+ Homemade Awadhi Biryani

Perfecting the legendary Kolkata Biryani at home

The potato in Kolkata Biryani is my favourite part of the dish. In this Awadhi style of cooking, the dum pukht technique allows the the aromatic juices from the mutton to ooze into the fine grains of rice.

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It’s certainly true in my case, but if I were to be specific about the kind of food, it would be Biryani and Mughlai food. Not any Biryani, but the Awadhi/Lucknowy style Mutton Biryani that we grew up eating in Kolkata. The Bearded Biker’s love for Awadhi Biryani made us hop into Lucknow for an evening, only to eat. His Biryani love has now been transmitted to the Z-sisters and myself too in a big way… so much so that Big Z wanted us to take the first flight out to Lucknow, once her GCSEs got over!

Kolkata Mutton Biryani

If I may coyly declare, I think have perfected the art of cooking the Biryani in the style of Shiraz Golden Restaurant. To celebrate the Bearded Biker’s birthday, we had a chef who used to work in Shiraz Golden Restaurant, come home and cook. The menu was as per his liking – Mutton Biryani, Chicken Chaanp, Galawati Kababs and Lachha Parathas. While the chef cooked everything at home, we ordered the Lachha Parathas from Arsalan (located in Karama), another popular Mughlai restaurant from Kolkata. I learnt from the chef as he cooked, while noting down every single ingredient and technique that went into making each dish. This was a Pakki Biryani where the rice and meat are semi cooked separately and then arranged in layers in a pot and cooked in the Dum Pukht style. As I had expected from Mughlai cooking, the process was elaborate and time consuming. But if you are a keen cook, making the Kolkata Biryani at home would be quite engaging and stimulating. Before this Biryani hangover is over, I promise you that homemade Lachha Parathas and Galawatis are coming your way!

Shiraz Golden Restaurant style Awadhi Biryani

Kolkata Biryani can spark a huge debate – who serves the best Biryani in Kolkata? Did the addition of aloo, potato in the Awadhi Biryani downgrade its status? The Nawabs were known for their culinary indulgence and some argue that they certainly wouldn’t have approved of the humble aloo and attribute it to the financial difficulties of the Nawab in his later years. However, the great-great-grandson of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (Kolkata’s Mughlai food heritage is attributed to the Nawab), thinks otherwise. As this article indicate, in those days potatoes were considered exotic and addition of potatoes in the Biryani was a result of one of the many kitchen experiments that the Nawab indulged in. The addition of aloo was approved heartily by the Nawab and has since then become Kolkata Biryani’s culinary heritage.

Kolkata Mutton Biryani

Royal Indian Restaurant in Kolkata (set up as early as in 1905) always considered aloo in the Biryani, a culinary blasphemy. I remember meeting Gulam Nabi, the head chef of Royal, a descendent of the direct lineage of the khansama of Wajid Ali Shah in my Ramadan food trail with Kolkata Walks. I was told that ‘Royal would die out rather than introduce aloo and deem in their Biryani. A total no no!’. Well, it seems that Royal too had to succumb to the Bengalis’ love for aloo… and introduced the versatile ingredient in their legendary Biryani for the first time when they opened a branch in Park Circus in 2015.

Kolkata Mutton Biryani

Although the Awadhi cuisine has travelled far and wide, nowhere has it settled down strongly as it has in Kolkata. Mohammed Wajid Ali Shah Bahadur (1822 AD-1887 AD), the Nawab of the princely Indian state of Awadh or Oudh (which is modern day Lucknow), was a well-known food aficionado. Kolkata Biryani is cooked in the Dum Pukht style, where the meat, rice or vegetables are covered and sealed in a copper or an earthen pot with a dough of flour. Everything is then let to cook in its own juices on a very slow flame. This Dum Pukht style of cooking can be traced to the Nawabi kitchens of Awadh. Exotic nuts, herbs and aphrodisiacs went into the Dum Pukht meals that were cooked for the Nawabs.

Kolkata Mutton Biryani

In 1857 AD, when the Awadh kingdom was annexed by the British, Nawab Mohammed Wajid Ali Shah Bahadur was exiled to Calcutta (today’s Kolkata). His passion for gourmet food travelled from Lucknow to Kolkata and was nurtured, garnished and fuelled by his special Bawarchis – the Chefs of the Nawab. It is believed that only a handful of chefs with royal khansama or lineage knew the secrets to the authentic Awadhi Cuisine. Each Mughlai restaurant in Kolkata today, however, claims to have one such gem working in their kitchen. While the meat to rice ratio in their Biryani varies, so does the secret ingredients that go into making their Biryani special and unique!

Homemade Awadhi Biryani

Our Biryani nostalgia mostly centres around Shiraz Golden restaurant in Park Circus. The budget for our parties during my college days would allow a packet of Special Mutton Biryani (special would mean an egg in the Biryani), a plate of Chicken Chaanp and a Firni for each person. The menu was always the same – budget was limited but our love for Biryani was unlimited.

Serving the Biryani is an art too. In the restaurant, the Biryani is scooped along the sides of the pan with a quarter plate, digging deep into the bottom layer and bringing up pieces of mutton and aloo with the fragrant Biryani rice. The Biryani rice sporadically erupts into the yellow and white rice, much like fine poetry.

The potato in Kolkata Biryani is my favourite part of the dish. The potato in Kolkata Biryani is my favourite part of the dish. In this Awadhi style of cooking, the dum pukht technique allows the the aromatic juices from the mutton to ooze into the fine grains of rice. Needless to say, it has to be Mutton Biryani and it has to be special… meaning there has to be a stark white egg staring back at me!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Dessert recipes that will complement your Biryani:
Semaiya Kheer or Vermicelli Pudding
Firni or Ferni - The broken rice pudding

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

Kolkata Biryani

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: elaborate
  • Print
Category=rice and meat one-pot dish; Cuisine=Mughlai

basmati rice

Ingredients

4 cups basmati rice, extra-long grained ones (I use the sella basmati, a parboiled variety used to make Biryani in specialised restaurants)
2 kg mutton (10 pieces/kg of meat with bones, as that leave a unique flavour than the boneless ones)
6 medium sized onions, sliced thinly
8 big potatoes cut into halves
8 eggs, hardboiled and deshelled

Whole spices
6 star anise
4 pieces 1-inch cinnamon sticks
6 black cardamoms

2 tsp white pepper, powdered
2 tbsp ginger-garlic powder
4 tbsp special homemade Biryani masala*

100 ml rose water
100 ml kewra water
½ cup alu bukhara or prunes, dried
2 cups white oil
500 gms ghee
salt – to taste
2 tsp sugar
½ cup milk
1 tsp saffron
2 tsp yellow food colouring (This is optional. You may use saffron soaked in milk)
1 tsp Meetha attar or Biryani flavouring

For marination of mutton
500 gms yoghurt
4 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
4 tsp red chilli powder
½ papaya, finely grated
½ cup cashews, grinded into a fine paste
4 tbsp Biryani masala*

*Biryani masala
For 100 gms of Biryani masala, grind together the following:
30gms javitri or mace
30gms cinnamon powder
5 gms chhoti elaichi or green cardamom
25 gms gulab patti or rose petals, dried and crushed
5 gms jaiphal or nutmeg
5 gms cloves

3 cups flour to make the dough for the dum
1 muslin cloth (optional)

For garnish
Dried fruits like cashews and raisins, pan-roasted in slight ghee (this is optional. However, I avoid any garnishing with dried fruits as the Bearded Biker isn’t too fond of it and feels it likens his Biryani into a Pulao)

Method

  • Wash the rice in cold water, drain and spread over newspaper/kitchen towel for 15-20 minutes or until absolutely dry.
  • Marinate the mutton with yoghurt, grated papaya, ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, cashew paste and the Biryani masala.
  • Soak the saffron in milk in a bowl. Keep aside.
  • Soak yellow colouring in ½ cup water. Keep aside.
  • Heat ghee in a pan. Add ½ tsp of sugar. Add the sliced onions and fry them till they are golden brown. Set them aside on tissue paper so that the excess oil is absorbed and they turn crispy. Keep aside ¼ of the fried onions for cooking the meat and the rest for using while layering the rice and for garnishing.

