The Culinary Quest with Supriya Anand (Founder, The Food Media Company), New Delhi, India

Supriya Anand, Founder - The Food Media Company (TFMC)

Supriya Anand, Founder – The Food Media Company (TFMC)

Supriya Anand is a Delhi-based entrepreneur who took her love for food to the boardroom, founding THE FOOD MEDIA COMPANY (TFMC), which ‘celebrates and showcases innovative food related ideas through brand designing campaigns, promoting creative and inventive chefs, food product innovators, food authors and food curators.’

Approaching food, eating and culinary culture both conceptually and visually, her Arts & Literature background allowed her to work with different forms of expression with reference to food. “The thought of creating and building TFMC was to reach out & explore Culinary & Cultural experiences from around the world and to share the same with the world”. Previously she has worked as a media professional at Mr. Siddhartha Basu’s Big Synergy Media Limited for seven years as a Senior Assistant Director & Associate Producer.

I caught up with her over delicious home-made Banoffee Pie and tea to undertake a Culinary Quest, the first in this freshly brewed new Q&A series on the blog.

A dish you can eat seven days a week

Tea & a light cake

A drink you can down with any meal

I’m good with water

A dish or drink from a movie/book/television series you’d love to taste

All of Donna Hay’s & Jamie Oliver’s preparations, absolutely love their method of cooking & how they love & treat their food

An unforgettable dish you’ve had. When and where?

For this I’d have say my mother’s cooking is the most unforgettable, I truly feel nourished and happy with what and how Mumma makes anything & everything for us, with all her love & soul.

A special dish you’d like to cook for a loved one

I’d like to prepare a whole meal for a loved one

The weirdest thing you’ve ever tasted

Snails in garlic butter, the taste was still alright, the texture was horrible!

Two people (real/fictional) you’d like to have dinner with

Real life, Curtis Stone & Jamie Oliver;  Fictional: Professor Henry Higgins (from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion); and Julia Child

A fruit or vegetable you detest

For some reason, musk melon

A fruit or vegetable you love

All, as long as they are clean & fresh

A chef (current or from history) whose preparations you’d love to taste

I’d have to say Donna Hay

If you’d like to participate in this series or nominate a wanderlust-afflicted friend, holler on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!


Apple, Carrot and Walnut Salad in Lemon & Honey Dressing

In the past, many a cooking experiment has resulted from my not having eaten the fruit of the day. First it was bananas, which I’ve more or less begun to eat religiously first thing in the morning. Apples by contrast are reserved for that post 5pm pang, which coincides with the let’s wrap up work & run home hour. Thus resulting in a guilty apple trudging home with me. On one such evening, I decided to give it some glory once I got back, dreaming up something pomegranate-y. Finding no pomegranates at home, I found an interesting recipe for a Carrot, Apple & Walnut Salad. While I like to have a recipe hanging before me as I experiment, I always end up going with instinct on measurements. So here’s what I did:

  • Chopped 1 Apple (you could ideally skin it & slice it thin. My excuse was laziness and hunger)
  • Sliced bits of 1 orange carrot
  • Roasted 1/2 cup walnuts for 3 minutes in the microwave
  • Mixed all three in a salad bowl
  • Doused & mixed them in 1/2 squeezed lemon
  • Topped off the salad with a separate mixture of 1 tablespoon honey, 1/2 tablespoon olive oil & 1/2 lemon
  • Sprinkled a little black pepper & salt

And Voila! My 10 minute (or less, depending on your chopping speed) crunchy, lemony, bittersweet salad was ready! Apple, Carrot & Walnut Salad Tip: Go easy on the walnuts since a little more could completely overpower the flavour. But mostly, even after a long day at work, this is an easy please & a great way to get kids (and grandparents) to eat their fruits and veggies!


5 Things you will NEVER forget if you EVER went to a Convent school

Before you start reading, if you were born in the 80s and went to a convent, raise your hands and say “Hell Yeah”, or more appropriately “Hail Mary.” If you didn’t, no need to feel left out. You were tortured by other adults who were not being stern (out of and) in a habit.

