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

Restaurant Reviews | August 8, 2014 | By

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

August 3, 2014 | By

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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.

Ramadan Kareem! Falooda Recipe and a Social Media Award for #SMDAY

July 4, 2014 | By

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This is my 5th year and Bahrain is home now. The comfort and the familiarity makes me disown my expat status and feel like local. The food, the culture, the openness and the warmth are addictive which makes me wonder whether I would think about a time when I would feel like packing my bags and heading back to my home country, India. It is when I moved to Bahrain that I started writing and blogging and discovered that part of me which I never knew existed in the first place. Being a blogger allowed me to explore several avenues which otherwise would have been unapproachable. With these experiences, I gained confidence and started trusting my own abilities and after 4 + years of blogging, my efforts were recognized by the (@SMCBahrain) Social Media Club of Bahrain where my blog was awarded The Best Blog under the Kitchen and the Dining category. It makes me very happy because it was completely unexpected yet somewhere I feel fulfilled with the recognition that my blog got.

Interestingly, it is also a great time to be in this region when it is at the cusp of this amazing social media revolution. The region has begun to sit up and take notice of what social media platforms and bloggers can do and what an important part they form in the overall scheme of things. I extend my special thanks to the Social Media Club of Bahrain for taking steps towards encouraging us bloggers. This award makes us want to do more and better now.

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Bahrain opened my mind and my heart to the culture and its religious beliefs without ever imposing them. Ramadan is a very special time to be in the region as it provides an opportunity to witness a collective sentiment towards a common goal. It is almost like the entire island quietens down during the day and all you can hear is prayers that the winds carry with them. These years have taught me that if Ramadan is about fasting, it is in equal parts, also about feasting. Whether it is Iftar or Ghabgah, food is a the center of all discussion and a chance to sample a wide array of traditional and modern classics at all the grand buffets around the town. But most locals swear by the traditional food made at home that beats the tastiest meal in any restaurant.

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To celebrate my blog’s win and the blessed occasion of Ramadan, I was prompted to create this indulgent treat called Falooda. Most of my Indian friends would be very familiar with this dessert drink which perhaps might have also been a childhood favourite.

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This is an indulgent yet refreshing drink that pleases all the senses, instantly and together. A perfect summer dessert in a glass that is full of rose scented and flavoured milk, starchy- rice noodles, sabja seeds that make it look exotic and a dollop of kulfi flavoured icecream to give a greater depth of flavour.

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It is surprising, how unbelievably easy this is to whip up together. For all my Muslim friends who are fasting and want to eat at home, and aspire to indulge on a treat, this comes highly recommended. Primarily being only an assembling project, Falooda is delicious as it is filling after a day of fasting. It refreshes the mind and the spirit considering July is a very tough month with longer hours of fasting.

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With this I end my post on a sweet note and wish every body a wonderful weekend.

Ramadan Kareem to all the readers of Slice of my lyfe.

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Thank you again for reading my blog – it really pushes me to write my next post and to keep doing better.

Making Maki at Meisei (Sushi 101)

July 4, 2014 | By

To constantly learn is to constantly evolve into something higher, stronger and better.  In my own quest of learning new, wondrous things about food, I have resorted to the online world most of the times. But sometimes, you need that hand holding especially when it comes to learning a new cuisine. Japanese has been and will be my most favourite cuisine outside of Indian cuisine ( ofcourse!).  Few weeks back, I was invited to a ‘Maki ‘ assembling demo at Meisei which I gladly accepted because I wasn’t going to pass up such a wonderful opportunity to learn how to make Maki from an experienced Chef such as Chef Micheal Sang -Kyu Lee.

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Source: Google image

Meisei in Adliya, opened in early 2013 and offers its diners a combination of gourmet  Asian flavours and an elegant surrounding to enjoy them. The diverse Japanese-Korean-Chinese fusion menu is prepared by top chefs to create an exceptional dining experience, with dishes that offer an interpretation of modern Asian cuisine that can be enjoyed across cultures. When I reached Meisei on a boiling Wednesday afternoon, I was too exhausted from the heat. But the cool interiors and the smiling staff put me in a good mood instantly. They were just about to begin the demo and I realized I had the company of  5 other ladies who looked very eager to learn.

Chef Micheal has a sense of humour that put us all in great mood. I wasn’t overly intimidated to learn how to roll the Maki but his easy -going manner definitely helped enjoy the task more. I observed that we had a table with prepared ingredients in front of us and all we had to do is to assemble the Maki. That was so simple!

I underestimated.

Japanese is a cuisine of refined, subtle and balanced flavours. Other than the Wasabi’s pungent, powerful attack on the senses, nothing else really screams for attention. It is almost like sitting in meditation and enjoying  ‘being in the moment‘.

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  The demo began with Chef Micheal explaining to us about the important elements of Maki – making:

1. The balance of flavours is key

2. Prepare in advance – chop the vegetables/ fruits/ fish/ into  julienne and ready to use

3. It is the rice that lends all the real flavour to the Maki ( The cooking of the rice wasn’t included in the demo. It was provided to us, ready to use)

4. Finally, the most important element is to be gentle and subtle with your fingers. (Chef Micheal had an funny trivia to share about his own Maki making experience where he said it makes his wife very jealous when she watches her Chef husband handling the Maki  with such tender care and love). So that is how nimble -fingered one has to be while attempting to learning this art of great finesse.

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Uramaki – rice on the outside and the seaweed paper and filling on the inside

We tried creating two types of Maki -

1. The hand roll – which is the regular Maki has the Nori( seaweed paper) on the outside and the rice and the filling vegetables/fish inside

2. Uramaki – (the inside out roll) – This is the type of Maki with the rice on the outside and Nori ( seaweed paper) and the filling of avocados/cucumber/ cooked white fish on the inside

I followed Chef Micheal’s instructions very carefully and tried to emulate his actions but obviously as a first timer, my Maki was not the best. But I enjoyed working with my hands.

Making Maki is like craft. 

But like all craft, Maki demands its share of practice and intuition.

Chef Micheal has collected in his culinary repertoire, a world of experience ( literally). His Maki flavours are reminiscent of the different cultures and of different nations that he has worked in. All the flavours play together so well that, not only does the Maki look like ‘work of art’ but also indulges the tastes buds, making it quite addictive. My own amateurish attempt tasted wonderful with all the flavour notes in place to enjoy after an hour of rolling and assembling.

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From the picture above it is quite evident that even while you roll your Maki well, cutting on it into pieces is actually quite tough. However careful you are, the knife slips and the Maki roll gets squeezed. That is when I take home a lesson; it is the simple looking things in life that demand so much attention and care. And if we give that love and tenderness, it cannot help but blossom.

All in all, it was great experience learning how to assemble the Maki under the tutelage of Chef Micheal and also interacting with the other ladies at the demo. Since I am the only Maki lover in the family, I doubt I am going to practice this at home. If you are interested in learning how to make beautiful Maki, you ought to immediately enroll after Ramadan at Meisei. 

