Sharmi on the Trot

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Review: Amreli, Hotel Diplomat

Welcome to Amreli

Welcome to Amreli

There’s something charming and gorgeous when you walk into an old building. Maybe it has something to do with nostalgia because the moment I walked into Hotel Diplomat, I was transported to a grandmother’s ancestral home back in Calcutta. The old-fashioned styled house with verandahs and railings nestled amidst greenery makes one feel welcome, makes one feel refreshed. What is so fabulous about Amreli, their restaurant, is that one can choose to sit indoors or outdoors amidst the luscious greenery. I would have loved to sit outdoors but rain played spoilsport. Well, there’s always a next time isn’t it.

The pretty menu

The pretty menu

Interesting concept
Amreli is an interesting concept which has been started by Sidhant Lamba. A cross between a diner and bistro, the 105-seating capacity upscale restaurant is perfect for families, friends or/and a perfect date. From the art hanging on the walls to the chequered flooring, the use of purple and gold on paper table mats with elephant-shaped side plates, Amreli offers a nice sobering ambiance, perfect for an elegant evening. The service was really good as everyone made me feel welcome, right from the time I entered till the time I left.

The restaurant

The restaurant

Comfortable seating

Comfortable seating

Delicious Starters

Peek-a-boo with the vegetarian dimsums

Peek-a-boo with the vegetarian dimsums

Amreli offers North Indian, South Indian and Pan Asian cuisines. I decided to try Pan Asian simply because I was craving it the past couple of days. And Chef Neelam made sure I wasn’t disappointed. The Chilli Prawns with coconut, scallion, pepper and onion were perfect as were the platter of vegetarian dim sums. Steamed perfectly, each bite was a delight. The prawns were cooked fine and the hints of chilli absolutely didn’t overpower. The size of the prawns and quantity left me impressed.

Hello there prawns

Hello there prawns

View from the top

View from the top (see the pretty flooring!)

Mains & Sweets
With two starters consumed along with a glass of Old Fashioned (did I mention they have a fabulous cocktail menu? Well, check it out for yourself when you visit!) I asked Chef Neelam for a tasting platter for the mains. The wait for a bit long-ish but when the food came, I wished I had more space in my stomach to eat more. For the vegetarian tasting platter there was Tofu in Sambal Sauce, Mushroom in Black Bean Sauce along with rice and noodles. The non-vegetarian platter had Red Thai Chicken Curry and Balinese Prawn Curry with sticky rice and fried rice. I like vegetarian food but the tofu blew me away. Given a choice I wouldn’t have ordered for it but I’m glad Chef Neelam made it. The softness of the Tofu was perfect with the spicy Sambal sauce. The Red Thai Chicken Curry was perfectly balanced with sticky rice and the prawns stood out on their own. I know what to eat when I go back next!
For dessert, Chef brought out a Flourless Chocolate Fudge Cake and Tiramisu. I would surely recommend the Tiramisu because the taste was great and it was light. The fudge cake tasted nice but it was too heavy for me personally to enjoy after such a decadent meal.

The non-veg platter

The non-veg platter – chicken and prawns

The vegetarian platter

The vegetarian platter – tofu and mushrooms

Close ups, smile please :)

Close ups, smile please 🙂

The light as feather Tiramisu

The light as feather Tiramisu

Decadent Fudge

Decadent Fudge

Would I go back?
Whenever visiting a new restaurant, the last question I ask myself after a meal is would I go back. If I say yes, there are three aspects involved in that decision. One, is the food obviously. Second, the price and third, the ambiance. After visiting Amreli, it was an easy decision for me. The food is definitely worth the money and the ambiance is wonderful. If you find yourself in Chanakyapuri, do go visit.

Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Hotel Diplomat, 9 Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, #011 46050200

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Slowcooked Coriander Chicken

I will be called incorrect for the usage of the term slow cooking but I’m purely talking from a personal perspective. No I don’t use a slow cooker not do I cook for hours end which old Royal recipes call for. I’ve always favoured easy and jiffy cooking but when I get the luxury to relax, I make myself a cup of fragrant Darjeeling, bring out a book I’ve been trying to finish. I sip and read while I slow cook whatever I’ve put on the gas.
There’s nothing to beat the smell of fresh coriander and I love using the herb as a flavour base in cooking rather than just relegating it to garnishing. The combination of chicken and coriander is simply a way to greet winter. It sums up beautifully what a winter afternoon should be like.
This slow cooked chicken dish has the perfect combination of spice and fragrance. It’s not too hot neither too bland and is best served on the centre of the table with rice and raita as accompaniments!

