Restaurant Review: Manjit’s at The Wharf

Manjit’s at The Wharf is overlooking Sydney’s darling: Darling Harbour. They do a modern Indian cuisine style of food here which means they have a contemporary take on classic Indian dishes. It’s open kitchen so you get to see where your food is cooked and how it’s cooked. I must admit, it was quite an experience. Here’s how the night went for us:

First, we ordered our drinks as Manjit’s is not BYO. We both had TWR Toru which is a blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris. It’s from a certified organic, biodynamic producer in Marlborough, New Zealand. It was a great choice as it complimented spicy food very well.

The service at Manjit’s is quite friendly. We had more than two different waiters and they were all happy to wait on us, talk to us and explain all the dishes.

As for starters, we ordered Gol Gol Gappa and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Khumb.

Gol Gol Gappa
A contemporary twist on a classic street food delight. I believe it’s pani puri. They are tiny, crunchy, puffed bread filled with spiced chickpea, potato, onion, herbs and flowers. It’s served with tamarind and amchur (mango powder) caviar. You pour it into the puris and eat it all in one go. It was very fresh and spicy. It tickled the back of my palate. Just the way I like it.

Manjit's

After Gol Gol Gappa, we were served complimentary poppadums and they were rolled! Please refer to the photo below.

Manjit's

Our second starter of the night: Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Khumb
Grilled whole organic mushrooms filled with paneer, spiced corn and water chestnut.

Manjit's

As for the mains, we shared Phool and Kaju Ki Sabzi. Vegetarian dishes are marked with a V on Manjit’s menu and Kaju Ki Sabzi is one of their vegetarian signature dishes.

Manjit's

Phool is described as cauliflower pan cooked with coriander seeds, served on potato espuma and toasted cumin on the menu. Espuma is Spanish term for froth or foam, by the way. So, if you are expecting aloo gobi kind of dish here, you are in for a surprise.

Kaju Ki Sabzi (Signature)
Kaju Ki Sabzi is described on Manjit’s menu as “a preparation of cashew nuts sautéed with mixed spices, served with caramelized onion” but there is a surprise there. This sabzi is topped with a spinach kofta stuffed with paneer. It looks like a saag paneer scotch egg!

Manjit's

Desserts from Manjit’s
The dessert menu is actually a lot bigger than most restaurants offer. They do rasmalai, mango pistachio kulfi, kaala jamun, shahi tookra and more. When I saw jalebi on the menu, my decision was made. Even though, I was warned that it wasn’t like the classic jalebi, I still wanted to take my chance and hire the fat girl. It was different! I could taste jalebi but it was different. It’s actually made of thinly sliced green apple, dipped into jalebi mixture and fried and stacked up. At the top, there is a ball of white chocolate with rose cream inside.

Manjit's

Apple jalebi was my dessert, John, on the other hand, decided to have chai creme brulee.
Crispy green apple fritters coated in a fragrant saffron and rose flavoured syrup.

Chai Creme Brulee 
A soft, creamy creme brulee with a delicate hint of spicy chai finished with a caramelized crunch of toffee.

Manjit's

Manjit’s at the Wharf can be found at this address:
49 Lime Street, King Street Wharf
Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9279 3379
Email: info@manjits.com.au
Website

Faux-prawns in a Coconut Cream Sauce

Yesterday, I was tidying up my Indian recipes on my computer. All of a sudden it occurred to me that I haven’t done much Indian cooking recently. I was especially missing my Aloo Matar (potatoes and peas) and it seemed like I may have cooked it a million and a half years ago. I quickly checked the radiation levels in my fridge and for that I mean ingredients. Eventually decided to make my aloo matar and something else. That something else is below…

prawns

My Faux-prawns in a Coconut Cream Sauce recipe was inspired by Meena Pathak’s Chingri malai curry from her book; Flavours of India.

Faux-prawns in a Coconut Cream Sauce

Meena Pathak says that the dish is from the east coast of India. Of course, it uses real prawns but I substituted them with vegan/vegetarian prawns. The recipe also calls for bay leaves but I didn’t have any. So, I left it out completely.
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 vegan/vegetarian king prawns, thawed and cut into 2
½ cup frozen baby green beans
5 baby corns, chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic
1 piece ginger (about an inch)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves
2 green cardamom pods
2.5 cm (1 in) piece of cinnamon stick, broken into 3 (I used a very thin one)
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon plain natural yogurt
270 ml coconut milk
Salt to taste

Method:
• Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan and add vegetarian prawns, green beans, baby corn and turmeric. Fry them on high heat until they are crispy. Remove and set aside.
• Place the onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender and process to a fine paste.
• Wipe the pan with paper towel. Add the remaining oil to the pan (1 tablespoon) and add the cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon.
• Reduce the heat, and add the onion, garlic and ginger paste to the pan. Stir-fry over a medium heat for 2 minutes.
• Add 1 teaspoon turmeric and red chilli powder. Sprinkle with a little water and stir well.
• Add the yogurt and mix well. Pour in the coconut milk and return the vegetarian prawns, green beans and baby corn to the pan. Cook over a medium heat for 5-8 minutes until the sauce thickens.
• Serve with plain boiled rice.

