Category Archives: Goa

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.

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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

Want to Sizzle Your Taste buds?

Oh! the sound of a sizzler on the table, the aroma that  pervades the room and fills your nostrils, is irresistible in this weather. Right? I enjoy sizzlers immensely. And in Monsoons, even more. Something about that drama on the table,  is what appeals to me, apart from the taste of course.

Sizzlers are very popular and usually served sizzling hot and smoking in restaurants.  What is exciting is the fact that sizzlers can be from any cuisine- Indian, continental, Pan Asian.

Actually it is just any other meal, but being served on a sizzler plate is what makes it unique and give sit that wow factor. I love the way it is presented. The entire platter with colourful veggies, and the meat or sea food on a bed of rice or noodles or pasta, and of course the French fries. It  sure adds to my hunger.

Cafe Mangii in Mumbai serves some great sizzlers. Currently my favourites. In the good ol’ days there were Kobez and Yoko’s but sadly their standards have deteriorated. And they lack innovation too. Gondola’s in Bandra offered some great ones too in the 90’s.

 

The Harissa marinated Rawas steak at Cafe Mangii is a treat for the eyes and palate. A sensory overload actually.The Pot Roast Chicken with mushroom pepper sauce is another favourite.

In Oriental cuisine, I have a weakness for a Teriyaki prawns sizzler. Who wants chicken when there is sea food on offer?

 

For fish lovers, fish piri piri sizzler, a spicy Goan style dish is a treat. The balchao masala, a blend of garlic, clove and cinnamon, however, gives it a unique twist. I have tried this one in Goa and long for someone to replicate it in Mumbai. It certainly was all about innovation.

Tamari at Vivanta by Taj, Panjim serves great sizzlers. The Babrbeque of Cidade de Goa which opens around late October after the Monsoons is known for its ‘Sizzlers by the Sea.’ Chargril, Flat top, Teppenyaki, Tandoor are some of the forms used for sizzlers here. Chef Sunit Sharma, the Executive Chef, is a master of creativity.  Lamb, beef, pork, vegetables, sea food. Guests can choose from an array of these. The accompaniments are equally interesting. Garlic bread, vegetables, mashed or baked potatoes, Indian breads. I can never have enough of these.

Vegetarians generally relish paneer and mushroom sizzlers as other vegetables are already there. Here is where the real challenge lies for chefs to be creative. Cream Centre does a fantastic job here and their Paneer sizzler makes me miss no non-vegetarian sizzler. Been having this one for years and their quality is incomparable.

Sizzler at Cream Centre

I always feel it the sauces in a sizzler that make all the difference. Barbecue sauce does wonders. So does a pepper sauce. Adds that zing and spice to the dish. I have even tasted sizzlers with a schezwan sauce.

 

The iron plates used for plating sizzlers weigh 3.5 kg each. One has to heat them till they sizzle when sprinkled with water. They emanate heat for about 45 minutes, keeping your food hot while you eat it. I personally marvel the way a sizzler is served.

 

Oops! discussing sizzlers at length is making my mouth water now and I am definitely opting for one this afternoon for lunch. What’s more, the weather too is perfect.

Monsoon Magic in Goa

Goa really never has to try hard to woo us. We are all in love with it, aren’t we?

Throughout the year, this destination, full of surprises, lures us, yet, monsoons are a time too, to head to Goa as well. Contrary to popular belief, the rains and the scenic beauty replete with the rivers joyfully overflowing with their rushing streams, the trees dancing to the tune of the winds and the fields a lush, verdant green carpet, is not all there is to look forward to. There are the traditional  festivals that acquaint you with tradition and also provide merriment galore.

 

These festivals are unique to Goa and each one has an interesting story behind it.It is truly worth discovering a Goa, that is beyond the ordinary, this Monsoons.

  • Sao Joao: Goa readies itself for the gala Sao Joao fest celebrated on June 24 in Siolim Goa. This monsoon feast has special significance in Christianity as it is dedicated to St John the Baptist, the firebrand prophet. The celebration of San Joao goes back nearly 150 years, when San Joao revelers from Chapora and Zhor villages of Anjuna, Badem in Assagao and Siolim would come up year after year in boats to the chapel of Sao Joao in Periera Vaddo, Siolim, to pay homage and take part in the traditional dali. The festivals takes place at the beginning of Monsoon season in Goa and people of all ages jumping into wells, streams and ponds.
  •  Ponsachem Fest : It is a Jackfruit festival called ‘Ponsachem Fest’ celebrated on the occasion of Sao Joao in Socorro village. Parish priest Fr Santana Carvalho says that the inspiration for the festival comes from Sao Joao itself. This is an occasion to savour Goa’s choicest jackfruits and the scrumptious items made from it. I am all for this festival as I love the versatile jackfruit and love to experiment with it in my kitchen

Sangodd

  •  Sangodd: The Feast of St. Peter, also known as Sangodd, is a monsoon-based celebration by Goa’s local fishing community. Their boats are tied together to form rafts, which serve as makeshift stages on June 29. On these stages are erected miniature models of chapels or churches.
  •  Chikalkalo : Come July and there is the Chikalkalo. People celebrate Chikalkalo, a traditional festival, at Marcel, Goa. It is an annual traditional celebration, in which people of Marcel village take part after the ‘Ashadi Ekadashi’.

Touxeachem Feast of Telaulim

  • Touxeachem Feast: The magnificent Church of St Anne also known as the Santana Church locally, is the scene of the very unusual feast every year on July 29. The Church located at Talaulim in Tiswadi taluka, is dedicated to St Anne. The couples come to the Church to seek the blessings of St Anne, who herself was blessed with a child after 40 years of barren life. They buy cucumbers from local vendors at the feast and offer them at the feet of St Ann and carry them home to eat. Touxeachem Fest (in Konkani) literally translates as the Cucumber Feast in English. Besides the huge number of devotees from all around Goa, a large number of newly married couples is in attendance.   

