Tag Archives: winter

Tea Tales & Winter food

Winters are somehow all about indulgence. Given the weather when the temperature drops, one can getaway by giving in to one’s guilty pleasures. More calories are needed to generate body heat, we are told, so we all gladly embark upon that task. Sadly, Mumbai does not gift us real winters, yet, we unabashedly gorge on some winter delicacies.

Another thing which is synonymous for everyone with winters, is a hot brew-tea or coffee. I love my tea and  when a winter menu is about tea and food, naturally I am ecstatic.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House (TMTH) has curated a new Winter Menu, using the most exotic and fresh produce of the season.  TMTH has handpicked season’s popular ingredients and created an interplay of flavours to intrigue the diner’s taste buds.

Irresistible this sounded, so I set about to explore it one evening.

As I settled in, I discovered each item on the cleverly crafted menu, was aptly complemented by one of their signature tea blends.

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The falafel chaat arrived on the table and was paired with  a pink guava and kaffir lime tea. The tangy chaat with palate-teasing flavours, was delightful. After a sip of the light tea, the flavours came alive with a vengeance. I was off to a good start.

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Next was the salad with paneer and the tea to go along, was a delicate Oriental Jasmine and rose. A unique blend of the East and West- a romantic tea, which uplifts your mood instantly. It did just that. It perked my taste buds and I found myself enjoying the hearty and crunchy salad even more.

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Teas being paired with every course, I thought was an exciting thing to do in order to enhance the dining experience. And it really worked wonders.

Risotto infused with Sambar was served next but the watered down version did not entice me enough. The silver needle and berries tea paired with it though, took me by surprise. Fruity and flavourful, it was comforting all the way and yet, added zest to my palate with its intoxicating flavours. Who needs wine with teas like this around?

The Idly Crust with Pomfret was the piece de resistance. Fresh fluffy soft fish with a delectable crust was a treat for the taste buds.

What can I say about the matcha semifreddo. It bore ample testimony to Chef’s mastery over his craft. The matcha tea flavours, lend themselves seamlessly to this dessert and in fact enhanced the taste. Layers of Matcha cream and cake covered with grilled almond slivers and served with chocolate sauce. Truly decadent. Paired with the robust mocha tea this course was truly memorable. Assam chai with a rich coffee cream crown and finished with cracked roasted coffee beans. Whew! I had tasted nothing like this ever before.

There is Chai cheese cake tart too, for dessert lovers, which I have to head back to try.

This menu is truly innovative and offers something for every palate. A special treat for the Vegans is using the winter staple Ragi in a contemporary Vegetable Quiche. Vegetarians can relish the Multigrain Hari Matar Burger, while carnivores will enjoy the Baked Irani Lamb Kheema – Aubergine parceled shells baked with lamb kheema inspired by Dhansak flavor and glazed with Béchamel sauce, among others.

I left the place with a smile as the manner in which teas had been paired with food,  especially the fish course was a true revelation. And I had sampled the very best of teas and food. It does not get any better than this. Winters had set in for me this evening, and I was not complaining.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Soups for my soul

When the temperatures drop all of us crave for a soup. I know in Mumbai that almost never happens. I mean, it never gets cold, yet, I look forward to my hot soups. It could be a creamy thick soup or simply clear with veggies and meat or even a tangy pepper rasam made with lentils. Pan Asian favourites or even our very own desi shorbas and yes, healthy versions too. I relish them all.

Taiwanese Aromatic Miso Milk Bowl Shizusans signature soup and a one bowl meal

A great fan of red pumpkin, I love to prepare a classic roasted pumpkin soup and do a good job too. A piquant tamatar ka shorba, can be a great option.  Recently I tasted a tangy Sindhi tamatar ki kadhi as a a soup at JLWA in Bandra. It rendered me speechless.

Soups offer endless versatility in terms of textures, ingredients and flavour. That’s what attracts me the most to soups. The cheddar and Beer soup at Theory in Mumbai by Chef Clyde remains an all time favourite.

Taste apart, warmth and immunity are key in this season to boost one’s immunity and thus, the right use of ingredients plays an important role. A careful selection of ingredients can up the health quotient of these comforting soups. Dark green leafy vegetables and seasonal vegetables, are a must addition and should be included wherever possible. Ginger and peppercorns as spices, with medicinal properties, too can do wonders.

