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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cookies for Diwali




Every festival brings home the cascade of memories, flip, flip, flip, they run like a virtual movie strip, unfolding the dormant anecdotes, so very vivid and real, that it fastens to the psyche like a fresh Meta tag. 

Every festival I miss my mom.

During Diwali festival, mom would be super-active. Two weeks before the actual festival, there would be spring-cleaning. The house would vibrate with sweet fragrance of freshness.

The house should be spick-and-span during Diwali,” mom would say, “Goddess Laxmi only walks into clean homes

Diwali, a festival of joy and splendor, brightness and happiness, it would brighten up my home. Every detail would somehow fall into place, like splashes of colours of different shades, making it a picture perfect.

On Dhanteras day, mom would go to the gold market to buy some gold ornaments/coins from her savings. 

This is the day of investment for the future. It is a good habit” mom would say, “Some percentage of our saving should be invested in gold. We never know when we might need it

Mom had this habit of hoarding things, I was to discover many years later that it added its worth during the period my sisters were of marriageable age.

During Diwali, Mom would dedicate her entire morning to making sugary candies of different shapes and sizes. The whole kitchen would be transformed into mayhem of colours and sweet fragrances. I would make numerous trips to kitchen, each time offering my help to taste her food, slyly sweeping off the crumbs of the sticky sweet morsels off the plate and sliding under the bed to relish the sweetness in peace.

Cookies were my mom’s favorites. She would make dough and take it to the bakery, at the corner of the lane, to bake it. (We had no oven at home). The number was not less. It would run into 100’s and it was distributed evenly to all my aunts and their families.

Today all those memories come rushing back when I enter the kitchen to make the cookies.

I followed my mom’s recipe and am quite pleased with the results.

Nankatai
Cookies

Ingredients

2 cups refined flour
1 cup gram flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup ghee
1 tablespoon pistachio, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon almonds, thinly sliced

Method

  1. Preheat an oven at 200 degrees.
  2. Mix together refined flour, gram flour, sugar and ghee to make dough. Set aside for 1 hour
  3. Make small round patties and press few sliced pistachios and almonds on the top.
  4. Bake it for 20 minutes
  5. Store it in air-tight containers


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Italian Food Festival at ‘Mezzo Mezzo’


During my stay in Rome, few years ago, I spend the days exploring the city but late evenings were spend eating pizzas and pastas on the tables that overflowed on the streets outside the restaurants.
Eating pastas and pizzas are fun food and most of us think that Italian cuisine means just that. But there is more to it. Every region has its own specialty, its’ own distinct set of flavors. When you live in the city for longer stay, you begin to see the difference in taste.
The northern Italians love their rich cream sauces and stuffed meat, but people in the south prefer tangy, spicy flavors, olive oil and fresh steamed seafood. Northern Italy runs on butter, southern Italy make the most of its abundance of olive oils.
This week, an invite to Southern Italian food festival at ‘Mezzo Mezzo’ at J. W Marriott brought back many of those memories.
I would like to make a special mention on the Calamari salad that I relished a lot.

Calamari is tricky meat, if not treated properly, it could become rubbery and hard.
I enjoyed the flavors and asked chef Davide the trick behind such a delicious salad. Was surprised to learn that marinating of calamari was just olive oil, saffron, red chilies powder and white wine. A lime is slit; not squeezing out the juice, just kept inside the bowl to lend its flavor.
For vegetarian there was sprout beans salad too.

In Italy, if you were to ask to be directed to salad dressing aisle at the grocery store, be ready for blank stares because there isn’t one. Italians use authentic olio e aceto (oil and vinegar) in a perfect balance as salad dressing. Preferred choice would be cloudy green oil and aged, balsamic vinegar.
There were Pizzas of course, thin crusted and oven fresh.

Fresh tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and few leaves of peppery sweet basil made it delicious feast. There were also traditional pizzas with anchovies, black olives, diced peppers, onions, etc. Splashing a tobacco or chilly sauce over the pizza is not a good idea; just sprinkling red chilly flakes should do the trick. Condiments should be added to enhance the taste, not to cover the flavors.
Breads occupied the center stage of the bar counter with cheese on one side and olives and cold cuts on other side.

Visitors to Italy often complain about the flavor of plain Tuscan bread, because it is made without salt. It is because they do not know that Italians don’t use it as eat-alone bread. It is often used to mop off the deliciousness left on your plate after a meal, or whatever your fork can’t pick up during one.
Southern Cheeses are also worth mentioning; they tend to be firm though Mozzarella is a wonderful exception, soft and stringy.
Chef Davide was proud of his Italian cuisine and was eager to please. He shared with us many stories of Southern Italian taste, while we enjoyed the sit—down-meals of great varieties of pastas and risottos that was prepared with utmost care.

Italian Food Festival at Mezzo Mezzo (at J W Marriotte) is on till 3rd November 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Food Bloggers Award Nite


Most of the bloggers blog for their own personal pleasure. There is no financial gain, whatsoever. Its more like a mini diary where one maintains life events jotting down day-to-day anecdotes to refresh the memory on an another day.
Blogging brings me immense pleasure. I am not sure if anybody is reading my blogs but I have the satisfaction of sharing my experience with virtual world. My blog is not designed to encourage comments because I do not like spams and promotions that appear on my blogs and the unnecessary waste of my time, deleting those useless comments. I normally get my feedback in my personal inbox that keeps me inspired to write more. During my recent trip to Spain this year, one Spanish woman married to Indian, came up personally to thank me for starting a food blog. She said that her hubby loved the food that she makes following my recipes.
That is the my most satisfying reward.
As more people enter the blogging world, it is gaining momentum and getting recognition too.
There is always somebody reading your blog and analyzing it and surprisingly, now there are awards for blogging too!!.

