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Eating Out ~ High on Highway, Spice Junxion, Taj Deccan

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Highway food has always been something I looked forward to on road trips even as a child.

There is something quite adventurous in finding a spot on a rustic Charpai (rope woven cot) and ordering basic (the menu’s in my childhood consisted of 8-10 items only) but lip smacking fare.

Highway dhabas catered mostly to truck drivers on the go and therefore the food needed to be robust, fresh and quick. Today there are a lot of ‘permanent’ Dhaba style restaurants across the country which serve up dhaba food. This is a testament to how popular this genre of food is.

High on Highway ~ Food festival at Spice Junxion, Taj Deccan

High on Highway ~ Food festival at Spice Junxion, Taj Deccan

The Spice Junxion at the Taj Deccan is hosting a 10 day food festival that is showcasing this food. They’ve chosen dishes served up in eateries along the National Highway 1 which according to Wikipedia, runs between Punjab, starting from the town of Attari, through Haryana and ends at Delhi. This is a part of the Grand Trunk Road which extended from Bengal to Kabul. Read more about it here.

I was invited for the preview of this festival and the food is available off a special A la Carte menu.

This is the first time I was dining at this restaurant of the Taj and the ambience was delightful with dhaba-esque souvenirs, brass and copper crockery and lots of flowers dotting the place.

Executive chef Rishi Manucha explained that a considerable amount of research had gone into capturing the authentic flavours of the dishes being presented. I think this was important because north Indian food and particularly Punjabi food has become common place at restaurants. I was curious to see what twist they would present.

For starters, the vegetarian fare included Chatpati Dahi Arbi – yogurt marinated colacasia, deep fried. There was also Bhuni Shakarkandi – Sweet potato, chargrilled and served with a mango chutney. I loved this, one because I like sweet potatoes, two the flavours were subtle.

The non vegetarian starters had the ever popular Tandoori Chicken – I loved that they used really tender chicken and the extra cumin in the marinade really gave it a nice heft.

Ambarasari Machi – batter fried fish which was succulent on the outside and had a very lightly crisp and spicy exterior was my favourite. This could be because I am partial to fish!

We were served three kinds of drinks. The Shikanji (lemon juice), Aam panna (raw mango juice flavoured with cumin and black salt) and my absolute favourite Sweet lassi with a generous dollop of cream. I wished I had a bucket full of this, but exercised restraint!

For the main course, we had Gosht aur Shalgam ki Tari, a nice home style mutton and turnip dish. This had a gravy which was not loaded with cream and other stuff, just nice clean flavours, melt in the mouth meat that was cooked to perfection. Paired well with the crunchy Khamiri Roti.

The Penda, which is a chicken korma cooked with potato and garam masala was also good. I was beginning to love that the dishes were mostly home style. What a dichotomy it is, to crave home style food in a commercial restaurant! And yet, more and more people are seeking this out.

There was a Pudiney ki tari wali macchli which had all the right flavours, but the fish pieces sort of didn’t hold their shape in the gravy. I usually like my fish curries in the south indian style with lots of tang, so I enjoyed the flavour of mint for a change.  Although the fish was supposed to be barbecued, the flavours didn’t come through at all.

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Aloo Methi ka saag on the left and Amchoor wale Kareley in the middle, above that is rajma masala

Aloo methi ka saag was a clear favourite even with my fellow diner, it was a wet gravy dish (again homestyle) instead of the usual dry aloo methi one is familiar with.The sharpness of the fenugreek leaves a nice contrast with the bland creamy potato.

Amchoorwaley Kareley – bittergourd stuffed with green pea and dried mango powder, I spotted a few raisins in it too. While the stuffing was very good, I felt the bittergourd itself was rather tough and uncooked. It either needed more cooking or using very tender gourds would be good. I’m impressed that the chef chose this dish because bitter gourd is automatically one of those most hated vegetables!

The Rajma masala was everything it should be. Cooked to soft creamy perfection, not too many spices and yet, deep flavours coming through. I’ve eaten a lot of rajma masala to be tired of it, but this was very comforting and spot on, even though a tad too familiar. There was another lentil preparation – Maash ki dal (red lentils) which looked good, but I didn’t taste it.

We were served a pillow soft Aloo Kulcha which was terrific. I had second servings of this.

There is a choice of Pudina (mint) rice and Jeera (cumin) rice to go with the main course.

There was a refreshingly different raita made with aubergine, baigan ka raita, which had me going for second helpings.

