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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Restaurant Review: Hopscotch Bar & Brasserie

It was my sister’s 40th wedding anniversary and my nephew was all excited about this new place ‘Hopscotch-Bar and Brasserie’ that has been launched in the month of May on S.V.Road, Bandra. His enthusiasm had aroused my curiosity and I was equally eager to visit it.



The entrance to this restaurant is interesting, as the name suggest Hopscotch, the floor game takes you back to your childhood memories when you would spend hours in building compound, hopping on one foot, picking up a coin or a tile. You enter the restaurant and you are tempted to hop, only the game rules change here, you may be blindfolded with a drink on your head, gyrate over the numbered squares, taking a dance step over the latest raps till you hop on number four-five or seven-eight where you land on two feet and twist. The idea is to have pure fun.



The mood is already set with the foot tapping music as you look for a place to sit. On the wall, LEGO blocks stare back at you, while another wall  exhibits Tic Tac Toe with wooden Xs and Os planted on it.



For selfie lovers, there are emoji cushions all over the place, that bring a smile and comfort.




Two room (inner and outer rooms) are separated by a bar. While my family enjoyed a private party in the inner room, the other side of the bar was bustling with vibrant  youngsters. Late evenings, lot of drama happens at the bar with drinks jugglers and liquor shots drained down the throat in seconds (I missed that but the family had enjoyed it)



The menu was carefully chosen by my nephew before the party. Endless cocktails and mock-tails, four vegetarian and four non-vegetarian finger foods and one veg and one non-veg for the mains.



Of the selected Malaysian Paneer, Mushroom Tacos, Dilwali Nacho dal Makhani and Pesto slider, the Dilwali Nacho dal makhani was very innovate and tastes better than its traditional Mexican cousin of baked beans, the lone disadvantage being that nachos tend to get soggy under the weight of dal, so should be consumed as soon as they arrive. (not a good idea to serve at a party where people come to eat only during their breaks in dancing, when the music pauses.)

On non-vegetarian front, Chipotle Prawns was the winner, the melt-in-the mouth delight, I simply loved it, although Galouti kabab lamb, Serani Fish and Korean Chicken are equally good too.

The Thai vegetarian curry in the mains tasted very good and I would love to visit this place just to have this meal the second time.


The brainchild of first-time restauranteurs Roshan Sachdeva, wife Neha and her brother Gaurav Khetwani, with Suved Lohia as its managing partner, the prospects of this place looks good. With many Bars and Brasseries mushrooming all over Mumbai, the restaurant has tough competition and if it maintains its same standard of providing good music and good service, its popularity is sure to rise to higher decibels.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Authentic Garam Masala Used in Sindhi Kitchen

The fragrance that you get from woman’s sari is the aroma of the spices that clings to her while she cooks……..




Strangely Sindhi Garam masala is not used in Sindhi Curry, nor is it used in that famous Saibhaji, nor in popular DhalPakwan too.  Garam masala is mainly used in meat dishes

The very first cooking class that I had attended (way back) in my teens, the instructor had said “Don’t think that if you use too much of Garam masala, the food is going to taste beautiful, on the contarary, you will spoil the taste, always use garam masala moderately” this piece of advise has stuck on to me till today and whenever I used garam masala, I use it carefully.

My mom was the greatest cook ever, I don’t remember her churning out a bad dish, whatever she cooked, it always tasted good. I had asked her once as to where did she learn cooking. She had told me that she has been cooking from age nine. Her mother (My granny) cooked only lunch and then spend rest of her days visiting families (either attending condolence meetings, or was on social call, or some private gatherings) and my mom (being the eldest) cooked dinner for the family everyday. If I have to trace my roots, I can go only as far as 1947. Pre-partition stories have been blocked out from my family completely and are rarely discussed (such pain they brought) Sindhis decided to move on (because feeding their family was their priority) and being penniless after partition, men went back to trading, while women cooked together in community kitchens churning out tasty dishes.

Nobody can deny that Sindhis are very hospitable and will never let you go hungry. If you were to create a stereotype Sindhi, then you must agree that they are kind and welcoming, fun-loving, adaptable and extremely close-knit.

I did a little research and this is what I stumbled upon:

It is said that "between the eighth and 10th century the Abbasid Caliphs of Baghbad were at the height of their power and spent lavish amounts of money on their kitchens. The expenditure on food was matched by their gluttony, and cooks from all over the Muslim world, namely Turkey, Arabia, Egypt, gathered at Baghdad and incorporated their own local dishes into the courtly culinary repertoire."Even Indian cooks arrived from Sindh (the southern part of what is now Pakistan), which had been conquered by the Arabs in the year 713. The cooks hailing from Sindh were known for their trustworthiness, ingenuity, and extremely spicy dishes,"
as quoted in the chapter titled Biryani in the book, Curry: A tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham.
During my growing up days, I watched mom roast the spices and then pound them in mortar and pestle mill till they acquired the rough powdery consistency. The pounding of the spices gave me headaches but the aroma that filled my rooms was heady. Eventually I learnt to make Garam Masala from my mom and helped her in the kitchen.

Here I am sharing the recipe of Garam Masala that my mom used to make.

To make Sindhi Garam Masala

Ingredients

100 grams cumin seeds
50grams aniseed
50grams Caraway seeds
25-30 cardamoms
8-10 cloves
50 grams Cinamons
12-13 Bay leaves

Method

Dry roast together all the spices on hot plate on low heat, stirring continuously till you get the sweet aroma of spices.

