Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pork with Agal (Kokum extract)

It's that time of the year again when K is gearing up to go away on excavation. This time he's going to be gone for a month and the two of us are getting ready mentally too, for his long sojourn away from home and home cooked food. Well, the food at the excavation camp is home cooked too but it's vastly different from what we cook at home and is largely vegetarian. In the run up to his departure I like to cook things that he likes and I ask him what he'd like to eat today, nearly every day.

He was at home yesterday and as we caught up with errands and chores I asked him what I should cook. He chose pork. As long as it had potatoes in it I was free to cook it any way I liked. That worked for me and once we'd finished marketing and other stuff I set about prepping the pork. 

We'd bought a kilo of pork shoulder with a few nice chunks of fat and very few bones. After a quick light rinse I drained the meat and picked out spices for the marinade. I didn't want to make a heavy spicy dish as the days are really hot now and we were in the mood for a light dinner. As I looked around picking out the spices I spied the bottle of agal. On a whim I decided to go with agal instead of the usual vinegar.  

Pork with Agal

1 kg pork with a little fat, cubed
3 onions, sliced
3 potatoes, cut into large cubes
2 tablespoons garlic paste
2 - 3 tablespoons agal
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp jeera powder
1 tsp dhania powder
2 tej patta or cassia leaves
3 inch stick of cassia bark
1 star anise

Wash the meat lightly and drain off excess water. Marinate with all the dry spices, salt, garlic paste and agal. Mix thoroughly and leave covered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

In a heavy bottomed vessel (I used my cast iron Dutch oven) heat some oil. Fry the potatoes till they turn pale golden. Remove from the oil and reserve on a plate. In the same oil throw in the whole garam masala and then after half a minute, add the sliced onions. Fry gently till the onions start to turn a pale gold. Don't let them brown. 

Now add the marinated pork and turn up the heat. Braise the meat well for a good five minutes stirring frequently but not all the time. Reduce the flame, cover the pot and let it braise a little more - around 15 minutes. Stir it every 5 minutes or so. Add any remaining marinade. Add enough water to just barely cover the meat chunks. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. 

Add the potatoes and cover the pot again. Let it cook for an hour or more till the pork is soft. Stir gently once in a while just to mix things up. Be careful not to break or mash up the potatoes. There will be a thick gravy, but not a lot of it.  

The agal gives the pork a lovely sweet sour flavour that is distinct. The onions disintegrate to form a lovely smooth gravy and the fat from the pork helps take the dish to a higher level. We don't eat the chunks of fat anymore but I never cook pork without some fat in the pot. 

Serve hot with pav, sliced bread, or parathas. Or have it with hot rice. 

Agal is a pulpy extract made from the kokum fruit and is popular in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. It's used as a souring agent just like tamarind pulp is used in the southern states. 

Marathon Bloggers

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pot Pourrie, Vashi - Revamped and Reborn!

We've been living in Navi Mumbai for nearly 8 years now and I remember how thrilled we were when the Inorbit Mall first opened its doors and Pot Pourrie soon became one of our favourite restaurants here. Starved for good food, Pot Pourrie was at the top of our list of favourite restaurants here. A vast eclectic menu that covered many cuisines across Europe and the Far East, a very VFM lunch buffet, a well stocked bar, friendly service, fun ambience, PP as we started calling the place had it all. We came here so often we soon became friends with Chef Raunak, an enthusiastic and creative young guy who really hit it off with K.

A few months ago we heard that PP was going in for a makeover - the menu and the restaurant itself were going to get a new look and there were going to be some big changes in how they operated. The daily lunch buffet was going to be axed and they had many new things lined up for the menu. PP reopened but somehow we just didn't manage to go visit till finally I went with the Navi Mumbai Foodies (an enthusiastic bunch of young bloggers with whom I go around checking out the food scene in Navi Mumbai). You can read the Navi Mumbai Foodies reviews and posts here.

We happened to visit on a Wednesday evening, and I was eager to see the new avatar of Pot Pourrie. The place looked fantastic and I loved how they had integrated a whole lot of older elements into the new look. I was thrilled to see a buffet laid out along one side of the restaurant! It turned out that they had started doing a Wednesday night buffet just to see how things go. Well, after looking at the spread and how beautifully and innovatively it was presented, I was convinced this was going to be a hit.

Here are some photos of the the buffet - the sheer variety amazed me, and once we tried out the food I was happy that PP still maintained its high standards as before.

The buffet was superb and at Rs 650 plus taxes, I think it's very well priced.

I wanted to eat out of their A la Carte menu so I went back after a couple of days with K. We dropped in for lunch and tried out quite a few things, all of them new. For starters we had the Bacon Wrapped Potato Wedges - Rs 360. I can't resist the call of bacon so it didn't surprise K when I chose this starter. The bacon was perfectly cooked but the potato wedge wasn't seasoned at all, so once you got past the bacon it was a mass of tasteless potato. I was disappointed. I guess seasoning is tricky because bacon is inherently salty but all the chef needs to do is taste one and the seasoning can be adjusted.

We opted for the Caesar's Salad - Rs 320 and it was lovely! Crisp lettuce, lots of croutons, a light mayo, some zucchini (which I didn't expect), and lots of cheese and chicken too. We demolished it in minutes.

For mains K had their Beef Steak Medallions - Rs 575, and I chose the Greek Style Citrus Roast Chicken - Rs 500. K likes his steaks medium rare and ordered them accordingly. With chicken I just hope it's not overcooked, especially if they're using breast meat.

While the medallions looked fantastic, K found them overcooked to medium, and they weren't pink on the inside like they were supposed to be. He did tell our server so when the young man came to check if all was good. The server apologised profusely and insisted on getting K a new serving but since K'd already eaten half he said it was unnecessary. However, a new serving of perfectly cooked medallions arrived in a few minutes and this time all was perfect.

I really liked the chicken. Perfectly cooked with loads of assorted vegetables, I enjoyed my main course thoroughly. Though I was a little concerned that the sauce would be sweet because of the oranges, it wasn't. I would order this dish quite happily again.

Servings at Pot Pourrie are quite large so if you're a small eater share your main course with your friend. We were too stuffed to eat dessert!

The food is good, the service is attentive (and they are quick to correct things if you're not quite happy with what you're served), the place is large and well lit, equipped with big screen TVs for game nights. The bar is well stocked at the bar man is talented. Make the most of Happy Hours every evening from 4pm to 8pm.

Disclaimer - This review is written on the basis of an evening hosted by the restaurant for #Navimumbaifoodies, and on a subsequent lunch paid for by the author.

Navi Mumbai Foodies

Marathon Bloggers 2015