23 December 2015

My Favourite Foodies. And Their Favourite Ingredients.

Do you have that one ingredient that you enjoy cooking with? That one ingredient that you try incorporating in most of your dishes? I decided to ask some of my favourite food bloggers and home chefs what their favourite ingredients to cook with are. These are bloggers that I follow, home chefs whose food I swear by, and food writers who I enjoy reading - an esteemed bunch who I am thankful to for contributing to this post. Read on!

1. Kalyan Karmakar of The Finely Chopped
One of the first food blogs I started following, each post Kalyan pens down is a fable, where the central characters are food! I've yet to find a blog that oscillates between gourmet food from the cobbled streets of Rome, to street side dosas from Mumbai suburbs with such ease.
Kalyan tells me he enjoys cooking with fish - an answer I was hoping for owing to his Bengali lineage. 'My current focus has been on oven based yet flavourful fish grills and bakes. The trick is to ensure that the fish is cooked right. Not over cooked. Not raw. Which is always a challenge in the oven and part of the fun.', shares Kalyan.

Kalyan's Lebanese Inspired Grilled Snapper
Image Courtesy - Kalyan Karmakar
2. Nikhil Merchant of Nonchalant Gourmand
Gorgeous pictures, innovative recipes, and beautifully worded text - Nikhil's blog is a perfect dive into the world of gourmet food.
Nikhil is currently based in Los Angeles, working on a new project, and relishing California's citrus trees - blood oranges, lemons, limes and avocados which are found commonly in most homes over there. 'I have a lemon tree growing here and it's perennial. Not only do they have that quintessential citrus tang but are sweet and mildly acidic. Fleshy skin for some great zest and full of juice. I am a sucker for lemons these days, and they are totally worth it.', quips Nikhil.

Nikhil's Nonchalant Lemon Soufflé
Image Courtesy - Nikita Mody

16 December 2015

My Encounters with Mumbai Rickshaw Walas

The most challenging part of my work day is finding an auto rickshaw on Linking road during peak hours, to ply a short distance. I turn from Zenia to Xena - the warrior princess - fighting my way through the swarming traffic, competing with fellow office goers, all so that I can find someone to safely take me home. Sadly my ordeal does not end there. 
I seem to have the innate knack of attracting auto drivers that range from the obstinately rude to the downright cheap. An interesting rickshaw ride yesterday inspired me to list down the types of rickshaw walas I encounter on a regular basis, and here goes - 

1. The Opinionated Chatterbox
This category seems to have an opinion on everything, and he ain't afraid to voice it. Right from politics, to weather, to Bollywood, to the state of the roads - this one seems to know it all! And then there's the moral police variety as well who enjoys talking about sanskaar and sabhyata. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I have faked a phone conversation so that I don't have to listen to him rant. And then there are the times I actually enjoy this category - it feels good to chat with a stranger sometimes, on any and every topic under the sun.

8 December 2015

Flavour Diaries, Khar - Bake Your Cake and Eat It Too!

I remember my first year, Anatomy lecture many moons ago where the professor labelled the laryngeal cartilages for us on a cadaver, that fifty of us were asked to share. When the time came for me to identify them during a test, I couldn't tell the cricoid from the thyroid! The purpose of this extremely useless piece of information is to acquaint you'll with how important 'hands on' learning is in any field. Some time back I attended a baking class where the chef demonstrated a couple of easy treats which I was confident I could pull off. Needless to say when I tried the recipe at home, my cake did not rise and I ended up eating half cooked cake batter for dessert! Had I actually practiced baking the cake alongside the teacher, I'd have a different story (and some cake) to share.
Which is why the Flavour Diaries - a cooking studio perched right on top of Khar Social - is what the doctor ordered! Eight individual work stations where you actually get to practice what you're learning ensures you leave class with not just knowledge but also skill!

Over a wonderful meal of comforting one pot chicken stew and delicious apple crumble cake at this newly launched studio, I understood more about the Flavour Diaries experience. 

30 November 2015

Decoding Bandra's 'Tea' Cafes

I've been a coffee person ever since I can remember. Until a self-inflicted weight loss spree I went on roughly three years ago where I drank copious amounts of green tea. (Eating a pizza and then drinking five cups of green tea, does not 'balance it out' FYI.) And then there was no looking back. I've begun to enjoy tea in all it's forms and all it's glory - may it be a cup of herbal tea or a strong Earl Grey or a kulhad of desi chai!

