Dinner at The Brasserie , Tower Guoman – a review

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

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

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

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

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Our rustic bread selection with truffle oil and olive oil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CKP Surmai-सुरमई- Curry – Happy Fathers Day Baba

Leaving your home country and more importantly leaving behind your near and dear ones is never easy. I sorely miss a lot of things about my life back home and one of the things I miss most is lazy Sunday afternoons at my parents place. As any typical teenager if you do move out from home during college years you would be better off dealing with moving out your parents after you get married but I never lived away from my parents and it was only after I was married that hubster and me moved into our own place, which happened to be very close to my mum’s !So most Sunday afternoons we would make our way to mum’s and Baba would be helping aai cook our favourite Sunday meal of chicken curry and rice, or sometimes when he was in a mood for seafood he would go Supekar’s fish market and queue up for fresh surmai (Marathi Surmai /सुरमई, Indo-Pacific king mackerel or popularly spotted seer fish-Scomberomorus guttatus),pomfret and my fav fresh prawns ummm!

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This recipe for Surmai/Kingfish /Mackerel curry is his favourite and I love how aai (means mother in Marathi my mother tongue)makes it so very delicious using a traditional hand me down recipe typical to the CKP community (Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP), is an ethno-religious community of South Asia). We call it Surmaiche Kalvan (सुर्माईचे कालवान) – Kalvan means curry in Marathi. If we were in Pune today I would most certainly have surprised Baba by cooking up a feast for him and aai. Baba this post is for you and for aai thank you for being the most parents any one could ever ask for , the best childhood ever and for believing is us ,for being the strong presence every girl wants her father to be. I love you more than words can say Baba and I miss you heaps and tons!

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Ingredients:

  • 4 medium sized surmai pieces
  • 3 large tbsp coriander – green chilli paste
  • 2 tsp  of ginger – garlic paper
  •  2  tsp Red Chilli powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 4 cloves of garlic cloves with skin on
  • 3 tbsp grated coconut
  • A pinch of Asafoetida/Hing
  • 2 tbsp refined oil
  • Juice of 1/4th of a lime
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh coriander a tiny palmful washed and finely chopped for garnishing.

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Method:

  • Wash the Surmai/Kingfish /Mackerel steaks and marinate the with red chilli powder, turmeric,salt ,ginger- garlic paste,coriander- green chilli paste and set aside for at least 40 minutes.

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  • Heat oil in a saucepan,add a pinch of asafoetida and then add the crushed garlic cloves with their skins on and as they start to brown.
  • Add the marinated fish and toss around in the hot oil for 30 seconds
  • Add the finely grated fresh coconut, stir in enough water to ensure that the curry is the right consistency , not too thick  and cook on a low flame with lid for about under 5 minutes.
  • Fresh fish cooks very quickly , take care not to overdo it.
  • Now add salt as required bearing in mind that when the fish was marinated salt was used.
  • Squeeze the lime juice into the curry.
  • Garnish with finely chopped fresh coriander/cilantro.
  • Serve with steaming hot rice and allow yourself to enjoy this simple yet classic fish curry.

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This is another fabulous recipe that originates from the western coast of India , the Konkan coastline , a beautiful coconut tree lined coastline abundantly blessed with fresh sea food and natural scenic beauty read beautiful beaches with soft sands and plenty of sunshine. A lot of people would also add tamarind paste to the curry but we do not. Tamarind trees are also found in abundance

If you are looking for fresh Kingfish in London the best place to find it is at supermarkets like H-Mart. The Kingfish that you will get here is from the North  Atlantic waters. You can also buy Wahoo steaks from Wing Yip but the taste is not as pronounced and the flesh is not as tender, besides wahoo steaks are bigger and need more seasoning and should be consumed on the same day to enjoy the full taste , I’d say they taste better in a curry than fried and if you do fry them do add a large squeeze of lime after you have fired them. Since the Kingfish belongs to the Mackerel family ,the mackerel will take all these marinade flavours beautifully and works well both fried and in a curry Konkani style.

