Monday, December 26, 2011

Makke Ki Roti Sarson Ka Saag! Winters Just Got Better

Come December and you can get the smell of fresh greens and festive sweets. Winter is the gorging season. With so many seasonal vegetables and easy digestion, the winter calls for big celebration. The secret ingredient to this recipe is homemade butter, lots of it. So indulge and enjoy the greens of this season.



Sarson Ka Saag with Makke Ki Roti


Sarson ka saag and makke ki roti is a seasonal speciality of Punjab. This winter meal is very popular in North India. It is said that the saag should not be cooked after the winter harvest in Punjab, Lodi.  With freshly made butter sarson ka saag is traditionally eaten with makke ki roti. This is the short version of the recipe. Traditionally, sarson ka saag was made in the villages of Punjab with fresh greens from the fields. The mustard leaves along with other green leafy vegetables were cooked hours on a wood fire. The slow cooking on wood fire adds to the flavour of the greens. With this short version you can enjoy the goodness of the winters in Punjab with this yummy winter recipe.

Serves 2

Ingredients

Mustard Greens (Sarson ka saag), cleaned and blanched 4 cups
Spinach (Paalak), cleaned and blanched 4 cups
Bathua, cleaned and blanched 4 cups (chenopodium in English but the stores here label it as amaranth leaves)
Mustard Oil (Sarson ka tel) 3 tbspn
Garlic (lehsun), peeled 5 cloves, crushed and chopped
Onion (pyaz), chopped ½ cup
Tomatoes (tamatar), chopped 1 cup
Salt (namak) to taste
Asafoetida (hing) ½ tspn
Butter (makkhan) 2 tbspn

Method:

Grind the precooked mustard leaves, spinach and bathua together.
Heat 2 tbspn mustard oil in a pan till it begins to smoke. Allow the oil to cool a little, add in garlic and onion. Add in tomatoes once the onions turn translucent. Allow the tomatoes to cook until squishy.

Add in salt and the greens; allow them to cook on a low flame till it begins to leave the sides and the oil separates from the mixture. This will take approximately 20 minutes on low heat.

Heat 1 tbspn mustard oil to smoking point in a different pan. Allow the oil to cool and then add in asafoetida. Add this mixture to the sarson ka saag and stir. Cook on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and serve with butter and makke ki roti.

Makke Ki Roti

For 12 Rotis

Ingredients

Maize Flour (Makke ka atta) 1 cup
Whole Wheat Flour (Whole Wheat Flour) 1 cup
Salt (Namak) to taste
Vegetable oil (Tel) 3 tbspn.
Unsalted Butter (Makkhan) 1 tbspn.

Method:

On a flat surface, take maize flour and whole wheat flour and make a well in the centre.
Add in salt and approximately 1 cup water while mixing it in the flour with your fingers. Knead well and make dough. Rub in 1 tbspn. oil and knead again. Allow the dough to rest for a few minutes.

Divide the dough into twelve equal portions and round them up. Take each round, flatten it on a flat surface and dust with flour. Roll out the dough into thin discs, the size of your palm. Make sure they are even on all sides.

Heat a tawa or flat griddle and cook the roti on both sides. Smear it with some oil on both sides while cooking. Cook it till it gets little dark spots on either side.

Add in tablespoon of butter in both, the saag and the makke ki rotis for the yumminess factor. 





Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Lean Dinner For Two; Thukpa

For those of us who love to eat, Thukpa is for a fitter you. The best part of this meal is that it fills you up without too much fuss and you get to everything you love in one bowl, literally. Enjoy my very first step towards a single chin, Thukpa.


Thukpa – Spicy Chicken, Vegetable and Noodle Soup

Thukpa is an East Indian soup, made with meat, vegetables and noodles or dumplings for thickening. It is a meal in itself, complete with proteins and carbs. In this recipe I have used chicken and some bacon for flavouring. You can use pork belly, lamb, seafood or a combination of meats to suit your preference. For vegetarian Thukpa, simply skip the meat or chicken and add in a combination of vegetables that you fancy. 
   
