Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dinner at the Sky Grill


I dressed up for the dinner at the Sky Grill !

Yes I did. Unbelievable for people who know me. We got a call from the restaurant that 8.30 pm was perfect time for dinner. We were welcomed by the ebullient Nisha at the restaurant and offered a table for 2 which was close to the performance platform, which was set for a Ghazal night. 

The dinner began with our choice of juice, watermelon it was, both Dad and me do not enjoy wines so we declined the offer.

After which I took a stroll around the entire swimming pool area which is at a lower level than the dinning deck. I took some pics of Vashi before going down for dinner and some of the ambiance of the Sky Grill. I quite like it. I love open terrace restaurants as we have fewer in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.



The drama at the Sky Grill was just about begining. The high flames roared in the still night. The Kabab chefs geared up the skewers and in they went into a tandoor, filled 1/4 way with red hot charcoal. I could hear the sizzle as it was still quite, of the roasting meat on the skewers and as the drippings fell on to the coal. Just then Nisha waltzed in with two platters, one in the hand and the other on her arm as she declared, "The chef has sent it for you." My reaction was to click pictures immediately and dig in. What you see above in the Paneer hariyali kabab and the Jimikand ke kabab. The Paneer hariyali was okayish but the Jimikand ke kabab were nice light and melt in the mouth with a bite of fresh pomegranates in it. Both were served with spiced onions that I liked.

After enjoying a few ghazals as we ate more kababs served by the waiting staff; I took a look at the buffet. It had green palak dish, veg biryani, Dal makhani and some paneer in red gravy. Nothing looked interesting to me. Yeah the sad thing about buffets is boring food. Then I spotted the Dal aur dhaniye ka shorba. I took a bowlful and grabbed a dinner roll and went back to my table not really expecting too much. One sip and my mouth was filled with a burst of flavours, of nutty chana dal and freshness of cilantro. Delicious! It was an outstanding shorba though it reminded me a lot of our very own Marathi Kata chi aamti except without the coconut paste that we use. 


Then as I was going back to the buffet to pick up the mains, the young lad at the flaming grill asked us for our choice of rotis. We ordered our favorite Butter Garlic naan. I returned with a little bit of the green gloop, the dal makhani and veg biryani on my plate. The desserts were all baked, the usual, cheesecakes, tarts and more whipped cream which I just did not want to touch. The roti basket arrived and I picked some green gloop on it. The Garlic naan was thin, crisp and just the right amount of butter and garlic on it. It was superlative! The real surprise the green palak was laced with kasuri methi, which brought alive my pallete. I did enjoy it finally. I also liked the Dal makhani which was perfectly creamy. So tastewise the food was good but I am really bored with the same menu that haunts restaurants like these so you will understand my initial reaction to the buffet.

To wash down the meal we sipped on sweet lime soda and just then Nisha who had taken on herself to pamper us that night coaxed us into having hot gulabjamuns. Yum they were really lovely, soft and juicy, the syrup soaking right through. 

We were stuffed to the gills and retired to our room to enjoy the night lights of Vashi. 

_________________________________________________________________________________

The next day we had our breakfast and said our bye byes to the wonderful kitchen staff and all those who attended to us in our 2 night/ 3 day stay. There had to be a picture with the Kitchen team. Look at them, aren't they wonderful!


 Thank you Four Points by Sheraton, Vashi!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

My First Time In A Commercial Kitchen

and other stories of the second day at the Four Points by Sheraton at Vashi.

Views of Vashi from the Comfort Suite

My second day of stay was planned to be exciting! 

I was informed that my request for an experience in the Commercial Kitchen was accepted by the Executive Chef Mukul Jha and yet another bumper, Four Points was hosting a dinner for us!

I slept like a baby cuddled in the super soft bed and in the perfectly controlled ambient atmosphere through the night. I woke up and drew back the curtains, the suite overlooked Vashi, it was bathed in the morning sun and suddenly it looked better than a mere concrete jungle, we could now see the creek in the clear morning.

I decide to take a luxurious bath in the huge bathroom and soak in the tub much like a Maharani! Oh wasn't the research done for Lyril soap from the yesteryears say that a woman's own place is the bathroom and she even goes off into her own dreamland singing La~La la, la ~La la la~ La ~la ~la. Well the result was good, I stepped out truly rejuvenated!

So much that the bed was inviting me right back to curl up under the warm covers and rest on those soft excessive pillows. But then the hunger pangs got me rushing down for breakfast to the Asian Kitchen. While there Exe. Chef Mukul Jha met up and discussed what I wanted to cook later along with him. I said something quick and enjoyable, something I can share with my beloved readers. We froze on a dish which would be colorful, appetizing, wholesome Italian. Chef Mukul surprised me when he stressed that it would be *veg*. The information about me being a strict vegetarian had been cascaded to the team and they never faltered after the pancake incident.

After lolling around some I got a call that the chef was ready for me to go to the kitchen. We walked past the show kitchen into narrow paths passing several pantries and storerooms. Thru a maze of shiny kitchen counters to our work area for the day. The Chef had got the meze ready and introduced the ingredients that we were to work with. Nisha Saran from the F&B was with us and she arranged for an apron and a toque for me. I was trying to suppress my mounting excitement. 

With Executive Chef Mukul Jha, me adorned an apron and toque !

We began by marinating the slices of cottage cheese. Then seasoned the pan with oil and then seared the slices. As I watched I realized that these guys cooked in flat pans and on very high heat. The high heat acted like a flash in extracting the flavors and aromas of the ingredients. After pan searing the cottage cheese we put it on a greased tray along with marinated beetroot slices and put it in the oven to bake at 150 degrees for 7-8 mins so that the fats from searing evaporated. 

