Kareem’s

A sweaty Mumbai evening, greasy duct-taped tables, worn-out wooden benches, a couple of black soot-lined tandoors and the intoxicating smoky smell of kebabs.

Kareem’s, just off Carter Road at Bandra, Mumbai, was where we splurged on our Saturday night dinner. Being hardcore non-vegetarians, it was an obvious choice for me and Azaz. Fauri on the other hand, was apprehensive as always, since these eat-outs rarely have sufficient choices for vegetarians.

The menu is a humble single-page book. But don’t let the simplicity of it fool you.

The service is prompt. The crowd is a mixed one that includes college students, professionals, couples, families and friends just looking to spend the evening gorging on food at another eat-out.

But Kareem’s is not just another eat-out. There is only one workd to describe the food : awesome!!!

We ended up ordering Murg ke Reshmi Tikke, Sabz Dum Biriyani, Murg Nizami Roll and a Nawabi Gosht Nalli curry.

The reshmi tikka is technically skewered boneless pieces of chicken (or sausages made out of minced chicken, kheema) marinated in sour curd and a delicate mixture of spices. The kebabs melt in your mouth! The amount of sour curd used was near perfect in making the pieces tender and succulent without being too overpowering.

The usual accompaniment with kebabs, is a green mint chutney, which was, honestly, disappointing. It was minty alright but too bitter and lacked salt.

The roll was a delicious (and super-hot) combination of spicy meaty filling with a crispy flour wrap…not for the faint-hearted though, cosidering the amount of green chilies use.

The Nawabi Gosht Nalli curry was, well a nalli curry. A gorgeous meat-on-bone-with-marrow mutton curry — spicy with a sweet edge to it, which in turn brings out the taste of the marrow. The fun part, as always, was sucking the marrow out! The only down-part, if I can call that, was the fact that the curry was mealy. Heavy enough to make me push the other dishes away.

The Sabz Dum Biriyani was a regular dum biriyani, cooked in a flour-sealed pot in steam. The refreshing touch which set it slightly apart from most dum biriyanis was that a sprinkling of rose water in addition to zaffran (saffron) had been added before sealing the pot. The aroma was pure heaven!

The meal ended with a decadent chocolate firni (a traditional Indian, milk and rice flour pudding). Tasted good though not upto expectations and the quantity, unfortunately, was miserly.

Kareem’s does not burn a hole in your pocket at all but isn’t that cheap either. The kebabs are worth INR 125-180, depending on the “exoticness” of the ordered dish. The rolls at INR 85-100 are not so okay, considering the fact that they’re snack-sized but are not something you want to snack on. the vegetarian menu is limited, but delicious and appropriately priced, with the biriyanis priced at INR 125-150. A meal for two would cost you anything between Rs.400 – Rs.700.

My rating: 8/10….totally worth a weekend visit!

Overloaded Dinner and an Introduction

There are those days when I just have to whip up lunch in a jiffy and stuff it into a box to carry to office…that’s almost everyday.

And then there are those days when you feel like taking time and concoct something wonderful and complicated and feel chef-like! Well, almost chef-like.

My current sous-chef, by the virtue of being half-vegetarian (I’ll come to the “half-vegetarian” part later) insisted on a mushrom and spinach risotto for dinner yesterday, whereas I felt like c-h-i-c-k-e-n.

Nothing new there.

So we settled on both, shared the chores and all the chopping and peeling went to her.

The risotto has white wine (but obvious) in it and turned out slightly spicy for my taste and totally-not-hot for my sous-chef.

The chicken has a poppy-seed crust, needs no egg or buttermilk or bread crumbs or flour……and is shallow fried.

That’s right, you heard me — shallow fried, in just a couple of tablespoons of veggie oil.
Spinach and Mushroom Risotto

What You Need:
– 1 cup of rice
– 3 tablespoons of olive oil
– 6 big garlic cloves, crushed
– 3 Spanish onions, chopped finely
– a sprig of rosemary
– 1 cup of portobello mushrooms, sliced (a nice and stronger-tasting alternative would be porcini)
– 1 cup of chopped spinach
– Half a teaspoon of dried basil
– 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (epends on how hot you like your food)
– Half a cup of chopped black olives
– Half a cup of white wine
– Salt and pepper to taste

How to:
– Heat oil in a pan.
– Add the garlic, rosemary and onions and cook on medium heat till the onions turn glossy and translucent.
– Add in the spinach, mushrooms, olives, chilli flakes and dried basil. Cover and cook on low heat for two minutes or till the mushrooms are soaked through with oil.
– Add the rice and stir well to mix.
– Pour in the wine and cook till all of it absorbed by the rice.
– Add salt and pepper to taste.
– Pour water at regular intervals to cook the rice.
I added 1 cup of water and let it cook till it was absorbed by the rice, before adding the next cup. I needed two cps of water.

– Continue this process till the rice is cooked through and the risotto has a sticky (but not gummy) consistency.

– Do a taste check and adjust salt and pepper accordingly.
– Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley leaves.

Poppy-seed Crusted Chicken

What you need:
– I cooked for two, so I used two chicken breasts
– Oil to shallow fry (I used about 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil)

for the marinade:

– 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
– 1 tablespoon of ginger-garlic paste

for the crust:

– Half cup of poppy seeds
– Half a tablespoon of cayenne pepper
– 1 teaspoon of dry mango powder
– 1 teaspoon of coriander powder
– 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
– salt and pepper to taste

How To:
– To prepare the chicken breasts, put them between plastic sheets/wraps (or cheesecloth works well too) and beat with a rolling pin to flatten them into 1/2 inch thick steaks.
– Marinate them in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and ginger-garlic paste for two hours n the refrigerator (if you don’t have two hours, fifteen minutes of marination will do just fine. The two hour marination just softens the chicken a little more)
– Mix the dry coating ingredients and spread evenly on a flat surface.
– Lay out the chicken fillets on this mixture. Drag through it to coat well on both sides.
– Heat oil in a frying pan. (You need super-hot oil in a super-hot pan)
– Turn the heat to low, and shallow fry the fillets, flipping them in intervals. It takes about 3-4 minutes for each side. (I kept flipping every minute and a half to prevent the crust from sticking to the surface of the pan).
– Fry till golden brown.
– Serve with a side of tomato-cucumber-dill salad, or a salsa dip….or better yet, just do what we did…eat it with the risotto….

Bon apetite!

I”ll leave you with a random snap of me and my “sous-chef”, in the lift. She also happens to be my room-mate, classmate from University, best friend for the last six years, super-efficient help in the kitchen, excellent in ruthlessly judging me, a kind soul who lets me borrow her T-shirts…and I repay her by stretching them out of shape.

She’s originally vegetarian. Has been all her life, till she met me.

She spent the first year of our friendship by getting accustomed to my non-veg habits. The second year was spent in tasting, I repeat…tasting, various preparations of chicken. Six years later and she can eat any chicken dish without batting an eyelash (though she says she prefers not to), but has managed to refrain herself from turning into a full-fledged carnivore.

Ladies and gentlemen…(drumroll)….Foram Vakani.

My kitchen at 7:00 A.M.

…is an unusually quiet place to be.

Soft sunlight through the shady panes, breezy drafts from the adjoining terrace garden, the odd vegetable lying around, empty Martini bottles stacked in a corner from the party last night and the subtle sizzle of portobello mushrooms cooking in cream and mozzarella.

Bucatini pasta with Portobello Mushrooms, Aubergine and Martini
No, I haven’t gone completely crazy yet. But I admit I’m on a quest to use up all the alcohol that we have at home, mostly left over from parties. Generally speaking, I love my pasta best with wine.

This recipe uses Martini (Rossi).

What you need:

Bucatini pasta (I was cooking for two, so I used a big handful, about 100-120gms)

– 100 ml Martini & Rossi (you could substitute with Vermouth….or better yet, WHITE WINE)

– Half a cup of portobello mushrooms, sliced finely

– Half a cup of chopped aubergine (egg plants, brinjal, baingan, etc..)

– 2 tablespoons of good quality unsalted butter

– 2 spring onions, chopped (a better substitute would be red onions)

– 8 cloves of garlic, smashed (try using a side of your kitchen knife)

– 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns

– 200 ml of fresh cream

– Half a teaspoon of dried oregano

– Half a teaspoon of dried basil

– 150-180 gms of mozarella (try not using the “rubbery” type), chopped into “melt-able” cubes

– Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (depends on how hot you like it…)

– 1 teaspoon of sugar

– Salt to taste

– 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

– Freshly chopped parsley

Directions:

Boil three cups of water and a measely teaspoon of salt in a deep bottomed pan. Add the pasta when the water boils. Cook for 11-15 minutes.

– Before straining the pasta, keep aside a cup of the starchy water it boils in, to be used in the sauce later.

– Strain the pasta and run cold water through it.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the onions, garlic and peppercorn and saute till the onions turn translucent.

– Add the mushrooms and aubergine. Cover and cook on low heat till the veggies soften.

– Pour in the alcohol and add sugar. Stir well. Cover and cook for another minute before adding the rest of the ingredients (except salt, olive oil and parsley) slowly.

– Cook on low heat till the chesse has melted completely and the cream starts to bubble up slightly.

– Do a taste check and add salt accordingly.

– Pour in the water, saved from the cooking pasta. and stir well.

– Cook for another five minutes.

– Combine the pasta and sauce well. Sprinkle olive oil and chopped parsely. Mix well.

– Eat.

A Missing Birthday and Boozy Mutton

I’ve been the worst blogger. Seriously.

My blog’s birthday has gone by (in February) and I’ve simply done nothing about it!

Last year, I had resolved to make a chocolate cheesecake to celebrate Fat-free Brainwaves’ birthday…but its been up and down so much the last few weeks that I missed it altogether. Bad, bad girl.

For the last three days I’ve been gathering all the snaps e-mailed to me from Port Blair (above) and snaps from my own collection (below) for a little project….The Boyfriend Project, I call it!

Anyway, the positive thing is I have been photographing a few of the nicer stuff that I’ve cooked till now over the last couple of weeks, and a White rum-Rosemary mutton’s on top of the list.

Mutton Stew with White Rum and Rosemary

This is essentially a stew, slightly watery but not much boozy, though it calls for a considerable amount of white rum, the rum evaporates as the stew cooks.

The granulated sugar makes this stew more sweet than salty, but I prefer it that way.

Another special touch to this stew would be if you roast the garlic before sauteing them.

Feel free to experiment!

What You Need:

– 800gms of mutton

– 80mls White Rum (My Captain Morgan was almost empty so I used Bacardi…any good brand will do)

– 2 sprigs of rosemary

– 6 big cloves of garlic, chopped

– 2 tablespoons of olive oil (not necessarily extra-virgin)

– 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns

– Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (this depends on how hot you like your food)

– 2 spring onions, chopped

– 1 heaped teaspoon of granulated sugar

– Salt to taste

– Freshly chopped curled parsley leaves, to garnish

Instructions:

Heat the oil in a pan and saute the chopped onions, sprigs of rosemary and garlic for about a minute on high heat, till the onions acquire a typical translucent color.

– Reduce the heat. Add the peppercorns and the pieces of mutton and chilli flakes and saute for another minute, coating all the pieces with the rosemary-garlic scented oil.

– Pour in the rum. Add sugar and two cups of water.

– Stir well, cover and cook on minimum heat for about 45 minutes.

– Uncover. Do a quick taste check and add salt accordingly. Cover and cook for another ten-fifteen minutes. At this point you need to be happy with the amount of water remaning in the pan. Some like their stews to be more watery than others. So add some more water if you want the stew to be more fluid. Or not.

– Conduct another quick taste check. Adjust amounts of salt and sugar accordingly. Take the meat off the heat. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with steamed white rice!

Enjoy…and yeah, I’m not forgetting the cheesecake this time!

2:30 A.M. and a lot of crying…

“I think I’m falling in love with you.”

How would most women react to this line? Most would be happy, taken aback, pleasantly surpirised, ecstatic?

Then confusion would set in or maybe even shock or apprehension.

I, apparently, would react by rolling to and fro on the muddy terrace floor crying my eyes out.

Romantic, eh?

But that’s exactly what happened when the Lieutenant blurted out that line last Monday, 2:30 in the morning.

I spluttered and choked over my coffee. Ended up crying and laughing at the same time.

Its been a week since then and it still hasn’t sunk in. I’m in a committed relationship with my best friend.


We spoke through most of the remaining night (or dawn?), and the realization that the feelings had been building up for quiet sometime was like a tight slap on our faces.

All of it is still a little difficult to believe and almost dream-like, probably because he’s not here physically, in front of me. Which I’m partially thankful for, since I’m pretty damn sure I would have fainted if he was.

Two and a half years of knowing each other and in a week I realize that I know absolutely nothing about him.

The Lieutenant and Me