Kakori House, CCI – Mumbai

When I Googled ‘best biryani in Mumbai’ Kakori House came out on top. As much as we would have loved to go, it was a little to far and the Kakori House outlet at the CCI was closed that day. We ended up going to another place for Biryani but at the back of my mind I knew it had to try the biryani at Kakori House.

I had my chance when we wanted to grab a quick bite after seeing a play at the NCPA. CCI was walking distance and it sounded perfect! We reached Kakori House at about 9:30pm. We knew we were pushing it because closing time was 10 pm. Or rather, the time for the last order was 10 pm. S and I were probably 2 of the 8 people there that late. We were hungry and were praying that we would have hot food at our table in as little time as possible. Fortunately our server was quick on his feet and got us the menu quickly.  We already knew we wanted the Vegetable Dum Biryani but needed to order something else too. A quick look told us something not too heavy but just enough to satisfy that little bit of hunger that would remain after the biryani would be a wrap.  We settled on an Adraki Paneer Tikka wrap.

What impressed me was that the roomali roti was whole wheat. It is the first time I have heard of a roomali roti being whole wheat! Anything whole wheat always makes me happy. We did tell the server we were super hungry and he said he would get the food as soon as possible. True to his word, we had the wrap on our table in about  10 minutes.  I normally enjoy eating paneer at a place where they have meat specialities because they marinate the paneer and potatoes very well just as they would do for meat. So I was quite excited to eat the paneer wrap. The wrap was quite filled up and the Adraki flavour was mild. The whole wheat roomali roti was very chewy and I did not quite enjoy  it. I would have liked the paneer to have more flavour and for the roti to have been slightly less chewy.  Maybe with fewer layers to the wrap.

With a disappointing start to our meal, I was hoping that thebiryani lived up to the hype. The veggies in the biryani were cooked just right where they had a slight bite and the biryani was lightly flavoured. It tasted of delicate spices like Saffron and nutmeg. All in all it was cooked very well and had very Mughlai flavors.

The experience at Kakori House wasn’t mind blowing and I have a feeling that their vegetable curries and rotis would have been a better bet.  I guess I will have to try it again and write another review for it!

I would give Kakori House a 3 out of 5 for their well cooked food yet it had a bit of a missing element. To next time there for a better rating, hopefully!

Khyber Restaurant, Fort – Mumbai

You know that feeling when you’ve walked by a place a hundred times and finally when you go in, you wonder, “Why haven’t I been here sooner?” That’s exactly how I felt when I went to Khyber. Khyber is opposite Rhythm House in Fort and looks like the tiniest restaurant from outside. We wanted to celebrate S’s big achievement and were wondering what to do for dinner. Punjabi/Indian food was our obvious choice, but where to go? Khyber came up to be the most voted option. The crazy love I have for Zomato and Burrp, I snuck online to check the reviews. Most said it was good, but a few said it was ok. I was a little skeptical when we went and am so happy to say my skepticism was totally wiped away when we entered!

Just as we were about to enter, I thought, “this looks like a cute little restaurant.” I assumed it would have a seating capacity of about 70ish people. When we entered the restaurant, I was in love with its design. I felt like I had entered some restaurant in another era. They have a beautiful painting by the famous Indian artist, Anjali Ela Menon at the entrance. You see a marble staircase leading you up to the upper floors of the restaurant. There is a lot of white stone/sand stone used on the walls and for the sculptures. Vintage Indian wooden doors, lamps and large metal pots are used to accentuate the décor.

We were about 8 people and went up to one of the more private rooms. It feels like you’re in a cave and I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling. The space was so much more private. I was thankful that the restaurant wasn’t too loud or perhaps we were isolated from the noise. The crockery is simple and tasteful and staff was reasonably attentive. For a section that could seat about 15 people, there were 3 servers and 1 captain. I do appreciate having good service in a fine dining restaurant and an understaffed restaurant is just a turn off. We were handed over the menus and I went into my little world to drool over all the yummy things available and their description.

We started off by ordering the tandoori aloo, which is stuffed with dry fruits, mashed potatoes and spices and decided to order a vegetarian platter so we could try a whole bunch of things. The platter was HUGE! The paneer was soft and beautifully flavored. It wasn’t spicy at all and I loved it! The reshmi broccoli was cooked well and very mildly flavored. The baby corn pakoras were coated in a batter and deep-fried and the kebabs were cooked in a tandoor and covered in a delicious spice. The starters were all lovely, though I have eaten better reshmi broccoli at the Four Seasons, Udaipur. They were more than enough for our party of 8 and I would have loved to eat only appetizers as mains.

