Food

I’M HOOKED

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Excuse me for speeding! I’m on a mission. I’m on the look out for one single dish which captures the essence of each of my favorite cities. Surely! It cant be Bhelpuri for Mumbai? Though it is a lot like the city itself, it’s tangy, crisp, sour, sweet, squishy…but it doesn’t distil the high-end, highrise glossy life or Bombay- to- Mumbai’s chequered history. And here in Kolkata my heartbeat is quickening with joy. Here, many centuries coexist seamlessly. Here, in this undecipherable amalgam of modernity and oldness, human warmth and apathy, rickshaws and limousines throbs the soul of the city which I love. Sure it is proudly Bengali, it is multi-cultural but it still hark backs to the Colonial Raj. And here amidst all this cacophony and glamour I hit the jackpot. I find that one dish which distils the Bengali heartbeat and the cosmopolitan nature.

TIMELESS LEGEND

L1120295Sure! Enough this dish has stood the test of time. Its recipe has been passed down generations of masterchefs. And  time stands still in the Historic  handsome Oberoi Grand with it’s stucco ornamentation, colonnaded verandahs and balconies. The glory and style of the Raj coexists seamlessly with modernization. Here I trip out on Chef Saurav Banerjee’s “smoked Hilsa” a masterful combination of the Ilish (Hilsa) fish which every Bengali loves done to a very Anglo-Indian style. Having studied in the prestigious catering college of West Bengal, opened many a restaurant around the country, Chef Banerjee has also traveled the world working in Singapore and London.. He brilliantly executes this dish.

This recipe probably existed way back in the early nineteenth century when the site of the hotel was the private residence of a Colonel Grand, which went on to be converted into a boarding house by Mrs. Annie Monk, bought over by  Arathoon Stephen an Armenian from Isfahan who redeveloped the site into an extravagant neoclassical style which looks like the hotel today.  The hotel soon became a popular spot amongst the English population of Calcutta. It was known, in particular, for its annual New Year party  with iced champagne and expensive gifts and for sure this smoked Hilsa dish. Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi took over and bought this property in 1939 and it stands handsomely and serenely in the cacophony of Chowringhee. A meal at the multi-cuisine all day dining restaurant,a authentic Thai restaurant, a dip in the limpid blue pool in the heart of the hotel are some of the must-dos. The dapper dynamic George Kuruvilla ensures that history and modernity do a memorable tango and this dish of Smoked Hilsa is the epitome of both.

THE GRAND SMOKED HILSA

The intensely flavored Ilish or Hilsa has been  the Bengali favorite (and mine) forever. Chef Banerji very thoughtfully provides substitutes for it (though we both agree that no fish can really match it in texture or flavor). Ditto for the Bengali mustard paste…kasundi. However you can always use any other ready mustard paste. Try it and be transported to the most historic and legendary of  Kolkata’s Grand landmark. One bite of it’s smoky-tender-firmness and the flavor of Kolkata with it’s centuries of colorful history will seduce you. A truly unique legendary dish from a Grand legend.

recipe-header

Ingredients
Smoked hilsa (if hilsa not available you may substitute with rawas or sole) fillet 250gm, Baby potato 4 to 6/ Baby carrot3 to 4/ Broccoli 2 small florets/ Baby corn2/ Chopped parsley A small bunch,
Salt 2gm/ Cracked pepper1gm/ Kasundi mustard sauce 2tbsp (can be substituted by any ready mustard paste).

For the sauce
Fish stock 2cups/ Kasundi 1tbsp/ Butter 2 tbsps, Cream Half a cup,

Method:
·Take out the hilsa fillet and put it in a pre-heated 180 degrees medium oven till its nicely hot.
·Par boil all the vegetables  and season with salt and pepper.
·Sprinkle chopped parsley on the vegetables and arrange it in a plate.
·Place the fillet carefully on the plate and pour the kasundi mustard sauce on it.
·Serve hot.
·For the sauce reduce the stock to 50%. Add the kasundi mustard.
·Take it off the fire and whisk in the cream and the butter.
METHOD FOR SMOKING

Ingredients
Hilsa fillet de skinned 350gm, 2) Anchovy 5 gm, (use tinned anchovy 1 small piece,) 3)Kasundi mustard 2tsp, 4)Refined oil 2tsp,
5) Lemon juice 1tsp, 6) Salt to taste.

