Sunday, March 26, 2017

Annamaya, finally a Foodhall to get local produce and eat it too

It is always good to come across events and discussions where farmers and chefs come together discussing food and ingredients, farming and consumer demand along with the concerns of local procurement of fresh produce, grains etc.

We witnessed a wonderful Tasting India Symposium last month where the farmers and chefs came together at a Chaupal (al fresco meeting usually held by village panchayats) and discussed the issues and challenges of local produce, its procurement and usage and the ground issues faced by the farmers as well as the hospitality industry.

Tasting India Symposium is a thoughtful initiative by Sanjoo Malhotra and Sourish Bhattacharya that brings the issues of sustainable food and tourism to the discussion tables openly. I got the opportunity to speak at this symposium about sustainable food in a panel discussion and about Banaras ka Khana in the knowledge session.

At the Chaupal of Tasting India Symposium I witnessed a genuine discussion between chefs like Ravitej Nath, Alex Moser and farmers from Tijara Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in conversation with Ishira Mehta who works with farmers all across the country. It was encouraging to hear that Chef Alex Moser has gone out and found great regional produce from Uttarakhand and Rajasthan and is exploring more to make local foods a part of his menu at Andaz, Aerocity.

Later we decided to go to the hotel and witness it all ourselves. Andaz is a luxury hotel that has brought a fresh approach to its lobby and decor, we could see how casual chic clothing of the hotel staff looks so cool as compared to the stiff formals everywhere else, just a sign of how a property takes simpler things to new heights.

The various design elements of the hotel are something to explore and absorb leisurely, so today I will talk about Annamaya, the European style Foodhall that is nestled within the hotel premises.

The best thing about Annamaya being it brings regional Indian fresh produce and artisan products for the guests and local customers. There is a food court with Indian and European design elements blended seamlessly, so is the food philosophy that uses local produce to create a world class menu.  

Annamaya, finally a Foodhall to get local produce and eat it too

One can buy fresh produce and all sorts of millets, pulses, single origin Indian chocolates, pickles, preserves, tea, coffee and almost everything one needs under one roof, all procured from Indian organic farmers from all across the country.

The most interesting part is that all the ceramic pottery comes from khurja, the copper hammered finish utensils are also made locally, supporting local artisans. I was so thrilled to see that one could buy even the utensils if one likes, I actually bought a plate and there is more on my agenda already.

And yes we tasted food too. This is one place where you will get aloe vera sandwich made with freshly plucked leaf growing right at the counter, they have a special shelf to grow their own micro greens too. There are many more greens sourced from local farmers that are included in salads like the kale and feta salad we loved.

All the meat, poultry and seafood is procured from organic sources I was told. The Duck confit we tasted was phenomenal, glutinous and soft flesh that was pleasantly charred too, a result of sous vide cooking and then a flash of tandoor grilling before serving. The salads and the morel and asparagus orzo pasta were all so beautifully made we polished off all of it quickly between three people.

Annamaya, finally a Foodhall to get local produce and eat it too

The food shows how fresh local and seasonal produce translates into great taste, the hard work of the chefs also evident in the eclectic dishes served in a casual yet classy ambience. I met the pastry chef Gordon Galea whose favourite Indian sweet is Sonpapdi and who loves serving chocolate chili brownie made with single origin Indian chocolate with his signature hazelnut gelato.

Annamaya is finally the Foodhall that I would like to visit regularly and buy produce from. The good food and casual approach to dining is a great approach in my opinion, more people will be able to go and enjoy local and artisan products.

Oh and the bakery section is brimming with organic goodies that cost just as much as any neighborhood bakery, I am so glad to know some good options for the conscious eater too.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

cappucchino of mushrooms, a soup for the mushroom lover in you

You would love the mushroom cappuccino if you like the deep earthy-umami flavours of mushrooms. I often mix two or three varieties of mushrooms to make this cappuccino style soup but it tastes as good with just the button mushrooms too that are easily available everywhere.

Remember this mushroom cappuccino is a quick meal that gets ready in 15 minutes including chopping, cooking and blending.

mushroom cappuccino soup

This is a quick post so I will come straight to the recipe but I will request you to cook this soup following the recipe to the T when you make it for the first time. I have been making this soup for about 4 years now and have perfected the recipe to my liking and to make a filling balanced meal for two.

Yes this mushroom cappuccino is a well balanced meal with good fats, enough proteins and most other micro nutrients so you don't even need a bread with this.

Feel free to include a toasted garlic bread if you like but  the soup is filling enough to make a meal. I would recommend nice hand cut potato fries made in oven or pan grilled with the soup instead of bread. Try that.

(2 meal servings or 4-6 small soup servings)

200 gm button mushrooms
one large onion about 120 gm
40-50 gm walnuts (try not to replace with other nuts but cashew works too)
3-4 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp dry thyme or few springs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
500 ml whole milk (full fat)
1 tbsp butter or good quality olive oil or a mix of both


Slice the onions, chop the garlic cloves roughly and chop the mushrooms roughly.

Heat the butter, tip in the garlic and onions and cook to make the onions slightly caramelized, lightly browned. Toss in the mushrooms and let it all cook and get wilted for about 3-4 minutes.

Add the walnuts, thyme, salt and pepper and toss to mix.

mushroom cappuccino soup prep

Transfer this cooked mix to blender and make a smooth paste, adding some cold milk.

Transfer the blended soup back to the pan, add the remaining milk and some water to adjust consistency, check seasoning and let it come to a soft simmer. Do not let this soup boil.

The soup is lightly frothy after the blending and retains the froth after simmering too. You can make it froth a bit more by blending it in the pan using a stick blender before serving, so it looks more like a cappuccino.

mushroom cappuccino soup

This mushroom cappuccino reheats well and can be refrigerated for 2 days easily.

Make a large batch and refrigerate for convenience. This mushroom cappuccino is a great for a party too and can be served in small cups, topped with some unsweetened cocoa powder if you like.