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Food for thought

 Kurkure Lays, plant visit Pepsico India‘Comfort food is the food that makes us feel good, satisfied, calm, cared for and carefree. It’s food that fills us up emotionally and physically.
Finding comfort in food is a basic human experience.’
Ellie Krieger

First thoughts that swept through my head as we entered the Pepsico factory in Dhulagarh near Kolkata, a much anticipated trip into a promising kitchen. Hello Kurkure, have I missed you! It’s been a few years since I dived into a bag. One crunchy bite later, nostalgia flooded my soul, that old familiar taste that had serenaded me for several years. I was back! With an eclectic group of about a dozen ‘foodies’ flown  specially into Kolkata, we warmed up to each other over the hours drive to the factory. That drive was anything but mundane, action packed, but that’s a story for another day…Pepsico plant visit, KolkataA friend recently said to me that his entire family was addicted to Kurkure for 8 long years, and that’s quite a similar story across households in India. Kurkure, in hindi means crisp, now PepsiCos most most loved voted snacking brand in the Indian market, is a favourite with Indians across the globe. For me, a once in a blue moon guilty step off my routine.  There I was to discover that there’s so much more to the brand than just the snack. A brand that is constantly reinventing itself, attempting also to constantly improve nutritionally. It also makes great breakfast oats, one of my most favourite pantry ingredients.

Pepsico plant visit, KolkataThey’ve got the spice mix and product bang on! With 30 snacking options, Kurkure forms an iconic part of Indian food culture, a deep connect & nostalgia since being introduced in 1999. This entirely indigenous brand, made with trusted kitchen ingredients like rice, oil, corn, gram & spices, Kurkure has constantly re-invented itself to sustain its relevance to Indian culture and the Indian ethos. Yet the story is more than the plant producing snacks. It’s the larger picture of social responsibility that appealed to me, and that made the visit so worthwhile.pepsico-plant-visit-kolkata-2With the popularity of Kurkure, came many myths about the ingredients, about how good it might or might not be! One trip to the fully automated snack plant in Dhulbari proved otherwise. Prepared most hygienically in a state of art plant, it hits the spot for comfort food with the right spice blends and flavours. All ingredients in the Kitchen of lays are carefully sourced, efficiently managed and well stocked. It has now entered the traditional namkeens area which is proving to be equally popular!Pepsico plant visit, Kolkata

Pepsico plant visit, KolkataAnd then there is the Kitchen of Lays. Another heartening story right from the potato being germinated up to the chips that get sealed into bags, it’s a fascinating adventure. Overcoming challenges like a not a well developed supply chain, small land holdings, marginal farmers, loads of wastage etc, the company offers community support especially to farmers right from word go offering careful handling and the right variety of seeds. India is the only country outside of the US, where potato germ plasma and mini tuber are grown in greenhouses in Punjab. To help farmers minimize losses due to vagaries of nature, the company offers weather forecasts in collaborative farming to 24K farmers in the country. The partnership offers a 360 degree of engagement with best agronomy practices, soft loans, crop insurance, high quality seeds for better yields etc.Pepsico plant visit, KolkataTo think that much and more goes into the making of a mere pack of chips is a somewhat enlightening experience. Following the journey of the humble potato from a germ plasma to the fryer was fascinating. It makes the picture real, a story that comes alive with community collaborative farming, sustenance, social responsibility, good practices, the right potato and an efficient system. An automated system that works with precision, infra red sensors that pick out the slightest anomaly, dedicated happy workforce … and of course happy customers.Pepsico plant visit, KolkataSustainable growth, community development and minimizing the impact on the environment is worthy of praise! We were fortunate to experience the facility first hand. Right from very passionate hands on managers, spirited workers, an efficient management system, the fully automated plant operates impressively. What amazes is that PepsiCo’s growth in India has been guided by a philosophy of “Performance with Purpose”, the goal to deliver top-tier financial performance while creating sustainable growth. 06-1In practice, Performance with Purpose means providing a wide range of foods and beverages from treats to healthy eats; finding innovative ways to minimize their impact on the environment, providing a safe and inclusive workplace for employees globally; and respecting, supporting and investing in the local communities where they operate. For instance, in 2009, PepsiCo India achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first business to achieve ‘Positive Water Balance’ in the beverage world, a fact verified by Deloitte Touché Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd. The company has been Water Positive since then.
Pepsico plant visit, Kolkata
The Kaizen quality and productivity initiative where everyone is empowered, motivated and encouraged to add value contributes to safety, quality and productivity. With initiatives like that and three planks of renewable energy systems in place, for eg rice husk that generates steam to heat oil, or then frying that gives flash steam than runs a system to generate electricity, it’s hard to look at the packet of Lays or Kurkure the same way again. They just mean so much more now!

