Tag Archives: oliveoil

Of Wines and Italian Home flavours

It has been my week of savouring Italian food. A strange co-incidence, but one, I am not complaining about. Anything for the love of Italian cuisine.

Olio, at Novotel Juhu, Mumbai, is a restaurant shrouded in a bit of a mystery. Not too many people know about this wonderful restaurant, with a chic ambience and an open kitchen. I have been fortunate to have visited this twice before in the last 5 years or so. Naturally then, a dinner at Olio, with an all-new menu under the aegis of Executive Chef Kailash Gundupalli, sounded like an interesting prospect.

The warmth and hospitality extended by the hotel team was overwhelming. The General Manager Manish Dayya, personally welcomed all guests.

The long table for our dinner was beautifully laid out. Flawless. Each course was to be  paired with Reveilo wines and the wine maker Andrea was present there himself.

The amuse bouche arrived. The baked brie with a crust, was just the perfect way to tantalize one’s taste buds. As one bit into the crust, soft, gooey brie enveloped the taste buds and rendered one speechless.

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Barely recovering from the onslaught of cheese on my palate, and the pickled watermelon and arugula salad took me by surprise. The water melon was handled with precision and the pickled flavours  were unique. The smattering of goat cheese, focaccia chips and the apple vinaigrette imparted the final touch to this salad replete with freshness and crunch. And yes, a hint of tangy flavours too.

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We were definitely off to a great start. The grillo and chardonnay paired with these opened our palate and with their citrusy and fruity flavours, were refreshing all the way.

The spinach and ricotta ravioli had a filling which was well-made, the outer covering of the dumpling, made with pasta dough seemed a tad tough and under cooked. The chewy texture robbed me of the outstanding experience I was expecting, considering the tomato basil sauce was light and flavoursome.

An eternal optimist, I looked forward to my risotto, a dish I have an immense weakness for. But alas! this too did not pass the test. It was a mushy mass of sticky rice. A spoonful and I knew it was half-cooked. Perhaps it was prepared in stages, which proved to be its undoing. The stock had got absorbed too soon and the arborio rice grains were not cooked to perfection. Of course the quality of the ingredients used boasted of freshness and shone all through. The black truffle essence too could have been a bit more.

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Perhaps I had made the wrong choices. There was Chicken d’ avolo – roast chicken preparation and a red snapper dish to choose from as well and I saw others relish those. Fortunately, the food  here is light, home-style and causes no discomfort with a cheese and cream overload, as is sometimes the case with what is passed off as Italian food.

Grilled salmon – sautéed Asparagus, garlic mash potato and lobster cream sauce

Just when I was beginning to let my despondent taste buds take over and feel sorry for themselves, the desserts- tiramisu and flour less chocolate cake, came along, artistically presented and literally “picked me up.” The flavors were bang on as were the textures. I was elated once again. A sip of the late harvest Chenin Blanc dessert wine and I was grateful to the hosts for a lovely evening.

Flour less chocolate cake – olio signature gluten free dessert with vanilla ice cream

The service through out the evening struck me as alert and efficient and the chefs passionate about their craft.

The new menu  certainly looks promising with appetizers ranging from Bruschetta, Olio De Caesare, Cozze Al Forno to Capsesante, while the mains feature avant-garde additions like Linguine Pescatora, open-face Lasagna, Angello Al Balsamico, all-time classic pizzas, and much more.

The simple home style cooking techniques, fresh sauces and condiments are going to make all the difference, along with the chef’s expertise and skills.

Add to that the fact that Olio exudes a kind of bonhomie and cheer and is not a staid, stiff-upper lip kind of dining place.

Saluti and Buon Appetito all:)

 

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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?

 

Fresh, Fragrant & Flavoursome: Lebanese food at Pondichery Cafe

Tabouleh, fattoush, falafel, hummus and pita bread, are perhaps the first names that come to my mind when I think of Lebanese cuisine. But of course there is much more to this subtle, but flavourful cuisine. Lebanese food is one of the freshest and most delicious.

Lebanese food  is, without a doubt, the most popular of all Middle Eastern cuisines and history has played a significant role in this. Lebanon was under foreign powers for years on end and these have influenced the food to a large extent. The Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have since then become staples in the Lebanese diet, including olive oil, fresh bread, baklava (a sweet pastry dessert), laban (homemade yogurt), stuffed vegetables, and a variety of nuts. Again, it was the Ottomans who introduced and popularised lamb in this cuisine.

