FRUITFUL

Until about February of 2017 I always thought of myself as a hardcore non vegetarian. Even now, not a day passes by when I do not consume some sort of animal protein or the other. One particular meal in the day maybe devoid of animal protein but that too is an extremely rare occurrence. I always proudly believed that animal protein was my favourtite group and type of food.

Anthony Bourdain once said, “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.” This February, I travelled to Vietnam with my lovely wife. I don’t know what change or mark I left behind there but I know now that something in me changed. Vietnam is a dreamland for street food or food lovers in general and the two of us had an absolute ball of a time trying everything and anything that was within the range of our visual, auditory, olfactory or all of these senses. One day in a particular narrow lane in Hanoi we spotted groups of people huddled together crouching on low stools poring over bowls of chunky and porridge-y stuff. On a closer look we figured that in the bowls were fresh cut fruits, bits of jelly and yogurt. In a separate bowl alongside was crushed ice which, we later learned, one was supposed to keep adding as per one’s preferred degree of coldness. So, soon after grabbing lunch we returned to the same spot.

The Fruit Bowl – I just couldn’t ever have enough of this.

I ordered a bowl of assorted fresh cut tropical fruits like kiwi, dragon fruit, rambutan, mango, watermelon and so on with chunks of colourful jellies and shards of fried coconut. The man serving us, set the bowls of fruits and crushed ice on the miniature table in front of me, unsealed a pack of yogurt and dumped it atop the bowl full of fruits and gesticulated with his hands to explain to us how we should go on to eat it. For me it was love at first ‘taste’ and I ordered another bowl, this one with some black sweet and sticky glutinous rice. From then on I made it a point to scout out this delectable bowl of icy cold goodness in each of the Vietnamese towns we visited.

The Bowl of Black Sweet and Sticky Glutinous Rice with Chunks of Jelly

I had always liked having fruits and they were a part of my diet to some degree or the other. After that bowl of delicacy I realized that fruits deserved not to be liked but loved. I feel that was when the change that Bourdain spoke of took place in me. Today, fruits are an important part of my diet and all this despite being a fitness enthusiast who watches and tracks what he eats. Although I have too many favourites to pick and choose from, I try not to have more than two or three portions in a day. Maybe, in my other posts I will tell you about some of them but I believe that though proteins are the most valuable food group to me due to my lifestyle, fruits certainly are my favourite type of food now. The way I see it, Vietnam certainly was a ‘fruitful’ trip.

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PROTEIN AND FIBRE OATMEAL

I know you’re probably thinking that this is going to be a boring read and an equally boring run-of-the-mill recipe. I mean how interesting can oatmeal be? And you’re right. I used to think the same way until I tried this fun
recipe because it can be changed around in any way to suit your mood.

For me this recipe is a treat I give myself on the days I hit the gym. Oatmeal isn’t exactly what comes to mind when thinking of sweet treats but this recipe has just the right amount of sweetness and it’s healthy too. It is rich in protein, carbohydrates and fibre and really good for you.

Oats really is good for you.

Oats is filled with goodness. It is rich in low glycemic-index (GI) carbohydrates and fibre. Low GI carbs digest slowly and maintain a stable level of insulin and the fibre helps to clean out your system and keeps you full for longer. Oats also contains more protein and healthy fats than most other whole grains. It may also help in keeping LDL cholesterol levels under control. Oats is usually consumed in the morning cooked in milk or water as porridge but it is really adaptable and can be used in smoothies or yogurts or even in pancakes and crepes. I love having oats with whey protein powder mixed with a bit of chia and ground flax seeds. Occasionally I also throw in a bit of fresh or dried fruits.

Chia maybe had whole but flax needs to be ground to a powder.

Whey protein of course is a food supplement and is absorbed very quickly by our bodies. Since, protein helps build and repair our muscles I feel it can be consumed by anyone. Both chia and flax seeds are rich sources of fibre and healthy fats.

Double Rich Chocolate

Not only is this meal beneficial but it is also extremely easy to prepare. Most importantly, it is really delicious. Check out my recipe below.

Ingredients:
1. 4 tablespoons of rolled or steel cut oats. This yields about half a cup measure of oatmeal.
2. One scoop of protein powder. I use Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Double Rich Chocolate which has about 22-24 grams of whey protein in a scoop.
3. One tablespoon each of whole chia and flax seeds. Make sure you grind the whole flax seeds otherwise they are of not much value to the body. Chia on the other hand maybe had whole.
4. A few (about 4 whole almonds and 1-2 kernels of walnuts) chopped nuts.

My oatmeal sweet treat.