Take them off the heat and set it aside to cool

Grind when cool and store in air-tight glass bottles.

If you have my book on Sindhi Cuisine, you can find this recipe on page 52

I normally use Sindhi Garam Masala in gravy made of burnt onions, and in meat recipes, but otherwise, most of the vegetarian dishes that I cook, I normally sprinkle crushed mixture of cardamom and Shahi Jeera.

In many Sindhi dishes, a mixture of Caraway-Cardamom powder is added at the end of cooking instead of Garam Masala. This enhances the flavours and aroma of the dish and is beneficial for its cooling effects, as compared to the more heavier garam masala, which is primarily used in meat dishes.

To make one teaspoon of caraway-cardamom powder, grind togather one teaspoon of caraway seeds and 2-3 peeled green cardamom.



This post has been written to mark the tradition (of drying and grinding spices in the month of May) by celebrating 20th May as International #MasalaDay

May the flavours of Masala enhance your cooking.....hope you are celebrating too.




Friday, May 5, 2017

The Beer Café Now At Kamala Mills

Gone are the days when people bought a particular brand of beer and enjoyed with their friends at business meetings or at private parties, sometimes they would have in their car or in front of a liquor store. 

The whole idea has changed, and the taste buds too. It is no more a dingy bar or a closed room but now its a vibrant café. The idea is to have infused beer paired with selected finger food. To compliment the brand’s choicest beers is the carefully curated food menu with pairing across brews and food group. People are learning the taste of hard drinks from very early age and why not? If its is different from normal beer and has an exotic taste.


Everyday there are new beer joints cropping up around the city. ‘The Beer Café’ has launched its 10th outlet in Mumbai at Kamala Mills, Mumbai prime commercial hub.



This outlet has been given vintage feel that brings forward the essence of an era that was once characteristic to the city. The café boasts of patterns and textures that are splashed with yellows and rust.



The tables are fairly separated from each other with long tables across the room for bigger groups and some dotted into cozy islands allowing privacy for smaller groups. Two LCDs on the wall completes the interiors for cricket loving fans. The vibrant music is in higher decibels leaving little space for conversations.



Offering as many as 24 beers on tap and over 50 brands from 19 countries, the largest collection of beer brands under one roof, the café is a true heaven for beer lovers.



I am not much of a beer lover, I had ordered Pepsi for self, but still I did take a sip or two from small beer glasses on the table and was quite fascinated by its taste.



Specially the black, creamy, velvety-smooth  Shepherd’s Double Stout Draught’ that had burnt flavors of roasted cocoa and coffee notes. The other that I tasted was sweet and sour beer with little bitterness called “Hoegaarden Draught”. This had a strong touch of coriander with a hint of orange. I was tipsy after two sips, but looking around I found that people seemed to enjoy all the flavors.



The food was excellent. I loved the garden fresh pizza, chicken bruschetta, stadium style nachos and the flaky chicken chips. There was even veg and non-veg briyani on the menu.

The Beer café is doing for popular beverage what Starbuck is doing for coffee and soon we will have many more such Beer café all across India.

There was no alco-beverage chain in India. Every now and then, a new fad comes in form of discotheques, nightclubs and lounge bars. But cafes remain consistent with their offerings. Socializing is now an inescapable phenomenon and these cafes serve as a perfect neighborhood meeting place for urban consumers. We saw a white space there and filled it with merging the two: beer and café. Thus, began The Beer Cafe’sjourney in April 2012, with the launch of our first outlet in Gurgaon.” Says RahulSingh, the CEO of The beer Café


And the game has just begun. 


Monday, May 1, 2017

Spinach with Mutton

When my friend asked me about different ways she can cook spinach I was tempted to tell her to ask Popeye.  I am reminded of Popeye effect that I used to read in the comic books where the pipe-smoking sailor man would burst open a a tin of spinach each time he sensed trouble. Once consumed his biceps would bulge and he could overcome all his enemies.



 But jokes aside, Spinach is the most versatile green vegetable one can cook. It blends with almost all vegetables and meat.  It is rich in iron and it is well known for its nutritional qualities. It has ability to restore energy, increase vitality and improve the quality of the blood.

I love spinach and often cook in different ways to suit my moods. there is Palak paneer (spinach with cottage cheese), there is  SaiBhaji (Spinach cooked with vegetables and lentils and makes its regular appearance on sindhi Cuisine) there is AisiBhaji (Spinach cooked with onion and tomatoes), I even use Spinach in stir fried Chinese vegetables and in soups. Have you tried the cream of Spinach soup? try it, you will love it

This week I decided to cook with mutton.



Ingredients

1tbsp ginger
1tsp black pepper
2 pods of cardamom
half kg mutton
2 tomatoes
1tsp turmeric
2tsp coriander powder
1tsp cumin powder
1 bunch clean spinach (wash in three clean water bowls)
2 green chillies
coriander leaves for garnish

Method


In a pan add 1tbsp of oil.
Add 1tbsp crushed ginger and 1 tsp black pepper and 2 pods of cardamom
Add half kg mutton
Stir and mix till it is properly coated with oil and begins to change color
Add 2 chopped tomatoes
Add salt, 1tsp turmeric, 2tsp coriander powder and 1tsp cumin powder
Mix and cook till it oil floats on the top.
Add spinach
Mix and let it cook for a minute
Add half cup water and pressure cook it upto three whistles
Garnish with coriander leaves and green chillies.

Serve with hot parathas.





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