Monthly Archives: August 2016

Rustic & Robust Flavours from A Village

Pind da khana sounds comforting at once. After all it means, food from your village. And here, if the ‘pind’ in question is Punjab, well, automatically it spells familiarity and comfort for me.

Baluchi at The Lalit, Mumbai is currently hosting a Pind da Khana festival till Saturday for both lunch and dinner.

My lunch began on a refreshing note with the Shikanji soda or lemonade with rock salt and soda. The right amount of sweetness and salt. Just the way I love mine. It helped me create an appetite.

shikanji

The menu was fairly exhaustive and I was in a dilemma. What shall I eat or skip? Amritsari Chholey kulchey, Patialashahi kadhai Paneer, Kadhi pakoda, Jalandhari barrah boti and Amritsari Machhi. I was impressed with the vegetarian options too. .

The traditional Atte Gond ka halwa, whole wheat flour sweet delicacy with nuts and natural gum- recipe which originates from Phagwara district- a sugar producing belt of Punjab as well as gulabi phirnee, gulab jamun et al, adorned the dessert section of the menu.

Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty came to my rescue and promised to send me small portions of some of the special dishes. I was sorted.

The chicken tikka and Macchi Ajwaini tikka arrived. A bite into the succulent chicken tikka and I figured out this was no ordinary fare. The tikkas were well marinated and the flavours of the marinade had enveloped the tikka perfectly. The fresh pieces of  River Sole fish with the right amount of spices that teased my taste buds, was equally a delight. No overdose of ajwain or spices here at all.

tikka platter

Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty , Master Chef Rais Alam and his culinary team had surely whipped up an array of authentic, robust and flavourful delicacies, which I was thoroughly relishing.

The dhaniya mirch da kukkad with whole chillies, onion and coriander was a delectable medley for my palate, subtle yet, spicy. It paired well with the laccha paratha, besan ki roti and naan, the chef had sent. The methi matar preparation and the dhaba dal in the main course, got my vote instantly. For a change it was not the usual dal makhni but a tasty mixed dal with interesting spices. And the methi, rustic and appeased my palate.

The Rarah gosht and kukkad pulao looked inviting on the menu, but there was no scope to try more today.

Nothing in the meal was oily or greasy that made one feel uneasy. That’s what set this meal apart.

The aate gond ka halwa was easily one of the best I have ever tasted. The variety of textures- creamy, crunchy, were a delight, as were the flavours and the aroma of fresh ghee. The phirnee too was excellent, but today, paled in comparison.

The ambience and decor of the restaurant was in keeping with the theme and the service was warm, attentive and efficient, yet, unobtrusive, as it should be.

My experience at Baluchi, had actually surpassed my expectations. I was glad I had stepped in to savour such an exceptional meal. I knew for a fact, I was going to be coming to The Lalit Mumbai more often, if this is how Chef Angshuman and his team succeeded in luring food lovers like me.

 

 

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Popularising The Humble Hummus

There can be nothing more comforting than a bowl of hummus to dip warm pita bread into or even raw vegetable sticks when watching TV at home, or simply reading a book. I can gorge on hummus any time of the day and with almost anything.

A staple in the Middle East and Greece, hummus is a dip made of chickpeas ( Kabuli chanas), tahini or sesame, garlic, lemon juice and salt and of course Extra Virgin Olive oil and perhaps paprika flakes and is simple to make. However, one must have good quality ingredients and use them in the right proportion.

What’s more, packed with protein, fibre, it is tasty as well as healthy too and handy for quick snacks, lunches, party dips and what have you. There is so much you can do with hummus.

I love the basic plain hummus, but love exciting variants too. Of late, hummus has moved beyond its core ingredients to embrace flavours. People are clearly in the mood to experiment with different varieties of hummus.

I personally prefer to make hummus a day in advance and refrigerate it. The flavours tend to develop better, especially the garlic and the mixture thickens to the consistency, I enjoy. And voila! It is ready to be eaten.

