Category Archives: Goa

Take A Dip

MARGHI NA KHEEMA NA PATTICE

 

Spicy, tangy, sweet, hot, cold or creamy. Indeed, a zesty and appetizing dip, served with pita bread, lavash, crackers, nachos, or any finger food at a party, can enhance the flavour and make a mundane dish come to life. Guacamole, Aioli, Chipotle, Hummus, are some popular entrants.

Dips spell the essence of a cuisine. At the beginning of a meal, dips are normally presented with a bread, cracker or crudities as an ‘amuse bouche’ with the primary aim to titillate the palate.

Dips, today, have assumed exotic proportions with a variety of ingredients like blue cheese, avocado, edamame, Greek yogurt, making their way into these and chefs unleashing their imagination.

Any finger food or any nibble stuff is incomplete without a dip or the sauce accompanying it. It adds flavour, texture and even moisture to the dish.

Dips must be delicious, yet, easy to prepare, as these are only an accompaniment and not too much time and effort need go in these. Just a bit of chopping, mixing, roasting and tempering is all that one must have to do for a dip.

Cheese, sour cream, yogurt, tomatoes, vegetables, beans and chickpeas, are typical base ingredients for delectable dips.  These are selected to give a moist and creamy texture, characteristic of a dip. Of course herbs, caramelized onions, garlic, lemon juice, nuts and olive oil, are added to enhance the flavour quotient.

Feta cheese, goat cheese, parmesan and cream cheese are preferred owing to their versatile textures. Today, however, instead of regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is used because of its healthy nature and creamy texture.

Vegetables like tomatoes, jalapenos, eggplant, spinach, pumpkin, beetroot, lend themselves perfectly for dips. These are sometimes pureed after being boiled, or even added raw for that extra crunch. However, to get a unique flavour, try roasting the vegetables, before combining them with other ingredients in a dip.

Harissa, the spicy and aromatic chili dip with smoked peppers, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and other spices, staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, is gaining popularity in India too. Similarly, the avocado based guacamole, is now being given exotic flavour twists by chefs by adding fruits like pineapple, pomegranate and mango, or even edamame, kale and broccoli.

With its psychedelic colour, a beet dip is fun to serve with white and pale green vegetables like cauliflower and fennel. A little bit of honey and vinegar amps up the beet flavour.

A spinach and white bean dip can prove to be equally exciting for the palate, owing to its unique texture. Spinach combines well with cheese too, to make a luscious dip. Creamy beans and sweet sun-dried tomatoes offer the perfect texture and flavour combo in a dip.

The base gives moistness to the dip which can be yoghurt, cream, mayonnaise, soft cheese. However, one can even do without these, if the main ingredient has good moisture content.

Indeed, the list of ingredients that can be added to dips is endless. Fruits like pineapple, strawberries, mangoes, avocado, apples, plums, are the perfect choice for dips. A strawberry rhubarb dip is innovative, as is a zesty orange cream dip.

Whoever thought that dips are only vegetarian? Tuna with capers, olives and lemon; smoked salmon dip; Blue cheese, bacon and spinach dip, are some of the exciting non-vegetarian dips. Sea food like prawns and crabs, meats like bacon, chicken, are ingredients that can be paired with others to make a smooth, creamy dip.

Of course, today with people becoming health and fitness conscious, several ingredients are being replaced in dips to give them a healthy twist. Replacing sour cream with the Lebanese cheese lebneh, creates a dip that’s fairly low in fat; substituting non-fat fromage blanc or drained Greek yogurt makes the dip even healthier. Avocado is often the choice for healthy dips, as it is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

A dip made with fennel bulb slices, blanched broccoli florets, steamed new potatoes, and carrots is perfect to pair with crudites. Grilled red onions combined with light sour cream and non-fat Greek yogurt make a balanced and delicious dip for sweet potato chips.

Sweet dips can come handy for cookies and pretzels and are always popular. Fruits, chocolate, mascarpone cheese, peanut butter, are the typical ingredients used. Cream cheese, vanilla extract, orange zest, powdered sugar, orange juice and cream, combine to make a tasty sweet dip. Greek yogurt, peanut butter, honey and cinnamon powder, makes a creamy appetizing dip, children love. Of course chocolate, is a popular addition to most dips for children.  Adults too love dips with chocolate, but don’t want to give up on healthy eating and thus opt for a dip made with cocoa powder, honey, vanilla extract and Greek yogurt.

