Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter Celebration at ITC Sonar: A Preview

Dark Chocolate and Almond Fudge
To celebrate Easter, ITC Sonar has decided to be as elaborately traditional as they can be. From 16th to 20th April, the Gourmet Shop at ITC Sonar is going to have Easter Special desserts and breads, and on the 20th, there will be a lovely brunch from 12.30 to 3.45 pm at Eden Pavilion, the 24-hour fine-dining restaurant. 

L- Chef Harpawan Singh Kapoor, R - Chef Gaurav Lavania
Chef Harpawan Singh Kapoor, Executive Sous Chef & Pastry Chef, ITC Sonar and Chef Gaurav Lavania, Senior Sous Chef, was responsible for creating a host of traditional Easter delicacies, sweet treats and breads at The Gourmet Shop and Eden Pavilion. As soon as I entered, we were greeted with the sight of a huge trolley filled with an incredible array of goodies - breads, buns, fudge, cakes - the recipes were all traditional. Chef Harpawan took us through the extensive menu that will be available at The Gourmet Shop from 16th to 20th - Carrot Cake, Hot Cross Buns, Peanut and Chocolate eggs, Sour Cherry Turnovers and Dark Chocolate fudge to name a few.

Clockwise from top right - Hot cross buns, Nougatine, Coconut and Lemon Tart, Sour Cherry Turnover, Peanut and Chocolate Eggs, Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake with Berry Topping, Carrot Cake. Center - Dark Chocolate and almond Fudge.
While we were quite happy to see the host of traditional fare on offer, my eyes continually strayed to the bread. There were, among other kinds, a beautifully made Easter Bread, which was basically a version of a Challah bread, braided and topped with eggs which would cook with the bread while it bakes. It was not yeasty, but rather was an egg-based bread which was salty and gloriously dense, with a sweet glaze which added to the flavors beautifully. I kept on going back to it while trying out the other sweet treats.

Easter Bread
I am perennially weak towards fudge, and the Milk Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Fudge proved to be my nemesis. Extremely sweet, this fudge was dense, smooth and filled with Macadamia nuts, a combination which has never failed to perk me up.

Milk Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Fudge
 As we moved to our main course, Chef Lavania explained that the menu for the Easter Brunch was a combination of Indian and Western Traditions. As a result of which, we started off our meal with a glass of Prawn and Egg Cocktail, with small, sweet prawns immersed in Thousand Island dressing, garnished with some lettuce and slices of hard-boiled eggs.

The Asparagus and Balsamic Trio was a small huddle of cooked asparagus, topped with Parmesan and drizzled with some Balsamic. Although summery and light, the asparagus for me was slightly less seasoned than I would have liked, and I would have preferred eating this with the main course as a side, rather than an individual dish.

Asparagus Balsamic Trio
Eggs are on the Brunch Menu, and I was excited to see Eggs Benedictine on the list. However, what came to the table puzzled me to no end. On top of a well-buttered muffin lay a slice of ham, and over the ham was a perfectly fried egg, which oozed yolk at the touch of a fork. However, I missed the presence of the Hollandaise Sauce which is supposed to cover the eggs. I was curious, and wanted to question the Chef about it, but by the time the Chef came over, I had forgotten about it completely, drat my strange mind!

Eggs Benedictine
The Saltimbocca, generally made with veal, was prepared with Pork here, a slight deviation on traditional theme for the benefit of the Indian palate. The meat was cooked perfectly, the bacon salty and lean, the jus delicately flavoring but not overpowering, with a few scattered blueberries to add a certain something to the meat. For me, this would have stolen the show with its layers of flavors, but I was already seduced by the other meat on offer.

Pork Saltimbocca

And what a meat it was! Turkey roasted to moist perfection, covered with a layer of perfectly silky gravy, and topped with a dash of berry glazed jus, with a  serving of Four Cheese Scalloped Potatoes as a side. I was enamored of the sweet turkey meat which parted at the touch of a fork, and the sweet berries which added the hint of tangy sweetness to the beautifully cooked meat.  

Herb Roasted Turkey with Berry Glazed Jus
Dazed and replete, we finished our meal with more sweetmeats distributed by Chef Harpawan, and received Easter Eggs (which I will open on Sunday, I swear!). 

