The pleasures of a cup of tea


Hotel Breakfasts

Few things are more pleasurable than hotel breakfasts. Who doesn’t love elaborate spreads of  baked goods, eggs and cold cuts, chicken and vegetables dressed in ways one only sees in beautifully illustrated volumes of the 1001 Arabian Nights? What a splendid start to the day! What I actually love about these busy spreads is that their variety replicates the random jumbles in the way my mind works. Too many things going on and I’d like to have a bit of everything!

In Delhi, for a short four days, I longed for a cup of tea made from milk that had been tediously heated over a low flame for a considerable amount of time. That familiar flavor I recognize as tea. Day after day, I was served a tea that I didn’t quite like. I must say they had the nicest, most rich croissants which I savored delightfully. To…

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Sweet Middle East: Anissa Helou


I have a strong sweet tooth and often say it’s because my family name, Helou, means “sweet” in Arabic. In truth, that has nothing to do with it. Most people in the Middle East and North Africa have a serious penchant for all things sugary. Sweets occupy an important place in our lives, and every important occasion, rite of passage, or religious event has a specific sweet associated with its celebration. In fact, any occasion is a good enough reason to visit the sweets maker, whether to enjoy a snack while going about your daily business or to buy a treat to take to friends or family.

It’s possible that this love of sweet things is a result of the Muslim prohibition against alcohol, with sugar from sweets replacing the sugar derived from alcohol. Perhaps sugar (from the Arabic word sukkar, derived from the Persian shakar) was so plentiful…

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In Search of the Perfect Curry: Chef Rick Stein


Whenever I hear the word ‘curry’, I’m filled with a longing for spicy hot food with the fragrance of cumin, cloves and cinnamon. I see deep-red colors from lots of Kashmiri chillies tinged with a suggestion of yellow from turmeric. I think of the tandoor oven, and slightly scorched naan shining with ghee and garlic; of a bowl of dark dal to assuage the heat of the curry, a green chutney of coriander and mint, and a plate with a few tomatoes, cucumbers and sliced onions tinged with pink, all sprinkled with salt and fresh lime juice. At home I have a little sign I put on the front door of my cottage in Padstow which says, Gone Swimming. Maybe I’ll get one which says, Gone for a Curry. The sense of leaving home for something completely satisfying is the same.

The sign would have been there for quite a…

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Vineet Bhatia: I Did Not Set Out To Be A Chef


Remember British author Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s novel ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’? Of course you do. And surely the most memorable character, Willy Wonka; the innovative chocolate visionary and his scrumdiddlyumptious creations come to mind. For a moment, would you now imagine what Willy Wonka would whip up in an Indian rasoi? Welcome to the kitchen of Chef Vineet Bhatia. 

  • Blueberry and black cardamom kulfi
  • Blue cheese naan
  • Cumin-infused chocolate
  • Goat’s cheese and coriander khichdi

These curious compositions of ingredients with volatile textures and consistencies are distinctive of Vineet’s kitchen (and these recipes are included in his book ‘Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen’ for you to try at home). Earlier this year, during a short trip to Mumbai, I had visited Ziya at The Oberoi (food sketch below) where even the walls taste of pecan nuts and chocolate. Just kidding. Actually, it was almonds.

ziya small

Bursts of color pop on…

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Goa Diaries


After Hyderabad, we headed to Goa. At the airport, we had yet another Hyderabadi biryani as a farewell. Bad decision. The biryani was Andhra-style (hot), masala biryani. I couldn’t finish my plate, more like I didn’t want to, fearing episodes of stomach-gone-bad at the airport (which actually did happen, but much later during our trip).


We took a Spice jet flight from Hyderabad to Goa. The aircraft was smaller than usual with just two seats on either side. The flight was of a short duration, 1 hour 20 minutes and I got busy sketching. Our plan was to stay in Panaji and you’ll read more about it in the next few minutes…

Reaching Goa, we had a welcome drink of Kokum juice which was refreshing, to say the least. I had never tasted Kokum and quite liked what I was drinking- sour and mildly sweet. Chilled. I imagined an invisible…

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