Cooler | Phalsa Berry Sharbat – ‘Blendit’ like Vikas Khanna #summer #cooler #inseason #kitchenaidindia

“The more you know, the more you can create. There’s no end to imagination in the kitchen.”
Julia Child

Phalsa ka Sharbat Phalsa Berry Sharbat … the much dreaded ‘loo‘ or hot summer winds, dry and dust laden, sweep across the plains of North India. Summer here becomes intolerable at times, with ‘fry eggs on the sidewalk‘ like temperatures threatening your very existence! Then along come some of the best fruit that nature has to offer … and life becomes worthwhile again! This Phalsa Berry Sharbat helps you survive…

Phalsa ka Sharbat With a slew of summer fruit now being offloaded by the truckloads, we could not have asked for more. Red, luscious, juicy cherries, mangoes falling off hand carts, watermelons piled sky high on roadsides, peaches just about beginning to surface, Indian java plums too. And then the phalsa berry, a beautiful, tangy, astringent much awaited native Indian berry!

Phalsa, Grewia asiatica Packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, this humble little berry, Grewia asiatica, brings alive childhood nostalgia. Back then, almost 40 years ago, the silent afternoon would be pierced by the shrill cry of the ‘phalsa wala‘. You’d find him with a wicker basket, topped with a very wet gunny bag which he gently peeled back to reveal the precious little berries. The very fragile and perishable phalsa would change hands for a few pennies. Washed gently and tossed in rock salt, we would hungrily suck them, trying to extract the most from the almost impoverished looking fruit.

Phalsa ka SharbatSometimes if we were lucky enough, we would be rewarded with phalsa ka sharbat! It was pain staking to make and a special treat. Life is a little easier now, with gadgets that make life in the kitchen a breeze. Just one sip of this amazing cooler, in colours that uplift the soul,  memories of a quintessential part of Indian summer comes alive! Sharbats or ‘fruit and flower based coolers‘ are the answer to the beat the heat!

Kitchenaid Blendappetit  with Vikas Khanna Hymns from the Soil This takes me to the launch of the KitchenAid Pro Line Cordless Hand Blender in association with Masterchef Vikas Khanna in Delhi. The launch is a part of multi city #Blendappetit Tour spanning across India starting from May 20, 2014. While, the cordless blender is a unique, first of its kind, versatile product, it comes with an ultimate experience of ‘anytime anywhere’ blending.

Kitchenaid Blendappetit  with Vikas Khanna Hymns from the Soil This new blender from Kitchenaid India is a magic machine, ergonomically designed, a thing of beauty. It comes equipped with a rechargeable 12V lithium ion battery which gives it the power to perform efficiently. The super blender can blend, mix, whisk, chop, froth, puree, shred and whip up anything in a flash.

Kitchenaid Blendappetit  with Vikas Khanna Hymns from the Soil The very sweet and charming Vikas {I was fortunate enough to shoot with him recently} blended a lip smacking good kiwi smoothie from his new book.  The chef was affable as ever; entertaining, engaging, humourous! He connected instantly with the expectant crowd and soon had the gathering mesmerised. Ripples of laughter flooded the studio in Gurgaon with Vikas holding court, spinning out one anecdote after another. Stories of his home, his mother & grandmother, his inspirations, his journey from cooking a Rs 20 meal in Punjab to a Rs 20 lakh meal for Obama … yet humble and grounded as ever, a philosopher at heart!Kitchenaid Blendappetit  with Vikas Khanna Hymns from the Soil The afternoon witnessed the launch of his book- .Hymns from the Soil, his first book on Indian vegetarian food and a tribute to Mother Earth. It is full of nostalgic tales of his childhood, and in many ways ‘our childhood’. The ‘mitti ki khushboo‘ or the smell of the wet soil, planting his own vegetable patch, the vegetable vendors with fresh vegetables, seasons that spelt fresh produce {unlike now when you almost get everything round the year} … a touching evocative connect with the soil of the land. The book is beautifully written, with stunning pictures and recipes that call your name.

