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Edible Flowers – Smell the roses and eat them too

26 Jul

Duck and Orange Salad (2)Flowers aren’t just for vases anymore. These pretty things are landing up on elaborately plated meals in fancy restaurants.  I spoke to renowned chefs on ways to bring some of that same decorative flair to your next dinner party.

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Gan Island – for Serenity Seekers

19 Apr

gan islandI had always daydreamed about watching the sunset on an island where palm trees cast slender shadows along a stretch of bone-white beaches with luminous blue waters… well you get the picture. A recent trip to Gan Island in the Maldives brought that fantasy alive.

Maldives means ‘garland of islands’ in Sanskrit and you only need to peep from your aircraft window to see why. Sprinkled 15,000 feet below are dozens of azure coral specks with names that sound like something one might say while tickling a baby: Dhiddhoo, Kudadhoo, Funadhoo, Nilandhoo, Goidhoo… I am on board the first international flight from Colombo to Gan Island in the Maldives. Prior to the Srilankan airlines flight one had to take a rickety seaplane from Male to reach Gan.

There’s a whiff of history in the frangipani-scented air at Gan. During World War II, Gan island was used by the British military as a naval base due to its strategic location. From 1941 to 1976, Gan served as a strategic outpost for the British Navy and later the Royal Air Force. Much of the military infrastructure remains intact, including the runway. Reminders of the British influence can still be seen today in the landscaping and in the style of buildings.

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A short 20 minutes exhilarating speed boat ride lands me at Canareef Resort where a sunset villa bang on the beach with spacious four-poster bed and a private Jacuzzi awaits. Before diving into a leisurely seafood lunch, I wander out to claim my own scoop of beach on this talcum-shored island, stretch out in my hammock and listen to the surf. This is good life. The beach is scattered with Adirondack chairs, perfect for greeting the morning sun or the evening sunset. Fortunately, there are no snoozing sunbathers as I trek down to the water. If you are a stickler for solitude, Gan would be hard to beat. The island claims a population of only 30,000 which means the chances of finding another set of footprints on the beach are quite rare.

Things to do at Gan island

Watch the dance of the dolphins

Maldives is home to several species of dolphins, including Spinners, Bottle-Nosed dolphins and pilot whales. One way to enjoy the island is to go in search of these wild yet extremely friendly dolphins around the island while watching the sunset. I was amazed to watch them jump and race with our speedboat almost as if performing for us while frolicking in the ocean.

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Discover the jewels of the ocean
Many a ship has met a watery grave on the shallow reefs of Maldives. This has led to some spectacular wrecks on the ocean floor of this tropical diving paradise. One such enthralling dive site is the British Loyalty Shipwreck that came to rest in 1946. Built in 1928, this 5.583 ton oil tanker was torpedoed twice during the Second World War. It was left in Addu Atoll after the British withdrew from the Gan Island. It’s fascinating to witness how marine ecosystems adapt to and takeover these sunken rusty relics of human civilization. Coral reefs growing over the hulls of wrecked ships, create a magical home for local marine flora and fauna. Living symbiotically among the coral are parrot fish, clownfish, wrasse, angelfish, triggerfish and turtles.

Grab rod and reel for some fishing

A fishing trip on a modern speedboat is a great experience for any wannabe Hemingway. Head out during the day for tuna and sailfish, or go at night to catch grouper, snapper, squirrelfish or barracuda. Live bait in the form of trigger fish, sprats and mackerel are scooped out from a large tank beneath the boat and hooked on the line and dropped over the side. Round off the trip by barbecuing the day’s catch. Sadly I caught none.

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Learn how to windsurf

If you are up for some adrenaline ride the winds and negotiate strong waves at Gan. It is a great feeling to glide across the water – even better if you could do this for hours on end. It is just you, your board, the ocean, and the wind on your face. The season for surf lasts from March-October.

Watch the sun sink on a boat cruise

A sunset boat cruise aboard a dhoni, the wooden boat that is the Maldives’ standard mode of transport, is a blissful way to end the day. You can cruise around uninhabited islands, where you’ll be served drinks and snacks while local musicians play their traditional bodu beru drums to attract dolphins.

