Inito – a journey into the flavours of Indian street food in London’s East End

Journey into India’s by lanes without leaving London? Yes it’s possible well at least transporting your taste buds is. Simply head to London’s east end for a treat to your senses. Located a stone’s throw away from Liverpool street, @Inito_UK has the look and feel of a really cool dhabba plus an old college canteen rolled into one.

While we waited for all our friends to arrive we were served some thick and delicious lassi, I love salted lassi and this one made me greedily want another round – it’s the kind of lassi that you will happily drink and not worry about your ‘lassi moustache’ – I almost thought I was stuck in the dhabba scene from Rang de Basanti for a minute there (which reminds me I must add a road trip to the North of India to my bucket list – with loads of stops at roadside dhabbas included and if I can do this one a motorbike – waah!!) As expected the Mango lassi was most popular choice.

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We were then served Chicken Lollipop with a mini masala dosa, the chef was generous enough to even give some dosa batter away to experiment at home to one of us. Chicken lollipop is another very popular ‘item’ on the menu in India and is very popular even as a starter for parties. Dosa stalls dot streets where dosa lovers throng to eat a variety of different dosa’s with delicious stuffing , there is at least one dosa stall to be found outside every big railway station in Mumbai.

Inito served the dosa with some delicious coriander and mint chutney.

Then came Pani- Puri – the one snack that makes me go weak in the knees. Everytime I go to Mumbai I must head to Elco Pani Puri to gobble up as many plates I can possibly stuff myself with! The pani puri was ok and much better than what I have tried elsewhere in London but amongst everything we sampled that evening I would put this at the bottom of my list. This has nothing do with the what they served per se but more to do with what type of pani puri I am accustomed to having back in Mumbai.

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Then came the bhel and the dahi chaat – both were excellent and the tamarind chutney was fab.

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Then came a huge platter with various roti- rolls – basically loads of meat or veggies with some fresh veggies and chutney stuffed inside. I loved the chicken and lamb – the meat was cooked tender and it was what I would expect in terms of taste. Reminded me of Tibbs Frankie ummm The prawn roti roll was my least favourite – I would rather have had the prawns on their own.

We were given a selection of different dips and chutneys to go with these roti-rolls, my favourite was a chewy aubergine chutney, very good. The adventurous few can even design their own roti rolls. No wonder then the Chef Saurav Nath is an award winner – he has managed to retain the authenticity of most of the dishes while coming up with clever fusion dishes like the pau slider and roti rolls.

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Then came the Tikka’s – tender and succulent portions of meat, chicken and paneer- Indian cottage cheese – marinated in Awadhi spices and yoghurt and then skewered inside a tandoor. I loved the mini pau-sliders too. Highly recommend pairing the tikka’s with Bombay Blonde a blonde beer crafted specially to compliment the complex flavours of curry and a great alternative to Indian Lagers.  For those who have had Cobra beer before can order Cobra, Mongoose or Kingfisher too. I love Kingfisher especially when I am in Mumbai or Pune over summer – nothing better to help me survive temperatures upwards of 32 deg cel!

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The chef then got us some curries to try and dum-biryani. While all of us went into a frenzy clicking pictures and capturing the moment when the lid was lifted off the biryani , the air filled with the unmistakable biryani fragrance of basmati rice, spices and meat  The very thought of that steaming hot biryani  makes me salivate even now  -ummm . I had fun explaining to my one of blogger friends who had never seen anything quite like that before. Folks its worth the trek to this place just for the biryani! – Head over to my Instagram feed to check out a cool ‘biryani’ video here

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The curries were delicious and I am biased in favour of the lamb. But by this point I was ready to explode and so were the others. It was good then that some jumped at the chance to take some the curries home, I would have hated to see the food go waste.

No Indian meal is complete without some freshly made pipping hot gulab jamun and ice cream and even with full tummies , everyone did justice to the sweets. I was quite delighted to hear that the ice cream was Horlicks flavoured – Horlicks and Bournvita were my favourites while growing up and made drinking hot glasses of milk bearable. The mini Gulab Jamuns were irresistible little bite sized ones in sugar syrup. (as confirmed by my friends since I did not touch them – had vowed to stay away from sweets – whyyy???!! But I just had to try the ice cream and allowed myself as teensy weensy taster)

The rasmalai was fabulous too (as confirmed by my friends) with the right consistency and topped with pistachios and cardamom floating in a sweet thickened milk.

The best thing about going for a review dinner with blogger friends is that you have great company sorted and you hope for good food and when food is fabulous it just turns into one of those evenings that you wish would happen more often. I got to meet my friends, eat fab food, discuss things food and blogging related that only like minded folks can fathom and enjoy discussing – what more can one ask for, huh?

