Chakra – Indian Fine Dining in Notting Hill

I am on vacation in India but I have a bunch of passionate foodies hard at work in London, sampling the best that the city has to offer, so that you,my readers can continue to get the latest reviews,news and views from the world of food  – after all someone’s got to continue doing all the hard work while I party ;). A few days ago my buddy Harish, who is also a passionate foodie went to Chakra to sample their menu and this is what he thought . Having just returned from a two week-long vacation in India, the flavors of my real home were ever present on my palette reminding me of the good times spent navigating the gastronomical haunts of both Delhi and Mumbai. Expectations were thus pretty high when Flavia, an Italian colleague of mine from work, and I made our way to the swanky Indian restaurant in Notting Hill called Chakra for dinner this last Wednesday. We arrived for our 8 pm seating and were promptly shown to our table, amidst an already buzzing restaurant which clearly indicated its popularity amongst the locals. The interiors were dim, the décor modern and the music modern; all adding to the distinct vibe of this favored Notting Hill establishment. A plate of spicy mini “papads” accompanied by a sweet mango chutney made their way to our table first. The appetizer was crispy, not too oily and very flavorful just perfect to set the stage for the meal to follow. Chakra poppadums An amuse bouche followed the “papad” plate.  Rajma Galouti – mini red kidney bean kebab with yogurt chutney. This was particularly disappointing, as it was cold and lacking any flavor. Having seen previous reviews, I knew that the dish was dressed down. A part of the meal the management team can safely omit from the offer. Chakra Rajma Galouti Appetizers followed and Flavia and I decided to get a mixture of vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters.  We decided to go down the more traditional selection path and got ourselves a portion each of the Malai Kebab Ke Dande, tender chicken breast pieces marinated in yogurt and fresh cream grilled to perfection in the clay oven, Tandoori Paneer, gorgeous chunks of cottage cheese marinated in yellow masala and cooked just right and finally the Chakra specialty, The Lahori Kebab. These succulent skewers of lamb seasoned just right, just melt in your mouth and leave you wanting more. Simply scrumptious. Chakra 3   Chakra 4   Chakra 5 Chakra is fairly unique in its offerings of the main course. Strangely it offers up the vegetarian options in half portions (sides) with the similar option lacking from the non-vegetarian options. Needless to say there was plenty to be thankful for, for what we were about to be served was an absolute delight. Chakra 6 Central to our order was a Blackened Cod Fish. Tender, well marinated and again cooked to perfection. By the beaming smile on Flavias face and the mutterance of approval in Italian I knew she was pleased. Frankly so was I. I can safely say that the tandoori Black Cod marinated with lime juice & a cracked pepper yoghurt marinade is reason enough to visit Chakra. Chakra 7 The supporting cast to the Chakra Black Cod performed appropriately as well.  The Butter Chicken (perfect blend of a delicate tomato based gravy and shredded chicken), The Kali (black) Dal (black lentils which were buttery yet not overwhelming) Zeera Aloo (sautéed tender baby potatoes with cumin seeds, ginger and chili) and Chakra Saag (paneer tossed with spinach, petit pois flavoured with ginger & nutmeg & fenugreek) accompanied by Tandoori Rotis (Indian bread) were just wonderful. At this point in the meal I am usually loosening my belt, being stuffed to the brim. But somehow the meal at Chakra did not end up having a similar effect. The concept of sides is simply brilliant and allowed the Flavia and myself to experience the full spectrum of offerings at Chakra. I say we have a wined with this concept. Chakra 8 Chakra 9   We had eaten like royalty. The Nawab of Hyderabad himself at this point would have been twirling his moustache and rubbing his belly experiencing nothing but utter satisfaction. But no Indian meal is complete without the essential “sweet dish” (dessert). Flavia chose the Gulab Jamun (3 Indian sweet dumplings in sugar syrup, accompanied by vanilla ice cream) and I the Mango Kulfi. The Jamun’s were sensational; Piping hot with just the right texture, sugar syrup seeping through and all. They brought back fond memories of my recent wonderful trip to Delhi. That is what good food is supposed to do; excite all the senses and throw up a flashback or two, of good times spent with those near and dear. This was the perfect end to a perfect meal. On our way out I asked Flavia what she thought of Chakra. She instantly replied “I must go to India and eat”. If this is the response that this Notting Hill establishment (Chakra) can generate from one who hails from one of the most gastronomically gifted countries of the world then I can safely say this. “If you haven’t been to Chakra yet, you must do so now”. Experience the true flavors of India, without leaving Notting Hill, London. **** In my book of great eats. *With  thanks to Humayun Hussain and Chakra for the invite. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review.

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Creamy Oatly Oat Cream Pasta with crunchy green Salad

I remember tasting Oatly for the first time at FBC earlier this year  ,it was a very pleasant taste,the chocolate one even better. All of us at Food Blogger connect this year got a generous bag of Oatly products to take home. The ‘milk’ went used up pretty quickly so I went and got us some more but the Organic Creamy Oat,basically a single cream, I was waiting to experiment with. Since the product is bursting with the goodness of all things organic and is dairy free I thought why not keep everything about this pasta gluten and dairy free . So I got some Lactofree mature cheddar cheese and also some pasta which is made from Italian rice and corn therefore making it dairy and gluten free. Oatly cream uses organic rapeseed oil so my cooking medium is …you guessed that right organic rapeseed oil! And since the cream also contains sea salt as one of the ingredients I have used my trusty smoked Maldon sea salt in here too 🙂

This pasta dish can’t get any better can it? Ok wait till you hear what OatLy Creamy Oat is all about…It’s made in Sweden using entirely organic ingredients. The fat content is absurdly low 3% over 9.6% in regular cream.Besides it tastes like cream made from cow’s milk and is packed with fibers.