Photo courtesy Karan BhujbalThank you for opening your home and hearts to us Pepsico India!
{Photo courtesy Karan Bhujbal}

The Masala Dabba #4, our spice journey“Chili, spice of red Thursday, which is the day of reckoning. Day which invites us to pick up the sack of our existence and shake it inside out. Day of suicide, day of murder.”
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices

Time for The Masala Dabba #4 & Chettinad Chicken Curry. Both very delayed yet finally here. This time I’m lagging behind royally. Chilies was the pick for the month of April, and we’re well into May now June.  I can’t say I didn’t try because I began writing this in May, but life happened! One month ran into another, time racing at an alarming pace. It was just yesterday, in January 2016, when we began the spice journey. June already! Really? Where did April and May go?Chilies from Karaikudi

Chettinad Chicken Curry Only me to blame even as I thought April was going to be the most explosive spice journey ever as Dolphia picked chilies. Just back refreshed from a very exciting trip from down south in Karaikudi {do read about it here}, chilies was all I had on my mind. The vibrancy of the region we had just visited added to it. Heritage, colour, culture, architecture, art, cuisine, shopping…Karaikudi, Chettinad, South IndiaAs I rather belatedly enter month #4 of our collaborative spice journey exploring or rather ‘shooting’ spices, a fun interaction with Dolphia, Simi, Meeta and me, April was for chilies. I really love the spice journey and the stories it carries with it. Personal tales, heritage recipes, travelogues and all sorts of inspiration that connect us as community. My story this time comes from Karaikudi, a region deep in the heart of South India.Karaikudi, Chettinad, South IndiaOur stay at Chidambara Vilas, then a masterclass on world famous Chettinad Chicken Curry, stops at other heritage properties in the region and local market jaunts,  that included shopping for guntu chilies, inspires this post. Not least, my companions in crime, the two vegetarian bloggers Sanjeeta and Madhuli, who were more than ready to dive into chicken curry as the chef stirred it up, chilies and all!Gundu Chilies from Karaikudi This is just what Chettinad cuisine is all about, freshness and simple local flavour. Pure delight – the aromas of whole spices and shallots hitting hot oil, the curry leaves crackling, the colours, fresh simple ingredients, the location an outdoor heritage courtyard kitchen, the company, the curry! Sunset, Chidambaram Vilas, Karaikudi, Chettinad, South IndiaThe women of the Chettinad community were instrumental to managing the vast estates and running kitchens, often while the men were away. {More about the region here}. Easily available local spices and ingredients, traditional cooking methods and a deep interest in food led to a vast repertoire of recipes collectively called Chettinad cuisine. Chettinad Chicken Curry, Masterclass @ Chidambara Vilas, KaraikudiChettinad chicken is the regions most popular export to the culinary world, and it was nowhere fiery and spicy as I believed. A traditional recipe, it’s made with very basic ingredients. Spice mixes from roasted spices, ginger, garlic, shallots, tomatoes, curry leaves and coconut paste. Red chilies of course! Chilies from Karaikudi Shooting spices is therapeutic, inspiring and always fun. I mean, can you not fall in love with an ingredient that promises so much colour, character, variety and texture? Consider the fact that there are as many uses as varieties around the world and the charm multiplies! I’m thinking chili chocolate. Mmmm…Chilies from KaraikudiCooking curry is equally therapeutic and fun. You just need a basic recipe in your head, then go about throwing in as much spice, or as little, as you like. Taste as you go. I do loads of North Indian chicken curries at home, so this authentic South Indian one was even more engaging. Chettinad Chicken Curry Of course I deviated here and there. Bay leaves tossed in, fresh mint tossed over. That’s just the charm of curries. Follow your palate.Chettinad Chicken Curry

