Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |  Volume 6, Issue 37, Tuesday, September 20, 2011




In a jiffy

"A good cook is the peculiar gift of the gods. He must be a perfect creature from the brain to the palate, from the palate to the finger's end.”

Wise words of Walter Savage Landor, poet and writer; not wise all the way in today's modern world. Nowadays, cooking, in many cases in our everyday lives (albeit for those who live on reality shows!), is (thankfully) simple and easy.

Ready-to-cook snacks -- sausages, chicken nuggets, rolls, etc are completely prepared, frozen and packed and to be grabbed “off-the-rack” from one of the retailers near you, then thrown in a frying pan and, viola! In no time you can enjoy delicious snacks.

The demand for such ready-to-cook frozen foods has in recent times surged vastly. These items have existed in our country for a long while now, but the assortment of items was mainly imported and hence foreign brands were the key players.

As people started to slowly open up to this concept of ready-to-cook snacks, several local companies have also seeped in.

One example is BRAC Chicken, which has a collection of “six snacks of a healthy choice” that you can choose from -- chicken wings, burger patties, nuggets, “masala” nuggets, sausages and drumsticks.

“A chief reason for people turning to ready-to-cook snacks is owed to the overall rise in the culture and interest in fast food. People in our country now eat more fast food than ever, and ready-to-cook items offer a good way of eating that at home,” informs Bashir Ahmed, sales manager of BRAC Chicken.

True, the demand for fast food has sky-rocketed. For example, even if you travel several years back, how many people knew about chicken broast? Initially, it was the ultimate thing, a promising and exclusive delicacy available in a handful of places. Today, you get a piece of chicken broast at about 25 taka from the street food vendors!

But you're always skeptical about the hygiene factor of the foods you have outside. Ready-to-cook snacks, on the other hand, have an assurance of a standard quality many consumers believe these companies provide.

And if not anything else, since you are cooking it yourself, you can at least be certain about the quality of the cooking oil used.

Ahmed adds, “Another reason why ready-to-cook foods have become so popular is that more and more housewives and mothers are joining the workforce. These foods offer the convenience, simplicity and assurance of hygiene as well as deliciousness a working mother will at times find handy.”

These foods are popular among students too. You don't need to be good at cooking. You feel hungry, and you have something good to eat. And offering some snacks for your guests to eat has never been this easy.

This culture, however, has yet to spread all throughout the country. CP Bangladesh, subsidiary of Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Group, has been running the business of ready-to-cook foods well and good, given the demand. This trend, they say, is too concentrated on just Dhaka and Chittagong.

“The ready-made food industry still needs to educate and communicate to the customers who are still accustomed to making their own food,” opines Khanthima Mongsai, GM of food business, CP Bangladesh Co. Ltd.

And surely in no time this practice will trickle down to all parts of our country.

Playing the devil's advocate, is all the fuss about this type of cooking actually worthwhile? Probably, yes: saves you time and you don't have enough of it. But the sheer joy of cooking is totally lost when you bring in the concept of ready-to-cook snacks.

Isn't cooking supposed to be fun and exciting, with the cook's individual touch? But if you think of it, ready-to-cook snacks are somewhat mechanised and standardised, where the cook has little to do.

Traditionally, a lot of emotion and effort goes into preparing something for your guests or your loved ones. But now, we typically take the easy way out.

Nevertheless, ready-to-cook snacks have made their way to your home and are going to stay there no doubt, and for good reasons. Cooking has never been easier and simpler, and this way of cooking and eating fits in our busy schedule well.

By M H Haider


Italian food festival @ Radisson

Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel Dhaka has made a tradition of hosting delectable cuisines from around the globe. Two months ago it was Thailand's turn to make the mouths of Dhaka foodies water. From 15 to 25 September, the Italian Food Festival will be the culinary highlight of their Water Garden Brasserie restaurant.

Italian cuisine is arguably the most loved of Europe's continental cuisines, and the quality ensured by one of the city's prominent five-star hotels promises to be a source of immense satisfaction for the hotel's patrons over the eleven-day festival.

Ensuring this quality falls to the capable hands of well-known Chef Daniel Steiner, who has been an Executive Chef at five-star hotels in Sweden, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. His expertise lies in International Cuisine, French Cuisine, Mediterranean Cuisine and Asian Cuisine, and his globe-trotting endeavours are evidenced in the fact that he can speak five languages.

Under his guidance and supervision, the best of Italian cuisine comes to the fore. One of the highlights of European food festivals are their delicious salads, and here too the salad bar alone may suffice as a complete meal, with items such as Tuna Salad, Chilled Grilled Seafood Salad and Classic Italian Chicken Salad.

There is also a live cooking station, beside which there is an assortment of the quintessential Italian pastas, ranging from the generic plain pasta to more exotic numbers such as Ink Pasta (made from squid's ink), Beetroot Pasta, etc. There is also an immense ball of parmesan cheese which diners can choose to be included in their pasta dish.

The entrees will not disappoint either, with something for vegetarians, meat lovers as well as seafood fans. Try the Lamb Shank, the Italian Seafood Risotto with Mushrooms and the Crust Baked Potato with Parmesan Cheese.

The star of the desserts section is predictably the Tiramisu, but there are lots others that will make sure that there is a sweet ending to your grand Italian feast.

For reservations, please contact: 8754555

-- LS Desk


Toil like a gladiator

By Karim Waheed

Up until I saw “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”, I was not that keen on the whole gladiator thing. I mean, sure, I'm familiar with the whole concept and I did read about the real Spartacus (109-71 BC), but I have not seen the Stanley Kubrick classic, featuring Kirk Douglas as the Thracian slave turned folk hero. “Modern-day gladiators” (WWE wrestlers), or as I call them “drama queens on steroid”, are as interesting as Hindi soaps.

What got me primarily hooked on the very graphic “Blood and Sand” was a combination of Lucy Lawless (“Xena”), John Hannah (“The Mummy”) and the very colourful language. But the series also catapulted a virtually unknown actor to global fame. As the series progressed, Andy Whitfield owned the lead role.

Around that time I came across the “Spartacus Workout”, a routine that collectively works every part of the body. The high-intensity workout has been designed to torch fat, define your chest, abs, and arms, and send your fitness level soaring.

The actors, playing gladiators in “Blood and Sand”, followed this routine to look the part. This totally changed my approach to workout, and at the risk of making a tall claim, I am in the best shape of my life thanks to circuit training.

What is circuit training? An exercise “circuit” is one completion of all prescribed exercises in a certain programme. When one circuit is complete, you begin the first exercise again for another circuit. Traditionally, the time between exercises in circuit training is short, often with rapid movement to the next exercise.

An example would be: push-ups, pull-ups, bench lift for upper body; sit-ups, crunches for core and trunk; squat jumps, step-ups for lower body. Each “station” (exercise) lasts 60 seconds. Do as many reps as you can (with perfect form) in that time, and then move on to the next station.

Give yourself 15 seconds to move between stations, and rest for 2 minutes after you have completed 1 circuit. Then repeat twice. If you can not go the entire minute, rest a few seconds and then resume until your time at that station is up. Use a weight that is challenging for 10-12 reps.

As homage to a true warrior, Andy Whitfield, who died on September 11, 2011 after battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for 18 months, I have decided to go over one of my favourite exercises from the circuit.

Dumbbell Push Press:
Stand holding a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders, with your arms bent and palms facing each other. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Dip your knees, and then explosively push up with your legs as you press the weights straight over your shoulders. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat.


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