With the weekend coming up, women in the city have one more reason to rejoice — free drinks! Yes, you read that right. Nostradamus Lounge and Bar in Fortune Select Loudon is all set to stir up the Cosmogirlzzz Night Out on September 1, 8pm onwards. There will be free cocktails and drinks for women all night long, with DJ Ritzee at the console. There are special vouchers and gifts for the girls too. “We wanted to offer women a safe and secure place where they can let their hair down and have a drink in peace. Moreover, our idea is to expose them to original cocktails where we use premium brands and create something that connoisseurs would appreciate,” says mixologist Irfan Ahmed of Nostradamus. Guys get to drink deep too, but for a price — Rs 1,119 (including taxes) for unlimited drinks, when it comes to domestic beverages. For foreign brands, they have to pay Rs 1,499 (including taxes) for unlimited drinks. Stag entry is not allowed.
With temperatures high and the air sticky in most of the US and India right now, the thought of eating a rich Indian meal has little appeal. But the Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna says that it is possible to enjoy the flavourful food India is known for without feeling weighed down.
The 41-year-old chef, who runs the upscale Indian restaurant Junoon in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighbourhood, was raised in Amritsar, Punjab, eating meals focused on seasonal produce and got into the culinary industry when he started a catering company at 17. He eventually ended up in the United States, where he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America.
Besides being known for his skills behind the stove, Khanna is also extremely health-conscious and believes that eating well doesn’t mean eating heavy. He shared with India Ink one his favourite summer recipes, Sol Kadi, a chilled coconut soup, and talked about his latest projects, one of which was inspired by the Dalai Lama and another that brings Khanna back to India again and again.
Tell us about the Sol Kadi recipe.
It comes from Goa and is very cooling. It’s very simple to make and takes less than 10 minutes. The chillies actually add lightness. If you look at any region which is hot in India, like Madras, the food is really spicy. It may not sound intuitive, but eating hot food actually evaporates the heat from the body because you tend to sweat.
How would you turn it into a complete meal?
You can saute shrimp and add to it the soup itself or you can serve it as a starter course with some flatbread. If that’s the case, then I suggest serving a simple grilled meat as the entree. Take a chicken breast, for example, and rub it with lemon juice, olive oil and Madras curry powder and throw it on the grill. You can also do this with lamb chops.
What are some other good Indian-themed summertime dishes?
Khichri, which is like an Indian-style risotto made with lentils, is the ultimate summer dish to me. You can add lots of vegetables to it, and the lentils give you protein. Serve it with cool yogurt for a very refreshing meal.
What do you like to eat yourself, and how does that translate into Junoon’s menu?
I am very into health. In fact, I was just shot for the cover of Men’s Health in India. I am 41 but still try to maintain a 28- to 29-inch waist. I work out seven days a week and have a membership to 24-Hour Fitness, where I go at 1am or 2am after I’m done working. I’m into grilling and eating healthy carbs. Thus, at Junoon, I try to lighten the dishes as much as possible. We have a lot of grilled options, and we offer red and black rice, which are very good for you. And we have homestyle recipes which naturally use less oil, such as saag with gobi and stewed chickpeas. And in dishes which traditionally use all cream, like korma, I use a mix of cream and yogurt. I also use meat bones to add flavour to curry dishes instead of oil or cream.
Can you talk a bit about your upcoming projects?
I am in the middle of working on an encyclopedia of Indian cooking, which will be out in 2016. It chronicles 4,000 years of Indian cooking and will have 2,000 recipes. I’ve already been to India 11 times to do research for it. Then, I just wrapped up a cookbook called Return to the Rivers, which will be published next year. It’s an understanding of the cuisine between India and China and has recipes from Bhutan, Tibet, Burma, Nepal, as well the Himalayan region between India and China. It was inspired by the Dalai Lama, who actually wrote the foreword of the book.
How did that end up happening?
I met him for the first time five years ago at an event at the Waldorf-Astoria, and he was telling me about this lost cuisine. I immediately felt compelled to write a book on it. I met him again a few years later when he was in New York and told him about what I was doing. He seemed very enthusiastic about the project and hugged me. I contacted his team in India, and they told me that he would be happy to write the foreword, and soon he sent me a beautiful introduction.
8 ounces kokum fruit (can substitute with tamarind, lime or lemon juice)
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
Ĺ tsp cumin seeds, lightly roasted
1 large green chilli
3 cloves garlic
ĺ tsp salt, or to taste
2 tbs fresh coriander, finely chopped
In a saucepan, combine kokum with the water and boil until the liquid reduces to 1 cup. In a blender, combine the kokum and the kokum water with all the other ingredients except coriander; blend until the chillies and garlic are coarsely chopped. Strain the mixture through a muslin or cheesecloth. Mix the chopped coriander into the liquid and refrigerate until chilled.