This Tiny shop Boasts Best Delhi-style Butter Chicken in Pune

THE CLAIM – Delhi-Style Best Butter Chicken

You will never forget the taste of the Best Delhi-style Butter Chicken you ever tasted. Every time someone talks about a place that serves the best butter chicken, your memory teases you. That creamy, melt in the mouth red gravy, that stick of butter slowly melting, sinking into the chicken as you serve a piece, that juicy chicken and that perfect marriage of tangy tomatoes and sweetness of cashews. It all comes like a head rush and Yummmm.. my mouth begins to water even thinking about it!

A friend told me about Tawa Street, a tiny shop on the other side of town that claims to serve Delhi-style, best butter chicken in Pune. “That is a risky claim”, I thought, Delhi people are very sentimental about their butter chicken. If you don’t get it right, they will rip you apart on social media, and every other media available to them.

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Court is in Session

I made quite a journey to test the claim, 20 kilometers to be exact, and on a weekend evening Pune traffic is rude, rough and unforgiving. I felt like I deserved an award for driving across town at that hour. It better be worth the trip or I will be the first one to rip that claim!

True to the name, Tawa Street, in fact, was almost on the street. People eat on the pavement right next to a busy road. But it’s a risk you got to take for a promise of good food, because many times such small shops surprise you with the yummiest food. This minuscule restaurant was brightly lit, as bright as Delhi people can be. The owners were very warm and welcoming, like most Delhi people are. But the big question was, is their Butter Chicken like Delhi Butter Chicken as well?

The Menu

The menu is fairly tiny and includes simple Punjabi food from rajma rice, chhole to Shahi paneer and keema pav. Although, keema is not really Punjabi food, they served chicken keema which was surprisingly juicy and succulent to be chicken! I loved the keema masala and really enjoyed the taste, until I found it was chicken keema, and then I was really blown away! I’ve worked in Luxury hotel kitchens, Chicken keema easily dries out while cooking and it is really tough to keep it juicy. The guys in the kitchen must have some skill to do that.

I had already gorged on the chicken keema pav and tandoori chicken, which was not on the menu, before the butter chicken was even served. TheTandoori Chicken was delicious and the masala had reached to the bone, the quality of chicken was outstanding, very gawran (aka desi) chicken flavor. If you want to try this, you need to request them on the side. If they aren’t too busy, they might oblige.

The Delhi-Style Butter Chicken

In the end came Tawa Street butter chicken. I wasn’t that hungry to bother about it. Butter chicken is available everywhere, I know what it is supposed to taste like. I can have it anytime, anywhere. Or can I?

*Takes a bite, pauses a second, widens eyes and wildly digs in for the next bite*.

Not this butter chicken. Not this gravy. No one can create this awesome Delhi-style, amazeballs Butter Chicken. No one I know in Pune at least.

I’ve eaten butter chicken everywhere from Shadi Buffets to UK Curry Houses, from Luxury five star hotels to Dhabas in Amritsar and Ludhiana. Believe me when I say very few people get that Delhi Butter Chicken right. My all time favourite go-to shop used to be in Mahim, Mumbai, right next to a mosque. He adds color in his gravy, but when you taste that butter chicken it is worth it!

Tawa Street butter chicken was etched in my memory just like that. I had thought that I’ll eat just one bite to taste and be done. But no true blood, Butter Chicken lover can ever do that to really good butter chicken. I ate one bite and I couldn’t stop after that until I wiped the bowl clean. It was so yummy and not at all sweet. Just like Delhi-style butter chicken should be. Not too hot, not sweet, distinct, perfectly balanced cream and spices, lots of chicken tikka pieces, just right!

Tawa Street is so far away from me, but when I feel like Butter Chicken, no other butter chicken in Pune will do. Go try it out today, they put a good quantity of chicken pieces in it and at Rs280, they serve good quality food and it is worth it. They also serve Shahi Paneer for vegetarians, which is made in a similar gravy base.

I tried this in Jan 2017, if you try it after me, let me know if they are maintaining the quality and what you thought of that butter chicken.

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Kebabs, Baklava, Martinis – Ignite the Arabian Nights at Courtyard Marriott

My stomach rumbles every time I pass by a tiny Kebab corner with garlicky smoke or a Shawarma grill on the street. Even when my neighbours light up their charcoal grills for Kebabs in February, I am tempted to go over and say Hello!

