Sunday, 22 February 2015

Awadhi Food Festival at Seasonal Tastes, The Westin Gurgaon

I’m no expert on North Indian food, but as a lover of food, I'm always on the looking out to learn more. So when I was invited to review the Awadhi Food Festival that’s currently on at Seasonal Tastes, The Westin Gurgaon’s 24 hour restaurant, I just couldn't refuse. I’ve been nursing a slightly dodgy stomach for a while and I was a little nervous about eating rich, spicy food, but the things you do when it comes to learning more about food :) The risk was worth it :)

From what I’ve read about Awadhi cuisine, it originates from Lucknow and is greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques.  The chefs are called bawarchis and the food is synonymous with cooking over a slow fire, also known as the dum style of cooking. And, from my understanding, it is for people who love their meat!

MasterChef Qadir Khan

So off I went, along with two good friends, Sneha (The Kitchen Espion) and Nimi (Matrix Life Magazine). After we enjoyed a few welcome drinks, some thandai and some rooh afza, we got a chance to chat with Executive Chef Deepak Bhatia and Indian Masterchef Qadir Khan, an expert in this style of cooking.  Masterchef Qadir Khan explained to us the care and patience that goes into preparing dishes like raan, kebabs, kormas, nirahi and biryani. He told us that the use of rich spices like cardamom and saffron as well as slow cooking techniques are what makes Awadhi food so special and unique.

Shots of Thandai

Some Gulab Sharbet

First up, we tried some kebabs and grilled meats that are distinct because they are cooked over a Chula. The kebabs were delicious. My favorite was the grilled quail, the Awadhi lamb chops and the kakori kebabs. The meat was perfectly cook, so tender and seemed to literally melt in your mouth. What I loved most was that the spices were so well balanced- no single spice was overpowering. A lot of times when I order kebabs, they are so spicy that I can only taste chilli- my mouth is numbed by the excessive use of chilly :) This wasn’t the case.

Vegetarian kebabs

Grilled marinated lamb chops

Next came the raan and I have to confess that I had a bit of a ‘meatgasm’ moment :) Honestly, I have tried raan only on one prior occasion at Made in Punjab. This raan was a little different, had a little gravy with it. The one I had in Made in Punjab was drier (without gravy, more of a spice rub). I'm not sure which is more authentic, but both are equally delicious. The meat was marinated beautifully and just came off the bone. It was my favorite dish of the evening and I helped myself to several helpings... dodgy stomach be damned! I polished off the rich sauces of the raan with something called Sheermal, a rich, slightly sweet flatbread which had a very delicate cardamom flavour. Something I could probably eat all on its own.

After the raan I tackled the buffet, which was quite a spread consisting of shorbas, kormas, curries, biryanis (chicken, mutton and a vegetarian option too) and desserts. I tried a little bit of everything. The nihari gosht, which I was trying for the first time, blew me away. Nihari is a slowly cooked meat stew that was originally served as a heavy breakfast meal. I'm not sure if it's actually possible for meat to melt, but it sure felt like it did when I bit into it :) And the broth itself was delicate and so comforting. Something I could easily enjoy on a cold winter evening. Note that I'm in no way saying that this is the best nihari I've ever tasted, I'm just saying that I thought it was pretty darn good.

I kept the biryani for the end. I keep hearing a lot of my foodie friends having heated debates about which, between the hyderabadi and lucknowi styles of biryani, is better. After trying the gosht biryani, I can honestly conclude that I am a fan of lucknowi biryani. There is something about the aromatic, almost sweet flavour and delicate taste that isn't overpowered with spice and chilli. 

From the dessert section, I tried the Sewiya ka muzzafer (Hand made sewiya cooked with dry nuts and mawa), Kubani ka meeta (Dry apricot cooked in sugar syrup and finish with saffron and nuts) and phirni. I wasn’t too impressed with the sewiya or the apricot dessert, but loved the phirni, which was rich, creamy and not overly sweet.

[Image courtesy Sneha Lata Saikia]

The Awadi Food Festival is on till 28th February so do go and check it out.

[All images by Shalini Pereira unless otherwise mentioned. Please do not use without prior written permission]

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Some Gorgeous Contemporary Lamps

I've realised that I haven't done one of my 'lists' in quite some time and whiling trying to decide the subject matter for said list, I noticed that I've been doing a lot of pinning of pendant lights on Pinterest lately. So I guess a list of my favorite pendant lights it is! Aside from the obvious mood lighting that they provide, a well designed pendant light is a fabulous way to inject a certain style and character in a home. And there are some great designs out there in different styles and materials- basically something for everybody :)

Most of these are beautiful contemporary designs that are closer to the minimal style, but one or two are a little retro/vintage/industrial. A beautifully designed lamp can have such an impact on a space and I love that designers are really experimenting with the materials they are using in their creations.

Hope you like my list. It's not in any order...

1. I love, love, LOVE these hand-blown glass lamps by Niche Modern Lighting. This particular design have such a sensuous feel and their exposed filaments give them a very modern, timeless appeal. These would look stunning as a group over a huge, linear dining table. Definitely on my 'Someday Maybe' list. For me, this lamp is probably a close second behind the And Pendant lamp (see 8), although the Dan Yeffet lamp (see 5) is very close too!

2. Now these organically shaped wooden lamps by Caroll Street Woodworkers, a Toronto based studio. I think they would look so awesome in a minimal interior, you know, white walls, black slate floors and these lamps along with a very modern credenza and maybe an oversized framed B&W photograph? hmm...

3. I think these lamps by Heer Mandel are quirky, contemporary and very interesting. The geometric wooden frame houses the bulb within. Love the simplicity of the design.  I picture these lamps above a light wood table and against a background of white, exposed brick walls. 

4. These lamps by Lambert & Fils Studio are another one of my favorites. They are contemporary and very sophisticated and so simple. 

5.  This beautifully crafted piece is from Dan Yeffet for French company, Collection Particuliere. The lamp is made from marble and brass. I can just imagine a row of these beauties above a dining table. The perfect addition to a contemporary home.

6. Etch Shade Brass lamp by Tom Dixon is a contemporary lamp inspired by geodesic structures. A cluster of these in a grand staircase area would look pretty awesome I think! This is the perfect lamp to add a touch of opulence and luxury while still keeping it modern.

7. The Coco Pendant is a handcrafted lamp made from turned Victorian ash timber and powdercoated spun aluminium shade. The contrast between the wood and the powdercoated aluminum shade is so subtle and I love the lamp's sensual shape. 

8.  The last lamp on my list is my absolute favorite! It's called the And Pendant Light by Bentu Design. I love this lamp because of its minimal simplicity and because I love all things concrete :) It's a study in how two contrasting materials like bamboo and concrete can look so incredible when used together. Another one that is right on top of my 'Someday maybe' list :) 

Hope you enjoyed this list guys. Have a great weekend! For any of you in Delhi, NCR who are always looking out for great finds for your home, drop into the Windmill Design Festival at Ayanagar Village, Delhi. I not going to miss it :) More details here.

[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

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