Tea Cafes have become the new coffee shops. Barring the few mass produced, international coffee shop chains I don't seem to hear of any new coffee joints launching recently. Tea houses are in vogue now, just like how fashion re-invents itself. 
And everyone's favorite suburb, hipster capital of Mumbai - Bandra - is sprouting tea cafes everywhere you look. I can proudly and safely say that I've visited them all, a few of them multiple times, and I am listing down my favorite three! Stick out your pinkie finger, take a sip, and read on.
Chaayos, Bandra Reclamation -

After their extremely successful stint in Delhi, Chaayos arrived to Mumbai a month ago, with their mustached mascot, serving up desi 'chai' in all forms imaginable. Their claim to fame is that they can customize your chai in 12,000 possible ways - giving you the option of choosing your chai patti (regular/kadak), milk (paani kum, full doodh, doodh kum etc.) and add ons such as tulsi, adrak, elaichi and even hari mirch!
Must Try their good ol' Kulhad chai served in a traditional kulhad - if only we had winters like they do in Delhi! Their Hari Mirch chai with a chilli after taste, that hits the back of your throat without being too pungent receives full marks for innovation and execution. Ooh, also try their Aam Papad chai - this non milk tea comes sweetened with aam papad syrup, which is quite popular I believe.
Skip their Elaichi Masala Chai Frappe that definitely needs more chai and less elaichi flavoring so that it doesn't taste like thandai. Also their Bun Maska was a burger bun complete with sesame seeds that left the Bawi in me outraged.
Go If you are a fan of Indian chai. Chaayos deserves a pat on the back for taking Indian masala milk tea, and elevating it's status with different flavour combinations. Do try their desi hot teas, and all day nashtas from their very well priced menu. 

20 November 2015

Why Do I Crave Parsi Food?

I was in South Bombay last Sunday, specifically in the Fort area. And I did what I do every time I am in that area. Eat Parsi food at a Parsi restaurant. So I trudged down the narrow bylanes, with the sun shining down my back, with a begrudging Bee in tow and landed up outside the steps of Jimmy Boy.

What I enjoy about the Jimmy Boy menu is their wedding feast or Lagan nu Bhonu priced at Rs. 750/- + tax. (They also do a vegetarian spread, but no comments on that.) I devoured my plump, well coated patra ni macchi with a Raspberry by the side. I gobbled down the piquant, sweet-spicy, salli marghi on a makeshift banana leaf 'paatra'. I ended my meal with some celebratory mutton pulao with masala dal, with barely enough stomach space to try their lagan nu custard. 

And throughout my meal I felt this little childish excitement surging within me. A mixture of satiety and elation - something that only food memories can evoke. A feeling of going back in time, and eating pulao dal in my granny's Dahanu home verandah. A memory of peeling away the banana leaf off the pomfret at a navjote, hoping the piece is bigger than your cousin's. 

19 November 2015

The Big Bong Theory!

My knowledge about Bengali food is highly limited to one Kolkata trip many years ago as a student, where I stuffed my face with kathi rolls for three meals a day. Where I cut a lackluster birthday pastry at Flury's that everyone strongly recommended. Where I had a tedious time de-boning an Ilish fish, but it turned out to be absolutely worth it in the end. So as you can see, my knowledge about Bengali food is highly limited.

So when Trident, BKC invited me over to try their new Bengali food menu at Maya - their lovely Indian restaurant - I couldn't say no to learning more about this cuisine. Firstly, because I work for a Bengali company now, and there could be no better way to bond with the boss than over food. And secondly, Chef Gaurav Sircar who was cooking for us last night is quite the maestro when it comes to showcasing the food of his state.

I decided not to do a conventional review of the food there, since I am a layperson when it comes to Bengali food and I really don't have the knowledge to critique the taste. And also I am tired of writing conventional reviews, just as I am sure you readers are tired of reading them. Here are three things I discovered during my pleasurable Bengali meal at Maya - 

11 November 2015

Lemon Pudding with Peanut Chikki Crumble - A Recipe to Honour Indian Farmers

My recent trip to Nashik was an eye opener. I got to see first hand what this season's dismal rainfall has done to crops. I saw arid, and dry land where I should have been seeing green. I found walking around in the farm so tedious, only to imagine the kind of hardships our farmers must have to face working under that harsh sun, day in and day out. But they do it, with a smile on their faces, waving to us as our car drove by, proud of being able to put food onto our plates every single day.

