Tag Archives: prawns

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

 

 

 

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Amti, my comfort food

Who can resist a well-made amti with steamed rice? Not me for sure. That is actually my comfort food when overeating has happened or I have been eating out a lot. More so in the festive season.

Amti is generally, a soupy dal made, with tur dal, tamarind, spices, jaggery and coconut. A well -known lentil-based dish, amti is eaten all over Maharashtra and Goa. Even during Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali, amti is a must on the menu. In fact I have been relishing some delectable ones these last few days, as I was vegetarian.

It is the staple part of almost every meal and yet has variations, as different dals are used -Tur, masoor and black gram or even chickpeas and split green peas. One can just unleash one’s imagination and create new versions.

Some ladies prepare a sheng daanyachi amti, using groundnut paste and it is tempered with hing, green chillies.  It is absolutely delicious and has a unique flavour and aroma. It can be relished with bhakri or even with Masale bhaaat. Kala watana amti (black gram cooked in coconut, tamarind and jaggery) is also traditional. Goda masala or kala masala is the key to a well-made amti. That is what lends it that spicy flavour and a unique taste. And it is then balanced with the addition of sugar or jaggery. The proportion of this is key to get the flavour right. The sweet n spicy taste of amti is typical. Masoorchi amti made with sprouted whole brown masoor dal is another favourite.

What is interesting is that while dals are referred to as amti, some even call any curry an amti and thus, prawn amti is popular too, among the Non vegetarians. Oh! non-vegetarian amtis with sea food can be so delicious. But I must confess, I still prefer the vegetarian versions.

My twist on amtis has been a tomato amti that I prepare. My family loves it. Paired with rice and batatachi bhaji (potato preparation), it is a lip-smacking meal. It is a bit like the tamatar saar but with coconut, chillies, garlic et al.  I once savoured a mouth-watering Bhendichi amti. Amti made with bhindi(ladies finger). I  was pleasantly surprised that it wowed my palate considering, normally, I do not enjoy my bhindi or okra in a gravy. I prefer it dry.

The key ingredients in any amti are coconut, goda masala, jaggery and tamarind. The dals can be varied or even other ingredients can be used. The flavours and taste are distinct and any meal in the Konkan region is incomplete without an amti.

Some of the delicious amtis I have tasted are in hotels in Pune at Courtyard by Marriott Hinjewadi and of course at Taj Wellington Mews as part of a Maharashtrian Food Festival. Those flavours still linger in my mouth.

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Do write in and share what’s your favourite amti. I am certainly making one for lunch today!

 

 

Kokum, Konkan’s wonder fruit

Come summer and I crave a glass of refreshing tangy kokum sherbet. And of course, no Malwani or Goan meal is complete without a glass of sol kadi for me, made from kokum, coconut milk, ginger, et al.

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Kokum is an amazing purplish red sweet and salty fruit, also called garcinia. It is a popular souring agent in the Konkan region and I cannot do without it in my kitchen.  I love the fact that it is multi-faceted and lends itself to so many dishes. But yes, it should be fresh. The flavours are completely different when it is not fresh and appears dehydrated.

Whole dried kokum can be used in curries. I cannot imagine my fish or prawns curry without the tangy kokum or even my dry bhindi or ladies fingers, for that matter.

But I must confess, I learnt about kokum fairly late in life, when I got married to a Goan. In Kolkata, where I grew up, we had never heard of kokum, let alone use it. For us, tamarind was always the souring agent.

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In all curries where coconut milk is added, I tend to use kokum. I once sampled the most unusual kokum coconut chutney at Park Hyatt Goa. The taste still lingers in my mouth. It was exceedingly well-made.

It is called Bhinda in the Konkan region. I am somehow fascinated by the colour of kokum apart from its flavour. People in Kerala use it as well. In Maharashtra, moong dal amti with kokum and goda masala is legendary. It is a must try.

Kokum is used for its unique flavour and peculiar sourness that it gives to the dishes and hence used in Konkan Cuisine. A chef once told me an interesting way that kokum is used. Yes, Kokum butter, prepared from seeds is used in confectionery preparations. Some chefs have created unique European dishes using Kokum too.

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Apart from its utility in the kitchen, kokum, owing to its anti oxidant and anti fungal properties, teats sores, prevents infection, improves digestion, treats constipation, and application of direct Kokum on skin removes all kinds of rashes and allergies.

Although it is available freely in Mumbai too, I still prefer getting my stock of kokum from Goa. It is fresh and flavoursome and I can be sure of the quality. Madgaon market is my favourite place to pick the best kokum.

So try using kokum in your culinary experiments, if you have not already. It is bound to tease your taste buds.

Of Chipotle & Churros

One of the world’s most popular cuisines, Mexican food has intense and varied flavours. I must confess, I have always been inundated with Tex Mex food and have thus not really tasted too much of authentic Mexican fare in India. Chef Guillermo Favela, from Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek who was at the Glass House, Hyatt Regency Mumbai, treated me to some traditional delicacies albeit with a contemporary twist. Many of his dishes were a revelation.

Corn, chipotle and beans (frijoles) are some of the most commonly used ingredients in Mexican dishes, Chef informed me.

Quesadillas are a flour or corn tortilla with some varieties of Mexican cheese and chicken, meat, sea food or even veggies. We too began our meal with Quesadillas de champiñones, made of mushrooms. This not-to-be-missed dish was cheesy and  had the right bite to it. I loved the texture as well as the generous filling.