Serves - 2

Ingredients

Chicken, boneless, cut into chunks 2 cups
Lemon, juice 2 tbspn
Red chilli 2
Salt to taste
Vegetable Oil few drops
Bacon 2 rashers (Optional)
Spring onion, chopped 1 cup
Ginger 1 ½ inch, chopped
Garlic, peeled 5 cloves
Carrot, chopped  ½ cup
Beans (any green beans), chopped ½ cup
Tomatoes, chopped 1 cup
Spinach, cleaned ½ bunch
Mushroom 5, quartered
Chicken Stock 3 cups
Noodles 1 cup
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Soy Sauce 1 tbspn
Vinegar 1 tbspn (use lemon juice)
Basil a few leaves
Coriander Leaves, roughly chopped ¼ cup
Scrambled Egg on top (optional)

Method:

Crush the red chillies. Rub in salt, half the crushed red chilli and lemon juice to the chicken chunks.

Heat oil in a deep pan, and then add in ginger, garlic and the chopped white bulbs of spring onion. Stir in and allow it to cook until the onion turns translucent.

Now, add in carrots, beans and cook on a high flame for two minutes. Add in the chicken, then the spinach, mushrooms, tomato, salt and crushed red chilli. Stir and cook on medium heat.

Add in the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Now, add in noodles or dumplings, allow the thukpa to thicken. Add in sugar, soy sauce, basil, coriander leaves and lemon juice or vinegar. Top the Thukpa with scrambled egg for garnish.

Enjoy the flavour riot!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mad House Grill, Pune; It’s a Mooo… Point!

Name: Mad House Grill, Pune

Location: Lane 6, Koregaon Park

Contact: 020 26124779

Date of Visit: 14th December, 2011 [Dinner Hour]



Do you believe in a dining experience rather than just a dinner? Then you will definitely appreciate Mad House Grill. I have to give full marks to the marketing strategy of this place. It is really popular among my peers. The ‘All you can eat Steak’ nights and Sunday Brunch for six hundred bucks sounds really tempting. Coming back to their selling points, I had heard about Mad House Grill a lot thanks to facebook, my sister, her friends, my friends, my brother and many more wanting to take the ‘All you can eat Steak’ challenge. I have to admitted, I was tempted to see myself go up on that wall of fame. Nonetheless, I passed the challenge bit and moved on to just trying out their steak.



Mad House Grill is among the few places that serve beef steak in Pune. I am a hardcore carnivore and a big fat Steak fan, literally. It’s like falling in love, the first time you try out your favourite food. I remember the rare cooked pepper steak with cream, mushrooms and shallots, in my third year of catering school, ahhhhh! Heaven had come alive. The rare cooked steak in cream and mushroom sauce at Mad House Grill was nothing like that, not even close. Before this latest steak experience at Mad House Grill I used to believe that no one can go wrong with steak. I was wrong. The beef quality wasn’t good; it was chewy instead of tender and juicy. The cream and mushroom sauce had no flavour, it was bland. The mashed potato was sweet with chilli flakes and no flavour again, spinach on the side was tasteless. It was hard to find something flavourful on this plate that would make that meal convincing or satisfying. Similarly, the much recommended garlic steak in tomato sauce, medium cooked, was comsi comsa, although the tomato sauce had more flavour than the cream sauce. The accompanying sausages and veggies were tangy and interesting. If you are about to visit this place for its steak, then drop the idea now and save yourself the fuel.



The chicken broth was okay. The sizzling brownie and ice cream, well, thankfully you can’t go wrong with that. Don’t get me wrong the menu was alright. When I went through the list of items, it offered many options, even for vegetarians and non-beef eaters. Yet, considering that ‘Steak’ is what they are selling, something in the kitchen ought to have gone wrong that day.

It was a beautiful evening though. These little restaurants are what make up this warm, welcoming and care free city of Pune. Mad House Grill invites you, literally. With its big round lamps and live musicians playing those lovely, romantic songs bring out the romance of the city and the Pune life. Mad House Grill really gives you the perfect feel of Pune, with its casual dining, beers and wines for the evening and the sweet melodious live music which makes up for a wonderful dining experience. Besides the reasonable dishes here and service with a smile, doesn’t hurt. The owners are really warm and friendly, they do give due attention to customer needs and satisfaction, which wasn’t usual, yet wonderful. It was a beautiful evening, Mad House Grill made it a beautiful evening.



