Friday, 26 February 2010

trying moolita

mooli is a veggie, a giant radish really.
in my home country they eat strips of it dipped into a tangy masala of ground red chilli and some salt.
but here in london mooli isn't just a veggie.

it is [described in the words of mooli's itself]
'warm flavourful fillings, zesty salsas, vibrant chutneys and crunchy salad, all rolled in a fresh homemade roti.'

mooli's offers five mooli's (you can get mini sized ones too). they are wraps whose fillings are inspired by a fusion of flavours from different parts of indian. they are all very creative and bring on sweet and tangy, salty and spicy all together. the mini mooli's are actually a good way to try out what's on offer. i had the asparagus and beef mini mooli's. o had the paneer and beef. a went for the beef and pork. i am afraid i can't speak for the pork myself as i don't eat it but the boys loved it, really and truly. the pork mooli is goan inspired and is teemed with a rudy red pomegranate seeds and salsa.

the beef mooli is inspired by kerelan cuisine which explains the spice factor. it's really really hot. but the beef is incredibly tender and literally melts in the mouth having being braised in malabar spices. the cooling cucumber raita is a perfect edition as is the crunch of leafy greens.

the asparagus mooli was curiously good. it had the flavours of indian chaat which to me is the ultimate in indian street food. the asparagus held itself well having been just slightly cooked. the potatoes were soft and disintegrated mixing with the cumin and tamarind sauce.

i had a bite of o's paneer mooli diced small and full of spices that were warm but not chilli. with that there was grated carrots and some kind of slight sugary and tangy tomato chutney.

the roti's themselves were excellent. they were sturdy enough to hold in all the fillings and yet tender enough. oftentimes i find that wraps that are warmed and filled get tough as soon as they cool down. mooli's doesn't suffer from that problem.

and here's what you will love the most about mooli's. it's really really good on the pocket.
truly good nosh for less dosh. too bad i didn't have my camera to get a snap shot of mooli but that's an excuse to visit again soon.

follow moolita on her/his? blog

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

the last ramsay

as my last wish before leaving london with a broken heart and a fantastic new job waiting for me in uganda, i asked my very best friend m to join me on a last foodie expedition. feeling very affectionate towards england, but not being a fan of fish & chips, i thought of gordon ramsay once again. after all, m and i had never been together, but talked about it a lot.
m miraculously managed to get a booking at maze grill on my very last night in london. having being kicked out of my own flat three days before, i was living out of a suitcase and had no fancy outfit for the evening. which worked just as well, as maze grill is quite unpretentious among the gr’s restaurants and makes you feel at ease even if you can’t resist the temptation to take you phone out to check the exact origin of stichelton cheese or the difference between onglet and rump steaks.
maze grill is, as someone may suspect, a grill, and the highlight of the evening came shortly after sitting down, when a heavy meat board landed on our table and each cut of meat was explained in detail to us. after grasping little about different kinds of marbling and ageing periods, i was truly stunned to hear about cows being massaged with sake every day while entertained by classical music. that seemed to come straight out of a parody of haute-cuisine, although the daily market price, £90 for a steak, didn’t seem funny at all.
having recovered from the shock, we opted for the much less adventurous early supper menu, which at £21 for three courses looked like an absolute bargain at that point, although some of its options, like penne with rabbit ragout, were a tad uninspiring.
my ham hock (???) and confit duck terrine was tasty, but i was immediately taken by food envy, looking at m’s beautifully presented starter. a suede and carrot soup with stichelton blue and pears, where all the flavours blended to perfection without losing their individual character.
we both had steak as a main, the cheap-ish casterbridge onglet, both cooked medium-rare. mine was a bit too rich in nerves and hence a bit difficult to cut, but the meat was in itself terribly tender, juicy and perfectly cooked. the accompanying béarnaise sauce was delicate and never overpowered the meat. we were fascinated by the half garlic head sitting next to meat, baked or broiled (one of the evening’s many misteries) whose cloves resulted soft and delicious, almost melting in our mouths.
although i retain an aversion to green and leafy things, i’ll have to admit the salad dressing was delicious and m overcame her distaste for mayonnaise as its saffron version was an interesting companion to the rather unimaginative chips.
it was, however, the dessert, that really won my heart over. i ordered a simple rhubarb crumble with crème anglais and there couldn’t have been a better way to say goodbye to england and its food. the crumble was crunchy and not too sweet, the rhubarb steamy and never too tart, and the crème anglais was simply divine. light, warm, familiar with a hidden twist at the same time, i could have drank mugs full of it. the elements perfectly combined, it reminded me of how great chefs can also turn the simplest of things in modest masterpieces.
being too full to think, i finished my glass of delicious white wine and ordered a cup of tea, only to be presented with four of the richest and tastiest chocolate chip cookies i’ve tasted in a long, long time. that night for me was a demonstration that great chefs can turn very simple food in a terribly interesting, and tasty, experience. with no pretentious atmosphere, no frills and no astronomical bill, i felt like i was having just a friendly, but absolutely delicious, meal with the very best of all best friends.
and if one day i’ll ever be able to afford a slice of a cow who gets a mani & pedi every wednesday...well, that’s another story.
maze grill 10-13 grosvenore square W1K 6JP london