Canareef - Arrival by Dhoni

Witness life under the waves

For years I heard and read about scuba diving – the thrill of seeing colorful fish, the peacefulness of being in the water and so on. The wet-suite, flippers, swimming goggles, inflatable jacket, oxygen tank… diving is a bit challenging but definitely stunning. Even as seawater fills my throat and fog clogs my mask I am thrilled with the scenery and the opportunity to swim with groupers and turtles.
Note: The key is to keep your breathing nice and steady, and use calm, controlled movements. And be conscious not to touch, knock or stand on any coral – it took thousands of years to look as beautiful as it does!

Island tour

When you have had your fill of the sea and its treasures head out to see some World War 2 relics near the beach area. You can cycle to the next island of Meedhoo to catch the oldest cemetery in the country, Koagannu. It was built about 900 years ago for the burial of the island’s first Muslims, and it was here that many of the ancient rulers of the islands are buried. The perfectly preserved low-rise, pale-blue buildings are where British soldiers were housed. Astra, a gorgeous Art Deco cinema that still shows films is a must visit.

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BOX ITEM

Getting there: Gan island is just a hour and twenty minutes flight from Colombo. SriLankan Airlines operates four flights per week to Gan International Airport.

Where to stay: Canareef Resort is at a short 20-minute speedboat ride from Gan International Airport. Choose the sunset villa which comes with great ocean views, Jacuzzi and an open to the sky bathroom. Call: +960 689-6677.

Best time to visit: January to April is the nicest time with average temperatures of 28 degrees. July to October is the wet season with slight showers but still pleasant.

 

 

Salmon Soirée  

27 Nov

A recent dinner hosted by the Norwegian Consul General H. E. Torbjorn Holthe at his residence in Bandra was a revelation in the simple and quick ways salmon could be included in a meal. 

Passionate foodie and home cook deputy Consul General Yogi Shergill rustled up a simple meal of Salmon filet with sour cream, red chilies & soya sauce, Grilled Salmon filet with Tandoori marinade and pan fried COD filet. 

Vegetarian options included a ceaser  salad (Yogi, you need to give me the recipe for it) and aloo gobi. 

Tandoori marinated Grilled salmon


The evening rolled off with some fine wine and appetisers – smoked salmon on toast with a drop of mayo and mustard. Light,  easy and hugely yummy. 

Salmon fillet

Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon with mayo

Smoked salmon on toast with mustard


The evening was a revelation in more ways than one. I didn’t know that salmon is anadromous. They are born in fresh water, migrate to the oceans and return to fresh water to reproduce. Folklore has it that they return to the same spot where they were born to spawn. Interesting, isn’t it. 

With the Norwegian Consul General H. E. Torbjorn Holthe


The dishes truly captured Norwegian love for their favorite Salmon and the counsel general does hope that we give it some love and attention as we do to our beloved pomfret and mackerel. 

With deputy Consul General Yogi Shergill



Nivedita Jayaram Pawar 

Escape to Saj By The Lake

19 Aug

Should you need a nudge to get out of Mumbai and expand your sights, let me introduce you to a young resort just three hours away. It goes by the name Saj by the Lake and it’s warm and welcoming. Continue reading

5 things you must do at Aamby Valley

18 Aug

I love the rain. It’s my favourite weather. The smell of wet soil just when it begins to rain is not only sweet, but brings new hope and makes you look forward to the rainbow and sunshine. So when life throws you a rainy day, play in the puddles! Or better still head to Aamby Valley a picturesque resort nestled amidst mountains and lakes, just 23 km from Lonavala.

chalet at Aamby Valley

The Aussie Chalet I stayed in

A visit to this scenic and mammoth resort was long overdue and thanks to Food bloggers Association of India (FBAI), it finally happened last month. So here’s a first person account of the five things you ought to do at Aamby Valley.

