THE EVERGREEN CULINARY ICON

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Australia’s culinary queen...Maggie Beer
Australia’s culinary queen…Maggie Beer

You’ll agree with me, that to meet a legend in her own kitchen is a treat. To watch her cook is even more delightful and then when this 70 year young sunshiny, cheerful legend starts to share the secrets not only of her cooking but also of her staying young, its time to raise a toast. Over the years I have been a great admirer of the Australian Maggie Beer, watched her on TV (Masterchef included), read her books and even tasted some of this cook, food author, restaurateur and food manufacturer’s delicious products. The list of awards conferred on her, is unending…from the Centenary Medal  to

the “Senior Australian of the Year“, to

Member of the Order of Australia and counting.

Maggie is an inspiration! She turned all the obstacles in her life into stepping stones. Her  parents faced issues with bankruptcy, she did not complete her high school education (even worked as an elevator operator) and has no formal training in cooking. Her parents became caterers and she went on to  establish  a hugely popular  Restaurant in  South Australia’s  Barossa Valley . I ate at her café (alfresco in the cool sunshine) and not only tasted but also bought  her range of gourmet foods, including Pheasant Farm Pate, quince pasteverjuice and gourmet ice creams.

TASTY TIPS

I’m fascinated. I watch her smile and deftly toss  and swirl and conjure up her signature dessert with her home made icecream. She smiles a lot and has a generous smile which lights up her eves and the whole room. Maggie explains that it all begins with your food shopping… “Think local and think seasonal” – it

ensures fresher food options. She advises to grow your own and to have a vegetable garden (Maggie’s is within 20 metres of her kitchen door)

We live in highrise apartments, I remind her. “Growing your own produce would have to be my best health tip ever, even if that means a tomato plant in a pot, or some herbs in a planter box on an inner city balcony, it will make all the difference to your cooking.” Put the season in a jar, is her next advice. Always cook from the heart, with ingredients at hand, never letting anything go to waste.

The time-honoured craft of preserving in times of plenty is one of the most effective guards against waste. So she advises the practice of making jams, chutneys, sauces and pickles, which means you will never throw away excess fruit or vegetables again.

How is she so positive inspite of her hard life in her younger days? “I love what I do” she says emphatically. “I, also, always wear rose colored glasses” she points out. Maggie values family relationships and ensures that she spends time with her two daughters and five grandkids. How does she stay so young and full of energy? Its all about eating fresh food, but food that is in season , no preservatives, “ moderation” are some of her tips. As is cooking with olive oil. Yes! she loves butter, but it’s all about moderation.

Review: O:H CHA kitchen and bar

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Oh Cha

Thai / Dimsum

I’m getting high on Thai! And by a yummy coinicidence Im writing my review of Mumbai’s O:h Cha while Im in Thailland. Before leaving, (over months,)  I ate thrice at  this standalone Thai restaurant.  My okayish ho-hum first meal  was followed by two memorable ones. This was due the joining in of a new Thai chef  I was informed by the foodie family Kilachand, who have been regulars here and swear by the food.They are committed foodies, with gourmet genes. Industrialist Anil C Kilachand, (an advisor to a NGO which  teaches English to Maharashtra’s free vernacular schools ) makes time to cook and eat out too, as does his dapper son Tushar Kilachand who  runs the family engineering business. His mother Indira gives us her well-thought out  vegetarian take on the food. Equally discerning  about their eating habits as the exquisite line of childrens clothing they make are the enterprising and lovely Sunaina Patel and Mansi Kilachand.

 

DECOR

Dive into the traffic choked Lower Parel restaurant strip, go through the strange long corridor and find yourself in this pleasing space.

Faux-grass walls (an inspiration from the rice fields), slate-grey paint, colourful gladiator masks, and huge basket-like cane lanterns charm.

 

FOOD

We love the way sweet and fiery notes, soft and crunchy textures snuggle together: be it the piquant prawn or papaya salad. The delicately steamed  fish with  lemon garlic chilly sauce is as superb as the robust grilled spicy pork tenderloin. Must trys are also the airy crunchy Thai style tempura prawns. Chef Satit Chaimano’s curries delight: with coconut milk, lively with kaffir lime and lemon grass.

