto 5 days before going stale. “Having said that I wouldn’t recommend you leave the bread out for days after baking as the starch molecules will crystallize, making the bread dry.”
One of the biggest health benefits of sourdough is its low GI (gylcemic index). Which means it doesn’t create blood sugar spikes as high when compared to store bought bread! The lactic acid bacteria plays a major role by breaking down the complex sugars into simple sugars which are then consumed by the wild yeast. As a result, most of the sugars are broken down and the slow fermentation process leaves behind complex carbohydrates. Slow fermentation has the added benefit of better digestibility due to gluten degradation.
“Further, all grains and seeds have a naturally occurring substance called Phytic Acid that binds the minerals together making it available to the grains and seeds only if they germinate. The organic acids produced in the sourdough fermentation degrade the Phytic Acid, making it easier for the human body to absorb the minerals.”
Unfortunately, it’s not always pure sourdough that is available for purchase. Most breads use commercial yeast to hasten results whereby the health properties of good sourdough are rendered moot. But with an understanding that is slowly but surely spreading amongst sourdough consumers, the demand for the ‘real thing’ is on a definite rise.
For Sujit, inspiration pours in from nature, the universe, from people…in short, from life in itself.
There are several processes and techniques through which one can make good home baked sourdough an extension of oneself; meaning that the journey to perfecting sourdough is exclusive to each baker. “It is better to compare your current bake with your own previous bakes, rather than compare them with others. Always keep in mind that your future bakes will be better than your past. Each bake is a learning process. Bread baking means different things to different people. It is essential to make time to discover what it means to you.”
Sujit and his wife Sudha will soon have a micro farm designed using permaculture principles. “It will house a rammed earth home, a food forest and some space for hens, ducks and geese. The idea is to live in a sustainable manner, preferably off the grid. When It is ready, we will welcome guests for an immersive experience. And perhaps they can even bake bread with me in a wood fired oven.”
As a child I remember eagerly breaking off a piece of white icing that topped a Christmas cake. It was sweet and delicious and melted instantly in my mouth. Down the years, I learnt that it was royal icing. This hard white icing is prepared using egg whites and icing sugar. I fell in love with the intricate decorative work Royal icing produced.
It’s been quite a while since I have seen or tasted good royal icing and thus discovering PRACHI DHABAL DEB, Owner and Baker, CAKE DÉCOR INDIA-Royal Icing Art; with an astounding talent for intricate and extraordinary royal icing structures, was beyond thrilling.
It was at the tender age of ten that Prachi discovered a love for baking whilst playing with an oven gifted by her aunt. “I felt nothing but pure joy. Over time studies, marriage, family and work took top priority, but I rediscovered the baker in me during a brief break. I felt the same happiness, excitement and joy my ten year old self had felt, so I donned the cap of baker and cake artist and there has been no looking back.”
In the competitive world of baking, it is important to equip oneself with a variety of techniques and constant learning. While Prachi did have a successful run as a home baker, she was constantly on the lookout for new techniques and intricate detailing. On one such journey, she chanced upon a book on Royal Icing by the legendary Sir Eddie Spence, MBE. “I was swept away by his book. The amazing artwork and sheer elegance of this genre of art truly mesmerized me! This book inspired me to take up Royal icing. The true icing on the cake however was being presented with an opportunity to learn from Sir Eddie himself!”
Royal icing albeit being a delicate and fragile medium is one brimming with versatility. “I wanted to explore this medium to bring forth more robust and complex designs. My venture, Cake Décor India had completed 6 years and yet my mind fondly remembers one of my first creations. It was a structure inspired by European Architecture. The exhibit drew appreciation from around the world.”
Flowers and beautiful gardens offer major inspiration to Prachi and serve as core elements in many of her creations. Apart from intertwining fairy tales and folklore into her designs, she enjoys working with architectural design wonders with origins in Europe, Rajasthan and the Mughal dynasty. “Royal icing is a delicate medium, thus it is always heartening when challenging 3D structures; which I incidentally enjoy making the most; come out perfectly. I love Victorian and filigree patterns and use them quite often in my work,”
Prachi shares that while cake flavours are limitless, chocolate usually turns out to be the universal favourite. Flavours are client preference driven and designs are hugely based on occasions and themes. “Communication with clients is crucial. A good conversations helps understand the key requirements thus making it easier to select patters and colour schemes. Always remember to know your client requirements in and out.”
Prachi’s cakes are a treat for the senses. Apart from the visual appeal of course, she ensures that she uses only the finest ingredients for her cakes. All her recipes are tried, tested and refined to suit her baking style. Research forms an important part of Prachi’s baking. “I invest a lot of time in discussing and researching on client themes and preferences. I always lay emphasis on tailor making a beautiful cake that fits into the occasion perfectly.”
