MASALA ZONE ,SOHO,London

The word ”authethtic” has never felt so apt as when I use it to describe the offerings from Masala Zone. I am a frequent visitor to this place and it all started with my very first visit 2 years ago.New to London, needless to say terribly homesick , my husband decided to treat me to some delicious Indian cuisine. He couldn’t have chosen a better place.

The instant I walked it , I was greeted by a beautiful idol of the elephant headed Lord Ganesha and a massive urn decorated with floating flowers.The walls an earthy brown with delicate warli paintings all over.A welcome sight and instantly made me feel at home:)

I love Indian street foods,so gorging on CHAATS was in order.A masala Coke is lovely with the chaats and I can rarely stop at one masala coke. We went A’ la carte and got some spicy dal (lentil curry) and plain rice to go with it,closest in comparison to, my favourite comfort food which is varan bhaath- meaning simple yellow moong dal with ghee and steaming boiled rice!

Image below is of Sev Puri- thats small fired crunchy puris topped with mashed potato mix spiced with finely chopped tomatoes,sev which is the fine yellow crisp gram vermicelli,green mango bits and a tangy tamrind chutney with some finely chopped coriander sprinkled all over.

Image above is fried onion fritterr called Bhajiya in Hindi – thin slices of onion coated with gram flour mixed with spices and deep fried served with green chutney and tangy tamrind chutney.

In the image above there’s 2 plates of Ragda Pattice and a plate of Dahi Puri in between- Absolute CHAATilicious !Ragda Pattice is fried potato patty served with a gravy made from dried white peas cooked in a thick garvy and spiced with many different flavours topped off with various chutneys and sev. Dahi Puri is made by stuffing the puffed puris with a mix of mashed potatoes,sprouts,chutneys,sev and adding dollops of flavoured curd over it.Great for those who want to try a chaat dish and still avoid anything too spicy as the curd soothes your palate.

Last month we had a lot of friends and family visit us from India and U.S.A, all craving to have ”authentic” Indian food. All the edible looking snaps I have taken with my new Samsung Galaxy sIII are taken over several dinners.

Highly  recommended are the tasty and varied  ”Regular thalis” (mixed platter with a lentils,vegetable preparation of the day,another mix vegetable,some fried papad, rotis or rice as you choose,a sweet mango chutney, a green chutney and the main curry dish that you choose from the veg or non veg menu)which are quite filling and satisfy any cravings one has of either sea food,lamb,chicken or just good old plain veggie fare. Down it with some Mango Lassi and you are well on your way  to food heaven. One has to choose the gravy dish from their menu to go with a thali or their choice, I love Roghan Josh – a spicy lamb curry and both chicken gravys one with a coconut gravy and the other spicier and packs a real punch.The staff are quite helpfull, friendly and will explain each item in your thali once it arrives which is great considering the many tourists who come here.

If your planning an early dinner , a beer or wine with some chaat dish or fried  pakodas is apt.

If you want to go the whole hog, the dessert not to be missed is a serving of GulabJamun with Ice cream topped with pistachios.A perfectly sweet end to a meal fit for a king.

As their website says,it’s the place to go to for ”seductive Indian desserts”,”Sophistcated Indian Grills” and really wholesome Thali’s.

Masala Zone has 8 outlets in London, the one at SOHO,also the only one I have visited several times.

The service at this branch is prompt and most times it’s crowded especially on weekend evenings,if you are going in a big group to this particular branch, it makes sense to book yourselves a table.It’s a short walk from Oxford Circus tube station off the lively Carnaby Street area.

To check out Masala Zone‘s website click on the hyperlink.

Cheers!

 

 

Masala Zone Soho on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

The Humble Cauliflower spiced up for bhaji/sabzee/sabji with green peas!

I love cauliflower as a vegetable for its taste and sheer possibilities in the kitchen, my fav everyday vegetable to be eaten with chapatis is a mix of cauliflower and green peas in a spicy,semi dry sabzi form.I used biryani masala to add a twang to my usual taste and the result was worth sharing:)

Skill level beginner,basic

Serves :2 with rotis and curd to make a light meal

You will need :

  1. I medium-sized cauliflower
  2. A handful of fresh or frozen green peas
  3. 1-2 red onions very finely sliced
  4. Curry leaves – 3-4
  5. Green chillies – 2 chopped in big pieces
  6. Biryani Masala
  7. 1/4th red juicy tomato chopped into tiny pieces
  8. ginger paste
  9. 2 cloves of garlic very finely sliced
  10. Oil for tadka
  11. Mustard seeds
  12. Cumin seeds
  13. salt to taste
  14. Turmeric and red chilli paste as per taste and colour requirements
  15. Coriander powder
  16. Jeera Powder
  17. 2 large spoon full of any packet biryani masala.
  18. few sprigs of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped to garnish
  19. a tiny squeeze of lime
  20. A pinch of asafoetida/hing

