As I was driving along the Jumeirah Beach Road during sunset, I thought to myself why was I doing this? Leaving the Z-SISTERS at home on a Friday, attending an event organised by Down To Earth Organic for the members of Fooderati Arabia – what was I going to achieve? Visit yet another organic shop promising instant health and longevity? Aren’t the prices going to shock me once again? Always wanting to know more about ‘anything’ organic, I couldn’t refuse to attend this event. So off I went and found myself surprised beyond belief to a world full of spices and teas, pastas and savouries. And many more. This culinary travel blog is all about travel and food journeys inspired by people, places and moments. And here goes another inspired story.
Down To Earth Organic, Dubai
Organic Products Store; Easy-Parking; Prominent Location; Home delivery available
The essence of Down To Earth Organic is captured by it’s very logo – beautiful green stems branching out from the ground. The red bricked walls with the humbling word ‘natural’ written in various languages (even in my mother-tongue Bengali) reflects what the entire shop stands for. According to their official website, ‘Down to Earth Organic Products retain the natural goodness of food and are produced in harmony with the environment. These products are free of all chemical, pesticide and fertilizer residues; hence the perfect instrument to live in harmony with our bio-rhythms, our society and our world.’ But then, don’t all organic products profess the same? How are these any different? Read on…
Yin – Yang in Food & Body Balance – the need to go Organic
A casual meet organised by Down To Earth Organic for Fooderati Arabia revealed much more than their own product line. Infact, Mr Lokesh Aswani, the Managing Director of Down To Earth Organic had to be prodded to talk about his products. He wanted the wide range of products to speak for themselves, the very reason why such an informal meet was organised with Fooderati Arabia. A small chit-chat with non-Fooderati member Deepti, a holisitic health coach at Generation Nourished enriched me on how the Fengshui concept of Yin – Yang (Yin meaning dark and Yang meaning light, this concept is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn) could also be applied to the food that we eat and how balancing them could also bring in body balance. This stems from the Chinese belief that problems arise not because two forces are battling but because there is an imbalance between them in the environment. Naturally, the concept also applies to food, a little brief of which can be found here. And this is precisely the reason why organic products free of chemical and which empower the soil rather than degenerate them, have an important role to play in our daily food need and in maintaining our internal body balance and nourishment.
One thing that struck me as I was exploring the shop was the wide range of Masala/Spices (both powdered and whole) available. And also the prices. Organic products always come with an impression of a very high price tag when one compares the products with its non-organic counterparts. But not here. The prices of most of the products (Rice, Cereals, Spices etc) were quite comparable to any other non-organic products available in normal supermarkets. A reason for suspicion? Yes, indeed. But my suspicions and doubts were laid to rest as Mr Lokesh explained how in most cases the existence of intermediaries between the farmers and the shops add up to the bulging cost of organic products. But Down To Earth Organic products were sourced directly from the farmers, hence there were no hidden costs involved.
The product portfolio is expansive – from Flavouring Masalas to Dehydrated Powders, from regular Powdered spices to Whole spices. There are 28 Flavouring Masala/Spices available stemming from 5 different Gharanas/regional cooking styles – Agra, Mysore, Dilli (Delhi), Munbai in India and Peshawar in Pakistan. And the range is pretty mind-boggling. Spices attract me the most, may be because of the different colours and aroma. Do allow me to dwell a little bit more on Spices than the rest!
From Agra Gharana – Aloo Jhol Ka Masala (Potato Curry Masala), Chaat Masala (it is typically used as a sprinkler on fruit salad or other savouries and consists of Amchoor/dried mango powder, cumin, Kala Namak/black salt, coriander, dried ginger, salt, black pepper, hing/asafoetida and chilli powder), Dal Ka Masala (Lentil Masala), Garam Masala, Imli Panna (this makes a tangy refreshing cool drink made from Tamarind), Jaljeera Masala (Kala Namak/black salt is the main ingredient), Pani Puri Masala (Pani Puri is a round, hollow, small Puri/Indian Flat bread, fried crisp and filled with a mixture of water, tamarind, chili, Chaat Masala, potato, onion, chickpeas and is a popular street snack in the Sub-continent);
From Dilli (Delhi) Gharana – Channa Masala (Flavouring for Chick Peas Curry), Chat Masala, Garam Masala, Paneer Masala, Rajma Masala (Flavouring for Red Kidney Beans Curry), Tadka Masala;
From Mumbai (Bombay) Gharana – Mumbai Pav Bhaji Masala; From Mysore Gharana – Bissi Belle Bhath, Curry Masala, Rasam Powder, Sambhar Masala, Vengi Bath;
From Peshawari Gharana – Biryani Masala, Kadhai Masala, Korma Masala, Rogan Gosht Masala, Laal Mans Ka Masala (Flavouring Masala for Red Meat), Sheekh Masala, Tandoori Masala, Tikka Masala, Mutton Curry Masala;
Dehydrated Powders that are available are Garlic, Ginger, Green Chilli, Tamarind, Onion, Tomato, Aamchur/Dried Mango, Fenugreek, Lemon etc.