Meisei Address: Building 951, Road 3830, Block 338, Adliya

Phone number: 1700 7770

Website: www.meiseirestaurants.com

Social Media: @MeiseiBahrain

Care for an oats and nuts bread slice?

June 20, 2014 | By

Snacking is and has been my biggest vice. More than my principal meals, snacking is what I look forward to more. Hostel and life as a working professional enforced some really bad snacking habits. Fried foods and chocolates became my go to whenever hunger struck in between meals. It took a lot of conscious effort on my part to change those terrible dietary habits. I still crave for snacks but the choice I exercise now is to reach out for healthier options like nuts, fruits and whole foods. In the pursuit of fulfilling my snacking desires and being guilt – free all the same, I am always on the look – out for healthy recipes. Recently, while scavenging the internet for such recipes, I stumbled across this very interesting recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog. It is a gluten-free loaf with the goodness of nuts and seeds. 

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The bread has a dense texture and is slightly gelatinous when you chew on it because of the addition of pysllium seed husks / isabgull which is necessary as a binding agent. Also it is full of fibre which is a great!

The nuts and the oats render each slice extremely nutrient -dense. I feel a big surge of energy while working out in the gym even when I have only one slice of this oats and nut bread.

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I love to slather mine with a generous amounts of nut butter and if I am feeling indulgent, I try it with a little dash of honey or agave nectar.

I used maple syrup in the recipe but I am sure addition of any syrup would be just as good. Rolled oats give the loaf a wonderful texture and roasted nuts a very deep flavour.  I feel you can play around with the types of nuts and seeds to give it different flavour.

The recipe is as follows

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Hope you have a great weekend ahead!

{Lifestyle Post} HOSS Intropia Brand Launch with preview of ’14 Autumn / Winter collections

This and That | June 13, 2014 | By

Fashion is always exciting. Though am not an ardent follower of trends that come and go every season, I do try to educate myself every now and then. My fashion philosophy is very simple. Keep it elegant and keep it stylish because personal style never goes out of vogue. Also, I believe, fashion should be pocket sensitive as well. I do not believe in blowing up my month’s pay on a dress or a bag. That is just not me. However much I enjoy shopping, I do very select buying which includes pieces that I can mix and match and use more optimally. I automatically veer towards high street brands which are stylish and pocket friendly.

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So when I was invited by The Portsmouth Group, Bahrain to attend the HOSS Intropia Brand Launch with a preview of 2014 Autumn/ Winter collections, I jumped at the chance for several reasons.

- It was to my first fashion showcase ever

- HOSS is a brand was new to me and I wanted to know what they had to offer

- Price point ( conveniently placed between the high-end designer brands and the high street brands, it sounded promising)

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On a sunny Wednesday morning, I headed to the Kempinksi Grand & Ixir Hotel where the brand’s presentation was being delivered by Ms. Christine Zanon, the Brand Manager. Soon after the models began their walk on the ramp showcasing the Autumn – Winter collection.

A bit more about the collection -

Collection had four different themes for the season:

1Blue Passion or the elegant flower that bears this name. The colours and shading of this flower have inspired the clothes, ranging from ink, navy, blackberry, bougainvillea and poppy to ivory and black. Gorgeous with androgynous prints were the highlight of this collection.

2. Kokoro  – This Japanese word, which means heart, soul, mind and feelings and is also the name of one of the most important novels in Japanese literature, written by Natsume Soeki, Kokoro, Sensei’s Testament, reflects “the heart of Hoss Intropia” ( in their own words).  Delicate and feminine fabrics and cuts with vibrant colours such as reds turquoise and yellow portrayed a cheery picture among the otherwise black, greys and whites collection for the season.

3. North Sea.  Greys, navy blue and bottle green depicting the cold and grey winter days and nights dominated this theme. Clean cuts and neat lines created a picture of understated elegance.

4. Midnight Shadows ; My personal favourite, this collection was replete with modern and savvy silhouettes. Meant to be worn on special occasions it was a sight to be savoured. Velvet and luxurious without being overly dramatic it still lingers in my memory. 

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What I personally loved about the collection was that it was simple, sophisticated yet affordable. Ranging from BHD 80 to BHD 160 +, HOSS Intropia was definitely my kind of brand. With fabrics, styles and cuts meant for every occasion, I look forward to their opening sometime towards the end of June at the Bahrain City Center Mall which will house the Spring,  Summer and pre – Autumn collection. HOSS Intropia has matching trendy accessories and purses in their collection which were just as interesting.

Thank you Rawia and Kimberly of the Portsmouth Group for having me. It was truly a unique experience!

( Note: It is a sponsored post but all the opinions expressed are solely mine. The pictures are with my iPhone 5 S and a very shaky hand)

Millet, Rice and lentil Khichdi and what comfort means to me

June 6, 2014 | By

Simple things in life are the ones that give us comfort. Its the simple stuff that really makes life extraordinary.

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To me comfort means several things: ( in no particular order)

1. My favourite Rosemunde Pilcher book  – The Shell seekers that I can read over and over again;

2. Snuggling into my little  one, early in the morning after I put my alarm on snooze;

3. Sleeping in my tattered t shirt that I refuse to throw out even though it is beyond repair;

4. A breakfast of  fried egg and toast

5. My parents’ presence around me that calms me down and gives me strength to focus

6. Flipping through my latest issue of the BBC GoodFood Magazine

7. My husband relating his day’s events to me in the evening over his cup of tea

8. Spotting my friend’s “good morning” message on my phone the first thing in the morning

9. Nibbling on a piece of dark chocolate after lunch

10. Digging into some hot and steaming vegetable khichdi

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Every day there is a  time that I take to zone out and do stuff that puts me in my comfort zone. I cherish that space. I value the reassurance it gives me.

The recipe I share today is of this humble vegetable Khichdi ( savory porridge) in this rushed post. It is more for me to record this recipe for future use.  For long I had been thinking of ways to use some organic millet and Khichdi seemed to be the only plausible way to use it.  I made this one-pot meal which can double up as lunch and dinner. The next day the leftovers can be combined with whole wheat flour to roll out parathas for breakfast. That’s versatile Khichdi for you.

Ingredients

3/4 cup basmati rice

3/4 cup yellow lentils ( yellow moong split)

1 cup millet

Salt as per taste

1 tsp tumeric

1/2 tsp red chilli powder (optional)

2 onions, chopped

1 carrot, medium-sized, chopped

6-7 string beans, chopped

few florets of broccoli

1/4 cup corn

Tempering

2 table spoons of clarified butter

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces,

3 pieces of cardamom

2 bay leaves

Preparation

1. Soak rice, lentil and millet in water for an hour

2. Heat the ghee in a pressure cooker or a large pan. Splutter the cumin seeds and fry all the tempering ingredients.

3. Add the chopped onions and fry until translucent. To this add all the vegetables and give it a quick stir.

4. To this add the soaked rice, lentil and millet and mix well.

5. Add enough water to cover this rice-vegetable mixture to submerge it completely and a bit more ( 3 cms or so)

6. Pressure cook this until 3 whistles and let it be on the low heat for 7 -8 minutes. If you are cooking this in a pan, let the mixture come to a boil and then let it cook slow and nice for as long as it takes to cook the grains and lentils.