The Easter goodies can be purchased from The Gourmet Shop at ITC Sonar with the average pricing being somewhere around INR 500/-, while the Easter Brunch is priced at INR 2250/- (plus tax) per person. 

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined as a guest of ITC Sonar. Her opinions are her own and is in no way influenced.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Afternoon with Marc Thuet at The Hub, Taj Bengal, Kolkata

Chef Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich
Tattoos. That's the first thing I notice while talking to Marc Thuet, celebrity Chef, Restaurateur and Writer. My eyes quickly scan whatever bits I can see, and then I look up and see that he has caught me in action. A quick grin and a handshake later, I feel perfectly comfortable asking him all sort of questions.
Of course, this is after the rather superlative lunch I just had. Marc admits freely he has ADHD, and if he cooks for two, while plating, he will ensure that one dish is slightly different from the other. And since he had plated each and every dish today, I'm sitting and wondering if I missed out by not snatching pieces off my friends' plates. 

And I notice other things too. The man who was the face of Conviction Kitchen puts a protective hand around his wife's shoulders while taking a photograph. Unlike most, his hands are hard and his clasp is a strong one - and he conveys a sense of quiet strength which accentuates his charming French-laced accent that he delivers in a manner that can only be called no-nonsense. He loves going with the flow, cooking the way he wants, and not following the rigid methods of traditional French cooking. Rather, he infuses new elements of cooking, experiments with the old recipes, and comes up with things which are different. 

Plus, he makes a mean risotto, even though his wife claims he doesn't like Italians much. 


Cold Cucumber Soup, Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomato
But rather than speaking, he lets the food do the talking for him. What can you say when your meal begins with a thick cucumber soup, topped with a dash of olive oil, with little chunks of goat cheese and sun dried tomato hiding in its creamy depth? Fishing the bits of cheese out and consuming them first is what I do best, and then P realizes she can do that too! 

Traditional Baguette
Slices from a Baguette is placed before us, with a bowl of olive oil which is slightly floral in flavor. The bread is made by letting it rise four to five times, before punching it down, and then carefully folding it before baking. The result is a bread which has a lovely crunchy hard crust outside, and soft, delicate innards which is a delight to dip in the olive oil. Of course, I use it to mop up the remains of whatever was placed in front of me. Now I know why they are diversifying into supplying bread to the Ritz-Carlton. Good stuff, this!

I am excited by the presence of duck and lamb in the menu, but well, there's prawns too. However, neither P nor me are in any way deterred from our determination to decimate the crustacean in question. We pop our anti-allergy pills, and look into each others' eye. All for food, and food for all, and all will be well (or at least, we hoped so!) in the world! 

Cured Quebec Duck Magret, Sweet Water Prawns, Black Cumin Caramel, Mango
The Duck is house-cured, and has been flown in from Canada. Quebec duck is force fed to yield the most deliciously fatty meat which is then cured for four to six days. Marc later told us that he was interested in getting Beaver meat, but then was warned that they don't eat Beaver in India. I sighed morosely at that, and he could see my desolation. "Come to Canada, and eat Bear Meat," he cajoled, and then regaled us with tales of hunting bear. Ethical hunting during the Hunting Season is quite a common feat in Canada, and the good news is, whatever you hunt, you eat.

Slices of the cured duck is wrapped around a small pile of deliciously sweet prawns marinated perfectly in a bit of ginger and cream and tops it with some slivers of Alphonso Mango. He admits to his love for marrying seafood with Mango, and although I am not much of a fan of the mango, the rest of it is perfectly harmonious. In fact, when the Chef sent in a plate filled with the slivers of duck, covered with some Parmesan shavings, rocket leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil for M, we shamelessly attack her plate with our forks. 

Gremolata Crusted Lamb Rack, Basil and Goat Cheese Mashed Potato
I have always been a fan of anything topped with gremolata, but at times it tends to take over the dish, rather, the meat in question. I remember eating a particularly fine Osso Buco after removing a thick layer of gremolata rather unceremoniously from its top. The lamb is rare, perfectly red and tender inside, with a touch of gremolata on top. Underneath it is a small pile of mashed potatoes, covering a small huddle of goat cheese. Baby carrots, asparagus, Shimeji mushrooms, sun-dried tomato and Brussels sprouts finish the dish. The meat is au jus, but the jus is special - made from the pan juices and a broth that has been cooked for days in the end. 