Method:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan – when it’s hot add the asafoetida and mustard seed, when the seeds start to pop add cumin seeds and the finely chopped garlic bits,as always I love the garlic skin, I let the beautiful aromas take over my olfactory senses ,my imagination ,my kitchen and umm well probably the building hallway as well ;)’
  2. Ensure the cumin seeds turn a toasty brown and then swiftly move on to the next ingredients
  3. Next go in the fresh green curry leaves and green chillies, chopped onion, I used the food processor this time so it was almost a puree and this onion takes up the flavours of the spices faster I imagine.
  4. Add the coriander powder,ginger and garlic pastes and stir well and allow it to become a sticky sort of paste
  5. Then add the biryani masala and feel the explosion in the aroma as it marries well with the paste we had ready
  6. Then go into  cauliflower florets neatly chopped and the green peas
  7. Turn off the heat for a bit,sprinkle turmeric powder,red chilli powder,cumin powder and salt to taste.
  8. Turn on the heat on a low flame and sprinkle some water enough to wet the veggies and allow for some steam to happen to cook the cauliflower.
  9. Stirring occasionally cook with a lid for about 10 minutes.
  10. garnish with freshly coriander finely chopped and a tiny squeeze of lime to add an extra twang.
  11. Eat with hot puffy rotis off the hob!

 

I am linking this favourite Maharashtrian vegetarian recipe for Cauliflower and Green Peas sabji with In My Veg Box for May2014 hosted by me for Nayna who Blogs at Simply.Food and Citrus Spice.

In my veg box cauliflower

 

I just noticed how I wrote my blog posts earlier on and how greatly my food photography has changed for the better – no its not a case of a donkey praising his own tail just a mere observation 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Image courtesy pic 1 :

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

Pic 1:

Pic 2:

Image Courtesy Click here

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

Preparation time : Approx 45 minutes Serves :4

Ingredients :

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

Method :

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

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

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

  • This is how it looks before we brown it :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaah , now just look at the cute Bappa 🙂

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

South Indian Food – A family obsession !

Ever since I immigarted to London ,it’s been a year by the way ,already (!), I get these craving sto go eat some certain type of food that is so commonly available in Bombay that one take sit for granted .

But once you live abroad and you know that you are a self confessed FOODIE , it becomes a real thrilling task to keep a track of all the places that offer “AUTHEHNTIC” Indian food !It’s easy to get confused by the number of options available but clearly many of the places do not live up to expectations of “AUTHENTIC” Indian taste or simply fail mierably on offering basic service or are just so grubby looking one wouldn’t want to sit after setting foot inside !

There are marked ghetto like area’s in London,namely East Ham,Croydon,Tooting,Wembley and ofcourse the FAMOUS South Hall, which are easily accesible by the tube which serve up some really authetic Indian food in the form of mouthwatering delicacies at awesome rates !

My most favourite for south indian snacks – I crave MEDU VADAS and Doa’s with a passion at times and I head staright to Tooting to SARAVANA BHAVAN !

The first time I visited a branch of SARAVANA BHAVAN was at East Ham after the Roayl Wedding . I did manage to catch a glimpse of the beautiful ,now Duchess of Cambridge,  Kate Middleton .She was waving to the cheering  crowds whowent absolutely MAD when the car inw hich she was travelling passed us by , she ofcourse was then taken to the abbey to wed her Prince Charming ,my husband and me never made it anywhere near Buckingham Palace to watch the famous kiss on the balcony but yes we did manage to see it live on a MASSIVE screen set up at one of the branches of the HOUSE OF FRASER and all the people who had crammed themselves inside actually sat down on the floor and a very gracious member of the staff served us a yummy fruit flavoured bubbly as soon as the couple was married on screen, with millions viewing teary eyed, the world over!After watching the wedding we decided to escape the crowds of Central London and the thousands that were moving out from the streets after having waved to the Princess. So we rushed over to Victoria Station before the tubes became suffocatingly over crowded or worse !

On a whim I suggested we head to East Ham  to dig into some really good south indian snacks.

I must confess it was LOVE at first BITE  for me at SARAVANA BHAVAN, they are present in many locations worldwide and I frequent 2 of their branches in london , the one at EAST HAM and the one at Tooting. Noteworthy feature is that they have an impressive JAIN MENU , since my closest buddies here are a Jain couple, S even has her own Jain Food blog(!),it is always a challenge to find tasty JAIN food options in London. For the uninitiated JAINISM is a religion in India and one of the aspects is that followers are quite strict with NOT consuming onions and garlic in their food.In the past few months I have learnt so many recipes which I didn’t know existed all thanks to my JAIN buddies ,not to mention that S is an exceptional cook and stir up the most amazing recipes in a matter of minutes.My tummy is witness to many such preparations, she also her own versions for Bombay’s most popular street foods!