Ambience: Very Good 8/ 10
Value For Money: Very Good 8/ 10
Menu: Very Good 8/ 10
Service: Very Good 8/ 10
Food: Good 7/ 10
That Thing About This Pace: Very Good 8/ 10
Very Good Ambience + Very Good Value For Money + Very Good Menu + Very Good Service + Good Food+ Very Good That Thing About this Place = Very Good
Rating : 8/ 10

Friday, December 9, 2011

BASIC Cake Recipe

Everyone’s making cakes. Birthdays, Wedding Anniversary, Christmas, New years Eve, the indulging season is here again. Recently, many people have asked me how you go about making a Basic Cake. Well, there are two methods. The first Basic Cake recipe does not require an electric hand-mixer. The second Basic cake recipe involving a creaming method may require an electric hand-mixer (although in my days in the catering college, we struggled while creaming the fat with our palms!). To check whether the cake is cooked, insert a fork in the centre, if the fork comes out clean, the cake is cooked. While mixing the cake ingredients, be sure to mix in one direction, either clockwise or anti clockwise direction, to make the cake light and fluffy.

1st Basic (Sponge) Cake Recipe

Ingredients
Eggs 3
Vanilla Essence or Nutmeg ¼ tspn
Sugar 90g
Flour 90g
 Baking Powder (sieved with the flour) ¼ tspn
Butter, melted 60g

Method:


  • Preheat the oven at 180 degree Celsius.
  • Beat the eggs with an egg beater. Slowly incorporate the sugar and beat the eggs and the sugar together, until it foams up. Add in vanilla essence. Do not over-beat, once the foam has formed, lightly beat for 1 minute.
  • Sieve the flour and baking powder together. Incorporate the flour and melting butter part by part.
  • Add in a part of the flour from the side, fold it into the egg mixture from the side, with the help of a flat spoon or spatula. Be sure not to over mix, to keep the mixture light and fluffy.
  • Incorporate one part of butter in a similar manner. Slowly, add in all the flour and all the butter into the egg mixture.
Mix it along the sides, so as to avoid over mixing.

  • Grease a cake mould with fat on all sides and dust it with flour, to avoid the cake from sticking onto the mould OR Line the cake mould with butter paper on all sides.
  • Turn the cake batter into the mould, tap it on the bottom to even it on top.
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 180 degree Celsius.
Cool it for ten minutes.
You may loosen the sides with the knife before turning the mould onto a plate.

2nd Basic Cake Recipe (Creaming Method)

Ingredients

Butter 80g (Soften)
Sugar 115 g
2 eggs
Vanilla Essence / Nutmeg ¼ tspn
Flour 115g
Baking Powder ¼ tspn

Method:


  • Preheat the oven at 180 degree Celsius.
  • The butter should be kept at room temperature for sometime and should be soft before use, not melted.
With the help of a hand mixer, cream the butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Add in the sugar, part by part and cream with the hand mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy.

  • Beat the eggs with vanilla essence and add them into the sugar and butter mixture. Mix it well.
  • Sieve the flour and baking powder together. Add in the flour into the mixture. Do not mix.
  • Fold in the flour into the mixture with a spatula by running it along the sides. Once the flour is incorporated, you can add in raisins or chopped almonds if you like, and fold again.
Mix it along the sides, so as to avoid over mixing.

  • Grease a cake mould with fat on all sides and dust it with flour, to avoid the cake from sticking onto the mould OR Line the cake mould with butter paper on all sides.
Turn the cake batter into the mould, tap it on the bottom to even it on top.

  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 180 degree Celsius.
Cool it for ten minutes.
You may loosen the sides with the knife before turning the mould onto a plate.

Variation: For Chocolate Cake, reduce flour by 20gms and add in 20gms of cocoa powder in its place.

For Simple Icing:

Ingredients

Butter 30g
Icing Sugar 70g
Vanilla Essence few drops

Method:

In a mixing bowl, add in softened butter and with the hand mixer, cream it until light and fluffy.
Add in the sugar and vanilla essence and cream it until light and fluffy.
Spread it evenly for icing on the cake.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beyond Dirty Pictures or idlis and dosas; Fashionably South!

Name: South Indies, Pune
Location: Ganesh Khind Road, Next to Pune Central, Shivajinagar
Contact: 020 41047272, 020 41057273
Time of Visit: 6th December, 2011

I can get a yummy idli and dosa for thirty bucks around the corner. Why should I spend over three hundred bucks on South Indian food? That’s correct, vegetarian South Indian food. I’ll tell you why? This is no regular dosa and idli quick service joint, South Indies is an exquisite South Indian fine dining experience. A chain from Bangalore, South Indies is a one of its kind in Pune.