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan Shavings
I did not think anything could top the lamb, to be very honest. But just when I was finishing off the lamb, plates of Wild Mushroom Risotto, topped with Parmesan shavings were placed in front of us. I am always inclined towards a well-made risotto, and this one was exactly what I wanted out of one - rice which is naturally creamy thanks to a lot of stirring, a lovely conglomeration of wild mushrooms (I spotted Shiitake and Shimeji), a hit of truffle, and a hint of wine hitting the nose almost like an afterthought, but still potently present. It was a dish which I would fight for. 

L- Chocolate Caramel Mousse Verrine, Sea Salt Crumble. R - Saffron Tartlet, golden peach and Alphonso Compote, Maple Syrup and Walnut Crumble
As we are finishing off our mains, the desserts come in. I start with the fruity one - a creamy custard base inside a buttery tart shell, crumbly walnuts and biscuit on top, and a hit of maple syrup. I like the concept, I like the custard, but fruits were never the stuff with which my dreams were made of. I finish it off to start on the other dessert.

And what a dessert.

My God! 

The chocolate, dense and smooth. The sea salt flakes in the crunchy crumbly top which cuts through it. The caramel which leaves me in peace, a state of perfect harmony, I daresay. 

The meal over, we sit and chat with Marc and Biana, and soon, I am seen stealing Biana away for a quick shopping trip to New Market. My evening sets gloriously.

L-R - Me, Amrita, Marc, Biana, Priyadarshini, Manjari
The Le Thuet Food Festival featuring some of Chef Marc Thuet's signature dishes will be featured in Taj Bengal's Lunch and Dinner Menu at The Hub till the 18th of April, 2014.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined as a guest of Taj Bengal courtesy Rediffusion.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


One day, I will vanish. I will vanish in this sea of people. I will not run. Not hide. In plain sight, I will remain. Yet no one will know me. Vanish. 
It is not running if I cannot be recognized, right?

I finish writing these words, sitting at Dashaswamedh Ghat, Varanasi. It's afternoon, and I have been sitting here for quite some time now, staring at the distance. The space that we occupy is everywhere and nowhere, somewhere next to nothing.

When this huge river floats by, with millions of peoples' worth ashes poured into its heart, it becomes to me a river of collective memories. All I can think of is the enormity of it all, and when I compare myself to it, I feel as if I am nothing. What is today is not tomorrow, and that is the only truth of life. I feel this unshaken river to my core, which moves in time, but yet remains constant in it's movement. The essence of life is defined in movement, which ceases in death. I ponder silently, while people come and go, the ghat never without a certain amount of chaos reigning.

Moments later, I meet two girls from Netherlands, who are walking over to Munshi Ghat. One of them is called Chand (or whatever I could catch of her name), and she speaks Hindi with a lovely lilt. I walk with them to the side of Munshi Ghat, where a group of people are already sitting. On closer inspection, I notice a man with an accordion held between his hands. There is a group of local boys sitting across him. A pair of sadhoos sit beside him too. I walk over.

While Chand and her friend sits on the edge, I make a little space for myself near one of the sadhoos. One of the local guys (later I know his name's Manoj Pandey), is passing a chillum of ganja to his friends. He sings a song, a raucous version of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan's "Man Ki Lagan" in a way which is sure to destroy the poor man for the rest of his life if he ever had the misfortune to hear it. He claims that this is Indian classical music. I wait on the side, and after a while he keeps on telling the man with the accordion that Indian classical music is all about hand gestures and wobbling, high notes. After he stops singing, the man with the accordion starts playing, and the local dude keeps on talking through it. I get thoroughly irritated, and just wish they would go. They do, thankfully, but not before the local had claimed that the music played by the accordion player was just like "Mera Joota Hai Japaani." When they leave, he stands up and wishes them good bye, thanking Manoj Pandey especially for the music.

As soon as the gang of locals leave, the man with the accordion starts playing once again. His intense concentration is on the music, and I listen to him, mesmerized. After a while, he stops playing and one of the sadhoos ask him his name. "Rhys", he says simply, and goes back to his music. Among the two sadhoos, one is an Aghori, and the other one is a Nanga Baba (although he wears his clothes for the time being). Soon after, tempted by the music and the ganja, a flute seller joins us. Nanga Baba asks if he has a bidi. The bidi is quickly produced, and Aghori Baba decides to make another joint while there is a little pause in the flow of music. Meanwhile, my Dutch friends leave, and I wave them goodbye. There is a brief exchange between Nanga Baba and Rhys. Soon after, Nanga Baba brings out a diary filled with Bhajans, and start singing, telling the flute player to accompany him.