Meanwhile we heated the pan and got frying the onions and garlic. Chef Mukul was moving fast and I meddled in between to stir the seasoning and mostly watch him. I realized that working in a commercial kitchen is intimidating when you try to handle the slightly larger pans and ladles that you are not used to handling but the kind chef was very encouraging and said it was only a matter of practice, which I agree. Once the semolina was cooked we tasted it and kept it aside. Then we made the Ratatouille, the veg were diced to perfection as is expected of a hotel kitchen. When ever Ratatouille is cooked the topic of the movie has to come up and the chef scorned at it! both of us ended up laughing aloud. As we cooked I was absorbing the techniques the chef used and benefited a lot from him. A key thing is we kept tasting through the steps we followed making sure everything was salted right and cooked to perfection. This is something we never do at home as we offer Naivedhya to God.

Finally we were ready with all components of the meal and were ready to plate. Before we did it the chef heated up everything and then carefully showcased his finesse in plating a beautiful meal. Though I was more of a observer I felt equally proud of the way the dish had turned out and how Chef had plated it. While we were at it Nisha was taking countless pictures of us in action and would you believe it just when I was to take the camera in hand to click some shots of the Grand finale, the plated dish; the battery died on us!

The thrill of cooking in the kitchen of Four Points, Vashi

Quickly got the staff to charge up the battery until we went looking for a perfect spot and lighting in the Asian Kitchen to shoot the plated meal.


The final strokes of artistry

So as a reward for reading patiently about my adventure, here is the recipe. Tadah!

What's the Dish?

Herbs and garlic crusted cottage cheese.
Served with Semolina Mash and Ratatouille.
Finished with Beetroot chips, Balsamic reduction & Parmesan crisp

Portions : 4 

Ingredients

600 gms Cottage cheese
110 gms peeled garlic
4 gms Rosemary
4 gms Thyme
4 gms Basil
90 ml Olive oil / EVOO
110 gms Semolina
60 gms Onion
60 gms sliced Olives
10 gms chili flakes
120 gms bell peppers
120 gms zucchini
120 gms brinjals
150 gms Tomato Concasse
60 gms Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 no Beetroot
6 sprigs of parsley
15 ml Balsamic reduction

Preparation

Cut out 12 pieces of cottage cheese in triangles. Marinate the cottage cheese with 1/4 of the amount of garlic, herbs and keep aside.

The semolina mash : Heat a pan. Add 30 ml of Olive oil. Saute chopped garlic, onions, olives (I used black) till light brown. Add the semolina saute till toasty and follow in with salt, black pepper and chili flakes. Add 250 ml of hot water. Stir till thickened and cooked. Remove the pan from heat and keep aside.

The Ratatouille : In a new pan add 20 ml of Olive oil. When the oil is heated saute the garlic till nicely browned and aromatic along with a little onion. Now add to it brinjal, bell peppers, zucchini and give it a stir. Cook and then add tomato Concasse and seasoning to the mix. Remove from heat when done until soft.

Now pan sear marinated cottage cheese and bake in the oven at 150 degrees celcius for 7 to 8 mins.

Slice the beetroot thinly and season with Olive oil and salt and bake for 3-4 mins.

The oven helps to evaporate the oil from the cottage cheese and gives wonderful browned edges. Once you see those and the beetroot slices are cooked yet crunchy, remove from the oven.

To make the parmesan cheese crisp, grate parmesan cheese and melt it on a non stick pan. Remove from heat and let it cool and firm up. Cut out 4 triangles from the round.

Plating 

In a plate layout the beetroot chips in a circle or semicircle. On top ladle out the semolina mash. Top it with 3 pieces of cottage cheese. Above it layer the Ratatouille mix.

Garnish with parmesan crisp, basil and parsley. I did not have parmesan on hand so I grated just a little bit of cheese over it and stuck in a fried basil leaf.

I recreated that meal in my own kitchen and I think I was able to achieve a very close remake in taste but need to work on my plating skills a bit. Like Chef Mukul said practice makes perfection.

How would you rate me Chef Mukul? and how would you rate me readers?

An enormous thanks to Chef Mukul and the entire Four Points team who made this experience memorable for me!



How was the taste?

Its an Italian meal that Indians will love, a complete balanced meal. It tasted absolutely delicious each morsel different. The semolina mash has olives so it was salty, The cottage cheese beautifully crisp on the edge and garlicky. The Ratatouille was of course with notes of basil, thyme, rosemary and garlic. The beetroot chips like the salad. The balsamic reduction like the chutney or a palette cleanser. I loved it as I ate this portion and felt satiated and did not even crave for a dessert.

My Sky grill story will have to be yet another post...

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Vacationing in Vashi at the Four Points by Sheraton

The welcome

I am a traveler at heart but who would have thought I would vacation in my own city. I was the guest of The Starwood hotels at their Four Points, Vashi property recently and had a fantastic time there. This after brushing off the idea several times and you won't believe how memorable it turned out to be!

It was a promise of 2 nights/ 3days. I called up to confirm my stay and right from that moment I received delightful service from everyone of the staff.

I was put up in a Comfort suite that was smart yet cozy all at the same time just like a business hotel should be. The bed tempted me to climb on to it immediately and just cuddle up with a book instead we kicked up our shoes and settled down on the sofas to snack on some cookies and fruit that the hotel had laid out for our welcome and there was Syrah sitting pretty on the table too.

My first need is to connect to the internet, as that is where all my business happens. The Wifi was free and worked well through the stay. I immediately posted a few pics on my FB page for my family, friends and readers to see as this was a much needed vacation for me after my Diwali Hamper season got over. This stay was a reward for blogging and it was just in time to celebrate the 8th anniversary of AnnaParabrahma which was started on 9th October, 2006 in Bangalore. Plus the AnnaParabrahma FB page reached a milestone of 500 Likes just recently, its been a 100% organic growth. What more I drove only 15 mins to reach the hotel. Stayaction it was!

After an hours rest I was met by Arartika Samanta and Monika Tomar from the Sales and Marketing team at the high ceilinged reception. They gave me a tour of the entire property and facilities available. The most impressive was their gym which is very well equipped and run by the holistic living guru, Mickey Mehta. What's nice is it is not just for their inhouse guests but even Navi Mumbai residents can sign up for memberships. I also got a sneak peek of their spa facilities, they have several packages that follow Thai practices and all oils and packs for therapies are made inhouse. There is a salon which is run by a third party which has reasonable rates, should you need a haircut or some pampering.

