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Saturday, 5 March 2016

Holiday in Cape Town - Photo journal Part 1

Cape of Good Hope : The Southern Most tip of Africa

A long overdue post to say the least! The past few months has been manic. New business getting busy, Little T's school curriculum and activities getting busier and of course with the new addition to the family(a pup called Zeus) it's hard to find time to update the blog often. Introducing Zeus, who we adopted when he was a tiny underfed 2 month old from the Woodgreen Rescue Shelter(Cambridge). He is now almost 10 months old, quite large and definitely not underfed. But inside he's still that little monkey.

Zeus at 2 months and 8 months

We went to Cape Town for our Christmas Holidays. My sister in law lives there and we had a great family time with my in laws joining us from Kolkata. 3 weeks went by like a fast spring stream without us even realising when it was time to say goodbye again. But we could capture some beautiful memories, memories that we would cherish in the months and years to come. And then again, we have Face Time! :p

They live on the mountains in a beautiful place called Constantia. You can see the table mountain from their living room. The table mountain was amazing. You can see it from any point of Cape Town as if it's a thing out of a sci-fi movie lurking there, hovering over the city. And just when you think that ok I have had enough of this view you get to see the white fluffy clouds sliding down on the sides of the table mountain giving it a waterfall effect. Locals even call it the "Tablecloth"!

A panoramic vie from top of the Table Mountain

The first week there we were busy celebrating Christmas with family and went for our very first African safari. Cape Town second part will be dedicated to the safari and ostriches. Little T had whale of a time with her cousin brothers, one of them being of her age. They played in garden all day long everyday(it's summer in SA in December remember?), swam everyday, collected bugs and stones and shells and rocks and just had fun. They reminded me of my childhood days when we used to visit and stay at our Mamarbari(maternal uncle's house) with cousins. The day finished with bed time stories from grandpa. She loved every minute of it.

My sister-in-law's housekeeper loves gardening. And the soil of Cape Town is so rich that local produces are in abundance. We got to taste her amazing home grown produces coupled with lots of braai(South African barbeque). I even cooked huge Crayfish heads for our family Christmas meal. You can find the recipe here

Home grown corns
Home grown Squashes and Melons

Crayfish Head Malakari

After the Christmas fever was over we started visiting places. Our first outing was at a local cherry farm. We went cherry picking and got home about 2.5 kilos of dark red, ripe cherries. Ofcourse we had to taste a fruit(or a few) from each tree before picking them so that's another 2.5 kilos in our tummies. :D

Onto my 2nd punnet 
On our way back we stopped at Wimpy's for a quick grub. It goes without saying that this was the kids' favourite meal!

En route to the Cherry farm
Next day we visited the Cape of Good Hope which is the southern most tip of Africa. The photos don't do justice to how beautiful this place is or even all of Cape Town is. The greenery, clear blue sky with white cotton clouds, deep blue oceans against the rocky mountains and abundance of flora and fauna make it one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen. On our way we stopped a couple of times for some sight seeing and came across this stunning view from top of the mountains of the Silvermine beach.

Being one of the hottest days of summer, the beach attracted thousands. 
We also stopped at the Penguin Island at Boulder's Beach though due to lack of time we didn't buy a ticket to get a closer look. Next time we might go there for a whole day as the beach was much quieter than the other beaches and of course we would make friends with the cute ones!

The black dots are penguins! 

Rocks at the Cape of Good Hope

A customary photos at the Cape Point
The day ended with a late lunch at a popular local roadside eatery called the Mariner's Wharf in Hout Bay. In fact calling it popular is an understatement. We drove almost 50 extra miles for this place and it was totally worth it, mainly because of the stunning views and the food. It was so busy that the wait for food was about 40 minutes, but again totally worth it. It was one of the best fried fish I have ever had. We had a combo of fried Snoek, Calamari and Hake.

On route to Hout Bay
Enroute to Hout Bay

Mariner's Wharf, Hout Bay

 On our second week there we visited a few vineyards. Now South Africa is a country famous for wine, so we did a few wine tours. There is a stretch of road between Cape Town and Franschoek valley that has all the vineyards situated one after another and we saw a few familiar names that we have been buying at supermarkets here like Fairview, Glen Carlou etc. We also had a lunch booking at Glen Carlou and the place is absolutely stunning. Lovely ambience, beautiful decor and good service which could have been better. What sold us was the food. It was just gorgeous. Right portions, texture and colour and all made from local produce. Please book in advance if you are planning to visit as they have a few months' waiting period. 

