Monday, June 8, 2015

Vishwam Iyer comes to lunch

Vishwam Iyer was to come home for lunch and Thaathi was in a fix. The Iyer man was quite a perfectionist and getting him to approve of a meal was never easy. In the past, whenever Vishwam Iyer had come home to dine, he had always found some reason to berate the food. "The spice could have been a notch down", "You should have fried the lentils before you ground it" or some such suggestion was bound to arise.

After much thought, Thaathi decided to throw caution to the wind. There was no more 'trying to please the neighbour'. Her husband had also warned her not to stress out this time. Anyway the rest of the party always had such good words for her cooking. So, she chopped up two slices of pumpkins and quarter kilo of okra with a resolve. She was gonna take Mr.Iyer for a ride! Tossing the okra lightly in oil, she let a quarter kilo of taro root boil on the side. She peeled the taro and chopped them into halves. 

She extracted tamarind puree from a lemon-sized ball dissolved in hot water, threw in a pinch of salt and turmeric(always kills the germs!) and let the vegetables cook in the broth. As little Kunju, Chochi and Lallu ran into the kitchen, she issued a friendly warning saying she will throw them also into the sambhar she was making. As her grand kids giggled and ran out in mock horror, she grinned, finally at ease in cooking for the hoity-toity Mr.Iyer. 

She scraped a head of coconut, sautéed a spoon of tuvar dal(split red gram), half a spoon of fenugreek seeds and six dried red chillies and ground them all together on the huge stone that lay in her verandah. The sun was up and she could hear the cowherd delivering milk in the neighbourhood. Calling out to Raman to get their pail, she went back into the kitchen. She scooped out the ground paste and added it to the boiling broth. After sputtering some curry leaves and mustard seeds in ghee, she gently let them slide into the now-ready sambhar with a hiss. 

Rice and beans curry were prepared alongside. Some Kerala poppadams were fried. A payasam that even Mr.Vishwam Iyer had once grudgingly accepted was 'not bad' was made. Thaathi was now ready for war!


What followed is now a family legend! Vishwam Iyer loved Thaathi's sambhar so much that it began to be called the 'Vishwam Iyer Sambhar' in his honour. Generations later, even today, when someone is lost as to what to cook that day, a Vishwam Iyer Sambhar is whipped up, much to the delight and appreciation of all. 

A memorable and atypical recipe, this sambhar has passed on hands and families and I believe originated in the humble kitchen of my thaathi (or great-great-grandmother). Although the story may have been spiced up to add interest, the crux of it remains true to the events that transpired. 

And yet again, a recipe becomes a story! 

Picture Courtesy:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Serves: 2
Preparation Time: Less than 5 minutes
Inline image 2

Cape Gooseberries/Golden Berries (also known as केप करौदा/Kēpa karaudā in hindi. Looks like in the Image above) - 10 to 20
Green Grapes - a medium bunch
Peanuts - half a katori
Dash of lime (if needed)

Cut the berries in half. Make sure they are the sweetest you can find. A good way to figure this is by smelling them. Sweet smell ensures sweet taste! 
Toss in the grapes.
Grind the peanuts into a coarse powder using a mixer or mortar and pestle. 
Mix all of the above in a bowl.
If you like a little tanginess, you can add a dash of lime to it. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013


sizzling oil
fried dough
smells of saunf
'home' shifts base
in the guise of a mother

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tummyfull of love

A tummyfull of love
What my mother gives me
The dust is rising again
and the sun is unkind
but my tummyfull of love
makes me smile
how do the mothers know
to mix kindness with the curry leaves
and toss in a smile with the salt
so everything becomes bearable
bad days
broken phones
and this becomes a fat I don't mind

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Feast first @ Shakahari, Mariott