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Chef Maher from Sofitel Dubai was in Mumbai visiting Sofitel Mumbai BKC for a Lebanese Food Festival at Pondichery Cafe and being a huge fan of this cuisine, the invitation was hard to decline.

Originally from Syria but now settled in Dubai, Chef Maher has a strong hold over Lebanese cuisine. Add to that several years of experience as a chef. He is truly a master at his craft.

He demonstrated a beetroot Moutabel which seemed so easy to prepare and was even better to taste. Typically a spicy eggplant, garlic and basil dip, but Chef Maher gave it his own twist. This one in fact was lip-smacking and unique. The colour too was extremely appetizing.

The Lebanese dishes were a part of the otherwise exhaustive buffet. One could not resists the Mezze. So I relished the hummus, tabouleh, moutabel and pita.

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Potato volute flavour puree red with cabbage and brown lentil was the soup I tried. It was a tad too bland for me. From the hot mezzah, I sampled the sambosik, but was disappointed with it as it was too cold and chewy. Perhaps being on the buffet for long had resulted in it being so. So that was a bit of a kill joy too.

The variety was tremendous and surprisingly, there was a lot of vegetarian fare too. The Cold mezzah had Kosa mahshi -Baby marrow stuffed with rice, onion, tomato aqnd parsley, Feter ma al jazar -Mushroom and carrot in lemon olive oil, Bamieh bel ziat -Braised okra in tomato coriander sauce.

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The highlight in the main course for me was the Laban Umo- braised lamb in yogurt sauce topped with ghee and pine nuts. It was mouth-watering, prepared to perfection and comforting. Soul food, i would call that. The Batata bel synia- oven cooked potato with tomatoes, onions and olive oil, did not impress me too much. The Jambari mujbous was delectable. An absolute treat for the palate. Marinated shrimps and rice with herbs, dry lemon and cardamom made for a perfect combination. The aroma of this fragrant dish filled my nostrils. The Sabanekh ma hommus wel banadora -Spinach and chick peas cooked in tomato sauce too was light and flavorsome. A lot of chick peas in this cuisine, but I welcome that.

There was shwarma too, personally being tended to by Chef Maher, but I decided to skip that.

I could not wait to try the desserts. Namoura Semolina – Cake soaked in syrup, decorated with almonds, Qatayef – Walnuts stuffed in pan fried dough, Umali and Mouhlablia were on offer. Given my sweet tooth, I found some of the desserts less sweet specially the Mouhlablia and thus my vote went to the Umali. Closer to our home made bread pudding, it was rich, creamy and full of nuts. The texture was appealing as was the sweet quotient. The semolina cake too was extremely well made and the unique texture and mild flavours, appealed to my taste buds.

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Overall, it was an enjoyable meal, with authentic Lebanese dishes prepared adroitly by Chef Maher. The hospitality at Sofitel Mumbai BKC is always unquestionable. I left Pondichery cafe, smiling as always.

Fish & Olive Casserole: Recipe

 

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Ingredients:

500 gms fillet of any fish

3 cloves garlic

7 black olives

fish stock

chopped parsley

olive oil

salt to taste

Method:

Cut the fish into large pieces. Peel and chop garlic. Saute fish and garlic in olive oil. Pour fish stock. Boil fish for a few minutes, Chop olives and parsley.

Sprinkle over the fish. Serve hot. A perfect dish for a quick lunch.

Watch out for Nico!

An entry into Nico Bombay, transports you to a cafe in Europe.  The high ceiling, minimalistic decor, adds to the elegance.

The music is infectious and sets the mood for a perfect Sunday lunch. The menu may seem limited, but covers everything a gourmet may want to sample. Specialising in authentic wood-fired oven Napolitano – gourmet flat breads, Eastern and Western Mediterranean inspired Mezzes, Modern European Mains with classics such as a Spaghetti Vongole and Confit Duck Leg are a part of their gastronomical fare.

The flat breads at Nico Bombay are made with high quality flour, farm fresh cheese, premium organic ingredients and cooked in the authentic wood fired oven from Italy.

Having learnt the art of the Napolitano pizza from the master himself, Enzo Coccia, Nico Goghavala has made use of the carefully honed, age old methods, specially selected starters, exceptional flour and high quality, well-conceived toppings for their flat breads.

