Tag Archives: meat

Indulgently Indian

Thalis in Indian cuisine, are my weakness. The sheer variety and sight of small vatis or katoris with different dishes in a glistening thali attract me. The Grand Thali Feast at Soma, Grand Hyatt Mumbai which begins today and goes on until July 23, daily for dinner, naturally was something which beckoned me. I was fortunate to get a preview last night.

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Curated by Chef Vinod Singh Rana of Soma and his team, the thali looked delightful and appetizing as expected. In fact I even witnessed the thalis being set in the spotlessly clean and well-planned kitchen.

I opted for the Non-vegetarian option with laal maas, a typical Rajasthani preparation of mutton which is lip-smacking. Naturally, that was the first dish I tried and it turned out to be one of the best lal-maas preparations I have ever had. Often hyped, it disappoints owing to too much spice and a rich and heavy gravy. But this one was a palate-pleaser. The yogurt was just right, as were the other spices and the texture of the succulent mutton pieces, slow-cooked, were just the way I enjoy mine.

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The other dishes on my thali included Rajasthani bhindi, sev tamatar, batata-nu-shaak, kadhi, dal, khichdi, thepla, rotla, puri, rice and of course lot of farsan in the form of khandvi, dhokla, samosa, patra made of arbi leaves, et al. Each dish was distinct in its flavours and textures and obviously painstakingly prepared. The taste of each Rajasthani and Gujarati dish was authentic with no room for compromise.

Desserts were the highlight of my meal with malpua and rabdi and of course the quintessential, moong dal halwa, as I have an incurable sweet-tooth.

The quality of ingredients was expectedly the best and the flavours shone through with ease. A sumptuous meal, perhaps difficult to finish, but enjoyable nevertheless. I was satiated. The meetha paan served in a traditional manner was the perfect finale to this grand thali meal.

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One can also enjoy an array of delightful cocktails and mocktails themed to compliment the menu from their a la carte beverage menu.

Given the variety and the fact that it is unlimited, as well as being priced at an all inclusive price, at Rs 999 for veg and Rs 1111 for Non-veg, this thali is a steal and every gourmand fond of the diverse flavours of Rajasthan and Gujarat must head to Soma soon. Furthermore, the thali has 4 rotational menus, so even if you land up more than once in the ten days, you are likely to experience a new set of dishes.

Rating: 4/5

 

Casual, boozy and indulgent brunch

This smokery and charcuterie, The Boston Butt at Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, is known for its good food, flavoursome and stylishly presented with high quality ingredients. I decided to check it out for myself on a Sunday Brunch.

The ambience is relaxed and the place pulsating. The live music on a Sunday is a sure-shot attraction.

The bright and cheerful place with a spacious layout and chic decor adds to the charm.

The brunch menu is limited but allows you a decent amount of choices. One can begin with a cocktail and the beer float with ice cream is an insta hit. Of course there are other options too.

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The smoked bbq chicken pizza was delightful and a great way to begin for sure. This brunch does not have a spread laid out before you on a table but is served to you at your table. Luxury I say!

From the raw section, I opted for the house-cured & cold smoked sushi grade blue thread fin indian salmon, apple-fennel slaw, cream cheese, shallot oil, mini bagel. It was exquisite in both presentation and flavours. It got my vote instantly. Others can opt for cobb salad or esquites.

The small plates section offered abundant options and was enough to confuse me. The bourgeois P.I.G: smoked bacon chili jam, mini brioche, mascarpone was the right choice. The in-house brioche was soft and pillowy and the bacon jam, a testimony of great flavours. A lip-smacking combo, is what I could say for sure.

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Smoked mozzarella, batter fried & wok tossed with chili, garlic, scallion, was my other choice and there too I was bang on. The smoked flavours imparted a unique texture to the mozzarella enhancing its taste and the chilli and garlic added the right amount of zest.

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The quality of ingredients used in each dish struck me as first-class and outstanding. This place obviously has an edge over many for the way they smoke their meats. One of the best that I have experienced in stand alone eateries in Mumbai.

 

Carnivores can rejoice and celebrate real meaty treats here.  The tbb brunch smoked platter: smoked pulled chicken, smoked pulled pork,st louis style smoked pork rib, bbq-beans, coleslaw, pickles, bbq sauces, was any meat lover’s delight. Perfectly smoked, the variety of meats provided an amalgamation of textures and flavours and the sauces and pickles, further teased my taste buds. My piece de resistance for the afternoon this was.

Just when I thought I had savoured the best, my dessert swept me off my feet. The skillet chocolate chip cookie, with vanilla, salted caramel & chocolate ice creams, enveloped my palate and I was experiencing food coma. The cookie is the best I have had in a long time. Sinful and decadent, to say the least.

The service staff can be a bit more alert, else, the experience here is outstanding.

Mesmerized with the flavour offerings and the quality of the food, I left The Boston Butt to enjoy the rest of my Sunday even more.

If you enjoy good food, a great ambience and foot-tapping music, make sure you do not miss this Sunday brunch with a difference.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

 

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.

 

 

Relish Roasts This Christmas

Roasts are delicious and apt for this festive season. What is Christmas without a roast? Roasts are usually done with large, tender cuts of meat. This is a method of cooking an item by enveloping it in hot, dry air, generally inside an oven and at temperatures of at least 300°F and often much hotter. The meat retains its flavours and can be preserved for days. These can be a bit tedious to prepare, but exciting for the palate and are worth every effort.

Goa is synonymous with roasts. Bifes assado (beef roast), Assado de Leitoa(Roast pigling), Pot roast- a braised beef dish. Every household prepares them and eats these with relish. I guess these have a Portuguese origin.

