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Showing posts from 2017

Farm to Fork in Chail

Back in 19th century, when Shimla was the summer capital of India, the Maharaja of Patiala got the British rulers riled over his dalliances and got banned from entering the city. Not the one to be put down so easily, he found a tiny little town about an hour from Shimla and made Chail his very own summer capital. Today, Chail still has the impressive Palace that the Maharaja built and the highest cricket ground in the world. There really isn't much more to the city apart from a small local market and a couple of hotels that get spillover crowd from Shimla in the summers. It's a pleasant little diversion but that's not why I went to Chail. I stopped nine kilometers short of the town to make Ekam my home for a weekend.

Sumeet Singal built this house on a cliff as his own weekend home. Today, even when Ekam is open as a luxury boutique resort, the cosy homely feeling remains intact. I asked Sumeet what there was to do during my three day holiday at Ekam. He told me that ther…

Fruits of the Forest

I know there hasn't been a new recipe on these pages for a while. But worry not, I'm back with a real zinger. Earthy, creamy, crunchy - this is an appetizer that ticks all the right boxes. And if you happen to be a mushroom lover like me, this is the best way to eat mushrooms I've found so far. I present to you, for all your year end parties and appetizer cravings - creamy mushroom pate on toast.

Its mushroom pate two way - just on its own and panko-crumbed and fried. Both go on a crisp garlic baguette with watercress and some kewpie mayonnaise. Here's the recipe.

Ingredients
Crunchy garlic butter toasts (I buy them as is, but you can also slice and toast baguettes)
200 grams button mushrooms
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
kewpie mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise)
watercress or micro herbs
salt and black pepper to taste
oil for deep frying

First, make mushroom pate. Y…

A Bowlful of Comfort

I have a friend who is quite the globetrotter. Lunches at her place, often right after her trips, are a treasure trove of global flavours. But the last time we met, she was just back from Tamil Nadu and out she brought a bowl of curd rice. I love curd rice and have eaten a lot of it over the years but my friend's version was so full of flavours and textures, it was a revelation. Obviously, I asked for the recipe.

The genius of this curd rice lies in adding the tempering or the tadka twice, once to mix in the rice so it absorbs all the flavours. Then you make a second batch to top the rice with just before you serve, so it adds crunch to the usually mushy dish. The recipe also has a few other elements added in for texture, freshness and flavour.

I over-ate at lunch at my friend's and I over-ate again when I made this for myself for lunch. Plus, all the ingredients you need are likely in your kitchen already so you may as well go make it now.

Ingredients
1/2 cup rice
1 cup plain…

Summer Garden

Think of healthy food in Mumbai and Bandra immediately comes to mind. When these Bandra hipsters are done hanging out at Yoga House and head to work to Lower Parel, there are the likes of 212 All Good to lunch at. But try eating healthy food outside of these two neighbourhoods and your choices are a couple of sad salads tucked in the corner of restaurant menus.

Summer Garden is changing that for Powai. Set a tiny bit away from the busy Central Avenue, the outdoor cafe is right next to Hakone entertainment centre. It twinkles with fairy lights at night and pets are welcome all day (they even get their own treats!). We sit down with our freshly squeezed juices to chat with the young and bubbly chef Suchin on her food philisophy.

Cute handwritten menus aside, there is much to love about how they cook at Summer Garden. Nothing comes our of a jar or a bottle. There is no refined flour or white sugar or refined oil in any dish. They soak their whole grains and bake their own bread and jui…

The Living Roots Trek

I met Wesley at noon on a sunny day in May at the entrance to Tyrna village. The meeting had been three months in the making. Back in February, I had seen the pictures a friend posted from a trekking trip to Meghalaya. I'd been so taken in by the double decker living roots bridge that I immediately called Chalohoppo, the travel company she had gone with, and booked a trip for myself.

I'm not a trekker which means that instead of the rugged trip my friend had taken, I had arrived at a compromise. We will start the trip with the trek and then spend the rest of our stay in Meghalaya at a nice lakeside resort just outside Shillong. Which means that the day before I met Wesley, I'd landed in Guwahati and been met at the airport by a friendly Chalohoppo driver for a four hour drive to Cherrapunjee.

On arriving at the Sai Mika resort, nestled in the middle of mountains, I called the number I'd been given and was greeted by a friendly, enthusiastic voice of our guide for the tre…

Summer Rice

Summer in India is mango season. Even when my other favourites - litchis, cherries and apricots - show up in May, mango remains the fruit of choice. In Mumbai, restaurants put aamras (essentially sweet mango puree) and mango lassi on menus across the board. Now I love sweet mangoes as much as the next person, but what I really like experimenting with is the flavour of the tart raw mango.

