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.

2-IMG_7746 (Copy)

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.

1-IMG_7744 (Copy)

7-IMG_7752 (Copy)

Our rustic bread selection with truffle oil and olive oil.

3-IMG_7748 (Copy)

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.

4-IMG_7749 (Copy)

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.

2-IMG_7757 (Copy)

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!

1-IMG_7756 (Copy)

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.

8-IMG_7754 (Copy)

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!

5-IMG_7762 (Copy)

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.

4-IMG_7760 (Copy)

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.

3-IMG_7759 (Copy)

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.

1-IMG_7771 (Copy)

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.

3-IMG_7767 (Copy)

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.

6-IMG_7763 (Copy)

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…

4-IMG_7775 (Copy)

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.

1-IMG_7745 (Copy)

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

Lunch at Le Porte des Indes – a review

Influence of the British Raj on India,its culture and their indelible influence on the railways , architecture and the many places of tourist interest is common knowledge but India was also ruled by Mughals,the Portuguese,the French and the Dutch. Each of these colonies bear distinct stamps of a deep-rooted influence especially on the food with some beautiful foods that have become a part of the local community and recipes developed by such confluence of are not only brilliant in taste but also a mixture of flavours that otherwise would not have been combined.

I had heard so much about Le Porte des Indes and Chef Mehernosh Mody who has been awarded Ethnic Chef of Year 2012 at the Craft Guilds of Chefs Awards for people who pay attention to things like that.So when Fiona who blogs at London Unattached asked me to accompany her for a lunch at Le Porte des Indes it was an offer too tempting to pass up!

Le Porte des Indes  literally means Gateway to India .The decor is warm and welcoming and I felt was in some old,Indian palace with intricate wood carvings ,huge artefacts, paintings especially replicas of Raja Ravi Verma’s magnificent originals and stone statutes which reminded of the ones at khajuraho.Indoor plants similar to ones I would see probably at The Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India lots of wooden statues of Lord Ganesha too.

01-IMG_7120 (Copy)

02-IMG_7121 (Copy)

We started by ordering some drinks I ordered for a Tamarind Martini while Fiona ordered some  white wine.My gin,tamarind and limoncello martini came adorned with a slice of Star Fruit on the side .The sight of the star fruit took me back to my college days when my friends and me , about ten of us would get off the train and trade  the crowded bus journey on way back from school and walk home instead on the dusty footpath – our treat for walking, a tangy snack packed in an old newspaper sold by a haath – gaadi or hand cart street food vendor which included roasted peanuts in shells, tamarind -imli and star fruit slices sprinkled with chilli powder and topped with a squeeze of lime – very ,very tangy but totally fun. On a good day when we had some extra change between us we would follow this up with a fizzy drink from a small shanty opposite the gates of the IIT,Mumbai campus mummm – simple pleasures. Seems so far away now and I only ever see my friends on Facebook and comment on old scanned photographs 🙂

1-2014-04-25 13.16.37 (Copy)

1-2014-04-25 13.14.16 (Copy)

I fell in love with the beautiful cutlery and the copper plate sighh…

Our starter was Demoiselles de Pondiche’ry – seared king scallops with a hint of garlic in a delicious saffron sauce –  succulent and morish…

05-IMG_7124 (Copy)

04-IMG_7123 (Copy)

The cuisine is a mix of  French,Tamil and Creole influences and lots of fusion recipes using the chefs imagination.

Next up was a platter of starters with kebabs and a fish called ”Patra ni Machi” or Parsee fish (Patra – leaf , Macchi – fish) this divine fish was made using fillets of sole encased in a mint and coriander chutney steamed in a banana leaf.I remember eating this fish at a Parsee friends wedding feat in Bombay 5 years ago and it had green chillies in a generous amount in the green chutney.There was a mild hint of chilli in our fish ,just perfect, excellent in fact and I could have made more,no wonder this is Chef Mehernosh Mody’s speciality. The other starters on our platter  were Kathi kebabs – spiced lamb kebabs rolled in an egg served with a dark fruity chutney. Murgh Malai Kebabs – tandoori grilled chicken tikkas marinated in a creamy cheese sauce with spices.A twist on the usual onion and potato pakoras we ate Chard Pakoras – red and green chard rolled in gram flour, green chillies,coriander, turmeric and caraway seeds and  fried crisp – very tasty!All this served with  Garlic and Coriander Naan.

06-IMG_7125 (Copy)

In the picture about L-R :Murgh Malai Kebabs,Parsee fish,Chard Pakoras and in the middle Kathi kebabs.Peaking on the right side corner is a rice cracker with a roughly ground green chilli chutney with a cooling  yoghurt and saffron dip.

1-IMG_7132 (Copy)

In the picture above is the Pomegranate Raita -Natural yoghurt with pomegranate, a touch of cumin and paprika.We then ate this most perfectly cooked white fish in a rich tamarind sauce steamed in a banana leaf – pure pleasure.

Resized Images Le porte de Indes

For our mains we got a large assortment of dishes served Basmati Saffron Pillav Rice, Seed Naan and Red Rice– Steamed organic red rice.

L -R in the photo of our mains platter below:

Tandoori Barra Chops: British Lamb Chops Char-grilled with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves finished with caramelised onions -everything you expect from a tandoori lamb really  – smoky,soft,packed with flavour and juicy ,falling off the bone.Prawn Assadh curry as it is made in Pondicherry with turmeric,ginger, green chillies,coconut, mustard seeds and green mangoes – so creamy and delicious we couldn’t get enough of it scooping it off our plate with our  naan stuffed with spiced lamb.Poulet Rouge, spécialité de notre maison  is a gallic inspired dish – Chicken Slices marinated in yoghurt and red spices, grilled and served in a creamy sauce. Rougail d’ Aubergine: Smoked aubergine crushed with red chilli, ginger and green lime also called  Baingan ka bharta in Hindi.I was most delighted to find we had a portion of  mutton – it is not easy to get goat’s meat locally and this Mutton Braised home style as in Pondicherry with robust spices and laced with coconut milk was a delicious curry with the mutton having soaked up all the flavours of the spices .With the Saffron rice it was very good.Chef Mehernosh Mody also let us in who his regular suppliers who he told us are all local British producers.

2-IMG_7133 (Copy)

11-IMG_7130 (Copy)

We also had a  selection of chutneys to go with the naan.Though I was stuffed I was hoping I could manage to have some dessert. After all a grand meal like this is not complete without some Indian sweets!;)

Fiona had to leave in a hurry and only managed to taste some the many treats on our mixed dessert platters.

6-IMG_7139 (Copy)

L-R : Frozen dessert – Rose flavoured kulfi -the indian home-made ice cream with no artificial flavourings or stabilizers, made using  Jersey & Guernsey Milk with pistachios ,followed by a mini chocolate filled samosa – thin pastry stuffed with chocolate and deep-fried ,Belgian Dark Chocolate Mousse(55% Cocoa Solids)  served in traditional leaf cup – in India its is common practice to serve desserts in a dried leaf folded into the shape of a cup especially at large public gatherings like the Sarvjanik Ganpati Festival and during Navratris – these are bio-degradable and much better option over plastic or foam cups, a fruit tart and a slice of mango carved artistically.

7-IMG_7140 (Copy)

Chef Mehernosh Mody then took me on a tour of the premises .There is so much room for big parties in the Maharajah room which is very tastefully done up antique Indian artifacts, the Shamiana perfect for weddings and a lovely,a fully private big dining room with French colonial decor  for corporate lunches too.If that is not enough there’s a Jungle Bar complete with cane furniture ,palm trees and tiger skin rugs so while you sip on a tropical signature cocktail called Karma which has – oh yes coconut juice and vodka, you can pretend your on the beautiful shores of Pondicherry ne Puducherry with pristine beaches of blue water and warm silky sand and are about to set  off  for a hunting expedition in a while with your buddies! Did you know that Puducherry meaning New Town is also referred to as ”The French Riviera of the East”? 

That’s not the talented Chef  Mody also conducts live cooking classes in the restaurant where the chef and his team unravel the mysteries of Indian cooking , explain the intricacies of the spices and how to cook a great Indian Meal – fab idea for team building exercise I say where you actually eat the fruits of your labour!

LaPorte_dome (Copy)

The Beautiful dome of the former Edwardian ballroom this adds to the grandeur of the place.

LaPorte_private_room2 (Copy)

One of the private dining rooms, notice the beautiful statues at the back? 🙂

bar_01 (Copy)

At the Jungle Bar it was common practise for patrons to throw peanut shells across the floor and then walk all over them on crunching shells!Fun I say.

For the images of the dome, the private dinning room and Jungle bar – Image Courtesy -Le Porte des Indes

Disclaimer: With many thanks to Chef Mehernosh Mody, the attentive team at Le Porte des Indes and Fiona. 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.

“Find the menu on Zomato and follow me on Zomato ”

La Porte Des Indes on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Masemari – The Fishing – Seafood heaven in Pune City

Masemari is owned by Lalan Sarang , a well know Maharashtrian Big Screen and Theatre actress and is situated in the heart of Pune city and is fine example of Malvani,Konkani and Goan cuisine with a comprehensive menu. An ode to the finest that coastal cuisine from Konkan and Goa has to offer!