It is beyond the South Indian food we know; dosas, idlis, appams and stews. The lunch buffet spread of South Indies includes authentic curries, rasam and sweets from the four southern states of India. The ambience and service are classy, contemporary and keeping with the state of the art fine dining restaurants in Pune. While the service was fabulous, the best part was that the staff was well informed about the cuisine, the dishes being served as well as the company.


The buffet spread was not very extravagant in terms of the variety of dishes, but each of the dishes was top class in terms of flavour, freshness and quality. A rare instance in the world of buffet spreads. They have an ala carte menu with an interesting selection of soups, starters and main course, which very unique and interesting. This menu is a breath of fresh air from Indian restaurant cliché, the paneer tikka masalas and Veg Kadhai. For Vegetarians especially, this place is reasonable and a must try.  

From the rasam, green apple mulligatawny soup and podi (gunpowder) idlis to the poppadums, sambhar and stew each item on the buffet had a distinct flavour, yet subtle and tasty. The appam and stew in particular was by far the best I have eaten. If you think that nothing can beat chicken and beef stews from Kerala, you ought to try their small onion stew you will begin to rethink your preference. The appam was delicate and by far the best that I have eaten. There were dosas, idlis and chutneys as well, and they were fantastic. Yet, I preferred the vada curry, mushroom preparation with crispy, lachhaa Kerala parathas and coconut rice over them. For a meal that does not give you stomach problems and sweets to die for, you must try South Indies.


Haven’t you eaten the same old chocolate mousse and gajjar halwa a million times? You may not get over it, but you have to try yummy payasam and sweet made with potatoes with pumpkin halwa. It is unique, tasty and perfect. With the flair bartending mixing trick of filter coffee by the server the afternoon ended quite pleasantly. So, what are you waiting for Punekars? You have the passion for food and an appetite for searching something new. I bet, this is a menu you can’t memorise but that which you will remember. Go ahead, you will love it!

That Thing about this place is that it is a breath of fresh air from the same old menus where you don’t need to read the menu to place the order. This place is fashionably touching your Indian cords.

Ambience: Very Good 8/10
Value for Money: Very Good 8/10
Menu: Very Good 8/10
Service: Excellent 9/10
Food: Excellent 9/10
That Thing About This Place: Excellent 9/10

Very Good Ambience + Very Good Value for Money + Very Good Menu + Excellent Service + Excellent Food + Excellent That Thing About This Place = Excellent

Rating : 8.5/ 10

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eggless Pumpkin Pie

Let’s just say, that I did not overstuff the blender while making this lovely pie, and let’s just say that my sister’s books, her favourite bag were not ruined, and then we can call this the perfect Thanksgiving story. After all that’s what Thanksgiving is for, giving thanks that she hasn’t planned her revenge yet. This is an eggless, Pumpkin pie. It’s as delicious as the traditional thanksgiving pumpkin pie.


For the base/ Simple Eggless Pumpkin Pie Crust

Refined Flour 180g
Powdered Sugar 60g
Baking Powder a pinch
Butter 50g (Vegans can use nut-based margarine)
Cold Water a few drops

For the Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin 350g
Tofu 100g
Powdered Sugar 60g
Cinnamon ½ inch piece
Milk to blend

Method:

Preheat the oven to 190 degree Celsius.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and sugar together. Rub the butter into the flour mixture. Bring the mixture together into dough, sprinkle a few drops of chilled water and bind the mixture. Chill it for twenty minutes in the refrigerator.

Divide the mixture into equal halves. Roll out one half into a round the size of the base of the pie mould. Use the other half to line the sides of the pie mould. Prick the base with a fork. Bake the crust for twelve to fifteen minutes, until the inside of the pie crust is cooked.

To make the filling, boil cut pieces of pumpkin in water. Once the pumpkin is cooked and squishy, peel them. In the blender, add in pumpkin, sugar, tofu, cinnamon and blend it into a smooth mixture. Add a little milk if the mixture is too thick to blend properly.

