Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Cake memories and a simple recipe

For the longest time , I didn’t associate the traditional Christmas cake with a Christian celebration, but an Armed Forces celebration. Part of it was because I grew up as an Army kid, travelling around the country, as my father got posted from Delhi to Punjab, to Maharashtra. And no matter what part of the country we were, we would always have Christmas cake. It all begins during Diwali. Again, I am not sure if it’s an Armed Forces tradition, or just a North Indian tradition (because I don’t see much of it now that I live in Maharashtra and Goa ), but people loved gifting boxes of dry fruits along with an equally large box of fire crackers. The fire crackers were sent back, since we didn’t burst them , green Diwali and all, the pistas were devoured even before the wrapping came of the other dry fruits. An Army Diwali  means not just one box of dry fruits, or two, but entire regiments and battalions of dry fruit boxes. And so at Diwali, my mother would get all the left over dry fruits chopped, and soak them in Rum and Brandy bought from the Army Canteen. So you see, the two main ingredients of baking a Christmas cake; rum and dry fruits were present in abundance in almost every Armed Forces home. Also the entire chopping of what seemed kilos of dry fruits needed an army of workers, again something which was a privilege we enjoyed in the defence colonies. It’s easy to see, why I thought Christmas cakes was something of an Army/Navy /Airforce tradition rather than belonging to a religious celebration.
In the Armed forces, people of different region and religion , all seem to be mixed and moved around the country like a bag of pot -pourri, and all that you have in the end is a fairly homogenous group of odds and ends. And so here we were, Bengali hindu Brahmins, baking the most fragrant and indulgent Christmas cake, a recipe my mum learnt from another Armed Forces wife.
Cut to now, and it’s been over 15 years since my father left the Army, and yet , year after year, Ma makes  5 , sometimes 6 batches of Christmas cake, the prep for which begins at Diwali, and the cakes begin baking by first week of December all the way to mid January, depending on who needs to be gifted the cakes.
Even after baking them, the cakes are carefully wrapped in silver foil to keep the aromas in, and lovingly watered with rum every few days. There is a Bengali word they use for it ‘cake Moje jabe’ , I guess it means the cake will mature, or marinate in its juices. And in the last 16 years that I have been out of home ( I left home at 18 to stay in the medical college hostel, and then various hostels across the country , Goa and Madurai) but I have always received my Christmas cake , wrapped in silver foil and a red ribbon.
This year too, one of my mother’s patients who live in the UK, but come visiting their home in Goa every year, decided to fly down to Pune ,  to show their daughter to my Ma, who is a paediatrician in Pune. And Ma handed over my Christmas cake to her, to deliver it to me in Goa. Didn’t I tell you, this cake has travelled to places. Its travelled to Kolkata, and Dhanbad, and places overseas like Dubai, Mauritius , Canada, wherever her friends and family are.
The Christmas cake recipe, however , I have never tried making myself. It’s like Santa; we never told our parents, we knew they were Santa, because that would just take the magic out of it. If I start making my own cake, Ma might stop sending me hers, and part of the magic of Christmas is the gift of Giving, I don’t want to take that gift away from her!  However , I do make Christmas cake pops from ma’s Christmas cake.
 The cake, unlike the store bought Christmas cakes, is thrice as studded with dryfruits than an average cake. So as one goes to slice a piece, the knife invariably hits a candied orange, veers off track, then hits a walnut and then skids off another route, until you end up with a craggy piece of cake and lots of crumbly cake bits.
Now here is a short and simple recipe for Christmas cake pops.
Crumble Christmas cake, or gather all the crumbly bits together and make little balls of them, add a little condensed milk/honey to bind if needed.
Melt dark chcoclate, add a little butter for gloss, add cinnamon powder , nutmeg powder and ginger powder to the chocolate mix. And what I love to add is oil based orange essence, and a few candied oranges . the smells and flavours of Christmas cake should reflect in your chocolate coating. I melt my chocolate in the microwave, going 20 seconds bursts until melted, but you can do it over a double boiler.
Now drizzle the chocolate over the cake balls, or if you are feeling fairly dangerous, you can stick a lollypop stick in the cake pops and roll it in melted chocolate. But I warn you the christamas cake is more dense and heavy than an average cake pop, and you’ll only drop it in the melted chcoclate.
These cake pops would have been the revamped version of rum balls I presume. But funny thing, while we were allowed to have Christmas cake matured in rum , we weren’t allowed to have Rumballs as a kid!
Recipe also of candied Orange peel.
Peel oranges,sundry the peels for a few days. In a pan take ½ a cup water, bring to boil, add ½ cup sugar, add the diced dried orange peels. Simmer till sugar syrup evaporates. Keep in an airtight container.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