My traditional CKP surmai kalvan/curry recipe works well with pomfret too.

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Vangyache Bharit- वांग्याचे भरीत (Baingan ka Bharta) (Smoked Aubergine)

I have noticed that I have become a bit more inclined towards celebrating festivals after coming to London , maybe its out of being homesick during festive times and also to ensure that I remember the traditions involved I guess. ‘Makar Sankrant’ is  a Hindu festival celebrated by my community ”Maharashtrains” with great pomp and enthusiasm as it heralds the season of Harvest. Similar to this festival is Lohri which is celebrated by the Punjabis in the North of India, Pongal in the state of Tamil Nadu , Uttaryan in the state of Gujrat. One festival so many names and so varied ways of celebrating! Its not only in India that this festival is celebrated it’s also welcomed in Nepal, Sri Lanka ,Cambodia and Laos amongst others!

My mother always used to make a smoked aubergine vegetable dish called Vangyache Bharit – written in Marathi as – वांग्याचे भरीत on Makar Sankrant so I decided to make it too for Sankrant this year which was on the 14th of Jan’14. We also exchange small ladoos made of sesame seeds and jaggery called ”Tilache Ladoo” and wish each other by saying ”tilgul ghya god god bola” (तिळगुळ घ्या गोड गोड बोला) It means that we shall forget and forgive any past bitter exchange of words and start afresh with this sweet offering and only speak sweet words of love.

The recipe is modified in various regions of the state of Maharashtra and also the variety of vanga/eggplant/aubergine or brinjal as we know it in urban India, is different in various parts of the state and in various states of India, of course differing due to climate and soil .Aai ( meaning Mother in Marathi language – my mother tongue) always looked for the light green vanga or eggplant with white stripes  on its skin which she rightly said tastes way better than its darker purple skinned cousin.

Aai’s recipe which I will share now is how we have always made this dish at home. There are several variations and styles depending on which part of Maharashtra you hail from and also various sub-cultures and availability of local ingredients and palates.I guess what makes this recipe so special is that it brings back happy memories of childhood, festivity ,celebration and the unmistakable smoky and rich vanga (eggplant/aubergine) taste with the crunchy red onion and a slap of hot spicy green chilli mixed in between ,all balanced so well with the various masalas that go into this bharit ummm!

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Image Credit click here 

Serves:2 -as a main with chapatya(Marathi for Indian Naan Bread also called chapatis in Hindi)

Preparation Time :15 minutes

Cooking Time:25minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large vanga/baingan/eggplant/aubergine
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 5-6 large cloves of garlic
  • a few mustard seeds
  • Cumin/Jeera
  • Garam Masala – 2 heaped tsps
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch of hing/asafoetida
  • Turmeric – 1.5 tsp
  • Red chilli powder – 1.5 tsp
  • Oil – 3-4 large tbsps
  • Coriander/Cilantro to garnish

Method:

  • The beauty of this dish lies in the deep and rich smoky flavour of the eggplant , I would love to use charcoals and do this bit on a open rustic fire but well I make do with my hob.You could use the oven  but it will take much longer but directly on the hob – though a bit messy , it’s quicker! Roast the eggplant completely turning it on the side and moving it up an down so you don’t miss any bits.

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  • Allow this to cool and then charred skin will come off easily.

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  • Mash with your hands in a smooth mass of soft cooked ,smoked eggplant.

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  • While the eggplant is smoking on the hob , finely chop one large red onion.
  • Skin the garlic and use a mortar pestel to smash the green chillies with the garlic
  • In a  dry saucepan ,add the oil and after it is hot , add a pinch of hing/ asafoetida  and mustard seeds , as the mustard seeds begin to pop add the cumin seeds and the garam masala powder and  the finely chopped red onion and stir it often till it turns colour and is still crunchy to taste.