Even though I left a home away from home in the hill convent school more than a decade ago, here are some things that follow me around.

1. Lift Your Feet and Walk

When I see or more likely hear people shuffling about, it makes me want to stop them in their track and correct them. But I don’t, for my own good.

2. Cry for Christ

This one was left unsaid, but after reading enough pamphlets on Christ’s life and bawling at the crucifixion scene in a movie at the school theater, you’re always in readiness to cry some more.

3. Graveyard Gossip

As you must be aware, all Convents are built on a graveyard. No, seriously. A silent windy night, a back-lit statue of the Virgin Mary visible from the dormitory corridor and the glistening graveyard white is sure to make you feel like an extra on ‘Blair Witch Project’ (there weren’t any. and there was no ghost. or else, you’re it.)

4. The Forever Two Minute Meal

When you’ve got a nun parading behind you while you eat the daal-with-no-grains you learn to go faster. My personal best was going from a two hour lunch routine, which involved sitting alone at the table and looking on at nothing in particular in 1990s PC (Pre-Convent) to now eating before you can say “What’s that on your plate?”. Its fun, do try it at home.

5. Cursive is King

At and after a convent school you might begin to think that people who cannot form a word by joining letters together should be shipped to another planet. It might not be so bad. They’ll take your husband away (him with the left slant and floating letters that only martians can possibly perfect). Plus the written world will look pretty and who minds that.

Life within the walls of a Convent bears little resemblance to the world outside.

In your first years ‘on the other side’, you think everyone else needs to be “disciplined”. It’s only later that it dawns on you that the ‘cloistered’ convent taught you a language of life that is stuck in 1885. But you learn to roll with it, keeping your Nun avatar in check, but not without saying a shortened version of Our Father in Heaven for the souls of errant beings.


A Date with the Queen

Pachmarhi, sitting atop a plateau within the Satpura Range in Central India, is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Satpura’. And she is full of surprises. The wondrous beauty created by both history and nature can leave many a traveller spellbound.

In 1920, Captain James Forsyth, who is credited with discovering Pachmarhi, described his first glimpse,

We suddenly emerged…on to an open glade, covered with short green grass, and studded with magnificent trees…altogether, the aspect of the plateau was much more that of a fine English park than any scene I had before come across in India.

On an extended weekend in August this year, an overnight train from Delhi got us to Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Two hours of mostly-patient waiting was followed by the second train ride to Pipariya, the closest railway station to Pachmarhi. Scratched windows let in sepia-tinted views of endless greens and curiously-named stations celebrating India’s 66th Independence Day.

Bagra Tawa

Independence Day

Country Road

At noon we stepped into the smoke-filled air of Pipariya amidst shrill cries of ‘Pachmarhi’ from drivers. Options for the one-hour ride to Pachmarhi vary from INR 60 bus ride to INR 900 AC taxi. We settled for a shared taxi in the form of elephant-sized silver vehicles driven by mercenary men intent on squeezing 13 people in a space for 9. Haggling helps as rates per person range from 60 to 100 rupees, depending upon travelling as chickens or in comfort.

Driving through the Satpura National Park, a biosphere reserve that houses Spotted Dear, Indian Bison, Tigers, Leopards, among others, is an experience to be relished in an open vehicle with enough room for wind-swept hair. Countless monkeys and thick forest cover dot the landscape on the 54km stretch. The seamless green expanse is broken only by muddy waters of Denwa River that originates in Hoshangabad district and is often flooded in monsoons, cutting off Pachmarhi from the rest of the state.

Denwa River

Welcome Aboard

Pachmarhi greets newcomers with a busy marketplace close to the main bus station that sells plastic toys, neck-pieces with gods attached on end and other curios found elsewhere. Lord Shiva remains prominent among the figurines on sale, having four main temples in this hill-station. Beyond the bustling lanes lies a small lake with its still and desolate waters, except for a few boats that line the shore.

As the car sped across the bridge overlooking the lake, the views on both sides transformed into flatlands of a vibrant shade of green.