Western Indian Coastal cuisine and the way our family cooks  sea food, involves the use of freshly grated coconut in abundance.We also don’t shy from using chillies lots of them red and green and freshly ground coriander chilli,ginger and garlic are used as a marinade for fish before frying. So if discerning  foodies like us who know our coastal cuisine go out to eat similar food, the place better know what they are serving us!Especially if it involves travelling from one end of the city on a crisp winter morning and when we could easily have waltzed into Nisarg our all time sea food speciality fav restaurant.

So are you ready to go on a visually stimulating coastal adventures on the tall swaying coconut tree lined coast of India , into the beautiful waters of Konkan and treat your senses to a tantalising deluge of spices …well then Strap on that seat belt for a ride on this fishing powerboat …no no … what the heck…just Dive right in 😉

We start the meal with Sol Kadhi (pronounced Soul Kadhee) made from freshly squeezed coconut milk and kokum (Mangosteen) , said to have digestive properties and consumed as palate cleanser between courses.

2-IMG_0292 (Copy)

A prawn platter which is a mix of Rawa ,Tawa,Koliwada and crispy prawns.(rawa = semolina ,Tawa =pan,Koli = fisherman, Wada= literally meaning a huge old style indian house like a bungalow, but Koliwada refers to a colony of Kolis or fishermen folk  in India)

1-IMG_0289 (Copy)

Bangda (Mackerel) Fry…I love anything served anything on a keli-paan (kela = banana ,paan = leaf)

2-IMG_0304 (Copy)

Fish Pickle as a side

1-IMG_0297 (Copy)

For mains we ordered Tandool Bhakari or Indian bread made with rice flour (the white roti in the picture) , Wade – made from a mixture of 3-4 different flours and deep fried (the brown puffy puri),Pompfret curry.

1-IMG_0293 (Copy)

I loved the clean fresh white washed walls and huge artefacts that scream fish,fishing and fishing boats. The service is polite , quick and the fish is as fresh as the catch of the day, we went in hope of getting crabs – lots of them , alas …. I live in the hope of a ”next time”

After this fine meal I still dared to consume a gulab jamun and some more sol kadhi! I literally crawled to where Baba had parked the car and that afternoon oh boy ! Did I have a fab nap or what 🙂

1-IMG_0314 (Copy)

1-3rd Nov'12 Saturday Masemari Pune with aai baba

1-IMG_0293 (Copy)

1-IMG_0302 (Copy)

McCormick Schwartz Flavour Challenge – Tawa Chicken Frankie Roll

In 2014, global flavour leader McCormick, parent company of leading herbs and spices brand Schwartz, is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The yearlong celebration kicks off with the launch of the 125th Anniversary Edition of the Flavour Forecast (a new, annual prediction of what ‘flavours’ will be most popular in the cooking world) and the Flavour of Together programme, with the goal of connecting people around the world as they share 1.25 million stories about the special role food and flavour plays in our lives through.

To inspire people to share their flavour stories and tell the blogger community about Flavour Forecast, McCormick challenged me and a few other lucky bloggers  to come up with a new recipe that is based on the Flavour Forecast trends :

1. Chillies Obsession: Food lovers everywhere are seeking out their next big chilli thrill.

2. Modern Masala: Indian food is finally having its moment, breaking free of its traditional confines with modern interpretations.

3. Clever Compact Cooking: Proving that big flavours can come from small spaces, cooks in urban kitchens are making the most of what’s available.

4. Mexican World Tour: Mexican flavours are making their way around the globe, with people everywhere discovering new aspects of this bright, casual cuisine.

5. Charmed by Brazil: The world’s attraction to Brazilian cuisine is heating up, thanks to its seductive mix of global and native influences.

I decide to take up Modern Masala as a flavour trend. Coming from India , using a complex mix of spices as part of our daily diet has always been a part of my life. The  beautiful large open fruit n vegetable  markets even in major cities are a visual treat and there is a lot of passion involved in say getting the right type of chilli powder. So I think my recipe is an amalgamation of these  two big flavour trends together – Chillies Obsession and Modern Masala and of course because I manage all my culinary experiments in my tiny urban kitchen which is the size of a postage stamp I am sure my recipe also covers the theme Clever Compact Cooking!

My most vivid memory of spices being sold loose is of this huge wholesale and retail market in an area called Parel , Mumbai in India.There are many tiny shops and vendors which hand carts with huge piles of spices , bright red chillies in jute sacks and mini yellow mountains of turmeric and ever imaginable spice being sold in the open.Of course with our modern industries being so well developed we always used masalas out of a packet but the sheer variety available locally in any small town in India is mind boggling.

1-IMG_2287 (Copy) pic monkey

In London I trudge to my local Indian shop and bulk buy the packets and secretly wish I could get an unlimited supply of aai’s home made garam masala and red chilli powder where she carefully selects 2 types of chillies with varying degrees of heat and roasts them in a kadhai after they have been dried in the blistering hot afternoon sun! Then she takes it to a local mill where it is ground and packed into a large ceramic jar and then stored at home.

I have made a simplified version of Tibbs Frankie using boneless mutton and a variety of Schwartz spices which were sent to me.You could safely say that this fella ”Frankie” is a distant cousin of the Fajita and the Kathi Roll.How this Frankie came into being is also a very interesting story which I shall share in a few lines here.

”The year 1967 Mr. Amarjit Tibb on returning back from England had a stopover in Beirut. During his brief stop there he stumbled upon a very ingenious Lebanese preparation, which was a pita bread wrap, with a variety of stuffing’s, this fascinated him. Upon his return the idea still lingered on and he kept innovating it to suit the Indian palate, after a year of research along with his wife they hit upon the perfect concoction. This Indianised wrap was soon tried among friends and family and after testing brilliantly it hit the markets. That was a new era to the term fast food in Mumbai, it caught on like fire in the Jungle, people accepted it and kept asking for more.Now came the problem of naming the product, again a number of brainstorming became the order of the day till a unanimous decision on the name was taken i.e. Frankie”

This explosion of flavours in a handy easy to eat roll which was given a  modern food truck makeover is a gastronomic delight and is available in a large variety of stuffings both veg and non-veg.I have rather fond memories of my college days and spending my pocket money which was always in short supply on these spicy, tasty rolls with a bunch of friends giggling away and then gathering any loose change we had left amongst us to buy a bottle or two of some fizzy cola to quench our thirst. Alert : have been suddenly been hit by a huge wave of nostalgia 🙂

I have created what is my version of a tawa chicken roll (tawa meaning pan in Hindi), the original Tibbs frankie filling is a tangy spicy  taste which they attribute to a secret ”Frankie Masala” – humm , well I think I got pretty close 😉 – evil laugh follows 🙂  You can go crazy and creative with the fillings and use this recipe idea to use up meat from your sunday roast, try various different veg and non veg patties with meat and masalas rolled into boiled potato casing and shallow fried. Great way to use a lot of colorful veggies and create a stir fry filling too – the possibilities are endless.

tibbs-frankie

Image Courtesy :Hindustan Times

Serves: 2 (with 2 rolls each and leftover filling)

Preparation Time for roll:5 mins

Preparation & Cooking Time for the ”TAWA Chicken filling”:30 mins

Preparation & Cooking Time for the chutney:10 mins

Ingredients – ”Tawa Chicken” Filling:

  • 500 gms chicken breast
  • Schwartz Asafoetida – a tiny pinch
  • 2 heaped tsp Schwartz garam masala
  • Schwartz Onion salt as per taste
  • 1/2 tsp Schwartz Garlic Minced
  • 2 heaped tsp Schwartz Coriander Ground
  • 1 heaped tsp Schwartz Cumin Ground
  • Schwartz Red Chilli powder as per taste
  • Ginger fresh – about the size of your thumb
  • 2 medium sized red onions finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • 2 large juicy tomatoes chopped very fine
  • 1 large green chilli split lengthwise
  • 1 red pepper slit lengthwise
  • 3 large tablespoons of cooking oil

1-IMG_6645 (Copy)

Ingredients – for the Mint and Coriander Chutney:

  • 1 large bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1 small bunch of fresh mint leaves
  • 2 green chillies
  • juice of half a lime
  • salt to taste

IMG_6542 (Copy) - PIC MONKEY

Ingredients – for filling :

  • 1 large red onion chopped lengthwise

Ingredients – for the paratha  coating:

  • 2 small sized eggs
  • salt for seasoning

Method for the Chicken Filling:

  • Heat a saucepan on medium heat and add the oil, when it is hot add the asafoetida, split green chilli and crushed bit if fresh ginger ,saute’ and add the garlic granules, when the garlic begins to give out a strong fried aroma its time to add the finely chopped red onion.
  • Cook the onion till it reduces and turns a delicious brown, then add the coriander and cumin powder and garam masala and mix well.
  • Then add the finely chopped tomato and add very little water and cook for 1 -2 minutes without lid , stirring frequently, so as to ensure the mixture does not stick to the saucepan. Now the spices have been thoroughly cooked along with the onion and tomato to make a thick gravy.
  • Now add the washed and cleaned chicken breasts after cutting them into long lengthwise strips , toss in the red pepper cut into lengthwise strips
  • Cook on a low flame with lid
  • Add onion salt to the mixture, red chilli powder and turmeric

1-IMG_6655 (Copy)

Method for the Mint and Coriander Chutney:

  • Wash the coriander and mint leaves and spritz them in a food processor with the green chilli chopped – to reduce the heat use 1 chilli de-seeded.Add the salt and lime juice and spritz once again.
  • A smooth thick green paste is the consistency we are after – add some water to adjust the consistency.
  • This chutney stores for upto 10 days in the freezer in a clean ,air tight jar – rarely lasts that much in my house though – love making Bombay sandwich for dinner ummm.

