Do Visit my very own 'Food' Blog' for delicious meals

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Wooden Cane

Wooden cane carved from a single bambool stick

Friday, 17 June 2011

EAT, European Art of Taste – Cookery Demonstration

When the table is set with your assorted favorite ingredients such as cheese, pasta, wine and olive oil, and if you wait long enough, you will be served Italian food and that too all free, because this is the Italian food festival presented by ‘European Art of Taste’  and you are their special guest.

When I got the invitation to attend the rich and savory cooking demonstration of Italian Food at ‘Nature Basket’,  Bandra,  I jumped to this opportunity, arriving 30 minutes before the demonstration was to begin. The Chef, Angelo Francini, a friendly young man was only too pleased to share his art, educating me about this program that is supported by the European Union and the Italian Government that aims to promote their products like pasta, cheese, sauces and wine into the Indian market with the promise that it guarantees quality, authenticity and the safety of the products.

The stage for demonstration was set in the inner area of the store, with one table laden with all the products like pasta of ‘Barilla’, extra virgin olive oil of brand ‘Monini’, Provolone cheese of certified origin (Valpadana) and assorted wine and pasta sauces. The main demonstration table was laden with all the ingredients that he would need, plus electric stove and microwave.

Within half an hour, the room was full of curious chefs/housewives/regular shoppers/photographers, all eager to pick up some culinary tips and give in their expert comments.

The demonstration started with what I would call it an ‘Italian salad’. (The Chef called it ‘Panzanella di verdure con bruschetta all’olio extra vergine di olive).

In a big plastic bowl, he mixed all the freshly chopped vegetables like carrots, celery, cucumber, bell peppers, fresh red tomatoes, rocket leaves. He roasted the chopped cubes of bread and added to the mixture. Added salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar and it was now our turn to taste. The rich taste of olive into the mixture of veggies gave it a buttery sweet and sour taste and I was hungry for more.

The next dish was (Penne all’arrabbiata) he cooked on the electric twin-stove, boiling pasta on one stove and cooking the tomato sauce on the other. He added garlic, parsley, salt and pepper to the hot olive oil, mixed it and added tomato puree. After cooking for seven minutes, he added boiled pasta, and tossed them, mixing it well. Then added grated provolone valpadana cheese and then came the best part……Yes!!....You guessed it right….tasting! The tangy taste of tomato blended well with pastas, but I found pasta a wee bit hard, I normally prefer pastas to be softer and slippery.(so slippery that the minute they touch my lips, they go sliding down my throat, leaving behind the tangy taste)

The heat was slowly building up as vapors escaped from the pots and the sweet aroma of garlic and tomatoes flooded the room. Smacking our lips, we looked hungrily as he prepared the chicken dish; the small chunks of chicken breast, previously marinated with dry herbs for more than seven hours. He cooked the marinated chicken chunks in olive oil, seasoning it with salt and pepper and added eggplant (that was previously cooked with garlic and parsley), cooked them till chicken was tender and later garnished it with the cheese. The cooked eggplant, the melted stringy cheese and the chicken was good combination and was quite delightful to taste. The chicken was very tender and tasty although there were no chilies at all. (now, being an Indian, chilies is must for me otherwise I call this ‘phika’)

While he cooked on electric stove, his assistant baked in micro-oven some more dishes, there was toast (pancetta) with cheese topping, soaking in olive oil, and chicken topped with cooked eggplant and cheese too. And yes, one more thing, the finger food (they had forgotten to give as a welcome warm-up) made of baby-tomatoes, basil leaves and cheese on a tooth pick was the sudden but pleasant intrusion.

It was a grand feast, all in succession, one after the other; I was finding it difficult to concentrate on his cooking, so busy was I in eating (I mean ….tasting). I would have appreciated an additional glass of wine or a cup of coffee ….maybe that thought did not cross their mind....or…maybe….er…. wine is expensive? Ah well!!! But never mind

It was a fun evening and fully satiated, I walked down the narrow corridors of ‘Nature Basket' super market to pick up some of those Italian delicacies to be able to try few for my guests, who would appreciate this light meal with their evening cup of tea..