For the Mutton

  • In a deep bottomed pan, heat 1 cup of white oil. Add the whole spices. Once the aroma starts drifting out, set them aside and put them in a muslin cloth (this is for those who do not like the whole spices coming into their mouth, while making sure that the aroma is intact.
  • Add fried onions and ginger-garlic, taking care that you don’t burn them.
  • Add the marinated meat, salt and sugar. Cook in high flame for ten minutes until all the spices in the marination gather themselves up.
  • Cover up the meat pieces with enough water. Add the meetha attar, rose water, kewra water and prunes. Let it cook in slow flame until the meat is three-fourth cooked. Try to maintain enough gravy that can be used later while layering of the Biryani.

For the Rice

  • Heat some ghee in a deep bottomed pan. Stir in the rice lightly. Add water till the level of water is more than double the height of the level of rice. Drain off the excess water while the rice is three-fourth cooked.
  • Settle the rice by shaking the pan. Dig in holes into the layer of rice with a back of a spoon. Pour the yellow colouring or saffron soaked milk into the holes.

Layering of the Biryani

  • In the deep bottomed pan (pot or a handi) in which the meat has been cooked, keep the gravy up to the level that covers the meat. Keep aside the rest of the gravy for serving with the Biryani. Layer with a portion of rice and lather generously with ghee. Sprinkle some fried onions and spread some saffron soaked milk and strands of saffron over the layer of rice. Repeat the process of layering twice or until it fills up your pan.
  • Once the layering is done, pour over the remaining of saffron soaked in milk along with a bit of rose water. Add ghee generously around the sides of the pan, so that the Biryani rice doesn’t stick to the pan. Add fried cashew nuts and raisins if you are using them. Sprinkle a bit of Biryani Masala on top.
  • Make a dough with flour and a bit of sugar. Flatten it  and cover the cooking vessel. Seal the top of the vessel with this dough.
  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place the Biryani pan in the oven and let it cook for 10 minutes.
  • If you aren’t using an oven, cook this over a stove top over a slow flame and cook for 15 minutes.
The chef was very adamant that the Biryani had to be served it with a simple light raita made with yoghurt, grated cucumber, carrots and a pinch of salt. Keep the focus on the Biryani and open the seal just before serving. Don’t forget to add the plain boiled eggs.

Kolkata Mutton Biryani

+ Binangkals are deep-fried dough ball coated with sesame seeds and originates from the Philippines.

Celebrating Eid with Binangkal – the Filipino version of Middle Eastern Leqaimat

Binangkals are deep-fried dough ball coated with sesame seeds and originates from the Philippines. They are quite similar to the regional favourite Leqaimats which are traditionally consumed during Iftar in the holy month of Ramadan, but less sweet.

Binangkals are deep-fried dough ball coated with sesame seeds and originates from the Philippines.

Eid Mubarak! I am sharing Lady M’s recipe of binangkal that I recently shared with Khaleej Times. Binangkals, according to me, are the Filipino version of Middle Eastern Leqaimats. In the Philippines, binangkals are popular munchies with tea and coffee and sold at roadside stalls and regular bakeries. Lady M has been living with us for for more than 12 years now. Over the years she has learnt to cook Bengali and Indian food from the internet and my cookbooks and makes the most delicious dishes from all over the world. She has also introduced a lot of Filipino food in our Bengali kitchen. The recipe proportion she follows here is gathered over the internet and from her friend who works in a bakery. I felt that binagkal would be a fitting tribute to the essence of not only the holy month of Ramadan culminating with the Eid celebrations but also living in the UAE, a melting pot of so many different nationalities.

Binangkal recipe

Dubai and the UAE has been our adopted home for the last two decades and now the time has come for us to relocate. Lady M is also moving into another loving family. We are grateful to have her in our lives – she’s been an integral part of our family, another mother to the Z-Sisters, my partner in all our kitchen experiments. We once made a Bengali and Filipino fusion dessert, which is still one of our favourites of all times. No bidding goodbyes please … may we continue celebrating togetherness, cherished memories, inspired food stories, a mishmash of cultures and cuisines wherever we are – with leqaimats and binangkals!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Dessert recipes that you might like making for Eid: 
Semaiya Kheer or Vermicelli Pudding
Firni or Ferni - The broken rice pudding
Moong Daaler Payesh or Yellow Lentil Pudding

Binangkals are deep-fried dough ball coated with sesame seeds and originates from the Philippines.

Binangkals are deep-fried dough ball coated with sesame seeds and originates from the Philippines.

Binangkals are deep-fried dough ball coated with sesame seeds and originates from the Philippines.

Binangkals are deep-fried dough ball coated with sesame seeds and originates from the Philippines.

Binangkal

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Category=Bread and Dessert; Cuisine=Filipino

Binangkals are deep-fried dough ball coated with sesame seeds and originates from the Philippines.

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar, powdered
¼ cup corn starch
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup cream
1 egg
1 tbsp white oil
2 cups white sesame seeds, for coating
white oil, for deep frying (you will require generous amount)

Method

  • In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, corn starch, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, combine cream, egg, oil and stir well.
  • Add the above mixture into the flour mixture and mix it until it forms a smooth dough.
  • Take palmfuls of dough to roll into smooth balls, with slightly greased hands.
  • Coat with sesame seeds.
  • Deep fry until golden. Drain the Binangkals on paper towel to soak the excess oil.
  • Serve hot or cold.

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

+ Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread or Khachapuri

Acharuli – Making the boat shaped Georgian Khachapuri at home

The kitchen is the central focal point in our home around which all of us are orbiting eternally… much like the sun in our solar system!

Making of Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread at home

We cook everything at home – Bengali recipes picked up from my mother or mother-in-law, friends, various blogs and different social media platforms, the multiple cookbooks that I have collected over the years, much of which are signed from the authors and chefs who have penned them… and last but not the least, food inspired by our travels. Ever since we became evolved bakers (we imply the Z-Sisters and Lady M, while the Bearded Biker and I are mostly into hands-on cooking, however elaborate it may be), it was time to transcend beyond simple breads… and boundaries. Making of Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread at home

Making Acharuli, the stunning boat shaped Khachapuri or Georgian cheese-bread at home was highly thrilling. It was a collaborative project between Big Z and Lady M and the outcome was not only successful but soul-satisfying. Khachapuris are cheese-filled breads and are shaped in various ways. Traditionally, the cheese that is used is a regional cheese called sulguni. The acharuli khachapuris originated from the Adjaran region in Georgia. Over and above the generous cheese-filling in each bread-boat, a big blob of butter and an egg yolk sat right in the middle!

Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread or Khachapuri

You can find the Acharuli recipe in www.foodemag.com, the food and travel website that I am a co-founder of. The recipe has been shared by Alice Feiring, an American journalist and author who visited Georgia in 2011 and wrote the book ‘For the Love of Wine’. The recipe uses shredded haloumi as a substitute for the regional cheese sulguni (the author suggests that you could also try mozzarella) and crumbled feta cheese.

Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread or Khachapuri

My family tasted their first acharuli in Telavi, Georgia’s wine region Kakheti. It was my second visit to Georgia, hence already a self-proclaimed connoisseur of Georgian food. Our guide led us through the diverse cultural and culinary heritage of Georgia over lunch in a restaurant that overlooked the beautiful Caucasus range. We learnt about the Adjaran region from where the acharuli originated, lay in the coast of Black Sea and the ethnic group Lazis inhabiting the region were mainly sailors. The shape of the acharuli – the cheese filling and the egg yolk represented the boat, sea and the sun respectively!

