Iberico Salchichon (Sausage) – Delightful memories of Spain.ย 

Are you a fan of Cured Meats ? 

I surely am !  I absolutely love the intense flavour of cured meats like Chorizo and Jamon ( -salt cured Ham- pronounced as ‘Hah-mon’)

Just a tiny bit goes a long way in jazzing up your meal instantly. 

For those who are new to the technique and art of Curing meats, here’s a little info about the process of curing – 

To put it very simply, ‘Curing’ is a technique of flavouring & preserving foods, such as meats, fish, vegetables & fruits. 

The aim of curing is to draw out moisture from the food by adding Salt, Sugar, Seasoning and such other natural preservatives, to increase the shelf life of the food, and store it year round, for consumption when certain fish/fresh produce or not available or in season. 

Dehydration is the earliest form of food curing, which also includes processes like spicing, pickling, cooking, or smoking. 

Curing decreases / completely draws out the water content from foods, thus making it inhospitable for the growth of microbes that cause food spoilage. 

On my recent visit to Spain, I got a chance to sample various types of cured meats, be it in their original form as a quick nibble between meals, or in Sandwiches, Rice dishes, as a flavour enhancer in Salads, and very prominently as Tapas and on Cheese platters, served with Drinks. 

There are literally thousands of types of cured meats, all over the world. 

Some are made using a single meat such as Pork, some with a combination of 2-3 different meats (eg- pork, beef, deer, wild boar etc) or even offal. 

Some sausages also use a combination of spices like Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Pepper, Coriander etc, if the meat is to ‘Gamey’.

The one that I particularly liked, & bought in huge quantities to take back home, was the ‘Iberico Salchichon’. 

(Iberian/) Iberico Salchichon/Sausages are made from the famed Black Hoofed Iberico (Iberian) Pigs, native to Spain.

 They roam free, and feed on leaves and acorns. Extremely flavourful (& needless to say, quite expensive !) these are quite the delicacy in Spain. 

The pork is dark red and marbled with delicate fat, creating an intense flavour and melt in the mouth texture. 

Unlike Spanish Chorizo, which is infused with a lot of garlic, smoked paprika & other spices, (which btw, is also Truly delicious! ) this Salchichon uses only Salt & Pepper (sometimes Oregano) for curing. With a simple curing solution of Salt & Pepper, these sausages are filled in natural casing (read- beef/pig intestines) & are hung to cure in the cool mountain air for several weeks/months. 

Sliced thinly, this delicious treat can be served with a crisp white wine, some cheese & crusty sourdough bread. 

Makes for a perfect gift for someone who loves cured meats & wines, & even to bring back home, and stash it for the days when you want to sit back and enjoy these, while reminiscing about your beautiful Spanish vacation. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Waffling Around, Aundh. Puneย 

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The other day I went out for a late night snack/dessert. 

Didn’t want the regular icecreams & shakes, so decided to try ‘Wafflin Around’ at Aundh (opp Croma)

A nice cute little place, which was later invaded by a group of people who had a competition with their unruly kids, over who could be the loudest & most obnoxious of the lot. (Not the restaurant’s fault at all, but all that ruckus, along with the music in the restaurant, kinda ruined my idea of having a nice dessert, on a quiet rainy night before going home & sleeping peacefully) 

Anyway, coming back to the Waffles. This place serves waffle sandwiches, basically half waffle stuffed with filling of your choice, & folded over like a sandwich. 

I tried the Strawberry-Cream waffle which my friend ordered. A mixture of whipped cream & strawberry crush topped with coloured confetti sprinkles. A bit too sweet for my liking. 

My ‘Salted Caramel’ waffle turned out better, with the balance of cream & salted caramel, which didn’t have a tooth ache inducing sweetness. 

However the actual Waffle, needs a bit of change. It was crisp on the outside, as it should be, but sadly it wasn’t at all light n airy inside. The waffle felt too dense and under done inside. 

Will I give it another try ? Yes. 

They have just 2 savoury options, but I’d like to try the Cheese filled waffle sometime. 

A Pinch of Patience, a dash of Kindness, a spoonful of Laughter, a heap of Authority, & a Ladleful of Loveย 

This is what a tea break on a normal working day looks like – 

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People often think that I visit only fancy, expensive restaurants & hotels, for tastings & reviews. They are often under the impression that being invited for a ‘tasting’ means we just go there, eat for free & then post pictures on social media. 

