Thursday 29 August 2013

The Fort Finely Chopped Food Walk

OK.  I am finding these food walks by Kalyan Karmaker slightly addictive.  The first one in Dadar that I blogged about was so interesting that I was keen to get on another.  Unfortunately I missed two - trying out Bengali food in Oshiwara and what would have been the mother of all food walks - Ramzan in Bohri Mohalla.  But we did manage to get on his latest outing - sampling the eclectic culinary delights of the Fort area. Mr Jules was keen on this one too as Fort is where his office is located.  I was hoping that he might even find something more interesting to eat at lunchtime, than his usual tuna salad Subway sandwich!

We didn't eat from this street stall but I had to take a photo of the all famous Bombay Sandwich - a sandwich filled with healthy salad and then toasted. You see these red and blue bread bags everywhere in Mumbai
As usual, Kalyan showed us some hideaway places that we would not have found ourselves (including a pretty church) and lectured us at every stop-off on the various foods, drinks and restaurant ownership.  It is this detailed and interesting approach to Mumbai food that is the reason Kalyan is becoming quite the celebrity in this city - he recently appeared on The Foodie TV show and yesterday he was out and about with a Korean TV crew at some of his favourite eateries.  He also writes numerous columns including one for the Times of India website and is always out and about doing interesting things to promote Mumbai's wonderful food scene. 

Please see my previous blog on how to contact Finely Chopped about his upcoming walks.  He also does private, bespoke tours for expats, tourists and groups (including Virgin airline crews!).  

So here is the story of the walk in pictures.  

We kicked off the walk opposite The Bombay Store at a building where Kalyan used to work in his market research days - looking back and up across the road is this old HMV sign.  So nostalgic!

Our first stop - the Parsi bakery and cafe Yazdani.  Typical of many fading Parsi cafes in Bombay, this one had peeling paint and an adorable geriatric owner.  But the bread (particularly the Brun Maska) was to die for.

Buttery cakes for sale in the glass cabinet outside

Here is the owner - wearing a back brace due to severe spinal problems - but amazingly he ran the Mumbai Marathon last year - he proudly showed us a newspaper clipping about it as we entered the cafe.  He reminded me so much of the eccentric Boman Kohinoor from my other favourite Parsi eaterie, Britannia.  The very pretty girl on the left who was also on the tour is a reader of BombayJules! Hopefully she doesn't mind me putting up her picture here.

Buttery puff pastry in the foreground and the divine, pillowy soft white bread buns served with butter in the background.  Mr Jules will be making a weekly visit to collect our bread from Yazdani from now on!

I was fascinated by the collection of bodybuilding pictures on the wall of Yazdani - Parsis are famed for their bodybuilding passion - something I will have to investigate and blog about in the future!

More sensational crusty bread.

We were so privileged to be allowed in the back of Yazdani to see the bread being made - here are the loaves being put into a cavernous red hot oven

Here are the (ecstatic looking) bread makers - their hands covered in flour

The finished product

The next stop was the Punjabi Moti Halval where we sampled thick, sweet Lassi - so thick that you needed a spoon to eat/drink it. Luscious!

The takeaway version

It's not all about the food: Kalyan showed us this beautiful church (St Thomas's Cathedral) right in the middle of Fort on Nariman Road.  We didn't even know it existed.  Built during the British Raj and completed in 1718 - Churchgate Station actually refers to St Thomas's.

A beautiful English church interior - save for the fans!

We came across this fabulous and beautifully restored old Dodge vintage car outside the Bombay Samachar (the red painted brick building just off Horniman Circle.

Mr Jules bought a kilo of the finest South Indian coffee from this place - Philips. Cost 400 Rs.  I think Mr Jules was actually the only person to buy anything on this walk - well done Mr Jules!

The next stop in Khao Galli (food alley) - an awesome street food stall serving Bombay's finest Pav Bhaji.  Pav Bhaji is one of the most popular and delicious street foods you can get - it is basically a veg curry served with buttery bread buns (pav).  The crowd was big and the turnover fast at this place.  

The Pav Bhaji was sensational - one of the best things I've ever eaten in Mumbai!  I'd like to say it's healthy but a slab of butter is added upon serving and the bread is also slathered with butter.  But you only live once right?  This lot was probably about 70 Rs / 70p (and served three).

Kalyan looks on as the rest of us stuff ourselves!
Next door we had a plate of snacks - crispy Onion Bhajis and Wada served with coriander chutney and chilli.  I told Kalyan that the Onion Bhajis were as good as the ones in the UK ;)

The next place - Pradeep Gomantak - a Gomantak restaurant serving South Indian specialities. Here is Kalyan telling us to get seated.

The Bombil Fry (or Bombay duck - which is fish and famously served deep fried in batter and is soft as butter inside and very moreish)

Our second last food stop...another Parsi restaurant and a favourite of Kalyan's Parsi wife.

I was fascinated by this Parsi manufactured raspberryade....which correctly states 'Contains No Fruit'!!

We sampled the Salli Boti - a sweet mutton curry topped with crispy matchstick potatoes. One of my favourite Parsi dishes.

Our last stop - dessert!  A small shop with this guy sat outside making fresh Jalebis (main ingredients, flour, sugar, yoghurt, cardamom, saffron).  A demonstration of how they are made follows:
The jalebi mixture...
....which is then spooned into a kind of piping bag.
Then the cook swirls lots of shapes straight into the boiling oil one after the other
Do you think this Jalebi Wallah has been eating too many of the fruits of his own labour?

Before, during and after

 At the end of the tour, we were given a little box of sweet treats to have after.  Lovely!