Red meats such as beef, lamb and venison and certain game birds are  typicaly the first choice for roasts. But there are other options too. Roast chicken, roast turkey, roast beef tenderloin, roast pork leg, roast pork belly, roasted suckling pig, roasted whole fish like red snapper, sea bass, sear fish etc. Always remember to “brown’ the meat by exposing it to high temperature for a short period, before roasting it in an oven. This imparts a traditional flavour and color to the roast, which is unparalleled.

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I have never been a great fan of  red meat, so prefer a roast chicken any day. It is my all-time favourite. A rosemary, garlic and lemon roast chicken is something I really enjoy making. My idea of a perfect meal on a  lazy Sunday and a jazzed up version for Christmas. The aroma of a roast chicken comforts me as it fills the air in my kitchen. Brining the chicken in salt water is essential prior to roasting, in order to keep the chicken moist. Also, seasoning is important. Salt, pepper, garlic, fresh herbs, can be used for seasoning. Ensure you season all parts well. Juicy meat and crisp skin are the two hallmarks of a perfectly roasted chicken. It is an art to perfect that.

Many people roast meats and then use them over a period of time in salads and sandwiches. Potatoes, boiled vegetables like carrots, beans, baby corn, asparagus and polenta are typical accompaniments for roasts but rice and noodles are eaten too, especially in Singapore.

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Lamb roast is equally a delight for the palate. And of course the Christmas roast is legendary. A roast turkey with a Bordeaux red wine, is an absolute treat. An interesting way to boost your meal when you serve roasts is by adding a gravy to it. The texture and flavours are enhanced. A creamy mushroom gravy is a good option.

In fact winters are a great time for roasts in India and I look forward to December and January to enjoy these with friends and family.

Indigo deli and Grandmama’s Cafe in Mumbai do some of my favourite roasts.

 

So what roast meat are you preparing this Christmas?

A Melange of Traditions & Flavours 

My entry into the Bohri kitchen, well, not literally, but Nafisa Kapadia’s home, to experience its rich and lavish cuisine, needed destiny to intervene. Several times, family and friends, made plans to “do the experiential” Bohri thaal at The Bohri Kitchen, run by Munaf Kapadia in Colaba, offering his mother’s lip-smacking food, but somehow for me, it never worked out.

On Eid, this year, I was lucky. Yes, to receive a kind invitation from Burrp to celebrate Eid with other fellow foodies. the next day at The Bohri Kitchen. I was excited. Kept my fingers crossed, as I accepted the invitation.

And yes, on the stipulated Friday afternoon, I actually made it. A warm welcome from the lady herself, Nafisa and her son Munaf, and I got pleasant vibes as I entered their home.

A cooling drink made with nariyal pani (coconut water) and tender coconut, not only refreshed me, but made my stomach get ready to brace the onslaught of rich and spicy Bohri food. Or so I thought.

A large thaal or platter was placed on the table. Yes, Bohri meals are meant to be shared. Salt was passed around as that is how the meal begins. One must cleanse one’s palate so as to be able to taste and savour each distinct dish.

A date and almond chutney, a green chutney, pineapple and boondi raita and diced nimbus or lemons in a bowl were already placed, to enjoy with the various dishes.

Kheema samosas were served first. One dish is served at a time. Munaf instructed us to bite into the samosa, squeeze some lime to release the smoked flavours of the mutton. We did so and discovered how right he was. A dash of the green mint and coriander chutney, further tickled our palates. I was ready for the next.

Chicken drumsticks came next. Fried to perfection and well-spiced, these were equally delicious.

To my utter surprise, sheer kurma, or seviyan(vermicelli) replete with nuts et al in thickened milk, a sweet dish, came next. Apparently, that is how a Bohri meal is best enjoyed – Mithaas and khaaras, aka sweet and savoury must be contrasted,  to enjoy the meal, the Bohris believe.

Flawless, was the first word that came to my mind for the sheer kurma. The perfect proportion of milk, vermicelli and sugar. I generally don’t like the ones where the vermicelli swells up and enevelopes the entire bowl.

Each course was interesting and I was relishing this entire culinary journey with Munaf explaining how each dish was to be enjoyed and the reason behind the sequence.

Everyone went into a tizzy as the piece de resistance- the Raan was served. And that too in two contrasting gravies- a red masala, spicy and luscious and a creamy, white, cashew based gravy. The salli on top of the red masala version, added to the flavours and textures. My vote went to this one instantly. The mutton was succulent and melt in the mouth. It had been marinated for days and absorbed the spices, extremely well.

In between, we sipped the rose sherbet with sabja seeds. Again to cool our systems from the abundant red meat we were consuming.

Chicken bhuna paired with aam ras or mango pulp? This was a first for me. But a marriage made in heaven. No one did not have to dip the chicken in the aam ras of course, but eat both together, to bring out the best in each other. Complimentary?

What can I say about the Gosht biryani? Thsi was the jaman or the main course. It surpassed my expectations. Not oily or greasy at all. Well-layered and perfectly spiced, the mutton pieces, seamlessly mingled with the long grain rice and the potatoes. This dish rendered me speechless.

I was surprised at myself as I willingly helped myself to the accompanying paya soup (lamb trotters soup) something which I usually never venture to do. It was the appearance which made me do so. Light and appealing it looked. And it was. Absolutely mild and flavourful.

This was a never-ending gastronomic journey and yet, I was not complaining.

The sancha ince cream-litchi and mango, was the perfect finale to our meal. But today. even the desserts paled in comparison to the sumptuous repast.

The hospitality was fuss-free but warm, the meal, hygienically served and each dish, mouth-watering and authentic.

What is heartening to know is that The Bohri Kitchen does home delivery too.

This is a gastronomical experience no non vegetarian should miss. Of course you have got to be a hard core carnivore to devour this thaal.

Rating : 4.5/5