Monday, 17 October 2016

Where time stands still

Most Indians growing up in the 80’s and 90’s are familiar with the distinct sound of Asha Bhosle. Her unique voice reaches high notes effortlessly and her songs remain popular to this day.
The songstress shares another completely different passion and it has to do with food. Here is a woman who has belted out a tune for countless Indian films. Who has sung at packed concerts all over the world and is considered the world record holder for her contribution to Indian popular music. When did she find the time to cook, let alone perfect well known Indian dishes?

For most Indian women, cooking is expected to be second nature. We may never want to step in to the kitchen but that’s often a choice they aren’t given. Perhaps this may have been the case with a young Ashaji (ji – is a term of respect Indians give to seniors). It wouldn’t be off the mark to imagine that she would have been expected to learn to cook before she was allowed to become a full-fledged recording artist.
The Asha’s chain of restaurants captures the essence of this Indian nightingale. Its charming interiors are soothed by a hum of her music playing in the background. Frequented by locals, Indians and foreigners, one can step in and step back in time. Of course you must leave your calorie counter at the door. 

Jheenga Jalpari 

Sample the Jheeenga Jalpari which consists of deep fried king prawns stuffed with cheese and prawn chunks coated with bread crumbs and served with sun-dried tomato chutney. Pure heaven in my opinion. Vegetarians can sink their teeth in to a delightful Kofta Kham Khatai, a crispy fried bottle gourd and potato hash patties, pan tossed with tamarind chutney, ginger and fennel. Now, it is completely out of the ordinary to use a bottle gourd as a starter, so you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
Making a royal entrance is the smoked chicken or Bhatti Ka Chaap where a boneless chicken leg is marinated in a mix of spices and yoghurt and cooked in the tandoor. The waiter brings it to the table covered in a translucent covered dish and lets out the smoke and the wafts of flavours all at the same time.  
Leave room for the Chamandi Prawn Biryani. It has prawns cooked in a coconut cilantro pesto with lemon juice and coconut milk. The Muscat Ghost was prepared by Asha after a visit to Oman. One bite and the flavours literally burst in to your mouth.
This is not a venue for a rushed meal. You need to take your time to savour the flavours and the effort that’s gone in to the preparation. The Calicut Gosht Biryani is made lamb, onion and yoghurt, spiced with cinnamon and star anise. Each dish is carefully crafted like a symphony playing in your palette. The house favourites like Dal Makhani are cooked overnight to achieve that right consistency.   

Bhatti Ka Chaap

“A great recipe is like an immortal tune, it happens but only a few times in one’s life,” says Asha Bhosle. It is believed that the singer has fed Indian film celebrities and dignitaries with her tempting biryanis. Her many awards for music include the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award and another for outstanding merit by the Dubai International Film Festival in 2014. She currently holds the Guinness World Record for ‘Most Recorded Artiste in the world.’ 

Asha Bhosle adds her touches to signature dishes

It would be a crime to skip dessert, what with its melt in your mouth Kulfi with Pistachios on offer. Other regulars like Gulab Jamun and Carrot Halwa are pale in comparison but they make the cut just the same.
Though I revisited Asha’s a whole decade later, I left feeling pleasantly full.

Asha’s currently operates in Manchester, Bahrain, Birmingham, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE.
For reservations in Dubai call: + 9714 324 4100 

Kofta Kham Khatai
Listen to one of my favourite Asha Bhosle songs: Courtesy of You Tube

Sunday, 25 September 2016

My interview with legendary designer Ritu Kumar - Published in Kuwait Times

My interview with Ritu Kumar published in today's Kuwait Times.
 Follow the Link below to find out more


Published in Kuwait Times

My interview with Ritu Kumar published in today's Kuwait Times.
 Follow the Link below to find out more


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Beyond luxury

Dubai residents are familiar with luxury hotels which mushroom this landscape attracting hordes of tourists from the region and beyond. When it comes to enhanced luxury, many from the region will make sure they have experienced it. 

The St. Regis Vommuli Resort island

The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort is all set to unveil its newest and most exquisite venture. Built on its own island, with breath taking vistas, it offers the most privacy a visitor could want. The facility will open on November 1, this year. A select few journalists in Dubai were offered a sneak peak at what the hotel offers.  
Set on nine hectares of a private isle in the Dhaalu Atoll, the 77 all-villa accommodation are surrounded by pristine landscapes, thick tropical vegetation, a fine white-sand beach, a brackish lagoon and the glistening turquoise Indian Ocean.
The hotel offers a personal e-butler service prior to arrival. A luxury airport transfer greets guests who make their way to the resort after the 45 minute sea plane ride from Male Indernational Airport.
“The Maldives is a high demand destination for the Middle East, with more than six flights arriving daily from the Arabian Gulf,” says Mark O’Sullivan, General Manager of The St. Regis, Maldives.
Two bedroom family villa with pool
As tempting as it is to imagine immaculate beaches, the media gathered in Dubai had to be allured by what this hotel can offer.
We were offered relaxing foot and soothing hand massages along with a chance to sip on the signature drink of the St. Regis Maldives, the Island Mary. Many seafood delicacies were provided to evoke that island-feeling.

The property in the Maldives offers every villa its own private pool. Its John Jacob Astor Estate is among the largest over water villas in the Maldives with a total size of 1,540 square meters. Among the many amenities expected from a 5 star resort, they also offer a children’s club where trained staff can offer children a cooking class or other activities during their stay. 
Garden villa with pool
Beach villa with pool

A limited opening offer for an over water villa with pool for a couple costs US 2, 011. (Dhs. 7,385). Yes it is a lot, but when you have an uninterrupted view of the sunrise on one side and the sunset on the other, you may have little else to complain about.
Now all I need is a lottery win for a chance to actually experience it. 