Fill the pie crust with pumpkin mixture completely. Bake for forty to fifty minutes, till the pie sets. Allow it to cool for thirty minutes before serving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

When You Can’t Stop Greening! Mia Cucina

Name: Mia Cucina

Location: Seven Bungalows, Andheri West
Contact: 022 – 42414000/ 01/ 02, 9833481410
Date of Visit: 19th November, 2011 [Dinner]

Graze more, Herbivores! There wasn’t a better time to go green. You’ll love the vegetarian trend if you’ve tried good Italian. Mia Cucina makes it so much easier for those Mumbaikars who want to turn vegetarian. Meat or no meat hardly matters, pick the creamy and cheesy or the fresh and aromatic basil pastas, you’ll love them all. Don’t get me wrong, Mia Cucina does serve all kinds of meat, seafood and poultry but the vegetarians won’t be complaining. The Seven bungalows branch that I visited last evening is a small place with very comfortable and casual seatting. The big round lamps outside with the wooden furniture has always made for the outside dining being the preferred option by me. Although with the glass overlooking the outside, the inside seating looks spacious.   
I have had a hard time giving up non-vegetarian food for forty days, a little abstinence for my mother. Scanning menus takes much longer and options are fewer. While eating Indian, I crave kebabs when I am eating paneer. So picking out the perfect place, where vegetarianism wouldn’t seem like such a compromise was tough. So, I picked Italian, you can’t complain about no meat when there is enough cheese on your plate. Creamy pastas and risottos are great but frankly I am a huge fan of Spaghetti Arabiatta made with fresh tomatoes and sweet basil, aromatic, tangy and perfect. 

The menu design of mia cucina is by far one of the most interesting menu concepts that I have come across, written like a little child’s notebook. There were too many options, many of which were similar. The inclusion on sun dried tomato based sauces wasn’t appealing; isn’t Italian about fresh, tangy tomatoes?   I wasn’t in the mood to order something that I can dish out in my kitchen, so, I picked the spinach and goat cheese risotto. My server recommended it and the description was very pleasing. I bet he has tried that risotto, to recommend it with such surety. 

The staff was prompt in bringing to our tables, the Spaghetti in creamy basil pesto, the tagliatelle in spinach and provolone cheese (this one with chicken) and the spinach and goat cheese risotto. As the proud selector of the best dish at the table, I would like to tell you that the strong flavour of goat cheese with spinach in moist, creamy risotto, just rolled and danced in my mouth, I loved it so much, it just slipped into my throat and I wish I hadn’t swallowed. I was satiated yet heart broken to see my empty plate. The tagliatelle was delicious too, but nonetheless, the provolone cheese had to accept his defeat before the robust flavour of goat cheese. 
The basil pesto was disappointing. I have been to mia cucina several times, yet the pesto seemed literally watered down. Not creamy enough, or thick enough, not flavourful enough, the pasta did not hold the pesto, making something so simple, very disappointing. I did not have “dolci” last evening, hang me, but I did steal a glance or two of the desserts at the other tables and Oh my God! Is all I have to say.
That Thing About This Place: Warm, welcoming and comforting this place and the food.   
Ambience: 8/10 Very Good                                                                                                                                             
Value For Money: 8/10 Very Good                                                                                          
Menu: 8/10 Very Good                                                                                                                                                            Food: 8.5/10 Very Good                                                                                                                                         
Service: 8/10 Very Good                                                                                                                                            
That Thing About this Place: 7/10 Good
Very Good Ambience + Very Good Value for Money+ Very Good Menu+ Very Good Food + Very Good Service+ Good That Thing About This place= Very Good
Rating: 8 on Ten

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When Asians Met Pesto


The real pesto is a classic Italian sauce made with pine-nuts, garlic, basil, parmigiano regiano and a little cream can be used to blend into a smooth mixture. So, I was having fun with pesto and decided to give it an Asian twist. I have used all the ingredients that are commonly found in Asian markets and grocery stores. It was a fun experiment, tastes surprisingly unique and delicious.


