Lent with Lentils 

 It’s the first of forty. Days when one resists the temptations of sin, prays and abstains from all forms of luxuries as an offer form of penance. It’s Lent. While most of us are reeling in from the fun and frolic of the Carnaval that went by, I find myself in a rather precarious position at the start of this holy month. In Singapore for work, and my abstinence in the form of an autocratic and totalitarian option of vegetarian meals is an interesting story in itself. A confluence and blend of cultures and a stirring hotspot of multiple nationalities – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesia and Western influences, the food is diverse. Many lip smacking; mouth-watering dishes surround you as you enter China town- much like the temptations of Christ’s walk in the desert for 40 days and nights being tempted by the devil himself- my grandmothers bedtime story version, may her soul rest in peace. 

Focusing on food as one item to abstain from, its rather difficult when one gets an aromatic whiff of pork and mutton skewers being chargrilled by the roadside not to mention a leaner option in the steamed chicken rice cooked in chicken stock and the Hard shell chilli crabs with that taste bud tickler of a Katong laksa- rice noodles in spicy coconut curry soup with shrimp, fish cakes, egg and chicken meat!

However this is not about any of the above. It’s an account of a weak willed admitter to a world of gastronomic carnal sin- a food survival guide in Singapore. After some soul searching, I stumble upon Whole Earth- a Michelin BIB Gourmand Award winner in the heart of the city. An interesting concept much like the Trick eye museum of Sentosa where one gets to challenge and bend their imagination. What if I told you I ordered the Handmade Honey Ribs. First reactions, people. Blasphemy!! Sacrilege, Ill never get into the pearly white gates now. Quite the sinner, huh? However this is one their masterpiece creations with a myriad of ingredients including monkey head & shitake mushrooms, quite the Indiana jones version with lotus root, individually hand rolled to perfection and glazed in harmony with a delightful blend of honey sauce. MY conundrum has never been about the food, rather what can be consumed by one and all. That’s where the devil lies- finding the protein in everything I eat, given the strenuous workouts and heavy energy laden activities one has to endure as a traveller. 

Enter the holy trinity of super foods that I have come to depend on especially in times like these. Why lazy? Seeds, yes like a bird- including flax, chia, sesame, and sunflower, are packed with protein and “good” fats with a nutty taste to them, with flax being more prominent. Both flax and chia seeds contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. These are available in a myriad of flavors and allow me to ditch the potato chip packets as a snack in between meals. Next is the Beans & Legumes. The combination of beans and rice make for a great complete protein. Beans and lentils, of course, also provide you with the necessary carbohydrate aspects for overall sustenance.

 The trifecta ends with another Super seed. In 2013, the UN declared and dedicated an entire year to this seed. Quinoa. A complete protein, it consists of all nine of the essential amino acids the body can’t always produce on its own. Also look at the abundance in variety. Did you know? There are over 120 varieties of quinoa! Here’s one of my easy to make preparations- the Pineapple Fried Quinoa. All you need is 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, 2 cups water, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1 medium finely chopped onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced ginger, 1.5 teaspoons dried red chili pepper flakes, 3/4 cup peas, 1 diced red, 1.5 cups of fresh pineapple and you are ready to go. This is a great family snack and serves 4. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Set aside and cover it for 10 minutes. Add the coconut oil to a pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the peas, bell pepper, and pineapple, and cook over high-heat for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pineapple just starts to caramelize. Add in the cooked quinoa, liquid and some cilantro for extra zing. Mix well and cook for an additional minute and voila. 

Till we meet next, have a blessed season.

 

 

 

 

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Goa Garnishes Upper Crust in the latest edition! 

Read all about the quarterly round up of restaurant showcases in and around Goa- from Far East Asian Cuisine to Mediterranean Nostaligia in the latest edition of Upper Crust. Grab your copy today. 

Miguel Arcanjo: Dining with Legend

Taj Exotica, Calwaddo, Salcete, Benaulim, Goa 403716 Phone:0832 668 3333 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.2000/- + taxes

Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends.”- Legends of the Falls. 

Touted as one of the most exclusive restaurants in Goa named after the maestro first Indian executive chef in 1939 at the Taj Mahal Mumbai- this restaurant is an ode to his legacy. A place by reservation and exclusively dedicated to the art of pampering, this establishment is situated on the lobby level of the Taj Exotica. Stately refined with an aura of luxury, a fountain in the center for company- one gazes at the open interactive kitchen set against bay windows in the distance. This is a perfect destination of special moments and events. 

A choice of air conditioned comfort during the day one can opt for sitting in the verandah overlooking acres of lush green lawns, the restaurant provides a perfect arena for the maestro’s gastronomic delights that have been painstakingly researched and restored by the chefs. Start off with the Forest mushroom cappuccino with drizzled truffle oil to get the meal underway and carry in tune with the chef’s interpretation of Masci’s favourite preparation- the Chicken Liver pate en encroute with toasted brioche and garnitures. 