There’s something about Middle Eastern food that brings people together to eat. Passing a over platter of hummus & pita or crowding around a plate of freshly grilled kebabs, and even wiping off that last smudge of Tzaziki from the mezze platter is what Arabic feasts are all about!

Just like that, last night the food of Lebanon, Egypt and Iran brought together people from Kolkata, Hyderabad and Delhi together at one table in Courtyard Marriot, Hinjewadi. There were some quick intros and some laughs interspersed with Mmmmz of the succulent Kebabs.

arabian-nights-courtyard-marriott

From Top left (Clockwise) Joojeh Kebab, Date Ice Cream, Chicken Aubergine Stew, Baklava

In my experience as a food consultant, cooking and experimenting with food I know how difficult it is to deal with chicken to make succulent kebabs. Very few can nail the technique, as it depends not only on the quality and freshness of meat but also the cut of the meat and technique used to cook it. It is not easy to make chicken mince or tikka kebabs evidently juicy, cooked and evenly spiced through the meat. And I have to say, Chef K.K Gopalkrishnan nailed it!

In my opinion the best part about the Middle Eastern Food Festival at Courtyard Marriott was its subtlety. It is commendable how the cumin and lemon flavours in a flavourful chicken stock were pronounced and balanced in the Soup – a – Murg. I do not know if such a soup actually exists in Arabic cuisine but the combination of flavours do, and they were beautifully balanced and rounded by lemon.

The Joojeh Kebab and Joojeh Kobideh were my favourite on the tasting menu. While joojeh kebab was a tikka style kebab, it was lightly spiced with very understated flavours that were highlighting the freshness and flavor of the thigh meat rather than taking away from it. Similary, the Joojeh Kobideh minced chicken seekh kebab was very lightly spiced and fresh, and I have no idea how the Chef managed to make it so juicy and well cooked. Above all, the kebabs were not oily and very light on the stomach.

The Chelo Kobideh seekh that is mutton seekh was also flavourful and tasty, but because I know how challenging it can be to cook chicken right, the chicken kebabs won it for me.

If I were a vegetarian, I would go to the festival for the dessert. While the hummus, pita and falafel were satisfactory, they weren’t as delicious as the non-vegetarian fare. I know it is cliché to say this in a Kebabs and grills place, while I enjoyed the falafel, it isn’t something I’d go back for.

The main course too was enjoyable, but in some ways I felt like I had already enjoyed the high point of the meal in the form of the amazing Kebabs. The meat and aubergine stew was non spicy yet very refreshing and flavourful, the aromatic rice gave it an oomph that was even better than the stew itself!

Even though, on a regular day I don’t save my appetite for dessert, there’s no way I can miss the rare Baklava that oozes with syrup as you bite into the crispy richness of nuts. The date ice cream is oh-so-creamy it is criminal to serve just one scoop. The hot om ali pudding was similar to a Halwa with rabdi on top, but a richer, nutty version of it. I’d totally make a second trip here for the dessert.

Although it wasn’t a part of the Food festival I was invited for, I must mention the Golden Martini that I tried with this meal. It was flavoured with elder flower and it is by far the yummiest, most aromatic cocktail I have had in a long long time, and I’ve had a lot of cocktails! It is worth mentioning that this drink alone, with or without the food festival is likely to bring me back to Ignite in Courtyard Marriott for a drink with friends. If you are visiting Ignite, don’t miss their Golden Martini, I am not surprised their Mixologist was awarded by the Times Food Guide this year because this drink at the bar tasted very promising.

I would recommend the Courtyard Marriott Arabian Nights Food festival to all those who love Kebabs and a good drink. The food festival is on till 9th February and there is an extensive a la carte menu with a variety of Kebabs and mezze to choose from. Ignite has a lounge like feel, with canopy seating areas made for groups. I think it is a great place for an evening out with friends. Let me know if you end up trying some of their other dishes and share your experience in the comments below.

If there is a new place or a cuisine you would like to try, or a variety of food you are trying to find in Pune or Mumbai, mention it in the comments and I’ll do my best to find it for you.

