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Aamchi Mumbai

I had to ask someone for a respectable title for this blog post. Aamchi Mumbai means my Bombay and I’m glad I asked. Because the titles I came up with were only rude or vulgar. But then, so is Bombay and I refuse to call it Mumbai.

Bombay hits you like a bullet in the head. Even the clouds look busy as we descend. Then the big tall building come into view and you see slums and shanties, butted up against exquisite palatial hotels and posh homes. I’ve practically spent every summer growing up here but it still never ceases to amaze me. 

I am here with two of my oldest, dearest and craziest chaddie buddies and they have promised me 24hrs jam packed with food, fun and plenty of shenanigans. This is PG rated so I’ll mostly gloss over the fun and shenanigans and focus on the food. We started by checking in to what can only be described as a little jewel in the sky. Floor to ceiling windows, beds from heaven, a kitchenette, hell we even had our own little living room. And boy did we live!

After being ‘instructed’ (I have very bossy friends) to clean up, we started our eat adventure at The Bombay Canteen. To get to The Bombay Canteen you have to drive through an insane part of town. It used to be an old textile mill area but the mills have shut down. From the outside you see these filthy, rundown old building but on the inside they’ve been converted to cool restaurants and bars. The staff seriously surprised me by how passionate they are about the food they serve. They have real opinions on each dish and their recommendations did not disappoint. 

We ate. A lot! I can’t even remember half of it so you’ll have to look at my pictures. And I know this a fall from grace for a carnivore at heart, but the jhowar barley salad is probably something I could live on for life. Talking about animal lovin’, I also just tasted water buffalo for the very first time and was blown away. It’s like beef, but better. Yes. That’s what’s I’m going to call it from now on… Beef. But better. Once we stuffed our faces we had no choice but to go back to our hotel and be lounge lizards for the rest of the afternoon.

I am seriously digging Bombay this time, something I never ever thought I’d say. It’s dirty and smoggy and edgy and gritty and weird and humid and hot and slightly cool because you can dress right up or dress right down and you’ll always fit in. It’s non judgey in a random sort of way so we got dressed right middle and stepped out some hours later in the most horrendous rain I’ve ever seen to have dinner at Cafe Zoe.

After dinner we made ‘friends’ with a cab driver who ripped us off. So we killed him with kindness and confusion in this torrential downpour and got him to take us on to Asilo… which they claimed was the hottest thing since sliced bread. But even bread gets mouldy in the rain and so let’s just say the rest of the night was a wash out. Or atleast that’s what I’m telling you!

Thank god our girls trip was only 24 hours long. I don’t think I could handle much more. We finished up at Farzi Cafe which experiments with molecular gastronomy and even serves bite size pieces of blast frozen yoghurt drizzled with fart juice (Hajmola. You have to taste it to believe it. It’s truly epic. I promise). 


Ah Bombay. With your lady boys and plastic toys. You are filthy and fast, your buildings are crumbling but your heart is intact. Mine, not so much! Dee x


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livin’ la vida local

There I said it. That song’s been stuck in my head and I don’t even like Ricky Martin. Sorry. Nope. Nyet. Not one bit. But I do like living in Lane Cove. It’s central, it’s safe, it’s perfect for families with young children and hopefully in the next few months were going to see new life injected into this suburb.

There’s been plenty of criticism about the new developments but I say bring it on. Urban sprawl is creeping up on all of us so we may as well stop fighting it and embrace it instead. And with that in mind we figured why go to Surry Hills or Whoop Whoop for a good Indian meal before even giving Indian Fusion a chance.  

 

Yes we know there are already a few Indian restaurants in the Cove. But bear with us as we prattle on about our meal last Tuesday night. A motley bunch of us congregated at Indian Fusion. 