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Babulnath Temple

I just love the word Babble.  Babble suggests lots of friendly chatter.  Babbler birds are indeed full of friendly chatter. Babbling brooks are usually accompanied by sunny days. Babs off Eastenders was a babbly lady.  I also like the words Bubble and Bobble.  So jolly!

It was not, in fact this onomatopoeia that first attracted me to visit Babblenath Babulnath Mandir - but probably that the temple is across the road from my favourite veggie restaurant Soam, where a friend and I enjoyed a lunch of Sev Puri and Masala Dosa prior to visiting it.

Located near Chowpatty in south Mumbai, the mandir sits on a hillock 1,000 ft above sea level and is a shrine to Lord Shiva (aka Lord Babulnath or Shiva in the form of a babble Babul Tree. I wonder if Lord Shiva was a talkative type?)

Upon entering under the road-side arch, plastic baskets of brightly coloured flowers and incense were pressed into our hands.  Confused, I looked for someone demanding payment - but nobody did. Well that was an absolute first in India - to be given something for free! However, it did leave us for the next hour with the uncomfortable feeling that someone would tap us on the shoulder for money.

You can get to the top of the hillock by walking up a narrow path lined with dwellings and up some steps - although there is also a lift supplied for the many thousands of devotees that visit the shrine every year.  But the climb is pretty easy going and half way up there is an open room where a couple of orange-clad Holy Men are sleeping - surrounded by images of Hindu Gods.  It was just after lunchtime at this point so I am guessing these guys come alive at night to bless those who are passing by (for a small fee).

Sleeping Holy Man - surrounded by Shiva imagery

At the top of the steps is the impressively carved white marble temple.  We had to take off our shoes and pass them to a grumpy old woman who insisted on looking after them for us (for a small fee). Then we were ushered into the shrine by a guard who showed us how to lay the flowers from the basket on to the lingam.  I felt a bit of a fraudy-firangi as everyone else around us clasped their hands together and said prayers to Lord Shiva.  But on the other hand it was quite nice to be welcomed in despite being blatant 'tourists' wielding big cameras.  Actually we weren't allowed to take photos either inside or outside the temple itself which was a shame as the shrine was so pretty.

After ten minutes or so - that was that.  We meandered back down to street level and to the hustle and bustle of Chowpatty.  We gave back our empty flower baskets and I was still looking out for someone to pay  - and ended up pressing 100 rupees into a boy's hand when we still weren't asked for money.

I recommend a look if you are passing by or eating across the road at Soam.  Here is the website for the temple - but it's not very helpful.

PS. There was no babbling at Babulnath.  It was very quiet!

I managed to capture a photo of the roof of the temple - before being told off.

Dwellings on the path up to the shrine

Entrance at street level - where you will find your flowers and garlands to take up to the temple (possibly for free!)

A close up of those beautiful flowers (and a nasty water bottle spoiling my picture!)

Friendly flower lady outside the entrance....

And a smiley flower man.  Perhaps there is something 'Babble' about the place after all!

Wednesday 21 August 2013

A Really Easy Chicken Curry Recipe

Spurred on by the purchase of some shiny stainless steel bowls on Pali market yesterday (for some reason stainless steel shops in India have the same effect on me as stationery shops), I was inspired to cook a curry. But I didn't want to cook anything too taxing - that would require a million ingredients and hours of marinating time (i.e. a 'proper' curry).

I found an old recipe that I had actually brought over from the UK - for Chicken in a Sweet Red Pepper Sauce - and thought 'that will do'! This recipe calls for minimum effort as you basically put most of the ingredients into a food processor to make the sauce - then add it to the chicken. Not only is this chicken curry simple to make - but it is relatively low fat and healthy.

So here's the recipe and pictures with the cooking instructions....a happy Wednesday to you!

Chicken in a red sweet pepper sauce (Lal Masale Wali Murghi)

Serves 4

1kg skinned chicken parts (I used just breast)
110g onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 gloves garlic, peeled
1 inch/2.5 cms cube ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
25g blanched slivered almonds (in India, buy them whole, leave them to soak in boiling water for an hour and peel.  Leave whole)
350g red sweet peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped (I used regular red peppers, completely fine!)
1 tbsp ground cumin (that's a tablespoon)
2 tsps ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
7 tbsp vegetable oil (I used half this amount)
225 ml water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Make sure your chicken is divided into parts - thighs, drumsticks etc.  Breasts should be divided into four parts.  However, I used pure chicken breast for this and it was fine.  Indians usually prefer to eat on the bone as the bones impart a better flavour to the sauce during the cooking process.

Combine the onions, ginger, almonds, peppers, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt in a food processor or blender (or in my case, a mini-chopper).  Blend, pushing down with a rubber spatula whenever you need to, until you have a fine paste.

The the oil in a large, wide and preferably non-stick pan and heat over a medium-high flame.  When hot, pour in your paste and stir fry for 10-12 minutes or until you can see the oil forming tiny bubbles around it.

Put in the chicken with the 225 mls of water, lemon juice, and black pepper.  Stir to mix and bring to the boil.  Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 25 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Stir a few times during the cooking period and add more water if the sauce sticks.

Serve with basmati rice, or roti and a curried veg side dish of your choice!

My veg, ginger garlic and almonds all ready for blending.

The blended paste should look like this (I used a mini-chopper)

In the end I didn't need my silver mixing bowls! But I put the sliced chicken into one just to show you...professional eh?

Fry off the paste - if you only use half the amount of oil as I did, you will have to make sure it doesn't stick.

Indian Lemons! (Nimbu) and the excellent contraption that looks like an ice cream scoop to get the juice out!

Add the chicken, water & lemon juice to the paste

My new bowls ;)

Simmer for 25 mins or until the chicken is tender.

Et Voila! Served here with basmati rice and a glass of Sula Chenin Blanc.  Yum.