Foodmantra for Beauty – 3 Ways to Use Apple & Walnuts for Glowing Skin

 

I remember watching an episode of Oprah once, very long ago. I was a teenager back then, fighting acne and insecurities related to it. I remember how inspired I was, I wanted to be as confident and as beautiful as the women on that show. I never thought that it would be easy, especially for a girl like me! Even in my growing years I was plump with wavy dark hair and a face dotted with old and new acne marks.

Even so, one little line from that show always stuck with me. It was, ‘Happiness makes you look good’. Even to this day, I believe that happiness truly makes a woman look the best she can look. Well, happiness and a little care will make you feel good about yourself.

To make myself look and feel beautiful, I follow a three-step mantra every single day. ‘Eat well, sleep well and cleanup well’. Trust me, you can follow these simple rules too. Here’s how I do it.

 

FoodMantra for Better Sleep

I really believe in getting my beauty sleep. Eight hours of stress free sleep. Not only does this avoid puffy eyes, your face looks hydrated and cared for. I’m serious! Stress and lack of sleep speeds up the onset of wrinkles. That means sleeping well prevents your skin from ageing quickly. I know getting that simple beauty sleep can be hard. It is easy to get preoccupied with work, errands and random thoughts. One thing that has worked for me is eating natural foods that have nutrients that help you sleep better.

Walnuts for instance, have melatonin, which is associated with better sleep patterns, and its Omega-3 fatty acids help in relieving stress. Not just that walnuts are loaded with Vitamin B that is also known to be an excellent stress and mood manager. Better sleep and low stress levels are going to make your skin look healthy, hydrated and beautiful everyday.

Walnuts are full of Vitamin E and the antioxidants remove toxins and fight free radicals that also delay the aging process. Walnut oil helps in hydrating and moisturizing the skin. It also reduces puffiness, soothes and relaxes the eyes and lightens dark circles.

Not only are walnuts great for your sleep and skin but also they make your hair better. They are full of useful nutrients like Omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and potassium that strengthen hair follicles and prevent hair loss. The natural oil in walnut moisturizes hair and gives them a natural glow. It is also a natural anti-dandruff and anti-fungal agent to prevent scalp infections. The walnut husk is a natural coloring agent that naturally highlights the hair. So in every way possible, walnuts make you look good!

 

Foodmantra for Eating Well

When was the last time you treated your own self to a delicious breakfast and felt really good about it? I’m tired of people associating anything tasty or sweet with negative emotions like, ‘I shouldn’t’ or ‘this is bad for me’. Eating well makes me really happy. Good food makes you feel energetic, light and happy all day. It carries us through our day. I don’t mean we load up on sugar every morning, but incorporating nuts and fruits in our breakfast can do wonders to the way we look and feel.

Including apples for instance, brightens, tightens and lightens the skin – also know as BLT. The antioxidants in apple prevent tissue damage, potassium is required for the skin, Vitamin A for new skin development and Vitamin C protects the skin. The collagen in apple helps the skin remain youthful and flawless. During the summer it can do wonders for your health and even for your skin! Here’s my recipe that combines the goodness of apple with the richness of walnuts to make a great breakfast.

No-Mayo Healthy Waldorf Salad

Serves 1

Ingredients

Apples, cut into bite size pieces; 1 cup

Walnuts, chopped; 2 tablespoons

Celery, Chopped; 2 tablespoons

Raw Honey; 1 tablespoon

Cinnamon powder; 1 teaspoon

Yogurt; 2 tablespoons

Iceberg Lettuce, ice- cold cups; 2 leaves

Method:

In a large cold bowl, add yogurt, cinnamon and honey and whisk into a smooth dressing.

Add in the chopped celery and walnuts and fold it with the yogurt.

Fold in apples and the chill the salad for 20 minutes.

Place ice-cold cups of Iceberg lettuce on a plate and add spoonful of salad into the lettuce cups.

Serve right away!

This recipe makes a great healthy, wholesome and nutritious mini-meal. Perfect to start the day and stay energized. Apple walnuts crepes protect you and make you more beautiful with every passing day. These ingredients are great to ingest and also to apply for a great looking face.