Ingredients
For Marination
500g chicken
3 tbs yoghurt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
Pinch of salt

For Curry
Handful curry leaves
1 tbs black mustard seeds
Handful (or more) coriander (Chop the stalks and keep the leaves aside)
1 red chilly (deseeded, finely chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 tomato (chopped)
2 tbs tomato puree
Salt to taste
1 tbs vegetable oil

– Wash and clean the chicken pieces and add the ginger-garlic paste. Mix the spice powders with the yoghurt. Add to the chicken with a pinch of salt and let it marinade overnight.
– In a hot wok add the oil.
– Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once the seeds start to sputter add the chopped onion, garlic and red chilly. If you like it very hot, keep the chilly seeds in.
– Once this is well sauteed, add the coriander stalks.
– You’ll start to smell the frangrance of coriander in a bit. Add the tomato now and slowly let it become slightly mushy.
– Add the overnight marinaded chicken to this. Add the tomato puree and salt.
– Put the gas on low. Clamp on a lid and let it cook for about an hour.
– Halfway through, add some coriander leaves to the chicken and continue cooking.
– Garnish with more coriander leaves and eat hot with rotis/rice/bread.

A bowl of deliciousness!

A bowl of deliciousness! Top view!

Greens and chicken!

Greens and chicken!

Hot And Sour Chicken Soup with Brown Rice

I love soups. They are comforting and healthy (usually). I love those days when you want to stay in bed with a book and making soup to feed yourself hardly takes time. I love those snug winter evenings when only hot soups can warm you. This one time in Kathmandu, while winter was receeding and it wasn’t yet summer, only a homemade bowl of hot soup could uplift me! And those soups taste the best!
In the winters I prefer the thick continental ones which need to be pureed. In the summers I prefer more broth-based ones which are simple to make and easy on the stomach.
Most South East Asian broths call for handmade egg noodles in them. I prefer to add brown rice in mine because it’s healthier and makes a wholesome balanced meal. Devour a bowl and you’re left satisfied.
PS: Since I’ve been on this South-East Asian flavours swing for a couple of weeks now, making this over and over again is my excuse!
Ingredients
250g boiled chicken (shredded)
1 small carrot (chopped finely)
1 onion (chopped finely)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped finely)
2 tsp Tom Yum paste
1 cup button mushrooms (roughly chopped)
1 cup oyster mushrooms (shredded with hands)
1 litre chicken stock
1 lime (juiced)
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup brown rice
Salt to season
Handful bean sprouts
chives to decorate
1 tsp vegetable oil
– Heat the oil in a deep container which can hold a lot of liquid
– Sweat the carrots, onion and garlic till fragnant (about two minutes)
– Add the Tom Yum paste and saute till everything is a nice reddish colour
– Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil
– Then bring the stock to a gentle simmer. Add the mushrooms, salt, boiled chicken and brown rice.
– Clamp on a lid and let the soup be till the rice is cooked through. (about 10 minutes)
– Pour the lemon juice, fish sauce and give everything a good stir. Check for seasoning.
– Ladle a serving in a bowl, garnish with chives and bean sprouts!
A bowl of warmth in winter!

A bowl of warmth in winter!

Chicken and Spinach tossed in Oyster Sauce

I was recently chatting with a friend on a day when Delhi experienced sudden showers. I was literally in bed all day and only dragged myself out to eat. The weather was perfect for deep-fried goodness and lots of coffee.
We Indians love the Indo-Chinese concoctions we’ve created – Sweetcorn soup, Chicken Manchurian and the classic Chilly Chicken. So when O mentioned her homemade versions of chilly chicken (she makes it dry, deep fried or lathered in gravy) it instantly made me drool. So out came the pans, laziness all forgotten. Keeping O’s recipe in mind, I played around with the basic to create something hot and delicious, perfect for a rainy evening.

Ingredients
500g boneless chicken (cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 cup baby spinach
8-10 cloves of garlic
1 inch ginger
1 big onion
1 green bell pepper
2 tbs Dark Soy sauce
2 tbs Vinegar
2 green chilly (optional)
3 tbs Oyster sauce
1 tbs vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Coriander to garnish

Method

– Grate about 5 cloves garlic and the ginger together. Mix with salt,
soy and vinegar and add to chicken. Marinade for 30 minutes.

