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Isha Koppikar's love for seafood

Isha Koppikar is a seafood aficionado, but nothing lifts her mood more than a chocolate croissant

Actress Isha Koppikar is an absolute foodie, but a conservative one. "My biggest adventure in a restaurant is limited to eating a duck and rabbit meat. I have not eaten a crocodile," she laughs. A true-blue Mangalorean, Isha loves her spicy tangy fish curry with rice. The actress does believe in 'eating healthy' but let's go when she wants to. Excerpts from an interview...

Isha Koppikar
Pics/Shadab Khan. Location Courtesy: The Central Kitchen, Sion 

Mangalorean flavours
I love the full-bodied taste of Mangalorean food. I grew up on Konkani fish curry and rice. One of my favourite dishes is Batata Saung. It is a spicy potato curry that gets its red colour from Byadagi chillies. I remember craving for it when I was away from home for my school camps. I had gone to Nepal for a school picnic when I was in the sixth standard. My desire to eat Batata Saung reached such a point that I phoned my grandmother from the hotel's reception, saying, "Annamma, I want to eat Batata Saung once I come home."

Eating healthy
Breakfast is usually egg whites and bread. I also have oats, quinoa or phulkas. Between breakfast and lunch, I have a fruit and a cup of green tea. I have replaced white rice with red rice in my daily diet as it's full of fibre. For lunch, I have red rice with a vegetable and fish or chicken curry. I don't overdo the protein intake. I balance fish, chicken, dal or paneer in a meal. Paneer I have only on days when I am vegetarian.

Maternal cravings
I did not have any cravings during my pregnancy. I used to feel nauseaous all the time. I started gorging after my daughter Rianna was born. My craving was for carbohydrates and I would long for rice, upma, dosa, idli, poha, etc.

Something fishy
I love all kinds of fish except bangda (Indian mackeral), but I don't enjoy Indian seafish prepared in Continental style. The spicy tangy curries that we make in India suit them better as they drive away the smell that these fishes have. My favourite dish is Pomfret Gassi. I feel varieties like black cod, sea bass, snapper, grouper and John Dory taste better in the mild Continental-style sauces and gravies. Thankfully, my husband (Timmy Narang) also loves fish as much as I do. 

Kitchen call
I am more into eating than cooking (laughs). I can make roasted chicken with baked potatoes, Thai Green Curry and home-style Chicken Masala. My Thai papaya salad is pretty neat. Now, I want to learn cooking for my daughter as I want her to develop Mangalorean tastebuds. Children love their mom's cooking and I want her to love my fish gassi and aloo wadi. My mom makes yummy steamed aloo wadis. Being married into a Punjabi family, I do miss my traditional Mangalorean fare like dosas, thalipeeth, sandan (sweet idlis) and dosas made in sandalwood leaves. A few days back, I sent my maid to my mom's house to learn all the Mangalorean dishes. I will learn the recipes from her.

Romantic dinner
It would be on a beach with a dinner table set up on the sand. The space should be lit with flame torches. A champagne bucket with ice and a butler who is a foreigner. I am stressing on a foreign butler because I have had instances when I am abroad chilling with friends and suddenly an Indian waiter/butler has recognised me. It spoils all the fun. On the menu, I would like to have grilled fish, sauteed vegetables, lobster bisque, Australian lamb chops and exciting salads. Lastly, a rich chocolate fondant for the perfect finish.

Comfort food
It would be a cheese sandwich or a chilli cheese toast. A chocolate croissant and Irish coffee is another combination that instantly lifts up my spirits.

Around the world
I love Japanese, Thai and Indian cuisine. In Indian dishes, I prefer ones that have milder gravies. I love European cuisine, especially Swiss desserts and Italian gourmet food. I went to the cheapest and most expensive restaurants in the US, UK, France and Spain before I ventured into my hospitality business. I also did a course in coffee-making. I love the ambience of British and Irish pubs. When I was in Italy, I learnt that it was discourteous to ask for extra sauce in a restaurant. Chef ki tauheen hoti hai. If a dish needs sauce, it comes with the dish. Also, virgin olive oil is not used for cooking per se. People there just use it for dressing. Travelling abroad gives you an interesting perspective on food.

Pan seared Basa served with whole wheat penne, vegetables and Spanish Sofrito

Ingredients
> 200 gm basa fish fillet
> 50 gm whole wheat penne pasta
> 1 red bell pepper
> 1 yellow bell pepper
> 1 green bell pepper
> 1 yellow squash
> 1 zucchini
> 1 carrot
> 1 cauliflower
> 2 onions
> 1 tomato
> 10 garlic flakes
> Fresh parsley
> Fresh basil
> Fresh thyme
> Coriander leaves
> Olive oil
> Lemon juice
> White wine
> Saffron
> Fish stock
> Salt and pepper

Mehtod:
Step 1
Marinate the fish with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and keep it in a fridge. Sear the fish on both sides on a flat pan and then cook it for four minutes in an oven heated to 170 C.

Step 2
Boil the water, add salt, oil and pasta. Don't overcook it. It should be al dente — firm when bitten. For pasta sauce, saute onion and garlic and add diced seedless tomatoes along with the pasta. Garnish it with chopped basil.

Step 3
Chop all the vegetables, put them in a pan with a little oil and lightly sauté it.

Step 5
For Sofrito sauce, sauté garlic and onion and add the diced bell peppers along with the saffron. De glaze white wine in a pan, add fish stock and diced tomatoes, fresh thyme and coriander leaves. Season it with salt and pepper. Combine all these and place it over the fish with pasta and sautéed vegetables on each side.

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