A busy evening at Bandra. Moshe’s

I was all set to toss-up a rather piquant pasta for K today with the spaghetti that Ranjit gave me, Sassy Fork’s smoked Gouda and the mild hard award-winning goat cheese that Maunika gave me. I’d picked up a rather sharp Hungarian salami made in Holland (!)  from Sante to liven up things. Which is when K suggested going out for dinner as I was leaving the next day. The idea of having someone cook for me and someone serve me in a nice place seemed quite tempting and I agreed.

But what’s with people these days? It was 10.30 PM on a Thursday and Out of The Blue was full. As was Sancho’s. We checked out Mangi’s and it seemed to have shut down. K suggested Salt Water cafe which is when I thought of Moshe’s. K called and we luckily got a table. The restaurant turned out to be half full and close to closing time.

I’d wanted a sugary ice tea and the black currant ice teas worked for us. The Mezze platter was outstanding. the baba ganoush, the taboule (the hing curd thing, hope its the right spelling), the hummus and a goat cheese and spinach mezze tickled our fancy and made us forget the hovering mosquitoes and the friendly but blundering and inept waiters. They charge 8 % service charge for the latter and K added a bit more to that.

We ordered a greek beef stew which the waiter initially told us was not available. Looked and tasted like Kosha Mangsho. They served this with some of my favourite olive focaccia here when we requested for bread. They’d given us some extra pita too and I need to heck with K whether they charged for this.

I skipped their legendary baked cheese cake and went for the ‘chocolate puddle’. It flopped on your plate like a like a peaceful, sleeping baby and was the perfect send off before I headed to the other side.

I am off to Australia now for a rather a schizophrenic trip of conference paper presentations and food and travel discoveries. Melbourne, Perth, Sydney … sounds like a cricket series to me.

PS Still not sure of WP and might go back to blogger



Filed under Bandra Bites

Malvani Masalas, Fusion Cooking now on Word Press

I’ve shifted to Word Press.

Was a bit fed up with blogger. The difficult photo upload feature. The drunken cursor which would go all over the screen eating up words, hiking my blood pressure, causing very embarrassing typos. I tried various things including writing on word and uploading. Just didn’t work. Many suggested Word Press for a while as a more user-friendly interface. I held on. I was quite attached to the Blogger blog. It was personal. Then I gave up.

Urged and guided by Monika of Sin-A-Mom I imported finely chopped and faraway diaries (my dormant travel blog) into the word press blog. Looked very strange. In fact almost felt as if I was cheating when I did this.

Anyway the deed is done. There would be bugs for a while as I get to know the format better. The formatting went for a toss during the imports. The side-bar features are gone. Even I miss the old format. So do bear with me.  And who knows, blogger might get its act right. In which case I will be back.

My friend and fellow food blogger, Sassy Fork, gave us some Malvani Masalas when she visited us this Sunday. I got Banu to use one of them when she called me today at work on instructions on what to cook. Well it wasn’t a true ‘Malvani’ dish. Malvani cuisine , named after the coastal region of Maharashtra called Malvan, uses a lot of coconut … grated coconut as well as coconut milk. I’d asked K to call for a pack of coconut milk this morning but she was too sleepy. So one had to think beyond coconut.

I had to improvise when Banu called me. I asked her to saute curry leaves and mustard seeds and then add the chicken (boneless leg cuts) and about two teaspoons of the Malvani mutton (!) masala and stir and add some curd to it at the end. So was this Malvani cuisine or was it ‘fusion’? Well, I didn’t use coconut milk but I did use mustard seeds and curry leaves which are used in Indian coastal cuisine, especially in the West and the South. The curd gave it a bit of tanginess which often comes from tamarind which is often used in this genre.

The end result was pretty good and both K and I loved it when we ate the dish for dinner. Reminded me a a bit of my Moorg Mango Dolly.