The first ever award for food blogging was held at J W Marriott in Mumbai. I am amazed at the effort the jury had taken to go through more than 700 blogs across various categories such as food blogging on travel and story telling, baking, creativity, photography, regional, etc. 
It is not an easy task.
My sincere thanks to Sameer Malkani, co-founder of Food Bloggers Association of India for organizing such a great event and bringing all the food bloggers under one roof.
There are many blogs that I follow and was pleased to see some of my food-blogger friends as winners accepting the awards

My sincere congratulations and best wishes to a good friend Alka Keswani for winning an award in 'Regional Categories' for her ‘Sindhi Cuisine’
 I was happy to see my food blogger friend Kalyan Kamrakar of Finely Chopped accept an award in ‘Food Culinary and Travel’ category
I do follow many facebook food blogs too and was happy to see Pet Pujari and Bukkad as winners.
Pet Pujaris won the ‘Group Blog Award’ while The Big Bhookad won an award for being the best blog in the "Restaurant Review" category.
Just blogging on a facebook also gain recognition. Sandeep Shreedharan proved it by winning in ‘facebook blog’ category
Some of the blogs have personal stories attached to their recipes and this becomes interesting to read. Was happy that ‘The Best Writing and Story Telling Award’ go to  Charis B  of Culinary Storm fame. 
The award was not limited to Mumbai bloggers only, it was awarded to Indian bloggers around the world.
There was one winner from USA too
When Farrukh Shadab of 'Cubes and Juliennes' from Delhi won the award for ''The Best Recipe Blog', my friend was so excited that she immediately sent him the message congratulating him.
The event was well organized and partially hosted by Sarnash Golia who kept us in splits with his humor.

Since it was a food bloggers event, the food served before and after the event was excellent.

The party continued till late night, with bloggers interacting with each other, clicking pictures and cementing the ties that revolve around……What else? But Food!!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sweetened Tea Trail At Café Zoe


Mumbai is the city where rich and poor live in harmony just few steps away from each other. 
One can eat a nice cheese toast at a street corner for just Rs20 or go across the road, enter a fancy restaurant and order a cheese toast of Rs200. The toast may taste the same, but the difference is in the use of cutlery, the plating, the ambience and the service. Moreover, you don’t see the dishes being rinsed in front of you, nor the spray of dust settling on your plate from a passing vehicle, like you witness it at a street corner.
It maybe hygienic or non-hygienic, you survive and come back with a happy smile.
This week, dodging the traffic, trying to keep my balance, I walked along the narrow dirt path inside the Mathurdas mill compound at lower Parel. The small houses on the either side of the street had pauperized and blemished facade, but a glance through some glass windows told a different successful story behind those closed doors. There are many offices and corporate houses inside the compound and there are many restaurants that cater to these elite crowds.
Café Zoe is one such venue. I would never have guessed the interior from its humble exterior of painted colorful metal chairs and ordinary narrow passage with plants begging for attention.

But once you walk in through a huge glass door, you are transported into a different world. It is a place where one can spend hours munching on food and drinks. There are wooden community tables that can be arranged to accommodate large groups for an evening supper or one can sit at leisure, alone, sipping coffee/fresh juice, stretched on comfortable sofas. The ceiling is quite high with rustic look on walls, black and white photographs relate the story of its construction. Part of the room is divided into two levels, with a small library at the upper level. The baking station and fresh juice/drinks station occupy the lower level with a small shelf covering one wall that stocks exotic sauces/pastas/books for sale.

Why would I go there in the middle of the day to a fancy restaurant in an unknown street? 
Good question! 
I was invited, courtesy Splenda, who is introducing no-calorie sweetener Splenda in Indian market. Personally speaking, I do trust Splenda and have been using it for several years, but purchasing in Mumbai is difficult sometimes. The alternate choice, bought in desperation, has not been satisfying because of the horrible bitter after-taste of different brands. Therefore I was only too happy to accept the invitation and listen to what they had to offer.
The Splenda event was coupled with ‘tea ceremony’ conducted by Radhika Batra, who took us on a tea journey from tea gardens to teacups, while Naina Setalvad, the health consultant, explained the benefits of using right brand of sweetener.

A spoonful of salad containing feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, black n green olives, lettuce n salad leaves and a dash of vinegar n olive oil was paired with Longjing tea.

As the session progressed, five exotic teas and tisane were brewed and complimented with food.

I was avoiding non-veg that day, therefore I did not taste all the dishes, but I was tempted to try the shrimp cutlets that looked crispy and appetizing. Friend informed me that it contained minced shrimps, eggs, herbs and was coated with bread crumbs.

The food was tasty and visually appetizing. Restaurant is good for pastas and cakes. Maybe some other day I might visit Café Zoe to try its shrimp cutlets and those exotic pastries.
My special thanks to Shruti Amin and Romil Zaveri for the warm afternoon.
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