Half way through the month of January and I wanted to share some of my experiences; some professional and some personal. This post is dedicated to what I’ve achieved and what I would have liked to achieve last year.
2012 has been a year of learning for me. I was focusing on honing my skills and getting down to basics. Some professional:
- We introduced “pink mustard” as a new branding for our mustard and was appreciated by the consumer.
- Peanut butter on the other hand is considered one of the best peanut butter available as of today.
- Granola bars were the highest selling product without any marketing push.
- i2cook organic store got really good response and we got in products that were not easily available in the market.
- Our products are now, not only available in Mumbai but also Bangalore and Mysore.
- i2cook gifting.
- I tried different cuisines from Ethiopian to Indonesian and attempted to get as close to the original taste for Coral. The toughest cuisine was Ethiopian and injera (Ethiopian flatbread, similar to dosa and fluffy like appam) being the most nerve jangling dish for me. I was very nervous about the batter for injera, which is fermented for 4-5 days and if things went wrong the entire cuisine would have fallen apart. Injera is made with teff flour and I substituted with pearl millet/ragi flour. The response was excellent and was one of the most well-appreciated and colourful of dishes.
- I started baking and the first thing that I baked was a whole wheat bread. Now I can’t stop baking
- Exposure to new ingredients like nutritional yeast flakes, blackstrap molasses, chia seeds, cocoa nibs, millets, coconut sugar etc.
- 90% of the ingredients in my kitchen for everyday cooking is organic
- Conducted two i2cook cooking classes successfully.
- Gaining experience in retail – coming from an architectural background is not easy!
2012 has also been a year of hiring people and working together. The highlight for me was to meet Dilshad of Mann – centre for individuals with special needs, who gave me an opportunity to be a part of their family. I’ve never been with or around a special child and even though I had decided that I will try this new experience, I was a bit nervous. Scared that I may be faced with hyper activity and may not be able to control the situation. I was wrong!
Each child is assigned to you taking the work and place into consideration. I’ve hired two kids and I’m training them in packaging, labels, hygiene etc. They have shown really good results and it’s really a pleasure working with them. They really know how to put a smile on my face even after a long and tiring day at work.
Looking forward to 2013 - professional and personal:
- Introducing new product range for i2cook. We’re aiming at four new products this year.
- Launch of i2cook.com.
- Hiring more special children and training them to have a better life.
- Recipe videos.
- Collaborating with other brand(s) and producing products – some products are so unique that no Indian brand is doing it.
- More baking!
- Trying different cuisines for Coral – networking dinner which my husband and I execute.
I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog post of 2013. I look forward to reading your milestones for 2012/13 in the comment box. Happy cooking!
Coral, a networking dinner executed by my husband and I to give people an experience of meeting strangers over food and conversations. A lot of you have asked me or wondered how it all started….
I love to cook and my husband visualized the concept. We also found a lovely bungalow in the middle of the city owned by Prahlad kakkar. The three combination blended with each other so well that it brought in curiosity.
Our last coral was “Spanish” and the last one for this year. We will be closed for November and December and will be back with new ideas or maybe a new venue in 2013. Coral has a new website now and allows memberships at a nominal fee. Coral members get better benefits and discounts for future dinners.
We serve a four course meal from different parts of the world and try to keep the cuisine as authentic as possible depending on the availability of the ingredients. There are no restrictions on the portions, you can always ask for a second helping. Kima of Mizochican has described his Spanish experience.
We sometimes end up with a night cap either green/mint tea or some coffee. Coral sessions have no time restrictions and our guests can leave when they please, even if its 2am in the morning
Some points that I would like to bring to your notice:
When an event is created, it is not by invitation only. Anybody can apply or wish to come.
It is not a dating or singles club.
Couples, singles or even your friends are allowed to come. The more the merrier!
Our aim is to give you a good experience
My previous post on Food at Coral – dinner with strangers
I’m angry today. Angry because people sometimes don’t act professional. Please note that I’m not blaming anyone here. It is something that I’m getting used to…..
Coming from a small enterprise and I don’t think I haven’t even come close to what I would want to achieve. My journey seems to have become more and more difficult and I have found that “people” are the most difficult hurdle of any enterprise.
