Friday, 30 August 2013

A Creative Cake For My Birthday

Homemade Bertie Bott's Every- Flavoured cake with a special way of adding Gryfindor's red and yellow colours... only a best friend can make a cake fantasy you never knew you had come true! :-)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

One Food Experience: Ci Gusta

My friend and I were having one of those great Sundays. We had just been to a play at Prithvi and we decided to have lunch at Bandra. We thought of going to some place near Linking Road so we could get some food and then do some street shopping. And walked into this little gem of a restaurant at the junction of Linking Road and Waterfield Road called Ci Gusta. I have been to this restaurant twice now and I have tried different things from their menu: their pizzas, pastas and crepes. 

The one food experience I would recommend at Ci Gusta is their four chicken pizza or the 'Quatro Al Pollo' pizza. This pizza comes with four chicken toppings: pesto chicken, chicken sausages, hot pepper chicken and barbeque chicken in a tangy tomato sauce with the right amount of melted mozzarella on top. Unlike what we commonly see in India, all four toppings are not put all over the pizza leading to a jumble of flavours. Rather there were two slices each of one kind of topping. This made each topping the star of its own slices and we had four varieties of pizza in one! 

Ci Gusta's Quatro Al Pollo

Monday, 19 August 2013

One Food Experience: The Banana Leaf

I have been thinking of doing something new for my blog. So, yesterday I had gone for a family Raksha Bandhan lunch to the Banana Leaf (Korum Mall, Thane outlet) and I ordered their thaali (again!) and I thought this is the 'one food experience' I would recommend easily to people who plan to come to the Banana Leaf. And voila! I had a new idea for the food blog... "one food experience"!

The whole idea of this new series of blog posts is I will share one dish or food experience that I would recommend at restaurants that I have been to. It can be a drink, an appetizer, a soup, a main course or even a meal combination that I feel should really not be missed, after trying various things at these restaurants! 

So let's start at the beginning of this idea: the thaali experience at Banana Leaf. 

Banana Leaf unarguably serves excellent South Indian cuisine. A good indicator of the excellence of the cuisine available here is that I have often seen many South Indians, including the very-particular-about-their-food Tamilian Brahmins, eat here and relish the dishes! It is like how we Gujaratis will go eat Gujarati thaalis at the really good places. It not only serves your standard known version of South Indian idli-wada-dosa but also great curries, different types of rice dishes and meals from the states in the South of India.

My frequent order here is the thaali and this is the one food experience I would recommend here. It is a great experience of the variety in South Indian cuisine that goes beyond what would be standard orders! 

The thaali here begins with a tangy, spicy, peppery rasam that hits the right place in the throat, clears your sinuses and tantalises your taste buds for the experience ahead. 

Rasam: starting the meal by hitting the right notes! 

Then comes the huge (make that HUGE) plate of food with six (yes, 6) types of vegetables, sambhar, rasam, a mini uttapam, two types of wadai, rice papadams, one sweet (generally payassam), yoghurt, a choice between pooris, neer dosa or Kerala paratha (I highly recommend the Kerala parathas).

The whole thaali  experience

The flaky, soft, layered Kerala parathas

In the end there is a choice of rice between steamed rice, tamarind/ lemon rice (I think this varies as I have seen both options on different visits) or Bisibele bhaat (rice sauteed with vegetables and sambhar masala-like spice). Here again I would recommend the Bisibele bhaat.

The meal ends with a glass of masala chaas that is really yummy! I often end up ordering another glass of it after I finish the one that comes with the thaali.

The thaali costs Rs 275 (plus taxes) and is a limited thaali unlike unlimited Gujarati ones you get at most Gujarati thaali restaurants. However, the quantity is quite a bit and can easily be shared by two people. I shared this one with my brother in true Raksha Bandhan spirit! 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Gujarati Kadhi

We Gujjus love sweet and sour food and by that preference our love for kadhi is a no-brainer. Gujarati kadhi is a sweet and sour, thick yoghurt goodness. It is best served with khichdi or steamed rice and whole yellow moong dal steamed with salt (called chhuti dal).


2 cups yoghurt
¾ cup gram flour
3 cups water
2 tbsps oil
2 tsps cumin seeds
2 tsps corriander seeds
10 curry leaves
2 green chillies cut into 4-5 pieces each
½ inch cinnamon stick
4 cloves
2-3 tbsps sugar
Salt to taste
A pinch of turmeric for colour

Mix the yoghurt, gram flour, water, salt and a pinch of turmeric.  Blend well with a hand blender to form a smooth mixture with no lumps.

