Tag Archives: Food Chronicles

Iftar experience at Sheraton

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Recently, I was asked to attend an Iftar at Sheraton at their Awali Ballroom. I had looked up the list of top Iftars in Bahrain and Sheraton featured on it. So I definitely wanted to try it and was really looking forward to this.

From the moment I stepped into the ballroom, I could feel a wonderful vibe with so many people; families, large groups of friends and the hotel staff serving their patrons. It was colourful and slightly louder than most other places I had been to before. A lavish buffet was laid out before us with international dishes and live cooking stations. We felt completely spoiled for choice. What you are about to see if you scroll down further is plenty of appetizing food pictures.

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The Awali Ballroom has been decked up and it is a sight to experience. 

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The buffet had traditional dishes like shawarma, and all kinds of biryani. The salad station had a wonderful selection of salads, dips and other starters. The main course had a few vegetarian options as well. I particularly enjoyed the palak dal and rice with some pepper -lemon chicken (highly recommeded)

Lemon and pepper chicken
Lemon and pepper chicken

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Fish cooked Arabic style
Fish cooked Arabic style

The dessert station had a live crepe making station which was hit among all the kids and adults alike.

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Mahallabiya with nut brittle – simply delicious
traditional Arabic sweets
traditional Arabic sweets
The meringue centerpiece
The meringue centerpiece

The highlights of my Iftar experience at Sheraton are;

1. Huge variety that not only caters to traditional tastes but also international ones as well

2. Desserts were simply outstanding and so delicious. The chocolate mousse was absolutely addictive.

3. Very friendly staff who go out of their way to make sure the guests are well attended. 

I am sure, these pictures would have really whet your appetite. So if you plan to have your Iftar at a restaurant, you should definitely give Sheraton a try. 
Iftar: from sunset, BD15.9++ on weekdays and BD16.9 on weekends. Children four to 12: BD8.5++; under fours go free. Sheraton Bahrain, Manama (1753 3533)

(This is a sponsored post but views expressed are solely mine)

Almond, Lemon and Ricotta cake and a note on why ‘me time’ for mums is an important thing

It is true and I am sure most of the mums would agree that the first three years of raising a child belong to the child. Only after they turn 3, that we can look at reclaiming our old selves i.e. if we manage that. Most of us don’t. Some of my friends have changed beyond recognition and I am not even talking physical appearance. 

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I do not say this with any malice. We all change with time and more so after the birth of a child. We throw ourselves at the nurturing of our children and it is nothing but sheer privilege. But does it have to come at a price of losing our identity to the point that we don’t recognize the reflection we see in the mirror. It has happened to me. It is an unshakable feeling. There were days when I would simply shrug my shoulders and get on with my tasks for the day and on certain days, I would feel myself falling in and out of depressive spells. Not healthy, right? Something so joyful  as nurturing your child shouldn’t at any point in time feel like a burden. But then why do we feel like this ? And we all know it ends in us feeling terribly guilty for thinking so selfishly about ourselves. 

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If you continue to feel bad inside for neglecting yourself, your needs and desires, there is no way you can be your best for the people you love. Your child included. 

Three years is a long time and our habits harden and it is difficult to fall back into any kind of discipline that involves doing something about yourself. Again, even if you feel like doing something to change the way you feel, without adequate support from your partner it is quite impossible to lift yourself from this atmosphere of despair. If the partner refuses to see the use in all this need for discipline then he plays a huge rule in the act of negligence. He has a big role to play in the process of deterioration. I am sure, our partners love us too much to see us in any kind of uncomfortable state. Perhaps the only thing they need is a conversation explaining why looking after ourselves is just as important as looking after the children and them. 

What qualifies as ‘me time’?

I do not consider going to the beauty parlour, couple of hours in a month or in 6 months as me time. Well some of my friends complain that they don’t even get the time to get a hair cut! 

‘Me time’ are  those precious hours in the day where you get to do your thing – which could be reading, learning a language, meeting friends for coffee, attending baking classes or even watching back to back episodes of your favourite sitcom. 

You may be doing this in breaks – 15 minutes of reading here, purposeful baking for someone’s birthday, meeting friends at common dinners. But that in my opinion is not ‘ me time’. 

‘Me time’ should feel selfish and hence good.

Intentionally doing something because you want to do it without any interference or the burden of tasks or responsibilities. That constitutes as satisfying ‘me time’.

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Once you establish the ‘me time’ rules, see how much vigour you experience in projecting the best of yourself to others. The energy, the zeal and the enthusiasm towards all chores increases manifold. 

I had been a firm believer of spending this ‘me time’ from the very beginning and for that reason I started writing and created this scared space on the blogsphere. It is an extension of me where I shareas  much as I feel comfortable sharing.

I have and always will exercise – whether it involves going to the gym or simply going for a walk in the neighbourhood park.

Once a week – on Fridays – I watch back to back episodes of TV series that I enjoy or obsessively try and finish a book.

To me, ‘me time’ is about being shamelessly selfish and not caring whose judging you.

For all this to happen, you definitely need your husband and to some extent, even your child to understand that this is important to you – the mother and the wife.