The recipe was my own. I doubt if any Malvani granny from a respectable family would cook the meat this way. But I did draw on the cooking traditions of this region as I thought of the dish.

Which is where I have a problem with the concept of ‘Fusion’ cooking. The chettinad pastas, the shrikhand cupcakes, the Strogannof biriyanis and of course the Paneer Schezwan dosas and the Chicken Teeeka Sandwiches. I must confess that I haven’t tasted much of ‘fusion’ cooking. It is fashionable these days. Especially in fine dining restaurants. But I believe in respecting cooking traditions. Con-fusion cooking doesn’t appeal to me as a concept. And I am not just talking of the apocryphal and libel-worthy ‘vegetarian’ Thai curries.

If a mother in rural Bengal makes noodles with turmeric and potatoes and serves it as a side dish to eat with rice for her daughter then it is love. But if a ‘cult chef’ plays around with cuisines to bastardise them then there is something rotten in the state of Denmark IMHO.

As an uncle had once pointed out, people who really love their drink would never have cocktails…they would go for the real thing. Which, in has case, is dark rum and water.

Perhaps, I am being too heretical.

After all the first tomato alu bhaji in India would have been a fusion dish too. Both vegetables being brought into India by Europeans.


Filed under Food musings, From the hip

Cooking up for a ‘Curry Queen’. Lunch with Maunika Gowardhan

Not that you needed  a reason but when a culinary achiever, and a very pretty lady to boot, looks at you intensely and says ‘you are the world’s best cook’, then you ignore the hyperbole, the generousness and the politeness for a while, and feel that it was all worth it.
Maunika Gowardhan who tweets as @cookinacurry and I finally met up when she dropped by at our place last Sunday. A trip which followed a promise to treat her to Bengali food cooked by me the next time she was at India. Well the trip to India did happen and the plans to meet were refreshed.  A glitch in between in the form of a bad back and I activated Plan B by trying  to ‘outsource’ lunch.
But it didn’t feel right. Especially after Maunika and I spoke for the first time and she said that she was really looking forward to eat my cooking. I cancelled the order I placed. The caterer, luckily a friend and a good egg, was most sporting about it. I roped in Bunkin Banu, my sous chef. Got her to cancel her plans to bunk on Sunday. Told her how M was asking about her. Which was true. Ordered the mutton the previous day. Marinated it. Booked a hilsa with Poonam on phone, for me to go and pick up the next day. Called a couple of friends over, @qtfan and @sassyfork , and it sounded like we had  a plan.
Poonam called me next morning and woke me up to tell me that the fish had arrived. I went to pick it up. Waiting impatiently for the Bong uncle with huge man boobs to stop haggling with Poonam. I was on a clock. But the truth is we Bengali men need our time in the fish market to unwind. I understood where this gentleman was coming from but I needed to scoot. Banu, bless her soul, did turn up as promised. Chopped and cleaned while I shopped.
I got back hit the pots and pans, instructed Banu on the prep work. Tweeted as I cooked. Clicked photos. On the camera. On the Blackberry for twitter. Trimmed the flowers that I bought for the vases. Answered Banu’s questions on what sheets to put out. Four dishes to cook between us. Rice and parathas too. One and a half hours to do it all.
Thankfully @sassyfork and @qtfan arrived just as I finished cooking. Blogger and twitter friends who are like family now. I put the house in their hands as I shaved, showered and transformed into a Bengali bhadrolok (gentleman) for the parar rockbaaj (local ruffian) that I looked like earlier in the morning.
Maunika arrived and in a way the earlier chaos was something that she would empathise with. For Maunika Gawardhan, referred to as Curry Queen in this blog post that Sassy googled, is a private Chef based at the UK where she has lived for 14 years now after she left India to do her MBA. Spurred by a desire to show England that there is more to ‘Indian’ that chicken teeeeka masala, this self taught cook, gave up her corporate job to start a catering business. She sold her company a couple of years back and now does private orders. Trying to introduce the UK to the cuisines of Maharashtra, Bengal, Goa, the South of India and Punjab of course. Finger foods such as mini bata vadas, Malvani fish curries, mishti doi with fruit compote… this enterprising lady with a very busy diary cooks up her wonders for her clients. And between all of this she looks after her two year old son, writes her blog, Cook In a Curry, hosts radio shows, cookery classes, works on cook book ideas. A lady who has followed her dream and is supported by a very proud husband.
K joined us  and the five of us chatted away through that Sunday afternoon.
For lunch I made kosha mangsho. The special occasion Bengali mutton dish at whose heart lies slow cooked caramelised onions. The theme of my initial dinners when I used to call folks over. It is meant to be a slow cooked dish but I use the pressure cooker. Something Maunika approved off.
Mutton marinated over a day
The caramelised onions at the heart of the kosha mangsho
Traditionalists would balk at the use of the pressure cooker
Kosha manghso
Parathas that Banu made to go with it
I wanted to make my doi posto ilish (Hilsa in yogurt and poppy mix) which I am rather proud of. Poonam didn’t let me down. The fish was of excellent quality. I had told her I had a guest from England. Interestingly everyone praised the ‘mustard’ fish while in my head it was a posto (poppy seed) fish. The measure that I used was 4:1. Goes to show what a powerful personality that mustard has.
Fish is normally fried in Bengali fish dishes unlike in fish recipes of the South or West of India
With the marinade. Maunika said that frying the fish helps the fish absorb the marinade better
Doi posto ilish…
I picked up goat’s brains from Khar Market to make my version of bheja masala (brain masala). A Mumbai icon and far removed from the world of Bengali cooking. And as Bourdain said, the Muslim cooking of Mumbai does better justice to organs than what the French cuisines does. Maunika told me that her grandmom used to make it for her. I stepped in that afternoon.
Sorry Dr Lecter but these are goats brains
Bheja masala
No invite to our place is complete without Banu’s shammi kebabs. And today the her fans from the world of twitter came in and met her and praised her as she giggled bashfully. I don’t do desserts so they desserts were out sourced. Sassy got khir kodom from Sweet Bengal. And I ordered parsi laganu custard from my friend Kurush of Dalal Enterprises.
Banu’s shammi kebabs begin to take shape
Kheer Kodom from Sweet Bengal
Laganu Custard from Dalal Enterprises
Banu and her many fans
The afternoon eventually had to end as do all good things in life. With some very kind words as dessert for me.