I have often searched for the right hummus in Mumbai. Of course some restaurants serve it, but that is not feasible or viable to take away. Many other places offer it, but the quality and authenticity leaves a lot to be desired. Invariably, I am disappointed.

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Recently, I stumbled upon a hummus from Chef’s Basket (Fizzy Foodlabs) at the Nature’s Basket store in Lokhandwala, Andheri West.  With trepidation I picked up the attractively packaged box of fresh garlic hummus, priced affordably too. I came home and tried it. It not just met my expectations, but surpassed it, I must confess.

The texture was perfect, the flavours, authentic and palate-pleasing. And it struck me as fresh, with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Just the way I make it at home. Oh! My joy knew no bounds. Finally my search for the perfect hummus had ended.

I am a self-confessed hummus addict. I can have it daily. New flavours in hummus excite me and I too keep experimenting. Sun dried tomatoes, basil, there is so much you can add to a hummus. Even herbs, Indian spices and more. Only, balance is key.

Am happy to see that hummus has moved to supermarket shelves and become more accessible and affordable. With Chef’s Basket offering Beetroot Hummus and Roasted Bell Pepper hummus, I am eagerly waiting to try those.

Got to put on my thinking caps as to how to use these two hummus variants when I buy them. Any suggestions as to what I should pair it with?

 

Chocolates, Twice Over

This has been a sweet week. Well, quite literally. Chocolates galore for me. No,  unfortunately relatives did not come visiting and bring me chocolates. It was work that took me closer to chocolates and am not complaining.

Mondelez  India Foods Pvt Limited, launched  Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations just ahead of the festive season. The entire launch event was in tandem with the spirit of this product- fun and playful.

Available in two flavours, Jelly Popping Candy and Cookie Nut Crunch, kids are going to love it, as are adults like me. It is every chocolate lover’s delight. The packaging is so alluring that it compels you to pick up one. Irresistible.

Mondelez India introduces Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations. Prashant Peres - Director - Marketing (Chocolates) Mondelez India launching the product (2)

It is quite different from the previous Cadbury Dairy Milk range, I assure you. With a quirky looking block and curiously shaped pieces of varying sizes made specifically for sharing, this chocolate spells a lot of fun for families and friends. The rounded pieces roll off the roof of your mouth, the chocolate melting away to leave the key ingredients to explode, as the contrasting sensations play off. The jelly beanies, gems and popping candy all infused in delightfully shaped bar, is what sets it apart.

 

Prashant Peres, Director – Marketing (Chocolates), Mondelez India,  told me “We are delighted to introduce global innovation like Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations in India. Indian consumers now demand unique formats and eat experiences and given our global leadership in chocolate, we are well positioned to identify and bring some of our world leading brands to India. Our objective is to bring fun and excitement into the way Indians enjoy their favorite chocolate. The product combines exciting inclusions like gems, jelly and popping candy in an indulgent bar of milk chocolate that literally explodes in your mouth with every unpredictably delicious bite.”

As if I had not gorged enough on the Marvellous Creations, that Barry Callebaut Group, the world’s leading manufacturer of high quality chocolate and cocoa products,  decided to indulge me further.

It was the opening of their new, relocated Callebaut CHOCOLATE ACADEMY Center office in  Andheri East, Mumbai.

Barry Callebaut celebrates the opening of its new relocated Callleabut Chocolate Academy center in Mumbai  (4)