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The desserts served were Malai Ghevar (I didn’t like this, never have been a fan of ghevar, so don’t take my word), Gajrella (carrot kheer) which was nice, because it wasn’t sickeningly sweet unlike how its cousin the gajar ka halwa is made. And the piece de resistance – Pan ka mitha – Rose flavoured icecream, sandwiched in a betel (pan) leaf with a nice dollop of rose petal preserve (gulkand) which is used to sweeten pan. The whole thing was frozen and totally hit all the right spots for me. I am a big big fan of gulkand, known to eat it out of the bottle like jam, so for me, pan flavoured anything is a must have. A lot of restaurants now do pan flavoured ice cream or kulfi. The pan ‘masala’ including fresh betel leaves are ground and added to an ice cream mix. But this was brilliant because it hits the palate at different times, just as you are savouring the icecream, you get a hit from the gulkand! As you can see, for me this was the show stopper of the whole meal.

The festival is on till 26th April and is available for both lunch and dinner.

Check it out if you would like a deviation from the highly commercial dhaba food, and want to sample some really well made north Indian fare.

The options are served A la Carte. Prices for the Starters are Rs. 345 – 450 (excluding taxes). Main course dishes are priced between Rs. 445 – Rs. 595 (excluding taxes)

Recommended Dishes: Bhuni Shakarkandi, Ambarasari Macchi, Tandoori Chicken, Gosht aur shalgam ki tari, Rajma masala, Aloo methi ka saag, baingan ka raita, sweet lassi and Pan ka Mitha

Hours: Lunch and Dinner

Location: The Spice Junxion, Taj Deccan, Banjara Hills

Valet Parking: Available

Telephone :66663939

Multi Millet Thepla with Methi and Palak

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methi thepla

That’s a mouthful, to say and to eat. I posted a picture of this on my instagram feed and I had a lot of friends asking for the recipe. To my mind, that was odd, because this was more of a ‘throw everything you have in the fridge together’ type of preparation. I’ve had this long standing habit of making a roti / flatbread mixed with fresh vegetables (grated carrot or bottlegourd) or leafy vegetables such as spinach or even pureed leftover dal and curries. Its an effective way to get some flavour into a plain roti and cleans up your fridge, what’s not to love?

I have been using a multi millet mix for rotis off and on and used the same to make these theplas. Millets grow in abundance in the Telangana region, of which Hyderabad is the capital city. The area is land locked, dry and arid and millets which do not need much water, are suitable for these semi drought conditions. Millets are also extensively eaten in Maharashtra and Karnataka. All this changed over the last few decades with everyone shifting both cultivation and consumption to rice. However, the last few years have brought a surge in the interest and consumption of millets, much to the delight of farmers. This is due to the fact that millets are gluten free and low in glycemic index, making it suitable for those on a gluten free diet or people who need slow release foods, like diabetics. Millets are very ‘filling’ that’s what a lay person would call a low GI food. It makes one feel less hungry and delays the next meal. Farmers would make a gruel from millets such as ragi and consume it early in the morning before they head out to the fields. This would keep them full till their next meal.

Due to the nature of the grain, millet rotis tend to become dry and are best eaten hot, smeared with a little butter or ghee. It is also a little difficult to roll out as a roti, again because it doesn’t contain gluten, the roti breaks and tears and doesn’t hold shape. The traditional way to combat this, is to knead the dough with warm water, and pat out the rotis instead of rolling them. It is a treat to watch ladies do this, ofcourse this is a dying skill.

To make my life easy, I simply add a little bit of wheat flour to act as a binder and help roll out the rotis. Wheat also ensures the theplas remain soft for a few hours after making them. Millet flours are coarse, they also have a strong nutty taste which takes a little getting used to. Adding spices, grated or pureed vegetables or even a dab of ghee or butter, makes it easier to eat. It is definitely an acquired taste. So start with small quantities.

There is a pseudo grain amongst millets, looks and tastes like cooked broken rice, this is my favourite, because it can be cooked and eaten in place of rice. Do check out Foxtail millet. I have a few recipes for it on this blog such as patties and pulav. Jowar/ pearl millet can effectively be used in many non Indian dishes too, I have a recipe for a tabbouleh salad that uses jowar instead of Bulgar wheat!

For a recipe that I didn’t think was blogging worthy, that’s a lot of story!