With a minor twist and a skilful combination of ingredients, one can easily rustle up dips in a jiffy and have these become the talk of the party.

 

From Fat to Fit

 

Moroccan Spinach and Burghul Salad at Alfredo's Juhu

 

Eating fat does not make you fat. Confused? Indeed, fats have been demonised since times immemorial but truth be told, some fats are essential and indeed ‘good’ for u

One is constantly warned about staying away from fats. In fact, all of us feel guilty about eating fats, but in reality, all fats are not bad. Or at least not so, when eaten in moderation. While most fats wreak havoc with one’s health, some good fats help in cardio vascular health and at times weight loss too, by accelerating metabolism. Others when combined with protein-rich foods yield benefits. Healthy or ‘good’ fats are thus essential to help us manage our moods, stay alert and bright, fight fatigue and even control our weight.

A small amount of fat is invariably an integral part of our daily diets in some form or the other and ought to be. Fat is after all a source of essential fatty acids such as omega-3 – ‘essential’ because the body cannot generate these.

Good fats include sources that are not heavily processed or hydrogenated. They include cold pressed oils, single filtered oils, homemade ghee, fresh milk cream, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and egg yolks. Yes, egg yolks are good for brain health. 3-4 servings of these can be included per day in one’s diet.

While including fats in our daily meals is important, as part of a healthy diet, we should try to cut down on foods and drinks high in saturated fats and trans fats and replace them with unsaturated fats, wherever possible. One must choose one’s fats carefully.

Several foods are replete with saturated fats. Both sweet and savoury foods contain these. Generally, saturated fats come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products, as well as some plant foods such as palm oil.

Unsaturated fats on the contrary, emanating from plant sources, can be either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats help protect our hearts by maintaining levels of HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of LDL cholesterol. These are  found in olive oil, avocados and some nuts, such as almonds and peanuts, as well as some seeds.

Polyunsaturated fats can help lower the level of LDL cholesterol. Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats may also help reduce triglyceride levels. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6. Some types of omega-3 and omega-6 fats cannot be made by the body and are therefore essential in small amounts in the diet.

Creamy avocados are major players when it comes to providing healthy, good-for-you fats. Diverse enough to be used in appetizers, main dishes and desserts, there’s nothing you can’t improve by throwing in this superfood, the avocado. This is also the predominant fatty acid in olive oil, associated with various health benefits. This fruit is also a great source of potassium in the diet.  Being rich in fibre, this helps in lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while raising HDL (the good) cholesterol.

A high HDL count equals a happy heart. Monounsaturated fats like olive oil, are high in HDL. It is thus preferable to use olive oil for cooking wherever possible. Drizzle salads with olive oil, use it for frying and even cook in olive oil. But ensure the olive oil is pure and not mixed with hydrogenated oils.

Omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils such as rapeseed, corn, sunflower and some nuts. Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, trout, sardines, salmon and fresh tuna.

Walnuts, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed are a veritable store house of polyunsaturated fats, good for health. So sprinkle these on salads, munch on them when hungry or use them in cookies and breads. Brussel sprouts and kale are yet another good source of omega 3 fats and that too vegetarian. Soy milk and tofu too can be rich sources of polyunsaturated fats and can be consumed safely even by vegetarians.

It’s not just what we eat but how we eat it, which also matters. Roast, grill, or slow cook meat and poultry instead of frying, else all the benefits they offer are destroyed. Fish maybe rich in omega 3, but if fried, one is devoid of those health benefits. Again, one can enjoy full-fat dairy products like milk, cheese, paneer, yogurt, in moderation and opt for organic or raw milk, cheese, butter and yoghurt wherever possible.

So the good news is that all fats are not bad. A healthy diet must in fact include at least 20% of good fats. One merely needs to replace the unhealthy ones with good fats.

 

Flavoursome Fruity Delights

 

  Jackfruit and Green Olive pickle

 

Summer is here and turning to fresh fruits in various forms, seems the most logical and healthy thing to do.  Go for it, but add a twist. Instead of the usual milk shakes, lassi, smoothies, try fruits in a new avatar. Yes, experiment with fruits in savoury dishes and there’s a lot you can do.

Of course fruits naturally lend themselves to desserts, but one can be imaginative and use fruits to boost savoury dishes, soups, main course and accompaniments, across various cuisines.

