Reflection is always better than resolution hence here I am giving you a recount of the Top Ten dishes that I have had and enjoyed in 2014. They have not been numbered because genuine, simple food is always appreciated and remembered for all times to come. So here goes 2014…
Earlier this year I lost my heart somewhere between the cobbled streets of Seville and the long lost Islamic grandeur of Granada. The road trip in South of Spain along with the journey of the soul was also a gastronomic treat. Spanish tapas have gained worldwide fame and I know why. Their simplicity, exotic flavours and lavish variety make all foodies swoon. Hence the ‘Prawns in Spicy Oil’ on a roadside café in Seville makes it to my TOP TEN dishes. Chunky prawns are dunked in a soup of spicy oil and baked till the oil starts to bubble and prawns start to happily shrivel. Served straight from the oven in terra cotta earthenware, with deeply leavened bread – this dish won me over! Utterly.
My daily routine unfortunately doesn’t allow me to enjoy the heavenly breakfasts served in all the café’s starring high on the food film of Karachi. However, in the last one week I made up for all the lost time and visited one of the most popular café in K-Town called Xander’s almost everyday. On one of the early morning visits I chose the ‘Granola with Yogurt.’ Brown, chunky, nutty in-house granola layered with smooth, sweetened white yogurt, finally topped with raspberry compote. A refreshing, cool goblet of this along with a cuppa – makes it to my TOP TEN! Truly.
Coffee gives me a high but that’s not why I was standing in the early morning queue, watching the Italian coffee machines burr to life, dropping liquid caffeine, which would soon be diluted with foamy, pillowy freshly steamed milk. I held a moist, dark and intense chocolate nugget in my hand that I had last tasted almost fifteen years ago, and I was waiting to pay for it. Pret A Manger in London probably does one of the best brownies I have ever had in my life. Hence I see no reason for it to not be in my TOP TEN. Seriously!
Serious foodies, who challenge gastronomic preparations in almost all restaurants that they visit, are some of my family members. But if there is anything that they will devour without any dispute, it’s the Mutton Peshawari Karahi at Kolachi Restaurant in Karachi. Buttery, tender pieces of mutton on the bone, cooked in a tomato onion masala – rich and spicy and insanely pleasing to the palate – definitely on my list of TOP TEN. Heavenly!
Single digit temperatures, foggy visibility and Pompei restaurant in lovely Lahore! Between the dim lighting, courteous staff and mad hunger pangs was our group of six, we ordered the usual favourites from Karachi. Stuffed Portobello mushrooms – brown, wrinkled and huge – baked to warm perfection with wilted spinach and crispy cheese sprinkles – now that I am writing about them – I definitely want to go again just for this. I am so glad they could make it here in my TOP TEN. Lovely!
Whether it is street food, food court meals or regular restaurants, Dubai never fails. The impeccable hard work in ensuring quality and consistency every time is truly a feat. A friend treated me at Carluccios housed at the Dubai Mall, and she insisted that I should eat pasta for a change. With the friendly guillotine on my head I ordered their ‘Ravioli’, which turned out to be delicate and silky little squares glistening with nutty butter and earthy sage. And the filling, oh my God the filling – melt in the mouth spinach and Ricotta friendship. And yes of course it makes to my TOP TEN. Butterly!
I always try and put my calorie count to good use. Having a macaroon does not come in any calorie fabric and when it is chocolate I lose count. The absolutely huge discs of chocolate and crushed almond macaroons filled with bitter chocolate ganache at Pauls, a French Café in Dubai – I mean who wants to keep a count then? I grabbed and devoured this piece all by myself at the Dubai Airport and never for an instance did I regret it. Definitely in the TOP TEN. Proudly!
Recently I was doing a shoot for the very funky café on the food map of K-Town called Sattar Buksh. Luckily for me, I was allowed to have a go at all the dishes that were coming in for photography. One such item that transported me back to my younger years in Lahore was the
‘Lahori Fish.’ Cumin seed laden crisp brown gram flour crust covering a divine flaky piece of fish was perhaps the closest you will ever get to Mozang Chungi fish available in Lahore. Sitting in a swanky café, having those brilliant mounds of deep-fried Lahori fish, a no brainer in the TOP TEN list. Fishily!
Sweltering heat, jangled pedestrians and the lone me searching for the complete chilled ice blended coffee. Till date the best ice blended coffee with the correct chocolate hues, huge undertones of high cocoa content and sexily smooth texture was at Farggi – a café in Barcelona, Spain. Now if this is coffee and that too which I adore how can it not be on my list? Hola!
With so many options to eat and drink away from home, my ideal meal is actually at home, curled on a sofa and eating a bowl of Daal Chawal. Soft lentils gently cooked in water, seasoned and spiced and then poured over steamed rice. And this comforting bowl would always be in my Top Ten. Happily
I am signing off now and hoping that 2015 will be an even more gastronomically enriching experience. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and hearty new year!
The author is an avid foodie, blogs at www.capturebyst.com and can be followed on Twitter @capturebyst