Well, I wouldn’t blame them for thinking that way, because they do see pictures of expensive places, delicious food & all that jazz. 

So, yes, Food Bloggers do that generally. 

However, that’s just a small part of what I do. 

In case you’re thinking that’s the ONLY thing I do…Lol…NO ! 

I have run my own commercial kitchen for almost 10 years, from where I used to supply baked goodies, desserts & confections to a lot of restaurants.

When I shut down my kitchen after 10 fantastic years of crazy schedules, massive workload, deadlines, & zero personal life, I thought of taking a sabbatical. 

But the constant need to ‘do something constructive & be productive in some way, wouldn’t let me sit quietly at home, for too long. 

It was then that I started taking up assignments for Consultancy & Training in the food industry.

Many restaurants avoid hiring trained staff, due to the fear of paying higher salaries. But what they don’t realize is that they are doing themselves more harm, rather than being ‘smart’. 

If you think hiring trained staff is expensive, try hiring unskilled people !   

So that’s when a ‘consultant’comes into the picture. Someone who can train the staff, set systems in place, right from grooming them, teaching them the importance of personal hygiene, to showing them how to do the dishes, wait tables, serve food, the importance of communication, keeping a check on inventory, & a million other things ! 

So in short, you could say, my work has a lot to do with ‘man management’. 

When readers/followers on Instagram see the beautiful glitzy, glam pictures from events, & tastings, and all those lavish ‘food festivals’, there are also some ‘behind the scene’ pics that they never get to see ! ๐Ÿ˜…

Kitchens are hard environments, and they form incredibly strong characters. 

Some days are peaceful, while some turn out to be real nightmares! 

You have to act as a mediator at times, handle temper tantrums – not just the guests’, but also your team’s. 

There are issues regarding salaries, job profile, leaves, and so on.

Sometimes there are mishaps in the kitchen, & you need to be prepared for the worst. 

So…Coming back to the point, how does a normal workaday look like ? 

Well….sometimes it’s looks like this – 

And some other times, it looks like this – 

Yup….when I’m working with boys from the Cleaning team, the actual ‘Dishwashers’, or the ‘Bussers’, who clean tables, mop floors, carry dishes back to the sink to be washed, or clean tables, set the tables again for the next service.

These boys generally come from economically weaker backgrounds, most of the times they haven’t even  completed their basic education. 

The fancy food served at restaurants is something they’ve never even seen or heard of, in their life. 

They do not understand the importance of personal hygiene, etiquette or communication. That’s where my work begins. At the grassroot level, most of the times. 

People in general, often think that I visit only fancy, expensive restaurants & hotels, for tastings & reviews.

But just recently, I was actively working with a team, comprising of people who have varied jobs in restaurants, right from – dishwashers, technicians, servers, cooks, managers & restaurant owners. 

Which means, one day, I’d be teaching the dish washer guy his cleaning duties, while the next day, I could be telling the cooking team about chopping or ‘Garnishes’, discussing some cooking techniques with the Chef, or speaking with the managers about ‘effective communication’ with the clients; & the same evening attending a launch party with the restaurant owner & a bunch of ‘celebs’. 

The other day, all the boys from the restaurant, where I’m working on a training & consultancy assignment, stopped by at this ‘tapri’ (street food cart) for chai. 

It was the best half an hour of the day, for me.โ˜บ  We ate together, had tea, shared our views on how things need to be changed/improved, & how I expect work to be done, even when I’m not around.

I get to learn so many things from them. So many things we would never get to know, or imagine, living in the cozy comfort of our plush high rise apartments. The smiles on their faces when they realize, that you genuinely want their opinion, is such a nice feeling.

Doesn’t matter if you’re their ‘pack leader’ & have to assign tasks, & be strict at times. For them, to follow & genuinely respect you, the most important thing is that YOU respect them 1st, & be part of their circle. 

Kitchens are hard environments & they form incredibly strong characters.

Yes, on some days my Brunch meeting could be at a 5 * property with the best of sparkling wine, followed by tea at a roadside tapri with these guys. 

And the trick is, to be able to balance both, with just the same comfort & ease. ๐Ÿ˜Š  

World Tapas Day ! 3rd Thursday of June.ย 

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Its World Tapas Day today !

Which reminded me of this amazing meal I had in Madrid on my birthday last year. 

I went bar hopping ALL DAY….every day ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ˜‚ & totally fell in love with the tapas bars in Spain. 