Method for coating the Paratha :

  • Crack the eggs in a bowl and beat with a fork ,add salt to taste
  • Using a plastic brush spread on the surface of a frozen ready to eat  paratha and place the eggy side down on a hot pan coated with some cooking oil.(Paratha – ready to eat Indian bread readily available in the World Food Frozen section)

1-IMG_6665 (Copy)

How to put the Frankie Roll together:

  • Once the paratha coated with egg has been cooked on both sides on a pan slather it with the mint and coriander chutney and add some red onion chopped lengthwise.
  • Add a generous helping of the chicken filling , roll and wrap one end with some kitchen foil or baking paper .Enjoy hot.
  • Dip into the chutney or tomato ketchup as you munch along.

After I received the samples and wrote up my flavour story, my left hand was operated on (unexpected rescheduling) – a minor but rather errrmmm painful surgery and I walk around most of the time with a sling (promptly remove it as soon as OH leaves home for work hehe) So I had a bit of a panic attack about getting this post up on time,I know I missed the deadline by a few days  😦

But am really grateful to the kind folks up at McCormick  for bearing with me.Also I would like to thank OH for patiently chopping and cutting all the fresh ingredients for me and helping me to click these lovely photographs – what would I do without you? Sighh…

1-IMG_6665 (Copy)

After I received the samples and wrote up my flavour story, my left hand was operated on (unexpected rescheduling) – a minor but rather errrmmm painful surgery and I walk around most of the time with a sling (promptly remove it as soon as OH leaves home for work hehe) So I had a bit of a panic attack about getting this post up on time and I missed the deadline 😦 But am really grateful to the kind folks up at McCormick  for bearing with me.Also I would like to thank OH for patiently chopping and cutting all the fresh ingredients for me and helping me to click these lovely photographs – what would I do without you? Sighh…

The company has pledged to donate $1 to United Way Worldwide and it’s UK partner Focus on Food, for every story shared on the Schwartz website, Facebook page or other social channels.

Disclaimer: I was sent samples of  Schwartz by McCormick to create a dish and write a review and was also sent a generous voucher to compensate me for the ingredients.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.

Zomato London – Food Bloggers Meet at Gaylords

Last wednesday I was invited by Zomato,London to join a bunch of other food blogger who are also on the board of Zomato reviewers to Gaylords in Central London. Going by the weather that day I was not very sure I would reach my destination without being blown away first. At times like this I have a decided advantage over my featherweight foodie friends, after all it would a rather strong gust of wind to blow me off my feet 😉

Luckily I made it to the venue alive and without getting drenched! A warm greeting later –  from the ever so thoughtful staff at Gaylord’s who continued to really pamper us all through the evening – it was time for some welcome drink  – a fizzy pink- Passion Bellini and an optional Virgin Tamarind Mohito for those abstaining from alcohol.

1-2014-02-12 18.51.14 (Copy)

For starters we were served – Tandoori Tiger Prawns – succulent and smoked on the tandoor very juicy, Lamb Shammi kebabs – minced lamb patties with a minty yogurt dip -lipsmackin delicious,Murg Malai Tikka – Tandoor roasted mild chicken tikkas – honestly not my fav but heck nothing to complain about either , Amritsari Macchi – very delicious tilapia fillets fried in a gram flour batter seasoned with paprika and carom seeds – one word EXCELLENT!,Tandoori paneer tikka- huge chunks of cottage cheese – chargrilled with onions and peppers in a saffron flavoured marinade,Murg Gilafi Sheekh- minced chicken,smoked ,topped with bell peppers & chargrilled on skewers – all these served with 3 different types of Indian Bread – plain naan, garlic naan and mini onion kulcha.

1-Zomato Bloggers Meet - 12th Feb'14 Wed at Gaylords1

To my absolute delight  we were then served some very authentic in taste Indian street food snacks in a posh and innovative way.

These pani puri or gol gappa shots were utterly glorious and made me wish I was standing outside Elco at Bandra in Mumbai eating their ice cold pani puri .If you ever visit Mumbai then this is the place to go to for the BEST pani puri in town!I loved how they were served in these shot glasses.Boiled chick peas and tiny cubes of boiled potato are stuffed into the tiny puffed savoury puri and a sweet date and jaggery thick sauce is poured into it followed up with a green liquid which is a coriander ,mint and spice mix chutney and this has to be gobbled in one go ! They explode in your mouth enveloping your senses with an unforgettable sensation of taste,spices and aroma leaving your taste buds playing the guessing game.Sigh…double sigh…

2-2014-02-12 19.08.34 (Copy)

Next up – Bhel – or puffed rice spiced with chaat masala,chopped red onion tomato and a sprinkling of yellow sev or fried gram flour savoury and topped off with tamarind chutney and a green mint coriander chutney – bursting with flavour these were !Aloo Papri Chaat – spicy bite sized boiled potatoes in spices mixed with sev and served on a crunchy flat puri base.

1-Zomato Bloggers Meet - 12th Feb'14 Wed at Gaylords2

5 main courses with 5 accompaniments were to follow – by this point I was not very sure I would make it past the front door after this meal. But lucky for us the glasses magically seemed to top up each time and the conversation ,easy banter and laughter flowed almost as smoothly as the wine – leaving no room to ponder over such minor ,seemingly frivolous details or worry about the last tube back home – perfect.

Main Course favourites for me were the creamy coconut flavoured Prawn Curry which I polished off my plate with some Zaafraan Basmati – fluffy long grain basmati rice with saffron and the Chana Peshawari – chick peas cooked in their secret spice mix eaten with a steaming hot bhatura which a massive puri puffed and let me warn you has to be handled with care as it is very very hot. Now all I need to do is figure out a way to get the Gaylords chef to let me in on this secret spice mix – which I am quite sure they will never let go of , and why not , after hasn’t Coca Cola for years led us to believe that their secret ingredient is the one that has generations hooked onto their cola?Sadly, even so Coca Cola is no comparison for this Chana dish – honestly!But guarding the secret spice mix with their lives folks is serious business – after all heads have rolled and hands of artisans chopped off in medieval times to guard secrets of cuisine and architectural wonders alike! ( In her delightful and brilliant book ”Shark’s fin and Sichuan Pepper” author  Fuchsia Dunlop has described how many generations of chefs took brilliant recipes to their grave for various reasons and am sure everyone has heard the myth about one of the 7 wonders of the world – the magnificent and many splendored Taj Mahal in Agra , India – that Emperor Shah Jahan got the hands of his sculptors and architect cut off after they built the Taj Mahal which was dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal – wife of Shah Jahan. It is said he did this so that they would never again be able to build anything quite as splendid as the Taj Mahal!)

5-2014-02-12 21.29.26 (Copy)

The mains also included Butter Chicken – an indulgent and creamy sauce with Tandoori Chicken strips- ummm,Lamb Chops Anardana or Chargrilled Lamp chops in a ginger infused spicy mix with pomegranate seeds,Lamb Rogan Ghosh – tender lamb cubes cooked in a fiery garlic ,tomato and onion masala and of course Palak Paneer – a spinach and cottage cheese combo that would get even Popeye’s nod of approval! All this accompanied by Dal Bukhara – a traditional lentil dish from the northern most state in India – Kashmir served with an assortment of Indian breads puffy and hot off the charcoal oven – mind blowing – advance warning – best eaten by rolling up your sleeves and breaking large chunks of the naan with your hands scooping a shameless quantity of dal from your plate and shovelling into your mouth as if no one is watching – believe NO one is – when surrounded by food so good , what else can one focus on I ask ?!An innocent looking raita or yogurt flavoured with cooling cucumber and pomegranate helps do the balancing act of heat,spice and grease.

1-Zomato Bloggers Meet - 12th Feb'14 Wed at Gaylords3

Now I was supremely satiated and stuffed to the point I could explode but no self respecting foodie can resist a good gulab jamun and if that is flambeed with spiced dark rum , even the best defences shall crumble !To wash away any signs of guilt or gluttony we were served by this charming gentleman a 5 grape south african Red – a fine smooth wine ,delicious and fabulously lush – evidence of a good red I was informed is in the residue left behind in the wine glass – humm I learn new things every day 🙂

1-2014-02-12 22.25.08 (Copy)

Zomato Bloggers Meet - 12th Feb'14 Wed at Gaylords4

This beautiful cocktail is called Saffrontini – a signature mix of saffron gin,cointreau,lime cordial and tonic.

