Dinner at The Brasserie , Tower Guoman – a review

On the day of the Mens Singles Final when Djokovic won  the match against Roger Federer ,I had an invite to go dine with a few fellow bloggers at The Brasserie at the Tower Guoman. I must admit the match was so engaging that I was glued to the tv and only in the game that I was just to nervous to watch so I dragged myself out and kept pestering a dear friend of mine in whatsapp till she gave me updates of almost every move on the court …. I was hoping that Djokovic would win and also hoping that the match would end before I hopped onto the tube and lost network… Lets just say that all invisible divine forces were with Djokovic ( and me )that day coupled with his awesome performance, just as I was about to get into the tube… there it was..,… message I was hoping to see on whatsapp…. ‘He won’… which led to a very comical impromptu gig on the staircase by me watched by bemused passers by…heck a good win deserves a dance ..at least ! Bonus points to all those who also watched this match to oogle at Boris Becker …teehee

After that I needed a refreshing drink and just as I was settling in the beautiful area  just outside the Guoman, an open air bar  and siping my cocktail gazing up the Tower Bridge was perfect. Chilled Prosecco, Cocktails and Mocktails flowed while we chatted up with the manager who also had dinner with us later .Meeting my friends after Food Blogger Connect was fun and camera lens choices, food photography ,the Wimbledon final results and the stunning view dominated our conversation. Before long the rain decided to play spoil sport and we were ushered inside to our huge table at The Brasserie.

I took the seat the far end of the end but the view from any where inside is just as brilliant , it’s the first time I was so close to the Tower Bridge and you can be guaranteed you will have the best seats in town at The Brasserie with superb views of Butlers wharf thrown in.

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The table was neatly laid out with our special menu for the evening there and fresh bread , warm and just out of the oven with 3 different dips arrived.

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Our rustic bread selection with truffle oil and olive oil.

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To go with our Rustic Bread selection we had the smoked paprika dip – the bright orange one and my fav of the 3, one with chives in the middle and a plain one which I found a tad too salty.

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I choose to have the Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Tart to start off my meal with – it sounded very appetising – Tomato olive salsa,balsamic reduction,pine nut,sekura cress – hummm yes please.

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The thin crisp  pastry base was not one bit soggy or eggy, the grilled Manchego cheese ( a cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the manchega breed) tasted great in combination with summery veggies like asparagus and grilled peppers and the salsa was very good ,I loved the taste of the olives and hints of fennel, the cress made the whole dish so fresh not just to look at but to taste too.

The Head chef Kamaldeep Singh (left) and his colleague decided to take us through the process of how the new menu was created , the origin of ingredients and basically make us hungry for more!

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Madeleine seated next to me choose the other option as her first course :Peppercorn Cured Beef Carpaccio – Manchego cheese , home cured tomatoes,charred artichokes,mizuna and micro cress. I was avoiding red meat that so was very happy to photograph her dish and ask how it tasted but equally satisfied with my light tart.

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The carpaccio was hammered thin and artichokes placed over – it looked great, to find out in her Madeleine’s own words what she thought of her dish go check out  her review here.Very happy with my first course, I expected the second course to deliver and impress me a bit more. Must say my Pan-Fried Fillet of Sea Bass served with diver scallop,caper crushed potatoes,mixed bean salsa and ‘sauce vierge’  did not fail to do so. It looked amazing and I had to photograph it from various angles – we food bloggers!

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But  this was simply delicious and worthy of praise for more reasons than one – made using farmed sea bass responsibly sourced scallops, a lighter than most sauces that usually accompany a fish main the scallop sat one a delicious pea puree and cream base.

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The mixed bean salsa tasted great with the morish caper crushed potato, the cress balancing off the dish in a subtle way.Nayna my vegetarian food blogger friend chose to have the Spinach and Ricotta Raviolli made with heirloom tomato salsa and served with freshly made basil cream sauce , to read her views go onto her blog here.Our first wine of the evening accompanied the first course , Vidal sauvignon blanc from New Zealand , aromas of gooseberry, passionfruit and guava lead into a palate that exudes tropical and passion fruit flavours.

