Mumbai my new abode

I never thought I would ever get an opportunity to sample working and discovering a new city but thanks to a great boss and husband moving bases, this opportunity landed in my lap. So here I am in Mumbai, trying out new stuff to cook for dinner and trying out new tastes. I am consciously avoiding chains that I can get to eat in Delhi so that my food horizons broaden. Will be writing my reviews soon so far I have had Parasi, Gujarati, Mexican, Italian, only in Mumbai cafes and street food here. A few places get my likes , some don’t impress me much contrary to what some people might say.

I have another handicap- as much as I would like to try new places I’m avoiding being too adventurous so that I don’t get Mumbai Belly (read Delhi belly) here, so I try to be innovative for dinner at home. A few experiments that I try on husband have been as follows

1. Garlic bread- All time favourite

Ingredients

1 French loaf or Garlic bread loaf

2 table spoons of butter (I use Amul)

2 small cloves Garlic crushed (depends on how strong do you want it)

Pinch of Salt

Pinch of Pepper

Pinch of Oregano

1 tea spoon Olive Oil

Mix garlic, Olive oil, Oregano, Salt and Pepper in softened butter. Cut the French loaf diagonally into 8-10 pieces. On top of each piece of loaf spoon out the butter mixture, spreading it across the pieces equally. On a baking tray arrange the pieces and let it bake till the bread top is crisp and brown but should be soft from inside.

If the tray is not non-stick  spray a little bit of Olive oil before putting the pieces on the baking tray. You can also jazz up the bread by putting alternate juliennes of tomato and capsicum after you’ve put the butter mixture and bake. Or you could also put a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella on top of the tomato and bake till the cheese has melted and is slightly brown.

2. Vegetable Au- Gratin

1 cup par boiled vegetables- carrots, mushrooms, baby corn, french beans, broccoli, capsicums (red, green and yellow) and potato (all veggies are to be cut into cubes)

2 table spoons maida

2 table spoons butter

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

¼ cup milk

Ina non stick pan put the maida and sauté it with butter till the maida is slightly brown. Add milk to the pan stirring it constantly so that no lumps are formed. You can add water or more milk if you feel that the sauce is thick or will not cover the veggies. Add salt and pepper to the sauce and pour it over the par boiled veggies, hope the veggies are in a bowl that you want to bake the dish in. On top of the veggies in white sauce add generous helping of cheddar and mozzarella mixture and put it to bake. I usually use  100 degree Celsius for pre heating  the OTG and then keeping the dish at the same temperature till the cheese has melted and has become brown (approx. 5-10 mins) depends if your using a microwave with grill make sure you are using both microwave and grill so that the veggies are hot and the cheese slightly brown.To be served immediately.

3. My take on Cesar  Salad

For the dressing

2 table spoons olive oil

1 table spoon mayonnaise

1 tea spoon white vinegar

Salt to taste Pepper to taste

¼  tea spoon Oregano

1 tea spoon tomato ketchup

For the salad

¼ Ice berg lettuce torn into pieces and put in drinking water with ice

¼ carrot cut into cubes

¼ capsicums cubes (green, yellow, red)

5-6 Cherry tomatoes cut into half

4-5 pieces of Bread croutons

Drain water and dry the lettuce leaves on a kitchen towel , add carrots, capsicum and croutons. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl. Mix dressing and the veggies together make sure the dressing is not runny and coates the veggies. The salad is ready to eat, you could keep the salad in the fridge as well, it tastes best when served cold.

To add Hawaiian touch to this, you can also add a few pieces of canned pineapple cut into same size cubes as the rest. For non-veg add cold cuts of chicken or cold fried beacon and mix in with the veggies.

That’s it for now, I would be writting my reviews soon, let me know if you would like a few recipes that I have tried so far

1. Golgappa jaljeera home made (gol gappey ka pani)

2. Phirni

3. Pizza including the pizza base

or

4. Moong Dal cheelas

 

Ahmedabad – Dhoklas, and dinner at The House of MG

Kanchuki, Nika & I got away for short break to The Little Rann of Kutch (migratory birds & wild asses!), Ahmedabad (the Sankranthi Kite Festival) and Mumbai (the Mumbai marathon) a few weeks ago.

At Ahmedabad, we stayed in a clean, friendly and cheap hotel called Hotel Volga, just off Relief Road. We checked in to the hotel at around noon and as soon as we had dropped off our bags, I hurried away to explore the restaurants near by.

Now, as you cross the road and walk towards Relief Cinema (yes – that is the name of the theater!), you will find a small hole-in-the-wall from where a matronly woman doles out the most delectable Dhoklas, Khandvis & Patras, all served with a soupy Kadhi and lightly fried green chillies. I couldn’t resist the temptation to try some, and asked her to give me a plate of Dhoklas to eat and to parcel a plate of Khandvi and Patras.

A generous mountain of Dhoklas was heaped onto a newspaper sheet, and they were moist, spongy and sweet-sour with the Kadhi, occasionally spiced by the crunch of  green chilly. I carried back the Khandvis & Patras guiltily, for I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat it all. This little excursion of mine had cost me only Rs. 30!