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

home cooked italian meals

thursday night in turin, i’s mum cooks dinner for us. to start with there is a moreish artichoke soup with a small dense pasta and crusty bread. i love the informal dining culture in italy where bread sits on the table cloth and it doesn’t matter if there are crumbs. the second course was really tender and finely minced beef wrapped in savoy cabbage along with a side salad of chicory, walnuts, raisins and oranges dressed with olive oil. the sharp taste of chicory was made mellow with the fruitiness of orange and raisins. the walnuts added a nutty oily taste. for dessert there was home baked caramel custard and plenty of muscat to end on.

on a sunny saturday afternoon we drive up to asti to lunch with ray. an extended lunch starts with dates, flattened and stoned, topped with mascarpone and a walnut. a refreshing salad of oranges, peeled and cut into rounds, dressed with a fruity olive oil, pepper and orange follows the dates. the first course was lasagne. i haven’t had such an excellent lasagne since my mum’s in a little over a decade. dessert was an assortment of almond paste pastries – pignoli are balls of almond paste rolled in pine nuts and pistachio’s, discs of paste topped with flaked blanched almonds and cannoli, a bottle of muscat with cantucci and vin santo.


on our arrival in turin, i and s take us to hobbs. on my previous trip we had been there for lunch with i. this time we were there for an oddly timed breakfast/coffee. i has followed the changes and relocations of this eatery faithfully since the time she was a child (including its name changes).

hobbs is warm, with soft yellow lighting and simple furniture. a large glass display holds the days dolce. there are cakes, muffins, croissants, tarts and biscuits. i runs us through the options but in predictable fashion we order the pear and chocolate cake. o decides on the orange. with that i have a cappuccino, i and s tea and o has some kind of a rich coffee with chocolate and hazelnuts.
the pear and chocolate cake is incredibly moist and melts in the mouth more like a soufflé or molten cake. long slices of pear run along the centre of the cake and add a fruity sweetness to the chocolate. o’s orange cake is equally good. the orange is strong and fresh against the denseness of the cake. in italy i never have to sugar my cappuccino. there is perfection in the roasting and making of the coffee that does not lead to a strong slightly better aftertaste. so the sweet of the cake was undercut by a really well made cappuccino.
it was a good way to start our stay. [and at least this time i didn’t twist my ankle on the way out from hobbs like last time].
via cavour| 22| 10073 ciriè| turin (piemonte) | italy

nonna's baked fish

nonna's food in torino

eating i’s nonna’s cooking is a real treat and one that i was really looking forward to. on friday night we went to hers for dinner. nonna had dispensed with the traditional courses and was not quite pleased. as far as o and i were concerned it wasn’t really an issue, partly because we aren’t italian and partly because i cannot manage to eat antipasti, primo, second, contorno and dolce without feeling like my stomach is exploding.

we started on two antipasti – a salad of octopus, prawns and small diced potatoes dressed in a green sauce made of garlic, parsley and olive oil and ‘acciughe in carpione’. the latter is lightly floured and fried anchovies in a marinade of olive oil and white wine vinegar, thin roasted potatoes, onions softened in olive oil and garlic. the marinade is good soaked up with crusty white rolls which nonna had placed on the table alongside our glasses and plates

our second course is whole baked fish. there is much deliberation about the fish used. i is sent to fetch a rather voluminous and old dictionary which helps us establish that the fish is ‘dentice’ (we later corroborate this from a food encyclopaedia we see at eataly in asti) and then some further googling by me leads to the discovery that the italian dentice is known as sea bream in the uk. to return to the fish. nonna had baked it with butter and herbs stuffed in the cavity of the stomach. there was a contorno of spinach with pine nuts.

the funniest part of the meal is the dolce. i’s mother had roasted chestnuts and made a fresh custard to go with it. nonna and i’s mum had the mithai i bought from ambala – two kinds of ladoo’s, a balo shahi, pera and some barfi. we finished our meal on a homemade liqueur called vov which is really a concentrated zabaglione. absolutely delicious!

ristorante Vo torino

vo would be a more comfortable fit in london or new york. in turin, its ultra modern decor with bright lighting is in stark contrast to turin’s other eateries that have dim lighting and soft earthy and beige tones. but where its decor may be modern its food is traditional. o and i both settled for the traditional menu which came highly recommended by i’s dad.

the chef’s compliments were a ball of raw meat with a little salt, some lemon and rocket leaves dressed with olive oil. accompanying this was bread, small rounds of white bread some of which were flecked heavily with rosemary and grissini. 

we started on ‘vitello tonnato’, an appetiser of veal and tuna sauce. the presentation was simple and flawless: four thin slices of lightly seared veal folded into half with a smooth tuna sauce in their fold on one side, and a line of rocket leaves on the other. there was complete silence on o’s and my side of the table, a testimony to the flavour in the food. our first course was a traditional ravioli ‘agnolotti with sugo d’arrosto’. served in quintessential shallow pasta bowls, these were small little squares of fresh ravioli with a meat stuffing. they glistened in their coat of roasted meat sauce which stained them to a brown.

the second course was ‘stracotto with mashed potato’; a large medallion of beef slow cooked for ten hours in a red wine sauce. it was served on a bed of mashed potatoes with a stalk of rosemary. the meat had a glossy darkened skin and a full intense flavour. the sauce was a dense red wine with a slightly molasses edge.

to finish, we had the chef’s version of a gianduja bar which was a thick chocolate bar shaped dessert, coated with a glossy dark chocolate with a centre of a nutty gianduja mousse and a thin vanilla custard. gianduja is turin’s ultimate chocolate and therefore a perfect end to a traditional menu. o’s dessert had him so transfixed that he could barely speak.

via andrea provana| 3/d| torino