Asian Peanut Pesto – for 1 cup

Ingredients:
Peanuts, peeled ¼ cup
Garlic, peeled 4 cloves
Basil a handful (You can use sweet basil or Holy Basil [Tulsi leaves])
Processed Cheese, grated (preferably Parmesan cheese) ½ cup
Coconut Milk ½ cup

Method:
Add the peanuts, garlic, basil, cheese and coconut milk in a blender jar. Blend all the ingredients together. Make a smooth paste.
You can use peanut pesto with grilled or boiled potato/ Boil pasta to al dente, drain out the excess water and mix in the pesto/ Use it in soups or sandwiches.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Creamy Creamy Kukkad! Keep it Coming

Name: Pratap's The Dhaba
Location: Link Plaza, Oshiwara
Contact: 022 – 263222323
Date of Visit: 1st October, 2011 [Dinner]

Yummm..mmy. Go to this Dhaba and try out their Chawla’s Special chicken. You will not want to stop eating and probably not need a finger bowl as well, if like me you end up licking your fingers clean. When I think about it, the taste of that creamy chicken gravy is still lingering in my imagination. I would love to try my hand at making it one day, but don’t worry I don’t think I will be able to unleash the mystery behind this Chawla’s special recipe. I think I will have to bribe the chef for that.



Ambience
I have just one word, strange. They have tried really hard to bring the Punjab ka Gaon and Dhaba feel in the chaos of Mumbai city. The owners’ attempt makes the place look strange in a lot of ways. They have these statue figures in a village like setting which makes it look different but not appealing. The seating is traditional, with woven cots and bolsters and lanterns to light up the outside seating area. The inside seating area is regular and a little cramped up.

Value For Money
In this side of the city, with good food, decent ambience, the food was very reasonable. This is a fairly inexpensive and a very affordable place. I noticed a lot of families and groups with little children, also seated around us.

Menu
The menu, just like the ambience, is strange. It is a wooden board shaped like a flag, it is meant to be user friendly, but its not. It is really difficult to handle this menu. The list of items is short and precise. The menu does not include similar looking items, with the same taste and curry but different names. It is very direct and simple.

Food
We ordered both Chef’s specials along with butter Naan. The Chawla’s special chicken in a creamy white sauce was awesome. The creamy, white gravy was full of flavour and had a distinct combination of spices that gave it a very unique and memorable flavour. Being creamy, it did not have the slightest tinge of sweetness in flavour. The other special on the list Kukkad Bawarchi Di Pasand, was not really so special. It was good but not great and certainly not comparable with the Chawla’s special curry.

 It was a masaledar brown gravy chicken but I can say it got overshadowed by the sheer perfection of the other chawla's special. The makhani dal was really creamy, and cream was all I could taste really, so yes, it tasted good but I think it was more the magic of the cream than the chef. I would prefer dal with a little less cream, so that I can get the flavour of spices in it and the texture of the dal. The accompaniments served along were very interesting, an onion punched in the centre sprinkled with some chaat masala and some pickled garlic and green chillies. The Phirni was nice, but there was no real fragrance or flavour in it to make it stand out in any way. 

Service
The restaurant was really busy and the servers did pay attention to our table. There were times when we struggled to get their attention but over all they were courteous and attentive. They did underestimate our appetite a little, he told us that six naans would be sufficient for five of us seated at the table. I think we ordered about ten naans in all, if not more. I guess we really loved their chicken curry.

That Thing About This place
The Chawla’s Special chicken, you must try it out.

Ambience: 7/10 Good
Value For Money: 8/10 Very Good
Menu: 7/10 Good
Food: 8.5/10 Very Good
Service: 8/10 Very Good
That Thing About this Place: 8/10 Very Good
Good Ambience + Very Good Value for Money+ Good Menu+ Very Good Food + Very Good Service+ Very Good That Thing About This place= Good
Rating: 8 on Ten

Can You See That Hole In My Pocket? Oh No, It Is Only Visible To The Chef Then.


Name: The Earth Plate, Sahara Star
Location: The Earth plate, Domestic Airport, Santacruz
Contact: 022 – 39895000
Date of Visit: 28th September, 2011 [Dinner]


I don’t mind having a chicken sandwich which is only okay for a hundred odd bucks at a café around the corner but if you are going to charge me over six hundred bucks for a chicken sandwich at a fancy restaurant, then that sandwich better be terrific. ‘Only okay’ Sandwich is not good enough. I know you are thinking that the location of Sahara Star is just perfect, a decent place so close to the airport. The ambience compensates for the ordinary taste of the sandwich and the gorgonzola cheese pasta that I ordered, but food matters, after all that is what I am really paying for.  My wallet won’t let me forget about it which means my tongue should remember it too. I will go again to this place because it is decent place to meet someone visiting from out of town for a couple of hours and the ambience is alright.



