In pursuit of culinary excellence. Cracking the 'unlockdown' restaurant menu.

Lyonnaise potatoes and lamb roulade with chimichuri and jus and a treat for Baby Loaf from Trident BKC

A fresh Baby Loaf to start the day

Baby Loaf and I have slipped into a routine at home for the past few days.

I wake up around 7.30 am and go to the study where I find Baby Loaf lying at the corner of the bed beside my desk. I see him looking towards the door through which I walk in. I draw a pillow and lie down beside him for a bit and pat him. At times I doze off and then wake up with a start and see that he has jumped onto the floor. I get down and he follows me. I walk to the hall and put out his breakfast. I sit beside him while he eats. Sometimes I doze off and wake up and see that he has eaten and gone off to the 'Buddha Lounge,' the box window where he likes to sleep. I go back to the bedroom and sleep a bit more.

The Buddha Lounge. Loaf likes to sleep on the AC unit outside

I woke up at 5 am today. Heard him outside our bedroom door and let him in. Then went off to sleep. I woke up again at 9.30 am. Went to the study. He was not on the bed. He was at the Buddha Lounge. He opened his eyes and looked intensely at me and then went back to looking out at the road. I went back to nap a wee bit more. Sunday had been beautifully hectic and I was happy to hug the bed a wee bit more.

I opened my eyes a couple of minutes after I lay down. Loaf had jumped onto our bed (something he doesn't do often these days) and came and lay down beside me. I began to pat him.

Baby Loaf mornings
Then it struck me that he was replicating what he sees me do and had decided to be Daddy Loaf for the day.

From my Insta Page yesterday

When #loveyourleftovers met #finelychoppedbreakfasts

I finally got up, shaved showered etc and then went to make us (K was already on a work call) the breakfast I had planned after dinner last night. A toasted sourdough open sandwich with shredded bits of spinach and cheese lamb roulade and a dash of chimichuri.

It was even more brilliant than I thought it would be. What a glorious start to the week!

#finelychoppedbreakfasts #LoveYourLeftovers

The Gujarat model

Lunch today carried the momentum of the morning ahead. Let me explain.

"Let's order that excellent aamras from Soam again through Swiggy genie or WeFast before the rains start," said K to me last week.

I reached out to Pinky Chandan Dixit of Soam who said that they had just stopped serving aamras for the season. On hearing about K's desperate plea, she then sourced mangoes and made a portion and sent for us.

"What else would you like," Pinky said. I jumped at the opportunity and called in for a few of our other favourites from Soam and proceeded to make a Gujarati thali at home for lunch today. There was puri, farali batata nu shaak, the heavenly aamras, kadhi and something called vagerela khichdi. The last was a first time try for me and the first bite reminded me of the experience of having a Bengali khichdi with mamlet. Specially the onions and tomatoes in which the vagar (tempering) was done.

"The masala is similar to that of a bhurjee," explained Pinky when I pointed this out to her.

No, not all Gujarati food is excessively sweet. This was not. OK, the sender a bit perhaps! Very in her case. Still not ‘excessively.’ 

It's thanks to Soam that this Bengali has fallen in love with the 'Gujarat culinary model.' Aap chronology samjho, as our home minister who is from Gujarat said!

Clockwise: puri, aamras, vagerela khichdi, kadhi, batata nu shaak & in the centre, fresh mango pickle. We had also called in for the handvo and the Rajasthani gatte ka sabzi and satpadi paratha. 

The summer of 69

The breakfast that I spoke of earlier was a #LoveYourLeftovers one, starring leftovers of the food sent by the Trident BKC hotel yesterday afternoon. As have some other luxury hotels in Mumbai (remember the excellent Awadhi gosht biryani, mirchi ke salan and phirni sent by ITC Maratha recently that I had spoken about?), the Trident BKC too has begun offering a select menu for delivery.

They wanted to send a sample and I requested the chefs to choose from their western menu based on what they thought would travel well. They have an extensive Indian menu too.

Almond crusted John Dory, green and orange emulsion 

Their choice of the very indulgent Lyonnaise potato (roasted potato slices with roasted onions), the rather majestic cheese & spinach lamb roulade with jus and the spectacular almond crusted John Dory with orange emuision were spot on. They had sent a treat for Baby Loaf (canned tuna) too and that made me smile. Plus a sourdough loaf that was as soft as Baby Loaf, cookies and mango and banofie tarts. There were blanched greens which I was not as excited about at first I confess, but when paired with chimichuri, seemed like Jennifer Lopez on fire!

I heated all the food (barring the dessert and loaf) in the oven at night, which made it rather convenient, before we sat for dinner. The food had travelled very well as the smiles on our face said.

The meal seemed special as we had not eaten an indulgent and exquisite western meal like this during the lockdown. We have loved every meal that we have had at home during the lockdown but this reminded us of the fabulous meals that we have had in top notch  European restaurants in the city (including Botticcino at the Trident BKC itself though the food was from O22 I believe) and in our travels.

Do I seem a bit carried away right now? I would say not. The food was a reminder of a life we enjoyed and the meal helped us relive those memories in a way.

It's 'unlockdown' in the country right now. Some of the Covid Lockdown restrictions have been lifted. We are still home though and maintaining precautions. The virus has not gone away after all but still, if one had to have a meal to welcome the unlockdown, then this would be it!

I plan to sauté chicken liver and cook it in the orange reduction, use the chimichuri in a spaghetti as a pesto and roast chicken legs in the lamb jus. Can’t forget #loveyourleftovers can we?

Our unlockdown feast courtesy Trident BKC

In pursuit of excellence

The culinary efforts of restaurants of various scales in the city that we have experienced at home during the lockdown - be it the Soam Gujarati meal, the Trident western one, the ITC Maratha Awadi one, the chicken and egg sandwiches at Candies, the shahi paneer at Khane Khas, the pepperoni pizza at Kaitlyn's Scratch Kitchen by Karan Bane, the Thai curry rice and mango sticky rice by his wife chef Seefah at Seefah - remind me of something that I heard Kainaz say in her interviews on the work of advertising agencies during the lockdown. 

She says that while everyone was taken aback by the pandemic at the start and were trying to look at basic solutions to keep work going, three months down the line one is looking at how to deliver top quality once again. Even if within the limitations put on them. Finding out new and creative ways of working, based on expertise and experience. That they do not expect the allowances given in the earlier days to hold now. That the collective aim of agencies and clients and their partners (production etc) is to come up with work which is top notch once again and that they are doing so. Working in ways that they had never thought of before.

I have paraphrased what I have heard her often say in interviews (the advantage of working from home) but it struck me that these fabulous restaurants/ hotels (and many, many others) are doing exactly that too.

They have taken into account the current staff in the kitchen with many having left town, no in-house dining (in Mumbai at least) which is a big challenge for top end restaurants/ hotels where the entire experience is taken into account in the value perceptions, long delivery distances and vulnerabilities on the way, kitchen hygiene issues, staff and customer safety above all... and have then worked on literally delivering food to their customers that they would be proud of even in 'peace time,' and that is truly admirable.

What next for Finely Chopped?

This afternoon. Thanks to working from home' K got a glimpse of what we do when she is away
at work (and when we are not napping)

I need to see how I can incorporate this spirit into my own work. To figure out what next for Finely Chopped.

So tell me what you want. Is it all about recipes for you these days? Videos or short posts on social media? Does long form journaling even appeal to you anymore.  Do you only want content from which you can get something of practical use? Or from which you can learn something? What sort of food stories appeal to you? Do 'day in my life' stories still interest you? Do everyday stories have a place in your heart anymore?

I am confused. Talk to me. I would love to hear from you.

Season 2 of Times Kitchen Tales came to an end with the virtual TKT meet and my column which spoke about my lockdown kitchen learnings. Would love to hear about yours.
Link to #TKTVirtualMeet Pic courtesy Mitali G Datta


Here is the latest Soam menu:

And the link to the Trident BKC menu
The food in both cases were sent by the restaurant/ hotel.