Eating with hands – Connecting food to the soul – By Anuradha Gupta

Eating food with the hands in today’s times is perceived as being unhygienic, bad mannered and primitive. However within Indian culture there is an old saying that, eating food with your hands feeds not only the body but also the mind and the spirit. Have you ever thought of why previous generations in India ate with the hands? There is a whole science for this. The practice of eating with the hands originated within Ayurvedic teachings. The Vedic people knew about the power held in the hand as they are considered the most precious organ of action.

Our hands are said to be the conduits of the five elements. The Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements. Through the thumb comes fire; through the forefinger, air; through the mid-finger, space; through the ring finger, earth and through the little finger it is water. Each finger aids in the transformation of food, before it passes on to internal digestion. Gathering the fingertips as they touch the food stimulates the five elements and invites Agni to bring forth the digestive juices. As well as improving digestion the person becomes more conscious of the tastes, textures and smells of the foods they are eating, which all adds to the pleasure of eating.
Can you imagine eating your super sinful chole bhature with your silverware? Apart from the practicality, the aroma is important too. Even after you wash, don’t you love that aroma that lingers on your hands. Later, you might hold up your hand to someone else and say “Smell my hand, see how good the food was and be transported back in the time when you were eating those!”

Last year lot of hue and cry was created when Oprah Winfrey said “I heard some Indian people eat with their hands still!”, Well I would like to tell her that not only we STILL do that in the comforts of our homes, some of us even scoff at people who try to tackle their pakores, dosas, rotis and roasted chickens with cutlery. Eating your succulent galauti kebabs with a fork and knife is like having a hearty conversation with your lover through an interpreter, the message is delivered but the whole charm, the feel, the magic is lost! Similary the sensuous connection to the food, the feeling of sharing and, practicality (in that it’s easier to pluck that last bit of meat off the bones) avoiding waste.

I strongly believe that Indian food tastes best when eaten with one’s fingers because food is more than just protein, carbs and fat, it nourishes the mind, intellect and spirit. Eating should be sensual and mindful, employing all the senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Using your hands gives you a tangible connection with your food.
Eating with the hands is common in many areas of the world, including parts of Asia and much of Africa and the Middle East because ancient civilizations believed that it heightens the sensual connection to food and softens the formality of fine dining. Also I think it evokes great emotion, kindles something very warm, gentle and caressing. Using a fork and knife is almost like a weapon. If you don’t agree think of a time when you chose to feed a baby, we invariably end up using our hands and ditch the cutlery every single time. We are taught when we are old enough to hold forks and spoons not to eat with our hands, it is bad manners, and our hands are dirty. But eating with our hands is so primal, such a basic instinct and so universal. 
My most fond memories of my childhood are the times when I was allowed the luxury of truly enjoying food with all of my senses and play with my food on the dining table. Thankfully my parents never forced me to eat using spoons and forks and let me create the mess with all the dal chawal. I was quite influenced by my south Indian maid who used to make these small balls of dal chawal and then eat and still enjoy dunking my hands in dal chawal and licking my fingers to eat those fabulous chutneys. 
Studies have shown that eating with your hands gives you a more intimate connection with your food and you don’t eat as much. And there are health benefits besides. Digestion begins while handling the food. All of your senses are activated and your attention is brought to the now of the moment. Your hands change the composition of the food and at the same time brings in the sacredness. The most common benefit heard is that when eating with your hands, you are able to verify the temperature of the food before putting it into your mouth and in this way avoid the burning of your mouth in case the food is too hot.
I refuse to eat my Tangri Kebabs with a knife and fork, even in the most formal fine dine places. I don’t care if I’m all dressed up, if everyone else is eating with a knife and fork, if some Sauvignon Blanc is being paired with the meal because for me the entire romance of the Indian meal is lost if I use the cutlery, then it is only about feeding my body and not the soul! 
I am not advocating to ditch the cutlery, all I am saying is there is a certain way to eat certain food and we shouldn’t be worried about some social disapproval by choosing to eat with hands and the truth is Indian food tastes best with hands and so be proud of it!