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Vegetarian? Try Juno’s Pizza

17 Aug

masterchef PIzza - 1Hot or cold, thin or fat, round or square, cheesy or saucy – there is nothing like a pizza meal. What’s not to like about a hot, freshly baked pizza, with its crispy edges and soft centre, moist with tomato sauce?

Just the smell and the heat radiating off a pizza makes me hungry. This simple dish of bread, tomatoes and cheese could probably be Italy’s best gift to the world. Continue reading

Are you guilty of these Skincare habits? Get rid of them now!

15 Jun

skin1While we all have the best intentions when it comes to taking care of our complexion, we sometimes sabotage our skin without realizing it. Daily habits make a major difference when it comes to preventing damage and premature aging. For my story for The Week Smartlife June issue, I spoke to renowned dermatologists for an insight in to the 10 most common skincare mistakes and how to fix them.

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The Rise of the Freelancer- Business News

7 Apr

Source: The Rise of the Freelancer- Business News

Up close and personal with Yami Gautam

18 Feb

low res YaamiThere are some people who radiate positivity, energy and happiness – what we call ‘good vibes’. Yami Gautam is one of those people. And she has reason to be. Not many actors from television make the cut to Bollywood. Her debut film Vicky Donor, directed by Shoojit Sircar was a sleeper hit. Made on a shoe-string budget the film not only vowed both the audiences and critics but also earned her many female debut awards.

But how did a girl born in Himachal Pradesh and raised in Chandigarh land up in Bollywood? A civil servant aspirant Yami was pursuing a law degree when her uncle sent her pictures to a production house. An audition for a television serial landed her in Mumbai and Yami never returned.

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Restaurant Review – Toast, T24 Hotel

16 Feb
low res Lemongrass Skewered Chargrilled Prawns with SomTam Salad at Toast

Somtam salad with lemongrass skewered prawns

Toast takes a little finding, but it’s worth the detective work and justifies the rush hour traffic you’ll have to tackle just to get to this rooftop bistro, where you’re greeted by glorious lighting, mason jars, a shelf full of books, quirky mismatched chairs, exposed brick walls and funny Bollywood one-liners!

12457759_44_zCosy nooks make it ideal for a relaxed date – your call whether views of airplanes taking off into the distance are romantic or not. There are plenty of larger tables for group of friends. But bring people you like, Toast is too good to waste on a polite drink with the office.

t24-residency

WHAT’S HOT: Toast dresses familiar food in a fancy garb. So the chicken lasuni tikka comes cocooned in a phylo pastry shell, mushroom soup in a cappuccino cup, fries in egg coddler and prawns tempura on a bed of fried wantons. The ‘hero’ dish is the crispy fried calamari on a bed of arugula leaves. Tender meat behind a crackling coating. Among the mains the spaghetti with garlic, chilli and parmesan is delicious in its simplicity. Indian dishes are accompanied by a choice roti/rice, dal and salad.

low res Capriccio Bruschetta at Toast

Bruschetta 

The bar here is staffed by folks who won’t collapse like a soufflé when you move beyond signature drinks. This is rarer than you think in Mumbai, where there are cocktails, cocktails, everywhere and not a drop to drink. My favourite here is T-Sour which makes good use of the scotch bourbon along with sour mix, egg Nog and bitters. Tequila based Candy Crush is for those who like their drink sweet and sour.

lOW RES Accompaninents served at TOAST

Accompaniments to a meal at Toast

On my return to I’ll definitely reorder the chocolate pudding with a gooey centre. This time I would refuse to share my dessert, an excellent, chocolate pudding zinging with fresh Belgium chocolate lava. I made that mistake the first time and quickly saw my error as it vanished into a rival gob.

low res Cocktail T-SOUR at TOAST

Whiskey Sour

WHAT’S NOT: Not everything at Toast is a triumph: the beetroot risotto lacked the cheesiness or any specific oomph, even if it looked glorious.

HOW TO GET THERE:  Marol, Andheri (E), 2 mins walk from Airport Road Metro Station. Tel: 29203818.

COST: Rs 2500 for two with alcohol.

 

NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR

 

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