Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Slow Food Movement catches up in India- Good, Clean, Fair food @ Olive, Qutub

I booked myself for a dinner showcasing the Slow Food Movement in India last week at Olive, Qutub. Having had many a memorable meals at Olive, Qutub, I go back again for the love of the place - The pebble strewn outdoor seating being my favourite. It makes me feel that I am in a different land, away from the blaring horns of a crazy city life and under a giant tree with sunshine making its way through the leaves, landing on my plate.

This time round, I took my seat in their GreenHouse to sample the best of local produce from India. It is only opportune to salute the sheer brilliance of Chef Sujan Sarkar and team who have taken modern gastronomy to another level in India. There are no gimmicks involved. Only. Real. Food. The 9-course Slow food dinner with a welcome drink was pegged at Rs 1900. The same menu is available with wine too.

Here are my top picks from the fairy-tale like dinner

Pumpkin and Goat Cheese,Fermented Gooseberry, Oreo
Crispy pumpkin strands, cape gooseberry fermented in lactic acid with a slight tang and a gorgeous faux oreo made with black olive shortbread to get the colour right, filled with creamy citrus scented goat cheese mousse to make a fab filling. Brilliant trailer, this! Sorry, not sharing a pic as the one I have is half eaten.



Best of 'The Green Bean' farm
This brilliantly plated salad was a riot of colours, textures and tastes. It consisted of confit parsnips, beetroot, black radish and baby carrots tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette, drizzled with nasturtium oil, complete with a nasturtium leaf and topped with a wheat grass crisp. If this doesn't sound, HOT already, the Best of The Green Bean farm had a sprinkling of black garlic powder which was the very reason I signed up myself for this dinner. Having read up about the process of making black garlic that takes upto two months to show results, this plate simply couldn't have been missed and was worth a million bucks. Best of 'The Green Bean' farm was unlike any salad that I've tasted and will remain etched in my mind.



Wood sorrel, Gondhoraj Lime sorbet
Gondhoraj lime is the Indian equivalent of Kaffir lime and is a favourite of the Bengali community. Its flavours were combined with wild wood sorrel to form an aromatic sorbet served in a gondhoraj lime shell. The natural notes hit the spot and the taste lingered in my mouth for a long, long time.



Kalari, Gucci and walnut Thecha, a slice of Kashmir
All regional Kashmiri flavours on a plate! This dish is a modern gastronomical tribute to the valley. You may have had the Kashmiri Tarimi a million times, but this dish belongs right up there. Sautéed Kashmiri Morels (the prized fungi from the valley) came in a white onion and mushroom gravy, topped with pan-seared Kalari Cheese from Kashmir and sprinkled with a walnut and coriander thecha crumb that gave the dish a crunch. The walnuts, again coming from the valley, are much sought after. Overall, the dish had an earthy flavour from the morels, woody rendering from the nuts and robustness of the Kalari cheese. The white onion gravy helped the flavours merge well. It was wilderness on a plate with unparalleled textures.




Ash gourd, Radish, 4S Buttermilk
Buttermilk (from 4S brand) was churned into an ice-cream and served along with a candied ash gourd strip which is actually our petha and a thin strip of caramelized radish. While buttermilk ice-cream was a first for me, who knew it'd taste so nice and go well with radish? The candied ash gourd rendered sweetness and blended with the rest of the flavours like no other. These were topped with a pretty red apple blossom flower (from Krishi Cress) that made the dish ooze oomph as if it has descended right from the ramp and walked to my plate. Whee!




Priya rice, burnt butter, chocolate, coconut
Honestly I would've ended my meal with the Ash gourd, Radish, 4S Buttermilk course, but when you are being fed so nicely, you are eager to know what’s next? There are paeans written about the Japanese trying to get their Soba noodle right, their Sushi perfect, we have the Pootharekulu from Andhra as the Indian candidate. The Pootharekulu is a rice paper sweet. But the dish at Olive had unsweetened rice paper made from Jaya rice, burnt butter solids(the stuff left over after your mom makes ghee), coconut foam and a slightly nutty sesame chocolate rock served with chocolate ganache and mandarin ice-cream.

If you sign up for this meal, you’d come back feeling you’ve cheated Olive of their money. That good! Aye!




About Slow Food movement

The Slow Food movement supports local produce and respects the environment. To know more click here

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Rustom's Parsi Bhonu

Tucked between the nondescript shops of Adchini is a small restaurant called Rustom's Parsi Bhonu. As you climb up the stairs, you get a whiff from the kitchen and experience the kind of pang you get when you enter your favourite aunt's kitchen. A tiny yet comfortably spaced dining hall makes you feel you've dialled a wrong number. It almost seems like you've entered someone's private space. You stare into a wooden crockery stocked cupboard, some yesteryear pictures neatly framed and an antique clock. The white/cream curtains behind, remain drawn. The sunlight trickles in and slightly warms up the air-conditioned room.


