From the kitchens of Royal Rampur

“If there is one place on the face of this Earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when Man began the dream of its existence, it is India”     – Romain Rollan

India, a land of diverse cultures, languages, religions and more.. a plethora of colours, traditions and festivals.. but the two things that bind us all, a deep sense of pride for our nation and our love for food. Cooking and eating in India are not just mundane, daily tasks. They stem from a long love for feeding those around us and feeling a sense of contentment looking at joyful faces that surround the dinner table, enjoying fulfilling conversations and a great meal. Indian food is not just curries, papadoms and spicy dishes. It is an amalgamation of several hundred years of history, being ruled by various invaders, Western influences and a strong desire to revive and globalise traditional cuisine.

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Masala Bay at The Taj Lands End Hotel, Mumbai, with the help of renowned Chef Mujeeb Ur Rehman and his team hosted the Rampuri food festival, a cuisine revealed as one of India’s best keep secrets. Best described as a ‘courtly cuisine’, seeing as it was born and developed during the times of the Nawabs, it is a blend of Awadhi, Mughlai, Rajput and Afghani kitchens. The dishes are cooked with an array of spices on a low flame for long hours in traditional utensils. Chef Mujeeb personally treated us to everything vegetarian on his carefully crafted menu and the experience was Royal, to say the least 🙂

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Dinner began with a platter of appetisers – Paneer Saron Peeli Mirch Tikka, Paneer Hara Masala Pasanda, Mutter Ke Kabab, Aatishi Khumb and Neze Ke Aloo. 

The two Paneer dishes were melting moments, grilled and spiced to perfection. The Mutter Ke Kabab was a beautiful potato patty stuffed with green peas, asafoetida and roasted cumin. Bursting with flavours, this one was a treat for the palate. The clear winner for me however, was the Aatishi Khumb or the button mushrooms which had been marinated in yoghurt with a pickled masala and cooked in a clay oven. I believe it was the genius of the oven that made the vegetable stand out. The Neze Ke Aloo or tawa-cooked baby potatoes with cream, sandal dust, red chilli amongst other spices were not a favourite, perhaps because this was my first time tasting sandal wood powder (I’ve only ever used it as a paste with rose water on my face!) However given time,  I’m positive I’ll come around to its unique taste.

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Subz Tahiri 

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Paneer Noor Mahal 

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Dal Aswad 

Mains included Paneer Noor Mahal, cottage cheese served with assorted bell peppers flavoured with a special chungezi masala, Nawabi Baigan Bhurta, smoked eggplant baked with yogurt, onion and mustard, Dal Aswad, the nation’s favourite black lentils, slowly cooked overnight with butter, tomato puree, herbs & spices in a tandoor, Ittr Ke Dal, a rich recipe of pigeon pea prepared by a rakabdar (gourmet cook) with cream, milk, pure ghee and a hint of sweet essence. There was also a handi of Subz Tahiri, a preparation of aromatic basmati and vegetables cooked on a dum. The smoked eggplant dish stood out because of its baked texture and yogurt goodness. The paneer again was extremely soft but did not impress the tastebuds. The two lentil preparations warmed my soul with their richness and spices which I enjoyed with a sweet Sheermal, a preparation of flour and milk which was unlike anything I have ever eaten before. The softness of the bread with the sweet, cutting through the spices of the vegetables made for a perfect combination.

Dessert comprised of Chukander E Afroz, a simple beetroot halwa much like a gajar ka halwa, Gur Ke Yaquiti, a traditional chickpea flour milk pudding with jaggery and Sheer Khurma that was made with vermicelli, milk & nuts.

The overall dining experience left me feeling like royalty. The efforts being made to revive local cuisines is certainly applaud worthy. Taj hospitality, wonderful food, delightful conversation all came together for a wonderful evening in Mumbai 🙂

 

 

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5 Minute Home-made Mango Salsa

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Mumbai’s summers have been through the roof this year but the one thing that’s kept us our spirits up has been the delectable, juicy, Mango. Come summers, the fragrance of mangoes traverses through the home of all Mumbaikars. My dear friend, Chef Mrugank Desai and I decided to come up with supremely easy to make, seasonal recipes (at the fag end of the summer unfortunately) with ingredients you need not go scouting for. I’m not a fan of store bought salsa since it’s significantly high in preservatives, and since I’d been looking to perfect a recipe, we thought of making it with a little help of the mangoes lying around at home.