Making of Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread at home

If you are confident with your dough-making skills, making acharuli at home shouldn’t be very difficult. Our acharulis turned out to be exactly how we had tasted in Georgia. They had to be eaten immediately out of the oven with the egg yolk staring bright yellow and still intact. The mission, as I had learnt in Georgia, was to make a gooey mess as you stirred the egg yolk in the piping hot filling of cheese. In our case, by the time the entire family assembled at the table, the egg seemed slightly cooked. This turned out to be quite a boon in disguise. As Big Z pointed out, it was better to avoid eating raw food at the moment.

Making of Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread at homeMaking of Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread at homeMaking of Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread at homeMaking Acharuli, the boat shaped Georgian cheese-bread at home

Tasting Acharuli in Georgia

There are many regional variations of khachapuris and one of our best food memories in Georgia are from a roadside family restaurant in Pasanauri, We didn’t taste acharuli there, instead, drooled over another type of khachapuri – Pkhlovana. Filled with salty Ossetian cheese and beetroot leaves, the pkhlovana khachapuris were fried crispy in sunflower oil. We visited Georgia during spring and what a sight to behold all around. Flowers bloomed everywhere, specially cherry blossoms. We randomly stopped to buy sweet cherries, plums, peaches and other fruits sold by the countryside. At Telavi, we made our wishes as we hugged a 900-year old plane tree. The Giant Plane Tree was the oldest plane tree in Georgia and amongst one of the many fauna wonders that the country flaunted during spring.

Saving the best for the last – in our last night in Georgia in Tbilisi, we came across a giant Acharuli in the popular Georgian fast-food chain called Samikitno. It had three egg yolks on top of the generous cheese-filling and had been appropriately named the ‘Titanic Acharuli’! The acharulis that we made at home may not have been as giant as the one in Tbilisi, they could be if we wanted them to be. The successful outcome, however, is in itself a giant step in our evolution in bread making at home!

Hope my food story inspires you to explore or revisit different countries through their cuisines, from your kitchen and home!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

You might like trying out what we've been cooking up at home recently: 
Thai Papaya Salad Recipe
Homemade Bread with Sprinkled Sesame
Stuffed Chilli Spring Rolls
Happy Cinnamon Rolls

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. Our Georgia vacation was self-paid. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

+ Homemade gurer shondesh

Shubho Noboborsho – Makha Gurer Shondesh and other homemade Bengali sweets

You can take a Bengali out of Bengal, but clearly not Mishti – sweets, out of a Bengali!

Homemade Bengali sweets for Noboborsho

Shubho Noboborsho to all of you! Today was a working day and since everybody is either working or studying from home these days, I thought of keeping the Noboborsho lunch menu simple, but special. Li’l Z loves the Bengali prawn delicacy – Chingri Maacher Malaikari and Big Z longed for Bhapa Mishti Doi – steamed sweet yoghurt. She makes me feel quite special every time she declares that I make the best mishti doi in the world, although I must admit that it’s not a traditional recipe but a tweaked one. I decided to make two different preparations for prawns – a malaikari, cooked in coconut milk and a spicy Shorshe Chingri Bhapa. In the latter preparation, the prawns are delicately steamed in mustard paste and green chillies, raw mustard oil poured on top. In addition to the above dishes, I felt it would be pretty fair to have another mishti since it was after all, the Bengali New Year. You can take a Bengali out of Bengal, but clearly not mishti out of a Bengali. On that note, I was pretty bemused with this news from back home – amidst the country wide lockdown, sweetshops have been given permission to keep open for four hours in West Bengal to cater to the Bengalis’ sweet cravings!

We decided on making Dudh Puli, rice flour dumplings with coconut-jaggery filling… all deliciously dunked in a thickened kheer. As it always does in our kitchen (#gratitude),  one sweet led to the other. There was extra filling for the pulis, so that led to some Narkel Narus, the coconut-jaggery truffles. There was extra Gur or jaggery, so I thought, well … why not make some Makha Gurer Shondesh too? I am sharing the recipe – it’s not too sweet and pretty easy to make. Made from fresh homemade chhena (cottage cheese), this shondesh is called makha because it is kneaded until it’s soft. If you have shondesh moulds at home, they make pretty shapes too. From my precious kitchen collectibles, I used a special wooden mould that is used in this part of the world (Middle East) for making Ma’amouls. Ma’amouls are very popular here – pastry with date fillings inside and are decorated by hand or shaped by wooden moulds. Well, isn’t that an inspiring take of my Makha Shondesh on Ma’amoul moulds?

May only good memories and amazing things spill out from the magic hat at all times to sweeten your lives, no matter what!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

You may like trying out some Bengali sweets: 
Moong Daaler Payesh or Yellow Lentil Pudding
Bhapa Mishti Doi
Notun Gurer Payesh
Shondesh/Sandesh Pudding
		

Gobindobhog riceHomemade Gurer ShondeshHomemade Mishti Doi Homemade Mishti DoiFreshly grated coconut with jaggery Homemade gurer naruWooden mould for making Ma'amoul

Homemade Gurer Shondesh

Makha Gurer Shondesh

  • Servings: 12 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Category=Dessert; Cuisine=Bengali

Ingredients

1 litre full fat cow’s milk
1 lime, squeezed into juice
100 gms date palm syrup (these are readily available in supermarkets here. Traditionally, however, season fresh nolen gur is used and I too prefer to use the latter if its available)
½ tsp of rice flour (you can use flour)
½ tsp of cardamom powdered, preferably crushed from fresh cardamoms
1 tsp ghee to brush the surface of the mould

Method

  • In a large dekchi or a thick bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil. Lower the heat and add the lime juice. The milk should separate into chhena and whey.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and pour the chhena into a big sieve (traditionally a muslin cloth is used). Run it under cold water to remove any lingering taste of lime. Squeeze out as much water from the chhena and let it rest in the sieve for a while.
  • Transfer the fresh chhena into a glass bowl. Knead the dough until becomes smooth and soft.
  • Add the date syrup or date jaggery to the chhena and mix it until it blends completely into the chhena.
  • Start making balls of soft makha shondesh by a slight brushing of rice flour in your palms to prevent the dough sticking to your fingers.
  • Brush the shondesh mould lightly with ghee. Place each ball into the shondesh mould (I used a Ma’amoul mould) and flatten them. Take out the shaped shondesh gently from the mould. You may just leave them as round balls.
  • Serve the makha shondesh at room temperature.

The internet today is overloaded with information on COVID-19, do read and absorb whatever is necessary and adhere to the tips and advices that the respective authorities of your country of residence are sharing with you.

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

+ Homemade Nutty Spreads - Almond, Cashew & Hazelnut

Homemade Nutty Spreads – Almond, Cashew & Hazelnut

I love my time in the kitchen, specially the feeling that comes with being brushed off by a teen daughter who knows what she’s doing and is completely in charge of the kitchen!

Homemade Nutty Spreads - Almond, Cashew & Hazelnut

Go Nuts! Literally that’s what we did over this weekend – Big Z, in particular. She busied herself by making spreads from all the nuts she could find in our kitchen counter – almonds, cashews and hazelnuts. It was a conscious decision on her part not to put any extra add-ons like coconut oil or sea-salt, in spite of the constant temptation from our internet wisdom. While making homemade nutty spreads was mostly Big Z’s initiative, it was also partly this mama’s practical quest to chance upon substitutes to keep the Z-Sisters away from the Nutella and peanut butter jars that emptied as soon as they entered our home. Could homemade spreads actually turn out as good as they are made out to be? Oh, absolutely! All of them turned out rich, creamy and magnificently delicious. Specially, the cashew spread. I can’t wait for breakfast tomorrow, to lather one of these joyful spreads on a piece of toast of our delicious homemade bread. Big Z plans to have a spoonful with her oatmeal. She spent a lot of time making these spreads (bless her!) because we don’t have a high-speed blender at home. I find most kitchen gadgets like food processor and others cumbersome and difficult to clean, preferring smaller gadgets like a mini dry grinder and a hand blender. But if you have one at home, making homemade nutty spreads should be like a cakewalk. Well, that could be an idea for a treat – a simple homemade vanilla cake with a hazelnut spread.