Freshly returned from my Nashik trip, I was approached to participate in the #SeedTheRise campaign by Mahindra and Mahindra. Call it destiny, or coincidence this campaign happened right around the time I wanted to do something for the farmers, and make a difference in any small way that I could.

What is the Seed The Rise campaign? - A fund raising initiative set up by Mahindra and Mahindra to improve the lives of farmers. The campaign is working at raising Rs. 2 crores from the public via donations - and an equal amount will be matched by Mahindra as well. All funds collected will go towards supporting 5 key NGO run projects that strategically aim at bettering the farmers' lives in varied ways including setting up drip irrigation, sustainable farming units and educating the girl child. 

As a part of the #SeedTheRiseChallenge, I was asked to come up with a dish made out of lemons. India is the world's largest producer of lemons, a fact that I was oblivious to until now. I personally feel lemons in desserts are underrated. I remember collecting my pocket money, and running to Candies once a week after school to bite into a Lemon Tart. That citrus burst from the lemon curd, contrasted with the bite of the tart base felt like heaven to my childhood self. I remember the fragrance of my aunt's lemon cake baking in the oven. I remember my very first bite of lemon meringue, and wondering if this is what nirvana feels like. So yes, lemons and I go way back.

1 November 2015

Will Wander For Food - A Khandeshi Food and Wine Sojourn

Do you plan your upcoming vacations around destinations that are known to serve the best food? Do you believe that the best way to understand the culture of a new place is via the regional food favorites? Do you strongly feel that the best souvenirs you can take back home are those of the edible kind? If yes, then Wandering Foodie may be the answer.

Two engineers - Rahul Patil and Vinod Sarma- gave up their boring desk jobs, to combine their love for regional Indian food and travel, resulting in the ingenious Wandering Foodie concept. Currently limited to two destinations in Maharashtra - Nashik and Alibaug - the concept emphasizes on learning more about a place, by travelling there, and tasting traditional local food. Food that is made using traditional methods, by home chefs, and with local produce - it doesn't get more authentic than this!

26 October 2015

Shopping for a Good Cause

After agriculture, the vocation that provides sustenance to a large number of people in rural India is the handicraft industry. Artisans who create beautiful handicrafts are found in each and every Indian state, with each art form being distinct and varied from the next. There is unfortunately, a huge gaping hole in the market between the artist and the consumer. Somewhere, a bridge is required so that the consumers have easier access to the products, and the artists are able to sell their wares effortlessly.

I was recently introduced to 'Ratash' - an e-store that retails regional Indian handicrafts and wares. At first, it looks like any other retail store that sells handicrafts, but I later found out that the proceeds of every sale from the store are given completely to the artisan. They're trying to empower the skilled worker by providing them an online platform to sell their wares, and enabling them to use technology to improve their businesses.

25 October 2015

Pimp My Rice - Book Review. And a Fun Recipe.

Call me conservative, but the charm of cooking with a good ol' recipe book beats YouTube videos or articles on the web! Which is why I was super thrilled to receive Nisha Katona's new cookbook - Pimp My Rice - where rice is the supreme star! An entire book with recipes ranging from smoothies, to mains, to dessert all emphasizing on everyone's staple crop, is a genuinely handy book to have.

What pleasantly surprised me in the first glance was the versatility of rice that was demonstrated in the book - rice tea, breakfast based dishes, soups, mains, appetizers, dessert, cakes, and even a black rice - coconut sorbet! Who knew you could do that much with rice?

Katona's Indian heritage is evident in a lot of the recipes - rice flour bhajiyas, colonial kedgeree (also known to us as khichdi), and kheer inspired rice pudding are just a few of the recipes where you'll find an Indian influence. I particularly enjoyed the quirky introductions made to each recipe, and the pictures in the book are beautifully styled and depicted. She also includes recipes with varieties of rice - red rice, black rice, sushi rice, sticky rice, wild rice and more; some of which may not be readily available in Indian markets. 

I particularly found useful the pages where she speaks about the basics about rice, different cooking methods for each type, and cultural backgrounds for each - made for an enlightening read. I only wished there were more pictures in the book. I like being able to see if the end product in my kitchen matches the intended end product in the recipe.

18 October 2015

Going Pa Pa Ya!

