Tag Archives: light

Dastarkhwan par excellence at Kangan

 

Indian food when dining out is usually my last choice, even though, I am passionate about the flavours of Indian food of every region. It is the greasy curries, oily biryanis, heavy kababs that scare me. Else, Indian food is food for my soul and I relish its flavours with pride. But home cooked food Indian food is what I hanker after.

A new menu tasting session with Chef Mohamed Danish, the new Chef de cuisine at Kangan, Westin Mumbai Garden City, sounded exciting and naturally the gourmand and writer in me wanted to explore it, so I set out, albeit with a bit of trepidation.

Chef Danish, I learnt, is a Lucknow born and bred Chef and naturally then, his culinary legacy is rich and varied. Of a pleasant demeanour, soft spoken and extremely confident of his food and skills, he demonstrated that in ample measure over a lunch experience that spanned three hours. No, it was not only about endless dishes, but conversations and stories around the food that made time simply fly and kept us engrossed.

Awadhi cuisine was what we were primarily being treated to, as those are the highlights of the new menu, which will of course contain other dishes too, to wow many a palate for dinner.

The culinary gems one can expect in an Awadhi meal are unmatched, especially delectable meat dishes including biryani, Nalli nihari, kakori kababs and more.

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Greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques, Awadhi food bears similarities to the cuisines of Persia, Kashmir and Hyderabad. The richness of Awadhi cuisine also lies in liberal use of ingredients like mutton, paneer and rich spices including mace, cardamom and saffron.

Slow cooking with the finest ingredients, magically bound together, is the cooking style that is popular and Chef Danish strictly adhered to that.

Some of the major spices that go into the legendary spice mixes in this cuisine are – black and green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cumin, nutmeg, mace and cloves. The rakabdars or gourmet cooks, had their spice mixes, which were a closely guarded secret. In the past, all these spices were added in proportions that were easy on the stomach.  Meat typically used to be marinated in curd and spices. This helped to soften the taste and texture, as well as remove any strong odours.

Innovation was constant in the kitchens, as Nawabs were very easily bored and thus demanded constant innovation from their cooks, who obliged. Chef Danish seems to have inherited this trait as he is inventive to the extent of experimenting without altering the classics.

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We started with the aromatic and creamy, Murg zafrani shorba, but sans any cream. Flavourful as it was slow-cooked, it boasted of spices and the caramelised onions imparted a unique flavour.

 

The Kangan tandoori chicken came next, with a lot of fanfare, being served to us fresh on our table. The aromas wafted through the air and made us hungrier, than we were. A bite into it and the smoky and well-balanced flavours, wowed my palate.

 

The refreshing lemon grass shikanji, I thought was an apt and interesting combination for this summer heat and refreshing, as nothing else.

The Kakori kabab was one of the best ever, as it was completely melt-in-the-mouth, well-spiced and yet, nothing overpowering.

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The dudhiya kabab made with grated paneer and dry spices, was for me, the piece de resistance. The melange of textures and flavours, so distinct, set it apart. I had never tasted anything like this before. Carnivores would gladly give up meat if this is served to them. The vegetarian variety on the new menu is abundant. The firdausi bharwaan aloo is equally a palate pleaser.

Each dish looked as good as it tasted, as Chef Danish displayed his mastery over his craft. The andaaz of balancing the spices in this cuisine is an art and intrinsic to the flavours and Chef Danish has got it right.

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For mains, we sampled the quintessential favourite – dal Kangan, murgh Begmati, nalli nihari, murg Jahaangiri raan, papad and sev ka paratha, multigrain roti and more. The fragrant gucchi pulao with stuffed morels was an unparalleled treat. For once, with a heavy heart, I skipped the biryani.

We rounded off our meal with the delectable shahi tukda, made with in-house saffron infused bread.

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In keeping with the Lucknawi tehzeeb and adab, none of the dishes had whole spices that one needed to remove. Apparently, that is how the Nawabs liked it – well-spiced food, prepared with a plethora of spices, but all removed after the cooking process before being served.

Having tried multiple dishes, albeit small tasting portions, I did not experience the discomfort and uneasiness I was anticipating. That itself was the acid test for me. Quite literally.

It was an enjoyable afternoon, where humne shauq farmaya, and we experienced lazeez food with lajawaab hospitality. Oops! I am beginning to sound Lucknawi is it? That is was this food and culture does to you, I guess.

If you remotely love Indian food, this new menu at Kangan, is a must try. Allow Chef Danish’s culinary treats to pamper your taste buds.

Rating : 4/5

 

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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

Hop along for some Hoppers

Sri Lanka’s bowl shaped pancake- light, fluffy and delicious, is my new favourite. Quite similar to appams, hoppers are made with naturally fermented rice flour. They can be eaten sweet or savoury. A staple found primarily on every table in a Sri Lankan home.Of course, I first sampled it years ago when I went to Sri Lanka, and several time later at food festivals or five star hotels, but the novelty has not worn off. In fact, I am in love with these with renewed vigour. I prefer savoury ones any day.

Naturally then, I hopped over to Madeira and Mime, a new restaurant (opened 5 months ago) in Powai to sample some great hoppers. Known for their great food and drinks, I was sure I would get good ones here.And right I was!

The doughy centre and crisp edges with a filling in the centre, are enticing. And that’s exactly what was served to me here, one Hopper with chicken sukka and the other paneer makhani. There was a mutton version too, which I decided to skip.

