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. 

 

 

Shree Krishna Vada Pav, Hounslow – A review

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

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Image Credit :Shree Krishna Vada Pav

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

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Image Credit :Shree Krishna Vada Pav

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

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Image Credit :Shree Krishna Vada Pav

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

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

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

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

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Image Credit :Shree Krishna Vada Pav

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

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

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

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Image Credit click here

Mumbai sandwichwallah

Image Credit : The Guardian

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Image Credits for the 2 images above click here

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

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

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

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

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

 

Shree Krishna Vada Pav on Urbanspoon

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.

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.

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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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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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MJ: Why did you choose Panchgani?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

some interesting facts about Panchgani

 

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

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

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

MJ: Do your kids love what you do?

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

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

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

Touristy things to do while in Panchgani

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

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

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

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

 MJ: When is peak tourist season?

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

MJ: Anything you wish you had done differently?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breath taking view from Eco Camp site

 Lake Dhom from the Eco Camp site

 A typical Tent at Eco Camps

Beautiful Sun Set from Eco Camps at Panchgani

 

Barbecue Time at Eco Camp,Panchgani

 

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

 

Kimmins High School,Panchgani

 

ROACH Bakery

 

Strawberries and Cream!

 

Path leading to the campsite

 

View of the Village below

Panchgani is beautiful !

 

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

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

 

 

Interview with Pune’s leading Fruit Wine Manufacturer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MJ: What inspired you to get into this business?

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

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

MJ: Where is the bottling plant located?

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

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MJ: Where are the strawberries you use sourced from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MJ: How do you deal with competition?

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

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

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

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

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

MJ: How do you promote your fruit wines?

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

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

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

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

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

Quins

MJ: Is there any export potential?

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

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

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

MJ: What is the shelf life of fruit wines?

AP: Ideally 2 years from bottling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottle with glasses 2

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

Dum-a-Dum Biryani & Kebabs – An interview with an entrepreneur and a passionate foodie.

It was a hot summer evening in Pune, I set out to look for a take away to treat aai- baba to something yum to celebrate a new milestone for mum who was recovering post surgery. Not willing to walk too much I was pleasantly surprised to see this brightly lit signage and a small crowd of youngsters on their bikes outside this place called Dum-a-Dum Biryani

I walked across to this cheery and brightly lit take away, the fiery and tempting aroma of kebabs   wafted around the place.

The place was clean and tidy and the tiny kitchen was buzzing with activity. I ordered a Lasooni Murg kebab and Tangdi Kebab and waited outside, watching the busy main road and the steadily building traffic. Just a few turns away is the Mumbai Pune expressway via Chandani Chowk. A primarily residential area in Pune, it has several educational institutes and IT companies Hence the large student and IT crowd hover around this tiny take away. This young set night disappears by night and mingles with the resident locals and it’s only in the evening when one sees large groups of youngsters with their modern bikes zipping around that one can actually estimate how much of Pune is a composed of this transient population.

This flurry of activity outside Dum-a-Dum keeps engaged in observation and it’s only when I hear my name being bellowed from the counter inside that I snap out of my reverie.

On an impulse I decide to talk to the very busy manager and ask him if the owner would be willing to give me a few minutes as I was curious to know about how Dum – a – Dum came into being.

He readily parts with a name and mobile number and I am suddenly very excited, well after all this would be my very first interview, IF the owner agrees.

Luckily for me, one phone call and a few messages later, I am all set to meet Mr.Rakesh Rajendran, the Founder and C.E.O of this professionally run start-up hospitality qsr firm.

Armed with my new Cannon SLR and a brand new cute blank diary from Either Or at Pune (made by the Doodle Factory), I stroll down to meet the person who will give me my first ever interview.

I get an extremely warm greeting and before we start chatting there is glass of cool and delicious salted buttermilk offered to me. I have written down a few questions I tell him which I will ask him but we get chatting about food and kebabs and well, retail and lo and behold ! He tells me that he too was a part of modern retail in Pune before he decided to turn into an entrepreneur!