Patollio

  • Patolleanchem feast: It is a feast depicting a rich old Goan culture. This festival is organized on the feast of Our Lady of Assumption and Independence Day. Patollio ( a sweet made of jiggery and rice covered with a turmeric leaf) is prepared by the villagers  and is blessed by parish priest Fr Santana Carvalho  and is served to all and this is how the name Patolleanchem feast derives. I look forward to this feast to gorge on this delicacy which is painstakingly prepared by family members.
  • Bonderam is a local festival, celebrated on the third or fourth Saturday in the month of August, in the quaint island of Divar, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. In remembrance of old territorial battles that took place on the island, mock skirmishes are re-enacted by boys and girls wielding fotashes (toy flags made with bamboo) and using berries for missiles.

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I am certainly heading to Goa to witness some of these first hand and partake in the celebrations. Are you?

 

 

    

 

 

Proof of The Pudding, Is in the Eating

I have a soft corner for puddings. Very English. Very story bookish. But I love them nevertheless. Puddings can be of different types and even using varied cooking methods- boiling, baking, steaming.

A pudding instantly brings to my mind, the bread pudding my husband makes for me, on rare occasions though. Flavoured with raisins and with a caramel base, it is unparalleled. What’s more it is steamed.So light and healthy too. Well, some amount of indulgence is permitted right?

My all time favourite is the regular Bread Butter Pudding  with buttered slices of white bread, baked with egg and condensed milk.  I give it a twist with vanilla beans. Oh! the aroma is to die for. Arrange the bread soaked in milk. Cover it with custard along with roasted nuts and bake it in a double boiler. This one never fails you. Me for sure. One has to be careful with the nutmeg though. Just a pinch, is a lot. 

I recently tasted a Salted caramel brownie pudding  at a Hotel in Mumbai. It was delicious.I am itching to make it at home myself. A sticky toffee pudding if well-made is irresistible too. But I somehow love fruits in my puddings. Seasonal ones of course.

An otherwise chocolate fan, when it comes to puddings, I prefer to skip this and try other ingredients. Strange but true.  A friend of mine does a unusual tapioca pudding. Apart from the taste, the texture is unique. Our very own  Rice pudding or kheer is common in India and delectable as well.  A must-have on any festival or special occasion.

There are hundreds of variations of sweet puddings in England but each one begins with the same basic ingredients of milk, sugar, eggs, flour and butter. Sinful, but necessary.

Given the lifestyle choices we all make today, healthy substitutes can be used when making puddings.  They should as a matter of fact.

With the advent of summer, I love to make a fresh fruit pudding using seasonal fruits and lots of nuts and honey. I also do an interesting sesame soy milk pudding. But that is great for winters. Gives warmth. Comforting too.

But without a doubt, I wait all year through for a Christmas Pudding, which easily surpasses all others. One cannot go through the season without digging into a rich one. Many hotels in Mumbai serve a great one. Generally, I like to make mine at home too. Laborious, but worth it.

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Puddings need not be sweet only. Surprised? Have you ever tried the East Indian liver pudding? It is a savoury pudding which is generally used a stuffing for chicken. It is absolutely  lip-smacking.

Another pudding which left an indelible mark on my taste buds is a cheese and leek pudding  I sampled years ago at a restaurant in London. Nothing beats  the light and fluffy, Yorkshire pudding with a gravy though.

My mouth is watering now. So what shall it be tonight? A sweet or a savoury pudding. Sweet naturally!

 

 

Kokum, Konkan’s wonder fruit

Come summer and I crave a glass of refreshing tangy kokum sherbet. And of course, no Malwani or Goan meal is complete without a glass of sol kadi for me, made from kokum, coconut milk, ginger, et al.

Kokum cooler

Kokum is an amazing purplish red sweet and salty fruit, also called garcinia. It is a popular souring agent in the Konkan region and I cannot do without it in my kitchen.  I love the fact that it is multi-faceted and lends itself to so many dishes. But yes, it should be fresh. The flavours are completely different when it is not fresh and appears dehydrated.

Whole dried kokum can be used in curries. I cannot imagine my fish or prawns curry without the tangy kokum or even my dry bhindi or ladies fingers, for that matter.

But I must confess, I learnt about kokum fairly late in life, when I got married to a Goan. In Kolkata, where I grew up, we had never heard of kokum, let alone use it. For us, tamarind was always the souring agent.

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In all curries where coconut milk is added, I tend to use kokum. I once sampled the most unusual kokum coconut chutney at Park Hyatt Goa. The taste still lingers in my mouth. It was exceedingly well-made.

It is called Bhinda in the Konkan region. I am somehow fascinated by the colour of kokum apart from its flavour. People in Kerala use it as well. In Maharashtra, moong dal amti with kokum and goda masala is legendary. It is a must try.

Kokum is used for its unique flavour and peculiar sourness that it gives to the dishes and hence used in Konkan Cuisine. A chef once told me an interesting way that kokum is used. Yes, Kokum butter, prepared from seeds is used in confectionery preparations. Some chefs have created unique European dishes using Kokum too.

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Apart from its utility in the kitchen, kokum, owing to its anti oxidant and anti fungal properties, teats sores, prevents infection, improves digestion, treats constipation, and application of direct Kokum on skin removes all kinds of rashes and allergies.

Although it is available freely in Mumbai too, I still prefer getting my stock of kokum from Goa. It is fresh and flavoursome and I can be sure of the quality. Madgaon market is my favourite place to pick the best kokum.

So try using kokum in your culinary experiments, if you have not already. It is bound to tease your taste buds.