Category Archives: Food experiences

Christmas Roasts

With Christmas round the corner, we all have stuffed chicken or turkey on our minds. While Turkey is usually the centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinners, chicken, pork, lamb  roasts are popular for Christmas.

Roast lamb with apricot stuffing is matchless. Another good combination for lamb stuffing is bacon, garlic and rosemary or bacon and shallots. If you’re looking for an exotic Christmas Turkey, then ricotta cheese or orange and prunes stuffing maybe the answer.

Roast Chicken

A good stuffing, believe me, can transform the taste of your roast, so spend time preparing it. Experiment with herbs, nuts and other ingredients. Some of us like cubed bread and garlic as the stuffing, while others prefer, bread mix with onion, thyme and parsley. Any type of bread will work as long as it has a firm texture and has been dried properly. Your roast can have luscious flavours owing to the unique fillings. Whatever be the filling, it is a laborious process, but worth it anyway.

My all time favourite is Roast Chicken with Apple-Sausage Stuffing, Pan-Reduced Sauce and Roasted Vegetables. And it is pretty simple and straightforward to prepare too. Mushrooms pair well with pork, so try adding those to your stuffing this year.

Make use fo fruits. These can rev up the taste of the dish to unimaginable heights. Apples, cranberries, dried apricots, dried plums, raisins are a good choice.

Bread, chestnut, sage, pork sausage, cranberries is a typical stuffing and the first choice of many.

If you don’t want to make the stuffing yourself, buying readymade ones (of course a prior order is mandatory) is also a possibility. In  Mumbai too, many take orders and supply great roasts on Christmas. And of course Mumbai hotels and restaurants have great roasts on offer for Christmas.

Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce, Brussel Sprouts, Roast Leg of Pork with Parsnips, are available at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar. Chef Sanjana Patel at La Folie Lab is offering a traditional English Roast with Chicken supreme breast with Buttered beans, Roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. Oh! this one is not to be missed.

Made at home or purchased, or savouring one at a restaurant, a roast is a must on Christmas. Yes, with a bowl of gravy, some roasted potatoes, carrots, broccoli and wine. Merry Christmas!

 

A recipe that I love to follow :

Pork, sage, onion and chestnuts stuffing

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 50 g stale bread
  • 200 g vacuum-packed chestnuts
  • 1 kg shoulder of pork, trimmed and diced
  • 1 bunch fresh sage, leaves picked
  • 3 rashers smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
  • freshly ground white pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1 whole fresh nutmeg, for grating
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange

Method-
Preheat your oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5. Blitz the onions in the food processor until finely chopped, then tip into a large bowl. Tear the stale bread into small chunks and whiz into breadcrumbs. Add these to the bowl, then crush and crumble your chestnuts in there too. Tip your diced pork into the food processor with the sage leaves, bacon, a level teaspoon of white pepper and a good pinch of salt. Finely grate in a quarter of the nutmeg, the zest of half a lemon and just 2 or 3 gratings of orange zest. Pulse until you’ve got some chunks and some mush, it won’t even take a minute, then tip into the mixing bowl.

Because the pork is raw, you’re committed to seasoning it well so add another pinch of salt and white pepper, then get your clean hands in there and scrunch it all up until well combined.

Take just under half of the stuffing out of the bowl to use for your turkey, then transfer the rest to a lovely earthenware-type dish that you can serve from. Use your hands to break it up and push it about, then flatten it all down. Pop it in the oven to cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour until bubbling and crispy. When done, you can pour away any excess fat before serving if you want to. It will be soft, juicy and succulent on the inside, then gnarly, crispy and chewy on the outside.

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The Unstoppable Pastry Queen

There are a lot of chefs I admire. In fact I respect most of them for being so passionate about their craft and the hard work they put in unflinchingly. But some I deeply respect.

One such young chef with whom I share a good rapport and have followed her work closely from inception is Executive Chef and Partner, La Folie, Sanjana Patel.

Chef Sanjana Patel- La Folie

A creator par excellence, I love her dedication, her focus towards her work and her ability to learn and enjoy what she does. I have always found her to be extremely gifted and a cut above the rest. Not one to hobnob at social do’s or immerse herself networking, she goes about her work with quiet dignity. And her creations bear ample testimony to that.