Oh what a sight to behold it was. State of the art equipment for chefs and culinary professionals to experiment, create and innovate with the most comprehensive and diverse selection of high-quality global gourmet chocolate products. The CALLEBAUT CHOCOLATE ACADEMY center in Mumbai is one of the company’s 19th chocolate training centers in the world and one of four in Asia Pacific.
“Callebaut is proud to have been a part of the chef’s community for over 10 years and we owe our customers in India for helping us build our business. We want to provide locals and visitors with the best chocolate making experience we can and we look forward to serving them even better in this state-of-the-art CHOCOLATE ACADEMY center and sales office,” said Dhruv Bhatia, Barry Callebaut’s Managing Director, India.
Barry Callebaut celebrates the opening of its new relocated Callleabut Chocolate Academy center in Mumbai  (1)
Chef Mane and Chef Ghosh demonstrated choux pastry and a white chocolate mousse using the Callebaut range. One can sure do wonders with this superior quality chocolate. They made it look so simple and effortless.
Barry Callebaut celebrates the opening of its new relocated Callleabut Chocolate Academy center in Mumbai  (6)
Amidst hot chocolate shots and a variety of decadent Callebaut chocolates, which simply melt in the mouth, the afternoon just flew.
The center’s offerings include a wide range of workshops, courses and demonstrations for professional customers in all sectors: chocolatiers, pastry chefs, bakers and other chocolate experts as well as culinary professionals working in hotels, restaurants and the catering business.
Barry Callebaut celebrates the opening of its new relocated Callleabut Chocolate Academy center in Mumbai  (21)
With budding chefs being able to learn more from the experts and experienced chefs being able to experiment with new creations using Callebaut’s wide inventory of high quality gourmet chocolate and cocoa products, this center is certainly going to be a sought-after haven for  professionals and enthusiasts working with chocolate.
Cheers! to chocolate and innovation.

Sunday Fiesta :Of Cartoons & Comics

It is not often that you get to relive your fun-filled childhood days. But I was lucky enough to do so last Sunday. The Cartoon Themed Sunday Brunch at Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport, Andheri East, presented me with the perfect opportunity.

The festival has already begun, and is being celebrated every Sunday in the form of an extravagant Sunday brunch. It will feature a new superhero/cartoon series theme every two Sundays. Batman, Superman, Harry Potter, Tom & Jerry, Scooby Doo; name your favorite DC Comics or Cartoon Network character and it could be featured at India’s first and only official DC Comics (DC) & Cartoon Network (CN) Brunch.

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There was merriment galore as the place was buzzing with excited kids, having fun with themed cupcakes, pastas, pizzas, and more as well as the entertainment from Flubber Martin, face painting, magic shows, music, contests et al. It was almost a fete.

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The child in me surfaced involuntarily, as I went and enjoyed myself at the various counters as I watched kids whiz past, enjoying themselves.

The chefs at Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai have  toiled relentlessly and researched and created authentic menus in keeping with those characters,  that children love. And there is so much to choose from – Scooby’s snacks or his XXL sandwiches, Dexter’s scientific experiments, Harry Potter’s dinner at Hogwarts or Flintstone’s famous roast, Tom & Jerry’s cheese.

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Says Executive Chef Suresh Thampy, “We didn’t want to limit ourselves to character-shaped food. Hence, we studied every character, superhero and cartoon series to find their likes, dislikes, favorite foods and more. The food served on the festival’s brunch buffet will have this research as its major influence.”

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The food was a vast spread with pastas, burgers, pizza, mains, grills, desserts galore.  The chefs were also preparing dishes a la minute at the live counters which were equally a delight to watch.

The dessert counter with attractive Tom & Jerry themed desserts was enough to get any child hooked. I too unabashedly indulged. My guilty pleasures these.

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Whether or not you have kids, if you are a fan of these comics and the characters and enjoy good food and a lively atmosphere, head to the Mo Mo Cafe one of these Sundays.

I had the time of my life last Sunday.

Here’s the complete schedule:

July 03 & 10, 2016 – Batman

July 17 & 24, 2016 – Ben10

July 31 & August 7, 2016 – Tom & Jerry

August 14 & 21, 2016 – Harry Potter

August 28 & September 4, 2016 – Dexter

September 11 & 18, 2016 – Scooby Doo

September 25 & October 2, 2016 – Superman

October 9 & 16, 2016 – The Flintstones