1-2014-02-12 22.18.21 (Copy)

As if this indulgence was not enough we were served with Malai Kulfi – an sweet frozen dessert that cements the most difficult deal and makes the grumpiest of humans grin – smothered in pistachios and cardamom it is definitely what can be described as an Indian Ice cream!

2-2014-02-12 22.13.09 (Copy)

It was great to meet some familiar faces @Le__binh  and @LeyLaLaa , infact I had a blast of an evening chatting up a wonderful bunch of Londoners. Loved meeting new faces – @AnomalousLondon ,@wildscribe ,@inher30s ,@LadylovesCake ,@sshaikh .

Now that I think about it , @Gaylord_London  was packed to the gills with hungry guests and the same team that fussed over our table,ensured our wine glasses never ran dry and explained how their chefs had expertly combined  the various complex and glorious Indian spices and used them to create the spectacular special menu for the evening , the other guests seemed equally pampered ,happy and errr happily tipsy to say the least ! How do you do it folks ?!Keep it up! I think this is great ”Hospitality AND Food Karma” and this is very important to me when I dine out – and I suspect is the case with any discerning diner, foodie or not ! Especially since am so far away from Indian and given my regular cravings for authentic tasting Indian cuisine I am always on the hunt for the next best Indian dining experience. I would hate to have that spoilt by a grumpy staff , high handed attitude, over priced sub-standard food or a menu which is considered fusion food but is basically authentic Indian food murdered by some nutjob who thinks they have created a masterpiece – beware of such places I’d say!All I ask for is a fabulous service and one great course after another  dished out in perfect rhythm and harmony  – just splendid food  with a smile really.

Lucky for me Gaylords is short journey from home – Lajawab !

Zomato London and Gaylords – you spoilt us – royally! Many thanks to both parties and Of Course would rather shamelessly like to admit that am very eagerly looking forward to more foodie meets, great food and good company! Cheers!

The Kati Roll Company,Reagent Street – Review

During my very first year after we moved to London I was on a spree to explore the city and of course travel around England. My first winter ( 2011) I really took my time to acclimatise and had a tough time going from one day to the other without feeling a mixture of utter boredom, gloom and loneliness ( maybe one of the reasons I subconsciously pushed myself to start blogging again after a long hiatus , my old blog started in 2006 , I abandoned for various reasons didn’t seem something I wanted to go back to…and ”sliceoffme” was born) On one such terribly cold and grey evening one of my old college mates who I found stayed in London via FB (Thank god for FB!) and me met for a drink and some window shopping. After walking all over Oxford Street we were ravenously hungry and I wanted something substantial and if possible Indian and not expensive – humm , lucky for me she really knew the area well and we walked to a tiny by lane off  Reagent street n queued up inside The Kati Roll company. It was packed to the gills and is a tiny little place but very popular as I was informed by N.

The juicy and perfectly spiced pieces of meat,chicken or paneer wrapped in one of those ready to eat thick parathas  (why?! well of this is NOT  Mumbai is it so no chance of the REAL DEAL aka a Rumali Roti – a fine Indian Bread which is made by bravely tossing the dough around in open air and full public view and lands expertly on a tandoor – if I was to try it would probably land on my face! ) and seasoned with a spicy chutney and finely sliced red onions are so good especially when washed down with a chilled cola. I ordered two rolls with meat – but one can really fill you up if you are not too hungry.We managed to get a place to sit, partly because I hovered around a table where a group of hungry young men were wolfing down their rolls and managed to look very exhausted , hungry and in need for a place to sit – sigh… the things one has to do to get a table anywhere nice in London 😉

Last month when I was out near Reagent Street and struck by a serious hunger pang I made a beeline for The Kati Roll Company. Pleasantly surprised to find the place was not as busy and the interiors also seemed to have had a serious facelift. New on the menu was a very tempting bottle of thick mango lassi , the last one was sitting there in the fridge begging me to buy it…something about a water droplet slowly making its way from the too of the bottle along the side which was very ummm… mesmerising ? 🙂 Alas the hungry man who ordered right before I did bought it – dang!So armed with a Shami Kebab and an Unda Shami Roll (guilt guilt !) I grabbed a table before it vanished.

1-2014-01-10 13.53.06 (Copy)

So I had to settle for a coke – ah well. I sat on a table facing a wall with Aamir Khan staring down at me from a  movie poster of his best film yet – Lagaan. I love how the posters had been put pasted onto the wall and then run over with a roller, I suppose ,making it look like the bricks had these images and had just been fitted into one another (much like the stunning wallpaper at Tartine Artisanal in Tooting – read my review here)

4-2014-01-10 13.55.25 (Copy)

Several old Bollywood posters decorate the orange brick walls at The Kati Roll Company. Just then a very noisy bunch of ladies ,giggling and talking all at once stepped in to get some rolls rudely snapping me out of my reverie… and here I was so far away from London, imagining I was in Bombay sitting on a wooden bench outside Bade Miya –  a roadside stall probably more famous than The Taj restaurant behind which it operates. (Actually a roadside stall is probably the worst way to describe this crazy popular ”landmark” in Mumbai, they probably are the richest operators selling kebabs in Bombay city!) I could almost smell the open air grills giving out tantalising aromas of succulent kebabs sizzling away, the laughter of young and uppity South Mumbai crowd inter mingled with the murmur of conversation from the  office -goers, college students , a few tourists and the other odd people, all huddled together in small groups around cars -or just standing around, while the super busy ”waiters” rushed around with a stub and a mangled notepad yelling out our orders to no one in particular.

2-2014-01-10 13.54.52 (Copy)

Sometimes I miss Bombay so much that I have a very real physical heart-ache and it takes me several minutes to snap out of my walk down memory lane. The Kati Roll company is one such place where it is very easy for me to slip into such a state and happily so. Its only when I walked out of there and the cold afternoon January wind slapped me in the face did I suddenly realise that I was ONLY a few thousand miles away from Bade Miya and Bombay city,  in London – on a cold winter afternoon…

So yes its possible to get a really decent, as close to  authentic ”Indian” kebab rolls on a budget in Central London.

Should you go there ? Heck yes!

Is it on my list of favourite cheap eats around London – yes !

Do you need any more prodding ? Guess Not!

3-2014-01-10 13.55.00 (Copy)

5-2014-01-10 14.15.00 (Copy)

Kati Roll company on Urbanspoon

Irani Cafe Colony – An interview with the owner Agha and his daughters Bibi Sadat ,Bibi Fatehmehand son Mirza

Interview with Mr. Agha and his two daughters – owners  –  Cafe Colony – Hindu Colony,Dadar,Bombay.

Manjiri :

Ever since I moved back to Bombay after a few years in Pune and with Cafe Colony within walking distance, I wanted to meet Agha and have a heart to heart  chat with him. I soon became  a regular customer  as well as established a friendly rapport with  him and his daughters that calling this piece an interview is not apt. It’s just snippets of a long conversation over several cups of Irani Chai and  several  evenings. But it was only after I had moved to London and then on one of my unplanned visits to India that I got an opportunity to really get talking with Agha’s daughters, Agha himself was too busy but did let me come and click a dozen pictures, he never lets anyone do that so I guess my skills of persuasion worked! In fact there was so much more to catch up on even after my conversations with Aghas daughters, that I let Mrinal (who blogs at Retro-Reflections) catch up with  Agha after I came back to London after my visit to Bombay this May. I am so glad she managed to get him talking!

My earliest memories associated with Irani cafes are of eating giant omelettes with soft buns slathered in butter with my father  at a now nonexistent Irani cafe  opposite Dadar Station. This happened a few years in succession as we waited for my grandmothers train to arrive at the station, invariably delayed we confidently sat down to have breakfast at this quaint cafe instead of sweating it out on the platform. This Irani cafe  no longer exists and has long been replaced by an Udipi joint. The typical wooden chairs, the glass-topped wooden tables with a simple plastic ‘’tablecloth’’ and the trademark maska-pav dripping in butter was great fun to eat and I also got to feel all grown up and important by having a cup of tea to myself instead of the daily glass of milk!

Omlette at Cafe Colony Irani

A full spread - typical Irani anda pav breakfast with chai n maska pavAghas daughters are shy by nature and very simple too but standing behind that counter and ‘’manning’’ the post has taught them a lot. After being cheated and fleeced silly by a manager who they had for a short while, the girls decided to take over when Agha needed a break. The elder one started coming to the shop when she was 18 and her brother when he was even younger . Soon they learnt the ropes  of the working of the cafe. Mind you managing a shop in a city like Bombay is no mean feat. No one would know that better than me, after managing 9 supermarkets in Pune including lauching them. I got to see a bit of live ‘’action’’ when during my visit to Bombay in November’13 all shops were forcibly made to shutter down due to some political tension in the city and the girls very ably managed to safely shut shop and get themselves home. Believe it takes some major spunk to do this sort of stuff.I had to ask them if any other Irani cafes they know are now ‘’manned ‘’ by the women in the family , I was so happy to hear their reply, ”Light of Bharat” Irani cafe is at times managed by a lady and Crown Bakery has the Irani Parsi girls managing the show.My thoughts are interrupted by a customer who come to buy a few eggs and another person seeking change for a large amount is politely but firmly turned away ,atta girls!