Any inhibitions I have of how to conduct this interview are gone with the wind and we exchange notes about the retail industry and the changing scene in Pune. After all only retailers can truly understand and appreciate what it is like to work in the fast paced retail environment in Pune. Food Retail  is a changing dynamic industry which is probably the most challenging form of organised retail .

Rakesh tells me that was the head of IT for one of the leading food retailers in the country and has also lived and worked in Chicago for 7 years prior to that.

Well read, widely travelled, he is a self proclaimed foodie and also rather camera shy as I was about to find out.

RR ( shall call him that for ease of expression and shall refer to myself as well simply MJ), tells me that this outlet is one of 6 outlets in Pune and has been operational since Dasheera of 2010.RR tells me that he believes in soft launches hence most of his outlets open on auspicious days and have always received excellent response from the locals . His retail experience has held him in good stead in terms of zeroing in on locations , setting up a system for home deliveries and hiring and retaining staff.

Well it’s time now to ask some questions

 MJ: Silly first question, why the name Dum- a – Dum?

RR: (smiles) Haven’t u heard the song ‘’Dum -a-Dum’’ mast kalandar? Well on a serious note, we started out with the name ‘’Village Kitchen’’ which was quickly vetoed by friends and family. The whole idea of a Kebab and Biryani take away should be a fun concept and has to have a catchy name , hence the name Dum-a-Dum , of course it has to with the fact we offer Dum Biryani on the menu.

MJ: Why a kebab and biryani joint and not any other kind of cuisine?

RR: I conceptualised this format and got a core group of friends who had worked with me in the past and who understood my passion for the hospitality industry to back my efforts by funding this venture.  I managed to convince my friend Tushar Bhole also to actually quit and help start-up this hospitality business.

It was a very well researched decision and was something I was keen on, it also thanks to the fact that I have travelled across many places and always wanted to set up a place where great tasting food and convenience go hand in hand.

MJ: What is your involvement in recipe development?

RR: We have done a lot of research on the best selling kebabs and popular flavours and have worked with my chefs to develop our own unique Biryani flavour. The most popular kebabs that people normally expect on a menu are tweaked. As such we are always looking at experimenting with say a new ingredient or a new rage and are very open to feedback from our patrons as well. I am not a trained chef but have travelled extensively across the north of India and have then with great though come up with the current menu

(Phew! it’s hard work this kebab business I think ,  while I gobble up the lasooni kebab comes from the kitchen for me to devour , what a treat ! Little does one think about what goes on behind the scenes)

Lasooni Kebab Image 1

Lasooni Kebab Image 2

 

RR goes to tell me a little bit about biryani’s and how we develop our liking towards a certain type of biryani which for us is ‘’THE’’ absolutely best biryani ever. Ofcourse it’s to do with where one grows up and has tasted local flavours packed into the meat and rice . The most popular biryani currently on our menu is the ‘’Lucknowi’’ Biryani . To get to a place where we develop a known type of biryani and get the taste upto our liking and then have our customers come back to us and tell us that they ‘’loved’’ our biryani is very satisfying.

We give a lot of thought before we add anything to our menu and since we are a take away only chain, it’s very important that we get the taste right as the only interaction a customer has with anyone representing us our delivery boys and the voice over the phone!

I come from Kerala where I can say that there are at least 7 types of Biryani which are popular and known, there would be as many variations of taste and recipes as there would be regions and local culture.

(So true, I think to myself, food is so much about the place and its people)

My idea is that we should become known as a place that serves ‘’FOOD with a SOUL’’, not just another ‘’regular’’ food take away joint.

By now there is a plate of soft Aloo kebabs called Tandoori Aloo ke Gutkeand Makrana tangdi kebab – a juicy succulent version of Tangdi Kebab (aloo meaning potatoes in Hindi, the ones used here are the baby new potatoes , tangdi meaning chicken legs in Hindi ) , I get busy clicking and try to get the best angels , I request RR to pose with the team but he politely refuses saying ‘’ in this interview the heroes are my team and of course the food’’ Well said isn’t it ?

