Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Welcome @ WelcomHotel Dwarka

Partying till midnight on a Sunday is bad news for Monday. Especially when the Monday has back to back meetings planned. More so when the said Monday also happens to be your sixth anniversary.

Waking up with a hangover and groaning out of bed, we went about getting chores done, the fact that the day is also our anniversary and should be special nagging at the back of our minds.Managed to get through the long day somehow and finally at 9 in the evening we ventured out to have dinner and thus mark the passage of this landmark in our relationship. 

ITC's WelcomHotel happens to be really close to our place so we thought of checking out what eats it has to offer. By the time its your sixth anniversary the idea of doing something special gets heavily tinged with the idea of 'Special within comfort zone'.

The property was earlier a Lebua hotel that was taken over by ITC. Walking in we found the hotel getting ready for Christmas celebrations and that is something which always cheers us up. We walked around the lobby to soak in the Christmas spirit.

We found out that they had two specialty restaurants apart from a 24x7 coffee shop. One of these was a Chinese room called Shanghai and the other one offered North Western frontier cuisine under the name K&K. 

We chose to check out the later and were shown towards a cavern like space. The inside of this very dark space was lighted up only with candles. We had landed ourselves a candle light dinner without intending to :) 

The staff was extremely polite and nice and helped me make sense of the slightly confusing menu. unlike most Menu's which are vertical, this one was planned to be read horizontally across three pages. So while the partner chose something to drink, a Jacob's Creek for him and a sparkling Sula for me. I picked up a murgh malai tikka as starter and settled down to enjoy the place. 

A very dark almost cave like atmosphere was lit by as many as 1180 candles and a lady was periodically checking the candles and renewing where necessary. the floor beneath the candles had small pools of water in which small fishes happily swam around. Giving the place a very unusual atmosphere. The low light meant we could hear our neighbors but not really see much of them. Made for an interesting atmosphere.

Conversation, made lighter by the pretty heady wines flowed smoothly as we slowly relaxed. Gaurav who attended to us was a young guy, happy to help and also chat. he had recently done his Hotel Management Course from Kolkata and overhearing us speak in Bangla made him break out in a grin. It was delightful to actually see the 5 star sheen slip for a while and hear him talk in an excited voice about his Durga Puja experience in Kolkata. We had to disappoint him by saying that we had actually never witnessed one.

I must mention the complimentary chutneys were interesting though what really caught my fancy was the green papaya chutney, we call plastic chutney, its a must in Kolkata weddings. Though what it was doing in a restaurnat meant for North Western frontier food I have no idea about. It came in handy when I accidentally chewed on a chilli thanks to the darkness. The candle lit atmosphere became a tad uncomfortable when the food was served since we couldn't really see what we were eating and almost as disappointing was the fact that we couldnt click good pictures either. The soft Indian classical music playing in the background though soothing seemed misplaced as well. ITC needs to fine tune its offerings a bit more and ensure that they stay true to genres.
The main course which I selected alongwith Gaurav was morels in a rich dry fruits gravy and a Bukhara style mutton. I loved the mushroom preparation so much that I reached out for the mutton much later and that is saying a lot. The mutton was very tender and amazingly well prepared with the spices almost permeating the very bone.We had warqi parathas and khameeri kulchas to go with it. 

We had planned to have dessert in the coffee shop however we were so full and satiated that we instead chose to try the paans they had thoughtfully provided and call it a day.We returned home with the fog slowly drifting in behind us bringing to a close a very busy Monday and eventful six years.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lebanese Momos

Dwarka where I live is a big sub city populated by middle to high income families from almost all over India. So it really surprises me why the place has so few 'swear by' eateries to boast of. Every time I think of having a meal to remember, I have to head for South or Central Delhi or towards Gurgaon which in the past few years has come up with quite a few note worthy places.

While I do so my hunt for worth mentioning places in Dwarka continue and as often as I can, I try checking out new places in an attempt to figure out nice options within the sub city.

One such attempt had led me to Baba Ganooosh - a small eatery in the sector 11 market which had an interesting name. I walked in to find that true to name they do serve Lebanese dishes and hummus, falafal, shwarma, labneh etc were all on the menu. Though limited demand meant the owner who had been a chef in Saudi Arabia had to also offer Chinese and Indian dishes to sustain.

Happily I ordered two Shwarma rolls as takeaway and made a mental note to come back again. The rolls sadly didnt measure up and I didnt go back again. Till a few days back when I was in the vicinity, mighty hungry and alone as well.

