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The Diwali Post and a Panchmael Dal recipe

diwali

Diwali always rehashes special memories of my home town Mithapur. Mithapur is a teeny tiny township in the western state of Gujarat, India. I grew up in a close-knit, safe environment of a township where we celebrated every Indian festival with much gusto. My fondest memories of Diwali go like this:

During Diwali we would have a 20 day holiday in school with assignments from school which I would do in the last 4-5 days only before the end of the vacation. However hard my mother would coax, I would always finish my assignment at the last minute which is a habit I continue to practice shamelessly even now.

Diwali would be a time when friends would huddle around for afternoon chit chat sessions or a quick game of street cricket. I didn’t enjoy playing cricket too much but I enjoyed the company

The township would host myriad of events to celebrate Diwali. One of them was a Rangoli competition. I was a witness to some of the most spectacular Rangoli  art work done by very talented friends in Mithapur.

We used to wait for Diwali evenings to light lamps and to burst crackers. These days there is plenty of propaganda against bursting crackers but in the good old days, it was a much awaited event. If you would ask me now, I wouldn’t like to burst crackers but lighting lamps is still one of my favourite traditions that I uphold.

There wouldn’t be a spot in the dark night, which won’t light up with colours from different kinds of crackers. It is a sight that is so deeply entrenched in my heart and I miss my childhood days even more.

In Gujarat, the day after Diwali is the New Year which everyone celebrates by wishing each other ” Saal Mubarak” . Visiting friends’ homes for sweets and savouries is a highlight of this tradition. By the time it was evening, we would be so stuffed only to start gorging on sweets by night fall.

My mother always made some savouries for Diwali that never lasted even until Diwali and the more I write, the more I feel this strong pull of nostalgia. So I shall shop here with the memory trek and write about this beautiful mixed lentil dal recipe called Panchmeal dal which literally translates to a mix of 5 kinds of dal.

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Having this dal with a dollop of ghee gives you satisfaction of all kinds. It is wholesome, healthy, hearty and nourishing. Five kinds of lentils cooked in spices  lend a flavour that is rustic and homely. Keeping it simple this Diwali, we had a lunch of hot piping rotis, Dahi Bhindi ( deep fried Okra in a tangy gravy of coconut, cashew and yogurt) and some soulful, saffron laced Kheer ( sweet rice milk pudding).

The recipe is as follows ( since this was an unplanned post, there was no time to make a recipe card)

Panchmael Dal recipe

(Serves 5)

Ingredients

The dal mixture

50 gms tuvar dal ( pigeon pea lentils)

50 gms channa dal (bengalgram split lentils)

25 gms urad dal (vigna mungo lentils)

50 gm moth dal ( matki or dew beans)

75 gms moong dal(mung bean/ green gram lentil)

salt to taste

1 tsp of tumeric

Water to boil the lentils

 For tempering 

2 bay leaves

a pinch of asafoetida

2 cloves

2 cardamoms

1 stick cinnamon

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1/s tsp cumin seeds

The masala

1 tsp chopped ginger

1 cup sliced tomatoes and onions

1 tsp chopped green chillies ( optional, if you like it spicy)

1 tsp dry mango powder ( amchur)

1 tsp coriander powder

4 tsp chopped coriander leaves

For garnish

Chopped coriander leaves and fried red chillies

Preparation

1. Clean and wash the lentils and soak in water for 2 hours.

2. Add turmeric powder, salt and enough water in a pressure cooker and cook until 2 whistles. If you do not have a pressure cooker, boil your lentils with turmeric and salt in a pan full of water until they are cooked well.

3. Heat the oil in a pan; add the asafoetida, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. Once the mustard seeds have spluttered start adding the ingredients in the masala

4. Add the green chillies ( if using ) and ginger. Fry well.

5. Add the sliced tomatoes and onions and keep stirring until they are fried well. Add the dried mango powder, coriander powder and let the masala fry for a few minutes.

6. Add the cooked dals and mix. Add water to get the desired consistency. Simmer for a few minutes.Add coriander leaves and let it simmer some more.

7. Serve hot with rotis or rice after garnishing it with fresh, chopped coriander leaves. In case, you want it more tangy, squeeze some lemon juice and mix the dal well. Serve in bowls with a tsp of  ghee to enhance the taste.

This dal is sure to fire a trail of your favourite childhood memories of having spent Diwali with your parents and relatives. I managed to relive a huge portion of it by making sure my family had the meal together today without the distraction of mobiles, television or even books. We spoke to each other and enjoyed the food for its taste and simplicity.

Happy and safe Diwali to you all.

{Travel Post} The Doha Diary – Katara Cultural Village and the Torch

Travel Diaries | October 16, 2014 | By

Thank you to all who enjoyed reading the last  post and felt they were able to extract the essence of Qatar’s purposive balance between the old and the new. It is important for any culture/nation to refurbish the diminishing coat of traditional ethos in order for the generations of the future to enjoy and take lessons.

