Category Archives: Recipes

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

A Patiala Peg of Royal Flavours

For us ordinary mortals, the food cooked and served from the Royal kitchens in India is always a subject of mystique and intrigue. One often wonders, what is it that they eat, how is it cooked, what are the secret ingredients that set their food apart and so on. After all royalty and food have always been an interesting but typical combination.

Fortunately, as a food writer and a passionate foodie, I have travelled and have been fortunate enough to sample food from some of the Royal Kitchens and yet, the unknown ones, continue to fascinate me.

Rajkumari Sarvesh Kaur from the Royal family of Patiala curating a food festival titled Royal Kitchens of Patiala sounded exciting enough. Add to that Chef Amninder Kaur, whose die-hard fan I am and thus sampling a meal at Masala Bay, Taj Lands End was the most obvious thing to do.

Chef Amninder Sandhu, Taj Lands End along with Rajkumari Sarvesh Kaur  had created a menu which could plunge any food lover into a coma. Executing the royal recipes  Chef Amninder had served Mutton Yakhni Shorba, Teekkha Kebab, Murg Kibiti, Shahi Paratha, Paani de Haath di Roti, Halwa Behzai and Shahi Phirni.

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The recipes were all from the Royal family which had generously been shared, which I thought was a wonderful thing to do.

The setting was perfect, the table befitting a royal meal. The only time in my life I have felt close to royalty, I must confess!

The Mutton Yakhni shorba arrived. The aroma was evident and the flavours subtle but distinct. I was off to a great start. The Teekha kabab lived upto its name, fiery it was and perked up my taste buds instantly.

Locally sourced ingredients and cooking methods are what are intrinsic to this cuisine and Chef Amninder had executed these to perfection. Most of the dishes were slow cooked, one could easily tell the difference, as the flavours were pronounced and the spices, subtle.

The main course was a melange of flavours with unique textures teasing our palates. Cocktails using traditional Indian spices were cleverly paired with each course. The chutneywali masoor dal struck me as unique, although I still prefer the basic one myself. My vote went instantly to the creamy gobi or cauliflower, swathed in cream but decadent, nevertheless.

The shahi paratha again was a treat. Bursting with a sinful filling, it paired well with the rich gravies and dry preparations alike.

The kofta roganjosh was delicious, with a soft and creamy texture and the right hint of spice.

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What can say about the mutton aloo bukhara? Yes with dried plums wrapped in masala and inextricably co-mingled with the mouth-watering mutton this dish was the piece de resistance for me. Cooked to perfection, the mutton simply melt in the mouth. Luscious flavours enveloped my palate and I was satiated. So much so that I skipped the halwa behzai, which I had all along been looking forward to.

The food boasted of unique flavours, with no spice overpowering the core ingredients. Yet, the food was rich and heavy, expectedly so. The cuisine is meat intensive and does not make use of too many vegetables.

Being a Punjabi myself, sampling this food from the royal kitchens of Patiala was a revelation, but one that I will always cherish.

 

Popularising The Humble Hummus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cold Soups This Summer

A hot soup maybe what we typically associate with a soup  or a broth, but there can be cold soups too. No better way, to beat the summer heat actually. And yes, it’s getting warm already. Yes, cold soups too can be healthy and delicious. There can be yoghurt based soups, soups which are merely a blend of ingredients and these can be pure refreshment, trust me.

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Gazpacho, the refreshing combination of ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, olive oil, vinegar and garlic, is without a doubt my weakness. A quick lunch to cool and nourish field labourers in Spain, it is widely consumed today.

Cold soups can be creamy and rich, such as a Creamy Cucumber Soup, or chunky and chock-full of vegetables and even fruit, as in our delicious Watermelon Gazpacho. Take full advantage of summer produce, herbs and flavors and try some healthy cold soup recipes. And because these contains no dairy, these are extremely light and flavourful.

All the summer vegetables and fruits work wonders for cold soups. Carrots, Potatoes, Beetroot, Asparagus, Avocados, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Melons, Sweet potatoes, Strawberries, garden peas, Squash, pumpkins are few but not limited ingredients used for cold soups.

A useful tip a chef once gave me. The ingredients used while making these cold soups should either contrast or should complement the flavor.

I enjoy a potato and leek cold soup. No, am not talking about a Vichysoisse. That has cream in addition to the other ingredients. Even cucumber-based cold soups make a great meal and are quick to prepare. Beetroot soup is refreshing too, more so when the beetroot is roasted. The flavour is absolutely unique.