Root vegetables, mushrooms and barley with an addition of meat stock makes for a robust and filling soup infused with health benefits.

A roasted sweet potato soup can be nutritious and tasty, as sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients. Roasting the sweet potatoes first intensifies their flavour.

Soups in winter help one soothe and relax in an inexplicable way when one is down with cold, cough and fever. The spice quotient should be perfect to give heat, as well as soothe to the throat. It’s about using the right spices like cinnamon sticks, cinnamon (dalchini) powder, nutmeg (jaiphal) powder, ginger, fresh turmeric, white pepper powder and pepper.

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Who can resist a well-made Pan Asian soup with a myriad flavours? One can have it clear, or with noodles, meats and vegetables. Clear chicken soup with light, fluffy dumplings and a deeply savoury, salubrious broth could be the answer, if one is seeking a light but comforting Oriental soup. A Thai prawn broth with fish stock as the base and fragrant Thai spices is a good option as well, as is the Tom Kha with coconut milk to temper the spice element.

Shizusan has got to be one of my favourite places for versatile and flavourful soups. Chef Paul Kinny serves unique ones.

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Whoever said soups that satisfy you must be western classics or global concoctions only? Pepper Rasam owing to its spice content, is soothing and therefore is a perfect soup for winter. Various mildly-flavoured shorbas from traditional Indian cuisine,  made with vegetables, lentils and beans, are apt for winter. Paya shorba, a meat broth, generally lamb, where the meat is slow-cooked is a good choice as it is extremely healthy and keeps one warm.

 

Seasonal vegetables, meaty mushrooms, tender chicken or lentils. Add what you like to your fragrant soups this season, but make sure it is  hearty and provides you with the requisite nutrients. Bon appetit.

Nirvana with Teavana

Coffee maybe the beverage you generally step into Starbucks, but things will change hereon. The introduction of Starbucks Teavana beverages, spells good news for tea lovers like me. A good well-made cuppa of this brew is something I have always relished and appreciated. Reluctant to experiment with my cuppa, I stepped into Starbucks with trepidation.

But these range of teas from Starbucks are offerings which are modern and yet, appeal to every tea lover’s palate. Me included. It truly is an unimaginable experience, that is why perhaps they call it ‘reimagined’.

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A range of 18 distinct tea offerings including an Indian signature tea, iced teas, brewed hot teas and tea lattes with bold, layered flavours, is what once can look forward to. Inspired by the rich Indian tea legacy, Starbucks Teavana collaborated with Tata Global Beverages Ltd. to create this signature innovation.

While I enjoyed all the offerings, it was the invigorating blend of full leaf Assam black tea with rich spice infusion of whole cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper, star anise and ginger, rightly called the India Spice Majesty Blend, that bowled me over completely. It perked me up instantly and filled me with warmth on this somewhat wintry evening.

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In addition to the signature innovation, customers can experience global Starbucks Teavana favorites including Youthberry white tea, Hibiscus Herbal Infusion, as well as the limited time handcrafted offerings from Starbucks – Matcha & Espresso Fusion, Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit and Honey and Iced Shaken Hibiscus with Pomegranate Pearls.

These floral and fruity infusions are light and delightful, rejuvenating you completely and can even appeal to those who are not otherwise too fond of tea.

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.

 

 

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.

Light and Healthy Eats

Now that the festive season is over, and we have begun a new year,  may be we all want to eat light and healthy for a few days at least. I sure am trying. It is a healthy winter soup each night for dinner- pumpkin, cauliflower, spinach, and so on. I also tried an interesting turkey lentil soup recently. Aromatic, flavourful and warm. A soup is meant to be an appetiser, but sometimes ends up becoming the meal itself.

Not that I am feeling guilty for the over-indulgence. But it’s just nice to give the body a bit of a rest before we start again. Salads, soups, wraps, sandwiches can be varied and healthy. A low calorie meal can still satisfy your hunger.

And trust me, these need not be bland or boring.  Can be carefully planned and jazzed up. Who can ever tire of the classic soup and salad meal? Not me for sure. I love it. Only make sure your salads are varied and have many colourful ingredients, so that boredom does not set in.

