Tag Archives: vegetables

Aabar Khabo : Once is not enough

My connection from Kolkata, actually erstwhile Calcutta, is from birth. Yes, I was born and brought up in the City of Joy which I still sorely miss. Naturally then, Bengali food is my comfort food and I thoroughly enjoy the cuisine and all its nuances.

To visit the MoMo Cafe at Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai to try The Kolkata Konnection, Bengali food festival was a trip down memory lane for me.

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Curated by Executive Chef Avijit Deb Sharma and his team, including a chef from JW Marriott Kolkata, it was indeed a spread any gourmand would look forward to. The Bengali dishes were a part of the buffet spread, which of course offered other cuisines too, catering to wide palate. There was a separate counter with phuchka Kolkata’s version of pani puri) and jhal muri, the quintessential street food of Kolkata. And of course a separate section serving the lip-smacking Bengali starters, chicken cutlet, fish fry, vegetable chop et al.

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I bit into the fish fry and memories came flooding. I have grown up enjoying this delicacy in South Calcutta where I grew up at several places, but Mukherjee sweets in Ballygunge Place, being my all time favourite. This one was close. The fish fillet wrapped in spices, coated with breadcrumbs, was fried to perfection. Comforting and familiar flavours. The dhonepatta  bhaja or coriander fritter was spicy and fragrant. The chicken cutlet with chicken mince was delightful as was the vegetable chop with the characteristic beetroot, potatoes and groundnuts. I was off to a great start and was enjoying every morsel with kasundi or the mustard dip.

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The mains were a feast fit for the kings. The thaal or a huge thali with several katoris or vaatis was a treat for the eyes. Kosha mangsho or the onion based slow-cooked mutton preparation, cholar dal, alu posto, ilish or Hilsa fish, malai chingri or the creamy prawn curry, begun bhaja, kodaishutir kochuri or green peas puri and of course the pulao, fragrant with ghee and roasted nuts and raisins, was what my meal comprised. The lebu (lemon) chatni, tomato chutney and aamer (mango) chutney were also served along, as no Bengali meal is complete without these.

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The dishes were simple and cooked home-style. The flavours were authentic replete with the Bengali spices and ingredients (mustard oil, paanch phoran, gobindbhog rice, gondhoraj lebu) and the melange of textures, absolutely delightful.

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Not only was the meal delicious in terms of its taste and flavours, but equally a nostalgic one for me as I sat recounting endless occasions when I had sampled those dishes at home or with friends and family.

Rosogulla and aamer (mano) sandesh was what I finished my meal with.  Both got my vote. But of course there were other Bengali desserts on offer too.

I left MoMo Cafe happy and satiated, stuffing a Kolkata meetha paan in my mouth, with the smile not leaving my face.

On till June 24 for dinner, this Bengali food festival is a must try for those who relish Bengali food and others keen to experiment.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

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Guilty Pleasures in Winter

Winter foods can be such a delight for the palate and one does not mind giving into one’s guilty pleasures in this season. After all, one needs more calories to keep oneself warm. So indulgence is allowed this cold season. Warmth is  a must of course, but comforting foods are what the body and soul need.

Spices and nuts should be a part of one’s meal, as should be meats, including lamb. Ghee, ginger, seasonal vegetables like turnips, brussel sprouts, raddish, peas, broad beans, carrots are a must-have to help the body fight infections and remain warm.

As the temperatures drop, one also likes to indulge in hot and delicious grilled foods. There is nothing more enticing than the aroma of slowly grilled meat, fish and vegetables.

Makki ki roti and sarson ka saag tops every foodie’s list. Not many know that sarson ka saag being rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, that are important antioxidants and a significant amount of iron, is ideal for winter.

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Beetroot is rich in minerals and helps in increased blood flow in the body, essential to keep one warm. Jaggery or gur is a great winter food too. It aids in digestion, purifies blood and keeps the skin free from acne. The best way to enjoy Gur is to eat it with make ki roti and white butter.

Interestingly, every region in India celebrates this season with typical dishes. If North India relishes their sarson ka saag and Kaali Gajar ki Kaanji, Gujaratis cannot do without their oondhiyo. It is eaten in winter because the main ingredients like papadi, tuar Dana, Lilua, for Oondiyo are available in this season.

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Nalli Ghosht and Paya shorba are popular winter dishes in most households in Hyderabad. Bengalis enjoy their Kosha mangsho a mutton preparation and also several leafy vegetables and sweets made from nolen gur or new jaggery.

So make sure you gorge on all the right foods this season and relish seasonal favourites, which are healthy for the body and equally comforting too as you beat the chill.

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!

 

 

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.

Butternut Pumpkin Soup

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.

 

 

House of Aroma : Lemon Leaf

This truly was a case of taking your neighbourhood eatery for granted. Lemon Leaf has been in Andheri West, Mumbai for a while now and I have never visited it. During the Chinese New Year, when an exciting menu was on offer, I decided to check this place out.