Ingredients – For the pasta

  • Dairy and Gluten free fusilli Pasta 150 gm
  • Smoked Bacon 200gm
  • 1/2 of a 250 ml tetra pack OatLy cream
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic with their skins on
  • Fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs 1 each
  • a pinch red chilli flakes
  • Maldon sea salt to taste

 

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Method –  For the pasta

  • Boil the pasta in a saucepan with some rapeseed oil and allow it to cook completely.Sprinkle some sea salt into the water while it is boiling.
  • While the pasta is boiling get started with preparing the sauce. Chop the spring onion into bite size pieces.
  • In another saucepan add 1 tbsp olive oil and place on a medium heat ,when the oil is hot ,crush the garlic with the skin on and add into the hot oil.
  • Allow the garlic to brown and then add the spring onion, when the onion begins to change colour add the bacon pieces and reduce the flame.

 

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  • Let the bacon cook for about 5 minutes  till it turns crisp and yummy while stirring occasionally till ensuring it doesn’t get burnt.

 

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  •  Reduce the flame and then pour the Oatly oat cream into the bacon mixture and add a sprig each of thyme and rosemary.
  • Cover the sauce pan and allow to cook for about 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Add freshly crushed black pepper and sea salt to taste and some chilli flakes.
  • In a plate add the cooked pasta after draining excess water and pour the bacon and cream mixture over the top.

The oat cream will give you a  thick creamy sauce and the smoked bacon adds deep,rich flavours to this pasta dish.Its great for those who are lactose intolerant or those simply looking for a switch .Add some grated lacto free cheese for a truly cheesy and deliciously satisfying pasta carbonara.I know this dish isn’t vegan because of the bacon so if you want to make a vegan version using smoked paprika breadcrumbs for the texture and smoky taste ,also to replace eggs and go vegan use  soft tofu puree . I have skipped using eggs and honestly I didn’t miss them at all in the sauce. So its not really a carbonara but yes it’s just as silky and creamy and smoky and yummalicious ! 🙂

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Ingredients – For the salad

  • 1 medium sized white onion
  • 8 juicy cherry tomatoes
  • 8 chestnut mushrooms
  • 1/2 a bag of crunchy mixed salad leaves
  • 8 stems of tender purple asparagus
  • 8 stems of tender purple broccoli
  • Cranberry flavoured vinegar
  • 1 tsp rapeseed oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Maldon smoked sea salt to taste

Method –  For the salad

  • Chop the tender stem purple asparagus roughly into bite size pieces keeping the spear head intact , do the same with tender stem purple broccoli. I loved the colour so I picked purple, its absolutely fine to go with the regular green stuff but the colours in this finished salad are so vibrant! Set aside and move onto the mushrooms and onion now.
  • Chop the mushrooms into bite sized pieces ,then chop the onion in half and then slice it fine lengthwise
  • In a saucepan heat the olive oil.
  • Saute the garlic with skin on in the hot oil and when it turns brown add the mushrooms in .Let them cook for about 1/2 a  minute.
  •  Add the onion,asparagus and broccoli  into the saucepan and stir for about 1  minute on a low flame we don’t want the greens and the onion to cook and loose the crunch and bite , just give them a bit of flavour so they sit well with the leaves.
  • Take the saucepan off the bowl and allow to cool.

 

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  • In a salad bowl was and add the salad leaves , give them a good slosh of cranberry vinegar,sea salt and cracked black pepper and give them a good ol’ shake so that the vinegar coats the leaves well.
  • Place the green and onion over the salad leaves and throw in some juicy red cherry tomatoes on a vine or salad tomatoes into the salad. Give another sprinkling of Maldon sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • If you want to bulk up this salad add 2 boiled eggs halved on top and serve with a cheesy bread or focaccia as a side with a creamy mushroom or chicken soup for a wholesome but light and healthy meal option! Keep the bukled up version of this salad vegan , again by replacing boiled eggs with fresh large chunks of tofu.
  • This salad is bursting with goodness and packs in a great punch of flavour with the cranberry flavoured vinegar and the meaty mushrooms and crunchy tender stem asparagus  and broccoli feel so lush together when you bite into them ummmmm

 

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I am quite happy with the end result of this pasta and have another 250 ml tetra pack of Otaly CReamy Oat to experiment …wonder what will come out of that lovely little pack , now where is my thinking cap ?!

 

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Yum Chaa – Fitzrovia – Review

Absolutely bored and craving a afternoon out ,a close friend and me decided to check out Yum chaa sometime early february. As soon as we walked my eyes fell on this beautiful and welcoming armchair – its the kind of chair that you can sink into and loose yourself in!

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Lucky for us it was in a quite little corner where we could pour our hearts out to each other!

The counter had a beautiful  display and she decided to have the Chilli Chilli Hot Chocolate. I was having a very difficult time trying to decide which tea to have from the amazing range available of Black and Red teas.

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I finally settled for a red tea and a little something to bite into….in the quite pauses between our excited chatter I gazed into my tea cup…wishing I could tell what the future has to hold simply by gazing at how the bright red tea sediments lay there… if only …

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Loved their quirky note asking for ‘Valentines Day Funds’ now who can refuse a tip when coaxed like that? (espp when it will be used to buy an Adele album!)