I will end this by asking this question, think of the time when you were loving fed by a loved one, mom, dad, grand mom or even that special person. Ask yourself was any cutlery used? I am sure most of you have that faint smile on your face now because chances are you were fed using hands

Written by Anuradha Gupta

When it comes to Teabags, packaging DOES matter | By Anuradha Gupta

I was a coffee addict and used to gulp 10 plus cups in a day and then i realized how bad it is for my health and gradually developed a liking for teas. Initially I had to force myself to develop a taste for all the fancy teas available in market but sooner than I expected I started falling in love with various teas, flower teas, Chinese oblong tea leaves, Tulsi teas and what not!

Now I have over 30 types of teas in my house and love all those. Some are organic and some are the usual! For the sake of convenience started stacking lots of tea bags in my desk drawers. Its just so easy, heat some water, dip a tea bag and I am having something really healthy! I also try to wash down a heavy fat laden meal with a cup of hot green tea.

Today morning while I was making my organic tulsi sweet lemon tea, it struck as lighting to me, the tea is organic but what is this white bag made of? I did some reading on the internet and realized that the some tea bags are made with plastic, such as nylon, thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene. While these plastics have high melting points, the temperature at which the molecules in polymers begin to break down is always lower than the melting point, which could allow the bags to leach compounds of unknown health hazards into your tea when steeped in boiling water.

Paper tea bags are frequently treated with epichlorophydrin, which hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD when contact with water occurs. 3-MCPD is a carcinogen associated with food processing that has also been implicated in infertility and suppressed immune function. 

The majority of tea bags are made using paper that is produced from vegetable and wood fibers. Most of the time, this paper is bleached for aesthetic reasons. The unfortunate truth is that most tea bags are bleached and when bleached they may put you at a high risk of many health defects.

We really don’t know what tea bag is made of as there is information mentioned on the packaging material used in making teas bag but we can surely opt for the loose teas available and brew it using a stainless steel strainer. At least we wont be causing any harm to our bodies in the garb of the goodness of the drinking tea. Also when selecting tea of any kind, it should preferably be organic (to avoid pesticides) and grown in a pristine environment (tea is known to accumulate fluoride, heavy metals and other toxins from soil and water, so a clean growing environment is essential to producing a pure, high-quality tea).

So if you are an avid tea drinker and/or drink it for health reasons, make you sure you check what you are putting into your system. A bit of caution can avoid lot of harm to our bodies.

Written by Anuradha Gupta

Flavour Is Skin Deep – By Anuradha Gupta

How many times have you been left disappointed the moment that “hot chicks” or the “oh so good looking guy” dressed in finest of brands opened her/his mouth to say a few cuss words?
How many times have you been left disappointed the moment you took the first bite of that gorgeous looking dish on your plate looking as if the great artists descended from heavens to bring this artwork on your table?
Well I would say in both the cases, way too many times in our lives.
Just as they say the beauty is skin deep, the most beautiful are those who appeal to our hearts and souls.  I being a hardcore food worshiper extend this fact of the life to the food as well.  According to me the most gorgeous of all dishes is the one that appeal to our taste buds and in turn leaves that rich aftertaste for our hearts. As the world is growing beauty obsessed and the perceptior of beauty being distorted  with each passing day or with the launch of each beauty treatment ; are we also styling our food little too much?
Of course it should look great and appeal to my eyes; that being my second sensory interaction with dish (after my nose interacted with divine aroma) but that doesn’t mean it can discount the value or importance of taste and flavour. When we lay our eyes on stunning cakes, exquisite cookies or those heavenly looking curries, the impulse kicks in and we are surely tempted to eat but we should also understand that, to sustain that excitement it should taste great as well. If the impulse can get us to drool and eat it, it can also let us leave the food unfinished and try the next dazzling dish!
Sometimes when I eat such carefully crafted masterpieces off my plate, I wonder if little more time and thought had gone on developing the taste, wouldn’t be a lot better dish! For me a beautiful chocolate cake is not one of the drop dead gorgeous designer cakes but the humble good old Wenger’s luscious dark chocolate cake which melts into my mouth and is a divine experience and hence it’s ‘beautiful”.

If you try and study the human psychic, you’ll realise that the vision has a bearing on the perception of food. Whenever we see tantalizing food, we conclude its equally great tasting and in turn our expectations sky rocket and trust me most of the time they come crashing down on ground after the first bite. I would always choose the not so artfully done food that surprises me with rich taste and leave me delighted over the former.
The fancier and snazzier the place,  chances are, more thought and efforts are gone to enhance the visual or aesthetic appeal of the dish  than developing the taste and a lot of times the eyes are quickly contradicted by the tongue. Maybe that’s why the fancy or five stars can never replicate the taste of street food joints!!
Sometime back I ate the pav bhaji in one of the fancy hotels, which looked stylishly dressed with the soft pav/bun cut out as bite sized roundels smothered with rich bhaji on top and garnished with delicately chopped onions, butter shavings and coriander, laid out on plate decorated with lemon wedges. Trust me it had everything but the taste needed, the pav / bun became soggy because it absorbed the moisture from the bhaaji and it was nothing less than a disaster. I wonder would I have not been tempted enough to eat it if it was served the conventional way and I had to dunk my hands in buttery bhaaji. Sometimes the dressers of these dishes forget about the functionality or the practical aspects of the food. The dish had spectacular visual presentation but all style and no substance  is not my idea of a good meal.
Cooks or chefs often pay close attention to plate presentation, choosing ingredients and techniques to suit a desired effect, following a standard arrangement & wiping away drips. Diners like me are often transfixed  by dazzling  food when it arrives at the table, yet even the most impressive sculpture collapses at the strike of knife, fork or spoon so that plate presentation is evanescent, what is left behind is the after taste. When i intend to eat  don’t want an artwork on my plate, I’ll waste my time appreciating the beauty of the dish,  I would rather browse through pictures of  mouth watering  food to admire their beauty at peace.  The chefs or cooks who spend so much time on plate presentation to enhance the visual appeal need to understand that diners are there to eat to their hearts content and nothing can discount the taste.
My humble request to practitioners of food styling is, please refrain from using non edible stuff, we believe everything that is on plate is meant to be eaten and sometimes this can cause serious problems. Secondly try to use flavourful garnishes that match the dish, imagine the hara dhaniya / coriander sprinkled on fettuccine in pesto sauce.  Lastly nothing can beat simplicity with elegance when it comes to lying down food on a plate!
All I want is good looking food with a taste to match and not a mere showpiece!!
Wrtten by Anuradha Gupta

From Delhi’s Kitchens – By Jen Sugermeyer

While on a sabbatical from work, I made the decision to uproot myself and allow my passion for cooking, good food, and traveling take me to Delhi, India.

The goal for this trip was simple- Indian recipes!  Going alone and knowing no one, I took this as an opportunity to live on my agenda, making this trip whatever I wanted it to be.

Though I had done very minimal research before I arrived, I did come across the Food Enthusiasts of Delhi’s blog- of which I immediately became a member. This was the first and foremost best move I made, as it afforded me the opportunity to meet a community of foodies, some of their families, and made my vision become a reality.

After arriving in India, I met up with FED on one of their food RAIDS and began socializing my intentions and mission for the trip. What I did not expect was an outpour from the group to invite me into their homes to give me personal lessons of authentic dishes! I cooked with wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and even some of the gents- everyone was willing to show me their sacred recipes, of which some I have been vowed to absolute silence.

My culinary experiences were mostly Northern India based, spanning from Punjab to Calcutta.  Being a huge fan of all types of food- I had no limitations on anything that was prepared.  I had a full experience of everything from snacks and appetizers to entrees and desserts.  Here were some of my highlights.
Paneer Tikka was one of the dishes we created, and with ample prep time, this decadent dish can be whipped up relatively quickly.  Paneer (Cottage Cheese) itself, is boiled milk, curdled, then wrapped in a cheese cloth.  In any dish, the delicate texture of the paneer melts in your mouth, while your taste buds are overjoyed with the soft, creamy taste.  It is a personal favorite of mine, and the tikka was a perfect complement to this mouthwatering delight.

To make this dish, the spices were ground by hand, which made a beautiful gold coloring.  Once the spices were crushed, the paneer and vegetables were left to marinade.  Once ready, they were pan grilled until slightly crispy.
Chole Batura:
This dish is the epitome of flavor for vegetarian dishes; a perfect blend of tomato and onion puree, beans, and spices served and eaten with ghee soaked dough (Poori)- scrumptious! It was one of the first dishes I observed, and immediately became one of my favorite Indian dishes.  Accompanied by hearty helping of chopped onions and pickled chili makes this dish a hands-down winner!

Bread Rolls
Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined cutting the edges off white bread, soaking two pieces in water and wringing them out with my palm, filling the wet bread with a potato mixture, making a ball, and frying it in ghee.  This was truly worth mentioning, as it was simple- yet made a satisfying and rewarding snack!

Fish Curry in a Mustard Sauce
The dish from Calcutta proved to be fast, simple, and piquant.  The nice blend of hand crushed mustard seeds and green chili gave a mild yet zesty combination of flavors.  This was poured over rice and eaten with traditional Indian silverware- hands only!  

 Sweet and Tangy Pumpkin:

Cooking with a family from Punjab I got to experience another phenomenal vegetarian dish.  The dish tastes exactly how it sounds; sweet and tangy- which target most every taste bud.  Prepared by a grandmother of one of the FED guru’s, this dish had been perfected for generations- and each bite conveyed perfection.  My taste buds have certainly acquired a taste for chaat masala- a tangy spice that I will most definitely keep in my household from here on out, and this sworn-to-secrecy recipe will be one I cherish.

Kadi Pakoda:
Kadi Pakoda takes a bit of prep time, but well worth the effort.  We made fried vegetable pakoda balls, which were ultimately added to the curd/curry mix.  The dish was rich in flavor and very satisfying.  A blend of garam masala, chili, and mustard seeds mixed along with the mild taste and texture of curd (strained plain yogurt) make this dish complex and yet smooth and gratifying on the palate. 
Papri Chaat:
Words cannot convey how much I adore this dish, and it is not all too often you find it prepared in the home, as it is a traditional snack food found on the streets with lots of various ingredients.  The brilliant mixture of tangy and sweet, the crunch of the fried dough, the coolness of the yogurt, the spicy bite from the chutney, and the smooth, rich texture from the garbanzo beans, makes this dish a must-try!
My cooking experiences varied vastly, and at each home I picked up various tricks-of-the-trade.  One of the most important notes I will take from cooking and eating in India is the difference it makes to take the time to grind and blend spices by hand.  The aroma, flavor, color, and strike to the taste buds makes this act of grinding an art form- and one that need not be overlooked or underestimated.  Another important note is the more robust flavor that comes from food when using hands over utensils.  The act of mixing a sauce over rice by hand, penetrating each grain, brings out an intense flavor- none of which is lost by the use of a metal spoon.   Lastly, there are no shortcuts.  Food is amazing because the time and the preparation that is put in (and if all done right, then dishes can be prepared rather quickly).  Using fresh spices and fresh food are key, and timing is everything!
Additionally, there is much to be said, especially coming from a culture that relies on fast food and frozen meals, for the full cycle of food in India; from preparation to consumption, all of which in an event.  Cooking and consuming is an art form.  It’s a tradition passed from generation to generation, it’s a way for wives to connect with their mother-in-law, and a way to identify a family to a certain region.  It’s just one more way to bring the close family unit together- giving them a daily event in which to partake and share stories from their day.
I have much practice to do to replicate these dishes, of which in some cases took generations to perfect, but I will none the less try my best to do service to all those who took the time to help teach and guide me along my journey.  Not only has my experience and culinary repertoire been enriched by these families and experiences, but I, as a person, have been enriched, and feel utterly blessed.

Any place and experience is what you make of it, and in Delhi, I made a wide group of friends and family, not to mention a lifetime of memories.  I can honestly say that had I not met FED I would not have learned as much or had as much fun as I did.  They made Delhi come alive, and gave food the recognition and credit it deserves, and certainly made this foodie’s dream a reality.  Thank you, Food Enthusiasts of Delhi, for letting me partake in your activities, there is a lot to be said for all of the members- and I look forward to RAID’ing with you again!