How to plan a beach picnic in Goa

It was our five year wedding anniversary , and living in Goa, i wanted to do something special .
while many opt for a destination wedding in Goa, living in Goa, meant we had a chance at a 'destination' ever afte beach picnic, is a great idea in Goa, especially given the fabulous weather from November to February. 
Given that I am a planner and list maker, planning a beach picnic, was not the mere task of packing a basket and headingout the door. 
here is my checklist of things to consider while planning a beach picnic.

first: I decided to check on how the world of instagram was planning their picnics, and so i did a quick hashtag search of #beachpicnic and #picniconthebeach. you can even pinterest your way around this one, or even google up some images. 

Second , decide which beach , both sandy and Rocky beaches work well , but choose one which is not over crowded. Beaches like Calangute and Baga can get super crowded, and you dont want a sea of gawkers, while ypou attempt a romantic-ish beach picnic. choose from Morjim and upwards, or Uttorda and betalbatim southwards.

Choose time of day, it depends on the tide. Choose a receding tide time, you don’t want to have waves wash away your picnic ! a quick word with the lifeguard or the shack owner at the beach will give you an idea if the tide is receeding or rising.
I prefer one hour before sunset. The golden hour prior to sunset is perfect for a high tea picnic. Also as the lights dim, you can place tea lights or candles in jars, or put torches into the sand for an extended picnic. but if you want an afternoon , mid day picnic, try and carry an umbrella, or pay a price and get one from the beach shacks, though they can be very huffy about it. buy a few drinks from them and they might agree. 

Get lots of towels and blankets, not just the one to lay down, but enough to wipe yourself after. The sand gets everywhere. 

Get lots of beach bags. No plastic bags please! They look ghastly! But you need bags for the food drinks, to keep beach ball n play things, n cutlery n food.Try wicker baskets, or large beach bags which you can fold around the edges to make baskets ( like i did).

The wind can make the beach mat fly, so find weights at each end. Think pineapples or coconut shells or beach rocks as weights. or even buckets filled with sand and a candle lit within it. try the battery operated candles, the wind cant blow those off.

Next is the food, think mini sandwiches, mini burgers, cookies, everything finger food. Nothing too fancy and needs cutlery. nothing which make your hand dirty either. i quite like the idea of keema biryani, or something else which tastes good even if not piping hot. 

bespoke, personalised desserts with our names on it, a cheese cake, a fruit tart and brownies, all with our nicknames. personalised luxury at Kenilworth Resort and Spa , Goa

Add a snack, main course and a dessert . Three courses add excitement . it can be a simple case of tea with biscuits, followed by a light sandwich, followed by donuts . the surprise element as different courses come out of the beach bags is great. i know some people like to barbeque atthe beach, but honestly, some beaches dont allow it, it can be difficult to put up, and the food takes longer to cook. 

Drinks, in Goa carrying alcohol is prohibited on the beach. Carry cans if you wish. A flask of tea is perfect and even canned juices in fancy glasses. Mix alcohol in the fruit juices and you won’t get in trouble with the beach guards. try mocktails and premixes, and colourful cocktails. bottles of wine however, might get you in trouble with the authorities. 

Entertainment : think Music, play it on your phone or a portable device. sand making buckets , or even a beach ball is fun. carry a book if you are having a picnic by yourself.

Last but not the least. Pick up everything when you leave! 
Hope you had fun reading this quick guide to packing a beach picnic. let me know if you have ever been on a beach picnic before. 

A huge round of thanks to the Food and beverage team and the housekeeping team at Kenilworth Goa.

We set up this beach picnic in Uttorda beach, the Kenilworth resort has multiple F an B options and one of them is the 24 hour coffee shop which can help you pack your own picnic lunches, which you can enjoy by their poolside, the second largest pool in Goa, which also haas a sunk in Bar. Some delicious surprises are planned for their christmas brunch as well as New Years eve dinner, so do go check those out as a grand celebration before the year ends.

Monday, October 29, 2018

10 best Food Souvenirs from Goa

Goa on my plate presents the 10 best food souvenirs to take back home from Goa.