Filed under Bengali food, Food musings, People, The world of blogging

>Steaks at Colaba


Hi Kalyan,

This is S… have been reading your blog for the past one and a half years, signing off comments as esskay.

Needed your take on where to get the best beef steak for dinner in Colaba? My friends and me don’t mind the quaint old settings but was wondering if New Martin’s corner will be open for dinner or no. Since, the steak on your blog from there looked scrumptious…

Or, should we stick to Mondy’s? Leopold will be very crowded, I guess. What about Cafe Churchill. Neither of us have actually tried these places out so we don’t have any reference to fall back on.
Please do help …
Well I love the steaks at Martins. Partly for the fried onions. Deep fried meat. How wrong can you go with that? They are open at night though chances of getting steaks post 8.45 pm is a bit less.

The food at Leopolds is very iffy.

If steak is your thing then Mondys is a very very good bet. I was taken there by a Mondys steak lover. Turned out that the young lady new her meat.

Churchill is a lovely old school conti place. We are fans of the sausage in firecracker sauce and prawn Newberg pasta. But everything we have had there has been good


Filed under Colaba Mon Ami, Dear Uncle Knife, South Mumbai

>The excellence in customer service award goes to Amore


This is a tale that had to be told. Was just floored by the service of Amore Gelato at Bandra.