I make my own multi grain flour mix but you can also use a premix. I add equal quantities of Ragi, Jowar, Bajra to a container and mix it. The wheat flour is added when I knead the dough and in as much quantity as desired. For this thepla, I used equal quantities of ragi, jowar, bajra and wheat flours.

 

1/2 cup each of ragi, jowar, bajra and wheat flours (2 cups flour in all)

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust according to taste)

1-1.5 cups finely chopped spinach and fenugreek leaves

1/2 – 3/4 cup warm water to knead the dough

3-4 teaspoons of oil / ghee

Mix together all of the ingredients except the water, add water slowly and knead into a slightly stiff dough. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a tava / griddle on medium high heat, divide the dough into 8 portions and make balls out of them.

Using a little dry wheat flour and a rolling pin, roll out the dough balls into thin discs, about 5 inches in diameter. Repeat with all of the dough balls.

When the griddle is hot, cook the theplas on the first side for 20 seconds, flip over when small bubbles/ brown spots form. Cook the other side for 30-45 seconds, press down gently with a clean kitchen towel, to ensure all the edges are cooked, drizzle some oil/ ghee and repeat the pressing down on the other side. This is to ensure that the edges get a few crispy bits.

Take it off the flame and keep it in layers of a kitchen towel or serve immediately. Repeat with all the dough. Serve them hot with lots of white butter (:D), yogurt and pickle on the side.

If you liked this recipe, or tried it out, do let me know how it turned out. You can also write about how you use millets in your kitchen, or what your favourite recipe for thepla is.

 

 

 

Eating Out ~ The Himalayan Pop-up, Bidri, Marriott Hotel and Convention Centre

North Indian cuisine is limited to mostly Punjabi or the occasional Rajasthani or Gujarati cuisine for the city of Hyderabad. So it was interesting to hear of a Himachali pop-up being curated to show case dishes of the Himalayan land. Hosted by Bidri at the Marriott in Hyderabad, curated by home chef Sherry Malhotra, the festival brings under the spotlight a very refreshing set of dishes.

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Chef Sherry Malhotra

The interaction with Chef Sherry included an interesting conversation about Himachali food. Much of the cuisine, especially in the winter months when fresh vegetables are scarce, relies on dried legumes, lentils and other such. The chef learnt many of the dishes from her grandmother which reflected in the home style taste and flavours that were retained in the dishes which renders so much more authenticity to each one.

I was invited for a preview of this pop up along with a few other bloggers and it began with a wonderfully interactive cook off session between two groups. The dish we had to recreate was the Chana Madra, a light yet fragrant yogurt based gravy of boiled chickpeas and cottage cheese. I fulfilled my childhood fantasy of cooking in an actual hotel kitchen with this!What is remarkable of this cuisine tho, is that despite not having too much fresh vegetables, especially in the winter months, the range of dishes is a vegetarian’s delight. The preparations are simple, using basic spices from an Indian kitchen which are easily available and uses lots of dairy particularly yogurt in a lot of dishes, also tamarind to flavour gravies. This ensures that the flavour of the ingredients shine through and are not overpowered by spices.

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Channe ki Tikki

The vegetarian starters included the Channe ki tikki (Pan fried tikkis stuffed with a tangy tomato chutney/ relish) for me this was the stand out offering from the vegetarian starters.

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Arbi aur Moongphalli ke Seekh

There was also the Moong dal ki pakodi and Arbi aur moongphalli ki seekh (Colocassia and peanut skewers cooked in the tandoor) I had this seekh at the preview of their set menu as well.

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For the non vegetarian starters we had Dahi ki chaap (Lamb chops braised in buttermilk with fennel seed) The yogurt renders the meat succulent and the spices are very subtle. We also had the Macchi fry usually prepared with trout, but this was seer fish marinated with fresh ground spices and pan-fried. The spices are marinated with mustard oil and the flavour of the mustard oil stands out remarkably. I enjoyed this preparation. We also had the Methi aur saunf ki murgh chaap (Chicken leg marinated with fennel and green chilli marinade and cooked in a tandoor)

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The line up of the main course dishes

For the main course, we had the Channa Madra (Chickpeas cooked with yoghurt and lotus seeds) which I liked a lot for its simplicity.

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Naashpati ki subzi

There was the delightful Naashpati ki subzi  (Sweet crunchy pears cooked with whole red chillies and fennel) this was the stand out dish and the opinion was unanimous at the table! I also loved the Sepu Wadi (Urad dal dumplings, steamed and then cooked in a spinach puree). The grainy texture of the urad dumplings giving the creamy spinach gravy a nice contrast.

