Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The Welsh cook from the heart, using fresh and simple ingredients. This part of The United Kingdom has an amazingly diverse range of unspoilt landscapes, including a long coastline; hence it boasts a vast array of produce that can be proclaimed as local and organic. Fortunately for me I came across some awesome produce and producers on a one stop shop on my trip to Wales where I spent an entire day with my family!

As I arrived from London onto wales my first stop was at the Hawarden Estate farm shop in Flintshire which includes a butchery section, delicatessen and coffee shop and they stock approximately 250 products from 60 Welsh producers making them one of the largest stockists of Welsh food in the region. The deli boasts of everything that is Farm fresh and home-made and sourced from local trusted suppliers i.e. Fruits, vegetables, pies, puddings, cakes, chutneys, meat, bread, cider, beers, wines, spirits and oils. Most of the locals ( read like us tourists )also spend an entire day here as on offer at the Estate are also cookery workshops, a cafe, nature trail, children’s play fort and food tastings aka a family day out all under one roof!

Luckily for me it was the strawberry season so I picked up my punnet and rushed to the fields (a part of the so many acres of this large Estate). The lush, red strawberries lay quietly beneath their leaves and I thoroughly examined each fruit carefully before accepting it. Only the brightest, plumpest choices would be going back with me. After getting them weighed and paying for it, I dug into them, absolutely delicious and more so in comparison to those in the supermarket, these were about hundred notches ahead on the flavour scale. Rosy, sweet and juicy, freshly picked by my own green fingers if I may add.

Soon it was time for lunch and between my family and me we ordered a ‘Meat Platter’ which included slices of home cooked meats, marmalade ham, rare roast beef and butter poached chicken. A ‘Cheese platter’ which was a selection of five Welsh cheeses including Black Bomber, Mr Bourne’s Cheshire, Caws Cenarth brie, Bouncing berry and Per Las all served with Pant Glas Bach farmhouse pickle, grapes, celery and chunky bread…delicious to the core! Interestingly ewes’ milk is used to produce gorgeous yoghurt and cheeses and goat’s milk cheeses are also widely available. The Homemade beef and beer pie seemed tempting so ordered that as well along with some ciders and Hawarden Estate pressed apple juice. One of the most enduring Welsh traditions is the weekly bake and items like ‘bara birth’ aka speckled bread eaten on its own, buttered or as I did with cheese, and cakes like ‘teisen lap’ which is a fruit cake and reisen sinamon i.e. cinnamon are tea time delights. So after a slow browsing at the store and the Estate tea time was a divine dip in the pool of indulgence with ‘sultana scones with jam, butter and Cornish cream’, ‘Coffee & walnut Bakewell tart’, ‘Carrot cake’ along with pots of Tea. After a delightfully amazing day we bought some Welsh cakes and bottles of freshly squeezed Apple juice , some freshly caught fish to take back home for dinner that night!

Best Way to Reach: Drive down from Chester.
Address: Chester Rd, Hawarden, Flintshire CH5 3FB
Phone: 01244 533442
Timings: Monday to Friday – 9 Am to 6pm, Saturday closed & Sunday- 10 Am to 5 Pm

LAVER: Not really a Nation of seaweed fans and the closest the welsh get to seaweed is Samphire. The one unique ingredient in the Welsh kitchen is the ‘laver’, delicate purplish seaweed harvested from the rocks in South Wales and yes the nori sheets in which sushi rolls are wrapped is from the same seaweed. Once cooked it is called ‘laver bread’ though I couldn’t figure out why as it has nothing to do with bread and it is served with mutton, grilled or steamed fish or as a side dish. As for me I thought they paired best with cockles.
COCKLES: Welsh Cockles are highly rated across the United Kingdom and the Penclawdd Bury inlet is supposed to be judged a sustainable rated fishery and an environmentally responsible area by the Marine Stewardship Council. Anyways the best time to try these cockles at their best is during autumn as they are sweet and absolutely plum then.

