Tag Archives: rustic

Rustic & Robust Flavours from A Village

Pind da khana sounds comforting at once. After all it means, food from your village. And here, if the ‘pind’ in question is Punjab, well, automatically it spells familiarity and comfort for me.

Baluchi at The Lalit, Mumbai is currently hosting a Pind da Khana festival till Saturday for both lunch and dinner.

My lunch began on a refreshing note with the Shikanji soda or lemonade with rock salt and soda. The right amount of sweetness and salt. Just the way I love mine. It helped me create an appetite.

shikanji

The menu was fairly exhaustive and I was in a dilemma. What shall I eat or skip? Amritsari Chholey kulchey, Patialashahi kadhai Paneer, Kadhi pakoda, Jalandhari barrah boti and Amritsari Machhi. I was impressed with the vegetarian options too. .

The traditional Atte Gond ka halwa, whole wheat flour sweet delicacy with nuts and natural gum- recipe which originates from Phagwara district- a sugar producing belt of Punjab as well as gulabi phirnee, gulab jamun et al, adorned the dessert section of the menu.

Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty came to my rescue and promised to send me small portions of some of the special dishes. I was sorted.

The chicken tikka and Macchi Ajwaini tikka arrived. A bite into the succulent chicken tikka and I figured out this was no ordinary fare. The tikkas were well marinated and the flavours of the marinade had enveloped the tikka perfectly. The fresh pieces of  River Sole fish with the right amount of spices that teased my taste buds, was equally a delight. No overdose of ajwain or spices here at all.

tikka platter

Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty , Master Chef Rais Alam and his culinary team had surely whipped up an array of authentic, robust and flavourful delicacies, which I was thoroughly relishing.

The dhaniya mirch da kukkad with whole chillies, onion and coriander was a delectable medley for my palate, subtle yet, spicy. It paired well with the laccha paratha, besan ki roti and naan, the chef had sent. The methi matar preparation and the dhaba dal in the main course, got my vote instantly. For a change it was not the usual dal makhni but a tasty mixed dal with interesting spices. And the methi, rustic and appeased my palate.

The Rarah gosht and kukkad pulao looked inviting on the menu, but there was no scope to try more today.

Nothing in the meal was oily or greasy that made one feel uneasy. That’s what set this meal apart.

The aate gond ka halwa was easily one of the best I have ever tasted. The variety of textures- creamy, crunchy, were a delight, as were the flavours and the aroma of fresh ghee. The phirnee too was excellent, but today, paled in comparison.

The ambience and decor of the restaurant was in keeping with the theme and the service was warm, attentive and efficient, yet, unobtrusive, as it should be.

My experience at Baluchi, had actually surpassed my expectations. I was glad I had stepped in to savour such an exceptional meal. I knew for a fact, I was going to be coming to The Lalit Mumbai more often, if this is how Chef Angshuman and his team succeeded in luring food lovers like me.

 

 

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Click, Order, Enjoy !

Convenience is key nowadays, and I love it when I can order things I need online, at the click of a button or from apps downloaded on my phone.

In the past week, with the heavy downpour in Mumbai, Gourmet Delight and Ananya Banerjee’s website

www. Gourmetdelight.in  is a food lover’s delight. Literally. It is a premier online organic food store and gourmet shop in Mumbai and Pune, India. Great ingredients and good quality stuff is what you can be assured of, from them.

Their range is varied -gourmet chocolates, homemade artisanal cakes, exquisite cheese, teas, spices, to healthy organic super foods such as flax seeds, buckwheat, kale and quinoa. What appeals to me is that each of the products you find here is sourced from renowned national and international brands, as well as reliable local Indian producers.

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I tried the Namjai Thai curry paste, elephant noodles laksa paste, Indian Basa  and Kara coconut milk. Need I say, my kitchen was replete with fragrant Thai food and the aromas filled the air, as I prepared an authentic meal, so easily and quickly. The right products, obviously make all the difference.

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Craving for something Bengali, lead me to Ananya Banerjee, the multi-faceted, talented lady’s website http://www.ananyabanerjee.com

I opted for her prawns kasundi, a typical mustard based tangy sauce or paste, from Bengal and yes, it had a twist – prawns integrated in it, along with shilebata chicken, a stone ground rustic chicken paste.

The kasundi was unique, as it was made with raw mangoes, with the addition of succulent prawns.  Unlike the usual Kasundi, I am used to, this  one, was an innovative relish. One can safely pair this with rice. I loved the fact that is absolutely organic and also without any preservatives or vinegar.