On the way back, I decided to go around the block from Relief Cinema, and this proved to be a great decision, for I crossed The House of MG, the only heritage hotel in Ahmedabad (interesting tidbit – the hotel gives you “carbon credits” for using less electricity, which gets you a discount on the room bill!). The hotel is known for the roof-top restaurant Agashiye, which serves a traditional Gujarati meal – I secretly decided that the nights meal would be at Agashiye.

However, that was not to be! I ate too much during the day (I ate the Khandvis & Patras, followed by a lovely lunch at a friends home) and despite drinking a potent chooran-hajam drink on Nehru bridge, I was too full from the days excesses to indulge in the multi-course affair at Agashiye.

But not to worry – The Green House at the House of MG proved a good alternative!

The Green House is an outdoor restaurant (it’s called a cafe, but it really is a restaurant) that serves a variety of Gujarati and non-Gujarati snacks. Nika got her favorite Chhola Bhatura, and Kanchuki & I ordered Rigna Nu Bhartu and the Undhiyu, along with Phulkas for me and Bajra Roti for K. The Rignra Nu Bhartu was very much like Baingan Bharta, but with less onions – good, but not special. The Undhiyu was fantastic – a medley of vegetables – yam, raw bananas, beans and potatoes – stewed in a spicy coconut and fenugreek gravy.

The accompaniments to the Bajra Roti was the highlight of the meal though – pictures really do speak a thousand words…

Potato

My dad had, long back, told me  this tale of Shahjehan, when he was dumped in jail by Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb had given the cook instructions that his dad be served only one vegetable and one dal for the entire time that he was in jail. Imagine, only one veg and one dal for the rest of his life (forget any non-veg! poor thing!). The only solace for Shahjehan was that he could pick the vegetable and the dal. He consulted the cook and the cook advised him – pick potato and chana dal.

The reason was very simple – potato is one vegetable which can be served in numerous forms, recipes and can be given a different flavor and taste every time its cooked. The same applies to chana dal- numerous preparations and so the repetitiveness for a man serving a lifetime in jail could be reduced.

Potato happens to be my favorite vegetable also. And of course my favorite form of eating it is – fried. There is no other comfort food as fried potato, be it the french fries that have so dominated the food choice of the kids of the 90’s (I am a 70’s and 80’s kid, still); finger chips, as my mom used to make it at home – spiced with some ‘chaat masala’ and ketchup sprinkled and mixed, on a nice monsoon evening when we were kids; or the simple cubes of fried alu (with just some salt) to be put back in some vegetable dish.

Incidentally (luckily :)) I got married into a Bong household where ‘bhajas’ are pretty much a way of life and ‘alu bhaja’ dominates the ‘bhaja’ veggies tally. And now both my 4 yr old daughter and I love gorging on it. Even the ‘dum alu’ (or ‘alur dom’) does not taste half as good if the ‘alu’ in it is not fried, though I did try grilling it in the microwave a few times to avoid the fat and calories (when I was told I need to watch… my weight!) but again though it was good, just not as good as the ‘dum alu’ with fried potatoes. There is just something about the “friedness” of potato which no other veggy can ever get!

So, in my mother’s serious efforts of getting me to eat other veggies, she resorted to cutlets and bread rolls. I didn’t mind the small bits of carrot or beans or cabbage as long as there was ‘alu’ in it and it was fried :). And that’s how I have now taken to getting my daughter also to eat other veggies. However I should confess that she is a much better and evolved eater than I was at her age.

My dad loves roasted potato with some salt-pepper and butter. I did not like it as a kid but now when I think about it, its worth trying again with , well, lots of butter and lime..already sounds yumm.. a nice(r) version of mashed potatoes!

Easy on the starters..

So I always had this funda about starters… should be nice, bite sized, mostly non-veg (since I am one, and many of our friends and family too), must be interesting looking…. Hors d’oeuvre … such a fancy name, conjuring fancy images in my head….. As a result everything depended on me being creative, spending hours shopping for thr right thing, looking at many recipes…

I used to slog over recipes (so difficult to find easy, starters that looked and tasted exotic etc, right?), preparing them when I called people over for dinner. And of course, since I had learnt from my mom, I used to slog over the rest of the meal also. As you can guess, such parties were the death of me… no fun, only slogging and then wondering about how everyone is liking it, will hate me… and so on.

Well, older wiser, more mature… and more easy going (something my husband is trying hard to inculcate). I whip up starers in no time now. The secret? Loosen up the definition of starters… and loosen up my perceptions of the perfect starter. Perfect starter = what people enjoy + what I can prepare with less effort!! So I grate a little cheese over Monacos (a very old trick, but in my earlier books it was too easy and hence not happening) and garnish with a wee bit of mint, fresh cut vegetables (called crudites) like spring onion, carrots, radish, cucumber and with that prepare dips by mixing up sauces and other market available dips, serve our good ol Indian chaat options (sev puri is my favourite now), cut up chicken cubes and throw them in a wok with some oil, salt and chilly flakes (how easy is that!!)…

Bruschetta is actually a really easy thing to make, and you can make your own easy versions with Jamie Oliver’s ready to use fantastic spread, dips and mixes (another blog on this later)… Its more about imagination. Imaging a dish, imagining an easy dish, imaginging cooking easy dishes … be creative, but also relaxed… that’s my mantra now…. 🙂