Ingredients:

Mango – 200 gms
Chopped onion – 50 gms
Chopped tomatoes – 50 gms
Chopped coriander – 10 gms
Green chilly – 1, chopped
Olive oil – 15 ml
The juice of 1 Lemon
Salt – to taste

Method – Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix carefully. Be sure not to squash the mango and tomatoes, else you’ll wind up with a rather mushy salsa! Transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate before serving.

This can be enjoyed with chips, nachos, even quesadillas!

New to Mumbai: House of Nomad at the Taj Lands End

A very first of it’s kind, the Taj Lands End Hotel Mumbai, brings to the city the raddest new gastro bar in town, House of Nomad. Boho-chic interiors, skilfully designed cocktails, an extensive wine list, competitively priced alcohol, tapas style food and to top it all, Taj Hospitality, all come together to bring you a perfect night out in the city.

The much awaited House of Nomad, unlike any other bar at a Taj property, opened its doors to Mumbai over the weekend. We were invited to a preview tasting where we got to meet award winning mixologist Andrew Pearson who worked for months with his team curating the perfect cocktails. Andrew, also fondly known as Andy, has been described as the “Jamie Oliver of Drink” by Theme magazine !

On the menu:

Espress Yourself

1. Express Yourself

Fresh espresso shaken with Ketel One vodka, Kahlua, homemade chocolate bitters and vanilla syrup served over block ice with a vanilla pod. Everything about this cocktail screams FLAWLESS. The bitter taste of the espresso is cut through beautifully by the Kahlua, the first sip leaves you with a gorgeous taste of the homemade chocolate bitter that lingers on your palate until the next few sips and of course the Ketel One that leaves behind a crisp and sophisticated flavour. Even the block of ice that this drink is poured over is carefully chipped by the team themselves. This is certainly our top recommended choice of poison.

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2. The Final Say

Designed especially for the ladies 😉 this drink is made of Bacardi Gold, Martell VS peach liqueur, guava juice, fresh lemon juice, sugar, and adorned with a dragon fruit. A beautiful punch of guava with a minimal taste of alcohol, you’ll want to keep this one coming!

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3. Chanel No.6 

This one is a treat for the eyes, the nose and the tastebuds. Comprising of Ketel One vodka, lychee puree, coconut syrup, homemade bitters, shaken and served straight up with a molecular lipstick. Not to forget served with a side of a fragrant mist!

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4. The Bollywood Hopeful

It’s been Andy’s dream for a while now to act in a Bollywood movie, so whilst he continues to pursue that dream, he concocted The Bollywood Hopeful in the meantime! Made with Ketel One vodka, apricot liqueur, pureed mango and fresh lemon, shaken and served up with a cheeky shot of Prosecco on the side. The Prosecco can be had 3 ways, by itself a shot, sipped on alongside the cocktail, or mixed, take your pick!

5. The final one was the Black Rum Bevy. Where Andy comes from, they often say “Bevy?” roughly translated as “would you like to go get a drink?”. Hence, the name. What I loved the most about this drink were the homemade draught stout reduction shaken with Old Monk and homemade liquorice bitters. Instead of buying these, the team just creates them in house. Add a little lemon juice and sugar and serve it up in a dimpled beer mug with a dash of nutmeg and you’ve got a gorgeous twist on the simple Old Monk.

These were only 5 of the several others on the menu, but I can say without a shadow of doubt that I’m going back for more! The team plans on revising their menu every 6 months or so with seasonal ingredients, so you can be sure to find me there each time they do something different!

The bar is currently open from 3 p.m. to 1.30 a.m.

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Happy weekend !

Khao Gali to China House!

From lip smacking street food at Khao Gali at the Lobby Lounge, to Valentine’s Day specials at The Gourmet Store and finally to the recently launched Hotpot and barbecue menus at China House, the Grand Hyatt Mumbai treated us to a full-fledged palatable affair over the weekend!

Khao Galli Specials at Lobby Lounge 

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Giving you a glimpse into Mumbai’s famous street food, the Khao Gali has been launched at the Lobby Lounge keeping in mind its social and cultural aspects. Available through the month of February, specials on the menu include – a street food station (dahi vada, pani puri, ragda pattiss, sev puri), Bun Maska with masala chai, Frankies, Masala Papad, Pav Bhaji, Missal pav, Vada Pav, Bhaji pav, Bread pakoda, and Falooda and Mewad Kulfi for dessert. That menu has me salivating!

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Valentine Indulgence
~ All you need is love.. but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!~

The Gourmet Store at the Grand Hyatt is celebrating the season of love with a thoughtfully crafted array of special offerings and exquisite gourmet preparations like the Strawberry heart cake, Valentine bitter chocolate cake, Red velvet slice, Linzer eye heart cookies, Valentine cupcakes, macaroons, the exclusive Jar of love and assorted praline and truffles. One look at these and I knew I had found true love. The passionfruit and mango pralines were my favourite. Unfortunately most of the other desserts contained egg so all I could do was lust.. sigh.. 