Since I wanted a quick bite and no other outlet seemed to offer anything interesting I walked into Baba Ganooosh yet again. I ordered a plate of chicken momos thinking that no one can go horribly wrong with it so no matter what it should be bearable.

When the momos came I was truly surprised - to start with these were fresh piping hot momos not the kind which get cooked for hours like they sell by the roadside. Secondly the outer layer was thin and almost translucent.

The filling was well made and the sauce was nice. Baba Ganooosh just made my day. :)

In case you are looking for nice momos do go to these guys. And yes while there do try the Lebanese dishes as well it would be a pity if the only Lebanese food outlet in Dwarka has to convert to chinjabi in order to survive.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Home made rasmalai

For Diwali this year we planned that we would attempt to make sweets at home instead of buying ready made. 

Now the partner is the one with a sweet tooth and I only nibble at sweets once in a while. My one weakness however is the rasmalai. 
I can have 3-4 of those lovelies and for someone who as a rule doesn't eat sweets, that's a lot. So it was decided that we will make rasmalai as it would be a pity if the maker herself wasn't inclined to eat. 
I got out my recipe notes and pulled out my trusted rasmalai recipe. 
It iis fairly simple and the only real concern is the timing for taking it off the gas, as over heating tends to break the balls. 
This is what you need for it:
2 Litre full cream milk
1 cup sugar - as I mentioned I don't have much of a sweet tooth so this quantity works for 
Blanched pistachios and almonds cut into small slivers - half a cup
Half a cup cream
Few strands of saffron
1 cup milk powder
1 tablespoon all purpose flour/ maida
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
An egg

In a thick bottomed pan bring the milk to a boil, add the sugar and lower the heat. Let it simmer, stir occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves and doesn't stick to the bottom. The milk should reduce to half.

In a bowl add the milk powder, baking powder, flour and egg, with wet fingers knead this mixture into a dough. 

Grease a plate lightly and keep aside, make small balls from the dough tap them lightly to flatten a bit and keep on the greased plate.

Once the milk has reduced to the desired consistency (keep in mind that the balls will soak up some of the milk as well) add the balls and let it all simmer for about 5-7 minutes. 

U will see that the balls will expand. Take it off the flame.

Once it cools a bit, add the cream, saffron and nuts. 

I prefer to ladle it out into small bowls as individual portions before I put them in the fridge. 

It's best had the next day as it gives the rasmalai a chance to set and also absorb the delicate flavour of saffron. 


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mixing and messing with Rini Pie

During graduation one of our texts was D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers and in it we were frequently told how an oven and baking as an essential part of a kitchen in the early 20th century was a very powerful allegory. It stood for the whole act of giving birth and shaping a child. It seemed all too far fetched to me back then.

All those lessons came back yesterday when I and Aarini attended a cake mixing event at The Park. Both of  us were pretty excited about this outing, as it was only about her and me and I had promised her there would be lots of ‘happy birthday’ her word for cakes.

It was a pleasant October morning neither too hot nor cold and we set out on our long drive to The Park in the center of town from our home on the south western fringes of Delhi. Aarini had a lot of questions about the red bus, green bus and blue bus that we spotted on the way which needed answering. Every small thing evokes a question in her and I try my best to give her an answer that’s not far from the truth and yet simple enough for her to understand.  
 With stories about the bhaiyas and didis we would meet soon, to the big big ‘happy birthday’ that Uncles and Aunties would make where we were going, we finally reached our destination.
Spread out in a shady corner by the swimming pool was our space for the day.

Waiting for the promised 'friends' to arrive
 Sacks full of dry fruits of all kinds, spices, vodka, rum, brandy and whiskey on one table with big mixing trays in the center.
On a separate table were laid out marshmallows, cookies, cupcake bases and all manners of toppings. This was especially done to keep the children occupied while the Mom’s got down to the serious business of making the cake mix.
Sacks full of goodies

All lined up to dive into the waiting trays

 Since we were early we had a chance to go around the lawn and Aarini investigated the property like a true detective.
Soon more Moms and kids joined in and the team from The Park’s kitchen as well as other staff members also joined us and we were all set to begin work.
This is how we rest