Even before I made Goa my home, I was a student studying at the medical college here. That meant taking back food gifts from Goa everytime I went home. and even now , when friends and family visit Goa we love gifting foodie souvenirs to them, food souvenirs instantly transport you back to the place.

With Diwali round the corner, and a lot of travellers visiting Goa, what better way to celebrate than to Gift Food items from Goa? I have curated a list of sweet and savory treats from goa, which bring a slice of Goa to your plates back home.

Notice the Goa Mario Miranda Lampshade, the Mario Miranda Market scene painting on the wall? now bringing Goan flavour, not just to my home, but also Goa themed tee shirt and Goa on my plate cotton shopping bag! 

So what makes a great food souvenir? One that instantly reminds you of the place, so it should be unique to that place, second, it should be something you really enjoyed having on your trip to Goa, so don’t buy things just because they are unique if you don’t like the taste of them, and third, something that travels well and stays fresh for long journeys.

Keeping these in mind, I have made a list of food souvenirs, both common and uncommon, from Goa.
Goa food souvenirs to take back home .

1.       Cashews:
Storage (6 months or more, can refrigerate)
 literally everyone who comes to Goa must return with cashews. Cashews both salted and plain can be used in multiple dishes, the roasted variety stay fresh for many days. Its loved by kids to adults, it can be a nifty snack when you have delayed flights on your trip back from Goa, and pair really well with alcoholic drinks. Cashew shops and ‘cashew depots’ are multiple at all the busstops and touristy spots in Goa, so no dearth of the shops, also many of the other food souvenirs can be picked up there as well.

2.       Bebinca:
Storage (expiry mentioned on the box, can be refrigerated once opened)
This Layered baked dessert made of eggs, flour, jaggery and lots of ghee, is a favourite for tourists and locals alike. Each layer is cooked individually, and a minimum of 7 layers are present in a bebinca. Don’t eat it layer wise though! Slice a piece which has a little of each layer, to feel the different textures of bebinca. An interesting origin story of Bebinca is that it was invented by nuns in Portugal, where they used the egg whites to starch their uniforms and the egg yolks would go to waste. That’s when they came up with bebinca and pasteis de nata, desserts that use up the egg yolks ! serve bebinca with vanilla icecream, and sprinkle with the cashews you bought , and serve to guests back home. and everyone will be transported to Goa!

3.       Port wine:
Storage (can store over a year)
Port wine is not like regular wine. First off it doesn’t have a high alcohol content, infact many don’t even consider them to have any alcohol, its just fermented juice. Its pretty sweet so can be had by anyone , and is pretty cheap at Rs 100 a bottle mostly! What I love to use it in is for cooking though, add it in chicken curry and let it reduce and you have a fuller, richer fruity flavour. Add to any tomato based curry dish I would say, be it keema, or ragout, or mutton, or pasta sauce.

4.       Cafreal Masala:
Storage ( expiry mentioned, store in fridge once opened)
This one is one of the many typical Goan masalas one gets in the state. Cafreal was brought by the Portuguese, from their African colonies. It is green, herby, and is fragrant with spices. It pairs well with potatoes, paneer, chicken and fish and is one of the most versatile pastes. Just smear and bake or fry. It also works well with spinach soups, or spinach curries, and I make it all the time at home, to add oomph to my green Indian curries of coriander and mint.

5.       Feni:
Storage (stores upto a year)
This local liquor made of cashews is interesting, but again not for everyone, because it smells quite strong, and has a fairly high alcohol content. But, take a small souvenir size bottle back. It works well with lemon and fizzy drinks like limca. Also a nice marinade for meats.

6.       Chocolate cake from café central:
Storage ( stays good for a day or two of travel , finish soon)
Reason to add this on the list. First, its pretty famous and well loved amongst locals in goa. Second, its eggless ( for vegetarians), its nut free ( for nut allergies) and is moist and travels well. there have been times we have devoured the entire cake even before our flight took off from goa. Even now, we gift it to our friends and they love it!

7.       Chcocolate fudge cookies from cremaux :
Storage ( expiry mentioned, but stays good upto 10 days or more, can refrigerate, and microwave before consuming , but stays good in airtight container aswell)
There was a time when I thought these fudge chocolate deserved to be Goa’s number one food souvenir above cashews!! Infact this one is a must have , must take, must eat. For every chocoholic out there, you want to take back these for them.