According to Prachi, being a baker is to be be in the business of a scientific art. “You require an attitude that encourages experimentation, you need to be precise with the ingredients and artistic enough to build your own signature taste, designs and flavours. A successful baker is one who has industry knowledge and is a trend setter. As an artist I plan to move further into the intricacies of royal icing. There is an unbelievable amount of potential and scope to the medium and the journey of discovery will indeed be a significant one.” The brilliant baker has committed to several domestic and international collaborations, magazines, classes.
Letsstalkfood wishes you all the very best on your incredible journey as a baker and cake artist.
Heavy rains interspersed with a searing sun is the perfect excuse to slurp on these beautiful TRI-COLOUR POPS. They are simple to make and taste delicious!
I used natural fruit concentrates from RACHEL’S ORCHARD ; Strawberry, Passion Fruit and Lemon and Ginger. The concentrates have amazing consistency, so you won’t struggle with a watered down pop! Rich in fruity flavours and delightfully refreshing, these make for perfect treats on a balmy day.
You can have at each flavour one at a time or enjoy them altogether like a giant fruit cocktail!
The only recipe here is patience!
Mix fruit concentrates with water in individual glasses. The consistency and intensity can be made as required. (I didn’t add too much water to mine as i wanted a deep colour pop and a pronounced taste)
Wash, dry and arrange the moulds, ready to pour in the concentrate.
To begin the ombre tone, start with the darkest of the three. Pour the strawberry mix in.
Place in the freezer to set the strawberry layer
After a couple of hours, pour the passion fruit layer on top of the layer of strawberry
Freeze the second layer
Once the second layer is set, add the third and final layer of lemon and ginger
When Computer engineer, ATHASHREE SWAPNIL baked a cake for her husband’s birthday three years ago; she didn’t realize the twist destiny had in store for her.
Starting out at an IT firm, Athashree always had the urge to start her own business. Post a stint as a freelance graphic designer wherein she discovered her latent talent for colours and designs, she quit her job and in due course of time started CUPCAKE NATION.
Becoming a baker
“It was only three years back that I actually tried my hand at baking. I decided to bake something special for my husband’s birthday. I remember I made a chocolate cake but it was obviously a disaster! I love challenges so I took it up as a challenge to bake a moist beautifully frosted cake. I somehow couldn’t bring myself to looking up recipes on the internet and preferred to journey down developing my own eggless cake recipes.” Athashree had kept a diary with recipes and the result jotted down. After a month of experimenting and tweaking, she baked a black forest cake for her mother’s birthday. The result was a lovely cake that looked and tasted quite professional! That was she recalls the moment she fell in love with baking.
Falling in love with cupcakes
The love for cupcakes in specific came about after an order for a birthday party. “I was asked to bake a cake for a birthday. I had been introduced to cupcakes recently and decided to give them a try. I made my first mini cupcakes in small silicone moulds on the gas top as I did not have an oven. They were a hit! I kept practising and took my first order outside my family and friends circle for Valentine’s day. After delivering them myself I was quite anxious about the result. I was thrilled when I was informed that the cupcakes were amazing and a positive review went up on my page. More orders started coming in, mostly custom and soon I gained confidence in my ability to bake my own cupcakes!”
Work started on a myriad of flavours and designs. Athashree also developed her very own buttercream recipe one that was not overtly sweet. Cupcakes thus became her forte.
Cupcake Nation takes flight
Thanks to word of mouth, orders started pouring in. “I had not named my brand Cupcake Nation yet. When I decided that cupcakes were my forte, I wanted a name that showed exactly what I made and was simple enough for people to remember. I thought up French names but my husband insisted they were sometimes tough for people to pronounce and so we decided on Cupcake Nation. I loved making those little custom cupcakes that brought so much joy to celebrations!”
Remembering the first unique cupcake
Athashree’s very first unique cupcake was a Choco Max cupcake and as the name suggests, it was a most chocolate sponge with hazelnut filling and dark chocolate ganache frosting. “It was a much loved flavour. I had people ordering it with no occasion in mind. To this day I get messaging recalling how good that flavour was. This inspired me to create many more such combinations. Filled cupcakes were not a trend in india two years ago so this was something special!”
Inspiration, favourite designs and hobbies
“Whilst I don’t have a special person who inspires me, I have a long list of talented people from the Industry whose work I adore! I like to drawn inspiration from them.”
When Athashree is not baking, she can be found curled up watching movies and drama series. A complete foodie, she surprisingly prefers savoury dishes to sweet ones! Severely bitten by the travel bug, Athashree is a wanderer and often draws inspiration from the places she visits and the people she meets.
Lemon is flavour she cannot do without! “I love making cupcakes which include lemon in them. Classic combinations of Strawberry Lemonade and Blueberry Lemonade are my favourites.”
Inclined towards making glamorous cupcakes, you will never see a product from Cupcake Nation sans sprinkles, gold foil or beautiful pastel frosting. Mango roses atop cupcakes is Athashree’s favourite design.