An alumnus of Le Cordon Bleu, London,  Sanjana has done an apprenticeship with Pierre Hermé. After which, she worked with the likes of Emmanuel Ryon (of the famous Café Pouchkine in Paris) and Jean-Charles Rochoux.

Sanjana Patel returned to Mumbai eager to give the city the best dessert experience ever, using high-quality ingredients and keeping the menu limited and specialised. She started La Folie Pâtisserie in 2014 and changed the way, we Mumbaikars looked at desserts.

Avant garde creations are her forte as are classics. Less is more is clearly her mantra. A Sakura from Japan and the dessert Jardin – a grapefruit & yogurt pavlova, are two offerings which particularly impressed me at the La Folie Lab in Kamala Mills. Both labour-intensive and detailed.

Liege Belgian waffle - Nutella chocolate ganache

After opening La Folie Lab’s latest outpost in Kamala Mills earlier this year, she has now set up La Folie Du Chocolat at Kala Ghoda, a place where it all began. Basically she has reinvented it and presented the patisserie in a new avatar. “This is what I enjoy doing the most, ” she gushes effusively. She gladly delves into the myriad nuances of chocolates as she patiently takes me through her offerings. From Le baba to vegan bonbons and chocolate bars, Sanjana has them all.

Her inventive new menu features an affogato drip bar, a selection of coffees by Koinonia and premium teas by TGL. This tiny and vibrant Parisian Cafe is the perfect place to sip a Cortado and read a book or catch up with friends for a sweet treat.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Sanjana takes customer feedback seriously and is always keen to keep abreast of latest global trends and incorporate new learnings in her work. She painstakingly plunges into R&D, forever yearning to create new things – sometimes healthy alternatives to her desserts at other times indulging in experiments.

But none of all that she has created and achieved, I feel would be possible, if it was not for the rock solid support given to her by her sheat anchor, husband Parthesh. The way he handles the business, their customers, the operations making it all look like a breeze is laudable.

The effervescent and restless Chef Sanjana is simply unstoppable. And that’s what I love about Sanjana, among her many other qualities.

 

Tea Tales & Winter food

Winters are somehow all about indulgence. Given the weather when the temperature drops, one can getaway by giving in to one’s guilty pleasures. More calories are needed to generate body heat, we are told, so we all gladly embark upon that task. Sadly, Mumbai does not gift us real winters, yet, we unabashedly gorge on some winter delicacies.

Another thing which is synonymous for everyone with winters, is a hot brew-tea or coffee. I love my tea and  when a winter menu is about tea and food, naturally I am ecstatic.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House (TMTH) has curated a new Winter Menu, using the most exotic and fresh produce of the season.  TMTH has handpicked season’s popular ingredients and created an interplay of flavours to intrigue the diner’s taste buds.

Irresistible this sounded, so I set about to explore it one evening.

As I settled in, I discovered each item on the cleverly crafted menu, was aptly complemented by one of their signature tea blends.

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The falafel chaat arrived on the table and was paired with  a pink guava and kaffir lime tea. The tangy chaat with palate-teasing flavours, was delightful. After a sip of the light tea, the flavours came alive with a vengeance. I was off to a good start.

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Next was the salad with paneer and the tea to go along, was a delicate Oriental Jasmine and rose. A unique blend of the East and West- a romantic tea, which uplifts your mood instantly. It did just that. It perked my taste buds and I found myself enjoying the hearty and crunchy salad even more.

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Teas being paired with every course, I thought was an exciting thing to do in order to enhance the dining experience. And it really worked wonders.

Risotto infused with Sambar was served next but the watered down version did not entice me enough. The silver needle and berries tea paired with it though, took me by surprise. Fruity and flavourful, it was comforting all the way and yet, added zest to my palate with its intoxicating flavours. Who needs wine with teas like this around?

The Idly Crust with Pomfret was the piece de resistance. Fresh fluffy soft fish with a delectable crust was a treat for the taste buds.

