A warm and hearty pocket-of-Pita

Here’s a quick note to recommend the ‘Pita Pocket‘ sandwich (seen above) at Cafe Turtle as a must-try. I will roll the caveat here – for those who are unaware, Cafe Turtle serves vegetarian food. There, that’s the big ‘gastro-mental’ hurdle to overcome. I usually find myself proximate to a Cafe Turtle only when I’m at the excellent Full Circle bookshop (which as a bookshop, is as omnivorous as they come). The last time around, I was not only near Cafe Turtle in the aforesaid manner, I was also near starvation.

The ‘Pita Pocket’ appears near the bottom of the list of Mains at the cafe, and offers a pita bread filled with falafel, lettuce and tomato, with tzatziki dressing. The sandwich was indeed filled with the promised goodness – the bread warm, soft and crumbly crisp, with the lettuce and tomato inside still crunchy. The falafel (2 of them), made with cottage cheese and bulgur wheat (from the menu, not that I could tell while eating it) were warm, dense and melt-y. I would have loved some more of the delicious tzatziki – drizzled liberally as it was on the outside, there was none inside. While it helped preserve the integrity of the stuff inside the ‘pocket’, a bit of tzatziki on the side would only have helped. Maybe I should have asked? So once again, here’s the hero of the piece.

Pita Pocket
Pita Pocket – Cafe Turtle

Hungry as I was, as you can see, I was unable to take a shot of the full sandwich. And I had to quickly take this picture before my other hand reached out for a second bite.

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Mamagoto – go for the food, stay for the vibe

A few weeks back, when the summer in Delhi had still not bared its fangs, we were in Khan Market one weekend evening for a long planned visit to the excellent Full Circle bookshop, followed by dinner in the neighbourhood. And so it was that after the books were bought, we (self, the wife and the two girls) wandered desultorily in Khan Market’s middle arc – the one that most of the restaurants and cafes open their doors to. A few minutes of wandering among sated happy diners and others purposefully striding to their dinner reminded us to decide quickly, it being Saturday evening and nearly rush hour for the dinner crowd. Quickly scanning the lane for a place we had not been to before, Mamagoto (promising ‘fun Asian eating’) caught the eye.

We walked up the narrow flight of stairs wondering how the place was going to deliver the ‘fun’ along with Asian eating. As we reached the first floor (they have another above), the hubbub of a busy, happy cafe hit us. Bright and colourful, looking packed to the gills with chattering customers and waiters snaking to and fro, it looked promising – the only question was, would we find a table? Luckily there was one, and a nice location too – a table for 3 in one corner with a view (ok, of the lane outside and the car park). The place had a casual, cafe-like air, more buzz-y than relaxed, and with no overt Chinese or Oriental restaurant trappings. A waiter sauntered by soon enough, greeted and introduced himself, and handed us the menu.

The menu was interesting, riffing on flavours and techniques across the Orient. To begin with, we ordered a spicy fried calamari to go with a Mojito and a glass of white wine. It turned out to be a great choice of appetiser. The calamari was crisp on the outside, and chewy yet tender as you bit through and spicy enough without overwhelming the rest of the flavours.

Spicy fried calamari
Spicy fried calamari

As we munched through what soon started looking like a meagre serving (!) it was time to order the mains. It being our first visit to Mamagoto, we wanted to sample as wide a variety across the menu as was possible for two adults and a kid (our younger daughter is a little more a year old and so doesn’t count, yet. She spent most of the evening on the windowsill – they have only one high chair for kids and it was taken – or wandering about, looking at large noisy human beings at other tables). We decided to go for an Indonesian grilled chicken with coriander and peanut dip for our elder one, and a teriyaki meal in a bowl with chicken and Chiang Mai train station noodles for us. The name of the last dish was too much to resist, and it promised a khao-suey style preparation – so I guess we couldn’t go wrong.

The grilled chicken was excellent, with the smokey notes of ‘tikka-ed’ chicken mixing well with the slightly sweet and pungent sauce it was cooked with. The dip was nice too, and I used it later to add flavour to my teriyaki meal as well.

Indonesian grilled chicken
Indonesian grilled chicken

The teriyaki and Chiang Mai train station noodles took a while longer to arrive. While we waited, we sipped our drinks and longingly looked at the now empty fried calamari bowl, and wondered if it made sense to order another portion. And while the wine was great, the Mojito was served with ice cubes, instead of crushed ice – not sure that was an innovation that added much. Our friendly waiter was difficult to trace, and when he finally arrived to tell us that the rest of the food was almost ready, he introduced himself again. Blame it on a busy night I guess.

Teriyaki Chicken in a Bowl
Teriyaki Chicken in a Bowl

The teriyaki meal in a bowl was nice enough, with a hearty taste albeit a little low on flavour. The serving was generous and so towards the second half of the bowl I found myself reaching for the peanut and coriander dip to add some spice.

Chiang Mai train station noodles

The Chiang Mai train station noodles were a little disappointing – not bad mind you, but did not quite hit the notes we were expecting it to. Overall, it seemed sweeter and more tangy than it should have been, and low on the rich flavour of coconut milk (Maybe the coconuts are expensive at Chiang Mai station?). The sauce in which the noodles were cooked was quite thick, a little too many fried onions, and heavy on turmeric. Maybe the sub-conscious comparison with khao-suey affected this unfairly, but the balance of the dish seemed a little off.

The buzz at the place was great throughout, with large happy groups of friends and families at most tables – the crowd starting to thin out only around the time we were leaving. Asian eating it was, with hearty portions and certainly a sense of fun. I would certainly go back for the calamari, the Indonesian grilled chicken, and to try some of the other interesting offerings on the menu.