Method:
· Remove the scales from the fish and cut out the fillets. In a large container take cloves on a burning ember of coal and pour ghee on it.Trap that smoke . Chef uses ·mango wood dust for smoking but he has given the coal alternative for home cooking. .
Marinate the fillet with  (anchovy, kasundi, oil, lemon juice and salt) the ingredients no. 2 – 6 and leave it for one hour.
·Cook the fillet in a pre heated oven.
·De bone the fillet by taking out strips vertically from the fillet.
·Remove the bones feeling them with the knife.
·Join back the strips and cling wrap the fillet carefully, ( should you want to, you can  store this smoked hilsa for 4 to 6 days too)

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REJUVEN-ATE, CELEBR-ATE

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I raise a toast with the  delicious“Iron man” juice and ask a few questions: Can delicious also be nutritious? Tasty food be   healthy? Contradictory? Not possible? But worth finding out, don’t you agree? After all, food delivers the much-needed energy and the vitality to work and to enjoy life in all it’s manifold aspects. And so it’s been my life-long quest to find food that combines taste with health. And especially in restaurants. Having eaten my way through all my travels around the world and through all my 33 books, I have to admit that very, very few restaurants serve up food that combines these two aspects. Most coax flavors and enhance textures with dollops of fat, frying to a crisp, layers of cream and so on. India’s  restaurantscape continues to grow and expand with multiple cuisines and options. And each year, as I research The Times Food Guides I eat non-stop in restaurants here.

  CAFE WELI-DELI

Rejuven-ateYou can imagine my delight when in the heart of bustling South Mumbai, I find  a cafe, an oasis of calm which creates, innovates and serves up the most amazing spa menu. And this is a glassed off space ( outdoor verandah et al), surrounded by trees. This jewel of a  open-through-the-day café is part of the Taj’s Wellington Mews, their swanky serviced apartment property. Sure! You can imbibe the tranquility and coffee and snacks but even more exciting is the light and delightful menu of the Jiva spa complemented by a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Ofcourse, the comprehensive short menu with it’s sandwiches and pastas also offers a flavorsome Goan prawn curry and the ever popular Chicken kathi roll.  But it’s the healthful yet yummy Steamed Sea Bass, the  Mediterranean-spiced Chicken Breast  and the healthy Wholewheat Ravioli with Spinach and Mushroom and Stir-fried Spring Vegetables served with Tofu that Chef Shrutika Koli excels in. Here I not only trip out on their crisp salads, but also their  addictive roasted pumpkin soup spiked with cumin and the homestyle drumsticks.

From chef Shrutika Koli and the dynamic, health-buff Parveen Chander Kumar, who helms the serene spa and the property, I get a rejuvenating taste of health.  “The soup is full of antioxidants”  explains Parveen  and I chip in “and what a unique lingering whisper of cumin it has”.

P.S. The Iron Man is a refreshing apple, guava and pear juice. Weli Deli’s  Pineapple and Ginger with Mint and Celery is another favorite of mine too.

 

 


 

HEALTHY COOKING TIPS

Chef Shrutika shares some of her tips and recipes with us.

·       Always use only seasonal and fresh vegetables and  herbs,  instead of canned or dried ones.

·       While making  juices of fruits and  vegetables try and squeeze last minute without adding any sweeteners .

·       ·         ·        Try to best capture flavors retain the nutrients in food without adding excessive salt and fats

·       Cooking with minimal heat and a la minute tossing of food help to maintain  colour and texture of food .

·       Avoid excess use of all the white food stuffs eg. Sugar , salt , rice , milk, refine flour …..

 

CUMIN SCENTED ROASTED PUMPKIN BISQUE

Ingredients:

Amount   Measure  Ingredient                       Preparation Method

500          grams              pumpkin red

15            grams              cumin seeds                    roasted and powdered

15            milliliters        extra virgin olive oil

10            grams              sea salt                    to taste

10            grams              pepper corn                     crushed

20            grams              shallots                    chopped

20            grams              garlic                               chopped

20            grams              leeks                                chopped

 

Preparation:

Peel & cut pumpkin in to wedges. Marinate pumpkin with olive oil, salt, peper  & garlic.

Roast marinated pumpkin in the oven until well-done. Puree the roasted pumpkin to a fine paste.

Sauté garlic, shallots, leeks, cumin seeds & add pumpkin puree. Add vegetable stock, and seasoning.

Simmer the soup till smooth and creamy. Strain and return to fire.

Check for seasoning, color and consistency. Serve hot garnished with roasted cumin powder.

THE PERFECT PUMPKIN

  • Very low calorie (100 gms of pumpkin has 26 calories)No saturated fats or cholesterol.
  • Pumpkin has many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
  •  but rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins.
  •  Recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
  • High quantity of Vitamin A, a powerful natural anti-oxidant.
  • Plenty of  B-complex group of vitamins.
  • A rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

TIMELESS SPLENDOUR BY THE GANGA

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sonar toriThis ain’t no restaurant, it’s a timeless experience. I step in and out of nostalgic centuries, seamlessly. By the serene river Ganga (in the village of Raichak, an hours drive from Kolkatta) stands “Sonar Tori” a mindblowing restaurant which I discovered  two years ago  (now I know what Columbus must’ve felt like) and then went back and shot  as a judge for the Times Now Foodie TV show. Did I just call it a “restaurant”?  It is much more. It is a tribute to the old and rich Indian tradition, it is an art centre, the Bengali idiom has been  infused into the coastal architecture of the place in a contemporaryfashion.