We were served by smiling and courteous staff and sampled a large variety of dishes from the vast menu. The Chef came and spoke to us at length and I loved chatting him up in Hindi. The food is brilliant and I would certainly  recommend anyone who wants to try fabulous melt in your mouth tikka’s , steaming hot biryani and tangy chaat – If the food managed to transport my taste buds to Mumbai then am sure they got that bit right!

The minimalist decor goes well with the street food theme and the bright wall art will have you clicking away to share pictures on Instagram – I did !

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*With  thanks to the PR Agency and Inito for the invite. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

 

 

Dinner at The Brasserie , Tower Guoman – a review

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

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

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

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

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Our rustic bread selection with truffle oil and olive oil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brasserie at the Tower Hotel on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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 🙂

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

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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!

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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!

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* 😉

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.

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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

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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.

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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

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Image credit Wiki – La Vash bread stacks

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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.

 

Young Entrepreneur Farrah shares how MOOSE MAPLE BUTTER was conceived- in her first ever Interview.

This is the first ever interview Farrah has given, she confessed, when we spoke over the phone trying to decide where we could meet. I told her that I would promise to keep it simple and conversational and I am so glad we spoke like long-lost friends exchanging ideas and chatting away. We decided on a beautiful pub called The Bolingbroke in Battersea and it was a hot, summer evening with the sunlight streaming in through open doors onto thick wooden tables.

Farrah is an especially inspiring person to meet; she seems to emit these waves of positivity around her in tiny, invisible bubbles; landing on me, they made me feel as if I could win any war I wanted to.

A high-flying lawyer by profession, Farrah divides her time between New York and London; and when she isn’t acting as legal counsel to some very big names, she is busy in her home kitchen making an extremely delicious spread called Moose Maple Butter. And yes, the recipe is a secret!

Read on to find out how she came about making this heavenly tasting, pure, wholesome goodness of butter.

(As it goes with my interviews, we shall refer to me as MJ and to my new-found friend as FM short for Farrah ‘’Moose’’; MMB is short for Moose Maple Butter)

MJ: What inspired you to create this amazing new product?

FM: Soon after a detox in France, where I spent a few weeks learning about healthy eating habits and especially learning to avoid “added sugar’’ in my diet, I was in New York for work and having breakfast at a hotel. I was looking for something sweet to spread on my already buttered, hot toast but I wanted to avoid added sugar at any cost. The jam and chocolate spread options available on the table were all laden with sugars and other artificial nasties that I really wanted to avoid! Finally, and really through a lack of choice and an insatiable desire for a sweet taste that morning, I poured some of the organic maple syrup – on the table for pancakes – over my toast. It was that ‘’Eureka’’ moment, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t find maple butter to buy in any shops, either Stateside or in England, that prompted me to experiment at home until I came up with my current recipe for Moose Maple Butter.

Image 1 MMB sample close up shot

MJ: Great! That’s an interesting and ever so creative way to make a whole new product. Now for my old favourite trusted question, why the name Moose?

FM (With a big smile) Well I have to admit, even though it’s probably going to make me sound a bit odd, that I have been obsessed with moose for years.  I have moose things everywhere!  I was doodling for the maple butter logo and cute, funny images of moose kept appearing … Moose Maple Butter just seemed a natural choice, especially as there are generally moose around where maple syrup is produced!

MJ: I must mention here that Farrah has the most beautiful and neat handwriting I have ever seen and her notebook has beautiful doodles, hardly doodles really, but neat, cartoon creations of a moose which ultimately became her logo, I even managed to get this quick picture of her final drawing that is now her officially registered logo. I love it. The little black doodle near the jar at the bottom of the page is the moose’s nose; talk about perfection and practice!

How the MOOSE logo was born

MJ: So now that you have created this wonderfull product and christened it, what happens next?

FM: Well, I have only just had the brand and logo registered, both in Europe and the US, so I now feel confident about getting Moose Maple Butter out there to as many people as I can! It’s a brand awareness campaign in full swing from now until November this year, when hopefully you’ll find Moose Maple Butter on the shelves of supermarkets!

MJ: Wow, that’s good news, pity you can’t give away any names (naughty smile). Any other ways of promoting MMB then? (Moose Maple Butter = MMB)

FM: Yes! I am looking at actively promoting MMB at various food fairs, events and festivals in the run up to November. As you know, I had a stand and basically introduced MMB, at the recently concluded Food Blogger Connect (FBC5). That was wonderful for MMB! I’m so glad they found me.

(Heck, so am I Farrah, or I wouldn’t have met you and would have lived my life not knowing Maple Butter existed! No way!)

MJ: Tell me more about your ‘’Eureka’’ moment and what followed.