Text & Pictures by Jen Sugermeyer

Though there are things which need correction in this post, however I let it be like Jen sent it to me, so that we can get first hand perspective and understanding for a foreigner of our Food. However you are welcome to make suggestions in the comments for Jen to improve her knowledge and cooking skills. ~ Shashank

Parmigiana Di Melanzane – A recipe by an Italian FED

 This is a recipe shared by Emanuela Cerri, a Food Enthusiast, who loves Indian Food, is an Italian and lives in Spain. 

Her hold over English is limited, however that should not hold us back from enjoying good food.


Weather in Granada it’s very hot in the last days (38/40º C.)..remembering me India….so I don’t usually cook too much. But yesterday I woke up very early..and start cooking…so I think to share what I did.
Italian food is very simple to cook, with no many ingredients…(apart if you want Indianised the meal..) 
I prepared : Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant parmigiana), An hybrid between a french omelette and a Spanish tortilla….and Milanesi di Tacchino (breaded turkey cutlet)..the favorite dish of every Italian child….
We are two people at home, so the quantity is for TWO.
Let’s start with:


Ingredients: 2 Eggplants, half onion, 1 clove of garlic, fresh tomato puree, olive oil, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper  basil..
(Behind  two typical earthenware jars from Granada)…

– Cut the eggplants in slices and grill…. 

…… a part,  prepare the tomato sauce… ( put in a pot olive oil, the half onion and the garlic chopped……

..fry for a while… add the tomato puree…little salt, little sugar (to take off acidity of tomatoes)..little pepper and a basilicum leave…cook for 20 min.

…now you can start build the “Parmigiana”. 
Put some tomato sauce in a baking pan

put the first floor of grilled eggplants, put on the top the tomato sauce, and again on the top sliced mozzarella and grated Parmesan..

….40 minutes at  200º C in the oven…..and it’s ready!

You can serve it hot..template..or cold…

Recipes for Vegetable Lasagna and White Sauce Pasta

What will happen to this world if we do not have people who love to cook and experiment with their food? People like me, who cannot cook to save their life, however are die hard foodies, would always be thankful to people like Poonam Batra and Gaytri Vyas, who have very kindly shared their recipes with us.
Poonam Batra shares this recipe for Veg Lasgna, with healthy option thrown in too.
Mixed Chopped Vegetables (Beans, Carrots, Peas) 2 cups
Zucchini 1Cup – Chopped
Cottage Cheese 1 Cup
Onion 1 Piece – Chopped
Chilly Powder
Salt to taste
Olive oil to Sauté the vegetables
Tomato Sauce
Tomatoes 1 Kg
Sugar 3 tsp
Chilly Powder 1/2 tsp
Fresh Cream 3 tbsp
Salt to taste
White sauce 1 1/2 cup
Fresh cream 3 tbsp
Cheese 6 tbsp
Salt and Pepper
Ready Made Lasagna sheets 10 no.s
Boil the sheets in water with few drops of oil. Drain and keep it on a greased dish.
Sauté onions till pink. Add vegetables and cook partially. Add zucchini; make sure they are not very soft. Add the seasoning.
Tomato Sauce
Blanch the tomatoes, Peel the skin and mash. Mix everything except the cream and boil to make sauce. Add cream in the end. For healthy variation, skip cream and add milk instead. Keep aside.
White Sauce
Mix cream and grated cheese with the white sauce. For healthy variation, add grated cottage cheese and skip cream n cheese all together.
Grease a baking dish. Line it with sauce and layer it alternatively with Lasagna sheets, vegetables and sauce. The top layer should be of the sheets. Cover with white sauce and bake till done.
Gaytri Vyas shares recipe for White Sauce Pasta.

1.     2 tbsp. butter
2.     2 cups milk
3.     1 and a half cup full cream milk
4.     1 cup boiled pasta of your choice
5.     1 small tbsp. all purpose flour (maida)
6.     Mushroom thinly sliced
7.     3 processed cheese cubes or more if you prefer
8.     Black pepper
9.     Salt to taste
10.   Oregano for flavor

1.     In a pan add 1 tbsp. butter, and sauté the sliced mushrooms till they are brown and
        keep them aside.
2.     In another pan, add butter, flour, roast flour so that it cooks but make sure it doesn’t get 
3.     Add milk to it and stir continuously so as to avoid lumps.
4.     Let it heat a little and add cheese cubes in it after grating it or cutting in small pieces
        so that it melts easily.
5.     Now cook it until it comes to a boil.
6.     Add pasta, and cooked mushrooms.
7.     Bring it to a boil and you will notice that the sauce gets thicker.
8.     Add salt and pepper to taste (do not add before as the milk may curdle)
9.     Add roasted oregano on the top and enjoy with your loved ones.