A simple homemade spread transformed itself into a spectacular treat – I’m sure love was the single-most important ingredient. Along with dollops of gratitude. Stay safe, have fun… and spread lots of joy!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

You might like trying out what we've been cooking up at home recently: 
Thai Papaya Salad Recipe
Homemade Bread with Sprinkled Sesame
Stuffed Chilli Spring Rolls
Happy Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade Cashew spreadHomemade Cashew spread

Homemade Almond spread

Making homemade nutty spreadsHomemade Nutty Spreads - Almond, Cashew & Hazelnut

Nutty Spreads - Almond, Cashew & Hazelnut

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Category=Spread; 

Homemade Nutty Spreads - Almond, Cashew & Hazelnut

Ingredients

2 cups raw cashews
2 cups raw hazelnuts
2 cups raw almonds

Additionally, for Hazelnut spread
2 tbsp cocoa powder unsweetened
1 tbsp sugar

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 180ºC and roast the nuts for 10 minutes, having arranged them on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Once cool, loosen the skins from the nuts by cupping a handful of nuts in the palms and gently brushing them against each other.
  • Add each type of nut separately in a blender and blend until creamy (it should take 8-10 minutes on low speed if it’s a high-speed blender). As you blend, pause occasionally to scrape down the sides with a spatula for smooth blending and the spread gives out a rich texture.
  • For the Hazelnut spread, add cocoa powder and sugar while blending.
  • Transfer each spread to it’s respective jar and store in the refrigerator. The homemade spreads can last for two to three weeks.

Homemade Nutty Spreads - Almond, Cashew & Hazelnut

The internet today is overloaded with information on COVID-19, do read and absorb whatever is necessary and adhere to the tips and advices that the respective authorities of your country of residence are sharing with you.

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

+ Thai Green Papaya Salad made at home

Thai Papaya Salad Recipe – Also reminiscing the Floating Market in Global Village

This is our favourite Som Tam or the Thai Green Papaya Salad … it’s a very easy recipe to stir up. I tweaked the recipe a bit from a fridge magnet that I had collected on my Thailand trip. Every time we make it at home, the familiar sights and sounds from the trip comes alive.

Thai Green Papaya Salad made at home

Travelling to places – far away or even as close as your neighbour’s house, seem to be a distant memory. So does tasting new cuisines at different restaurants or food events. Every day, I keep rearranging our collection of fridge magnets that hold so many beautiful memories of our travels – our family vacations and my press trips, or souvenirs gifted by our friends from their holidays. May we continue gathering all images collectively, associated with all our beautiful memories. That’s the only forward to positively impact every person, who’s ever been part of our travel experiences – street-side vendors, small cafes and restaurants, hotels etc. It doesn’t really matter who they are… vendors, suppliers, creators, planners, marketeers… we are all in this together.

Today, I’m sharing the recipe of our favourite Thai Green Papaya Salad, or Som Tam… it’s a very easy recipe to stir up. I tweaked the recipe a bit from a fridge magnet that I had collected on my Thailand trip (image further below). Every time we make it at home, the familiar sights and sounds from the trip is alive. Refresh your travel memories by cooking dishes from different cuisines from your travels. Just to emphasise on the importance of keeping your good memories alive, I used this old album as my canvas backdrop. It belongs to my father and hopefully, he doesn’t find it missing!

Thai Green Papaya Salad made at home

Thai Green Papaya Salad made at home

Thai Papaya Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Category=Salad; Cuisine=Thai

Thai Green Papaya Salad made at home

Ingredients

4 cloves of garlic
2 red chillies, chopped
1 green chilli, thinly sliced
½ tsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp honey
2 cups green papaya (400 gms), shredded or julienned
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 tbsp salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
2 Thai basil leaves, for garnishing
¼” long yardlong, Chinese long-bean or green bean

Method

  • Grind garlic and red chillies in a mortar.
  • Add shrimp paste, fish sauce, lime juice and honey.
  • Add the shredded papaya, tomatoes, peanuts and mix lightly with a pestle while pounding lightly.
  • Garnish with sliced green chillies, chopped coriander, sweet Thai basil and pieces of raw Chinese long-beans or green beans
  • Serve fresh to enjoy this refreshing salad. We often refrigerate

Grilled seafood in Floating Market in Global Village

Sights & Sounds of Global Village

Floating Market in Global Village

Seafood fried rice at Floating Market in Global Village

Mussels in Floating Market in Global Village

Global Village had a premature closing this season as a precautionary measure, in accordance to the call of the hour. For those who aren’t initiated, Global Village is a brilliant venue that showcase culture and cuisine from more than 90 countries around the world. My occasional visits to the Global Village had always been accompanied by visiting guests. The Z-Sisters would often joke that they hoped to visit Global Village before the decade ended in December 2019! Thankfully, they did. We planned a family visit during the school break last winter. The girls were thrilled and I fell in love with the Floating Market that had been built. Modelled after traditional floating markets in Thailand, more than 30 floating stalls were housed in boats lined the canal canal by the Far East Asia pavilion. Thai food was prepared in a street style manner inside the kitchens of their respective boat kiosks. The Floating Market offered a huge variety – sizzling seafood grills, freshly cooked authentic Thai food, Thai desserts like coconut ice-cream, tofu in coconut milk, mango with sticky rice and many other Far East-Asian specialities. We overindulged ourselves on mussels, grilled and served in two of its variations – in a spicy Thai red chilli sauce and butter and herbs, grilled squids, deep-fried calamaris and prawns. Between two successive visits, we tasted the popular Thai Green Papaya Salad, a spicy Indomie with shrimps and Seafood Fried Rice. Everything about the Floating Market reminded me of my trip to Thailand, where I had been fortunate enough to learn to cook authentic Thai red curry in a fishermen’s village. The aroma of red chillies, tamarind, Thai basil, fish sauce, galangal … the taste still lingers on – both from my cooking class in Thailand as well the Floating market in Global Village. https://www.globalvillage.ae/en/

Shaved Ice at Floating Market in Global Village

One thing I’ve learnt from Lil Z… savour all your sweet memories in rainbow colours, like her shaved ice. Sweeter memories will be manifested, soon!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

The internet today is overloaded with information on COVID-19, do read and absorb whatever is necessary and adhere to the tips and advices that the respective authorities of your country of residence are sharing with you.

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. We paid for all our meals at the Floating Market in Global Village. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

+ Homemade wheat flour bread

Homemade Bread with Sprinkled Sesame – an ever evolving romance

Amongst all the things baked at home, nothing fills my heart with more gratitude and love than a freshly baked bread loaf just out of the oven.

Homemade wheat flour bread with sesame

We love cooking different kinds of recipes – simple or elaborate. Inspiration in our kitchen comes from different cuisines, cultures, cookbooks and random recipe discoveries online. Sometimes the menu is influenced by our travels and at times, they are a result of conversation I strike up with people I come across or other foodie friends and of course, from instagram and blog posts of my blogger friends. For years, I have been nervous about making dough, specially for cakes. I guess it’s because there is no room for altering proportions or zany experiments in such baking. The Z-Sisters have used this ignorance of mine to their advantage. Accompanied by our dearest Lady M, they have transformed into expert bakers. They bake almost everything – cupcakes, cookies, a variety of cakes. We also bake meatloaves and regular breads at home. Amongst all the things are baked at home, nothing fills my heart with more gratitude and love than a freshly baked bread loaf just out of the oven. The act of making a simple recipe coming to such a meaningful fruition is soul satisfying.

