Category Archives: Delhi

Soulful Soups

Ah! there is something about soups in this weather that is so comforting. If made with the right ingredients and spices, these can be nourishing as well as healthy too. Nothing like a steaming bowl or mug of soup especially for dinner. In fact, on most days I prefer just that.

Goan, Bokdiacho caldo (mutton soup) made from mutton bones, onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander leaves and dices of potato, salt and pepper, is my all-time favourite. It is filling and boosts my immunity too. Caldo Verde with potatoes as the base is also a light and flavourful vegetarian soup of Portuguese origin.

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Being from Kolkata, I am used to relishing a spicy Thukpa, a Tibetan soup made with mixed vegetables, mixed meats and noodles  when the mercury dips. There is something for every palate in global cuisines too. Mulligatawny, Tom Kha, Tom Yum, Miso soup, Lobster bisque. My mouth is watering now.

Be imaginative and play around with flavours and textures. Be experimental. And global soups are not your only options. A plethora of soups from our very own Indian cuisine are a delight in this weather. Soups made from dals or lentils, paya soup, tamatar ka shorba or even a murg shorba. The options are endless.

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Don’t forget to add seasonal veggies in your soups wherever possible for that extra health quotient. Pumpkin, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, work wonders. And yes, the right spices to for additional warmth and immunity.

Cinnamon works wonders, as do ginger and garlic. I love to add these in my soups where ever possible.

If the soup alone is insufficient, pair it with garlic bread, toast or add macaroni to your soups or even red rice, to make it more sumptuous.

There is nothing like a well-made soup, it is soulful and comforting in winter, keeping winter blues at bay.

 

 

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Purani Dilli Once More

Last night I visited Purani Dilli aka Old Delhi, once more, right here in Mumbai. This time on a culinary journey by Osama Jalali, well-known food critic and curator.

Having lived in Delhi during my Post Graduation days, I am familiar with the by lanes of Old Delhi and aware of the treasure trove it is for foodies, specially hard-core Non vegetarians. Yet, what most of us associate with Purani Dilli food is quite contrary to what Rivaayat-e-Purani Dilli at Maya Trident BKC Mumbai served us.

Curated by Osama Jalali, the food according to him is Purani Dilli home food and not street food. “I grew up eating all of this daily, cooked by my mother,” he explains.

Indeed, the spread was anything, but street food. It was home style food, without a doubt as nothing was rich and heavy, even though the dishes were primarily Mughlai. His mother Nazish Jalali, the lady with a midas touch, who cooks delicious food effortlessly, was behind the elaborate meal, ably assisted by her daughter-in-law, Nazia Khan.

Our Kathal or jackfruit ki galouti arrived first. Interesting texture and flavours. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The Mewa Mawa kebabs were equally a treat. Whoever said there could be no delicious Vegetarian kebabs?

I was floored by the kacche keeme ki tikkiyan, where the meat had been pounded to perfection and the subtle, but distinct spices, teased my taste buds. The seekhs, although well made, paled in comparison. The chicken fry, a classic from Old Delhi was delightful.

The main course, was a vast array of dishes, with a hint of Rampuri, yet a predominance of Purani Dilli flavours. The Jalalis apparently hail from Rampur, located between Delhi and Lucknow and this has naturally influenced Nazish’s cooking, who has learnt first-hand from traditional khaansamas and is born with an inherent flair for cooking too.

The chana dal bharta, with its unique texture and slight tempering with ghee, stood out for me, in the main course as did the arbi or colocasia ka salan. Both struck me as unique. The aloo ka bharta was the quintessential home cooked potato dish, comforting and delicious.

The characteristic chewy textures, subtle flavours and not-so thick curries of Rampur were evident in the meal.

The keema  hari mirch which was a perfect dish to appease and tantatlize taste buds simultaneously, as was the lightly flavoured chicken stew made with whole spices. The Nehari was as good as it can be, but not exceptional. The whole urad with gosht was outstanding as the ingredients were blended well and resulted in great flavours.

What do I say about the Parinde mein Parinde, their signature dish? A roast meat stuffed with other animals was the piece de resistance, both, visually and for the palate. A dish truly befitting a feast table.

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I was surprised at myself, as I was not uneasy at all, having sampled so many dishes, albeit, a spoonful each.

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I was waiting for the desserts with a baited breath. Not merely, because I love sweets, but because I was going to sample Nazish’s speciality – gosht ka halwa. I must confess, I took the first spoonful with trepidation. But oh! what a delight this sweet dish was. The gosht had been cooked perfectly, over slow fire, with the milk and sugar and had blend so well that it was hard to guess, it was lamb after all. The cardamom and saffron further mask the meat odours and the result is sheer brilliance. I almost forgot about the other two desserts- phirni and zarda.