Katara cultural village overlooking the Doha skyline

Katara cultural village overlooking the Doha skyline

A single day is quite enough to change perceptions and this epiphany happened every step of the way on the trip. Primarily known for welcoming working immigrants, Qatar’s other facets fascinated me no end. After our enchanting visit to Souq Wafiq, I have strong doubts whether anything else on this excursion was going to trump that. But I was proved wrong in no time, when Mr. Jamal our guide took us to the Katara Cultural Village.

The Katara Cultural Village – Katara is a cultural hub that allows the interaction of myriad cultures through theatre, literature, music, visual art such as paintings and photography. A splendid celebration of all the human senses, Katara Cultural Village is a great place for families to come and enjoy a day in appreciation of arts and crafts. I noticed there  were  some workshops that take in students, young and old, temporarily to give them a feel of the different art mediums. The cultural village houses the Qatar photographic society which is to support the growing photographic movement in Qatar.

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Vintage doors are such an attraction

Fanar - the lighthouse / beacon - to act as a guiding light to whole of mankind, and to help all non-Arabs to have a better understanding of Islam and culture of Qatar.

Beautiful Turkish lamps adorn the ceiling/ Fanar (right) – ( literally translates to the lighthouse / beacon)  a center to help non-Arabs to have a better understanding of Islam and culture of Qatar.

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Passed by The Royal Tandoor in Pearl Qatar (left)/ ornate tap in the Katara Cultural Village(right)

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Mr. Jamal , our tourist guide, the Doha skyline and the model of the solar system at the Katara cultural village

Katara Cultural Village was such a visual treat with interesting dimensions to it. This is where we had our sumptuous lunch at the L’wzaar Seafood Market( highly recommended) where we tried different kinds of seafood dishes ( risking my allergies). Gorgeous food and gorgeous servers!

There two most striking features about Katara Cultural Village which I enjoyed the most:

1. Amphitheater – This Grecian inspired space is stunning with a seating capacity of 5000. This gargantuan amphitheater has played host to several celebrities such as the renowned actor Jeremy Irons and Angela Gheorghiou, the soprano.

The amphitheater overlooks this statue of an Abaaya – clad Arab woman, wielding the world in a piece of cloth representing the country’s forward thinking attributes.

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2. Gandhiji’s three monkeys in the modern world – This is a series of sculptures created by Indian artist Subodh Gupta, representing Gandhiji’s the principle “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” There were two things about the sculptures fascinated me. One, all of them were in military gear and second, they were made from stainless steel cooking utensils, aluminium buckets and such. One of the sculptures had glasses portraying ‘see no evil’, the other wearing a hood expressing ‘hear no evil’ and the third one wearing a gas mask signifying ‘speak no evil’. The underlying theme of this triad were – war and peace, public and private, global and local.

See no evil/ Katara cultural village

See no evil/ Katara cultural village

Hear no evil

Hear no evil

Speak no evil

Speak no evil

From here, we went back to our hotel with our senses full with the sights of the city and the gorgeous food making us drowsy. I took that time to explore the hotel which by far is one of the most beautiful properties I have ever seen.

Sharq village and spa

Sharq village and spa

By dusk, we dressed up for dinner which was at the Torch. We were booked for dinner at the Three Sixty which is a revolving restaurant unlike any other. Located on the 47th floor, the restaurant offers a panoramic view that simply makes your heart skip a beat. The food, needless to say, was top notch. The dinner and the spectacular view was a fitting end to my  wonderful sojourn.

The Torch, Doha

The Torch, Doha

I had to cut short the trip by two days because it was my daughter’s 5th birthday the next day. But a whole day was spent in Doha, exploring the city like I had never done before. I am glad that I took this time out to attend the Qatar Summer Festival for which I have only the Qatar Tourism Authority to thank. On my way back to Bahrain, at the Hamad International Airport, I was mesmerized by the efficiency of the airport. The only bit I was disappointed with was that the duty free section was very minimal. The range and the choice I expected was not available. Maybe with some more time, when the newly opened airport is developed further, more duty free outlets will be available to delight the customers.

Hamad International Airport

Hamad International Airport

{Travel Post} The Doha Diary – Souq Waqif

Here are 3 facts about Qatar, that you may not know:

1. In 2022, the World Cup final will be played in a city in Qatar that does not exist yet – This future city will be called Lusail,

2.Al Jazeera – The satellite known for its controversial reporting is broadcast from Qatar

3.  Every single building in the Doha Skyline is a completely different design from the other and there are about 40 such buildings as per this source.

To me, until a month back, Doha was a place for work; of strict project deadlines, meetings that went on forever and countless hours at the airport. My work as a business consultant took me to Doha for 3 sweet months where, there was only the work-face of Doha that I saw, understood and felt. But a month back, I was invited to see Doha with a fresh pair of eyes, of that of a tourist. The generous folks from the Qatar Tourism Authority invited me and two other bloggers to a 3 day visit to Doha. Of the 3 days, I was able to participate for a day but it was enough to give me the glimpse of the culturally vibrant and modern contemporary world-city that Doha is. I started this post with 3 interesting facts about Qatar just to put into perspective, how strongly Qatar is poised on the growth vector. Before I go into the beautiful stories I experienced in the single day I spent in Doha, I would like to mention a few things that were my biggest takeaway from the trip.

