Aug 23, 2014

Aloe Vera Lemonade

World Lemonade Day, it’s very hot today, those bottles beg to be used, or just I am thirsty’ – any of these excuses are good to whip up some special drinks to quench! When I have the added onerous responsibility to shake up a mock tail, for a contest, I’ve got my perfect excuse to make this delightful refresher.
In traditional medicine, Aloe Vera is considered a miracle plant. The gel inside the succulent leaf is said to be able to cure several skin problems from acne, to burns, to psoriasis. It is said to have anti bacterial and anti fungal properties. Used both as a topical application as well as drunk for internal healing, aloe vera is used for ‘cooling’ the body too. However, modern medicine (read allopathy) is still cautious on the miraculous healing properties of aloe vera. A fear of toxicity when ingested in high levels also seem to be implicated.  However, studies by some doctors have found benefits from using aloe vera for healing burns.
I have a pot of aloe vera growing in my balcony garden. I wanted to use those beautiful green leaves in a drink and check for myself. To offset the bitter flavour notes in Aloe vera, I plucked some fresh lemon grass stalks from another pot, and infused the drink with that as well. Here is what I whipped up. This lemonade was so refreshing (did I say that already?). I felt it helped to calm the hyperacidity I was experiencing last evening too. Have I given you enough excuse to try it out?
Sparkling, refreshing aloe vera lemonade
Here is what you need -
Does NOT contain gluten, dairy, soya,corn, peanuts, other tree nuts.
Preparation time – 10 minutes, Cooking time – 3 minutes, Serves – 2
You Need
Small saucepan, mixer/blender, scissors, knife, lemon squeezer, 2 glasses/bottles of 200 ml each.
  1. 1 good sized succulent aloe vera stalk
  2. 2 Lemons
  3. 3 fresh stalks of lemon grass
  4. 3 tbsp sugar
  5. Fresh drinking water – 1/2 cup
  6. Himalayan sparkling water – 300 ml
  7. Few ice cubes
To Assemble
  1. Rinse the aloe vera leaf, cut in half. Trim the green outer part of the leaf, retain the transparent inner gel part. Here is a picture tutorial on how to trim an aloe leaf. Place the gel in a blender and whip to frothy smooth liquid. No need to add water here. Set aside in the blender jar.
  2. Rinse the lemon grass stalks, snip it into tiny pieces, place in sauce pan with measured sugar and water and bring to boil. Once it has reached a boil, cover and let infuse for 10 minutes.
  3. Slice out a few thin lemon slices for garnish. Keep aside. Squeeze the rest of the lemons into the blender jar. Strain the lemon grass scented sugar syrup into the blender. Add a few cubes of ice. Shake, blend. Anything. Your choice.
  4. Divide between two glasses. Top with chilled Himalayan sparkling water. Add the sliced lemon garnish. Serve right away. Perfect for warm weekends.  Do not want to share? Good. Just glug it all down.
Enjoy with a loved one
Notes –
  • I have just squeezed the lemons into the drink instead of muddling them since aloe vera has bitter notes to it. Muddling the lemons will add to the bitterness. We only want the tang from the lemon in this drink.
  • The freshness of the Himalayan Sparkling water aided the zingy citrus flavours of the drink. I have often been disappointed with a metallic taste found in several club sodas.  I was glad to note that there was no metallic overtones / unpleasant mouth feel from this water which may have warped the drink’s flavour.
My entry to the Himalayan sparkling water mock tail contest. A twist on Shatbi Basu’s recipe.
Click me, I'm posing against the skyline!
Chill out!

Aug 12, 2014

I was at IFBM

When the first ever Indian Food Bloggers Meet was announced in June 2014, I was extremely excited. The chance of learning from veterans in the blogging world, the opportunity to meet up with the very talented fellow food bloggers, was too good to be missed. Despite being on bed rest then, nursing four rib fractures, I went ahead and registered for the event! When bloggers from Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune,and even abroad were flying in, how could I miss it?

Am I glad that I signed in? You bet! If the rush I got from meeting my old blogger friends was not enough, making several new friends, meeting the faces behind the delicious blogs, attending all those informative sessions were enough to send me into blogger heaven.

The organisers - Pic Courtesy Jayashree Mudaliar

I could not believe that the organisers were putting up this, or any event for the first time ever. If they confessed that they had no prior experience in coordinating events at all, I put it down to modesty. Such was the attention to detail. Very meticulous planning. Aparna, Nandita, Arundati, Revatii, Please take a bow! You have created a nation-wide platform for us to interact. You have set a high bench mark for succeeding events. You have instilled renewed confidence and commitment in all attendees, and made those who could not show up, go green! I’m certain the next blogger’s meet will have many more participating.