Since this is a business hotel I took a look around for the business facilities available, there are atleast 4-5 conference rooms with on OHP, network and screen. The Banquet hall was familiar, I had been there for a conference 2 yrs ago. They also have a business center where you can avail facilities just incase you are not carrying your devices or incase you need get work done on the computer when your phone or tablet is inconvenient or need a print out.

We walked in and out thru the restaurant which I was to explore the next day for their cuisines. For a business hotel 4 restaurants are decent options and will talk about their food menu individually. 

I loved the Tipplers lounge, when I visited in the early evening, it had the beautiful setting sun casting rays on this small lounge which has a book case and a bar with high stools and comfortable seating alike. This doubles up as a breakfast area for executives staying the premier suites in the morning.

There is 24X7 restaurant called Wrapped near the reception which I did not get a chance to review but I liked the decor there. Especially in the day time it looked all sunny and bright.

We had our breakfast on both the days at the Asian Kitchen. It is a spacious restaurant with a show kitchen and relaxed seating. There is a huge breakfast buffet which I sampled for everything vegetarian on the menu. The menu is familiar as you would find on any buffet of a business hotel. Worth a mention was the Laadi pav/ Mumbai pao which went with the batata vada for vada pao. The menu may be meant to be comforting in familiarity to the business travelers is what I can say, so there is your standard 2 kinds of idli, uttapam, soups, something chicken, eggs, cheeses, juices, flavored milks, deli meats and what not and bakes that you can expect.

The breakfast

I must mention that we got excellent service from the team. Our favorite pineapple juice was made fresh for us on both days. On one day my Dad who was staycationing with me ordered a masala dosa which was excellent he said. I ordered pancakes and when they were serving realized from the yellowish tinge that I forgot to mention, I did not eat eggs. Chef Vijay was very kind to replace it with made-to-order eggless banana pancakes served with honey but they did provide Maple syrup on request. I quite liked my pancakes for veg pancakes are slightly tricky to make and very easily can reek of soda. But they got them right, fluffy and nice. I enjoyed them on both days.

On the second day the Chef suggested we have a panini and he made lovely ones for both me and Dad. We were delighted with the freshness of the veggies and molten cheese. They were perfectly grilled and the bread felt still soft on bite and not too dried out. Followed by masala chai which we loved. Even on the previous day Nisha Kaur from the F&B team had very sweetly sent masala chai for us to the room especially for my Dad, since he enjoys it more than tea bags.

Since I am a baker myself I was keen on sampling the bakes on display but unfortunately only the breads were eggless. I think I can rate their inhouse bakers good, I enjoyed their breads both the herbed ones as well as the sweet breads even though they are commercial breads and not artisan. I would have been thrilled if I could taste some of their tarts, doughnuts and muffins and that's a suggestion that they should have more of these as an eggless option.

There is a separate egg station which serves you custom made eggs, scrambled or omelette the way you like it. The young man happily flips it up for you.

I also got to look around at their brunch menu but since I was full from breakfast I did not eat anything. Like true Indian hosts since I was not eating they offered me a fresh lime soda which I enjoyed. I did take a sip of a vivid green concoction on the brunch menu which was looking interesting as it was served in a testube. It was supposed to be a welcome drink made of Kiwi which I found cloyingly sweet and reeking of artificial flavor and I don't think even the kids will enjoy anything like it.

 The desserts galore at the brunch

Four Points hosted a dinner for us on the second night and we chose to try the Sky Grill for it. More about it in the upcoming post.

The best thing about my staycation was getting to cook with their Executive Chef Mukul Jha. It was my first experience of working in a commercial kitchen!

And that requires a separate post. Psst, he has shared a recipe with me so I can share it here with you. Come again tomorrow, won't you? You will, sure you will to read about my new adventure, right!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Soya Granules Stir Fry and Patti Samosas Two Ways

 

Until 18 yrs of age the one dish I could eat at anytime be it breakfast, lunch or dinner and even as an anytime snack was the Tallele Vale Sode with rice roti. I could eat a whole Chavlachi Roti, which is almost 16 inches in size. Wrapping the morsel of roti around the tallele sode with a little excess oil was absolutely soul satisfying than anything in the world. Then I turned vegetarian. I mostly don't like to make something veg taste like non-veg because I have grown to love my veggies with the exception of mushrooms. The only way I like my mushrooms is mock non-veg.

On this day with the thought of trying to create a veg version of tallele vale sode I chose soya granules as a suitable ingredient. So lets see how I did it and then I'll tell the result of this experiment.


 Ingredients

Patti samosa strips 
(I used 15 from the pack of 25)
1 cup soya granules
4 medium onions chopped
3-4 green chilies chopped
a small bunch cilantro chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoon Koli masala
2 teaspoons kokum agal (concentrate)
or 3-4 kokum pieces
salt to taste
sugar to taste
3-4 tablespoons oil


First wash soya granules in copious amounts of water to remove excess starch. Soak them in water, the level of water should be well above the granules allowing it to swell up.


Heat oil in a kadhai. Fry the onions till they just start browning. Add the turmeric and Koli masala. Add the chopped cilantro. Give a good stir.




Squeeze out excess water from the soaked soya granules and add them to the fried onions. Mix well. Cover and cook for 5 mins.

Now finish off the dish with kokum agal, salt and sugar to taste. Mix well. Cover and let it rest till completely cool.

This soya granule stir fry can be called veg Kheema or Mock Tallele vale sode. This stir fry is quite close in taste to tallele vale sode but the texture of sode cannot be replicated with soya granules. Those who have never eaten sode will love this.

But sode are sode after all, nothing can beat plump sode made into bits and stir fried. The koli masala lends the spice and the kokum married to it makes it lipsmacking good!