Tacos, tamales, nachos, salads, and freshly made salsa. Chef Favela had all this and a lot more on offer for guests.

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The Guacamole, made of avocado, Mexican salsa, totopos, is something I have a weakness for and this one was exceedingly well-made with fresh ingredients and was buttery alright. I can eat almost anything with this exciting dip. Not merely tortilla chips!

Our light flavourful soup came next. Crema Poblana, sweet corn cream soup, poblano pepper. It was nothing like I had ever tasted before. Of course corn was the main ingredient here too but it was not starchy or insipid as corn soups some times tend to be.

Camarones al ajilo, sautéed prawns, mushrooms, garlic, chili guajillo looked appetizing and were palate-tickling too. Spicy, but with subtle flavours, each bite, had me craving for more. The prawns were fresh and succulent and enveloped in the sauce.

Pescado a la veracruzana, seared red snapper with tomato, capers, olives, almonds, Arroz a la Mexicana, Mexican tomato rice, Cerdo en salsa verde, pork stew with green tomatillo sauce, were some of the interesting dishes on the menu but we did not really savour the main course.

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We were served dessert which comprised a platter of churros, a cake and some Buñuelos, crispy dough, piloncillo syrup. “These are ordinary desserts easily available at every street corner,” Chef gushed.

The crispy choux, cinnamon and sugar was as sinful as ever, without a flaw. Calorie-laden though. The cake was simple, yet well-made with distinct flavours. Reminded me of the Goan baath (coconut and semolina cake)The piloncillo syrup, interestingly was made with jaggery.

Overall, it was a light meal, well-presented and boasted of authentic Mexican flavours.

Chef Favela is extremely passionate about what he does and takes care to painstakingly present each dish and explains what he has prepared patiently. It was a delight to meet this talented Chef who has worked with some great masters.

Mexicans are gifted cooks and their ability to use herbs, spices and chilies allows them to create flavorful food which is prepared in a host of interesting and different ways. Chef Favela clearly belongs to this category.

If Mexican fare is what you fancy, head to the Glass House as this promotion is on for  a lunch and dinner buffet till December 1. What’s more, you are eligible for a 15% discount if you mention the code GHMFE15 (GH-Glasshouse /MFE-Minifoodescapades/15%) at the time of reservation.

 

 

 

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.

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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!

Balti Prawns: Recipe

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Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped into four pieces

2 garlic cloves

1 inch ginger piece

coriander leaves or kotmir

Juice of two limes

1 tbsp crushed coriander seeds

1 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)

5 large tomatoes cut into wedges

700 gms prawns cooked

salt to taste

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp garam masala

Method:

In a food processor, mix onion, ginger, garlic, coriander, lime juice, coriander seeds and methi seeds, Blend into a thick paste. Heat oil in a kadai/ pan, add paste and fry for five mins. keep stirring. add tomatoes, cook for a few minutes till soft. add prawns, cook gently till done. sprinkle garam masala, salt and serve with rotis or bhakris.

Goan cuisine revisited…….

 

It was my second visit to Casa Sarita and I was really looking forward to the Goan meal akin to the one we cook at home. Chicken Xacuti, Prawn curry, Pork Vindaloo, red rice et al. But I was in for a pleasant surprise.  Chef  Vaz had beautifully amalgamated authentic flavours with minimalistic presentations and in a way redefined fine-dining. He had created a contemporary menu with time-honoured Goan culinary traditions. We thus embarked upon a new Goan culinary journey.

I was a little skeptical and even voiced my fears to the Chef. Would the traditional Goans accept this avant garde treatment to their sacred cuisine? Would foreign tourists really understand what the real Goan cuisine is? With these thoughts in mind, I surrendered to the new culinary experience.

Thomas Abraham, General Manager, Park Hyatt Goa, put things in perspective. “Goan cuisine tells a story that is steeped in history. There is tradition and emotion attached to every dish; we didn’t want to take away from that. What we offer our guests is still a medley of the piquant flavours associated with Goan cuisine, yet presented with creativity and innovation.” I bought that.

Chef Edridge Vaz’s modern interpretation of traditional dishes left me spellbound. Prawn and coriander soup with black pepper was served so artistically. Made me want to try it more than ever. Quail cafreal with sweet potato bhaji and tamarind glazed shallot. Sounded unique. With trepidation we tried it. It was mind blowing or shall I say palate blowing? Scallop jere mere, mango and chilli sauce, cabbage and coconut salad roll. The surprise element of the meal continued. My favourite fish curry rice too came in a new avatar. Sea bass fillet in acrid lemon berry curry and Goan rice. It was a treat for the eyes first and then all the other senses. All the original flavours and ingredients had been retained. Only its presentation was more attractive now. Crispy pork belly with vindalho jam and rawa sanna, I though was a delightful way to present this good ‘ol dish. But the best was yet to come. The traditional alle belle was deconstructed to an alle belle parfait with semi dried coconut and jaggery sauce. Chef Nelson Fernandes, Pastry Chef, had clearly won my heart as normally I do not even touch Goan desserts. And this one was a treat par excellence –  a perfect conclusion to the repast.

Casa Sarita is the signature fine-dining restaurant at Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa.  The restaurant is reminiscent of a bygone era, offering guests an experience that reflects the delicate blend of Indian and Portuguese influences.  It has remained true to its promise and yet delivered a meal which has put Goan cuisine on the international map in presentation too. Kudos to Chef Vaz, Chef Tanuja Kerker and their team.