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The quirky christmas tree kept the corner with the shelves a bit festive and the white washed walls seemed to have a sublimia soothing effect. The general atmosphere of the place is the sort where you can settle into a huge armchair , armed with a tea of your choice and spend hours sipping it alone or not. Its the kind of place you would take a good book to and settle in with a warm pot of tea, allow the tea to percolate and loose yourself in the pages of your fav storyteller.

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We lost track of time and almost over two hours later when Yum Chaa got really  busy we decided to let someone else take over our cushy chairs…reluctantly almost, promising ourselves that we would be back soon , very soon…

The shabby chic,relaxed atmosphere , mis-matched furniture, white washed walls and their amazing range of teas on offer will stay with you long after you walk out of the place and of course their catchy crazy name Yum Chaa is something you won’t forget easily!

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Disclaimer: I’ve written this review of my own accord and was this visit was paid for by me. I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated monetarily for this post.Like all my previous posts about events and reviews, ALL opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

 

21, The Print Room,Covent Garden – a review

On the corner of Covent Garden Piazza , housed in a beautiful Georgian heritage site is a 3 story delightful place -21 – a rustic Italian restaurant, The Print Room – a cocktail bar with 2 balconies overlooking the piazza and all the live entertainment it has to offer and the terrace located on the Piazza – a great way to enjoy the outdoors, drink in the hustle bustle, gaze at St.Pauls – all this under the shelter of huge umbrellas and heating for chilly evenings.

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When I first heard of 21 the Print Room at Covent Garden I imagined it to be this tiny little place with a rustic feel , when we walked into 21 I felt I was walking into a huge cave with tunnels well-lit and the aroma of melted cheese wafting around .The historic cellar vaults converted in a fab Italian restaurant have a cosy warm feel .They also  proudly claims to serve the best pizza and pasta in Covent Garden – We were soon about to find out….

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

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Hubby and me walked into the place on a very ,very warm summer evening and were seated at table perfect for a romantic date but we food bloggers need light for clicking away ,so once we were moved to a new table and happily settled into a comparatively well-lit corner of our choice ,we couldn’t wait to order some drinks and cool down a few degrees. Just as I thought I would melt with the heat these beauties came to our rescue – a Mango Bellini (£7.50)for me and a  Verde Flower(£5) Sine Peccato,for the huster – it means a cocktail without sin.

The Mango Bellini – a Prosecco based cocktail was crisp,fresh,fruity ,summery while hubsters Verde Flower – a combo of cucumber,apple juice and elderflower with a dash of bitter lemon was fresh and light with lots of ice – so refreshing!

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Accompanied by Wild Boar Tortelloni (£7.25) – Pancetta ,green beans ,sage cream  and Black pepper Calamari with saffron aioli (£7.25) as starters.The batter for the calamari was a bit bulky making them a bit chewy, the tortellini  was very good, could easily have eaten some more!

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

I was told that the A la Carte menu is  fresh, Italian-inspired and prepared with the best quality local ingredients – well now, I love the sound of that ! We ordered the Cornish Crab Linguine (£14.25) and the Figaro (£14.95) – a Milano Salami,Parma Ham & Pepperoni Pizza for the main course but honestly if you’re doing starters then this one pizza between two people is more than enough!

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The Figaro is absolutely mind-blowing delicious with the 3 meat sitting there with black olives and cherry tomatoes – begging to be eaten! The goats cheese was nothing like I’d ever tasted before – so soft and creamy and not one bit salty. Abandon your fork and knife for this one folks, eat with your hands…lick the gooey gorgeous roasted garlic olive oil mixed with the melted mozzarella , as it drips off the sides while you devour this magnificent feast. The linguine was ignored by us for the first few minutes while we silently ate our pizza.I felt like Julia Roberts in the movie Eat,Pray ,Love telling her friend to drop the guilt and just eat their cheese laden gorgeous looking pizza when they go to Naples ,errmmm only I was sharing my Pizza with my hubster 😉

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The linguine was good though paling in comparison to this star pizza staring at us. The crab meat was mixed well into the pasta and it was have been fun to eat this pasta slowly after squeezing  lime generously over it , sipping a fine glasses  red which goes with the fresh seafood taste and the chillies in the pasta.I ordered a glass of Red- the Nero D’Avola 2011 (£5.65 a glass , £21 a bottle) with my linguine.Hubster had a glass of Prosecco Brut (£6.80) to go with the mains.

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Needless to say the mere mention of dessert and we would have exploded so we skipped dessert. Eager to walk and help digest the generous dinner now sitting firmly inside our tummies we took a tour of the print room upstairs which is a print shop turned cocktail bar, with a lovely balcony overlooking the piazza.We then walked out into the piazza past the Terrace ,to be greeted by fresh, crisp evening London air.

The Terrace at 21

Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

So lets see, 21 delivered on their promise of serving the best Pizza in Covent Garden , the wine selection and mocktails on offer are impressive and  I loved my Mango Bellini.Food and Wine taken care of .Ambience – the feeling of sitting huddled in a cosy cubby hole dating back to Georgian Times is something else, the view from the Print room is amazing , so I’d say this is a perfect place for romantic dates in the cubby hole of 21 or out on the terrace – better for warm summer evenings, great venue for hen and stag parties and a really cool place to hang out for drinks with your friends, they seem to have got it all covered huh?

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

The photo below is of the most posh cubby hole in 21 comes with a fish tank for company 😉

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

It was a beautiful clear night and the piazza was just so beautiful , a spattering of tourists seated in quiet corners near St.Pauls , the bars still overflowing with beer drinkers spilling out onto the piazza and of course the theatregoers walking to their cars or trying to get a cab.