I read this quote somewhere on the internet - 'What Masala Library did to Indian food, Pa Pa Ya attempts to do to Asian cuisine.' If there is even an iota of truth in that statement, it is only fair for me to have sky high expectations from Pa Pa Ya. Zorawar Kalra's Massive Restaurants group pulls yet another rabbit out of the hat with this new age spin on an Asian bistro. The philosophy behind Pa Pa Ya is simple - present Asian food and drink with a twist. And my meal was filled with tons of twists and turns that night. Buckle up!

You know this Asian restaurant's going to be different when you don't spot Oriental motifs on the walls. Metal exoskeletons and cuboids that look like molecules jut out from the wall, forcing me to think of organic chemistry lectures from a decade ago. The food is however, the catalyst in creating this 'high energy dining' formula. Throughout the menu you'll see the influence of newer cooking technology such as molecular gastronomy, and mixology making the meal here a treat for all senses - umami included!

Highly recommended are the Pa Pa Ya Tales - cocktails that each come with a back story, that your enthusiastic server will be more than happy to narrate to you. Infused spirits, and cocktails with Asian ingredients set the drinks apart. Foam, fumes, and fire - expect all three! The Lighthouse - that comes complete with lemongrass fumes, in a light bulb that you have to unscrew every time you take a sip - was my pick of the night. 

The LightHouse
 In true Kalra Hospitality, the meal began with an amuse bouche - a basil infused watermelon cube, with lemongrass and chilly foam, served on a dainty shell - a sign of good things to come. Also insist they bring you their signature palate cleaner in between courses - a wasabi and yuzu sorbet. Spectacular balance between the pungency of the wasabi, and the citrus yuzu flavour, without either overpowering. 

Amuse Bouche
Wasabi Yuzu Sorbet

16 October 2015

The Food Week That Was - Regional Favourites

Before I start off this post, I am going to share some happy news with you'll. The website Rebates Zone recently published an infographic on the top fifty food blogs in India, and yours truly features in the list at number forty. See the list here.

Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I love Indian regional food more than I love world cuisine. I may be falling into the rare minority group here (no, I don't mean that I am Parsi), but I rather explore cuisines from different Indian states than run-of-the-mill Italian, Chinese, and Thai. It is a pity that we don't think of the vastness and diversity that India has to offer when it comes to food or travel. 
My food week pushed me out of my comfort zone - Bandra - took me to the far suburbs of Borivali and old gullys of Fort. My food week encapsulated me back into my comfortable cocoon with two cuisines that I love - Maharastrian food and Parsi bhonu.

Girgaon Katta, Borivali:
Personally I feel that Maharashtrian food is under represented in Mumbai. Barring a few pockets in and around Dadar, Shivaji Park, and Mahim the cuisine fails to be easily available. Which is why discovering Girgaon Katta in Borivali - mini Gujarat if I may - was like discovering as oasis in a desert. 

With a fairly large menu that well covers all the popular Marathi food staples under fun categories such as 'tasty' Chatakdar, 'crispy' Kurkurit, 'spicy' Zanzanit, 'tangy' Chatpatit, and more. Crisp on the outside, fluffy within; the Thalipeeth was worth a repeat order. Flavourful and moist, please make sure you ask for heaps of white butter on the side which melts atop this beautiful desi pancake. Crunchy sev gaathiya comes doused in a spicy misal gravy to be mopped up with pav on the side - who doesn't love misal pav? Misal pav is the epitome of ' different textures and flavour combinations' in one dish. Make sure you try their tangy sweet kokum sherbet. And save stomach space for the piyush - a liquefied shrikhand type drink, calorie laden and filled with goodness.

Misal Pav
Kokum Sherbet and Piyush
Masale Bhaat

28 September 2015

SodaBottleOpenerWala - Nostalgia. Heritage. Bhonu.

Disclaimer - This is not a review. It would not be fair to review places or things that are sentimentally close to your heart.

Being a Zoroastrian Irani, I feel proud of my community's contribution towards evolving the cultural landscape of a city back then known as 'Bombay'. Irani cafes or restaurants are what initiated the dining out concept in colonial Raj. Irani restaurants were among the first community spaces that threw open their  doors to people of all caste, creed, religion and socio economic status alike, and served them copious amounts of chai with bun maska. You could be a British Army cadet, stock market babu, or a roadside vendor - an Irani restaurant would serve you equally and generously.