7. Once the pressure is fizzled,  give the khichi a good mix and add water to make it more runny, if you like. Serve it hot with a dollop of ghee on top with pickles and raita.

These days, I desperately seek my comfort pockets. I sit there and try to be thoughtless. With my parents visiting us these days, these comfort pockets are easy to come by. These deeply nourish me like the Khichdi recipe I shared today. Do try it and savour the comfort it will give you.

What does comfort mean to you?

Do you know of other ways to use millet?

{Restaurant Review} Vapiano – fresh and delicious

What do they say about never saying never?

Insalata di arance e noci

Insalata di arance e noci

Well, I experienced it myself very recently. Vapiano in Bahrain City Center always looked promising but the previous two dining experiences at Vapiano were sub-par and less than delightful that I was quite sure I wouldn’t want to try them again. But with a little coaxing from Obai & Hill’s Zainab, I thought about giving Vapiano’s summer, fresh menu a try with a disclaimer that if I didn’t like it (again), I would refrain from doing a review on my blog.

On the scheduled day, my family and I stepped into Vapiano to sample their new menu. We were ushered in by a very friendly server who then educated us about all the new dishes and desserts. On her recommendations we settled for 1 starter, 2 main courses, 1 salad and a dessert. All this was to be accompanied by freshly squeezed orange.  For the starters we ordered the Caprese  that had cherry tomatoes with buffalo mozzerella on the bed of basil and rocket leaves. The cherry tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the rocket peppery as its supposed to be – all fresh and crunchy.

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Caprese

This was just the right antipasti to whet our appetite for the remaining courses to come. The hubby had ordered Estiva – a tender chicken breast pasta drenched in semi- dried tomato sauce, with a mild kick of ginger, mint and rocket . We specially asked our server to request the chef to cook the pasta a bit more than the “Vapiano” al dente. As per our request, the pasta was just perfectly done with succulent chicken pieces and  flavoursome tomato sauce and herbs.

Estiva with conchiglie

Estiva with conchiglie

My daughter who is notorious for shunning restaurant food was content with her bread and butter. She particularly enjoyed the fresh orange juice with her simple grub. As for me, I had ordered a barbecued chicken pizza which was sumptuous to say the least. It was quite a large portion unexpectedly and so we had the rest of it in a take away bag.

barbecued chicken pizza

barbecued chicken pizza

All the wonderful food was balanced by a very citrus-y , sunshine salad adorned by pistachio called the insalata di arance e noci. To my mind, it feels like summer on my plate with juicy orange fillets, pistachios, lamb’s lettuce and chicory. The flavours were heightened by a very light walnut and orange dressing. This was the highlight of my meal at Vapiano and it would be something that I would keep going back to Vapiano for many times over.

Insalata di Arance e noci

Insalata di Arance e noci

The close of the meal was marked by the unavoidable chocolate dessert called the Cioccolata e espresso which is Vapiano’s own homestyle chocolate espresso mousse, cantuccini (literally translates as coffee bread or popularly known as biscotti)  refined with grape juice and sweet amarena cherries.

Cioccolata e espresso

Cioccolata e espresso

Feeling happily sedated after such a wholesome meal, we thanked our hostess for the day and returned home with the lingering memories of the summer food at Vapiano. Thank you Vapiano for a wonderful experience that was so fresh and delicious that I don’t think I can have enough of it this summer!!.

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

On how important it is to be selfish and a healthy grilled chicken, quinoa, mango and wilted kale salad

May 23, 2014 | By

Just yesterday I was invited to a colleague’s birthday lunch. It was great to catch up with my colleagues ( 8 women and 1 guy) and to say that the lunch was hearty, would be an understatement. In between the talk turned towards what the birthday girl was going to do in the evening. I was told that she had her celebratory birthday breakfast with her fiance, lunch with her favourite acquaintances and friends from work (that would be us) and evening would be devoted to another grand meal with her family of sisters and parents. To me that sounded absolutely perfect. A day planned around food!! What a perfect birthday indeed!

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The topic from there on turned towards how important it is to make sure that one enjoy’s her/his birthday to the  fullest. Birthday is one day where everybody is entitled to having  their wishes granted and being the center of attention. I nodded my head to all of it except to the one about being the center of attention. My modest and fiercely grounded upbringing and related conditioning refused to accept any claim that suggested being the center of attention was a good thing. It’s because being the center of attention was akin to being selfish and being selfish meant being a bad person. No way was I going to be a ‘bad person’. And if that meant, shunning attention and allowing the limelight to fall on someone else, so be it.

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One of colleagues, a young Bahraini girl – 20 something old, known for her love of celebrating her birthdays spoke up. I listened to her in rapt attention. She talked about how she put a countdown on her iPhone counting down days, hours, minutes and seconds to her birthday. Everyday she took pains to remind her family and friends about her up coming birthday, giving everybody enough time to plan something special for her. After all, family and friends were supposed to do something memorable on her birthday as they were in her life for a purpose which was to see her happy. She described with stars in her eyes about how excited she felt every year when it is her birthday month. Each year she saved up enough money to buy herself the gift of her choice. This year too, she had already bought herself, her own ‘surprise gift’!!!!!

GCQ5To me, all of it sounded preposterous. Attaching so much value to one day is equal to setting yourself up for disappointment. Yet I listened to her in fascination. She rambled on about her love for gadgets and precious stones, clothes and branded shoes and her father’s credit card. In my head, I was judging her against my will as someone who was so self – absorbed. I couldn’t ever be like her and  concluded  how different individuals we were. Suddenly the shine in her eyes, the unbridled happiness on her face drove me to think beyond the obvious. While I was this 30 -something, unexcited professional; she was this 2o – something, full of hope professional at the other of the table. What was so different that our worlds couldn’t meet? Why was I so resentful of her happiness which was self-generated and did not depend on anything external? Materialistic it might be, yet it was genuine.Truth be told, I envied her sitting on the other end of the table. I wanted to be enthusiastic like her about my own birthday, about my life and everything around me. I wanted to make each day count until it was my big day. I wanted  to celebrate. Growing up has cost me. It has taken away from me my enthusiasm for self – created small joys.

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No wonder I felt trapped between my contempt for her selfishness and my readiness to trade places with her and her attitude towards life.  What was that exact point in life where I lost my uncontainable curiosity and enthusiasm for life? Sitting there among all the chatter and immensely enjoying my chocolate lava cake, I tried to trace back the path in vain. The change had happened so slowly and in many ways, irreversibly. To watch this girl revel in her selfishness, was the takeaway for me that afternoon over good food and other interesting conversation. As women, after we get married and have children and  how soon we forget that we need to be selfish. The word feels abusive because as wives, mothers and hence caretakers, it has no business being around in our dictionary. But with that don’t we also forget to find joy from within us. Our children, our families become our sources of joy. Ofcourse they are. It is not debatable. But isn’t it important to find our own joy. Our self-generated joys such as gifting ourselves what we think we deserve or spending time doing things we love. For most of us, what we deserve is decided by what our family or children think we deserve.