That's the idea behind Kainaz Contractor and Rahul Dua's Parsi Bhonu. Kainaz belongs to the Parsi community and was born and brought up in Mumbai. With Rustom's, she brings to Delhi, food that is found nowhere but in her house as well as that of her relatives. The food speaks and here's how! 


Greeted by a complimentary plate of Parsi Saria or fried sabudana and onion chips, we ordered Pallonji's Soda, Raspberry  flavour (Rs 60) and Raspberry iced tea (Rs 120) to start with. The Pallonji's soda is available in Mumbai's famous Parsi cafes and is imported to Rustom's from that city. Pallonji's is quite sweet on its own but goes well with heavily spiced food. The Raspberry iced tea on the other hand was refreshing. On another visit, I even requested the same with Soda and my customised drink was heaps better than Pallonji's.


We were informed by the serving staff that the portions are heavy and we should order to our appetite. We went ahead and ordered the egg-free version of Soya Pattice (Rs 225). A portion contains two pieces. I bit into a crisp layer followed by a fluffy potato mash in which were hidden the spicy soya granules. If this is not comfort food I don't know what is. The pattice comes without the usual accompanying condiments and are a welcome change as they are good on their own.


We picked the Dhansak Veg combo (Rs 395) from Rustom's combo specials for the main course. The Dhansak or spiced masala dal is a Parsi staple and comes with caramelised rice topped with onions and vengna kababs (eggplant kebabs) and a side of kachumber salad drizzled with Parsi cane vinegar. Though this wasn't my first experience of having dhansak at a restaurant, it definitely was the best. It was a robust preparation, not too thick and very unlike the dal we are used to eating up North. It went well with the slightly caramelised rice and the vengna kababs were one of their kind. It was my first taste of kebabs made from eggplants and if you are an eggplant lover like me, chances are you'd love what Rustom's serve. Rustom's may have the distinction of being the only ones in Delhi serving them. If you know of more such places, do tell me! I ate them with a Malai na Parantha (Rs 80) which was soft and tasted something like what you'd carry in your school/office tiffin. Nothing exceptional there, and no need either. A parantha is a parantha.


The Caramel Custard (Rs 225) was a delight. Light, and not too sweet with a perfect caramelised top, this beauty held itself with elegance. The Lagan Nu Custard (Rs 225) studded with nuts and raisins with a hint of cardamom was a delight too. It was heavier than the Caramel Custard. It is meant to be so as Parsis tend to make it for special occasions like birthdays, weddings and such. I paid a special solo visit to Rustom's to try this one and it did not disappoint. 


My only regret: if one has to taste more from the menu one has to go back two/three times. I am going back to try their other vegetarians options and update this space. The staff at Rustom's are helpful, interactive, non intrusive and well-informed. On my way out I picked a packet of Dhansak Masala to help me cut my dhansak making time at home to a great degree. Rustom's also stocks pickles, Parsi cane vinegar and more. Go pick!  


Address:
Aurobindo Marg - 94 A/B, Adchini, Aurobindo Marg
New Delhi 110017
Phone: 011 33106450

Monday, March 23, 2015

Radish cress, Microgreens

While I spoke about Red Cabbage cress in my last post here, I laid my hands on a tray of radish cress from Krishi Cress who grow them at a farm in Chattarpur...It is such a pleasure to pluck these tiny greens from the tray, wash and just throw them in salads, soups, sandwiches and so much more! An edible garden at hand...what more can a food lover ask for? Freshness and flavour! 
Radish cress will make you feel you are eating radish without actually eating it. Radish cress has sharp, pungent notes. It accentuated my Labneh and tasted great in a no-oil tomato-apple broth.

Below, I photographed the young and wilted greens. My tray lasted me one whole week lending an opportunity for many a experiments in the kitchen.


The no-oil sweet tomato and apple broth was enlivened with the sharpness of radish.


Trays of Microgreens at Krishi Cress ready to be delivered to restaurants on demand.