In our initial days, we used the regular self-raising flour to make our breads (images towards the end of the blogpost captured this journey). For a baking pan, we used a steel serving container left behind by one of the caterers from some party at home! Now we have bought a non-stick loaf-baking pan. Also, we use mostly atta or whole wheat, occasionally throwing in chopped nuts, pumpkin seeds and other ingredients we fancy. And gosh, we do fancy our sesame seeds! The addition of sesame not only ups the glamour quotient of our bread loaf, but also makes the taste punchier.

Homemade atta bread with sesame

Homemade wheat flour bread with sesame

Homemade wheat flour bread with sesame

Homemade Bread with Sprinkled Sesame

  • Servings: 15 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
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Category=Bread;

Homemade atta bread with sesame

Ingredients

3½ cups atta/wheat flour
1 tbsp honey (we also use brown sugar sometimes)
1 ½ tsp dry yeast
1 cup of milk, room temperature
2 tbsp white oil
1 tbsp butter – for greasing the pan and also to brush the loaf once its baked
½ tsp white sesame seeds
½ tsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp salt
½ cup warm water

1 bread loaf baking pan (27cms x 15cms stainless steel)

Method

  • In a big glass bowl, pour the atta/whole wheat. Add salt and stir the mixture well using a spatula. Keep aside.
  • In a small glass bowl, add honey and dry yeast to warm water. Stir well, keep aside for 10 minutes and let it rise.
  • Add the raised yeast to the atta and combine into it using a spatula. Add the milk gradually and keep stirring the mixture to make it a rough dough.
  • Once the dough is ready, add oil to it and mix. Cover the bowl with a cling film and set aside for an hour.
  • Grease a loaf-baking pan with butter. Transfer the dough from the glass bowl to the pan. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Cover the pan with a cling film and set aside for another hour. The dough will rise considerably, so while wrapping the cling film, keep it a bit loose, to accommodate the rise.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC and bake the loaf for 20 minutes. Keep a check to see that the loaf is baked evenly.
  • Brush the loaf generously with butter once it comes out of the oven and while it’s still hot. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
  • Turn the loaf over on a grill wrack. Brush butter all around the surface of the loaf. Keep aside until the loaf cools down. Air the loaf all around in an even manner (we keep the grill tray on top of a raised surface).
  • Cut the loaf into medium slices. Keep in mind that the slices from this loaf are quite soft, so slicing it very thin might result in crumbling.
You can make delicious French Toasts with this home made bread or simple buttered toasts with sugar sprinkled on top!

Homemade wheat flour bread

Homemade wheat flour breadHomemade wheat flour bread

Homemade wheat flour buns

With all the efforts that are taking place for self-isolation at this hour, I feel blessed and fortunate to be able to have both the meals together at home with family. Cooking or baking is not something that we have taken up suddenly as a new activity. We have always cooked at home. However, with everybody working and studying from home, while we plan the menu nowadays, we sometimes tend to tend to forget that weekdays are actual working days. It’s not a fancy weekend meal that can be elaborate to make my crew lethargic! Working or distant school learning from home may have their technical challenges for those who aren’t initiated into it. However, it’s doable if you adhere to a similar structure and routine that entailed earlier… yes, it’s easier said than done. It’s may be challenging for some give each other spaces to work or to study, even though we all might be in close physical proximity and a nudge’s distance.

I have to say though, I am inspired by how everyone is trying to make changes and adapting to their environments daily to meet the new challenges of the hour. Much like our ever-evolving bread story… ingredients may keep changing, but the binding, purpose and soul of the bread remains the same!

Keep your menu simple, keep it delicious, keep it homemade. Do share your daily personal food stories with me and stay tuned as I share mine.

Unblogging it all… Ishita

The internet today is overloaded with information on COVID-19, do read and absorb whatever is necessary and adhere to the tips and advices that the respective authorities of your country of residence are sharing with you.

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey on Pinterest, InstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. 

+ Stuffed Pepper Spring Rolls made at home

Stuffed Chilli Spring Rolls – because a little spiciness in life is sweet

Stuffed chilli spring rolls … because a little spiciness brings a lot of happiness in my own sweet little world!

Stuffed Chilli Spring Rolls

Chillies plays such a huge role in our lives. There are chilli plants in our gardens, each plant showing off a different variety of chilli. Friends gift us chilli pickles. Some also bring back chillies from their travels. Mom-in-law once brought chillies from Kolkata packed in her suitcase. Then she lovingly dried a few of them and planted them in small pots all over the garden. A few strong ones survived, some didn’t. The ones that don’t survive are regularly replaced by newly dried seeds of chillies brought from local supermarkets. Once, the bearded biker got bhut jhalokias from one of his travels across North-East India and planted them in our garden. Also known as ghost pepper, these chillies have been certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s hottest chilli pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce! While they didn’t survive in our Dubai garden, our love story with chillies continue in our lives – in our dinner table conversations and in our gardens. These crispy stuffed chilli spring rolls (above) were part of my special birthday menu recently, an extended version of Lady M’s regular spring rolls (below).

 

Speaking about our garden, we grow fresh basils, mint, coriander and chillies (obviously). We’ve grown watermelon successfully and attempted an ash gourd plant which delighted us only with its gorgeous flowers. We also tried our hands at growing strawberries which were mostly ransacked by birds. There’s an avocado tree planted from a seed of an avocado brought from Philippines that promises fruits this year. Or may be next year.

Expecting good things to bloom, ripen and taking us by surprise, is what keeps us ticking for the future. Specially love, isn’t it?

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Love

Stuffed Pepper Spring RollStuffed Pepper Spring Rolls made at home

Stuffed Chilli Spring Rolls

  • Servings: 15 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Category=Snack;

Ingredients

15 long green chillies (you may use jalapeños), min 5″ long
1 tbsp all purpose flour
15 spring roll pastry sheets, 5”x5”
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

For the filling
100 gms minced meat (we used lamb mince)
4 pods garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp  garam masala
1 tsp coriander power
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chilli powder
fresh coriander leaves, chopped

For deep frying
1 cup white oil

Method

  • Wash the chillies. Leave the stems on.
  • Slit the chillies longitudinally making sure not to tear apart the chillies. Scoop the seeds out.
  • For the filling, cook the minced meat. In a deep bottomed pan, heat oil. Add, chopped garlic, onions, tomatoes and the minced meat. Add all the spices. When the meat is cooked, added chopped coriander leaves.
  • Stuff the inside of each chilli with cooked minced meat. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Wrap the stuffed chilli in a puff pastry sheet. Dip your fingers into a light paste made with flour and water and delicately seal the edges of the puff pastry sheet.
  • Use a deep bottomed frying pan or a wok for deep frying the stuffed chilli spring rolls.
  • Serve hot to enjoy the crispiness of chilli spring rolls!

 

Chilli plants growing in our home gardenHome grown basil leavesBasil plantsFresh coriander in the gardenAsh Gourd PlantWatermelon tree

The internet today is overloaded with information on COVID-19, do read and absorb whatever is necessary and adhere to the tips and advices that the respective authorities of your country of residence are sharing with you. More from authentic source such as WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey on Pinterest, InstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. 

+ Homemade cinnamon rolls following recipe of Tastes of Lizzy T

Happy Cinnamon Rolls that you can make at home

Homemade cinnamon rolls and a steaming hot coffee… I wish somewhere beyond the dark clouds, we could all see the rainbow that promises a life filled with simple pleasures of life, all over again!

