Udaipur: Of Lakes, Palaces & Royalty

Hello Friends,

Here’s hoping the New Year has begun well for everyone!

Our dear son was visiting us over the recent holidays and we decided to take a quick trip within India.Now my travel almost always revolves around Culinary travel wherein essentially,I roundup a list of of best eats, or perhaps rub shoulders with a Chef at the hotel and get him to share a secret or two, or even do a workshop like I did one in Galle,Sri lanka. However this post is perhaps not as food centric and more of a travel post, sharing  the sheer splendour and magnificence of Fatehgarh, a  luxurious and boutique hotel we stayed at on our recent trip to Udaipur in Rajasthan,India.

 

Udaipur is quite aptly named as the City of Lakes or the Venice of the East and a city in Rajasthan, India, makes a perfect getaway  due its proximity of an a hour’s flight from Mumbai.The city has numerous lakes such as Fateh Sagar, Lake Pichola that make it a perfect spot for boating or perhaps even just walking.Besides lakes, Udaipur is also popular for its  historic forts and palaces, museums, galleries,gardens, temples, as well as traditional fairs and cultural festivals.The city founded by Maharana Udai Singh is  quite well know for its lavish and royal residences.

With the dear son visiting us over the Christmas holiday’s, we so wanted a break from our usual routine’s and decided on a quick break to Udaipur. The hubs was travelling and of course I was entrusted with making the vacay plans which meant scouting for a good hotel. Well infact the first hotel I chanced upon was the Fatehgarh property and I must admit was very impressed by the images on their website and of course the various amazing traveller reviews.

Lets say the decision was made to spend our time at this property and so glad that we did.

Hotel Fateh Garh, a Heritage Renaissance Resort – is located   on the perphery of   Udaipur city and surrounded by the magnificent Aravali range with spectacular & panoramic views.The hotel welcomes guests with style and traditional fanfare to a property that is resplendent in modern luxury coupled with old world charm.The hotel has a grand fort like entrance and  is a 48 room property , that offers a tranquil and quiet getaway.

The resort was just the kind of break we were looking for. Nestled away from the main city, it turned out to be luxurious and a dream like experience for us. The interiors are resplendent in style and elegance and the hotel prides itself in the use of  indigenous material, which is most suited for the region such as locally available stone ,marble and wood.The  Royal and Palatial charm is encapsulated in each detail be it their decor,facilities or the hospitality of the staff ,that give  us a glimpse into the glorious Rajasthani tradition and culture. One certainly felt transported to an era of the royal life of the kings of yester years.

 

Now while there’s plenty to do in Udaipur one really wanted to indulge and bathe in the royalty that Fatehgarh promised to offer. So Day 1  we did a quick tour of the city via transport organised by the hotel. This included a visit to the City Palace, Lake Fateh Sagar, Taj Lake Palace and of course a walk down the quaint lanes of old Udaipur for their famous street food.

Street Food Udaipur:

  • Bhole Mistan: Jalebis
  • Poornima Vada: Vada Pav
  • Apni Dhani: Rajasthani Thali
  • Hotel Natraj: Dal Batti Choorma

And of course the numerous street vendors that make the most delicious Kachori’s, Chaat and Gulab jammuns.

 

 Must eats in Udaipur are: (Fine Dining)

  • Upre: (Best for:Dinner) Upre literally means “up” or “upstairs” Located on the terrace of Hotel Lake Pichola, gives you some spectacular views of the City Palace. The restaurants is multi levellled with Gazebos that give a feeling of dinning in a royal tent.of sorts that give a. The individual tables are done up royally like tents and gives you a nice and romantic feel. The fare consists of a North Indian and a Chinese menu.
  • Palki Khana: (Best for: Snacks & Drinks) Situated inside the City Palace, Palki Khana is the best place to unwind after your long walks inside the Palace and the museum. With the lake on one side and the beautiful facade of the City Palace on the other, it offers an amazing view. In case you would just like to relax with a book and a bottle of wine.
  • Ambrai:  at the Amet Haveli is a great place for tourists  for some authentic Rajasthani cuisine.Not only does Ambrai take their guests on a delicious gastronomical ride, but the restaurant is located on the banks of Picholi Lake, giving a delightful view of Sajjangarh Fort, Jagdish Temple and the City Palace.