Oh yeah! One more thing!! I was happy because each one of us received one complimentary gift that contained apron, one badge, one booklet on ‘Guide to tasting and understanding ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’, and two chapbooks of Italian recipes.

*Look, can you see me boasting now?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Royal Massage on a Lazy Afternoon

Walking for two hours on a dusty road can be tiresome especially when the scenery around you is all shoes and clothes, sea of perspiring people and the noisy traffic. It is at such moments that a visit to an air-conditioned mall can bring relief (even if it is only for a short visit to the loo). My feet are soaring and I spot 'Sabal', a foot massage parlor. I am reminded of my last visit to Bangkok, when at every opportunity we jumped for foot massage and it used to be such a relief. Late at night, my cousins and I, after shopping and dinner would head to the nearest massage parlour to pamper ourselves. Just for 300 Bhats, we would sit side by side, next to each other, on the smooth reclining chairs, behind the glass windows and get some relaxing massages. It used to be such a pleasure as we floated on our feet on our way back home.

I decide to try this one in the Link mall at Bandra.

The receptionist sitting outside the parlor hands me the various types of foot-massage on offer. There are four different kinds and she advises me to go for herbal massage. Since I have tried none before I opt for her choice.

I enter the dimly lit room that has a strong aroma of lemon grass. There are perfumed candles everywhere and one big picture of Buddha dominates the wall under warm spotlights. After a cold glass of water, I am led to the reclining sofa with cushions tucked behind my back. There are several girls in the room but they all look alike, same narrow slit eyes, long face, large forehead and nod with a smile. How do they recognize one Thai girl from another? Anyways, even in Bangkok I am confused when I see so many people of similar features. One with the crinkly eyes comes closer with a hot tub of water, containing some flower petals. She washes my dirty feet and I apologize. In India we wash the feet of the spiritual gurus, and I pretend I am the one. She smiles, maybe she is used to many, more such dirty feet walking into her parlor. She wipes my feet with warm towel and gently lifts them over a small stool. I stretch my feet and close my eyes. There is a soft, soothing piano music in the background. I am drifted to ether world. Wow! Such is the life!

The masseuse brings a tray of different herbal oils. She pour oil into her palm, rubs the oil between her palms and with circular motion she massages my feet, calves, knees and toes. I remind her to be a bit careful because I am afraid of wrong pressure on my nerves but she is proficient and works very efficiently. It is very relaxing and I take in deep breath (having learnt on TV channels that when we have nothing to do, we can utilize that time with breathing exercises, breathes in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.....) I feel her kneading my muscles with her knuckles, and then with finger tips and nails pressing on pressure points. When she starts her massage with blunt roller, I squint to see that blunt object but feel too drowsy to keep my eyes open. I drift back to sleep enjoying the soft music and pleasure of the warm tingling sensation on my feet. Suddenly there is a warm steaming rub under my feet. I cringe. The room is now filled with vapors and the scent of lemon grass is strong. This time I am curious to see the source of the vapors. I see a tub containing hot steaming oil on her side. She had a small muslin potli filled with lemon grass leaves. She dips this potli in the hot lemon seed oil and presses it lightly on my skin.

I am amused and started to converse with her, thanking her for the nice treatment. She asks me to visit her more often, explaining that it is good for circulation of the blood and in keeping oneself healthy. She talks about her life in India and tells me that everything that she used during the massage was imported from Bangkok. Her boss is an Indian married to a Thai woman. They have two outlets in Mumbai, one at Bandra and other at Infinity mall in Varsova. There are seven reclining chairs at Bandra branch spread over two levels. I did not see other clients and I was the only one, alone during my visit. Maybe it is expensive. For my foot herbal massage, it cost me Rs1500, if I were to ask the masseur to come home, they normally charge Rs150 for body massage. But then I think we pay here for the ambience and the feel good factor.

After the foot massage, I am asked to sit on lower stool and she gives me back and head massage, stretching my arms backwards and sideways and finally ended with massage on my arms, shoulders and fingers.

I was just thinking of visiting a natural ice-cream parlour across the street, post massage, when she entered again with the tray of fresh fruits (grapes, kiwi and apple) and a cup of hot ginger tea.

Light and refreshed I felt like a royalty in the kingdom of my own..

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