We did decide to order just 2 mains since we were full with all the appetizers. We settled for vegetable malai kofta and channa masala. The malai kofta was the best malai kofta I have ever eaten! The gravy was creamy but delicately spiced with saffron, cardamom and other Mughal spices. The koftas themselves were cooked perfectly and were so soft. They went perfectly well with the gravy/curry. The channa masala was completely different from what I would have imagined. That’s when I realized I was thinking of chhole masala and this was channa masala. The main flavor was that of asafoetida in my opinion and was a little spicier compared to the malai kofta. Together, the vegetables complemented each other and created a lovely balance.

I was told that the Maa ki Dal was one of the most famous dishes of Khyber. Being a lover of Dal Makhani, i decided I would love to try it. The dal was wonderful! It was perfectly spiced and was not as creamy as a dal makhani. If I can be a little poetic, it felt like the spices were dancing on my tongue! I wish I hadn’t eaten as much for dinner so I would be able to do complete justice to the dal.

Our meal was in celebration of S’s achievement and it was an absolute perfect celebration! The food was excellent, the ambience was beautiful and the service was good. We had a lovely time and I can’t wait to go back again! If you are going to visit Mumbai or have international guests, you must go to Khyber. It has been around for years and is like a Mumbai Classic restaurant. Its also a great choice to go for a date.The next time we do go, it’s going to be a Maa ki Dal and Malai Kofta meal for me! I still can’t them out of my head! They were so good!!

Will I go there again??? OMG! I can’t wait to go back again!! For its amazing food and unique décor, I give Khyber Restaurant, Mumbai a 4.5/5.

Restaurant Timings: 12:30 PM-3:30 PM, 7:30 PM to 11:30 PM
Contact Information: 02222673227, 02240396666, 02222673229

Quick White Cheese Sauce

One of the most well-traveled and well-known dishes is definitely pasta. Its versatility and simplicity has made it popular in almost all countries. Pizzas and pastas have become something that you know you can always depend on. They can be modified to your taste and are always fresh. I love how pasta is interpreted in so many ways. Every city I go to, it has a different taste. In the US, pasta is a rich, creamy dish that is almost like a staple in every household. The pasta is usually cooked al-dente and the sauces have beautiful flavors coming through it. In the UK, the flavors are lighter and I often feel the need to add a dash of pepper on the table and as most Indians need, the spice element. In India, depending on the city and the restaurant, you have so much variety. In the Little Italy chain of restaurants across India, you have somewhat authentic pasta. After trying some other Italian restaurants, I have come to realize that the food served in their restaurants definitely have a strong Indian influence.  Dario’s in Pune makes more authentic Italian food with fresh ingredients. It has definitely become my favorite place if I am ever craving some nice pasta! I may have been to the wrong restaurant but in Ahmedabad, India, their understanding of pasta is a dish filled with cheese. Honestly, not my favorite kind of meal!

 

Making a white cheese sauce was one of the first recipes I ever adapted and learnt. I used to make a giant mess while making a white sauce from flour and butter and milk. It would always be lumpy or burnt. What trick I did learn later was to take the melted butter and flour mixture off the heat and gradually add milk. I started whisking the milk in instead of trying to mix it in with a wooden spoon. I also learnt that if it does lump up, take a hand beater to it or put it in a blender, after its cooled, to get rid of the lumps.

 

This white-cheese sauce is a take on a traditional Alfredo sauce, though it is not at all technically like an Alfredo sauce. I am confident this sauce has a lower fat content but probably the same calories as an Alfredo. This sauce requires 2 separate pans for the two sauces.

 

Sauce 1: The basic white sauce

 

Ingredients:

 

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil

3 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 – 1.5 cups milk

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

salt and pepper to taste

 

Method:

  • Heat the butter or oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Once hot, add the whole-wheat flour and stir constantly using a wooden spoon for about 1 minute.
  • Once the flour has browned slightly, take the pan off the heat and pour 1 cup of the milk in. Whisk briskly to make sure there are no lumps. If the mixture seems to thick, slowly add the rest of the milk, while whisking constantly.
  • Return the mixture to the heat. Allow it to boil for 3-4 minutes while stirring constantly.
  • Add the crushed garlic, salt and pepper and reduce the flame to low. Allow it to cook for another 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow the mixture to cool slightly.

 

Sauce 2: Cheese-Herb Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons plain cheese spread
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried chilly flakes
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon pepper powder
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

 

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pan on a medium flame. Add all the dried herbs and pepper and allow the oil to become flavorsome for just under a minute.
  • Reduce the flame to low. Add the cheese spread and allow it to melt. Be sure to constantly stir it and mix all the herbs in the cheese.
  • Once the cheese has melted, add all the milk and stir. Make sure there are no lumps.

 

Proceed:

  • Once the 2nd mixture is ready, add the white sauce mix to the cheese-herb sauce and mix well.
  • Allow the mixture to come to a boil.

 

Your quick sauce is ready! Toss your favorite pasta in this mix!

 

I spice it up by adding some tobacco or peri-peri sauce once it’s cooked. Alternately, substitute the ½ cup of milk in the cheese-herb sauce with ½ cup of white wine to give a different flavor. Feel free to add more herbs or change the herbs based on your taste!

 

Some variations:

  • Add some corn to this mixture and allow it to thicken a little more and fill in canapés.
  • Use only the cheese-herb sauce and throw in some finely chopped button mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to sweat and then for the mixture to thicken. Once thick, spread over toast and you have mushrooms on toast ready!
  • I use the cheese-herb sauce in risotto recipes as well.

Happy cooking!

Shahi Paneer Recipe – The Low-Cal version!

I love paneer. It is a very common Indian farmer’s cheese in India and is often called ‘farmer’s cottage cheese’ in menu descriptions in restaurants across India. I decided to do some research and discovered  a few differences between paneer and cottage cheese:

  • Cottage cheese is salted while paneer is unsalted
  • Paneer is usually ‘pressed’ to give it a firm shape. Cottage cheese is not pressed and is left ‘chunky’
  • Cottage cheese is made using milk that has been curdled using ‘rennet’ while to make paneer, the milk is curdled using lemon/lime juice or some citric acid.

I can’t decide if the restaurants’ menu descriptions are right or wrong. What do you think?

Any ways, paneer is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and if it is made with low-fat milk and is not fried, it is a very healthy milk product. Nutritionists in India tend to recommend it to vegetarians to help improve their protein intake. It’s great for growing children and the taste is wonderful so they tend to lap it up. My brother and I love it and we have to order something which has paneer in it when we go to an Indian restaurant!

Since I started working, I have very little time to go out and eat and I tend to cook a few of my favorite foods at home like this Shahi Paneer. Shahi literally means royal and this dish, traditionally is made with cream, fried paneer pieces and exotic spices like bay leaves, cardamom, cashew nuts and some saffron. Now, if I did put all those ingredients in my version of the Shahi Paneer and I ate it 2 times a week, my nutritionist would throw me out of her office. Here is my low cal version of the same dish. All the delicious flavors, fewer calories and a lower fat content.

Shahi Paneer – The Low Cal Way

Ingredients:

  1. Paneer – 200 gms; cut in cubes
  2. Ginger – 1/2″ grated
  3. Garlic – 2 to 3 cloves, chopped finely
  4. 2 tomatoes – chopped
  5. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (adjust to your tastes)
  7. 1 teaspoon cardamom (eliachi) powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  9. 1/2 teaspoon jeera (cumin seed) powder
  10. 1 teaspoon jeera (cumin) seeds
  11. 1-2 bay leaves
  12. a small pinch of nutmeg powder
  13. Salt, to taste
  14. 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  15. 1 cup yogurt, beaten
  16. 1/2 cup milk (slightly warmed)
  17. 2 teaspoons of oil (if using a non stick vessel)

Steps:

  • Heat the oil in a non stick wok on a medium flame for a minute and add the bay leaves. Once the leaves begin crackling, add the cumin and cardamom seeds to it. Wait for the seeds to start releasing their flavors, about 15 seconds if the oil is hot enough
  • Add the ginger and garlic and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes to the wok and mix them in well with the cumin seeds, ginger and garlic. Cover and allow to cook for 5 minutes, checking periodically on them. Add the tomato ketchup to the tomatoes and let it cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Once the tomatoes are nice and soft, add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, garam masala, cumin seed powder and the nutmeg powder. Stir them all in. If the mixtures looks very dry, add half a cup of water and allow to cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Next add the yogurt to the tomato-masala mix and let it boil for 5-7 minutes.
  • Once the yogurt mixture has reduced, add the cubes of paneer. You can deep fry them if you like, but since I like to keep it low cal, I use the paneer raw.
  • Turn the heat off and add the milk. Stir and serve immediately.

Notes:

– I don’t eat onions (don’t like the taste) which is why I have omitted them in this recipe. You will not find onions in most of the recipes I will post. But feel free to use 1 onion, finely chopped and fried in the oil before adding the tomatoes. Allow the onions to turn transparent and then add the tomatoes.

– You can make a richer version of this dish by using 1/2 cup of cashew nut paste. Add it to the tomato mixture and use    water (1.5 cups) to dilute it. Reduce the quantity of yogurt to 1/2 cup of completely omit it.

– You can also add some cream instead of milk if you are making it for a special occasion or if you just want to indulge yourself! 🙂

Happy cooking and let me know how your Shahi Paneer turns out! 😀