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

1. Primarily, known more for the work opportunities for immigrants,  Qatar is now shifting its energies towards making it a tourist – friendly nation in the lieu of the 2022 World Cup event;

2. Being a proud Islamic state and the one that really values its cultural integrity, Qatar has spent a lot of time planning and maintaining its cultural hubs such as the Souq Waqif etc.

3. Qatar knows it is a perfect confluence of the east and west and is not afraid to show it. This is very evident from the way its construction industry and other related industries are booming with government support.

The Qatar Tourism Authority ( QTA) made sure we were well taken care of and for that they arranged for us to stay at the most popular address in town. – The Ritz Carlton’s Sharq Village and Spa. Located by the their private beach and overlooking the spectacular Doha skyline, Sharq Village and Spa is luxury, redefined. We were lodged in independent villas with a sea-view which was such a delight to say the least.

Sharq Village and Spa

Sharq Village and Spa

Sharq Village and Spa/ room

Sharq Village and Spa/ room

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Sharq Village and spa

The spectacular Doha Skyline at dusk as photographed from the hotel

The spectacular Doha Skyline at dusk as photographed from the hotel

When you are in such a wonderfully encouraging and comforting environment, it automatically puts you at ease.  The night I landed, on the 15th of September,I met up with the other bloggers – Reem Taufiqi ( Bahraini blogger) and Anamika Arun ( food blogger from Dubai). We were ferried around the town by our enthusiastic guide Mr. Jamal.  The Doha tour was to begin next morning of the 16th of Septemer. That night, I slept like a baby and the next morning, I woke up feeling fresh and happy.

The falcon shop  at souq waqif

The falcon shop at souq waqif

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We set out on our excursion, after a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop was the Souq Waqif.

Fascinating stories from Souq Waqif:  A souq is a local market place and Doha’s Souq Wafiq  is special because it houses the poshest of restaurants in an Arabian Nights set up. As modern as its restaurants might be, the souq has some intriguing shops such as this Falcon Shop we visited. There is a great interest among Arab nationals to have Falcons as pets. There is a lot of science and money that goes behind having aFalcon as  pet. The shop had a whole line up of Falcons on display for customers to pick and choose. What is more, there were pretty leather and loom accessories that one could buy to adorn these majestic birds.

It is said that a Falcon needs to forget their previous owners otherwise they won’t accept the new ones. For that, they are made to wear eye patches covering both their eyes for 20 days which ensures they have no memories of the previous owner. The other reason why they have eye patches and are restrained by chains on their claws is they get overwhelmed when people come to the shop to buy them and risk flying and hurting themselves. Somewhere, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them. Apparently, there seems to be a lot of preference for white Falcons from Russia and the bidders bid for amounts as high as  QAR 70,000 ( approx $ 19,220). What is more astonishing was that, there was a hospital for falcons! Not birds. Not animals.. but falcons alone. They had specialists who solved falcon ailments which goes on to show how much these birds are revered by the locals.

D2The Souq has its own police galloping around on their horses in traditional uniforms to keep up with the traditional flavour of the place. The Souq is a vibrant place with vendors selling different types of wares starting from Turkish lamps, to tiles, to clothes, shoes, bags, spices to name a few.

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Biryani spice

Biryani spice

souq waqif

There is a story behind why it is called the Souq Waqif. It has been in existence for the past 100 years or more and since those days, they had a traffic policeman directing traffic in the souq, standing on his feet, the whole day long. Waqif – that translates to ‘standing’ is what gives the souq its name. Quite fascinating how places get their names!

DSC_0526All these men you see in the picture are waiting for shoppers to come by to shop so that they can ferry their wares in these trolleys much like in the Memsahib era. No young man is allowed to take this job which these elderly gentlemen do, ensuring that this means of livelihood is not taken away from them.

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Architecture in the souq

Turkish lamps hanging from traditional ceilings; The Fanar- lighthouse

Turkish lamps hanging from traditional ceilings; The Fanar- lighthouse

While Jamal (our guide) kept us busy with all the beautiful anecdotes relating to the souq, he rounded us up to the AlDama Council in Souq Waqif . Dama that is played by two players was brought to Qatar from Turkey. It has taken the place of a traditional indoor board game which is now being promoted by the Government in their attempt to revive the popularity of  the game and encourage youngsters to take it up. Anybody can drop by the AlDama Council and play for free. I had quite a lovely time defeating my opponent who was an elderly Qatari gentleman.

Dama - board game

Dama – board game

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After the board game adventure, we travelled a bit around the souq, admiring the ornate doors, the rustic buildings, the pristine blue skies and trying once in a while to forget how hot it was.

We were then taken to meet the most incredible man ever - Saad Ismail – the oldest pearl diver in Qatar

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This septuagenarian, has seen and done it all. He has been touted the strongest man in Doha and a man incapable of feeling pain. He has tested his physical endurance by lying down on broken glass pieces and has deep dived into the sea with minimal equipment in the search of the most exotic pearls. He has met the Kings and the Queens of many lands and gifted them exquisite pearl ornaments as mementos. When you see him, you know Ismail has truly lived a full life that many of us can only dream of.

