The trend for healthy eating has seen replacement of heavier and richer ingredients with lighter options but at the same time not compromising on taste, finds Sharmila Chand. IBNS | 2 years ago

Dessert pastry chef Anil Kumar at Pullman, Gurgaon, is preparing the popular Litchi Pannacotta. But instead of the regular milk and cream he uses soy milk. Says Kumar, "Soy milk, litchi pannacotta and fresh blueberries is an exquisite example of a dessert which is gluten free, lactose intolerant, low on sugar and on fat too. Extensive use of fresh blueberries helps as it makes it a super food rich in anti oxidants."

Apart from that, use of soy milk also helps in weight loss with low sugar content being one of its characteristics and at the same time is considered good for osteoporosis patients too, he says. The reason why this dessert is in high demand is because customers today are getting health-conscious but also want to enjoy traditional dish and replacements of cream with soy milk takes care of their guilty conscience.

Likewise, at The Claridges, New Delhi, executive sous chef, Rajiv Sinha uses low fat whipped cream as a substitute for heavy whipped cream which gives the same consistency to the dishes, flavours and without any other changes. "It's good for people who can't resist whipped cream; it is a good option for them. The nutritional content of eggs from hens that forage daily on a grass range is superior to that of eggs produced by conventional means. Also, it has higher levels of Omega 3 and Vitamins A and E, and lower levels of total fat," he says.

Around the world, chefs and restaurateurs are focusing on healthy eating as many diners today seek lighter dishes. They have realised that there has been a change over the past ten years, with more guests having specific dietary requirements and allergies. Adjusting to the trend the chefs try to use less butter, cream and heavy stocks. After all, at the end of the day, restaurants are about great service and food and that means accommodating guests' needs.

"It's quite vital to meet special dietary requirements of our patrons. We cater to all guest needs, be it low sugar, low fat, lactose intolerant or gluten free," emphasises Sinha adding, "We can't go on as we have done in the past, we have to find a balance between the true value of good food and true gastronomy."

For the young entrepreneur Ridhima Khanna, food has been her biggest passion ever since she can remember. She started baking at the age of ten and dreamed of opening her own little patisserie one day which she has done now. These days she offers healthy food and let her clients savour a delicious balance between healthy and sinful offerings that her 'Addicted - Freshly Baked' line offers.

"I am very particular about making hand crafted products minimising the use of processed foods. We incorporate fresh wholesome ingredients in all our products such as fresh fruits, milk, nuts, oats, whole wheat flour, spices, antioxidant dark chocolate, " she says. The 'Addicted - Freshly Baked' line comprises nutritive products incorporating only super foods. These yummy healthy treats are baked entirely with the goodness of almond flour, oats, whole wheat flour, bran, flax seed meal, fresh fruit, nuts, spices, dark chocolate, minimal amounts of olive oil and brown sugar or jaggery.

Vegan products are a part of the nutritive range too. The Addicted artisanal gelato is created using fresh milk, seasonal ingredients and fruits, infused coffee beans, 64 per cent chocolate and the best ingredients available and is churned freshly as per order. "The entire ideology behind Addicted is the use of fresh, healthy , high quality ingredients to maximise consumer taste and satisfaction," Khanna claims.

Chef Saby of Olive Bar and Kitchen, New Delhi, known for his smart culinary moves, and recipient of 'Best Chef Of India' Award by President of India, makes an interesting point when he says, "Being a chef these days isn't about fireworks or being a magician. We must focus on techniques of preparing the dishes that enhance the ingredients, not the ego of the chef. I must take out the fat and explore the soul of the incredible natural ingredients I am using."

"To me, it's first and foremost the ingredients we use and control a few important elements: salt, sugar and fat. That's a challenge for a chef."
Saby gives example of one of his favourite dishes, 'Chicken and Quinoa Salad' and explains why it fits the bill : "It is a very simple dish. Has grilled chicken breast (sliced), boiled Quinoa, rocket leaves, Modena balsamic vinegar, Greek Olive oil (extra virgin). For crunch, I add boiled snow peas, broccoli and few pieces of carrot. It's super colorful and super healthy, also very tasty. I put a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper on top. This is also the year of Quinoa, announced by WHO," he adds with a smile.

"Diners have become far more particular about what they don't want to eat and far more vocal," says chef Amitabh Kumar of Cafe Ludus, New Delhi. "When we opened Cafe Ludus, we might have got one vegetarian a week. Now, every single service, we get a handful of dietary requests. Hence, I have deliberately included many healthy items in my menu." No wonder, his new dish of the season, 'French Assiette,' a dish that's light, delicious and perfect for a summer lunch has been doing great rounds.

A veteran in the food industry, Sushil Chugh, GM, F and B at Country Inn and Suites, Sahibabad, sums up aptly, "Healthy eating is a positive attitude to food, the ability to enjoy eating fully and wholeheartedly. Over-analysis and a sense of guilt will end up killing you. Just enjoy whatever the world throws at you - that will open your mind and make you happy and healthy."

(Posted on 13-09-2013)