  

    
 

Four Indians, one from each corner of the Motherland, plus one from Ireland (you know how I love the Irish – especially those that cook rogan gosh meaner than any I’ve ever had) and one beautiful woman originally from Sierra Leone then London now Sydney, sat down with a bottle of wine and decided the menu was way too extensive to choose from. 

  

So we let a very traditional waiter in shorts and a tee decide for us. Okay okay Robert was off duty – we found out he is actually the general manager – and decided this would be a very long night if he let us loose on the menu! He decided what we should eat and boy were we impressed!!

I’d like to say straight off the bat that every single starter was superb. Malai tikka, oh you gorgeous thing how I do love you!! And fusion chaat and tandoori chicken I would marry you if I wasn’t already spoken for. Ouch, my vegetarian friend is poking me hard in the ribs and insisting I mention the galoutti kebabs too. And the onion rings and the paneer. Oh the paneer. Marry me now!!! 
  

  

But the serious SERIOUS highlight for me had to be the lamb chops. You have not lived till you sink your teeth into those oogley boogley delicate little morsels that fall off the bone and into your mouth. Even my ‘trying to be vegetarian’ friend succumbed – and and one point we were pretty sure she’d lick her plate clean.  

  

As I looked around the table the other thing that struck me was how beautifully diverse have become. How small the world now is. How sweetly we live next door to each other in harmony. How there is no common language greater than the language of love and friendship and food and laughter. There are a lot more things I’d like to look at, but I was getting quite full by now and could barely roll my eyeballs so had to focus on the mains that were about to arrive…

Naaaaaaan!! Naan. Garlic naan. Butter naan. And the absolutely most stupendous chilli coriander naan!! Woot!! Robert you have outdone yourself. Harpreet Singh with your gorgeous pink turban you have six women hanging off your every word as you put our mains down at the table.

  

The paneer, the chicken, both were good. But the Yakhni, this delicious slow cooked lamb…oom nom nom nom. I also have to make a special mention of the channa upon which the pattie was served.  The problem is I don’t want to give too much away. YOU. JUST. HAVE. TO. GO. THERE. AND. EAT. IT. ALL.!!!!!

   
 

As we came to the end of our meal we were so full we can barely swallow our spit. But there is a God and I know this because he gave women separate dessert stomachs. Don’t ask me how we managed to stuff our faces with kulfi and gaajar halwa and ras malai. But we did.

So with a bellyful of curry and a heart full of grace I thank this gorgeous suburb I live in. And I’m so grateful that good solid authentic Indian flavours are only a stumble up the laneway. We’ll be back! Dee x

 

EDIT: Stop press! This note has just come through from one of the girls that was in our group on Tuesday night.

She says, “We just back from the restaurant. We couldn’t stay away and will be very frequent customers. We couldn’t eat everything – tried our hardest but we just couldn’t fit it all in. Went 100% veggie this time. Had a veggie starter platter and shared a main with rice. Bought our own wine. Total was $71 – such fantastic value. Service was not as prompt and we waited some time to order, they were much much busier though.”

Wow. Twice in the same week must be a good thing no?


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what love tastes like

WARNING: This post turned out to be so much longer than I planned. It just goes on and on and on. Sorry!

My little family had the honour of being the token Indians at a completely crazy Halloween party hosted by a delightful Irish couple and their friends. Batwings on head Girl went above and beyond the call of anything I’ve ever seen. The house was truly the most haunted one on the block, the treats were gooey and bloody and oogly boogley and there was even a pumpkin brain with blood glooping out of it. Yes, it was a fantastic party!      

 
It was also there that anoder crayzy Irish woman in her delicious accent asked me what my death row meal would be – and without missing a heartbeat I said it would have to be mum’s pork curry chawal. I think it’s because you know when food tastes like love. You can really taste it. Food tastes like love when it’s made with love. 

Like the McDonalds curry Batwings served us that night. It was sweet and spicy and chickeny and divine. That was food from the heart. (I found out later, once I started to understand the Irish accent, that it wasn’t from Maccas. It’s made using McDonnell’s Curry Powder!)