The last time we were at Covent Garden with some friends they showed us this fab walking route to Waterloo station along the Waterloo bridge, it IS  a great walk along the various many theatres ,pubs and brightly lit restaurants of Covent Garden and  onto the bridge with stunning views of the London Eye on one side and the beautiful st.pauls cathedral on the other. And down the subway and you are inside Waterloo station, cool or what?!

It was an exceptionally windy evening as well and all of a sudden I wish I had my jacket on me, we stopped to take a few photos and this ones my fav:

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Rushing to take cover in the warm subway , we made it to the station in under 15 minutes , this walking route now my fav way to get to Covent Garden from Waterloo station and totally avoid the claustrophobic tubes and the slow buses crawling through the omnipresent traffic on  the narrow roads  of Central London…..( there … now that’s a sure shot sign that I have become am a Londoner now….when one begins to crib about the crowded tubes and moan about the traffic …and look of alternate walking routes.. I think the novelty of being a newbie to this city is finally wearing off… in every way… but then the magic has settled in and just like I will always , always love Mumbai no matter what ,similarly London has sunk into my being in a way that can never be reversed… safe to say…am deeply in love… with all that London has to offer – even the tubes … oh yes!)

*With thanks to 21 and The Print Room for the invite.All views expressed here are my own. I was not required to write a positive review. No monetary compensation was provided for this post.

 

 

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21 Covent Garden on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Wine Pairing made easy by Waitrose Cellar

On a fine evening last week when the sun suddenly decided to shine upon us Londoner’s I happened to be invited to a blogger bash to celebrate the launch of Waitrose Cellar – the  new online wine service by Waitrose ,at the London Canal Museum.

With over 1200 interesting & exclusive wines,Champagnes & spirits to choose from at Waitrose Cellar online you can order any 6 wines with free delivery.The best part is the Waitrose Cellar experts hand pick mixed cases and  they are just a phone call away to address any queries you may have related to their wines  ,but if you’d rather do the food and wine pairing yourself ,there’s a wealth of knowledge on the Waitrose Cellar website where you can browse through 40 articles, watch over 150 tasting videos and read ratings on product pages,you can even learn how to expertly pop open a bottle of champagne!

Our wine experts for the evening – Stèphane and Xenia set the mood for the evening by popping some champagne.Stèphane started with a  level 3 award in wines and spirits from WSET and perfected his wine knowledge to become a wine waiter, then head sommelier before he became part of the Waitrose Cellar team. Xenia a Master of wine (2003) came to Waitrose last December ,with 24 years experience in the wine trade, she has worked as an independent wine consultant,a buyer for a large brewery,retailer and wine importer. After a spot of introductions over some champagne and starters I chatted with some very familiar friendly  faces. 14th May'14 Waitrose Wine Cellar event5 (Copy) It’s then that I noticed my name badge had a little picture of a glass of red and some others had picture of white wine on their badges ,the red wine gang set sail with Stèphane and the white wine badges went off with Xenia.We were taken onto a traditional canal boat to sail along the Regent’s Canal ,sample some of the brilliant Waitrose wines while Stèphane, took us through the story behind each wine and got us to think how best we could pair our wine with various mains. 14th May'14 Waitrose Wine Cellar event1 (Copy) (Copy)

If like me you’ve never sailed before on a traditional canal boat these beauties come equipped with a cute compact kitchen, ‘leisure’ accommodation and a nice little seating area for socialising which we promptly abandoned for a place on the deck, after all who can resist the soft evening sunlight and the light cooling breeze while sipping some fine wine and dreaming of  delicious food to pair it with! While sipping on Prosecco, Stèphane shared a naughty little trick to amp up your sweet bakes,he adds just a tiny pinch of pepper along with some salt ,takes the tooth-grinding sweet edge off the bake and gives just the right hint of flavour,am definitely going to give this fab idea a try soon!

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We started with tasting the  white wines ,of the white wines we tried I loved the Cave de Lugny Sparkling Burgundy Blanc de Blancs NV the most ,perfect for summer parties and nibbles.This Chardonnay from Burgundy has a  fresh, crisp, apple and citrusy flavour makes it really easy sparkling wine to drink. Also quite liked the Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillon,which is a very dry,fresh western Australian Sauvignon which would go really well with fresh seafood,steamed greens by the side or a sinful portion of gnocchi with toasted pine nut and fresh green basil pesto. This white,I daresay is even better than the other Antipodean varieties like Chardonnay. Moving on to red’s, by which time we had passed through the Reagent’s Canal and am sure managed to gulp some stray drops of water falling off the musty old bridge as well, but am sure we were either honestly engrossed in conversation or blissfully unaware of anything expect how much fun we were having by then , which I shall safely blame on the progressive climb towards feeling pleasantly buzzed – no , not shamelessly tipsy.Am  eagerly waiting to once again savour the Waitrose Chianti Classico Barone Ricasoli. This full-bodied Tuscan red is a delight on the palate with its woody notes and velvety texture,perfect for grilled meats and roasted peppers- think juicy kebabs with minty chutney. Made in partnership with Ricasoli family who were the first producers of Chianti , no wonder then this wine has won the Decanter Bronze Medal for classic Chianti. Before we knew it, we had worked our way through 16 different ,fabulously delicious Waitrose wines and by the time we got back to the Canal Museum we had worked up quite an appetite and speedily devoured the fab spread laid out for us.