Pachmarhi welcome 1

Pachmarhi Welcome

We chose to stay at Champak Bungalow, a State Tourism property renovated to retain architectural aspects of its colonial past. It lies in a quiet enclosure on Dhupgarh Road, leading to the highest peak in the Satpura Range. Accommodation includes bungalow rooms and AC tents, with rates ranging from INR 2,500 to 3,000 per night. A children’s park and an under-construction swimming pool are added amenities. Behind the compound lies the Pachmarhi Lake, accessible through a narrow road running along the property. Here boating, horse and camel riding are available as leisurely past-times. Peddle boats provide views of misty mountains and greenish waters, punctured only by the eerie silence of bare Nilgiri trees that stand tall in the distance, stripped of their wondrous plume.

Nilgiri trees

As we walked along a narrow path opposite the Pachmarhi lake overlooking an expanse of green, the skies bathed in the glorious evening sun suddenly made way for rain. I shuffled, trying to pull out the umbrella, but in a few minutes the overcast skies had welcomed the sun. Looking up, bewildered at this unexpected change of scene, my eyes shone with the brilliance that filled the sky. Beyond the trees was a giant rainbow.


And it begins

Day tours in Pachmarhi are undertaken by four-wheel drive Gypsy cars for easy uphill riding. Companies that operate taxis from Pipariya station can also help with these tours at INR 1,000 – 1,100 per day.

Day zero was lost getting to Pachmarhi and could only accommodate lazy boating. So we began day two early with a visit to Priyadarshini Point, formerly named Forsyth Point after Captain Forsyth who chanced upon Pachmarhi in 1857 from this spot. The view from this deep ravine is a good way to start the trip but can easily be traded in for superior sites in and around town.

Forsyth Point 1

Forsyth Point

Taking the high road

Serious mountain climbing was next on the agenda and the taxi got us to Mahadev temple at the southern edge of town. This temple is located at the foot of Chauragarh, the second highest peak in the Satpura Range at 1,326 metres. Getting to the top requires traversing endless steps, (approximately 1,260) along a steep 3.5km climb. A hill-top temple dedicated to Lord Shiva beckons pilgrims who can be found singing joyful songs when they’re not waiting to catch their breath. Old women and children, some with bare feet, groups of rowdy young men and scores of monkeys are all fellow climbers. Make-shift shops lie along the path selling water, soft-drinks and packaged snacks. Others advertise freshly prepared lemonade and black chanas.

The sight of the moss covered temple in dark stone sitting resolutely atop the mountain brings cheer to pounding hearts.


Beside the temple stands a colourful array of Trishuls raising their spears up to the sky. These are carried up by devotees who believe that offering a trishul at the temple will answer all prayers.


Outside, the air is thick with the collective feeling of triumph. Within the temple walls worshippers maintain muted tones of reverence. Beyond the boundary wall enclosing the temple are soothing sights of mountains covered in thick green cover.

chauragarh 1

The walk downhill is not as easy as it ought to be but the entire trek (up and down hill) can be completed in 4 -5 hours by the relatively fit.

The next stop is Jata Shankar, a cave that derives its name from the peculiar rock formation that looks like the matted dreadlocks of Lord Shiva and requires stepping into a dark cave while watching for head bumps. The only light inside emanates from an incense stick lit by the pujari sitting crossed-legged on a rock, blessing each passer-by as they wade through freezing water.



History in stone

As the sun began its slow descent behind the mountains, we trespassed onto the park encircling the Protestant Church built in 1875. This Gothic style red stand-stone structure stands quietly hidden behind thick tree cover and the steeple looks over empty green fields where cows had stopped to rest. The door was closed and the windows were barred with barbed wire. Our driver had spoken of regular Sunday mass but the silence belied any congregation for several years past.




