This is the official blog of the Landmark Group with insights
and stories from the people behind our many brands.

Healthy Indian Food

_D3S1463.JPG

Indian food is often perceived to be spicy, overly rich and ultimately unhealthy. I differ from this opinion, however, as I know that, prepared correctly and thoughtfully, Indian cuisine can be a delicious way to take care of all your health needs.

Try these ideas for making Indian food that's as good for your body as it is for your palate:

  • Healthy samosa. The samosa is a delightful evening snack consisting of a flaky pastry casing traditionally stuffed with potatoes and deep-fried. Up the health quotient by stuffing these with broccoli, raisins and nuts. Broccoli is a superfood full of phytonutrients and antioxidants, and also works well stir-fried with coriander, ginger and chilli and filled into a samosa. To reduce the fat content significantly, try having your samosa baked instead of fried.

  • Tandoori food. Another healthy option for Indian cuisine is the use of the tandoor, or clay oven. Tandoori food is grilled, but not doused in heavy sauces. Meats are traditionally marinated with aromatic spices and yoghurt, then grilled at high temperatures to retain the moisture, flavour and nutrients of the food.

  • Saag. Saag usually refers to a variety of seasonal leafy green vegetables like spinach, fenugreek greens and mustard greens. Dig out those tasty, long-forgotten saag recipes to add some extra fibre and dietary bulk to your meals.

  • Green chillies. Use fresh green chillies more than dried red chilli powder - the capsaicin (the volatile oil that creates the sensation of spiciness) in fresh green chillies is more readily absorbed by the food, giving that pleasurable tickle to the tongue instead of the uncomfortable burning feeling in the stomach.

  • Extra-virgin mustard oil. Try cooking with extra-virgin mustard oil - like olive oil, it has monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and a high density of lipoproteins (HDL) or the "good cholesterol", and offers similar health benefits with a flavour that's better suited to Indian food. Mustard oil is good for tempering Indian spices, stir-frys, stews and sautéing.

  • Unrefined sugar, honey and jaggery. Complex/refined sugars hit the liver faster and harder, and their excessive consumption is linked to obesity, heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Unrefined sugar, honey and jaggery (unrefined whole cane sugar), in limited amounts, are healthier sweeteners - they have a lower sucrose content and are absorbed more slowly and steadily by the body. Choose these sweeteners to make Indian desserts like kheer.

  • Roti over naan. Opt for roti (unleavened whole wheat flatbread) instead of naan (leavened, refined wheat flour bread) as it's easier to digest.

    _D3X1317.JPG
  • Spices. Most spices used in Indian cuisine have certain medicinal properties attached to them, and are included in traditional recipes for both taste and health reasons. For example, both ajwain (thymol seeds or bishop's weed) and cumin seeds aid digestion; turmeric and ginger are known antiseptics.

  • Fresher is better. Choose fresh seasonal ingredients wherever possible. As with any cuisine, fresher is always better for Indian food.

  • Skimmed milk. Substitute skimmed or low-fat milk for whole milk in recipes.

  • Tofu. Many Indian recipes call for paneer (homemade whole-milk cottage cheese). Try substituting low-fat tofu as a healthier alternative.

  • Less oil. Tempering spices actually requires quite a small amount of oil, but many restaurants load food with oil because it speeds up cooking time. Try using less oil (and a little bit of patience) for Indian food that's lighter on the arteries.

It just takes a few minor modifications and thoughtful choices to be well on your way from heartburn to good health. Happy eating!

Do you have ideas for healthy Indian food? Share them with us here.

Valentine's day saved by Foodmark experts

spaghetti-in-shape-of-heart-300x208.jpg

Does the mere mention of Valentine's Day strike terror into your very soul, leaving you hot under the collar at the prospect of getting things right on the big night: the flowers, the chocolates, the perfect restaurant? We asked three top Foodmark chefs to share their expert tips to help make this Feb. 14th a night to remember - for all the right reasons.

Andrew Kloss, Chef, Wild Ginger)

It's important that a romantic evening is fun for both of you, so try to keep things simple by preparing the food the day before - just pop it in the oven to make the big night a stress-free affair. Whether you're cooking as a couple or presenting a meal to your partner, a low-key supper is always a safer bet than an elaborate multi-course meal that leaves you feeling stressed.

Things are unlikely to go to plan if you don't have a plan, so be sure to do your homework. Prepare something that you both enjoy eating and that can be shared. A favourite of mine is steamed fish, served whole, that's big enough for two. The heady aromas of the marinaded fish, once cooked, are certain to impress your dinner guest.

Paul Kennedy, Chef, Mango Tree

carluccio's-1027.JPG

Valentine's Day shouldn't be all about red roses and lovey-dovey expressions of undying love. If you want to discover the true path to your partner's heart, put some love into your cooking - it's the secret ingredient to any romantic meal.