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Just sit back and think hard. What do you really enjoy? Let that not include (for once) your child’s smile, his/her achievements, your spouse’s appreciation or your boss’s dependency on you for work. What do you as a person enjoy doing/thinking/creating? Make a list and take a positive step towards achieving it. I did my list which I define as my sources of self- generated joys. One of them is developing healthy and tasty recipes. The Salad pictures that you see interspersed along with all this ‘selfish’ monologue is my own creation.  I enjoyed creating it and executing it. Well to tell you the truth, I didn’t bother sharing this salad with any one else. I enjoyed it for lunch and felt good about it. May be I am being necessarily rebellious but this concept of finding my own joy for my own selfish reasons has taken root in my mind. The recipe is so simple that it shouldn’t take more than half hour to bring it all together.

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I would recommend that you use a sweet dressing for this salad as it complements the flavours of the tart mango, the delicious dullness of the wilted kale and the hearty goodness of the pepper crusted grilled chicken. The quinoa provides the much need foundation to hold all the flavours and gives it roundness of a complete meal.

Hope you enjoy this and spend some time contemplating selfishly about what makes you smile and your heart jump with joy.

In other news, my blog has been rated as one of the TOP 10 Blogs cooking blogs in India. Woohoo!! I am thrilled to bits. Check out the post here

Also, this is my 250th post on this blog. It is such a huge milestone for me personally because I cannot begin to explain how difficult it was at times to keep going – developing, creating content, taking pictures of food and presenting it in an interesting format each week. I am relentless about my blogs because perhaps because this is MY space and I am stubborn about not allowing it to wither away!

With this note, wish you all a happy weekend! Be creative.

A detox diet tale and a very healthy oats uttapam recipe

May 17, 2014 | By

I have had many weddings to attend in the past four months. Indian wedding food and the late night extravaganza can wreck the metabolism for a long, long time. By the time, I came back home reeling from the heady glitz of my best friend’s wedding, I could feel my body protesting. A detox was in order. On a separate note, I have been on a good gym schedule with a trainer for more than 6-8 months now and needless to say, I have been feeling fit end very strong. But even such a robust exercise schedule’s effects are nullified by the sullied food and sleep cycle on vacations. To start afresh, I jumped into a 5 -day juice detox plan with the help of my Bahraini friend and colleague. Eva is an expert when it comes to diet, detox, fitness and holistic health. She prepared a stringent 5 -day juice diet with her own ingenious juice recipes.

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Her plan consisted of Green, Red, Purple, Orange juices for five days with varied ingredient combinations under each colour group. On the fourth and the fifth day, she added a meal each rich in proteins and complex carbohydrates for lunch. Since I wasn’t used to anything this intense, I was very apprehensive. But with Eva’s gentle encouragement, I embarked on the diet. Each day I made a mental note of how I was feeling and this post is about these observations and a very healthy oats egg white uttapam that finds it way on my breakfast plate more often than not.

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The funny thing about starting a diet is that, the first thing you do is  to mentally prepare for the ‘deprivation’ from your favourite foods. The previous night, I filled myself with a dinner and ate till I felt my stomach could take no more. Post that I felt extremely guilty which was immediately replaced by a sense of ‘compensation” that for the next five days, I will have little or no solid food.

Day 1 : The morning wasn’t eventful as I was used to only juices and negligible breakfast certain days of the week. But then the realization struck that there would be no lunch – not the one where I would chew and spend time over. It would only be a glass of banana- strawberry smoothie with lemon! I had my smoothie lunch and  it was satisfying to say the least. But the mind is a tricky being and I can go ahead  and say at the risk of sounding silly that- the mind has a mind of its own! By mid – afternoon, I was feeling low – not on energy – but on feelings. Like all my restlessness was put to rest. All my nervous twitching settled down on my face and I felt peaceful. I wanted to be left alone and didn’t feel like talking to anyone. It was one of the best feelings ever. The day passed without any incidents and at night I slept peacefully.

Day 2: The next day, I woke up feeling refreshed and lighter.  I followed the juice diet strictly for the day and I was full of energy. I struggled in a very minor way with not feeling full enough but quickly learnt the tricks of the trade. I felt full when I sipped on my juice slowly and in a relaxed way, rather than gulping it all down in a single shot. Constantly talking to myself that this is not going to my last meal and that I will be providing  my body more nourishing juices the entire day helped a lot. I continued with my regular gym sessions with my trainer during the diet as well to rev-up my metabolism. I found it easier to run as I was breathing better.

Day 3; If you think that all the bodily functions would shut down because you haven’t been eating solid food, then you are in for a surprise! Well I won’t go too much into the details here but definitely say that I hadn’t felt this bloating-free in ages. The third day was a clean sweep and I did not even realize how it passed. Mentally, I was feeling lighter and happier and my cravings had diminished and I was breathing more easily. My trainer noticed I had more energy during my intense circuit training sessions.

Day 4: I had never thought I would look forward to a day so much. I was sleeping so well after a long time. Couple of times I did weigh myself but my weight hadn’t budged. It was a bit demoralizing for a second or two but the happiness of the lightness I was feeling clouded any feelings of sadness or depression. Also, I reminded myself why I was doing this. I was doing this diet to get a boost, free my body of the toxins it had collected over time and extract maximum from my work-out. Once you have certain fundamentals set straight, it becomes quite easy to stay focused. The fourth day had a lunch- meal in it which was a small bowl of mushroom -quinoa and grilled sweet potato. Post my lunch, I felt extremely uncomfortable. The solid food felt like an intruder in my system but soon by evening and after my work out the solid meal intrusion was vanquished.

Day 5: I woke up with a feeling of sadness inside me for I had grown attached to this way of having juices as meals. I wasn’t ready to give up this feeling of being so happy and light. It does drive  home a point that we are what we eat. What we eat /drink creates a deep impact not only on our physical being but also on our mental health. It is a science in itself but at a basic level, it taught  me to be extra careful about how I nourish my body. Like they say, each meal time is an opportunity to nourish your body and post this detox, I have been quite careful about it. The fifth day also included one meal which was lunch. The solid meal felt much at home and I enjoyed every bite of it.

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Notes: This was a detox diet for 5 days which included very specific juice recipes meant for the purpose. 

It was NOT a weight loss diet plan at all.

It is safe to do this diet plan atleast once in six months to boost your sluggish metabolism

My initial thoughts about the diet being very difficult were  unfounded. It is moderately easy to follow this juice plan. 

The difficult part of this diet is the juicing bit. Chopping of vegetables and fruits and then juicing them fresh is advisable. Juicing is tedious and on a work day it seems a bit of a task. 