And this is how we play

In the kiddie corner

Abhishek Basu the Executive Chef who was at hand to take us through the process explained how the Annual Cake Mixing Ceremony till now had been an internal event for the employees. This year they thought of inviting a few Moms and kids to join them in this fun event. Chef At Large helped gather the enthusiastic people.
Soon aprons, gloves and caps were handed around and we were all dressed to mix and mix.
Sack full of almonds, cashew, raisins, dried figs, tutti fruttis and what nots went into the mixing tray and the participants went at it with gusto. The surprise element was finding coins also in the tray. The chefs explained that the coins are considered lucky for those who eventually find them in their piece of cake.
The mixing begins

hard at work

 Next went in the highly aromatic spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon & orange peel and others that created a lovely fragrance all round and one almost believed that Christmas was already here.  Once everything got mixed up well the alcohol was poured in all over and yet another good toss over given to the now delicious smelling mixture on the trays.
In go the spices
The kids in the meantime were kept busy with creating their own cupcake toppings, cookies dipped in chocolate and awesome marshmallows.
We rounded off the fun morning with some fritters, coffee and chit chat under the mellow autumn sun.
All in all a lovely morning spent with Aarini and finally the realization as to how baking and motherhood are indeed so alike. For this world too is like an oven and by ensuring Aarini has many new experiences, I am trying to ensure she develops into a well-rounded person who is at ease with her surroundings wherever she maybe.

Main bhi Chef!

Aarini's cookie

Thanks CAL for helping me spend a nice morning with my daughter J 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mishti Aloo Mishti

Yummy sweet fritters which are good as snacks if a sweet tooth runs in your family or as an unusual dessert.

How to make it?

Half kg sweet potato, boiled and peeled.
Half cup grated coconut.
Half cup sugar.
Half cup suji.
Half cup white oil.
5-6 green elaichi.
A tablespoon each of crush kaju and kishmish.

Mash the sweet potato well with the kaju, kishmish, grated coconut, sugar and suji. Add powdered elaichi powder. Leave the mix in the fridge for about an hour.

Heat the oil in a kadhai, using your palm and fingers shape the sweet. Keep water in a bowl handy to help you with this. Having wet hands ensures the mixture doesn't act to sticky.

Fry them carefully on medium flame. Let one side fry to a golden brown only then turn the sweet, this will ensure it doesn't break while turning.
You can serve hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gastronomic Delights - another name for Durga Pujo

Pratima at RK Puram Kalibari Pujo
Durga Pujo - the annual vacation of Goddess Durga when she comes visiting her parental home alongwith her children is a time of joy, festivities and gluttony in Bengal and all those pockets of the world that Bengalis inhabit. Unlike the austerity, fasting and prayers followed through the rest of the country during the autumn Naratras - Bengal alongwith neighbouring Assam, Orissa and Jharkhand erupts in joy. The Pujo is all about new clothes, socializing, reunions, cultural activities and food. Its a carnival of sorts and it runs for five days!!

While the rites and rituals are carried on by pandits the rest of us are kept busy with pandal hopping, participation in dance, music, recitation competitions, catching music and theater performances all of course accompanied by liberal doses of chops, cutlets, moghlai parathas, radhabolobis and many, many kinds of mishti.

The beginning of this gastronomic 5 day extravaganza is rightfully marked by Anando mela. An unique culinary competition where participants make their signature dishes and showcase the same at the pandals. The categories are pre-decided and marks are given for both taste and presentation. A MasterChef competition of our own which has been famous from long before Gary brought it to notice that homemakers can cook excellent food.

The ladies having set up wares wait for the judges to arrive
At Deepanwita, Dwarka which is my parar pujo (neighbourhood pujo - while everyone pandal hops, there always is one pujo you belong to. In my case its Deepanwita) we had three categories - Veg, non-veg and Sweet dish.

Bated breath
Practice, discussions, procuring of ingredients all happen well in advance and on the day of the competition women with family and friends in tow walk into pandals carrying casseroles filled with the yummiest dishes possible from their kitchens. Foodies like us make a beeline for the stalls once they are set up, to taste, lick and critically analyze everything.

Patishaptas, cakes, brownies, Hyderabadi cuisine, vada sambar, Goan specialities and more was available for us to gorge on.

The satisfied smiles on the faces of the ladies who had soon covered and packed their wares indicating that they had sold out was a separate story all together.

All self respecting pandals always have a variety of food stalls operating through the pujo days - and this is in addition to the fruits & sweets prashad distributed in the morning and bhog (a different menu each day) served to everyone for lunch. I told you food is if not the center then only slightly off center to the right.

This year we were delighted to find an unassuming Royal Chick Chop serving delicious veg and non veg snacks at Deepanwita apart from other chat, kebab, ice cream, chuski and other stalls. What made Royal stand out was the authenticity of the taste and the care they took to check if customers were satisfied with everything.
Kolkata style rolls - konno katha hobe na

Yummy Moghlai paratha - keema and calorie filled, but who is complaining?

