Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A Guide to Partying, Thai-style

Need an interesting theme to perk up your next get together? Look toward the aromatic cuisine of Thailand for inspiration and ideas. Take your guests on a journey of discovery into the kaffir lime and lemongrass scented streets and kitchens of Thailand. Introduce them to the funky, complex flavours that play around and dance on the palate.

At the heart of the very many curries, grilled meats, stir-fries, noodles dishes and sauces of Thai cuisine is the skillful juggling of colours, textures, flavours and aromas. Thai cooking places an emphasis on freshly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge. It’s known for its complex interplay of four or five fundamental tastes in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy. Any interpretation of Thai cuisine includes paying its respect to high-quality, fresh produce quickly prepared and expertly seasoned till the meal resonates with the spicy, challenging and complex flavours Thai food is known for the world over.

Start with welcoming your guests with shots of Thai iced tea. This is a traditional Thai beverage brewed from strong black tea and spiced with star anise and cardamom highlighted by the tang of tamarind, creamy and sweet from the addition of condensed milk, it will be perfect as an ice breaker. A spicy Lychee-chili lemonade could also get the party started,  just, lightly blend lychee juice, lemon juice, salt, sugar with de-seeded bird’s eye chili and serve chilled on ice!

Plan a lavish, colourful spread of small bites for guests to nibble on. Get innovative with Thai inspired tapas maybe? Small bowls of kaffir and chilli spiced nuts, bite sized servings of some of those wonderful Thai salads; som tam, long bean, pulled meat, larb gai. Bring alive Thailand’s vibrant street food scene with a bite sized version of classic Chicken satay with a spicy peanut sauce or crunchy lettuce cups filled with an assortment of veggies dressed up with a sweet-sour-spicy dipping sauce.

Add some oomph to your party with a live Pad Thai bar! Don your chef’s hat and dish up portions of this iconic spicy-sour noodle dish for your guests! Ensue you have all the right  sauces for each diner to customize their dishes; a typical Thai dinner table will feature the umami rich fish sauce, super spicy Sriracha, and nam phrik; a combination of chillies, garlic, onions, lime juice and fish sauce. 

And when it comes to main course, Thai cuisine offers a wide range of dishes featuring meats, seafood and vegetables all centered on delicate, steamed jasmine rice. So pre-make and serve up numerous bowls of curries, stir-fries and dipping sauces with steamed rice. For instance, a Thai themed party is incomplete without a Red or Green curry with chicken or prawns. 

End this veritable Thai feast on a sweet note with an assortment of desserts that your guests can pick from. Go traditional with bite sized portions of sticky rice with mango. Or try it with caramelized pineapples, make a coconut version of crème caramel finished with a kaffir infused sugar or let your guests top bowls of shaved ice with their choice of fruit, syrup and coconut milk for ice kachang.

Renowned the world over for its bold, flavours and fabulous textures one thing is for sure a Thai theme will ensure your next party is memorable and well received! 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Raksha Bandhan Celebrations

While sibling relationships are to be treasured daily all year round, having a special reason to celebrate them is wonderful. And that’s what Raksha Bandhan is all about. A season to cherish one’s siblings, celebrate familial love and strengthen commitments to one’s brothers and sisters. It is a festive occasion with sisters playfully teasing brothers, adults laughing and relaxing while eating rich traditional food. The tying of the rakhi bands and presenting of the gifts are the highlights of this festival with plenty of attention on the gift.

For this special occasion, Godrej Nature’s Basket has curated a range of gift hampers full of exotic, indulgent treats. Take a stroll through the store, wander through the cheese aisle, pick from the international grocery shelves and assemble a personalized gourmet hamper for your sibling based on what he/she will love. We have some of the most decadent chocolate offerings to celebrate Raksha Bandhan with; from immaculate white to sinfully dark chocolate, from cocoa truffles to alluring slabs of nougat and praline. Or use chocolate to transform a traditional recipe into something spectacular for your brother or sister this Raksha Bandhan. Think chocolate chilli kheer or aromatic roasted coffee and walnut parathas; surprise your sibling with your ingenuity!

