A little bit of This and a little bit of That

Sunday Carvery at Royal Haathi Mahal, Cavelossim, South Goa

Goa is about sun, sea, food and  fun. Several trips made  over the years have made the cultural and historical sights and sounds of Goa so familiar that we no longer feel the need to do the touristy thing and visit those places again, wonderful as they are.( Old Goa, Tambdi Surla, Fort Tiracol, Divar) .

We do what every one else does....relax and think about the next meal.

Finding a good meal in Goa isn't as easy as it sounds. Beach shacks serve up a pretty standard menu and after a couple of days one starts getting nitpicky about the size of the prawns  in the curry rice. While its necessary to taste the local food when on holiday, two weeks of any one cuisine can get a trifle boring.And  in these days of choice it is not necessary to exclude all other options as chefs in Goa get better and better at producing other cuisines--Italian, Mexican, Burmese, French ..besides Indian regional food be it Kashmiri or Bengali, its all available in Goa. 


One of the best dinners we had was on a Sunday at Attwoods Bar in Haathi Mahal, close to Cavelossim Beach. Good old British Pub food but then a mite better than you get in Blighty.IMG_5362

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Roast chicken , beef and pork, all perfectly cooked, accompanied by roast potatoes, carrots,  cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings.

 

IMG_5360The ingredients are sourced and their cooking supervised by Jeremy Westcott, who once ran pubs and hotels in Somerset. As a result you get custard of a perfect consistency, Yorkshire pud, crisp but not dry, and sauces the likes of which I haven't tasted outside of the British Isles.

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The apple pies are made in a light and crumbly pastry not the stodge one is generally served . Jeremy also makes the outstanding sausages on site at the Haathi Mahal . His genial  presence is a big plus to the otherwise fairly sleepy resort and he has crafted a menu to remember. 

IMG_5354Attwoods bar is a bit of a throwback, in style and decor, to the ubiquitous corner pub in every British town. Its low ceilings with exposed timber, beer barrels and dart board all add to the theme. The name of the bar is a touching tribute to a former manager of the resort by the owner and, except for the large portrait of the India hating, racist Winston Churchill which is quite  inappropriate here, manages to be a cosy place.

The Carvery is a right royal feast , with unlimited portions of everything on offer and highly recommended to those craving a change from red chillies and rice. 

 Every Sunday  from 7.30 pm . An amazing Rs 750 per person inclusive of taxes.

 

At Haathi Mahal.

Cavelossim, Mobor, Salcette, Goa 403731

Phone:0832 672 5300
 
 

The Modern Myth of Superfoods

The term Superfoods entered the dictionary in the early twentieth century. In the 60’s and 70’s it was frequently used in conjunction with the word “cultural “. Cultural superfoods, by definition, were those foods which were a community’s main source of calories because of which they acquired a tremendous religious, cultural, historical and mystical hold on particular societies acquiring a semi divine significance to its people.

Often these foods, generally staples, were cultivated and ingested to the exclusion of other nutritious foods and unless supplemented with other foods , led to malnutrition in the immediate population as proved by Derrick Brian Jeliffe and his wife Eleanore Patrice, experts in the field of infant and cross cultural nutrition. Thus rice in South India, Steamed Plantain (Matoke) in Buganda, Wheat bread in Europe and  Maize in Central America, having this socio religious significance, were classified as Cultural Super foods. *1

Today the usage is somewhat different.

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Messing in Mussoorie-at the Carlton Plaisance

Finding good food during travel seems to have become as much of an adventure as deep sea diving , involving  research, exploration, and discovery, while risking little else but cash and intestinal well being.

Which is why anyone and everyone, those with taste buds and those without, are on the same adventure trail, exclaiming about every meal  on SMS, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Enthusiasm is generally in direct proportion to the amount paid for such detection. The vada pau rarely gets the same flowery praise as the French croquette especially if said croquette is served in "French owned" restaurant , even though it might be equally deep fried to death.

The question is ...what is so pioneering  about  "discovering" a fancy restaurant, one which is heavily advertised and has million of reviews to back up claims of excellence? The real taste revelation is more and more to be found in peoples homes ,where food is prepared with care, and sometimes even better, with love.

So how do you find this on your travels? In India where relatives abound, it isn't as difficult as in other countries, though the tradition of asking people over to a meal is slowly fading and  becoming a thing of the past. You might be still be lucky. Mostly it is serendipity . You are mysteriously drawn to places and people which promise the palate surprise, comfort and delight.

Such fortunate happenstance occurred when we plumped to stay at the Carlton Plaisance in Mussoorie recently. I say 'plumped' because, with just a little  scouting online, I found the site "still under construction".The description of the hotel was intriguing, promising a bit of history, ( A Chateau built in the late 1800's )  a bit of garden, and a good view.

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What we found was a rambling old house, eclectically furnished, with a delightfully shabby air. High ceilings , ventilators and dark interiors reminded me of my many childhood homes. A parlour filled with (now very non kosher) stuffed animals  and deep sofas, a high table, permanently set with linens, crockery and cutlery in the centre hall from which doors led out to large suites and the kitchens.

The better suites had a pretty gallery which once looked out to the hills in the distance but now looked out to a cement structure, which may have been a water tank. Water shortage is a problem in Mussoorie  and we were sparing in our use of it during our stay. The platform on top of this structure ruined the view but closer to our rooms were very pretty flowers, glimpsed through the window panes , hyacinths and daisies which bloomed cheerfully in the sun.

 

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Once in a while monkeys thundered across the tin roofs and were chased off by the staff. For the rest, even though the Company Garden road passed 100 meters away , we remained unassailed by other noise, chiefly the incessant honking of cars, which is a feature on all roads leading to, away and in Mussoorie, reaching high decibel levels near the Mall Road

What made the stay so good was that every day we ordered our meals in consultation with the cook , Kalam Singh, ( what was in season, available , tasty)  and and he made  it as simple or as elaborate as we wished , fresh and on time , calling us to the table when all was ready. We felt very much at home.

Everything tasted good, with a homely type of tarka, not swimming in oil or smothered in spices. In the course of our stay three preparations stood out. The Nepali Anda Aloo Achari, a mustardy dish with a creamy texture, the Pepper Chicken ,unlike any other chicken I have tasted to date,  and the Achar Dal.

In spite of petitioning him thrice, Kalam Singh did not deign to share the recipes , smiling mysteriously and fading into the depths of the kitchens. Usman , the genial, friendly and  always helpful Major Domo, kept his secret .

Now the only way for anyone to taste all that good food that is to go spend a pleasurable week at the agreeably laid back Carlton Plaisance while getting a glimpse , albeit dim, of an era long gone, like the promised (pale) view of hills.

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