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Stèphane and Xenia continued to reveal one secret after another of how best to choose a wine just right for you and how to go about pairing  food & wine.Then it was time for some speed wining – yes you heard that right Speed Wining!  I’ve never been speed dating but enough hours of watching crime and romantic dramas on the telly have left me no stranger to what its all about ,only this was way more fun because we got to talk about our favourite food and wine and didn’t need to impress our very friendly bunch of fellow foodies. I think I managed to ask some rather interesting and fun questions along with some rather boring ones but the user-friendly Waitrose Cellar website made it really easy for us to look for wines that would best suit the personality and tastes in food of our speed wining partners.

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Don’t we all look like we really had a great time ‘speed wining’? 🙂 And now a look at my favourites from the evening, the sparkling burgundy and classic Chianti both perfect matches for the sea food lover in me who also has a weakness for juicy kebabs,lamb curry and a major sweet tooth.

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Am happy to say that as a result of our speed wining session my fellow red team mates Becky,Snigdha,Anne,Laura and May managed to almost accurately guess which type of  wines I’d  enjoy the most.So when the 6 wine case for each of us, sent by Waitrose Cellar online, reached me I couldn’t wait to get cooking and wine pairing!

First up of course I shall be popping some Champagne – Waitrose Blanc de Blancs Brut NV(picked for me by Laura for my love of sweet and a bit of fizz) – to celebrate becoming aunty to a bonny boy and my niece clearing her GCSE equivalent in India with flying colours!Definitely calling for some bubbly,loads of canapes and well some more bubbly 😉

For my Sunday lunch with my family I will be pairing lamb curry with Catena Malbec chosen for me by Anne .I know my dessert wine for this month  will be the Limited Reserve Peachy wine from my wine case selected for me by May to appease my sweet tooth after a spicy meal.  Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett  will keep me company for familiar flavours of fresh seafood curries and fusion meals with scallops and soft shell crabs ,thanks to Snigdha’s choice.Waitrose Chablis picked for me by Becky who quizzed me and learnt of my love for ciders.This Chablis is so apt for a lazy summer afternoons with sea food starters.Last but certainly not the least the Sparkling Burgundy with a beautiful label that adorns the bottle ,which also is in my case,will be shared over lots of cake for a double birthday celebration with my family who are visiting us end of this month – exciting times ahead!

Feeling a bit of envious are we now? Don’t !For even you can win £1000 worth of wine specially chosen JUST for you by Waitrose Cellar Experts .Plus 5 runners-up will win a ready-made collection of  Waitrose Wine Teams 30 favourite wines. Now I would certainly clink my glass to that! You can also tweet away – @waitrosewine and chat up the wine experts.

 

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*With thanks to Waitrose Cellar for the invite.No monetary compensation was provided for this post.All views expressed are my own.

Zomato Reviewers Dinner at The Notting Hill Kitchen

What: Dinner with fellow Reviewers courtesy Zomato

Where:Notting Hill Kitchen

Weather:Brilliant and Sunny

As I walked past posh residential building painted a pristine white I was sure I had lost my way inspite of Google Maps egging me to continue walking along Kensington Park. This is just minutes away from the hustle bustle and lively Notting Hill Market famous for its antiques.

It was an exceptionally warm summer evening and I was welcomed with a chilled glass of white -Quintaluna 2012, though couldn’t manage more than a glass as it was a bit tart for my taste.

First up was the Mac Silva a mini cod burger which was really delicious and I could have popped all of them into my plate had it not been for my equally hungry companions. Sea Bass Ceviche made with Peruvian aji Amarillo mild chilli, fennel corn,tomato ,coriander and lime was moorish,loved the fresh cherry tomatoes in there just wish it had a more generous squeeze of lime!

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Undoubtedly the star of the evening the Spider Crab Mousse was fabulously delicious , served in a mini doughnut the secret flavoursome ingredient was dehydrated mussels,the sea food lover in me was completely satiated , I have found a new obsession Spider Crabs!These reminded me the deep fried soft shell crab starters I tasted at Tenshi, a Japanese place at Angel, deep fried in a delicious light batter these are to be eaten whole! They look a bit spidery though so don’t think of that just gobble them up whole)

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Did you know that Spider Crabs found in Japanese waters also called tall footed crabs have the largest leg span of any arthropod?!Upto 3.8 meters long – thats a massive 12 feet!

Moving on from our science class back into  to Notting Hill Kitchen enter Tiborna Alentejana – a combo of Pata Negra,Bone Marrow,Cured Papada,toasted sourdough,truffled yolk – described by Martin as the bridge of meat – so apt huh? The cured papada was crunchy and the bone marrow delicious but the Pata Negra literally meaning black hoof popularly known as  Jamón ibérico or carna negra – is Iberian ham, it  was not something I fancied much, maybe blame by taste buds so used to Parma Ham. Pata Negra is a type of cured ham  produced mostly in Spain, but also in some Portuguese regions where it is called presunto ibérico and is made from iberico or black pigs or cross bred pigs.Washed down with a glass or two of Spanish Blend – Malacapa Rioja 2012 which was definitely many notches up compared to our white.

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Topping my list for comfort food on the menu was Jamon Croquetas made with caramelised onion…. mummmm, lemon beetroot and parsley viennoise, such a fab way to mask beetroot and so very delicious!