– Chop the remaining cloves of garlic, onion, bell pepper and chilly.

– Heat the oil in a wok. Add the garlic, onion and chilly first. Once
softened, add the bell pepper and fry for about 2 minutes.

– At this point add the marinated chicken. Then the Oyster sauce.

– Once the chicken is almost cooked through, add the baby spinach and stir everything in the pan till done to perfection.

– Garnish with coriander and serve hot!

I felt like eating it straight out of the pan!

I felt like eating it straight out of the pan!

All pretty and healthy!

All pretty and healthy!

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Paprika, Lime and a Sweet Chilly Glaze

The combination of sumac and smoked paprika is so heavenly. I love the mixture of smokiness and tangy fruitiness on roasted chicken. On my recent trips to Egypt and Spain, I raided local markets as usual and came home with spices. Instead of the usual mixture of the two, I went one step further this time, adding more tanginess, heat and sweet to the chicken. It barely takes anytime to cook, you need one pan (less washing up) and you have a tasty meal. A perfect supper for one.

Ingredients
1 chicken breast
1 clove garlic (chopped)
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp chilly flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs olive oil
Red wine to deglaze the roasting pan
Coriander to garnish

Pre-heat the oven to 200’C.
In a bowl mix the oil, sumac, paprika, salt and lemon zest. In another bowl, mix the honey and chilly flakes.
Make incisions on the chicken breast. Coat it with the spice mixture.
Strew the chopped garlic and lemon juice on the chicken.
Put it into the oven for 25 minutes at 180’C.
With 10 minutes to go, add the sweet chilly mixture on the chicken and let it continue roasting.
After 25 minutes, take the chicken out and cover it in foil to retain the moistness.
Deglaze the roasting pan with red wine on the burner to make a sauce.
Serve the chicken with the sauce and a scattering of coriander.

All moist, tangy, sweet, sour and delicious!

All moist, tangy, sweet, sour and delicious!

Homemade chicken and mushroom puffs

Do you know exactly how easy it is to make puff pastry at home? It is, I assure you. I never like making a dough (rotis are an Indian staple and I’d rather buy them than make them from scratch because something always ends up going wrong with the dough. But with my new-found confidence, that’s about to change, I say).
I was craving, and I really mean craving, for meat puffs that you find in little bakeries. Something you come across after a long walk or jog and as you bite into them, everything seems all right with the world. Since it was a sudden craving, and as they go, it’s difficult to find something you crave on such short notice, I asked myself ‘why not make them at home?’
I’m so glad I made them because as the buttery smell engulfed the kitchen and I saw the puffs turning golden brown in the oven, I couldn’t help but feel proud.

Homemade chicken and mushroom puffs
(Makes 4)
Ingredients
For filling
200g boneless chicken (cut into bite sized pieces)
150g button mushrooms (chopped)
1 small onion (sliced finely)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs dried oregano
1 tbs dried thyme
Half glass Merlot
salt and pepper to taste
Handful chopped coriander

For pastry
250g rice flour
75g cold butter (if unsalted, add salt to the dough)
1cup water
1 egg (beaten)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C.

Start by mixing the flour with cold butter with your fingers in a bowl. Once the butter is mixed properly, bring the dough together with the water. Don’t overwork it. Make 4 disks of equal proportions.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the chopped onion and garlic cloves. When soft, add the chopped chicken, mushrooms, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Add the Merlot after cooking the mixture for 10 minutes. Put on a lid and let it come together. It would take about another 10-15 minutes for the filling to cook well. Add the coriander and mix together at the end.

Roll out each of the disks with an extra dusting of flour to a nice round shape about the size of your palm.

Divide the filling in four parts and place each in the centre of a disk. Brush the sides of the disk with egg and fold them in half like a calzone. Brush the top of the puff with the beaten egg. Do the remaining three puffs like the first and place on a baking tray.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes till nice and crisp. Serve with a salad!

Hot from the oven!

Hot from the oven!

PS: The filling tastes just as good with hot rice. Secondly, feel free to experiment with any sort of filling!

Easy Thai-inspired lunch

These days I’ve been cooking a lot of Thai or Thai-influenced food. Maybe my Thai visa could have something to do with it! Yes yes I shall soon be heading there to taste the authentic stuff but till then, I have to make do with what I can cook at home.
I love the balance of flavours found in the cuisine. The harmony so perfect, no element overpowering the other. Tom Yum Soup is one of my all-time favourites and I make it often for lunch or dinner. But, instead of the usual ingredients, I like to play around sometimes with the unusual. Carrots instead of prawns? Why not I say!
It’s still slightly chilly in Delhi so why not make the most of it, right? So, a simple lunch I did make — Tom Yum soup with carrots accompanied by chicken and basil brown bread sandwiches…

Ingredients
Soup (Serves 4)
1 medium size carrot (chopped)
1 small onion (chopped finely)
1 lemon grass (the tender stalk, chopped)
4 kaffir lime leaves (chopped finely)
1 red chilly (deseeded and chopped finely)
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
3 tsp Tom Yum paste
1 lemon (juice)
1 litre chicken/vegetable stock
Coriander to garnish

Sandwiches
(I’ve started keeping roasted/grilled chicken in the freezer. I can shred it and use it where ever I fancy)
12 slices brown bread (for the health conscious)
2 tbsp mayonnaise
Handful chicken (roasted or grilled but shredded)
8 fresh basil leaves (finely chopped)
1 cube processed cheese (grated)
Salt to taste

In a deep pot with a cover, add all the ingredients (except coriander) for the soup and put it on the heat. Once the stock comes to a boil, simmer it till a gorgeous smell envelopes your kitchen. Garnish with coriander and serve hot.

While the soup is boiling away, mix the mayo, chicken, basil, cheese and salt. Spread evenly on six bread slices and cover with the remaining six. Cut into triangles. An easy lunch under 15 minutes!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
NOTE: Feel free to substitute the chicken with any grilled or roasted vegetables

The Paella craving

I don’t know about you but Facebook is suddenly flooded with this thing known as ‘which city should you live in’. And, almost everyone on my friends list keeps posting Barcelona as their choice. Well, that got me thinking, dreaming about my summer in Barcelona. Gaudi, beaches, sangria, Camp Nou and heavenly paella. What more could I ask for?

Every country has a famous rice-based dish. What biryani and pulao is to India, paella serves the purpose in Spain. Though it started off as a humble dish, visitors flock to Spain every summer just to soak up the sun and taste paella.

Each day in Barcelona was something new for me. Friends, unbelievable architecture… it was such a gorgeous city. I spoke to a friend living there two days ago and she kept asking me to visit soon. Well, someday I know I will go back but this winter evening I needed the warmth and comfort of paella to make me smile. The perfectly cooked saffron-scented rice, the tangy lemon juice sprinkled on every mouthful… Every bite made me long for the city and I thought, just for a moment, I was back at Parc Guell admiring Barcelona which lay before me in all its glory.

Home cooked chicken paella

Ingredients

250 g boneless chicken (cut into bite sized pieces)

4 tb olive oil

1 cup rice (medium grain works best)

1 carrot (chopped)

Handful of french beans (chopped)

1 capsicum (chopped)

3 cups chicken stock

1 onion (chopped)

1 tomato (chopped)

3 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)

saffron (be generous, it gives the gorgeous golden colour)

salt to taste

Serves: 2

The method

Heat oil (about 2 tb) in a flat pan and brown the chicken. Keep aside and add the remaining oil. Saute the onion and garlic. Then add the tomato and cook till tender. Then, add the carrots and beans. Add salt at this point. Once the vegetables are tender, put in the rice and toss about till every grain is nicely coated with the oil. Now comes the best part. Pour in the stock (hot but not steaming) and add the saffron. Put the browned pieces of chicken back in. Put the heat on medium and cover pan with a lid. Let the steam work its magic. 20 minutes later, take off the lid to see fluffy golden rice. Garnish with coriander and lemon. Serve hot!

Paella!

Paella!

PS: I prefer extra veggies when its a chicken/meat paella. Healthy living you see!

Star anise in a curry!

My sister hates to cook. (Well, living with an older food enthusiast sibling has its benefits I guess!) She’s learnt how to live alone when I’m away with dozens of 2 minute instant noodles packets, salads with lemon and salt dressings, salami sandwiches with mayo and mustard… you get the drift. But the day when she suddenly called me at work to ask how much yogurt was needed to marinate chicken, I kid you not, I fell off the chair!
Enough was enough she claimed, ‘I need to eat healthy,’ she said. When you weight 50 kgs and stand 5’3″ tall, with the lean athletic figure everyone secretly wishes for… well, you realise the world could end tomorrow!
But jokes apart, the baby sister has discovered that it’s the chopping, dicing, slicing pre-cooking and the clean up post she dislikes. Not the part where she actually cooks (Thanks to Masterchef re-runs). So, with me away for most of the month, she’s been experimenting in the kitchen (otherwise called the food lab) with chicken recipes. Sometimes with curry leaves and coconut milk, sometimes with ‘bhuna’ masala (the paste derived after cooking through onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes with optional spices) or at times, simply grilled with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of dried herbs.
Having had the opportunity to taste some of the experiments, I’m left craving more. I tried my hand at one of her creations recently and it came out just great. A rather unlikely combination but a fantastic dinner party pleaser.