Someone was very happy with his drink

We were served a selection of freshly baked breads with different flavours of butter.

We had 2 bottles of wine between 10 of us, 3 course meal and the hit was only R2000 which is roughly £100. Not bad eh?

My Starter of a simple garden salad with fried Quail eggs.

The garden salad that I had for started was simply beautiful. It was a plate full of vibrant colours bursting with flavours. The best thing was the fried quail eggs. I could eat them in bucketful! My mains was a medium rare mature steak with polenta fries, apple salad and mustard sauce on the side. I wasn't very sure about the polenta fries as they were too salty for my taste. I did miss the good old potato chips on the side. 

View of the Wine Valley

Wine tasting at Fair View vineyard. We had to buy a few bottles of wine and EVOO, they were that good! 
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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Golda Chingri Bhape or Steamed King Prawns in a mustard, poppy seed and coconut paste

This dish is a must for each and every blog created by a true Bong. If you search for 'Chingri Bhape' on Google you will get at least 20 links with similar recipes. I have never given Chingri Bhape much thought earlier as I havn't eaten a decent Chingri Bhape for a long time, almost since I was a kid.  To be honest Chingri Malaicurry is the king of all bengali prawn curries, who doesn't know that! And if you really want to eat steamed curries then Bhapa Ilish (Steamed Hilsa) rules our palate on any given day. I used to think the same until I ate Bhapa Chingri at my friend M's house. She is a versatile lady, a doctor by profession and an amazing cook. She cooked 11 dishes for 40 people and each dish was perfect. But the dish that stole the show was her Chingri Bhape. Shelled succulent juicy prawns in a subtly pungent and creamy paste took me straight back to my mum's kitchen (you'll understand what I mean if you've watched Ratatouille movie, if you havn't, go watch it NOW!). 

So when I saw these really nice looking King prawns in the local grocery store I bought them straight away. Another thing that my hands were itching to use for some time is the special Bengali grinding stone that I got called  Sheel Noda from my mum-in-law on last visit to India. She passed me her legacy and  I sacrificed 5 kilos of luggage allowance to bring that legacy to this side of the world, so I had to put it to good use or I'd have to face wrath of a certain man in the house! So lots of grinding and getting-to-the-verge-of-neck-spasm later I achieved the most smooth creamy mustard, poppy seed paste that no grinder in the world could ever give me. This dish is the most orgasmic dish I've created so far and at the end the pain was all worth it. 

I used the grinding stones to make my mustard-poppy seed paste. You can use a chutney attachment in your food pro or dry roast and then grind in a coffee grinder. The trick is to try and grind as hard as you can so that you don't have to repeat many times which can result in the mustard turning bitter. 

Chingri Bhape 


King Prawns - I used headless with shells on about 10
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp

Toss the prawns with the salt and turmeric and keep aside for some time. 

Ingredients for grinding 

Mustard Seeds - 3 tbsp
Poppy Seeds - 2 tbsp
Green Chillies - 2/3
Salt - 1/2 tsp

Grind all the above to the smoothest paste possible. 

Ingredients for the final marinade

Grated coconut - 1/2 cup (you can use dry desiccated coconut, soaked in water for 1 hour)
Greek Yogurt - 1/4 cup (my friend's recipe asked for coconut milk but I didn't have any at home so turned to my saviour in kitchen mishaps, Sandeepa's blog
Mustard Oil - 2 tbsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar - a pinch
Green chillies - 5/6

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade along with the mustard-poppy seed paste. Toss the prawns in this mixture so that each prawn is coated evenly. 

Put the prawns in an airtight container and steam. I steamed them in a steamer for 20 minutes and the prawns were cooked just right. If you like them thoroughly cooked then steam them for 4-5 more minutes. You can also steam in a pressure cooker by adding water and keeping the steaming vessel on a stand inside the cooker. It should be done in 1-2 minutes before the whistle. It will take a couple of attempts to get the right timing. 

