Monday Blues Aboard the Royale? LOL 

I could have been a standup comedian- had I managed to remember my lines on stage amidst the constant glare of a beaming light (much like that of an interrogation room) shining right at me for the duration of the act. Alas, all said and done I decided to do the next best thing and be their muse sitting in the front row getting picked on like scavengers for morsels of scraps and enjoying every moment of it. 

A Mundane ‘Moanday’ is something many a folk associate with- even in the sunny state of Goa. Yes people actually work here! (much to others surprise) Back in Mumbai, I used to wait in anticipation for the weekend; apart from some R&R and the familiar bike cruise up and down marine drive and chowpatty at 2am in the morning I used to keep an eye for the theatre and standup acts that happen around the city. This is something Goa is sorely missing (don’t get me wrong we have our tiatrs and cultural festivals in splendour and pomp and quite the fan following but a good play or a classic standup is something far and few) and thanks to the folks @thedeltinlife, Deltin Royale has a classic line up of rib tickling slapstick in your face comedy acts that give you ‘lock jaw’ syndrome with the LOL Monday’s 

Now I know your all especially in Goa must be rolling your eyes in blasphemy with the mention of a casino here. Trust me it’s my second time aboard and I’ve had a wonderful experience so far. I had the privilege of being ‘placed’ on the front row seats to the jib of Sorabh Pant who had a field day at my expense till his eyes gazed upon the Marwadi ladies next to me who became his muse for the rest of the evening. From anecdotes ranging from politics to marriage it was a hilarious affair indeed. Angad Singh with his all so familiar Sardar twang got people in rollicking splits especially with his relationship advice of a newly committed gent. Yes i used the word ‘committed’ on prupose. Much like ones voluntary commitment to an hour with the Joker. 

Imagine a floating world where you stand a chance to win an IPhone 6 every hour, treat yourself to some amazing chaat while your at it and be entertained ever so with free alcohol to make the non comic a believer of that effervescent pearly white smile. It’s a win win for all. Please put your laughing ‘pant’s on. (No pun intended Sohrab.)

With season one coming to an end I am looking forward with gusto to Season two. 

Standup and head there peeps.

 It’s something you don’t want to miss. 

Season One Finale Lineup   Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

The Emperors new suite 

Flashback to 6.00 a.m. in Bangkok, I wait for a bus to go home, from a night about town. At the corner of my blurry eye – a push cart in front of the bus station. I keep my head low and wait patiently for the transport to arrive. Not today, I remind myself. An hour later I  arrive at my destination, and there it is again, in the stalls around my building. I frantically ignore it and head to bed. Once awake, the urge for consumption leaves places to devour an entire giraffe. 

Its 2p.m. I glance through my curtain and get enticed by the sweet aroma emitted from the stall below. That all so familiar taste of spice from the pad kra pao gai. Present Day: Just like that, in the sleepy by lanes of Goa, lies Deltin Suites with their hidden gem – The Emperor cooking up a scintillating, elaborate Thai inspired pan Asian cuisine to transport one to the bustling streets of Bangkok. This dish is a contender for the most popular, and the most beloved street food dish in ALL of Thai cuisine. In Thailand it’s available and eaten everywhere.

You know sometimes when you go to a restaurant and you have no idea what to order, or even what you want to eat? When that happens in Thailand, pad kra pao gai (with chicken), or any type of meat stir fried with Thai holy basil, is a dish that comes to the rescue. Flavors respond immediately as the dish reaches our table. The presentation is crisp with the fried sunny side up egg that accompanies their Thai basil chicken, better known in Thai as pad kra pao gai. Street food has only been popular since the 1960s when more Thais moved into cities to find work and eat out. This culture basically has folk eat most of the meals outside which resonates in the way this dish is presented. Crisp and compact. And that is something that the Emperor follows keeping it close to the authenticity of the dish. 