 Hot Pot & Barbecue Nights at China House

China House, one of the best Asian food restaurants in the city now offers Chinese Hot Pot with a fiery Chinese Barbecue specially crafted by Chef Xiang Bin Li and his team. The Hot Pot is a traditional Chinese way of preparing food directly at the dining table. A pot filled with simmering spicy stock is placed at the center of the table, and surrounded by different ingredients (meats and veggies). The ingredients are then added to the stock for a few minutes to cook and served individually. You can then choose from peanut butter, garlic and hot and sweet sauces to compliment your hot pot. The vegetarian ingredients included mushrooms, broccoli, lettuce, tofu, glass noodles and flat noodles. Chef Li also has an array of traditional smoky siu mei, barbecued meats and/or veggies (mushrooms, potatoes, tofu, lotus root, arum) cooked to perfection in a barbecue, chilli garlic, black pepper and mala sauce.

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The cherry on top is this stunning setting of the outdoor pagodas. Book your table at the earliest as Mumbai’s winter slowly bids us adieu this month!

Lohri Food Festival at the Taj Wellington Mews

Venue: Weli Deli, Taj Wellington Mews, 33, Nathalal Parikh Marg, Cusrow Baug Colony, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai
Dates: 10th January onwards
Price: INR 1200 plus taxes

Authentic Punjabi flavours have found their way to Weli Deli at the Taj Wellington Mews, as Executive Chef Shrutika Kohli conjures a decadent menu to celebrate the festival of LohriChef Kohli allows you to traverse through the festive lanes of Punjab with scintillating flavours of dishes such as Paneer Butter Masala, her signature Dal Makhini, Punjabi Samosas, and the quintessential Sarson Ka Saag with Makke Di Roti. 

The festival of Lohri which falls on the 13th of January every year is celebrated popularly to mark the end of winter. However traditionally, it is associated with the harvesting of rabi (grain) crop, therefore making it a harvest festival. Punjabi farmers are known to view the day after Lohri as the beginning of a new financial year. The festival is celebrated in full fervour with a bonfire and traditional food items such as Makke Di Roti and Sarson Ka Saag along with sweets like Gajak.

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The Taj Wellington Mews brings to Mumbai the Lohri Food Festival for the entire month of January. We were invited to a lip-smacking preview a couple of days ago. Since we eat Indian food almost everyday at home, we don’t usually opt to go out for the same. Chances of eating authentic Punjabi food are even lesser, therefore we weren’t going to miss out on this dinner!

We were as always, greeted with warm Taj hospitality by Mr. Shibu Nair (Director of Sales & Marketing) and the lovely Ms. Kaizeen Davierwalla (Asst. Sales Manager). The weather Gods were favouring us that evening with a cool, crisp air, allowing us to sit out on the deck which undeniably added to the charm of the evening.

Conversations revolving around food started flowing and I forgot how famished I was. I remembered only when the gorgeous thali came out filled with several traditional dishes. The thali comprised of Punjabi samosa, paneer butter masala, sarson ka saag, makke di roti, paratha, jeera rice, dal makhini, gajar ka halwa and raita along with sweet lassi.

My favourite dish was undoubtedly the saag with the makki roti. This was only the second time that I’d ate traditional saag and it just seemed to warm my soul. The fact that it was so beautifully cooked with all the right flavours, allowed to it melt in my mouth. The roti too was perfectly crispy. I am not a fan of paneer butter masala either because most restaurants get this wrong by either serving rubbery paneer or with a mix of too many spices making it pungent, or both. This dish had just the right amount of butter, not too rich, blended with just enough masala. The paneer however was a tad rubbery but considering the masala was so delicious, it could be ignored. The dal makhani was as always decadent and coated the jeera rice perfectly. Radish had been added to the paratha to give it an unusual texture and mava to the gajar ka halwa. I find that most places tend to over sweeten the halwa, which is not how it should be enjoyed. Chef Kohli got it just right, making me a very happy taster! 😀 Oh and of course, the sweet raita, to cool down the stomach after such a heavy meal!

I recommend you, fellow Mumbaikars, to have this experience especially since we are having a somewhat blessed ‘winter’ with cool evening almost every night. Chef Kohli’s thali will certainly warm your soul and leave you wanting more!

Book your table today at 022 66 574 331. You will thank me 🙂