After its completely cooled, start making the patti samosas.




Making Patti samosa:

Pull out one strip at a time and make a cone. Fill the cone with the yummy Soya Granules Stir Fry. Seal the open end by folding over the end of the strip and apply a paste of flour to pack it completely before it goes into the hot oil for frying or baking. Make 4 at a time. Do not fill all at once as the pattis dry out.

Frying:

Keep a small kadhai of oil to heat on medium and fry the patti samosas 4 at a time. Drain on a few layers of tissue. Serve warm with ketchup and mint cilantro chutney.


Fried for Dad

Baking:


Preheat oven at 200 deg celcius. Grease a cookie sheet with oil and line up the samosas. Brush them lightly with oil. Bake for 15 mins on one side then turn over and bake the other side for another 15 mins. This will given evenly baked samosas.

We like these patti samosas especially dipped in both ketchup and mint cilantro chutney.


Baked for me

Try these delicious bites and bless me later for sharing this lip-smacking recipe with you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Gutless Foodie's Surmai Rawa Fry



This is a guest post.

I have interacted with her over mails just a week or so. She sent me an order and I shipped it to her. I thought I'll check with her if she needs a recipe. Instead immediately after she received the masalas she was on a roll. First came the intro mail, then the experiments and results. Then this one saying she was trying to post to the Words Power Us section on this blog. I have been wanting to invite people to do guest posts and I find one right in my inbox.


The Gutless Foodie is a FB group run by Natasha Diddee. A trained chef, a by product of IHM Mumbai and Sophia Polytechnic. I was sobbing uncontrollably when I read this, "I lost my entire stomach to two bleeding ulcers and a tumour growing around my stomach. But, God is great and our bodies wondrous, it adapts. :)" So you see how her group gets the name. Yet from what little I know of her presenting to you the emoticon and hashtag junky, sunshine girl! 
________________________________________________________________________________

My only knowledge of a part of the Koli community came from Sona, our fisher woman. Those were the days, when fisherwomen came to your doorstep, with the fresh catch of the day. They'd ring the doorbell and assure you, that they'd kept the freshest seafood, only for you. They'd sell to you and then promptly ring the next doorbell and tell them the exact same thing! One day, I caught Sona in the act! #NatashaISTheFoodMafia #TGFMafia

She laughed nervously and said she truly sold us the freshest seafood. I sneered, she snorted. She knew she'd lost. #TGFIsFierceInAStaringMatch


We cackled and started chatting, whilst I covered my nose #FisherWomenHaveFierceFishOdour
Whilst we were chatting, she told me why fisher folk were known to have fierce tempers. She said, they eat really spicy food, using a special masala and the temper is the spice's fault!
#ThatLogicallyExplainedWhatLoudAsAFishMarketMeant


Over the years, I have lost count of how many times I've eaten chicken & seafood Koliwada. In my pea-sized brain, Koliwada must be koli style food! But, I realised that Sona had duped me! This food wasn't as spicy as she'd made it out to be! #TGFsBrainMayBeSmallerThanHerGutlessGut

I was at a friend's house recently and tried a fish dish. It was FooFoo type spicy, but very flavourful. His mom told me, that she had used Koli Masala! I refused to believe her because, I had just eaten a stellar fish curry and it was not that horrendous scary red colour, that most things we know as Koliwada style dishes are!!

I was terrified she'd not give me more food if I countered her so, I let the yummies shut my mouth. I promptly forgot, till one day I overheard someone talking about Koli Chicken Curry. My ears perked up. Now, I HAD to get to the bottom of this!!


So, I asked all the Koli foodies I knew and the unanimous verdict, was to use masalas from Annaparabrahma. Anjali runs this masala business and I was excited to know you could buy all kinds of Koli goodies from her! I ordered several masalas and they came yesterday, along with a few small free samples!
#GottaLoveWomenEntrepreneurs

I never, ever recommend a masala I've not tried myself so, I kept it to myself till this post. Last night I had some super fresh Surmai/Kingfish, so I broke into Anjali's Koli Masala.

It was excellent! I suddenly understood what Sona had meant!! The best part, she hadn't duped me. The masala is very robust and super flavourful but also really spicy. But, not in an alarming way. Would I reorder this masala? I'd be losing out if I didn't. Can't wait to try it in curries next! 


Ingredients : 

1. Surmai/Kingfish - 4 pieces, skin on, bone in, 1/2 " thick slices
2. Oil - to shallow fry
3. Garlic paste - 1 tspn
4. Salt - 1/2 tspn
5. Coriander leaves - a small fistful, chopped
6. Anjali's Koli Masala - 1 tbspn
7. Rawa - to coat




Method:

1. Marinate everything together, excluding the oil and rawa. I kept it for about an hour.
2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. While it's heating, roll the marinated fish into a plate, lined with rawa. Coat each piece properly.
3. Place the fish into the pan and on a high flame, sear each side. Lower the flame, cover and cook till done.
As usual, I squeezed some lime juice on it and dug in.

☆ The rawa coating took away some of the spiciness, but the flavour was incredible

☆I would normally also fry fish without the rawa and then recommend the masala if I liked it, but I would then be depriving you of a yummy

☆I haven't been able to figure out what is different from other FooFoo masalas but there is a distinct flavour, which I haven't identified other than yummy

#IShallCookMoreToLearnMore
#IShallKolifyMyself
#GoodGodPleaseHelpMySenseOfHumour
#TaDaaa Koli Surmai Rawa Fry
#1MinuteEveryDay
#BussEkMinute
#PayItForward
#YouCanDoIt
#YesYouCan
#JustDoIt
#TheGutlessFoodie
________________________________________________________________________________

Tell me readers who would not LOVE this overwhelming bundle of energy! She needs our love and blessings for a long healthy life. Say तथास्तु after me!

Dear Natasha, 

Anjali and everyone at AnnaParaBrahma loves you and GOD BLESS you with a fulfilled life. Keep eating, feeding and spreading this warmth! BIG HUG!!