Indian Cuisine and Pakistani Cuisine
The cuisine of India encompasses a variety of regional cuisines making use of local spices, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Indian religious and cultural habits have shaped the development of these cuisines. Islamic influence due to years of Mughal and Sultanate rule as well as Persian interactions have influenced North Indian and Deccan cuisine significantly. Agra and Delhi in North India, Mumbai in the West of India and Mysore in the South of India have historical connection with the various powerful dynasties, hence are rich in their cooking traditions as well.
The cuisine of Pakistan too varies greatly from region to region, reflecting the country’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Food from the eastern provinces of Punjab and Sindh is quite similar to the cuisines of Northern India. Food in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly Peshawar involves the use of mild aromatic spices and less oil, characterizing affinities to the cuisines of neighbouring Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia.
So, indeed it’s exciting that the Flavouring Masalas from Down To Earth Organic comes from these cities traditionally known for their cooking prowess!
Impact of Indian spices outside India
Historically, the spice trade between India and Europe is often cited as the primary catalyst for Europe’s Age of Discovery and Indian cuisine has influenced other cuisines across the world, especially those from Southeast Asia, the British Isles and the Caribbean. This spice trade also forms a major cultural backdrop to the history of civilisations. The Spice route to and from India is marked by Blue and it brought about a cultural and commercial exchanges between diverse cultures as nations struggled to gain control of the trade along the many spice routes. (Ref: Wikipedia)
Apart from the Spices, Down To Earth Organic seemed to have a very wide portfolio of organic food products – Cereals, Pulses, Condiments, Oils, Rubs, Canned soups, international herbs, Chutneys, Seasonings, Baby Food and Cookies. And writing about the cookies, I must mention the amazing Onion Garlic Cookies that were offered to us. I have also tried their Raagi Cookies. In Cookies, many interesting combinations are available and they are surely going to go down well with the Dubai consumers. For example – Semolina Nut, Ginger Ragi, Onion Garlic, Rice Soya Almonds, Rice Soya Cinnamon, Salted Cumin Cookies, Naan Khatai/Butter Cookies, Jeera Cookies/ Cumin Cookies
Range of Flours
Corn Flour/Maize Atta, Maize Dalia/Maize Burghul, Moong Besan Atta/Green Gram Flour, Channa Besan/Gram Flour, Multigrain Atta, Wheat Flour, Wheat Dalia, Wheat Maida, Wheat Suji/Semolina, Buckwheat Flour, Barley Dalia, Missa Atta Punjabi, Missa Atta Rajasthani, Finger Millet Flour/Ragi Atta, Rice Flour/Rice Atta, Soyabean Flour, Bajra Flour/Pearl Millet Flour, Jowar Flour/Sorghum Flour – a range of Flours for consumers with various food allergies and intolerance to choose from.
Ragi/Finger Millet (more info here), Bajra/Pearl Millet (more info here), Jowar/Sorghum (more info here) – these traditional food plants available in Africa and in many parts in Asia are conceived as healthy alternatives to refined flour, improves nutrition and support sustainable land-care.
Back To Basics
Apart from organic food products Back to Basics comprises of an organic clothes and linen products including T-shirts, premium and luxury Towels, Bedroom linens etc. Needless to say, all Down To Earth products undergo the strictest quality standard checks and are certified by the most respected international certification agencies. Here’s the Product Portfolio to have a peep!
Tea & Coffee Blends
This is another interesting section in the Down To Earth Organic that quite captivated me. I love coffee while my husband is a tea-lover. But definitely not a tea-afficiando like my parents who would do not like experimenting with flavours or blends. So, I am always looking out for something new. Among them the known flavours and blends were perhaps the Jasmine Tea, Chamomile Lemon, Decaf Green Tea etc. But I hadn’t come across these before – Toasted Rice or say Gunpowder Green Tea in Dubai before. The latter definitely caught my fancy as the history of this famous Chinese tea dates back to the Tang dynasty (618 AD – 907 AD).
Down To Earth Organic Dubai
Location: G 11, Hamdan Awards Complex (Opposite Union Flag), Jumeirah, Dubai, U.A.E
Tel No: +971 4 3863391; Facebook: Down To Earth, Dubai; Twitter: @DownToEarthDxb
You may also call 800-6742642 for home delivery (For specifications regarding this or for more details, please visit the Official Website)
Mutton Chick Peas Curry
Category – Non Veg Side-dish; Cuisine type – Indian
Chick Peas or Garbanzo Beans or Kabuli Channa are full of nutrients and is popularly used in many cooked dishes or used in salads. It is perhaps the most popular ingredient in Arabic Cuisine as well, specially the famous Arabic dip, Hummous. The Chick peas or Kabuli Channa added with Mutton satisfies the Non-Veg soul and can be a brilliant accompaniment for lunch or dinner. For a Bringing you Mutton Chick Peas Curry from our kitchen, tenderly cooked in a mildly spicy curry.