For cold soups, one must use good quality veggies, as the taste and flavour of the soup is marred. It is also important to season these soups well. So go ahead and cool yourself with some tasty soups.

 

 

Fun, Fusion and Fashionably Simple

Goan food is something every gourmet dreams of. Chicken Cafreal is the quintessential favourite of every Goan when it comes to a non-seafood or meat dish. Although a rare occurrence. Perhaps one of the best known chicken dishes in Goan cuisine, apart from Xacuti. In fact, any food lover enjoys this dry, spicy and mouth-watering preparation as a side dish.

Naturally then, even though this is something fairly regular in our Goan household, I was curious and excited to try the Haute Chef version of the Chicken Cafreal.

Haute Chef is a unique “meal kit” concept, built around incredible cooking experiences. They send a box of pre-measured, labeled ingredients along with easy to follow step-by-step instructions, to put together a truly gourmet dish in your home kitchen. No hassles of planning, shopping, measuring. It couldn’t get any simpler, trust me.

 

Whew! I decided to give their Chicken Cafreal a shot. Of course I knew how to prepare it, but their recipe was interesting and I loved the way they suggested we serve it with veggies and the akhrot or walnut dip, instead of a basic salad we often eat with.

Curated by chefs trained at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the recipes are simple enough keeping novice cooks in mind.

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The ingredients struck me as fresh and of an outstanding quality. The recipe and instructions too, were easy to comprehend.

The green marinade, I must confess, was quite different from the one we make at home and are used to. We add lime juice or Goan vinegar in our green marinade masala. This one was more like a spicy coriander and mint chutney. But produced delicious results nevertheless.

Also, our first marinade is generally not just salt and lime, as mentioned in this recipe, but a garlic ginger paste too.

I followed the recipe, faithfully and yes, was rewarded with a flavoursome, spicy Chicken Cafreal, in 35 minutes. I relished it with the veg crudites and akhrot aioli. This one was fairly different from the cafreal I am used to. And that is what made it so unique. That little twist, I guess, was needed.

Chicken Cafreal with Veg Crudites and Akhrot Aioli Haute Chef 1

 

The Haute Chef boxes come well-packed with fresh ingredients, simple instructions and the meals are definitely a value for money. What’s more, you are elated as you have made it all by yourself.

Batti ka chop with pineapple chutney and gur imli chutney, Amritsari masala paneer with tajini raita, sarson ka saag ki tikki with makki salsa, are some of their other avant garde offerings which are enticing me. Fusion and fun stuff. I like it. Waiting to try some more for sure.

Rating : 3.5/5

 

 

Easy cook, Easy Eat

A plethora of ready to cook meal boxes, replete with ingredients have inundated the market. People who love to cook but don’t have the time to labour over it or  those who don’t want to order food from outside,  or beginners in cooking, have a lot to choose from. Truly.

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I love to cook and when I don’t want to, I simply order a takeaway or eat out, so never really felt the need for such a box with pre-portioned ingredients, but finally gave in and decided to try Built2cook.

In 90 mins the pre-portioned ingredients for my Chicken Stroganoff in  a box arrived at my doorstep. The  recipe had been carefully crafted by 5 star chefs and  tested, so I had nothing to worry.

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I got going with my utensils as the ingredients – chicken, cream, demi glaze, sauces, vegetables,  oil, herb rice, etc  were all neatly packed amd labelled. I could see, these were sourced from quality sources.

In minutes, following the easy-to-follow recipe with simple instructions along with pictures, my Chicken Stroganoff was ready. Incredible. What’s more, at Rs 250, I had before me a dish, which I normally relish in fancy places at almost double the price.

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The creamy texture, crunchy veggies, succulent pieces of chicken, simply melt in my mouth and the accompanying herb rice was an ideal match for it. The meal was an extremely satisfying one.

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What is nice is that Built2Cook has about 12 recipes and there is a weekly rotation.  So one never gets bored. The shelf life of the product is 24 hours since there aren’t any added preservatives. Built2Cook has been operational for four months in Hyderabad and has recently launched in Mumbai, currently delivering between Andheri and Malad. I am blessed.

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Although I know I am not going to be needing this too often, it is comforting to know, something like  Built2cook exists. Good quality, easy to prepare dishes, completely hassle free and the end result: delicious, affordable food.