Fruits are a flavour booster, yet, to achieve the right balance, is the key. Tropical fruits have always been used liberally in South Asian cuisines and fruits such as apricots, figs, dates, have been an integral part of Middle Eastern and African cuisine.

Our very own Indian cuisine can be enhanced with the use of fruits. Mango, the king of summer fruits, can add zest and flavour to dishes. Mango sasav or Ambyache sasav, a sweet-sour dish, prepared with ripe mangoes, is a favourite among the Maharashtrians and the Konkan belt. Sasav or mustard seeds, curry leaves, coconut, jaggery, are added as tempering to the ripe mango pulp, which is cooked. This is generally enjoyed with steamed rice.

Understanding the texture a fruit imparts, is important, as it can then be used accordingly. Apples, pineapple, pears, for instance, owing to their firmness, are ideal for stuffings in koftas, or in stuffed tomatoes and capsicums. Gravies and curries are yet, another form in which fruits are incorporated to give body to the preparation. For these, Pineapple and jackfruit are preferred.

Amrud ki sabzi or a dry preparation with guavas, is a North Indian delicacy and can be eaten with puris, instead of the usual potatoes. An interesting use of guavas is their addition to a mutton curry, in the form of a smooth paste.

In Kerala, Papaya appams called pappali appams made with rice flour, wheat flour, coconut paste, jaggery, are paired with spicy mutton or chicken curry.

Salads, soups and dips make use of a variety of summer fruits in global cuisines. Grilled watermelon n feta cheese makes for a refreshing salad in summer. A cold soup can be made using pineapple and orange juice, squeezed freshly from fruits. Cucumber, a dash of lime and a pinch of sugar complete this unique delicacy. A curried squash and pear soup is also a good option to cool oneself.

Regular dips and sauces are often pepped up with the addition of a fruit. Fresh mango salsa is a popular accompaniment. Plum sauce, again is a common favourite in meat dishes.

Interestingly, citrus fruits like lemon, lime, orange, are sought after, for flavouring seafood items. Used carefully, these can enhance the appeal of fish, prawn, crabs, squids, mussels and scallops, whereas the whole fruit is often added to a duck salad.

In mains too, a fruit like pomegranate can be cleverly combined with a roast chicken, as the fruit adds its typical juicy flavour and crunchy texture to the dish.

Chargrilled tofu with fresh fruits or Rojak( a fruit salad), with pieces of fried, sweet pineapple, green mango and papaya, rose apples and guava, tossed in a dark sauce.  Sounds exotic? Pan Asian cuisine today stands for fusion and fruits are cleverly combined to balance the sweet, tangy and savoury flavours in dishes.

Pears, pineapples, pair well in pork dishes, complimenting the texture and flavour of the meat, while peaches are the perfect complement for chicken. Melon, citrus fruits (orange, grape fruit, sweet lime) and grapes are other commonly used fruits.

So, irrespective of the cuisine, one can give a dish, a ‘fruity’ twist, by making use of the right fruit, in the right form. Innovation is all that it takes.

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There is no smoke without fire

Signature Smokey Cauliflower Hummus - Maffy's

Smoking food can unlock a world of new flavours. Not surprising therefore, many  are turning to this technique to impart a smoldering flavour to their dishes

The process of smoking imparts a distinct flavour to the dish. It elevates and enhances both the aroma, as well as the flavour.

Smoking is being incorporated to impart aromatic flavours to traditionally prepared dishes. After all, there’s something universally appealing about a whiff of fire in our food. And so, today smoking is not restricted to meats only- but cheese, vegetables, fruits, yogurt, butter and even desserts, are being smoked.

Gone are the days when smoking was perceived and used as a method of preservation only. After having made its way into bars for smoking cocktails to create heady flavours and aromas, it is now a must-have technique in kitchens for chefs.

Indian dishes are often cooked in the tandoor and hence already have a smoky flavour.  However, chefs can still enhance other dishes, using the smoking technique. This can be done with Indian curries and gravies, with a combination of utilizing ingredients like clarified butter, desired aromatic spices and a hot piece of charcoal in a small bowl. The same is then placed inside the cooking vessel and covered to incorporate the desired smoky flavour.

Maas Ke Sooley, prepared in a Rajasthani style, with cinnamon stick, being used to impart flavour to the Kababs and Dum ka Murgh -Mughlai Style Chicken Gravy, where mace is skilfully made use of to give an aromatic smoke to the finished product, are some typical examples.