In the veggie section (there’s plenty,) it’s the stir fried morning glory enlivened with chilli & garlic that comes up tops. End with the flavorsome Lemon Grass Creme Brûlée The enterprising Sanat Patel keeps innovating and has added on Great Value dimsum ( ask for plump shrimp and chive, shitake)

and the weekday

Express Lunch (Rs. 599++)

 

MINUS POINTS

The dreary entrance is a put off, but once you enter it is like an oasis in a desert.There are inconsistencies…the raw papaya salad was superlative one time and lackluster the next. Ditto for the stir fried beef and the waterchestnuts in coconut milk dessert. Okayish Som Tum rice. Rubbery fish cakes.

MY POINT

This  seven month old stand alone Thai eatery is already making waves. Frequented by Karan Johar, Shraddha Kapoor, Ritesh Deshmukh, Kajal Agarwal and the Kilachands, Oh Cha envelops you in the flavors and perfumes of Thaliand. It celebrates the sweet heat of the region’s cooking preparing everything in the kitchen from scratch, including the coconut milk which is extracted in the restaurant kitchen. I don’t know what O:h cha means but (pardon the cheap pun) Oooh! It sure is accha!

 

O:h Cha Mathuradas Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel.

Ph: 6633 4455

Open for lunch and dinner.Av meal for 2: Rs 3000

RATING FOOD 4 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5


 

FOR THE BOX

THAI ME UP

I write from Phuket, where nature is working her turqoise – blue- water and lush- green- trees magic alright, but here’s the gastronomique surprise:    Spanish  Michelin starred  magic is being conjured.  Having feasted on Thai cuisine, now its time to be blown away by the Michelin Spanish genius Eneko Atxa’s  Aziamedi. Set amid swaying palms by the stunning blue Andaman sea in the luxurious Iniala his dishes are fantastically nuanced and dazzle.   Gaggan’s in Bangkok thrills, want to  more Thai news ? mail rashmiudaysingsingh2015@gmail.com, instagram, twitter @rashmiudaysingh.

THE BEER OF BAROSSA

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LEGENDARY MAGGIE BEER
LEGENDARY MAGGIE BEER

I’m on a high and that’s not only because I’m in wine country. It is a treat to beat all treats. To not only meet the legendary cook, author, farmer, entrepreneur, restaurateur Maggie Beer but also to watch her cook, to taste her superb cooking and to take back her recipes. The amazing 70 year young exudes sunshine and youth. After a fabulous “picnic basket” meal by the lake in her café I go on a wine tasting tour in a sleek Daimler guided by John Baldwin and taste not only a 100 year old wine but also that from the year of my birth. Get a taste of Australia in Orana and watch the sun set in the Magill Estate as the young chef couple conjure up a memorable wine-paired meal.Should you want Maggie’s recipes or more info please mail rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com, instagram, twitter @rashmiudaysingh

 

Review: HENG BOK

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I can’t stop smiling! I feel great ‘hengbok” as I review “Heng bok” Mumbai’s very first dedicated Korean restaurant whose name translates to “happiness” (in Korean, ofcourse!). Never mind that the driving force  chef James Biaca is from Mizoram. He has already proven his prowess with the well-loved Japanese “Kofuku”. Several research trips to and imports from Korea and voila! Bandra gets “Heng Bok”.

 

DÉCOR

Simple, unpretentious décor. Two boxed in levels, simple wooden tables, a large Buddha as soon as you walk in.

FOOD

Kudos for the deft use of kimchi — that spicy, tangy tangle of fermented vegetables — in many of the dishes, be it Jjigae (soups) hot pots, barbecues. They even serve up Korean sushi and Korean dimsum . And for Japanese buffs there is sashimi and sushi too.

Spicy food and pork-belly lovers this is your heaven. It’s called Gochujang Sangyupsal (pork-belly imported from Belgium is marinated in Gochujang a spicy Korean chilli paste). You barbeque it on your table (they will help you along), when done to choice, wrap it in a lettuce leaf, dab the spicy sauce and sesame oil and let the flavor bomb implode on your taste buds. The less spicy version (samgyupsal) is worth trying .They offer beef and seafood barbecue too. Chicken (dak) is served up only as appetisers Having sparked your appetite satiate it with the either of the other two  classic Korean dishes…the jeongol (hot pot) or the Bibimbap ( must try rice dish). Jeongol (hot pot stew) The large hot pot brims with a spicy broth (choice of pork beef and vegetarian too) and makes for a hearty meal.