There are only advantages in exercising while doing this diet. In my personal opinion, I did not feel there was any calorie deficit at all and that is perhaps why I didn’t find it difficult to stick to gym schedule.

I did lose in inches after the diet but nothing on the weighing scale (which wasn’t my concern anyways)

Post the diet, I still juice atleast 3 times in a week.

I have only Eva to thank because she inducted me into this juicing habit which has really altered my way of thinking. I also have to thank my husband who took over the task of juicing every morning.

To end this post, I have a wonderful oats egg-white uttapam recipe to share that I found on Bulbul’s blog. The original recipe does not have egg whites but I added it for a protein boost. Bulbul has some very yummy, tried and tasted healthy recipes to try. Do hop over to her blog to find out more.

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It is very simple to whip up and makes for a very satisfying meal  and guilt -free too. I had this with the green cilantro and mint chutney. But I bet it will taste good with coconut chutney too.

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The recipe is as follows;

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Hope everybody is having a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

I have been getting on..

.. and getting myself into more things than I can manage. This year has been very exciting but its not all hunky dory. Everyday there is something new that life throws at me but I am not complaining. The last 3-4 months have weathered me well. Lessons have been learnt but I have been getting on. The most amazing bit that has happened in all this chaos and confusion is clarity of thought has emerged. A pristine clarity of thought which is not only such a relief but also great for bolstering my shaky confidence.

In the coming months a lot would have changed in my life and I pray to God it should be for the best.

(source: google image search)

(source: google image search)

In the meantime I have a few interesting updates to share.

1. I went to my bestie’s (Namit ) wedding in Mumbai and it was so much fun dressing up, getting henna done,  dancing and meeting people. The bride looked absolutely stunning with all the elaborate jewellery and garments. If you have been following me on instagram, you’d know! If you haven’t been, here’s your chance @sliceofmylyfe

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2. Mimi made me this lovely mother’s day gift which I cannot get over

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3. Attended a social media workshop for professionals conduct by the Social Media Club of Bahrain ( @SMCBahrain on twitter). Here I learnt about how important it is to project a consistent brand image throughout. The speaker, Ernesto Verdugo also emphasized on the various social media tools and tricks to use to make life easy.

 

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4. My baby can make her own cake!

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5. Couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to attend a arts and crafts exhibition. It was conducted my La Creation who host series of workshops for anybody who is interested in learning crafts like quilting, painting, baking and such. In a place like Bahrain where if you are new to the island it can get quite lonely. Groups such as this are such a wonderful way to get in touch with the community whilst being creative. This exhibition was a treasure cove of hand made lovelies such dream catchers, necklaces, household decoration pieces, trinkets, quilts, paintings and what not! Here, I share with you some pictures from the event.

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The next post, I shall share a wonderfully healthy oats and egg white uttapam recipe which I love so much! Until then, have a good week ahead people!

A chocolate frosted peanut butter cake and what is to feel trapped in a time capsule

April 5, 2014 | By

Some of the best books  grace my book shelf but I have no time to read them. I look at them with guilt and they look back at me with a lot of contempt. They don’t say much, mostly because I don’t give them a chance. I turn away to tend to some of the more ‘urgent’ things that need my attention. My bedside table has some of the lighter reads and some cook books. Nigella’s cookbooks are always at my hand’s reach. I flip through some recipes and read a line of two from the novel who’s name I forget until I close to book to look at the title.

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I am drifting. Again. This happens when I get too busy in my busyness. I read a post written by Saheli called Floating and I knew I was feeling the exact same thing. What’s reassuring is I know its just a phase and it will pass, so I am not despairing.

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Initially I used to fight it but it never helped. Now I just drift along only because I know it will end. There are few things I know make me feel better and one of them is baking.  So I baked a chocolate frosted peanut butter cake. It was a friend’s surprise baby shower. I poured myself into it and even before I prepped for the cake, I hadn’t a shred of doubt that it will be wonderful.

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The pictures are pathetic because they were rushed, but who cares! The cake was fantastic. I didn’t need anybody else to tell me that and I didn’t even have to taste it. I just knew it. There are a few things you should know about the cake before you try it.

– Its barely sweet and that allows the peanut butter taste to shine through.

– It uses no butter. Only oil and the cake is soft as a baby’s bottom.

-The sweetness is from the chocolate frosting which if you avoid, you’d be doing the cake a lot of disservice.

– The recipe has been adapted from here

For the recipe, click on the recipe card below.

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Before I end this post, there is a video I would like to share here. It is a Ted talk by one of my favourite writers – Elizabeth Gilbert of the Eat, Pray, Love fame. She talks about the creative process and of managing our own expectations that we have from our creative selves. It made a lot of sense to me. I watched it twice and each time it felt like she was talking to me. Here you go.

Happy Weekend!

{Breakfast Banter} New York Coffee : Restaurant Review

Restaurant Reviews | March 29, 2014 | By

It is no secret how much I adore this first meal of the day. Breakfast was and shall remain the single most important meal for me. I plan my breakfast carefully and take time to enjoy my breakfast, however meagre  because that sets the mood for the rest of the day. Weekend breakfasts are even more important because that is the time I take out to spend with the family while having my favourite meal of the day. For this very reason, I was extremely excited to visit the New York Coffee outlet with my family at The Walk in Riffa. To begin with, I have to say, this newish New York Coffee outlet is impressive – full of sunshine, large, spacious, and airy – it gives you a feeling of a relaxed setting.

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Within one quick glance several things caught my eye with regards to the decor. Modern and contemporary with an easy vibe is how I can describe the decor of the cafe. I was overcome with a sudden urge to sit down with my laptop and start writing a new novel or a blog post such as this whilst enjoying a nice cup of cappuccino. My thoughts were interrupted by the cheerful staff at the Cafe who welcomed me with great enthusiasm. The smiling server explained to us our breakfast and brunch options and also made explicit mentions of the offers of the day. We settled for a sumptuous American breakfast and an omelette (my way) while my daughter ordered for a sugary crepe along with a carrot cake.

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While our orders were being prepared in the kitchen, I took the opportunity to walk around the cafe. They have a small outdoor seating area which was dappled in the mid – morning sun. I also loitered around the shelves that housed different coffee and tea selections. The aroma of coffee was so inviting that I was half tempted to ask for an espresso instead of the orange juice I had ordered.

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I also happened to have a quick chat the General Manager of the outlet who filled me in with all the details about the outlet.  The New York Coffee outlet at the Walk in Riffa is open 24 hours. I was also told that it is the only coffee outlet in Bahrain that roasts and grinds their own coffee locally. Armed with this interesting trivia, I went back to my seat as the server had brought our piping, hot breakfast.