Chettinad Chicken Curry
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Chettinad Chicken Curry; mildly hot, tangy and finger licking good. Simple basic pantry staples and a coconut paste ​​make for a hearty good curry. This is my rendition of the curry we learnt at the masterclass.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Chettinad Chicken Curry
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
Yum
Print Recipe
Chettinad Chicken Curry; mildly hot, tangy and finger licking good. Simple basic pantry staples and a coconut paste ​​make for a hearty good curry. This is my rendition of the curry we learnt at the masterclass.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
750g chicken on the bone, cut into 12 pieces {skinless}
Spice 1 / Dry mix
1 tsp ginger paste
Spice 2 / Coconut paste
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. First make the spice mixes. These can be doubled, and/or made in advance. Store the dry mic=x in a cool place, and the wet mix in the fridge for 2-3 days, else freeze.
  2. Spice mix 1 / Dry mix
  3. Roast the fennel, cumin seeds, red chili, coriander seeds and pepper gently over low heat until fragrant. Dry grind. Reserve in bowl.
  4. Spice mix 2 / Coconut paste
  5. Roast the cashew nuts, coriander seeds, cumin, red chilies, fennel and black pepper gently over low heat until fragrant. Grind to a smooth paste with ginger, garlic and grated coconut. Reserve.
  6. Heat the oil in large heavy bottom pan or wok. Add cinnamon stick, star anise and fennel, followed by curry leaves. Give it a good stir and add the shallots. Sauté until the shallots are golden brown and fragrant.
  7. Add Spice Mix 1 {dry masala mix}, ginger paste, chopped tomatoes, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Stir well and cook until the tomatoes are soft, stirring once in a while.
  8. Add the chicken pieces and stir well to coat them with the spices, followed by crushed garlic. Add a little water, about a cup, stir well, season with salt and simmer until the chicken is cooked.
  9. Now stir in the coconut paste or Spice Mix 2, fresh coriander. Garnish with fresh coriander {or mint as I did}
  10. Serve hot with rice or chapatis, paratha, naan, tandoori roti etc.
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‘Ice cream is my comfort food.’
Jessie Ware

What's Hip in Food This Summer?This must be the creamiest, most indulgent tub of ice cream I’ve dug into of late. The flavours were natural, the ice cream smooth, creamy and not too sweet, the online ordering process even smoother. After ordering it quite effortlessly on a snappy and easy app, it was home delivered in under an hour  The ice  cream was as good as expected. I’d heard great reviews and it certainly didn’t disappoint! It was the smooth process via foodpanda that actually took me by surprise as I’ve had some terrible other online app shopping experiences of late!Foodpanda.inAs time goes by, foodpanda is constantly evolving, getting better and better. They listen, are eager for feedback, and then work on it. My last experience was slightly bleh because of the pizza we ordered, the pizza company, an MNC, sorely lacking. Not the panda to blame, yet I was curious this time around. And what a pleasant surprise. Things worked like clockwork, the app interface snappy and pleasing. Confirmation messages, a call from the service provider, the happy panda face had me smiling right back! An hour from placing the order, the bell rang and hello, there was ice cream!!

Foodpanda and  Ice-Cream, PiccoLickoYesterday was well spent ‘eating’. The day began on a very indulgent note as a bunch of us tripped excitedly across Chandni Chowk,  cameras in hand, for a food photo walk. The place was buzzing with social activity rater than business activity since it was a day of celebration, Eid. We hit the road quite early and there was no end to the indulgence. Returned home and headed to my parents for a sumptuous lunch, and swore I would never eat for the next few days!Chandni Chowk, Delhi 6, Darter photowalk

Nagori halwa, Delhi 6Today had to be a rather low key diet day. It began with thoughts of just water all day, then maybe milk, yes a bowl of fruit would be good! Then along came this very fun offer from foodpanda, tied to a contest, and I caved in to temptation! Pick a trend, order, take pictures, blog about it. foodpanda is an up-and-coming website that operates by delivering food from a wide range of restaurants to either homes and/ or offices in 100+ cities in India. Ice-Cream, PiccoLickoA meal wasn’t on the radar, but given the beautiful, rainy weekend, some indulgent low fat ice cream seemed like the next best thing! To make it interesting, I paired the Butterscotch Caramel Cake Ice Cream with a slice of eggless wholegrain chocolate chip pie I baked 2 days ago, and Mango Mania with freshly cut mangoes and sprigs of mint. Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream was good on it’s own. Just too good! So, What’s Hip in Food This Summer?

FoodpandaFor me, ice cream is Hip in Food This Summer! Eat anytime, store ahead, get creative with it, or then just DIG IN! It’s a fun contest, a simple one that spoils you too as you get vouchers to order the food you blog about!  More information here, and the rules here. Hurry because the contest is limited to the first 40 participants.

“The best food items everyone should try out this summer”

Join the contest for a chance to win an amazing prize! If you are a blogger and you like to consider yourself a real trendsetter, don’t wait up. Be the one to decide what’s going to be the hottest food trend this summer.

Complete these 3 easy steps and win!


1. Go on foodpanda.in and order your choice of the ‘most hip’ food items
2. Take a couple of stunning pictures
3. Write a blog post and express your choice of this summer’s next top food trends.

See. As simple as that.

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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