Heat oil in a tempering pan and add the cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds turn red, add in the curry leaves, the corriander seeds, and the green chillies. Lastly, add in the cloves and the cinnamon stick in and temper the yoghurt mixture with it.

On a high flame, cook the tempered yoghurt mixture till it comes to a boil. Lower the flame, add in the sugar and cook for 5-7 minutes.

Serve steaming hot!

Sweet and sour yoghurt-y goodness!

Friday, 16 August 2013

5 Food Fiction Books I Loved

Food fiction and food writing are emerging in leaps and bounds. No, these are not recipe/ cookery books. They are stories and memoirs in which food is an integral part of the story. They do have recipes too. All of us remember reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with chocolate in all its glory being the hero of the story. That is what food fiction is!

Since I have read and heard about food fiction as an emerging genre, I have tried to find and read as many books as I can of this genre because it combines two of my loves, food and reading. Here are some of the books I have read and enjoyed. They have made me call up/ grab my friends who I know like reading/ food and tell them, "Hey you know what?! Read this!"

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

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An unforgettable classic with chocolate descriptions that can fulfill anyone's fantasies and convert a chocolate non-lover into a chocolate worshipper. There are chocolate rivers,chocolate boats, chocolate grass and chocolate flowers in a factory! There is a kind of chocolate for every chocolate lover and then there is chocolate for non-lovers of chocolate. If only we had a real-life Willy Wonka with his chocolate factory!

2.  Hindi Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan

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The Hindi Bindi Club is a story of three first generation Indian immigrants and their daughters. It is a story of love, identity and human triumphs in the face of challenges. The beauty of this book is how food forms a great part of how these women connect with each other and the second generation finds a connection to its Indian heritage. There are three cuisines that are predominant in this book: Maharashtrian cuisine, Punjabi cuisine and Bengali cuisine with detailed and well written recipes for those living outside India having a penchant for Indian food. There are great instructions for how to find the right ingredients, which brands to use for which ingredients and what substitutes to use when one can't find these. A must read for all food and book lovers.

3. Monsoon Diary by Shoba Narayan

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In Monsoon Diary the author takes the reader through her personal journey of food from childhood till early marriage days. It is what I would call a food autobiography. There are some really touching moments in the book like when the author cooks a family feast that wins her entire clan's approval to win a challenge so that her family would send her to the US to study. The author being South Indian shares some classic South Indian food traditions and great recipes.

4. Chocolat by Joanne Harris

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The winds bring a maverick chocolate maker and her daughter to an orthodox town in France during Lent. Ripples are created and battle-lines are drawn. Over chocolate feasts, people find their voices, their ideas, their beliefs and themselves. And the free-footed chocolate maker makes a home. As with Charlie and the Chocolate factory, this book is a must-read for all the chocolate descriptions.

5. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

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Twelve sections, one for each month. Twelve recipes, each one related to an event in protagonist Tita's life. Tita is the youngest daughter of a family where tradition forbids her to marry so she can take care of her mother. And so her mother forbids her from marrying the one she loves. Amidst all this, her love for food is the only way she can express herself fully. Using magical realism as a technique, the author poignantly describes how Tita's emotions become infused with the food she cooks and affects everyone around her. A moving tale of boundaries and expressing oneself through one's food.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

My Daily Vacation

Created my first ever poster! Dedicating it to my daily tea time!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Importance of Spices in Indian Food (Culture)

I am an Indian, and we Indians cannot do without our spices, whatever part of the world we live in. The importance of this is also reflected in my blog title; it couldn't be just salt and pepper, it is always with a lot of spice!

India, with the rich variety of climates and soil it provides, is home to a lot of spices naturally, which due to their easy availability have become so enmeshed into the Indian culture. A simplest example of this comes from an observation I recently had. Very recently, a few of my closest people like my first cousin and a really close friend have become mothers and I have been a close observer to the fascinating growing up of the two angels. When it was time for these two infants to be started on their first solid meals, I had a revelation. Unlike the bland pureed vegetables and fruits I had expected, their first meals were foods like khichdi made of properly washed and dried home ground rice and pulses cooked with a hint of spices like turmeric, red chilly powder, corriander and cumin powder and asafoetida.

I always knew spices were important to Indian food, but seeing the infant's first foods, drove the point home!

P.S. Coincidentally, this post about spices marks the 50th blog post of my blog... which is titled 'Salt and Pepper (With a Lot of Spice!) because of the fact that we can't live without the spice!