Sonar Tori is a visual recreation of the of the rich and layered facets of the socio- cultural- literary – ritualistic elements of Bengal; There is conservation of nature and culture here. The nostalgia of yesteryears has been infused by the usage antique articles and utensils and whoa! The multi-layered and flavorsome Bengali fare delivers magic.

 

SPRAWLING BY THE RIVER

I was floating on air with joy here. The sheer melding of the beauty of nature with manmade buildings is a triumph of art and science. The existing grooves and water bodies have been  conserved. Minimalist thatched roof buildings have been  built without disturbing a single tree or water body.  Around the 11, 000 sq ft restaurant there is a a scattered look with walkways connecting them.  Walk in to the restaurant which sprawls languourously on many levels and like Alladins cave, fabulous rooms keep opening up one after another. The Rabindranath Tagore room (main dining area) the Shisha Bar,  main bar, an open air dining area and a sit out by the riverside here. There is also a separate cozy Private dining area within the restaurant.

I cant peel my eyes off the amazing collection of old windows, doors, old photographs, nutcrackers, betel boxes, traditional accounting books, 4 poster beds and trunks. Rabindranath Tagore’s famous poems and sketches adorn the ceilings, as do vintage chandeliers,  old-fashioned handheld fans and other bric-a-bracs adorn the interiors, all put together to create nostalgic grace.

 

“It has been a privilege to say the least, to have been privy to the myriad sensitivities and sensibilities of Bengali cuisine” says the brilliant Harsh Neotia, the driving force behind it “and to offer the assimilation of years of gorging on both the palate and tradition”. His gorgeous wife Madhu Neotia shares his passion for it and works hands on here as an advisor.

 

THE JOURNEY OF BENGALI CUISINE

 

How does the brilliant Chef Sumanta Chakrabarti manage to  showcase the  influence of the Mughals, Europeans and of course the indigenous agrarian ones in his Bengali menus?

He explains that the much relished Bengali fare like polao, kosha mangsho, korma, kofta have been derived from Mughlai cuisine. The Nawab of Awadh (then Oudh) who took refuge in Kolkata during the British Raj brought with him hundreds of cooks and masalchis (spice mixers) who brought in chat, chop & cutlet, pauruti or bread and more.

I find out more about Ghotis (the people of West Bengal who  use poppy seeds liberally) and Bangal  ( from East Bengal

who favor dal and fish).
 Ghotis prefer fish bred in ponds or estuaries, like magur and topshe while Bangals prefer fish from big rivers. But the hilsa or ilish is a universal favorite. And Chef Sumanta Chakrabarti, Mathemetics Honours, Bachelor of Architecture and a master in hotel management, combines years of working with Indian and international masterchefs to seamlessly deliver an amazing experience. He serves three varieties of cuisines, namely Zamindari, Grameen & Musalmanir. Each one is served in different metals of thalis and in it’s own pristine orders. Freshest of seafood catch, flavorsome of curries, plumpest of rotis, sweetest and most delicate of milk based desserts…it’s a never ending feast for the senses. I can fill a book about it, instead I request the chef for his recipes. Should you want more please email me (Rashmiudaysingh2014@gmail.com, twitter @rashiudaysingh )

BOX

SONAR TORI RECIPE

Channar narkol paturi

Fabulous recipe of chenna steamed in a banana leaf

1 portion

 

 

120 gm    Chenna – Bengal cottage cheese

50 gm      Grated coconut

2 tea spoon Ginger Paste

1 tae spoon Garlic Paste

3 nos       Green chili paste

2 tea spoon Mustard paste

1 pinch    Black cumin seed

1 table spoon  Khoyaa

1 no         Green chili slit

To taste   Salt

½ tea spoon    Sugar

1 no         Banana leaf

2 tea spoon Mustard oil

 

Blend with the end of the wrist chenna into smoothness, and then add the grated coconut, ginger paste, garlic paste, green chili paste, mustard paste, khoyaa. Mix the entire ingredient nicely.

Crackle the black cumin seed, sprinkle on top, wrap the mixture in banana leaf, add green chili slit on top and drops of mustard oil and seal the banana leaf. Serve preferably with bangla pulao

Steam it for 4-5 minutes

A SIP OF 125 YEARS OF HISTORY

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I raise a toast to the very British tradition of high tea (ofcourse I do it with a cup of the finest Earl Grey tea)!

BRITISH HIGH TEA

Over the years, I’ve been sipping and tasting my way through many a high-tea in London’s legendary hotels and each time I salute Duchess Anna of Bedford for having  sent out the invite for “tea and a walk in the fields” over a hundred and fifty years ago. The lovely lady set in motion the most dainty of all culinary traditions.

I raise many a toast to the most legendary, the highly-awarded and the worlds best High teas (which Ive partaken of)…London’s grand historic hotels, The Ritz, The Dorchester, The Lanesbrough and even The Ritz in Madrid and Paris. An amazing tradition which evolved with time…of tea service,  side plates, bread and butter plates, cake stands, and every conceivable accompaniment advancing across the drawing room. Tea gardens, tea dances , a whole code of etiquette followed. Now, Tea Council Inspectors check standards and coveted awards are given every year for the Top London Afternoon Tea and Top Tea Place.

