Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Traditions to the fore

Are traditions still followed through in this day and age? Do our children know about the festivities and eating habits of our ancestors? With Carnival celebrated with all its pomp and glory in our tiny state I wondered if people around the globe believed in traditions too.

Carnival is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent and is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and to a lesser extent in Eastern Orthodox societies. The Protestants do not have the celebrations but modified traditions like the Shrove Tuesday event.

I decided to do some homework on some countries and traditions before coming back to our home state.

There seems to be two different explanations to the word ‘Carnival’. The first comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning "to remove meat", while another possible explanation comes from the term ‘Carrus Navalis’ (ship cart), the name of the Roman festival of Isis.

In the Czech Republic, tradition calls for a pork feast before lent. In England they celebrate Shrove Tuesday. It is a time for confessing sins (shriving) and is celebrated as Pancake Tuesday. In Greece ‘Smoke Thursday’ is celebrated where celebrants enjoy Roast Beef dinners at Taverns and friends homes. This same ritual is repeated the following Sunday and the following week, the last before Lent is called Tyrine (cheese) week because meat is not allowed but dairy products are.

In Hungary, they spike doughnuts on weapons, in Italy especially at Ivrea, they celebrate it with the Battle of the Oranges. In Malta food eaten at the carnival includes perlini (multi-coloured, sugar-coated almonds) and the prinjolata, which is a towering assembly of sponge cake, biscuits, almonds and citrus fruits, topped with cream and pine nuts.

The Islands of the Azores, before Ash Wednesday, locals sit down for the "Batatada" or potato feast, in which the main dish is salted cod with potatoes, eggs, mint, bread and wine. While in Portugal Lazarim of Lamego the cycle encompasses two periods, the first starting on the fifth Sunday before Fat Sunday. The locals feast on a wide variety of meats, above all pork.

Well we all know that in Goa the three-day-long festival of music and dancing in the streets culminates in a parade on Fat Tuesday and then crowds follow their partying with a buffet dinner of Goan cuisine.

But what about the local homes? What is cooked there? We decided to spend some time with Chef Peter of O Coqueiro who has a special menu being prepared in his restaurant during this period. Pork Ard Mas, Samarachi Kodi with Boiled Rice and Para, Spiced Roast Pork, Beef Roullade and Roast Beef. ‘We are forgetting the traditions of the past,’ he says, ‘the Aard Mas used to be prepared on Vespers Day, the previous day of the feast and I request the butcher for those special cuts with the bone.’

I looked at the menu…at an item called “buch’. ‘Another forgotten preparation,’ he says, ‘but one I keep on the menu. Its tripe and the recipe is one that I learned from my grandmother. In the olden days, at around 10.00 am, it used to me our brunch with kanji.’

‘But what happens after Ash Wednesday, when meats are not permitted?’ I ask. He points to old favorites..Crab Xec-Xec, Teesroi Sukhe… ‘In the past Lent was observed for a period of 45 days while for five Sundays we were allowed to eat. Fish like Lepo, Kochudde, Talle, Kubhe… I am a strong believer of old traditions…so with advance intimation I could also prepare Tambdi Bhaji(Red Spinach), Osande Sukhe(Lentils) or even the vegetables made with Turnip and white Radish as in the past.’

By now our table was laden with all the specialties which very few restaurants display on their menu. As we chewed on the Aard Maas…the fat around the bone adds to the flavour we were told, and the soft succulent roast beef…melting moments, the Teesroi Sukhe oo..la…la, Peter informed us about a traditional dessert his grandmother would prepare at home .’Godshem’, a sweet of doodhi and sweet potatoes prepared in an earthenware pot, which would ooze out a gelatin overnight and keep it fresh. While listening to these traditions, I saw Joe heap his plate with rice ‘Ukdia tandul’, samarachi kodi and para. I let him go ahead. He always said that his mother made the best. We stopped talking as we watched him spoon mouthful and mouthful into his mouth. The dish had passed the test.

So here are some local traditions brought to the fore at O Coqueiro….these are some things that are never to be forgotten.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The ‘key’ on the Boat Quay

'There is a certain ‘quay’ to good food,’ Joe remarks as he leafs through the morning paper. Busy on my computer I look at him in astonishment. ‘A key to good food?’ I ask astonished, ‘has there ever been a lock?’ ‘You got me wrong as usual,’ he says exasperatedly, ‘a ‘quay’ as in a place for boats...the pronunciation is the same.’