8.chorizo sausage : Goan Pork sausages, that are chunky, packed with loads of spices, and are almost like a pickled version of regular sausages, because they don’t need refrigeration when packaged. They stay good for months, they taste great in a curry, in sausage pulao, I cook it with Jaggery and top it on donuts even! Very versatile, easy to carry back home, quintessentially Goan, makes this on the list of best goan foodie gifts.

9. Rainbow cookies from mog: This one was is for the instagrammers, also for the kids. These rainbow coloured cookies put one instantly in the happy holiday mood. Thay make for pretty pictures, they cost just 100 rs per pretty packaging, last for a month since baking, are a neutral vanilla butter flavour, and are available year round at the bake store in Margao. Have a neice obsessed with unicorns, or a gay couple friend holidaying in Goa? (Goa is the number one Indian destination for Gay couples BTW) get them these.

10. Fish: I know this one is a surprise, but even I was surprised at the number of people packing fish from Goa off to their homes. Reaason? Many Goans live in cities like Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, working outside the state. For them , nothing says home like fish. And contrary to belief, fish travels fairly well when frozen, and fresh fish doesn’t smell, also I know of a really good place that does individually frozen fish , so its not stuck to each other, and with the travel time so much reduced by air travel, cooked fish dishes, or fresh frozen fiah are extremely popular food souvenirs from Goa.

With this list, I have tried to bring the local Goan flavour, along with practicalities of gifting, like availability throughout the year, longish expiry, and clean hygienic packaging. Hope this helps. Here are a few more Goa centric Blog posts if you are travelling to Goa.

Diwali Narakasur celebration in Goa

spring Shigmotsav festival in Goa

cafes of Goa

Goa food walking tour

Goa foodie gifts . Hope you had fun reading this post. do share it with your friends and comment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A visit to Kumartuli during Durga Puja, a unique Kolkata experience

Kumartuli , the potters precinct in North Kolkata is where the Gods and Goddesses are created. We all know that Ma Durga comes from Mount Kailash, but it is here in the narrow lanes of Kumartuli, and at the hands of the potters whose last names are ‘pal’ is where she takes shape.
Images of half painted Ma Durgas and potters hands deftly carving out the Goddesses eyes , were images I had often seen and admired on social media as well as magazines. The potters at Kumartuli not only make the idols for the city of Kolkata , but also export the idols to durga Pujos around the world, from Australia to USA, and even to Dubai, almost every NRI Bengali pujo gets its Pujo Protima from Kumartuli.
come , join me on a walk through Kumartuli 

 But, the idols of Ma Durga and her children are made before Durga pujo, so is it still worth while visiting Kumartuli once Durga pujo has begun?

Yes, it is ! Read on to find out how we saw the creators, the craft and the creation , all at Kumartulli, this Durga Pujo.

A brief history of Kumartulli
After the british colonisation of Bengal and India, in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey , Holwell, under the oeders from Directors of the British East India Company, allotted separate districts to the company’s workmen.  Thus, suriparah – place of wine sellers, chuttarparah – place of carpenters, Coomartolly – place for potters. It is this Coomartolly that later became kumartuli or kumartulli.
Mostt of the artisans and workers from these districts dwindled or vanished with the rise of the Marwari settlements and the coming in of Burrabazar. Except for the potters. The potters, who up until then were making clay pots and pans using the clay from the river bed of Hooghly , took to making the idols of Gods and Goddesses for the neighbouring mansions around Kumartulii.
Kumartulli was home to a number of renoened homes during the Bengal renaissance, like Nandram Sen the first collector of Kolkata in 1700, and Gobindram Mitter who had a sprawling house spread over 16 acres.
These famous houses of Kolkata , along with several other ancestral homes, got their Pujo Protimas made by the artisans of Kumartuli, and then many community pujos also supported them, and today the artists and artisans of Kumartuli have a life long association with puja around the world.

the creation and the creator. different avatars of Shakti

Kumartuli is a photographers haven , these large green doors were calling to be photographed, and me in my pink n orange gamcha sari worn the traditional shadharon bengali style couldnt help being photographed.

half finished dieties at Kumartuli

Turn left here, to be transported to an ethereal land of calm amongst the chaos, the potters lane in Kumartuli during Durga Pujo