”The Agha girls” as I shall call them here because I choose not to name them, I could but as they very kindly told me a few reasons why they wouldn’t want to be photographed , I genuinely think it’s a mark of respect to not use their names here either – they later changed their mind after ma in law convinced them that they should be PROUD that they stand alongside the men in the family their father Agha and brother Mirza and help run the cafe so efficiently, so the photos you will see in this post are old photographs they have kindly agreed to share with aai and me.

It seemed apt to munch on some mawa cake and down it with tea at this juncture,always a good way to keep the conversation going.

IMG_2566 (Copy)

Moving to Surat in India one of the reasons for migration was the growing discomfort between Irani Muslims and Irani Parsis they tell me.The elder of the two sisters started helping out her father at the shop when she was 18. Labour issues, staff theft and skyrocketing taxes, the girls have seen a lot.The LBT strike are happening on and off in India during this period (April 2013) and sugar and dal stocks are badly affected. Imagine an irani cafe that can’t serve tea they say …shudder shudder…

Someone has ordered a plate of dal rice, the common mans daily meal in India and supremely satisfying as a comfort food.

dal-rice plate

The girls recount that biryani was added onto the menu much later and even today Irani cafes continue to serve authentic rice and kheema in-spite of mutton getting more expensive each passing day.

Increasing taxes,expensive ingredients, political turmoil, staff issues are just some of the many daily challenges the surviving Irani cafes face, many have shit shop, yet others have renovated to keep in step modern and risked loosing the old world charm and so many others are on the brink of extinction as future generations have migrated or chosen other professions. But the elder of the Agha girls remembers the 1992 communal riots vividly and how the locals came to their rescue and they agree Bombay is home and the Cafe is their only means of livelihood, and they wouldn’t trade what they have for anything in the world. I heave a silent sigh of relief …

A consignment of sweets from Iran has arrived and I get to to inspect the package,photograph it before it goes into the freezer, all this is done with a great amount of fanfare and Mrinal and me have managed to attract a small amount of giggly kids outside the store. One bold but very cute kid one comes and tugs at my shirt ,”tumhi reporter aahe? newspaper madhe photo yenar? majha ghya na” – Marathi for ”you a reporter?wil these photographs be printed in tomorrows newspaper?please click a picture of me” ! 🙂

Gaz is nothing but Persian for nougat originating from the city of Esfahan and Boldaji, located in the central plateau of Iran. The same nougat is also made in Iraq where it is known as Mann al-Sama

Irani sweets

The Cafe’ was now getting very busy and lots of customers were approaching the counter, business as usual….

Busy Times ahead

………………………………………………………………………………………….

In the ‘’interview’’ with Agha below Mrinal takes a walk down memory lane with, of course with rather distractedly tempting photographs in between the paragraphs.

Mrinal – (blogs at Retro-Reflections)

It was after a great deal of persuasion that Mr.Agha of Cafe Colony, Dadar agreed to talk to me putting his busy schedule on hold.  He was apprehensive at first   but once he got into the mood there was nothing to stop his enthusiasm talking about his experiences in running of the cafe. But first, my association with Agha’s extended family (when there were several partners in the business) goes way back to the sixties and the early seventies when Cafe Colony was run by Mr Mohammad. He was a jolly young man who lived close by with his wife and two cherubic children, little Mohammad and Fasila. I remember them constantly running in and out of the shop and making a terrific ruckus to get attention whenever their father sat on the counter. Many a times these children were invited   to our house  for goodies they had never had and they came most willingly  and also  out of curiosity.Cafe Colony at the time was a small cafe with very little to offer.  My memory is quite  hazy but as the years went by it began to expand gradually offering a wide range of items and a buzzing place , a hub where all  gathered .I learnt later Mohammad and his family left.

Agha fav pose

Several of Agha’s family was involved with the running of the cafe till Agha himself took over.Like other Irani families, his  family too migrated and came via Surat. The cafe opened in 1933. Since then it has steadily and surely catered to hundreds of residents living in Hindu Colony and around it. There were other Irani joints nearby —–Yezdaan, round the Dadar T.T corner now where Metro Shoe shop stands. Point out  Agha’s daughters , ‘on a clear day one can see the etching of the name Cafe Yezdaan on top of Metro shoe shop ,if you are tall enough) and Cafe Premier near Dadar station. Both these have closed down now. But Cafe Colony still survives despite all odds.

Cafe Colony entrance

Says Agha . those days  it was easier to man the cafe . Raw stock was easily available and labour was cheap. Even the effect of the LBT affected items like sugar, flour and dal. These are the things one has to grapple with.The ‘irani Boys’ who waited at the tables were loyal and honest  and did all the odd jobs. I remember there was personalised service if one was staying nearby.  They used to personally deliver eggs bread and other items.People were friendly and the crowd was motley. We even had a juke box and a weighing machine.Many residents from Parsee colony too would come to the cafe and enjoy the music and sit around till late. But soon all this disappeared as the suburb began to grow and old structures gave way to new ones .The footpath in front of Cafe Colony widened as traffic increased on the Tilak Bridge. Cafe Colony was no longer the same where one could sit quietly and enjoy a cup of chai without the blaring of horns. But with it the cafe too began to expand and many more things were added to the cafe besides bakery products and tea accompaniments.Nearer to Cafe Colony (two shops away) Agha’s family purchased another corner shop called Bakery and Candy Store, which did a brisk business for a short period but ran into a considerable loss and was sold off. But Cafe Colony soldiered on.

Agha loved posing for us!

Any political issue resulting in a strike  or  (since the area came  under  a party’s stronghold) shops would  down their shutters but not Aghas Cafe . In fact people used to collect there for major discussions and endless cups of chai would be supplied just to keep the bonhomie going. His daughters recall how the colony people protected them and their shop during the communal riots  and they are more than grateful till today. However, it was sad Candy Corner bore the brunt  and was vandalised . On 26th July 2006, when Bombay was under water Cafe Colony was open all night despite no lights and was offering customers whatever was available as well as refuge.

The tiny army at Cafe Colony

Other highlights in the life of Cafe Colony are when Ramdas Athavale (political figure ) visited the cafe and it catered for his entire security guards  about thirty to forty of them. Another time when Agha himself prepared Biryani for Dr Ambedkar’s grandson.

Today all that has changed and the struggle goes on . The Irani boys keep changing and one has to keep a hawk eye on them. Very often I see Agha himself in the kitchen giving a helping hand, just rustling up a quick breakfast or giving finishing touch to the Biryani on a Sunday morning or taking the delivery of the meat from the butcher . The delicious mutton and chicken patties which earlier were available any time at the counter now need to be ordered beforehand.  Although his own supply of almonds pistachios figs Turkish delight Irani jars and occasionally a lovely carpet may be on sale. The versatality of the shop is just amazing!

Turkish Delights

Unlike other Irani cafes around Bombay whose owners are apprehensive about the second generation manning the cafe cum restaurant, Agha’s cafe is currently in the safe zone as his son and daughters give him that support he desperately needs to keep it going. The future according to him is uncertain. But what of the good old residents of the Colony for whom Cafe Colony has been a landmark . A closure of this iconic place would surely herald protests of all kinds .

The old timers meet here everydayIt's a struggle to survive and this bun maska is at stake...

The next post in this 3 part series will take you to an Irani Cafe London….coming soon!

Cheers,

Mrinal (who blogs at Retro-Reflections) and Manjiri

References:

Wikipedia

13th Sept’13 – Friday

Mrinal and me were so happy to receive an email from Bibi Fatemeh who is Agha’s younger daughter.She has very generously and proudly agreed to share their names and their photographs taken while they are at the counter.I cannot express my joy and pride at how much this means to both Mrinal and me. Bibi Fatemeh  has been very generous in her praise about this article:

”It was pleasure reading about our interview and seeing pictures of Cafe Colony. A real proud moment for us. We all liked to whatever you & Mrinal has written. All the credit goes to my Dad for the struggle & all the hard work he has put in till date.”

Thanks Bibi Fatemeh, we too are very proud of your Dad and we can only say one thing ”LONG LIVE CAFE COLONY”

Bibi- Fatemeh has shared a picture of her at the Cafe Colony where she and her elder sister Bibi Sadat proudly manage the counter.Bibi Sadat’s picture will follow soon enough.

(What I love about Bibi Fatehmeh’s photo below is the beautiful and confident smile and the huge stack of eggs behind her that sell off quickly as they are sold at the wholesale rate, a respite form the other crazy expensive retail rates! Another feather in the cap for Cafe’ Colony!)

Bibi Fatehmeh

Watch this space for Bibi Sadat’s photograph – up soon!

Ok Folks!Bibi Sadets picture is here!And a lovely photograph of Agha with both the lovely girls.

Bibi sadat

 

Agha and daughters at the shop

Last but certainly not the least is Bibi Fatehmeh with her brother Mirza.

1-IMG_5634 (Copy)

Irani Bakeries Still Soldiering On

Guest Post by Mrinal Kulkarni who blogs at Retro-Reflections.

Since childhood bakeries have held a special fascination.The exotic and delicious goodies displayed in the glass counters and shelves often led me to press my face against its glass  to peer even more closely.Not to mention the whiff and aroma of freshly baked bread and rolls further tantalizing the pallette. To own a bakery then became a childhood  dream.Though I knew that could never be, visiting one was on my daily agenda .