We made pickles and chutneys with the raw mango, and I've added it to Asian style salads and to curries in the past. So this time, I decided to move base to south India and try my hand at raw mango rice. The rice itself is fresh and summery and to up the flavour quotient even more, I served it with badanekayi bajji, a unique eggplant relish I first saw on Madhuri's blog. Get the recipe for the relish straight from Madhuri's while the recipe for the raw mango rice is given below.

Ingredients
2 cups cooked basmati rice
1 raw mango, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
1-2 …

Made in Punjab

The Kalras are the first family of the food industry. Where people find even one success story hard to achieve, Zorawar Kalra has managed win after win with Masala Library, Farzi Cafe, Papaya and most recently, MasalaBar. But much before they hit the stride with molecular gastronomy, there was Jiggs Kalra and solid Punjabi cooking. Made In Punjab, set inside Mumbai's Inorbit Mall, continues that legacy.



We settled in with a watermelon shikanji, a delightful combination of watermelon and lime. If that's not your style, there are drinks aplenty to pick from, including a thick Amritsari lassi, complete with malai or cream pedas. To go with the drinks, Made in Punjab brought out a selection of starters for us to review. Now I'm gonna point out that I only tried the vegetarian food but their chicken is apparently legendary.

The starters you see above are the usual combination of mushrooms, paneer and tandoori potatoes. But there was also a yam kebab. These four were spicy and …

Spaghetti. Mushrooms. Oregano.

Often times, when brands approach me for a review, it's a process of discovery. But not when Borges asked if I will like to create some recipes with their pasta. Olive oil may seem like a very Indian thing now with hundreds of brands dotting supermarket shelves but there was a time, only a few years ago, when using olive instead of refined oil was a rarity. I recall I started buying this Spanish olive oil back then and pretty much stuck to the brand. And since I had Borges olives and olive oil already in my pantry, this seemed like a good time to give their pasta a try as well.

Borges' pastas are made in Italy with durum wheat, the traditional hard wheat for pastas. I'm starting you off with a cheesy spaghetti but expect a summery penne coming your way soon. Now pastas have become super common on restaurant menus. But often times, they come fully smothered in a heavy white or red or god forbid, pink sauce. They are stodgy and spicy and you may as well be eating curry.

Not…

Upgrading Aloo Posto

There was a time when north Indian food formed bulk of my food experiences and barring an occasional dosa, I had very little understanding of how other regions of India eat. I gradually picked up dishes and ideas but this expansion of palette happened in no particular order and was often influenced by people I met and stories I heard. Sometime I would hear the name of a dish and find it fascinating. Aloo posto was one such dish. We don't use poppyseeds in our curries and using a new spice as the base for a potato curry sounded exciting.

Hence, the first time I found myself in a restaurant that had aloo posto on the menu, I eagerly ordered it. I was never more disappointed. What I expected was some form of spicy, crunchy potatoes. What I got instead was a bland, blah dish. I never got to like aloo posto but I continued to believe that poppyseeds and potatoes will make for a good flavour combination.

In my mind, there are two basic flaws with aloo posto. By soaking poppyseeds and m…

Dulce de leche Brownies

David Lebovitz is my favourite blogger. He's witty and charming; he lives in Paris and goes travelling for food around the world and he runs chocolate tours and writes ice cream books. David's list of places to visit in Paris was my travel guide when I visited and I wasn't disappointed at a single place that he recommended. His blog is also chockful of some brilliant recipes and I've made a few of them my favourites over the years. So when I found myself with a jar of dulce de leche, courtesy my friend Rachana, I immediately thought of David's recipe for dulce de leche brownies.

Dulce de leche is caramalised condensed milk. You cook the tin of condensed milk slowly, until it changes flavour and colour to become a jar of candy you can scoop out with a spoon and eat. Which is what I did with most of my tin of dulce. Added flavour bonus if you also sprinkle some sea salt before digging it. But I still have half a tin left after a few days and that's what went in…

What's in a spoon

A few months back, I was invited to a bloggers event by Kishco. This is a cutlery and cookware brand set up in the 1950s. But only in the last couple of years has the brand image been revamped by the second generation of founder family; in this case the fitness expert Namita Jain. Namita's launched a beautiful range of stainless steel cutlery and at the time of our event, they had also added a whole lot of 'healthy cooking' pots and pans that are being sold out of Kishco's flagship stores and a bunch of online and offline retail channels. We spent a pleasant enough afternoon drinking tea and admiring kitchenware and talking table etiquette. But in the end, I wasn't sure how to tell you all about the event or the brand. After all, a spoon's a spoon right?