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After that very satisfying sea food dish ,we moved onto the next course , I stayed away from red meat again and the Garden pea,mint and pecorino cheese risotto was fabulous for me , I love my rice and many a times I really need some to complete my meal and make it me feel full, maybe a psychological thing but coming from the coastal side of western India ,fish curry and rice is our most staple everyday far.One of the staff members asked me where I was from and when I said Mumbai, pat came the next question which I was sort of expecting – was the sea bass as good as the Pomfret, well no! For me pomfret is the king of  all fishes on this planet – but its a matter of what taste one has grown up with and our method of cooking is also so very different. But yes Sea Bass , Salmon and Basa are my favorite buys,best eaten fresh on the day of purchase ,hate frozen fish,tastes muddy and weird in curries especially.

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The  pecorino cheese added a subtle tangy taste to this very morish and filling risotto, its easy to get this dish so wrong because often the seemingly easier to make dishes are the toughest to produce to perfection . I am a great fan of the risotto that my elder sister hubby makes , he is a trained chef but now a very busy and senior marketing head honcho so it’s very rarely that we meet and even more rarely that I get to eat the risotto he makes. Ah sweet nostalgic family moments, only truly good food can bring on such an attack for me.. 🙂

By now the light had really faded and my risotto photo and all that follow look terrible!

I must admit Madeleine was very kind and allowed me to have a taste of burnt celeriac which I loved with some of the calvados sauce I scooped it off her plate with from her Confit of Gloucestershire Pork Belly. She enjoyed  my cheesy risotto too.

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The 14 hour low heat cooked pork belly looked so very appetising, the burnt celeriac adding to the earthiness of this dish,the cinnamon compliments the pork  and the savoy cabbage and compressed apple give it a tart almost tangy twist on the side. This was washed down with several glasses of a full bodied Chilean Merlot – Errazuriz , almost opulent with notes of berry and cassis fruit.

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It’s at this point that I slipped into blissful food coma and saw this beautiful rainbow emerge right in front of my eyes… the photo does no justice to the what we actually saw…

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That is us at the table – L- R – Bintu who blogs at Recipes from a pantry, Nicki who blogs at Baking Beardy,seated opposite her is Fiona who writes an award-winning blog – London Unattached,Nayna – who blogs at  Simply Sensational Food her other blog is Citrus ,Spice and all things Nice, and the lovely Madeline who blogs at Kitchen Journeys and documents heart healthy recipes at From the Healthy Heart.

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Was too full by now and the dessert platter served with a large shot of margarita in shot glass lined by sugar , managed to cut the sweet taste that was bound to settle on the palate after cheesecake ,a panna cotta that failed to impress because I was expecting the usual wobble and a refreshing pista flavoured ice cream  – my fav from the selection.

As we strolled out for an impromptu photo session and gazed happily at the beautiful Tower Bridge,I couldn’t help but wonder that though the exterior of  the Tower Guoman leaves one wanting the view of two world Heritage Sites – Tower Bridge and the Tower of London certainly makes up for it!A massive refurbishment project is on the cards too.A few more plus points include a convenient location within easy reach of the financial district, Canary Wharf, the Excel Centre, London City Airport, historic Greenwich, the West End and Westfield Shopping Centre. Also the newly launched menu at The Brasserie definitely warrants a visit. The menu is bold and one where the chefs have really gone the extra mile to hope that if they try ambitiously to achieve the Zero Mile Ingredient mark and grow their own herbs fresh on the terrace garden which is to come alive very soon!

The staff was very polite, genuinely attentive and ensured we had a great evening.