 

The chicken shile bata too was robust and spicy bursting with flavours and yes, I loved the aroma of my comforting mustard oil. Made me so nostalgic.

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Both the products were home style and that’s what I look for.

Of course her website offers a plethora of options, so got to log in again soon.

So, if you are stuck because of rains, do not fret, there are plenty of choices available from the comfort of your home or even your smart phone. Technology zindabaad!

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Lakeside Retreat

Getting away from Mumbai is something we all look forward to, given the stressful lives we lead. And I am no exception. Saj by the Lake, a new resort at Malshej Ghat, seemed like the perfect place. Just three hours away or a bit more, from Mumbai, this cute little resort is tucked away amidst sylvan surroundings by a vast expanse of lake.
Driving through the Sahyadris with a short tea break at Murbad, I was all set to relax at Saj by the Lake on the weekend.
A quaint little resort with a beautiful, well-maintained garden, an aquamarine swimming pool, play area and cosy rooms welcomed us.
With an unobstructed and breathtaking view of the lake from the balcony,  the spacious and well-furnished room beckoned me, after the drive.
Of course the gourmand in me was eagerly awaiting the lunch experience at Maati Baani, the Vegetarian restaurant. Local delicacies, is what that place offers in abundance and nothing could be more inviting than that. The simple but rustic decor offered elegance and was replete with local elements, including the tableware.
Restaurant - Day
Mini Besan chillas or pancakes with doodhi were like flattened fritters. Absolutely melt in the mouth and spicy too. Those definitely got our taste buds tingling. The paneer, mawa and spinach tikkis came next. Delightful again. The textures were so well enmeshed.
Dudhi Hara Masala
Methi Pithle and Baingan Bharta slow-cooked in earthen pits, was what we began our main course with. The bharta had the quintessential smoked flavour and was replete with onions and tomatoes, just the way I love it. The  Kala Vatana Ussal was fiery and added zest to my palate. The array of rice, nachni and jowar bhakris paired perfectly well with this. The creamy mushrooms in a piquant gravy were well made too. Equally palate pleasing was the spicy but rustic methi matar and the simple varan(dal) bhat (rice)
The food struck me as unique, both in methods of preparation, as well as flavours. The ingredients were fresh and the flavours, rustic. No oil or artificial colours could be seen as is commonly the case with restaurant food. One never felt uneasy after such a lavish meal.
The moong dal halwa was a good way to round off the meal, but the texture was a bit sticky. Perhaps owing to the addition of atta or whole wheat flour?
After a siesta, I was raring to go in the evening. Local sightseeing done, where we visited an ancient Shiva temple and the mouth of the lake, we sat by the serene blue pool and enjoyed the India Pakistan match on a big screen. Life couldn’t be better.
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The chef made some delicious kebabs in the khad or pit, right before our eyes. Creamy paneer with a spicy marinade, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes. There was a lot to choose from.  If that was not enough, we gorged on crisp pani puris, with the most tangy and spicy water. Moong dal pakodis were fried to perfection and a bit of indulgence was in order as it was a Saturday. A day of guiltless pleasure.
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The kothimbir wadis were quite different from the ones I am used to in Mumbai. These were crisp and light and not chewy at all. The Bharele Ande, fried on the outside with a spicy masala, was an absolute treat and paired well with our mocktails.
Kothimbir Pakoda
Dinner had to be skipped after this gourmet trail. But not before I sampled the decadent, spongy gulab jamuns and seviyan kheer.
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The body and mind never felt more rested, than after a night’s sleep in the tranquil and comfortable room.As the birds chirped around the lake and in the resort garden, I woke up rejuvenated next morning.
The breakfast again was unusual fare. Thalipeeth, a boiled egg preparation with fried onions at the base, Missal pav et al. Each item was well prepared and boasted of unique local flavours.
Satiated by the sights and delectable local flavours, I was ready to bid adieu to Saj by the Lake. Overwhelmed with the warm hospitality, comfortable rooms, lip-smacking food, pristine surroundings, I drove away with a promise to return.

A Scottish Showman and a Chef: Tom Lewis

It is not everyday that you meet a showman and a chef rolled into one. 43 year old Tom Lewis Chef and Proprietor, Monachyle Mhor, is all this and more. Part of the Visit Scotland entourage to Mumbai, Tom regaled audiences with his culinary craftsmanship, albeit in simple, home style dishes.