Okayish Korean sushi, Hengbok Kimbap, not as exquisite as the Japanese version (also served here). Superb sashimi (which my sashimi expert guest loved)

Even the Japchae (sweet potato glass noodles) were light and tasty, though looked like a gloopy mess.

MINUS POINTS

Deep fried and almost ketchupy chicken starter,

Special dishes have been created for vegetarians and some lack flavor (the lacklustre pancake and glutinous dimsum). The tables being placed too close to each other, a closed up basement level are some of the minus points

 

MY POINT

There is a cook-it-yourself drama on the table (large hot pots, barbecue plates), there are spicy, garlicky blasts in the  food, plenty of non vegetarian (Belgian pork belly, beef, octopus, squid), there is Japanese sushi and sashimi too. Though special dishes have been created for vegetarians, this is not exactly a vegetarian mecca. But it’s a great new introduction to Korean food paired with the Korean Jinro Shoju (must try). We are happy that Heng Bok (happiness) is here!

11/1, Kalpak Corner Building, Turner Road, Bandra (W), Ph 26510044/66/77,

Timing open for lunch and dinner

Meal for 2 Rs 4000

RATING FOOD 4 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3

HEALTHY GOURMET SURPRISES

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A request! Please read what follows very carefully. Not only  will your gourmet tastebuds be satisfied but you will also glean amazing health tips that are not only useful but also usable.

I write from the heart-stoppingly beautiful heart shaped island country of Tasmania and am delighting in it’s healthy gourmet qualities. Ofcourse we all know about that it is Australia’s smallest state, has the most astonishing and diverse natural beauty, is a haven for wildlife, but I had no clue that Tasmania produced one of the highest quality of saffron in the world or that Sheeps milk cheese is infinitely more healthy than cows milk cheese. I taste my way through the picturesque landscape and here’s what I find…

SUPERSAFFRON

I always thought that saffron (the most expensive spice valued for it’s intense unique color, flavor and medicinal properties) was cultivated in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Iran, and ofcourse in Jammu & Kashmir. Imagine my surprise when I find it here too. That is, the crocus flower from whose  dried “stigma” saffron is produced grows here too. And behind it   are the most gentle but enterprising couple Terry  and Nick Noonan. They not only lay out a tray of yummies (scones, cheese) infused with their fine saffron but also explain how their “saffron tea” can heal macular degeneration, is rich in antioxidants  has antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, digestive benefits too. Its a delight to see the saffron fields, to taste it…and to take home “saffron tea” for a friend with eye problems and the organic saffron for cooking up my “biryani” and “kheer”

KYA CHEESE HAI

Can cheese really be good for cholesterol watchers? Or be okay for those with lactose intolerance? “Yes! sheeps milk cheese is”, the young and brilliant Nicole Gilliver at Grandewe Cheese farms informs me.Sure!  Sheeps’ milk contains Vitamins A, B, D & E which are all essential to good health but did you know that Sheeps’ milk can contain up to three times more protein than cows’ or goats’ milk? Or that the calcium levels in sheeps’ milk are double that found in cows’ milk? But what blows my mind is that  those who are lactose intolerant can enjoy sheeps milk and it’s cheese because  there is  scientific evidence that proves the lactose in sheeps’ milk is far more tolerated than that from other milks. Since I do tend to be lactose intolerant I happily tuck into

Nicole Gilliver’s amazing variety of cheese. The well-informed Kim Dudson of Bespoke Tasmania takes me through even more of the healthy gourmet surprises here. I love the lightness and freshness of the Spring cheese. The richness of the vine wrapped one which she has created here. And the cheese is brilliantly paired with “pino paste” the sweet tangy paste from skins of pinto noir grapes. And we top off our fabulous cheese tasting with the amazing   Whey liquor and creamy rich

Sheeps milk icecream. All of this produced in Nicole’s family run. Grandewe 80 acre farm.

 

GINSENG REIGNS

Yet another surprise was walking into the Ginseng farm, especially since I thought that this was a root grown only in Asia. Well established as a, stimulant, and even useful in type II diabetes treatment, or cure for sexual dysfunction in men.Ive had Ginseng in energy drinksherbal teas and thrilled to find it in so many different forms here in Tassy. Grown here by the enterprising German couple Ziggy and Angelika Pyka of 41 degrees, along with their amazing bio-friendly salmon farm. I not only thrill in the walk but also enjoy the robust flavors of the salmon lunch.