Meat, dairy and eggs are naturally suited for smoking, but interestingly, vegetables too can be smoked. Broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, are some of the vegetables which can be smoked to perfection. Some chefs are even adding fruits to their repertoire.

It’s not as if smoking is used to enhance the flavours of Indian food alone. Some exciting flavours can be added to international foods too, with smoking. Smoked Chicken Pizzas, Fresh vegetables and smoked sea bass, Honey glazed lamb with smoked yogurt and vegetables, Wood-smoked cauliflower and carrots with pistachio crunch, are some inimitable dishes.

When the surface of the meat is softer, smoke is able to penetrate the meat more deeply and effect a stronger smoky flavour. Thus, sometimes the marinade becomes crucial, even before the meat is smoked.

Flavourful woods like apple wood chips, cedar wood chips, which are the latest cooking trends, lend their taste, aroma, body and texture to the food that are cooked together.

It is recommended that the wood chips being used for smoking food, should be soaked for about 30-40 minutes and drip-dried before being added to the fire.

The smoke generated by hot smoking has a different flavour than the one generated by cold smoking, even though both are used by chefs.  Cold smoking, flavours the food without actually cooking it. Smoked Salmon and Bacon are typical meats that are cold smoked.

Smoke adds a dimension of flavour all its own, something sweet and rich, but also pungent, which is being maximized in innovative desserts.

Some prefer using an open flame to smoke while others rely on the blowtorch or charcoal.  Instead of smoking the whole dessert, one can try smoking one component of the dessert. Smoked vanilla ice cream made with muscavado sugar is a unique dessert, where, smoke acts as an incredible flavour enhancer. Smoked coconut cheesecake, is another example, where the coconut is first smoked. Fruits are a hugely popular choice when it comes to smoking.

Smoking is clearly witnessing a resurgence in kitchens. The textured feel of smoke works on all senses of the diners. It is beautiful to see, vivacious to taste, raw and rustic in smell and the texture feels incredible in the mouth.

Cross Country Ingredients

 

 

GOJI BERRY CHICKEN CURRY with black rice pilaf and broccoli-sweet potato sabzi 0

 

Ingredients may be abundant in a region, but are often used in cuisines across several countries

Lemon grass chicken, Steamed fish with tamarind sauce and Thai basil eggplant, are the quintessential Thai dishes we are familiar with. Thai cuisine is synonymous with strong spicy and aromatic components. Yet, while one may associate basil, tamarind, lemon grass and coconut only with this cuisine, interestingly, these versatile ingredients lend themselves effortlessly to several other cuisines across the globe.

The French call it, basil herbe royal. Basil, a fragrant herb finds itself in every chef’s kitchen as it enhances a multitude of cuisines. The flavours range from mild and floral to spicy and complex from different varieties and are used across cuisines.

The aromatic Thai Basil, part of the mint family with the distinguishing flavours of licorice, anise and clove, is fairly commonplace. The herb is popular in South East Asian cuisines and is generally incorporated fresh, in dishes. Thai basil is equally flavourful when eaten raw and added to salads.

Vegetarian pot stickers are dumplings with tofu and shiitake mushrooms, tossed with galangal, coriander root, green curry, coconut milk, then steamed and pan-seared, boast of the subtle flavours of Thai basil.

But there is more to basil. The slightly sweetish basil is a part of Italian cuisine. Whether it is pesto from the Ligurian region or a Pizza from Naples, or a Tomato and basil soup, the addition of the basil leaf is a must.

Again, the bold and balanced flavours of Mediterranean cuisines are characterised by herbs such as basil. The understated, fresh aroma of basil with its intense, but light taste, is the perfect ingredient for a Tomato Dandelion Salad.

Tamarind is a popular fruit which is used in cuisines all over the world. The fruit pulp is used in drinks, snacks, sorbets and most notably, Worcestershire sauce. In Thai cooking, tamarind is used in a variety of dishes including Pad Thai.

No Indian snacks are complete without the sweet and tangy tamarind or imli chutney. Used a souring agent in Indian cuisine, tamarind is extensively a part of dals, sambhar, curries too. Some chefs even use tamarind as a marinade, as besides adding flavour, tamarind helps to tenderize the meat.

And of course tamarind is a popular choice, as a base for many a tangy-sweet refreshing drink, apart from the Thai Nam Makham.