The baking scene and being a baker
The Indian Market is now acclimated to customized baked goods. “Which is good of course because we see a lot of beautiful work happening around us. The only sad part is that a lot of work is copied with no due credit given to the creator. I stand strongly against this.”
How Cupcake Nation stands apart
As a rule Athashree refuses to use fondant on her cakes. “I personally hate eating fondant and only use it to make figurines or toppers that one can simply remove and then enjoy the actual cake.” Her attractive and gentle pastel coloured buttercreams and cakes are another major factor that sets her baking apart “I love working with pastel colours. You will rarely see me using darker tones.”
Special stories and special flavours
Athashree fondly remembers the 3 kg earth shaped cake that was a custom order! True to her policy, she didn’t use fondant to cover it. “It was a massive globe and its layers were held together with just buttercream! It was transported in a bag by my delivery person who was travelling by bike! Thankfully it reached the customer in perfect shape! It was a huge risk but it was worth it.” Needless to say, the cake turned out brilliant and was thoroughly appreciated.
And speaking of exceptional cakes, a meetha pan flavoured cupcake is a unique flavour that Athashree has been itching to try.
Present and Future
To those aspiring to be bakers, Athashree has this to say “Start by baking for your friends and family. develop your own style and stay true to it. It takes time for people to understand your work so do have patience!”
And what of Cupcake Nation and its future plans? “I am not much of a planner. After shifting to Bangalore, I started taking beginners workshops in both Bangalore as well as Pune, so I have my hands full as of now. Even though I have stopped taking orders, I keep working on new flavours and designs and this is something I absolutely enjoy doing!
We have arrived at the third and final instalment of food pronunciations made easy. It was exceptionally difficult putting together all three lists because heaven help me there are a sea of food words out there that are aching to be spelt correctly. Getting to know a dish and taking the effort to spell the dish correctly shows that you have respect for what you eat. So read up and clear the pronunciation air with food!
If you have any queries about correct spelling or just about anything food related, please mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carpaccio is a dish of raw meat or fish such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna, thinly sliced or pounded thin and served mainly as an appetizer. The beef is served with lemon, olive oil and white truffle or parmesan cheese. The term is extended to dishes containing other raw meats or fish, thinly sliced and served with lemon or vinegar, olive oil, salt and ground pepper. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
Ceviche is a seafood dish popular in the pacific coastal regions of Latin America. It is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chilli peppers. Additional seasonings such as chopped onions, salt and cilantro may also be added. Ceviche is usually accompanies by side dishes that compliment its flavour such as sweet potato, lettuce, corn, avocado or plantain. As the dish is not cooked over heat, it must be prepared and consumed fresh to minimize risk of food poisoning. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
Chorizo is a type of pork sausage that uses natural casings made from intestines. In Europe, It is a fermented, cured and smoke sausage which may be sliced and eaten without cooking or used as an ingredient to add flavour to other dishes. Spanish and Portuguese chorizo get their distinctive smokiness and deep red colour from dried, smoked red peppers.
Chorizo can be eaten in a sandwich, grilled, fried or simmered in liquid. It is also sometimes sliced and used as a pizza topping in a similar manner to salami and pepperoni. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
Clafoutis is a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan like batter. The clafoutis is dusted with powdered sugar and served lukewarm, sometimes with cream. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
A compote is a dessert originating from medieval Europe, made of whole or pieces of fruit in sugar syrup. Whole fruits are cooked in water with sugar and spices. The syrup may be seasoned with vanilla, lemon or orange peel, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ground almonds, grated coconut, candied fruits or raisins. The compote is served either warm or cold. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
46) COQ AU VIN
Coq au vin is a French dish of chicken braised with wine, lardons, mushrooms and optionally garlic. A red burgundy wine is typically used for braising, lardons, button mushrooms, oions, often garlic and sometimes brandy are added. The preparation is similar in many respects to beef bourguignon. The chicken is seasoned, sometimes floured, seasoned in fat and slowly simmered in wine until tender. A bouquet garni with thyme, parsley and bayleaf is added along with salt and pepper. The juices are thickened by adding roux. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
Escargot is a delicacy consisting of cooked land snails.
