Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Aloor Jhol: Potato in a Thin, Spicy Gravy

Potato in a Thin, Spicy Gravy
Aloor jhol is a very  simple, completely vegetarian recipe, and is one of the dishes my grandmother loves to eat. In my case, its slightly different. When I have sniffles and a bad fever, I want many things that I generally crave, but rarely have the time or energy to get up and cook for myself. But then, there is the Aloor Jhol, which I wangled out of R's mother because when my grandmother had it for the first time, she actually smiled, and it is simple, and cooked under half an hour, if you have things ready. So, I decided to make a big truckload of it, and then consumed half a big bowl, just like that, while watching The Big Bang Theory episodes on my computer. It actually took me one and half episodes to make this, so I am assuming that's 30 minutes in your book, since an episode is 20 minutes' worth.

To make Aloor Jhol, I use about 500 gm. whole medium-sized potatoes, unpeeled. I wash them thoroughly, prick them with a fork, cut them in quarters, so that they cook quickly, then either cover them with water and place them inside a microwave safe bowl and micro on high for 10 minutes, or put them in a pressure cooker, and then when the pressure is full, drop heat, simmer for 5 minutes, and then turn of the cooker, letting the pressure go down naturally, and the lid open by itself. You can, of course do this part over the stove top, but well, for a cranky big baby like me, that was too much time. Once done, remove, and mash mildly with the back of a spoon or a spatula - there should be plenty of chunks. Do not throw away the water - that's the material for the gravy.

Meanwhile, make a paste of an inch of ginger and 2-4 whole green chillies. The heat depends on your taste buds, that is, if you are a wuss, add one. If you think yourself to be a bit of a tiger, add sixty two. Also, make a paste of 2-3 tomatoes, so that the result is about 1/2 cup's worth. Don't add water to the tomato while blending if possible.

Indian potato curry
Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil. Add a large pinch of hing (optional), a large pinch of paanch phoran (substitute this with a mixture of cumin and fennel seeds if you don't have that in hand), a couple of bay leaves, and 2-3 whole red chillies. Let this mixture heat and splutter slightly. Drop in the ginger and chillies, and give it a couple of halfhearted stirs, before introducing the tomato. At this point, I turn the heat down to a simmer, and then leave the kitchen premises for 5-6 minutes, or until the tomato does not smell raw any more. Throw in about half a handful of cilantro stems and leaves, chopped, and stir for a minute or so.

Take a bowl, and add a teaspoon each of turmeric powder, red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder. Add to it half teaspoon dry mango powder (optional), and half a teaspoon crushed black pepper. Don't miss out on the black pepper, it gives the dish a lovely peppery glow. Add some water and make a paste, and add it to the tomato mixture. Cook till the water evaporates mostly, add the potatoes with at least one cup of the liquid in which the potato was cooking. You can up the ante, or reduce it, as per your wish. Also, if you think the heat is STILL not enough, add more green chillies or pasted green chillies now. Let the potato cook in the gravy for 10 minutes, then give it a hearty stir, add salt, and remove from heat. Just before removing, add another half handful of cilantro, because you really cannot ignore the cilantro here.

aloor jhol 
I have eaten aloor jhol solo, with luchi, puri, paratha, rotis, steamed rice, pulao - you name it. I have to say, nothing beats a bowl of this in front of you when you have sniffles - the kick from the spices is just what my taste buds need to recover from all the antibiotics and other medication. I would like to say, you are free to experiment here - you can use other vegetables instead of potatoes, or make this dish with two-three vegetables, and that turns out to be absolutely fine too! I have done this with a combination of potato and peas, potato and squash, as well as potato and raw papaya, and all of them turned out pretty neat. 

Bid adieu to dandruff with Kaya’s new Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with Scalp Purifying Factor

It’s finally time to move past the scorching heat of the summer and welcome the rains. But monsoon also brings with it an abundance of hair woes. Excessive dandruff, dry hair and itchy scalps are the most common concerns that crop up during this season. Dandruff, apart from being a social embarrassment, also marks the beginning of more severe problems such as scalp infections. This season, Kaya introduces their latest offering - ‘Anti-Dandruff Shampoo’ that will help beat the monsoon blues and keep your hair healthy and dandruff free.

Dr. Sangeeta Velaskar, Vice President and Head, Medical Services and R&D, Kaya India, said, “The humidity present in the air during the monsoon cause bacteria and fungi to multiply. Additionally, repeated exposure of the scalp to wet and dry weather conditions lead to a compromised scalp barrier, a major cause for dandruff. Piroctone olamine is a highly effective antimicrobial acting againstMalassezia species, which controls and prevents the re-occurrence of dandruff. It is also important to moisturize and soothe the scalp with ingredients such as vitamin B5 and Seaweed Extract.”

Specially formulated for daily use, this shampoo gently removes dandruff and simultaneously protects the scalp resulting in nourished, healthy and dandruff-free hair. Kaya’s Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is priced at Rs. 390 for 200 ml. The product is available across all Kaya Skin Clinics, Kaya Skin Bars and can be ordered online through Kaya’s portal (http://shop.kayaclinic.com/).

Disclaimer: Press Release.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The New Menu Additions at The Bridge at The Park, Kolkata

24 hour open places in Kolkata
The Bridge at The Park Hotels has a few new items added to their menu starting this month! The menu additions were carefully curated from the response received at different food festivals, and then, the bests were added after a considerable amount of consideration. Small portions of food, salads and soup have been added to the menu now, and some of them are quite nice.

Broccoli Soup
There are a considerable number of soups added. Vegetarians would find the vegan Broccoli Soup with sunflower toasties quite intriguing, while I preferred the subtle comfort of the Clear Chicken broth, served simply with stuffed Cappelleiti, little pasta packets filled with nubbins of chicken.

Chicken broth 
I was quite happy to see the Chicken Shahtoosh, green chili, coriander and red onion puff pinwheel, spicy, crisp, with a spicy kick from the green chillies in it, and longed for a drink to go with it. Thankfully, a good cup of coffee was placed in front of me just in time.

Chicken Pinwheels
I  enjoyed the Calabrian Seafood soup at the South Italian food festival last year, and the Chicken Calabrian Spaghetti with emulsion of stock & extra virgin olive oil was a light affair, with the spaghetti generously drenched in broth and olive oil, making them moist yet not soggy.

Calabrian Spaghetti with Chicken
The non vegetarian food lovers can rejoice in the glory of lamb shanks, cooked to perfection and studded with rosemary, or can move on to the more traditional Indian dishes, or find something lavish straight out of the tandoor. I was especially looking forward to some of the new pizzas, some with parma ham and rucola, or the marinara pizza with squid, prawn and bhetki fish.

But then the chef brought out a plate of Bikrampuri chicken kawsha with paratha, and I was distracted. A spicy hot affair, a bowl of plain yellow dal was served along with the dish to balance out the heat, and the meat was quite tender, and the paratha was flaky and light - which was great because I found a piece of soft potato which had to be mashed and wrapped with a piece of paratha before consumption.

Bikrampuri Chicken
For dessert, there was a simple Madagascar Molten Chocolate Cake which was quite nice, if a bit too sweet for my taste buds. The fact that there is oozing chocolate is always a good sign though.

Molten Chocolate Cake
The platters are available round the clock at the 24/7 hour coffee shop, and you can order the dishes a-la-carte. The Bridge also has good breakfast and lunch buffets, and you can check them out too.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at The Bridge at the kind invitation of the management.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Yellow Straw, Kolkata

Kolkata Juice Chain
I found The Yellow Straw in Chandni Chowk Region one fine sultry summer evening, while I was on my way to a watch shop, huffing and puffing from the exertion, and cursing myself for not drinking enough water. The little shop on RN Mukherjee Road looks small from the outside, but go inside, and you will find a little space to sit and play games once you get up the stairs. Happily enough, I had consumed a fabulous strawberry shake that day, and gone forth my merry way, but well, when one of the store's owners invited me and a few others over for some fresh seasonal juices and shakes, I nodded my head, and followed him down to the outlet once again.