Crispy flavorsome cutlets - just my thing

The Sugar candy man - some things are eternal

A chuski is a must after the spicy stuff from the kebab counters

So there is vegetarian fare too

Kebabs all set to be grilled over a charcoal fire and served piping hot with mint chutney and lots of love

Vegs grillables - we welcome our non bong neighbours who are off non veg due to Navratras

Pan - a must have after all that stuff 
 As I sit and write this post and go through all the pictures captured during the past few days I yet again wonder at the tenacity and patience of those who set time aside from their everyday lives come together and plan & execute these huge opportunities for all of us. A big vote of thanks to everyone in the Pujo Committee for everything.

Asche bochor aabar hobe - it shall all happen again next year...

till then...Jai Ma!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Yummy Challenges

Pizza – has been my weakness for a very long time. Those sinfully calorie laden gooey cheese filled slices of heaven. So when a pizza eating competition was announced on the FB page of Chef at Large I was tempted however hesitated as I wasn’t sure how many I would need to eat to be able to compete. Interest up I kept following the thread till a message from Sid showed that volunteers hadn’t lined up – I took my chance and said yes.
Having agreed, nervousness set in – will I be able to eat fast and enough to not let the team down? How many people would be there, watching me eat? The doubts were many but having said yes I wasn’t about to back out.
So on the first day of Navratras with a quick prayer to the Mother I set out to participate. On the way read about people exercising, taking digestives etc. in preparation and a lot of others wishing us good luck. It felt nice to be a part of a big family and having people root for you.
Forgot to mention that the organizers had arranged for a cab as well and I arrived at the venue before time, wandered around the huge Ambience Mall and window shopped a bit till it was time for the competition to begin.
Deepak gungho about winning - the guy's got attitude
At the entry to the Pizza Hut on the third floor I met up with Sid Khullar and Deepak Mirani my team mates for the upcoming competition and soon we were chatting away about food, life and eating tactics as we waited for our fourth member Sumeet to join us.
Pizza Hut has a special offer running from the 16th Sept -20th Oct for unlimited Pizzas at a very reasonable price of Rs. 199/- for veg and 229/- for non veg per person. I thought it was an amazing offer and made a lot of sense for youngsters with voracious appetites and limited pocket monies. In fact the competition had been organized as a part of the same offer.

Sumeet listening in on the papparazzi chatter
Once all participants came in and we were set to eat our way to glory – the competition began. Not before we had been video graphed walking in and taking our places, with periodic flashes going off as well. My own paparazzi moment I tell you J
Well, we took our seats and across the table were the competitor team – we flexed our stomach muscles, the bell rang and we were on…
Sid planning strategy or is that a prayer to the Food Devta?
All conversation stopped as we focused on gulping down the pizzas as fast as possible. 1, 2, 3 to go...the count from both the tables egging us on.
Proud to announce that we ate so much and so fast that there was a gap in delivery – the kitchen couldn’t keep up with us, we cheered in glee.
Sumeet and Deepak in our team were the serious eaters while I and Sid took periodic breaks to click pictures, tweet and post about the competition.  At about the 5thslice I would have given up but for the look on the face of the competition. They looked about to give up and that egged me on couldn’t let an easy win go. So, on we trudged, Sumeet and Deepak of course leading by a large margin.
I managed to gulp down two more slices and stood at 7 slices. Sumeet had finished his 10th by then – I could barely lift a slice but couldn’t let the team down so munched on.
The final countdown had me stuffing my last bite of the 9th slice in – by then my gag reflex had kicked in and it was a struggle to keep shoving food down but did manage.
The main thing is we won with 41 slices managed between us within 30 minutes – no mean feat I tell you. Anyone who thinks otherwise can go to Pizza Hut and have a competition and let me know how many slices you manage to finish – I will be listening.

Couldnt beleive that these kids started this chain which has gone global now. Talk about vision.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sorry About The Lobster ...Heads

Neil French is one of the most amazing advertising legends and his book 'Sorry About The Lobsters'  on advertising is what inspired the post title today.

Leaving the tried and tested in order to set out and do something different and exciting needs courage and loads of inspiration, hence reminding myself of Neil French pretty often these days. There have been many advertising greats...but this is one - who is alive and kicking and on my FB friends list to boot (there I have said it...cant stop gloating you see).
Neil's work life has been unpredictable and colorful and am sure Neil would agree these are understatements.

