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The taste of Goa

The taste of Goa

With “Serve It Like Sarah” starting next week, Sarah Todd tells us how motherhood changed her perspective about food

Exploring any place through adventure sounds fun. And if tasting, making and learning about its local food is tagged with this journey, it becomes double bonanza. Fox Life cooks it with Serve It Like Sarah, a 10-episode series which sees the former MasterChef Australia Sarah Todd explore Goa –– her second home where she runs her restaurant Antares –– like a local.

Starting this Monday, each episode will see Sarah commence on a new adventure – from crab catching to making feni to baking with Goa’s favourite bakers, she does it all. Sarah explores the State’s Portuguese heritage, knits the fisherman’s net and examines the street food. Visiting different places, Sarah learns new recipes, meets new people and gives them a taste of her own recipes. The show amalgamates adventure, food and fashion exploring a new facet of Goa while showcasing its off-beat side.

The final episode will witnesses the Indian launch of her book “The Healthy Model Cookbook”, a compilation of 100 recipes that are wholesome and healthy without compromising on taste.

Excerpts from an interaction:

Will the show present a different face of Goa?

There is so much to Goa than just beaches. There are lot of people there embracing food and culture. I really got to experience that. In fact 10 episodes were hardly enough and I wish there were more because there are so many exciting things in Goa like music and fashion. You have musicians and artists gather at Arambol beach to celebrate their freedom of expression. Over the years it has evolved into a contemporary hotspot of musical evenings and performances. This series showcases something different from what is usually perceived by people. I think it will promote tourism in Goa –– give people some exciting places to visit.

How does the show combine adventure and exploration of cuisine?

The series tries to present diverse aspects of Goa through adventure and its local food. While going for crab catching, climbing coconut trees to get toddy, learning surfing, moving around Goa in private transport vehicle, visiting woods in the outskirts of the city, we explore Goa’s street food, learn to prepare crab xacuti, prawn balchao and influence of Portuguese on local food.

For me it all worked well together. I went surfing and it worked out a great appetite to enjoy some fantastic food items at the organic café. So it is all about having an adventure and feeding the body afterwards. So there was fun and taking care of health as well.

What is your take away from the show?

The biggest thing I learnt is that to make a dish that people love, you have to actually understand the people who are eating it. So for me going around and actually getting to see how locals cook and eat for themselves really helped develop my cuisine. I have added a lot of dishes to the menu of Antares. These include crab xacuti and king fish stuffed pani puri – a non-vegetarian version of the traditional street food among others.

Basically, I realised how much passion people have for food and the most unique thing I found out is that they all use their local ingredients like coconut and fresh sea food. It is something I really believe and subscribe that using fresh local produce and cooking it simply.

Also I found people very welcoming. They invited me to their home and cooked for me, taught me so many recipes. In India itself I have felt so welcomed by everyone. It seemed they have taken me under their wing; are very open and willing to share their knowledge, which is amazing.

Tell us about your journey from a successful model to cooking.

The thing is that as a model you travel so much and you get to learn a lot about different cultures and that is what inspired me. I have lived in Germany, London, New York, New Zealand, all over the place, getting to experience people, their cultures and their food. But to be honest when I had my son, probably that was the main turning point for me because I realised that you have to feed yourself and your child and you have to make it tasty. In fact, it made me look food in a very different way.

Has participating in Masterchef Australia honed your skills?

It definitely has. Firstly, I have got used to facing and managing any type of stress after going through so much pressure in Masterchef. I must say that it has built my mechanism to deal with stress (laughs). I have learnt to play around with flavours. In Masterchef, when you get the mystery box which has eight or nine ingredients to choose from and you have to create a dish, it makes you see things from a different perspective. So now I can look at a dish or a box of ingredients or go to the market and really envision what I want to make out of it. It has really taught me to trust my intuition and be quite creative.

What is your cookbook about?

It is about telling people that you can eat healthy without losing flavour which is exactly philosophy what I use in my cooking. Using fresh local produce and cooking it simply and adding a lots of flavours –– simple marinates, home made dressing and even chutneys –– are a great way to add flavour to one’s dish. The basic idea is to keep as many nutrients as possible while adding flavours. You can always match health and taste. Both Goan and Indian cuisine fits this. Take a lamb shoulder and marinate it with spice or cook a vegetable curry making sure it is well balanced with all the required proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Indian cuisine has all those fundamentals it is a question of balancing it right.

What do you think of the plethora of healthy cook books in the market?

I think the problem with many healthy cookbooks is that they are all teaching people to eliminate food from their diet. I think that is completely unachievable. In my cookbook it is about healthy eating but not eliminating anything from the diet. It is all about balance. I prescribe eating chocolates sometimes but do get back to your healthy eating.

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