The journey of the Irani restaurant has been beautiful and colossal. What started off as a single Irani gentleman selling chai to officegoers from his 'sigdi', which later culminated into restaurants that served Parsi dishes and bakery products in addition to the humble chai. And then there is SodaBottleOpenerWala (SBOW) which is attempting to redefine the Irani cafe experience, without altering the sanctity of what an Irani cafe should be. Modern yet quirky, idiosyncratic, and nostalgic - dining at SBOW, which has just launched at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), tugged at my heartstrings because it is a beautiful attempt at trying to preserve the dying legacy of Irani restaurants.

Restaurateur AD Singh took his concept of a modern Irani restaurant to Gurgaon, New Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad before returning to the homeland where it all began. As I dined there on the preview night, a bit skeptical about how a Mumbai Irani themed restaurant would fare in a city where the original Mumbai Irani restaurants already exist, I couldn't help but draw parallels between the two - the old Irani restaurants 'then', and SBOW 'now'. And it is within these similarities, and differences that lies the charm of Mr. SBOW.

The Look:
Then: Large spacious rooms, high ceilings, and cramped within that  space - glass paneled tables with red chequered table cloths. An Irani cafe was an extension of the owner's home, and the steel Godrej cupboards and wooden showcases with curios was proof enough. The sound of the fan whirring above your head while you tucked into melt-into-your mouth mawa cakes, made up for the sweltering heat.

Now: I spent half an hour just absorbing the microscopic details that have gone into creating the Instagram worthy ambiance of SBOW by architect Clement and Sabina Singh. The basic framework of an Irani cafe exists - wooden tables and chairs, red chequered tablecloths, mismatched lamps, 'bannis' selling confectioneries, and vintage tiled flooring for you to click your feet against. In addition, you'll also find a large mural of the wall from Merwan's, a Royal Enfield gleaming proudly at the entrance, and a toy train that chugs across the perimeter of the restaurant's ceiling. Portraits of Parsis adorning the walls, and a smattering of assorted curios give the place a far more homely vibe.  And then there's the blackboard listing out the establishment rules, a common sight at The decor perfectly encapsulates the old and the new, is a beautiful amalgamation of an Irani restaurant and a Bawaji home, and this remains the most cherished aspect of my meal at SBOW that evening.

The Bawa OCD for cleanliness extends to the toilet too.
Rules for eating at my restaurant

22 September 2015

Three Reasons to Dine at Olive Bistro, Goregaon

It's sad how scarce the fine dine options get once you travel past Andheri. The launch of Olive Bistro in Goregaon's Oberoi Mall serves as an oasis in the middle of a scorched desert. It is a breath of fresh air to Mumbai residents who live beyond the Andheri Line Of Control. Why should SoBo-ites have all the fun?

Olive Bistro (OB), is the modern, casual bistro version of Bandra's Olive Bar and Kitchen that arrives in Mumbai after making a mark in Pune, Hyderabad and Delhi. The vibe here is fun, quirky and a contrast of colour as opposed to the white washed older sibling, that is Olive. The food here is comforting, deli fare with modern elements. I spent a Sunday afternoon there leisurely checking out the place, tasting the menu, and enjoying what Olive Bistro has to offer. It was a perfectly beautiful Sunday brunch - how Sunday brunches should be. Here are three reasons why you should consider checking out Olive Bistro -

1. Looks Do Matter -
The minute you walk through the glass paneled walls that separate OB from the pandemonium of the mall, get prepared to be taken aback by how beautifully the space has been done up. You'll be greeted by an old matador van, spruced up by graffiti, which will serve as a space to dole out live pizzas from. Then there's that spectacular looking chandelier made out of pretty bone china plates that you can't help but ogle at while secretly hoping a plate doesn't land on your head during dinner.

16 September 2015

An Open Letter....

I have been wanting to write this letter since a while. But the fear of getting embroiled in controversy - which I seem to have a knack of doing so - kept me quiet. But experience has taught me one thing, for every ten people who support you and love what you do, there will be that one person who will try and pull you down. You've got to take in in your stride, learn from the criticism and walk on.