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  • Now add the turmeric and red chilli powder
  • Then stir in the ”thecha”(Marathi for the green chilli and garlic mixture) and saute’ till the raw garlic becomes one with the mixture.Vary the green chillies depending on your personal tolerance of heat
  • Reduce the flame to a low and add the eggplant mash into this mixture and stir well so as to ensure equal distribution of the onion and all other flavours.
  • Cook with lid for under 5 minutes.
  • Garnish with finely chopped coriander/cilantro.
  • Serve with hot chapatya or steamed rice and dal.
  • We also enjoy this cold , cool the dish completely and serve with a generous helping of set curd/yogurt.
  • My aai didn’t add tomatoes to this and at times used some goda masala as well as it has dry grated coconut which can really alter the taste.
  • For Baingan Bharta add one finely chopped tomato as well after the onion has been fried.

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I found some very interesting variations to my recipe here are a few :

  1. For a recipe using Tamarind try this 
  2. For beautiful photos and an open air fire used to smoke the eggplant see this
  3. For a recipe using freshly grated coconut try this

I am adding this recipe into the Made with Love Mondays blog link love started and hosted by the lovely Mark aka Javelin Warrior – very interesting to read how that name came about !

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Just linked up to In my Veg box with Onions as the theme for April’2014 hosted by Tina who blogs at The Spicy Pear and created by Nayna who blogs at Simply.Food and CitrusSpice . I wasn’t able to download the logo for April but here’s a general logo that Nayna uses.

 

 

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Upma/Uppet (उप्पीट)- a classic Indian breakfast recipe

In Marathi,my mother tongue we call this dish ”Uppit” and in the south of India its called Upma.

It’s a fluffy cooked breakfast made of roasted semolina and spices and can be customized by adding green peas and small carrot bits.I love eating this steaming hot garnished with a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped coriander and some finely grated fresh coconut – umm perfection, can almost feel a strong whaft of the aroma swirl around my nose as I sit here and type the recipe 😉

After Kande Pohe this has to be my number one favourite Indian breakfast option.Agreed there’s a lot of ingredients but there’s a lot of flavour too!

In Matunga area there are many good Udipi restaurants who do upma on their breakfast menu and it’s so good gobbling fresh hot upma and dowing a cuppa or tow of hot filter coffee before getting to work on a busy weekday morning in Mumbai city.It’s very filling and  budget friendly too:) All you need is some time before rushing for the daily commute to ensure you can squeeze yourself into the restaurant and sit on one of the long wooden benches with complete strangers and hope to god you don’t have coriander  stuck in between your front teeth if they smile at you  😉

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup rava approx 100 grams
  2. 1/2 tsp urid dal
  3. 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  4. A pinch of asafoetida
  5. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  6. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  7. 1 heaped tsp turmeric powder
  8. 1tsp red chilli powder, actually 1/2 a tsp for the ones who do not like their Indian food too spicy
  9. 1 tsp coriander powder
  10. 1 tsp cumin powder
  11. 2 green chillies chopped fine
  12. 5-6 fresh curry leaves
  13. 2 pods of garlic chopped fine or simply smash them and drop in the saucepan with skin on!
  14. 1/2 red onion finely chopped
  15. 1/4th of a juicy red tomato
  16. Salt as per taste
  17. Fresh coriander to garnish
  18. Fine grated fresh coconut

Method:

  • I usually roast the whole packet of 1 kilo of semolina I buy on a flat pan on a very low flame stirring constantly and then allow it to cool down completely and then store it in tins ready to use when I need to make this dish or the sweet version called Gooda Sheera/ Sooji Halwa which is a popular Maharastrian sweet dish and especially important during festivals as we serve it as Prasad to Lord Ganesh or during Satyanarayan Pooja.
  • In a saucepan add the oil and as it starts to heat, add the asafoetida,mustard cumin seeds and urid dal.The urid dal brown very quickly so stir this around a bit.
  • When the mustard seeds begin to pop add the curry leaves,green chillies and garlic and chopped red onion.
  • When the garlic begins to turn a toasty brown and the onion reduces add the tomato and give this mixture a proper stir.
  • Now add the turmeric,red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder  and salt and mix well
  • Then add double the amount of water as compared to the quantity of rava/semolina,cover the saucepan with a lid and let the water come to a boil.
  • If you wish to add green peas and carrots finely chopped for an extra burst of taste do it just when the water begins to boil and let it cook in the hot water.
  • Now slowly stir in the semolina ensuring that it does not form lumps.
  • Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent lumps forming or the mixture becoming too dry, if it is very lumpy sprinkle water and mix well.