My husband had the omelette (my way) with brown toast and a large glass of fresh orange juice. He was enjoying his breakfast so much that I did not feel like interrupting him to ask how he found the fare. My daughter tucked into her sugary crepe on which there was  a pool of melted butter. Light and mildly sweet, the crepe was just perfect.  As for my breakfast platter – two fried eggs (runny), chicken sausages, salad, brown toast and fresh orange juice – was sumptuous!  I have an aversion towards sausages but these were done so well that they seemed like a treat. Later when my husband finished his breakfast and was sipping his orange juice he mentioned that he wouldn’t mind coming in here for this very plate of omelette every weekend. My daughter enjoyed her slice of the carrot cake mumbling “mmmm, mmmm” in between. That itself was a good indicator of how much she was enjoying her treat.

 

 

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Finally, when we were patting our warm bellies the server asked us to try their special drink. We couldn’t fathom eating or drinking anything more but he insisted and we thought ‘why not! It’s the weekend!” . He brought in two icy-looking drinks called Honey dew and Mango -tango. While placing these drinks, the server informed that these drinks are special because they are ‘low cal. In my experience, I know of many drinks that are supposedly low cal but are full of sugar. So I challenged him, “ How low?”  ”

“Only 7 cals!!“, he replied

That was ridiculous. I couldn’t believe it. We went to the counter and he showed me his premix and described to me the method of preparation and I realized it was true. I enjoyed my drink with a greater gusto. The honey-dew was refreshing and I have a feeling its is going to be hugely popular this summer. 

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All in all, it was a wonderful morning spent savouring one gastronomic delight after the other. Bahrain!! Chuck your usual breakfast dos and go to New York Coffee. I dare say, you won’t regret it!

*This is a sponsored post but all the views and opinions expressed are my own.

Mumbai through #Instagram pictures

Travel Diaries | March 23, 2014 | By

I don’t usually fall in love with places like I do with people. With people, I am easily impressed and I instantly like anybody and everybody at the very first meeting because I genuinely think everybody is just as wonderful. But with places I am a bit of a skeptic. I look at any new place through the glass of a cynic. I take a lot of time to see the beauty of a city’s /country’s buildings, its roads, its waters and its skies. It takes me a terrible amount of time to unravel and enjoy the beauty of the place unless its just unquestionably beautiful like Edinburgh or Paris. While I am open to cultural experiences, I am always on my guard as well. One can always argue that people maketh the place but in my head these are two different elements.

Very frankly, I never liked Mumbai because I found it was too fast.  Fast is such a relative term really. Now I understand. But as a 22 year old when I last visited Mumbai, I was overwhelmed by the number of people, their sense of urgency, the sight of the mad rush in the local trains and the muggy weather. I wanted to get away from Mumbai as soon as I could. Fast forward, 2014 and am back in the city for work and that is a transformation story I am going to tell in my post today.

Everything is affected by relativity. I have lived in Delhi, some time in Cochin, in Birmingham and on and off in other cities around the world for work. So when a certain “Mumbaite” comes to me raving about his /her ‘Maximum city’, I make a face. An unhealthy debate ensues about Delhi Vs Mumbai and ends inconclusively. In my 15 years of adult life, I have learnt to value certain characteristics of a city more than others. What makes a place livable and hence likable?

1. Safety

2. Easy access to places that we frequent on a daily basis

3. Quality and options for a thriving social life

Somewhere I had made up my mind about Mumbai.

My recent trip about Mumbai changed my perception. I enjoyed the sights, the sounds,the energy and the pulse of Mumbai. Ofcourse, I avoided the local trains and the other avoidable facets of the city’s personality. I even avoided the usual touristy things to do except for the lure of street shopping at Colaba. I dove deep into the life of the city which happened both by chance and by design.

Street shopping at Colaba, a quick drink at cafe mondegar,  peek into cafe Leopold and blissful coffee and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj

Street shopping at Colaba, a quick drink at cafe mondegar, peek into cafe Leopold

Mandeep enjoying  her blissful coffee drink and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj

Mandeep enjoying her blissful coffee drink and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj

What I loved about Mumbai:

1. Work ensured that I met the most enterprising of individuals who were informal as they were professional. Nobody wasted anybody’s time and everybody aimed to extract maximum value from the time expended. I found this extremely impressive and comforting.

2. This city knows how to have fun. Almost every evening I headed out for dinner and to try out some interesting places. Each night was a new experience and every place was packed. Nobody was in a hurry to get back home though it was a weekday!!

3. The ‘concept’ restaurants in Mumbai are an experience. We had a chance to celebrate International Women’s Day at a restaurant called ” Haibao” which promised a shabu shabu experience – a Japanese dish wherein the different kinds of vegetables, meats, fish and other seafood are dropped into boiling broth (which is at the table itself) and cooked in front of the diners.  It was delicious as it was satisfying.

The Shabu Shabu experience at Haibao, Juhu

The Shabu Shabu experience at Haibao, Juhu

4. Yoga house was yet another cafe that I fell in love with. I would love for Bahrain to have something like this where you can just go and relax with your coffee served with jaggery, quiona salad and detox juices. No processed food is served here which includes sugar. I was completely bowled over by the ambiance and sense of harmony the cafe had to offer.

Yoga house was an experience

Yoga house was an experience

5. The most amazing bit about Mumbai was that I found it safe to travel alone or with friends at any hour of the night.  I had the shocking experience of walking past the crowd of the most drunk people and there weren’t any mishaps or cat calls. It was like I had almost expected it and was prepared to mentally ignore it and to my shock it did not happen. People were doing their own thing. More drunk people recommended one food outlet over the other. I haven’t experienced this much freedom for women walking down the roads in a long, long time. And I looked around to see so many more women just going about their stuff even as late at 1 or 2 am at night.  Hats off Mumbai for creating a culture  and environment so safe for women.

6. Mumbai experience was deepened in afterthought. After a long time I was by myself, responsible only for my own self. That was rare and somehow freeing. The sense of anonymity that Mumbai provided helped me be myself. I could easily shed my heavy cloak of self consciousness and enjoyed myself like I didn’t care. That feeling of anonymity can be addictive because even after days of coming back to Bahrain, I craved for it.

These were my reasons for loving a city that I once despised. Life is funny like that. The more severely stubborn we become about something, it has its way of bringing everything back full circle. I hope you enjoy Mumbai as I did albeit through the Instagram images. For most parts it was a great trip because Mandeep planned it so for me. A huge fraction of my transformation journey was possible only because of her – because she showed me that face of Mumbai that she intuitively knew I would enjoy.

A Guest post about the top 5 things to do in Bahrain for Amelia – Chai : A cup of Life

When Amelia  of Chai: A cup of life asked me to do a guest post for her, I agreed immediately without really thinking what I was going to write about. I know and appreciate the fact that Amelia wrote about her life as an expat in India and now Dubai. She gave such profound cultural insights about the Indian way of living that it sometimes shocked and surprised me how these escaped me when I lived there. Anyways, coming to the point.. I decided I’d do a TOP 5 Things to do in Bahrain post for her.

An excerpt from my post on Amelia’s blog.