That meal tasted of joy and friendship and was especially meaningful because a family opened their hearts and homes to us and welcomed us in. I also tasted Irish Poison for the first time. It burned a hole on the way down but my big brave husband said I was a wuss. He diluted his with ice and polished off the entire glass. 

I asked my son what love tasted like. He said ‘Sweet, creamy and soft.’ And my other little boy said ‘Mum, you CANNOT taste love but you sure can feel it.’ I secretly think love is a big juicy pork rib for him, he just doesn’t know it yet.  

I also think my husband was being silly but he said ‘Bananas!’ and so, because I am a ‘research scientist’, I had to throw this question out there.

  
In no particular order here are some of the responses I got. My brave and beautiful friend Twisty Lovely Locks said ‘It is soft and very gentle on the palette and the taste lingers…’

One friend said ‘Bitter-sweet, usually.’ And another said ‘Mostly sweet, sometimes spicy sweet. And when it hurts, bitter-sweet.’ I also think Fluffer’s response makes a great pickup line. Ready? He says ‘Anything spicy that will make your mouth numb for a while but will not deter you from eating the same for your next meal!!!’

Mum wrote saying ‘Love can taste hot n spicy or deliciously creamy n sweet….. Depending on the mood!’ My woowoo sister said ‘It tastes like warm sweet velvety Kaety Aunty’s caramel pudding.’ Wow mum, that’s huge!

A cuzzie said ‘For me barbecue sauce, sweet smoky sticky and yummy’ and yet another had this description. She simply said ‘Strawberries.’ Strawberries must be popular, because I just had another friend say ‘True love tastes like pavlova with strawberries and bubbles. But a picnic with French baguette and cheese and a lovely chilled white wine is love too.’  

The Irish must love their berries because Sheena said ‘Delicious raspberries drizzled in cream… Ah that makes me think of home. We used to have “organic” raspberry bushes (organic as in we did nothing to them).’

Lots of kids said ‘Chocolate mud cake’ and their mum is still thinking about her answer. (But she got featured in the death row question so I might not wait till she replies!)

Then there was Taz. She said ‘Wow what a question! I’m inclined to answer with something sweet because it has good connotations. It tastes like the sweet light fluffiness of fairy floss and meringues.’ I also love this other reply – ‘Rose petal ice cream, martini, etc. Rose petal anything.’  

And then this from Shobanana. ‘Love tastes like a full meal. From tickling starters, some boring veggies, some interesting side dishes, lots of rice to keep you full and plenty of spicy kolambu to keep you going. And finally the sweet dessert to satisfy you. It is a bit of everything that I taste. If it weren’t for it all then there would be no balance.’

But I think my favourite one of all was Zinn’s. It deserves two separate paragraphs. She said, and I have to quote, ‘Oh god! Love! Love is an ocean-wide banquet full of unexpected delights and jolts, sweetness and craving. It tastes sometimes as crystal as water and other times as heavy as buttery-sugary-to-die-for-mouth-wateringly-delicious-chocolate-cheesecake.

It tastes like the comfort of a cup of tea on a rainy day and the indulgence of melted cheese like a big hug to your insides. It’s so unexpected that sometimes you bite into a particularly sweet-looking kiwi and it tastes like chillies that spark a fire. It is every lovely, warm, sweet, spicy, intense yet smooth, crackly yet enticing flavour that I could ever think of…’    

I thank you all for sharing your answers with me. I suppose I must share back with you and say love is holding warm kind hands with the people I love. It is a hug that trigger oxytocin and serotonin and it is a cup of tea in the Bollywood Zen Pergola… my children snuggled up by my side, the scent of jasmine and the sound of friends and family talking and laughing. Bamboo swishing in the breeze, my husband stoking the fire in preparation for our marshmallow toasting night…and the moon slowly rising…    

Tell me. What does love taste like to you?