*With  thanks to The Tower Guoman for the invitation. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review . All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

The Brasserie at the Tower Hotel on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Goda Sheera (Sooji Halwa in Hindi, Prasadacha Sheera for Satyanarayan Pooja)

I have been planning for ages to make some goda sheera (goda =sweet in Marathi , my mother tongue and sheera stands for a sweet preparation made using Semolina as the primary ingredient ). I wanted to prepare this for Holi but was too lazy to do it but on Gudi Padwa , which is the Maharashtrian New year , I decided to be a good girl and preapre this sweet dish and offer it to my favourite god Ganpati Bappa:)

I love using milk and mashed bananas as it reminds me of the way my elder Sister prepares it and also of the many Satyanarayan Pooja Prasad (Prasad = offering made to god in the form of food etc) that I have greedily gobbled up all my life back home in India. My mother though prefers to prepare this dish using a mixture of sugar dissolved in water to add the sweet taste. Any way you choose to prepare it, I assure you it is a hugely satisfying experience preparing it  and gobbling it afterwards 🙂

It would be unfair to throw Indian terms at my non Indian readers so , Gudi Padwa is a festival wherein we Maharashtrians celebrate the end of the harvest season and welcome a brand new year with the Hindu Calender. Satanarayan Pooja is a Hindu ritual of worship performed to celebrate new beginnings like a wedding, a house-warming or during the annual Ganesh Festival . It requires the Man and the Lady of the house to perform an elaborate offering to god and the beautiful part of the pooja or the ritual is the Katha (Katha simply means story in Marathi) as it takes the listener on a journey through tales that define our religion. The ultimate offering of love for god at the end of this ritual is called a Prasad and is almost always Sheera .Please click on the hyperlinks to enjoy reading in detail about the terms used. I thank all contributors  of Wikipedia for providing such useful and beautifully written information. Oh yes and the most fun part of Gudi Padwa is the Gudi , it is basically a long stick covered in shiny wrapping paper and a decorative piece of cloth is placed on the top and an inverted ”gadoo” or a stainless glass of a particular shape is placed over it or a brass container which is used for poojas and is again a very auspicious piece of the ritual. The swastika symbol is made on it using bright red  kumkum, then this is wrapped with a garland of fresh marigold and bright green leaves of the mango tree and also a garland made from ” Batashe” which is a white leaf like thing made from concentrated sugar syrup and strung onto a string and made into a garland .This is then perched in the balcony and worshipped and kept on display for all to see , it is quite a sight to see colourful ”gudi’s” swaying outside everyone’s windows and balconies .

I had to make mine this year using an un-used shower curtain rod, golden wrapping paper recycled from Christmas, a steel bowl instead of the traditional glass and a bright red stole instead of the usual auspicious colours of green or gold !Anyway , this is what it looked like 🙂 , am quite proud of it really !

Below I have chosen 2 images from google which I feel are really good and stunningly clear images and really capture the spirit of the festival , the first of a couple dressed all traditionally and with the beautiful goodi being worshipped using a well decorated thali (plate containing several items for performing the ritual) and the second image is of the sexy Ms.Isha Koppikar looking like a million bucks and the gudi looks lovely as well !

(Image courtesy pic 1 :

http://idiva.com/news-relationships/creative-ways-to-celebrate-gudi-padwa/4090)

Pic 1:

Pic 2:

Image Courtesy Click here

Ok !so now, let me try to put down here the recipe in a simple and easy peasy manner.

Preparation time : Approx 45 minutes Serves :4

Ingredients :

  1. Semolina /Rava/Suji – I use fine rava as it is what I find is best for this recipe. approximately 2 small watis or ramekins.
  2. Ghee – plenty !
  3. Raisins – a handful
  4. Badam/Almonds – again a handful
  5. Saffron/Kesar/Zafran – a small pinch just to add colour and pomp !
  6. Cashewneuts/Kaju/Kajoo – if you like them ,not necessary) – a generous handful without the peel and unsalted .
  7. Milk about 200 ml
  8. One ripe Banana
  9. Elaichi/ Green Cardamom – about 6-8 – open them and crush the brown seeds to make a powder using a mortar pestle and we will also use the green outer cover to add a distinctive aroma to the recipe :),sounds so romantic doesn’t it ( err well …)
  10. Sugar – I use granulated white sugar ,take 2 – 2.5 measures of a small bowl ,actually the proportion is always 2:1 for the Semolina : Sugar for this dish so choose the quantity accordingly.

Method :

  • Boil some water and add into a small bowl, add the almonds , this will make it easy to peel off the skin. Soak some raisins in luke warm water so that they absorb water and can be dunked into the semolina at a later stage.