What can I say about the matcha semifreddo. It bore ample testimony to Chef’s mastery over his craft. The matcha tea flavours, lend themselves seamlessly to this dessert and in fact enhanced the taste. Layers of Matcha cream and cake covered with grilled almond slivers and served with chocolate sauce. Truly decadent. Paired with the robust mocha tea this course was truly memorable. Assam chai with a rich coffee cream crown and finished with cracked roasted coffee beans. Whew! I had tasted nothing like this ever before.

There is Chai cheese cake tart too, for dessert lovers, which I have to head back to try.

This menu is truly innovative and offers something for every palate. A special treat for the Vegans is using the winter staple Ragi in a contemporary Vegetable Quiche. Vegetarians can relish the Multigrain Hari Matar Burger, while carnivores will enjoy the Baked Irani Lamb Kheema – Aubergine parceled shells baked with lamb kheema inspired by Dhansak flavor and glazed with Béchamel sauce, among others.

I left the place with a smile as the manner in which teas had been paired with food,  especially the fish course was a true revelation. And I had sampled the very best of teas and food. It does not get any better than this. Winters had set in for me this evening, and I was not complaining.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A haven of rest and relaxation

Getting out of Mumbai is always an exciting prospect. We all need short breaks at least when we live in big cities and lead hectic lives. My excitement knew no bounds as Alibaug is a place I love. What added to the charm was that I was to experience Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Alibaug, a hotel, which has been around for a while but revamped and refurbished recently.

As our car rolled into Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug, the vast expanse over which this property is spread, caught my eye.  A warm welcome and quick check in made me feel truly welcome.

The prospect of a stay at Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug with its famous Aparanta, the all-day dining restaurant and Kokum & Spice, the specialty restaurant, serving coastal fare, a spa, recreation facilities, suddenly seemed more thrilling.

Spread across several acres of land, this hotel is a haven of luxury, rest and repose. Shown around the hotel by the affable Aparup Biswas and Hemang Parmar, Director F&B, I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Time had just flown as I was soaking in all the information.

The 156 rooms comprise deluxe rooms, superior rooms, executive suites, deluxe spa villas and executive spa villas. With beautiful views, each of these offers understated luxury.

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I entered my vibrant and comfortable villa. The elegant and aesthetic décor appealed to me instantly. My villa spelt comfort and all the possible needs of a guest were anticipated and taken care of by Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug. Their attention to detail impressed me. The duplex villa was designed aptly with effective usage of space. The living room with a dining space was on the lower floor with a spacious bedroom on top.

After settling down in my room, I enjoyed my lunch at Aparanta, where chef had created unique delicacies. Punjabi food acquired a whole new meaning here as chef gave it a contemporary twist in presentation without altering the flavours. The food was hearty and the flavours robust. Even the vegetarian dishes boasted of exquisite flavours and bore testimony to the chef’s creativity.

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After a restful afternoon, I moved to the Escenza Spa, where I was booked for a spa treatment. The spa, I noticed, had a tastefully done up reception area, treatment rooms, steam room and sauna. Other amenities of the hotel include a gym, a library, outdoor and indoor games. One need not step out of the property as there is something for everyone to relax and keep busy.

The spa room was tranquil and I felt relaxed immediately. The serene environment, the expert therapist using the best possible range of products were enough to pamper me.  The Swedish massage with aromatic oils, sounded just like what my tired body needed. The therapist firmly but gently removed all the knots from my muscles and massaged me deftly. I was rejuvenated beyond words. The music however could have been a bit softer. Nevertheless, a surge of well-being enveloped me as I left the Spa recharged ready to enjoy my evening.

Dinner was at Kokum & Spice. We experienced coastal food at its best. The chic but understated elegance of this place impressed me. The spacious seating and mood lighting added to the charm of this traditional restaurant.

Chef had curated a menu for us, giving us a glimpse of the signature dishes from Goa, Mangalore, Maharashtra and we had a lot to choose from. Mangalore fish curry, bombil fry, rawas, prawns, vade. The food was delectable and offered a melange of tantalizing flavours, characteristic of the coastal belt.  The freshness of the sea food and the quality of ingredients used struck me as outstanding. The spices used were authentic and the outcome was an aromatic experience which lingered on my palate. This restaurant was going to  henceforth top my list for coastal food.