Living in colonial cities like  Bombay,Coonoor, Wellington, Madras and up  north  in the hills of Musoorie and Shimla through the 50’s,60’s and the 70’s saw a plethora of bakeries almost around every street corner.Each one having  a special quality of its own.

Finally settling down in Bombay and  during my growing years I  perceived bakeries in a different light.Living in a suburb,the area was practically surrounded by at least five to six  bakeries.But these bakeries were different with cafes attached.They belonged to the Iranis who did a brisk business throughout the day and late into the night. Their  method of working, the fare they offered, the ambiance that was created around them made it so popular especially the simplicity sans any  frills. Some of these bakeries had  two sections – a  variety of breads—pau, whole sliced  bread,bun and  brun pau and  bakery products like mawa cakes,cream rolls and the other section was a tea space  with grayish white marble-topped square tables and black chairs against a backdrop of dark brown glass cupboards stacked with different utilities like groceries (the range which expanded over the years). The walls were often adorned with pictures of old Bombay or English countryside. These small joints  eventually began to be known as cafes.These  small  café spaces or little tea and cake joints were in existence for a long time. They excluded an old world charm.Daily samplings soon became a regular  feature for  tongue tickling treats and a place easily accessible and affordable for all.The goodies were not eye-catching nor were they colourful but tasty and tantalizing.The entire aura around these little cafés  was alive and buzzing  which attracted attention of any passerby.The high-and  low-pitched voices of the Irani owner giving orders, the chatter of the Irani errand boys executing  the orders, the clatter of crockery and a general bonhomie that went with it was just as alluring and endearing as to what they were serving.Whiffs and aromas of all kinds made you want to sit around (literally in a no-time bound frame of mind) soaking in the milieu and drinking endless cups of sweet mana——the Irani  chai.

The bakeries were owned by Iranis who  migrated to India,from Iran  to Surat,a flourishing commercial city on the west coast of India, in search of some lucrative  enterprise.They came to India in the late 19th century.Most of them who migrated were not well versed in the literary sense  but possessed astute business sense  and were  proficient  in the business of baking – as  this was their traditional business and the only enterprise they understood.Soon they set up Irani cafes all over the city which  became synonymous with the city’s landscape. A unique feature of an Irani café was that many of them were situated at corner of the street.It is believed they acquired these corner spaces as the Hindu shop-owners were superstitious about setting their own shops there as they felt it would not prosper.

As mentioned earlier one could, or rather one wanted to  linger on in the café for hours.It served as a meeting  place for some,an appropriate setting for both serious political and social discussion for others and leisurely conversation for all and sundry.This space cut across all classes and community.The sweet and delicious hot cuppa-dunked with the typical Irani khari (a buttery and subtly flavoured light flaky biscuit which almost disintegrated  before you could put your mouth to it) was and still is to die for….

The word “Irani” conjures images of old-fashioned  bakeries,wine shops, restaurants and its delicious fare with their typical names——the ubiquitous maska pau (thick yellow butter slathered on a small round of fresh bread, the pau,the origin which dates back to the time of the Portuguese who first introduced this now hugely popular bread in India, particularly Bombay.These cafes, bakeries and restaurants have evolved over the years, introducing several other items on their menu. Khari chai and bhurji, mawa cakes to name a few. At one time almost half the Irani population in the metropolis was  involved in  running of these enterprises (a tradition dating back to almost 100 years) which at one time thrived but now facing stiff competition from modern type of bakeries and deli.The famous Irani bakeries which were one of the famous landmarks of Bombay and visible at strategic corners in most suburbs are practically non-existent except for a few which are trying to be a bit more aggressive  to compete with the modern cafes. However,today the baking process too has changed — all traditional breads baked in wood fire ovens have been replaced with modern energy efficient ovens.

This article besides highlighting their popularity  takes a look at the  plight of the existing bakeries which still occupy certain pockets of the city and are still popular among young and the old who still want their usual fare of  brun maska or khari and chai to drink at leisure and watch the world go by.

What makes these Irani bakeries tick? Obviously its mouth-watering fare – the brun maska (a hard round bun which is oh so soft inside  which when you cut when hot and slather blobs of  butter and dip it in tea is sure to leave a slick of melted butter on the surface –that’s the way its supposed to be eaten. Have it with kheema(minced meat),scrambled eggs with green chillies onions and tomato (akoori) or plain fruit jam , it delicious all the same.Each café puts up its own menu of the day but brun maska, mawa cakes and khari are  constant.

The bread making process  in Iran goes a long way back.Even before the  Iranis migrated to the city of dreams, bread making  in Iran was a traditional process; bread was prepared and baked at home in special ovens.The practice is still carried out in most villages.Each bakery specializes in a special kind of bread and they do not bake other kinds of bread simultaneously. Irani breads are of a wide variety. Barbari  made of white flour is thick and popular among the Turkish people . It is a specially type of leavened bread that seems to have been introduced in Iran fairly recently like the  European style bread. It  is  a long  narrow loaf about 2 to 3 ft long  inch thick and 2-3 ft long and 8-12” wide. It is separated before baking to give it an added crispness and is sprinkled with sesame seeds. It needs to be eaten soon after baking as it becomes stale quickly and is often used as breakfast bread.  La vash made of white flour is thin and several lavash are enough for one person, is of Armenian origin. Sangak is also thin but made from brown flour. It gets its name from the process of baking it on a bed of heated pebbles instead of the wall of the oven , which gives bread a very crisp and irregularly surfaced texture.

Barbari Bread

Image – Courtesy Iranian.com – Barbari bread

La Vash

Image -credit Wiki – La Vash Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image credit Wiki – La Vash bread stacks

Sangak wiki image 1 wid 2 people

Image credit Wiki – Sangak

Sangak_bakery

Image credit Wiki – Sangak goes into a hot oven

Taftoon or Taftun is made from white flour and is thin but oval in shape.Taftoon and La vash  are baked thin against the wall of the oven and differ primarily in the type of wheat (whole wheat or white) is used to make them.

La vash is very soft. In rural areas many families bake their own bread on a weekly basis and produce a hard La vash which is softened at the time of use by sprinkling a little water on it.

Naan In Iran is a kind of flat bread which is brought directly from the bakers who are called naanva i.e. a naan baker.

Acorn bread was made in ancient Iran. A small bread oven and the remains of acorns were discovered by archaeologists in Iran to conclude that ancient Iranis did bake bread using acorn flour, over 3000 years ago.The Ayapir cultural heritage team found almost 40 kinds of plants species at the ancient site of Izeh in Khuzestan Province, Iran , a dig carried out prior to the rising waters of the reservoir of Karun 3 dam.

To quote Hajir Kiani, the head of the team, “the acorns’ resistance to the elements made it an important foodstuff for the local people. Different parts of the oak tree such as fruits and leaves were used as food and medicinal purposes . The tools found in the mountains when compared to tools found in the present day nomads of the region prove that the baking method  has been almost the same for the past 3000 years.

The Bakhtiari nomads who currently live in the region grinding acorns with a grindstone, then put it inside a basket made of thin branches of the almond tree and put the basket in the stream for about a week. This helped to remove the bitter taste of the acorns.The acorns expand and gradually turn into dough within a week. The only thing to do is to pick up a handful of dough , knead it well and put it on the fire to bake”.

Religiously speaking, bread is treated with so much respect among the Iranians. Muslims are taught to avoid dropping bread on the floor or under feet or dumping it in a disrespectful place.Unused bread is used as feed for birds.

The type and quantity of bread found in the Iranian meals can to some extent be understood as an artifact of traditional dinning habits. During earlier times , the custom was to sit on the floor , a large cloth called sofrah would be spread out and the bowls and platters containing the various dishes put on it. Formerly, there were no plates and cutlery instead thin sheets of flat bread served as plates and for eating from utensils or for  scooping  up morsels of food. The art of fine dinning and etiquette was absent. It was only  under European influence ,use of tables and chairs forks and spoons became common especially in urban areas. These have been described in detail by European travelers who came to Iran.

Grain crops such as wheat and barley are well-suited for cultivation in the arable areas of the Iranian plateau and have been growing there since ancient times . Wheat was used to make a variety of breads that form part of the daily diet. In towns and cities , it is customary to buy bread freshly made from one of the many neighbourhood artisanal bakeries. That is why bakeries cook their bread three times a day, early morning, noon and in the evening . Scenes of crowded bakeries at this time is very common. Since most of the people come to buy bread at the same time, bakeries have long queues at rush hours and families prefer to send male members especially teenagers to buy bread.

 Iranian cafes and bakeries started by the Iranian immigrants in the 19th century  provided cheap food and good company in a leisurely setting.

After coming to India, the Irani bakeries modified their typical Irani bread to suit the taste buds of the Indians as well as specialize in a whole range of eats from garlic bread, shrewsberry biscuits, mawa cakes and to the bun maska and brun maska fare ( a bun or crusty bread sliced horizontally and generously slathered with butter dunked in paani kum chai (strong milky tea) which is usually eaten in the bakery itself  either standing near the entrance or some bakeries do provide for a small tea space where a few chairs and tables are laid . This is usually a quick fare which is satisfying and wholesome.Those cafes with ample  space provide full meals of  akoori on toast ,chicken/mutton patties, kheema pao, lagaan nu custard, falooda (chilled milk with rose syrup, vermicelli and basil seeds).

