Warning: Its a long foodie post. If you are on a diet, move away NOW. If food doesn't excite you, move along, nothing to see here. I am just assuming you are a friend or a family member that reads my blog posts. Some of you might have muted me on Facebook because of the incessant tweets and posts on food for the past week. What can I say? I have a foodie cousin visiting me - he is the youngest of my first cousins on my father's side. Now for us Indians - that's as close as being my own brother.
Anyhoo - he's a foodie so much so he has a fan following in India with his two shows - Secret Kitchen (still running on The History Channel in India) and his Fat Man and Brides series. But for me - he will always be the baby brother albeit a few sizes larger than me. He has quite an amazing food knowledge and for me a self-proclaimed foodie with nowhere near half the knowledge he has amassed - its a treat going out with him. You learn so much.
Our deal was that he would cook for me all the traditional Bengali food that I DON'T know how to cook but miss. And he brought a few ingredients we don't get here including a particular spice I now know I should not have asked him to bring but he did not get caught bringing it in. 'Nuf said. Don't know why its banned (actually I sort of know why it is but doesn't make any sense).
Bikramjit aka Tanu to his family (not sure about his close friends) has been taking us on a culinary discovery of Dubai, sourcing Bengali fish like Ilsa, Rui and Pabda (sorry don't have a clue what the English names are), veggies like Potol (a type of gourd I have not seen in the supermarkets), onion seeds and mustard oil. My kitchen shelves are groaning. He not only showed us how to cook some of my favourites like a simple fish curry (ready in 15 mins), to Ilish shorshe (mustard paste that would make wasabi cry) in the oven. He is cooking some more tonight for dinner. He made a hollaindaise sauce in a blender (I can see the purists shudder) but it had the consistency and flavour. I have asked him for the recipe so that I can try and emulate it after he's gone (let me know if you want to be a guinea pig).
Of course a foodie personality like Bikramjit cannot be under the radar. His cheffy friends found him. We were invited to meet with the Executive Chef of Zafran for a meal. The conversation was about new projects they were both planning but more interestingly the sourcing of ingredients. My cousin is apparently commissioned by a publication to do an article on Indian chefs for a magazine in Delhi. The meal at Zafran was delicious but some of the dishes were more for non-Indian palates than ours. My favourite has to be the 'dahi kebab' made out of labneh. Clever. And the pepper chicken - yummy.
The next day we were in Abu Dhabi and there we were invited by the executive chef of Indigo at Beach Rotana. The food was sublime. I would be hard-pressed to find any one thing that stood out - they all did. It was a shame we did not take our appetite with us but I think we did a fair bit of justice to the food we received. There was a starter plate of veg and non-veg starters - loved the paneer on the veg platter. The main course was a selection of various dishes but my favourite has to be the moilee (prawn) and the sea bass - spiced and cooked just right. To finish, they had a yummy fennel chocolate and a mango kulfi to die for.
But the highlight so far of this foodie 10 days (another 4 days to go) has to be Frying Pan Food tour that both my cousin and I absolutely adored (you can see what we thought of it on Trip Advisor) and last night's meal at Rang Mahal (stupendous - what a fabulous word) and the absolute pleasure of not just meeting one of my foodie heroes, Atul Kochhar, but having him join our table and have a marvellous conversation. What a lovely host. It was so interesting to hear him and my cousin exchange news of mutual friends and acquaintances, upcoming projects and ideas. One thing I am definitely looking forward to - his book next year on Benaras celebrating 10 years in the UK. It sounds like the kind of book I would enjoy.
We have a few more foodie adventures. While my stomach and system (and weighing scales) could do with a rest, I will sorely miss my cousin when he returns to Delhi at the end of the week. The good news - he might be back if all his projects go to plan. Yay!