WELSH RABBIT: Yes it’s ‘Rabbit’ and not ‘Rarebit’ and for those who do not know Dorothy Hartley’s ‘Food in England’ (1954) and Hannah Glasse from 1747 confirm that it’s the original name for ‘Cheese on Toast’.  I guess the ‘rarebit’ adaption must have been a joke that caught on. Caerphilly cheese makes the best refined cheese on toast or ‘rabbit’ with savoury additions.
published in TLF

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Pasta comes in a remarkable range of shapes and sizes, right from tiny shells to long strands. For those who do not know Pasta is an overall term for noodles made with durum wheat semolina and is divided into 2 main categories. “Pasta Fresca”- that is basically fresh home style Pasta and “Pasta Secca” – Dry and available in packets. I have always believed that fresh is the way to go and today a movement which is focused around basic principles of ‘purity, simplicity, and freshness’ has swept the world’s top kitchens by storm. So fresh pasta it was for menu that evening and I know you must be wondering how I managed to make that at home… Well not only was it easy to make the dough in my KitchenAid Stand Mixer but rather easy to make various shapes out of it. 
I took a cup of flour, a cup of semolina, 3/4th cup of water, and made a slight hard dough with the help of my KitchenAid stand mixer in a few seconds. I let the dough to rest for a few minutes. Next I just changed the attachment and rolled out the dough till it was thin and long (my friend Hanisha helped me with this). 

Changed the attachment again to make fettuccine and hey presto my Fresh Pasta was ready!! Yes…you can make any shape that you desire with the various attachments!

Trust me it tasted delicious just tossed in olive oil, and sprinkled with cheese, herbs and pepper. But for those of you like it fancier go ahead and toss up with some butter, fresh tomato sauce and some grated cheese, to make a wholesome meal.
 “Aglio e olio”- crushed garlic, parsley and olive oil, Add pepper and a variation is Aglio e olio peperoncino. Best with Spaghetti.
“ Alla napolitana”- basil flavored tomato concasse (skinned, desseded, finely chopped tomato pulp). Goes well with all kinds of pasta regardless of the shape.
“ Alla Panna”- in cream (with loads of pepper), with tortellini and rigatoni.
“Arrabiata”- tomato concasse and peperoncino with all kinds of pasta regardless of shape.
“Carbonara”- Pancetta, cheese and eggs. Is Great with long noodles.
“Pesto”- basil sauce, eaten with filled or unfilled noodles, especially with, fettuccine, tagliatelle, and farfalle.
“Bolognese”-with ground meat, a great option for all kinds of long pasta, also used as a filling for lasagna.
Alla siciliana”- cooked tomato concasse with aubergines, olives and capers. Best with penne, farfalle, or fusilli.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


A peek into those old parts of Mumbai that still remain!

My last trip to Mumbai brought back some delicious memories of living in South Bombay along with the ‘Irani’ cafes which were in those days’ iconic features at nearly every corner in that area that I patronized in my younger days. I was awed by the big glass jars filled with biscuits, cookies and other items which lined up at most of the Irani cafes; and equally by the cute eccentric owners with a set of rules which included ‘No Division of Beverages’, ‘No credit’, ‘No combing’, ‘No address query’ to name a few. Honest to goodness, value for money was the success key. Once ahead of their time, these cafes sadly have become a fast disappearing trend and some have been even converted to bars. Reports have it that while there were 350 in the 1950s; by 2005 the number had dwindled to just 25. Most surviving Irani cafés today are over 100 years old, time capsules of a bygone era replete with red chequered table cloths, bentwood chairs, marble or glass topped tables, chandeliers, portraits on the walls and a general air of quiet decay.
Apparently, a superstition amongst the Gujarati traders was that the corner shops were inauspicious for business. So these technically premium places, which gave access to the premises from two streets remained unoccupied. The Iranis who had come in and were setting up their restaurants lapped up many of these building corner shops. So even today, most of Mumbai’s remaining Irani cafes are found on building corners.