Not just the domain of the society grand dames, this tradition is hugely popular with the younger fashionable set too.

CHINESE TEA CEREMONY

Quite different from the British High tea is the Chinese Tea ceremony. I have attended only one such  ceremony where tea was made in small clay teapots. The pot  rinsed with boiling water and then  tea leaves   added to the pot using chopsticks or a bamboo scoop. “The art of preparing and making tea is called Cha Dao” informs my Chinese host. I enjoy the way the cups are arranged in a circle and the server pours the tea in all of them in one go.

I notice that he fills the cups just over half way. I am told that the Chinese believe that the rest of the cup is filled with friendship and affection. What a delicious thought!

JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY

Known for their stylish and elegant Chanoyu, the Sencha ceremonies, these are worth partaking of.The Chanoyu ceremony takes place in a wooden or bamboo teahouse called a Chashitsu. Plenty of wonderful rules around being calm, washing hands  enjoying the Teishu making the tea using powdered green tea called ‘matcha’ and sitting on the floor around a low table.

 

THE BEST OF THE BEST

2 High TeaSure all the High teas and tea ceremonies Ive attended have been fabulous, but this one, here in Bangalore is easily the best. Please take a look at the photograph Ive shot.  Time stands still, luxurious  high tea from another era is flamboyantly served under the 150 year old Rain tree. Every detail in this 125 year old beauty of a landmark Taj Westend hotel is perfect. The Taj West End was started as a 10 bed genteel boarding house for upper class English Gentlemen by the Bronsons in 1887 and today remains at the top of the world class hotels. I take many trips back in time here in all their bespoke experiences they’re offering to celebrate history. From getting high on their Heritage Champagne Walk, admiring the oldest and first red colored Post Box operational till date, soaking in the Art Corridor  to sitting under the magnificent Rain tree which is older than the hotel and has stood tall since 1848. Here with the  charming colonial 1905 block as backdrop in the Mynt Lawns, I  choose from a selection of delectable treats.

Along with this  Art of High Tea an inspiration from the Colonial era (with a menu crafted for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians)The brilliant  executive Chef Sandip Narang having honed his mastery all over the world and set up award winning  restaurants in India also offers   a well contemplated Anglo Indian Menu that draws inspiration from the British Raj,  of western dishes infused with spices and other local ingredients. At the Westend’s High tea, take your pick… open sandwich of smoked salmon, cucumber and dill sandwich, crispy fish finger with tartare sauce, lemon tart, frosted cupcakes, coffee macaroons, strawberries in chocolate to name a few. Pair it with a wide ranging tea selection from Darjeeling to Monking Jasmine, Earl Grey and Egyptian Camomile.

I’ve been passionately in love with The Westend and been visiting it since many decades. It’s old world charm and colonial architecture blends with the high tech and  amazing  restaurants (including India’s first Vietnamese restaurant, Blue Ginger) weave a memorable spell, The dynamic Somnath Mukherjee ensures that each and every detail is perfect. Over the years, staying in these cottages interspersed over 20 acres of lush greenery and spreading canopies of trees has always been magical for me. I’m fascinated to learn that it was under these trees that Nobel prize winner Ronald Ross discovered the cure for malaria. It was here that Sir Winston Churchill often dined as a Cigar – smoking war journalist; and later went on to become the Prime minister of Britain. It is here that under the ancient Rain tree that I sip (literally too) 125 years of legendary history. This is most certainly, my cup of tea.

NEW YORK FOOD GUIDE

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NEW YORK FOOD GUIDE

Pardon the blasphemy: I write from the original Biblical Paradise. I am convinced that it was this very Big apple that Eve tempted Adam with. So here’s a teeny taste of  New York’s vast, tentacled food scene’s eternally evolving everythingness. My son Dhruv and his friend Tracy help me check it all out…from the low and high, faddish and fun, diabolically tasty, heartbreakingly expensive to the cheapest… happily vegetarians have plenty to eat everywhere.

NYC CULT FOOD AND STREET FARE

Go on. Take to the streets and you’ll be spoilt for choice, from calzones, falafel t to combined papaya juice/hot dog stands corndogs, grilled chestnuts and more. Go for the steaming, paper thin heaps of pastrami overflowing from a sandwich ( Katz Deli ) Manhattan is pizza lovers haven. Lombardis (Spring street) is still my choice though you can pick up a slice most anywhere. A BITE OF HISTORY NYC is where  the Delicatessan (Deli) was created by the East European jews as also the Reuben sandwichSteak Diane,Vichyssoise  and the Waldorf salad . Cronuts being the latest. Crunch on the apple and walnut rich Waldorf salad at the Waldorf Astoria  like we do or step back in time in the old-word charm of Café Carlye (76th and Madison) where music legends have played, we were lucky to hear Woody Allen on the clarinet as we dined on the classic Lobster bisque and Branzino. Cant keep eating fancy ? Do what I did went into the iconic Plaza hotel’s brand new Todd English Foodhall  (1 W 59th street) for affordable fare.