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Visiting the souq can be an eye- opener and an experience, I won’t forget in a hurry. There were many things, that I wanted to explore and take pictures if we weren’t so short of time. It was amazing to see how beautifully everything was preserved, restored and created to ensure that the souq’s sanctity was maintained. The first part of the day was spent reveling at the cultural history of Qatar. My sojourn in Doha was just beginning to get exciting when we headed next to Katara Village for lunch and an afternoon full of art and photography appreciation. But for that you will have to wait for my next post.

Eid Mubarak

Wishing all the readers of Slice of my Lyfe, a lovely Eid and happy holidays.

 

 

Slice of my lyfe poster (1)

 

 

I  intend to break this long blog silence with a beautiful, picture – heavy travel post which will include the glorious touristy details of my visit to Doha ( Qatar). Cheers

A broken wheat and lentil soup and what I learnt from my father

Each time I meet my father, I am astonished. At the age of 68, he seems to be exuding more vitality than me or my husband or anyone considerably younger.  The last three months were a ball. I had my parents visiting us and that gave us ample amount of time to spend with each other. My father spent hours playing with my 4-year-old every single day and at times it was difficult to figure out who was having more fun. He was the one who took her out to the park and ran around with her for hours in this high heat- humidity situation in Bahrain. Where did he draw that kind of energy from?

I always knew my father was energetic and had tremendous zeal for life. I have never seen him pull covers over his head and sleep until late in the mornings. He is always up at the crack of dawn and some times even before that and by the time we wake up, he is already done with his morning rituals and could be seen chanting the Saraswati Sahasranama. Post which, he would have his breakfast and was ready to  ‘carpe diem’.

Muthashan and Mimi

Muthashan and Mimi

Of all that I know about my father, there is this youthfulness about him that I admire the most.  Oftentimes, I have wondered how he managed to not let life sap this from his being. We all know how life just slowly sucks away our enthusiasm even without us noticing and suddenly we are caught in a moment while looking up our picture on Facebook, wondering - When and how did I change so much!

In one such similar moment, I thought about this and found several insights into my father’s personality and his view on life.

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So these are few secrets to how he manages to remain youthful and energetic:

1. Be creative – My father, who is a Pisces, has a natural inclination to being creative. Be it writing emails, to ironing clothes ( yes! he is very handy around the house), to keep the house clean and in order or even his conversations radiate with his creative genius. He finds more efficient and interesting ways to do banal things in life to keep it exciting. The loveliest trait about him is he always encourages everyone around him to be creative –  to be the best possible versions of themselves. Easy as it may sound, it is quite difficult. But I have seen him practice being creative and over years it has become a habit. He is retired now but when he was an employee of a large and an esteemed organization, he was known for his creative approach to everything in his Department.

Nourish your creative side to stay young

2. Appreciate beauty- Usually in life, we get carried way by the routine and forget to appreciate the beauty around us. Somehow, most of us are not even gifted with good observation skills unlike my father. My father is very aware of everything around him and is quick to appreciate its unique beauty. How beautiful and grand do the date palms look swaying in the wind, especially when laden with ripe dates, how beautiful do the crottons look and how the building’s reception with its black marble looks majestic and so on. This is stuff that I pass by every single day of my life but I never have the intention, inclination or the time to appreciate it. Beautiful people, beautiful things, flowers, gardens, fountains, beautiful buildings and the list is endless – fascinate my father.

Appreciate beauty to stay young

3. Connect with people- It has been a year since we moved this building complex but I haven’t had the chance or the interest to know my neighbours or make friends around the building. In three months time, my father managed to make more friends just by going to the park with my daughter. He knows the names of the attendants in the supermarket below our building and also the names of the plumber, repairman, the water guy to list a few. I see him giving them personalized attention and taking care to ask them about their lives. They are ever so happy to serve him.

Connect with people and try to bring smiles to their face to stay young

4. Maintain a child – like wonder – Even at 68 years, my father is intrigued about everything. He reads up a lot and follows anything that is trending – be in music, news and opinions, culture etc. Lately he was asking me about Timbaland and a few recommendations that I could give him about the tracks that he has composed and sung. He is genuinely curious and that shows in the way he explores the books that my brother and I read. He has a soft spot for young adult’s fantasy fiction as well.

Be genuinely curious about the world around you to stay young

5. Be addicted to the idea of being in love – Being in love is a feeling different from all others. It gives you that spring in your step, that colour to your cheeks and you feel like you are walking on clouds. Well, that is the feeling we should have in our hearts all the time. Unfortunately, it seems so difficult in this fast paced life to feel that light – hearted,  and enjoy the finer moments of life. My father, an eternal romantic at heart, always seems to be joking and having a time of his life. He seems to be addicted to the idea of being in love – no not with any person as such except, of course his wife, my mother – but generally in love with the feeling of love.

Be in love to feel young

These are his five strategies that contribute towards his youth-like demeanour. I think, there may more but I may take some time to explore them and eventually imbibe them.