Friday, November 07, 2014

A box of sweetmeats, was it just that?


The Khapti has sparked up our lives with memories flooding us everyday.

Today as Dad stepped out to go to Chembur, I sheepishly requested him to get a mixed sweet box. Dad smiled and asked, what was on my mind? Further to arouse some guilt he said, "You have been indulging since Diwali".

Unperturbed I said I want a खावाल्याचं पेटलं  

That made Dad smile, I use Koli dailect only for effect, he knows it.

He returned with a box of the mixed sweetmeats form Jhama. I was so thrilled because you can expect my Dad to return empty handed saying the shop was closed! Mainly due to the health concerns I have. However I think he understood this was for the blog and not for me and so he obliged.

You will be wondering what is so great about this box, its the memories associated with it. When we visited Thal our treats were KhaptiNaraLi PakBadampak er ShengdanepakPithachi BoreKejyarcha Kairi Lonche etc. These are treats that are slowly being forgotten in the slew of modern sweets, chocolates and treats. 

You might wonder what was the treat we took back for our cousins and relatives from Mumbai. It was this खावाल्याचं पेटलं .  It means a box of sweat meats. In the entire Raigad region or even beyond this box was much desired. Whether it was the Khapnar the staff working on the boats or the Nakhwa, the owner were going back to their villages from Mumbai after selling their catch and pockets full; they always took back this box of treats, so colorful and enticing.

It is known that seafarers are always at high risk and when they return to family after even a few days at sea, it is always a celebration for the family. Just as the wife would cook the specials for her man, he reciprocated by taking back the sweetmeat box for his family, especially the children. Even if it meant he took back the smallest pack of 250 gms.

The status of the seafarer was determined based on where the sweet treats were bought? Was it from the nameless Guptaji's dairy or from Chandu Halwai or Kailash Parbat? It was always North Indian sweets especially Sindhi sweets because besides the Kolis, the second largest community in Colaba was the Sindhi. Their sweets were much loved. Made from Khoya in different flavours, chocolate, rose, pista. The motichoor ladoos that would make Fanta shy away in faded color. The yellow or white sheets of Mahim halwa. The sticky chewy Karachi halwa / Badam halwa. Now when a khapnar went to buy he would have just a few Rupees in his pocket and taking only one type of sweet in higher weight meant not being able to afford too many varieties. So they would always ask for a piece of each of the sweetmeats. That way they would be able to taste everything the shop had to offer and also spend less. Soon this was something the shopkeepers got used to and they started offering a mixed sweetmeats box at a fixed price. Another thing, the box definitely looked festive and more colorful with the variety. I sometimes wonder if this was the legacy of Tasting menus that we see in restaurants today.

Chandu's box used to be covered in yellow cellophane paper and peeling it off was a source of excitement and entertainment for the kids back in the villages. Kailash Parbat had Lord Shivji on the box and the wrapper was a thick paper with pink and blue prints tied up with a thin cotton ribbon. Their sweets were the best and quite a status symbol for the seafarers. 

(Psst once we moved to Fort our family status symbol was sweets from American Dryfruits and Fountain Dry fruit stores, I don't remember my Dad  ever got mixed sweetmeat box from them)

On the occasions when Anwar Sheth (nickname Anwarya) from Chiplun visited Thal to conduct business and settle payments for the dry fish that he bought from the Koli people. He would get a similar box of sweets from Suleman Mithaiwala  for every family with whom he had contacts. It would be a green tombstone shaped box associated with the Muslim symbolism. Covered in another layer of green cellophane. 

I do not know what was this thing with Cellophane the crackling, the color or transparency that made it such a favorite wrapper for sweet boxes with Mithaiwallas.

The cellophane covers were always peeled off carefully to be used to cover Diwali kandeels or light bulbs for Ganapati decorations. The Kailash Parbat wrapper would be laid out in the little temples or Devhara in homes.

Once the staff were united with the family at teatime the box of sweet would be ceremoniously opened with all children surrounding him. Either the kids picked up a piece of their choice or the father cut out chips of the larger piece so everyone could get a taste of the mixed sweets in the box.

So anyone who went to the village from Mumbai was asked if they had got the box of sweet meats?

If a kid was running past neighbors and relatives in a rush with something in his/ her hands to share with friends at their favorite play spot they would get asked, "बापासनी काय हानलं?" (What did your father get?) The answer was always and always खावाल्याचं पेटलं !

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Khapti for Four ānā


Chaar ānyā chi Khapti~ ~

Shouted out the seller. This was music to the children's ears. This call generated a scene in every home of its reach, of the children tugging at their Aaji's or Aai's paishachi pishvi or money bag tucked at the waist demanding 4 ānā.

Those were the days when 4 ānā or 25 paise could fetch you a delicious treat. Actually they were the days of the Rupaya and paisa but the seller was stuck in the ānā age. Irrespective of the confusion in the currency you bet the treat was something we looked forward to every evening exactly at 5 pm.

Those were the days when the Thal bazaar was in the space near the Bhikari and Bundake family homes. I remember there were a few Wanis or grocers who sold them. Anita Vade used to sit against the wall of the Bhikari home and sell khapti along with other stuff. But one would buy from her only when you missed buying from the guy who would go around the village with a Taat full of khapti. Sadly I don't remember the name of the seller. Dad however tells me khapti was sold by Sitaram Jage when they were kids. So I guess the recipe is a Jage family heirloom that spread wide.

If we stopped the seller to buy some, he would place one foot on the OTi and chip off a little piece from the Taat and hand it out to us. We loved khapti for it gave us a sugar rush which had the goodness of jaggery.

Khapti was never eaten all at once. It quietened the neighborhood for a while as the kids would nibble on the chewy khapti. This was however long forgotten, until...