GRANDSTANDS

If you have deep pockets (or like us save up and not shop) then a five hour Italian meal at celebrity chef Mario Batallis 24000 sq ft elegant  Del posto (85, 10th Ave)  is a must. I ate at Perse (Columbus Circle) last trip and found it too frilly and predictable,

FINE DINE DEMOCRATISED

Its also called the “Momofuku effect” And it all started with my favorite fabulous Michelin starred Changs  Momofuku Ssam bar (East village)superlative food. We dine with Viveka Purandare at  Will Guidara’s fabulous NoMad’s (1170 Broadway) lacquered roast chicken with truffles and foie gras to  the mindblowing simplicity of red radishes enrobed in a thin shell of butter. On my last trip we had dined at their “Eleven Madison Park”(10 Columbus circle) …astounding though more formal. OUR CASUAL FLAVORITES Innovative yet comforting Mediteranean fare at Atrio (Conrad hotel, Battery park) chef Antonio Cardoso excels here. Innovative,  inspired supercharged dimsum  at Red Farm ( Second Ave East Village) buzzing Parisian bistro. Balthazar (Spring st) are must visits

INSPIRING INDIA

INSPIRING INDIA AT JUNOON
INSPIRING INDIA AT JUNOON

Michelin starred Junoon (means passion in hindi) (27 W, 24th St) lives up to it’s name and serves up an authentic, yet elegantly modern take on Indian cuisine. And four of us speakers (Hemant Oberoi, Zorawar Kalra Rajesh Bhardwaj and me ) from the Columbia Business school food panel dine in this handsome, high ceilinged packed and noisy restaurant where the hot sexy chef Vikas Khanna creates magic. With us are Revti Gupta, Divya Surana and Kersi Shroff the brilliant masterminds of Columbias Inspiring India.

NIGHTCLUBBING

Whoa we feasted on the  glittering 360 degree view of NYC from the swanky  Top of The Standard (848 Washington street)– formerly  Boom Boom Room –luxurious 70s-inspired glam, with starburst chandeliers, gold plated chairs et al. Equally popular is  that oasis of luxe urban cool,  Dream hotel ( Midtown West)  owned by Vikram Chatwal) exclusive puny Electric Room nightclub  And PH-D, their rooftop nightclub.

DOLLOPS OF GLAMOR

Asia is on steroids at this sprawling new Tao Downtown (92 9th Ave) loud music, seabass satay, dimsum, sake flight tasting and Patrick Duxbury insists we trip out the most decadent dessert platter. We do happily. Beauty& Essex… Walk through a jewellery pawn shop into this gem of a restaurant with sharing mutli ethnic plates. Purvi Thacker and I trip out on Lobster tacos to eggplant pizzettas Love the vibe and  Italian fare at Robert di Nero’s Greenwich hotel.The fluffy pancakes at Three Guys Restaurant (Madison Avenue) and the Greek manager proudly informs that the worlds most beautiful actress Deepika Padukone  has eaten here.


    ROOHI JAIKISHEN RECOMMENDS It was a virtual miracle: it was on Instagram that I got recommendations from Roohi Jaikishen, the discerning gourmet New York addict and followed them too. Amongst them were, Jean Georges Vongerischten at 1920s Paris meets New York, Mark hotel (super steamed shrimp salad.)  Tao, Beauty and Essex, Top of the Standard, Dream hotel Schiller and Arlington recommended by Roohi.


 

NYC CHEAPAND CHEERFUL   I sniffed out some great finds on my eatabouts all thanks to instagram and twitter (@rashmiudaysingh)  I got some amazing recommendations from NYCfoodtastic, Rikin Kadakia and many more. * Artichoke pizza on Mcdougal, *  Xian famous food’s  famous lamb burger ( St. Marks street) all for $3 *Malai Marke for Indian food beats chote nawab or bricklane * Ippudo For ramen noodles and burgers * los taco no.1  (chelsea market,) salts of 100 flavors to finger licking lobsters too. * Woorijip Authentic Korean food, for buffets with 40+ options

ART ON THE PALATE

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I am breathing art, seeing art, hearing art and ofcourse tasting art. In Barcelona, this city of culture, knowledge,creativity and innovation Spanish genius has been nurtured  over centuries…be it Gaudi or Dali or Picasso. Culinary heros like Ferran Adria have blazed global trails and now many more are making an international impact. Infact the first ever culinary book was written in Barcelona in the 12th century.  Barcelona with it’s  architectural masterpiece buildings with floral motifs, stained glass windows, wrought iron balconies and neo gothic details really is like an open air museum.

In the heart of it all, is the oldest Majestic which opened it’s doors in 1918. It  is  timeless, elegant and luxurious and always has been even when it’s nightly rate was just oven ten cents. Today the third generation of the founding Soldevila-Casals family continues to ensure that this “art hotel” not only houses a collection of priceless art but many great artists like Picasso and Miro have lived here too.