You may wonder what exactly does Neil French have to do with this post on a food blog so here is how I see the connect:

1)  his booktitle has lobsters - so does this post
2) his life has been about seizing a situation and making the most of it - so is this post

Now that I have explained the connect lets get back to the business of Heads...Lobster heads to be exact. As you must know we bongs eat all things fishy (ah yes lobsters are fish in our lingo).

I spotted these big lobster heads at my preferred fishwalla stall at C R Park and on asking found that the rest of the lobster is send out for exports and the heads sold separately.

I picked up a kg of them thinking that I would figure out what could be done with them once home.

The lobster heads stayed in the freezer for about five days before I figured that the best thing to do would be to make them into pakoras and have with dal and rice.
Yesterday being a holiday - called for something different on the table.

I had already made a Channa batura for breakfast. So the pakoras were the lunch surprise.

So here's what I did:

Cleaned the heads and marinated them in a paste of onion, garlic, turmeric, salt, chilli, rice flour and lemon juice.

Let them rest for about 4 hours.

Made a mix of 3 tablespoons of cornflour, a pinch of salt and 2 eggs with a bit of milk added to make it runny.

Took off the hard shell around the head, quickly dipped it in the mix and deep fried it in a kadhai.

The result was a yummy pakora which was just right to celebrate a holiday with :)

Sorry about the lobster...heads, finishing too soon.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Do Nuts

Even when you work in advertising and are aware of the power great pictures and witty lines can exert on minds, every once in a while you succumb to the same.

This Saturday afternoon the intention was to sit at a familiar Café Coffee Day and get some work done and with this aim in mind we landed up at the Green Park Market where there are two such outlets. As luck would have it the parking space we found was bang opposite a newly opened Dunkins Donut outlet.

The façade beckoned and immediate changes to the plan were made and we trooped into Dunkins with the aim of biting into some amazing doughnuts. A nice warm, lively space greeted us and the staff too took out time to smile at us which was a good beginning. 

We sat down and opened respective laptops and then looked around for something to munch on. May I say that having seen the Mad Over Donuts counter, the one at Dunkins didn’t impress one much. Most seemed replicas of the MOD ones I settled for a cinnamon donut and a hot chocolate while the others went for ice teas. 

This brings us to the point that M.O.D managed to launch at a very crucial time, taking the first movers advantage – most people I know associate Doughnuts with MOD and hence even Dunkins feel like a replica – where possibly it was the inspiration. 

The doughnut was nice though it was initially served cold and had to be sent back for heating, A query that ideally the staff should have asked at the time of ordering itself. The hot chocolate was very insipid and didn’t make one feel happy at all.

With three open laptops we were soon in need of a power socket and thankfully found one close to our table, a quick look around however showed that we had been lucky as it seemed to be the only one. A poster mentioned free wi-fi and when we asked for the same encountered quite some confusion as the staff didn’t seem to have clarity on how it could be activated. Finally they managed to come back with a scratch card and asked us to use the code on it for free wi-fi access with the rider that its only for ten minutes usage. After spending another ten minutes in trying to figure it out we were finally told that the wi-fi connection isn’t functional. 

We still had some work to finish so decided to have a working lunch at Dunkins itself. This thought was of course guided by the amazing food images constantly being beamed at us from a television screen and like I said even advertising execs succumb to advertising, such is its power.

We  ordered hash browns, a classic chicken burger, pepper chicken burger and a cream cheese bagel – sadly except for the bagel none of the burgers really turned out to be anything that one could say was a ‘must have’.
What really took away from the burgers was the quality of the bread which I felt was very dry, almost brittle at the edges giving the burgers a very dry feel. The hash browns were okay, one has had better ones.

Try it out however don’t have your hopes set too high and if I were you I would stay with the doughnuts and not experiment too much. The staff was helpful enough though they could have done with a bit more training.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Snack - Shack

So, you have a late lunch on Saturday and assume that no one would be in the mood for a snack in the evening and are sure that tea and biscuits would suffice.

However come 6 PM you yourself are craving a bit to munch on, after all whats a weekend without snacks?

Of course conflicting thoughts of a full lunch, extra calories are also hovering around, making it a complicated decision making challenge.

So here's what I did:
  • Steamed some sprouted lentils I had in the fridge for about 10 minutes in the microwave. 
  • Put the same in a bowl along with chopped onions, tomatoes and a few green chillies.
  • Squeezed a bit of lemon, added rock salt and Chat masala along with a dash of Tabasco sauce and Imli chutney
  • Added a couple of crushed papri's to the mix and gave the whole thing a good toss.

Served it with a papri and a drop of imli chutney on top.
Tasted yummy, was nutritious and helped the guilt pangs about healthy food as well.

A win win for sure :)