A little bit of This and a little bit of That

Peshawar to Pune- Chef Altamash Iqbal

Weekends in Pune can be a social whirl . With a bewildering choice of events to attend, from book readings to jazz concerts, presentations on the craft of stained glass, art show openings accompanied by the requisite wine and cheese, and one is hard put to decide which occasion to go to, since most of these are free and open to all.  

Many events now are built around the still relatively new interest in food. Farmers markets with nary a farmer to be seen, Organic Fairs with a lot of additives , restaurants hosting flea markets  and such like are the order of the day. 

Several of these events are held in five star hotels as they have large spaces but now  malls have jumped into the fray of events to attract more visitors to their stores.

Nitesh HUB, till recently known as Koregaon Park Mall , had organised a  chef interaction on their premises recently with Altamash Iqbal, the chef behind Riwaz, a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Bangalore. showcasing  the cuisine of  the North West Frontier, a new, rather dashing term for what basically remains tandoori and dum pukht.

Chef Altamash chose to demonstrate two dishes , strangely enough vegetarian, from a region known for the predominance of mutton , dairy and lentils in their cuisine. I mean its Baluchistan, Peshawar and Malakand!

Nevertheless he spoke to an interested audience. On show were a Mushroom Galouti with Porcini and Morel Soil, and a Stuffed Potato with Kadhai spices and Curried Yogurt.

FullSizeRender (7)

What was interesting about the galouti was the morel soil,  which was made with toasted almond flakes served along with a porcini espuma made of pureed porcini. The mushroom cutlet was made of ground field mushrooms cooked with onions, ginger garlic , cashewnuts and some spices. It was smooth and very kebab like and the porcini foam and shimeji mushrooms added a rather special flavour. Beautifully plated, with edible flowers and a smidgen of mango sauce, it was a pleasure to eat and we could all have done with seconds.

FullSizeRender (5)

The stuffed potato was a scooped out potato leaving a shell. While the chef had pre cooked the potato shells to save time, they are to be deep fried till golden. He then made a tasty mix of cottage cheese, crushed almonds. ginger peas and chillies , sauteed and lightly mashed and filled into the shells. This was then marinated in yogurt and powdered spices and baked for a few minutes. The yogurt was tempered with kadhai spice , made of coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Again the plating was interesting, the stuffed potatoes sliced into perfect rounds and served with the tempered spiced yogurt and a sprinkling of micro greens which were delicious ... this one being from sprouted green gram.

Chef Altamash, a personable young man with an obvious relish for creating new dishes,  fielded  questions from the audience while cooking and even shared a few interesting tips with us.  He said most people  today use foil instead of a pastry to seal the dish for dum pukht  and the trick to making an unforgettable Dal (Bukhara/Makhani/ Kala / Maa) call it what you will, is to add some rajmha  and channa dal to bind the dal plus an amount of cream and butter equal to the weight of lentils used ! 

My afternoon was well spent , having picked up some valuable tips for my home cooking from a true professional and an introduction to several ingredients new to me. Not to mention the delicious food  !! 

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


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.


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.

Click through to learn more...

Continue reading "The Modern Myth of Superfoods" »