It seems to have become a fad to hate food bloggers, diss what they do on social media, and criticize their work in private. Some of the stuff out there deserves to be criticized, but some bloggers work hard to do what they do. This is a heartfelt letter, but in no way am I representing the community. 
Blogging For Kids Under 13: Advantages and Disadvantages
(Image Courtesy www.kidslearntoblog.com)
Dear haters/ trolls,
Anyone who writes for a living, or as a hobby, will tell you one thing...writing isn't easy. For every good post that is churned out, there are hours spent staring at a blank screen not knowing what to put out there. Some of us work hard to generate content. For some of us writing may not come easy. But we try.
It is your decision to read what we post. Feel free to click on the red cross on the top right hand of your screen. Feel free not to click on the link that I post on social media to gain readership. I will write what I like, it is your choice to read it or not.
Yes, the food blogging situation has become dismal. But not all of us are free loaders. Not all of us are doing it for one free meal at a restaurant. For some blogging is their career. They make a living out of writing on their blog, or for other publications. For some of us, including me, blogging is simply a hobby. A hobby that thrills us to such an extent that we stay awake at night pondering over what to write next. And sadly for some of us, blogging has become a means of making a quick buck, attaining a fast road to fame. From the latter part of my community, a sincere heartfelt apology. 
Yes the free meals are a perk that comes with being a food blogger. Similarly are free branded clothes, free beauty products, free gadgets, free travel. You get what I am hinting at.

Dear upcoming food bloggers,
For anyone who has just started to blog, I only ask one question, 'why do you want to do this?' If you are getting into this because you think it's going to be an easy road to becoming a celeb on social media, or for free meals at restaurants that you otherwise wouldn't be able to afford....then it saddens me. Write about food because it's a passion. Reading about new cuisines, trying new dishes, experimenting in the kitchen is something that gives you a high!
Your blog is your identity. Please put up content that you'll feel proud of. It is okay to make mistakes. Hell, even the best of bloggers have done that. It is okay to not know everything. If you did, you would be a judge on Masterchef Australia. But try and gain the maximum that you can. Read up recipes and cuisines on google. Travel and eat new dishes to understand world cuisine. If you cannot, the city of Mumbai has enough to offer. Experiment in the kitchen. Only when you cook, you will realize how difficult it is. It will make you humble, and think twice before criticizing a cook at a restaurant you go to review.
Please do not blackmail restaurants into giving you a free meal. Do not force them to pay you to publish a review.  If they say no plus ones allowed, respect that. Write consistently, and write well. There will be a time invitations will flood your inbox, and you'll have to refuse more invites than you accept.
Most importantly, let us support each other. Help each other to grow, cherish and learn.

Dear PR Professionals,
I honestly have no major grouse from you guys. I have met some wonderful folks, and made some lovely friends among the PR companies I have worked with. We must remember one thing though. Respect. We share a symbiotic relationship. We bloggers must respect you, but only if you'll respect us back,
Do not address mails to me with the incorrect name. (I know there are a lot of Bawi bloggers, and the confusion tends to arise). Do not invite us for events with less than 24 hours notice. It makes me feel like I am a last minute filler in your guest list. Give us time to write a blogpost. Some of us are balancing multiple careers and we may require time.
I apologize on behalf of some members of my community who go back on their contract and do not adhere to the terms that were decided on. Not all of us are like that.

Dear Readers,
For any blogger, the greatest joy they can have is watching a post they have worked hard on gain mileage. Thank you guys for reading what we churn out and loving what we write. In case you don't love what is written....tell us. Feedback - positive or negative - is what keeps us going. Appreciation or criticism, both help a person to learn. 
If some of our posts are promoted, or via invite it is our duty to inform you so that you are not misguided. Your trust and readership is very important to us. We are, because you are.

Lastly, this letter comes from the heart. In no way was it meant to offend anyone. Blogging has given me so much. It provided me direction and passion at a time when I was down in the dumps. The joy and elation when people know you as 'Branded Bawi', and not as 'Zenia Irani' cannot be described. By writing this open letter, I am only trying to give back.

13 September 2015

Burgundy Is The New Black. Burgundy Box - Review

Welcome to the dawn of the intelligent, well-read home chef. A cook that wants to experiment with different cuisines, innovative dishes, and newer concepts in today's fast paced age. Which explains why gourmet recipe kits have flooded the market today, each one offering different dishes, but demonstrating the same underlying concept of empowering the home chef.