His voice is high and it warbles, but I can hear the pure notes behind the smoke-encrusted tenor. The flute player hears him sing, and then patiently tell him to modulate his tone to make himself sound better. Nanga Baba accedes, and soon after, their voices are in cohesion, a bhajan executed straight from the heart.

At that moment, I am staring a the river, watching it flow as the music washes through my soul. Perhaps one of those moments of perfection in my life - the late afternoon, the birds circling high up in the sky, the kites flying all around the ghat, and one girl quietly soaking everything in, enjoying her moment of stillness.

After a while, Nanga Baba asks, "Do you sing?"

"I can try," I tell him. Soon, I find myself singing a song. Its an old Bengali song, and when it is over, they ask me for another one. After nearly fifteen years, I sang "Paayoji maine, Raam ratan dhan paayo",  an old favorite. A chillum is made again and passed, and I offer them my pack of Happydent, since I have nothing else to give. To my happy surprise, everyone in the group take one, and chew. Cups of tea is served by a lady wearing a simple violet saree, and we all drink and talk about music.

The flute player now starts off. He plays tunes which I have half forgotten, and I sit there, in a surreal daze, while he plays. My mind a complete blank, I look at the river again, and when I look back, I see Aghori Baba staring at me.

Aghori Baba
"Why have you come here?" He asks suddenly. "Are you from Allahabad?"

"No," I contradict gently. "I have come all the way from Kolkata."

He frowns, and looks at me more intently. "Why?"

"I wanted to meet Kashi Vishwanath." I reply.

He seems slightly taken aback. I decide to keep quiet, not telling him anything else. The silence is broken by the general rumble of noise that is Munshi Ghat, and the scraping of paper in Nanga Baba's hand while he crushes a piece of newspaper to prepare a fresh round of ganja.

"What do people want?" He suddenly asks. I am startled by this question. He looks at me, but it is as if he does not see me. "Life is always moving, so what do people want?"

I stare silently.

"Gyaan". He replies to his own question, almost meditatively. "Everyone wants knowledge." Suddenly, his eyes turn piercing as he stares at me.

"We all want to know more. Always. Life is all about knowing. From going on living in the state of "agyaan" (lack of knowledge), to being in the state of "gyaan": that is what we are all after."

Nanga Baba had stopped what he was doing and was looking at Aghori Baba too.

"But gyaan or knowledge is nothing more than getting things from others. Learning from others. Knowing what everyone else does."

The chhillum is lit now. He takes in a great drag, sniffs and continues. "The best form of gyaan is what you know from within. It is what you teach yourself. Self-knowledge." His red-shot eyes are again on my face, searching for something. "Self-knowledge. Knowing the self. Teach yourself what you want, and follow the path. You will find so many things that are absolutely new."

Aghori Baba suddenly look away from me, and start talking to Rhys about his music. I feel slightly betrayed, as if something precious was being handed to me, and at the final moment, it was taken away. It is discovered that Rhys is self-taught, but he has never met an instrument he could not play. I watch as he starts to play the flute, and in exchange, he gives the flute-player his accordion. Aghori Baba is persuaded to show off the skull he drinks his liquor from, and Rhys holds it in his hand, marveling at the smoothness of the human cranium. I feel suddenly restless, as if I am an unwanted alien once again. I check my watch, and yes, it's time for me to leave. I wish my friends adieu, knowing deep inside me that in all probability we shall never meet again, and it suddenly feels like the moment and the connection is lost. I don't know if they feel the same, but when I wish them good bye, they smile and wave me off. There is a bittersweet taste in my mouth, and sudden moisture at the corner of my eyes, as I walk away from them quickly, my feet not quite steady.

And as I am halfway back to Godawlia crossing, I realize that I had never told any of them my name - my identity - who I am. They never asked me, in all fairness. But I could have volunteered, couldn't I?