‘Yes they have one in Singapore…a Boat Quay…good food and entertainment…a must visit for foodies,’ I remark. ‘But…’ says my better half who at times does get a chance to have the last word in, ‘its here in Goa…called the Boat Quay Grill…I guess the name perhaps taken from Singapore, and it promises everything fresh and cooked live with entertainment every night.’ He looks across smugly like the cat who has licked the cream. I look across sourly, trust him to source out another place to eat....while I am counting the calories.

So here we were in party mode, on the beach moving towards a seductively lit place at the Royal Orchid Beach Resort. A very positive plus is that one can just drive down to the venue. Suddenly we saw two miniature halogen balloons brightly lit ascending towards the sky. ‘Make a wish,’ Gabriel of the Food and Beverage whispers. A wish? We stood transfixed as those balloons drifted slowly across the inky black starry lit sky.

Tempted to shout ‘twinkle twinkle little star..’ the soft crooning music of the two piece husband and wife duo ‘Shine On’ wafted down the pathway.

Melodious...tantalizing... ‘This place must be charging a bomb,’ I whispered to Joe looking at the elegantly molded white fibre glass furniture brought in from Italy. Palm trees in lit ‘molded’ planters swayed in the breeze. ‘Classy’ was my thoughts as we climbed up the wooden platform and moved towards a lounge style seating area.
Remember we were in party mode, so besides dinner we wanted to see what was the ‘key’ to the Boat Quay promise. The molded ‘lounge’ chairs were comfortable…you could sink into it and not want to get up. And the staff did not disappoint…old favorites in ‘new avatars.’

The starters were off to a ‘start.’ The table was attractively laid with Prawn stick cocktail. Two cooked prawns skewered on a stick swimming in a champagne flute of cocktails sauce. Miniature prawns were already in for the tasting. So we nibbled on an old recipe with a new twist, the spice…gratifying to the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Next -Beer battered Fried fish and Mini cheese balls. Now if you feel that the sea air would dampen the ‘crisp’ you are mistaken. Piping hot…remember it is served ‘live’ and tasty. And personalized too. We had our names written as an invitation- wow!

Oh yes the snacks ordered kept on coming...Badami vegetable seekh kebabs..the crisp slivers of Badam a treat…the malai chicken tikka spiced with chilli flakes...and a cornetto….an ice cream cone in a small stand filled with….Sev Bhel puri. No need of the crunchy puri- the cone added gusto to the flavor.

This place has a one up-manship when it comes to presentation. Each preparation has its own styled plate…a seashell one for the seafood…a different oval one for the chicken…and a thali ‘styled’ one for Indian. But before I ramble on…the miniature grilled bits were arriving. Chicken satay and Mixed Seafood Brochettes each with it’s own sauce. The Terriyaki sauce complemented the skewer of calamari, prawn and fish to perfection….o..la…la. Fish lovers this is your ‘key’ to unlock those cravings. But wait till you try those Grilled Tiger Prawns. Those king sized babies will have your salivary glands oozing. Lightly dusted with masala its ‘seafood’ taste remains intact...igniting a fire which perhaps will have you floating like those helium balloons high up in the sky.

Talking about fire…the staff arrived with a big bowl and a ladle. Were they going to wash our hands? No way. The ladle was lit belching flames in the night air and poured into the bowl. Flambeed Gulab Jamun…the brandy soaks into the syrup and into your senses. And if your sweet tooth is craving for more…they have slivers of fresh fruit in Mango and Vanilla ice cream Oh it might go by a simple name of Fresh fruit Salad with ice cream…but to every dish...they have that special key…innovation.
I take a peek at the menu...to check the prices. I stare in amazement….even our small family restaurants would have to compete here. So is this the ‘key’? Old favorites with innovations, competitive pricing, and an environment unparalleled for enjoyment...the ‘key’ is definitely with Boat Quay Grill

Boat Quay Grill Address: Royal Orchid Beach Resort –Uttorda Beach, Salsette Tel No: 0832 2884400
Mobile: 8805013553