Dee x 


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what rhymes with ‘DELHI’

It’s hard when you live away from home for so many years. You come back and see things with such different eyes…

 

Women clutch their handbags so SO close. Men walk arm in arm and don’t think twice about sharing icecream from a single cup. They also have glorious moustaches. Children go to bed at the most ridiculous times.

  
  
My Madras smells like coconut oil and jasmine flowers. And did you know only 1 in about every 10 people wrap you in their arms and give you a jolly good great big hug. With damp patches under their arms. It cannot be helped. We are all going to drown in our collective sweat here.

And there is a lot of noise. Always. Loud talking. Loud horns. Loud calls to prayer. Loud street music. 

   
   

Would I change all this? Not. For. The. World. Because this is where I grew up, it’s all I knew for the first 20 years of my life. It’s where I feel at HOME. And the food. Please don’t make me cry thinking about the food.

We started our holiday with Mahiar’s Biryani. It is a long standing tradition at home that that’s what we eat for our first meal. He loads it up with pieces of succulent mutton and bones filled with marrow that can be sluuuked out in one gusty shot! Then you have to sleep it off for an hour or three and wake up and have some chai. We actually had this two days in a row just because we could.

The next few days went by in a blur. Sweet and spicy daal, masala fried fish, mums oogly boogly amazing cauliflower bacon bake, garlic bread, mutton ras… the list goes on and on. 

As if that were not enough. Greed then got the better of me and I longed to eat chicken malai tikka and daal roti at my favourite restaurant. So off I went with a couple of crazy girlfriends and we ate till we popped at the seams. One of them even taught me what I should do in the event I want to rob a bank. 

  (Chicken malai kebab. My undoing)

  (Disguise. In case you need to rob a bank). 

And this then, my dear friends, was my complete and utter undoing. When you’ve lived overseas for so long you tend to have very sanitized insides. You forget how quickly – and why – Delhi rhymes with Belly. Man oh man. Suffice to say for the rest of the week I lived on jam and toast, lots of lime juice, an occasional chappati and when I was really feeling fantastic, curd and hot white steamed rice. Uurgh. 

But like any brave soldier, soldier on I did. I’ve loaded up on the homeopathy, the ayurveda, the home remedies and even some positive thinking. I think I’m ready to go out again and conquer the food world.

Between yesterday and today I’ve eaten possibly the world’s best Indian Chinese. Twice! I’ve had ginger chicken and dragon chicken and this mind blowingly delicious lollipop chicken. (Yes. There’s plenty of chicken). I’ve eaten an ice-cream sundae at Haagen-Dazs and paan icecream and a DIY butterscotch and nut bar at Ibaco. 

   
   

Next I want to tackle the old haunts. Ajnabi. Oh Ajnabi, how I long to step into the slightly dirty, oily confines of your chaat shop. Saravana Bhavan of old, I need to compare you with the dosas your sister store makes in Sydney. Cakes n’ Bakes, do you still make that sickeningly sweet, disgustingly delicious Japoise Pastry? Ponnuswamys, Samco, how about some Chicken 65 and Egg Masala?

Be still my beating heart. We still have two weeks to go. Dee x

  
  


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lettuce turnip the beet

This is how little vegetables tickle my fancy. I had to google ‘funny vegetable quotes‘ to even come up with the title of this post. A friend of mine once said my blog was a vegetarian’s worst nightmare. That same friend said it was a carnivore’s orgasm! I’m secretly pleased, (that’s my pleased face below) but you didn’t hear it from me.
  
Now don’t get me wrong. I LUUURVE veges. I just have no idea how to cook them. I mean I can roast veges as well as the next person and they’re pretty damn tasty (but that’s because the roast drippings cover them in oogle boogle deliciousness.)