The Chorizo de Goa was a beautiful mélange of cured pork sausages with a delicate infusion in a croquette and phyllo chorizo parcel and a carefully balanced Chorizo terrine cake. For a more Mediterranean flavor- try the Atlantic Black Cod which lays claim to the experimentalist ahead of his time in the way Masci would blend flavors to create a ‘Nouveau’ experience for his diners. Fish baked with fermented soybean, wilted young spinach with a brush of stewed rhubarb soy soil and lemon balm. 

For the dessert lover in you, we would recommend a spectacle the folks at the restaurant lovingly call the ‘Grand Dessert Opera’. A sinful interactive play of swirls and whirls- raspberry, chocolate and dried fruits. Wait for the end, it sure will get a response out of you.

 Koi : The Art of Zen on a plate

Gauravaddo, Behind Snip Salon, Calangute, Goa 403515 Phone: +91 98118 25551 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.1300/- + taxes

 Named after the enchanted fish – the koi, that swims across many waters of Asia, Shefali Gandhi & Aziz Lalani, have conceptualized a ‘style’ of dining that many may wish to experience. The Art of Zen on a plate as referred, the duo has endeavored to capture the tantalizing flavors of Far East Asian cuisine with interpretations of delicacies from Vietnam, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, to name a few.

 Enter the Jade walls that compliment herringbone styled floors, the Buddha bust sets the mood for a perfect fine dine setting and allow them to you’re your mind of ‘expectations’. Start off your evening in style at the Martini bar with a wide array of signature Martini cocktails that would appease anyone fancies. The Silver Bullet Martini is a showcase with a cooled stirred martini poured over a Mont Blanc pen in a frosted glass. 

For the mains- the signature lies in the Burmese khow-suey and is a meal in itself. A slice of Japan makes way in the sashimi and sushi counter. Or simply indulge yourself in the Korean pork ribs succulently marinated to perfection, a gastronomic treat indeed. One of the only standalone fine dining restaurants, to host a Teppanyaki counter, do try the theatrical experience in the ‘Seven Deadly sins’. 

 This is Supper Theatre Live with a special 7-course menu curated by Shefali Gandhi and seats 8 by reservation only. We were amazed to bear witness to old school traditions in the Gueridon trolley for their signature Mandarin flambee crepe dessert that signed off the evening with aplomb.

 

 Sheela’s: A Landmark in Goan cuisine

Opposite St Jacinto Island, Sancoale, 403710 Phone: 0832 2555675/ +91 9049158277 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.900/- + taxes

 This story dates back nearly three decades when Nicolua D’Souza, a tailor by profession, started this venture. It had begun as a simple styled ‘taverna’ where the lady of the house Luiza would cook for the locals who worked on the barges in the vicinity. 

Today that very ‘taverna’ is a landmark thronged by a line of cars parked on either sides of the rode opposite the picturesque St.Jacinto Island. Run by Sylvester D’Souza, the proprietor’s son and in its 28th year of operation, the buzz is still alive with customers waiting for a quick meal before they head off to catch their flight.

The restaurant has two sides for seating but one has to sit on the deck to view the scenic beauty of the river. During lunch, waiters scurry around with moderately priced thalis, the local lunch favorite. We asked for the signatures, which were highly recommended and we were not disappointed. 

For starters the Chonak Raechade Masala (local goan fish) and Sylvester’s famous Stuffed Crabs. These are alive and snapping when brought to the table for one’s selection. A seafood lovers haven with the daily produce being hauled off the trawler live and fresh, the Rawa fried prawns go well as finger food snacks and the portions are wholesome. The seasonal Fried Bombay duck (bombil) is a crowd favorite with portions selling out and ordered from the morning by local patrons. 

If however the old favorites tickle your palate, order the Xacutti with Goan bread. We tried something unique in a special chicken preparation made by Luize, ‘Chicken Luizmarie’ with a three-flavor masala. It goes famously well with drinks and is highly recommended. 

Dinners are popular, the view out there is so impressive, especially in the night when the church across on the island is lit and its reflection is mirrored in the water.

Baba’s Wood Café ‘Da Maria’ : Ciao Goa

Shruti Resort, Next to Little Italy, Gaurowaddo Holiday Street, Calangute, 403516 Phone: +91 7264946643 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.1500/- all-inclusive sans alcohol

 An oasis of calm on one of the most bustling streets of Goa, would be the best way to describe this restaurant. Off the main road of the ever-crowded Holiday Street in Calangute, Maria Grazia has brought a little piece of Italy to Goa with her ‘unique’ flavors of Italia cuisine. A quaint ‘trattoria’ styled establishment in an open courtyard fringed with palms with a small pool that catches the reflection of the canopy of stars overhead is calm and borderline unnerving as the silence deafens ones senses despite the fact that this is one area patronized by the boisterous holiday maker. 

An inner area showcases apparel on display, the warmth of the lighting and the slatted tables on the cobbled floor. Its warm, its cozy and it bears the ‘Da Maria’ stamp. The menu is true blue Italian with a wide variety of soups, starters, pizzas, pastas and salads to choose from. Start off with the all time Margarita, Salmon and sour cream thin crusted 13” wood fire pizza baked in the kiln in the courtyard. 