Phad kra pao gai in a crunch basket served sunny side up.  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

A Cooking Tip: Unlike mincing (which is usually done) try grinding, it really releases all the juices and oils of the chilies and garlic and it brings out an extra depth of flavor, which in  return makes the entire dish of chicken basil more vibrant, garlicky and spicy.
So the next time you wish for some good street style prep make a beeline to meet the Emperor. I am sure he would approve. 

Paradise Found 

I guess, I’m growing up. Moving away from carbonated beverages and sugar candy to a healthier lifestyle (at least thats the goal). Aerated drinks are replaced with a fine red wine or lemonade, iodized salt replaced by rock salt, the changes are steady. Growing up, I never really understood the value of a good old fashioned home cooked meal till I was away at boarding school. One never really appreciates a good thing till its scare, rather gone. And all those memories came flooding in when I visited Saraya in Sangolda (what I would later closely describe as an untouched Shangri-la in the making). 

What affirms my belief is the simple no frills attached sales pitch- home soul food cooked with love amidst nature. It gets better, the menu is entirely vegetarian and there is NO alcohol served.From the farm to the table so to speak. Now before many of you run through the door (I did initially as well) I urge you to scroll further. Before I get to my showcase piece de resistance of wholesome goodness encompassed in a plate- the type of goodness to give you goosebumps and bring a smile to your face that would put the Joker to shame, I must highlight the most awesome inspired menu from the words of the owner/chef Deeksha Thind, that struck a chord deep within. After all how does an Aloo Paratha sit comfortably on the same menu next to a mud baked wood fired oven mushroom three cheese caramelized wheat based pizza or breaded mushrooms stuffed with butter garlic cilantro & topped with cheese roll with a bruschetta made of local poi toasted with butter garlic topped with fresh basil leaves served with homemade herbed tomato sauce; all in the blink of any eye without raising a gastronomic faux pas. (try reciting that sentence in a single breath, I dare you…) If you are parched and gasping cool off with their wide array of juices that would given mixologists some food for thought such as the Lemonana (a cool freshly squeezed lemon and mint combo) or the pineapple mint. If you need something to soothe your throat do sip into their orange and ginger lemon mint juice. 

Deeksha smiles and elaborates- “all my food cooked is inspired from my kids growing up. They were my muses. Whenever they wanted something I would make them get to work on the mise en place (chopping onions to peeling potatoes everyone had to pitch in) and would get cracking on the preparation of the same. It’s all their favorites.” All the food is cooked in extra virgin olive oil and most of the veggies are organically grown in her backyard. Don’t take my word for it- the meal needs to be consumed to witness the fresh wholesome goodness each bite brings. 

Since I am the lone rider on most of my jaunts, Titli (her daughter) played gracious host to the evening amidst keeping the dogs at bay to wayward patrons who needed a quick affirmation on dining options. The dogs I assure you, are harmless and Falafal (yes thats her name) is my favorite (especially when she plays curious wannabe taster on hind legs..For all non-animal lovers, fear not – a system is being initiated wherein they assure you a dog free dining experience as an option) And right there and then, the simple concept of a utopian, bohemia- a harmonious surrounding where all elements coalesce unpretentiously is something that gets me. Like that very moment Leonardo Dicaprio finds the island in Danny Boyles ‘The Beach’, that moment when he sinks face deep into the sand, exhausted yet fulfilled.   

Apple Strudel -vanilla ice cream & homegrown mint

While Deeksha excuses us to keep an eye on the preparation of their ever evolving famous Apple Strudel; I am in dimensional deep conversation with Titli – an aspiring writer and airline pilot, wherein she elaborates the ‘ethos’ about the place. If you ask me its quite articulately captured in the way Saraya presents itself- concept wise (read quote below).