Your delivery boy decides to take a break suddenly and your client or vendor realizes that you need to be a bit more squeezed cause you are after all a “small enterprise”. Well, Infosys started from a garage and most of the pickle brands have started from a small kitchen. Why are we not trained to believe that even a small enterprise can think BIG. Being an entrepreneur may sound fancy but as an entrepreneur we are expected to think out of the box perennially. How do we deal with the daily chaotic mess that ends up taking your entire day. How do we deal with something as simple as a phone call ruining your mood because the other person decided not to think and talk without reason.
We fret, fume and frustrate over it but beyond that are we expected to keep thinking productive while others dont believe in you? I don’t think so…
Frustration and anger can grow on you and can also make you stop thinking. I felt it a few days back and sometimes feel it even now. Am I doing the right thing; we all go through this question a million times in our head, don’t we?!
I don’t want to impart any negative feelings. I’m pouring out and this is the best way I can . I think the best way to deal with “people” is to stay calm, eat and then speak. Stay calm and listen, take a bite into that dark chocolate you’ve been hiding and speak up, clear any misunderstanding or confusion till it clears. At best laugh it off and make peace. You don’t want to treat or rather hurt the other person. After all we all need each other to build a community of our own.
My previous thoughts – Being an entrepreneur(part 1)
Roasted herbed potatoes & chickpea salad
Coral is based on the concept of a Salon ( “sal-lawn”). A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation.
Coral is set in a bungalow sponsored by Prahlad Kakkar creating an ambiance; by cutting off from traffic and noise of busy Mumbai with flowing conversations over good food and drink. Coral dinners are facilitated by my husband, Pawan and me. I love to cook and Pawan came up with the idea of bringing in food and conversations together and thus Coral was born.
Muhallebi rice flour based dessert
It’s been a year since we started Coral and I’ve enjoyed setting up various menus. The idea is to focus on different cuisine, serving a 4 course meal. We want to provide a home cooked meal, native to a region that we may have never visited but possesses a culture that is brought out through its cuisine. It can be a dish from Pandi curry from Coorg or Muhallebi from Turkey.
Pandi curry with kadambuttu (rice balls)
Coming up with the menu can be a tough task and especially when I have not tasted the cuisine recently. I try to include dishes that you don’t get easily in Mumbai and some that are inspired. Sometimes non availability of ingredients, requires substitution to bring it as close to it’s authentic taste. Recently we had Indonesian as the theme and it was challenging. I’ve never tasted an authentic Indonesian meal and the closest would have been a nasi goreng. Indonesian is close to Malay food. Flavours are very simple – lemon grass, galangal/ginger, coconut, plam or coconut sugar. Blogs have always been my major source of information and inspirations. I’ve always been asked about the menu and how did I manage to get the recipes – the credit goes mostly to blogs. Getting the right information and creating a satisfying palate to go with our guests is a task that I’m trying to perfect.
Chilled avocado milkshake shots (made with palm sugar & coconut cream), Indonesian Corn Fritters (Perkedel Jagung), Indonesian fried chicken with crunchy flakes served with sambal terasi (red chili paste) &Yellow rice combo – Coconut milk & lemon grass flavoured rice served with chicken rendang & shredded fried egg
Rujak Serut – chilled mixed fruit salad (jackfruit, mango & Malay apple) served with Indonesian dressing – palm sugar, tamarind paste, lime and coconut
I have so many things running in my head that it’s not funny anymore. It has driven me out of my comfy bed, late in the night to come out and share with you about what I’m feeling.
It’s been a year (well almost) stepping into the shoes of ‘being an entrepreneur’. It took me a year to come out and write about my feelings not because it didn’t matter but because I thought that I wasn’t ‘ready’.
A year (or even few months) back I didn’t even know whether I could call myself an ‘entrepreneur’. I always thought that I’m not ready for it..maybe not yet. But now I feel different. Different because I want to blog more and share my experiences with you and not bury my emotions of good and bad times that I have had.
Being from an architectural background and not practising it for sometime was a ‘ Big’ deal for me at one point. My family and friends thought that I was a lost soul and that I wasted five years of studies for what – Cooking?!
When I started off my gig at the Farmer’s Market selling bottled products and making simple salads for people to relish. I realised that I was enjoying myself more than what I have done anything else in my life. The experimentation with products and cuisines is what got me started to start a small brand of my own – i2cook.
After the experimentation and getting some audience to taste what I cook – the next big question was – what next?