The first day began with a bang. Famous baker, food styling diva, above all, the most generous of people I have found, Deeba Rajpal led us through the steps of using props intelligently. Her session was liberally sprinkled with tips, stories behind several of her famous pictures and even info on where she purchases and stores her stunning props.

Participants at IFBM - note the fantastic chairs

Aparna Balasubramanian led us through the nuances of food photography. One look at the pictures on her blog and portfolio is enough to make everyone sit up and lap in every word she utters. Equable, unpretentious, ever helpful, Aparna shared several tips on how to get lighting right in food pictures, choice of angles to shoot, how to select and use a tripod and several more.

The Kitchen Aid Master class with Chef Surjan Singh Jolly was well, lively and jolly! He demonstrated an unusual ‘Kaer-Saangri’ paratha paired with a tomato kat.

Kitchen Aid demo by Chef Jolly

An amazing midday tea was spread out in the lobby waiting patiently for our attention. Boy, were we floored? If the theme of the spread named ‘Honey, I love you’ sounded !!?, the choice of dainty high tea desserts more than made up for it. Have you heard of yoghurt pannacotta sweetened wit honey? Or honey flavoured chocolate mousse cake? Or vanilla cupcakes iced with ‘honey bees’? Or a large tempered - chocolate bee hive? It took me a long time to be convinced that the bee hive was actually edible. And I am talking about only a few delicacies on offer. Honey flavoured chocolate mousse cake

Honey bee cupcakes

Allow me to introduce you to our Venue and F and B Host – Aloft Cessna Business Park.

Aloft Cessna Business Park fulfils the need of business hospitality in the IT Zone of Bangalore. It is fitted with several meeting rooms arrayed with hi-speed Wi Fi and other equipment necessary to make conferences and meetings an effortless, successful event.

A special mention about their very comfortable chairs. I should know. Ahead of the event, I had requested for a full back support chair to enable me sit through the two days of the meet.         (Remember the rib fractures?) The organisers took it upon themselves to ensure this was in place. Aloft Cessna did not disappoint. The chairs were all so comfortable that I breezed through without any discomfort whatsoever. They even had an ergonomic chair with complete back and neck support, just in case. Thank you, organisers and Aloft Cessna! This attention to detail, if sustained, will surely take Team Aloft Cessna a long way.

Lunch was again a theme affair. With food revolving around ‘Aamchi Mumbai’, people could have their fill of murmura in paper cones, pav bhaji, kheema pav, misal pav, vada pav, and ice gola or falooda for dessert!

Mumbai Chaats - theme lunch, Pic Courtesy Jayashree Mudaliar

I would have preferred more sensitivity towards separating vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The veg bhaji and the non-veg kheema for the pavs were stationed too close to each other for comfort with the same chef handling the service for both as well! Needless to say, I preferred to give it a miss.

Post lunch saw Nandita Iyer, the social media diva, walk us through the steps of harnessing social media to our benefit. Her talk was replete with humour (apt for post – lunch session, it kept us awake) yet bringing home the power and use of social media such as pinterest, twitter, facebook and others for bloggers.

Nandita Iyer on Social Media

Aneesh Bhasin from Hipcask, took over next. His talk on Rose wines (an under-appreciated category) was very informative. Ably aided with samples of Zampa, a Rose from the Grover stable, he led us through the nuances of wine making, Indian wines, wine labelling in different countries, the correct temperature for drinking various wines. He took queries with great ease and helped food bloggers understand wines much better. Thank you, Aneesh Bhasin!

Before we knew it, folks at Aloft announced tea time. When pampered so much, who are we to complain?  The theme this time was ‘Kolkata Chaats’. Rossogollas, ghugni, puchkas, kathi rolls, kaala jamuns were all drippingly enticing.

Kaala jamunPuchkasBengali MishtiPunjabi chef serving Bengali puchka!

It was wonderful to see momos and thupka also part of the menu. The chef had also created different sauces to accompany thupkas. However, the momos again had both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions in close proximity, nee, in the same steamer (in different compartments). Can we have better discernment with respect to vegetarian / vegan sensitivities please?

Here are momos and thupkas - veg and non-veg medley

Before we knew it, it was time for a session with Husna Rahaman, author of Spice Sorcery. The author shared anecdotes of her childhood, cooking, and how families bonded over food.

Deeba Rajpal in conv with Husna Rahaman, Pic Courtesy - Jayashree Mudaliar

This was end of Day 1. A whirlwind of sessions, learning, meeting up with who’s who of the food blogging world, carrying heavy goodie bags back home and excitedly waiting for Day 2.

Clicker clicking the clicker who is clicking too!

Day 2 needs another post altogether. So wait for one here.. Till then, eat right, be happy, stay blessed!