  • Add the Saffron strands ever so carefully to a small bowl of water so as to  allow the beautiful golden orange colour to disperse into the water .

  • Take 2 bowl fulls of Semolina and add to a pan and constantly stir it until it turns a light brown colour , if you do not keep stirring or put the pan on a very high flame it might burn and we don’t want that do we? Also, I use a rather heavy bottom pan  to ensure that the heat spreads evenly and that the Semolina browns well .

  • This is how it looks before we brown it :

  • This is how it will look after stirring for a while :

  • This is how it will look when it is done and ready for the next stage ,i.e to be added to the ghee :

  • Remove the pan from the flame and keep the Semolina aside .Now take 2-4 large tablespoons of ghee (Clarified Butter) in a vessel and warm it on a low flame, be very carefull when frying with ghee as GHEE heats up very fast and anything unattended inside the hot ghee can char easily. When the ghee is warming up add the cashew nuts first and wait for them to start browning, then add the remaining raisins – not the ones which are kept soaking in water ! The strong aroma of the warm Semolina , the beautiful smell of desi ghee and the in-your-face tasty aroma of the fried cashews will assault your senses in the most pleasant way and fill up your kitchen with an almost auspicious atmosphere, it’s when this happens that one truly feels festive from within and it is also at such moments I have massive nostalgia attacks and realise how deeply coded our childhood memories are and  how much a part of our memories are made up of familiar sights and sounds. I oftentimes find life in the western world paler, less colourful and too quite compared to the pomp , blast of colours and festivity that make up India …sighhhh !

  • The cashew nuts and raisins turn a golden hue as seen in the picture above and the raisins puff up quite a bit due to the heat of the ghee,be careful not to overdo the raisins as they are akin to tiny missiles filled with boiling hot oil and if they burst , you can get serious burns …booooo! The kitchen is quite a dangerous place for the uninitiated isn’t it ?!
  • Ok, while the cashew nuts are being processed , take a small vessel and add the 200 to 250 ml milk on a low flame, add the sugar and dissolve, stirring till it completely dissolves, do not allow the milk to boil but reduce it on a low flame, add the crushed green cardamom powder and the outer green cover. Add some of the saffron and the water in which it was soaked as well, keep some for adding into the mixture later. When this mixture is on the flame , it gives out an unmistakable aroma of sweet sugary milk and I can almost feel my teeth sink into the soft sheera and mentally I am biting into the fried cashews and the yummee soft Banana bits that play hide and seek with my tongue as I devour the sheera – AAHHH , anyway , don’t allow that to happen as it is considered wrong to savor the ”Prasad” before the Almighty is offered some for ”bhog” or in simple words god has been offered the sweet dish and it is assumed that he has symbolically consumed our offering and blessed us with all that we wish and desire for 🙂

  • When the cashew nuts and the raisins have been fried, add the semolina slowly in the hot ghee mixture , stirring continuously to prevent any lumps from forming and also to ensure that the semolina soaks up the ghee properly .

  • Once all  the Semolina is mixed well into the ghee and fried dry fruit mix it will look like the picture above , then add the remaining  saffron and water in which it was soaked to the mixture.

  • Then add the roughly mashed banana pieces into the semolina mixture.

  • When the sugar has completely dissolved and the milk has reduced a little , it is ready to be added to the semolina mixture. Add it stirring slowly , it will look like the picture below immediately after adding the milk and sugar into it.

  • Stir a bit more and here is what it will look like now :

  • For the smallest possible time , cover the mixture above on the lowest possible flame , it is then ready to be served, now add the almonds to season over the top , peel off the skin , thanks to the warm water they will come off very easily and then just halve the almonds or if you want to be very artistic and have some time cut the almonds into longish thin strips ,anyway which they add a definite crunch to the sweet dish and I love that ,you dish will now look like this :

  • Take some of this beautiful dish and serve into a small bowl to offer to the Ganpati Bappa – who has been made to shine and sparkle for the day and place it in front of him , hands folded ask for his blessings and wait for sometime till you are convinced he’s had some of the offering or ”Prasad”.