The Aloo ke Gutke are so tasty, it’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted ummmm

Tandoori Aloo ke Gutke

 

Tangdi Makrana Kebab

 

kebabs with chaas

 

MJ: What are the biggest challenges you face?

RR: Finding and retaining good staff, the home delivery ones, who are the ‘’FACE’’ of the brand and are not just delivery boys. We try and ensure that each outlet is like a tiny unit in itself that  runs on a deeply ingrained feeling of ownership in itself .It’s important for me that each employee understand my passion and treats the place as their own. It’s all the more important for me as I have in turn to convey that confidence and spirit to all those who believed in me and have also invested their monies in this venture.

Also managing operational overheads is very challenging.

MJ: Who is your closest competitor?

RR: Well, we like to think that since we are primarily looking to become the best take away chain in the city and country, I would like to benchmark with Domino’s.

MJ: Any new branches opening up?

RR (Face lights up with apparent joy) Yes! One in a big mall in Pune and one in New Bombay .Am really looking forward to the one in New Bombay as compared to Pune, the attitudes and expectations differ.

MJ: Do you serve goat or lamb meat in the mutton Biryani?

RR: we offer both and also offer halal meat, for bulk orders we need a day or two’s notice ahead for large orders. As such we have 6 different Biryanis on our menu and also offer family packs and party packs. The Chicken Mutka Duma Dum Biryani cooked in a clay pot is heavenly and also very popular.

We don’t use any artificial food colours and we use raw paya to tenderise our meat, that gives the meat it soft, succulent and juicy nature, we are quite proud of our creation.

Meanwhile, some regular customers stroll in and RR gets up, excuses himself and goes to have a chat with them.

I find a rare quite moment at the counter and get the smiling team members to stand still for a few seconds, click away, polish off the last of the mouth watering kebabs and wash it down with yet another glass of the chilled heavenly chaas.

I thank my mild mannered host and trudge back home, happy to have wrapped up my first ever interview for my blog!

Now for the details: For heavenly kebabs and Biryani head to Paud Road, next to Reliance Fresh, Bhusari Colony, Paud Road, Kothrud, Pune. The menu can be downloaded from Zomato.com – use the following search string – Home / Pune / Kothrud Area / Kothrud / Dum-A-Dum – Biryani and Kebabs.

Busy Counter

Customer Waiting in the evening

 

Happy Team members

 

Pic of poster in store

 

Kebabs all set to be grilled!

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

Borough Market – a sliceoff history,heritage and ofcourse FOOD!

If ever there was memory I revisit connected to food, browsing, new experiences and feeling that I LIVED and loved life to the fullest it is this The Friday in July when I visited Borough for the first time ever….

Coming from India and have spent most of my life in Bombay I am no stranger to massive open food bazaars, haggling to get one free lemon or a bunch of coriander and feeling triumphant that I could get HAPOOS AAMBE – the king of fruits Alphonso Mangoes at a few rupees lower than the previous customer ….old memories of accompanying my mother as a child to the market every other day and helping her carry home-made cloth and nylon bags full of fresh vegetables and fruits. With these vivid memories in mind I set off with my pal N to visit the market.

Getting there by tube was fun and the first glimpse of the market sort of gave me that feeling of a newcomer to a large city, no not of feeling LOST but simply overwhelmed by the sheer variety of goods available,Of course the most beautiful part is the way all the sights and smells make their way into your mind, literally it was my nose leading me to the food !Set in Southwark, one is found staring at the SHARD as soon you exit from the Tube station, towering over the place it is an imposing glass structure.

The market is massive,has a really amazing old world charm thanks to its origin roughly dating back to the 1800’s when it started off as a wholesale market and continues to be,to this date.

Of course we  took a lot of pictures and ate many free samples along the way but the places where I feel silent with admiration were the Fresh Fish counter – for its sheer variety and activity surrounding the stall, the Mushrooms on display-I guess I had never seen so many colourfull ,delicate and edible mushrooms in one place before ! The Gamston Wood Farm with its exotic meats,yes as exotic as ostrich meat – left me totally speechless but owing to my many food allergies I didn’t experiment, but some day soon I do hope too !I purchased some ripe nectarines , ripe juicy tomatoes and some crunchy salad leaf bunches.