The starters were fabulous and I could have kept on going if it wasn’t for a delicious portion of Chef Yossi’s Acorn fed pork neck with red cabbage,lentils and lupin cous cous. Funnily though the lentils were very simple to the Indian dal vada though the centre of this big circular fried lentil I could taste the wet lentils .The cabbage was salty but very delicious and must say held its own even with pork as the main actor in this presentation.This went down really well with our Portuguese Red –  Quinta de sao jose touriga nacional 2011  , a complex fruity and fruity with spicy undertones with a rich purple red colour ,this red was also my favourite wine of the evening.

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Served with sides of an Asparagus and Saffron Risotto and a rather out of place portion of fries with mayo and paprika, the patatas bravas left me wanting .

Much foodie banter and impromptu exchanging of places to chat up with all the foodies at the table and the time seemed to have evaporated much more swiftly than I expected. It was great catching up with Leyla,Le Binh,Reema and Shak. Interesting conversation about our mutual much hated sport cricket -yes – boooo , with Frankie and some serious conversation about food blogging with Mehreen, several plans to catch up with these like minded folks were hatched. A rather enthusiastic bar tender got us all a round of exotic cocktails and entertained us with his banter while naughtily gulping down some delicious coffee cocktail with banana ummm.My espresso cocktail gets 4 on 5 ,its what I’d like to call a proper alcoholic end to a meal – bitter coffee notes ,chilled to perfection for the hot summer evening.

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Our sweet plate with vanilla ice cream, frozen sour bits of ice was served a Ginginha shot – a strong liqueur made with sour and Morello cherries.

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Le Binh rang in her birthday with this cute little birthday cake – its cute isn’t it!

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I have never been to a Portuguese Tapas bar so the fab dishes that were served up to on that fabulous summer evening will always be special and the menu has loads more to offer. Am especially tempted to return and try the Octopus Rice – a traditional Portuguese red rice in a red wine gravy with chorizo and the Berlengas Pink Swordfish – Hot Smoked in Azores black tea & pan fried creamed carolina rice ,fresh coriander piso,miso crumble  – sounds terrific doesn’t it ?!

What can you expect: Delicious Tapas Portuguese style but the bill runs steep so an average of £70 for 2 on a night out.

*With thanks to Zomato Uk and the staff at Notting Hill Kitchen  for  fun foodie evening.No monetary compensation was provided for this post.All views expressed are my own.

Gujarati Kadhi

Having grown up in Mumbai and always having had very friendly  Gujarati neighbours , I have a long love affair with Gujarati cuisine and especially love the Gujarati Kadhi which was quite the star attraction in traditional Gujarati wedding feasts, always a sweet and welcome addition onto a plate full of steaming hot khichdi , the large red chillies added into for more the effect than the punch.

If you don’t have access to buttermilk then simply use curd/ yoghurt.

Serves:4 Preparation Time:10 minutes Cooking Time:15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups buttermilk or 1 and 1/2 cup thick-set curd /yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp besan or chickpea flour
  • 1tsp freshly grated ginger and green chilli paste
  • Hing/ Asafoetioda – at iny pinch
  • Puree ghee/clarified butter – 1 tbsp
  •  Few fresh green curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Jeera/ cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp rai/mustard seeds
  • 2 large dry red chillies broken and de-seeded
  • Suhar 1 and 1/2 tbsp or Jaggery 1 heaped tbsp
  • a handful of fresh green coriander/cilantro chopped fine
  • Salt as per taste
  • Water

Method:

  • If using butter milk 3 cups this step is not required. Otherwise combine the  yoghurt ,chickpea flour and 2 and 1/2 cup water till it becomes a smooth mixture. Use a fork or a whisk and if lumps are still visible just use your fingers to break the lumps.
  • Grate a small piece of fresh ginger and crush a green chilli into it.
  • On a medium flame heat the clarified butter in a large saucepan and add the asafoetida, mustard seeds , red chillies,cumin,ginger and green chilli and curry leaves.
  • When the mustard seeds begin to pop and cumin begins to change colour, reduce the flame to a minimum , tilt the saucepan with one hand and pour the yoghurt and chickpea mixture into this tempering/tadka mixture.
  • Add the sugar or jaggery now.
  • Cook with lid on a low flame for about 6-8  minutes , do not boil as the yoghurt will curdle.
  • Add salt and garnish with finely chopped coriander. Serve hot with khichdi or soft rotis.

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Gujarati kadhi differs from Punjabi kadhi in that it is sweeter and does not include fried pakoras, I have a fusion recipe for Punjabi Kadi which I tried long ago, if you want something a little different why not try my Punjabi Kadhi with a twist.

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Parma Ham Event at the Underground Cookery School

Returning to the Underground Cookery School this time for an event to showcase Parma Ham, I felt very much at home in the school and saw some familiar faces amongst the other invitees too. As was expected I was greeted with a  glass of Prosecco that never ran dry as the evening progressed.

While Head Chef, Carlos, freshly sliced Parma Ham we tucked into starters all made using Parma Ham.Parma Ham is 100% natural  and the drying process it goes through gives Parma Ham a very low fat content, with many mineral salts, vitamins, antioxidants and easily digestible proteins.Prosciutto di Parma meaning Parma Ham in literal translation is produced in hills surrounding the Parma region of Italy where the dry gentle hilly air gives this meat its unmistakable sweetness and flavour.

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Amongst the many delicious apretizers ,I most enjoyed the starter with thin slices of parma ham curled around sweet pan roasted juicy pears.