Aaah , now just look at the cute Bappa 🙂

HAPPY EATING ALL YE READERS who attempt to make it , do let me know any feedback 🙂 all good of course 😉

Masoorachi Aamti or Red Lentil Curry

Masoorachi Aamti or Red Lentil Curry – Recipe adaptation from Mother, Mother in Law and a close CKP friend – Saai who loves to stir up some spicy CKP fare and generally succeeds at it 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 2 measures of Masoor Dal (Red Lentil) with their brown covers intact and whole
  • Mustard Seeds
  • 2-3 Garlic Cloves
  • Green chillies 2- 3
  • Curry leaves about 5-6
  • Jeera (Cumin Seeds) – tiny spoonful
  • Freshly grated soft white coconut
  • Goda Masala – mommy made is so much better than the one from the shops but well

(**This is a mix of various spices readily available in Asian Grocery stores it’s basically a mixture of dry coconut roasted with a mixture of atleast 10 different spices, best of all it’s avaialble to buy online at itadka.com ,it’s so EASY PEASY grin grin grin  heres the link ,refrigerate this pack to increase shelf life ,yayay so many tips from me , don’t YOU just LOVE me , if u better dont just READ this make n slurp it all ALONE, drop me A LINE and thank meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

  • Coriander Powder
  • Ginger Garlic Paste

(Coriander and Chilli paste – 2 small sized bunches of coriander pureed with 2-3 green chillies – freeze and use on demand, handy and 1 of my 5 “save your face” purees for unwanted guests popping in at odd hours – the other 4 are listed at the end of this recipe)

  • 3 medium sized onion red – chopped fine
  • Asafoetida(Hing or Heeng)
  • Turmeric
  • Red Chilli Powder
  • Dhania Powder
  • Jaggery

Aamsul 2-3 soaked in lukewarm water to release it’s juices trapped inside the gorgeous maroon folds – Amsul – also called kokum or Garcinia indica, a plant in the mangosteen family (Clusiaceae)

  • Fresh leaves of Coriander chopped fine for dressing

 Process ( Once a Chemistry student and a retail employee stay that way forever , instead of “PREPARTION” I choose the word ”Process” which is drilled into a Retail Managers brain like young parents making their kids rote learn alphabets)

The masoor dal can be done 2 ways for stage 1 of this process, 1st is the short cut which I love as I suddenly get an urge mid evening to cook this typical CKP recipe to appease my urges to run to Heathrow n take the next flight to my parents home in Pune ,hummmmm, so we soak the masoor dal 2 measures feeds 2 adults with a ravenous appetite and leaves some to spare.

Then soak it in water for about 20 minutes , the traditional route is to soak the masoor for about 10 minutes and pressure cook with 1 or 2 whistles so that it doesn’t go too soft as it will not absorb the marvellous flavours of all the spices we are to add in the kadhai.

Heat 2 large generous tablespoons of oil in a wok, no weight watchers tip this huh? Indeed!

Add mustard seeds and wait for them to pop but please be carefull not to burn them, one classic error here is that there are 2 types of mustard seeds, one variety is slightly big and the other one is smaller n more packed with flavour according to my mother , I dare not disagree , the only reason I use the smaller variety is that it gives me an ego boost each time I do a phodni and don’t burn them.

Then add Asafoetida, crushed garlic cloves in their skin as the skin turns a tasty caramelised brown adding to the visual delight of the process of tempering a curry or dal! then when the garlic is starting to brown add the curry leaves , green chillies , jeera and then  a generous spoonful of the fresh grated coconut (fresh from froizen is fine by me too) then , stir in the goda masala – 2 generous teaspoons, coriander powder ,turmeric , a big blob of ginger garlic paste and coriander chilli paste and stir this wonderfully aromatic mixture till it starts to brown , then add the chopped onion  and stir it now n then , let the oil work its magic in the onion allowing it to brown so that it secrets it juices and adds the typical flavour that a powerfull pungent red onion has pack3ed inside each leaf ,umm , mouth salivating isn’t it by now reading this , it should that’s the whole point my friend .

Now when this mixture is nice and ready, drain the water from the soaked or boiled par-masoor dal and toss it into the kadhai, stir in enough water to cover the lentil n then some and cook it till it almost done, when your almost done pour in the water of the soaked amsool and the dunk the amsool in along with salt to taste and bring to boil.