Method:
1. In a saucepan heat some water. Add the oats and bring to a boil.
2. When the porridge is ready remove from heat and let cool.
3. After about 10-15 minutes add the protein powder, the ground flax seeds and the whole chia seeds and stir well.
4. You may add a few pieces of apples or even bits of raisins and dates. I never add sugar because ON does contain a bit of added sugar but you may of course drizzle a bit of honey or add sugar.
5. Consume immediately or store in the refrigerator to enjoy later.

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MADE FOR EACH OTHER – I

I know I know, this corny phrase is often used for couples who are head over heels in love with each other but rest assured I won’t be caught dead writing about that. There are innumerable such combinations from different parts of the world but I would like to share some of my favourite food and drink ‘couples’ who in my humble opinion are ‘made for each other’.

Laphroaig 10 y.o. with Danablu
At the onset let me be clear, the combination of blue cheese and a smoky whisky is quite a popular one and the choice of whisky does not matter to a very large extent but this particular one is my personal favourite and one that I have indulged in most often.
Laphroaig is a single malt whisky hailing from Islay, a Scottish isle and its distillery is right by the coast. The distinction of Laphroaig is that the germination of the barley malt is halted by burning peat, available in abundance on the island, on the level below. The controlled heat from the rising smoke lends the smoky note to the whisky. After the usual processes of mashing and double distillation the spirit is usually aged in American oak barrels and left to age in their cellars for up to 10 years in this case. By the end of its maturation process the smoky spirit has imbibed flavours not only from the oak but from its natural coastal environment as well, giving it a beautiful golden colour and its distinct smokiness, salty-seaweed like taste with a lingering sweetness on the palate.

The distillery on the coast.
Source: laphroaig.com

Coming to the cheese, blue cheese is just a general term for cheese that has cultures of the mold Penicillium added to it, thanks to which, appear the bluish gray veins throughout the cheese. It is usually identified by the bluish veins and its distinct sharp and salty taste with a semi soft texture. Now, I have tasted the Roquefort from France, Gorgonzola from Italy and the Danablu from Denmark and since the latter is the one that is most easily obtainable in gourmet stores in Calcutta it is the one that I have indulged in the most. Here, the Danablu or Danish Blue, is available in well packaged wedges. It is milder than the other blue cheeses and has a whitish edible rind but despite that the distinct sharp and salty taste maybe overwhelming for some. Usually it is served as dessert cheese or as salad dressing.

The most easily available Danish Blue cheese in Calcutta

I had read a lot about pairing good chocolate with good whisky and good wine with good cheese but one day I just happened to chance upon this particular pairing, of course, later I looked up the internet only to discover that I hadn’t quite discovered a revolutionary breakthrough in gastronomy. I was sipping on some Laphroaig and in the same room my father was nibbling on some apricots and Danablu. In between a sip I just took a bit of cheese on a thin cracker and sipped the whisky again and then what happened on my palate was something that I will never be able to forget.

Source: laphroaig.com

The sharp and salty cheese completely changed the whisky. The smoke became mellower and the whisky went down more smoothly with a much sweeter aftertaste with notes of dried fruits. After the whisky, now the soft crumbly cheese began to feel velvety smooth in my mouth. So, I kept repeating this for the next couple of hours savouring and soaking in the magic that was unfolding on my tongue.

The whisky brought out different characters in the cheese and vice versa.

Since that memorable evening, I have returned to enjoy this magical pairing innumerable times because I had begun to believe some things are indeed ‘made for each other’.

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HERE I GO

If there is anyone I idolise in the food industry it has to be the one and only Mr. Anthony Bourdain. Sure, I admit he is no more in the food industry and he owes all his fame to his contributions in the television industry but he did start off as a chef in New York City. Just like any average teenager I was picky about what I ate and it goes without saying I received enough brickbats about that but as you know teenagers can be a stubborn bunch and more often than not manage to get their way. All this however, changed after watching Mr. Bourdain on screen. The first time I watched his show the interest for food certainly piqued in me.

Anthony Bourdain, my idol when it comes to food.
Source: YouTube

I began to enjoy a lot more different types of foods. I began to experiment, broaden my horizon as they say. A case in point was fish. It was something I detested. Today in hindsight I attribute it to maybe the fishy smell and the arduous task of separating the tiny bones from the flesh. But magically, suddenly all those excuses ceased to matter and fish began to feature on my lunch plate every day.

Once upon a time I used to be really fussy with food. Now I don’t shy away from anything.

Over the years I have eaten and learned a lot about food in general. And I have learned to cook as well. So beginning from those ‘fussy child’ (as my father would call me) days to my calorie tracker app using days I have decided to express myself on this platform. For the last couple of years my dear wife has been almost coaxing me to start writing a blog and I have been fending her off with spontaneous excuses. So I would like to begin my journey with thanking her, another friend of mine who also provided a lot of encouragement and of course the one and only Anthony Bourdain.

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