Phalsa ka Sharbat With so much talk of the connect of the earth, including the shrill call of the vendor that pierced the afternoon silence then, it’s a good time to share this recipe. I make the Phalsa Berry Sharbat every year, changing the recipe as I evolve, always in panic like the berries might disappear or go out of fashion. The phalsa season is a short one here just through May and June. Juicing these in my Thermomix is a breeze … which is why I make this quite often.

Phalsa ka Sharbat 6Phalsa ka Sharbat Not sure if taste buds change as the years go by, or the flood of flavours available and sugar laden options in packaged juices snatch simple pleasure away. Maybe it’s the slightly astringent aftertaste, but unfortunately, this isn’t the kids favourite sharbat. The boy loves his aam panna or raw mango sharbat, the daughter her cranberry juice. Thankfully both also love the daily fresh watermelon juice & smoothies.

Phalsa ka SharbatThe Phalsa Berry Sharbat takes the summer heat away, refreshes the soul, gives you a generous dose of vitamin C and antioxidants … what more can you ask for in these ‘oven like’ months? Oh yes, and if it takes you on a trip down memory lane, that’s even better! I’m loving it!!

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Baking | Eggless Almond Honey Wholegrain Cookies … #comfortfood #cookies #eggless #wholegrain

“You’ll never convince me that there’s more to life than chocolate chip cookies”
Charles M. Shultz

Eggless Almond Honey Wholegrain CookiesEggless Almond Honey Wholegrain Cookies … cookies that are meant to be shared! I haven’t posted a cookie recipe for a while on PAB. Possibly since I don’t make new variations very often, or when I do, I forget to jot the recipe down. Ones that I regularly make are all time favourites like Wholewheat & Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies & these Not Quite Anzac cookies.

Eggless Almond Honey Wholegrain Cookies That morning I was due to meet a sweet girl who was coming in to meet me from halfway across India. I knew she was a vegetarian and I wanted to bake something eggless for her. Cookies seemed a good idea for the coffee morning. I had some Strawberry & Cape Gooseberry Quark Mousse chilling in the fridge for her too.

Spring Spring has all but given way to summer. Mornings and evenings are beautifully pleasant; the season inspires like no other. Flowers bloom, fruits spill off bazaar shelves, birds chirp, butterflies zip around. Baking is fun in this weather though baking cookies is fun any time!!

Eggless Almond Honey Wholegrain Cookies The cookies came out delicious, even better since they were packed with nutrition and whole grains. I love the idea of adding nut meal to cookies. In my case I have to since the daughter dislikes nuts with a vengeance. She loves cookies with nut meal though!

Eggless Almond Honey Wholegrain Cookies I baked another batch soon after as we flew into breathtakingly beautiful Srinagar for a short vacation. It’s always nice to carry a ‘taste of home’ with us. Though Srinagar is known for its little bakeries that dot the length and breadth of the city, my humble cookies were much in demand with the kids too! Srinagar, India ... paradise on earthOne look at the ingredients in the recipe and you’ll see the cookie goodness I am talking about. Almonds, whole wheat, amaranth {my latest obsession}, oats, and honey instead of  corn syrup!  Told you … these are deliciously healthy cookies. Indulgent too!

Eggless Almond Honey Wholegrain Cookies Try them. Cookies don’t get simpler than these. One bowl goodness, fun to make, get the kids involved. Do watch them towards the end of baking. Honey in baked goods tends to lead to faster browning. So do keep an eye!

Eggless Almond Honey Wholegrain Cookies Healthy, fun recipes with amaranth, whole grains, oats {read lots of oats}, unrefined sugars, honey etc have kept me busy of late. I’ve been involved in doing a project for Saffola Oats here in India.

Whole foodShot two recipe videos with the very sweet Michelin Starred Chef Vikas Khanna for Food Food Channel, India as part of the engagement. You can catch the first episode for a Bittersweet Dark Chocolate Gateau {Gluten free} which has been uploaded onto You-tube.