Season with finely chopped fresh as ever coriander and serve piping hot with phulkas dripping with ghee (clarified butter) or the plain old boiled white rice.

As you lick your fingers n the plate don’t forget to thank your daddy for giving you an internet connection which allowed you to see my divine blog n stir up this delightfull dish !aww come on now did u really buy your laptop and your internet connection on your own ! Atta girl!

Key (reminds me of my Chemistry textbook in school years)

*C.K.P stands for Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu a sub section of the Maharashtrian community in India and they generally hail from the coastal regions and hence are rather partial to freshly grated coconut and amsool in their food, not to mention their love for fresh fish and mutton, oh yeah!

*Dal used loosely to refer to the uncooked Lentil and AMTI a Marathi word meaning cooked curry.

*Coriander = Cilantro

*Jeera – Cumin (what were you thinking?)

*Aamsul – this is typical to the Konkan region, a divine coastal region the state of Maharashtra State which gave the world the gorgeous Madhuri Dixit Nene, a Bollywoood actress par excellence better known for her elastic waist and dance moves that can drive hordes of men wild and in their make the women of these bubble green with jealousy and is now to be honoured and hence waxed err , have her wax statue placed at the one and only Madame Tussads at London, hence I shall visit the wax museum ONLY after her wax replica is unveiled, yes sir! On a serious note it is also called Kokum or Garcinia Indica (Fruit indigenous to the west coast of Maharashtra State in India- i.e. Konkan, Ratnagiri etc .Incidentally apart from the Wiki link for more info on Aamsul , I came across another food blog with a very good explanation about the fruit and have pasted the para from the blog below with the links the blogger has inserted intact and alink too in case anyone wants to visit the blog,it’s got some really good recipes , get clicking

!)

कोकम/अमसुल” (wild/red mangosteen-available in powdered forms too,but its better to use the fruit) are one of the very popular ingredients in Indian food.The outer rind of the fruit is a very popular culinary ingredient in all Maharashtra and in particular Konkan. The fruits are beaten with sticks to separate the rind from seeds. The rind is repeatedly sun dried after soaking in the pulp juice.

People in the Kokan region (Maharashtra) and Southern India often add it in various delicacies (from cold-drinks to soups to vegetables & dips).Dried/Wet Kokum or Amsul is available at most Indian stores in the bay area.Sour in taste,it has medicinal qualities and is used as an anti-allergic.

Raw Mangosteen is called Murgala (Karnataka), Punampuli (Kerala), Murgal (Tamil Nadu) ,Kokum(Gujarat),Kokum/amsul/ratamba/birund (Maharashtra) & Tintali (Orissa).It is called Atyamala, Raktapurak, Vrikshamla,chukra or tintidika in Sanskrit.

Blog credit : http://cookwithmoi.blogspot.com/2009/10/wild-red-mangosteen-soup.html

*Phodni – Marathi for tempering

*Kadhai – Hindi and Marathi for Wok, easy or what?!

*Phulkas – Also called chapattis or the delightful Indian Bread soft and fluffy and fresh off the pan has ghee smeared on it to pack some punch a many many calories 🙂

The other 4 SAVE ME NOW pastes are:

* a garlic ginger coarse paste,

* Finely grated fresh white coconut paste,

* Tomato red onion puree -1:3,

*And the best one for last aye? – few onion chopped lengthwise n lightly roasted in a kadhai (wok) with fresh white coconut finely grated till they turn slightly brown , then churned into a paste in the mixer )

Pic 1 :The saucepan contains oil heated and then the asafoetida, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, then the garlic , chopped green chillies and curry leaves and last but the best one GODA masala

Pic 2 :Chopped red onion added to the mix

Pic 3: That’s the dal cooking

Pic 4 & 5: All done , the AROMA is filling my senses and transporting me into my MIL’s kitchen , I want to HUG her nowwwwwwwwwww

P.S: Will post pictures to compare the 2 sizes of Mustard seeds at a later date , I am now going to be too busy slurping my amti (dal) off the plate 🙂