Follow through with the Parmigiana- aubergine with basil Parmesan and tomato sauce. For the carnivore in you look no further than the Beef Carpaccio- delicately shaved and thinly sliced with rocket salad and pomegranate spelling heaven on a plate. With a slight nip due to a cold dewy night, we requested for a bowl of hot soup. Maria in her Italian affable nature suggests the Mushroom soup with croutons, which became our flavor for the night. Mind you the portions are huge and filling and can easily be shared. 

The Spaghetti a la Carbonara will be served with a warning chide by Maria stating that it has to be consumed in under ten minutes flat to avoid it becoming like bubble gum. This is an old favorite and has her signature attached to it since inception. The desserts are urban legend and have patrons travel from afar to sample the Afogata al Café or whisky version for the proverbial nightcap. 

A must have with the home made gelato on offer. A multitude of varieties to choose from she recommends the hazelnut. The Eat and drink desert ‘Copa Mangiabevi’ a fruit salad-brandy-ice-cream concoction or the seasonal Strawberry tiramisu are some specialties on offer that would wish you hadn’t had such a heavy meal an hour earlier. ‘Da Maria’ is sure to appeal ones senses.

 

 

 

 

Bullet for my Valentine 


This has nothing to do with the popular rock band or for that matter me taking a bullet for my Valentine in a metaphorical manner of speaking. Valentine’s Day is quite the bat signal in Gotham for the likes of a bachelor. A precarious time for singles out there. The perilous questions one has to dodge of getting ‘too serious’ or for that matter ‘having the talk’ of where relationships go in general.
 My advice to avoid this entire drama- fly far away, meet a lovely lady in Andhra Pradesh-visiting 6th century undiscovered caves and ask her if she’s busy for the evening. No she wasn’t Lady Lara Croft though that fantasy still remains in at the top of my travel list. Ladies love adventure. So when a wanderer on a ‘bullet’ (read Royal Enfield), comes along with a camera and a penchant to cook a meal, it’s a surety that one is not meant to be alone this day.

 The menu for dinner was working up the local flavors of the region to give her a taste of the state. Going ‘glocal’ for the global traveller. A gracious friend and foodie willingly allowed me to use his kitchen for this feat. Keeping in sync with the theme, I started out with a salad signifying the color ‘red’. Beetroot Thoran also known as ‘poriyal’ in the south of Andhra is an Ayurveda recipe with a 180 calorie count serving that requires 2 cups of grated beetroot, 4 tsp of grated coconut, 1 sprig curry leaves, 2 chopped green chilies, ¼ tsp mustard, ½ tsp cumin, 1 tsp urad dal, 1 tsp fresh grated ginger, 1 garlic clove crushed, 1/8 tsp turmeric and salt and oil as needed for additional taste. Heat a little oil in the pan, I normally use coconut for its health properties and add mustard and cumin and allow them to crackle. Add ginger,green chillies and curry leaves post and fry till the ginger gives you that flavorsome taste. Add the dals, red chillies and garlic cloves. Fry until the dal is golden brown. Add the grated beets and turmeric and sauté till lightly cooked. To speed up the process cover the pan. Add the grated coconut and fry for about 2-3 minutes and serve. It makes for a great salad option and can be had plain though locals prefer it with rice or chapatti.

 As a starter option, Miss Croft wanted to help and participate. Cooking together does add spice to any equation. All you men reading this, try it at home with your ‘better half’. It makes you a rather dishy offering to your respective partner. Obviously groceries were an issue with my friend not having had the time to shop. A cabbage at the far corner of the kitchen had me work up a Cabbage vada.

 Vada or vadai is a deep fried snack made from ground lentils that make for the perfect snack. Here’s what you need. ¾ cup chana dal, 2 /1/2 cups finely chopped cabbage, 1 tsp ginger paste, 1tsp garam masala, ¼ tsp red chili power, a handful of mint and coriander leaves, 2 green chilies chopped, 2 tsp rice flour (you can use more depending on the quantity you wish to make. This serves 10-12 vadas) and salt as needed.

Wash and soak the chana dal for 1.5 hours and drain completely. Cut the cabbage in quarters and dip them in hot water and leave for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well and shred the cabbge into very small size bits. Mix with coriander leaves, salt, green chilies, the dal, curry leaves and pulse the remaining chana dal to a coarse mixture without adding any water. Add this to the cabbage mixture along with garam masala and red chili powder. Mix well and set aside for 10 minutes. Add 2 tsp of rice flour to the mix. Take a small portion of this mixture and check if it can be formed into a ball. It has to bind well or else add another tsp of flour and mix. Post which fry until golden brown and drain with kitchen tissues before serving for excess oil. In all honesty, the vadas did burn a little but even if I served her haggis at that time, she would have scored a 10 for effort.

I cheated on a fruit dessert with Figs. Also known as the forbidden fruit, it’s filled with antioxidants, flavonoids, fiber and potassium. Cleopatra couldn’t have enough of it, and the Greeks consider it sacred associated with love and fertility.

So men, the moral of the story lies in your ladle. Start cooking now.