I chose a line with no experience what so ever and no one in the family doing the same thing. I just dived into the pool of ‘Retail’ – like they say there is always some room for more .
Dealers, suppliers, payments, manufacturing, prospecting, pitching is all that life has been since I started. Sounds boring but trust me I never felt bored. I did have short bursts of frustration, when people would keep me hanging for months to just give an answer – not now, maybe later…. Arghhh.
But there have been some good times – when your family and friends realise that this is the only thing you want to do and start encouraging you. I have met some amazing people who saw something in me even before I was confident of myself, as a cook. I thank them from the bottom of my heart because people like them have kept me going.
Entrepreneurship is not an easy ride and it took me almost a year to call one myself. Everyone has their up’s and downs, mood swings or one of those pessimistic moments, but at the bottom of it all ‘Passion’ can only make you work and deal with anything that comes your way.
Goodnight and look forward to share more experiences with you.
‘Vegan for a day’ is a challenge organised by Harini of Tongue Ticklers (I’ve met her couple of times in many blogger events and really admire her photography skills) in collaboration with Preethi and Srinivas of Kyra (they sell natural detergents which is chemical-free and certified organic too).
Harini has interviewed them in her blog, so hop on to her blog first to read about these lovely entrepreneurs and don’t forget to come back and read my experience with being Vegan for a day
I’ve always believed that most of our indian or everyday cooking is mostly vegan unless you add ghee or butter. So I decided to take up the challenge and wanted to test my will power for a day.
My daily ritual in the morning is to have a cup of milk tea. Only when I took up the challenge, I realized that milk in my morning tea is such a big deal. Tea without milk kinda made my day seem dull. I immediately shook myself out of any negative feelings and was looking forward to the challenge.
I usually don’t eat any breakfast (I know it’s a bad thing but I’m lazy to cook or go into the kitchen in the morning). If I’m hungry before lunch I munch on some dry or fresh fruits.
Lunch was simple with some varan bhaat (dal and rice) with alu bhajji and chilli pickle. Dal was made simple with some gur (jaggery) and seasoned with hing (asafoetida) and cumin seeds in oil. Alu were sautéed till golden brown and seasoned with some salt and chilli powder.
I had a little sweet craving in the afternoon and I decided to make a 5 Minute Microwave Cake (recipe given below) to have it with my evening black tea.
Dinner was simple carried in a dabba to office (ah an enterpreneur’s life). Sautéed Mushroom served on a bed of organic wheat couscous seasoned with paprika, black peppercorns and garnished with fresh basil.
5 Minute Microwave Cake
Recipe has been adapted and been modified from a fellow blogger and a good friend Madhuri of Cook-curry Nook.
1 1/2 cup All purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar (preferably raw sugar)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2tbs flax seed powder mixed with 1 cup of warm water
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla powder or 2tsp vanilla essence
pinch of salt
Sift all dry ingredients together like the flour,baking soda, baking powder, vanilla powder twice and transfer to a bowl.
Add sugar and stir well. Stir in water, flax seed, chocolate chips and oil and mix really well. The batter must have a ribbon like texture.
Pour the batter into a greased microwave safe dish – glass or plastic.
Now cook the cake on high (900W) for 5 minutes.
Once down allow it to cool completely and try piercing fork, tooth pick or knife to check for wetness. The cake will be done if there is no residue left on any of the devices that you use for testing.
Cut them into desired pieces and have it with tea or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can negate adding chocolate sauce as the chips do the trick
Verdict: I was travelling to Bangalore and thought that it would be a great idea to give a taste to my mother and sis in law as they are very new to the concept of vegan. They were surprised that there was no milk or butter and yet it tasted so good. I’ve tried the same recipe with milk and butter and believe me there’s not much of a difference between the two.
Vegan for a day was a challenge that made me realize that it takes a lot more of will power and determination to stay away from things that you have been brought up with. Kudos to Harini, Preethi and Srinivas for being an inspiration to many others….
October 2nd is LiveSTRONG day. LiveSTRONG With A Taste of Yellow is a yearly event hosted by Barbara from winos and foodies.I dedicate this post to all the strong people whom I’ve known are figthing against cancer. For more hearts please do visit and support A Taste of Yellow LiveSTRONG .
The picture is of Coconut Milk Pilaf, click here for recipe.