Tag Archives: Goa

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

 

 

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Coconut Cravings

Coconut and its versatility never ceases to amaze me.  Savoury and sweet dishes, it lends itself beautifully to both. Kerala and of course Goa abundantly use it in their cooking, as it is grows locally, but even West Bengal makes use of coconut in several dishes.  Cholar(chana) dal with coconut pieces or in Patishapta (the pancake sweet) or even narkel naru (coconut and jaggery balls)

Of course, we Goans must have coconuts in our fridge all the time as it comes handy in most of our dishes. In Goa, coconut is used to give the local flavour to our cuisine.  And I love the flavour, it imparts.

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Goan sweets cannot be made without coconut. Coconut milk and grated coconut, in fact coconut, in some form or the other, is used in sweets like Bebinca, Bolinhas, Pinac, Dodol, Baath, Alle Belle, etc.

Dodol

 

I love the neutral, slightly sweet taste of coconut. Perhaps that is why it integrates so well in desserts.

Recently had a delicious Alle Belle at The Leela Mumbai. The coconut and jaggery filling was perfect. Neither ingredient was overpowering the other. I also love coconut in sweets like ladoos and barfi too.

Of course in Goan sweets coconut milk is made use of often, but somehow, I prefer the desiccated version. The texture of the coconut milk or cream does not appeal to my palate, except in savoury dishes like the Goa orange curry or even a Thai red or green curry.

Interestingly, the use of coconut for desserts is not limited to Indian cuisine only. Thai cuisine uses a lot of coconut milk in their desserts too. One of my favourites is ruam mitr. I first tasted it in Bangkok. It contains jackfruit, green noodles, palm kernels, corn, and water chestnuts in a red covering, in a very light coconut milk with crushed ice. It is refreshing and perfect for summer. And it is not very sweet.

Another popular one is Khao niew bing. This too is not overpoweringly sweet, but the undertones of coconut and fruit along with smoky hints from the grilled banana leaf make it irresistible.

Coconut in any dessert is fine  as it is fairly common in global desserts too, but I cannot handle coconut ice cream at all. Not the tender coconut one at Natural’s too, although people rave about it. But I can never resist coconut macroons. Some Goa bakeries make great ones. Even Pune for that matter. Crème brulee with coconut is quite innovative as well.

And now I am off to grate coconut for my Goan dessert! Maybe some godshem?

 

A slice of Goa: The Bayview, Marine Plaza Hotel

Goan food is always a great temptation. What with the myriad flavours and array of dishes to choose from? Chef Vasco Silveira’s Goan Food festival at Bayview Restaurant in Hotel Marine Plaza took me by surprise. The food was traditionally Goan, but with a twist, that’s because of the chef’s Portuguese- Angola influence.

With five menus that rotate over the 10 day festival starting July 10, you will definitely not sample the same thing twice unless you make a conscious effort to do so.The usual spread consists of soups, starters, mains and desserts with ample vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.

Over a chat with Chef Vasco, we tried the chicken soup. The soup was a mildly tempered broth with pieces of chicken, veggies and noodles tossed in. It was flavourful, but not exceptional. Did not tantalize my taste buds enough.

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For starters we had spiced pan fried chicken, squids with pesto sauce, stuffed mushrooms and veg-croquettes. The batter coated deep-fried Mushrooms stuffed with herbs and cheese and the chicken starters were delicious. In fact the mushrooms got my vote instantly. Melt in the mouth, these were a class apart. The squids tossed in garlic butter and served on Pesto sauce, too were palate pleasing. The chicken had an interesting marinade.

The main course was laden with Fish—. Prawn Vindaloo, Lamb Stew and Chicken Curry. Rajma Xacuti, Mushroom Chilli fry, Channa Pulao, Potato Loaded! And these were just a few of the sumptuous buffet spread.

FISH ESCABECH

Of the main course, The Lamb Stew and the Fish Escabech stood apart. The lamb was tender and succulent. We were told the lamb is cooked in red wine. Certainly aromatic. The stew with generous amounts of potatoes, was light and comforting. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

The fish, placed on a bed of caramelised onions and juliennes of bell pepper, was lightly tossed in some Goan herbs.  The Potato Loaded, was true to its name. King sized potatoes were halved and the centre scooped to from a large cup which was loaded with veggies in white sauce. These dishes were more continental than, Goan, actually.