Anyway back to our discussion about south Indian snacks,The upma was so tasty at SARAVANA BHAVAN- EAST HAM , I was transported straight to Matunga where I often head to a place called ANAND BHUVAN to savour their yummy dosa’s vada’s idli’s and my favourite comfort food BISIBELE BHATH– a rice and dal dish all spiced up , dish which satisfies the mind as much as it does the tummy and is extreemly healthy and good on the pocket too .Here’s a few blog links to someyummy recipes for  this dish :

http://mysoorean.blogspot.com/2007/02/bisi-bele-bhath.html

http://madhusvantalu.wordpress.com/2007/09/24/bisibele-bath-a-classic-karnataka-dish/

ANAND BHAVAN is a traditional south indian UDIPI joint in Matunga East in Bombay. The food is exceptionally taste , the service is warm, the look and feel of the place is totally old world and charming to say the least ,something like walking into an old irani restaurant for “maska pao and cutting chai”.

I had ONE  photograph, I had clicked using my Nokia E63 in 2010 of ANAND BHAVAN , here it is:

ANAND BHAVAN is THE BEST place to eat yummy south indian snacks according to me as there are a zillion outlest in close viccinity in Matunga thanks to the large south Indian community that resides there ,but nothing as quaint an experience and so good on the pcoket as ANAND BHAVAN .

MATUNGA , a suburn in BOMBAY,INDIA,also has a huge market selling every imaginable fruit and veegtable erquired for south indian cooking and regular cookingas well , shops selling traditional clothing, a temple,a dance school , a NALLI store and ofcourse shops selling freshly ground coffee powder , just one whiff is enough to take you staright to Chennai I suppose :).You there is a unique quality about this suburb that there are pockets that feel diecidely south indian , some extreemly Gujju dominated and some so very Maharastrain. It’s this amazing way of different cultures mixing and offering such a mindboggling variety of culinary experiences that makes Bomaby much of what it is today. A cosmpolitan city with a rocking attitude, a space for and BY everyone so to speak.It’s a city that liberates and ofcourse because it is an ISLAND city the best and most breathtaking sea side experience is yours for a taking.I could go on and on but I wish not to ramble, because there will always be a large part of BOMBAY in everything I write about .

Though at my in laws place there is a huge debate over which of these many south indian outlets really is THE BEST .My mother in law likes another small but great place bang opposite the station called SHARDA BHUVAN, she like the fact they are still so old world with no A/C and no fancy seating but that the charm of the place really and the food is amazing ,really , she often heads there eraly morning before she heads to the library at FORT to get some steaming hot idlis and chutney followed by the traditional Filter Coffee- aah !My hubby is a fan of HOTEL RAMA ASHRAYA and has a particulary yummy sweet prepartion that he heads there to gobble ona regular basis with one of his buddies.This one is a short walk from SHARDA BHAVAN and  HOTEL ARYA BHAVAN, is set between flower shops and a coffee powder shop and faces the lane which has the local post office,which in turn is surrounded by about a dozen flower shops selling garlands big and small and an apt place to pick some for a visit to the temple or for a wedding.

Now my dad in law likes a totally different place,it’s called HOTEL ARYA BHAVAN,it has seating at a basement level ,is hot and humid and crammed but the food is tasty and the loaction is spot on!

South Indian Restaurants or UDIPI joints as they are more popularly know are so popular in Bombay and so easily accessible in Bombay that one gets really used to just popping in and eating an idli or a dosa and walking out happy, the whole thing about craving such ood in London is trying out several such places and coming up with THE BEST and a second best, I have picked mine already.Ofcourse SARAVANA BHAVAN is “THE” best  in terms of the quality of food and the number of loactions, additional brownie points for the Jain Menu ofcourse, now there is another outlet called DOSA and CHUTNEY , they have 2 branches one at Tooting and another at Croydon in London, they also offer Non vegetarian options ,my favourite is Kottu Rice,it’s a spicy rice dish with meats,veggies and a Sri Lankan roti ! They serve generous protions, the prices are very good and the place is clean not to mention the sevice is swift as well , I normally wash down a spicy dish like Kottu Rice with a delicious Mango Lassi or followu up a dosa with a hot filter coffee :).The staff is friendly and I often reach there on a lazy weekday , eat some lunch and then do my grocery shopping !

I am right now walking this streets of Bombay especially MATUNGA, in my mind right now and taking a million pictures , I promise myself that I shall do justice to this post by uploading pictures when I do go to Indian this year , I simply cannot wait now!I do plan to visit all my favourite haunts including BADE MIYA for kebab’s and hopefully catching a glimpse of SRK who is said to visit them at times ( a famous rumour in my college days’s),eat berry pulao at Brittannia , ofcourse gulp down unlimited amounts of PANI PURI at Elco ,Bandra and the list goes on and on and on!

P.S: Loads of information about MATUNGA and the many Udipi Joints on http://mumbai.burrp.com/