VIVA CATALONIAVIVA CATALONIA

Did you know that Barcelona is the capital of  Catalonia, a small nation pursuing independence within a united Europe?  And though it has assimilated cosmopolitan cultures, over a 1000 years, it continues to hold it’’s own roots, culture, language and cuisine in high regard.

I am fascinated by this complex yet amazingly simple cuisine and the high state of gastronomy in Catalonia. Daylight bathes the timeless elegance of the Majestic located in the throbbing heart of Barcelona. It is here that Michelin starred chef Nando jubani weaves his magic.  Along with the masterpieces which regale the diners, it is here too that I request to taste the most Catalan of all dishes…the simple (and now in season)  “Calcotada”.Please take a look at the photograph and you’ll see what I mean. There is an art to eating this specialty which takes a little practice: tip the head back and open your mouth wide, then hold the long white stalk high above and then bring it between your teeth and enjoy it…it’s the ancient ritual of Calcotada, the great green onion feast, which attracts thousands of devotees ever year and has acquired an essential place in the economy of the entire region. It is said that Xat de Benaiges was the first to grill the green onion over a flaming fire over a hundred years ago.  The green onions (harvested November till January) are grilled in advance . I request Chef David Romero to make this ancient specialty and voila! What a fantastic job  he does.  As done for more than a century, the dynamic Santiago Martin, the knowledgable Montse Subirana and I  peel away the smoke-blackened skin and dip the  green onions  in the”salbitaxada” sauce, a piquant sauce of tomatoes, almonds, peppers, vinegar and oil and the simplicity and freshness of the flavors not only seduces but also energises me.

RECIPE: SALBITXADA

Sauce for the calcots …green onions

2 tbsp blanched almonds, 2 bitso peppers, (substitute with red chilli peppers)6 cloves of garlic,  2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and iced, 1 tbsp chopped parsley, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, half cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Method…Heat a dry skilled and toast almonds, crush them coarsely in a morter pestle. Chop garlic and peppers (after deseeding) coarsely, mix with almonds. Add tomatoes, parsley, vinegar and then pour in olive oil gradually. Whisk into a thick paste. Tip: you can use a mixi if you are short of time.

 

It is only in Catalonia that even the war which they lost (in 1714) is celebrated by Michelin starred chef Jordi val in his restaurant “300 el born” where typical Catalan dishes are cooked to their hearty recipes interpreted by jordi in his own brilliant way.

THE BEST OF THE BEST

I landed  in Catalonia only day before and have already been regaled by the most amazing restaurants…At the hot, happening, new bar Brutal Can Cisa in the old city, not only are amazing Catalan Tapas served but also only “natural wines”.

I taste it all…from the three Michelin starred Carme Rustadilla’s  masterpieces in texture and flavor to the homestyle Catalan flavors of the Garrega family kitchen. The 62 year young Carme weaves magic in her seafront restaurant. Each dish is a work of art and artistry and our three hour long meal is a memorable parade of 23 courses. At “Tickets” the Adria brothers, vibrant and fun tapas bar with a twist (and what a twist) wizardry and skill  results in quivering spheres which look like olives and implode with olive flavor, tempura pistachio, artichoke ravioli, the worlds first gourmet beer (with hints of fennel and liqourice) which pairs brilliantly with he food…all created by the famous El Bulli brothers Adria. At their Peruvian-Japanese fusion “Pakta” I am blown away by the ceviches and sushi withPeruvian overtones and Bodega 1900 is a nostalgic return to the good old days. Tomorrow early morning I leave for Girona to eat in the “Worlds best restaura nt” crowned by the London based “Worlds 50 best restaurant academy”..it is called “El Celler can de Roca” and it is a part of Catalonia. Viva Catalonia!

SAVORING SPAIN

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Move over France. Spain is here.  Spanish genius spills over with vibrant intensity, be it art, architecture and especially food. Picasso, Dali, Gaudi and even the Gods of gastronomy (Ferran Adria, Roca brothers, Juan Marie and Elena Arzak) reign supreme.

I’m here in Spain, at most cutting edge frontier of gastronomy. Here global superstars and Spanish wizards have flown in for the most prestigious Madridfusion, the annual, three day foodcongress in the stylish, art and food mecca, Madrid. Its really impossible to distil the flavor of Spain in this short space, so I offer to you a smattering of tastes…

THE FUTURE IS HERE

Unveiling the future, at this three Madridfusion are many a genius. Andoni Luis along with British Scientists announces and demonstrates how we will be able to transmit smell through the internet.  Joan Roca explains how he injects leaves to make cocktails…and the list goes on. The future trends of gastronomy, the best of the best,

are revealed by global superstars who have  flown in from all parts of the world. I hear their views, learn their cooking secrets and chat with them…be it Jose Andres (Bazaar, Minibar) of Los Angeles, the legendary Michel Bras and Pascal Barbot from France, Mehmet Gurs from Istanbul and many more. The suave Joan Roca of the Worlds best restaurant (El Celler can Roca, Girona…where I had a lifechanging dinner a few days ago) is here.Its the Capel family (Esmeralda, Anna and Carlos) who  founded and spearheaded this gastronomique Madridfusion.