The Vindaloo was a coarsely ground paste of Chillies. It was rustic and fiery. The chilli overpowered all the other spices and the vinegar. The Chicken curry was pleasant, as was the Mushroom Chilli Fry and Rajma Xacuti.

For desserts there was the traditional Bebinca, a layered pudding and the Bolo Sans Rival (A cake without rival) a layered cake of French origin. The chef informed us that traditionally Almonds were used, but he chose Cashew as they are not only sweet but also easily available in Goa. Both the desserts were perfect in their texture and sweet content. I could live on those 365 days with guilty pleasure.

Overall, Chef Vasco’s spread was elaborate and quite interesting.  Given his vast experience of running a restaurant in Goa, he is obviously adept at his culinary creations.

With most of his dishes being under-spiced and with somewhat less salt it seemed that he caters largely to the uninitiated Goans and Europeans, as the traditional dishes lacked the authenticity and the punch of the land. Perhaps intentionally.

And most of all, the traditional Goan Fish Curry and the rustic brown rice was definitely missing from the menu. It was like searching for the Goan in Goa!

But nevertheless, it was a pleasant experience with Konkani music et al, which I would willingly repeat, if only for chef’s innovative streak. Viva Goa!

Rediscovering Cashew-The wonder fruit of Goa

I have loved cashews ever since I can remember. Roasted, plain or in marzipans. I love them in any form. Being married to a Goan, of course I am now well-versed with the importance of cashews in Goa and its popularity, but it was only recently that I rediscovered the fruit, apart from the nut, I am so familiar with.

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Park Hyatt Resort & Spa Goa’s Cashew Trail beckoned us to Goa. I am ever willing to go to Goa, just as most of us are. But in reality, it was the cashew related itinerary, which intrigued me.

As a food and beverage writer, I was keen to know more about feni and urak, the drinks made from cashew apple and of course cocktails made with these. I was equally curious to see how Chefs infuse the cashew into a variety of dishes across cuisines. And that’s exactly what the culinary wizards at Park Hyatt Goa did. I was mesmerized.

I was in for a surprise at Casa Sarita, the Goan restaurant at the Hotel. The special five-course menu was paired with urak, feni aged one year, an Oak Cask 2012 edition feni and a Port Oak Cask 2010 edition feni. These feni selections were specially presented by the Vaz family for Cashew Trail 2015.

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I loved the passion with which Mac Vaz painstakingly explained each feni as we got ready to sip it with each course. I have great regard for Chef Edridge  of Casa Sarita, who is a master of his craft. He loves his Goan cuisine and knows it really well. Well enough to, give it his own contemporary twist. And yet, the dishes are authentic. That’s what makes him a class apart.

Chef Edridge Vaz - Casa Sarita

We began with the Assiette of seafood peri peri and Cauliflower tondak served with first pressed coconut milk and salted cumin biscotti. Exquisite flavours enveloped my mouth, as, I savoured each morsel. The spices used were 100% Goan and the modern twist to it was laudable. Light and flavourful, I relished the cauliflower tondak. The cumin biscotti added the right amount of zest to the course, in terms of the crunch. Never knew Vegetarian Goan food could be so appeasing. The Cinnamon feni sorbet meant to be our palate cleanser, was so delicious that it well could have been my dessert. Smooth in texture, it almost had a creamy feel to it.

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The highlight of the evening was the Alle Belle Cold Cheese cake with Cashew Jam. It had me spellbound. A traditional sweet of Goa, Chef had presented and served it so interestingly. It looked so appetising that my heart broke to upset his presentation on the plate. The base of the dessert was crispy and crunchy, juxtaposed perfectly with the smooth and creamy cheese cake on top. The highlight undoubtedly was the cashew jam, which I tasted for the first time ever. Chef Edridge had yet again proved his mastery. This was an example of innovation at its best.

The gourmet dinner and exquisite fenis proved to be a heady experience.

If the dinner, was an extraordinary experience, so were our subsequent meals, where cashews were so skillfully integrated into various dishes. Pulaos, curries, lentils, soups, chutneys and dips. Yes, there was cashew in all of these and more. And yet, the palate never did tire of it, even though we relished this cuisine for three days, albeit in different forms. The Cashew Trail finale brunch replete with cashew based dishes is something I will always remember and cherish. Each dish stood apart from the other. The chefs’ creativity knew no bounds today.