Homemade cinnamon rolls adapting Lizzy T's recipe

The Z-Sisters are already one week into their remote school learning. The bearded biker also works from home currently. Our kitchen transforms into my occasional writing space, with the dear labradors snuggled at my feet. The words that are meant to form thoughts become muddled up by the aroma of Lady M’s delicious cooking. In an ideal world, this would been my ideal kind of a day. However, these days, I keep checking on the incessant whatsapp messages to reassure myself that our parents and others in our families back home and elsewhere are safe and sound. The same thought goes out for our friends, colleagues and everyone we know. While I pray for a safe world today and everyday, I’m ever grateful to all the forces ~ divine and human, that work in conjunction that are keeping us safe and alive. May our collective energy gear us towards love and hope, faith and positivity and a beautiful future ahead. Very very soon.

Until then, let us spread love and joy, hope and faith… specially over social media (that’s Instagram for me), with whatever makes our hearts dance to a {happy} beat. Enjoy your baking!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Butter, sugar and cinnamon powder

Happy Cinnamon Rolls

  • Servings: around 30 pieces
  • Difficulty: the process may be elaborate, but its fairly easy to make
  • Print
Category=Dessert;
Recipe adapted from Tastes of Lizzy T’s Homemade Cinnamon Rolls {Cinnabon Copycat}. She also shares variations of cinnamon rolls in her website along with a lot of home baking tips that might help you to hone your baking skills. This is a tried and tested recipe at home and although we have retained the original recipe, we have tweaked it slightly.

 

Ingredients

For the dough
1 cup milk, warm
2 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the filling
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbs cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy cream (for pouring over the rolls)

For the frosting
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar, powdered
1/2 tbsp vanilla essence

Method

For the dough

  • Pour the warm milk in a mixer bowl. Sprinkle yeast, add eggs, butter, salt and sugar. Add in the flour (keep aside 1/2 cup for sprinkling and other misc usage) and mix until the ingredients are combined. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes. (We use an electric hand beater)
  • Beat the dough on medium speed and knead until the dough is soft and smooth.
  • Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Use a rubber spatula to remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it in a greased large bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel or wax paper. Set the bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until double.
For the filling (you can prepare this while the dough is rising)
  • In a medium bowl, mix well the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • Sprinkle a pastry mat (we generally use our granite kitchen counter surface for these kind of activities) generously with flour. Turn out the dough onto the pastry mat and sprinkle the top of the dough with some flour.
  • Flatten the dough using a rolling pin (Lizzy T suggests rolling the dough into a 24″×15″ rectangle). Use a rubber spatula to smooth the cinnamon filling over the flattened dough.
  • Starting on the longer end, roll the dough up tightly, like a cylinder. Cut into slices (each into 1/2″ of width)  and place in a greased baking pan. Cover the pan and allow the rolls to rise for 20 minutes or until nearly double.
  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  • Once the rolls have risen, pour the heavy cream (slightly warmed up) generously over the top of the rolls so that they can soak down in the cream.
  • Bake at 180ºC for 20 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown in colour and are cooked throughly.

For the frosting (you can prepare this while the rolls are cooling down)

  • In a large bowl, combine butter and powdered sugar and blend well. Add in the vanilla essence (Lizzy T uses cream cheese in her recipe, we skip it as we find that they make them extremely gooey)
  • Spread the frosting over the cooled rolls. Serve hot or cold according to your preference!

Homemade cinnamon rolls

Homemade cinnamon rolls

 

The internet today is overloaded with information on COVID-19, do read and absorb whatever is necessary and adhere to the tips and advices that the respective authorities of your country of residence are sharing with you. More from authentic source such as WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey on Pinterest, InstagramFacebook and Twitter! Much love – Ishita

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. 

+ Birgu, also known as Città Vittoriosa

Malta | Smitten by the medieval Birgu

Birgu comprised of the last part of my Malta itinerary and I was already smitten by yellow limestone forts, grand harbours and azure blue waters that characterised the Maltese landscape.

Birgu, also known by its title Città Vittoriosa, is an old fortified city on the south side of the Grand Harbour in the South Eastern Region of Malta. It served as the capital city of Malta between 1530 and 1571, until Valletta was built. The city still retained its medieval flavour with cobbled alleys, stepped lanes, converted townhouses (available for rents!), elegantly renovated art and curio boutiques. The Birgu waterfront was lined with modern cafes and restaurants and buzzed with alfresco diners. Our guide Yvette led us through the quiet lanes of the town and majestic doors, fabled doorknobs, laced curtains, filigreed verandahs hanging out of charming old buildings embraced and surprised us in a slightly different manner than it did in Valletta and Mdina. The inner lanes in Birgu were narrower and cosier. They seemed rather quiet as individual tourists savoured their strolls and peeped into boutiques. In contrast, the historical Victory Square was downed by a bevy of tourists disembarking out of big tourist coaches. Our group disintegrated after a while – some went off to explore the various museums (The Maltese Maritime Museum, The Inquisitor’s Palace and there were many more), while the rest loitered into all the interesting nooks and corners that the town offered. One such discovery of mine was a space called Find the Door.

If you are visiting Malta in autumn, please don't miss Birgufest/Birgu by candlelight. The streets are lit up by thousands of candles as the event highlights Birgu’s history and architecture with activities, re-enactments, art exhibitions, concerts, popular games, discounted museum admission fees and access to popular venues of interests.

Colourful doors and golden limestone walls in traditional Birgu houses

Find the Door

Find the Door is an artisanal boutique, a creative workspace cum shop showcasing a large collection of items, made by hand and sourced by artists living in Malta. Housed in a beautiful house in the Collacchio area in Birgu, this had once been a historical bakery. The boutique sold unique curios, souvenirs, artefacts, home decor, jewellery and many other interesting products. There were handmade jewellery that used natural materials made from and inspired by the Maltese Islands. The open courtyards were transformed into working space for artists and the corners were stacked with books and reading memorabilia. Once I was inside this creative maze, it was very difficult for me to refocus on the day’s itinerary in hand.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/findthedoormalta/
27 Triq It Tramuntana, Birgu

Find the Door is an artisanal boutique in BirguFind the Door is an artisanal boutique in BirguFind the Door is an artisanal boutique in BirguFind the Door is an artisanal boutique in Birgu

Eating in Birgu

The waterfront is lined with cafes and restaurants, so are the inner lanes and the popular squares. We came across Tal-Petut restaurant which had a great name. Apparently, the chef patron prepared and served prepared meals personally to its patrons. The restaurant served only fresh local produce and innovative Maltese food. Since this was going to be our last meal in Malta, we chose a restaurant that was located at the historical Victory Square so that we could immerse ourselves completely in the local vibe. BeBirgu was a bar and bistro of the San Lawrenz Band Club established in 1883 (yet another restaurant with an association with a historical band. Earlier in Valleta, we had a meal at Own Band Club Bar & Restaurant that was situated on the ground floor in the historical premises of a 1874 building belonging to the King’s Own Band Club). Housed in an old palace, Palazzo Huesca, a grand entrance led us through an ornate corridor into a beautiful terrace of an inner courtyard which had been transformed into a dining space. I settled in with one of the wonderful companions from the trip  – an editor friend from a popular woman’s magazine. A chilled cold coffee was the perfect thirst quencher after the afternoon heat. We skipped any traditional starters and I ordered Ravjul Malti, the famous homemade Maltese Raviolis with filled with ricotta and parmesan. My companion ordered a Penne with chicken and mushroom. We loved both the pasta preparations – the aroma of fresh herbs and homemade sauces were evident.

https://www.facebook.com/Bebirgu/

11, Misrah ir-Rebha, Triq P. Boffa, Birgu
+356 7722 0077; closes 11pm

BeBirgu bar and bistro in BirguThe grand entrance to BeBirgu Bar and Bistro in BirguBeBirgu Bar and Bistro in Birgu

The golden hue of Maltese architecture still hangs over my vision while the azure blue of the Mediterranean has seeped deep into my senses. The charm of history, medieval nostalgia, delicious food and the warmth of the people in Malta triumphs over the humidity and the heat of the season. With a flight distance that is less than seven hours, this should be my next destination for a family holiday… only this time with a definite stop over at Larnaca and a ferry ride to Sicily, not even a hundred kilometres away!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: It was my honour to be a guest of the Embassy of the Republic of Malta in the United Arab Emirates. For more info on Malta, visit www.visitmalta.com. We paid for our lunch at BeBirgu restaurant and for all our personal purchases from Find the Door. There aren’t any affiliated links in this post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

Interesting reads:
Saint Lawrence Band Club, Vittoriosa
+ Island of Gozo in Malta

Malta | Sailing into the beautiful island of Gozo

The beautiful island of Gozo awaited our arrival and we sailed amidst the scenic blue Mediterranean with the cool sea breeze sweeping across my cheeks.