 

Mantra for Better CleanUp

As I have mentioned above, using walnut and apple together is not only nourishing when eaten, it can also be applied on the skin. It helps in cleaning dead skin, energizing and brightening the face with useful nutrients. A mix of these two ingredients to scrub the face helps get rid of blackheads and makes the skin glow. I find it increasingly difficult and expensive though, to prepare this mixture at home everyday. For regular and frequent exfoliation, moisturizing and nourishment, I have to rely on something that is easier to do.

I found that Himalaya’s  #GentleExfoliatingWalnutScrub turned out to be much cheaper than using actual walnuts and apple. It is great in the summer because the skin tends to darken and my skin is oily, so it attracts dirt and then I get pimples. The Walnut scrub helps me clean, remove blackheads and scrub out dirt from the pores. It also gives that suppleness from the moisture in walnut and that thin glow from the nut oils. When it comes to brightening, lightening and tightening – Himalaya #GentleExfoliatingWalnutScrub uses the same nourishing ingredients but it is applied on the skin and not eaten for breakfast!

I feel really good about the fact that I’m using such rich ingredients that nourish my skin with their nutrients for 130 bucks. It is literally like using the healthiest breakfast of fruits and nuts to clean and nurture my skin. Most importantly, I can use it frequently and regularly to clean my face. I know the scrub boasts its natural ingredients, so I find it way safer than using complex sounding chemical compounds that I don’t understand.
You’ll be surprised to see how hard it is to clean your face properly. Ever so often, we assume that we have washed off the dirt and pollution we attract to our exposed faces everyday. When you look closely, that same dirt clings on to the oil on the face and forms acne, blackheads and makes the face look dotted and patchy. We even wonder why our face isn’t glowing even though we think that we are eating right.

Sometimes we miss including the yummiest and the most important nutrients in our daily diet. We also unknowingly ignore the importance of our sleep and daily hydration; not realizing that what makes us beautiful is the mantra to happiness itself! If you want to look beautiful, don’t forget to sleep well, eat well and cleanup well everyday. Happy Smiling!

Know about more ingredients that benefit your skin, hair and beauty, here.

walnut scrubF

 

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Foodmantra for Great Skin, Hair & Beauty – 9 Ways to Use Neem — FoodMantra

Foodmantra for Great Skin, Hair & Beauty – 9 Ways to Use Neem

 

Have you noticed that the best things in nature are concealed in an unpleasant mask? Like the sparkle of a diamond for instance, is hidden in the darkness of coal, and it takes great effort to reap that sparkle. In many ways, Neem is the diamond of the plant family. It may be bitter in taste, yet it is so beneficial for health that in my opinion, it is more precious than diamonds.

 

Neem leaves, though bitter as hell, are known for the prevention and cure of over hundred diseases. Neem is known to be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and even anti-cancerous as per some studies. Although the consumption of neem is frowned upon because of the unpleasant taste, it has been used for cooking, bathing and chewing for centuries in India owing to its powerful medicinal properties. The ancient science of cooking in India incorporates bitter flavours in recipes, it includes such herbs and ingredients to enhance therapeutic properties in food.

 

Below are some effective ways in which neem can be incorporated into our daily regime so we can obtain the benefits of its powerful healing and protective qualities.

 

 

Foodmantra for Neem Leaves & Neem flower

 

Disclaimer: Pregnant and women who are breast-feeding should avoid ingesting neem because its safety at such times has not been established. It increases the heat and energy in the body and can be spermicidal in large quantities. Drinking lots of water or ash gourd juice brings down the body heat.

 

#1 Neem leaves in Tea

 

Tender, young neem leaves can be added to boiling water till the water turns slightly greenish and sipped on its own. It can also be added to your choice of tea. I personally prefer to go for neutral tea like regular green, white or black tea rather than their flavored counterparts. Neem leaves are known to have a calming effect, have anti viral properties and strengthen the immune system.

 

 

#2 Neem flower in Thandai

 

Thandai is a special drink prepared and served during Holi that marks the change of season. Neem is rich in anti-oxidants and prevents viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Neem flowers used in the preparation of Thandai prevents us from catching cold or viral infections.

 

 

#3 Neem leaves for Tempering in Curries & Dal

 

Tender, young neem leaves are less bitter and can be used like curry leaves are used in tempering curries and dals. The small quantity prevents the curry from getting bitter while adding the therapeutic qualities of the wonder leaf to your food.