Rating: 3.6/5

A year, and back again

It’s been more than a year since this blog was posted to. In the interim, the cooking, trying out new recipes, eating and drinking continued unbroken, but somehow I never got around to blogging about it. Maybe the first flush of enthusiasm from the initial months of this blog last year had faded somewhat. I’m told many blogs face this fate.

And so a year and a bit went by. Saturday, 14 April was Bengali new year’s day (or Poila Boishakh). And a day before that was Vishu, the Malayali new year, and Tamil New year’s day. And Baisakhi in Punjab, and Bihu in Assam. It seemed like a mighty fine time to get Foodnama going again. Hopefully this time around, the infatuation would have given way to something more steady, less ephemeral, and the output on the blog will reflect that.

Image courtesy - http://bengalicuisine.net/2009/mishti-doi/

On Poila Boishakh as I wolfed down sweets through the day and later went out for dinner with the family I was reminded of an article I’d read a few months back. Mihir Sharma had written in the Indian Express that Indian festivals lacked distinctive foods to go with them, unlike the turkeys at Thanksgiving, or the cakes at Christmas. I wasn’t entirely convinced then. I believe the range and diversity of occasions in our festivals make it unlikely that they would necessarily have typical foods associated with them. Also, some of our biggest festivals have underpinnings other than food – think Diwali and Holi for example. Secondly, festivals that do have foods associated with them are sometimes the minor or lesser known festivals, that are not nationally known. Poush Sankranti (also known as Makar Sankranti) is a Bengali event that readily comes to mind. ‘Puli-pithey’, a range of outstanding sweets that are traditionally home-made and not often sold by merchants of Bengali sweets, are integral to Poush Sankranti. I would also posit that Durga Puja (not exactly a minor festival anyway) is typified by the glory of Calcutta street food, certainly in celebrations outside Bengal.

I cannot think of too many other examples right away, however (Ignorance is the main culprit, and enlightenment in this area is certainly a cause worth pursuing). As a result I’m not sure if Mihir’s point is the more correct one and Poush Sankranti is the outlier, or we simply do not know of enough festivals that go with specific kinds of festive foods. It may also well be that festival foods are gradually fading away, unable to command the attention and time to recipes and traditions from people today. And that would the sadder thing surely, than not to have foods linked to festivals to begin with.

Samosas— Yaaaay!!!

I have already conquered the gujiyas… and very close on its heels (like the same day)…. was the mighty Samosa!!!

So here’s the dope on that….

Filling: We made VEG peas and potato filling. Very simple, non-spicy so kids could also have it. But I’ll tell you some alternatives. Masalas we used: Salt, garam masala, jeera powder. Use a little oil and put the masalas, add the peas and diced potatoes (small pieces), stir around till light brown. The cover and cook till the veges are done. If there’s any water/ moisture, heat till its dry.

Dough: (see the Gujiya post)

Sticking glue: (see the gujiya post)

Now step wise process (with pics!!):

Step 1: Roll out into a round shape. Cut into 2 halves. One half for each Samosa.

Step 2: Need to make a cone shape. Use your hands to hold it open to stuff the filling in.

  

 

Step 3: Once the filling is in, flatten it a bit on your palm into a triangular shape, with some space around the edges

 

Step 4: Paste edges, put in kadhai to fry till golden brown

  

Step 5: What else? SLURP!! 🙂

P.S.: Alternatives – For better taste, add finely chopped coriander, grated ginger and finely chopped green chillies. Also a good Non-veg option is mutton keema and peas. You’ll have to pressure cook and dry the filling.

Holi is gujiya time… :)

So this Holi I tried Gujiyas at home… with Mom, and maid’s help of course… I was a bit scared to try it on my own… Mom gathered up the initial enthu!!

Well… to my surprise it quite easy !! (Funny how that comes to you when you have been avoiding it for years)!! So I thought I should pass on my newfound wisdom, and easy recipe, of course.

Now, the recipe is by ‘andaaz’… you know how we all cook but never really know how much of what we are putting…. but seriously, give it a try, tweak it around to suit your own fancy… the process is not tough. And when you eat the warm gujiyas…. yummmmmmmmmmmmm! 🙂

For the filling this is what we did:  dry roast   (keep aside), add 100 gms khoya to kadhai with some ghee and stir till it turns light brown, then add dry fruits, stir a bit more. Add 1 or 2 tbsp sugar till it melts and becomes soft, and lastly grated desiccated coconut about 2-3 tbsp. Add the suji also at this time. Now everyone doesn’t like the coconut flavour, so choose accordingly. You can up the Suji content if you are not putting coconut. The consistency should be a bit crumbly and a bit powdery in places.

For the dough: Maida kneaded with oil/ghee. First rub the ghee/oil through the maida till its crumbly. Then add a bit more till it holds in your palm when you close it tight. Add just a bit more water to make a soft dough and comes out clean from the vessel. If its sticky, just a hint of more oil/ghee should do the trick.

For sticking the ends together: Just prepare a little mix of maida and water. Maida doesn’t dissolve, so you’ll have to stir it with your fingers each time you are trying to use that as ‘glue’ to stick the ends of your gujiya together.

So now step wise:

Step 1: Roll out the dough in small round shapes. Take it on your palm.                 

Step 2: Add enough filling to ensure you can fold over the filling into a semi-circular shapes, but still leave enough space around the edges to stick the edges.                

 

Step 3: And then try pinching it all around to seal it and give a nice shape (the nice edges come only after you’ve made about a million of these… so don’t be critical of mine… or yours when you make them!)

Step 3: Put in hot oil and fry till light brown

Step 4: Eat and enjoy!!  🙂