Honest to a fault the Iranis believe in offering good value for money but have lost ground in the bakery business due to the northerners taking over bakery business.Today the bread is baked elsewhere and through contract.The owners are totally dependent on the delivery.

Living near a Irani café,I  have had several opportunities to meet the owners and understand their problems and methods of survival. It has been a fascinating journey for them when they set out but a hard struggle now and yet they are popular. Often Sunday morning with its  special menu like kheema rice and mutton biryani, long queues are seen.Is this a sign of survival  if so how many more years. The second and third generation of owners certainly do not want to be behind counters.They want to explore the whole wide world  like their counterparts. Will they succeed or come right back into the business,one doesn’t know.

Interview with some Irani owners just might reveal  whats on their mind. So look out for the next read on the Irani cafes and their owners.

 Mrinal blogs at retro-reflections.

 

Escape the Urban Jungle, go adventure ”Eco-camping” at Panchgani.

It was in the Dec of 2010 that my two closest girlfriends and I decided that we must some place fun to mark the end of era and celebrate my fresh start. I had resigned from my full-time job in vibrant Mumbai and was joining my husband in London, taking a plunge of faith so to speak.

Camping at Eco Camps,Panchgani was the last thing the old me would have done, but am so glad my friend P chose the place and helped me get over a long time silly fear of doing anything remotely adventurous.The barbecue that night was thanks to S and her skills. We were very close and bonded even more that night. Waking up to see lush green mountains and see a beautiful valley wake up with us was something I shall never forget.The river Krishna flows near Panchgani and the Dhom lake near the village of Wai can be seen from the Eco Camp Site.

We walked into the village and found a quaint old shop and had some strawberries and cream, the street is dotted with street vendors selling strawberries by the dozen and fresh carrots. My mother in law went to Kimmin’s Boarding School and Panchgani and we walked to the road where the school is, the quaint old red and cream brick building was enough to take me back in time, on a nostalgia trip to my school in Mumbai, the beautiful stone grey building, the carefree school days, we grow up too quickly don’t we?

Oh and please do get some of these heart-shaped biscuits from this bakery – ROACH, I do have a picture of me posing with the sugar-coated biscuit but err it’s not going up here 😉

It was also the first time ever I was part of a barbecue, we walked into the village at night, found a lady who gave us some deliciously marinated cottage cheese and peppers and shallots and we have some kind neighbours in the tent next door who lent us some hot coals to get the barbie going.

It was a clear night and the brilliant stars seemed to sparkle just to make us girls smile …

Lying down on the grass on a thin sheet and watching the stars, feeling the pleasant chill on our face, it’s nothing like anything I had ever done.

Fast forward to life in London and with a desire to finally get the travel bit of my blog going I wanted to complete the drafts of so many posts but I am so glad I decided to start with writing about Eco Camps at Panchgani. Megan and Andre have been kind to send me answers to my many questions on email. I hope that all those who are looking some great weekend fun drive down to Panchgani the first weekend possible and stay in one of the tents; this is an experience not to be missed. Proximity to Mumbai and Pune are great pluses. Of course, anyone planning an India vacation in Dec- Feb must stay here and give paragliding a go, make your holiday memorable and experience nature’s beauty, nestled so close to the maddening hustle bustle of two big cities – Mumbai and Pune. It’s almost like, well, a secret escape, something so bohemian about the whole experience!

Megan and Andre, you are an inspiration for those taking a plunge, a leap of faith, raring to follow their dreams, so thank you for being such brave achievers .

MJ – That’s an acronym for my name,kinda long writing ”Manjiri” all the time;)

MJ: Why did you choose Panchgani?

 

Megan & Andre: Andre and I had decided in 1997 that we wanted to move from cold Canada to India to raise our kids (who were then 4 and 1).We actually wanted to live in Goa, as  I first met Andre while on holiday in Goa.We dreamt of having houseboats on the river, but after researching a bit we found that it was hard to get permissions and there was too much barge traffic there. My parents told us to go to Panchgani as we already had a family house on land that my grandfather bought in 1922. So we said we’d give Panchgani a try.

 MJ: What inspired you and your husband to start this venture?

Megan & Andre: We wanted to start our own venture, passion and a desire to follow our heart got us here.

MJ: Are there opportunities for adventure sports at Eco Camps?

Megan & Andre: Para gliders with their own equipment converge here from dozens of different countries to practise their flying from Dec to Feb every year. Other adventures to be had in the area is a trek down to the Krishna river, a short one up to the peaceful side of the otherwise crowded tableland, forest walks and visits to waterfalls in the rains. There is also a lovely sunset from the camp.( Oh Yes, I can so vouch for that!)

When practising an adventure sport they must get adequate training and stay safe.

some interesting facts about Panchgani

 

MJ: Do share one of your favourite memories associated with Eco Camps

Megan & Andre: One favourite memory is having a different meal everyday of the week from a different part of the world. This was in the early days when the paragliding guests came in smaller numbers and we used to invite them into our home for dinner most nights and each one took turns cooking.

(How very amazing is that, imagine a room full of guests from different places on this planet together , eating good food, laughing, sharing their life with each other !)

MJ: Do your kids love what you do?

Megan & Andre: Our kids love what we do, and have learnt that turning what you love into an occupation is the way to go. Matthew, now 20 is in training to be a chef, and Arianne 17 wants to be a recreational therapist. Mikey who is 6, still wants to be a fire-fighter -Maybe because of the annual forest fire that comes up our slope every year. This is the one downside to living on the edge in Panchgani, when in the hot, dry summer, all the foliage is burnt by fires coming up from the villages below, burning all things including insects, birds, small animals and saplings in its wake. But we are now used to the annual burning. The fire does remain our biggest challenge but we do concentrate on all the other positive elements of life in this hill station.

MJ: What are the facilities associated with staying at Eco Camp?

Megan & Andre: we have 4 large tents with toilets, a few smaller ones and 2 bungalows, 24hr water, hot water, drinking water. Food is delivered or you could use the kitchens. We have no service, but a fantastic view, some old trees and amazing bird life all around us. It is a 10 min walk into town, but at the same time secluded and quiet.

Touristy things to do while in Panchgani

 MJ: How do you manage to keep the place so well maintained yet affordable?

Megan & Andre: The rates are affordable because we don’t have waiters running around and our focus is not on minting money. We get by ok and are quite satisfied with the number of people who come. We don’t have managers or cooks to worry about either. The staff who we do have is happy people who have worked here for years.

MJ: Any message for young entrepreneurs looking to start out on their own and follow their passion like you did?

Megan & Andre: Young people ought to follow their hearts to do what excites them, keeping the practical side of things in mind as well.

 MJ: When is peak tourist season?

Megan & Andre: Peak season is from Dec to Feb and April – May Apart from those months, weekends are quickly booked, but weeks are free-ish.

MJ: Anything you wish you had done differently?

Megan: I wish I had paid better attention in my Marathi classes in school. i suffer from not being able to ably communicate my thoughts to the locals.

MJ: What DRIVES you to follow your dreams and passion and survive the inevitable challenges one faces whilst running their own venture?

Megan: My husband and kids, the beauty of our surroundings and the thrill of living at the mercy of the elements are the biggest incentives to continue living and working here. Ever since Andre could manage the running of the camp and got accustomed to local ways, I began teaching French part time at New Era next door. It keeps me in touch with what I studied for years to eventually do.

MJ: How does one book a stay at the eco camp?

Megan: To book a stay at Eco Camp call Megan at 9960436352, more info on our FB group “Eco-camp panchgani

The photos below are from a magical time in my life, I so wish sometimes I could open some door and go back and relive those days.

Happy Weekend peeps and when you go to Eco Camps, please do share your experiences with me!

Breath taking view from Eco Camp site

 Lake Dhom from the Eco Camp site

 A typical Tent at Eco Camps

Beautiful Sun Set from Eco Camps at Panchgani

 

Barbecue Time at Eco Camp,Panchgani

 

A retailers delight,Colour Blocking at a local shop in Panchgani!

 

Kimmins High School,Panchgani

 

ROACH Bakery

 

Strawberries and Cream!

 

Path leading to the campsite

 

View of the Village below

Panchgani is beautiful !

 

Thank you to my friend Payoshni for letting me use her lovely photographs for this post,  All information in this blog  relating to Panchgani is sourced from here and here – please click on the hyperlinks 🙂

Any comments ?Please post belowor tweet me at @manjirichitnis and hey  join in the fun on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sliceoffme 

 

 

Interview with Pune’s leading Fruit Wine Manufacturer

It was on a hot summer evening at home in Pune when dad and me had some Strawberry wine while watching the IPL. Baba told me about how he came to procure the wine one evening at a promotion at a Club in Pune. A wine made in Pune and that too made with strawberries, how very interesting ….Lucky for me I managed to get in touch with the man behind the business who strives to establish a wine culture in Pune, sink your teeth into the chat we had at his bungalow in the heart of the old part of Pune City, the Peths as they are called.