Take out of the container and serve with hot rice. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

New Kid in the Block - Jamaica Blue

Ok so finally got a breather after two really busy and long weeks and hence typing up a long intended post, my first review of an eatery.  I had a lunch date with my friend last week, a very rare pleasure in my life, and of course it had to rain! Typical. She doesn't live in Cambridge so we both decided to meet in town as she wanted to do some gym clothes shopping. After shopping we were in a dilemma as to where to go for lunch. We just wanted to have some sandwiches but didn't want to go to either Costa or Starbucks inside Grand Arcade as both the teeny weeny outlets make me feel cornered and hurried. We wanted some warmth and coziness along with a good coffee and a nice toasted sandwich. So the obvious choice was the new outlet of Jamaica Blue as recommended earlier by another friend. 

It is one of the Australian coffee chains and we went in expecting nothing more than any "giant cafe chain food". We were pleasantly surprised when we walked in a spacious cafe with smart lighting and seating where a person can sit comfortably without breathing down their neighbour's neck! We were greeted at the entrance by a smiling waitress and offered two kinds of seating, a general bar stool one and a private corner table with a communal couch, a general practice now in many restaurants. We opted for the later. The table was a bit small for my liking and was a bit unstable, might be an intentional one to give that old cafe feel? Not sure. 

The menu was simple and had the minimalistic look and feel, again probably to give that street cafe feeling and very reasonable. I ordered a "Classic" which is a Sourdough Ham and Cheese toasted sandwich with a side salad and my friend ordered a Tuna Wrap with salad. Food arrived later than expected but the kind waitress did come in between to apologise and offer us water and soft drinks. The sourdough Classic sandwich had a cheesy filling with succulent bites of ham and pepper, though the bread slices were very thick and overly toasted and I ended up with cuts inside my mouth! The Tuna wrap was toasted too and was delicious. Packed with flavours, it was one of the best Tuna fillings I've ever had. Can't say the same about the salads. 

Want to try the chicken stuffed pancakes next time I'm there. Yes there will be a next time as the overall experience was pleasant. The food might not be out of this world and I won't expect it either given the fact that it is only another cafe chain. The coffee was decent and we only landed with a bill of £13.80 which is definitely cheaper than other cafes. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Pabda Shorshe to beat that homesick feeling!

Winter in the UK is terrible. It's horribly cold and damp and depressing all the time and we hardly get snowed in. The Sun chooses to remain hidden behind the clouds most of the time of the day and when he does come out it's either too cold or too late to go out. As soon as the festivities finish, time just drags from January until the first glimpses of Spring appear through clear blue skies and a few daffodils and snowdrops here and there. This is the time when I miss Kolkata most. Winter in Kolkata is like a constant carnival. Waking up to a cup of steaming hot milky Nescafe coffee accompanied by Phulkopir Shingara (Winter special cauliflower samosas), reading the newspaper on the balcony under the sun and that eager anticipation of the winter celebrations. 

What celebrations if you ask me, starting from picnics to the Book fair, from Christmas to New Year in Park Street, from foggy morning trips to Victoria Memorial to having dinner at the clubs, from Poush Parbon to the numerous weddings, the list is endless. And the choice of food is also endless. So all you need is a steady supply of Gelusil, a muffler(Bong version of a scarf - has to be knitted by Mom, Mashi or a similar post holder) and a good pair of trainers(you do not want to depend on the public transport during these months) and you are sorted for the winter in Kolkata. 

Coming back to the UK, winters are torturous. They are slow, dark and ever so depressing. The only way we can drive away the winter blues is by recreating the Barir khabar (made at home, especially by Moms back home), seeing friends and just glancing at the calendar to count how many days are there until Spring arrives. Lucky for us, I think we are almost there! 

Shorshe Pabda (Pabo Catfish in a mustard-coconut gravy)

Ingredients :

Pabda Fish(Pabo Catfish) - Cleaned and packed in 8s
Mustard Paste - I use the Sunrise powder that I get from India
Desiccated coconut - Dried or freshly grated 1 cup 
Salt - 1/2 tsp to rub on the fish and to taste
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 a tsp to rub on the fish and 1/2 for the sauce
Green chillies - 3-4 slit halfway through
Nigella seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard Oil - 2-3 tbsp
Water - 1/2 cup

Method :

Rub the fish with salt and turmeric powder. Heat oil and shallow fry them in Mustard Oil. Keep them aside. 

Make a paste of Mustard powder, turmeric powder and coconut. Add salt to taste. 

Heat oil and add the nigella seeds and green chillies to the hot oil and let them splutter. Add the mustard-coconut paste and cook it on low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the water and bring the sauce to boil. Add the fish and cook on high until all the liquid has dried up leaving a thick gravy. Be careful to not break the fish as they are very delicate. 

Serve with steamed white rice. 

 ** Note - If you don't have mustard powder grind 2-3 tbsp of mustard in a grinder along with 1/2 cup of water. Then strain the liquid out and discard the skins. This will give a smooth pungent taste without the strong bitterness of the skins. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Why is February so special!

The month of February is very special to me for two reasons, my dad’s birthday and the month when I met my Best Friend Forever. And of course there is Valentine’s Day, although, even being a hopeless romantic all my life, I’ve never felt compelled to celebrate this particular day! I still watch DDLJ at every chance I get and sigh heavily at the chemistry of Raj and Simran, but personally I’ve never wanted a Raj in my life. I mean come on, a Uni drop out, practically living on Dad’s wealth, goes on an extravagant Euro tour with Dad’s money, flirts with a girl on the tour, gets her drunk and into his bed and then stalks her all the way to India. Not my type!

So this BFF happens to be my husband who I met on the fateful day of the 19th of February, 12 years ago! We used to be internet friends and NO we were not out of an online dating site as back in those days we didn’t even know anything like that existed, especially in India. I had to muster up a lot of courage to face a stranger whom I didn’t know at all. So I chose a busy road in the middle of the afternoon, my deo in my bag (we didn’t have pepper sprays back in those days) and my inner Kung-Fu master ready to pounce if needed. He was late and as I was wondering if it was actually a bad idea and whether I should leave, a red car stops right in front of me. Out comes a tall, dark and quite handsome man with glasses and a boyish grin, extends his hand over the car roof and says, ‘’Hi I’m Val. You must be Rhea”! I don’t know why but I remember that first line as if it was yesterday, may be because I was totally floored by that voice and that boyish charm, though I still like to claim that it was never a “love at first sight”! 

Many of my friends have asked me later on that who made the first move, who proposed and whether we were dating or not. To be honest, neither of us proposed, we don’t know when we crossed the line between being just friends to becoming special friends. I just know that we were meant to be, and that on 19th of February I found my best friend, my confidant and my guide. 

I still make special something for Valentine’s Day, as I’m a hopeless romantic. This year I made Rasmalai, not only for my husband, but also for my other best friend who lives in London and who I  found through internet as well. But that’s a story I will tell another day. :)

And for the first love of my life, my Dad. 
Happy Birthday Baba. I love you and miss you a lot. 

Here's the recipe for Rasmalai or Rosho-Malai as we call it in Kolkata. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Guest Post - Alu Borir Jhol by Rani

Sayantan and Rani of The Glamor Factory fame have been very dear friends. They are not only passionate about photography they are very passionate about what they eat too and that gives two common things that we all share! I am a huge fan of Sayantan's photography and he takes me back to Kolkata a bit by bit everyday through his food photography. Sayantan and Rani have been working on a food album called '365 days of Food' which has got the most amazing photos of almost all our beloved foods from every corner of this world. This is where I saw the picture of Rani's Borir Jhol and I wanted to have a plate of that with steaming rice instantly. I made the Borir Jhol for Baba and it was delicious! Bodi or Vadi is one of the most important ingredients of Indian cuisine and Borir Jhol/Jhal being a very quintessential dish in traditional Bong meal. This is a dish that we all have seen our Didu(Grandmom) making for lunch and the smell of the Bodis simmering in the lightly spiced gravy will bring back the most amazing childhood memories one can ever have! I would let you read what Rani has to say now. :)


Sohini, initially was just someone I met in Facebook through a common friend, the usual story. But what attracted me to her was the wonderful photos she posted on her profile of different food items from all over the world, not to say the presentation which was of course, quite beautiful. I was instantly drawn to the colorful album and kept track of it regularly, still do, in fact. I am a ardent fan of her dessert skills nowadays and just love to see the various cakes and the decorations that flows so smoothly off her magical hands.

By profession I am a graphic designer but food is the true passion in my life, especially when it comes to eating. My partner in crime is my husband, Sayantan and all yummiest things edible occupy a large part of our lives. Apart from eating, he is a specialized food photographer which is just an added bonus, I must say!

Alu Borir Jhol

Ingredients :
10-12 Bodi (or moong wadi if available)
3tbsp vegetable oil (preferable mustard)
2 potatoes, cut lengthwise in thin segments
1/4sp onion seeds (kalonji or kalo jeera) for tempering
1sp ginger paste
1sp cumin
1/2sp coriander
1/3sp turmeric
1sp chilli / paprika powder
1 whole tomato diced or pureed
2/3 cup water
1-2 green chillies for garnishing
Salt as per taste

Method :

Fry the boris in 1 tbsp oil until brown and keep aside.

Heat the remaining oil, put in the onion seeds and then the sliced potatoes. Fry the potatoes for a few seconds and then put in the tomato dice/puree. 

After about 2 min throw in all the other masalas and saute for further 2-3 min on low flame until you see oil on the sides. 

Then pour water on it, season it according to your taste and simmer it covered over a low flame until the potatoes are almost cooked through. 

Then put in the fried bodis and simmer for another 3 min. Take off the heat, garnish with slit green chillis and serve hot with rice.


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Guest Post - Dark Rosy Kisses by Ananda of A Pinch of Love

What can I say about Ananda of the ‘A Pinch of Love’ fame? She is an amazing lady with outstanding skills. Her blog is one of the few blogs that I regularly follow and love. She is based in beautiful Finland and she shows us around that gorgeous place and it's food through her amazing space. She used to take time out for a perfect blog post even when she was doing her PhD and trust me when I say that it’s not easy. Not only I admire her enthusiasm for blogging, I simply love the way she uses her props and clicks those gorgeous photos. Whenever I am in the middle of a baking or a blogging disaster (and that happens a lot of times!) I send Ananda a SOS message and she is always there to help me out! Reading this post will make you realise how much time and effort she puts in each post of hers!

I bugged her a lot for this guest post as I have been tied down with the holidays and the little one at home and my dad's visit and like always Ananda didn't take a second to agree to do this post even when she's busy herself as she's taking a break in India with her family. Thank you girl for this post and everything else.

I have known Sohini’s blog from our initial days of blogging; her sweet and encouraging comments drove me to her blog where I felt warmth through her words. Very soon we befriended each other through facebook and now there is no looking back. I’m a great admirer of her sugar art for cakes and cupcakes, different versions of the princess cake and her eastern Indian food makes me drool. Not forgetting to mention the pictures of her little edible princess, which makes me want  big bite of her :), but I go aww! Thank you dear girl for having me over to your lovely space, it’s an honor to be here.

Rare are those recipes when an unexpected combination turns out surprising well. This dark rosy kisses is an outcome after spending hours in flea markets and organic shops looting alluring brown tableware and some organic rose buds. After a series of imagination all I dreamt was the combination of brown and pink. Cherry on top was when my colleague gave me this organic honey, creative instincts worked magic thus these dark rosy kisses were created.

The recipe is the combination of dark chocolate, honey, rosewater and dry rose buds. Honey gives these kisses a dense and moist feel. Rosewater in the desserts and sweets are more of an acquired taste for those tasting it for the first time; let me warn you for you might feel them to be like a scented dessert! Give it an elegant touch by serving the individual pieces on rose petals with a little ribbon tied, an eye appealing treat.

Dark Rosy Kisses

 Ingredients :

125 gram Butter
130 gram Dark Chocolate (70%)
200 - 225 ml Honey (Organic)
2 Eggs
30 gram Cocoa powder (Organic)
50 gram All purpose flour
3 tbsp Rosewater (Reduce if you find the flavor too strong)
7 – 8 Organic dry rose buds crushed
¼ tsp baking power


Preheat the oven to 175 C. Grease the cake pan with butter and dust with dry flour.

In a double boiler melt the dark chocolate and butter. Let it aside to cool.

Sieve and mix the dry powder (all purpose flour, cocoa powder and baking powder)

In another bowl beat the egg until light and frothy. Mix the dry flour to beaten eggs.

Gradually fold in honey and melted chocolate to the egg mixture. Add rose water and
crushed rose petals to the batter and gently fold in. 

Pour the batter to cake pan and bake them for 35 minutes till the inserted toothpick comes out clean.