Tom Lewis is a farmer at heart and a crusader for local home grown produce. Not surprising as he was 13 years old when his parents bought a 2,000-acre farm in the hills around Loch Voil and Loch Doine, Perthshire, in 1983 and moved their family up to Scotland from Wales. His ethos was to source as much produce as possible for his kitchen from the family’s farm and it wasn’t long before this self-taught chef began to attract attention for his, then, 34-seat restaurant with rooms.

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At the Visit Scotland event at  the Taj Mahal Mumbai, he made a simple porridge, an everyday breakfast staple. Easy to prepare, Chef Tom enjoys that every day he says, as most Scottish people do. He likes his food to be simple and uncomplicated. He is glad that the Scottish are going “back to simple, home-style  food.” He loves fresh stuff and longs for “the sun to come out and ripen the tomatoes.”

Scottish Salmon and Pearl Barley prepared by Tom Lewis

Next he demonstrated a delectable salmon dish with pearl barley and veggies. The dressings he made were unusual and yet easy to prepare. Never knew barley could enhance the taste of salmon to such an extent!

Always on the look out for new ingredients, in India, he has stumbled upon rock salt and plans to use that. Cinnamon is his favourite spice but he believes it should be used carefully. ‘Less is more’, is his mantra.

He loves the aroma of Scotch whisky, naturally and feels it can be paired perfectly with a lot of Indian food.

Food from Scotland suddenly acquired a new meaning for me that evening.  And it is a destination for a foodie like me. From Whisky Month to the seafood trail and Michelin-starred restaurants, there is a food and drink experience for all tastes and ages in Scotland and more so this year. 2015 is the Year of Food & Drink and Visit Scotland is highlighting the country’s ‘land to larder’ ethos and showcasing to visitors how the amazing Scottish land creates bountiful and delicious produce.

The packed programme of food-focused events and experiences such as the Big Burns Supper Festivals and the World Porridge Making Championships sound really interesting and inviting. Scotland is surely a destination to consider this year!

A Home-cooked European Meal at Abode

It was European food at its best. Chef Conrad D’Souza of Pali Village Café fame, in conjunction with Chef Xavier Fernandes and Chef Mrinmoy curated a meal at Abode, that was truly memorable.

We instantly felt at home in the cosy ambience, with warm, efficient service. The assorted canapes platter, were not only a visual treat, but a delight for the palate too. If this was the beginning of our four course menu – we sure had embarked upon an exciting culinary journey. The sparkling wine from Chandon perfectly offset the fare.

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The cauliflower and potato soup with truffle oil, came next. Served in a cutting chai glass, it was very innovative I thought. And aromatic too. The flavours were subtle yet, pronounced. These two veggies never tasted better than in this form.

The wild mushroom salad with porcini was the highlight that evening. The contrasting textures teased our palates, as did the melee of flavours. It had the right amount of bite and crunch. We simply devoured it.

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For mains, I settled for a roasted walnut gnocchi with red spinach. The gnocchi swathed in pureed red spinach was creamy and succulent. And the sauce delightful. The seared Sri Lankan Tuna steak too was well done and had a nice savoury flavor which was tantalizing. The kale chips and chestnut complimented and added to the crunch factor.  It definitely enhanced the experience of the dish. For hard core meat lovers, there is Pistachio Crusted Lamb Shanks too.

The vanilla panna cotta with peppered strawberries and the espresso mouse with chocolate meringue, were expectedly sinful. The panna cotta was one of the best I have ever sampled. Full marks to the creamy texture and sweetness quotient. The mousse too had the right texture, not excess gelatine, as is sometimes the case. The crunchy meringue was the perfect partner for the decadent espresso mousse.

With his extensive food experience and technical know-how, Chef Conrad comes to Abode to create his magic with a menu which will be exclusively showcased in the format of a pop-up, available to customers for a limited period of time. The earthy, home style flavours of this meal set it apart from many others.

The week-long pop-up at Abode, an independent luxury boutique hotel in Colaba till December 17 is a not-to-be missed gastronomic experience.  Open only for dinner, it has a limited seating capacity, so food lovers need to be quick and book in advance. I am so fortunate to have partaken this meal. Can’t wait to sample Chef Conrad’s cooking yet again some place else.

Punjab di Rasoi

Punjabi food is not all about cashew and cream. So true. Being a Punjabi, no one knows that better than I do. But not many know and believe that to be true. Seeing Master Chef Jyoti Arora debunk that myth and serve simple, ghar ka lazeez khana, at the Rasoi, Lotus Café, JW Marriott Mumbai, was pure delight for the taste buds. She is a culinary magician. Dedicated, passionate and honest in her cooking.