When food fit for the Nawabs calls, you give in and answer it with a bite, saysSandhya Ramachandran as she feasts on Awadhi cuisine.
Ghazals drifting from the restaurant mentally paint a picture of regal interiors, heavily chikankari-ed drapes, hookahs strewn, and a mahaul all set for an evening of wine and dine.
Then you realize you’re in the dry state – Gujarat, as you step into a standardMarriott-interior of stone slabs, large horizontal wooden beams and glass accents. At Shakahari, Courtyard by Marriott -Ahmedabad’s serving of Hyderabadi and Awadhi cuisine, the food brings legends alive and transports you to the land of aromatic spices and robust meats. As song after song continued to be rendered from an elevated manch by two very enthusiastic performers, the starters arrived.
IMG_3488The Akhrot ke seekh (Rs 400) was an interesting dish. The walnut stuffing was rich, creamy and the coriander accents were refreshing. The Paneer Shahjahani tikka (Rs 400)  contained peanuts in the sauce that combined beautifully with soft sweet prunes. The Sarson ke phool (Rs 400) – tender broccoli marinated in mustard and cooked in a tandoor with cheese and nuts, surprisingly won plenty of favour with us.
IMG_3490The winner of the starters pack however was the Kachcha kela kali mirch (Rs 350). A delightful combination of raw bananas tossed with peppercorns and cherry tomatoes and gently spiced with cinnamon, it makes for a spicy and aromatic start to the meal ahead.
The breadbasket was a carb-lovers paradise. The innovative Chilli olive naan (Rs 100), the lachcha paratha (Rs 100) was aromatic and the layers simply melted in your mouth. The Nawabi favourite – Warqi paratha (Rs 125) was thick, soft and perfect to mop up the curries ordered. The Masala kulcha (Rs 125) and Plain roti (Rs 100) – both simple versions of the leavened flatbread rounded of the offerings of the breadbasket.
IMG_3511To accompany the various versions of roti,we began with the Paneer hara pyaaz (Rs 400). We laud the chef’s talent at balancing the crispbold raw onions while sacrificing their potent pungency in this dish.
The Martabaan Chhole (Rs 375), one of the more popular dishes of Hyderabadi cuisine, has chick peas marinated in tea and tossed with twenty-six differentmasalas. Although that sounds like a whole lot of spices to take in at once, the taste surprisingly was very wholesome and homemade. The Subz-e-Shakahari (Rs 400) – the signature dish that married Nawabi cuisine with vegetables from across the world has asparagus, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and water chestnuts in brown gravy – a surprisingly sublime fusion!
The Tarkari Biryani (Rs 375) enticed us into digging in, despite a full stomach. Cooked in the dum style, the spices blended with the rice and seduced the tongue into slavery. Combine the creamy blended Dal shakahari (Rs 375) with this and you just found your perfect meal. The Peas pulao (Rs 250) had sweet swollen peas sprinkled in fragrant rice served with the special Raita (Rs 125) – a yoghurt-based condiment.
IMG_3512Although we were overwhelmed with the royal spread, we caved in to our sweet cravings and sampled the dessert platter. Every slurp of the Gulab ki kheer (Rs 300) was made memorable by the perfectly sweet marriage of the condensed milk and the scent of rose petals.
The Dry fruits halwa (Rs 300) – a blend of nuts, semolina and ghee, this one was a simple yet delicious sweet treat. The Zauk e Shahi (Rs 300) had mini Gulab jamuns soaked in lachhedar rabdi - full fat milk, which is thickened with sugar and flavoured with cardamom and dry fruits – was a straight shot to dessert heaven. We credit the chef for resisting the temptation to make this one super sweet.
It’s an enlightening realization at the end of a meal, that goades you into understanding that while democracy may have pushed the Nawabs to the backseat, but their food can still hold its own even today. Shakahari is a must visit for every foodie who loves a rich feast. Aur khaane ke saat, kuch shaayri bhi ho jaaye!
Must try: Akrot ke seekh, Sabz-e-Shakahari, Gulab ki Kheer
Meal for two: Rs 2200+ taxes

Coffee and Conversations @ Fresh Roast Cafe

For evenings lit up by lights strung around trees, scented with coffee and peppered with great food, The Fresh Roast Café is the place to be, saysSandhya Ramachandran.
The outdoorsThe Fresh Roast Café is tucked into a cosy gully, but you just might miss it if you aren’t looking for it. This three-month old café is a part of the Heritage Hotel in Paldi whose history dates it back to 1922. With 33 rooms and 18 suites to boot, all it needed was a place where guests could have a quick bite, which led to idea of starting the Fresh Roast Café .
While you could munch on your starter seated in the Burma wood panelled interiors, you could also choose to lounge in the lovely outdoor area with its constant hum of water from the fountains. We decided we wanted to capitalise on the pleasant light breeze before the scorching summer really hit us. The outdoor area merrily beckoned to us with its pretty white wrought iron furniture, and twinkle lights wound around tree barks.
Espresso Milano and rich and smooth Hazelnut coffeeSo as the evening crept up on us, the rich and strong Espresso Americano (Rs 65) woke us up for the meal ahead. We also sipped on a rich and smooth Hazelnut coffee (Rs 85). A creamy nutty flavour kissed with the heady taste of coffee, we were slaves to its smooth taste to the very last sip. Order the Caramello Mocha (Rs 80) for a bold caramel flavoured coffee, that you wont forget easily.
Peach Mozzarella SaladOur salads for the evening – the Peach Mozzarella Salad (Rs 130) and the Fattuce Salad (Rs 130) turned out to be wise choices. The Peach Mozzarella Salad was an exquisite combination of sliced peaches tossed with mozzarella cubes, mixed with basil and lemon vinaigrette, laid out on iceberg lettuce and garnished with herbed croutons.
The fruit-vegetable combination salads could easily turn out to be a disastrous affair but Fresh Roast Café’s Peach Mozzarella Salad sailed through brilliantly, the sweetness of the peach and the sour creamy taste of the mozzarella cubes complimenting each another beautifully.
The Fattuce Salad, with diced tomatoes, cucumber, red and yellow peppers, lettuce, olives, feta cheese and Parmesan cheese, was a tad salty but great overall. Refreshing to taste, we feel that the dish makes for a great contender for the perfect brunch award (with far less salt though).
Feta cheese Cucumber Tomato Basil PaniniThe Feta cheese Cucumber Tomato Basil Panini (Rs 155) that we ordered next was a good eat- the cheese holding together the vegetables and herbs well. The next item on our night’s meal was the Pizza Milano (Rs 250). Made with jalapeno peppers, olives, onions and capers, this thin-crust pizza was served with three delicious homemade dips. We’ve never had pizza with dip before, but decided to give it a shot. While the mustard dip was pungent enough to give the wasabi a run for its money, the herbs olive oil dip was a perfect add-on for some health and taste. The third part of this potent triad – the chilli garlic dip proved to be a mix of flavours that was sure to be a crowd pleaser here.
Pizza MilanoFresh Roast is definitely one of the better cafes in the city in terms of both food and ambience. One visit surely calls for more (psst! We have already made three). The quality and quantity of the food is a great value for money option. So trust us blindly this time and order anything on the menu. It sure hasn’t disappointed us so far!
Must try: Peach Mozzarella Salad, Rich n smooth Hazelnut coffee, and the three homemade dips
Meal for two: Rs 700 + taxes

Food with a view @ Azzuri Bay


If you have ever wished to lunch in a place with your friends and have a comfortable time, some good food, lovely ambience and great service, Azzuri Bay is the place to go, says Sandhya Ramachandran.
In the heart of GandhinagarAzzuri Bay stays true to its name and boasts of a wonderful view of the azure waters of the Bay of Bengal from its rooftop dining area. Enter and the rest of the place is equally impressive. A simple interior space with wooden furniture, clear pools of water and statues of Buddha help you leave the chaos of the world behind and ready you for the feast to come.
Pan Asian tasting platter non vegAfter a quick look around, we almost wished we had stopped by for dinner, if only to see how breath taking this place is at night. We began lunch with an orange popsicle, looking as if it landed on our plates straight out of the school-side ice cream carts, wrapped in a transparent polythene cover – an odd choice perhaps, but we were glad for its sharp citrusy flavour.
A Thai ice tea (Rs 150) refreshed us with its crisp lemon grass flavour while the San Fransisco ice tea (Rs 150) had us sold on the exciting mix of lime, fresh mint and black berries with tea.  The Pan-Asian combination tasting vegetarian and non-vegetarian platters (Rs 525 each) arrived next. Special mention needs to be made of the vegetables served on sugarcane skewers. An innovative skewer made out of a strip of sugarcane held up a minced vegetable and herb lollipop, that was spicy on the outside and mildly sweet closer to the cane. While we thought the vegetarian satay had too much turmeric for our taste, the spicy vegetable Thai rolls with the sweet-chilli dip proved to be the perfect foil for it.
Meditteranean Combo tasting platters1What had us asking for more, however, were the salt and pepper prawns – a winning combination of fiery prawns cooked with plenty of piquant spices and finished with a spritz of lime.
To some, starters are a meal by itself and to others, it is the shubh aarambh or welcome to a meal. Since we readily agree with either stand, we greedily gobbled up the Mediterranean combo tasting platters (Rs 525 each). The stir-fried prawns and the quirkily named ‘Almost Shawarma’ on the platter was flavourful and had great texture.
However, the falafel was disappointing. Overloaded with too many bold Indian spices, it tasted like something that was more Indian than Egyptian to us.
The Three Cheese Chilli rolls with cheddar, mozzarella and cottage cheese fillings was also disappointing with cottage cheese that had gone sour. While the Vegetable Crostini was a tasty eat, the winner from Mediterranean was definitely the Stuffed Baked Mushrooms. Soft button mushrooms topped with cheese and herbed crumbs and baked together, we wish it came with a ‘like’ option, which we could click over and over again.Bocconcini and Melon Salad1
After our relay of tasting platters reached a close, we picked the Bocconcini and Melon Salad (Rs 375) – Bocconcini with strawberries, musk melon and water melon tossed with mixed greens, virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and garnished with almonds and roasted walnuts. We were sure, this was one dish could have been used to appease even the angriest God.
With such an impressive start to our meal, the main course didn’t exactly blow us away. The Veiled Spinach, artichoke, ricotta torte (Rs 375) was a dish with a few vegetables, ricotta cheese, herbs and olive oil mixed with pepper and chilly sauce and baked in a pie shell – sadly it was more lack lustre than the name makes it out to be.
Chicken Lasagne1The Chicken lasagna (Rs 400), though was a meal by itself. Thanks to the generous serving size, we happily tucked in to the beautifully seasoned chicken baked just the right balance of cheese.
The Mississippi Mud Pie (Rs 180) was delectable with its slab of coffee ice cream bound with walls of chocolate brownie. The Tiramisu (Rs 180) was soft, moist and decadent. In fact, we’d even say it’s a top contender for being one of the best Tiramisu’s in town.
Tiramisu1On the whole, Azzuri Bay definitely is a good place to eat, topped with courteous service and a wonderful ambience. Head there when you have plenty of time on hand and can lounge over lunch and lengthy conversation on a sunny afternoon.
Must try:  Salt and pepper prawns, Stuffed Baked Mushrooms, Bocconcini and Melon Salad
Meal for two: Rs 2000 plus taxes