Fast forward, I was at the music class and mentioned that I was going to Thal over the weekend and D Kaka, My music teacher's husband requested me to look for Khapti. I was surprised he knew about it. Then I came to know that he infact studied at Alibag and hence all the memories came flooding the conversation that followed. I was so amused that on returning home from class I mentioned it to Dad and could not imagine hearing the wonderful memories associated with this little treat. Our home was purchased from a Wani by my great great grandfather and so the nickname stuck and so whether it was Dad's generation or mine, we got teased, "Wani chi khapti". Infact, I remember couple of years ago, I went to Alibag by ST bus. It was already late in the evening around 7.00 ish. A senior autowallah came up to me and agreed to take me to Thal. On that ride he shyly mentioned that he was Vijay Bhendkar and I immediately recollected and spurted out "You used to tease us Wani chi Khapti!" such fun memories, you can imagine the rest of the conversation was about how I spent some wonderful holidays in Thal. While I was googling found this mention of Khapti on A spoonfull of ideas.

Khapti is now commercially made and packed in plastic pockets. To describe the taste and texture it is nutty, chewy coconut, jaggery and cardamom flavored toffee and yet all natural. The making of khapti is tricky and not everyone's cup of tea as this is made with the sticky type of jaggery that is called chikki cha gul but it is not made into a brittle like chikki but more like a caramel toffee.

I bought it from Shivdas Patil's store in Thal but you also get it in any of the Alibag's sweet shops. Ask for Khapti, its priced at 3 Rs. a piece. I bought all the pieces that he had in the big jar almost a hundred pieces to share with friends at the music class and for my family to enjoy. The ladies at the music class started pestering me for the recipe, so now I have a task at hand. Most of all it delighted D kaka, his Mum who is in her 90s and my Dad.  I am sending some for my Aruna Kaki too for she adores it.

Going by how even today's kids enjoy it, I think it deserves the return of the popularity it once enjoyed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bhure Vatane ani Tendla


Today is Lakshmi Puja.

In the evening I will worship the Goddess that brings wealth. She has blessed me always. I am grateful to her.

I wonder if there is a deity that grants everlasting love. Is there such a thing as everlasting love? Love between partners, brothers and sisters, parents and child. It is the festive season and it has to be a happy one. So we go about making sweets, distributing it to the whole world. Hey but where are the people who I was born to, who I grew up with, for whom I have cared as a sister, as a mother and as a lover?

My home is empty, my hearth is not as busy as it used to be. My mother passed away 20yrs ago, my aunt Devaki who was a better friend than an aunt passed away 18yrs ago. I did whatever I could for her children even though it was not my responsibility. Then the birds flew away leaving my nest empty. 

In all this I did not have the time or may be I was not destined to meet a person who can tolerate me day in and day out and night and day. Sure it takes more than an ordinary person to be able to live with me. Till you don't live with me, you will not know what an amazing person I am! I am saying this in all humility :D The kind of person I am will either make you look at me in awe or scare you away. Jealousy can also be at the base of it. People who have stuck around me are the great people who can deal with these intense emotions and are people of substance in their own right!

Just incase the readers think that this is a rant, it is not. If you think I am sad, I am not. Yes I am in a reflective mood. I have a lot of love filled in me. After spending it on a lot of people who took their share and moved ahead, I still have a lot of love to give. I want to spread it through the activities I do, through the people who value my love.  I am determined to give it to the deserving. My AnnaParaBrahma team, the Patrons, my readers and friends. I want to improve the user experience of shopping for my patrons so keep watching.

While everyone is indulging in sweet meats and lip smacking savories, I am posting here a recipe of a classic combination of Bhure vatane and tendla. The white peas with ivy gourd is as rustic as it can get, a totally Koli style bhaaji with kada dhanya / dried pulses or beans and fresh vegetable made saucy with coconut masala. Scooped up in a small cone of rice roti can be so soul satisfying.

Ingredients

1 cup Bhure Vatane/ Dried white peas (soaked overnight)
1/2 kg tendli/ Ivy gourd
1 large onion chopped lengthwise
2 chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoon oil or more
salt to taste

For the masala
4-5 inch triangle of fresh coconut
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Koli Masala (buy it here)
1 handful fresh cilantro
2 green chilies
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4-5 cloves garlic


Clean the soaked Bhure vatane/  white peas. Cut up the tendli lengthwise or into small bits. 

In a pressure cooker add the Bhure Vatane, tendli and onions. Add the oil. Mix well to give it a nice coat. Add water, enough to cover the peas. Close the lid and pressure cook for 5-6 whistles. This will ensure the peas are well cooked.

Meanwhile grind the masala and save.

Once the peas are pressure cooked. Open the lid and add the ground masala to it. Add a glass of water to it. Add the chopped tomatoes. Mix well and bring it to a rolling boil. Salt the bhaaji as per taste.

Cover and leave the bhaaji aside and let the flavors meld.

Serve with rice roti and a cracked white onion from Alibag on the side. Enjoy the simplicity of the meal an antidote to the Diwali indulgence.

In the din of the Diwali crackers and the glitzy light I am trying to find my peace...

Happy Diwali To Each One Of You!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Warm Wishes On DhanaTrayodashi!


Dear Readers, Patrons and Friends of AnnaParaBrahma

Wishing you a very warm and prosperous DhanaTrayodashi!

Thanking all Patrons for doing business with us year on year and helping us climb the stairs of success slowly and steadily.

We have shipped all orders and completed all takeaways. My team has put in 15 days of hard work to deliver the Faral on time for you to enjoy the Diwali with family and friends. They have earned a much deserved holiday for a week before work starts again.

Along with your order of Diwali Faral we have sent you a taster pack of our masalas. Hope you enjoy the taste from AnnaParaBrahma.

Love
Anjali & The AnnaParaBrahma Team





Saturday, October 04, 2014

Diwali Faral 2014, Place your order now!

 

Namaskar Patrons!

Hope you had a great Vijayadashmi. 

We are back to serving you again. This is the third year we are making Diwali Faral for you. It is your blessings and good wishes that has brought this day to us. Thank you!