On a weekday evening too, this place was buzzing. Upon entering there was a positive and warm vibe to this restaurant, which I instantly fell in love with. Ameya’s professional and warm welcome, added to the feel-good factor. We were off to a great start.

The menu for the festival was limited but complete with something for everyone. My Golden Corn & Crabmeat Soup was a delight for the palate. Mildly spiced and yet, delectable. It boasted of distinct crabmeat flavours. Set my taste buds tingling alright.

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The BBQ chicken Baos were equally well-made. Steamed to perfection and a generous amount of BBQ chicken enveloped within. Quite filling actually.

The Chicken Siu Mai was aesthetic to look at and packed with flavours. Flavoursome and replete with a myriad textures, it provided the right bite. The accompanying sauces were equally adept at wowing the palate.

Chicken Siu Mai with Pickled ginger

The other options on the menu were 3 Mushroom Dumpling with mushroom broth, Pepper fried Chicken Piccata – with pickled vegetables and so on.

The service I noticed, despite the packed restaurant, was prompt and efficient. Kudos!

For main course, we were recommended the Hakka egg noodles and it paired exceedingly well with our shredded chicken, in a piquant and spicy sauce. The liberal amount of chicken in the sauce along with an oh-so! generous portion of noodles proved to be a meal that satiated us.

We rounded off our meal with a Hazelnut chocolate pot with toffee sauce and a dollop of Vanilla ice cream. I loved the panache with which it was served to us. The hard outer shell of the chocolate pot melted with the hot sauce and gave way to the creamy mousse within. A well-presented dessert and decadent to taste as well. Only the vanilla ice cream could have been creamier.

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No additives, no MSG, no artificial flavours. The food at Lemon Leaf indeed surpassed my expectations. I was glad I had finally discovered this restaurant. This visit was definitely just the beginning.

Rating : 3.5/5

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Aromatic Flavours of Kerala @Lotus Cafe, JW Marriott Mumbai

All day dining places hosting a food promotion- a particular cuisine, no matter which one, Indian or global, are somehow never my idea of savouring a cuisine. As part of a regular buffet, these dishes get lost. Their flavours get subdued, the appearance low key, as these dishes are often resting on the buffet table for hours. But Chef Saji Alex proved me wrong. Hosting a Kerala food promotion at Lotus Cafe, JW Marriott Mumbai, he managed to retain the flavours and keep the textures and presentation intact. The hallmark of a good chef.

He had carefully and painstakingly created a menu wherein gourmets could relish traditional delicacies from North, South and Central Kerala- something every foodie year for. I was truly going to have the best of Kerala cuisine. Sadly, Biryani was not a part of tonight’s menu as some of the dishes are changed everyday.

Chef Saji Alex, Master Chef, Kochi Marriott

Mutton Pepper Fry, Malabar Fish Curry, Prawns masala, a delectable dry Pork preparation et al. The array of dishes was mouth-watering.  Vegetarians too could not grumble as he had taken care of that too. Vazhappu Cutlet, Manga Curry, Avial, Vegetable Korma, Ghee Rice  and Nadan Choru  were a part of the spread.A traditional meal  from Kerala is incomplete without a generous helping of Payasam.  Pal Payasam, Pal ada Payasam and Godambu payasam. One could taste all three.

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Fennel, curry leaves, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, were spices which were omnipresent in most of the dishes, being the mainstay of Kerala cuisine. Coconut either in milk or paste form too found a way into most of the dishes. Not that we were complaining, as all the dishes were cooked to perfection and had subtle flavours, which one could enjoy course by course, pairing the right curries and dry dishes with the Malabar parotha, idiappams or red rice.

Nowhere did the use of spices overpower the key ingredients- meat, fish or vegetables. An absolute delight for the taste buds. Each dish had an aroma of its own. All the masalas had been prepared in house by the chef. The authenticity of the dishes was evident. There was a home-style feel to his cooking. That’s what set is apart. The soft and succulent pieces in the mutton preparation, wrapped in dry spices, surpassed my expectations as did the mildly flavoured, tapioca dish. It was a sublime experience.

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Chef Saji’s passion is hard to miss. Personally supervising the food and ensuring each guest was satisfied with the food, he is a master of his craft.

Interestingly, even though Kerala cuisine and Goan food have so many similarities, yet, each is so distinct.

It was easily the best meal I have ever had at the Lotus Cafe. Chef Saji took this place to new culinary heights.

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Being a Friday evening, the chaos and lapses in the service were understandable. Yet, Sumit, taking care of our table did a commendable job and was alert and helpful.

I left Lotus Cafe in a better mood than I had entered. Chef Saji had floored me with his culinary expertise. On till June 18, if you are a fan of Kerala cuisine do not miss this opportunity.

Rating: Food- 4/5