 

PORT SMOKED

Okay! So Im well acquainted with the flavors, textures and health benefits of Smoked salmon, but imagine my surprise when I come across port barrel smoked salmon, rich in smokey, woody flavors? Doing this is the colorful Roger Scales  of Woodbridge who gets these barrels from France and it takes  6 days to complete the process. And the difference shows. In the Superb smoked Ocean trout too.

 

AN APPLE A DAY

Justifiably known as the “apple isle” Tasmania not only has over 800 variety of apples, but also it’s own apple museum and research centers. Im thrilled to visit these and also the 130 year old,  fourth generation Willy Smith and sons  organic aple farm and get a taste of their refreshing apple cider.  Bursting with goodness and health,, these crunchy apples delight .”An apple a day, surely  keeps the doctor away”

P.S. The final healthy fact that blows me away is that this heart shaped island has the worlds (Yes!) purest air and this is continouosly  scientifically monitored in Cape Grim.

THE DEVIL IN PARADISE

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FOR THE BOX.

I write from this heart shaped island, Tasmania and  photograph two of my favorites here…the furry devil (only found here) and apples ( Mindblowing variety and tastes in this “apple isle”, apple museum too). I’m in the stunningly beautiful ( sunny but  freezing Cradle Mountain)  here I pet this Tasmanian Devil, am crunching on apples, feasting on the local, fresh food in restaurants and getting more and more surprised and seduced by this amazing gourmet island. From  nibbling on the most amazingly delicious  sheep’s cheese (double the amount of calcium, suitable for the lactose intolerant) to tasting the intense and delightful Tasmanian saffron (yes! not only is it grown here but is also of the highest quality). It is constantly scientifically monitored… that Tasmania has the most pristine air in the world ( yes!). Any wonder that here down under, I’m feeling on top of the world?

Review: TIJUANA IGUANA GRILL AND LOUNGE

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Whoa! Mumbai’s restaurant jungle is getting more populated…Blue Frog, White Owl, Lazy dog, Barking deer and now Tijuana Iguana. Coincidentally, I’m writing this from Australia, home to the most amazing wildlife (which I love). At the dinner, before I left Mumbai my wild-life conservationist guest Sam Mistry explained the interesting background about Iguana, the lizard from Central America and Mexico. Not only is he a trustee of the Corbett foundation but even honeymooned with his Doctor wife Rati in Kenya. A brilliant and dedicated doctor she also makes time for regular visits to wildlife parks. Both love animals (Sam prefers them to humans) and yes! they were happy to be in Tijuana Iguana.

 

DÉCOR

As soon as you walk in, through the greenlight haze, the Iguana eyes stare from the large looming poster. Three smallish rooms (on different levels) make up this new Fort restaurant, set up by American businessman Jai Lalwani, who runs  hotels and similar ‘Ameri-Mex’ concept bars in the US. We stopped at the bar for a drink  and moved up the steps to the tiny space with sofas for dinner.

FOOD & DRINK

A deliciously tangy Margarita, followed with well-made chicken wings

Standard Tex Mex  fare heaped over with beans and cheese, be it Quessadillas or Enchiladas, Burritos. Plenty of Burgers ( try black and blue burger with blue cheese) sandwiches (Philly cheese steak). Many a choice for veggies too (including the wittily named “Patel pasta” “Peruvian paella”). Health club section ( grilled salmon and chicken too) The Simply Sinful Snickers Pie with icecream and an Oreo cookie crust, topped with caramel and fudge was a must try. Plenty of cocktails, (go for vodka melon cranberry based “The Good life” ) Shots at the well stocked bar.

MINUS POINTS

My biggest disappointment was the guacamole, as it lacked  texture and flavor. A lot of the dishes were just a heap of cheese and beans and lackluster. The Brownie bottom pie was thick and hard. It can get very noisy here.

MY POINT

This open all day, new Fort entrant promises to go from a restaurant into a Happy Hour zone, back to a diner and then into a nightclub, all in one evening. We have yet to watch their bartenders Salsa Meringue,  and throw Fire and Toss bottles, but sure enjoyed meeting them much more than we did the Ameri-Mex fare here which still needs to hit it’s stride.

 

Bombay Mutual Annexe, Rustom Sidhwa Marg,Gunbow Street, Opposite Residency Hotel Fort

22695756

Open 12 noon till 01:30am

RATING FOOD 3 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5