We are extremely happy to announce the three hampers we have put together just for you.

Faral Item
Single CoupleFamily
QtyQtyQty
Rava ladu6 nos.12 nos.24 nos.
Besan ladu6 nos.12 nos.24 nos.
Karanji6 nos.12 nos.24 nos.
Anarasa6 nos.12 nos.24 nos.
Bhajani Chakali250 gms500 gms1 kg
Shankarpali250 gms500 gms1 kg
Chivda250 gms500 gms1 kg
Uttana50 gm50 gm50 gm
Rangoli sticker1 no.1 no.1 no.
Diya2 nos.2 nos.2 nos.
Handmade soap1 no.1no.1no.
Kandeel1 no.1no.1no.
Price in Rs.200031005500
Approx. Weight 3 kgs5 kgs10 kgs

Free Deliveries all over Navi Mumbai.


How to Order

Step 1

Send us a mail at annaparabrahma@gmail.com 

in the following format ...

Subject : Single/ Couple/ Family Diwali hamper
Body of email:
Name  To Deliver: Ex. Sujal Mandavkar
Delivery address:  Ex. Flat no.  / Wing, Area, Landmark, Pin Code
Delivery contact no: Ex.  +91 990 000 0000
Date of delivery: We will try to deliver on the date you mention but request your understanding that this is peak business season. To avoid delay book your order asap 

Packing and Shipping is at actual. 

Step 2

Once we confirm the receipt of the order we will send you the bill amount.

Step 3

You need to pay the bill amount to

For all India :
Anjali Koli
a/c no. 08922010001520
IFSC code: ORBC0100892
Name of bank: ORIENTAL BANK OF COMMERCE, NERUL.

Type of a/c : Saving

For US/ UK/ Middle East/ Rest of the world

Thru paypal to id : annaparabrahma@gmail.com

Note: 5% service tax + Invoice transaction fee of 0.30 $ is charged on you by paypal for every transaction.

Step 4
On receipt of payment we will ship the product/s and email you the token for tracking your delivery.

Step 5

Once you receive the delivery confirm the receipt of goods to complete transaction.

Thank you, we look forward to your new order!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Where is the Limbachi Phod?


In my growing up years I remember my mother giving me the last minute order of cutting the lime just before the meal was served. Every single meal along with the salt sat the piece of lime at the 12 o'clock position in the taaT or at the pointed tip of a Banana leaf. See below, is a picture from the cookbook "Annapoorna" by Mangala Barve. It illustrates how to serve food on the banana leaf as per Marathi traditions. See the seat of lime, right at the top where it cannot be missed.




Recently I received a mail forward which is credited to Dr. Vikas Baba Amte. Let me try to translate contents of the mail into English.
अतिथंड केलेल्या लिंबाचे आश्चर्यकारक परिणाम...
स्वच्छ धुतलेले लिंबु फ्रिजच्या फ्रिजर मध्ये ठेवा.. ...
ते लिंबु पुर्णपणे थंड आणि बर्फासारखे कडल झाल्यावर, साधारणत: 8 ते 10 तासानी, एक किसनी घेउन ते सर्व लिंबु सालासकट किसुन घ्या.. नंतर तुम्ही जे काही खाल त्यावर ते किसलेले लिंबु टाकुन खा.. भाज्यांवर, सॅलड वर, आईसक्रीम, सुप, डाळी, कडधान्य, नुडल्स, स्पेगेटी, पास्ता, पिझ्झा, साॅस, भात, सुशी, मासे, मट्ण, या आणि अश्या अनेक पदार्थांवर टाकुन खाता येईन..      सर्व अन्नाला एक अनपेक्षीत अशी छान चव येईल..
सगळ्यात महत्वाचे, आपल्याला फक्त लिंबाच्या रसातील व्हिटॅमिन सी चे गुणधर्म फक्त माहिती आहेत.. त्यापेक्षा अधिक गुणधर्म माहिती नाहीत.. सालासह संपुर्ण गोठलेले लिंबु कोणताही भाग वाया न जाता वापरल्यास एक वेगळी चव तर मिळतेच, परंतु त्याचे अजुन काय फायदे आहेत?? लिंबाच्या सालीत लिंबाच्या रसापेक्षा 5 ते 10 पट जास्त व्हिटॅमिन सी असते.. आणि हाच भाग आपण वाया घालवतो.. लिंबाची साल आरोग्य वर्धक आहे कारण त्यामुळे शरिरातील सर्व विषद्रव्ये शरिराबाहेर काढुन टाकायला मदत होते.. लिंबाच्या सालीचा एक आश्चर्य कारक फायदा म्हणजे त्याच्यामध्ये असलेली एक चमत्कारीक अशी क्षमता की ज्यामुळे शरिरातील सर्व कॅन्सरच्या पेशींचा नाश होतो.. केमोथेरपी पेक्षा ही लिंबाची साल 10,000 पट जास्त प्रभावी आहे.. मग आपल्याला हे सर्व का माहिती नाही?? कारण आज जगात अश्या प्रयोगशाळा आहेत की ज्या त्याचे कृत्रिम पद्धतीने निर्मीती करण्यात गुंतल्या आहेत कारण त्यापासुन त्याना भरपुर नफा मिळतो.. तुम्ही आता तुमच्या गरजू मित्र / मैत्रिनीना सांगु शकता की कॅन्सर सारखा असाध्य आजार दुर ठेवण्यासाठी किंवा झाल्यास बरा करण्यासाठी लिंबाचा रस आणि साल किती फायदेशीर आहे.. त्याची चव पण खुप छान असते आणि केमोथेरपी प्रमाणे त्याचे भयानक साईड इफेक्ट पण नाही आहेत.. विचार करा, हा अतिशय साधा, सोपा, परंतु अत्यंत प्रभावी असा उपाय माहिती नसल्याने आज पर्यंत किती लोकाना आपले आयुष्य गमवावे लागले असेल आणि इथुन पुढे आपण किती लोकांचे प्राण वाचवू शकतो??? लिंबाच्या वनस्पतीत सर्व प्रकारचे कॅन्सर बरे करण्याची एक चमत्कारीक अशी क्षमता आहे.. याचा वापर बॅक्टेरीअल इन्फेक्षन आणि फंगस वर सुद्धा होउ शकतो.. शरिराअंतर्गत परोपजीवी आणि विषाणु वरही प्रभावी आहे..
लिंबाचा रस आणि विशेषत: साल रक्तदाब आणि मानसिक दबाव नियमीत करते.. मानसिक ताण आणि मज्जासंस्थेचे आजार नियंत्रीत करते.. या माहितीचा स्त्रोत अतिशय थक्क करणारा आहे : जगातल्या सगळ्यात मोठ्या औषध निर्मिती कंपनी पैकी एक असलेल्या कंपनीने हे प्रसिद्ध केले आहे.. ते म्हणतात की 1970 पासुन 20 पेक्षा जास्त प्रयोगशाळानमध्ये संशोधन केल्यानंतर असे निदर्शनात आले आहे की, लिंबाची साल 12 पेक्षा जास्त कॅन्सरच्या घातक पेशी नष्ट करतात.. लिंबाच्या झाडाचे औषधी गुणधर्म कॅन्सरवरील ॲड्रामायसीन या केमेथेरपीसाठी सामान्यपणे वापरल्या जाणा-या औषधापेक्षा 10,000 पट जास्त प्रभावी ठरले आहे.. लिंबाची साल कॅन्सरच्या पेशींची वाढ मंदावते.. आणि अधिक आश्चर्याची गोष्ट म्हणजे या लिंबाच्या औषधामुळेच फक्त कॅन्सरच्याच पेशींचा नाश होतो, त्याचा निरोगी पेशिंवर कोणताही विपरीत परिणाम होत नाही.. म्हणुन चांगल्या पिकलेल्या लिंबाना स्वच्छ धुवा, त्याना गोठवा आणि किसनीवर किसुन रोजच्या आहारात वापरा.. 
तुमचे संपुर्ण शरिर त्याबद्दल तुम्हाला धन्यवाद देईल.. 
डॉ. विकास बाबा आमटे..
आनंदवन.. 
The wondrous effects of Frozen Lime/ lemon.