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To cook along with the chefs at the Underground Cookery School we were divided in two groups. Our group started of with preparing the main course for the evening :Breast of Free Range Chicken wrapped with Parma Ham, stuffed with Tarragon and Cream Cheese on top of a bed of New Potatoes, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Spring Onion

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After  we all got some serious knife skill into play to cut a 1/2 ” deep pocket into the chicken breast , off they went into the oven to cook after a stuffing was added and generous layer of parma ham was wrapped around it.We then made our dessert for the evening : Meringue Roulade with Candid Parma Ham slices

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The unique taste of Parma Ham is dependent on the traditional production process passed down from Roman times, carefully controlled by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma.  Only hams that have passed stringent curing regulations approved by the EU can be awarded the stamp of the Ducal crown – a five pointed coronet logo with PARMA in the centre which is branded onto the ham’s skin.  The Ducal Crown is now a certification trademark.

No wonder then that this versatile meat can be used even in desserts to create such varied flavours!Then up my favourite bit – the pasta machine! This time around I made Tagliatelle for our starter which was : Fresh Home-made Tagliatelle with White Truffle Dressing, topped with twirls of freshly sliced Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano

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The dark yellow colour is attributed to the use of eggs specially coming all the way from Italy with a dark yellow yolk attributed to the chickens been fed on carrots, the beta carotene doing their thing there.Working the pasta machine and watching the Tagliatelle come out so perfect was a very satisfying experience 🙂 After all the hard work 😉 we sat down and bonded  over some wine while out Tagliatelle was being served and the chicken was being plated.First up the starter looked so heavenly! Parma Ham in this delicious recipe is such a perfect combination.

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The mains looked too good to eat and too delicious to resist !The purple broccoli and potatoes in perfect balance with the cooked ham and the stuffing just envelopes your tongue as it gushes out from the folds of the chicken.

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The candied ham in the dessert is a lovely crunchy companion to the eggy Meringue.

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Inspite of the dreaded Tube strike the turnout was very good and since the Underground Cookery School is conveniently located a short walk from Old street tube station it makes life so much easier.Underground Cookery School offers a space  fun events to conduct cookery events in a easy environment making team building corporate exercises something to look forward to. You can also book the venue for parties and small gatherings.

*With thanks to The Consorzio del Proscuito di Parma for the  invite.No monetary compensation was provided for this post.All views expressed are my own.

All Image  are Credit: The Consorzio del Proscuito di Parma except the ones with ”sliceoffme” watermark.

Shree Krishna Vada Pav, Hounslow – A review

Anybody who is good friends with me knows for a fact that I can be bribed with food especially if it involves chaat. Now I have a perpetual crib that the ONE thing I really miss about my life in Mumbai is good chaat. Well , if there ever was a moment when I felt I the way navigator and explorer Vasco da Gama did after he found India then it was when I bit into the Vada Pav at Shree Krishna Vada Pav at  Hounslow. This was some time in 2011 when hubster and me were out hunting for Indian eateries and discovered this gem.

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Image Credit :Shree Krishna Vada Pav

Its on the high street on Hounslow east and a very busy high street at that.Advance Warning its extremely crowded on weekends and don’t expect great decor just a basic ,clean space with comfy chairs and tables. But then the food is so good that the decor and other mundane stuff takes a backseat.Actually that is true of the Harrow branch as you can see in the image below the Hounslow one is pretty cool!

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Image Credit :Shree Krishna Vada Pav

Being a Maharashtrian myself its good to see they stock products that I crave like Chitale Bandhu export quality bakarwadi,Laxmi Narayan Chiwda, some dry chutneys and snacks that I would hoard on and buy easily from any corner shop in Pune and Mumbai and yes they also stock fresh soft hand made puran polis!

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Image Credit :Shree Krishna Vada Pav

Need more coaxing to make a visit well they now have another branch in Harrow which also I happened to visit last month while I stayed over at my best buddy from school’s place -S her OH and kids were hyper excited to be eating there and we greedily ate almost 1/4th of the options on the menu. The paneer bomb literally exploded in my mouth and left me gasping for more , now if only all scary bombs turned into paneer it would put an end to bomb scares and hunger too humm – please ignore that I think I need another cuppa;)

Must try items on the menu – Misal Pav a mixture of peas curry spiced up sprinkled with crunchy chivda or farsan and served with a soft pav – this dish originates from Kolkapur in Maharashtra ,India and is served with a small bowl of red coloured chilli powder in dangerous volume to make a dipping sauce from hell- only the VERY brave survive – I avoid it like a rash lest it gives me hiccups first , a possible coronary and immediate urge to visit the loo **begins to sweat at the brow at the mere mention**

Also must try the star attraction and the dish which is part of their name – VADA PAV – This notoriously famous street food is famous amongst Mumbaikars of all ages – I was inoculated against any possible food poisoning attacks for the rest of my lief by repetitively consuming suspicious looking vada pav near Kurla stage at that point in my life when even after finishing a rather expensive college degree I had to ask Baba for travel expenses – don’t laugh I passed out in the year when 9/11 happened and markets crashed,jobs were scarce and I worked my butt off. And now I can proudly look back and say I worked for 12 long years before taking a break and choosing to walk the path less trodden – and that is why here I am – blogging away.