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I rounded off my meal with the traditional ukadiche modak with ghee or thoop. And of course the paan freshly made by the cute paan kiosk outside the restaurant.

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Next morning, feeling rested after a good night’s sleep, after sipping my tea in my room which faced a  lake, I stepped down for breakfast at the all-day dining restaurant, Aparanta.

The breakfast spread was an exercise in choices. The expansive restaurant with several seating options and abundant natural light, was abuzz with activity. The live counters served dosas, eggs, parathas and more. The food was fresh and the offerings varied. The service was alert and exemplary.

After a lazy morning spent walking around the property, I checked out at noon.  I had been spoilt thoroughly by the warm hospitality extended to me. Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug, the contemporary luxury resort, so close to Mumbai, yet a perfect getaway, transports you to another world nestled in nature’s surroundings.

 

Zesty flavours of Assam : O’Tenga

Having been born and brought up in Kolkata, Assam is quite close to my heart. Literally too, a State not too far away. With several friends from there, I have often sampled a lot of their local dishes. But of course many of those were unknown to me.

Mumbai is not exactly a place where you expect to find Assamese food. Have on an odd occasion tried some dishes at a pop-up but found those hugely disappointing.

Naturally then, when I heard about O’Tenga a delivery outfit started by two young Assamese girls, Joyee Mahanta and Priyangi Borthakur, serving Assamese home style food, I was intrigued. Apart from a 24-hour advance pre-order, one can also order from Swiggy for both lunch and dinner. They also offer meals on a daily or monthly basis.

It was their passion for their cuisine and the lack of it in Mumbai that made them start O’Tenga. Working on recipes from their mothers and grandmothers, the duo perfected each dish through trial and error, as they gave up their full-time jobs and took the plunge.

The menu includes traditional food like khar (made by filtering water through the ashes of sun-dried banana peels), xaak bhaji (lightly seasoned green, leafy vegetables), dail (lentils), tenga (a tangy curry), pitika (mashed potatoes), besides fish, chicken and mutton dishes.

I start my meal with khar, owing to its alkaline nature. This dish gets your stomach ready for the rest of the meal. The last dish again must be with tenga as it is acidic in nature.

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My meal comprising massor muro or fish head khar, chicken with black sesame paste – til diya murgi mangxo, paaleng xaak bhaji, dal, lau bilahi tenga or bottle gourd tenga, pitika, mutton, rice, was a delightful journey of comforting flavours. Appeasing to the eyes as well.

Each dish was distinct and boasted of simple flavours. Tangy, fragrant, piquant, aromatic, dishes wowed my palate in turn as I tried each of these. The textures were equally varied. I loved the use of mustard oil which is achingly familiar for my taste buds. The ingredients were, as expected the hero in each dish.

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No overpowering spices in their food at all. No forced attempt to dress up the food or make it look fancy either. And that to my mind was what made the food outstanding. It was like eating food at a friend’s home.

What makes their food authentic are the recipes of course but the ingredients locally sourced from Assam make all the difference. From guti aloo to bhut jalokia and kajinemu, they try to procure these from Assam. Of course vegetables, are picked up locally from Mumbai and fresh seasonal ones are preferred by them.

Abundant pork dishes on the menu for pork lovers and of course plenty of mutton, chicken and fish too. The vegetarian options too are sufficient and in fact the offerings are unique.

I rounded off my meal with the customary payox or payesh but with the addition of camphor, which was new for my taste buds.

A thoroughly enjoyable meal, affordably priced and extremely varied.  I am certainly waiting to try the other dishes on their menu.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

Soups for my soul

When the temperatures drop all of us crave for a soup. I know in Mumbai that almost never happens. I mean, it never gets cold, yet, I look forward to my hot soups. It could be a creamy thick soup or simply clear with veggies and meat or even a tangy pepper rasam made with lentils. Pan Asian favourites or even our very own desi shorbas and yes, healthy versions too. I relish them all.

Taiwanese Aromatic Miso Milk Bowl Shizusans signature soup and a one bowl meal

A great fan of red pumpkin, I love to prepare a classic roasted pumpkin soup and do a good job too. A piquant tamatar ka shorba, can be a great option.  Recently I tasted a tangy Sindhi tamatar ki kadhi as a a soup at JLWA in Bandra. It rendered me speechless.