1.     You can add other vegetables also of your choice.
2.     I’ve cooked it without flour but then it is not that thick.
3.     Put off the flame when the sauce is not that thick. It becomes thicker while you eat it.
4.     Domino’s oregano tastes best as the topping.
5.     This sauce can also be cooked with only vegetables, which also taste yummy.

Again friends, no one claims to be an expert here, and we all are together just for love of food. So go ahead and try these out, I am sure you would have a good time. Feel free to post your inputs, feedback or changes to these recipes in the comments.

Can Sushi be Sushi without the fish? Most Certainly !

The only instance a Delhiite would feel stressed about being a Delhiite is when the Sushi craving strikes. Amidst heavy thoughts of locating a Sushi bar, the expense considerations and the gastronomical enemy “traffic”, the craving goes kaput. Not to forget that although it is healthful, succulent and simply beautiful, Japanese food in general is not “the thing” for vegetarians like me, not until recently when I took it upon myself as a challenge to come up with a Veg Sushi version. So, can sushi be sushi without the fish? Well I certainly think so.

This recipe is extremely customized to fit my Delhi taste buds. Like they say “You can take a Delhiite out of Delhi but not Delhi out of a Delhiite”



So here’s what I used:-
1 Sushi Nori Sheet (The Japanese Sea vegetable toasted and ready to use)
1 cup cooked Sushi rice (well any rice cooked with more water than needed to make it sticky)
1/2 cucumber (cut into thick juliennes)
3-4 Mushroom peeled and sliced
1/4 red capsicum juliennes
Any Stir frying Oil
Sushi Mat or tin foil for rolling sushi
For seasoning the rice :-
1 tbsp. Organic Rice Vinegar
Pepper powder, Salt, Garlic powder and Basil to taste


** I have also used a special homemade Cranberry Chutney on my sushi which is completely optional.


To cook rice soft and sticky, I added 3 portions of water to 1 portion of rice and cooked it in the microwave for 15 min. Once the rice is cooked and cooled to room temperature, season the rice with Organic Rice vinegar, pepper, salt, basil and Garlic Powder using cutting and folding movements with a Spoon.


Heat 1 tbsp. oil and stir-fry the mushrooms, cucumber and capsicum juliennes till they are slightly burnt. Do not add any salt yet else the veggies will ooze out water. Veggies should be seasoned with salt only after being removed from heat.



Now place the Nori Sheet on the Sushi Mat (or the Tin foil inside parchment papers as I did) the shiny side down. Spread the rice on the Nori leaving 2 cm clear at the top, wet your fingers a bit to spread the rice evenly.


Spread the cranberry chutney (or any other chutney as per your liking or omit if you wish) and lay on the fillings.



Begin Rolling the mat (or the Foil) from the near edge, roll firmly but do not press so hard that the rice comes out of the sides.
Once the rolls are formed, squeeze them gently but firmly whilst pulling on the far end of the mat to tighten. The moisture from the rice will stick the Nori Sheet together




Remove the roll from the mat and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Now Cut into 1 inch pieces with a wet knife using a steady sawing motion. Arrange on a plate with Sweet soy sauce like i did, or any soy sauce coupled with Wasabi and Ginger Pickle.



Experimenting with your sushi is the key; you can add roasted sesame seeds to your rice, roasted chicken or steamed fish (like i do for my non vegetarian husband) or add tofu/pickled soya chunks for more fun.
There is just one rule for making sushi that there is no rule 🙂


Written by Deepti Kharbanda

PS (by Shashank) – Friends, would appreciate if you can share info on where we can get all the material used in this recipe in Delhi.

PS (by Deepti) – Yamato Ya in Safdarjang enclave, close to the CCD, has all the stuff one needs for sushi.. check out the sushi corner for Nori sheets, rice sheets, thick/sweet soy sauce, rice venagar and I think even Wasabi…