The third day of our Malta itinerary (here’s my first Malta post on the fortified cities Valletta and Mdina) comprised of a day trip to Gozo, the second largest island after the main island of Malta. Unlike its sister island Comino, which has officially three residents only, Gozo is relatively large with a population of around thirty-seven thousand people.

We boarded a minivan from Sliema to reach Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal on the northern tip of Malta Island via a scenic drive along the Coast Road. The coastal road is one of the most beautiful roads in Malta and in the one and a half an hour drive, we passed quite a few beaches, bays, small seaside towns and picturesque villages. Many of them were popular destinations for locals and tourists. The quaintness of the surroundings and the gorgeous panorama charmed us all… be it St George’s Bay around the busy St Julian’s area at the start of our journey near Sliema, or Mellieħa Bay situated at a few minutes’ drive away from the ferry terminal at Gozo, our destination. The Mellieha Bay, also known as Ghadira, is the largest and one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in Malta, just off the town of Mellieha. From Cirkewwa, we hopped onto the Gozo ferry, the passenger line which plied across to the Mgarr harbour in southeast coast of Gozo every 45 minutes all year round. Once we claimed our seats on the upper deck, the next twenty minutes were spent gorging on the scenic coastlines of Maltese islands, including that of Comino.

A scenic boat trip at Dwerja Bay, admire Gozo’s beauty in its naturalness, explore Malta’s heritage and history in the Ġgantija megalithic temple ruins

The first emotional encounter that every tourist in Gozo will come across is the loss of the iconic Azure Window. Also known as Dwerja Window, the 28-metre-tall natural limestone arch in Dwejra Bay was one of the island’s major tourist destinations. On 8th March 2017, a stormy weather led to it’s sudden collapse – a major loss to Malta’s natural heritage. Although not as popular as the Azure Window, a visit to Wied il-Mielaħ Window, another limestone natural arch located at the end of the picturesque Wied il-Mielaħ valley, is a must. So is paying a homage to the Azure Window by taking a boat trip in the Dwerja Bay to see the ruins of the window. A boat trip (costing 4 euros per person) took us to a seawater lagoon through a narrow tunnel and deep caves carved out of the coralline rock formations from Dwerja. The water below us was crystal clear, throwing a glimpse of pink corals. As we reached the open sea, the floor gradually dropped away and the colour of the water deepened. The coastline was formed by steep and rugged cliffs that rose impressively from the sea.

Shrubs, dense bushes and pretty tiny flowers bloomed everywhere in the island. We came across densely branched Mediterranean thyme with purple flowers; common fennel with feathery leaves and yellow flowers; bushy capers that grew in holes in the walls and cracks on stones. Our wonderful guide Yvette, told us how capers were pickled in sea salt and vinegar and used as seasoning in many traditional Mediterranean dishes. The most common sight however, were the prickly pear cactus plants, also known as ‘bajtar tax-xewk’. The warm Mediterranean climate with long, dry summers and cool, mild winters in Malta were perfect for these cacti and its fruits were used to make everything from jams, jellies and ‘Bajtra’, the famous liqueur. Inside the Ġgantija megalithic temple complex too, we came across a lot of indigenous plants. These Neolithic temples were the earliest of the Megalithic Temples of Malta and were older than even the pyramids of Egypt. They were also the world’s second oldest existing manmade religious structures. ‘Ġgantija’ meant giant in Maltese, and the rock structures justified the name.

Gozo took pride in its well-preserved Neolithic Ġgantija temples which date back to 3600 BC. Along with the other Megalithic Temples of Malta, these ruins are among the world’s oldest free-standing structures and have been awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Explore Cittadella in Victoria, visit the 350 year old Marsalforn salt pans, dive into Greek mythology at the Calypso cave over the breathtaking Ramla Bay

We drove past the spectacular basilica, Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu Basilica, located on the edge of a seaside cliff a few times. Our first stop in the island was Citadella, or Castello. This fortified city in Victoria (also known as Rabat in Maltese) is the capital city of Gozo it’s first fortifications dated back to 1500 BC. The citadel is currently on Malta’s tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage sites. Like most ancient buildings in Malta, the buildings in Citadella too were built with the softer Globigerina limestone giving out its characteristic golden hue. Norman-styled windows, striking bas-reliefs and coat of arms marked the façade of the buildings. One such bas-relief depicting St Anne, mother of the blessed Virgin Mary, protector of city gates, held centre stage under the archway near the entrance. This entrance led us into the citadel through narrow winding streets. Inside, there were historic buildings and notable churches, including the magnificent baroque Cathedral of the Assumption which was built on the site of an earlier church. Keys were left inside the locks in most of the main doors – reiterating the pride of the Maltese people… everyone on the island was trustworthy. Before we proceeded towards other touristic destinations after the citadel tour, we walked to the ruined battlements to enjoy a panoramic view of Victoria and other cities in the island.

On our way to lunch, we stopped by the north coast of Gozo at Marsalforn salt pans that stretched for more than 3 kms. The coast was characterised by a unique landscape – a chequerboard of rock-cut salt pans that were more than three hundred and fifty year old. The centuries-old Gozitan tradition of sea-salt production was still carried on by a few families who had specialised in this for a few generations. We then headed off to the Calypso Cave, which was apparently the love prison of Ulysses. Located in a cliff off the village of Xaghra, the cave overlooked the beautiful beach of Ramla l-Ħamra. Although the actual cave is now closed for safety reasons, the breathtaking view from this location was worth the drive. Mentioned by Greek author Homer in his epic poem The Odyssey, the beautiful nymph Calypso, kept Odysseus as a ‘prisoner of love’ for seven years in this very cave. In his epic, Homer described Calypso’s island Ogygia (today’s Gozo), as a lush, beautiful island with a tropical feel. There were rocky cliffs with amazing waterfalls and various types of birds including owls, falcons, and sea-crows soaring over the island. By all means, Gozo fitted all the above description and more!