What is a DIY gourmet recipe kit? A box that contains the exact measured ingredients, a step-by-step recipe, that helps you create a restaurant quality dish at home. It completely eliminates the hassle of scouting for recipes, narrowing down ingredients, purchasing those ingredients from your nearest market - your personal shopper cum cooking teacher - all packed in one box. Having reviewed and ordered from a number of companies that provide this service - I must say I am hooked! It works perfectly for a career woman like me, who loves cooking but somewhere falls short of the time to do so. 

I recently got to try the Burgundy Box , another DIY meal kit that recently hit the market. They sent over a Chettinad Egg curry kit that I whipped up. What really excited me about this one was that the recipes were curated and created by Chef Ajay Chopra, who believes that 'AnyBody Can Cook'. The Burgundy Box experience was lovely in every way - an exciting recipe, easy to follow directions, excellent quality ingredients and a delicious end product. Here are five reasons why you should consider ordering from the Burgundy Box. And why I most definitely will order again.

1. The Perfect Package - I really loved the gorgeous, 'burgundy box' that was brought home, containing all the ingredients meticulously and individually packed. Small points such as the oil being packed in a spill proof bottle, the vegetables coming in a zip lock bag showed the amount of thought that went into the packing and transport of the ingredients. What I loved was that each individual ingredient was named and numbered, makes it all so easy for the beginner cook.

7 September 2015

Chocolate and Oat Cookies - The Lazy, Easy, and No Bake Version

I was recently inspired by an interesting article I read on one of the social media platforms, which listed beautiful chocolate desserts that could be made in under ten minutes. That very same evening I came home, experimented, and improvised on a beautiful chocolate oats, no bake cookie. I loved the recipe for two reasons:

1. It is the perfect lazy and easy recipe. It requires basic cooking skills, and if you can mix ingredients in a bowl - you can make this! Also it does not require baking. So major win win for people who do not own an oven, or are skeptical about baking.
2. Secondly, and most importantly it is a comparatively low fat cookie version. I've used dates in place of sugar, dark chocolate instead of regular chocolate, and increased the quantity of oats. 

What you'll need:

  • 100 grams of dark chocolate
  • 50 grams of oats
  • 50 grams of chopped, seedless dates
  • A small glass of cashews. You can also use almonds or walnuts.
Yep, that is all. Most of these ingredients you will find lying around at home.

3 September 2015

Sasta, Sundar, Tikao: Aram Restaurant, Bandra east

I have been feeling fairly uninterested to write recently; uninspired, and demotivated. That's the reason why I have been declining restaurant review invitations left, right, and center. And I haven't been out scouting for new food places. It's amazing how inspiration can strike you in the smallest and most unassuming of places, and leave you with the most ingenious ideas. Recently inspiration had been derived from the hullabaloo around the possible closure of Parsi Dairy Farm, which luckily has been stalled for now. Read the post here.

The rumored closure of my favorite Parsi Dairy Farm served as an eye opener, and I've promised myself to go scouting for older establishments, eat at hidden joints, explore heritage eateries; so that I don't lament about them closing later. I recently read Finely Chopped's blogpost about a Gujarati thali place called Aram in Bandra east, and decided to skip the new fancy restaurants in BKC for some good ol' thali.

Situated very close to Guru Nanak Hospital, the amount of times I've been in that area, but overlooked the existence of this place! We trudged up an old winding staircase, in an old looking building; and were taken aback. We were the only diners on a Saturday evening. A large space with open, airy windows that overlook the road; a clean kitchen that you can look into; and plenty of waiters running around to fuss over you!

The food here is homely, and traditional. The 'athanu no dabbo', or the box of pickles and condiments that sits atop every table is proof enough. Reminiscent of Gujarati homes, here you help yourself to the chutneys, 'chundos', and 'achaars'.

Food here is again homely and hearty; simpler than the fare one finds at established Gujarati-Rajasthani thali chains such as Rajdhani, Golden Star and the likes. Start off with the 'kathor' or pulse, and three vegetable variants paired with ghee laden rotis and theplas. Take a break in the middle to nibble on some khaman, or tikkis, and other 'faraal' items. Slurp up some tikkhi dal or mitthi dal - whatever floats your boat. Round it all off with the star of a Gujju thali meal - in my opinion - sweet kadhi with khichadi and tons of ghee. And of course something sweet in the end.