There was also Bhey (Lotus stem cooked with yoghurt) which retained the crunchy and chewy texture of the lotus stem. Maash dal (a home style urad dal dish cooked with yoghurt) and Kaale channe ki maani (Black chickpeas cooked with tamarind and onion spinach fritters) This was delicious, not just because of the spinach fritters, but the tamarind gravy was light and yet flavourful. 

We enjoyed this with Babru, which is a deep fried bread, made out of fermented dough and stuffed with a coarse paste of urad / black lentils. Something like a bhatura with more personality. An assortment of other flatbread including makki ki roti is also available.

For the non vegetarians, there are dishes such as the Chaa Gosht which is Lamb braised in a yoghurt and gramflour gravy, tasted very similar to a yakhni gravy. There was also the Methi Macchi (Fish cooked with fresh fenugreek and tomatoes) which for me was one of the best fish preparations I’ve tasted, the flavour of the methi a sharp contrast to the mild flavour of the fresh water fish.

There was also a very fragrant Tudkiya Bhaat (Basmati rice, tempered with spices and tossed with assorted vegetables and yogurt) what I loved about this rice preparation was that even though it uses cooked rice, the flavours are like a pulao.

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Khus khus aur makhane ki kheer

To end the meal on a sweet note, we had Meetha Bhaath a very mild rice dessert, flavoured with fennel and saffron. The knockout though, was Khus khus aur makhane ki kheer (Poppy seeds and lotus seeds cooked in milk with cashewnuts, raisins and dates) the flavours were so beautifully blended, the texture of the poppy seeds, offsetting the almost velvetty-ness of the lotus seeds, it was a terrific end to the very interesting meal.

Chef Yogender Pal has given this city a very beautiful insight into the cuisine which would otherwise remain unknown, he deserves all compliments for conceptualising and bringing to life this pop-up.  If you are in Hyderabad over the weekend, don’t miss this one. It is on till the 28th of this month.

The options are served as a set menu where one gets to sample a wide range of starters, main course and dessert.  Vegetarian (Rs. 1200 + Tax), Non Vegetarian (Rs. 1400 + Tax)

The menu changes every day, so it would be a good idea to call and check what’s on offer.

Recommended Dishes: Channe ki tikki, Arbi aur moongphalli ke seekh, Dahi ki chaap, Machi fry, Methi Machi, Channa madra, Sepu wadi, Naashpati ki sabzi, Tudkiya bhaath, khus khus aur makhaane ki kheer.

Hours: 7.30 pm to midnight.

Location: Hyderabad Marriott Hotel & Convention Centre & Courtyard by Marriott Hyderabad, Opposite Hussain Sagar Lake, Hyderabad – 500080

Credit Card Accepted: Yes

Valet Parking: Available

Telephone: 91 4027522999

 

 

Make in your sleep Banana Bread

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I posted a picture of this loaf on Instagram and said how ironic it was for someone who teaches baking, I barely bake for home. And when I do it is always the simplest of recipes that I end up making. Give me a fancy six layered cake with colours and sprinkles and a slice of rustic banana bread and guess which one I’ll choose!

Not that I don’t enjoy fancy baking. I love it as much as the next sweet toothed person, but when I want something comforting or need to bake for home or guests in a hurry, I reach out for this recipe.

If you’re the kind that always has bananas on hand then great! Else use any firm fruit like apple, pear or even puréed yellow pumpkin or carrot if you have it on hand to make this.

This loaf pretty much bakes itself. Just stir together dry ingredients, whisk together all the wet stuff like a milkshake, mix and pour into a baking tin or muffin cups. Add those nuts and bits and bobs of choco chips languishing in your fridge. Done!

Banana Loaf Cake

2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat atta and half Maida)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional but substitute with cinnamon powder if you prefer)

2/3 cup sugar ( adjust according to your sweet preference or sweetness of the fruit, I used minimal sugar)

2 medium eggs at room temperature

2 medium ripe bananas (1 cup of purée)

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter (I used oil)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup chocolate chips/ nuts

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, line a 7 inch loaf Pan or a 7 inch round/ square cake pan and brush with oil or melted butter and set aside.

In a bowl add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, whisk to mix well and set aside.