Eating in Gozo

Qbajjar Restaurant
Considered as one of the best local restaurants in Gozo, Qbajjar offered a spectacular view of the Qbajjar bay along with delicious lunch choices of Mediterranean and local cuisine. The restaurant offered both a la carte menu together with everyday specialities prepared fresh with locally sourced ingredients. While the daily fish catch determined the fish menu, seasonal availability of fresh produce influenced the specials. Homemade Bruschetta, thinly sliced toasted bread with garlic, tomatoes, basil, onions, olives, capers and olive oil, arrived at the table with our drinks. I tried a white wine produced in Malta – a limited edition of Caravaggio from the famous Marsovin winery. For mains, I ordered one of the restaurant’s specialities. Coniglio alla Gozitana was a signature dish – rabbit fried in garlic, peas, herbs and white wine. A traditional rabbit stew, stuffat tal-fenek was considered the national dish of Malta and it wasn’t offered in the menu that day. An delicious assortment of home made desserts like panna cotta, tiramisu and others along with a variety of home-made ice creams signed off our brilliant lunch.

https://qbajjarrestaurant.com/
Triq ix-Xwejni, Marsalforn
+356 2155 1124; Open 10:30 until 15:30 and again from 17:30 until 22:30 (last order);
Closed on Tuesdays

Buying local produce in the island

A visit to Gozo island is incomplete without visiting Ta’ Mena Estate, a family owned business which produced artisanal Gozitan food products like pickles, preserves, jams, jellies, compotes, local cheese, liqueurs and more. The estate cultivated its own vines, olives, lemons, oranges, various fruit trees, strawberries, tomatoes, melons, water melons and other vegetables. Some of the most popular buys were pure Gozo Honey, Kunserva Helwa/sweet tomato paste, Kunserva Mielha/salty tomato paste, sun dried tomatoes, wild capers in vinegar, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, local cheese and Bajtra – the prickly pear liqueur, amongst other fruit liqueurs. We had a tasting session of local wines along with Ġbejniet, the local cheese, made from goat’s milk. The locals ate this cheese in its many forms – from salt cured and sun dried to crushed black pepper. In Ta’Mena Estate, guests could not only taste traditional Maltese food but also learn about crops, trees and traditional way of processing food in the island. I didn’t quite fancy the taste of the famous Bajtra, so I bought red wine instead, chilli infused olive oil, Qubbajt – the famous Maltese Nougat and Gozitan beeswax bath products made,

http://tamena-gozo.com/
Ta’ Mena Estate, Rabat Road Xaghra, Gozo
+356 2156 3097; closes 5pm

What is your kind of retail therapy while on travel? What do you like to buy and how do you plan your eatings?.Do you stick to familiar dishes (and popular international restaurant chains) or are you the kind who’s attracted to local food and visiting the local markets? Travelling for my family and me is another excuse to learn and explore a little bit more of the world that we live in. Although I am not very bold or wildly adventurous, I am definitely curious and open to new tastes, sights and sounds. We make a match, hopefully!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey on Pinterest, InstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: It was my honour to be a guest of the Embassy of the Republic of Malta in the United Arab Emirates. For more info on Malta, visit www.visitmalta.com. We were hosted at Qbajjar restaurant and we paid for all our personal purchases from Ta’mena. There aren’t any affiliated links in this post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

Interesting read:
Limestone country: the story behind Malta’s iconic golden hue
Odysseus on Calypso’s Island
+ Traffic in Valletta

Malta | Exploring the fortified cities of Mdina and Valletta

The island basked in more than 7,000 years of history, abundant sunshine, dollops of warm sea breeze and vitamin sea all around. 

Fortified cities, picturesque coastlines, pretty harbours in an azure Mediterranean surrounding thronged by fishing and leisure boats alike, Malta is regal and stunning. There’s more to this tiny island-archipelago than just picturesque locales in movies like Gladiator, Troy, Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt’s film ‘By the Sea’ or the legendary series of Game of Thrones. The country checks all the plausible boxes for an exotic travel destination – delicious food, gorgeous landscapes, archaeological relicts, architectural marvels and of course, the allure of history. Malta is the world’s tenth smallest country and boasts of three UNESCO impressive World Heritage Sites: Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni, the fortified city of Valletta (the smallest national capital in the European Union) and seven megalithic temples. The latter are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world. Malta’s strategic location in the centre of the Mediterranean and the government’s earnest developmental policies are already managing to attract a lot of foreign investment too, especially in the real estate and manufacturing sectors.

A seven-hour long flight by Emirates Airline that included a small one-hour stopover in Larnaca in Cyprus, brought me to this tiny Mediterranean island. With an area covering around 300 square metres and a population less than 500,000, the size is in sheer contrast to its mighty legacy. The island basked in more than 7,000 years of history, abundant sunshine, dollops of warm sea breeze and vitamin sea all around. I fell in love with traditional Maltese houses which had delicately filigreed wooden verandas known as ‘gallerias’, hanging out of buildings carved out of yellow limestone. This imparted a unique elegance to the landscape, and I was happy to see (and relieve to learn) that the traditional style was being replicated even in the newer houses that were being built. Everywhere, urbanisation seemed rapid and checks and balances prevailed to ensure that the modern real estate developments were in sync with the heritage of the traditional architecture. History and tradition seemed to merge seamlessly into the present. The ubiquitous red telephone booths and pillar mail boxes were reminiscent of the country’s colonial past – Malta became independent as a Commonwealth realm known as the State of Malta in 1964, and it became a republic in 1974. The confluence of myriad cultures and civilisations reflected themselves in the architecture, food and culture.

We stayed in Sliema, one of the busiest commercial and social hubs in the island of Malta, also a popular area for both tourists and local residents. Originally a fishing village, Sliema today has developed into an exciting urban space with luxury hotels, modern apartment blocks, popular restaurants, pubs and cafes, boutique shops etc. The daintiness of the seaside is still maintained by picturesque cafes and restaurants located along the coastline that extended towards Ta’ Xbiex and Gżira in the South and towards St. Julian’s in the North. The latter area buzzes during the night time as we realised on one of our visits to a local pub. During our trip, we visited offices of various ministries, tourism authorities, trade commissions and it was quite apparent that Malta was doing all the right things to promote the country that deserved attention because of its history, heritage and natural beauty. It was wonderful to see the Maltese people basking in their heritage, whether it was the majestic Arlogg Tal-Lira, the traditional Maltese wall clock gilded in gold (in the picture above) that adorned every wall of prominence in a home, office or a hotel, or in their unique language  – Malti, the only Semitic language written in Latin characters.

Do hop into a horse-carriage for a ride along the Sliema promenade - 'the front', just like I did with a companion. We basked in the spotlight with the traffic queueing up in the behind. Savour the slow-trotting ride. Trust me, no one will ever honk or urge you to move faster - the Maltese people are known for their politeness!

Mdina

The first halt in our five-day itinerary was a visit to the historic Mdina, the old capital of Malta. Also referred to as the ‘silent city’ because of the stony silence echoing through its quiet narrow alleys, the history of Mdina can be traced back to more than 4000 years. This is a car-free city and the only way to explore Mdina is on foot. The baroque styled imposing Mdina Gate right at the entrance of the walled city, gives a clear indication to the architectural beauty that lay inside. Designed by Charles Francois de Mondion and built in 1724, the Mdina Gate is also known as the Vilhena Gate, named after Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena. Inside the city, the impressive buildings with courtyards, arched hallways and formidable main doors with intricately carved doorknobs and knockers (il-ħabbata), are still inhabited by Malta’s noble families. These houses reflect a fine mix of medieval and baroque architecture and the city’s medieval name – ‘Citta’ Notabile’ or the noble city reflects that legacy. A visit to the 17th century St Paul’s Cathedral is a must, which is dedicated to the Patron Saint of Malta. Apart from an ornate gilded vault inside, the arched ceiling inside the cathedral have paintings depicting St Paul’s shipwreck. The latter is an important event in Malta’s history and the Apostle St. Paul is said to have lived here after being shipwrecked off the Maltese coasts in 60 A.D. We strolled along the quaint alleys and the strong evening sun casted long shadows on the stony façade until we reached the Bastion Square. As we stood at the edge of Mdina’s ramparts and bastion walls, far beyond the golden countryside, lay the famous Mosta Dome and the Mediterranean Sea. Considered a place of miracles, when the church was almost destroyed when a 200 kg bomb fell through the dome without exploding during a German air raid in the Second World War. All the 300 people attending morning mass were left unharmed!

If you like mystery and adventure, you will love strolling the silent city of Mdina by night when the streets are lit up by lamps. St Paul's cathedral, other landmark buildings and popular squares are lit up too. Most of the visitor attractions like St Paul’s Cathedral, the Dungeons, or the Natural History Museum can however be visited only during the day time.