 

 

#4 Neem Leaves in Curry

 

Blanched neem leaves are used in some South East Asian and Thai seafood curries, such as shrimp curry. Neem leaves are blanched two to three times in hot water to get rid of the bitterness, and then added to shrimp curry with palm sugar and tamarind paste.

 

 

#5 Neem flower in Rasam & Rice preparations

 

Neem flower is less bitter than neem leaves. These flowers are used as a vegetable called Veppam poo in South Indian vegetable curry preparations such as rasam and rice preaprations like Neem Flower tempered rice which uses roasted neem flower powder.

 

 

#6 Neem in Bengali Vegetable Curries & Stir Fry

 

Several Bengali dishes use bitter flavours in the cuisine beautifully incorporated in stir fries and curries. Other than the use of Karela, neem is cleverly used in preparations such as neem begun, which is, eggplants simply tempered with neem leaves, turmeric and some other spices. Neem is known to help control diabetes and purify blood.

 

 

Neem for Teeth, Skin & Hair

 

#7 Neem for Teeth

 

You may have seen your grandmother or many people in villages chewing the bark of a neem tree. Many toothpaste brands also boast about carrying the properties of neem for healthier gums. Not only does the neem bark strengthen the gums, it also makes your teeth pearly white! It prevents ulcers, infections and bad breath. So next time you see a neem tree, do break a twig and chew it.

 

 

#8 Neem for Hair

 

I remember taking a neem water bath as child when I had chicken pox, to prevent the itching and scars from the pox. Neem leaves boiled in water can be used to rinse and wash hair. Neem water prevents dandruff and other infections on the scalp.

 

#9 Neem for Skin & Beauty

 

I’ve had an oily skin and acne issues ever since I was a teenager. Not just that, I tend to get redness on my cheeks as well. Each time people looked at my face, they would start with a chapter on skin care advice. Why don’t you try haldi? Do you go for clean-ups regularly? I think you should use our special 1000-rupee mudpack that will clear up your skin right away!

 

I’m a real believer in natural remedies; I avoid applying chemicals or never-heard-of fancy sounding compounds on my face, it makes me nervous. I’d much rather try the haldi and neem remedies. Bathing with boiled neem leaves or applying neem seed paste on the skin can help in clearing skin and reducing acne, even so it is really inconvenient to use neem in this way. The problem is, I could never make or apply these natural pastes regularly.

 

It is tough to include this ritual with a hectic work schedule. Incidentally, I found something that I can fit in my daily routine. The Himalaya Neem pack is easy to use, and can be applied and cleaned in a matter of minutes. The best part is that I don’t need to find and grind the neem seeds, and go through all that pain. I can actually get the goodness of neem without all that hard work. The Himalaya Neem pack has the neem and haldi both. Neem helps disinfect the skin and the haldi also works as an antiseptic to keep germs away. I try to apply it every other day to keep my skin clear and healthy.

 

I’ve recently started using the Himalaya Neem pack around a week ago. I bought a bottle for 130 bucks last week. It has really helped in clearing my skin and the redness I had on my cheeks has reduced. It has also made my skin softer, cleaner and it looks hydrated. I have an oily skin, so in case you have dry skin and you want to try this pack, do read the label on the back. I had the habit of raiding the kitchen every weekend to make my own face pack, but this one really has helped me. I would use dried neem, haldi powder with some besan. This pack is a lot like that home pack, very natural and safe to use. It is a great idea to incorporate neem in your daily routine, just make sure you don’t have any allergies to any of the ingredients.

 

What is the Latest Trend in Outdoor & Wedding Catering? The Food Affair, Ahmedabad — FoodMantra

The Food Affair It was a party filled with colourful exuberance, fine food and crème de la crème of Gujarat studded all together in one starry night. Saying that my experience in Gujarat was rich in every way, would be an understatement. The thing that struck me most though was the many memorable smiles I…

via What is the Latest Trend in Outdoor & Wedding Catering? The Food Affair, Ahmedabad — FoodMantra

Where to find All-You-Can-Eat Seafood Buffet in Mumbai? — FoodMantra

Disclaimer: I was in JW Marriott, Sahar Airport in Mumbai on an invitation. The article below is not a restaurant review and no ratings are applicable. This is a factual account and my personal views about this buffet. Craving seafood? It cannot get better than this buffet at the JW Marriott Hotel, Sahar Airport in…

via Where to find All-You-Can-Eat Seafood Buffet in Mumbai? — FoodMantra

6 Tips to Grow-Your-Own Food

Garlic Nation

There’s a certain romance in enjoying a rustic meal in a humble rural home in India. Whether it is a simple zunka bhakar on a damp, monsoon morning near Sinhgad fort in Pune or enjoying sarson ka saag – makke ki roti topped with homemade butter on a chilly February afternoon in Ajnala, in the suburbs of Amritsar.