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From the pizza or flat breads, as they call them, we try Enzo- Pumpkin Flowers, Burrata, Oven Roasted Tomatoes. We are rendered speechless. The Burrata is luscious and smooth and compliments the other topping ingredients.

The Kadaifi Wrapped Prawns, Citrus Mousseline, is par excellence. Succulent prawns and the covering is absolutely wow. The chef’s eye for presentation is evident from each dish that is served. Poetry on plate, literally.

Nico Bombay endeavours to treat the diner to the freshest local produce which are used as their key ingredients, hence encouraging a very farm to table concept. I like that.

Goat Cheese, Caramelised Onion, Sour Cream Puff, arrives next. The topping is delicious, but the crumbly puff does not appeal to us. Balsamic Baby Beets, Caramelised Walnuts, Burrata, our salad sweeps me off my feet. Looks appealing and tastes even better. The caramalised walnuts lend an interesting flavour to the beet. A one-of-its-kind, melt in the mouth salad, worth a try for sure.

Risotto, Ravioli, Beef fillet, Roast chicken. The mains have these and more. There is enough Vegetarian fare too. Oven Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli, Amoretti Crumbs, Asparagus Pea Risotto, Shaved Asparagus Parmesan Foam et al.

The quantity of olive oil in the food is a wee bit too much.

Mini Savarins, Citrus Jelly, Tropical Fruits was what was recommended for dessert. Good, but not extraordinary like the rest of our meal. Maybe Chocolate Fondant, Strawberry Granita  would have been a better bet.

Not only, the ambience, the service and food quality, is definitely world class.  For those who enjoy their drinks. The menu is exhaustive and the bartender, creative.

Nico Bombay is going to give some of the fine-dining eateries in Mumbai a run for their money. Way to go.

Tantalizing Tuscany flavours

You cannot help but like Chef Davide Cananzi at Mezzo Mezzo, JW Marriott, Mumbai. His simplicity and ingenuity strike you immediately. Well-travelled and  with a rich culinary experience in the hospitality industry, he lets his food speak for him.

This May, JW Marriott Mumbai invites Italian food gourmets to savour and relish this unique and original cuisine from the region of Florence. Starting this exciting food festival, Chef will take over the mantle of the fine dining Italian restaurant, Mezzo Mezzo at JW Marriott Mumbai, which will now serve authentic Tuscan cuisine along with exotic wines.

Simplicity is the hallmark of Chef Davide’s food and he indeed delivered what he had promised. For once, Italian food did not feel heavy. The flavours were subtle, yet distinct and the textures, varied and interesting.

Code di gamberi in guazzetto al pomodoro e vinbianco suletto d’asparagiverdi e scaglie di Parmigiano (Stewed prawn tails in tomato and white wine sauce served on green asparagus with Parmesan shavings), which came first,  set the tone for the rest of our delicious meal.

 

 

Tuscan

Risotto con funghi di bosco e melagranat (Risotto with wild mushrooms and pomegranate), wowed our palate with its interesting flavours. It was truly a unique pairing. Homemade fetuccine with rock lobsters and white figs was as exotic as it sounded.

For the non-vegetarians, the Tuscan Food Festival offers La Griglia (The Meat Grill) that will boast of Rosticciana (Grilled Pork Ribs), Agnello scottadito (Grilled New Zealand Lamb Chops), Bistecca di manzo (Rib Eye Steak) to name a few which will be served with Mashed or Rosemary Roasted Potato and Grilled Vegetables.  Not a great fan of red meat, we decided to skip these.

Branzino (Grilled Sea Bass Steak), Grilled Calamari and Grilled Salmon are a delight for sea-food lovers. And I relished the grilled calamari.

I was curious to try Chef Davide’s Tiramisu as it is his mother’s original recipe. Indeed, the Tramisu Classico which is a traditional Italian mascarpone with cheese and coffee dessert, was the highlight of the meal. It surpassed my expectations. After all you cannot go wrong with your mother’s recipe. Crostatina di pere e mandorle tiepide con gelato all’ amarena e salsa al cioccolato (Warm pear and almond tart with cherry ice cream and chocolate sauce)  and a variety of Gelatos like Mousse Al Mascarpone E Mela Con Miele Al Tartufo (Lemon Cream Pudding with Walnut Biscuit and Olive Oil Cream), are your other options.

 

Don’t miss this culinary treat from May 17- June 1.  And yes, Italian food is not just pizza and pasta!