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  • Serve hot garnished with chopped coriander and fresh grated coconut.

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I am just beginning to experiment with photos taken using my new 50mm f1.8 Cannon lens – A’s gift to me for my birthday this, I quite like the steady pattern of gifts starting with my first DSLR on last years birthday.Just need to figure ways to wiggle out other gifts *evil laugh follows* 😉

Valache Birdhe (वालाचे बिरडे) – made in a typical C.K.P way

Valache Birdhe is an extremely popular bean gravy and has helped soothe many aching hearts and settle ruffled feathers after long gruelling work days.I managed to procure a few packets of these beautiful field beans with brown skin after a lot of searching!Hubs goes completely mental at the mere mention of this dish and insisted on me uploading the recipe and help all the other hungry hubbies out there..ahem ..so without further ado ladies and gents I present to you yummyscrummy recipe.

This is a typical C.K.P way of making a rather traditional legume curry. Vaal or kadve vaal (kadve meaning bitter in Marathi) are generically referred to as Field Beans in English.

Serves: 2

Preparation Time: 20 mins. Soaking and Sprouting: Depends on the climate, longer in winter about 2-3 days.

Serves:2 as a main course served with boiled rice or Indian bread – chapatti and a bhaji (sabzee/sabji) as an accompaniment

Ingredients:

  1. Vaal –
  2. Garlic Cloves – 3- 4 with skin
  3. Asafoetida a tiny pinch
  4. Red onion – one small finely chopped for the pan
  5. Dried Kokum – 2-3 or tamrind paste 1tsp or dried tamrind soaked in water -remove the pips and use the gooey thick bits
  6. 1/2 tsp Jaggery
  7. Mustard Seeds -1 tiny pinch
  8. Cumin/Jeera- 1 small pinch
  9. Oil – 1 and 1/2 large tbsp
  10. Red Chilli Powder -1 tsp
  11. Turmeric powder -1/2 tsp
  12. Coriander powder -1 tsp
  13. Cumin powder – 1 tsp
  14. Fresh Coriander finely chopped to garnish – half of bunch
  15. 3-4 heaped tbsp grated coconut paste made by running through a mixer fresh grated coconut or frozen coconut with 1 green chilli and 1 clove of garlic.My mum prefers to also add 1/2 a finely chopped red onion which has been tossed on a pan with the coconut and green chilli – must admit it lends a toasty warmth to the gravy but I skip this step simply because the I compensate for it by using the onion in the pan!
  16. Salt as per taste

Method:

  • Soak the Vaal overnight, change the water in the morning and by evening if they appear puffed then wrap them in a damp cloth and set aside in a vessel with a lid to create an environment warm enough to allow them to sprout
  • Remove sprouted vaal into a bowl and pour like warm water on them,stir with your palms to loosen the skin and many will float to the top,decant the water and remove all the rest of the skins and discard .
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and dust some asafoetida and throw in the mustard and cumin.
  • When the cumin seeds begin to pop, throw in the garlic with their skin on and smashed to flatten them and as they turn colour and release their aroma,add he chopped onion.
  • When the onion turns a delicate pink add turmeric powder,red chilli powder and then add the vaal/field beans.
  • Now add the turmeric,red chilli,coriander and cumin powders and quickly stir in enough water to cover the beans.
  • On a low flame cook with lid.
  • When the vaal is almost done,add the jaggery,coconut paste and the tamarind paste or the water from the dried tamarind which has been soaked or dried kokum soaked in water and when the vaal are done add salt and garnish with finely chopped coriander.
  • The logic of adding salt towards the very end is so that it does not interfere with the rest of the spices as they pack a punch into the beans while they cook and also salt can hasten the cook time for the vaal which is not ideal as the full strength of all the flavours steeping into the curry will not happen.

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I do know this process sounds rather cumbersome and complex but believe you me its easy peasy and the main labour is only getting rid of the skins.

Do leave me a comment of you make this dish and also any variations to the recipe that you may have heard of, any anecdotes,happy memories are always welcome.

Bon Appe’tit !

P.S: coming soon a Vaal Pilaf recipe that’s another firm family fav!

Pomfret Fish Curry – Flavours of Konkan and a Bengali Bhaja with spring onions and potatoes

When anyone asks me what I would like as my LAST meal,I always say I’d like some fried pomfret so naturally when I go Indian grocery shopping I always check for this fish. Though I must admit, nothing beats the flavours one gets from fresh fish.But well just have to make do with frozen fish as the one I love is a Pomfret local to waters of the Indian Ocean.

This is a relatively simple recipe and does not require much effort but the marination is key as it can really give depth of flavour which is what we need.

I had 3 of these beauties to cook and couldn’t resist getting them to pose for my camera all dressed with the dangerously delicious spices that I rubbed into the fillets.

Pomfret with all the spices that are used in the curry.

Serves: 4 (with rice and a vegetable dish included)

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium sized white pomfret
  • 2 large tbsp coriander and green chilli paste
  • 1 tsp  of ginger garlic paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp Red Chilli powder
  •  1 tsp Turmeric
  • 3 -4 cloves of garlic cloves with skin on
  • 2 tbsp grated coconut
  • a pinch of Asafoetida/Hing to dust into the oil
  • 2 tbsp refined oil
  • Juice of 1/4th of a lime
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Ok it’s relatively easy making fillets after this fish has thawed thoroughly as it has very few bones, I like to remove the bit in the front with the eyes and the tail and also remove the fins then make fillets the size fit for a curry or fry.

  • Wash thoroughly and marinate with red chilli powder, turmeric,salt ,ginger- garlic paste,coriander- green chilli paste and set aside for at least 40 minutes.
  • After the marination is done,heat oil in a saucepan,add asafoetida just a tiny spritz and throw in the crushed garlic cloves with their skins on and as they start to brown add the marinated fish n toss it around for about half a minute.
  • Add enough water to cover the fish and cook on a low flame.
  • As the water begins to boil add in the finely grated fresh coconut and stir in well till the curry is nice and thick.
  • Simmer till the fish is cooked and squeeze the lime into it.
  • Serve with steaming hot rice and allow yourself to enjoy this simple yet classic fish curry, an everyday fare in the houses along the coast of Konkan and a great treat in ours.

These beautiful flowers are on stalks of fresh spring onion!! Unexpected, I know right?!! My ma (in-law) very patiently chopped these stalks, created this cute little spring onion floral display and the whole idea of this photograph with books we are currently reading is hers.

Spring Onion Bouquet

I was so excited to see them and had to buy myself two bunches and look for a Bengali Bhaja or bhaji (Marathi) sabji/sabzee (Hindi).Found a lovely food blog called Hamaree Rasoi and you can read the recipe here.

Peyajkoli Batata bhaja

Spring Onion and Potato Bhaji

Needless to say the meal was supremely satisfying and we all slept with gentle snoring now and then …tmi- oh yes totally 😉

Pomfret curry with steamed rice and pejaykoli bhaja

Strawberry flavoured Shrikhand with Chobani yogurt

It was love at first bite for me with Chobani yogurts! Difficult to imagine that such deliciously thick and creamy yogurt can be TOTALLY FAT FREE, yes you heard that right – 0% fat!

Well then after gobbling several pots over the 3 days of Food Blogger Connect I had major withdrawal symptoms and needed a ‘’pot’’ of Chobani asap. When I wrote to them asking if I would like to experiment with some Indian Recipes with Chobani thick strained yogurt, they sent me a whole box! Golly!