But then, as long as the memories of the emotions and the sentiments and the feelings remain mine, the profound experience, and the deep, continual happiness remain within me, who needs names? I am one in a billion and more, and my experience is part of a whole, my aatma a part of the greater soul.

Obliviate. Vanish.

I look at the diary cradled between my palms and smile.
Rhys Holding the Skull.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Indolent Lunch at Kebab-E-Que, The Astor Hotel, Kolkata

Kebab-E-Que is one of those places which does not go out of fashion. And when the very glorious Supreeta Singh grabbed my hand and ordered me to meet up with her, who was I to disagree? M, P and I soon joined her for lunch, where she showed us around Kebab-E-Que, explaining the changes The Astor Hotel has been going through for the last few years.

"We have been making quite a few changes, and renovations are happening as we speak. This is a heritage building, so it is difficult to change things quickly, but we are doing our best to change and update our menus and decor as time passes by," Supreeta explained while sipping her diet coke.

Seating Arrangement
The buffet at Kebab-E-Que is quite an elaborate affair. At 425/- plus taxes (which pushes the bill to somewhere around 500/- in the end), the lunch buffet boasts of a considerable number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian salads, kebabs, and dishes from different regions of India, not to mention desserts. We seated ourselves, while kebabs were served at the table by supremely polite servers. One thing that I have noticed is the fine manners and service of the servers here - they have an old world charm about them which I find positively wonderful.

Vegetable Prune Kebab and Chicken Burra Kabab
We started off with a quartet - the vegetable prune kebab had a finely minced texture of vegetables with the presence of sweet and sour prunes, which cut through the spicy heat of the dish with a tangy sweetness. It was a good start. The Chicken Burra Kabab came next - it was soft and spicy and a squeeze of lime made it excellent.

Fish Lahsooni Kabab
I was quite looking forward to the Fish Lahsooni Kabab, which I have always liked at Kebab-E-Que. True to its form, it came to the table soft and moist, with hints of garlic which complimented the flaky fish. The Mutton Seekh Kabab was slightly drier than what I like, but was tasty nonetheless.

Top - Dahi Shorba. Clockwise on the plate - Ghee rice with Rajma, Sonamoog Dal, Paneer Butter Masala, Aloo Paratha.
After we had had our share of kebabs, it was time to move on to the main course. At a buffet, the good news is that you get to pick and choose what you want. My first plate consisted of perennial favorites of mine - Aloo Paratha, Rajma, Ghee rice with Sonamoog Dal, and Paneer Butter Masala. The Rajma was soft and tasty, the Aloo Paratha was flaky and perfectly seasoned. But I was very intrigued by the Sonamoog Dal. Unlike the daal served at my home, this was dry, and I was slightly unsure whether I liked it or not. But, together with the Ghee Rice and the Rajma, it was pretty tasty.

Chicken and Pineapple Salad
In between courses, I wandered over to the salad selection, and the chicken and pineapple salad attracted my attention. It had chunks of sweet pineapple and salty chicken bits drizzled with a bit of oil and parsley. The result was tasty, refreshing, and I can never say no to pineapples.

Of course, there was a delectable mutton, a mustard-laden soft fish dish, and Chicken Tikka Butter Masala in the menu as well, but although they were pretty tasty, my roving eyes caught sight of dessert and everything else was instantly forgotten.

Swiss Roll (Left) and Caramel Custard (Right).
The Swiss Roll was soft and creamy. It makes me happy just to think about it in retrospect. Not to be outdone, the Caramel Custard was silky, not overly sweet, and a very well-executed dish. However, on my second trip to the buffet, I spied something that made me smile.

A purely evil one.

A couple of scoops of Chocolate Ice Cream, covered with chocolate sauce, chocolate sprinkles, and a wafer to add that beautiful crunch to it was all I needed to finish off my lunch. M and P were busy with their Swiss Rolls while I ate my ice cream in blissful silence, smiling genially at the comments, but completely and utterly lost in the haze of chocolate ice cream with molten chocolate sauce.

Happy Diners
Of course, I returned to The Astor Hotel soon after. But that's another story, and I am still not sure whether I will tell you about it.