Places to Visit:

  • Lake Pichola
  • Lake Fateh Sagar
  • City Palace
  • Sajjangarh Palace

The city sights and sounds were a pleasure  to all the senses indeed. But I must admit the best part of our sojourn was sitting back on the idyllic gardens of our stunning hotel Fatehgarh and soaking in it’s breath taking landscapes and sourroundings.

 

 

Become a Maharaja  during  your vacation at Fatehgarh. Dine in magnificent splendour and sample exquisite cuisine, watch local  folk dancers perform the traditional dances of India and stay in rooms furnished in opulent luxury and royal lifestyle indeed.

Our short stay at Fatehgarh turned out to be an unforgettable holiday in royal style. The hotel had excellent facilities and the staff were extremely hospitable. Our stay was a fleeting glimpse into the luxirious  and glamorous lifestyle of Rajasthani culture. I do hope this blog post has captured the essence and beauty of Udaipur in a snap shot, all though nothing can do justice to this city than a short trip and a memorable one too.

 

 

Vegan Almond & Raisin Cookies

My baking routine at the college has taken on a heightened frenzy, especially with kitchen exams just around the corner. This leaves me hardly any time to get on my experimental chef cap and try out any thing innovative.

However, recently our College played host to a fabulous Vegan Competition. While most of the menu’s were being provided by the organisers, the students were left to plan out the recipes for their bakery products.I must say I’ve hardly baked vegan, eggless yes and was drawing quite a blank on how to go about a recipe trial with no dairy.

I’ve been following numerous blogs that bake up great vegan delights, all though baking without butter was something that needed be de-mystified.Browsing on the internet amongst a dozen recipes I  came across an easy Vegan Chocolate Chip recipe on Allrecipes and have adapted the following Vegan Almond & Raisin one.

The recipe trial worked out out great and I was happy to share the same with my students. It was an instant hit with the Vegan contest organisers and the students were happy to learn a new recipe too.

This recipe is a keeper for me too!

Ingredients:

Flour 92 grams
Coconut Oil 40 ml
Brown sugar 56 grams
Almond Milk 19 ml
Vanilla essence ¼ teaspoon
Baking soda ¼ teaspoon
Baking powder ¼ teaspoon
Salt ¼ teaspoon
Toasted Almonds & Raisins 40 grams

 

Method:

 

Ø Pre-heat oven to 175 C.

Ø Mix together the coconut oil & brown sugar, then add the almond milk & vanilla. The mixture will look a bit runny.

Ø In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Ø Combine the wet & dry ingredients (it WILL BE crumbly – this is OK), then fold in the toasted almonds and raisins.

Ø Roll into tablespoon sized balls & place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper., Then flatten them out a bit with your palm. The dough may be a little crumbly, but just assemble it it together and it will work fine!

Ø Bake for 15 -18 minutes till medium brown in colour.

 

 

Udvada: The Perfect Foodie Getaway

 

Culinary travel is something that I’m very passionate about. And yes, I certainly will  travel 200 kilometres  away from Mumbai in search of hidden gems that nourish and  feed the soul.Well after all the best part of any travel is the food, right?

One such getaway was a road trip to the sleepy and quaint town of Udwada in Gujarat. The hubs and I are the perfect partners in crime as he loves to drive and I’d go to the end of this earth in search of good meal. En route, our pit stop is  the legendary “Ahura” on the NH8 which serves up some great Parsi delicacies. We settle for some Akuri (spicy scrambled eggs with onions, tomatoes and spices) and some Kheema (Minced meat). Both these are served with Pav (Indian dinner rolls). With our bellies full we proceed on our journey ahead.