FM: Initially, I was really only making Moose Maple Butter for family and friends and then also supplying, on request, to family and friends of friends! Everyone kept asking for more and where they could buy it and it all got me thinking!  Every time I had kids over at home, I had a little ‘’tasting’’ session and would lay out hot toast slathered with my maple butter spread along with some toast with chocolate spread on it and some with the usual butter and jam. It was always reassuring to see ALL the toast with Moose Maple Butter being gobbled up in comparison to the other offerings! That, along with lots of encouragement from everyone around me, gave me the shove I needed to sell Moose Maple Butter at a few of last year’s school Christmas fairs, in London and Los Angeles (Farrah’s second home). I have been flooded with requests ever since from a rapidly growing group of mothers and fathers alike and have been selling tubs of MMB ever since.

Of course there are all the not-so-fun things to deal with, like premises inspections and registrations and food hygiene certification and all the rest! I was so relieved when the local council left very impressed with my clean and shiny, brand-new kitchen!  I think I have a bit of an obsession on the cleanliness side!

(Farrah: I totally agree – I am sure I have cleanliness OCD geee)

MJ: I notice you have a very nicely done Facebook Page for Moose Maple Butter, I love it!

FM: Thank you! I love sharing art work done by my little fans who send me their pictures. You will see quite a lot of creative ones on the page. Of late, a lot of food bloggers have asked me for samples too and have created so many beautiful and delicious recipes.

Any recipe that calls for butter and sugar is a possible one for using Moose Maple Butter instead and results in a more wholesome but equally tasty outcome!

MJ: How does MMB compare to butter and spreads in its nutritional content?

FM: I am so glad you asked this question! MMB in comparison to say a chocolate spread is much more well ‘’spreadable’’ and hence you use up much less than say a thick peanut butter. Since I only use purely organic Maple Syrup at all times, what you get is much more taste with very little MMB.

So in the case of Moose Maple Butter a little goes a long way!

So everyone looking for any alternate spread, especially to chocolate spread, Moose Maple Butter it is!

I must say I agree with Farrah here, my first bite of Maple Butter was enough to make me fall madly in love with this new find – Hook, Line and Sinker if you will!

 To put this into perspective:

10 gms of average chocolate spread = 53 calories and one needs at least 30gms to properly cover one slice of toast, whereas only 10 gms of Moose Maple Butter will go a long way on that same one slice of toast! Brilliant! And tasty!

close up MMB close up shot with table details

MJ: So if I was to ask about the shelf life and nutritional contents of Moose Maple Butter what would you say?

FM:  I have currently given samples of MMB to Eclipse Scientific who will provide me with an accurate analysis of the exact shelf life and the precise nutrient content. But like any butter, it needs to be kept refrigerated.

Moose Maple Butter has no artificial additives; it has no E numbers, nothing. It is absolutely nothing but pure fresh butter and pure grade A maple syrup – with a dash of sea salt.  It is a superb alternative to processed sugar-laden products. It is a great, quick and easy breakfast option and just melts into the grooves of a hot crumpet and is of course best paired with pancakes.

Wow! That mention of hot crumpets makes me want to quickly grab hold of those cute sample jars from the table and run home for some tea and crumpet time. But to avoid such madness Farrah has kindly agreed to part with a large pot of Moose Maple Butter just for me to sample and make something delicious out of! So folks watch this space, in a few days you will see some delicious recipe posted on Sliceoffme with Moose Maple Butter as the divine ingredient.

MJ: What would you like to make of this new venture Farrah? Or put it plainly where do you see yourself in 5 years time

FM:  I’d just love to see Moose Maple Butter become a household name. I think the biggest kick would be when some kid I don’t know asks me if I’ve ever had Moose Maple Butter – that would be a great moment.

Our conversation becomes something of a friendly banter. The glorious sunshine refuses to go away but the shadows have shifted. The pub is filled with loads of families, kids running around; there is a buzz of activity. The usual lone ranger, armed with a net book and ale, occupies the table opposite us and looks down on me with disdain as I take some snaps of the cute jars.

(Image below is a picture of Farrah – the creator of Moose Maple Butter)

Farrah's Pic

I hate to tear myself away from this happy pub and evening chat but the promise of a dinner and movie by the hubby beckon.

Just realised that, of all the entrepreneurs I have met so far, 4 in all including Farrah, three of these entrepreneurs had never been interviewed before!

(To read the older blog posts with these inspiring entrepreneurial stories just click on the links below:

I am sure Farrah is as excited as I am if not more,about her first ever interview where she has shared her story and how Moose Maple Butter was born. Now can’t wait to use her creation in my home kitchen!

Apart from the fair amount of persuasion it took to meet the two first time interviewees in India, I must admit that the one common thing amongst ALL entrepreneurs is their humility and their generosity to share their dreams, a few apprehensions and most of all, their time. I cannot thank you all enough.