Imagine if we lived among them ; if we never cleared out those magnificent , beautiful extensions of the earth that we call trees and the entire Eco system that is sustained by them? Remember that universal dream when we were growing up ? – A TREEHOUSE !
A playground filled with mystical magical fireflies and butterflies and grasshoppers that we so innocently liked to put in old jam jars to observe – but then release when our curiosity was no more.
The years have gone by: time is but an illusion- the child in every one of us stays hidden emerging in glimpses- waiting to be unleashed, waiting to create, to travel back to those faraway lands where we “don’t let reality anchor us down. Call it ideal, utopian or just a possibility in this small aspiring community where you imagine,dream, create, and live in harmony with nature.”

– Titli Thind

The Apple Strudel the english loanword from German, is homemade wheat puff pastry (which has undergone a reinvention from readymade puff pastry used earlier) caressingly rolled around a bed of brown sugar caramelized gooey banana, topped with apple & pear with a dashes of cinnamon mixed with peanut butter and drizzled sparingly with gold and black raisins. I love the interpretations this orgasmic dish works at every single time I visit, much like candy land- the star attraction this time being the peanut butter replacing fresh strawberries and black grapes earlier (seasonal as they are).

Did you know: Traditional Hungarian, Austrian, and Czech strudel pastry is different from strudels elsewhere, which are often made from puff pastry.The traditional strudel pastry dough is very elastic.The dough is worked vigorously, rested, and then rolled out and stretched by hand very thinly with the help of a clean linen tea towel Purists say that it should be so thin that you can read a newspaper through it. A legend has it that the Austrian Emperor’s perfectionist cook decreed that it should be possible to read a love letter through it. The thin dough is laid out on a tea towel, and the filling is spread on it. The dough with the filling on top is rolled up carefully with the help of the tea towel and baked in the oven.

Be mindful of time in this place, as it has the power to arrest you and transport you into the lap of nature with nurturing home cooked food.

Dance with the butterflies till we next meet.

 

Nômoshkar..Comment ça va?

I absolutely love theme based restaurants. Not to forget my quest to learn new languages (case in point showcased in the heading above. For all those who are scurrying for a translation; it’s a Bengali dialect of the greeting derived from the Sanskrit word Namaste – simply translated to ‘the divinity within me greets the divinity within you’ and for all you French lovers I’m just asking you all- how are you?) salutations et all. 

Now when the establishment in mentions concept is based on my favourite condiment- Mustard, there is reason to hop. Dijon, beer, spicy brown deli (with horseradish), honey, hot pepper, sweet Bavarian, and French (music to ones ears and palate) holds a special reserve on my fridge shelf; smuggled as reminscent of ones travel (aside from fridge magnets of course!!) 

Nestled across the green sleepy slopes of Sangolda, comes together the perfect unison of Bengali & French cuisine for the love of all things- Mustard. After all, we know the liberal use of this condiment across both cuisines. That’s exactly it!, wherein lies my adoration for the simplicity of a concept. A theme so united from parts of the globe yet so delicately crocheted together. 

If you don’t have the inclination to head over to the quaint town of Chandannagar in Bengal (btw it’s a French colony that was established in 1673, when the French obtained permission from Ibrahim Khan, the Nawab of Bengal, to establish a trading trading post on the right bank of the Hughli River. Bengal was then a province of the Mughal Empire. For a time, it was the main centre for European commerce in Bengal) it is a must to head over to this beautifully restored old Portuguese villa in a ‘paperbox happy cookie dough’ art Parisian style theme cafe with vibrant subtle hues. For everyone else in every season there will always be Paris!! 

If you have had the privilege, to know and meet some residents from West Bengal,you would know how to be spoilt for choice ranging from affable intellectualism to gracious hosting. Well read, articulate, proud of their legacy and (by George!!) fabulous hosts. The live to eat kind, they pride their hospitality with food and know all how to add a few inches to ones bulging waste line with a smile on their face. One can never deny a serving of a Bengali host on the dinner table and live to tell that tale so joyously- they pride themselves in the art of ‘culture sharing’ through ones plate. Chef Jay Bhatt sure does take the tradition seriously at mustard and a step further (might I add) belting out the classics under his watchful eye. 

Fish is as integral part a meal as sugar to a tart for the average household in Bengal. 

Heading steady course to the theme of simplicity of two legendary cuisines, the first thing that comes to mind is the underplay of owerpowering greats- the Terrine and the Smoked Fish (simple in name, arduous in preparation) We all know of fine dining establishments filled with the razzle-dazzle of pomp and flair, much to my pleasant surprise these preparations are well plated, yet let their flavours do all the talking.

The Smoked fish steeped in history; was born aboard the steamers that plied the waters of the Padma River in undivided Bengal. It is delicately marinated in mild flavours with just a hint of mustard powder, mustard oil and smoked with puffed rice, jaggery and husk (the traditional way). This is as much a history lesson as a culinary one and the fish on plate was the Goan local- chonak. Fresh, light and flaky it melted off the fork with every serve and the after hint of mustard tickled your tastebuds for more. 

Smoked Fish
 Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

The classic terrine is forcemeat (similar to texture in pate) usually made from meat and is served cold. In France many terrines are usually made with game meat normally deer or boar (generally not eaten any other way). A twist has this classic made with local fresh kingfish served warm with onion pickle. This hit the spot. 

Kingfish Terrine  
Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

While you and your loved one decide to venture out this monsoon and are in a mood for some ‘four-play’, might I suggest an eclectic mix of cuisine (a heady mix of Bengali & French) to grace your table with some classics on offer- do try the BBQ on Fritters (work of art indeed) with some Kosha Mangsho (mutton curry) and place allowing the Rui Maacher Shorshe Jhaal (Mustard Fish).
Trust me if you have no more room to digest insist on a ‘doggy bag’. do NOT leave the restaurant without trying it (you will thank me later, trust me.)

 It is imperative to plan your meal here (especially for all you sweet tooth fairies) to keep place for dessert. Mind you as deceptive when witnessed these portions pack quite the volume and must be savoured slowly and steadily. A must have would be the Kheer Komala and the Bhapa Doi (the distant cousin of the ever popular Mishti doi). 

If you read this and decide to head on over immediately without further pause try the Steamed Mustard Eggs on toast. A breakfast item that can be had all day long. Bon appetit. 


A Grand way to start your ‘Day’ 

I warn you, the next 600 odd words you are about to feast your eyes on are pure sin. No, this is NOT an adult rated post nor 51 shades darker.However it could well easily be.

Something about the monsoons here that get people in the mood for good food and drink. I guess its got to do with the melodious waves thrashing against the shores with only you and a pink fat lady for company, amidst a clear sky for company at The Park-Goa.

A resort known to take the unconventional route on multiple occasion the team is always on the look out to introduce some cracker fusion concepts with a steadfast eye of keeping traditional flavors intact. All this and more thanks to their maestro team & Chef Sharad Dewan who made his way from Kolkata for this particular showcase event.

This delightful preparation being – Nihari in succulent Australian lamb chop with noisette potatoes.

First and foremost – I would like to deconstruct this for your reading and my comprehension; primarily since I would have never imagined this preparation in my wildest gastronomic dreams. Consider this – The most tender lamb meat in the world (Australian lamb chops are known to be) infused & stewed delicately through the elaborate preparation of Nihari- a dish known for its spiciness and mostly cooked overnight (roughly 6-8 hours of prep time- mind you),sometimes even buried underground while it is gently stewed. What would this process result in? Extremely tender morsels of meat that literally fall off the bone!!

Ever indulged yourself with some traditional Nihari? What is it,you ask? Simply put; it is slow-cooked beef or lamb along with bone marrow which is seldom garnished to taste (most of the taste lies in the meat stewed to perfection over hours) and occasionally served with cooked brain. The Nihari is garnished according to individual tastes which vary from coriander leaves, fried onions, green chillies, strips of ginger, lemons and sliced white radish.

The etymology of the word ‘Nihari’ comes from the Arabic word ‘Nahar‘, meaning day.Traditionally ‘Nihari‘ is eaten just after the morning namaaz (prayer). There are multiple legends to the origin of this fabulous dish. One story pegs its origination in Old Delhi in the late 18th century during the last throes of the Mughal Empire courtesy – the Muslim Nawab who ate it early in the morning after his prayers only to resurrect later in the noon (Yes one must bring an appetite and a pillow, for the aftermath of this preparation as it lulls you into a long slumber). Another story reveals that Nihari was cooked overnight in large volumes to be served to the laborers.During the expansion of the empire, the kings in some instances replaced coin (currency) with Nihari as a free meal and accommodation for their services.Since the work had to start in the morning, it was cooked in an earthen pot, sometimes even buried and served early to ensure the supply of an energetic workforce.

Alongside multiple legends of origin comes various cultural influences that have their signature added to the dish. I have witnessed this delectable dish in Hyderabad which comprises of lamb bones and tongue. The Nihari with multilayered kulcha (indian bread) is a famous cuisine of Old Lucknow. Another version sampled is the Nalli nihari – a variation made with the marrow of bones where one has to slurp and vacuum every scrap left with the help of your lungs and tongue. Whilst backpacking in Kashmir I gorged on Harissa- a very popular meat preparation made for breakfast in the valley,slow cooked for many hours, with spices and was painstakingly hand stirred throughout. Best be noted that Harissa has a different texture from Nihari, and is much milder in taste, however it resembles Nihari in its method of cooking and the ingredients used, much like the distant cousin you always loved more than your younger sibling.

While you demand your Nihari- and demand you must a suggestion of pure indulgence lies in their ‘Act Menu’- a handcrafted multi-course meal which would excite and titillate your senses of world cuisine masterly crafted for your dining pleasure.

Mind you the meal ain’t over till the pink fat lady sings….

Pic courtesy: The Park, Goa. 

To Banana or Bacon? that is the question 

I am on my ‘guilt weight trip’ ritual to devote some serious time to my crunches in the hope of toning up my mid rift. This happens every other quarter -wherein I decide NOT to abuse my body and focus on eating right and healthy. Even my nutritionist (yes I have one) gets on board to ensure my ‘love handles’ are handled to the best of their abilities.

Harped upon daily and constantly, about breakfast being the most important meal of the day is indeed all for good measure. However; eating right does get the better of me on multiple occasion. There is only so much ‘goodness’ I can take before I succumb to culinary ‘lust’. After almost a fortnight of eating ‘right’ – low fat yogurt with muesli and soy milk I decided to initiate protocol ‘Cheat Day’ well ahead of schedule.

I scurry over to meet a friend on the pretext of a simple ‘catch up’ – throwing a veil of deceit over my nutritionists eyes (did I feel guilty? Let’s leave it at melancholy) Of course the real reason was to sample what was cooking in her culinary mastermind. It’s theraputic, knowing the creative process of friends such as Vandana, who runs a lovely cafe -Cafe Bodega in the heart of an art gallery- Sunaparanta- in an old Portuguese house with a courtyard. The atmosphere so tranquil, one could lose track of time along with such an efficacious personality – bubbly and brimming with ideas all from the world of good food.

Known for my love of waffles,(I pride myself in sampling the likes of the Belgian, Liege (Eastern Belgium),Flemish aka Gaufres a la Flamande (Northern France and western Belgium) American, Stroopwafles- my favorite (Netherlands) and the Bergische waffles  (German region of Berg country) all these have been ticked off my bucket list) – a simple question posed, I find myself caught like a deer in the headlights when asked for my preference that day – sweet or savory? With a calorie count weighing on my head, I obviously was stuck in a conundrum and her  explanation of the construct definitely did not help (yes tough decisions indeed).

Factoid: Waffles are preceded, in the early Middle Ages around the period of the 9th-10th century with the simultaneous emergence of fer a hosties (communion wafer irons) typically depicting imagery of Jesus and his crucifixion on hosts- Oubile in its basic form comprising of only grain flour and water.  As a product it evolved around the 11th century with The Crusaders bringing new culinary ingredients such as orange blossom water and locally sourced honey predominantly used during that time. 

While i resigned myself to fate and simply let her choose on my behalf- a mischievous glint in her eyes, and seconds later shes off to the kitchen. I decide to soak in the sun and ponder over what was to unfold. A whiff first presented itself – an aroma of Nutella and deep fried bacon, emanating from behind kitchen doors on to play catchup to the speedy plate being carried over to table for its visual appeal. Voila!! 

Belgian waffles with her twist on a complete breakfast. Masterclass indeed. Crunchy strips of bacon covered half the side and gooey Nutella covered bananas on the other. It toyed with me to leave table manners and just gorge on the feast laid in front of me. Let’s not forget a swab of butter, a ladleful of maple syrup and drizzles of sugar powder and it sure was a home run in my books. ‘Cheat Day’ devoured and successfully accomplished.

With affable conversations a few cutlery clinks later it was time to bid adieu only to plan my next meal there the minute I departed.

Off to the gym now.
Waffles with crispy bacon, banana & Nutella

 Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Dance with me

They say the best way see ones backyard is through the eyes of a stranger. And that is exactly what happened when i met an friend on an exchange program from Brasil. Maria Roella from San Paulo decided to drop in and surprise me drink. We have travelled together on occasion and she the quintessential backpacker who, like me, lives her life through a lens and sleeping bag.

At breakfast, she decided to treat me to a day in Brasil. A luncheon special -of her favorite street food dish- Acaraje  and some evening entertainment with a bunch of Capoeiristas who she befriended over a beer the night prior had invited her for a show that evening.

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art, that combines elements of dance,acrobatics and music and is sometimes referred to as a game. Developed in Brasil mainly by West African descendants (slaves sent to Brasil) at the beginning of the 16th century. Capoeira was born in harsh environments and treatment of slaves with a simple hope of survival from their Portuguese masters. It was a tool, with which an escaped slave, completely unequipped, could survive in the hostile, unknown land and face the hunt of the armed mounted colonial agents who were charged with finding and capturing them. They were known as capitates-do-mato 

The etymology of the word ‘capoeira’ comes from the Tupi words ‘ka’a’ meaning jungle, ‘e puer ‘ it was, referring to the areas of low vegetation in Brasils interiors where fugitive slaves would hide.A practitioner of this art is called a Capoeirista. 

Capoeiristas at play  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

Lunch was an affair interspersed with tales of travel over some good vino while we slaved in the kitchen together. Maria Roella, being the historical chef explained the dish to me as we went along. Acaraje or Akara is a dish made from peeled black eyed peas ( not it has not got anything Fergilicious to it) formed into a ball and deep-fried in palm oil. In our case we used extra virgin olive oil. Predominantly found in Brasils northeastern states especially from her home town of Salvador. Once deep fried it is split in half and stuffed with vatapa and caruru- some seriously spicy pastes made from shrimp, ground cashews, oil and some secret ingredients the way her mama taught her. A vegetarian version of the same is typically served with hot peppers and green tomatoes. Akara is originally a recipe by the Yoruba people of South Western Nigeria. This dish played a significant role in their culture, as it was only prepared in large quantities and distributed across every household when a person came of age (70 and above to be specific) and died. It also used to be prepared as a sign of victory, when warriors came back victorious from war by the women of the village for all.

If I had I loosely base it i would say our vada pav from Maharashtra would be close contender had it been deep fried much like a bread potato pakora. I’m sure by now you know the lingo of what a pakora means.

Word of caution, for someone with a mild palette it’s best to keep a bottle of chilled beer on standby. It’s guaranteed to douse the flames a lot quicker than the arrival of the fire brigade.

Obrigado por uma boa refeicao, Maria Roella (thank you for a good meal) 

Till we meet on our next adventure together; Vaya con Dios ( God be with you) 

Home cooked Acaraje   Pic courtesy: johansens.com

Fishing for Mermaids 

Ever lived in a fishing village? Its the gate to the seas -much like the keepers of the land, from an invasion far from told, waiting in abeyence to happen. The smell of fresh salt in the air with the waves thrashing against jagged rock a defense fortitude used to protect them from the vehement sea trying to grab what is hers.

A mermaid perhaps?

I used to read about fisherman and mermaids when I was little. Those glorious fairy like creatures who would lure men to their demise far out in the blue. Around village camp fires, men would regale tales of delight and horrors of the deep as they braved winds and tide to make it home to their loved ones. This would be lauded over some local moonshine (country liquor) and some good old spicy food.

One preparation that stands out is the prawn koliwada a spicy fiery dish relished as a starter. In contrary to popular belief of its origination on the Konkan coast, it actually birthed itself from the Sion fishing village (koliwada) by a North Indian immigrant from Punjab.

These deep-fried crunchy prawns can be identified by their signature red color due to the use of Kashmiri red ground chillies. Mouth watering as is, I chanced upon an invite to a friends house for the same without a moments hesitation.

Desolate spots where one finds oneself 

Koliwada refers to a colony of Kolis (fishermen). A fish market is usually located near the entrance of the Koliwada locality. This is predominantly found in Mumbai till date and fisherfolk have lived across the seven islands off the Arabian Sea that subsequently merged over time to form the city of Mumbai.

Believe you me, savoring fish at a village table is something one must try at least once. Sans the fancy and the razz,  it’s home made fresh food at its best- no frills attached. In its most crude and humble form it’s literally straight from the frying pan onto your plate. The aromas drive you to a tizzy and your fight within to curb your enthusiasm is paramount to avoid searing your mouth.

A day well spent (we ate, we laughed, we sang karaoke, played monopoly, and some gully cricket) with an invite for dinner in tow here’s to some added belches and a whole load of smiles over the meeting fireplace.

Gone fishing. Back in …… 😉

 Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Fish’in @ a spring with Spaghetti

Admit it. You have one of two queries followed by a quizzical look on your face right about now.  One;you weren’t expecting the combination or two you think I’ve lost the plot and/or am completely bonkers.

Truth be told you wouldn’t be off considering this place is nestled serenely in a corner of Goa which only the discerning and adventurous find, yet once you get there it has a magical aura of arresting time and numbing your senses. Quietly playing guardian to the famous Uddear springs in Verna- Soul Souffle is the concept and creation of my biking buddy Reynold who is always on the move, when not on his bike-is busy traveling not to mention racking his grey cells over new concepts from regions unknown. We meet on occasion albeit he wanted to invite me over for ‘a preparation’ that he assured would pique my curiosity.

Pan seared Fish with Parmesan Cream & Aglio Oglio is the brainchild of Priyanka Sardesai who has a penchant for anything Italian (men included!). This bubbly affable chef, having worked in kitchens far and wide including Indigo Deli in Mumbai describes her preparations as playful and full of bold colors; an ode to simple and rustic European cooking which has its signature inscribed across with authority. I always love enthusiastic co-creators. What’s the saying- too many cooks spoil the broth? It’s not easy but the love for food surpasses all differences and flaring tempers that run amok in the kitchen resulting in poetry in motion being created on the plate.

As you all would know spaghetti is the plural form of the Italian word ‘spaghetto’, which is a diminutive of spago, meaning “thin string” or “twine” and this dishes first impressions were that of a neatly arranged fisherman’s tools of trade with the catch of the day being an Indian ravas crusted with paprika, rosemary and parmesan and was served alongside some tingling chianti butter sauce that added that perfect blend of a crunchy yet moist preparation. It sounded so nice I had it twice. (Literally speaking!) What surprised me the most (pleasantly of course) was the side of spaghetti aglio oglio which immediately teleported me to Mama Isabella’s kitchen in Napoli on my hiking trip many moons ago. A matriarch of a family of 9, she was queen of her kitchen and introduced me to some fresh home food especially her favorite spaghetti aglio e olio – a dish made by lightly sautéing minced or pressed garlic in olive oil,seasoned with dried red chili flakes with finely chopped parsley for garnish. I requested for some grated pecorino cheese much to her dismay (as traditional as she is adding cheese was blasphemy!!!). A gentle twinkle in my eyes had her pass it on to have me liberally apply it all across my spaghetti before she could clinch the grater away from me. This dish would definitely have met all her standards and Mama Isabella would affirm with a mere nod.

Mind you this dish is high on the calorie count and I given the sunny day I decided to be foot loose and fancy free to compliment my meal with a Bahama mama which appeased the afternoon heat quite effectively, though be wary of its potency to knock you the hell out just like a Bahama mama can. What is a Bahama mama you ask? A girl or woman from the Bahamas normally with a big rear. The music played all afternoon and was live and acoustic (a perfect blend to a fabulous relaxed noon) and the menu on offer is part of the ‘Fresh Sessions’ that happen every Sunday from 12 noon onwards.

Till I meet a mama down in sunny Bahama; Cheers to one and all.

Gone fishing!!!!!


 

Pic courtesy: Soul Souffle

The Porter of Palanpur 

It’s 7:45a.m. The slow churning wheels come to a halt at the platform with a hiss of fatigue in the air. There’s a window of opportunity for one to ply their trade. From coffee vendors to hawkers selling wares to sleepy passengers aboard. 

It’s quite the wake up alarm indeed. The hustle bustle of the famously dubbed ‘breakfast stop’. In the distance I glance at this figure in all his stature. Calm and composed with a dead pan chiseled look on his face which would give Michaelangelos creations a re-look see back home in the Vatican.  Each line and crevice on his drawn face with a story to tell. His hands firm as steel. He is Bahadur (in Hindi means ‘brave’). And with his ‘pagdi’ is a feature of regal elegance. (For those who wonder what a ‘pagdi’ is -a term for a turban in the Indian subcontinent- a headdress that is worn by men which has to be manually tied. It  signifies a symbol of honour and respect in all the regions where it is a practice to wear one.)

Business was slow. So I wander across with a conversation in mind. He is obliging to the extent of not being rude and brash. It’s obvious he’s not a talker but I prod at my own risk. I return back with a plate of pakoras and two cups of tea (chai).The flood gates opened with a pleasing smile on his face. Eureka!!

Bahadur and his family natives from Rajasthan had so far worked five jobs from being a retired army personnel to a sweeper on the streets. At the golden age of 75 he probably could bench press my body weight at ease (No your not going to get that information that easy, let’s just say I have heavy bones and leave it at that). A proud man at that with a family of 6 to support which included a wife 2 daughters and a couple of grand children to support working minimum daily wage being $10 on a good day of porting luggage across his shoulders was indeed heart warming and awe inspiring to say the least. And this man with stories to tell of the long lineage of fighters pre India’s independence et all. 

The one thing I wished was for time to pause just to grasp tales as much as I could ,but this 10 minute pit stop imprinted a deep sense of pride of work irrespective of blue or white collar jobs we covet. It does put things into retrospect. As they say a Man’s gotta do what a man’s got to do. 

We at best scratch the tip of the iceberg in the life of others to unearth a majority of what lies beneath which is never told. People tend to put on facades as we move on so rapidly in life. However sleepy towns have a different story to tell. No one said it better than the bard himself- “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits…..” 

Thank you for the memories over a 10 min cuppa. 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography