Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Sunday Brunch | Bookmark This Brunch For A Fun-Filled Family Outing

Delhi summers are infamous for their sweltering heat and every year we read about ‘record-breaking’ soaring temperatures. Thus school holidays between May to July see most families leaving the city for at least a few days to get some respite from the weather. But, what about the remaining days?! Besides the summer camps, indoor activities and playdates to be organized to keep the tots happy through the summer vacations, there are some fun outings for the whole family.

The recently launched Picnic Brunch at Westin Sohna is the perfect getaway for squeezing in an extra road trip this summer. There are many Sunday brunches within the city that offer great food. But this one is different. The drive from Delhi {and a fair distance from Gurgaon also} meanders through villages and fields for the last 15-odd kilometers, making it ideal to amp up the music and have time for old-fashioned car games designed for long journeys. Upon reaching, the resort, set amidst a verdant 45-acre expanse, with amaltas and gulmohar trees in full bloom and gurgling water bodies is delightful even in this weather.

The unending choice of food in the brunch.

The extensive choice of Sunday Brunch includes the entire gamut, salads and appetizers, Indian and Italian mains at The Living Room, a live pasta and grills counter and even a rustic village woman making fresh tawa rotis served with a local subzi to add to the experience. While there is something for everybody, you possibly can’t eat it all. If you want my recommendation, I would suggest that you start with the antipasti counter with quality cold cuts, mezze, seafood and cheese counter. Then move on to Xiao Chi, the tastefully done up Oriental restaurant, for dimsum, soup, and Chinese and Thai mains. This space is quieter and away from the buzz, though you can still enjoy the live music wafting in from outside. The dessert spread is as extensive as the rest of the food. From cookies and gummie bears at the candy bar to ice creams and cakes and pastries the choice is endless. The highlight however is the seasonal desserts, most of them made with fresh mangoes.

Xiao Chi serves good Oriental food in a lovely setting.

And now for the best part: the Picnic Brunch goes beyond the food on offer, it includes pool access and complimentary activities for kids including golf, pottery, visit to the duck pond, art competition, badminton and more. Horse riding, go karting, archery, paintball are also available but cost extra and are not included in the brunch package. While the courteous staff is taking you around for the various activities, they are happy to show all that the resort offers, from the little zoo that has guinea fowl, rabbits and emus to the Westin Lake that makes for the perfect spot for some motorized para-gliding. Tempting you to come back for a stay, maybe? Why not! The summer is long and short getaways are always a great idea.

Many activities keep that you and the kids in holiday mood.

Picnic Brunch at Westin Sohna Resort
Every Sunday, 19th May 2019 till 28th July 2019.
Timings: 12.30 pm till 04.00 pm
Price: Rs 2,700++ onwards for adults; Rs 1,350 ++ for kids up to 12 years.

Ph: +91 124 7112233, +917428722903

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

New Restaurant | Nooshe Joon Expands Menu As Well As Seating Capacity At This New Address

We clearly did not have our fill of Middle Eastern food on our recent trip to Dubai. So last night we headed to this Persian restaurant that is said to have some amazing fare. 

Most of the menu sounded Greek to us since there are no detailed descriptions accompanying the names of some exotic kebabs: mutton chopan, Uzbeki kebab, Kazan kebab, and so on. Our server helped us decode these names and also suggested some bestsellers. 

Mouthwatering Kebabs
Clockwise from Top Left: Leg of Lamb with rice; Doogh,
Mutton Chopan; Non Veg Platter with Lamb Koobideh,
Jujeh Kebab and dips; Kazaan Kebab; Fatayer.

We had the Non Veg platter that comes with juicy lamb koobideh, extremely flavourful jujeh kebab (chicken) with hummus, tzatziki, baba ghanoush and pita bread. I am forgetting the name of the leg of lamb that comes with rice, but the pure juices of the meat and some chopped kachumber salad are adequate to liven up plain white rice. Then there was the Kazan kebab (lamb chop) that is so soft and succulent that it literally falls off the bone. Mutton chopan is deliciously charred and has wonderful caramelized flavour of pomegranate molasses. Although this was plenty of food, our little companions still wanted more, hence came the Fatayer (a "folded pizza" we were told) stuffed with chicken, mutton and cheese. All this was washed down with Doogh, a cool and savoury drink made of buttermilk (think, chhachh!). 

I have to confess that the breads and dips could have been better, but the kebabs are absolutely brilliant. If you end up trying out this restaurant, Nooshe Joon, I would love to hear about your experience too. 

Nooshe Joon used to be at Epicuria earlier, where they had a limited menu as well as seating. About three months ago they opened at Lajpat Nagar, which is fast becoming a hub for Afghani food, with a wider menu as well as a larger seating capacity.

Nooshe Joon, Block 1, I-83, 1st Floor, Lajpat Nagar 2, New Delhi.
Timings: 11am-11pm

Ph: 011-6149 5430

Monday, 20 May 2019

Sunday Brunch | Zing Up Your Sundays at This Fab Brunch in Goa

Spice Traders at W Goa

When in Goa, we normally love sticking to the local food. There’s so much to choose from – casual shacks to modern Goan fare; simple thali joints to lavish high tea in Portuguese villas. But if there’s one exception that we make, it is for the Sunday Brunch at Spice Traders. A fantastic choice of pan-Asian fare, snazzy cocktails and a live band belting out a mix of popular retro and current favourites complete the perfect brunch vibe every Sunday.

Chef Tanveer Kwatra needs no introduction. As executive assistant manager he spearheads the culinary, food and beverage operations of W Goa. This award-winning chef is known for making the flakiest and finest croissants in the country. But his penchant for Oriental fare is not far behind. His enthusiasm to create exquisite international dishes has resulted in bestsellers like Chongqing mushrooms, tamarind tofu, twice-cooked rack of lamb and more. He straddles the world of fine dining and street food with equal passion, presenting both sides of the spectrum at a common meeting ground in his restaurants. He was one of the first to introduce Delhi to the street food from various Asian countries, be it the Japanese takoyaki and okonomiyaki or the spicy dan dan noodles from the streets of Sichuan.

From the Raw Seafood and Cold Vegetables Bar

You can sample most of his repertoire at Spice Traders where the food on offer will leave you spoilt for choice. Try and taste as much as you can on this culinary extravaganza but you simply cannot skip the dimsum and sushi. From tom yum chicken and prawn basil dumpling to vegetable chive dumpling and truffle mushroom dimsum, these little parcels burst with umami. Then there’s a range of fiery Thai curries, flavourful Japanese curries and an elaborate variety of rice and noodles. But for me, the highlight turned out to be something else - the raw seafood bar where the freshest seafood is zinged up with simple refreshing flavours like lime and chilli. Simply Brilliant!

Dimsums and Oriental Salads

Superlative choice of ingredients is imperative especially when most fare is served raw, but the perfect condiments, a little bit of crunch from tempura and a tad freshness of the microgreens make for a delightful gastronomic symphony. The plating is as artistic as the flavour combinations. Our journey starts from sashimi grade yellow tail or hamachi and salmon and moves on to a thin crust tuna tataki pizza drizzled with Japanese mayo and truffle oil. In the midst of all the delicious seafood we are also served some roasted and pickled red and yellow peppers, a refreshing pomelo and lotus stem salad and a plateful of delicious greens topped with tofu and sichimi. This is to say that the vegetarians are well catered to as well.

Sushi Unlimited

W Goa is the first property of this trendy hotel chain to open in India. Since it’s opening in 2016 it easily claimed the top spot as the swankiest hotel in this tropical paradise. The young energy of the hotel is enhanced by its modern décor, effervescent staff and finds a focal point at the hip ‘n happening Rock Pool. The Rock Pool, overlooking an uninterrupted expanse of the Arabian Sea, makes for the perfect hangout for a sundowner. This also makes it the ideal progression from a languorous Sunday brunch. As the setting sun makes the scene picture perfect, the international DJs amp up the music while the bar churns out some heady cocktails.

Details: Spice Traders, W GOA, Vagator Beach, Bardez, Goa.
Time: Every Sunday 12.30pm – 4.30 pm.
Price: Liquid Brunch INR 3500++; Dry Brunch INR 2500 ++.

This article was first published in a luxury lifestyle magazine in April 2019.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Chef Interview | Chef Mohsin Qureshi serves the finest Lucknowi fare at lebua Lucknow

Chef Mohsin Qureshi

Chef Mohsin Qureshi’s expertise in Awadhi cuisine belies his age. Although this 31-year-old chef can boast an enviable work experience in some of the leading hotel chains of India, he attributes the finesse of his cooking style to his lineage and the ustaads and khansaamas from whom he learnt the secrets of this cuisine.

Hailing from the Qureshi family, young Mohsin’s early years were spent at his uncle’s restaurant, Shahid, in Lucknow’s Lal Bagh, where he learnt the nuances of Awadhi fare. “Almost all the Qureshis {a well-respected surname of some of the most popular Awadhi chefs} worked or trained at this family-owned restaurant, including the celebrated Chef Imtiaz Qureshi,” he shares. During the two years that he spent at the restaurant, Mohsin also accompanied his uncle while they catered for high profile weddings and events, learning, as they say: ‘on the job’. His professional journey with hotels, however, started after a one-year industrial training diploma from the Taj in 2007, following which he worked at fine restaurants including Masala Art at Taj Palace New Delhi, Paatra at Jaypee’s Siddharth, Fire at The Park, Caraway at The Grand New Delhi and Dhabha at the Claridges. In a nutshell, Mohsin’s training was in Indian cuisine and then he worked in a variety of Indian restaurants where he honed his skills. 

Currently, the executive sous chef at lebua Lucknow, Mohsin claims that his forte lies in perfecting the delicate flavours and specialised techniques of Awadhi cuisine. His endeavour now is to revive forgotten recipes that are on the verge of dying due to all the modernity coming into Indian food. One dish that he is particularly proud of recreating is the ‘majlisi kebab’. Also known as the ‘ghutwaan kebab’ this was a special delicacy that was served during long hours of ‘majlis’ or social gatherings where people sat together for hours discussing various issues ranging from religion to culture to socio-political, he explains. Given the lengthy duration of such events, aromatic kebabs made with very fine minced mutton were cooked on dum, the slow cooking technique that is said to be almost 400 years old. “These days, chicken tikka, galawat kebabs and sheermal are served even at such events because the ‘ghutwaan’ kebabs require a lengthy marination as well as cooking time. Also, dum cooking is highly specialised, in that the dish is sealed and cooked to perfection and opened only when served. Often times, if the cook is not experienced enough in this style of cooking, dishes can remain undercooked or overcooked, hence spoiling the entire preparation.” In order to resuscitate this particular dish, Mohsin has renamed it ‘Majlisi Kebab’ as an ode to the gatherings during which it was specially prepared. He has also graciously shared its recipe in order to popularise it {see box}.

Since the proof of the pudding is in the eating Mohsin served his signature majlisi kebab to us during our recent trip to lebua Lucknow. The marinaded minced meat is sealed with sheermal roti, instead of plain dough, and cooked in a small earthen container, typically on woodfire. The enticing aroma that wafts out upon cutting the sheermal is mouth-watering. And then the kebab – delicious! Perfectly spiced, it melts in the mouth and leaves a lingering flavour of the fine meat and mélange of spices such as jadakush, peepli, patthar ke phool, kachri, elaichi and more. There’s another version that has the addition of bone marrow to make it even more succulent.

But this is only one example of Mohsin’s cooking. While his baghaare baingan, keema stuffed karelas and singhaare ki subzi are sure to leave you licking your fingers, he has so much more to offer from his rich repertoire of dishes. However, this level of skill cannot be achieved in a hurry. He was all of 14 years when he decided he wanted to become a chef, following the footsteps of his father and grandfather. “As the only son, (he has six sisters) I wanted to take the family legacy forward,” he states. While his grandfather, who was a khansaama, was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II, his father cooked and travelled with Indian political leaders such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh. Mohsin is certainly following suit as he has today’s young politicos and Bollywood stars eating out of his hand.

As he continues to innovate and revive old recipes, and serves some of the finest Lucknowi fare at his restaurant, for now he is happy to be back in his hometown, where he says that most people lead a slow paced and content life.


Majlisi Dum Gosht Kebab

The melt-in-the-mouth Majlisi Kebab

Mutton leg boneless Mince 250 gm
Salt 1 tsp
Onion 1 (ground)
Onion 1 large (chopped)
Raw papaya paste 1 ½ tbsp
Ginger garlic paste 1 tbsp
Gram flour roasted 2 tbsp (heaped)
Garam masala powdre 1 tsp (heaped)
Red Chilli Powder
Nutmeg ¼ tsp (ground)
Mace ¼ tsp (ground)
Potli Masala(Jarakhush, Patthar Ke phool, Peepli, Khash Ki jadh, paan ki jadh, kachri, roseptel, Green cardamom, black cardamom)
Green chilies chopped 4
Coriander leaves chopped 3 tbsp
Lemon wedges
Ghee 1/4 cup

Cooking Method
1st marination
Marinade mince with ground onion, raw papaya paste, ginger garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder and leave it 1 hour.
2nd Marination
Mixed with roasted gram flour, garam masala powder, ground mace and nutmeg, potli masala, crushed roasted coriander, Desi Ghee, chopped onion and brown onion mix all well and leave for 1 Day .
Next Day
Take an earthen pot and put minced in the earthen pot and covered the pot with sheermal dough and Dum it in the oven for next 20 minute.
For Garnish
Lemon Wedges and Chop Coriander.
Garnish with chopped green chilies, coriander leaves and onion rings and serve.

A version of this article first appeared in The Hindu MetroPlus on 4th April 2019.