BLS2This recipe here is not my father’s favourite by any means but it is my way of showing how I have begun to learn all his secrets to staying young. Over and above his secrets, I am trying to develop a few strategies of my own such as eating healthy and exercising well. The diet- exercise combination keeps in a good mood and hence productive. When I feel productive, I know I am on a creative pursuit and that leads me to be curious. I do have to work on my ‘connect with people’ area where my skills are tremendously deficient. And  feeling light – hearted, like being in love is still a work-in- progress.

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This light and hearty soup made of broken wheat and brown lentils is a complete meal. I feel completely satisfied after having this for lunch (preferable) as I find that my cravings are reduced drastically. I have had this soup, 3 days in a row for lunch and did not get tired of it – it is that good! It also got featured in a Dubai based culinary magazine called “The Chef’s Special” for their Ramadan special issue along with my Falooda recipe. I wrote about how Ramadan, when planned properly can be an enjoyable experience by finding the balance between fasting and feasting.

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Do try this soup and if you do, please let me know how you enjoyed it! The recipe is as under:

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Here’s wishing everyone a fantastic few days of the working week and a wonderful weekend!

{Restaurant Review} Jim’s Restaurant, Adliya – Good old Jim’s is back!

Three years ago, I completed a project. No, it wasn’t of any national interest but it was important for me as a food blogger and a restaurant reviewer.It was called the Restaurant Review project  on the blog, where I had taken up the task of reviewing 24 restaurants in Bahrain in  6 months time in 2010. Many obstacles came my way, but I did finally finish it, not it 6 months but it took me 12-14 months to finish. Today, I have nearly 29 restaurants reviewed on my blog and you can check them out here. The very first restaurant I reviewed was Jim’s Restaurant in Adliya.  It was a great evening with friends and family and I went home from Jim’s Restaurant feeling wonderful from all the good food.  In between now and the first time at Jim’s Restaurant, I did pay it a visit a couple of times, but was disappointed by the food and the service. It was then I got to know Jim’s has changed hands twice and the new team wasn’t able to create the ‘ Old Jim’s magic’. I decided to avoid Jim’s until now, when I was invited to review them two weeks back. I was reluctant but then the new management at Jim’s were really persuasive.  The new management of Jim’s Restaurant informed that their old Chef Firdaus is back and with him the restaurant is back to being the ‘good old Jim’s’ 

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Jim’s Restaurant in Adliya was always known to be a fun place for a great night with friend’s on a weekend. With food that draws inspiration from Anglo- Irish to Indo- Persian cuisine, Jim’s Restaurant has always promised it’s diners a sumptuous meal in a fine yet casual set up.

I was quite intrigued to see if I would witness the old charm of Jim’s Restaurant after 3 years.

Upon entering the restaurant on a Thursday late evening, after a hard day’s work, I only had one thing on my mind – relaxation. I wanted go to a place where I could put my feet up and feel the casual vibe around me. It seemed that my wish might just come true when we were welcomed inside the  restaurant by the restaurant’s staff  with broad smiles. We ordered our drinks as it was extremely hot and humid that evening. The chilled and refreshing drinks provided the much needed succor. It was a matter of time that I felt very relaxed and was genuinely looking forward to my dinner at Jim’s. We ordered some starters which I realized were the same that I had ordered three years ago. It is funny how our memory points us to migrate to everything that is familiar and comfortable. My taste bud memories immediately got to work and I recalled the contrasting tastes of the salty brie against the tangy sweetness of the blueberry coulis. The Deep fried brie wedges in blueberry coulis was everything that my taste buds remembered and loved. I was nearly convinced that I could forget the past and imagine that good old Jim’s was really back. Now I was very excited to see how the other courses turned out.

Deep fried brie wedges with blueberry coulees

Deep fried brie wedges with blueberry coulees

To accompany the starter, we also ordered for an appetizing oriental chicken salad.  The salad was refreshing because it was made from all the seasonal and local produce such a locally sourced chicken, cucumbers, beetroot, crispy lettuce, onions and coriander leaves. The satay style marinated chicken was delicious while the tangy peanut dressing made it very addictive. I had many helpings of this salad which I found genuinely filling and would recommend it just as highly as I would the deep fried brie wedges with coulis.

Oriental chicken salad

Oriental chicken saladR

The main course seemed unnecessary but my gluttonous nature got better of me. We ordered for a spinach, brie, mushroom stuffed chicken and a vegetable quiche – again both main courses were the same from our first time at Jim’s Restaurant.  The hearty spinach, brie and mushroom stuffed chicken was accompanied by mashed potatoes,  garlic cream sauce and buttered vegetables while the vegetable quiche had a salad side to it – every bit scrumptious and hearty.

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Spinach, brie and mushroom stuffed chicken

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Vegetable Quiche

By the time, we finished our main courses, we were in food heaven. The portions were fantastic and it really felt like we were back at the old Jim’s Restaurant. Jim’s is lucky to have chef Firdaus back and it was his magic that was helping his patrons relive old Jim’s Restaurant memories. All in all, I sensed that this is a chef who knows exactly what he’s reaching for, a chef whose ultimate goal is simply to make his patrons and new customers happy.  And this is just the beginning and Jim’s Restaurant has some hard work to put in before they can have all their old customers back. I have no doubt in my mind, that Jim’s will be very successful like it used to be once. I missed eating the dessert because I was too full from all the tasty food. The next time, I go to Jim’s Restaurant, I will start with dessert first.