Not quite so, as it turns out. Namita gifted us all half a dozen soup spoons. I don't drink much soup so at first I thought I will have no use for these. But over time, I've found that these spoons - b…

A Latin American Feast

Mumbai is the place to be when you want to try food from farflung corners of the world. If there aren't specialty restaurants catering to your tastebuds, there will be one of the countless popups serving your cuisine of choice. Except there are blatant misses. There is hardly anything from Africa. And while Mexico is well represented, there is almost nothing else from rest of South America. Rachana, over at second helping, is tackling this gap with the launch of her Latin American popup - Tan Bueno. It's a particularly brave venture given that her menu is completely and fully vegetarian. Rachana invited me over to taste her new menu and I can't help but tell you about this fabulous feast.

At Tan Bueno, Rachana welcomes you with that refreshing Mexican summer drink, an agua fresca. Her version has pineapple and mint in it and we sipped on this delicious drink all through our meal. A meal that starts off with three brilliant appetizers. There are empanadas filled with mince…

An Ode to Plain Rice

I grew up in Punjab. Which means only one thing rice-wise - we eat basmati. We don't eat a lot of it since Punjab is largely a wheat eating state but when we do - be it with curry or the lentil porridge (khichdi) or the rice pudding (kheer), the choice of rice is always the long grained, fragrant basmati. Now basmati is a great rice for things like biryani but it's not a cure all and over the years, I've found several new favourites to match the recipe I have in mind. After trying everything from black rice to the nutty wild rice, here is my pick of the top 5 varieties to always have in stock.

1. For Plain Rice: The kind of rice you eat with a curry. You need the grains to be soft and short, and it doesn't hurt for rice to be smushy. This is one category with multiple contenders but my favourite at the moment is the Bengali Govindobhog rice. I first discovered it at Lavaash in Delhi and it took a fair bit of hunting but Govindobhog is now available in my local hyperci…

Zucchini Fritters

Have you noticed how large zucchinis grow to be. I like adding them to the mix when making stir fries but there is only as much squash you can add to mushrooms and peppers and babycorn. Which means I usually have half a zucchini leftover after a stir fry meal. Most days, the half zucchini is left to languish in the fridge but I think I have finally found the perfect recipe for it.

It's zucchini fritters, made on a pan without much fuss at all. Now most recipes for such fritters call for eggs as binding agent but because even one egg will be way too much for my half zucchini, this recipe also features a secret ingredient - mayonnaise. Think about it - mayonnaise is really just egg and oil and flavour so you can't go wrong with this replacement.

Ingredients1 cup grated zucchini
2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp grated cheddar
salt and black pepper, to taste
olive oil to fry, about a tbsp

Put grated zucchini in a colander. Add 1/2 tsp salt, mix and leave over a bowl or a …

Lakshadweep Diaries

When someone asks me why I chose to go to Lakshadweep, the only answer I have is “because no one ever goes there”. It really was on a whim. I’m not an adventurous traveller; I started off traveling for business, with a friendly secretary booking flights and nondescript hotels and I have pretty much stuck to the “nice hotel-good restaurants-catch a show-go to museums” theme for my leisure travel.

Lakshadweep is none of these. Set hundreds of miles off the Indian mainland, this tiny group of 36 islands doesn’t register on any tourist map. Almost no information is available on these coral islands online and because they are ecologically sensitive, visitors need a permit to enter. There are no hotels or restaurants on the islands, only government run cottages set right on the beach. I discovered during one of my internet searches that only one of the six islands offer ‘AC cottages’ so I booked myself into Kadmat Island, got a permit and set out to fly from Kochi to the airport at Agatti Is…

Blueberry Yoghurt Cheesecake

India is a country that lives on carbs and dairy. We love our milky chais and eat dahi with meals. But yoghurt is traditionally a savoury accompaniment to rice and curries. Misti doi and mango shrikhand apart, the fruity, sweet yoghurts are a relatively new phenomenon, brought to the Indian markets by the likes of Danone a few years back.

Last week, Danone added greek yoghurt to their product mix. Thicker and creamier than regular yoghurt, greek yoghurt makes for a great snack right out of the pack. Specially when it comes in blueberry and mango variants that Danone has launched. I got invited to the launch party last week, which is a great way to meet all the blogger friends in the city. This one has an added bonus - they had a chef friend of mine, Varun, showcase recipes with yoghurt. And he came up with some interesting ones, including flapjacks and an instantly frozen mango parfait.