No matter how hard we try, we are hardly able to achieve those smoky flavours of a bhatti or the pungency of the mustard in a similar meal which is cooked in the city. No matter how perfect the recipe was, and no matter how many times I tried to improve it with fancy techniques, I was almost never able to achieve the pure flavours of these classic dishes in the city.

Then one day, I stumbled upon the reason for my not-so-perfect cooking. I was in Ajnala, in the suburbs of Amritsar for some research for Masterchef India a few years ago. While chatting with the lady of the house, I just picked up some wild mustard leaves, growing near the hinge where the cows were tied, and chewed them just like that. To my surprise those leaves were tastier than any salad or sarson ka saag that I had every tasted. Fresh, flavourful, pungent and perfect!

This was a eureka moment for me. I had always wondered why mom’s aloo-gobhi so proudly exhibited the fragrance of cauliflower while my aloo gobhi tasted like masala on a bland floret. I only realised after this incident that my mother buys cauliflower from a local, farmer’s market that sells organic or “gawthi” produce, while I buy large, beautiful looking vegetables from the supermarket.

This made me wonder whether the next generation will recognise any flavours other than garlic! We are so used to masking the blandness of our vegetables with garlic, that garlic is all we know, garlic is all we can taste. If you don’t believe me, try making a clear vegetable soup or vegetable puree and you will realise that it tastes like nothing. No distinct smell of vegetables, no pungency and no fresh flavours.

When vegetables are genetically modified or injected with growth boosters for speedy growth and bigger size they don’t always develop the flavours completely. In rural areas on the other hand, people have the space and luxury of growing their own vegetables. They also have easy access to “gawthi” or organic produce growing nearby, which is also cheaper than GMO (genetically modified) vegetables due to lower investment on growth and size boosters. Hence, when you eat a meal in a rural home or a dhaba, they taste distinctly different, fresh and pronounced in flavours other than garlic.

In a city like Mumbai, it is a challenge to buy “gawthi” produce at affordable prices, let alone grow your own vegetables. There are a few tricks and tips however, that can help grow a few vegetables at your window.

6 Ways you can Grow-Your-Own Food

  1. You can easily grow smaller plants like chillies, tomatoes and even bell peppers at your window garden. You can simply dry and use the leftover seeds of these vegetables before they are refrigerated. These vegetables grow easily, and also fruit quickly.
  2. It is a good idea to plant any type of beans in the soil before planting any other kind of vegetable. Beans make the soil fertile and nitrogen-rich, which will aid in growing other vegetables better.
  3. Coriander, methi and mustard among other herbs are easy to plant. The fresh herbs are ready to use in just a couple of weeks. What’s more? Most Indian households store coriander seeds, methi seeds and mustard seeds in their spice box. As long as they are not roasted, they can simply be planted on damp cotton.
  4. When planting beans, it is good idea to soak them overnight, then tie the soaked beans in a damp cloth until they sprout. Once they sprout, they can be planted in damp cotton or directly in soil.
  5. Keep a larger pot with some soil aside at your window. Throw in fruit or vegetable peels, even egg shells in this pot. The soil should remain damp. In four to six weeks, this soil and other contents can be used as manure for your vegetable plants.
  6. I simply bury leftover fruit and vegetable peels in my full-grown vegetable plants. This nourishes the plant with no extra effort.

There is a strange sense of satisfaction in plucking a few fresh coriander leaves and tearing them into a freshly made, piping hot bowl of dal and teaming it up with a side salad of freshly picked homegrown heirloom tomatoes. It is a feeling that can hardly be described but only experienced. If you too feel that vegetables don’t taste the same any more and have ideas to make a difference in home cooking. Do share your views in the comments below.