So here I am with so many pots of deliciousness it took me a few days to gather my senses and get cooking 😉

I know a dessert recipe is like ‘’leave the best for the last’’ sort of a thing but darlings this one is such a traditional yet simple one that my fingers won’t let me type any of the others so here it is :

Strawberry Shrikhand

Ok So Shrikhand has cult status amongst us Maharashtrian so much so that it is a must have in our wedding menus back home. Oh yes Shrikhand and Puri is a like a treat fit for a king…err and a queen – of course 😉

So the whole trick lies in making the best possible perfectly strained thick set yogurt, tied in muslin and left in a refrigerator overnight to get what is also known as ‘Chakka’. It is NOT easy. But with Chobani since it ALREADY is so THICK and Strained it is the best yogurt to just spoon out of a pot and start making this dessert with.

Serves: 4

 Prep Time: 5 minutes

 Chill Time: 1 hour for the mixture and then to be kept chilled before serving

You will Need:

  • 1 whole pot of Chobani Strawberry yogurt 170gm, do not take all the juicy bit if you like Shrikhand very thick (but truly great Shrikhand is creamy and not too thick , it has got to be – well – perfect like Chobani!)
  • 150gm sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp cardamom powder
  • A tiny pinch of saffron
  • Toasted blanched almonds to garnish

Method:

  • Gently fold in sugar into the yogurt in a glass bowl, taking care not to ‘’beat’’ the mix
  • Leave to chill in the refrigerator for an hour, this way the sugar completely dissolves into the yogurt and does not affect the consistency of the mixture.
  • To this mixture now add the cardamom powder and saffron.
  • The shrikhand will now have a thick consistency and fall off a spoon in thick folds.
  • Serve chilled in a generous dollop of a portion with toasted almonds to garnish.

The traditional process involves passing the sugar and yogurt mix through a sieve to ensure any big bits of cream are removed to allow a smooth as silk feeling on the tongue. But again since Chobani has done all this for you there is no need, with the 3 biggest steps eliminated making this dish is a doddle!

(The 3 big steps we have eliminated are: making the set yogurt, straining it using a muslin cloth to remove all the water and the part where the sugar and yogurt chilled mix is strained)

Chobani Strawberry Close up shot

Traditionally either plain Shrikhand which is a pale yellow colour due to saffron food colour being added or then Mango flavoured Shrikhand which contains mango pulp and bits of mango is served. But of course there’s nothing to beat the taste of homemade creamy Shrikhand.

Strawberry Shrikhand final shot

Kairee Panhe/ Raw Mango Summer Cooler/Aaam Ka Panna

It’s almost 40 degrees Celsius in the afternoon in Pune nowadays, summer is at it’s peak, one needs to keep the mind and the body in sync and cool, at times like this a chilled summer drink and that too one made from raw mangoes is a treat, more so if it’s made by my old mother who is recovering from knee replacement surgery and is walking around using a walking stick. She is just waiting to get back on her feet and go into the kitchen and cook up stuff but under strict orders from her doc can only do so about once in 2 days.

Growing in Mumbai , summer holidays were great fun with my cousins around, mum always made loads of this concentrate from raw mangoes and it was such a treat to come home all sweaty and panting and drink tall glasses of this tangy cooler doused with ice cubes of various animal shapes 😉 aaahhh summer holidays!

You will need :

  1. 4 raw mangoes
  2. sugar as per the quantity of pulp generated
  3. Green Cardamon /elaichi powder
  4. Freshly ground black pepper powder
  5. Aniseed / Vilayati Saunf
  6. Chilled water
  7. Strainer

I picked these raw mangoes from my granny’s garden , they look stunning don’t they ?

Raw Mangoes

These need to be pressure cooked ,give them 2 whistles, drain the water and allow to cool.

in the cooker these beauties go !

Once these are boiled and have cooled down , peel the mangoes and collect all the lovely green pulp in a vessel, sugar proportion to be added is 3 times the quantity of the pulp , so if the pulp of these 4 mangoes was to fit into a small bowl of about 200gms capacity sugar would be 600 gms. Stir in the sugar into the pulp and keep stirring until it is completely dissolved , add a large spoon of elaichi powder,some freshly ground black pepper,some aniseed ground  – green Cardamom powder and give this mix a stir in the mixer for just about a minute .Store in a glass jar in the fridge. Do not freeze.Remember never to add salt to this mixture , only while preparing the drink from the concentrate add salt in the glass, salt will turn this concentrate into a dark green colour and cause a bout of food poisoning !