Baking | Whole Wheat Lemon Tres Leches Cake … & Your Wish is My App #Indiblogger #Nokia #NDTV

“Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.”
T.S. Eliot

Whole wheat Lemon Tres Leches Cake 1Whole Wheat Lemon Tres Leches Cake … a healthier, whole grain version of an international favourite. The cake was as delicious as it was simple and rather plain in appearance. A healthy makeover, a cake I was inspired to make a while ago with leftover ‘tres leches‘ or 3 milk syrup from a Daring Bakers challenge. Then I had made a much fancier layered Mango Pastel de Tres Leches or Mango Three Milk Cake.

Mango Pastel de Tres LechesI forgot to share the whole wheat version until the other day when I was trying to dream up some app ideas for an Indiblogger event I attended. One thought led to another, and also took me back to the Whole Wheat Lemon Tres Leches Cake which I had forgotten to share as promised.

Mango Pastel de Tres Leches But first a little introduction to the event that inspired me to ‘wish‘! It was an interesting evening which launched Season II of the Your Wish is My App meet with Indiblogger and Nokia Lumia. It promised to be an entertaining evening with a live wire bunch of folk on stage. The line up included New York based, Michelin starred celebrity chef Vikas Khanna, TV anchor and  super gadget guru Rajiv Makhni, and someone best known as the father of the Indian gaming industry, Vishal Gondal.

Your Wish is My App Indiblgger NoikaThat it would be entertaining was expected; that it would be side splitting funny, hysterical laughs and packed with madness and mayhem wasn’t. The trio kept us in splits, a 100% engaging and interactive. The crowds loved them, especially Vikas Khanna who wears his heart on his sleeve. The attendance crossed 300 and for a while the stage shuddered under the weight of almost everyone who wanted to be ‘there with the guys’!

Photo courtesy Vj Sharma @ Photo Journey

Photo courtesy Vj Sharma @ Photo Journey

With sound touching the ‘are you crazy‘ levels, it was an entertaining evening of ‘Apps and Blogging‘ alright. Have you ever thought to yourself “I wish there was an app for this! ” was the question asked.

Healthy food makeoverI did have some app-etising thoughts in my head, but very enthusiastic techies present in large numbers overtook my confidence pretty soon. Food bloggers were few, the techie majority hungry for bytes. My ideas just didn’t flow. On the drive back however I suddenly had a head full of possible ‘wishes’ ! Apps that would bring together a local farmer/produce community in touch with buyers … a farm to table app!

fresh pumpkin pureeApps that would encourage the use of local produce, suggest indigenous substitutes for international recipe, and also give a nutritional analysis of a recipe, maybe a possible calorie count too. An app that would make us think differently perhaps, support a local food and farmer community, encourage us to lean towards healthier food habits, and analyse our plates to see what we eat.

Roasted bell peppers
Roasted bell pepper pesto

Why apps? With over 2200 million mobile handsets being sold in India each year, the numbers are only set to grow. With mind boggling numbers of 130 million users who access the internet via smart phones, it only makes business sense to step into apps! Season I at Nokia saw 38000 app ideas being offered, out of which 1200 have already been converted into apps.

Here’s one that would be on top of my wishlist for a food community at large. Since all of us aren’t recipe developers and experimenters, how about an app that offers a healthy alternative to a normal recipe? Not sure if it’s achievable, or if it’s a hair brained non tech idea, but I love the very thought. While I have the time to experiment, substitute, indulge in my hobby / obsession, a lot of food lovers might not be on the same plate.

Healthy food

Maybe call it a Glocal Healthy Recipe App? It would need to offer healthier substitutes for recipes, locally available alternates, a calorie count, nutritional info if possible etc. The idea is to try and stay local even with global recipes, Glocal if you like. That in turn reduces out carbon footprint, makes us support the local farmer and producer community, encourages us to think out of the box; more than anything else, experiment!

Whole wheat Lemon Tres Leches Cake Here’s an example of a healthy makeover. This Whole Wheat Lemon Tres Leches Cake is a whole wheat version of the Tres Leches Cake {or a “three milks cake”}. Incidentally, the basic cake is also a healthier whole grain version of the pound cake. Whole wheat Lemon Tres Leches Cake The Tres Leches is a light cake, with many air bubbles. This distinct texture is why it does not have a soggy consistency, despite being soaked in a mixture of three types of milk. Enjoy it!

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The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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