What you can expect to see at Kumartuli during Durga Pujo
While it is true that Kumartuli is most famous for the Pratimas and the pandals they create for Durga Pujo, they also make the protimas of Lakshmi for Lakshmi Puja which is celebrated in West Bengal 7 days after Saptami. And so you will see half finished idols of Lakshmi, or even completely dressed and decked idols of Lakhsmi depending on which day of Durga Pujo you visit Kumartuli.
We also saw the beginnings of the making of Ma Kali, for the Kali pujo which would be on the night of Diwali. The dynamic Ma Kali idol, complete with a garland of beheaded heads, and a hand dangling around her waist make for eyecatching visuals.
You can also see the artists and workers hard att work, or just catching a siesta . A peep into their world and you see the simple life they lead, among their creations, a two storey house being held up by a half finished idol, or the remnants of discarded pratimas, which didn’t make the cut to the standards of perfection these Kumars put their work to.
Apart from this , Kumartuli, as I said is home to some of the old world rich Bengalis, and just a walk down the many lanes of Kumartuli gives you a glimpse of the glory of yesteryears, the aristocratic charm of Kolkata is best seen here , as the homes are still well preserved . we didn’t have much time to explore because the place is teeming with people, but there are so many lanes and roads and narrow passage ways in this place that it is easy to lose yourself here.
The residents of Kumartulli make idols for the entire city, and for most of the pujos around the world, so you can imagine the idols that their own pujo pandals would have.
We visited two pujo pandals in Kumartulli and the art and ethos of both of them were mesmerising.

idols of Lakshmi, ready for Lokhi pujo, which falls on Sharad purnima, or kojagiri purnima. 

idols of Ma Kali, with her Garland of heads makes for dramatic visula at Kumartuli

Ma Durga on a Boat , one of the Pandal Protimas at Kumartuli

Large eyed South East Asian influences in this Ma Durga Protima at Kumartuli

How to get to Kumartuli
We went by our own car, but taking a taxi or Uber/Ola is the best way since parking is a hassle during the crowded days of pujo. Otherwise, buses and trains go to Kumartuli. The nearest railway station is the Sovabazar Metro. Sovabazar Launch Ghat (alongside the Ganges river) is also close by. Taking a walk to the riverbank is worthwhile, as you'll get to see old Gothic & Victorian style mansions. From there you can get a boat back to central Kolkata. You don’t need special passes to go there, but its best you respect the people who live and work there,so if they ask not to take pictures, don’t. the place was surprisingly clean when we went.
Kumartuli , a unique experience during Durga Pujo

A unique experience

The chaos and cacophony is an integral part of Durga Pujo in Kolkata, but once in Kumartuli, we took a left, and then a sharp right behind a house, and all of a sudden were trasnsported to an ethereal world; where Gods and their creations, idols and their creators lived. It’s quiet here, so quiet that some of the potters were sleeping. While in the pandals we were all jostling for space, here in the potters lanes of Kumartuli we were the only family. The feeling that this is where it all begins, the planning and creation of the idols, for Saraswati puja, for Lakshmi Puja, for Gurga puja and Kali puja, is truly an other worldly experience.

Just outside of the pujo pandal are food stalls selling everything a Bengali foodies heart desires . the foodietrails couldnt end a travel blog post without mentioning food :)

kolkata meetha paan ; must have the foodietrails recommends

phuchka , must have kolkata street food. the foodietrails recommends

cheene badam , peanuts dry roasted over sand. kolkata street food must have

mutton biryani, with a side of potato. kolkata street food must have

egg chicken roll, must have kolkata street food. the foodietrails recommends

chowmein and kochuri, must have street food in Kolkata. the foodietrails recommends.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

ghugni recipe #bloggersdurgapujo, a vegetarian Bengali recipe

Ghugni :a step by step pictorial recipe.

ghugni : Durga pujo staple at home

If there is one food I associate with Durga Pujo , other than pujor bhog ofcourse, it is Ghugni.

There are at least five good reasons why Ghugni should be on your menu; it a vegetarian dish, it is made from simple pantry staples like dried white peas, it is super tasty , it’s a great party snack in canapés, it is an authentic Bengali street food dish so you can boast to friends that you know a Bengali dish which doesn’t involve fish.

But, I am getting ahead of myself. I need to tell you why I love ghugni so much.

During Durga Pujo we binge on a lot of non veg. we love to eat out from the numerous stalls, and its an unending menu of kosha mangsho, chicken roll, chicken lollypop, chowmien, and prawn chops.

But, on Ashthami we fast.

And then after pushpanjali prayers, we eat fruits.

