Anusha Parthasarathy meets the people behind a few start-ups who have taken the preparation of organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free substitutes to an all-new level.

Terra Earthfood:

Brown rice murukku, gluten-free cakes, buckwheat pancake mix, thinai ribbon pakoda and vegan cinnamon cookies are just the beginning of a wide range of confectioneries and Indian snacks that Meera Maran makes.

“The fundamental principle is to take things from the earth as it gives them to you,” she says, “unprocessed, unrefined, unpolished.” An architect by profession, Meera began experimenting with gluten-free products after she discovered that her daughter had an allergy.

“We went gluten-free, sugar-free and milk-free. Once you remove this, you remove all the junk from your body,” she explains. “When my daughter wanted snacks, I began making ‘wholesome junk food’. And after years of making gluten-free cookies and pizzas for her, and studying at a culinary institute in the U.S., we came back and became a one-point source for allergen-free food for our neighbours, family and friends.”

They expanded from cupcakes, cakes and cookies to Indian snacks, making use of organic millets instead of rice. Terra foods uses Himalayan salt, cold-pressed oils, organic ghee, real fruit pulp and extract, and does not compromise on the ingredients. “We make everything as organic as possible. This way, we not only create awareness about healthy food but also make it attractive. We also make idli and dosa batter with millets and have a range of vegan ice creams. Since we use actual fruit in some of our products, we are seasonal as well,” she adds.

Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TerraEarthFood.

Wholistic Breads

Software professional Vanaja Arvind found that the preservatives used in white bread led to conditions like diabetes. So, she began her tryst with baking and it has been four years since she started Wholistic Breads.

“I wanted others to benefit from what I make. Even the brown bread you get outside is nothing but white bread with caramelised sugar. I experimented quite a bit with bread because quite a lot of preservatives go into it to keep it fresh. Otherwise, the bread gets mouldy within a day or two in our climate,” she says.

Muffins, cupcakes, chocolate brownies, oats and wheat flour soup are part of her product range. “Many people want gluten-free products, and we’re working on it. People who are weight and health conscious also prefer these products. But, it’s an acquired taste; not everyone adapts quickly. However, a couple of slices of oat bread will keep you full for long; its glycemic index is low as well,” says Vanaja.

Vanaja feels the response to these products depends on how open an individual is. “We use only olive oil or rice bran oil, besides ragi, oats and wholemeal in our cooking. People who travel look out for such food. Elderly people like our products because they’re egg-free and diabetics return regularly because we don’t use white sugar. It’s important for people to be aware of what goes into their food.”

Visit them online at www.wholisticbreads.com.

Bellaria:

Ice creams at Avanti Vissa’s Bellaria in Alwarpet are made right in front of your eyes. The good thing about this is you get to choose what goes into your ice cream, not just the flavour.

“I’ve been in the food industry for long and am a food scientist by profession. I chose ice cream to experiment with. We now have about 60 flavours and work on new ones every month. Whatever we make can be customised to suit individual tastes,” says Avanti.

At Bellaria, you can choose the kind of milk (they offer regular, fat-free, soy and coconut), sugar (white, brown or diabetic) and flavour. “People always tell you what to eat and what not to. Here, you have no such restriction. You can eat whatever you want and however you want it. When we started, we were thinking of people who are lactose-intolerant and found that soy milk and coconut milk are vegan options as well,” she adds.

Since the ice creams are made fresh, there’s no concern even with the power situation in the city. “There’s no concern about bacteria as we use packaged milk, which is always in refrigerated. We don’t open the fridge during a power cut. Our ice creams have no overrun, which means that its 100 per cent ice cream (overrun is the percentage of air in the ice cream),” she says.

Bellaria also has a range of cupcakes, tarts, muffins, cheese cakes and mousses, with some vegan options. For details, visit www.bellaria.in.

Fresh Baked Goodness:

Meghana Karthik is an assistant director who studied Yogic Science, but plunged head-long into baking. Eggless, vegan and vegetarian confectioneries and ice creams are her forte. A Facebook page and blog later, Fresh Baked Goodness became a business.

“I’ve been doing this for five months now. I started with weekend baking. I announced online that a particular product would be available over the weekend and could be picked up fresh from the oven. My first few bake-offs were a sell-out,” she says.

Meghana doesn’t stick to eggless recipes but also uses bananas, condensed milk and applesauce as substitutes for egg. “Theobroma, a six-layered chocolate cake, has been the most successful so far. It’s now being sold at Fresca Pizza in Nungambakkam. I sold almost 100 pieces of this cake in an hour at a recent event. Apart from this, I make cakes, cupcakes, loaves, breads, cold desserts and more.”

More people are opting for vegetarian and vegan options, she feels. “The trend is definitely growing. Vegan baking can also be challenging, given that we have to produce the same texture and taste as the usual cakes and bread. But honestly, it's not drastically different. I love baking quick breads and fresh breads. I recently added the 'Baklava Bread' to my menu. Apart from baking eggless, another aspect being, I don't use colours or artificial agents in the food,” says Meghana.

Visit Fresh Baked Goodness at www.facebook.com/FreshBakedGoodness.