 

L1140307 THE FATHER OF SPANISH CUISINE

Please take a look at the photograph I shot  in the midst of this hectic,  pathbreaking Madridfusion. I was lucky enough to meet the father of Modern Basque cuisine, Juan marie  and his daughter Elena (crowned “the worlds best woman chef” ). A couple of days before I had journeyed to the charming coastal town of San Sebastian to their restaurant “Arzak”.

It sure is a memorable experience to dine in Arzak, home  of the Arzak family since 1897 is  constructed by Juan Mari’s  grandparents. His brilliant daughter Elena (crowned as the “Worlds best woman chef”) is the fourth generation of culinary geniuses.

As the leisurely 12 course, wine-paired  meal unfolds it becomes quite evident why Arzak was the first Spanish restaurant to earn three Michelin stars in 1989. Science and technique, art and drama merge to coax flavors and textures out of the Superb Basque produce. Space constrains me to describe only three dishes. Though each and every one was magnificent.

It all starts off with A crushed can of tonic…mango zuchini in a tonic water sauce…clever yet simple flavors.

A dramatic large green dome of seaweed and crispy rice reveals.tenderfirm monkfish in a traditional green sauce of parsley and gsrlic. I nibble on the crspy seawed and rice dome.yum. It’s the finale of the “Hardware shop”  (ferreteria) that I get addicted to….Screws of intense chocolate bolts of aubergine and chocolate. Keys of silver and chocolate unlocking sheer delight. Chocoholics delight.

INDIA IS SHINING

Here in Madridfusion, India is shining. The  Roca brothers of The worlds best restaurant, created a dish inspired by India: the legendary Michel Bras goes on stage to announce that he gets his inspiration from India. Michelin-starred Sergi Arola has set up his signature restaurant in Mumbai. Delhi is next on his agenda. Our very own dynamic chef Himanshu Taneja from the JW Marriott  is making his presence felt.

SPAIN IN MY PLATE?

RECIPE

After eating my way through Spain for ten days, I find that it is impossible to distil Spain in one recipe. However this simple but flavorful garlic and olive oil recipe (known in Spain as) ajaceite or alioli is basic  to Spanish cuisine and surely worth trying at home.

This creamy garlic mixture is especially popular with the Catalans, and the name comes

from the Catalan words all(garlic) and oli (oil).  alioli (pronounced all-

ee-ohlee) consists only of these two ingredients, plus a pinch of salt, and nothing else.

 

ALIOLI

Original version:

3 large cloves of garlic coarsely chopped

¼ – ½ tsp salt

½ -1 cup/125-250 ml olive oil

Lemon juice to taste

 

Pound the garlic and salt to an even consistency, using a mortar and pestle. Then add the olive

oil drop by drop at first, increasing to a thin stream and stirring constantly until a thick

paste is formed. Add lemon juice to taste.

 

Modern imitation:

3 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

½ tsp salt

l-12 egg yolks

1 cup/250 ml olive oil

Lemon juice n taste

 

Cut up the garlic and pound it with salt to an even paste, using a mortar and pestle. Stir in the

egg yolk. Then add the olive oil drop by drop at first, increasing to a thin stream and working it

in by stirring constantly. Flavor with lemon juice to taste and serve cold. A balloon or hand

whisk may be used to stir in the oil if preferred.

P.S.  The test of the cook’s skill is to be able to turn the mortar upside down with the finished alioli  inside, without any of it falling out. Sparkle your food, serve Alioli  with fish,meat, vegetables, rice…take your pick

Want Spanish recipes? Please email  (rashmiudaysingh2014@gmail.com, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh.

JAI HO! INDIA

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Asia 50 best 1Ofcourse! Its true that a picture is worth a thousand words…but this accompanying photo I’ve shot is worth many more. Please take a look at it:  in it are superstarchefs whose restaurants have been crowned The Worlds best (Joan Roca) Asia’s best (David Thompson) and also our very own India’s best (Manjit Singh Gill, Hemant Oberoi, Manish Mehrotra), not to forget our   Indian in Bangkok (Gaggan Anand) and from Srilanka (Dharshan Munidasa). It sure is time to celebrate.     For many reasons…firstly, am thrilled that so many of our Indian restaurants are being awarded on this international stage. Happy, that Asia’s gastronomy is being given the due prominence it deserves and focusing the spotlight on is the whole team of “Asia’s 50 best” ( Charles Reed and William Drew, editor of  “The Restaurant Magazine” are in the photo too)

THE OSCAR OF FOOD AWARDS

Prestigious, glittering, coveted are some of the words that describe the awesome “Asia’s 50 best” award ceremony. Not only have the whos who of the restaurant world jetted in from all parts of the world, but are here with bated breaths. There is anticipation and excitement and the air is so thick with it that I could have cut it with a knife and plopped it into my champagne glass. William Drew the editor in chief of The Restaurant Magazine flags off the ceremony and whoa! The applause never stops.  Here’s a quick look at our winners.