In search of the sun

The next morning, our last day in Pachmarhi, we awoke to the sounds of rain that did not bode well for a visit to Dhoopgarh, the highest peak in Satpura Range. It held promises of breath-taking views of sunrise, which had been missed in Pachmarhi for the last few months. Not to be undone by the weather, we drove to the hill on a rocky road, with the fog following us a few metres behind. The top of the hill was covered in thick fog, even as the rain had taken mercy and was reduced to a light drizzle. After walking to the edge of what should have been wondrous views of the mountain range, we returned to the pot-holed road, having taken in only the white blanket views around us.



Centre of gravity

The next stop was Reechgarh, so named for the ferocious bears that once roamed these deep caves and ravines. After walking a few steps on flat ground with deep tree roots running through, we reached the top of a giant cave. Treacherous stones took us deeper and what appeared out of the clearing was right at the centre of the earth, preferably middle earth, conjured up for a scene from Lord of the Rings. Precariously balanced moss-covered boulders lay atop each other, leaving room only for tall trees that all but blocked the light from above. On the left, two large rocks had put their heads together and welcomed lone travellers to pass through. Standing in the centre, looking up and around at the rocks, one could experience the utterly bearable smallness of being.



The buzz stops here

Once outside, the sky, and life, looked larger. The car was making its way to yet another attraction created by nature. The Bee falls, also called Jamuna Prapat, begins as a stream that jumps into the valley with a buzzing sound (hence the name) and can be enjoyed by those who don’t mind cold, very public, showers. Getting to the bottom involves walking down steep steps, making the post-shower climb up its uninteresting side-effect.

Bees Fall

Brothers in arms

The last place on our Pachmarhi trail was a quick visit to Pandav caves. Legend has it that Pachmarhi dates back to the period of the Mahabharata, the name panch (five) madhis (caves) referring to the five caves where the Pandav brothers are said to have spent a considerable part of their years of exile. Conspiracy theorists, however, allege that this story is hogwash and Hindu propaganda, as these caves are actually Buddhist caves from another time. For countless visitors to these caves in the centre of Pachmarhi town, the origins matter little. With panoramic views of the manicured gardens below and the mountains beyond, it is perhaps the perfect place to round up a visit to this hill town in Central India.

View from Pandav Caves



7 lies to throw around for a food-filled guilt-free Karva Chauth

It is that day of the year again. Women in their glitzy best wake up before sunrise and hog to hell before spending the entire day (till the moon is up) fasting. The annual festival of Karva Chauth keeps many a married woman (and some unwed ones) in full preparation mode with heena-ed hands and glorious shopping. Husbands, for their part, fulfill the single duty of coming home on time. Some men of honour have begun fasting alongside their wives, to profess their love by NOT eating one day of the year.

Traditionally, this day meant freedom from housework and much laughter and bonhomie with other women in the family. For those who can manage that, it sounds like a fun day of the year. But for corporate drones who’d like to save holidays for better things in life (skinny dipping in Goa maybe), it is an uninteresting proposition.

If your idea of love does not involve giving up food for one day of the year, then you might need a fool-proof way to survive the stinks and stares as you eat normal meals on this day of community farce.

Having trouble answering “Aren’t you celebrating Karva Chauth?”

You can play these 7 easy cards anytime during the day:

  1. Incredulity: What! Is that today? Ah, well. Now that I’ve eaten already, I might as well continue.
  2. All year Love: I love my husband every day of the year. I am sending love his way with every bite.
  3. Peg it on the in-laws: (Looking distraught) The festival is not celebrated in my husband’s family.
  4. Confusion: Sound all mysterious and say “Do you know the real story about Karva Chauth?” and then launch off on a diatribe designed to confuse. Infuse dungeons and dragons if it helps.
  5. Eating for one: Say you’re pregnant and you’re eating for the baby. To be used judiciously as you have to play another card after nine months when no baby pops.
  6. Watch them turn green: Oh my husband refuses to let me fast for him. But he is taking me out on a shopping spree and cooking dinner tonight.
  7. Preparing for the Hoopla: I’m a feminist and we eat well every day to keep things perky. Who knows when the next bra burning hoopla might begin?

Don’t: Fast, abuse, hate

Do: What makes you Happy

Always: Give dirt if you get dirt