Ensure the food is simple to prepare and full of flavour. Quality ingredients may cost a little more but, if you're really out to impress, they're worth the expense. Romantic favourites include: oysters, prawns, lobster, crab, fillet steak, corn-fed chicken and rack of lamb. Special occasions like this are a good opportunity to be adventurous and try recipes you wouldn't normally prepare; your efforts definitely won't go unnoticed.

Of course, an easier way to attract your partner's attention is through the universal language of chocolate. Try dipping strawberries in it, making a fondant out of it, or a delicious mousse - if in doubt, cover it in chocolate. Whatever your decision, try to spend the evening with your partner rather than in the kitchen.

Ankur Chakravarthy, Chef, Zafran

If you're looking to add a little spice to a romantic meal for two, Indian cuisine is the perfect way to woo the one you love. There are so many spices to choose from, each offering a different taste sensation - many Indian spices also have medicinal properties.

Great food requires only the freshest available ingredients. Choose wisely and always use the best quality, which will be reflected in the finished meal. Nothing says "I love you" like seafood: consider using caviar, oysters or fresh lobster. It's a good idea to light a scented candle throughout the cooking process to avoid those lingering sea smells through dinner. Other romantic flavours include saffron, quail, asparagus and fresh berries.

Whatever you decide to cook, it's best to keep it simple. Concentrate on basic flavours and good presentation. Put some passion into your cooking - it'll show once the food reaches the plate. Another good idea is to serve your intimate meal on bigger plates that are made for sharing - in Indian culture, we believe that sharing food increases love and affection.

We hope these hints help to make your Valentine's Day meal a resounding success. If you have any Valentine's tips or advice, feel free to share these with our readers. Happy cooking!

Citymax SuperChef Robin Gomes

Group Executive Chef Robin Gomes is a hard man to miss. Beneath his ebullient exterior - twinkling eyes, expressive hands, infectious enthusiasm - lies a man of fierce passion and tireless determination, a man responsible for the authentic flavours and fresh, innovative cuisine of each of Citymax's many food outlets including Max Music Bar & Grill, Claypot, Sizzling Wok and our newest addition, The Huddle Grill.

Robin Gomes_Citymax .jpg

Chef Gomes comes from a family of chefs; indeed, an entire village of chefs: in his hometown of Habibpur, East Bengal, every home boasts of at least one professional chef. All of Gomes' eight brothers are chefs so, although he always wanted to be a singer, it seems his fate was inevitable.

He worked his way up the food chain, as it were, starting off as a humble waiter in a Delhi hotel. Irked by the slow pace in the kitchens, he began helping the chef whenever he could, picking up enough culinary skills to be promoted to chef himself. When he came to Dubai back in 1978, he started from the bottom again, this time as a "commies cook" - the lowest rank in the kitchen - and carved his path to where he is today.

He continues to experiment playfully in the kitchen, creating unexpected combinations of flavours and textures that surprise and delight. But he's also mindful of simplicity: he encourages people to try his dishes at home for a five-star experience (see our SuperChef Coco-Trilogy)

A senior member of the culinary Guild, Chef Gomes has also appeared on live cooking shows for Ajman Channel, Zee TV and others. His philosophy? A good dish, like a successful life, doesn't need a lot of ingredients - just a lot of love, discipline and honesty. It's a recipe that's worked wonders for Chef Gomes.

What's your favourite Citymax dish? Share your feedback with us here...

Keep your cool: chillout drinks for body & mind

SummerCoolers.JPG

With the mercury rising rapidly, it's common to want to cool off quick with a glass of chilled water or off-the-shelf carbonated drinks over ice. These are temporary fixes, but you're actually doing your body more harm than good. 

According to the Ayurvedic principles that form the basis of our holistic treatments at Balance, cold or iced drinks disrupt our digestive system - controlled by the Fire element - just as cold water douses a fire. The body then has to work harder to digest and absorb nutrients, causing our pitta (metabolism) to become imbalanced. The result is heat intolerance, mood swings, irritable bowels, increased aggression or heartburn. For more balanced solutions to the heat this summer, put that iced soda on hold and try these Ayurvedic ideas instead.

AYURVEDIC TIPS FOR A COOLER SUMMER

  • Drink at least 7-8 glasses of ­room temperature water every day, including a couple with pitta-pacifying fresh mint, a tablespoon of fresh lime juice or a teaspoon of rose water. Yoghurt-based drinks (like lassi or buttermilk) are highly effective, as are those made from raw mango (panna). Cutting back on ice-cold drinks help your stomach to feel less bloated, and you'll notice you're able to handle the heat better.

  • Fresh fruit and fresh fruit juices (not canned, frozen or from concentrate) are particularly beneficial. Watermelon juice, fresh cucumber juice, lettuce juice and tender coconut water are best. Drink at least one of these juices several times a day and note your tremendous increase in heat tolerance.