And then the rest of the day we eat vegetarian.

That’s the only part my dad has ever been strict about; no non veg on Ashthami. Now , given that the street stalls are all teeming with mouth watering delicacies. It made sense that we eat at home, before we ventured into Pandal hopping on Ashthami.

Thus, came the ghugni eating prior to setting out from home.

We would eat a bowl of ghugni chaat, before we set out for our evening pujo protima outings. For lunch we had bhog, which is always veg, and we were sorted, but for dinner… we always had ghugni.

And that was not the end of it.

On Vijaya Dashami, which is Dussehra in most parts of India, we have guests home after Visarjan. And that day we have lots of amazing food at home, which does include mutton and also an elaborate table of Bengali Mishti’s ranging from rosogulla, to kheer kadam. But we also have Ghugni. Why? Because it pairs really well with indian food, its vegetarian and we might have vegetarian friends over for food, and also because ghugni is an anytime snack. Someone comes home in the afternoon, or early evening, or late in the night, ghugni practically can be had anytime.

That’s not all!

we even had it for people visitingus for Diwali aswell . It has always been our fool proof 'guests dish' for vegetarian guests, and people who love non-veg, relish it too.

Ghugni is a popular street side food as well, and you can get it on your train journeys in the Bengal UP trains.

And that’s why I love it; street food, which is also travel food, which is also festive food, which is also ‘guests at home ‘food. How does one dish go from so many different occasions? How is it so well accepted from the hands of a street side vendor, as well, as from the hands of a homely  mum?

This is the wonder of this simple staple. How to make ghugni you ask ? 

Well, here is the recipe. 

Its pictorial , so just follow along

1.       Take dried white peas/ vatana and soak in water over night.

2.       Boil the overnight soaked peas with a little salt, and a little hing.

3.       Grate one onion, one tomato, and a teaspoon worth of garlic and ginger.

4.       Keep ½ teaspoon of turmeric , red chilli powder, jeera powder, coriander seed powder, garam masala powder. Ready.

5.       Now fry the onion in some oil first.

6.       Then add the ginger garlic paste.

7.       Then add the tomato, only once the onion and ginger garlic are cooked well.

8.       Add all the powder masalas, and cook the onion-tomato paste till it is dangerously deliciously dark.

9.       Then add the creamy boiled peas.

10.   Now add salt to taste

11.   Add pulp of tamarind (soak tamarinds in some hot water) use said water along with the tamarind pulp.

12.   Let cook on low heat, until most of the water evaporates.

13.   You can either serve it quite dry , or a little watery if you plan to have it with chapatti or rice. We generally have it without any accompaniment.
14.   Fry off some slivers of coconut in coconut oil. To add that textural crunch, and milt sweetness of coconuts.

Ghugni is spicy, salty, tangy, and creamy from the boiled peas, and crunchy from the fried coconuts and the toppings, and just served with chopped onion, or crunchy sev, and even pomegranates if you feel like, add roasted peanuts if you feeling like it, squeeze of lime if you don’t mind and extra tang, sprinkle chopped coriander and mint on top to make it look pretty and more herby.
don't hesitate to substitute dry mangoes for the tamarind, or chaat masala, or use pre soaked tinned peas, or coconut flakes instead of pieces, in short, play around, and make this recipe your own.

Ghugni is what will make all your vegetarian dinners a hit, you never again need to worry what to serve your vegetarian friends.

Ghugni : bengali vegetarian dish with white peas.

At home , I started making it for special occasions only. and then it escalated to us having ghugni every week. I am guessing you will be making this every week as well. it's that simple, fast and addictive. 

This year too, like last year, I am celebrating Durga pujo, not just with my family, but my blogging family aswell. Last year we were 4 bloggers participating, and this year we are 19 bloggers strong, sharing Pujo memories, nostalgia, pujo from around the country, fashion, food and everything in between.
Come join us by following the hashtag #bloggersdurgapujo on Fb, twitter, and instagram. and if you havent already to join my bengali language mini crash course by searching #bongtalk on facebook and instagram. :)

List of Participating Bloggers
Dr. Amrita Basu (Misra):
Anupriya Gupta: https:////www.mommytincture
Indrani Ghose:
Kapila Rattan Bhowmik:
Dr. Kuheli Bhattacharya:
Paromita Biswas:
Sayanti Mahapatra:
Shalini Magdel Das:
Shruti Dugar:
Sonia Chatterjee:

Monday, September 3, 2018

Goa walking food tour : Goa on my Plate

When I first started The Foodietrails Blog, it was to get to experience a place and its culture and history, through the food that the people of that place cooked, served and enjoyed. And to me nothing says ‘experience a place’ like walking the streets and eating local cuisine, aka a food walking tour.
For years I had contemplated starting my own food walking tour, and have written blogs on the same to help tourists and travellers get more of a Goan experience on their travels.

And thus, I started my own Food and history walking tour in Goa , called ‘ Goa on my plate.’

Goa, unlike rest of India was never under British Rule, the Portuguese occupied Goa for over 4 centuries and another difference is that unlike rest of India which considers their occupants (Britishers) as unwelcome Rulers, many in Goa consider the Portuguese as ancestors. 

For a lot of Goans this would be common knowledge, but for me it had been utterly fascinating and I was amazed at the twists of fate that had led to the Portuguese rule of Goa from 1510 to 1961. As an outsider who is now an insider, I have a unique outlook to what Goa means to me.

Me in my official Goa on my plate T shirt

The team from Thinkin'Culture outside Mary Immaculate Church , Panjim

I was delighted and honoured to have been able to take a group of ten travellers from Nagpur in a food walking tour of Panjim, seeing some local street graffiti, some historical architectural monuments, and also eat some super local food.

 From physically taking a large group of travellers through the city, showing them places of historical importance (like where the Portuguese landed for the first time in India, or where the famous battles were fought) , to taking into account all the dietary specifications of the people ( most of them ate no egg, even in cakes or desserts). A food walk was an immersive experience not just for the guests , but for me too.

Our meeting point was the Iconic Panjim Church or the ‘Our Lady of Immaculate conception ‘ church. But to my amazement, these guys had never heard or seen the church! They had only known Panjim for the Casinos !

The chapel turned Church has served as an Iconic backdrop for many Bollywood films (eg, Josh), and can be seen on many fridge magnets and keychains, but we went into the strategic location of the church, and the significance of the bell, which came from another historical church , the St Augustine’s church, which now lies in Ruins, but even the ruins have played scenic roles in films like Singham and others. The local touch was my telling them about the live naitevety scenes on the eve of Christmas with goats, Cows , ducks et al and last year the naitevety scene was created out of plastic bottles and plastic wastes.

Other interesting facts that we shared were;
Did you know that Vasco Da Gama had never come to – Vasco da Gama the port city in Goa ?
Did you know that Vasco Da Gama had actually never been to Goa ?
Did you know that Goa was never ordered to be captured by the King of Portugal, King Manuel, he had sent the Governor to capture only Hormuz , Aden and Malacca on his voyage?
 And that when Governor of Portuguese state of India, Afonso de Albuquerque , had captured Goa, and for a short while afterwards, King Manuel had even contemplated giving up the colony of Goa back to the Indian subcontinent ?

participants enjoying the local Goan flavours

Bespoke Food walking tours : Goa on my Plate

selfies with the Nagpur team from Thinkin'Culture

We walked along the some of the most colourful lanes in Goa, the Fontainhas area, and at in Iconic Goan Cafes serving local food inspired by the Portuguese, as well as neighbouring areas of Mangalore. We visited quaint cafes like the 31 January Confeitaria, the iconic Café Central, and the ever busy and almost a century old Café Bhonsle.

We discovered the graffiti work curated by Haneef Quereshi and his team from Street-art, St-art, India. The theme of most of their art work is how Goans perceive tourists and how tourists in turn perceive Goans, and it seemed apt since we were on a journey of discovery ourselves.

We walked down roads with historically significant dates like 18 june Road, and 31 January road, and we walked past places with interesting pasts like the Panjim General post office, and the Adil Shah Palace. And I shared how the Portuguese had indeed sailed in on their Caravelas into the river Mandovi and the summer palace of Adil shah was the first and the most important area captured by the Portuguese. It was here on these very streets that the Portuguese decided to fill the streets with chillies and hot spices that they were carrying as cargo, so that the enemy soldiers could not cross the spice laden streets.

The team from Thinkin'Cuture discovering colourful lanes in Fontainhas

The famed Goan Almi Mushroon, each leaf filled with Mushrooms were for Rs 400, these local wild mushrooms are like the Indian Truffle

Discovering Local wall art in Panjim, with Goa on my Plate
 We ended our walk with the eggless dessert Serradura –translated into Saw dust Pudding because of the crushed Marie biscuits that are sprinkled on top of the condensed milk pudding, giving it a saw-dust like appearance. The Serradura was infact a popular dessert of Macau , which too was a Portuguese colony. And you can see the travel of influence through the food story here. There are many desserts which are famous and prevalent in Goa, and these make use of egg yolks, such as the Bebinca and Pasteis de nata. The use of egg yolks in desserts, have an interesting back story as well.

Since we didn’t have too many non-vegetarians on this leg of the food walk, we went to just one stop for the inimitable street food of Goa, the Ros omelette, which serves up a fresh fluffy omelette doused in spicy chicken Xacuti curry and topped with onions and lime wedges. Chicken and beef cutlets, mutton croquettes, prawn rissois and pork mince pies are other non-vegetarian Goan snacks that I hope to introduce to on other food walks.


Ros omlette , with Goa on my plate

In Forensic medicine we call it Locard’s principle, that when two objects come in contact, there is an exchange. In forensic medicine it is the trace remains of blood and fingerprints, and when people meet it is often an exchange of ideas and when cultures and countries meet there is an exchange in trade, spices, food trends. With the food walk, I hope to be able to educate, entertain and inspire people to experience Goa like they haven’t before. Locard’s principle also suggests that the exchange is never one way, and by taking my love of food from an online to an offline audience, I myself have experienced Goa in a unique way, through the eyes of a traveller.

If you wish to join me on a food walk around panjim email me on :

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The fantastic 5 Sunday brunch at Park Hyatt Goa

This father’s day, we made it a family event at the fantastic five brunch at Park Hyatt and I realised it was the perfect option for families.

The Hum Paanch series at Park Hyatt Goa, for Rs 1400 for a non alcoholic brunch, a treat for the entire family

The chicken cutlet pao got a five star upgrade, with chicken kismoor, lime wedges and lasun pickle
 Our family is a melting pot of food preferences ; while my mother in law is all about experimenting and experiencing anything that she doesn’t cook at home, my father –in- law prefers the home cooked Goan staples of rice and curries. The husband is keen on healthy grills and dry meats, I am all about the indulgent desserts and cheese boards.

So when Park Hyatt Resor and Spa announced the launch of their 5 distinct culinary experiences, in the form of their 5 speciality restaurants coming together under one massive epicurean experience, I knew it was the perfect fit for the two fathers for father’s day.
My mother-in law eating fancy exotic cuisine, which she got to try for the first time at the buffet, love to giove them new experiences. and my father-in law happy to have the simple Goan red rice and Goan baked breads and the familiar Goan cuisine

The brunch is not your average, multi cuisine spread, or even dining in a multi cuisine restaurant, because this is about 5 distinct kitchens, 5 separate teams taking care of the cuisine they do best.
And so Casa Sarita, the Goan Soeciality restaurant morphed into the Goan Priestess, Da Luigi the Italian speciality restaurant morphed into the Italian Empress, Palms the sea facing grill speciality restaurant came dressed as the sea food emperor, Masala the Indian speciality restaurant became the Indian Magician, and village café turned into the street style star.

couldnt get enough of tthese white chocolate and almond rocks topped with a sugar coated rose petal, which my son thought were jujubes :)

The cheese and charcuterie grazing platter, a sight to behold.
The gorgeous Park Hyatt property, which offered father's day games art art work for kids, play area and bonding activities and plenty of open spaces to run around.

The customary mom and baby cup of cheers with our tea cups.

couldn't help posing with this beauty

Each of these desserts signified us as a family, the flamboyant blue and white with a base of brownie is me, the clean classic chocolate bar , the husband, and that adorable tart which stole my heart has got to be the apple of my eye, my son.

The fantastic five brunch is a first of it's kind concept meal by the resort, and I think it's a fantastic move, in that it showcases each of the speciality offerings in a stellar manner. we loved the prawns grilled on open flame, the chicken dimsums , and the tava mutton in this monsoon season, and judging by the fantastic turnout of people, this concept biffet lunch is going to be a sizzling success all through the rainy season.
If you cant make up your mind if you want fish curry rice, or a grilled chcken and roast potato kind of meal, or a wok tossed noodles and creamy pasta dish, then decide to have it all at the newly launched sunday brunch for the monsoon season at Park Hyatt. do call in advance and book your tables though, because this one is extremely popular .