On till end of the month, this festival is open for lunch and dinner at Maya, Trident BKC Mumbai. While there is an unlimited thali for lunch, dinner has a la carte offerings only.

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Getting a chance to treat yourself to the lost flavours of Purani Dilli is something any gourmet ought to do.

 

Burgers anyone?

Burgers in India have evolved. Today, burger chains in India as well as five star hotels serve the best of burgers at par with the ones we get abroad. Big, value for money with interesting fillings made of fresh high quality ingredients.

Mexicano Burger

I was thrilled to see  that McDonalds has recently incorporated so many Indian spices in the burger bun.  This new variant is truly welcome. McDonald’s  new range of ‘Indi’ McSpicy burgers actually give consumers a kick of Desi spice with the unique flavor of Hari mirch sauce, made of Green Chillies – one of the commonly used ingredients in Indian Food.

Indi McSpicy Chicken

Originally from Hamburg in Germany, Burgers are now globally eaten and accepted.The varieties in burger patties today are plenty too. Chicken breasts grilled to perfection, sautéed in  interesting sauces, well made, delectable  fried chicken or paneer patty,  and even tofu. The options are endless.

Whether it is a classic meat burger or its healthier counterpart the Soybean burger , one can experiment with herbs and spices for an unusual result.  And chefs and burger chains alike, are doing that.

Chefs now experiment with toppings like Avocado salsa instead of melted cheese and fried onions. Instead of normal white bread you now have a range of healthy options to choose from.

MINI-BURGERS

I remember eating innovative stuff at the Leela Goa. Moong bean sprout patty, tamarind chutney, baked tapioca chips, coconut and cucumber salad, Shiitake, tofu and rice patty, sesame bun. Yes all this instead of the usual oily and unhealthy options we commonly indulge in. 

Woodside Inn Andheri does some great burgers. Loved their festival of global burgers from across the world, some months ago.

Fish or chicken burgers always catch my eye as these are fairly uncommon. Am not a meat person anyway. A chewy meat patty which some burger chains often tend to serve is a strict no no. A juicy, succulent burger is something we all enjoy.

Add-ons like sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, melting cheddar cheese and bacon rashers add variety even to an ordinary burger.

I am all for these fusion burgers rather than the age-ol’ classic burger. Innovation is fun and it is great to tease your palate with unusual flavours and textures.

And yes I love sliders or mini burgers too. Easy to eat and one can try our several different ones. And these make a pretty picture too.

I am now craving a burger. And you?

 

 

Let’s Get Cheesy…….

Cheese is something I have an incredible weakness for. It is a versatile ingredient, eaten and relished standalone, as well as used widely in cooking. My fridge is always well-stocked with several varieties. After all it comes handy as cheese makes an excellent ingredient to add both flair and flavour to the menu.

I relish it in dips or fondues. Perks up my taste buds instantly. Every type of cheese, fresh, semi-soft, washed rind, blue, semi-firm, or hard, has its special characteristics and properties. And yes, each variety of cheese has a unique, taste, texture and nutritional profile.

Cheese Burger Pizza

Some of the cheese dishes from my list of favourites are Swiss Fondue, Tiramisu made with mascarpone cheese and even a pizza generously topped with cheese. Or a crust filled with cheese. Pastas, pizzas and salads are incomplete without cheese.  Who can resist a well-made cheese toast for breakfast or a cheesy omelette for that matter? Another way to relish cheese is with crackers, nuts, fruits, bread.

A somewhat underutilized version is cream cheese. Can work wonders in desserts especially the New York cheese cake, which lends a great texture and richness to the dish.  The texture appeals to me a great deal.

Most varieties of cheese can be enjoyed cooked or uncooked. It depends on personal preferences. Few cheeses taste divine once heated, whereas some lose their distinct taste with application of heat. For example the pizza mozzarella is enjoyed in a better way if served warm.

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Gouda, Cheddar, Colby, Gruyere, Parmesan, are the hard varieties. European cheeses like Cheddar, Ricola, Emmental, Gruyere, Mozzarella are equally popular in India now and easily available at gourmet stores too. That is heartening to see though I wish these were a bit more affordable.

I need no reason or occasion to savour cheese. I love it anyway, anytime. I still love my Kraft cheese even though my palate has now accepted many more newer varieties.

Parisian Choux Pastry Goes Desi

Eclairs au chocolat used to be my favourite. Not surprising at all, as most of us love chocolates and when combined with an eclairs, the combination is pure sin. I say used to, as my preference changed just recently. On my recent trip to Delhi and Gurgaon, I sampled some new divine eclair flavours, which have led me to relinquish my fav chocolate eclairs. And I don’t regret the shift.

Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts recently launched their first-ever global éclair program in partnership with award-winning pastry chef and new LM100 member Johnny Iuzzini. who is from the Catskills region in upstate New York. I was lucky to get an opportunity to indulge in a variety of modern twists to the chic Parisian treat, including both classic flavours as well as unique creations inspired by the destination.

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It was an absolute culinary treat as I got to sample some unique eclairs at Le Meridien Gurgaon and then Delhi. As part of the programme, each hotel offered their own modern take on three signature éclair flavours – coffee, chocolate and vanilla – as well as one locally inspired flavour. It was a revelation to see each chef’s creativity and penchant for innovation.

I loved the Mishti doi eclairs at Le Meridien Gurgaon. The Bong in me could not resist that one. The chef had obviously perfected it. The Kalakand one at Le Meridien Delhi was delectable and the winner. Sweet and strongly reminscent of the North Indian sweet Kalakand. Absolutely loved it.

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“Through local recipes and a modern perspective on this quintessentially French pastry, Le Méridien éclairs enable us to offer unique, memorable guest experiences in our signature Le Méridien Hubs and restaurants around the world, ”  Brian Povinelli, Global Brand Leader, Le Méridien & Westin, told me  I could not agree more with him.

Through this unique culinary collaboration, Chef Iuzzini will create eight signature éclair recipes exclusively for Le Méridien over the next 12 months, inspired by a global tour of select Le Méridien destinations.

“I am excited to work with Le Méridien in particular because of the brand’s commitment to unlocking the destination through locally-inspired cuisine, and I look forward to reinventing the éclair with the help of Le Méridien’s talented chefs around the world, ” gushed Luzzini.

Darjeeling tea, ginger and jaggery caught his fancy while in India and Luzzini created the Darjeeling Express eclairs. It was an amalgamation of unique flavours, subtle, spicy and sweet.

So the choux pastry—traditionally filled with pastry cream, custard, or whipped cream and topped with fondant icing just went desi. I am lovin’ it!

South Indian Fare + Global Flavours = Kobri Food Truck

A restaurant on wheels is always a fun prospect to eat from. Of course extremely popular in the West, one does not see too many in India owing to licenses and permission problems, yet, thankfully, a few are mushrooming all over India. Delhi and NCR seem to be leading the way. I was lucky to sample the food from Kobri, a food truck parked at The Heritage Transport Museum, one afternoon, courtesy, Le Meridien Gurgaon.

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The menu for the day was on the blackboard outside the truck and the chefs lead by Rajneesh Kumar, Head Chef, Flavour Labs,  were chopping, mixing, preparing, frying at a frenetic pace. The excitement as building. South Indian fusion food is Kobri’s speciality. After all, Kobri means coconut in Kannada.

This unique food truck is part of a hospitality setup called Flavour Labs and was conceptualised in 2013 during the Stanford Business School’s Ignite program in Bangalore. Launched in October 2014, Kobri is based in Gurgaon and mostly caters to the larger NCR region, Rohan Rajgarhia, one of the partners informed me.

The founding team comprises of entrepreneurial professionals with a passion for incredible food experiences, who have backgrounds in hotels & hospitality, healthcare, corporate strategy, analytics, customer service; and academic/professional affiliations with Stanford, Cambridge, Harvard and IIT.

South Indian food is something most of us enjoy, but the fusion bit was the intriguing part. Spinach and mushroom in a white wine cream sauce topped with cheese and chilly flakes was what I settled for, in a wrap. I had made a good choice. The wrap was crisp and the filling generous. The medley of spinach and mushrooms was flavorsome and the white wine cream sauce, laced with cheese gave it a smooth texture, which led to a burst of flavours in my mouth. It was sumptuous, the veggies crunchy and affordably priced. All the prerequisites to make it work for office goers looking for a quick, filling and healthy lunch. Aaiyyo! Delectable stuff.

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The spiced mutton kababs served with salad greens and an apple and olive salsa were equally unique and interesting. However, I preferred them on idlis rather than in the wrap form.

Other options include Paneer with assorted peppers in a mild chettinad sauce and topped with salad greens, Crispy fish on a bed of beetroot and turnip roulade, served with in-house tartar sauce and fresh greens. I like the twist Chef Rajneesh has given to the dishes. The flavours are contemporary and global, appealing to all taste buds. Yet, if one is craving for a South Indian meal, these, satiate that urge too. The idli subs I thought were cute and yet, filling. With offerings ranging from Rs 140-180, food is an absolute steal.

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Apparently they have another truck called Hoppers that offers healthy comfort food. I can’t wait to try that on my next visit to Delhi and NCR. Alas! we need a Kobri in Mumbai too!