Festivals are all about embracing traditions but they are also about adding a unique, personal flavour to them to create new and unforgettable memories. Twist a traditional recipe using our gourmet products sourced from all over the world. Give traditional Rakhi recipes a signature touch making them into wonderful new dishes. For instance, a halwa can be enriched with exotic red sultanas and slivers of dried papaya and pineapple instead of plain raisins. A kheer can be given a fabulous twist with poached peaches and pine nuts scattered over it. Or swirl some L’Exclusif fruit preserve or a Monin syrup through a favourite mousse recipe. Play around with the sizzling chocolate brownie by adding some desiccated coconut to the batter and serve it a la mode with pistachio mousse instead of ice cream.

Sometimes life has a way of disrupting the best laid plans; scuttling the plan for a home cooked meal. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying the time with your loved ones. Go to our online store and choose from our extensive Party Menu for a premium catered meal. Celebrate Raksha Bandhan with dolce and order delectable desserts like Tiramisu, Parfaits, Panna Cotta, Red Velvet dessert in a Jar and Lemon Curd Tart and spend some time with your siblings over these sweet treats. Or recount childhood memories and bond with your brother or sister over a shared cheese platter with matching wines.

So go on and shower your sibling with love and make the most of the time together. Happy Raksha Bandhan!

Image Credits: Google

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Tea Time Around the World

For millions across the nation, a few minutes each morning is spent holding a cup, mug or glass of tea or chai, warming their palms in the snatched solitude afforded by the ritual of tea drinking. During the Indian monsoon, these moments become more than habit; a source of warmth against the chill and the wet. Spiked with spices or brewed with a careful selection of herbs, each pot of tea is skilfully adapted to the season’s requirement.

From centuries past, regular consumption of tea has been highly recommended in Indian and Chinese medical systems. Not only is tea rich in anti-oxidants, significantly lower in caffeine than coffee but also an excellent aid in weight and stress management. Moreover, natural compounds in green tea might protect against several cancers, including those of the prostate, GI tract, lungs, breast, and skin.

During the damp and dreary months of monsoon flooding, a cup of masala chai offers spicy relief; its harmonious balance of milk, tea, spices and sweetness counteracting the chill of the rain. Common to the spice mix are cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper; all of which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties fighting against cold, cough and the flu. Their robust, bracing flavour warms the body and uplifts the spirit.

Another spice based tea beverage is the exotic kehwa from Kashmir (not to be confused with qahwa; another coffee drink). 
Made by boiling green tea leaves with saffron strands, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods and occasionally dried rose petals, it is an aromatic beverage perfect when rained in on a special evening. Be sure to use organic spices for a true flavour without harmful chemicals.

However not all teas need to be such an elaborate process. Even a simple brew of ginger in hot water with a dash of honey is a great herbal tea, perfect for soothing an irritated, sore throat. Or steeping ginger and mint together is a wonderful tea to settle an uneasy tummy. Many people also add tulsi or holy basil to their teas as a home remedy against the common cold, flu and a whole host of other illness. Its sharp taste adds a definite kick to the beverage making it ideal for the monsoons.

Across the world, people customize their tea beverages in numerous ways. Allowing black tea to steep in a teapot, poured into cups and lightened with hot milk is recognized as the English tea after the British manner. A significant mark of hospitality in North African culture is the offer of Maghreb; a brew of green tea and mint leaves, sweetened with sugar and ceremonially poured into dainty glasses. Po Cha is the Tibetan drink of choice; a energy boosting concoction of black tea, milk, yak butter and salt. Rather salaciously named is the Pantyhose Milk Tea from Hong Kong, a mixture of black tea and condensed milk served hot named for the sackcloth bag that looks like a stocking used to filter the tea leaves. An eye-catching beverage is Noon Chai; a pretty pink tea made with a special blend of leaves, milk, pistachios, almonds and salt, also from the Kashmir region. Also noteworthy is the Japanese Matcha, a jade green tea partaken as part of a special tea ceremony.