Globally, tamarind is often made use of as an ingredient in a salad dressing. With a dash of lemon juice, brown sugar and olive oil, this can prove to be a great dressing for strongly flavoured greens with apples and cashews. Chicken wings with tamarind mango glaze is another favourite.  And of course no one goes through summer in Mexico, without sipping the refreshing Aguas Frescas.

The coastal cities in India may be using coconut in various forms daily in their cooking in curries, chutney and desserts, but certain global cuisines make use of it also.

Thai food, Sri Lankan and Caribbean cuisine, are replete with coconut. Scraped coconut makes its way into several Sri Lankan curries amidst an array of flavours that the cuisine boasts of. Mallum is made from shredded leaves (kale, mustard greens, cabbage, or others) with scraped coconut, lime juice, onion, chili, and fish. Apart from that, a coconut roti with sauce is a popular dish in Sri Lanka. And of course several Sri Lankan sweets are made with desiccated coconut.

Coconut milk is widely used in Caribbean cuisine to add volume, creamy texture and flavour to a dish. Coconut is often married with curry and such a coconut curry, served with lobster, fish or chicken are spicy and sweet is common.  From rice or Johnny cakes subtly laced with coconut milk to super sweet coco brut candy, Belizean, Creole and Garifuna cuisine often incorporates this tropical mainstay. Muffin sized coconut tarts, empanada style ‘crusts’ stuffed with shredded coconut and creamy pies, are other typical desserts made with coconut.

Coconut milk is used as a base for many Thai curries as the rich flavour cuts through the spices.  No Thai meal is complete without the classic Thai soup with coconut milk, galangal and kaffir lime. Equally important in this cuisine is the Green, red or yellow curry, abounding in coconut milk and served with steamed rice.

Bird’s eye chilli and ginger are other such ingredients which foray into kitchens across the world, to enhance the flavours of food.

Back to Basics

Prawns Raw Mango Curry

Maa ke haath ka khaana has always been the preferred choice. Interestingly, this simple, rustic, home-style food is back and how

It is suddenly fashionable to eat basic food. And people clearly prefer that. Honest and simple food is what gourmets seek nowadays. Mother’s recipes with simple cooking techniques and rustic, natural flavours are sought after.

Home style food holds a special appeal for everyone as it is their comfort food. Also, more people are looking for authenticity.

Freshness is key to home style food. Not just buying fresh food but, the method of cooking also makes a great difference in retaining the freshness, flavours and nutrients of the dish, giving it that home-style touch.

The basic idea of home- style cooking is that the food is made in one go and consumed immediately. Home-style cooked food is not cooked and stored over a period of time for future meals. Ingredients are equally crucial when cooking a simple meal.

Emphasis on home-style cooked food with simple recipes from mothers and grandmothers is in.  Knowledge of masalas, blending of spices and ingredients, personal touch, that home makers possess is unparalleled.

Traditional recipes definitely have their own value. Home style food is a balanced meal of fat, protein, and roughage. It is prepared with a lesser usage of oil and spices to maintain that balance.

Home-style food experience can be achieved across global cuisines too. Hand-crafted pastas right from ‘Tajarin ai tartufi’- typical flat long pasta from “Piedmont to the ‘Pizzoccheri’- Ribbon shaped buck wheat flour pasta from “Lombardy”, are preferred.

So it is clearly time for  your favourite kadhi chawal or Prawns Balchao at home.

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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.

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.

Lucio: Celebrating the flavours of Goa

The Goan in me is perpetually craving authentic Goan food, even when I am in Goa or perhaps more so as chances of getting home style food there are stronger.

Lucio at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim South Goa proved to be the perfect choice. The Goan cuisine Master chef Peter Araujo was in command and the menu there, read like a dream for me.

Soups, Starters, Goan curries, Rice, Breads, Desserts- the menu offered them all. And yes, there were vegetarian options too.

The decor is chic and contemporary and the lay out  with wooden tables and chair, neat. The natural light filtering in, gives it a warm vibe.

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My spinach and potato soup was replete with subtle flavours. The texture was sufficiently creamy. The prawns rissois, were delectable- creamy prawns in a white sauce, generously filled in a karanji -shaped choux pastry case and deep fried. Of course the menu had abundant choices- crispy fried prawns, calamari, croquettes and more.

Cashew xacuti, red rice, mutton sukhem and Goan fish curry along with sannas and prawns kismur was what we opted for.