 

NH 8, Amboli, Tal. Dahanu, Dist. Palghar | 14 km after Charoti Toll Booth on NH 8 while driving to AhmedabadDahanu 401601, India
+91 97665 12512

We arrive at our destination late afternoon. Now Udvada is a small town in Gujarat and home to   famous for its Zoroastrian Atash Behram,probably the oldest place of worship for Parsis. The drive from Mumbai is about 3 hours  making it a  quick weekend getaway from Mumbai and quite a foodie haven. This quaint town spells old world charm. Perhaps even a sleepy old town with a population of no more than 10,000 inhabitants and mostly Parsis.It is said that the name ‘Udvada’ was derived from ‘uth vada’ which means ‘grazed by camels’.This was our getaway a couple of months ago. Just right for an overnight trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We decided to stay the night at a the Globe Hotel as this came  highly recommended by friends.

 

Globe Hotel Udvada:

Udwada Road, Near Pundole Agyari, Udvada, Gujarat 396180 

 0260 234 5243

 

This place is  every bit old world and a “no frills” kind of place. It’s nice to see the owners around the property and taking good care of their clients. We opt for an air-conditioned room which is simple and just right for just the night. Having checked into our hotel we decided that the best way  to explore this town is to take  a walk around. The roads are fairly isolated as it is quite lateen the afternoon and perhaps a time for siesta.We pass by some fairy tale cottages and sandal wood vendors on our way to the fire temple.

Some Must Do’s in Udvada:

  1. Fire Temple:

 

Quite rightly coined as the Mecca for Zoroastrians as it home to the “Atash Behram” s the most sacred of the Zoroastrian fire temples in India and the oldest continuously burning fire-temple fire in the world. Since only Parsis’s are allowed into the fire temple, I was quite happy taking pictures from the outside. It is said that the name ‘Udvada’ was derived from ‘uth vada’ which means ‘grazed by camels’.

2. Goodies from the Irani Bakery:

Nestled in one of the by lanes, we discover this lovely bakery and decide to buy some Mawa Cakes, Brun pav and Khaki biscuits as food souviniers to share with the family back home.
3. A walk on the beach and wandering around the city:
The beach turned out to be quite rocky and we just about managed to take a short walk but this, and all the trotting around the town does our appetite good. We get back to our hotel in time for an early dinner. One that I’ve been waiting for. The food is cooked in the hotel kitchen on the premises. The gastronomy arrives and at first seems like a large spread for two. All though we do land up doing full justice to our meal.
5. A Parsi Meal at Globe Hotel:
Our meal consists of:
  • Fried Boi ( Local Fish)
  • Fish Curry
  • Parsi Gosht Ni Curry (Mutton Curry cooked with potatoes)
  • Rice
  • Chappatis ( Indian wholewheat bread)
  • Kachumbar ( fresh salad with Onions,tomatoes and fresh coriander))
  • Hand churned ice cream ( sadly no pic, but was delicious)

We decided to head back to Mumbai early next morning.This trip turned out to be exactly what the foodie in me hoped for. I can happily check it off my to-do list around Mumbai. I do hope I have enticed you to discover Udvada and revel in some Parsi gastronomy.

Bon Appetite & happy travels! I’m working on my blog post on my recent trip to Montreal. Can’t wait to share my Culinary sojourn.

 

 

Cat Cafe Studio: Fancy A Coffee with Cats?


Fancy a Coffee with Cats?

Here a Cat there a Cat Everywhere a Kitty Cat!! Now if you are wondering what a Cat’s got to do with a slice of the best ever Carrot cake and a shot of espresso, well then welcome to Mumbai’s first ever Cat Café Studio located in four  Bungalows Versova,Mumbai. Feline friends will be delighted to spend a couple hours at this café playing with Cats that are housed in the Enclosed section. The café hosts almost 20-30 species. These cats are usually stray cats taken from the streets ,that now have a home. They have been spayed and neutered and are all up for adoption (for free, provided you meet their requirements, which is being an ardent cat lover of course!!)