So to make up for turning the gentle stomachs of vegetarian’s around the world with my (beautiful oom nom nom nom) pulled pork recipe, I promised myself I’d attempt something sans meat. Today we had lunch at a friend’s house and she asked that I bring the coleslaw. ‘Coleslaw’. Yes. Coleslaw. You mean vegetarian? Like you mean you don’t want me to chop bacon in to it? Yes. Yip. Yup. Oui. Cole.Slaw. And what better chance to prove I can vegetarianify food or something or whatever the term is, than today?

After a bit of half-arsed research I concluded that coleslaw wasn’t rocket science but the traditional recipes just. sounded. so. bland. I decided to just wing it, imagining a Vietnamese pork roll while shopping. I came home armed with some cabbage. Green and red. Some chili. Some mint and coriander and carrots. 

From then on it was one big chop fest and I just mixed all these gorgeous ribbony bits of veges into a bowl. For the dressing I used salt and pepper, a good blob of crushed garlic paste and sesame oil. It still tasted too rich..too mayo-eggy-yuck. So in went half a cup of Greek Yoghurt. Boy did that do the trick. Oh, that and a sprinkle of my new favourite Saltbird Citrus Salt. It goes in everything!

  
Try this coleslaw. It’s great! It really IS a vegetarian delight. Especially inside a lovely warm soft roll with some freshly shredded pulled pork or even some supermarket hot roast chook. What? Chicken’s not a vegetable??!!

Lettuce turnip the beet. Dee x


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it’s a full moon ya filthy animal!

I’ve never actually followed a recipe before. I can’t cook from them. So when I was approached by ITC to share a recipe my immediate reaction was one of panic. (And glee. But panic was the overriding emotion). 

How do you share a recipe for something you’ve never cooked? With 6000 people? Why, you just open the fridge and pantry and pray like mad!

Today I’m sharing my version of smokey sticky slightly salty simply super pulled pork. And when I was marinating it all I wanted to do was put on my boots and cowboy hat and pull out my (imaginary) gun from its shiny leather holster. And twirl it around and in my best Southern Accent shout “Its a full moon tonight and you’re goin down ya filthy animal!”

This dish is not for the faint hearted. It’s pig, er I mean big. And bold and bloody and so damn beautiful it’s making me cry. (I think I’m crying because THERE IS NO VEGETARIAN SUBSTITUTE!!!) So without further ado let’s see how we go. A picture may be a good place to start.

  

Caramelise about half a cup of raw sugar till it starts to spit and smoke (it looked like the moon in my photo). Open one of those beautiful little cans of tomato purée and add it to the pot. Whack on a nice big blob of crushed garlic (fresh would be awesome but I’ve run out) and add salt to this concoction. I have to say I love my smoked garlic-herb salt only second to my husband and children. If you can get your hands on some, you too can pretend to be a good cook!

To this I add some cinnamon for family warmth, nutmeg for stability, paprika because I had an accent going on inside my head and lastly turmeric because you can take the girl out of India but you cannot take India out of the girl. If you’re cooking meat, always add turmeric. Just a pinch will do. It’s antiseptic and I’m claiming it makes all meat safer. 

Plonk the pork (I used a 2.5kg shoulder) on a big X that you’ve created with two lengths of foil. Stab it with the biggest knife you’ve got. Don’t worry about it looking nice. It won’t! Coat it with that sweet smokey marinade and let it be for a couple of hours.

Wrap up the foil parcel, place it on an oven tray and leave it in a preheated oven at about 160 for 2.5-3 hours. I learnt the foil trick from my friend Jamie. You know… the one who has a product range at Woollies! So atleast I know that part of the recipe has been tested and works. 

  
And that’s it. You could serve it warm with nachos, coleslaw, in wraps with some guacamole, as a burger… The possibilities are endless. In the words of Homer Simpson, “Ah the pig. Such a wonderful, marvelous animal.”

  
Enjoy. Share some photos of how your version turns out. (Cowboy dress-ups not mandatory). Dee x


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why would you go to an irish woman’s house?

