Tag Archives: hot

Tea Tales & Winter food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

Soulful Soups

Ah! there is something about soups in this weather that is so comforting. If made with the right ingredients and spices, these can be nourishing as well as healthy too. Nothing like a steaming bowl or mug of soup especially for dinner. In fact, on most days I prefer just that.

Goan, Bokdiacho caldo (mutton soup) made from mutton bones, onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander leaves and dices of potato, salt and pepper, is my all-time favourite. It is filling and boosts my immunity too. Caldo Verde with potatoes as the base is also a light and flavourful vegetarian soup of Portuguese origin.

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Being from Kolkata, I am used to relishing a spicy Thukpa, a Tibetan soup made with mixed vegetables, mixed meats and noodles  when the mercury dips. There is something for every palate in global cuisines too. Mulligatawny, Tom Kha, Tom Yum, Miso soup, Lobster bisque. My mouth is watering now.

Be imaginative and play around with flavours and textures. Be experimental. And global soups are not your only options. A plethora of soups from our very own Indian cuisine are a delight in this weather. Soups made from dals or lentils, paya soup, tamatar ka shorba or even a murg shorba. The options are endless.

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Don’t forget to add seasonal veggies in your soups wherever possible for that extra health quotient. Pumpkin, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, work wonders. And yes, the right spices to for additional warmth and immunity.

Cinnamon works wonders, as do ginger and garlic. I love to add these in my soups where ever possible.

If the soup alone is insufficient, pair it with garlic bread, toast or add macaroni to your soups or even red rice, to make it more sumptuous.

There is nothing like a well-made soup, it is soulful and comforting in winter, keeping winter blues at bay.

 

 

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.

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!

 

 

Warm n Soothing Winter Drinks at Costa Coffee

It is almost December, so winter should actually be round the corner, but unfortunately in Mumbai it isn’t, yet, we are all gearing up for the winter season and festivities. So, I was delighted to learn that Costa Coffee has launched a range of indulgent hot beverages for the season. I have a weakness for such drinks, so went to try these out.

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The winter warmers include Hot Spiced Apple, Salted Caramel Latte and Sticky Toffee Latte. All three sound exciting and made me drool. I opted for the Salted Caramel Latte. A regular size was big enough and the cream on top looked like a mastery in art. I stirred it, weaving it into my coffee and then took a sip. The caramel flavours were pronounced and the sweetness was just right. No, I did not need to add any sugar. But the coffee was a wee bit less hot than I would have liked it to be. The refrigerated cream had done the trick I guess. Maybe one should try it without the cream next time? I definitely will.

My next drink was the ultra luxuriant,  Hot Spiced Apple. Ah! the aromas of cinnamon and star anise filled my nostrils. It smelt inviting. It was piping hot, just the way I love it and the spiced apple flavours were soothing. This one, imbued with the goodness of spices is the perfect winter drink. Reminded me of mulled wine actually. Apt for a chilly Christmas eve. I only hope the weather in Mumbai gets to that. At Rs 200, I thought it was value for money. The other two, I was told were priced at Rs 180 each.

The service with a smile and alert staff at Costa Coffee always appeals to me. You never need to catch their eye, they are always “ready” to serve a customer. The Lokhandwala outlet is one of my favourites as the place is always vibrant.

So am going to be off caffeine, at least when I am at Costa Coffee till end December and make the most of the Hot Spiced Apple winter warmer. So what if there is no winter 🙂

Ramzan Repast

I had heard so much about the delectable Ramzan food at Bhendi Bazaar in Mumbai where every year many of my friends and family head to savour the sumptuous spread. But somehow a trip there has always eluded me. So when the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust(SBUT) Mumbai very generously invited me for a food walk, I decided not to miss the opportunity in spite of the downpour all day yesterday. Nothing was going to deter me today, I thought.

We were warmly greeted by the SBUT team at their office and shown around, after which we trooped to the streets armed with our umbrellas and folded trousers/ salwars.

Our first stop was the Haji Tikka house where the aroma of charcoal grilled meats permeated our nostrils and made us hungrier. Chicken tikka, drumsticks, mutton sheekhs, kaleji et al were on offer. I relished only the chicken tikka and drumsticks. Mouth- watering stuff which had unique flavours that one can never find in a restaurant. Standing under a tin roof, by the side of the road, chatting and munching hot tikkas, to the sound of the heavy rain, was a rustic and memorable experience. Equally fascinating was to spectacle of the  guy effortlessly and expertly moulding the kebabs and grilling them a la minute.

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Indian Hotel next door was the second halt. Mutton in all forms was served, Baida roti made of maida, eggs and mince, fried into crisp pieces. Lip smacking. Similar to the Bengali moghlai paratha, though not exactly. The naan chaap was more of a burger bun with the mutton chaap sandwiched in between. Tasty, but not extraordinary.  The mutton roll cut into small pieces almost resembled a spring roll. Succulent pieces of mutton were rolled in a maida covering. The owner regaled us with anecdotes as we chomped on our food. About 180 kgs of mutton was used daily during Ramzan in the earlier days. He said chicken was a relatively new phenomenon as many people nowadays prefer chicken. But gourmets clearly come here to relish the meat delicacies. I could see that for myself as cars stopped and people kept entering the place.

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Surti 12 Handi came next. Various parts of the goat – gurda (kidney), kaleji (liver), pichota (tail), paya (trotters), etc are stewed separately in  different vessels with various masalas. The curries are then mixed together. Unfortunately, I decided to skip the paya, as this kind of organ meat does not appeal to my palate or senses. Served with large Indian breads called Qabooz, my friends were enjoying it.

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We saved the best for the last. Tawakkal sweets was undoubtedly, the best place as far as I was concerned. Melt in the mouth mango phirni, eggless and egg malpuas with malai, mango malai were some of the sweets we gorged on. Rich and creamy, these were enough to make one pile on calories in a jiffy, but we were indulging in guilty pleasure. The person outside fried hot malpuas in a kadai, while another served phirni from packed trays arriving regularly from their workshop across.

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The saancha or hand churned ice cream at Taj Ice cream, I had heard so much about was a dampner. A real let down. I found it too synthetic and rich. The sitaphal flavour supposedly his best selling ice cream was disappointing. The mango was a bit better. But nothing could erase the memory of the mango phirni.

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The trip surpassed my expectations. My taste buds were satiated and after an enjoyable experience, we headed back home.  This Ramzan would remain etched in my memory for a long time to come. Truly a haven for foodies, go there if you have not already.