 

Bukhara

Having stood the test of time, ITC Maurya  (Delhi’s)  North-West Frontier restaurant with its short menu (the same since it opened 35 years ago) continues to draw packed houses. I have eaten here several times (including shot as a judge on Times Now’s  TV show) and this cavernous and rustically decorated restaurant is arguably India’s most famous. Dal Bukhara and Sikandari raan have assumed iconic status.

KARAVALLI

I am so delighted that Bangalore’s Karavalli has made it to Asia’s 50 Best list. I just shot for the Times Now TV show as a judge here and was absolutely thrilled by the consistency, freshness and authenticity in Chef Naren Thimmiaih’s vast repertoire. Old classics are as fabulous as the new additions. Robustly spiced crabs, delicately  steamed fish, velvety curries…I ate them all in the charming alfresco courtyard.

 

Indian Accent

I reviewed Delhi’s playful and eclectic Indian Accent within a few days of it’s opening. And am happy that Chef Manish Mehrotra continues to dazzle with his cookery with a global hue

Chicken tikka quesadillas with Swiss gruyère; tandoori bacon prawns with wasabi cream; masala miso Scottish salmon.

I love the karela enlivened with churan.

 


Dum Pukht

Fine dining taken to it’s finest here. I have filmed my TV show in the ITC’s  traditional temple to  “dum” cooking done lovingly and slowly

in a sealed clay pot. Done  over a low fire intensifies  natural flavors, while the judicious use of aromatic herbs and spices adds another level of complexity to the dishes. The regal ambiance adds yet another dimension of pleasure.

Varq

Luxurious modern Indian food with a global twist a la  Grand corporate  chef Hemant Oberoi

where upscale fine dining gets finer.
The cuisine offers a modern take on local street food and traditional regional dishes using some very un-Indian ingredients such as scallops, black cod, morels, foie gras and halibut.  New techniques, innovative presentations and the use of organic produce and spices.

Wasabi

What! How come a Japanese restaurant located in Mumbai gets an international award?

A collaboration between Japanese Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and Taj Hotel legend Hemant Oberoi yields specially created Japanese vegetarian dishes which are masterpieces in taste and texture. Tomato Carpaccio topped with wasabi and yuzu sorbet and the black cod miso are my favorites here.

Nihon Bashi

Ive had the most amazing authentic Japanese cuisine in the heart of Colombo at Japanese-Srilankan Dharshan Munidasa’s restaurant.

Gaggan

Kolkatta born Gaggan reinvents Indian food with modernist techniques in Bangkok with plenty of molecular wizardry too.

KUDOS

Not only do “Asias 50 best” and “Worlds 50 best” awards encourage restaurants and promote tourism but also serve as guideposts for us foodies, directing us to the best places to eat in. And then ofcourse, when our very own Indian restaurants get honored, it is time to say “Jai ho”

 

 

Restaurant Review: Buddha Belly

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Diners at Buddha Belly
Diners at Buddha Belly

I am a devout follower of Lord Buddha and was hugely intrigued by the irreverent name of Peddar Road’s brand new “Buddha Belly” eatery. What  on earth could  Buddha’s belly possibly deliver? Nirvana. I hoped.

DÉCOR

Mish mash décor with sayings of Hippocrates.  Brillat savarin and GB Shaw, photos of skyscrapers plastered all over walls. begin to give a clue of what is to follow.Seriously small, it even squeezes in a low ceilinged mezzanine floor.  Malini Patel  and Rupal Himani (who love trying out new eateries) were lunching here. While one’s daughter Malaika  cooks brilliantly, the others  Husband Divyesh cooks exotic dishes .

FOOD

No two ways about it: affordable pricing. Average of Rs 125 for 4 pieces of dimsum and an array of steamed, fried, baked, panfried dimsum. ( okayish Khaosuey  the only main course) Well made and flaky baked dimsum filled with chicken came up tops,   Fried  chicken ball with a sticky.sweet filling was good,  the surprises ?  flavorsome  vegetarian parmesan spinach dimsum, the mixed veggie crystal one. Superb  mustard sauce and lemon grass sauces. Passable coconut mousse and nutella mousse.

MINUS POINTS

Parking is impossibl.No Chinese tea served here. But tasteless sticky rice,  clumpy Suimai. Lackluster Black bean chicken dimsun wrapped in cabbage and that Edamame truffle dimsum is a soggy, sans truffle pouch. Tough chicken and chive Gyoza.

No takeway boxes available. No alcohol.

MY POINT

An open all day, well-priced dimsum joint is definitely a great concept and for that alone Buddha Belly deserves kudos. However, it falters in execution, sometimes delivering  thick skinned wrappers, at other times lackluster fillings. I am hoping these are teething troubles and our Buddha will outgrow them.

Ketty House,  Near Vama, ,Pedder Road Ph  65651545

Open all day. Meal for 2: Rs 800

RATING FOOD 3 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3

 

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