Radish cress sits pretty on the dining table.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Trendy Microgreens

New things on my plate eliminate the mundanity of table regulars. Stuff, that we eat daily. As a child I often used to wonder if our life would ever move ahead of the normal dal, roti, peas, carrots, rajma, aloo and so on. Will there ever be born again vegetables? My wishes were heard, a little late in life, but they were. Growing up I discovered foods that I had not eaten earlier. And as late as now, I also discovered microgreens. 
Let me begin from the beginning. A few years ago, I was introduced to exotic salad leaves like Rocket and Arugula, which are now quite common at Delhi dining tables. Recently, I discovered many chefs were using mini greens or micro greens to enhance the flavour of their dishes as well as add a charming visual appeal. Mostly, I've seen chefs using microgreens to add a curious, visual factor while plating their food. And very often, I find myself being 'educated' that I have microgreens on my plate. So, it would only be apt to talk about them on the blog. 
Microgreens are nutrient dense and are typically sown and harvested within 7 to 14 days. There are quite a few of them available on supermarket sheleves. They come in varied colours and flavours like Radish cress, Cilantro cress, Arugula cress, Mustard cress, Lolo Rosso, Beet cress and so on. Microgreens are grown in plastic trays and need good monitoring, the right amount of sun, shade, air and basically quite a lot of care. Some, use sprouting pads to grow them (mostly outside India) and others use cocopeat. I've got some Red Cabbage Cress Microgreens to showcase. They have a red stem and green leaves and could make for many a pretty plates. They taste like well, cabbage, and are as crunchy. I planted them in my hummus pot to up the visual factor. Have a look and stay tuned for much more, pretty soon! 




Thursday, March 05, 2015

Guppy by ai - a weight watcher's delight


If there is one restaurant in Delhi, I visit again and again, and again, it is Guppy by ai. For their vegetarian Sushi, ofcourse. The Japanese vegetable rolls at Guppy are a favourite and the fact that they now use black rice (which they source indigenously) for the rolls, makes them taste better and a tad nutty. A recent visit on an invite to taste their winter menu left me wide eyed. Their food is always spectacular, but what I've always appreciated about them is that being a vegetarian is no hindrance at this restaurant. They do full justice to vegetarian diners by coming up with a fair menu. Veg Sushi being an oxymoron for some, is a way of life for Skeeter. 


This time round, they had on offer a Nasu Dengaku inspired grilled aubergine. It is one of the better dishes I've tasted this year. It is their version of Nasu Dengaku. An aubergine shell is scooped out and filled with aubergine pulp, onion and cherry tomatoes cooked in miso. It is then baked and topped with crispy garlic flavoured panko. Panko crumbs are a favourite and when used well, they accentuate any dish dramatically. The mushy aubergine and the crusty panko made for an excellent textured combination. The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes came through well. This Nasu Dengaku version had me hooked till there was none left. A must try for those belonging to the 'I hate bharta' club. I washed it down with Akane, a winter special Guppy cocktail made from Vodka, beetroot, strawberry, sugar and lime juice. You drink your fruit, you have your superfood (beetroot), and you enjoy your dose of alcohol. A mixologist once told me that use of fresh fruits and vegetables in cocktails is the way trends are headed. After having Akane at Guppy, I am sure he was right. 







The other stars of the evening were a Beetroot and Plump Avocado tartare. Slowcooked, tender beetroot and avocado tartare in a citrus dressing. A weight watcher's delight. I also had my usual fix of Sushi.

Blueberry crepes and seasonal fruit flambe made my dessert. Bite sized crepes filled with marshmallows, sitting besides a bed of seasonal fruit, in brandy and berry sauce and flambeed on the table. You can ask for a weight watcher's version of this dessert and they will happily remove the berry sauce. 

Weight watcher's please note!

Japanese food is known for its fresh, raw ingredients and is easily one of the healthiest cuisines served in restaurants. Pickled vegetables, light broths coupled with superfoods like matcha make Japanese food popular across tables world over. I am not sure of calorie counts and other stats, but the food I had at Guppy, could be consumed by any weight watcher and they'd walk out with a full tummy and a non-guilty gait. A superfood and fruit cocktail (read beets and berries), Sushi, salads, baked vegetables and loads of them, and a dessert sans a sweet sauce.  Wash it all down with a cup of Matcha, if you must. What more can you ask for? 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Desi Roots, Saket

I often find myself in the backlane of Select CityWalk, to make an entrance from the rear of the mall. I also often find myself gazing at some standalones behind the mall, thinking, some day, I will have the time to try one of those rather than just parking myself at one or the other eateries within the mall.


My last visit was different, as I entered one called Desi Roots. What seems like a one hall restaurant from outside is actually a spacious three hall dining space. You enter a cafe with desi knick knacks (coal irons, pickle jars, film cameras and more) holding your attention. Do not miss the dining table made from an old-fashioned sewing machine on which you can actually rock your feet!


Just a little ahead is another dining space which gives way to the semi private dining table and a bar. As I was invited to the restaurant, the management enlightened me with more desi elements of the design before we settled down for an amuse bouche of dal/masala vada on a bed of fresh coconut chutney in a mason jar topped with a crisp kadi patta.