Freeze whole lime/ lemon in the freezer till it is hard and frozen like ice, about 8-10 hrs. Grate the whole lime including the skin. Use this grated lime over everything that you eat. Salads, soups, vegetables, ice cream, pizza, noodles, dal, rice, spaghetti, sauce, sushi, mutton, fish etc. can be all enjoyed with a bit of grated frozen lime. The lime perks up the taste of the dish in an unusual way.

Most importantly, we know only the benefits of Vitamin C in lime but we are not aware about other benefits. The lime definitely enhance the taste of food with its citrusy flavors but what are the other benefits? 

Lime skin has 5 to 10 times more Vitamin C than in its juice and this is the exact part of lime we discard. The lime skin has a lot of health benefits as it helps to purge the toxins in our body. Lime skin is miraculous in the way it helps to destroy cancerous cells in the body. It is 10, 000 times more powerful than chemotherapy. Then why are we not educated about it?

The reason being, there are many labs across the world that are engaged in creating these benefits by artificial means from which they are earning huge profits. 

You can now tell your needy friends about the benefits of lime juice and skin to prevent and cure an insurmountable disease such as cancer. It tastes wonderful and does not even have the side effects of chemotherapy. Give it a thought, this is such a simple, easy yet effective treatment that we have not been aware about and so many people have lost their lives and now from here on how many lives can be saved?

The lime/ lemon plant is potent to cure all kinds of cancers, it can act on bacterial and fungal infections, it is also effective on parasites and viruses. 

Lime juice and especially the skin helps to regulate mental stress. It helps to alleviate stress and control nervous system problems. The source of this information is amazing. One of the worlds largest pharma company has published this. They mention that since 1970 there are more than 20 labs across the world that have established that lime skin can cure more than 12 types of fatal cancers. Lime/ lemon plants curative benefits are 10,000 times stronger than the commonly used Anthramycin a Chemotherapy drug. Plus the lime skin acts only on cancerous cells and does not harm healthy cells. Therefore wash a nicely ripe lime/ lemon and freeze it, grate it and use the grated whole lime in your diet.

Your whole body will thank you for it.

Dr. Vikas Baba Amte
Anandvan

________________________________________________________________________________
Disclaimer : I have not verified the source of this mail but looking at the harmless natural treatment suggested I am sharing it here. Yet I have read up more on lime and its properties and atleast the contents of the mail are authentic in my opinion. It is so easy to adopt this as preventive care than curative. Ofcourse someone who is affected by cancer should go by one's own will and the doctors advice.
________________________________________________________________________________

After reading this mail, I realized that for convenience sake we have moved back to eating single carb meals like only rice and veggies or only roti and veggies meals. There is rarely any paraphernalia around it. The taaT is full only on the weekends. The Limbachi phod has disappeared. Very rarely it is seen in the plate. I recollect how the little piece of  lime was so ubiquitous while growing up. The little 1/8 piece of a lime sat atop a kande pohe plate, a sunday non veg meal was incomplete without lime as much as an everyday varan bhat with limbu, toop, dahi, sakhar. A pav-bhaaji meal is never complete without a squeeze of lime and nor a splash of it can be missed on my chaat. 

I hated messing my hands while squeezing the lime juice as a kid and at times would beg my mother to do it for me. When it was my turn to mother my cousin brothers I squeezed the lime right into the pohe or any dish that demanded a dash of the citrus. Finally what's not visible on the plate was out of the mind most times. But now...

If I see it left in your taaT, at the end of the meal like my Aai you will hear me say, "pop that lime in your mouth."

Bring back the Limbachi phod, people. In a new avatar, add frozen then grated whole lime to every single meal. It's good for you!

Popular Posts

On Trail