After that short detour into my dark past lets get back to the menu at Shree Krishna Vada Pav a much more interesting subject of discussion.NO self respecting foodie should walk out of this place without eating several plates of potato,onion and mixed bhajiya plates with several cups of hai for company and loudly discuss Indian politics with your Indian friends 😉

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Image Credit :Shree Krishna Vada Pav

Another street food close to my heart is Dabeli, I remember wandering the streets of Ghatkopar in Mumbai ,with my mother and getting her to buy me this deliciously tasty snack off street vendors carts as a thank you for carrying her heavy grocery bags. Please avoid doing such things do – no no, I don’t mean eating Dabeli – just carrying  heavy grocery bags – am sure it has largely contributed to messing with my poor hands and therefore the carpal tunnel operation on both hands 😦

{Please do not take that literally, always seek professional medical advice for any health issues however big 0r small , I was recently operated for carpal tunnel decompression on my left hand and have to undergo the same on my right hand soon booohoooo!}

When the craving for a proper Indian snack strikes a plate of samosa can never be far away and if your really lucky than a proper grilled sandwich. To fully appreciate this phenomenon of veg grilled sandwich I must tell you how its made on the streets of Mumbai.Generally there is a small little space enough to hold a rather fragile human being and his small ”stall” which is a large tripod holding a gas stove and a plank of wood on which he magically balances loads of bread generally Wibs 🙂 , chopped onions, different types of chutneys in steel dabbas, lots of Amul butter packs, mashed potato,sev packets and a stash of cucumber,tomatoes,cheese and green capscium alongwith small little boxes with salt and spices. With a knife super sharp and knife skills that would put a trained chef to shame he expertly chops the veggies at lightening speed and slams them on slices of bread slathered with butter and chutney ,then depending on how shameless the customer is ( in my case shame of any sort especially when asking for extra cheese is totally absent.) he grates a tiny mountain of cheese into the already bulging sandwich.then without so much so aas dropping a single slice of wiggly tomato he slams this inside a hand held contraption and claps it shut! Then it goes onto the hot hot stove where it is tossed and turned till your grilled sandwich is done. Do yourself a favour eat this when you go to Mumbai and the mantra is to keep repeating ”germs don’t exist, to hell with hygiene” only then will you will truly relish this superb Mumbai street food!

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Image Credit click here

Mumbai sandwichwallah

Image Credit : The Guardian

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Image Credits for the 2 images above click here

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This is the delicious samosa plate at Shree Krishna Vada Pav with the superb dry garlic chutney and a fried green chilly to go , just eat the outer green layer of the chilli and leave the seeds behind its a fab combo with the samosa

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Last but not the least don’t miss out on the Mango Panha now as mangoes are in season – at least in India they are – Hapoos Mania grips the country around this time of the year with rates skyrocketing to obscenity and second only to the rate of gold!This tangy drink is a home made treat at ours with large jars filled with green mango pull and spices mixed and then served diluted with chilled water. But aai is now too old to make that …so I plonk myself uninvited to my maushi’s house in Pune – tehehe there’s always a way out for a foodie !

Did you know that Shree Krishna Vada Pav were one of the sponsors for last years food blogger conference called Bloggers Buzz? I can still remember the fabulous hot food in our lunch plates courtesy them ummm!

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These are photos of the superb Alphonso mango trees in my grandmothers garden at her house in Pune. These are ideal for making Kairee Panhe .Sighhhh….

Disclaimer: This review is thanks to my multiple visits to Shree Krishna vada Pav and their consistent great food. I have always paid for my own food and have written this review of my own accord. I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated monetarily for this post.Like all my previous posts about events and reviews, ALL opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

 

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Ink Restaurant – A review

Very excited at having won the ‘Write for a Bite’ Contest by Zomato I booked a table at the Ink Restaurant by Zomato. With hubby in tow we set off for dinner on a rather chilly weekday evening. After my smartphone map app took us took the center of an isolated park we were lucky to get directions from a local. After trudging through a long and lonely lane we finally reached Ink.Do make it point to walk straight up to Palmers road and turn right at the top of a hill,walk right to the end of the lane and walk up the stairs ,Ink is on the left .

The minimalist interiors and the modern space are in stark contrast to where this restaurant is located.We were greeted warmly and could pick and choose where we sat amongst the tables available.

Thanks to having lost our way and the chilly weather we had managed to work up quite an appetite.We had scallops made in a sweet pea and mint puree ,pancetta crumble and tomato crumble served with delicious onion and edible flowers and hubster ordered for  the soup of the day.My scallops went down well with my white wine and I was hungry for more.

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Our mains were very cooked to perfection , delicious and of a good portion size too. I like my steak well done and the 28 day dry aged 8oz sirloin steak with 3 types of mushrooms was perfectly done ,succulent and very juicy.I can almost feel the taste in my mouth even now while I write this ummm.Hubsters main of braised lamb cooked in oyster juice and wrapped in a cabbage leaf was so soft and tender it simply melted in our mouth.

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Our dessert of Rhubarb with lightly baked meringue was tastefully decorated but left us wanting for more.Do eat the beautiful edible flowers scattered on top they are lovely!Sensing that I guess the chef got us some complimentary again melt in your mouth delicious.Nice.

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The menu is limited but the food is excellent. Portion size on the starters and dessert was a bit of a shock but when taste takes precedence over portion size , it’s definitely worth it. In spite of eating 3 full courses we were not overfull but appropriately satiated.

My only regret is we didn’t go for lunch it would have been lovely to sit by the canal and enjoy a relaxed lunch but that wouldn’t have been possible on a weekday. Nevertheless this restaurant is a find and a good option for the coming warm summer days.

Disclaimer: With many thanks to Zomato Uk  for the vouchers sent  to me .It partly paid for our dinner but we were happy to pay for the bulk of our very delicious meal.I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated monetarily for this post.Like all my previous posts about events and reviews, ALL opinions expressed here are entirely my own.