The fish curry was tangy and subtly spiced, just the way I like it. The freshly ground coconut paste, was adeptly blended into the curry, so as to give a hint of the flavour, without revealing the crunchy texture. It paired well with the red rice and made me nostalgic. This was truly home cooked food.

The cashew xacuti was unique. Spicy but not overpowered with masala. The coconut here too was well-meshed with the gravy. The kismur struck me as unusual- the melange of textures and flavours was perfect.

Chef Peter obviously displayed his skills and mastery even in the simple home-style meal he served us. In fact that to my mind is a tough task and he succeeded with flying colours.

What can I say about the mutton sukhem? the pieces of mutton were succulent and the masala wrapped over it, just perfect- no overdose of gram masala or chillies. Tantalizing the taste buds but not drowning the flavours in the spices.

Vegetarians need no fret- foogath, varan, rissois, mushroom xacuti are all available for one to gorge on.

The simplicity of the meal was what blew me off completely. The spices used were of the best quality, the cooking methods authentic and the resultant dishes, just the way Portuguese and Goan families would eat.

No meal in Goa is complete without the customary date and black jaggery pancakes- Alle Belle. This was exceptionally well-made and the filling simply melt-in-the-mouth.

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The staff is pleasant and willing to assist and the dishes, flawless. Along with Chef Peter, Chef Leon deserves a mention for his extraordinary communication skills apart from being a great and knowledgeable chef. Brajendra the Asst. F&B Manager was exceedingly hospitable and helpful

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I stepped out with a smile on my face after having relished a traditional Goan meal sans frills or modern twists.

Greco : Simply Greek in Goa

A cheerful vibe envelopes you as you enter the Greek cuisine restaurant Greco replete with pristine white and bright blue decor – quintessentially Greek. Although located at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim in South Goa, the separate entrance with the menu placed outside, gives you an option to enter this place, without having to go through the Hotel.

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The striking decor actually transports you to Greece and you could well be in a taverna with a relaxed setting. An arch way leads you to the outdoor seating which is of the inimitable courtyard style and offers a spectacular view. Of course, there is ample seating inside too. In fact the plush interiors, with a swish, well-stocked bar and the mood lighting creates an unparalleled atmosphere.

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A  simple but complete menu largely representative of Crete island in Greece,  is palced before you. However, there are other specialities from other parts of Greece too, giving a diner an insight into this cuisine. The menu has been cleverly crafted by Chef Stelios, a native of Greece. Sea food expectedly abounds in the offerings.

My Psarosopa is a medley of sea food flavours- subtle and comforting. The sea food stock has been cleverly used and is not overpowering. The Greek Mezze here is quite different from the various versions that are often passed off as the original mezze. The tzatziki is bang on in flavours and textures. The kalamata olive paste wows my palate as well, but it is the aubergine salad which unexpectedly stands out. With the warm pita bread dipped into these in turns, I relish every morsel I eat.

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The garides saganaki- a simple but flavourful prawns dish in tomatoes with a dash of ouzo (liqueur) perks up my taste buds. The prawns are fresh and of a superior quality. The tragani feta bursting with fresh flavours, encased in a crisp covering drizzled with honey, with a characteristic sweet and savoury flavour, was the piece de resistance for the evening. It clearly bore testimony to the chef’s mastery over his craft.

The gyros chicken is well-made too. Sea food and poultry apart, for hard-core carnivores, there is a fair amount to choose from. Vegetarians need not despair as there is ample variety too.

My dessert is special, yet, traditional. Galaktoboureko – a sweet and sour cream on a pastry crust immersed me in a food coma. A bite into the crispy phyllo and the creamy semoilna custard filled one’s mouth. Made to perfection, it was a dessert which left you satiated and yet, craving for more.

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I observed that nowhere in my entire meal, did the spices (although minimal) drown the flavours of the core ingredients and the chef had donejustice to all the ingredients by using simple cooking methods.

The use of extra virgin olive oil, ouzo and fresh authentic ingredients adds the right amount of punch and flavour to the dishes. The food is high on flavours and the quality of the ingredients, shines through. It is simple and uncomplicated fare.

If a cocktail is what you fancy, the bartender behind the glitzy bar will make you something to your taste. And of course the selection of wines will lure you as well.

The staff is well-informed about the menu and the service is quick and alert.

Greco truly surpassed my expectations and I felt that for the first time in India, I had a Greek meal which was an honest representation of this simple but flavoursome cuisine.

Rating: 4.5/5