The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish/Portuguese verb tapar, “to cover”. Before the 19th century, European roads were in bad condition. Travelling was slow and exhausting. Most people could not read or write, and Spain was no exception. 

Inns, called posadas, or bodegas, grew along the roads, offering meals and rooms, for travellers. Since few innkeepers could write and few travellers read, inns offered their guests a sample of the dishes available, on a “tapa” (the word for pot cover in Spanish). 

In fact, a “tapa” was (and still is) a small portion of any kind of Spanish cuisine. What we commonly refer to as ‘small plates’ in restaurant. 

A tapa in Spanish cuisine, is an appetizer, or snack. It may be cold such as mixed olives and cheese or hot such as chopitos, which are batter fried squid. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. 

There are literally thousands of types of tapas, and they very from region to region, depending on the produce and climate. 

Croque Monsieur et Croque Madameย 


* Croque Monsieur et Croque Madame *๐Ÿ—ผ 

During summer last year, I became slightly addicted to French comfort food, the Croque Monsieur. ๐Ÿ’–

When prepared right, this delicious French sandwich can give even the best of American grilled cheese sandwiches a run for their money. 

The story behind the Croque Monsieur (which literally means crispy/crunchy mister ๐Ÿ˜‰) is that, some French labourers accidentally left their lunch boxes filled with Ham & Gruyere Sandwiches near a hot radiator, & by lunchtime, those sandwiches turned into gooey, grilled ham & gruyere sandwiches…which then became a very popular snack among the labourers. 

I’m not sure, if this story is true, but by the 1900s the Croque Monsieur was a standard on every French cafe menu, & the rest, as they say, is history. 

So what’s a ‘Croque Madame’ then ? 

Its basically a Croque Monsieur with an egg on top ! (a fried egg, most of the times)

And just in case all that Ham, Gruyere, & Egg isn’t decadent enough for you, we have additions/substitutes like Bechamel Sauce, or Blue Cheese, Smoked Salmon instead of Ham, thinly sliced Tomatoes/fried Potatoes etc. 

And a definite must have with this snack, is a glass of white wine ! 

So now you know why I got ‘slightly addicted’ to this French comfort food, while I was in Paris, right…? ๐Ÿ˜œ

 (PS- My favourite out of the 2, is ….ahem …the Crispy Mister/Monsieur ๐Ÿ˜‰…..and None of the sandwiches available here in town, can even dream of coming close to the ‘Real’ French ones….Seriously.)

Fried Halwa (Black Pomfret)

โ€‹Lunch today, was a quick & easy fried Black Pomfret/Halwa. 

I love shallow fried fish, and when I make it, I can literally have just that, for a meal. 

No rice, no curry… just some slices of spicy, tangy, shallow fried fish with a generous squeeze of lemon, & maybe a salad on the side.

 โ–   I made a thick paste using – 

Red Chilli Powder, Turmeric Powder, Cumin & Corriander Powder, Rice Flour, Kokum Extract, & Salt to taste.

โ–   Marinate the fish slices in this paste for an hour. 

โ–   In a pan, heated some oil, and shallow fried the marinated fish, 3-4  minutes on one side, flip and then cook for another couple of minutes. (Cook completely on one side, & only then turn over) 

โ–   Since the marinade already had a bit of rice flour for binding, I fried the fish directly. But if you want a crispier texture on the outside, you can coat the marinated fish with Semolina/Rice Flour just before frying. 

โ–   Serve with lemon wedges and salad on the side. 

Sacre-Coeur, Montmatre. Paris – Travel Diaries.ย 

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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacre-Coeur, is a Roman Catholic Church, in Paris. 

This majestic structure situated on the top of Montmatre hill, is one of Paris’ major tourist draws. 

And it is from a point on this very hill, that I clicked a picture of the gleaming  Eiffel Tower at night. 

Its best to walk up the hill in the evening (no worries, it’s a regular cobbled street, very safe, and you wouldn’t have to struggle your way up on an actual hilly terrain. However comfortable walking shoes are a must) 

You can also enjoy shopping & eating, on your way up or down the street, since the entire route is dotted with beautiful quaint cafes, & shops. 
I was so hungry by the time I walked down, I had to stop by a cafe, for dinner. They close pretty early though (atleast by the Indian standards), so mine happened to be the last order of their dinner service that evening.

 Lol….I have this habit of placing ‘last orders’ no matter where I am in the world ! Be it Pune or Paris, I guess some things just never change ๐Ÿ˜‚