A happy Navroz 2016 was the highlight of the week that went by

Raspberry was a must on festive occasions for K when she was growing up
She loves it still
Navroz or the Parsi New Year

If I think back on the week that passed by, then its high point has to be Navroz, or the Parsi New Year, which fell on 17th August this time.

As you might know, I am a Bengali  married to a Parsi. Navroz celebrations for us are times for the family to get together. Usually over some good food. 

My mom in law and her sister are out of town right now. So apart from K and me, only K's mama (maternal uncle) was around. He joined us and we went to the ITC Grand Central for lunch. 

With K on one side and mama on the other
At the Hornby Pavilion at the ITC Grand Central.
Love the table cloth
When Hornby Pavilion seemed like Albless Baug

The general manager of the ITC Grand Central Hotel, Mr Kerman Lalkaka, is Parsi too and had invited us over for lunch to the Hornby where the buffet featured a few Parsi dishes for the festive occasion. He and his team put together quite an authentic Parsi jamboree right up to the ABBA numbers being belted out over the PA. 

Kerman Lalkaka
His lovely wife, Melissa, is a Bandra Catholic
and looks very much a Parsi

Lunch at the Hornby Pavilion did seem more like being in a Parsi wedding or Navjot function rather than being in a 5 star hotel and I mean this in a good way. In case you are wondering, Albless Baug is the name of the most popular wedding and Navjot hall among Parsis and is booked years in advance by those who throw parties there.

K's Freddy Mama, who is a fairly austere person, felt quite at home at Hornby that afternoon much to our relief. There were elderly Parsi ladies going to the buffet wearing new frocks. Their steps could be a bit unsure but they were very clear about what they wanted on their plate. There were grandpas wearing topis/ black caps, dresses in white shirts and black trousers, holding their walking sticks, led to the buffet table by their young grandsons. Once at the buffet, they pushed the grandsons and the sticsk away and filled their plates with  youthful gusto. There were little boys and little girls running across the hall. Dressed in bright new clothes, peals of laughter trailing them. Everyone looked happy and the smiles were infectious. 

K said that she loved her Navroz thi year
That made my day

The Parsi food was part of the buffet and was done in consultation with the owner of my favourite Parsi restaurant in Mumbai who has worked with various ITC Hotels in the past too. So the food was spot on.

My ham handed attempt to photograph my lunch plate and the desserts too
Not a pretty picture I am afraid

The chicken farcha was pleasantly juicy. I have had many a dry and over cooked farcha (fried chicken) in the past.

The Russian pattice kevabs (a newish wedding caterer induced invention) and egg chutney patties were piping hot. We normally have lovely kevabs at Rita and Farhad's house down the road at Nowwroze Baug and I am sure they would have approved of these.

The Russian salad kevabs

Both K and I were delighted to find that we had got the puchhri (tail piece) of the pomfret in the patra ni machhis that we picked from the buffet. It is the most sought after piece of the pomfret by the Parsis. We Bengalis like the head piece of the pomfret which the Parsis avoid as there is less meat.

There was a prawn in a chilli coriander curry which I was not familiar with but I was happy to see that the prawns were not over cooked.

In meats, there was the traditional salli margi and kid gos. The mutton in the latter is cooked in a white coloured coconut and cashew gravy. My late father in law was not fond of white gravies and would rarely eat kid gos. However, they would order kid gos for me when we went out together as I was fond of it. My mom in law makes a nice version with chicken for me.

I requested for some fresh chapatis to be smeared with ghee and served to us which made for nice rotlis.

There was no Parsi rice dish for lunch which gave me an opportunity to try the Bohri Biryani from the buffet at ITC Grand Central. What I had that afternoon definitely compares favourably with the best Bohri biryanis that I have had across caterers and from Jeff's. The best thing is that the Bohri Biryani has alu too.

The Bohri biryani at ITC Grand Central

Mama, is a rare vegetarian Parsi. He turned vegetarian in his youth because he thought that this was good for him. He was pretty happy with the few vegetarian Parsi vegetarian dishes on offer at the ITC buffet... the tarkari kevab and the ishtew and couldn't get enough of the dal Bukhara which was there in the buffet. "It's got butter," he exclaimed happily. K is very close to him and says that her belief systems in life have been shaped a lot by his and that he was the one who was responsible in fostering a love for reading in her. With her mom and masi not in town, we were happy that mama could join K and me and that we did end up having a wonderful Navroz together.

K and her mama

I told mama about how the Dal Bukhara was the centrepiece of one of the two of our's first five star hotel dinners together. We had gone to the ITC Grand Maratha's Peshawari in Andheri east for K's birthday in the mid 2000s. We had gone specifically for the Dal Bukhara as K is a big fan of black dals. 

Creating new memories on the new yer

The Parsi dessert spread was pretty elaborate too. It featured doodh na ravo which is similar to the Bengali shoojir payes. My mom in law's neighbour, Zarin aunty, does a lovely rendition of this. There were other Parsi dessert favourites. Lagan nu custard and sutarfeni and sev (sevia). Plus mava nu boi. A sweet made with mava shaped like a fish which is had on auspicious occasions by Parsi. Just as we Bengalis send a shondesh shaped like rohu fish on wedding. I will take a picture of the rui shondesh which is in my paren't wedding album the next time I go home. 

Oh and there was a chocolate log pie too as Parsis love chocolates as do everyone actually.

Mava nu boi

Katy's Dinner feast

The food on recent Navrozs in our family, and on many other happy occasions, have been catered by Katy's Kitchen. This is a catering outfit that was set up by the late Dr Katy Dalal who was an archaeologist turned home chef turned caterer. The company is now run by her son, Dr Kurush Dalal, and his wife, Rhea Mitra Dalal, also a Bengali.

From Rhea's Facebook page
Rhea and Kurush on their way to Sri Lanka after Navroz

A few days back Kurush called me up and after I said, "hello", replied in a dramatic manner, "why do you sound so distant".

I was in the middle of lots of writing and was disoriented but his petulant tone cracked me up. He then said, "listen we are sending you food over on Navroz."

Ever since Kurush said this, we waited impatiently for Navroz to come. We had the food that they sent on Navroz for our dinner. It was quite a traditional Parsi festive meal.

I think Katy Mai would be very proud of the food served under her name. Kurush and Rhea have definitely done a good job carrying her legacy forward.

Bottom row, left to right: bheja cutlace, lagan nu bhonu, pulao
Middle: Patrani machhi
Top row, left to right: Salli margi, tari ma gos, salli, dar (dal)

Kainaz loves the Katy's Kitchen bheja cutlace (goat's brain, patted flat and deep fried in an egg batter coating). It's called cutlace after the lacy formations of the egg. I liked this time's bheja cutlace even more than those I have had in the past as the masala had soaked into the bheja and had thereby added a lot more oomph to the dish this Navroz.

What I liked about the patra ni machhi from Katy's was that the coconut, coriander, chilli, lime, salt and sugar green chutney was liberally slathered on to the fish. For Parsis, fish on festive occasions has to be pomfret or chhaamna.

The curry of the jardaloo salli murgi was a nice harmony of sweet and sour and salt. There were large apricots (jardaloo) in the curry. This is an old caterer's trick Kurush had once told me about. The figs blend into the curry during cooking and you can't see them in the end curry which makes clients antsy. To placate the Parsis, smart caterers add in a few apricots at the end for reassurance.

The mutton dish, tari ma gos, was a new one for me. The mutton was cooked in toddy and not water. Toddy is the fermented juice made from the liquid that oozes out from tar or palm tree and which is collected in the morning. You rarely get this dish in restaurants today and Kurush and Rhea had reprised this recipe for the special day. You could smell the spirit when you smelt the curry closely and the toddy gave the sauce a nice kick.

There was no dhansak of course but the mutton pulao dar was killer. I had some of it the next day too and I just loved the flirtatious tangy touch to the dal and the fact that one could chew on the bones of the mutton in the pulao and the tari ma gos.

Mama did stay back with us but after lunch, he decided to skip dinner. Joining K and me for dinner was my cousin Riju. He has moved in to Mumbai from Kolkata recently and seems to be quite enjoying his new life. From what I gather he is not a very experimentative eater and is a light eater too. His only previous acquaintance with Parsi food was through the dhansak Banu makes at home. Riju seemed to love what Kurush had sent on Navroz night, specially the pulao and tried everything but the bheja. He even enjoyed the tari ma gos and had a full slice of patrani machhi which is really something as he rarely eats fish!

"That was quite a feast".

For desserts, there was lagan nu custard and K loves the one at Katy's. Just as did her late father. And now Riju too. I tasted a bit and loved the delicate touch of spices in it and the wobble texture.

Once my late father in law ate Katy's Navroz spread at our place and was so happy that he, a man of few words, immediately called up Kurush and told him how the food reminded him of his mother's cooking.

Adding to the Parsi motif on Navroz night this year were the pastries that Riju had got us from Merwan's near Andheri Station. Kainaz had grown up on these and special treats don't get more Parsi and creamy than this.

Merwan's pastries

The new year couldn't have got off to a more delicious start!

You would noticed that neither of our meals on Navros featured dhansak. That's because dhansak, the most famous Parsi dish, is had on the 4th day of a funeral and hence, not on happy occasions. To know more about please do read my article at NDTV Food on the subject. Here's the link

And here's a video that I did after our Parsi Navroz dinner:

The good cheer spilt on to the next morning which was Rakhi when I proudly wore the Rakhi that Rida Khan sent me all the way from Bhopal.

It is indeed a beautiful world.

Note: Both the meals were by invite. You can order in from Katy's Kitchen through the year and they deliver in minimum portion sizes of 4 and with a delivery charge within Mumbai. The Parsi dishes at ITC Grand Central were part of a festive menu and are not there on the daily menu. The Bohri biryani and dal Bukhara are available through the year

How to reach Katy's Kitchen.
They are on Facebook and Twitter too