  • Cooling herbs like fresh mint, fennel, cilantro (green coriander leaves) and watercress can be juiced or pureed into chutneys to further balance pitta. Alternatively, steep them in boiling water in the morning, cool the drink to room temperature and drink the infusion throughout the day to stay hydrated while benefitting from the herbs' healing qualities.

  • Favour cooling spices like cardamom, coriander and fennel seeds in your food. Use organic rose water or rose petal conserve as a cooling food supplement or an addition to summer drinks.

  • Certain fruits like strawberries and peaches tend to irritate pitta and are known to cause rashes or allergic reactions in particularly sensitive people. If you must eat them anyways, try poaching them with a bit of sugar and cardamom instead. Serve the poached fruit with a bit of pitta-soothing fresh whipped cream as a stand-in for ice-cream, or blend with grape juice for a refreshing summer drink.

Try some of these suggestions and tell us how you felt!

Citymax SuperChef Coco-Trilogy, 3: Buko Mousse

Our coco-series comes to a sweet finish with this enticing and unusual mousse. "Buko" means "coconut" in the Philippines, where the fruit is used extensively in both sweet and savoury dishes. 

At the Claypot restaurant kitchens in Citymax Bur Dubai, SuperChef Tulsi walks you through the steps of making this quick-to-fix, fab-to-eat dessert. Try it - we're quite certain you'll be back for thirds.


Love your coconut? Don't miss our easy Coconut Croquettes and our healthy, delicious Tender Coconut, Ginger & Barley Broth.

Suggest variations to this recipe or share your favourite coconut dish with us here...

Citymax SuperChef Coco-Trilogy, 2: Tender Coconut, Ginger & Barley Broth

In this second instalment of our gastronomic homage to the humble palm, Citymax SuperChef Tulsi (of Claypot restaurant in Citymax Bur Dubai) stirs up a soup you'll go nuts for.

Tender coconut, ginger and barley broth
Coconut water, from "tender" (young and green) coconuts is a naturally refreshing electrolyte that's high in potassium and minerals, free of fat and cholesterol and an anytime-favourite cooler in tropical regions around the world. Fragrant with ginger and coriander and fortified with barley, our coconut broth is a delicious balance of exotic and easy.

Catch Chef Tulsi in action in this video, and try making it yourself from this simple recipe.



Got coconuts on the brain? Share your favourite recipe with us here...

Citymax SuperChef Coco-Trilogy, 1: Coconut Croquettes

At Citymax Hotels, we're as big on taste as we are on value. Go behind the scenes with our SuperChefs, who share with you the simple secrets of scrumptious recipes. We won't blame you if your mouth starts watering - so if you want a quick fix, pop over to any of our restaurants to satisfy your craving for the yummy.

Coconut Croquettes
Citymax SuperChef Frozkhan Buhari serves up aromatic cuisine at Claypot, our authentic North Indian restaurant at Citymax Bur Dubai. In this video, he shows you how to make these tasty Coconut Croquettes - adding a tropical twist to an easy dish. Keep the basic ingredients at hand and whip them up as a surprise treat to impress family, friends or unexpected guests.


Is there a coconut-based recipe that makes you drool? Share it with us here...

A Fine Balance

As you sow, so shall you reap - and you are what you eat. At the recently-opened Balancecafé, we put these sage aphorisms into practice - and make sure the results are as delicious as they are healthy.

Balancecafé is the first of an integrated concept we call "Balance," a wellness club focused on restoring internal rhythms through holistic lifestyle guidance, therapies and food. At Balancecafé, we've combined ancient Ayurvedic concepts, yogic know-how and macrobiotic cuisine with modern-day spa-oriented nutrition to create a dining experience that'll leave you feeling good inside and out.

Enter the café (located on the 3rd floor of Oasis Centre, Dubai) and you'll already get a sense of what we're up to. The airy 6,000-square-foot space is free of clutter and chaos; minimalist design touches balanced with warm orange interiors create a cosy feeling while giving you plenty of room to relax. After all, eating is a sensory experience that begins with the eyes.

Balancecafe salad
The holistic approach extends to the menu design, which is organized by mood, body type and the five elements (space, air, fire, earth and water). Our cooking technique - using water, milk, broth, citrus juices, versatile oils, varieties of cereals, grains, lentils and natural sweeteners - achieves a fine balance between flavours and rejuvenating nourishment, so you get great-tasting food that's guilt-free, too. 

My personal favourites include Gluten-free Squash Cannelloni, Organic Barley and Mushroom Soup, Kaffir Lime and Soy Beef Burger, Teriyaki Glazed Tofu and good ol' Dhal Makhani. A special kids' menu keeps the little ones happily (and healthily) satisfied.

Everything's made fresh to order, so while you wait for your meal you can browse through our library of books on Ancient Wisdom, Yoga, Meditation, Life Sciences, Enlightenment, Self-Healing and Healthy Cooking.

At Balancecafé, we practice what we preach - so breathe in, breathe out, and bon appétit!