The Astor Hotel

15, Shakespeare Sarani (Theater Road)

Phone: +91 8100817446

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at Kebab-E-Que as a guest of The Astor Hotel. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Launch of Dilligate Restaurant at Topsia, Kolkata

Top Left - Drum of Heaven, Top Right - Seekh Kabab, Bottom left - Creamy Spinach Roll, Bottom center - Chicken Biryani, Bottom Right - Fish in Coriander Sauce

 I was invited to the launch of Dilligate Restaurant recently, at Topsia, near Chinatown (Tyangra). Naturally, a multi-cuisine restaurant near that area sparked my interest immediately, since I know it is one of the growing commercial hub of Kolkata. Curious, I asked Mr. Manish Singh why he would open a restaurant in the area, and he confirmed my idea.

"We are trying to get different cuisines under one roof. Think about this place catering to not just a crowd who wants to eat Indian, but also wants Chinese and Continental. We aim to give people a taste of the best food from Delhi, Punjab, Kolkata, and add a continental flair to it."

I had full faith in him, since he is also associated with Balwant Singh Eating House, which is one of my favorite places to be when I am in the mood for Aloo Paratha.

Mr. Mukesh Agarwal, and Mr. Manish Singh.
"The menu consists of a number of things which is rapidly disappearing from Kolkata's food topography. For example, Mughlai Paratha. We also have a wide selection of veg and non veg food which is very affordable, and we intend to send our food to corporate events, and offer lunch deals."

Although, the place does not look too big from the outside, inside is a different story. You can see gorgeous laminated collages of street food around Delhi and Kolkata, images of the seekh kabab cooking, or the quintessential glasses of tea from the roadside stall.

And naturally, my attention would be drawn to the quirky picture of Jackie Chan and the paratha on the wall. I think I probably have ADHD.

Some of the Items from the Menu
Finger food is circulated. The crispy chilli baby corn, the drums of heaven, the seekh kabab, the hara bhara kabab - the food is tasty, and after a quick look at the prices, quite pocket-friendly. Soon we move to the elaborate buffet where I pick and choose from the vast selection on offer a few things that catch my fancy.

Malai Kofta
For example, the malai kofta is silky, with soft paneer melting in the mouth in a thick, creamy gravy. Or the chicken tikka masala, which is delicate but robust. I return to the fish in coriander sauce - thin fillets of fresh fish coated lightly, fried and served in a sauce that has a beautiful hint of coriander leaves and soy sauce, although a bit too heavy handed with the ginger and garlic. Rajma is also served, but I am not much of a fan of it. I blame R for spoiling me there.

My attention is soon riveted towards the Mutton Kasha, which is unlike what I have had in a Bengali household, but the melt-in-your-mouth mutton is worth going back a second time for, and definitely a good match with the hot tandoori rotis fresh off the heat. We also

My plate - Stir Fried Garlic Pepper Chicken with Exotic Vegetables (top), the mutton kasha (mid left), chicken butter masala (mid right), Fish in Coriander Sauce (bottom).
We finish the meal with scoops of ice cream and darsaan, crisp and sweet. After checking the menu, I found that there are a number of things on the menu that I would like to try, so I probably will be back in the near future to sample some of their offering.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to the Launch of Dilligate Restaurant. Her opinion is honest and unbiased.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Mutton Kasha, or, a Tale of One Man's Meat...

Mutton Kasha on Sunday
Or rather, this post is about one race's meat preference. As a child, I would wait for Sundays. The entire week would be all about eating everything in the plate, which would include, typically in my house (and still is the same, mind you!) rice, an assortment of vegetables cooked in different ways, daal, and fish. But on Sundays, the fish would be replaced by meat. My family, till I was around 8 or 9, did not like chicken much, and it used to come once or twice a month. On the other hand, mutton would appear in the menu virtually every Sunday.

My father would source the meat from different butchers. There was one butcher in the general market near my house who would supply my father with kochi pNatha, or the meat of a baby goat, i.e. Kid. It would be good for making a light, slightly runny jhol, thanks to the fact that the meat would be considerably lean and easily cooked, and it would be consumed within the day. Apparently, keeping it overnight was not advised, since all the nutrients would evaporate. Typically, ma would throw in halved potatoes, raw papaya cut in large pieces, and occasionally whole tomatoes and onions, and I would love mashing everything in with my rice, scooping it up after squeezing a hefty dose of lime over it all.