Following are the characteristics of all recipes doling out of our little hands, big hearth -
♥ Easy to cook
♥ Regular canned products off the shelf may be used (However, we advocate using fresh products)
♥ Goes well both as a regular or party dish
♥ Children can easily help in making the dish (My two little sous-chéfs are aged 8 and 3 years!)
♥ And lastly, guaranteed to be tasty!
For the printable recipe→
Serves 5-6 persons
Preparation time – 1 hr 45 minutes approximately (boiling the chickpeas – 45 minutes; preparation – 10 minutes; cooking – 1 hour)
Chick peas – 250 gm, soaked overnight in water after washing. Pressure-cooked with a little salt.
Mutton/Lamb – 1 kg, boneless cut into small cubes and marinated with Mustard Oil, Ginger and Garlic
Tomatoes – 4, chopped into small pieces
Coriander Leaves – 1 bunch (2 cups chopped, keep 1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves separately for garnishing)
Onions – 4, cut into slices
Ginger – 1 inch long, finely grated (also keep
Garlic – 8 pods, finely crushed
Channa Masala Powder (Courtesy: Down To Earth Organic) – 4 tsp
Cumin Powder – 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala Powder – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp (optional)
Salt – as per taste
Mustard Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard Oil – 1 tsp
Ginger-Garlic Paste – 2 tsp
Marinate the Mutton with Mustard Oil and Ginger-Garlic Paste for an 20 minutes
Roasted Garam Masala Powder* – 1/2 tsp
Coriander Leaves – 1/2 bunch, the leaves separated out from stalk, soaked in lemon water and dried
[*Garam Masala is a blend of ground spices commonly used in North Indian and other South Asian cuisines. I have come to realise that though some ingredients like Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves are common to Garam Masala being used in various regions, each region or culture probably adds its own touch.
Dry roast the following whole spices separately until fragrant:
1 tbsp black pepper Corns
2 tsp Black Cardamom Seeds
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Whole Cloves
Grind the above roasted spices into a fine powder.]
Method of Preparation
- Heat the oil in a Wok
- Add Onions, Ginger, Garlic, chopped Tomatoes and fry till the onions turn brown and the tomatoes turn tender
- Add the Cumin Powder, Coriander Powder, Garam Masala Powder, Turmeric, Chilli Powder, Cumin Powder and the chopped Coriander leaves (Note: Keep stirring slowly to prevent the Assorted Masala paste from burning)
- Add the Mutton and stir in with the other Masalas over high flame for a few minutes. Turn the heat down to the lowest level and cover the pan. Let the Mutton simmer in it’s own water at slow seam for 10 minutes
- Add 1/2 lt water and let the Mutton cook till it’s almost done
- Add the boiled Chick Peas into the Mutton
- Add Chana Masala Powder and simmer for 10-15 more minutes till the Mutton turns soft and tender and Chick Peas mix well with Curry (Note: Both the Mutton and the Chick Peas should be soft but not over-cooked)
- Garnish with chopped Coriander leaves and Ginger slices
Serve hot with Chappatis (Indian flat bread made with Atta/Wheat-flour), Tandoori Nan (Indian Flat Bread) or plain white Rice with some hot Mutton Chick Peas Curry. Add a raw Onion Salad for a zing!
All I can say is that the feeling of guilt is much less when I use organic products – I feel that I am doing the Z-SISTERS a big favour by giving them food which is not credited with chemical overload and environmental degradation. I would love to bring up the Z-SISTERS on unadulterated love, let them breathe fresh unpolluted air, serve them Granny’s food cooked traditionally at home and provide them with fresh produce grown on virgin lands – just like the patch of land that Mr Lokesh discovered that the farmers kept themselves, to grow crops only for themselves and was free from Ammonia that went into producing the rest of the crops that would end up in the vegetable market for sale! Borrowing the words from Down To Earth Organic, it’s Sowing the seeds of harmony in life… and ultimately going Back To Basics yet again!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: I had attended the event organised by Down To Earth Organic as a member of Fooderati Arabia. However, all my opinions are independent and based on my own experience. Yes, the Channa Masala powder that I had used for my Mutton Chick Peas Curry was courtesy a thoughtful goodie bag from Down To Earth Organic. FooDiva has also mentioned Down To Earth and claims to be addicted to their organic brown rice! Images of Spice Route and different cities are sourced from Wikipedia, while all the other images are from IshitaPhotoIdeas – it takes a lot of effort to capture a food experience in text and pictures. While it’s meant for you to enjoy them, I request you not to use them!