 

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Her flavours were authentic, I could vouch for that. The ingredients used, fresh and wholesome and the recipes straight from mom’s kitchen. No short cuts or reeking of commercialisation. There is clearly no compromise for Jyoti Arora.

The entire meal was not just a gastronomic journey for me, but one of pure nostalgia. As, having lost my mother, many years ago, I miss this kind of cooking. What was interesting was that she does not try too hard for a fancy presentation too. It is rustic and robust food that she serves. so confident is she of her cooking and the taste of the food that nothing else matters, I guess.

Each dish was painstakingly and lovingly prepared. But I shall not detail each of those masterpieces.

I am going to pick my three favourites, that made the meal special. Pede ki lassi, Gur ka halwa and Katlamae.

Pede ki lassi was no ordinary Lassi. Naturally, with the addition of the Peda aka, sweet or mithai made from khoya or mawa, that too from Amritsar. Thankfully it was not sickeningly sweet, yet delicious. It not only quenched one’s thirst but also appeased the taste buds. Heavy undoubtedly, but I was not complaining. Unforgettable. It was the perfect start to a memorable meal.

Katlamae or the Indian flatbread, typical of Amritsar. Karah Katlama is famous duo. The local halwa of Amritsar is generally eaten with this bread. Chef Jyoti’s version was luscious. Crispy, yet soft, the katlamae paired amazingly well with the halwa and chole. Reminded me of my childhood instantly.

The gur ka halwa instantly won my heart. Generously laced with ghee, it had the distinct flavour of gur or sugar cane jaggery and simply melt in the mouth. Someone who even does not enjoy sweets too much would be bowled over by this one.

What can I say of the experience? I was savouring Master Chef Jyoti’s meal for the first time. It was an evening I will not forget easily and my taste buds most certainly, never.

Savouring Street Food in Mumbai

Mumbai is a haven for foodies. I am not talking about restaurants only, but it’s eclectic street food. There is so much to choose from. Vada pav, behl puri, omelette pav, sandwiches, pav bhaji, keema- kaleji et al. There are several typical places for these delicacies although one gets these at every street corner.

Those apart, I recently sampled delectable street food at The Beatle Hotel in Powai. Chef Prashant Tikadia, is a culinary wizard and have known him for years. His ability to innovate and yet, serve authentic food never ceases to amaze me.

Baida curry, pav bhaji, masala tawa kobdi, vada pav, chaats, fish fry, usal, he had them all, but served them interestingly with a twist. The flavors were reminiscent of the ones you get on street side joints. I was instantly transported to different parts of Mumbai- Mohammed Ali road, Thane, Tardeo and so on. The spices were cleverly used and the texture, taste and flavours were recreated to perfection. The food was rustic and robust.

What’s more, the ambience in the restaurant was accurately created too. Each dish had a separate stall, so that one could pass by and savour what one wanted. Of course you could serve yourself, be comfortably seated and relish your food.

The attentive staff, their quick service, further made it a memorable dining experience. With oodles of calories added, I stepped out, satiated, albeit not without guilt.

Here is Chef Prashant Tikadia’s recipe. My favourite that night. Try it!

 

tawa kombdi1

Masala tawa kombdi

Chicken with bone -12 pieces

Marination

Ginger garlic paste – 050 gms

Green chilly paste – 020 gms

chopped coriander leaves- 010 gms

chopped mint leaves -005 gms

spring onion greens – 010 gms

onion- 01 no medium size

salt – to taste

lemon- 1 no

turmeric -002 gms

coriander powder-005 gms

cumin powder – 005 gms

for tawa masala

golden fried onions-  100 gms

curry leaves – few

green chillies chopped- 010 gms

coriander powder – 020 gms

cumin powder – oo5 gms

fresh coriander leaves chopped- 010 gms

chopped garlic-010 gms

chopped ginger -010 gms

sun dried coconut – 050 gms

oil- 100ml

method

@ wash  chicken and keep aside

@ peel and apply oil on whole onion and roast it at medium heat over charcoal or can be roasted in oven  till soft

@mix together all the ingridients for mariantation,add 3 to 4 table spoon water and blend it well till it become smooth,add lemon juice

@ marinate chicken with above masala for 20 to 25 minutes

@ for tawa masala heat oil add chopped garlic and fry till light golden in colour , add ginger and cook for a minute, add rest of the ingridients , add 200ml water and allow to simmer on low heat .

@ skewer marinated chicken and cook over charcoal or can be roast in oven

@ add cooked chicken to above masala and mix well .simmer over low heat and sprinkle sundried cococnut powder .adjust seasoning.

@ serve hot