For more information log on to www.stregis/maldivesvommuli

Whale Bar
An Island Mary is the signature drink at the St. Regis Maldives

Monday, 15 August 2016

Georgia on my mind

When my friend Prajakta asked me if I'd like to travel to Georgia, I was not sure if it was a good idea. For starters I hadn't heard much about the place and also it was a trip without my husband and children so I would be faced with the guilt of going without them.
After a little hesitation, the two of us boarded the plane to Georgia convinced that we would make the most of the short visit that lay ahead. To our surprise the country offered a lush green welcome to our starved eyes. We soon settled in and explored the city, one artistic gem at a time.
Of course Georgia doesn't make it to the top 10 destinations of must see places. It has its own charm and is slowly but surely on the way to ensuring that visitors are left with something to remember them by.
For me, that element was the snow. White, welcoming and pure unadulterated fun. Of course I have been lucky to play in the snow before but the sight of a carpet of soft, white ice, just makes you want to be a kid again. We were told that we had to drive out of the city for an hour to find snow and frankly no distance was too long for people who have lived in the Middle East for a bit too long. Our guide was tickled that the first sight of snow turned us in to little numbnuts, (the focus being on the numb feeling thanks to minus three temperatures).
When we got back to the city, we made sure to catch a play at the quaint puppet theatre in the heart of the city. It was wonderful to see that this art form was still being kept alive, what with 3D films and animation being so popular.
As we made it back to the airport I couldn't help thank my friend for inviting me to the trip. It has rejuvenated me like only travel can.

One of the oldest churches in Georgia which also holds as a monastery. Here it is undergoing renovation.

The trees seemed to dance in delight welcoming the snow and its many admirers.

View from the top of a narrow steeple which overlooks the city of love.
Fresh tracks make one want to play detective as you wonder who has walked ahead.

Driving away from the snow capped mountains as the sun sets.

The poster outside a delightful puppet theatre where we watched puppets come alive as they told a comical royal story.

A visitor makes his way up the first flight of stairs to the second which leads to a spectacular church with a jaw dropping view.

Inside one of the oldest churches which is atop a steep hill. Here the only sounds I remember were howling winds and the melodious chants of the monks that prayed in the corners of this sacred space. This miraculous cross has stood the test of time.

It isn't easy to leave this immaculate snow, so I whisper a prayer that soon I will be here again.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Its getting hot in here

Porcini Mushroom - Mushroom pizza with a Margherita base, beef bacon and basil leaves

Anyone fortunate enough to dine in Italy will know that it is undoubtedly the home of the beloved pizza. A multitude of outlets and chefs worldwide try to replicate the enigma of this crusty, wholesome meal. Few come close... 

800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria, recently opened its fourth franchise branch at Burjuman Centre in Bur Dubai. Its new menu is designed by the franchise-owner, Manish Jeswani, and Master Pizzaolo, Rosario Accaria, and includes an assortment of desserts and soups.

Made with special Napoli 00 flour and ingredients prepared freshly every morning, 800 Degrees’ authentic Neapolitan Pizzas are baked to perfection in an almond wood-fired oven at (you guessed it) 800 Degrees Fahrenheit. Other features include an in-house prepared Calabrian chili-paste, fresh oregano and peppadew peppers. Peppadew are sweet, tangy red peppers found in South Africa.Guests are invited to create their own pizza from scratch. Gluten-free pizza options are also on offer as are scrumptious pastas and coffees.

Apart from its special salads, burratas,salads, sides and gelatos, the eatery also introduces its Brodo di Pollo and Zuppa di Pomodoro soups, kids meals, as well as five special Italian desserts – the sweet Crema Catalana, the tasty Tiramisu, the rich Cannoli Siciliana, the delightful Panna Cotta and the bittersweet Caffe Affogato.

My personal favourite was the Fire feta cheese bread, an orange heavenly bread that doesn't leave you with an overwhelming taste of cheese.The Patate Al Forno or roasted potato is sprinkled with fresh parsley, and comes a close second. If you drop by, sample the desserts and give me your recommendations.

Zuppa Di Pomodoro - Creamy tomato soup

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Big Bang Theory actor discusses his life.

Though I don't ordinarily publish interviews that I've not done myself, I've made an exception for this handsome bloke.
The Big Bang Theory star Kunal Nayyar sat down to discuss how he left home at 18 to persue his acting dreams in the US. Shot exclusively for British Airways, I couldn't deny my readers the chance to hear what he has to say.
After all, it all started with a Big Bang!

35-year- old Nayyar is famed for making people laugh but the video reveals a more vulnerable side of the actor who shares how he and his family were in tears on the phone after he landed the life-changing role of Raj or Rajesh Koothrappali in the hit US sit-com.

"My parents really inspired me to leave home. I think they found it was very good for me to grow as a human being. And I wasn't scared as much as I was excited, to be honest. I was 18 and I was going to a new country."

With The Big Bang Theory, "It took six weeks for me to find out I had got that role. So they were present throughout those six weeks every day when I was calling them freaking out. I woke them up at 3:30 in the morning. Of course, the first thing your parents do when you call them in a different country is like, "Are you ok? Are you safe - why are you calling us at this time?"
"I was like, 'Ya, ya - I'm great;' and I am just weeping, just crying, because this meant so much to me to be this kid from New Delhi, India, who made it onto the big screen."

Kunal now regularly flies for work and believes air travel has changed the world for the better, giving people a chance to pursue their dreams and grow their businesses. Being a frequent traveller now, he explains, "All the time I meet people while I'm travelling and flying that inspire characters. I once met an elderly Indian gentleman on a plane who spoke in half-sentences.That was something I later used for Raj."

Watch the full interview by copying this link in a new window: