This post was going to be entitled simply 'lately', but it kept reminding me of the song by David Gray. The chorus goes:
"Honey, lately I've been way down,
A load on my mind."
So the title is only partially apt. "A load on my mind"... yeah, you can say that again.
But I haven't been way down, not at all. The past few months have been chaotic, but I've been undoubtedly happy. Even though I haven't had much time to cook I wanted to write a bit of an update on the little foodie things that have been going on. I expected this post to be rather mundane, but in the process of choosing all the photos so many memories and moments have come back, and I actually think this post, despite a major lack of cooking, will be one of my favourites.
My mum and I had a quiet weekend lunch at Suzette - an adorable crêperie nearby. I had plenty of work, but we had to wait until a particular time and that made us slow down. Each savoured bite was interspersed by deep, engaging conversation and the place was quiet except for cute background music. We actually sat for a bit, just chatting, before we decided to go for it and order the blueberry panna cotta that had been tempting us. It was creamy, perfectly sweet, and it has set my panna cotta - and lunchtime - standards high.
I've read a lot about shashukha (a North African dish of eggs poached in a rich, flavourful tomato sauce) and it's high on the list of things I want to make. I didn't have enough time to make the real thing, but one day before an unusually early start at school I tried whipping up a simpler version. It certainly doesn't look as appetising as a traditional shashukha, but it was aromatic (my mum and sister were rather intrigued), warm and it was definitely what I needed that morning.
I'm still a coffee person (I never, ever thought I would be... late-night art sessions drove me to start drinking it, and now I'm one of those 'morning cuppa' people) but I do like certain teas. The Indian masala tea is divine, I'm very intrigued by floral teas, and from what I've tried of green tea it's alright... I've sort of made myself like it because it's good for you. But there are lots of fruity options out there waiting to be experimented with. My dad brought back some Sri Lankan tea and I particularly liked some of the honey-coloured, light ones and the gentle green teas. What topped it for me were the little labels, the rough string and the triangular cloth pouches <3
I can't rave enough about the fruit we get here... one weekend we just had so many, and I was feeling nostalgic about our trip to Cambodia and my daily fruit platter breakfasts. It wasn't the same, but nonetheless refreshing... and loads of fun to eat.
My mum packs a healthy, filling lunch for me every day (I dare my teachers to try and get me to absorb even one word if I haven't had a proper lunch), and she adds such lovely little touches. She'll put strawberries with kiwi because to me they're like chocolate and vanilla, or she'll put in a tub of mishti doi (a creamy bengali sweet yoghurt that's irresistible... Danone has ingeniously started packaging it like regular fruit yoghurts. The only downside is that I eat it way more often than I normally would... but I can't pass it up). One of my favourites is her speculaas parfait creation: a crumbled speculaas cookie, topped with plain yoghurt and a dollop of peach jam. It all infuses and it's the absolute best pick-me-up.
I asked Tarini what she wanted me to cook her for her birthday, and I was prepared to make anything. I had done croissants for my mum, a cake for my dad and frantic poffertjes for myself. But Tarini is a simple eater and, if you know what she likes, easy to please. She asked me for hash browns to go with easy scrambled eggs, canned baked beans and a carton of juice. Frying the hash browns was a tad messy... I gave 'hash' a new meaning... but she seemed satisfied :) Her simple pleasures rub off on us, because we all spent the morning bonding over building a giant Lego set together and sipping my dad's cappuccinos.
So many amazing restaurants keep popping up around Bombay. A lot of it is shifting to areas like Bandra, and people say my area will essentially become the quaint, historic 'old town'. I'm not complaining. I truly love my part of town, and we still get a huge number of new places each year - with the added advantage of more space and relatively more tranquility. The Sassy Spoon is minutes from my house and is unbelievably charming. The decor is gorgeous and quirky, the food is creative and fresh, and the last time we went they had a Christmas bazaar going on in their gardens with all the latest from Bombay's flourishing fashion design world. The photo above shows nothing of the ambience or the fun drinks, but the colours happened to catch my eye :P
Aside from 'real' cooking, I keep up my usual experimentation. I throw random ingredients into my oatmeal, cereal or yoghurt, try different toppings on my toast, mix up a new drink, or make something with bits and bobs, like the dessert above with bits of cake, yoghurt and jam.
One day my sister and my dad were busy, but my mum and I attended a bread making workshop. We figured it would help, considering our bad luck so far. We didn't actually get to make much - the dough was prepared, and they baked it. We essentially watched a presentation, kneaded the dough around a bit, and snacked on crackers, hummus and cappuccinos. I can't say we left as enlightened bread makers, but we did enjoy mingling and unwinding. The bread (cherry-apricot, raisin-hazelnut, and olive) was delicious and I ate it in every possible way:
... a box of stale (probably re-gifted) Belgian chocolates melted perfectly for us to dip the bread in...
... dollops of real jam...
... with strawberries, peanut butter and nutella...
... and I made the last two chunks into french toast :)
Near Christmas I made a banoffee pie - the recipe was really easy, and everything went perfectly. I was holding the fridge open, rearranging to make space, and holding the pie in my other hand, and I heard a splat as a part of the top layer spilled because I wasn't paying attention to it tilting and tilting. It worked out, though - we ate it while watching The Santa Clause, and it tasted incredible. The photos were taken in the evening, so they didn't do the pie justice, but condensed milk pouring onto a buttery walnut-biscuit base is pretty yum too.
These are kind of cheating, because they're from a box of pumpkin spice doughnut mix sent over via my dad by my aunt in Boston. It was like a little package of their pretty autumn. It wasn't your usual box mix because it was whole wheat and all natural, so I didn't mind ;) I turned them into muffins in the absence of a doughnut pan, and I was thrilled... the dripping maple glaze on top was, quite literally, the icing on the cake. I rolled my eyes at my dad adding more icing to his muffin, but yeah. He was right. These need a generous heap of icing, and I didn't regret it.
Being at my grandparents' house at any time of year means lots of homemade food and sweets and cookies and whatnot. This was further compounded by us being there at Christmas and New Year's, and the fact that my grandmother is an avid Dutch baker. I tried my first mince pies (above), had fresh oliebollen and appelflappen (Dutch New Year's traditions), gevulde speculaas, cookies, namkeen and cake... just to name a few. Bad for your waistline, great for your happiness.
Contrasting all that butter and sugar is my grandmother's herb and vegetable garden from which we collected fresh cherry tomatoes, parsley, basil and oregano. Among several other things growing were pumpkins, which I'm excited to see. I love this photo for so many reasons. Tarini's hand - on the left - is almost as big as mine, reminding me how she's not so literally my little sister anymore. The colours are vibrant, I can just smell the herbs and remember plucking them. It's always so interesting to go and see a plant - it connects you to your food in a different way and brings out your often stifled curiosity. And the little nose and ear peeking out on the right - the golden eyes are unfortunately hidden - belong to their dog Leela. I love her feistiness and energy, and she perfectly juxtaposes Naveen with his sweet, wimpy nature and melting chocolate eyes.
I had my first taste of chana jor: a street food special of roasted raw chickpeas (with the skin on) mixed with fresh onion, tomato, coriander, spices, a few sweet crunchy things, all culminating in one of the most delightful snacks I've tasted. The man preparing it could give the masterchef contestants a run for their money in onion chopping, and the whole process of putting it together is so fascinating. Little things in my tastes are changing... spicy street food, turmeric in my popcorn, and the newly realised ability to eat green kurkure without burning my tongue. I'm evolving with Bombay :)
I was lured back to get chana jor again, and I discovered 'ragi khakhara' at the supermarket both on the same day. Ragi is rye, and khakhara is traditionally a gujarati snack made of crispy paratha and comes in every possible flavour (even chinese schezwan, dosa and pizza). My family likes it, but I've never been hooked. But ragi khakhara? Oh yes. I love it. For all its fried food, Bombay is rather health-conscious, and increasingly so. Bombay is evolving along with me, too :)
From a recent trip to Copenhagen my dad brought rokkebrood (I only know the Dutch name), a dark, dense, slightly bitter bread laden with whole grains and seeds. No one in my family likes it, so more for me ;) I've had it every day for breakfast along with the pungent cheeses he brought, the artisan pineapple-mango jam (brilliant combination) I brought from our school trip to Pondicherry, nutella, butter, peanut butter, honey... you name it. It didn't even last a week. But I'm not disappointed, it's just given me something interesting to try and cook.
There was a massive food festival this weekend at the Nehru Centre, with each floor filled with stalls of food galore. We relished in all the different tidbits, and we especially enjoyed the organic farmer's market and stalls. It really showcased Bombay, from new French bakeries to masala burgers, perfect papad and Belgian fries, spectacular ice cream and organic flax seeds...
Today I'm feeling especially blessed. Well, call it what you will, as someone constantly debating faith I'm never sure quite what name to give it. Regardless of what it's called, it's an extraordinary feeling. Very, very few people are surrounded by such beautiful individuals, hear such warming words, are given such exciting opportunities and are made to feel, each and every day, that they love life.
Crumbly scones + coffee.
I think I made these scones at 9 at night or something.
The week was really busy with my grandparents in town and all the usual schoolwork... but once I start making excuses I'm a brilliant procrastinator, so I just closed myself up in the kitchen and cooked.
I'm glad I did, because it's nice to wake up to a little buttery triangle and hot coffee.
Speaking of coffee, everyone had been busy posting about the first pumpkin spice lattes, the first pumpkins, the pies... everything autumn.
When we were in Chicago I didn't like coffee (:O) so my standard order at Starbucks was a hot chocolate, or later a tall, no whip, double chocolate chip frappuccino (The rhyme never failed to amuse me. I felt so cool ordering it...).
So we went to the Starbucks at the Taj (*ahem* Chicagoans: South Bombay may have only 2 Starbucks, but they are a 1000 times more gorgeous than any one in the US. Just saying. They're pretty stunning), and they had the full smorgasbord of Pumpkin treats! I refrained from ordering a slice of pie, a muffin, a frappuccino and a cookie to complement my latte. Honestly, I don't think it was worth all the hype... it was definitely yum and creamy, but a little too sweet. I was kind of imagining a speculaas-y coffee, you know?
I'll try and make that and see how it comes out:)
Note to non-BD-ites: This may not make any sense, and don't get me wrong, our canteen is lovely. But being written for The BD Broadcast it had to be extra exaggerated and humourous- have a read if you want :)
BD-ites: this is the full version of the article in the most recent BD Broadcast issue.
“Oily and hairy!”
“I’m lovin’ it”
“Nice and spicy...”
Like most of the food, my interviews with students at the GD canteen could end up quite heated.
Of course, many chose to be ‘white bread’ with their remarks: decidedly bland.
But with my loyal taster by my side, 3 days of tasting, asking and snooping have culminated in: The Ultimate GD Canteen Review and Guide.
Paneer Chili vs. Chinese Bhel
The argument over these two dishes is as divided as I am over dark chocolate and milk chocolate.
In other words, there’s no conclusive decision... so go with both!
Most people find the paneer chili spicy, addictive, and filled with soft and perfect paneer.
My opinion? I tried it once in the 8th grade, and I was not going to go there again... besides, I don’t think it’s ever going to stop haunting me. It’s like a gelatinous, red mess with emulsified, soggy-batter-coated paneer, onions and capsicum.
But I’m not very opinionated.
The chinese bhel- crispy, red, spicy, creative and claimed by some as unhealthy- is a huge hit in the canteen, and the subject of many BD Broadcast and MUN jokes. In all honesty, it wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t have the stomach to have full plate... we just stole a bite from a devout 11th grade chinese-bheler.
The dosas... some say it’s the best thing there, some say it’s the worst. Some even claimed, convinced and aghast, that they had seen one of the cooks put tap water in the batter. Whatever it is, you can’t deny their popularity. They’re quick, crispy, a little spicy and their fillings are well-balanced: not overloaded with cheese, nor is the masala green with chillies. Just try to ignore the black cloth that’s used to wipe the griddle each time...
The manchurian roll is allegedly like pav bhaji: red, indistinguishable, spicy (noticing a theme here?) and messy, while its cousin the cheese corn roll is delicate, cute, spicy, corny and cheesy (much like The Broadcast). One expert offered her advice: “You need to be an experienced Subway-eater to eat it properly”.
My review helper had an ingenious idea: she broke it in half and ate it like bruschetta... well done for thinking outside the bun.
Which brings me on to bruschetta. Most people in my class didn’t believe our canteen (‘our canteen?!’) had bruschetta, but low and behold, there were little plates with dainty slices of baguette topped with fresh tomatoes and basil.
What are they trying to do, make us eat real food? Where’s the masala? Tomatoes? Who needs tomatoes, when you’ve got perfectly good ketchup?
Jokes aside, I liked it. The bread was slightly soggy from the tomato juice, but it was refreshing to see some nutritious food on offer.
One day, something caught my eye, and not in a good way. I mustered up the courage to try the masala bread. Essentially it’s a fluffy, starch-white pillow of bread, topped with puréed green chillies and tomatoes. At least, that’s what my burning, mush-filled mouth told me it was. If you love spicy food, and aren’t obsessed with wholewheat bread, then by all means enjoy some masala pav... it grows on you. Or maybe my taste buds just went numb.
The idlis were good... well, idlis are idlis. Rice. Steamed rice.
But the chutney is definitely a success- it’s balanced, it didn’t set my tongue on fire, and it’s really coconutty. One person said it was “The best thing she’d ever eaten. Ever.”
I think that says more about the person
Who guessed food colouring? Congratulations! The paneer chili’s signature redness does not come from tomatoes, or even chilies...
As for the chinese bhel, the artificial ingredient is... brace yourselves... ketchup. It actually is really bad for you, but I honestly don’t envisage India parting with its beloved ‘sauce’ any time soon.
They use sunflower oil, and bake their bread in the canteen: next time you’re there, look at the back and watch them put in and pull out trays upon trays of buns, and try and spot their sandwich bread slicer.
The canteen is open, breezy, bright and friendly. You talk, you eat, you walk around... going back there after more than two years really made me look at it differently. In the 8th grade you’re this awkward, new, self-conscious and shy little kid. The ambience changes so much when you’re meeting your friends in all the grades, laughing about the food you remember and the new things you’re trying.
The canteen food is spicy, it’s strange, and the hygiene is open to debate.
But we can’t disgrace it entirely- after all, as one person put it: “Although we wanna shut the canteen, I’m sure we’ll all miss the food.”
It’s our canteen.
(Even though it's GD's...)
East meets West in the South East...
We just spent 10 days in Cambodia...
'Cambodia?!', you ask, 'What on earth is there to do in Cambodia?'.
But in actual fact, we all fell in love with Cambodia: the culture, the people, the food and the history... so much so that Cambodia has even been featuring in my sister's and my dreams lately.
If I went into a whole story of everything I loved about it, this blog post would be three times as long as it already is, so I'm just going to stick with the food aspect ;)
Cambodia is the land of the two-wheelers: scooters, motorcycles and bikes make up the majority of the transport for the population, and túk-túks (scooters with a carriage at the back) ferry locals and tourists alike. In fact, during our whole holiday we only sat in a car twice- once from the airport, and once to. Scooters also often have little food carts attached to them, selling baguettes with your choice of filling, French crêpes (part of the lingering French influence) with banana and nutella, drinks, local fried snacks, noodles (not your regular maggi.... this stuff has real vegetables and fun sauces), and even little cakes.
My first meal in Cambodia had to be amok- Cambodia's specialty. It's a fish dish that's either baked or steamed. This version was at Le Tigre En Papier, a local fusion restaurant popular with backpackers. Actually, pretty much all of Siem Reap is popular with backpackers... it's a melting pot of loads of young groups and couples walking around in hippy-fun clothes and enjoying the vibrant markets. The amok was slightly cocnoutty and the fish was made in a shredded form. I didn't like some of the fish, but overall it was something new and interesting.
After hours of exploring the ancient Angkor temples, we bought some much-needed pineapple from a local vendor.The pineapple was ingeniously carved and quartered so one could enjoy it neatly and on the go.
One of the loveliest parts of the trip was our visit to a floating village, complete with an adorable floatng church, tiny floating police station, a floating basketball court, school, houses... everything. Our guide was a really sweet young guy who told us all about the culture, history, and functioning of the village- despite being a melange of various ethnicities, the community is very tight-knit, albeit with its own social problems.
Amidst the bustling markets in Siem Reap are alleys filled with alluring boutiques, cafés, restaurants and craft shops that could have been plucked right out of an old European town. We enjoyed many a nice meal and lots of browsing and shopping in The Alley (actually named that) during our visit and as a temple-detox.
The Singing Tree Café in The Alley works for the benefit of locals (as many organisations do- restaurants, shops, handicraft makers and various other services all really focus on making the flourishing tourism an industry that thrives and helps the Cambodians as much as possible.) serves cappuccino in pretty mugs, and we were all satisfied with out meal while going through our photos, taking in the activity of The Alley and talking.
I'm known to be indecisive when choosing something from a menu, and I was stuck between two things when 'mango sticky rice caught my eye (admittedly in the dessert section) and I settled on it instantaneously. I tend to gravitate to sweet things and dishes that are new and exciting. My family found it questionable, but it was definitely a success. I spent so much time tasting each bite carefully that the taste still lingers. The rice was subtly mangoey and nutty, the local mango is soft and just sweet enough, and the coconut cream provided a lovely, rich anchor.
Isn't this fork gorgeous?
The opposite of my choice, my sister went for an egg, tomato and cheese sandwich, but it was just right and made with great local bread.
They call themselves 'An American Café in the heart of Siem Reap', and they truly are. Common Grounds was filled with almost all Americans, many of them social workers and volunteers. The ambience was calm and relaxed, with a nice mix of coffee and divine baked goods, and hot local dishes too. Common Grounds devotes itself to helping Cambodians, through the people they hire, the ingredients they use, the jewellery they sell and the way their profits are used. Note the bottom of the chalkboard: 'Every dollar we earn makes a difference in the life of a Cambodian'.
I spent my morning sipping coffee and doodling <3
A true, Italian restaurant, Il Forno makes spectacular pizzas in its woodfire oven, along with a vast selection of fine risottos, pastas, salads, antipasti and wine. The ambience was warm, breezy and cheerful, tucked away in a small lane. The owner is a young Italian girl who bustled through the completely full restaurant, and we were undoubtedly pleased by our dinner.
The Sun is a huge, bright, sunny and well-decorated restaurant, which also has comfy outdoor seating where we enjoyed some drinks with the fairy lights on our first night. It's apparently famous for its fluffy blueberry pancakes, and I'm a sucker for pancakes at any time of day. They were warm, crispy and absolutely scrumptious.
My mum had a pasta puttanesca with real, rustic, chunky tomato sauce and fresh grilled vegetables.
They even made a good falafel burger... The Sun was definitely one of my favourites.
The Sugar Palm: an airy, spacious restaurant atop an old wooden bungalow that makes divine Asian food Their crockery was really cute too <3.
Look at this teapot! And I love the carved dandelion on the mug. I had hot lemon tea, although the local iced lemon tea is by far the best we've ever had.
The Sugar Palm is where chef Gordon Ramsay learned how to make amok :O So my mum and I were sure we'd try it. It was way different from the one at Le Tigre En Paper... it was much better. This amok is baked to a soufflé-like consistency, it's frothy on top and the sauce is rich, spicy and complex. The fish, too was a really nice variety and I polished off the bowl (which is a hollowed out coconut shell!). We also enjoyed perfectly crisp spring rolls, and gado gado- one of our favourites.
This was my breakfast every day in Siem Reap: fresh fruits and their homemade yoghurt. Clockwise from the top: pineapple, mango, watermelon, banana (their local bananas are so good), dragonfruit (a new fruit for me! The texture is like kiwi, but it's less sweet), papaya and apple.
I grew really fond of the yoghurt that came every day in little pots. It was sweet and super creamy, and really refreshing with a plate of fruits... it kept me full for ages
Phnom Penh, the capital, also has a vast variety of cultures and restaurants. After one busy day at the Central Market (mind-boggling), we came across a small Malaysian restaurant. My parents lived in Kuala Lumpur for man years and I was born there, so as a family we have an affinity for Malaysia. My parents enjoyed the chance to revive their Bahasa skills, jokes and memories, and they had this light and filling silken tofu dish with tofu that melts in your mouth.
Remembering our trip to Malaysia in December 2011, I ordered a Mamak Mee Goreng. It looked brown and messy, but the flavours were so yum, the vegetables were crunchy and the soft egg on top was the perfect touch. I found it hard to not finish every last bite, and even my parents, who have tried countless mee gorengs, thought it was fantastic.
Another responsible organisation is Friends- they have a store with handmade recycled products made from materials such as old scarves, tyres, magazines, cutlery and paperclips, just to name a few.
They also have a stunning restaurant which employs youth and trains them to get back into society after experiences with drugs, abuse or crime. They have had great success, with many of their trainees working in top restaurants and hotels. I absolutely loved my passionfruit-watermelon ice shake- which is literally all it is... no weird sugar syrups and ice cream... just fresh, sweet fruit and ice <3 Winning combination.
My curried pumpkin soup tasted a bit like amok, so I think they used similar spices. It was a hot day, and the rich creaminess was replenishing and left me feeling ready to keep walking.
A little ahead of the Friends restaurant, we spotted this young guy at the from of a small local place, busy stringing his arms up and down, deftly manoeuvring ribbons. This stuff comes pretty close to magic... we tried in vain to follow his fingers and figure out how he did it, but it's impossible... second by second the noodles divide or get thinner and it never gets tangled or stuck. The lump of thick ropes soon becomes fine strings, which are briefly boiled, leaving a bowlful of fresh, perfect noodles... we were awestruck.
Fruits! Juicy rambutan, sweet and crisp apples, and soft mangosteen all bought at a market, using a mixture of dollars and riel (Cambodia uses both... it's very confusing)
A Belgian man- smiley and portly- runs a restaurant called The Wine in Phnom Penh. To celebrate Belgium's new king, he hosted a Belgian night for 'Belgians and friends of Belgium'- given that my best friend is Belgian, we figured we qualified ;) There were two hippy Belgian oldies playing cute music on the piano, flute and saxophone, and a tiny boy even walked up to dance along. Being vegetarian, our options were limited to asparagus in butter with egg, but they were lovely: soft, falling apart and perfect with the little French rolls. My parents loved their Belgian beer, and it made us think back to last summer in France, when we met Maurice and Monique, Belgians who shared Belgian chocolate and beer with us in the evenings.
The markets are at times suffocating, but they're full of everything under the sun. We bought plenty of knick-knacks, and delighted in taking in the myriad of aromas, voices, people and activity.
Very well known and a tourist favourite, The Blue Pumpkin has a few outlets in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. This particular branch is three stories high, overlooks the riverfront and has sofas with young girls sprawled on their phones while sipping tea and coffee, businesspeople tapping away, families settling down to rest, and a really serene atmosphere.
The Blue Pumpkin's red berry shake. One day in Siem Reap we cycled down to Angkor Wat, which has a branch of TBP. My dad ordered this shake, and liked i so much he ordered it again in Phnom Penh.
Hidden away is a quiet restaurant called The Ebony Tree. We were the only customers, there was one waiter/assistant chef and one grandma chef, but we savoured being away from the noise of the city and it gave us the chance to finish writing our postcards.
We were joined by a fifth member at out table: a black tomcat who lay pretty much motionless, except for an occasional sleepy-eyed stretch or reshuffle.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club is a massive, colonial-era building with the perfect river view. We enjoyed drinks there one evening, and it won us- especially my dad- over. It has an energetic vibe, reminiscent of the old club culture but adapted to modern society, with people of all ages and backgrounds coming to relax. We returned the next morning for coffee and my dad bought an FCC cap, which he is loving wearing.
All over Cambodia you'll see these pretty lotuses with the outside petals delicately folded. They open up beautifully, and I have never seen so many lotuses being sold on the street as I saw in Cambodia.
By the poolside of the lush, serene Kabiki hotel guests are served a big breakfast. The head waiter was oh-s0-smiley and after a couple of days he remembered our preferences, and what to leave out or bring extra for each of us.
Passionfruit juice... cold, pulpy and so sweet... <3
The chestnut bread (with chunks of chestnut inside... chestnuts actually grown in abundance there) and the baguette, served with homemade pineapple jam that was heavenly. I always mixed it into my muesli and yoghurt, and I even tried in on a slice of pineapple (it's not weird.)
Cambodian coffee is really strong, but I just fell in love with their ceramic crockery.
Their yoghurt wasn't as yum as the one in Siem Reap, but mixed with the muesli and jam it made a light and healthy breakfast that I looked forward to.
'Looking natural' with the self-timer on :P
If you're thinking about going to Cambodia, don't hesitate. There's so much to do, so much to see, so much to try. This is going down as one of our favourite holidays of all time, and we didn't regret a minute of it.
Mumbaikars and Delhi-ites don't usually mix-- each city thinks of the other as stuck up in its own way, Bombay appears to be too chaotic and Bollywood-ised and Delhi is seen as dull and old-fashioned. In the wake of that horrid incident with a young college girl in Delhi, the city has gotten a bad rap, and understandably so.
But it's in fact a huge hub for fashion, design, food and art, andI have the most fantastic memories of the city, especially since I've been there every year to visit my grandparents.
However my tastes have matured, and although I am still in love with the old fried snacks, 'paneer tikkas' and punjabi meals, I have recently discovered all the city has to offer as it becomes more and more cosmopolitan and I become more adventurous.
In my previous post, I mentioned some of the restaurants I went to in Delhi, and this post is meant to give you more of an idea of what's beneath Delhi's sandy surface:
The Café Turtle
This cafe is just gorgeous, what with its mellow yet colourful interior, its huge range of food, the breezy balcony and to top it off, a bookstore downstairs.
The Café Turtle provides a myriad beautiful baked goods-- we had a lemon cheesecake and some carrot-walnut cake-- as well as salads, soups, sandwiches, smoothies, plenty of coffee and more. It's rarely empty, but never loud; the ambience seems to inspire a sense of hush and relaxation to appreciate the good food, the decor and the moment.
Their bookstore, Full Circle, isn't huge but it's well-stocked with loads of cookery books, design, music, art, history, fiction, old, new, children's, bestsellers, you name it. A cute touch is the little handwritten notes they tag on bookshelves with a recommendation- usually a less-known book. But go there with some time-- it's easy to spend hours there...
Click here for more information.
South Extension Chaat Shop
I don't really know what this place is called, but it's famous; just ask anyone in South Extension and they'll point you in the right direction (why not do some shopping while you're navigating the area?). They're always packed, but they have a huge turnover, so it won't take you long to get a table. For Mumbaikars, this place is kind of like Swati, except that in addition, they make insane 'mithai' (Indian sweets). I had a delicious chaat with 'dahi vada' in the poori and potato dish, which was something new and intriguing. I already wrote about the waiter who decided to adopt my sister and appoint himself the role of enlightening her on the wonders of chaat, and all the staff are super efficient and nice. If you want an even quicker stop, there's an outdoor counter with paani poori, kheer, sweets and more snacks. I'm sure you can spare half an hour... it's totally worth it.
The Bagels Café
This relatively new cafe has been all the news in Delhi, in Vogue and in Holland too-- a Dutch lady started this cafe, and broke even in just 6 months. Now there are more branches all over the city and it's insanely popular. She initially wanted to keep it authentic and refused to add any Indianised bagels, but she soon succumbed and now alongside the burger bagels, dutch 'stroopwafels' (delightful syrupy, waffly cookies), coffee and cookies there are cottage cheese and masala bagels. The cafe also serves things like pasta, salads with bagel chips, some baked goods and dutch pancakes.
It's cute, but it doesn't have the same ambience as the Café Turtle-- it's more fast-foody. We sat and had some coffee (and I treated myself to a Christmas cake pop :) ) and packed some bagel sandwiches along for a picnic in the stunning, sprawling and ancient Lodi Gardens.
The Bagels Cafe website
Hauz Khas Village
This area is a recent discovery for me, as I hadn't been there since I was really little... but I just loved it. It's chock-full of boutiques, cafes, restaurants and antique stores. We saw beautiful leather trunks at Nappa Dori, a shop selling ancient decor and furniture that I wanted to buy there and then and store away to put in my cafe, a shop that made amazing upcycled things, and so, so much more. We paused at a tiny place- not more than a large cupboard with a counter and some chairs and tables outside- for a bite to eat. A young east-asian girl ran it, and had to make quite a maneuver to turn round, reach into the display case and access the microwave. She sold very tempting baked treats like cookies and cake (I had a cherry, chocolate and walnut cake), crackers, dips, bread and things like Kerstollen (a Dutch Christmas cake-- although my dad calls it a bread when he wants to feel better about himself having it). On the way out, I was drawn into the siren-call of a small Italian gelato trolley, which said that the gelato is made by Italians fresh each morning. I tried an almond gelato and a swiss chocolate one, and contrary to my usual tastes, I went with the almond one; it was creamy, subtle and much to my nostalgic delight, tasted just like the almond cookies we had in France. The whole place just had me dying to finally start my own cafe, or design and make stunning things. It was perfect weather, full of culture and a lovely way to spend your day.
The Delhi Gymkhana
Last but not least, a childhood favourite of myself and my sister, our mum, and our granddad, who first swam there when he was 14. India's gymkhanas are huge, gorgeous colonial clubs with vast fields, old courts and pools and yummy food. The Delhi Gymkhana is much more uppity than the Bombay one, and children aren't allowed in most places (although I manage to sneak through ;). But I can forgive them for that, because they have brought years of happiness of fresh lime soda, paneer tikka, ice cream, freshly baked bread, pasta and more. This time we didn't actually get the chance to go and hang out there, but we had massive party for the 50th wedding anniversary of my grandparents. All the family and friends were there- some known to me, most not- and there was a long array of food to try: fish tikkas, mustard leaf cream, minestrone, clay-baked parathas and rotis, kulfi and cake (lots and lots of it... my cousin and my sister and I had fun secretly eating the chocolate on top). I'm not going to try and explain all these dishes to those of you who are not familiar with Indian food- I won't do them justice. If you're intrigued, which I hope you are, please do google them, contact me or go straight to an Indian restaurant or friend's house and dig in :)
I've just come back from 2 weeks in the south of France. It was a different holiday from most people's: we stayed in houses in unknown villages and we drove around at least 21 different tiny towns.
It's interesting to see how one feels connected to different people in different parts of the world.
During our holiday in France, I felt connected to the people there in the sense that I felt that they shared my idea of how I like to live, eat and interact.
I saw so much, did so much, and of course, ate so much...
The fruits in southern France at this time were just divine: I had the juiciest , sweetest peaches I had ever had and I couldn't keep my hands off them; the pears came in all shapes and colours- the one above was soft and oozing juice; the melons were as sweet as can be and the apples had a fizz in them.
The cherries from the Provencal market were beyond irresistible. They were big, plump and deep mahogany. I have never had such good cherries-- we finished the whole box in one car ride!
Our friends in St. Pantaléon have an apricot tree and after hearing about my dad's love for apricots they insisted that we pluck and take home a box of apricots.
The tree hasn't blossomed like this in their memory-- it was beautiful!
When you're on summer vacation, it's hard to resist the ice cream... especially if everywhere you turn you're surrounded by 'Glaciers' selling artisan ice cream. I only tried a fraction of the flavours available, but my favourites were the 'Yaourt aux fruits rouges' (yoghurt with red fruits), the Praline and the Nutella. I also tried White Chocolate and Speculaas, which were delicious too, but I wouldn't have guessed their flavors if I hadn't read the label.
We came across an ice cream place in Lyon called Glacier Mirabelle:
Mira + Belle + Glacier = Beautiful Mira & Ice Cream!
On the right is the Glacier Mont Ventoux in Bedouin- which is at the base of Mont Ventoux. My parents hated the coffee, their Wifi never worked and the Apricot ice cream was a little bitter, but the White Chocolate flavor was lovely and they had over 60 flavours of homemade ice cream.
Market days were by far some of the best parts of the trip. Each and every village, no matter how small, has its own markets at least twice a week. Plus, since it's summer there have been even more artisan and regional markets.
The Provencal market in Bedouin was my favorite: not too small, not to big and full of different stalls- fruits, vegetables, macaroons, candy, bread, cheese, spices, glass decor, clothes, coffee and local dishes...
My favourite part was all the people. Everyone smiled, greeted us, asked where we're from, how was our journey, and happily handed out samples.
An elderly couple selling macaroons and other treats was tickled pink by our sighs of contentment when we tasted the almond cookies. We ended up buying a bagful and a packet of pistachio biscotti.
The Carpentras market is well known and massive. It spans dozens of winding streets and alleys, among the ancient buildings, packed with infinite stalls and interspersed with cafés and restaurants.
It was certainly more vibrant than the Bedouin market and had a much larger selection, but it didn't have the same coziness. We inevitably ended up buying produce, treats and some handmade accessories to match!
Une Tarte Au Marron: a solide almondy cake with a thick layer of some smooth paste- also tasted a bit like almonds- and with a crust of chocolate... the bakery was a sinful trap...
After a long hike one day in Sorède, we went to one of the local cafés for crêpes. Everyone else ended up ordering something else, but I had been set on my nutella crêpe since we set off on our walk. It wasn't hot- is it supposed to be?- but it had a divine dollop of nutella in the middle and the last bite, (the centre, which still had a large amount of nutella on it) was heavenly.
The amount of baguettes one sees is insane...
At any given time of day- and I mean any time- there will be men, women, people of all ages walking around with 1, 2, 3, even 4 baguettes under their arm.
Bakeries make dozens of baguettes early in the morning, ready for the queue of people that will soon start to form for breakfast. Then, they bake another batch at some point in the day because the French come back for lunch.
You wonder why people would need to buy so many baguettes, but when you think about the diet of the locals, it's not hard to understand. Breakfast and lunch at home consist primarily of bread, and bread in France consists primarily of baguette. If you order a sandwich, forget about any sliced bread- it'll be a baguette, or on some occasions, there's the option of having a panini.
Twice when we ordered cheese sandwiches we were each presented with 3/4 of a baguette with huge hunks of emmenthal cheese inside. So if you consider a family of at least 4 people, add in the fact that there are probably men who eat a lot, plus the fact that baguette is often served twice a day, the concept of needing at least 3 baguettes per meal makes sense.
It's still amusing to see and I wish I had taken a photo... although I'm not sure how people would take to a stranger taking a photo of them carrying their groceries...
Brasseries are everywhere- essentially a bigger café with more to offer.
In Avignon we had lunch at a Greek place and I tried loads of things that I'd never had before, and like all Mediterranean food, I loved it. The Tabouleh, Haloumi and Dolma were fresh and light and I finally got to try Greek yoghurt! (you don't get it here...) It came in a clay bowl with a generous drizzle of honey, and I had devoured it before we remembered to take a photo.
We had a picnic! My dad and I were super tired after our bike ride and my mum and sister had prepared the picnic we had been planning for days. We sat out in one of Madame Raoult's fields and enjoyed a delicious lunch on a beautiful day.
I have wanted to try churros for a long time-- I never really knew what they were, I had just heard of them a lot. So on our last trip to the beach in Argelès we stopped at one of the stalls (they even sold them with chocolate or nutella) and got a packet.... of 12. My sister didn't like them and my mum isn't a huge sugar person, so after she had a couple, my dad and I were left to finish the rest! Luckily, we both have a sweet tooth and loved them, so devouring them wasn't a problem.
Madame Raoult gave us 2 baskets full of organic tomatoes from her garden and a jar of homemade apricot jam. It was the best apricot jam ever and we had it every single day.The tomatoes were fresher and sweeter than any others I've had before.
And what about cooking? Of course I cooked! While I couldn't cook something every day, I still kept up my new year's goal of cooking one thing a week.
My mum and I made mushroom, zucchini and olive baked pasta with chèvre toasts- I had a blast chopping the massive mushrooms from the market!
Dinner was so pretty... it looked like a photo out of a Jamie Oliver cookbook.
We had a long drive to Sorède and that night I was dying to get into the big kitchen and cook, so I made some pasta sauce. We had loads of tomatoes from Madame Raoult and a huge bunch of fresh rosemary. We had bought some interesting pasta- it's shaped like rice- at the Carpentras market and my dad made some croutons using some old baguette. It was simple dish yet full of different textures.
I guess that pretty much sums it up. There was so much more food, so much more to write about, but I stuck with just putting up whatever I had photos of, for fear of making this post even longer than it already is.
Every time I eat a peach I think of the ones I kept sinking my teeth into in France. Ever time I see a cherry I remember the bag that filled up with cherry pits within minutes. I remember the baguettes ruling the streets and the tarts crumbling in my mouth.
All I can say is that it was delicious... all of it. And definitely inspiring.
For now I'm on a butter and ice cream break (2 weeks of treats cannot be good for one's health...) but my memories of France are going to live on for a long time in my food.
The devil wears Prada at Suzette...
I'm sure most of you Mumbaikars have at least heard of Suzette, the quaint little French creperie that manages to bring a little bit of France to the hustle and bustle of Mumbai.
It's definitely a favourite in my family and we love to pop in for breakfast or lunch (or brunch, if you're into lazy mornings).
Today my mum, my sister and I went there for lunch after a morning of walking through art galleries and shops. Since it is a weekday the place was empty, contrary to its weekend situation in which people are lined up outside for at least an hour.
My problem is picking something from their menu (which by the way is expansive and gorgeously made with card and illustrations): should I pick one of their fruity, fresh salads? Should I try some homemade apple compote? How about caramel? Should I resort to my classic nutella crepe? Or maybe Belgian chocolate? Do I want to combine two of my favourites- sandwiches and crepes- into a croque? Maybe I'll try a savoury crepe- I love cheese...
The very first review!
I was actually in search of Fiber One cereal after reading about the whopping amount of fiber it contains (24 grams!) and its other great nutritional statistics. But I couldn't find it anywhere, so this Weetabix Crunchy Bran cereal came next in the fiber rankings.
(By the way, if anyone knows where I can get my hands on a box of Fiber One, do let me know and I'll review it there and then!)
I had just finished a box of Weetabix Chocolate, which began as a mission to finish the box my dad had bought but hadn't touched, and ended up growing on me to the point where I was sad that it finished. So I was happy to try another Weetabix product.