Yoghurt chicken with star anise

Ingredients
500g chicken with bones (tastes so much better!)
2 cups yoghurt
1 big tomato (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander poweder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chilly powder
4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 bay leaf
Half star anise
4 green cardamom
1 small cinnamon stick
salt to taste
Coriander (to garnish)

The process

Marinate the chicken with yogurt, dry powders and salt according to taste for an hour. Bash the ginger and 2 cloves of garlic. Add it to the marinade.

Heat 1 tablespoon of refined oil in a wok. Meanwhile, take the remaining cloves of garlic, cinnamon, star anise, cardamoms and bash them with all your might with a mortar and pestle. Add the brownish mixture to the hot oil till it sautes through. Then include the finely diced tomato and cook till it disintegrates. Then add the star – the marinated chicken – to the wok. Bring it to a boil, then cover it and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Once the chicken is tender and the gravy has become thick, strew coriander on top and serve hot, Rice or breads are good accompaniments.

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This is a great chicken recipe for the days you don’t have the inclination to cook a fancy meal. Marinate the meat in the morning before leaving for work (it takes exactly 5 minutes). Come back home and cook for 30 minutes while sipping a glass of chardonnay! Easy isn’t it!

PS What is star anise?

It’s the dried, star shaped fruit of Illicium verum indigenous to south eastern China. A signature flavour in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines, it’s one of the stars in Chinese five-spice powder. A little bit goes a long way in terms of its licorice flavour and heavenly smell in meat and vegetable dishes. It’s easily available in any spice shop.

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Summer salads

There’s something about summer. Isn’t it? As a child, summer meant lots of ice creams, trips to the swimming pool, refreshing watermelons and holidays with the parents to the much much cooler mountains.Everyone has a favourite ice cream and mine was (still is) the orange popsicle. Forget the vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, there is something so appealing about the about the tangy after taste and the orange tongue! The evidence of the crime!

But, this post is not about ice creams so let me not digress. The one food which summer is always associated with is a salad. Salads of various kinds, each with a different dressing. It can range from creamy to lemony; from sweet honey mustard to a Vietnamese style salty-chilly. The good thing is, you don’t have to be a Michelin star chef to create a good salad. All that is needed is creativity, the desire to experiment and simple ingredients. (Though if you have the budget, add any expensive item you want! Lobsters, foie gras, cavier, the works!)

Summer lunches at home generally comprise of a salad served with iced tea (homemade of course). It’s filling, tasty and doesn’t need a whole lot of time to prepare. And if you make a large bowl, it takes care of dinner too. I love experimenting with dressings. My store cupboard is stocked with various spices, the fridge with various condiments, the deep freeze with roast chicken, salami, pork and vegetable drawer with, well, vegetables and fruits. So, as I always let my mind wander in the kitchen, my friends end up as guinea pigs!

Roast chicken salad with a lemon dressing

200g of roast chicken, 1 big fat lettuce (can be substituted for iceberg), 1 cucumber, 1 tomato, 3 gherkins, handful of capers, 1 bunch coriander.  For the dressing: 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 lemon (zest and juice), a pinch of chilly flakes, salt to taste.

Dice all ingredients and throw into a big bowl. In a glass jam jar, add the ingredients for the dressing and shake shake shake!

In 10 minutes, you have a fabulous lunch ready!

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Chicken salad with wasabi mayonnaise

Ingredients: 200g roast chicken, 1 big boiled potato, 1 boiled egg, 1 cucumber, 4 gherkins, 5-6 jalapeno slices, handful of olives, some coriander. For the dressing: 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, a good squirt of wasabi paste, half a lemon (zest and juice).

Dice all ingredients in a big salad bowl. Shake the dressing ingredients in a jam jar well. Pour it over the salad and enjoy!

PS: Instead of homemade iced tea, a pint of beer and a side of dumplings go just as well with the summer salads!

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