Is Hyderabad ready for a sustainable step forward when it comes to food? Find out!
The versatility of the often-neglected watermelon rind took over Instagram during the lockdown. One can use it to make halwa, sambar, fritters (pakoda), uthappam, or even pickle. Similarly, the humble potato, whose skin makes for an entrée as a stir fry, has lately been getting attention as well. The conversation around zero-waste cooking or sustainable use of every part of a vegetable began during the initial days of nationwide lockdown due to the limited supply of ingredients. Consequently, one spent more time in the kitchen, which in a way led to more accountability with regards to wastage, carbon footprint and ingredients.
The other facets of sustainability like local sourcing, growing vegetables and composting are becoming more prominent as well. The idea of sustainable eating has become more important during these times due to its minimal impact on the environment. Anusha Murthy, co-founder of Edible Issues, an online collective, says, “We are realising the medicinal value and the importance of cooking our own food. As a result, we want to ensure to be connected that way. On those lines, the pandemic has brought us closer to being sustainable but we still have a long way to go.” Some of the home chefs, who have been using leftovers in the kitchen for a while now, agree that the lockdown could have driven people to think more about this positive step forward. Home chef Palash Borah says, “The pandemic might have played an important role in bringing the idea of sustainability to the forefront.”
Also, the global pandemic has marked an increasing inclination towards local produce, an idea that foodies and businesses alike have warmed up to. Shaaz Mehmood, partner, Olive Bistro & Bar, insists on it. He says, “Since the lockdown, we are focusing on sourcing more local produce. We connect directly with the farmers to check the seasonal availability in the market including vegetables and cheese. Zero-wastage is important to us. We practice portion-wise cooking to avoid wastage, and monitor the supply of ingredients to ensure fresh produce and meats to avoid stocking.”
For the recently launched small event catering and gifting company Amulyam, sustainability has been at its core from the start. Founder Sushanth Agarwal uses the same local vendors for his company and home. “We ensure everything is local and crafted using our ancestral recipes. We use organic packaging like palm leaf, water reed and banana leaf, for our hamper baskets and sugarcane fibre for our product packaging,” the co-founder points out.
They maintain zero wastage as their products (like pickles and sharbats) are all made-to-order. Even home chef, Shahnoor Jehan who helms Khassa by Shahnoor Jehan, works on a pre-order basis and relies on her local farmers for her preparations, “We directly reach out to local farmers for fresh local produce, that has helped us source fresh items. Even for items which we initially sourced from Spain and Iran, we have managed to find local vendors who organically produce them.” Also, she has observed an increase in the number of clients sending in their own vessels for food items — an option she suggested.
Grow your own
Arundati Rao of the popular Escapades Culinary studio, who has been growing vegetables for 12-13 years and moved to Vikarabad during the lockdown, says she has a permaculture farm. “Everything that I have used in my cooking or baking classes in the last three-four months has come from my farm.” Everything is born out of need, she says, which led her to make her own mozzarella and butter for her bread and pizza classes. Recently, she has also received quite a number of gardening and preservation queries about it from her students. “They are interested to know what they can grow in their balcony. There is a growing consciousness toward preservation as well on increasing the shelf life of greens like pesto, spinach and basil.
ITC and sustainability
For the ITC Group of Hotels, sustainability has been the norm, as it has several initiatives (SunyaAqua’-Zero kilometre water and Local Love) to minimise carbon footprint while promoting consumption of fresh, seasonal produce. In the case of ITC Kohenur, the lockdown took it a notch higher as the five-star property took to farming and started promoting local cuisines as part of their takeaway menu. Executive Chef Yogen Datta, ITC Kohenur informs, “We are using patches of land within the
hotel premise to grow local herb and vegetable, though the variety in the latter is limited. On our
rooftop garden, we periodically harvest tomato and eggplant.”