While purists only consider green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea (all made from the leaves and buds of Camellia Sinensis) as ‘real’ tea, the ‘tea’ moniker is today applied to a mind-boggling range of beverages from herbal brews to fruit based teas. These are infusions of naturally occurring botanicals, are usually caffeine-free and available as 100% organic products. Herbal teas, sometimes referred to as tisanes can be broken into three categories: rooibos teas, mate teas, and herbal infusions. Rooibos tea, or red tea, is made from a South African red bush and is delicious hot or iced. Mate tea is considered the coffee lover's favorite tea. Made from the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant, it has a similar flavour profile as coffee. Specifically blended to improve well-being according to Ayurvedic practices are herbal infusions, which improve health and well-being by addressing various minor ailments such as indigestion, insomnia, stress, weakened immune system and anxiety.

Sipping one’s favourite brew in a few moments of calm is a universal desire. Now having your preferred blend is easier than ever. A wide range of teas and tisanes are available at all our outlets including the online store. So go on, take a break this season and sit by a window with a cup of steaming hot tea on hand. Spend an hour watching and listening to the rain as you relax with preferred brew.

Image Credits:

Hot and Spicy Soups for the Monsoons

Spicy or mild, thick and creamy or liquid thin and flavourful, with pasta or full of veggies; the world of soups is amazing in its diversity. All they really need is fresh, good quality produce and time on a stove where it can happily simmer away.

Everyone knows that any good soup starts with a well made stock bursting with flavour. Here is a simple guide to an easy, tasty stock. If soup conjures up images of corn-floury, MSG laden, unhealthy concoctions, lay your fears to rest with this post from last year full of easy ways to make healthful, delicious broths.
When sheets of rain pours down all day leaving you shivering and wet, it’s time for soup. But not just any soup; on such days you need the piping hot and extra spicy kind of soup. The kind of soup that fortifies you, leaving you with a glow of warmth from the inside.

The place to begin such a soup journey has to be in Thailand where the clean, aromatic flavours of galangal, lemongrass and bird’s eye chilli is effectively enhanced by coconut milk. While these ingredients are chock full of nutrients that boost immunity, together they combine to season some of the world’s best food, starting with Tom Kha Gai. Light, fresh and fragrant, this classic Thai soup features shredded chicken and mushrooms in a sweet, sour and spicy broth. Cook a large pot of the soup and drink bowl after bowl as dinner.

Next stop is Mexico with its hearty, spicy fare that can be easily adapted into a soup. For instance, everything that goes into chilli con carne can be used in a Mexican inspired bean soup. Cook off the mince in spices as usual and add to a broth of the cooked kidney beans, tomato seasoned with garlic, paprika, ground cumin and coriander. Simmer the lot till the beans and meat is cooked in a thick stew like consistency. Curl up on the couch with a big bowlful of this soup topped with a spicy salsa and nachos.

Soondubu jjigae or soft tofu kimchi stew is a fiery broth from Korea that infuses custardy tofu with the deep flavor of kochujang. Traditionally served at the table boiling hot in its cooking vessel with an egg cracked in the middle, this healthy dish, full of vegetables and protein warms the belly and satiates the palate on cold, rainy nights.

While the Americans typically reserve pumpkin for use in pies and sweet dishes, its creamy mild flavour lends itself beautifully to being spiced with cumin, curry powder and chilli. When roasted and pureed, this spicy pumpkin makes for a truly delicious soup with a smoky, haunting flavour from the seasonings. Brighten it up with a generous dollop of coriander-chilli pesto and a squeeze of lemon juice and serve with toasted bread.

But when everything is said and done, there’s no place like home. A whiff of the peppery-puckerish rasam from South India is enough to drive away the blues. A thin broth made from a base of tomatoes and tamarind, rasam is infused with curry leaves, coriander and spices. A big bowl of garlic-pepper rasam served with rice and a generous dollop of ghee is delicious, comfort food. A perfect hug from the inside out on days spent rained in the house.