“Living an expat’s life in Bahrain for the last four years has been the most enchanting one. Every single day, I get a new cultural insight that leaves me enriched with life lessons. Initially, I had reservations about adjusting to the Middle Eastern culture but I was proved wrong in no time by the openness and the warmth of the people of Bahrain. It has been four years now and I can confidently call Bahrain my home because even when I am on my annual vacation to India, I miss the comfort of my routine in Bahrain.

Bahrain, also known as the Kingdom of Bahrain is a small island-country on the western shores of the Persian Gulf. In four years, I have had a chance to enjoy most of the sights that the country has to offer. It cannot be compared to the touristy offerings of Oman or Dubai but it is quite special in its own way for its inhabitants and tourists alike. For the longest time, Bahrain was the financial hub of the Middle East and it still is in my opinion (though many would contest that because the 2008 financial downturn was hard on the Bahrain economy). Yet, the charm of Bahrain has to be lived to be experienced, which we as expats do every single day of our life.” 

For more head over to Chai: A cup of life

Meanwhile Happy Holi to everybody!!!

I share with you some instagram pictures of Holi Celebrations in Bahrain

Holi celebrations at the Temple in Manama - the capital of Bahrain

Holi celebrations at the Temple in Manama – the capital of Bahrain

"Gheear" A Sindhi Specialty like a Jalebi for Holi

“Gheear” A Sindhi Specialty like a Jalebi for Holi

 

Apple tarts for ordinary days and a poll

March 12, 2014 | By

All of us remember special days – birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and personal triumph days such as promotions etc ( its been long since I have celebrated that one!). I try and celebrate the ordinariness of each day. It gives me a special high. I try to have a special sort of breakfast or dinner or snack since its super fun to share on instagram, Facebook and twitter. People respond to my attempts to celebrate ordinariness which makes all the effort well worth it. That is why I am so glad that social media platforms like Facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram are around which make our daily routine stories sound fancy thereby giving us the strength to get past each day.

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There is a lot of criticism concerning these social media platforms where several people (including my husband) think that this culture of over-sharing is overbearing.  I agree to a certain extent but all in all I feel it has brought us closer as a community – of like minded people, friends, supporters etc.

Digital Media has got me so interested that the pros vs cons war doesn’t bother me. Like they say, you can love it, you can hate it, but you cannot ignore it. Social media is here to stay and its evolving and adapting to real life as I write this post. Soon there will be a time when there wouldn’t be any distinction between the real and the virtual life. Scary? Exciting?

What are your thoughts on it. Social media – love it? hate it?

Take this small poll for fun and it will tell me how many of us think social media is amazing and the single biggest invention after the world wide web and how many think that it is a high risk infection that needs to be stopped via a new antidote or vaccine!

Well apart from all the digital media debate on this post, I have a warm and a sunny apple tart recipe to share.

AT2This recipe is the easiest and absolutely no-fuss. The last traces of the good weather are leaving Bahrain and summer is setting in. I am not exactly ready for summer and continue to hold to my fall/winter/spring mode. The baked apple tarts is my way of expressing weather -related withdrawal symptoms.

AT3What is it about the cinnamon and apple combination that is so heavenly! Pair it in tarts or cakes or muffins with strusel, it just creates that quiet corner of heaven when you are eating them. I served warm these tarts with simple and the understated vanilla ice cream – symbolic of the receding winters and the entering summers.

The recipe has been inspired from here and the recipe card for the detailed recipe is below.

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Now bringing the discussion back to social media and the impact it has on our lives these days.I feel moderation is the key. I feel we have control over what part of ourselves we want to put out there for the unknown world to see. Ofcourse that balance comes through trial and error. As a blogger, I have realized that like – minded people connect when they read what I post is relevant to their lives. For that I post stuff about my life which I don’t mind sharing. It is also heartening when people come and validate that they feel the same, given a situation. For me personally, being a part of such an online community has been inspiring and each day I learn a lot which I then apply to my real life. Hence, I do not mind declaring that I am social media- happy and would continue my trysts in this medium.

Do you feel the same?

{friendship series} Bedmi Puri – An Uttar Pradesh specialty

Friendship Series | February 28, 2014 | By

As a continuation to my last week’s post, I have featured Ankur’s very own Bedmi Puri recipe. For the uninitiated, Puris are Indian flatbreads that are deep fried in oil and they take a puffed up appearance. Bedmi Puri is a Uttar Pradesh specialty ( a state in the north of India) which uses a unique blend of spices and urad dal.

Urad dal /www.foodsubs.com

Generally, I avoid making deep fried food at home but Bedmi puri is an exception. On days when I am feeling generous and happy such as some work -free weekends, I do make a lavish spread of bedmi puri, dum aloo and kheer ( rice pudding) for my family.

Post this heavenly lunch, we all take a much needed afternoon siesta until it is time to head out for an evening full of social hobnobbing.  Life is good in Bahrain but I still cannot help but feel that familiar longing for my old friends. This post is again about Ankur because I am not done talking about her. When I talk about Ankur, I cannot do so with talking about Deepa.  I write this post from India where I have come down for a short trip to attend a relative’s wedding. Being back in the old space – Delhi/ Noida, brings back a bucket full of memories of Deepa and Ankur. On this trip, I happened to read this beautiful book called “Sister of my Heart” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and I miss both of them even more. I feel compelled to constantly compare the two protagonists – Basudha and Anjali with Deepa and Ankur. If you are fond of beautiful, touching writing that evokes emotions that rise like tides on a full moon, you should read this book.

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Deepa also worked with us ( Ankur and me ) in the same organization and I found her as someone who could charm through the coldest of hearts with her enticing smile. I met her at a time when career-wise it was possibly the worst period and I wasn’t in the best of moods to be friendly. But Deepa danced and sang her way through my coldness. Publicly known for her dislike for the culinary arts, Deepa never felt the strong emotions that Ankur and I felt towards food and cooking. But there were other passions that we bonded over such as shopping from thrift shops, office -pantry singing and late night partying.

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This post gave me a chance to look back at my life – the carefree life with fewer responsibilities. I took this opportunity to go through all my old albums where I reminisced about our last Goa trip, the trip to Binsar, many a late night dinners and late evening coffees at Cafe Coffee Day and Barista in Noida. Ankur, Deepa and I have way too many memories and even if I try and jot all of them it will take very, many posts. I am afraid, I will only fall short of words reminding me that certain emotions are better remembered and felt. Putting them down in words can never do justice.

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Food and memories are central to my blog. Being blessed with terrible memory, this blog is my only rescue. Through words, I greedily try and capture all possible memories which time is hastily trying to erase. On 24th of Feb, this blog completed 4 years. It just slipped past unnoticed – ofcourse only I remembered because like a mother who can never forget her children’s birthdays, I cannot forget my blog’s birthday too. This blog has been my loyal companion for 4 years, changing and moulding itself into any shape that I gave it over these 4 years. I had planned  a lot of things for my blog – a new look, a giveaway etc. but none of it materialized due to the lack  of time which is such a mundane excuse that I cringe as I write it. I know I haven’t shown as much affection to the blog as it has and yet it serves me uncomplainingly. I am determined to change that going forward.