I talk here of the top three quaint and indispensable ones …

No flash décor here but the food more than makes up for it. You can fill yourself with a soulful Parsi meal or an afternoon snack like the Kheema Pav for mere two hundred and fifty bucks or less. Loyal customers flock to this cafe like hungry children to their school cafeteria as the food is inexpensive but delicious. Sample this, ‘Brun bread’ with ‘Maska’ tingling into the mildly sweet taste of the bun. Maska aka butter, is the Irani answer to all of life’s problems. Bruns are quite similar to French breads. Round balls, crusty outside, soft inside, taste heavenly when fresh, warm, sliced with a generous dollop of butter slathered in and dipped it in the sweet and milky tea.
Lip Smacking- Brun Maska with cheeni kam Chai, Dhanshak, Kheema Pav, Lagan nu Bhonu (a Parsi wedding sampler menu for just INR 650), Malai Kulfi and Lagan nu custard.

Address- Vikas Building, 11 Bank Street, opposite cheetah gate, Old custom house, Lane off Horniman circle, Fort, Mumbai -23
Tel: 022 22700880/22662503
Timings: 11 Am to 11pm

Located amidst picturesque stone buildings of Ballard Estate, this high-ceilinged café is more quaint than posh and serves the best berry pulao in town, so much so that the likes of Queen Elizabeth and the Bachchan family are absolute die-hard fans. With a garnish of golden-fried onions and berries imported from Iran, 92 year old owner Boman Kohinoor keeps the recipe a guarded secret and happily hops around tables and personally attends to every guest with great gusto!
Lip Smacking- Mutton berry Pulav, Sali Boti (mutton), Raspberry Soda, Fry Bombay Duck (bombil fish), Egg Masala, Fish Patra and Caramel custard. 

Address- 11 Sprott Road, Ballard Estate, opposite new custom House.
Tel: 022 22615264/30225264
Timings- Open for lunch only. Reservations advised.

The unassuming façade of the café, flanked by dilapidated shop houses does not entice at all, but as you step within, you enter a different world that gently exudes Persian old world charm and an amazing fragrance of fresh baking. There are few smells as heady as the aroma of baking in the world of food, and it totally works for me. The fare is decadent to the core and I would highly recommend a quick stop for the crisp butter kharis, layered salted biscuits, and the Irani tea, a thick overly milky, sweetened tea delicately flavoured with cardamom, it’s to die for!
Lip Smacking- Chicken Farcha, Mutton chops, Baingan Fry, Parsee Akuri (scrambled eggs Persian style), Mawa Cake, Cream puff and Khari biscuits with chai.

Address- 657, Jer Mahal Estate, Opposite Metro Theatre, J.S.S Road, Dhobi Talao, Kalbadevi.
Tel: 022 22011492
Timings: 6:30 Am to 9 pm

published in The Man

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


On a recent trip to Melbourne being a foodie that I am, had to check out this restaurant called ‘Vue De Monde’, famed as Melbourne’s NO 1. Truly nothing quite beats the romance of sky-high dining (the restaurant is on the 55th floor and offers stunning views of Melbourne city) with a tantalizing menu to match.

On option was an a la carte menu or one could go for a 4, 6 or even a ten course menu. Obviously I chose the ‘TEN COURSE’ route, and I would say Shannon Bennett takes a designer’s eye on his surroundings, seeking to make each dish an encounter between the place, the dish and the chef who created it. Truly a conscientious craftsman, Chef has opened the doors of gastronomy to everyone, updated its style as well as the rule book. Each course was stunning and a sheer delight running the gamut from Shannon’s take on the French onion soup (he calls it the Melbourne onion soup) to the lip smacking Blackmore Wagyu and more.
My daughter just waiting to dig into this delicious souffle ...yummy!!
That said, since we were sitting right in front of the dessert section of the open kitchen, kept watching the ‘chocolate soufflé’ being prepared and served and each time went ‘ooh’ and ‘Aah’ just looking it. Finally it was time for the dessert course, the much awaited ‘chocolate soufflé’ with chocolate mousse and crème Anglaise….melt in the mouth, perfectly balanced flavours…all in all decadent to the core. I simply couldn’t resist and got up and went to the bakery chef to ask for the recipe and all he said was ‘I didn’t do much, it’s all thanks to the KitchenAid machine’. I thought he was joking and he was like ‘yeah, come on in and I will show you my prized possession’ and there he stood smiling with his ‘KitchenAid stand mixer’….

Level 55 Rialto, 55 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Landline Number: +61 (3) 9691 3888
Timings: Open for lunch and Dinner.