While preparing the cooler , add 2 spoons of the raw mango concentrate and add a pinch of salt to this, top up with cold water and strain after mixing to remove any strands from the pulp, add ice cubes,dress it up with a  spring of mint if you will and drink up home made  goodness!aaahh ! Summer !

Tempting glass of Kairee Panha !

a big bottle full of panha ummmm

A Hot Summer Day !

I had a truly brilliant day , I spent a few blissfull hours at a park, I otherwise  only saw while being seated in a crowded tube , getting squashed between a bunch of strangers and trying NOT to die of the various body odours floating around mixed with even more toxic deodorants failing miserably at their jobs.

My gal pal S and her super cute and smart 4-year-old boy had a blast of day starting by gobbling strawberry flavoured icicles, followed by grocery shopping , hungrily eating many Indian street style snacks under the garb of being ”devislishly hungry”  and then rushing to this awesome park.

Oh yes , but the HIGHLIGHT of my grocery shopping was that I purchased a dozen HAPOOS AMBE (Alphonso = Hapoos ,AMBA= Mango in Marathi , my mothertongue), I cannot describe the happiness I felt as I sunk my teeth into a ripe,plum slice of the King of Fruits. I will probably dream of drinking chilled mango milkshake early in the monring and ending the day by eating chilled slices of the hapoos mango with dollops of fresh cream ,which I totally enjoy squirting out from it’s can and telling myself that since it’s ”low fat” ,It can be that BAD after all !;)Just the thought of an alphonso mango brings back a string of memories , my most recent one being that of being transported staright to heaven as I had my first ever ”MASTAANI” that too a MANGO Mastani in Pune at one of the most favourite college haunts of Punekars- ”Sujata Mastani” in Old Pune ,Peth area.(I shall stop here as I will sink hopelessly into a whole journey down memory lane and totally loose my way …hummm I do see another blog write up coming up , all about Mangoes and memories ,aha the good LIFE !) Oh yes and S and me took great delight in haggling over our purchase and managed to bring down the price by £1.47 , my mom will be so happy to hear this (jeevan safal moment for her,LOL !). I say this because I am terrible at bargaining and after years of seeing mom successfully doing it while buying veggies I hated myself for being such a failure 😉 ,now that is exactly WHY I love Modern retail , imagine trying to ask the cashier at one of the Supermarket chains ”Surely , since I am buying 3 instead of 1 , you HAVE to drop the price by atleast 50p !,or else I DO have the option of WALKING OUT and buying from so-and-so competitor” – all this with a raised brow and a really fake serious expression on my face !( AHO KAKA, asa kai karta , 3 dabbe ghetoi na hapoos che ,tar kahi tari bhaav neet vichaar karoon sanga !!!) (Btw, Mastani is basically a thick ice cream milkshake with dollops of ice cream loaded on top and real fruit slices stuffed inside and on top of it is way way better than a falooda and is a dessert which has originated from Pune city and is a local must have !)

Never have I seen a larger gathering of tiny tots all dressed in summery bright clothes and happy parents in one place !

I had my moment of calm amongst the chaos, as I sat on a wooden bench and gazed up at the bright sky , the trees gently swaying in the summer breeze ,thanking the gods for bestowing us with such a lovely day, I watched a few bold squirrels scamper around for food .

I left my mobile and my camera behind though , I wanted nothing to come in the way of me living in the moment .

I am turning into a person that dislikes mobile phones , rather a dangerous place to be in, in todays ”connected world” I say …hummm

But who can take away from me the memories I have clicked ,farmed and stored away in the crevices of my mind , to be pulled out on  a cold rainy day , am sure I will smile as  I think of this perfect day, a 4 year old innocent banter , my friends happy smile as she sat on a swing after many,many years and the feeling of the warm sun on my face ….sighhh….

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 😉