Ambience
In comparison with other restaurants of its kind, the style is chic and contemporary. The setting of this place is not planned well. I believe that whoever placed the tables did not consider the spacing between the tables. To go over to my place on the sofa, I had to be careful not to fall into the lap of the man sitting on the next table. The tables were placed really close together and it was hard to have a private conversation with my father, who was visiting on that day. Most of the diners in the restaurant seemed like business folks. I was seated in a section opposite the non vegetarian buffet spread. This section was separate from the main seating area and comparatively more private. 

Value For Money
Most of the other food joints located close to the domestic airport are highly over priced. The coffee shop of Sahara Star is way better in terms of service, ambience and value for money. I have visited this restaurant on weekdays and weekends and it is always full. Other restaurants in this category have a more considerate staff, better tasting food and ambience. The only unique selling point of Sahara Star is its fantastic location and monopoly to a certain extent, being among the only good hotels in the vicinity of domestic airport.

Menu
The ala carte menu is not very extravagant. It has a short list of items. They tend to promote their buffet more. That is quite suitable, considering that most of the guests are business folks and might not always have the luxury to wait for an ala carte order to be prepared. The buffet had a range of items and cuisines to choose from. It looked good but not very extravagant. A few Indian dishes, some oriental and fewer continental main course dishes. The salads and appetiser selection had a wide variety to choose from.

Food

Disappointing, is the only way I can describe the food in Sahara Star. I have eaten sandwiches while working in some of the Mumbai five star hotels and they always have something really special about the way they prepare those sandwiches, there is that secret ingredient that gives a simple chicken sandwich the X factor. That X factor which makes that sandwich worth the money. The chicken sandwich in Namak was worse than in many of the city’s ordinary stand alone cafés.

Imagine potato pasta in a creamy blue cheese sauce, do you see the picture in your head? Doesn’t the description just seduce you? I was already imagining the robust taste of gorgonzola, creamy and flavourful like silk, rolling in my mouth with the soft potato pasta. Well, the pasta wasn’t soft, the sauce not silky and for the flavour, I would be able to tell had the Chef remembered to add salt in his preparation. I have tasted gorgonzola cheese innumerable times and believe me, that was not it. I appreciate subtle flavours, and I agree that cheesy dishes do not often need salt. But call the Chef and make him taste this, do you think this pasta has any flavour? I mean, this dish made me really angry. Do you take your customers for a fool to offer them this? Just because you have a fancy set up, you won’t care about what you serve, is that it? I really think that the chefs and staff of Sahara Star should taste their ‘subtle’ flavours and the meals that other hotels in the same category serve and see the difference for themselves.



Service
I don’t know whether the staff members of this place are complacent or just plain rude. I believe that the restaurant is too full, all the time, so, they don’t care what the customers think of their behaviour. It seems to me like they are doing us a favour by taking the order. They don’t even bare a smile on their face to greet the customer. I mean that the treatment of the staff could actually ruin your mood, so steer clear. They are always too full and therefore too busy to serve you. It is a struggle to get the attention of the staff in The Earth Plate. It is a simple rule with a restaurants service staff, if you don’t listen, you are no good.

That Thing About This Place
There is nothing about this place, practically speaking, in terms of food, ambience or service. If there is one thing why this coffee shop does well, is only because of their location. Clearly, the staff of Sahara Star thinks that they can afford to be mediocre.

Ambience: 6.5/10 Good
Value For Money: 7/10 Good
Menu: 7/10 Good
Food: 6/10 Good
Service: 6.5/10 Good
That Thing About this Place: 7/10 Good
Good Ambience + Good Value for Money+ Good Menu+ Good Food + Good Service+ That Thing About This place= Good
Rating: 6 on Ten

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dum- A-Dum Mast Biryani ; Have You Tried Matka Biryani?


Vegetarians or temporary vegetarians during Navratri, put your hands together for Dum-A Dum Biryani. Finally, a yummy biryani for the vegetarians, don’t be misled by the word, This Place serves the most awesome vegetarian food ever. I only tasted vegetarian food and actually ate up all of the Matka Biryani. Why?


My cousin brother, Manas and I, during Navratri, treat our yummy murgi (chicken) as the forbidden fruit that Adam wanted to taste. Manas and I are like the greedy twins we cannot resist any type of food and more so, non vegetarian food. The worst case scenario, tell us that NON Vegetarian Food is out of limits and we will pounce on every person tasting the slightest bit of Murgi. You cannot imagine how we count the nine days of Navratri as they pass by so we can stuff ourselves with murgi again. Gluttony I tell you!