Mr. Akkalpit Prabhune spared some time from his busy schedule to share his story.

This young entrepreneur who manages a full time career in IT makes time for channelling his creativity and passion into promoting his fruity wines .He lets is in on how his passion and vision to introduce a culture of wine drinking using local fruits led to the creation of Rhythm Wines.

MJ: What is the difference between fruit wines and regular grape wines, the composition etc?

AP: Fruit wine is basically wine made from fruits other than grapes. Quality of any wine is determined by the fruit used. Some of the Indian fruits which are suitable for Indian climate and soil which lend a natural aroma & flavor to fruits wines like strawberries, grapes and kiwis are good candidates to make a fruit wine. Fruit wines are lighter and fruitier as compared to grape wines so consumers new to wines can easily appreciate these wines.

”Wines are palate cleansers. Every Bite is a new bite.’’

MJ: Is the technology for making fruit wines different than that used for grape wines?

AP: There is no difference in the process of making fruit wines and grape wine. So there is not much difference in technology. Generally based on the fruits used the crushing equipment will need to modify but after juicing is done the process is absolutely same as grape wine. The advantage with fruit wines is that they require very less time to mature, within 6 months they can be bottled. This also ensures that the machinery is in use throughout the year.

MJ: Why the name Rhythm Wines? (My personal favourite question!)

AP: Sipping wine listening while listening to music is ideal is it not? It lightens us, sets the mood for a pleasant meal, like perfectly set of musical notes with Rhythm…

MJ: What inspired you to get into this business?

AP: I have travelled a lot and have savoured various amazing wines in the course of my travels and I wanted to create wines using local fruits which would help establish a culture of appreciating fruit wines amongst people used to the local flavours and cuisine. Breaking the elitist view towards wine consumption and expanding the market being part of my mission. After studying the existing scenario of wine industry and understanding the importance of fruit wines, I started Rhythm winery in Pune City, Maharashtra with My partner, Mr. Gulu Jagtianey,in 2010, and has successfully made wines from pineapple and strawberry. We received a very good response for our wines in many wine festivals and received demands for wines from apples, peaches and Strawberry. Strawberry variant has just been launched in Pune and Mumbai markets and received great appreciation

”Our mission is to offer best variety of tropical fruit wines suited perfectly to Indian palate and food. We strongly believe that excellent wines are made only from quality fruits which are best suited to local climatic and soil conditions’’

MJ: Where is the bottling plant located?

AP: Rhythm winery is located outskirts of Pune on way to Khadakwasla, Narhe Gaon; It has a existing capacity of about 25000 litres of wine a year. It is proposed to increase this capacity to 50000 litres soon.

Desktop1

MJ: Where are the strawberries you use sourced from?

AP: Strawberry comes from a world famous region of Panchgani in Maharashtra. Strawberry varieties we use for wine manufacturing are blend of ‘kamaroza’ and ‘sweet Charlie’.

MJ: How do you ensure uniformity in quality of fruits used? As most of the grape wineries have their own grape farms.

AP: We also have contract farming for our fruits. We use specific varieties of strawberries and pineapples.

MJ: Who is the master brewer that you work with?

AP: His name is Dominique Revard and he is a Canadian fruit wine expert who lends his years of experience and expertise to our business.

MJ: Grape wines have just managed to find a foothold in India. Do you think the Indian Consumers will give the same preference to fruit wines as with Grape wines? What is the scope these wines have in India?

AP: It’s easier for local flavours to be appreciated by people, hence we believe that consumers will find it easier to appreciate wines made using strawberries and pineapples as they would be able to identify easily with these fruits vis-avis posh varieties of grapes. Besides Indian Cuisine is high on flavour, spices and our light bodied, fruity wines pair well with Indian food.

MJ: How did you gauge the commercial viability of manufacturing fruit wines?

AP: It is a new concept,hence before manufacturing wines from any fruit, many variants are created and tasted at all stages of wines. Rhythm winery has done an extensive R&D on different fruits and then ventured into pineapple and strawberry. Generally, fruit wines are not manufactured on a very large scale but wineries with a capacity of 30,000 to 50,000 liters can be a viable. Huge amount of marketing efforts are required since the concept is new.

MJ: Which different fruits have the Indian wine producers experimented with for making wine? Mention your take on usage of Kiwi fruit for producing wine.

AP: Pineapple and Strawberry are currently produced by us at Rhythm winery. Lychee wine is manufactured by Lucca winery in Haryana. Dapoli Krishi Vidyapeeth,(Stateof Maharashtra, India) have worked on Kokum and Mango wines. Apple, Kiwi wines are produced in North and Eastern India.

MJ: How do you deal with competition?

AP: Suprisingly, Fruit wines are not being sold commercially by too many players in the wine market. We welcome competition; it always helps expand the market!

MJ: What is the current installed capacity for fruit wines in the market?

AP: Presently there are very few players in fruit wines. Rhythm winery is definitely the leading player in the Fruit Wine Market. In all, 300,000 to 500,000 litres of fruit wine is made annually.

MJ: How will fruit wines benefit fruit growers / wine producers / consumer?

AP: Presently due to average storage conditions huge amount of fruits are wasted. As per Food ministry more than 70 % fruits are wasted !Therefore, for those that grow strawberries, pineapples and kiwi supplying to fruit wine manufacturers like us will open up an excellent avenue for business in the processed foods and drink industry and offer more options than producing only jams, jellies and preserves. Wine producers can plan production seasonally and can make the best use of their production capacity. Since fruit wines are easier and lighter to drink, introducing new consumers to wines will be easier to achieve.

MJ: How do you promote your fruit wines?

AP: By participating in wine festivals and trade fairs. Directly advertising wines is prohibited by Indian Excise Laws.

MJ: What expansion plans do you have outside of Maharashtra State?

AP: There is 300 % import duty for goods sold between states in India, the Indian Grape Processing Board – I.G.P.B has also been appealing to reduce these taxes and improve trade opportunities.

MJ: After strawberry and pineapple wines what’s next?

AP: Kiwi Wine is next on the list. In order to support farmers who produce these crops and to aid local entrepreneurs who boost the local economy the government is keen to support ventures like ours. Kiwi is the fruit that we are currently experimenting with and the Himachal Pradesh Government has chosen our company to come up with viable fruit wines, we hope to soon offer them a few samples and finalise on one, they would supply us with the fruit which we will use to create and bottle our new kiwi variant.

Quins

MJ: Is there any export potential?

AP: Indian fruit wines if marketed properly will have a great scope in foreign countries, as these wines will have specific characters and fruits with an Indian origin.

MJ: Where else in the world are fruit wines made / consumed /popular?

AP: Apple wines is been made for centuries and very famous in UK, France and North America. Canada and Australia are leaders in fruit wines and have successfully marketed their wines internationally. Some states in USA like Florida, Texas are famous for their local fruit wines. Presently fruit wines have about 3 to 5% of market share in over all wine market.

MJ: What is the shelf life of fruit wines?

AP: Ideally 2 years from bottling.

MJ: What are Differences in ageing process and storage of the fruit wines vis-avis Grape Wines?

AP: Ageing of up to a year is sufficient. Storage principles are similar to other wines.

MJ: What is the advantage of using screw caps vs cork screws?

AP: Cork screws are used to create complex bouquets. Fruit wines can get tainted with poor quality corks.

MJ: What is the advantage of using screw caps vs cork screws ?

MJ: If one has to buy your wines in Pune and Mumbai where are they retailing?

AP: In Pune our wines retail with reputable retailers like Dorabjees, Ozone and are on the menu at restaurants at Liquid Hut Restaurant, Barbecue Nation, Oasis, P.Y.C Gymkhana.

In Mumbai we have just started out and are making our fruit wines available in areas like Bandra, Andheri and South Mumbai.

MJ: Any benefits linked to consumption of fruit wines as Red Wine consumption is linked to several health benefits.

AP: Amongst the known Health benefits of pineapple and strawberry wines some are:

  1. Pineapple contains bromelain and beta carotene which improves digestion, lowers risk of macular degeneration, improves the quality of vision.
  2. Strawberries are packed with Vitamins & Antioxidants which help increases immunity to bad cholesterol and is  thus beneficial towards maintaining a healthier heart.

It was early evening by then,the slanting sun rays streaming into the terrace room converted into a study, were playing peek-a-boo with the few dozen mangoes which are lying face down on the floor to ripen.

There was a pause as I sipped on my tea and made doodles on my notepad. My very polite host looked around and handed me a bottle of Pineapple Wine, I politely declined but he was rather persistent. On my way home,making a mental note to stop procrastinating and I promised myself to start doing all the things that I have filed away in the recesses of mind as well ‘’to be done SOMETIME, in the future’’. After all, hasn’t this passionate entrepreneur proved that if you have a Dream you must act on it… Yes dreams really do come true… that bottle in my cloth satchel clinking against my bunch keys was proof.

Bottle with glasses 2

Check out the Rhythm Wines website :http://rhythmwinery.com/ , Connect with them on their Facebook page at :https://www.facebook.com/rhythmwinery