In a blender jar (or another bowl, whisk by hand), add the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, oil and banana puree and pulse till it resembles a thick milkshake. Make sure the sugar has dissolved.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and gently whisk till there are no lumps. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan/ muffin tins, sprinkle the top with choco chips or nuts if using, place on the middle rack of the oven and bake at 180 degrees C for 35-45 minutes, depending on the oven, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. For regular sized muffins, the baking time will be 16-18 minutes.

When done, leave in the pan to cool for 15 minutes, remove from the pan and peel off the paper lining, slice and serve.

Keeps well in an airtight box for 2-3 days at room temperature or in the fridge for upto a week.

Here are some other Banana Loaf recipes from this blog:

Banana Coconut Almond Loaf

Eggless Whole Wheat Banana Choco Chunk Loaf

 

Eating Out ~New Set Menu, Bidri, Hyderabad Marriott Hotel and Convention Centre

Last week on a Friday, I found my way back to Bidri at the Hyderabad Marriott. Living on the other end of town, I am always a little lazy to make the trek across town. By the time I reach my destination, I am usually dizzy and cranky (not sure which is the chicken and egg here).

I am always interested to see what newness a hotel puts out when they offer a revamped menu and in this case, I’d already read a couple of reviews and my interest was piqued enough. Bidri is the voluptuously done Indian restaurant at the Hyderabad Marriott and does not shy away from indulgence. I absolutely love the doorways done with the inlaid silver, an art form of Bidar, from where the restaurant takes its name.

I have met Chef Yogi multiple times before, and it is always a pleasure to chat with him. To talk about the hows and whys of menu selection, research and final offering. As a (self appointed) Chef and Baker, I find this process equal parts interesting and frustrating. There is a nice challenge to find a good recipe or be inspired enough to create one, and yet honing it, presenting it to an audience and waiting for their verdict can be somewhat nerve wracking and frustrating. Especially if they didn’t like it as much as you did when you conceptualised it!

The set menu comprises of a set full course meal, soup, starters, main course and dessert at a very attractive price. The menu changes daily and hence offers great variety for the frequent diner.

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Gosht ka Arak

We began the meal with a soup – Gosht ka Arak – Lamb stock, simmered and spiced very subtly and served over pieces of a saffron lamb jelly, which looked like croutons, but actually melted into the hot soup, imparting a deeper flavour.

For the vegetarians there was a deeply rich and flavoured Kaaley Chaney ka Shorba. It was creamy and slow cooked. 

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Kebab Platter ~ Baddami Seekh Kebab, Pakke boti ke kebab, Bhatti ka Murgh

Next up was a platter of kebabs, I tried the Badami Seekh Kebab, studded with broken almond pieces, I found this a little dry.

The other mutton based starter was the Pakke boti ke kebab, lamb cubes, braised in a spiced stock and chargrilled. Succulent with the right blend of spices, this was very good and will be appreciated by meat lovers.

The stand out item from amongst the starters for me was the Bhatti ka Murgh,  absolutely tender and succulent pieces of chicken, marinated in water & pepper overnight, which makes the water drain out and the peppery essence stays in the meat. Grilled in the tandoor and finished off on a pan, this was terrific. The flavour of the pepper just tingles long after you have wiped the last shards off the plate!

For vegetarians, there are some options such as Arbi aur moongphalli ki seekh – Colocassia & peanut spiced mash, skewered and cooked in a tandoor and the Tandoori Malai Broccoli which I didn’t taste.

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We were next served a palette cleanser ~Sambuca, fennel and yoghurt granita, I am not a big fan of either fennel or yogurt granitas, but this one with the fresh falvours was very very good and I loved the presentation.

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For the main course, I had the Raarhi Bateyr ~ A thick gravy of brown onion, tomato and spices, coating succulent young quail (bateyr). I loved this dish and full marks for serving something other than chicken and lamb / goat.

There was also the brilliantly flavourful Dum Ki Macchi ~a yogurt and brown onion based rice gravy, simmered with spices and slow cooked till thick. The fish used is the local favourite, Murrel, which is a delicate fresh water fish. I couldn’t decide if I this was my favourite dish from the main course offerings.

The chicken dish that surprised me with its simplicity was the Rajpure ka Tamatar Chicken ~ This is a dish inspired by Chef Yogi’s aunt who lives in Punjab, it uses no onions, only perfectly ripe tomatoes, cooked down till the gravy is almost sweet and yet retains its freshness. This dish is again very good. I must compliment the Chef and his team on the non vegetarian main course dishes I was served. Each one was so well made that it was tough to choose a favourite.