The weekend before Navratri is like a big occasion, a non vegetarian eating fest, if I may say so, for and Manas. Even if we are not together we make sure to grab to that yummy tangdi or that oh-so-gorgeous chicken biryani. This weekend I went for a Biryani that I have mentioned to you earlier and have been anticipating it for weeks now. I couldn’t help it, the advertisement looked so delicious, I could dive right into it. Yes, I am talking about the Dum-A-Dum Biryani. This is a new place that has opened up a little ahead of Pune University Circle towards Baner.

We tried the Paneer Matar, the vegetarian biryani and chicken Dum Biryani on one occasion and Matka Biryani and Paneer Makhani on the other. One thing was common both times we picked up food from Dum-A-Dum their behaviour was very good and their food was fresh and delicious. What else do you want? Ambience? Well, it is a small place right now, but it is bright and pleasant but they don’t have much seating arrangement in the two outlets. One outlet is near Bhujpal Dairy, Sakal Nagar Gate 1 in Aundh and the other is on Baner Pashan Link Road, near Orange County, and yes I am greedy so I have tried both. The menu is precise with a short list of items but they prepare each one well.

My sister, Stuti is a non vegetarian yet she liked the vegetarian biryani more. Can you believe how good that vegetarian biryani must have been? Most biryani places specialise in Chicken and mutton Biryanis and ignore the vegetarian biryani. Even in Hyderabad, the Chicken biryani is awesome but the vegetarian aloo biryani is only okay in its comparison. Dum-A-Dum has the best Vegetarian Biryani you might try. The best part of the Biryani and the Paneer preparations is that the paneer is so soft that it literally melts in you mouth. That is what makes their vegetarian food so good, the freshness of the veggies and the smell of the spices.


Now, for the Chicken Biryani; Dum biryani was delicious with the sweet aroma of spices and you ought to try it out, yet, I was more excited about the concept of Matka Biryani. I have never had a Matka biryani in Pune city, have you? We got a take away and yet the Matka Biryani was even parcelled as it was, in a matka for us to take it home. I was really excited and my enthusiasm was totally worth it. The succulent chicken, the spiced rice with the mesmerising scent of the rice and the spices and yet, it was not a spicy biryani, it was very flavourful and yet the spice was subtle. You don’t need to run for a glass of water during your meal. The rice was nicely mixed with the masala and there was no need for an extra curry or anything. This dish was complete on its own. Now, it is very rude to compare it with Lucknow or Hyderabad Ki Biryani. These guys are experts in Pune city, I have tried Nile and everything, but this by far is the best bniryani available in Pune city, as on date. That thing about this place is the fresh ingredients, fresh and flavourful food.



Ambience: Not Applicable
Value for Money: 8.5/10 Very Good
Menu: 7/10 Good
Food: 8.5/10 Very Good
Service: 8.5/10 Very good
That Thing About This Place: 9/10 Excellent
Very Good Value For Money + Good Menu + Very Good Food + Very Good Service + Excellent That Thing About This Place = Very Good
Rating = 8 on Ten

Friday, September 23, 2011

How To Make Mayonnaise at Home and How to Correct Curdled Mayonnaise?

Mayonnaise


Ingredients

Egg (Yolk) 1 no.

Mustard Paste 1 teaspoon

Lemon, juice (You can use vinegar) 1 teaspoon

Salt to taste

Pepper Powder to taste

Vegetable Oil 120ml or ½ cup

Method:

Make mayonnaise in a cool, dry place.

In a clean, dry wide bowl add in the egg yolk, mustard paste, lemon juice, salt, pepper and whisk them.

Begin add in the oil, one teaspoon at a time and whish thoroughly.

Add in the oil teaspoon by teaspoon and whisk constantly.

Do not add the oil all together, this will curdle the mixture.

If the mayonnaise curdles, you can correct it following any of these methods:

  1. Take a new, clean and fresh bowl, make fresh mayonnaise and add in the curdled mayonnaise to it little by little, whisk it in to correct the mayonnaise.
  2. If the mayonnaise has just begun to curdle, then you can add in some more lemon juice and whisk to correct it.

To prevent the mayo from curdling make sure that the vessel is clean and the temperature of the vessel or the surrounding area is not high.