The snails, purged from their shells are cooked usually with garlic butter, chicken stock or wine and then placed back into the shells with the butter and sauce for serving. Additional ingredients such as garlic, thyme, parsley and pine nuts may be added. Special snail tongs for holding the shell and snail forks for extracting the meat are normally provided. (Source: Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
Habanero is a variety of chilli pepper. Unripe habaneros are green but they colour as they mature. The most common colour variants are orange and red but the fruit may also be white, brown, yellow or purple. These chillis are very hot and rated 100,000-350,000 on the Scoville scale. The habaneros heat, flavour and floral aroma have made it a popular ingredient in hot sauces and spicy foods. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
49) HORS D’OEUVRE
Hors d’oeuvre is a small appetizer or starter served before a meal. Some hors d’oeuvres are served cold, others hot. Hors d’oeuvres may be served at the dinner table as part o the meal or may be served before seating. Typically, it is smaller than the main dish and often designed to be eaten by hand with minimal use of cutlery. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
50) OSSO BUCO
Osso buco is a Milanese (Italian cookery) speciality of cross cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth. It is often garnished with gremolata (a chopped herb condiment classically made of lemon zest, garlic, parsley and anchovy and traditionally served with risotto or polenta depending on regional variation.
The dish’s primary ingredient, veal shank is common, relatively cheap and flavourful. Although tough, braising makes it tender. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
51) PETIT FOUR
Petit four is a small bite sized confectionary or savoury appetizer. The name is French, petit four meaning ‘small oven’.
Petit Four comes in three varieties:
-Glace or glazed- Tiny decorated cakes covered in fondant or icing such as small éclairs and tarlets.
-Sale or sated- Savoury bite sized appetizers usually served at cocktail parties of buffets
-Sec or dry- Dainty biscuits, baked meringues, macarons and puff pastries. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
Quesadilla is a tortilla, made with either corn or flour is filled with cheese, a savoury mix of spices, vegetables and meats and then grille. A full quesadilla involves two tortillas filled with cheese and stacked on top of each other. Halves are a single tortilla filled with cheese and folded into a half moon shape. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
A ragout is a highly seasoned dish of small pieces of meat stewed with vegetables. The basic method of preparation involved slow cooking over a low heat. Ragout may be prepared with or without meat and a wide variety of vegetables may be incorporated. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
Sake is also referred to as Japanese rice wine. It is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. Unlike wine in which alcohol is produced by fermenting sugar naturally present in fruits, sake is produced by a brewing process akin to that of beer where starch is converted into sugars that ferments into alcohol. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
55) SICHUAN/ SZECHWAN
Sichuan or Szechwan is a style of Chinese cuisine originating from the Sichuan province in South Western China. It has bold flavours, particularly, the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic, chilli peppers and Sichuan pepper. There are four sub styles of Sichuan cuisine: Chongqing, Chengdu, Zigong and Buddhist vegetarian style.
More Sichuan dishes are spicy although a typical meal includes non-spicy dishes to cool the palate. Sichuan cuisine is composed of seven basic flavours. Sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic and salty.
Foods preserved through pickling, salting and drying are a part of this cuisine. Preserved dishes are generally served as spicy dishes with heavy application of chilli oil. The most unique and important spice in Sichuan cuisine is the Sichuan pepper. It has an intense fragrance, citrus like flavour and produced a tingly-numbing sensation in the mouth. Common preparation techniques include stir fry, steaming and braising. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
Tagliatelle is a traditional type of egg pasta where individual pieces are long, flat ribbons. They are served with a variety of sauces though the classic is a meat sauce.
The texture of this pasta is porous and rough, making it ideal for thick sauces, generally made with beef, veal or pork and occasionally rabbit. It is also served with sauces that are not as rich, such as, eggs and cheese, breadcrumbs and pine nuts or simply tomato and basil. (Source: Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
57) PINOT NOIR
Pinot Noir is a red wine grape variety. This name may also refer t to wines created predominantly from pinot noir grapes. These grapes are grown around the world, mostly in cooler clients and it chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Pinot Noir is a difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine. The grape’s tendency to produce tightly packed clusters makes it susceptible to several viticultural (science, production and study of grapes) hazards involving rot. While young wines made from pinot noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries, aged wines develop more vegetal and barnyard aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
A mojito is a cocktail that consists of five ingredients: white rum, sugar (traditionally sugar cane juice), lime juice, soda water and mint. Its combination of sweetness, citrus and mint flavours is intended to complement the rum and has made the mojito popular summer drink. The cocktail has relatively low alcohol content.
When preparing mojito, lime juice is added to sugar and mint leaves. The mixture is then gently mashed with a muddler. The mint leaves should only be bruised to release the essential oils and should not be shredded. Rum is added and the mixed is briefly stirred to dissolve the sugar and lift the mint leaves up from the bottom for better presentation. Finally, the drink is topped with crushed ice and sparkling soda water. Mint leaves and lime wedges are used to garnish the glass. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
59) MARASCHINO CHERRY
Maraschino cherry is a preserved, sweetened cherry, typically made from light coloured sweet cherries. They are used in many cocktails giving them the nickname cocktail cherries. (Source:Wiki)
How is it pronounced?
Guacamole is an avocado based dip made by mashing ripe avocados and sea salt. Some recipes call for tomato, onion, garlic, lemon or lime juice, chilli or cayenne pepper and cilantro.
How is it pronounced?
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