Now for the recipe of the Bedmi Puri that Ankur shared with me – thank you Ankur! Miss you and Deepa a lot.

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{friendship series} A terrific Dum Aloo recipe

Friendship Series | February 21, 2014 | By

Two years back I badgered some of my closest friends to share their favourite recipes with me. Soon enough I collected a good number of their favorite recipes for the ” Friendship Series”. Now that I have tried their recipes and I think each of them is absolutely stunning and worthy of all the praises that I can possibly shower. Apart from the agenda that included collecting of recipes, I wanted to capture the essence of my relationship with all these beautiful people. In this post, I share a wonderful recipe of Dum Aloo that my dear friend Ankur shared with me.

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I met Ankur in 2005 as a colleague with the first company I worked for after completing my Masters. My first impression of her was that she was extremely fastidious and diligent as far as her work was concerned. Also, I noticed she laughed a lot. A lot. Her infectious laughter drew me to her and we started interacting a lot more. She admired the way I could put my eye liner in a few strong strokes while I tried to absorb her indefatigable zest for life. We bonded over office gossip, short lived crushes and conversations about food and cooking.

BedmiPuri9Ankur has always been a good sounding board and even after we moved countries with our respective spouses and (now) children, we never lost touch. An occasional email, a quick phone call or chats on gmail have been ways that we have kept in touch. Sharing recipes. pictures of our children helps us keep track of what’s going on in each other’s lives. Recently, Ankur has taken to baking like a fish takes to water and it is amazing how quickly she is churning out one baked treat after the other.

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Some of my favourite moments with Ankur have been on our all-friends trip to Goa. It was once in a life time kind of carefree trip where we roamed on bikes far and wide on the roads of Goa.

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Ankur is a terrific  cook and it is no surprise that I turn back to her recipes time and again. This Dum Aloo recipe uses next to zilch amount of oil and is so quick to prep and whip up. This has become my go-to recipe whenever I have guests to entertain. As a brilliant accompaniment, I serve this dum aloo with Ankur’s very own”Bedmi Puri” recipe which I will include in the next post. 

Sneak peek at the luscious Bedmi Puri ( next post)

Sneak peek at the luscious Bedmi Puri ( next post)

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My friendship stories with Ankur will continue in the next post with her luscious “Bedmi Puri” Recipe which is a western U.P. specialty.

Until then, a brilliant weekend to one and all.

P.S. If you are interested in reading some exciting fantasy fiction, you can head over to my other blog to catch up with a book I had written last year for a competition. I am posting chapter by chapter, once every week.

Parenthood and other things + Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

Musings of a New Mom | February 19, 2014 | By

Being a parent is the most fortunate thing to happen to anyone -  seems like an overstatement but I think it’s absolutely true. When Mimi was born, it took me a while to step out from the state of awe. Tiny and vulnerable, my new-born looked like the most exquisite thing I had ever laid my eyes on. Unfortunately, unlike most of you, I didn’t take to motherhood naturally. It took me a great while to figure her out. I was too scared to trust my instincts or for that matter even my husband’s as far as Mimi affairs were concerned. Be it her colicky experience, her natural tendency to run before she started walking, her difficulty in pronouncing ” Y” and “Th” words ( words like yellow were pronounced as Lello and Bath was Baff).  Rather than trusting my own instincts, I would look up the internet or talk to my mother who I thought is the authority in raising a child since she managed to make something out  of me! But over a period of time, I have understood Mimi and my instincts are better positioned to work and deliver.

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Despite having four solid years of experience of raising a child, both my husband and I still struggle when it comes to trusting our instincts as parents. It becomes increasingly difficult especially when a credible source like school and especially your child’s teacher tells you certain things about your child that you find difficult to refute. It was when Mimi joined nursery that I went back to work. It was  a trying time for both of us because we spent nearly 3.5 glorious years together before this abrupt separation happened. ( including the pregnancy months when I took a sabbatical from work)

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The first year passed incident-free but the second year onward we received a steady stream of complaints from school regarding her behaviour. Mimi suddenly resorted to displaying sudden bursts of temper and several cases of disobedience. These complaints did not cease even after several attempts of intervention with Mimi. We, as parents, were at our wits end. The teacher and school started to label her as someone with ADHD and that increased our anxiety levels beyond imagination. Every single day was spent trying to make Mimi understand about good behaviour but none seem to work. Somehow we resigned to believe that maybe Mimi did have ADHD and perhaps as the teacher suggested would need medical attention and therapy.  We spoke to several counselors, Psychotherapists and child psychiatrists and each one of them strongly recommended that we should wait it out because at 3  years it was too early to diagnose anything. It was the most grueling time for us as parents and midst all of this confusion, the school gave us a hard time questioning our parenting skills.

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Finally, after months of sleepless nights, we decided to trust our instincts and take her off the school especially when certain stray incidents of discrimination came to my knowledge. It was as if the school did not want her too. Truce was declared and Mimi spent  several months at home doing what she liked – painting, writing, watching her favourite shows, eating wonderful food and chilling out. What surprised me was that she was  a completely different person at home as compared to how the teachers projected her – A devil child.

For a parent, there no bigger grief trust me.

Once she was off school, there was collective sigh of relief and life went on.  Towards the beginning of a new year, I went up to one of the smaller nurseries in town and requested them to take Mimi. The new school gladly took her and Mimi began a new life with new classmates, new teachers and a brand new atmosphere. By the grace of God, she took to this new school rather easily and the positive environment did a good deal of good. Her beautiful character sparkled through and she started to enjoy the new tryst. There were never any complaints from school and we thanked our lucky stars that she found a loving environment that cherishes her for what and who she is.

We are so happy that we trusted our instincts and got her off the previous school without falling for the teacher’s random observations of Mimi having ADHD. These days ADHD has become the easiest label given to a child who is slightly naughty. I feel it is utterly unfair when schools and their ‘qualified’ teachers assume this easy way of relinquishing all responsibility when it comes to handling children with different capacities and energy levels by pronouncing them as either developmentally slow or suffering from ADHD.

Hence a lesson to learn from our bitter experience would be always, ALWAYS trust your own instincts in matters relating to your child.

Only yesterday we got to know that Mimi got accepted at the “Big School” after a thorough interview process and fantastic recommendation from her current school. We are so proud of her and how she has transformed in the last 6-8 months with the new school. It is a big milestone for us as parents and a beautiful opportunity for Mimi. This joyous moment called out for something sweet and beautiful and the chocolate pistachio fudge was the right choice – instinctively. :-)

It asks for very few basic ingredients and very little prep. It is fudgy and full of chocolate goodness. You would be surprised how quickly these vanish – these little bites of heaven. Enjoy these one at a time with your children and treasure every moment spent with them because time’s flying away. Wishing you all a terrific mid-week!

Click to see the enlarged picture of the recipe card

Click to see the enlarged picture of the recipe card