Danone sent us home with a hamper full of yoghurt and newly inspired by the cooking I'd seen, …

Fabelle: A Willy Wonka Story

There is a new Willy Wonka in town and her name is Bhumika. Just like Mr. Wonka of yore, Bhumika and the team at ITC Maratha have created a chocolate wonderland called Fabelle. Luxury chocolates, made with pure cocoa and devoid of additives and chemicals, are rare in India which is why ITC's initiative to create chocolate boutiques is such a fantastic idea. There are two kinds of chocolates you can buy at Fabelle - the boxed variety that is manufactured in the ITC factory in Bangalore or the brilliant creations the chefs come up with inside the boutique. No matter which of the two you go for, this is chocolate at par with the likes of Valrhona.

Fabelle invited me yesterday for a chocolate tasting experience. We kicked off with their square ganaches - these are essentially your cocoa and cream squares coated in cocoa powder - what others called truffles.



The ganache squares come in three variants - milk chocolate from ivory coast, dark chocolate from Ghana and an apple and cinnamo…

TAG-away

I've been eating out and reviewing restaurants in Mumbai for close to nine years now. New restaurants open here all the time but over the years, the dining out options have come to form a rather off-putting level of predictability. Maybe it's because diners look for something familiar but for a while, every new place to open was a 'deli' or a cafe with the same old set of sandwiches, pastas and the lone chocolate fondant on the menu. New trends also come in waves. For a while, you couldn't go anywhere without spotting a new frozen yogurt place. And last couple of years, modern/molecular Indian has become a fad, no matter how terribly executed.

In this mediocrity that has come to define dining out in Mumbai, Ranveer Brar's newly opened TAG is a revelation. This pure vegetarian restaurant puts its faith on tapas, the one trend that never caught on in Mumbai. I am a huge fan of eating lots of small flavorful dishes rather than go the starter-main course-dessert r…

Pancake Day

Today is Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Pancake Tuesday in some parts of the world. I didn't realise what a big deal pancake day is until I went to London where they have pancake races in the Parliament Square and every restaurant offers a pancake special. Apparently the pancakes are to use up all the butter and other good stuff in the house, this being the last tuesday before Lent begins. Pretty much like my mom's "eat up the eggs beta, it's navaratras from tomorrow".

Now you can easily whip up a pancake batter, pour some syrup on top and you are good to go. But to me, pancakes are like a blank canvas. There are infinite possibilities on what you can do with a pancake batter and there is one variation that's been on mind for a while. So for pancake day this year, we are making peanut butter and jelly pancakes.

What I did was whip up my regular pancake batter, but replacing butter with peanut butter. And a jam syrup. It's all super fun. Just read…

Kochi in the Times of Biennale

For visitors to Kerala, Kochi is a transit point. It's the city you take the train or flight to, before embarking on your journey to Alleppey or Munnar or wherever. But for three months every two years, Kochi becomes a destination in itself. From December 2016 to March 2017, Kochi is once again playing host to the Biennale Art Festival. Whether you love art and culture or are simply the curious kind and have a free weekend in March, I'm telling you to put Kochi on your travel list. Here's what you are missing if you haven't been to Biennale yet and how to make the best of it.

Let's start with our star attraction. Until March 29, the whole city of Kochi, and specially the Fort Kochi area, will be one big art gallery. There are 12 official venues but that's just your starting point. Spread all over Fort Kochi and Jew Town are plenty of other collateral events and venues. My favourite venue and the one I spent the most time at was Aspinwall House. Enough has been s…

A Tale of Four Cocktails

I have a big thing for molecular gastronomy. Foams, spheres, gels and anywhere else you use science to create unique food experiences remains a big plus in my book. But as the trend took off, there came a wave of subpar molecular restaurants in Mumbai. Only one group of restaurants have consistently managed to combine good flavours with all the fancy footwork that goes in creating the magical molecular experience and that's the Kalras. I'm a big fan of Masala Library, I adore Papaya and after my experience at Masala Bar a few days back, I'm adding it to my favourites in the city.

Masala Bar opened about a year ago but I only made it over there this week as part of a whole group of bloggers who were there to witness the launch of big bang nights - their new menu and offers like 2-for-1 on all drinks on tuesdays. But we'd get to food and drink in a minute. Let's talk about the place first.

Masala Bar sits on the first floor on a corner of carter road. And they have …