Potato! Yes, I'm a Minion.
But then there was the lure of the "other". This was sourced from a man called Sharif, who supplied my father with rewaji meat. The essential difference between normal goat meat and rewaji is in the way the goat is raised. Unlike normal goats, who would generally eat a diet of grass and straw, these goats would be fed chana, which would enhance the growth of intramuscular fat, the elusive parda which would separate layers of meat. My childhood was laced with afternoons spent with my mother, finishing off the last bits of gravy with rice, scraping the huge kadai clean with my fingers, and licking them clean. My mother would look proudly at me and tell me that the meat was what made it possible.

And she taught me a very basic thing - good meat needs minimum decoration to dress it up.

My mother makes a killer Mutton Kasha. In fact, boudir mangso is a common term of appreciation in my house. I make mine slightly different, but it is beautiful all the same. In fact, every Bengali household probably has its own version of this dish, and I am nothing if not a Bengali.

You would need rewaji meat to make good mutton. It is advised to get the meat from the foreleg, or the shoulder, and if you are buying a kilo, about 200 gm. of it should be fat. Because the meat, ultimately, will benefit from it. Also, there must be at least one piece of liver, which is essential in a good mutton kasha. Finding the liver used to be something akin to the quest for the holy grail, and as a child, I had had the reputation of being the one who would sneakily steal it before anyone else could.

The Nali Haar - the shinbone which would have glorious bits of marrow in it which would be sucked out.
There's something delicately naughty about mashing some of the silky fat into your rice, and letting it sit on your tongue, savoring the essence of the goat for a few moments as your eyes automatically close on a sigh.

There is also something beautiful about sucking on the nali haar, the beautiful shin bone, which would be sucked on (and my father would always suck it like he was playing the flute of Lord Krishna), till the jelly-like marrow will emerge in its glistening glory.

I can die now. No seriously.

Marinate 1 kilo goat meat in 150 ml. yogurt, 1 teaspoon ginger paste, 1 teaspoon garlic paste, and a dash of salt. If possible, separate about 100 gm. of fat from the rest, and chop it up into small cubes, about 1/2 inch long. Essentially this is what will make the meat supremely tasty, so do not miss this step.

Start by heating up 75 ml. mustard oil till it is no longer raw and is near its smoking point, but not smoking. If you do not have mustard oil, you can use refined oil, but the taste will never be the same. Fry 3 peeled and halved potatoes till they are golden. Scoop the potatoes out of the oil. Add to the mustard oil 4 whole green cardamoms, 6 whole cloves, a stick of cinnamon about two inches long, 10 peppercorns, and 4 whole dry red chillies. Let this splutter for 20 seconds, and then add 150 gm. chopped onions (the red variety works out very well here) along with 1 teaspoon of sugar and a dash of salt.

Look at that FAT.
Fry over high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, till the onions start turning golden. Add the chopped fat, and sear them, stirring continuously, for another 2-3 minutes. Lower temperature, and let the fat and onion cook for 10 minutes. After that, turn up the heat, and cook till the onion is golden brown and delicious.

Add the meat and cook over high heat, searing the meat in all sides. It will take about 5-6 minutes for this to happen. Do not stop moving the meat around. Then, add 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (or you can paste three dry red chillies with a bit of water and add that too!), 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder.

Yes. Amchoor powder.

Stay with me here. Focus. Or you can skip it. It doesn't matter in the long run.

Or does it?

You will never know till you put some in.

Cook for another 2-3 minutes over high heat, and then lower the heat, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook for another 10 minutes. Put the meat in a pressure cooker (or, if you are not as dumb as I am, you can use the pressure cooker instead of the kadai), add 350 ml. hot water, and pressure cook till the meat is mostly cooked, about 6 whistles in my pressure cooker, or whatever floats your boat. You can even do this over slow heat, but I have discovered that I have zero patience, and no wish to waste energy, unless I have a valid point.

Once the meat is mostly cooked, remove it from the pressure cooker, put it in a kadai, and add the potatoes. Cover and cook over simmering heat till the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. Reduce the gravy till you can see mostly fat. Adjust seasoning, turn off the heat. Serve with a big pot of white rice, chopped cucumbers and onions, a few long, green, fiery hot chillies, and a big smile.

Or you can serve it with rotis, parathas, pulao, whatever. Eat it solo. Sneakily savor the liver. Spread it over toast. Who am I to disagree?

Been there, done that!‎