There are a lot of options for vegetarians too. Choose from Malai Paneer, Nawabi kofte, Baingan aur Mattar ka Bhartha (which I tasted and was underwhelmed, it lacked any distinct flavour).

The main course is served with a selection of breads from the yeasted Khameeri rotis, lacha paratha, naan etc. My favourite was the crisp and indulgent lacha paratha, it was almost like eating puff pastry!

The home style / dhaba style Maa ki dal ~ made with whole urad dal and minimal spices, not buried under an avalanche of cream was very good.

By this time I was completely stuffed and refused the rice dish of the day~ Tawa Meat Pulao and instead took a few spoonfuls of the Award winning Biryani that Bidri is known for. The Biryani did not disappoint.

My favourite part of a meal is dessert and they had two of my absolute favourites lined up for the day. Khubani ka Meetha  and Double ka Meetha.

The presentation of these totally Hyderabadi / Indian desserts deserves special mention here. The Khubani ka Metha was presented inside an edible chocolate globe. The dish was almost mousse like, stewed apriocots topped with a mousse of whipped cream and a smattering of the apricot puree. It was sublime and I scraped every last drop of it from the chocolate bowl.

The Double ka Meetha was served Terrine style, compressed slices of fried bread, layered with khoya (reduced milk) and topped with a caramel glaze, this was great on its own, but paled in comparison to the brilliant Khubani ka meetha. I am a big fan of double ka meetha, but today it was the Khubani which had me smitten!

 

The meal was made memorable by the absolutely delightful company and warm service of the staff. If you like stories behind your food, this is a dinner you should not miss. The options are divided into Vegetarian (Rs. 1500 + Tax), Non Vegetarian (Rs. 1700 + Tax) and Sea Food (Rs. 1800 + Tax) and are  complete value for money.

The menu changes every day, so it would be a good idea to call and check if your favorite options are available before you make dinner plans.

Recommended Dishes: Bhatti ka Murgh, Raarhi Bateyr, Dum ki Macchi, Rajpure ka Tamatar, Laccha Paratha, Khubani ka Meetha, Sambuca Fennel and yogurt Granita

Price: The set menu starts at Rs. 1500 + Taxes f and Rs. 1800 + Taxes for the Sea Food options

Hours: 7.30 pm to midnight.

Location: Hyderabad Marriott Hotel & Convention Centre & Courtyard by Marriott Hyderabad, Opposite Hussain Sagar Lake, Hyderabad – 500080

Credit Card Accepted: Yes

Valet Parking: Available

Telephone: 91 4027522999

Eating Out ~ Incredible Cuisines of India, Kanak, Trident Hyderabad

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Kanak, the Indian restaurant at Trident Hyderabad has been showcasing some well known and not so well known cuisines of the country. We all love our punjabi and south Indian food, but when was the last time you ate food from Jammu or tasted a home style vegetable and chicken stew from Arunachal Pradesh?

This is a food festival (on till the 30th of January 2016) where one gets to sample food that would either remain unknown or is accessible only at the home of someone from that state. This time, Chef Manik Magrotra and his team have chosen to showcase lesser known home style dishes from across the country, including several dishes from Jammu, Magrotras home state, which is otherwise eclipsed by the more well known Kashmir.

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Thattai (Kanyakumari)

A group of food loving bloggers was at the table a few evenings ago to partake in this dinner and the evening began with a chana dal and rice flour (vada) fried dumpling called Thattai, served with a coconut chutney. This to a south Indian is a well known preparation, tempered with spiced and curry leaves, the chana dal vada is a crisper, slightly harder cousin of the popular medu vada. Thattai has many versions and is a popular evening snack in the south, this one was made similar to what is available at Kanyakumari. Though the vada was crisp, the flavours were very subtle, allowing the lentils to stand out.

 

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Aloo Debarre (Jammu)

Contrasting the mild thattai, was the Aloo Debarre from Jammu. This was a tangy ans spicy potato filled fritter, coated with gram flour (besan). It had sharp flavours and a generous amount of heat from the green chillies, served with a very surprising tamarind and radish chutney which I’ve never eaten before, the tangy earthy flavours of the tamarind, in complete contrast with the punch of the fresh radish.

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Bhopali Keeme ki Seekh (Madhya Pradesh)

There was also the melt in the mouth Bhopali keeme ki seekh which is lamb mine, cooked with onion and khoya (reduced milk) to give it a luxurious texture).