What came next, bowled me over. A warm galawati pate of Jimikand served with sheermal crisps, onion rings and green chutney in a Alice's 'Drink Me potion' like bottle on a black tray fitted in a wooden frame. The presentation had me kicked and the taste was superlative. I was digging my sheermal crisp into an amazingly textured and sublime pate, that, if I may say, would give a non-vegetarian galawati a run for its money. The flavours oozed oomph and boasted of a complex mix of Indian spices, which were rather well balanced. Surely desi in its roots. Had I not been having it at a restaurant, you'd find me licking the jar clean. 


The Taboulleh Kachumber dhokla with grilled spicy watermelon came next. A big piece of dhokla came sitting underneath the Kachumber Taboulleh. The fresh tomatoes, onions, mint and coriander made the dish quite appetising. The watermelon on the side was spiced with an achari mash and was quite a delight. While the taste was spot on, Desi Roots could present the dish in a better way. 


Chef Rajiv Sinha, the genius that he is, used his Calcutta Roots rather cleverly to come up with a warm samosa deconstruct with aam papad chutney at Desi Roots. A stunning and delicately spicy mash of potatoes with whole coriander seeds and fennel seeds sat between strips of crisp nimki or namakpara studded with carom seeds (ajwain). This was an open samosa and with every bite it will transport you to your favourite local eatery that serves this wonderful Indian snack. An epic dish, this.


For mains, I wanted something light and chose the Jawdropping Khichdi ke char yaar or 4 grains of khichdi (rice, quinoa, jowar, bajra) with some hesitation. While Khichdi is something I'd never order in a restaurant, and was rather vary, but took the risk and it paid off. The four Khichdis at Desi Roots came sitting individually in pretty props of tiny pressure cookers and Indian pickle jars. I liked classic, quinoa, jowar and bajra in increasing order of preference. Each came topped with a different kind of papad: palak, chana, pepper et al as well as a slight hint of a different kind of pickle each. So Desi Roots lifted the khichdi to another level and turned it from 'food for the sick' to something rather enjoyable. Comfort food, that. 


The breads at Desi roots are something to look out for. They serve their choice of breads or rice with the mains. Do not even try to change that as their choice of breads is great. I was served the Brar jee ki mashoor rasmalai makhni. A delicate and flavourful rasmalai dipped in tomato juice and served in a makhni gravy, this dish comes recommended by Reeta Skeeter. It will tease your tongue and satisfy the hungry soul. Mine came with a fresh, hot, crispy laccha parantha.  


If you visit Desi Roots for a family dinner with kids or without, try the Bachpan Platter for dessert if you want to revisit Tit Bits, Lollipops, Kisme toffees, Gems, Chikki bites, wafer fingers and more. It is an experiential concept. But I preferred Jamaluddin ki Kheer from Badal beg masjid. Also known to us Old Delhi lovers as Bade Mian, this Kheer is brought all the way from Chandni Chowk to be served at the restaurant. This thick, creamy delight will make you walk out of Desi Roots with a big smile. Read more about Bade Mian here.



Monday, February 09, 2015

Haak - Kashmiri greens recipe

There's so much comfort food that winter brings in, that one is spoilt for choice. Soups, stews, noodles, rice, rustled up with lots of fresh veggies. The sabji mandis (vegetable markets) are filled to the brim with fresh produce. One would get every shade of green and every year I discover some or the other vegetable that has not yet seen the light of my kitchen. While I enjoy what is left of Delhi winters, I'd like to share this simple recipe of Kashmiri staple Haak saag, cooked using a few basic rules but not any Kashmiri recipe in particular. Haak goes best with steamed rice and believe me you, this would be the best kind of saag you'd have ever tasted. 


Recipe:
For 1 medium bunch of Haak: Wash the leaves well. Look out for worms. I put them in salted water for 30 mins, rinse and then use. Snip off the ends and use the leaves as well as the tender stem. Heat mustard oil in a wok. Add 1 or 2 whole red chillies, depending on the quantity of your haak. Chop a fat garlic clove and add. Immediately thereafter, add 1.5 cups of water and let it simmer. Now add the whole Haak leaves and salt to taste. Let it boil for 7 to 10 minutes or till the leaves wilt a little. Enjoy Haak hot off the wok with steamed rice. Bliss!

 '

As mentioned earlier, I don't follow any typical Kashmiri recipe mentioned in recipe books and sites, but do follow some basic rules: 
Use whole leaves and some stem.
Keep spices minimal to bring out the flavour of the haak well.
Do not overcook.
Ideally, do not reheat and make it 15 mins prior to serving.
Serve hot with steamed rice.