Making craft beer involves a lot of grain, even more water, yeast and some time for it to ferment. After the beer is ready to be on tap, the grain is usually thrown away, or given to horse sheds to be used as fodder. This is called spent grain because the sugars and carbohydrates have already been broken down and this by-product is left with fibre and a little protein.
Girish Monie, partner at TJ’s Brew Works, doesn’t believe in wasting this. In fact, he has taken it inside his kitchen and come up with ways of using it in the food they serve. But it’s not as easy as it reads. Monie put in over 12,000-14,000 hours worth of research, and a couple of years worth of trial and error practical experiments, to come up with a fantastic menu to up the health factor.
At a time when everyone’s turning to wheat to go ‘healthy’ Monie skips a few steps ahead. He chooses to avoid wheat and to infuse ingredients like quinoa, spent grain, amaranth and buckwheat. “The traditional strain of wheatgrass used to be 25-30 ft tall, but today, the genetically modified strain is 4 ft tall and 5 ft wide, and gives you 50 times more produce with less nutrition. Once they mill it, package it and take off the husk, there’s nothing left but empty calories and carbohydrates which works really well in terms of giving you a fantastic bread, but later wreaks havoc on our bodies,” says Monie, clarifying that he thinks wheat is healthy, but the quality of wheat we are getting at the mass market is not up to the mark.
He also warns, “Pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes is reaching pandemic portions. China and India together have a billion people who are pre-diabetic or diabetic. By the year 2030-2040, 50 per cent of the global population will be pre-diabetic and Type 2 diabetic,” says Monie trying to emphasise the urgency of the situation to change one’s eating habits.
He has introduced a concept called Nudo Pizzeria, which offers pizzas with a thin base made of buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth and water chestnut, almond, or cauliflower and whey protein. “All the crusts are precooked, and there’s no gluten. I can assemble the pizza and serve it to you in about 10 minutes. So the pizza, apart from not being junk anymore, is also fast food,” says Monie, adding, “My son would eat a pizza from a commercial chain and come back to grab a packet of chips and a cola because after the initial spike in the sugar levels, there would be a dip which caused the craving. He would again be hungry after an hour. But after having one pizza with the cauliflower and whey protein crust, he didn’t come back to eat anything for a few hours. He was full, he had his intake of vegetables for the day, because the crust has 200 gm of cauliflower, and I was a happy parent.”
WHOLESOME AND TASTY
The menu at TJ’s has undergone a transformation like Dwayne Johnson in the movie Central Intelligence. Fat to fit is the new mantra, but is there a compromise on the taste? Hell no! The menu is loaded with delicious munchies, and meals, using spent grain to replace (some amount of) wheat in their dishes.
We started with the classic French Onion Soup. The toast on top was made with spent grain from their popular dark beer, and we didn’t know the difference till we were told. If anything at all, there was more flavour in every mouthful due to the density of the toast. Then came the Quinoa Pepita Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette, which makes for a healthy breakfast if you ask us, but it’s definitely not something we’d order at a brewery over a couple of drinks. But this does make a great snack for that one non-drinking, possibly vegetarian, person in a group who doesn’t like to share. Their popular Onion Rings are crunchier than ever, as crushed spent grain is used to coat it instead of breadcrumbs.
Some eateries do big burgers, others do sliders, but TJ’s decided to do Mini Burgers. The bun is made with spent grain, mixed with very little whole wheat, and the mashed paneer with peas patties are coated with crushed spent wheat too. Crunchy, a little messy to eat if you have small hands and a small mouth and you’re trying to be prim and proper, and filling. And you’ll be happy to know that TJ’s Thai Style Chilli Chicken tastes just the same even after taking out all the maida from the batter.
The Beer Braised Lamb Shank, with imported meat from New Zealand, is a scrumptious meal in itself. A large shank is served on a bed of comforting mashed potatoes to balance out the umami.
The pizzas are guilt free. With a variety of gluten free, wheat free bases you can choose from, and generous portions of toppings, the pizzas will keep you full for about 5-6 hours till your next meal.
For dessert, you can take your vegan friends to try the Masala Paan Kulfi, which replaces regular milk with cashew milk. Sounds rich? It is. But if you’re not in the mood for something too creamy, the Honey Walnut Tart is worth a try. Made with natural sweeteners like honey, this is as healthy as a dessert can get.