25 August 2015

An Ode to The Parsi Dairy Farm

I woke up to sad news and a heavy heart yesterday. The front page of the Times of India covered the news that the iconic Parsi Dairy Farm may shutter soon. I narrated my memories with this Parsi dairy establishment over lunch with the colleagues. I tweeted vociferously over the probable closure of the place that provided one of my favorite childhood treats. I enraged over the closure of many such heritage spaces in the city, because we ourselves don't have the time or inclination to visit them anymore. I ended the day with a phone conversation with Bee, moaning over how my children would never understand the joy of eating a Mawa Ni Boi from Parsi Dairy farm on Navroze.

And then I thought, when was the last time I visited Parsi Dairy Farm? When was the last time I gifted a box of pendas, or suttarfani to my friends, instead of chocolates or cake? When was the last time I drove over to town and decided to have a kulfi at Parsi Dairy Farm instead of a fancy ice cream sundae, or macaron from a top notch patisserie? The answer is not in the recent past. 

Image Courtesy: Indiatimes
With an establishment like the Parsi Dairy Farm, that has been in existence since 99 years, you begin to take it's presence for granted. "Ohh, it's been there for so many years, it's not going anywhere. Let me go have dessert at this new patisserie/ pop up first. Parsi Dairy, I can always do later". Unfortunately, you need more that just a trustworthy name for an organization to work. You need clientele, and backing. As a fellow Zoroastrian, the majority clientele of Parsi Dairy Farm, I can embarrassingly say that we have moved on to other pastures. 

Personally for me and my family, it became tougher to go all the way to Princess Street to get sweets and mithais for occasions. We found a sweet vendor on Hill Road in Bandra who would deliver sutterfani to our doorstep. Convenience and comfort won over culture and memories. It seems to be the same with a lot of Parsi-Irani families, as the TOI report states a shocking reduction in their sales. They barely supply 2000 liters of milk today, from the 15000 liters a decade ago.

I have such beautiful memories with the sweets at Parsi Dairy Farm. I remember unwrapping a blue box, with the cow logo of Parsi Dairy Farm on the wrapping paper, every Navroze. A beautiful, large fish made out of sweet mawa covered with silver varq, and a ruby red eye stared back at me. And then there are those creamy, caramel toffees called Milk Drops, that guarantees a visit to your dentist on account of how sticky they are. I'd give anything to bite into one right now, and feel like a chubby ten year old again.
And then there is the kulfi. Seeing a Parsi Dairy Farm kulfi at a Parsi wedding, was akin to a status symbol. It meant the hosts had spent a lot on the per plate/ paatra cost. And that an extra hundred rupees had to be put in the 'peraamni' envelope. That kulfi tasted just as creamy, natural, and beautiful every time I have eaten it. And my mother loves the Bhel they have. You'd be surprised at how delicious and hearty their underrated Bhel is. Though I haven't eaten there recently, so we hope the quality has remained consistent.
Milk Drops. Image Courtesy: Godrej Nature's Basket
Mawa Ni Boi. Image Courtesy: Bhavnagri Sweets
I resorted to Twitter today morning, to ask people their memories and favorites from this heritage space. I expected Bawas on my time line to reply, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how many non-Parsis had food memories attached to the place. Natasha Vakil, spoke about the fragrance of milk that would emanate from the place. Reading that tweet brought back such a strong olfactory memory for me. It's beautiful, the power of food, and the memories it evokes. 

14 August 2015

Time Travel - Quench All Day Pub, Juhu

Have you ever dined in a place that made you feel like you have gone back in time? I felt like I had time traveled when I visited Quench - All Day Pub in Juhu a week ago. My two hours there made me reminiscent of my college days, with the cheaply priced booze, basic old school food menu, 90s rock and pop music, and painted wall decor. I frequented the Quench outlet in Bandra regularly, as a post-college jaunt with friends. The Juhu branch was similar in so many ways, stuck in a time that went by. If you are a 90s kid like I am, you're college life would have been incomplete without local watering holes such as Pop Tates, Jugheads, Alfredo's and more. Quench for me, falls in that same bracket.

Decor - With a conventional food and drinks menu, the thing that sets Quench All Day Pub aside from the others, is it's eye grabbing decor. Completely hand painted, kitschy, with a major rock and roll influence - here you'll find graffiti and song lyrics painted on the walls and ceilings. Hand painted Michael Jackson, and John Lennon murals ensure you always have company. And each table top is a fun, different theme - my favorite is the Saap Seedi table which can actually be used to create a fun drinking game with shots! And their playlist is filled with songs from an era gone by - beautiful music so rarely found in bars nowadays.