If this review has made you hungry, you can check out Jim’s menu here

This is a sponsored post but the views expressed are solely mine.

Chocolate Chocolate Cookies and a note about lost things

Tinkerbell is a collector of lost things. With these lost things she made the most useful inventions which helped make the life of the fairies of Neverland better. Mimi and I love Tinkerbell. She is our favourite fairy.

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When Mimi was younger, she had this incredible talent of finding lost things too. When she was a toddler, she would bound about around the house and find stuff that we would have given up for good. My favourite clip from under the bed, hoards of pens stuck in between the sofa crevices, abandoned restaurant bills which are the only evidence of the good times we had with friends.  Finding them, looking at them creates their own separate memories. That is the beauty of finding lost things. Today Mimi is 4 years old, soon to be 5. She still retrieves her Ammamma’s glasses from wherever she last left them. That is the uncanny ability that children have. We grown ups are hopeless like that. We lose things that then forget that we lost them. That is how I am. What’s gone, its gone forever. New things take the place of lost things. But today, I feel a little different.

Because I lost a poem.

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I wrote it on a whim with the excitement of a child for having seen a beautiful cookie. That cookie was my muse and it made me write a poem. I never write poems because they are not for me. I read and enjoy poems written by others. But I never write one.

This cookie is special. It forced me think like a poet and express like one. It was actually quite nice, is what my friends and family told me. But no one saved it and neither did I. So I have lost it forever and I can’t seem to recreate it. The cookie is still inspiring and that is why I am sharing it today in this blog post. But the poet in me, is silent. I depend on Mimi to write one and bring it back to me, like she has always done by finding lost things and bringing it back to me. That will make a separate memory.

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This is the chocolate chocolate recipe that Mimi baked like a dream and it made it into a magazine. The Bahrain Confidential featured me as the blogger of the month. Check out their beautiful, brand new website and their digital edition here. Thank you.. Melissa!

Bloggers Bytes BC August 2014

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The recipe is simple and uses very few ingredients. It is gluten – free, dairy – free and nut – free though, that was not intentional. I tried it, because I thought it would make for some amazing cookies. It uses enormous about of icing sugar but let that not scare you. The recipe is as follows:

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Here’s wishing all my Indian readers, a very happy Independence day today! Cheers.

{Restaurant Review} Go to The Meat Co. for a hearty meal and a great time

How many times in life we miss out on great opportunities only because we hold preconceived notions about them. They slip by because we are hesitant and limit our imagination and thus our experiences in life. I had a similar experience very recently when I went to The Meat Company when I was graciously asked to review them. I was quite hesitant considering The Meat Co. held a reputation of being a steak house and I do not eat steak. Going to a steak house and then eating vegetarian fare would never be a fair deal. But The Meat Co. ‘s PR persuaded me to try their non-steak menu and promised that it would be just as delightful, if not more.  Armed with my camera and a non-steak eating husband, I tottered off to The Meat Co. on a sultry evening during Ramadan.

Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by the gracious hostess who showed us our table.  We are asked promptly about the beverage of choice and we opted for water at room temperature. I made an additional request for hot water because I wasn’t keeping well. The request was dealt with spontaneity which impressed me as a pot of boiling water was kept on my table. We were introduced to the server, Alex who was more than pleased to help us figure out the menu and how we could get the best out of it despite belonging to the category of the non-steak eating lot.

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While we spent time perusing and contemplating the options on the menu, we were served a crusty wholemeal bread with balsamic and olive oil to dip into. Just perfect start to what was to be a fine dining experience. In the beginning, we were seated on the ground floor where the lighting wasn’t the best for food photos. We were escorted to the first floor which was less crowded and that helped my cause. It meant having the freedom to take pictures from all odd angles which would have otherwise drawn a lot of eye balls. Such is a life of a food aficionado! Sigh!

Well, I digress. The moot point is, we were treated exclusively with Alex giving us all the information we needed about the cuisine and what to expect from dishes we hadn’t tasted before. He told us about the South African food that is The Meat Co.’s origins and how it is different from other kinds of cuisines.

 

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Alex & Amit

For the starters we ordered the Wild Mushroom and Spinach Vol-au-vent which was sauteed wild mushroom in a creamy spinach sauce, stuffed into a flaky pastry and topped with cheese which I suspect was Parmesan and Mozzarella.  The pastry was crunchy and flaky while the stuffing was a creamy deliciousness of a match that was made in heaven.

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Wild Mushroom and Spinach Vol -au-vent

We also ordered for a warm goat cheese salad as a starter which was slightly sweet and tangy which could be credited to the mild honey balsamic dressing on the salad. Oh somehow I forgot about this third starter – Scallops on the bed of risotto! How could I,  considering this was my first time trying scallops. And tell you what; I loved it!!  The risotto was comfort food at its best with a mild cheese flavour and a kick from the pepper balancing the subtle flavours of the pan- fried scallops. Somehow, both the salads, scallops were so filling plus the bread was so hearty that we felt, we could have easily skipped the main course. But we had already ordered for it and were feeling completely intimidated by the portions! ( What were we thinking!)