Image Credits: Foodgawker

Monday, 4 August 2014

Spice Talk for the Monsoon

The distinctive aroma of garlic and chili flakes frying in olive oil has to be one of the best fragrances in any kitchen. As the smell wafts through the kitchen, it draws passer-bys to peer into the pot wondering how long till lunch. That is the power of spices and its magnetic draw on the human appetite. The most memorable meals, no matter how simple or luxurious, combine produce cooked perfectly in a harmonious blend of spices and aromats. A fish fillet or chicken breast has a neutral flavour by itself. But think of the chicken floating in a freshly made curry of coriander, mint, chilies, ginger and coconut milk. Or the fillet baked with some chopped garlic, sprigs of rosemary and lemon zest. These seemingly commonplace ingredients add the zest, zing, heat and wow factors to even the simplest dish of rice and lentils.

Yet in addition to the variety, flavour, colour and aroma that herbs and spices bring to food, they also possess innumerable nutritional benefits. Ranging from anti-oxidant, immunity boosting properties to fighting cholesterol, improving brain function, controlling blood sugar and aiding digestion, spices are powerhouses of good health.

If you sense a cold coming on, do be sure to add black pepper generously to your soups, masala chai or maybe try a peppery rasam. Liberally used in cuisines across the world, the whole peppercorn and the powder add bags of flavour to salads, stir-fries, curries, eggs and so many other dishes. The black peppercorn is a tiny ball of fieriness that improves digestion and aids in the breakdown of fat cells in addition  stimulating the taste buds.

One of the oldest spices known to man, cinnamon is a superstar spice with its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and ability to control blood sugar. Use this versatile, warm sweet flavoured spice in everything from your morning cuppa, breakfast cereal, marinades for meat, salad dressings to baked goods and desserts.

Once thought to bring good luck and protect against evil, the universal condiment, garlic is a real immune booster with anti-oxidant compounds. A long history of fighting coughs, colds and the flu with its fiery, pungent and crunchy flavours, garlic is an essential ingredient during the monsoon and winters. Use raw garlic in salad dressings, salsas and butters. Or roast the whole bulbs for a mellow and creamy flavour to serve with roast meats. Or lightly sweat in oil to use as the base for sauces, casseroles, soups. 

Bright yellow in colour, turmeric has long been used in Indian and Chinese traditional medicine as an anti-inflammant which fights against pathogens like bacteria and virus. It's bold flavour needs to be tempered in oil before using in stir-fries, curries, soups, lentil and rice dishes. When down with a severe cough, drink some warm milk with a teaspoon of turmeric powder in it. It will soothe the throat and quicken recovery.

The use of spices extends beyond curries and seasonings. Complementary ingredients can be infused into oil for a customizable salad dressing, a finishing drizzle to a plate of pasta, or as a dipping oil to mop up with chunks of bread. Herbs like rosemary, coriander are excellent for their strong flavours. Or combine basil with chilli and infuse for a Thai inspired oil. Or try a garlic lemon pairing for a bright, fresh infusion. Another great way to harness the potential of spices is through seasoned salts. They are perfect to season buttered toast, scrambled eggs, boiled corn, roasted veggies, soups and salads. Simply pulse coarse sea salt with flavouring of choice. Some brilliant combinations would be chilli flakes and dried lime zest, vanilla seeds and ground cinnamon or saffron and fennel seeds.

While spices feature most prominently in savoury dishes, when combined into a sweet element, they add an additional depth of flavour that is truly gourmet. Classic spices used in desserts include vanilla, saffron, cinnamon, cardamon and nutmeg. But for a new approach to spiced desserts, try a chocolate-chilli cookie or a black pepper-vanilla ice cream, a ginger-cinnamon apple pie or maybe a black sesame seed panna cotta. The addition of these spices create an unusual flavour that delight and excite the palate.

Spices may be tiny in size but they pack a flavourful punch with each of them possessing various nutritional benefits as well as flavour notes. Which is why having access to organic spices at Natures Basket only means capturing that flavour and nutrition without the fear of harmful chemicals.

Image Credits: Google