Kolkata Juice Bar
The Yellow Straw is Kolkata's first juice chain. They have an assortment of juices - from pure juices (one fruit or vegetable only), to a combination of their choice, to customizable choices that can be asked for by the customer - the list is quite large. The owners are two young entrepreneurs, Piyush and Vikram, and they decided to make juices with slow rotation juicers, which does not heat up the juice, and that helps in less oxidation and getting more nutrition out of the fruits being pulped.

Yellow Straw Dalhousie Region
So, taking in the quirky décor, we seated ourselves, and looked around. The place is neat and packed with fun games - you can play chess, checkers, pick up sticks and other games for absolutely hours in the end. The guys don't mind - in fact, they encouraged it. I picked up a pack of sticks, scattered them, and went to work.

Yummy Tummy
 The Yummy Tummy juice is an assortment of fruits - I got the distinct taste of mausambi and pomegranate as well as some apples. They try to keep as much seasonal fruits as possible, and this combination is supposed to be a full meal. It is pulpy and quite filling, and I ask if I could have small portions of the next things that are about to come.

Chilli Cheese Toasties
 The Chilli Cheese toasties come on a sharing platter, and within seconds, it is gone. There is a generous amount of chilli-laden cheese which is quite a lovely sight.

Skin Glow
 D had ordered something called a Skin Glow, and it is a dark red affair, rather Gothic to look at, if you ask me. But its quite nice, with beets and apples and a tiny hit of ginger to spice things up.

Corn and Spinach Snackies

The Corn and Spinach Snackies are little golden crackers topped with a little bit of well-cooked corn and spinach, sprinkled with some cheese. Its easy to forget how many of these you are consuming, especially if you are too busy talking to your friend.

Mean Green
Daring soul that I am, I venture towards the Mean Green after reading the words Spinach and Celery on it. This is more like a cold soup than a juice - its quite savoury, and has a considerable amount of celery, which, for some reason, makes me want to have a Bloody Mary later.

Cold Chocolate Shake
 To be fair, the chocolate shake was nice, but it just paled in front of the juices before. This was sweet, with a good bit of cocoa in it, and although it was fine, it lacked.. something.

Sweet Chilli Potato Toasties
 The Sweet Potato Toasties were served at this point. Now, these were intriguing us from the start, and the layer of potato on the toasties has a great combination of tamarind, cumin, which is quite nice, especially for those who like street food, because this has streetfood written all over it.

mango shake
 Of course, the piece de resistance was the mango shake. This is part of their special  menu on mangoes, which will stop with the mango season getting over soon. This contained chopped mangoes, mango ice cream, butterscotch bits, and nuts - between the four of us, we could not finish it (alas!), and hung our heads in shame as we were about to go. But, I have to say, I did win a game of pick-up-sticks, so these things don't hurt me any more. 

pick up sticks

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at the Yellow Straw at the kind request of the management.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Grand Kabab Festival at Casa Kitchen - Restaurant & Bar

paneer tikka

Casa Kitchen – Restaurant & Bar located on 1st floor of Hotel Casa Fortuna at AJC Bose Road in Kolkata celebrates this classical and traditional Kabab fare in Vegetarian combination served from sizzling earthen pots, which emanates the rightful ambience for savoring the Kababs…and a Kingfisher Ultra Pint Beer for every 2 plates of Kababs, as a relishing offer. Casa Kitchen, has successfully celebrated this event for the last 2 years and ‘on-demand’ of our honoured epicure, we have consciously kept the spread open for 3 weeks, this year in 2015.

Timing: 12:15 pm – 3:15 pm & 7:30 pm – 11:00 pm

Cost for Two – 900/- (approx) + taxes

A delicious take from the regular Menu are also available for your gastronomic experience. We are sure that one should not forget to order the utterly tangy Peri Peri Paneer Tikka or the creamy delicious Peshawari Paneer Tikka. The Tandoori Phool ke Jugalbandi and Vegetable Shammi Kabab grilled with Desi Ghee should give the right inspiration to the indulging gourmet. The delicate twist on the top, the marinades, the inviting aroma, the cooking on open fire or pan-grills offers the right taste and texture to the thoughtfully designed signature Kabab Menu for the festival. It would only compliment to the occasion, to try out the flaming shots, the cool Kamakhazis, the Mojitos, the imported Liquor & Wines; that are stylishly made and served for YOU!!
Disclaimer: Press Release.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Iftaar Treats at The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel

Iftaar Menu at Lalit Great Eastern
Of course, you might be wondering why am I so late with this particular post, when Eid is already over? Well, to tell you the truth, I have been extremely busy the last few days, travelling a lot for work, and well, you can see the result. Anyway, let me tell you about a day when a rain-soaked city was ignored in favor of an Iftaar spread at The Lalit Great Eastern, Kolkata.

Moroccan beef salad
And there were huge platters of freshly rolled cucumbers, featuring a stunning Moroccan Beef Salad. The crunch of the vegetables, the soft meat, and the tangy dressing, was a refreshing thing.

lamb hors d'oeuvre
And there were cucumbers encasing slices of lamb kebabs, topped with a squiggle of creamy dressing on top to cut down the spice quotient.

fried stuff - egg chops and mutton chops
The Chef brought out an assortment of fried goodies - from the mutton chop to the egg chop, to the humble onion fritters, this platter had an assortment of fries on a plate, which made for a lovely start. 

An assortment of bread was present on one side. I picked one made of gram flour - quite fluffy. The bread here is allowed to rise for a considerable period of time. I was inching towards the other kinds, but then, I got distracted by the Haleem.

sheermal at Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata
The Sheermal is flavored with saffron - harder than what I would like, but quite dunkable in the soft haleem it was served with.

mutton ghugni
And then there was an excellent ghugni counter.

"Mutton Keema Ghugni? Why yes, I will have some, I believe!"

Khichda at Lalit Great Eastern
For our mains, we had Khichda, but this was like no khichda I have had - it was quite pulao-like, with Bengal grams and mince - Nice, but not really my thing. I prefer the pasty, soupy thing which takes me back to my childhood and eating my weight in it with my father.

Meatballs in tomato sauce
I rather preferred the chicken meatballs in a mild tomato gravy. I would have liked some plain pasta with this though, instead of the rice I was served.

mutton nihari
The Nihari was also quite good. The dish, usually served as breakfast, is one of my favorite things to consume at any given point of time, and the meat here was fall apart tender, if slightly underseasoned, which was totally taken care of with the aid of a squeeze of lime, a sprinkle of birista, and a dash of chopped cilantro and chillies.


But I forget - the star of the show - the Haleem. This was a thick paste of meat, spices, wheat, made Lucknow style, and it was extremely rich - something you would fill up on even if you have had a spoonful. Nevertheless, this was worth its weight in gold, and both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions were absolutely amazing.

kheema pao kolkata
I like kheema in every form, and ordered some of the kheema pao. Mild, soft, and glorious when piled on top of a piece of pao and topped with a ring of onion and a tiny squeeze of lime, this made M moan.

Buffet at Lalit Great Eastern
After a rather heavy meal, I really wanted to grab a pillow, but then, the chef insisted on us seeing the dessert counter. Before reaching, I poured myself a glass of Rooh-Afza, to counter the protein overdose with a large dash of sugar. I justified this by thinking that the sugar would also act as a good start to the plate filled with sugar rush I was about to consume.

Dessert galore - Clockwise from 12 o'clock - Chocolate Macaron, Baklava, Nut tart, Cheese cake, firni, rooh afza
And then there was baklava. Not too sweet, though. These had a faint smell of rosewater and a generous helping of nuts. The Firni was nice, and the nut tart extremely heavy, but I fell for the cheesecake. Again.

The iftaar menu was available at Lalit Great Eastern on every Friday, during the holy month of Ramzan, and it was stunning. At 1550/-, the buffet consisted of a huge assortment of amazing vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes, and is definitely worth trying.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at The Lalit Great Eastern at the kind request of the management.