 

A warm goat cheese salad

A warm goat cheese salad

 

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Scallops on a bed of risotto

The the main courses arrived, we realized that The Meat Co. definitely doesn’t believe in less is more! The portions were LARGE and HEARTY and so TASTY. It was a pity that we over -ordered ( is there such a term??) our starters and didn’t take the steakhouse definition too seriously.

For the main course we ordered the grilled fish ( hammour) with steamed vegetables for me and a ‘well-done’ chicken burger for my husband with fries and onion rings. It was an absolute pity that we were up until our mouths with all the wonderful food, that the main course went largely unappreciated. I made it a point to doggy bag my left over fish because leaving it felt like a criminal waste. The left overs served me well the next day for lunch where I marveled at the succulent texture of the fish.

Grilled Hammour with vegetables

Grilled Hammour with vegetables

Chicken burger

Chicken burger

Alex entertained and encouraged us to eat more and heartily but I told him that if I had a morsel more, I might just die there. To which he said, ” Not yet!”  You have to try our chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream and creme anglaise for dessert. My heart just stopped at the words, chocolate and fondant. I had to have atleast a spoonful, even it meant falling into a food -induced coma for life.

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Was the chocolate fondant dessert everything that I hoped it would be? Perhaps, no. The dessert was the only downer among all that we ordered. But that is alright since I was too stuffed to even enjoy anything beyond a spoonful. All in all, it was such a pleasant evening spent at The Meat Co. with its pleasant staff, who made sure we were attended exclusively. The food was the star of the night and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that The Meat Co. ‘s food has been one of the best meals I have had in a long time.

Having a meal there, changed my perception about the place. The Meat Co. has a lot more wonderful food to offer than just steaks for which is widely popular. An engaging and customer friendly staff is an asset to any restaurant. The Meat Co.’s staff had been very hospitable and they knew their food. This really impressed me. I am definitely going back there with my friends some time soon because a lot of my friend’s, like me, have avoided going there for the same reason. I need to show them that there is so much more to The Meat Co. than simply steaks.

*This is a sponsored post but all the views expressed are solely mine. 

Eid Mubarak and my family’s favourite Kheer recipe

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Here, in Bahrain, we are still reeling from our longish yet blink and you miss kinda  Eid Holidays. My kitchen still smells of butter and chocolate and spice from plenty of baking expeditions that Mimi and I carried out. My instagram account is filled with pictures of my moreish banana breads ( will blog about it soon), Nigella’s Orange and chocolate cake and almond biscotti. As an expat and a non- Muslim in Bahrain, being around during Eid celebrations is a special experience each year. As an outsider and an observer, the festivities marked by a long holiday and the Muslim community getting together to celebrate after a month of fasting and prayers, have always left me with a feeling of longing for my family back in my own home country. There is a spark in everybody’s eyes as they go shopping for gifts and traditional sweets. To feel close to it all, I too, go for shopping for traditional sweets and gifts for friends and my family.The other major attraction during Eid would be to go to the Grand Mosque which is a unique experience and this year my parents would be visiting the Grand Mosque for the first time. It would be interesting to see the Mosque once again through their eyes. The Ministry of culture has come up with a great line up of performances from all over the world as a part of the Bahrain Summer Festival 2014. I can’t wait to attend some of them which sound every bit delightful. At home, I try to create a festive atmosphere by preparing some delicacies like the Shir Korma and  Biryani. I call friends home and do our own little Eid party with cheese sampling and such. Eid, on the whole, leaves me feeling festive and I look forward to this festival like I would, Deepawali, while I lived in India.

So that was a bit about how we spent the holidays. I would also like to share a few interesting updates. I couldn’t have imagined on that sultry afternoon of 23rd February, 2010 that my blog would come this far. The innumerable opportunities that my blog has provided have helped me explore my own potential as a food writer and a food photographer. I still have a long way to go but every opportunity is a divine gift that I shall treasure.

I had the opportunity to share a recipe, picture and a write up of the famous Thalassery Biryani with the readers of Bombay times. It is a small mention but for me a big milestone to be featured in the supplement of the Times Group. In this article, I talk a bit about its origin and the interesting history behind the Thalassery Biryani. The recipe is pretty amazing too.

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The other update includes a chocolate cookie recipe that Mimi and I shared with the readers of a Bahrain based magazine – Bahrain Confidential. Here, I discuss why baking is such a fruitful exercise with children especially during their summer holidays. I shall share a detailed post on the cookie recipe, soon.

Bloggers Bytes BC August 2014

Now that the updates are out of the way, let me share with you my simple, yet absolutely delicious Kheer ( rice pudding) recipe which I made to celebrate Eid.  Just with a few ingredients it is possible to create something so magical that it unites your family at the dining table even if they have vastly varied tastes for other foods.

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Most of my cooking that I do at home is instinctive and I never take the pains of jotting down the recipe. But during these Eid holidays, I thought better and wrote down the recipe for Kheer as I made it. It is a favourite with my family especially my daughter and my husband. They enjoy a cupfull of this in its warm and chilled forms.

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While it uses few ingredients, its taste blooms because it is cooked slowly on low flame. To speed up the process would mean cooking it at high temperatures but then it would completely kill the taste. I know of several other methods of making Kheer like cooking it in the pressure cooker etc but these short cut methods do not do it for me. I like the traditional way of cooking it slowing and allow the flavours of the reduced milk to merge with the cardamom, sugar and the ghee-fried raisins and cashews.  This recipe gives atleast 8 servings.

Wishing everybody a great week ahead!

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Muneera Obaidli’s Ramadan Detox Plan

One week or less remains before Ramadan comes to a close. The intense fasting and prayers have changed the atmosphere around here. Everything is so quiet and so still, that it inspires you to look inwards. It is perhaps the right time to detox the body along with the mind. Muneera Obaidli who has been involved professionally in the health industry for over 7 years with her health food business, Vida for Life, has created this Detox Plan for Ramadan.  I was invited to sample and provide my honest feedback about her special Ramadan menu. The purpose of this menu is to help you make the most of your fasting experience by providing meals that cleanse and nourish the body and keep it hydrated throughout the fast. It is a vegetarian and gluten – free  which keeps you bloat-free and aids digestion.

Healthy food does not have to be boring and Muneera’s meal plan stands testimony to that.

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Thai Spring Roll with almond dipping sauce

The one day package that I was requested to review had the following:

1. Fresh young coconut water

2. Green mango smoothie

3. Ramadan detox soup

4. Quinoa madrooba

5. Thai spring roll with dipping sauce

6. Buckwheat wrap

7. Cauliflower soup

8. Raw chocolate mousse

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I was also provided a document elucidating the reason behind having each meal at a certain time during non-fasting hours. While I cannot vouch for their prescribed effect as promised by the program, I can definitely comment about the taste of each meal item. I couldn’t possibly have had all the meals in a single day, so I distributed them over two days.

–> I started my day with the Green Mango Smoothie which was refreshing to say the least. I could easily taste the green mango, spinach and perhaps a green apple as well. It was filling and delicious. As per the program leaflet, Vida recommends that people fasting should opt this smoothie for ‘Suhoor’ because this smoothie will keep you hydrated, is light and easy to digest. Having  a heavy Suhoor will only lead to more food cravings the next day and people who are fasting should definitely avoid that.

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–> By mid morning, I had my coconut water which rejuvenated me and with this I also had the buckwheat wrap. The wrap has no filling in it but it is flavourful on its own. The program suggests that it is better to break the fast in the evening with this glass of fresh young coconut water which not only quenches the thirst but also rebalances blood sugar levels. It will  infuse the body with natural minerals , enzymes and electrolytes. It is also recommended that people who are fasting also drink several glasses of water with pinches of sea salt to hydrate and flush out toxins that may have released due to fasting for prolonged hours.

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–> Lunch was a hearty cauliflower soup with grilled chicken breast ( the chicken breast wasn’t in the diet plan). The soup was creamy and appetizing, and I felt satiated and enjoyed the soup a lot. The program suggests having this soup instead of refreshing smoothie for ‘Suhoor’ on days when you feel like something savoury instead of sweet.

–> Evening had me ravenous and I enjoyed the delicious Thai spring roll with an almond dip. The almond dip was something I had never tasted before and it was addictive. I was eating it in spoonfuls. The spring roll, straight from the fridge were crispy and delightful. Basically a lettuce wrap with vegetable filling made for a filling snack along with the almond dip.

–> My final meal of the day was the Ramadan detox soup with was clear soup with alpha-alpha sprouts which felt like noodles. Just a simple yet clever way to incorporate protein while tricking the mind into thinking it’s actual noodles. This was my favourite meal of them all.

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–> I skipped the dessert and thought of having it the next day after lunch.  Next day, I had the Quinoa madrooba where the broken wheat was replaced by quinoa to make it protein rich and gluten free. It was interesting but wasn’t exactly exciting. Then came the raw chocolate mousse which wasn’t my cup of tea at all. It tasted too sour. I wasn’t sure what ingredients were used to make it and perhaps this feedback will be useful to Vida to improve upon their desserts they’re offering in this detox plan. Perhaps only cut fruits could suffice to satisfy any sweet cravings. Funnily enough, in these two days I had minimal sweet cravings. It may have to do with the fact that I was consuming no gluten products all.

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( Madrooba is like a savoury porridge usually made from broken wheat, masalas and chicken, and cooked in chicken stock)

All in all it was an interesting meal combination with so many flavours and textures to try. I felt light and bloating -free in these two days and this goes on to say how much you would benefit if you try the entire detox program. Cleansing the body is a must and maybe Ramadan is the right time to get it done considering the calorie intake is already quite restricted. Every meal is well packaged and the portions are controlled which itself proves that a lot of thought has been put behind this meal plan. As per the information provided by the Vida team, they offer custom meal plans taking into consideration any kind of special health and taste preferences.

For all who are interested, contact the Vida team on vidaforlife@gmail.com or call tel: 17534999. These meals will be delivered at your door step!

Wishing all my Muslim friends a blessed and healthy last week of Ramadan.