To eat curry of course!! And what a mighty fine rogan josh it was. Made lovelier because I didn’t have to cook it. (Not that I’ve ever cooked a curry from scratch but still!!). 

So allow me to introduce Lisa. This lovely dear friend who cooks with passion and loves with heart. And has her own amazing blog where she Junk’d the Junk and had inspired many a yummy meal at our house. 

 

And she even wrote a guest blog post for me. She gives me a lot more credit than I’m due, but thank you gorgeous girl. One day I will hit you up for that rogan josh recipe but in the meanwhile I’ll just pop over next time you make some! So without any further ado here’s Lisa…

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If you are meant to be shot – you won’t drown!

Let me explain. I’ve a new old friend. I’ve known this woman for a few years and I feel like we had been on the cusp of a friendship for some time. Recently though it’s changed from an acquaintance into something more. 


Why the title of this this post? Well its simple, this new old friendship nearly never happened. My new friend became seriously unwell and was in a coma for some time last year. However being the tough nut fighter that she is, she did the virtually impossible and survived. I’m very glad that she did!


Lovely Dee who is beautiful inside and out. The most generous girl you could meet– if you say something like “what a lovely bracelet” it’s off her wrist and on yours in a flash. I’m very proud to call you my friend. 


Anyway enough smushy stuff already, onwards and upwards and all that. 

We went to an Italian / Lebanese charity cookery class, demonstration and feast a few weeks ago. It was so great. The demonstrators Marta and Tina were funny and engaging.


Their food was amazing. There was Panzanella, Gnocchi Potato and Bean Soup, Hommus, Baba Ghannouj, Parmigiana, Chicken Taouk, Roast Potatoes & Rosemary, Tabbouli, Tiramisu and Baklava. I rolled home.


The atmosphere was chilled and comfortable, the company was excellent and it was for a great cause, fundraising to support the School of St Jude in Tanzania that provides free education to children, who are not able to access private schools. You can find out more about it here www.schoolofstjude.org  


The stand out dish of the evening for me was Tina’s Baba Ghannouj. Look I know I know – Aubergine aka Eggplant is not something I ever got enthusiastic about. That was before. Tina she has changed my view on these shiny purple veggies – no longer are they the slimy oily things I dislike. They have been transformed into one of my very favourite ingredients. I’ve made this dip four times since the cookery class and Hubby#1, Children#1, 2 & 3 and myself are all elbowing each other out of the way to get to the bowl. 

So here it is Tina’s amazing Baba Ghannouj. 


Ingredients

2 Aubergines

2-3 big tablespoons tahini 

1-2 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 large lemon

1-2 tsp salt

1 tablespoon olive oil & some to garnish

Pomegranate seeds – or chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish

  


Heat your oven to the highest temp. I rub a little olive oil all over the skin of the Aubergines. Put the onto a grill tray and put into the hot oven for about 10 minutes – turn over and put back for another 10 mins. The time really depends on your oven. You want to blacken the skin and cook the flesh inside. Then peel the skin off and set aside to cool and drain for about 15 mins. 


Meanwhile crush your garlic cloves and juice the lemon. When the aubergines have cooled drain off any excess liquid. Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and whiz until smooth. You can do this by hand either just mash up with a fork and use some “elbow grease”. You can add more tahini, lemon, garlic to your taste. We like it with a good bit of tahini in my house.


Now to make it look pretty to serve, scoop in into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drizzle the olive oil over the top and scatter over the pomegranate seeds or chopped parsley. It’s so yum. Serve with flat breads, vegetable stick or crackers. I also like to put great big spoons onto a salad as a dressing. Enjoy. Thanks Tina for the introduction to Baba Ghannouj.


Here we all are enjoying the feast after the Italian-Lebanese Cookery Class. Notice how all the plates are empty – everything was gobbled up. Just shows how yummy it was!