The Market itself is divided into a few large chunks, we started by walking around the fresh fruit,vegetable and sea food shops, moving onto the inner food court where one find everything from superior Assam tea(which I did buy and got home in a cute brown paper bag and treat myself to some mornings with a generous chunk of ginger and plenty of milk, proper boiled sweet Indian CHAI!) to different varieties of cheese,exotic breads,organic foods,herbs,spices,nuts,dates,desserts sighhhh, then one is led to the many fresh food stalls where one can eat exotic burgers, hot dogs, rolls, pizza or sandwiches,soups,salads almost any imaginable snack packed with fresh meat,cheese and all things divine,I certainly envy all the office goers who can visit this place during lunch hour!Not to be missed are the bakery,patisserie and confectionary stalls, creative, hand-made and exotic all rolled into one, giving into those sweet craving is very easy indeed.Each trader no matter how small the stall exuded passion for their craft.Lot of international foods are available here in this massive expanse of a market each with its own spot under the sun so to speak.

There are many pubs and restaurants in the vicinity which sort of take over when the market itself shuts down for the day.

Simply walking past the fresh oysters and taking in all the gorgeous food aromas wafting around does good for any appetite.Aptly then Borough Market has won ”London Food Market of the Year” 2010 at the London Lifestyle awards.The sea food selection is the best in the city and it is also a great place to buy some amazing wines and spirits, from far-flung places across the globe.

”N” and I got ourselves ” The Spitfire”  and  a ”BBQ Banger” respectively from a friendly fella who happily smiled for my camera! Big Bonus points to him, am definitely going back for more yummy food!The rail-bridge crossing over this part of this market causes a bit of a rattle-shake-shudder when trains pass by overhead.

We took our hot meals wrapped in tissues and sat down in the compound of the Southwark Cathedral with many other and though it was windy we hardly noticed, eating our lunch like hungry school kids with sauce dripping off our face!

We then ate ice cream made from goat’s milk,thick,creamy and delicious are base emotions, it transported me to a green farm far away into the English countryside, I left I was on a patch of land watching women dressed up like village belle of times gone by carrying pails of creamy thick milk and barns full of healthy cows and other animals…. N had to shake me out of my dream world so we could continue browsing;)

Ice cream in hand and after much posing for pictures we strolled to the area with big shops which have been around for many years so much so that they have are food institutions on their own, one of them is Ginger Pig.When one enters the Ginger Pig shop,it’s almost like walking into a museum of oink oink 😉 EVERY possible cut,chop,slice,dip,garnish associated with cooking pork all under one roof – sigh ….

After strolling around some more and drinking in the sites, we decided it was time to leave but not before we spent some time browsing the flower stalls outside and purchased some magic potions from Neal’s Yard and some more relaxing tea for me,which I sampled at their store,it made me all drowsy and calm just what I recommend for a good nights sleep, count more deep sleep zz’s after drinking this one folks…

Chocolate – the food fit  for The God’s especially the one made by Hotel Chocolat’….. the  wooden interiors with the dim lighting and walls filled with chocolates so divine and varied that we just had to go in and have some liquid chocolate , mine was mixed with CHILLI ! yes, awesome right? we also got to sample many of the new innovations and sta down on one of the massive wooden benches and sipped our hot chocolate and dreamt of ……well more CHOCOLATE!

Though the weather decided to play spoil sport,nothing could take away the feeling of a day spent pampering my senses….all I wanted to do was go home with my spoils wrapped in crinkly brown paper and sink my teeth into the nectarines and turn the tomatoes into a thick creamy soup.

If I could I would have written a poetry to describe my feelings when I left the market, I wish I could come up with some quotable quote to put all that happens in one’s mind in the market in a nutshell, but really , it wouldn’t suffice, no written word or picture can do justice to the beauty of this vibrant part of London’s heritage and history, treat yourself to a day out Visit Borough Market ….

Visit the official website for updates on opening times, events and news http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk

Hover over each image to view the title.