I was craving for ice cream couple of nights back. Last night too. We sat down for dinner. K called Amore. No one picked up. She called up Baskin Robins. No one picked up. Disheartened I sat for dinner.

Suddenly the phone rang. It was someone called Yasin from Amore.He was calling back our number. For the record, this was a new number for them so they didn’t know that we had called up. We usually call from my phone.

Yasin explained that their systems were down and they couldn’t deliver.

Well, nice of them to call back and tell us that.

But he went on. Apparently their head office has asked them to take down the number of those who had called to order but couldn’t get ice creams. They were to be given a complimentary gelato when the systems started working.

Well, we forgot about it. Anyway who was going to order an ice cream the next day to get a free ice cream? Chapter closed.

Tonight K got a call just as she was returning. It was from Amore. Their systems were working. They wanted to know what was the flavour that we wanted. We would get a medium cup on the house to make up for yesterday.

Ten minutes later the bell rang. It was Yasin. With a large cup of Ferrero Rocher flavoured gelato.

No questions asked.

Take a bow Amore.

Note: Amore’s phone number at Bandra is 65208300


Filed under Bandra Bites, Blackberry Boys, desserts, Mumbai highs

>Mom’s UK diaries 1: The tale of an Indian doctor’s wife


I have been down with a bad back for a while. So not much action happening – eating out or cooking. Writing’s a bad idea. Need to prime myself up for my Australia trip, end next week. Most of my time is spent getting slow roasted on heating pads. 
But then when you are down and out then who else but Mommy comes to the rescue? In this case through her writing blog posts. Mom’s written down her memories from her stay in the UK in the mid 70’s. Fifty hand written pages. She got nine pages typed out so far.  The posts would be a bit sporadic from now on as she is getting the house painted. Hope you like them like you liked her earlier ones on Iran and Delhi. Please write in if you do and I will send the comments to her. My sis in law is getting photos scanned too but I thought I will just go with the flow  and post the articles as they come given my travel plans and mercurial back. So happy reading … K
“In this post , I have tried to describe the lives of the Indian doctors of National Health Service(NHS) in the U.K. in the seventies purely from my point of view. I went to England in 1973 and stayed there for quite a few years. At that time I had the chance to observe closely the lives of the Indian doctors. However, some of the memories might have faded due to time, I also sincerely apologize if I have hurt the feelings of anyone … RK
From Delhi to the land of the sahebs
It was India in the seventies. The country was still trying to grapple with the independence that it had achieved two and a half decades ago. Colonial hangover on the one hand and the need for an all out effort to build the nation on the other hand, made the youth of the seventies very uncertain. Whereas a few wanted to join the Indian Administrative service/ be an engineer or a doctor, the others wanted to go abroad for further studies and career development. There was a craze for going to Britain, the land of  the  Sahibs. People did not want to go to America, Canada, Australia or Singapore so much
It was at this time that I got married to a doctor who had gone to the U.K. for further studies and then settled there. I left my country, my family and college job holding the hand of a person who was almost a stranger to me, for an unknown land of the Sahibs i.e. the U.K
We left India by an Air India jumbo jet named’ Kanishka’ with the symbol of the little Maharaja painted on its tail. Sadly enough, this same Air India jumbo jet later crashed while going to Canada
After landing at Heathrow, we went to an Indian friend’s house and stayed there for a few days. In the evening, the first thing we did was to buy a coat for me which would be suitable for the freezing cold of London. (Reminds me of K and my first evening at Istabul where the first thing we did was buy her a coat …KK)
We stayed in London for one or two days. After that we started for Canterbury in Kent, where my husband was posted after our marriage. My husband was a surgeon employed in the National Health Service (NHS) of the U.K.
Canterbury Tales
Canterbury is a city in Kent county. Kent was supposed to be the ‘garden of England’. People were very posh and a bit snobbish compared to the other parts of England. But we gelled very well with the people of Canterbury and made the most number of friends there