 

While this concept is new to Mumbai, Cat cafes are very popular especially in Japan says the Manager of the café. Apartments in Japan forbid pet ownership, and hence a lot of these cat café’s have sprung up. These café’s enable pet lovers to spend some time with cats and can be very relaxing and enjoyable too.

 

The studio has a nice Patio for those who may just want to use it as a café and sip a coffee or grab a quick bite. This place is abuzz with teenagers and perhaps a great opportunity for them to volunteer their time at the cafe. Interestingly the Cat cafe studio is an NGO.

  • The café serves up some great Coffee’s, Tea cakes, Sandwiches and Wraps.
  • Location: 63, Harminder Singh Road, Aram Nagar Part 1, Aram Nagar, Versova, Andheri West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400061
  • I had my usual shot of espresso and ordered in a couple of slices of their Carrot cake and a Cinnamon Loaf. Hubs and family had a round of a Cappuccino  and Masala chai
  • Pocket friendly Menu and prices.
  • We paid Rs 1200 for five of us.

Chocolate Is The Key To Happiness…Easy Chocolate Gateaux

Chocolate is the key to happiness…

It’s been a hectic and busy  start to 2017 to say the least. I realise we are into May already.I can’t recall when I last sat  down with my cup of coffee and got down to posting for my blog.

I now teach at a Hospitality Institute here in Mumbai and head  the Bakery & Patisserie program. It’s been one fabulous year and I love what I do…which is teach of course.

Teaching: A Rewarding Profession

Keep Calm and Bake on! The quintessential mantra in my kitchen as I begin my day at The RPH Institute of Hospitality Management. A sense of utmost tranquility prevails when I come in to commence preparation for the class.

Of course this is the calm before the storm. Welcome to my world of elevated excitement interspersed with high decibels of noise and commotion, as I take on my task of instructing a bunch of enthusiastic bakers that are keen on bakery specialization The students arrive and I begin with a talk on how Baking is a Science.

“Measure, Measure and Measure”, accurately I chime in a high-pitched tone to set the rule for the baking session, as getting things done to perfection is what I strive for, when I teach. After all baking is all about measuring to the T. The advice is heeded by most and it’s a pleasure to see some very talented baker’s in my class. Each session of the bakery practical covers various hands on methods of Bread making, Various Cakes & Pastries and Desserts.

Teaching is indeed a rewarding profession. The reward is more emotional, especially when your students excel and create exceptional work.

School’s out and I’m on a month’s summer break now. This morning I managed to take a quick peek into my blog account after ages. I have been meaning to share my favourite to go  recipe for an easy and decadent Chocolate Gateaux smothered with  an equally rich and creamy Chocolate ganache, dusted with chocolate shavings and garnished with fresh raspberries. an absolute  show stopper and perfect for summer entertaining.

Hope you all are having a wonderful summer.

Chocolate Gateaux with Ganache Frosting (Serves 8)
INGREDIENTS:
• 2 cups sugar
• 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour ( 218 grams)
• 3/4 cup Cocoa (96 grams)
• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 cup boiling water 

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 180 C. Grease and flour one 9 inch round baking pan.
2. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Then stir in the s
ugar. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. 3 Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
4. Divide the cake into two halves using a very sharp knife.
5. Frost with chocolate ganache. Dust with some chocolate shavings and garnish with fresh raspberries.


FOR THE GANACHE:
• 250 grams(9 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
• ½ cup water
• ¾ cup butter
1. Place the chocolate chips and water in a small saucepan .Now place this saucepan over a pan filled with water and place on medium heat .Keep stirring till all the chocolate melts.
2. Once the chocolate has melted. Keep aside from fire.
3. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the melted chocolate till completely incorporated.