Do leave your thoughts and comments about this interview and while you are at it, spread the MOOSE!

Say Hello to MOOSE at: http://www.moosemaple.co.uk/

Find MOOSE on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/MooseMapleButter

Follow MOOSE on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/FarrahMoose  (@FarrahMoose)

Buy Moose Maple Butter (or pick up a free sample) at The Petal Pusher in Kew.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Petal-Pusher/480191988667441

Share the MOOSE folks!

Father’s Day Breakfast – Asparagus Soldiers and soft boiled eggs

As far back as I can recollect Sunday was my daddy’s fav day to cook, he is so good with food and flavours and is meticulous to the point to military precision, he always left the kitchen very clean and explained the health benefits of whatever he rustled up, which actually wasn’t necessary considering the food was so tempting always that my sister and I barely heard what he spoke while we stuffed our faces 😉

Even now in his 70’s he is still as enthusiastic in the kitchen and now loves cooking for my sisters kids,his family favourite dishes are biryani, chicken curry and a simple dessert made with china grass.

He used this massive skillet to make biryani’s and its gathering dust now somewhere at home. Baba – as, we call him makes the best soft boiled eggs ever and the most scrumptious omelettes and runny scrambled eggs with cheese.(I want a skillet real bad now!)

Baba , I wish you were in London with us, I would love to have made this simple breakfast for you, I love you daddy.Happy Father’s day, but then you do know that you are the nucleus of my life, don’t you?

You will need:

  • A tiny bunch of fresh asparagus
  • 2 thin strips of bacon/prosciutto
  • 2 eggs
  • sea salt to season

Preparation:

  • Boil the asparagus after you chop of the woody bit, check if they are done in about 7 minutes, drain hot water, wash in cold water for like a few secons and leave aside,covered.
  • While the asparagus is boiling ,boil the eggs in another pan, do not cover and cook them for about 4-5 minutes, drain the hot water and add cold water so that you can hold the egg easily and quickly ”behead” the eggs.
  • The beauty of a soft boiled egg is the runny interior which is prefect for dunking the asparagus soldiers into.
  • Pan fry the bacon till it’s crunchy, you can also use fine strips of prosciutto if you like
  • Wrap the crunchy bacon strips around the asparagus
  • I keep some sea salt aside to add some flavour , I love eggs so I prefer them without any salt sprinkled.

Baba makes the perfect ”quarter” boiled eggs which are runny and soft and he removes a bit of the shell and pours out the egg into a tiny bowl, it goes so well with Pohe (puffed rice used to make a tasty cooked breakfast with finely chopped onion,curry leaves , lime and tiny bite sized potatoes, garnished with finely chopped coriander) … I remember sitting around this tiny table in our first house in Bombay with my sister and Baba would give us these yummy eggs for breakfast on weekends.I love going back in time and reliving those happy days of simple family togetherness.

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Baked Courgette Chips – Guilt Free Snack ready in 20 minutes!

I often crave to munch on something like most of us do and just munching on something so different and bursting with flavour is satiating.

Plus there’s a lot less guilt munching on something that’s baked rather than deep fried right?? Well, ahem ! This recipe was adapted from here.

What I love most about this is that it’s done quickly, give it  prep time 5 min, cook time 15 mins and ready in 20 minutes! What more can one ask for, just get that oven fired up people!

So here’s what you will need :

  1. 2 medium sized courgettes
  2. 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  3. 100gm golden breadcrumbs
  4. 2 egg whites
  5. Smoked Sea Salt
  6. Ground black pepper
  7. Half tbsp mixed Italian herbs
  8. A drop of olive oil to grease the foil

Method:

  • Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, smoked sea salt – mine is Oak smoked Anglesey sea salt, it really packs a punch, the ground black pepper,italian herb mix, in a bowl and mix well. Get the egg white in another small bowl. Slice the courgettes real fine and dip them first in the egg white and then into the  bread crumb mix.
  • Place on a baking tray lined with foil and bake each side for 5 minutes in a pre heated oven at 240 degree Celcius / Gas Mark 9.

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I gobbled them with a cup of hot sweet and spiced up Indian Chai, perfect for a summer afternoon when all you want to do is read that ”unputdownable” book, it’s Dan Brown’s Inferno, whats on your reading list?

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I am guest hosting In My Veg Box again this year in March 2015 on my blog, an event run by Vegetarian food blogger Nayna Kanabar of Citrus Spice UK and the theme this month is Courgettes. Just added in my favourite Baked  Courgette ‘chips’  recipe to the linky.

Would love to see all your lovely creations with Courgettes, do link up, all details on how to link up are available on my post here.

In my veg box  courgettes event logo