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Baking, out of turn, just because I felt is also something that I think of as ‘me time’ and this Almond, lemon and ricotta cake was a result of such a labour of love. Only very slightly sweet and dizzying tangy, this cake a perfect treat for tea time. A drizzle of honey on top or a even citrus-y sugar syrup can make it decadent. Without any syrup or honey, you can taste the ricotta as an after taste only after you have recovered from the slight shock of the abundance of lemon goodness. The almond adds to the beautiful texture of this cake.So the next time life gives you lemons, make sure you make this almond Lemon, ricotta cake. 

Mixed fruit parfait
Serves 4
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Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 500 gm greek yogurt or hung yogurt ( preferable) else any yogurt will do that is not runny
  2. 4 handfuls of granola clusters
  3. your choice of fruits - pomegranate, mango, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
  4. honey to sweeten or any low calorie sweetener
Instructions
  1. Beat the yogurt until its smooth. Add honey as per liking and beat again. You can use a fork or a small whisk to do this.
  2. Take small serving bowls or mason jars or glasses and layer it with yogurt
  3. The next layer you can have berries or mangoes, finely chopped, followed by more yogurt.
  4. Then the layer after this can be a granola, the more fruit and you can add chopped nuts and seeds.
  5. Place it in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours and enjoy for breakfast or in between snack.
Sliceofmylyfe - a Food blog based in Bahrain http://www.sliceofmylyfe.com/

The best of both worlds – Rose and Cardamom Pannacotta with Pistachio Rabri

Don’t we wish, that we should have it all; true love, fame, happiness, peace of mind, money and everlasting friendships. But it is difficult and probably impossible to have it all. This is primarily because our logical minds refuse to accept contradictions. If you have plenty of money, you are busy making money and hence you don’t have time to nurture your relationships. Likewise if you have peace of mind, most likely you are only moderately well -off and not stinking rich. 

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If I have to believe what I shared in this poster above, I would be trying to break – free from all the conditioning that has happened for the past 34 years.  This undoing of notions and habits is a difficult job since we all have been made to believe that though contradictions exist, we must not condone them. Somewhere in our heads, contradictions are considered  ‘wrong’ and not a part of normal course of things. But funnily, contradictions exist everywhere in life, in nature and is the very essence of the universe we live in. Yet we fight against it. 

 But as I grow older, I have started to believe in contradictions and have begun to accept it as a way of life. I have also begun to believe that even if it may not be possible to have it all, contradictory or not, it is quite possible to have the best of different worlds. 

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Lately I have been thinking about the different ways in which I have allowed contradictions to seep into my life and how they have naturally turned into the “best of different worlds”. 

– I wanted to work with more freedom and flexibility but being in a corporate profile didn’t allow that. I wanted to spend more time with my daughter, but the fast-paced consulting life left me with no time at all. Somehow, life just beautifully unfolded and now I enjoy the best of both worlds – that of being an entrepreneur (flexibility and freedom) and working from home so that I can be with my daughter all the time. 

– Being a South Indian ( I come from Kerala) and being married to  North India had always posed many challenges, culturally. Over time, I have understood that focusing on dissimilarities can only aggravate the divide. I’d rather focus on grasping the best of both worlds and offer them to my daughter, who is yet to comprehend the difference and similarities 

– Since childhood I have been educated about which contradictory food to avoid. Don’t have milk and onions together, don’t have acidic stuff with milk and so on. But I have inadvertently had these contradictory foods and nothing has happened. In fact, I quite enjoy my onion soup with some milk that allows me to skip cheese.

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I was compelled to think about contradictions and the important role they place in helping us grow when I made this gorgeously flavoured Rose and Cardamom Pannacotta with Pistachio Rabri. Rose and cardamom flavours pair excellently with the Italian cream dessert. Topped with pistachio rabri ( condensed milk), the pannacotta is a perfect example of how opposites become fuse well when we bring together the best of both worlds. Indian flavour and an Italian dessert come together to create a culinary fusion that successfully brings the best of both worlds together in this dreamy combination.

I made this show stopper of a dessert at the Diwali party where I had my close friends over. We had the most exquisite time over food and rose and cardamom pannacotta.

The leftover rabri, I froze in popsicle and kulfi moulds to have later.

Contradictions exists and to accept them is to keep growing like the poet Whitman has so eloquently stated. Contradictions can become beautiful fusions and fusions are nothing but the best of different worlds that come together. And we all have to agree, there is nothing more beautiful or harmonious than that.

Mango Cheese Cake
Serves 12
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
1 hr 25 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
1 hr 25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups digestive biscuits, crushed into crumbs
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  4. 4 large ripe mangoes, cubed and pureed
  5. 685 gm packages cream cheese, softened
  6. 1 1/4 cups sugar
  7. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  8. 4 large eggs
Instructions
  1. 1. Stir together the digestive biscuits crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl; press into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325º/ 162.7 C for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool
  2. Puree the mangoes in a blender. With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, 1 1/4 cups sugar, and vanilla essence until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, mixing it well and finally stir in the mango puree.
  3. Pour batter into prepared crust. Bake at 325º / 165 C for 1 hour and 25 minutes. After the alloted time, test if the cheese cake is cooked in the center. If find it is still a bit raw, allow the cheese cake to continue baking in the heat of the oven after you switched off the oven for atleast another 10-15 minutes.
  4. Cool in pan on a wire rack 1 hour.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.
Sliceofmylyfe - a Food blog based in Bahrain http://www.sliceofmylyfe.com/

The Diwali Post and a Panchmael Dal recipe

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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.

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!