A hearty soup stock with winter vegetables is satisfying  enough or at best pair it with a sandwich made with leftover chicken or ham. And yes, wholewheat bread. When eating a salad, try and avoid heavy salad dressings or dips. I prefer a lot of mustard instead, or even lime, for that zing in a salad.

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A salad with mixed leafy greens, crunchy celery, carrots and tomatoes makes for a delicious meal. For a heartier salad, add tuna or salmon, croutons and cheese. Yes, a bit of cheating is allowed, if only to pamper your taste buds a bit. Jazz up your salad with seasonal fruits. Nothing like apples and oranges in salads. A sea food salad is a good bet too.

Pasta salad makes a filling, but still light, meal. Add veggies to your pasta, as well as some chicken, and a dash of olive oil and you have a tasty meal ready.

Wraps with smoked chicken are one of my favourites. The wraps should be of whole wheat though. Or a falafel wrap maybe?

One must keep in mind that more of protein and less carbs is ideal these days. And of course fatty foods and fried stuff should be completely avoided. Red meat is best stayed away from. After all you have had enough of sorpotel and sanna during Christmas. Haven’t you?

Steamed vegetables, legumes and beans are again a wonderful way to detox your body. Keep away from those sausages, burgers, nuggets and pate. Those may be handy and easy to consume, but are heavy and far from healthy. Processed food is a big no-no for me.

Exotic Mushroom Ramen  - The Fatty Bao - Photo Courtesy Kunal Chandra-

Consciously add green leafy vegetables, whole grains to your diet. Hummus chicken with brown rice pilaf is a treat and yet, light. The brown rice chicken pilaf at Nothing But Chicken or their Bistro salad are great options too.

So keep eating light and healthy meals the next few days, to ease off your system. Stay fit, Stay healthy. Tell me how January goes.

Any Time is Tea Time

Winter and tea are quite synonymous aren’t they? Well, for me, anytime is tea time, as I love tea or chai or chaha or cha, as we call it in different parts of India. Can have endless cups in a day. But yes, it has to be brewed or steeped perfectly. My morning cuppa is critical. No one is allowed to mess with that.

We Indians seem to have rediscovered the second most consumed beverage in the world. We all grew up having chai- a thick, milky brew infused with ginger and spices and boiled for a long time. At one time, a basic masala chai was all we knew. Now, we are spoilt for choice.

I fortunately grew up to the ‘champagne of brews’- Darjeeling tea, in West Bengal. Kolkata to be precise. The musky scent and floral fragrance of Darjeeling tea, spells magic for  me, even today. It perks me up instantly.

But as in the case of food, people nowadays are in the mood to be adventurous and experiment with teas too. Taste buds have opened up, and thus a plethora of unusual flavours can be seen making their way into homes from store shelves.

 

Speciality teas are now the ‘in’ thing. People have taken to drinking flavoured  and several exotic teas. Earl grey has always been the most sought after, lightly flavoured tea but now, the repertoire has expanded. White teas to calm and de-stress oneself are also picking up, albeit a bit expensive.

Tea service at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar

Flavoured teas are created by adding fruits, spices, flowers or natural flavours to black, oolong or green teas depending on the flavours that complement the tea. Flavours like vanilla, orange, passion fruit or berries are very popular.

 

Taste apart, health is an important factor and that’s why green tea has rapidly caught the fancy of urban India. Consumed without sugar, Green tea relaxes us instantly and boasts of several health benefits.

I love some of the teas at Tea Culture of the World.  Generally frequent their outlet at Hypercity, Malad. Established by Dr. Rupali Ambegaonkar, TAC Tea Sommelier, a former medical practitioner, as an endeavor to cater to the palates of modern Indian tea aficionados, this place offers some of the finest, most exotic and rare teas from around the world in the Indian market.

Tea rooms and tea houses are becoming fashionable now. These are mushrooming in each city and Mumbai is no exception. May their tribe increase. But of course a well made cutting chai at a road side tapri is equally refreshing.

But the ritual of tea drinking if elaborate, pleases me no end. No wonder, I love the tea service at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar. It elevates the tea drinking experience completely.

Now I need a cup of tea for sure. Have a large collection, so need to pick an apt one for this weather.