Every student of English literature is familiar with the name of Canterbury through “Canterbury Tales” written by Chaucer, the father of English literature, in the 14th Century .
It is the story of a group of pilgrims, who gathered in the Cathedral of Canterbury and narrated their tales. This cathedral dates back to the sixth century. It belongs to the Anglican Church and is a world Heritage Site. I was thrilled to the hilt when I saw the Cathedral for the first time. The Cathedral of Canterbury has grandeur of its own and is very awe-inspiring. It was in the vicinity of v hospital as well as our house, which was at the back of the hospital
While writing about the U.K., I am a bit confused as to what to write and what not to write. Due to globalization, everyone knows everything about the U.K. There is nothing new in what I shall be writing. But everyone has his or her own way of looking at things. May be I shall speak about some very minor or trivial things which nobody has thought of recording.
The Indian doctors of the NHS
Indian doctors formed the backbone of the N.H.S. Their lives centred around the hospital where they worked. A nearby fully furnished house, usually a minutes walk from the hospital, used to be rented for the doctors so that they could be ‘on call’ during emergency. At that time, there were no ‘mobiles’ so for emergency purpose, the NHS doctors were given a small electronic instrument called’blip’. During emergency, it 
 used to make a sound like’blip’, ‘blip’. And the doctor ‘on call’ wherever he was, used to run towards the emergency ward.
National Health Service or NHSspick and span. Cleaning, mopping and polishing of floors were done regularly. There was no trace of dirt anywhere.
I had the chance to observe the activities of the NHS hospitals very closely when my first son K was born in The Kent and Canterbury Hospital. The doctors and nurses of the hospital took great care of us. Apart from Indian doctors, I saw quite a few Ugandan and Kenyan nurses of Indian origin in the NHS hospitals. Their forefathers, who were originally from India, had migrated to Uganda and Kenya. But after so many generations, these nurses did not want to be known as Indians though their skin and facial features loudly proclaimed their origin. These nurses were very efficient in their work and took utmost care of me when I was in Canterbury Hospital, without getting too close and personal.
After I went home with my child, Miss Olson, a social  security worker appointed by the NHS, used to visit us quite often and look  after the baby. She was like my guardian angel and advised me on every little thing of child rearing. Pre-natal and post-natal clinics  were held regularly.
During weekends, the Indian doctors, who were mostly Bengalis, usually used to assemble at one of the doctors’ houses. Whenever a few Bengalis got together, one thing is sure to follow. That is ‘adda’. Roughly speaking you cal call it ‘chatting’. This ‘adda’ continued incessantly for two to three days and made us very happy.
Another pastime of the Indian doctors during weekends was to go to the sea-beaches and other  tourist centres.
The Island Nation
England, being an island, is surrounded by beautiful sea beaches on all sides.
We too loved going to the sea beaches whenever K’s dad visited any hospital situated by the sea, he used to take K and me along with him if the day was sunny. He used to drop us by the seaside. We spent the whole day on the beach, roaming about and eating fish n chips, sandwiches etc. K used to make sand castles with his spade and bucket. When tired, we used to go inside the hospital for hot coffee and biscuits. These short trips helped me to get relief from my everyday household drudgery.
Among these sea side hospitals, we liked the one in Dover, Kent  most. Dover was by the side of English Channel. If you remember , this English channel was crossed over by a Bengali swimmer named Mihir Sen. You could go over to the French border city named Calais simply by crossing over English Channel from Dover. Above the sea were the famous chalky white rocks, which seemed to be whitewashed with white chalk solution
K and I loved to spend the day on the sea beach of Dover Hospital while Ks dad used to work inside the hospital.
Communtig from one place to another place was no problem. Roads were very well maintained. Once you were on the motorway, you could drive miles after miles with ease. You could get down at petrol pumps, buy food and relax. Most of these doctors used to drive to far off places by car”         To be contd


Filed under England in the mid 70s, Mamma Knife

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