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Mutton Kolhapuri (Maharashtra)

For the main course, we had a home style Mutton Kolhapuri which was one of the stand out dishes of the evening with the robust flavours of the spices and yet not as fiery and overwhelming as it usually is. This is an oft abused dish, doused with a lot of heat from chillies usually, but this preparation, the Chef and his team ensured that the recipe was authentic home style.

We were informed that recipes were taken from the homes and families of the various team members on the staff who hail from various parts of the country. Time was spent to discover what they would eat at home, get the recipes and stick to them despite recreating them in a commercial kitchen and therein lies the attention to detail.

We had a tawa chicken from Jammu, cooked with onions and tomatoes and so different from what I know as tawa chicken.

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Jan – Seasonal vegetables and smoked chicken (Arunachal Pradesh)

I loved the simple and yet flavourful Jan, from Arunachal pradesh. This is a stew like curry made from seasonal vegetables and smoked chicken. There is mild heat from the chillies, but the flavours of the vegetables and the milk smokey flavour of the chicken really comes through. This is best enjoyed with plain steamed rice.

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Aloo Chokha with Litti (Bihar)

Speaking of smoked flavours, one of the most popular dishes of the evening was the Bihari Aloo Chokha with litti. If you aren’t acquainted with this combination and are a fan of smokey rustic flavours, this is a must try. The litti is dumplings made of wheat dough, smoked on coals and then doused with ghee, they are aromatic, crisp and smokey on the outside and soft on the inside. Pair this with Aloo Chokha which is a mix of smoked potatoes, brinjal and crushed with onion, green chillies and spices, mixed with mustard oil. This is the everyday food of the humble and yet the flavours are so beautiful. My mouth just watered as I finished typing these sentences.

One of the dishes I loved was the Chakke ki Sabzi from Madhya Pradesh, my research tells me that there is a similar dish made in the state of Rajasthan as well. The main ingredient in this dish is the gluten from the wheat dough, which is extracted in a laborious process – a dough is made of wheat flour and then put under flowing water to wash away the bran and leave just the mass of gluten which is then cut into pieces and made into a curry. The flavour is similar to Soy nuggets, but I have to say I enjoyed this one. If you are upto tryig something new, do give this a shot. The gravy flavoured with cinnamon and other warming spices is every bit an Indian gravy and tastes wonderful with any kind of flat bread, we had it with Kyur, a rustic bread from Jammu.

There was a home style pumpkin curry flavoured with tamarind, jaggery and chillies, cooked in mustard oil called Ambal, again from Jammu.

We tried the pea and spices stuffed masala poori from Bihar, which my fellow diners told me is similar to the Bengali Matar Kachori. we also sampled Kanika, a mildly sweet rice preparation flavoured with nuts and saffron.

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Khaja from Andhra and Chenna Poda from Orissa

To end this culinary journey was Chenna Poda (from Orissa) which I found rather dry and too in your face with the rose essence, I didn’t enjoy this and a Khaja from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh which is a rolled pastry fried and dunked in sticky sugar syrup.

The evening ended with some raucous laughter with my dinner mates and was an interesting journey to taste dishes I would not have even known of. I enjoyed my meal (which was complimentary!) and recommend this to anyone who wants to try lesser known dishes from the country.

The menu is available as A La Carte until the 30th of January 2016.

Kanak, The Trident, Hitech City, Hyderabad

Recommendations: Aloo Debarre, Bhopali keeme ki seekh, Aloo chokha with Litti, Chakke ki sabzi, Mutton Kolhapuri, Jan

Dinner for two excluding alcohol: Rs. 2500 (approx.)

Hours: 7.30 pm to midnight.

Location: Hitech City, Hyderabad

Credit Card Accepted: Yes

Valet Parking: Available

Telephone: 91 40 6623 2323

 

Its been a long separation from food ~ A recipe for Burmese Khow Suey

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This blog has seen more restaurant reviews in the last 6 months than in all the 8 years that I have been writing it. I think it is safe to say that I have lost my cooking / writing mojo. My blog always gave me joy. A space to document what I cook at home and save some of the recipes for posterity because I cook on impulse and rarely stick to a recipe. Increasingly I have come here, opened up a new post and closed it with a few unfinished sentences, buried as a draft.

I realise this has been happening a lot and try as I might I am unable to shake it off. Usually it is a week or a few days maximum and I can shake myself back into my “good moods”. This time I am unable to. I am unwilling to give up the blog or shut it down either.

I haven’t picked up my camera in months. I browse through the photographs on my phone and realise how boring they are, and yes I am brave enough to admit that. I wonder if I am turning into more of a social hermit. I do spend a large amount of time online, but increasingly have less patience with it or people.

Anyway. The only exciting aspect of my cooking / kitchen these days is my 6 month old black board. In april this year, when my brother’s family was visiting, my niece and I painted a wall in my tiny kitchen with blackboard paint. I use it to make shopping lists, to do lists and meal plans. I have been doing some sort of meal planning for the past few years. Since the beginning of the year, I hand wrote it on paper and put it on the fridge with magnets. It has simplified my cooking and helped me use ingredients more efficiently than I had imagined.

This weeks meal plan

I graduated to the black board in April and cannot recommend it more. None of those fake black board apps for me. I am someone who needs something to be in my face to be able to take action! And yes we do eat a lot of Idli and dosa. My meal plans are pretty standard. K and I prefer south Indian breakfast, I grind a huge batch of idli/ dosa batter at the start of the week to last me 5-6 uses. For lunch it is mostly roti, with two vegetable dishes or one dal and one vegetable. This is except on the weekend when we eat at home and not carry our dabba and hence eat rice for the mid day meal. We try and eat a light dinner, usually soup, stir fries or sometimes again a breakfast item. I even have designated leftover days to clean up the fridge.

Anyways, I think I should do a post on meal planning and the black board soon (if I ever get down to it). It is a joke these days, for K to point out the board to anyone visiting us and tell them, “macha (term of endearment between two guy friends) check what’s for dinner da (term of endearment again), that’s all we’re going to get, no deviations from the daily meal planner”. When Amma is here, K and she will gang up and force me to write “order food” or “food truck” on it and break into peals of laughter.

Why am I writing this? I don’t know, but I feel like telling you the story.

But this is a recipe blog, and a recipe I shall give you. Khow Suey is a Burmese broth eaten with noodles. The broth is very accomodative and one can add any vegetables that are at hand. I’ve used sweet potatoes, yellow pumpkin, coloured peppers and usual vegetables one adds to a stir fry and loved it every time. I teach this same recipe in my Gourmet Soups and Salads class and the students love it.

Burmese Khow Suey with garnishes and noodles

Burmese Khow Suey with garnishes and noodles

Khow Suey (Serves 4)

Grind to a smooth paste the following:

2 inch stalk of lemongrass, crushed lightly or 2 teaspoons of dried Lemongrass

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

2 pods Garlic peeled

½ teaspoon Turmeric

½ medium Onion, sliced

For the Curry:

2 cups Vegetables of choice, cut into similar sizes (mushroom, carrot, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, yellow pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, bok choy etc)

2 cups Cooked noodles of choice (soba, glass, egg, rice noodles) – cooked according to the instructions on the pack

1 tablespoon Vegetable oil

200 ml Coconut milk

1 teaspoon Sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 lime leaves, torn

1 cup water

1 tablespoon gram flour / besan

For the garnish: To be added while serving the soup

Basil, mint and coriander leaves – a few sprigs

1/4 cup Fried onion

roasted and coarsely powdered peanuts

fried garlic chips

Lemon Wedges to serve

red chilli flakes

Boiled eggs, cut into quarters

Method:

Steam the hard vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and beans for 3-4 minutes, drain and set aside.

In a pan, heat the oil and add the curry paste, cook stirring for 3-4 minutes till the raw smell disappears.

Add all the vegetables (including the steamed ones) except the spinach/ bok choy if using and the lime leaves and ½ cup water and cook for 4-5 minutes till the vegetables are tender but not overcooked.

Add the coconut milk, salt, pepper  and sugar, stir and adjust any seasoning if needed.

Dissolve the gram flour in the remaining 1/2 cup of water and add to the curry. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, add the bok choy / spinach at this point.

Adjust the thickness of the gravy, this will be your main soup so adjust as much as you prefer. Turn off the heat.

To serve the soup, spoon out some cooked noodles into a bowl, top with the curry sauce, garnish with fried onion, garlic, crushed peanuts, basil, mint, coriander leaves, boiled egg and a wedge of lemon.

The curry and the noodles should be refrigerated separately if storing. Assemble before serving. Keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Note: you can add 1 cup of boiled chicken / prawns while cooking the vegetable curry for a non veg option.

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