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The highlight for me was the accompanying coconut pickle- spicy, well seasoned and with a great bite to it.

The hoppers were well-made, just the way they should be and the generous chicken sukka with an egg at the base made it even more delicious.The flavours of the chicken were lip-smacking and comforting. No spice was over powering and the pieces of chicken were succulent and well-meshed with the gravy. One could just roll it and bite into it effortlessly. The paneer makhani one which is obviously a twist in terms of the filling, was not so exciting, in comparison, but tasty nevertheless.

Made of rice flour and coconut milk, hopppers are light and pair well with just about anything. The slight sour flavour and a medley of textures is what sets these apart. Made in a special pan or appachatti, these are quite easy to make as well and quick too, but yes require a special skill.

Madeira and Mime is every bit your neighborhood bar offering unique drinks and delectable food along with great service by their always-smiling staff. I too left the palce smiling after having savoured palate-pleasing hoppers.

Italian, as I like it

Being a sea food lover, an entire menu of Italian food, revolving around crustaceans, sounded irresistible and intrigued me too. Chef Rajiv Das at Stax, Hyatt Regency, has curated a special menu for a limited period of time to wow the palate of sea food lovers and naturally, it beckoned me.

Typically, fresh scallops are laced with lemon butter garlic sauce, but Chef here chose to be different and that’s what made all the difference to the dish. He opted for an orange vinaigrette which was subtle and did not overpower the flavours of the scallop, but instead enhanced those. This pan seared scallop with french onion compote and orange vinaigrette dressing was the perfect testimony to chef’s mastery over his craft as he had flawlessly married the flavours.

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The soup boasted of mild but distinct flavours, as one could taste the crab, lobster, mussels and more in a comforting and tangy tomato broth. The slow cooing process used here was what imparted the true flavours to the soup.

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I have a weakness for risotto and thus opted for the saffron infused risotto with scampi over the Lobster linguine, which also sounded inviting. And I was glad I made this choice. The creamy risotto was bursting with flavours, but not a wee bit heavy and appeased my taste buds instantly.

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Grilled tiger prawns  as the main course, could be any sea food lovers dream come true, but since I wanted to indulge in my guilty pleasure- dessert, I skipped this course.

Oh! my favourite Tiramisu in Mumbai is at Stax, so how could I not do justice to it? I let the creamy, sinful dessert envelop my palate, as I relished each spoonful of this well-made Italian dessert.

The food had a home style rustic feel to it even though it was so well presented. The flavours were unmistakable and the textures mesmerizing. And yes, the portions, hearty.

I have never quite enjoyed an Italian meal so much as this one proved to be light and flavourful as opposed to the heavy ones I am often used to experiencing.

On for dinner only, at Stax till February, this one is a must-try for all crustacean lovers.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

The Long & Short Of The New Menu

The Dome may be the most sought after place at InterContinental Marine Drive, but for me Long & Short, the casual dining and lounge is equally a star. The reason being the eclectic menu, fun cocktails, affordable menu and of course great service. It is a place where one can unwind, relish good food and prompt service.
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Executive Chef Arzooman Irani, being the creative genius and restless person that he is has introduced some new exciting dishes in the already exhaustive menu, thus revamping parts of it.
Wanting to keep it global, Chef Irani was keen on ensuring that comfort food was the focus. “Guests should be able to dine in a fun and relaxed atmosphere with the food being light and enjoyable. Of course, apart from comfort food, there is a section for those seeking healthy food too and that need not be boring. Low cal, low carbs or no carbs, gluten free and so on. There are plenty of options. And of course those wanting to indulge can do so as well,” Chef Arzooman elaborated.
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We started with the crisp lavash dome, almost customary here. Crunchy and laced with herbs, it set our taste-buds tingling. The platter with starters was a treat for the eyes, as it was for the palate. The springs rolls with varied fillings were crisp and luscious, the wasabi prawns fresh and delectable and the chicken boasted of distinct Pan Asian flavours. The presentation was appealing yet, devoid of unnecessary gimmicks.
The crisp pea shoot salad  from the healthy food section, was a delight. It was as fresh as it could get. With a subtle flavoured dressing, the medley of textures of the lettuce, seasonal fruits, micro greens and cherry tomatoes, came out trumps and it was a veritable feast for the taste buds. Healthy food can certainly be delicious.
Mushroom feta cheese waffle from the petit toasties section caught my eye and struck me as innovative. But then, Chef Arzooman is legendary for his innovative streak. Equally unique were the slider offerings, I thought. Butter milk fried chicken, sriracha mayo was certainly out-of-the-ordinary. I made a mental note of it for my next visit.
The brie & potato gnocchi surpassed everything that I have ever tasted before. The garlicky creamy sauce, wrapped over the potato gnocchi made me slip into a food coma. But what got my vote instantly was the zucchini spaghetti. No, not spaghetti with zucchini but spaghetti made out of zucchini strips and tossed in aglio olio. It was outstanding and  yet another testimony to the chef’s creativity.
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Comforting curries, Mumbai street food, pizza, salads, care has been taken to ensure that the menu caters to every palate. Vegetarian options abound too.
Surprisingly the dessert did not wow my palate as expected. The salted caramel oreo tart was not the hero of the evening as the chocolate drizzle overpowered all other flavours, relegating them to the background.
With alert staff, warm hospitality and first-rate food, the  experience at Long & Short was memorable and the new menu is clearly a winner.
Rating: 4.5/5

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!

 

 

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.