Soups offer endless versatility in terms of textures, ingredients and flavour. That’s what attracts me the most to soups. The cheddar and Beer soup at Theory in Mumbai by Chef Clyde remains an all time favourite.

Taste apart, warmth and immunity are key in this season to boost one’s immunity and thus, the right use of ingredients plays an important role. A careful selection of ingredients can up the health quotient of these comforting soups. Dark green leafy vegetables and seasonal vegetables, are a must addition and should be included wherever possible. Ginger and peppercorns as spices, with medicinal properties, too can do wonders.

Root vegetables, mushrooms and barley with an addition of meat stock makes for a robust and filling soup infused with health benefits.

A roasted sweet potato soup can be nutritious and tasty, as sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients. Roasting the sweet potatoes first intensifies their flavour.

Soups in winter help one soothe and relax in an inexplicable way when one is down with cold, cough and fever. The spice quotient should be perfect to give heat, as well as soothe to the throat. It’s about using the right spices like cinnamon sticks, cinnamon (dalchini) powder, nutmeg (jaiphal) powder, ginger, fresh turmeric, white pepper powder and pepper.

Carrot & Orange soup (1)

Who can resist a well-made Pan Asian soup with a myriad flavours? One can have it clear, or with noodles, meats and vegetables. Clear chicken soup with light, fluffy dumplings and a deeply savoury, salubrious broth could be the answer, if one is seeking a light but comforting Oriental soup. A Thai prawn broth with fish stock as the base and fragrant Thai spices is a good option as well, as is the Tom Kha with coconut milk to temper the spice element.

Shizusan has got to be one of my favourite places for versatile and flavourful soups. Chef Paul Kinny serves unique ones.

Paya shorba 2

Whoever said soups that satisfy you must be western classics or global concoctions only? Pepper Rasam owing to its spice content, is soothing and therefore is a perfect soup for winter. Various mildly-flavoured shorbas from traditional Indian cuisine,  made with vegetables, lentils and beans, are apt for winter. Paya shorba, a meat broth, generally lamb, where the meat is slow-cooked is a good choice as it is extremely healthy and keeps one warm.

 

Seasonal vegetables, meaty mushrooms, tender chicken or lentils. Add what you like to your fragrant soups this season, but make sure it is  hearty and provides you with the requisite nutrients. Bon appetit.

Satisfy your sweet cravings on this street

Who can resist desserts? And definitely not in the festive season. So when I discovered the first-ever personalised dessert kitchen in Mumbai, I was ecstatic. Yes, Dessert Street is a boon to all us with a sweet tooth.

Available only on pre-order, you can actually customise your desserts. That is exactly what I did. High-quality couverture chocolate, a zero-preservative offering, and unique mouth-watering flavours  are what Dhawal Shah’s Dessert Street is synonymous with. This Le Cordon Bleu alumnus surely knows how to tempt us.

Entremet, Tarts, Bonbons, Thins, Truffles, Cookies and modern tarts, were what I could choose from. And yes, as per my specifications and delivered to my doorstep. Too good to be true.

My order arrived. I was excited beyond words. Beautifully packaged and the contents intact. I was impressed.

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The heart-shaped petit gateau, looked inviting. I sank my teeth into it almost instantly. It just melt in my mouth. Soft and decadent. The tear-drop shaped hazelnut petit gateau was even better. But the piece the resistance was the coffee tart. The rich and bold flavours of the robust coffee were evident in each bite and the tart was baked to perfection.

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The bon bons were what I attacked next. Each one was delightful. The quality, expertise of the patisserie chef shone through. In fact each one was a work of master craftsmanship.

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This place had passed the test for me and how. At last there was a place where one could get what one wants, as per one’s palate preference.

I got started, ordering my Diwali gift packs from Dessert Street, which now seemed like a simple task. After all these were just the perfect gift for any one in this season.

With an evolving menu, I am certain I will be surprised yet again in the Christmas season. It is literally luxury at your doorstep.

Rating : 3.5/5