What can I say about the cocktails created with feni and urak? any of these were a revelation for me as I discovered several spices and seasonal fruits which were cleverly used with feni and urak to create the innovative Buenisima, Orange Sunrise and Fenirinha among others.

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Apart from savouring myriad cashew creations in various forms, the picking of the cashew apple at the Cashew farm in Valpoi and watching the feni being distilled, is something which made this trip so memorable and the experience unparalleled.

And as I sit at home in Mumbai and bite into my cashew chikki and relish the cashew nut and mango chutney, so generously provided by the Hotel, as our lil’ giveaway, I get nostalgic about the 4th Cashew Trail at Park Hyatt Goa. I had embarked on a guilt-free, hedonistic journey, but I am not complaining. For this one, once is clearly, not enough.

‘Jack’ of all fruits

I was never a fan of jackfruit as a child. It’s only after getting married and travelling to Goa often, that I discovered the goodness and versatility of jackfruit. Phanas they call it. Rich in minerals, dietary fibre, vitamins, it contains no saturated fats and cholesterol. so eat it guilt-free.

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One can consume it as chips, as seed flour used in kebabs and puddings, in shredded form for gravies and stir-fry preparations. Not surprising therefore, that Chef Crystal Mendonca of The Peninsular Grand Saki Naka, Mumbai has created a special summer menu with several jackfruit delicacies in it. Thai stir fry jackfruit, jackfruit biryani and even jackfruit halwa. Must try some out. Chef Deepa Suhas Awchat too has created delectable recipes with jackfruit.

This spined oval fruit, is actually quite remarkable. The unripe one is edible, as is the ripe fleshy one and the seeds can be put to use as well. The fleshy part is so starchy that it needs to be cut with a knife that has been oiled.

I enjoy jackfruit chips which people in Kerala make in abundance. The fleshy jackfruit is pretty similar to chicken in texture.  Pannsachi shak is a seasonal delicacy for villagers in several pockets of Goa. I too have developed a taste for it. Once tasted a channa and jackfruit sukke on our way to Goa near Sawantwadi at a wayside eatery. The flavour still lingers in my mouth. Interestingly, the Mangaloreans prepare patholeos using jackfruit. People in Andhra prepare it with mustard and red chillies. It is fiery but lip-smacking.

A friend of mine once taught me to make jackfruit koftas and believe me they turned out really well. In fact one could safely pass them off as mutton koftas( meatballs) because of the colour and texture. Jackfruit pakoras with chutney are a perfect evening snack for summer.

Did you know that jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh? I did not. Well we all learn new things everyday. Don’t we?

Fantastic feni

Oh! Monsoons make me think of Goa and Goa, feni. There’s nothing like enjoying a glass of feni in this weather at home or in a shack by the beach. Pure bliss.

The first time I ever tasted feni, many aeons ago, I simply gulped it. My host looked askance. And then began my ordeal. I was out of sorts for the entire next day.

Feni gets its name from the Konkani word, fena, which means “froth”.  This twice-distilled “unofficial state drink”, Feni can be made from two sources – sap of coconut palm (coconut feni) or juice of cashew apple (cashew or “kaju” feni).  And Goa has both these in abundance. Goans generally prefer Cashew feni over Coconut feni, at least those with a sophisticated taste. The longer the feni matures, the better it tastes. A three-year old Feni is considered good. The true test of a good feni is the colour of the flame. Yes, when burnt, the flame should be blue. That indicates its’ purity.

It is not as if only we Goans are fond of our feni. Otehrs swear by it too. Bartenders love it for its versatililty.It is heady. The aroma is distinct and you can sniff it a mile away. If used cleverly, great cocktails can be created. Kazkar Feni is typically used in cocktails.

As if drinking feni is not enough, we Goans use it in our coking too. Goans usually spike their Sorpotel (a Goan delicacy made of pork) with Feni and it is also used to  cure ham. It gives it a special flavour.

Be careful if you are having it fir the first time. Don’t go overboard like I did. Go slow. You may not even enjoy it. It gorws on you. But the best way to experience feni is at the roadside stalls that line the coastal highways when it is pouring. Ooh ! that experience is unparalleled.

I can go on and on about feni till the monsoons end, but don’t worry. I will not. Instead, I shall head to Goa soon to enjoy a glass. You too must try it when you’re in Goa next. No liquor in the world can give you the enjoyment, this rustic drink does. It has gone the world over already.