Experiencing a stay in the wilderness is a great way to break away from the hustle and bustle of city life and recharge one’s batteries. A big part of any retreat is what one eats. Singinawa is known for its top notch hospitality services. Harnessing mother nature’s goodness, not just in the lodge’s setup, but also in the food we serve is an integral part of our brand ethos. Food at Singinawa is an exotic journey of flavours that our guests enjoy with birdsong resonating the ambience.
Our organic farm is the handiwork of devoted members. A patchwork of leafy lettuce heads, pulpy tomatoes, sparkling radishes and bouncy spinach are a wonder to behold. Our team of chefs, headed by Aakib Ali and Mobin Khan, are equally passionate about using only the choicest produce and dishing out elaborate spreads bursting with wholesome goodness. Our farming technique aims to maximise yield through natural crop rotations to keep weeds and pests down to a manageable level, rather than being trigger happy with chemical sprays.
The farm-to-table or the farm to fork model of preparing and consuming food has nutritional benefits and is environment-friendly; one which is in sync with the healthy food revolution around the world. Up to the year 1700 or so, traditional forms of agriculture prevailed in India. In general this was sustainable agriculture, producing enough to meet local needs, and using a wide variety of ‘organic’ techniques. These included recycling all organic material, the use of locally-adapted crop strains from a large gene pool, crop rotations and intercropping, incorporating legumes and biological pest control. Livestock rearing was integrated with crop growing. On a global scale, this concept’s germination can be traced back to the 1960s and ’70s in United States, thanks to the acclaimed chef Alice Waters. She was the first to use produce from local farms at her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, which she opened in 1971. Waters found this produce fresher and more flavourful than the preserved produce used by other restaurants. As Chef Waters found fame, the movement continued to grow steadily towards the end of the 20th century in the US. By the beginning of the 21st century, the concept had started to spread to India and other parts of Asia.
I believe that the farm to table movement is not just about knowing what is on one’s plate but also about understanding what one is consuming and from where the ingredients are being sourced. Above all it also entails knowing whether or not they are being grown in a wholesome and sustainable manner. We grow rocket leaves, basil, beetroot, bitter gourd, brinjal, broccoli, capsicum, chilli, cucumber, dill, leek, lettuce, okra, parsley, carrot, spinach, thyme and tomato, in addition to kodo and kutki – two highly popular local grains (one cannot afford to miss savouring the porridge like kheer prepared using these grains). These local supplies are loaded with nutrients such as vitamins, enzymes, minerals and other micronutrients compared to those from conventional farms. This is because we manage and nourish our organic farms using sustainable practices. Our team relies on developing a healthy, fertile soil to grow a mixture of crops that are bursting with flavor. So our guests can be rest assured it tastes great too. Not just that, fresh-baked and traditional dishes are made in the wood-fired oven, which uses fire wood obtained from pruning and cleaning the property’s trees.
Traditional Indian cuisines along with modern and contemporary dishes served at our dining venues provide a satisfying culinary experience to our guests with delightful creations that are made from freshly plucked greens of our in-house vegetable and herb garden. Nature is indeed the inspiration of creativity! A recipe which I put together amidst the wilderness has become a hit with our guests. We prepare a rice dish which is wrapped and steamed in home grown banana leaves. A thick curry paste filled with the aroma of ground spices and condiments is placed on top of the rice, sealed together and steamed for a scrumptious main course delicacy.
What else is in store for our guests? Our in-house naturalists organise tours of our farm – crushing fragrant basil between fingers or feeling the juicy burst of a cucumber in your mouth is an experience not to be missed. We offer options like ‘pick your own vegetables or fruits’, and give them to the chef to cook. Our guests thoroughly enjoy picking their local food from our farm and be a part of the entire cooking experience. Our team of chefs take a very open approach toward cooking and are always excited to happily learn how to make new things from our guests or teach them their recipes!
We regularly set up open-air kitchens, where guests can learn to prepare an array of dishes such as garden fresh salad teamed with pasta cooked in farm fresh tomato sauce. How can we forget Mahua, the region’s local brew? The smell of fermenting mahua (Madhuca longifolia) flowers and woodsmoke hanging heavy in the air makes for a perfect DIY session. People come from different places, often with their children, and we explain to them about farming and nature. It is of no surprise that these experiences lend an additional sense of contentment to our guests. Our specially curated barbeque jungle dinner continues to be a hit with our guests. Performance by Baiga dancers adds to the aura of the night and watching our guests join the dance sessions always makes me emotional! Oh, how I can instantly feel the rhythmic beating of the Baiga drums reverberating in the cool jungle air!!!
To add to all these culinary experiences, guests at Singinawa have the luxury of multiple spots to choose from when it comes to enjoying their thoughtfully sourced meal. Our indoor dining area or a spot under the glistening stars, we offer it all. Bonfire sessions that casts a rosy hue in surrounding sets everything aglow. For those who prefer solitude, sitting next to the windows that frame the grasslands outside makes for a cosy and private setting, from where guests can see small insects and creatures flitting around.
We cannot wait to welcome you all to visit us and experience a culinary journey which would carry you through the very essence of India. Let the feasting begin!
MD, Singinawa Jungle Lodge