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava! (Bon Appetit!)

Recipe: Aloo Matar (Potatoes and Peas)

Aloo Matar

Aloo Matar (Potatoes with Peas) is one of my favourite vegetarian Indian dishes of all time. Partly because it was the first Indian dish I ever learnt to cook.

Aloo means potato and matar means peas, by the way. It is a dry style Indian dish which can be added to other dishes like a daal or another main dish. I found the recipe in Shehzah Husain’s Vegetarian Indian cookbook many years ago. I make changes all the time like (you know me) but I have the original recipe here for you. Enjoy!

Aloo Matar (Potatoes and Peas)
Ingredients:
Tomato puree (1 large tomato)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon garlic pulp
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons corn oil
2 onions, diced
125 g (4 oz) peas (I use baby peas because they cook faster)
300 ml (1/2 pint) corn oil
3 potatoes, roughly diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
½ green pepper, deseeded and sliced
½ red pepper, deseeded and sliced

Method:
• Mix the tomato puree, ground coriander, chilli powder, garam masala, garlic, turmeric, salt and lemon juice together in a bowl and set aside.
• Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onions and fry until golden brown. Pour the tomato puree and spice mixture into pan, lower the heat and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Stir in peas and set aside.
• Heat the remaining corn oil in a karahi or deep frying pan to 180C, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds, add the potatoes and fry them until they have golden edges and are cooked through. Remove the potatoes dice from the pan and add to the peas and spice mixture.
• Finally, add the fresh coriander and sliced green and red peppers and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes. Serve the dish hot.

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava! (Bon Appetit!)

Tellicherry ‘Coastal Eats by Nilgiri’s’ Neutral Bay, Sydney

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Named after famous Tellicherry pepper, this tiny little boutique place is actually Nilgiri’s sister restaurant. When Ajoy told us he was planning on opening a new, boutique restaurant in Sydney we were absolutely overjoyed. As we all know, if Ajoy does it, he does it spectacularly. What we didn’t know at the time, though, that it was going to be just around the corner from us!

This time around it’s coastal Indian food. Our first impression: all fish and seafood, not for us. But, that’s not the case at all. Especially, when it comes to vegetarian and vegan food. Tellicherry actually has some interesting and authentic dishes on their menu. Vegetarian and vegan dishes are marked with a V or a VG. Original names are used along with their descriptions in English. We so love the place, we bought the same plates for our home!

We were, of course, invited to Tellicherry’s opening night and here’s what we had:

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Cocktail Sanaas (above) steamed rice dumplings, coconut & coriander dust, tomato rasam.

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Kaaju Parippu Vade (above) cashew, ground chickpea, cumin and coriander fritters.

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Gobhi Kempe Bezule (above) batter fried cauliflower, black mustard tempered yoghurt.

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Brinjal Aviyal (above) stuffed baby eggplant in seasoned yoghurt with mustard and curryleaf ‘baghaar’

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Ladyfinger Ambotik (above) okra in a sweet, sour and hot ‘chutney’

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Sago Pradhaman with dryfruit (above)

Tellicherry
Shop No 4, 260 Military Road, Neutral Bay 2089
Website: www.tellicherry.com.au
Phone: (02) 9953 7313
For bookings: bookings@tellicherry.com.au

Nilgiri’s, St Leonard, Sydney

IMG_0631-P (1280x960)Our tastebuds are dancing with A-joy every time we go to Nilgiri’s; no exceptions! This has been the case since we discovered Nilgiri’s about 13 years ago. Soon after our discovery, we became friends with Ajoy Joshi (the owner of Nilgiri’s) and today, we are one of their regular customers. Of course, we introduced our friends to Nilgiri’s too. Here’s how you can measure up our feelings for you, friends: if you think we’re friends and we have never, ever taken you to Nilgiri’s then you’re not that close to us. But if we took you there and dumped you later on, well, it’s because we don’t love you anymore. You were a mistake and we happily moved on 🙂

IMG_0633 (1280x960)I have always been fascinated by Indian culture, not just the cuisine. Especially, since my health situation had been saved by an Ayurvedic physician about 25 years ago, my fascination took a different turn and I even studied Ayurveda in the end –received my diploma in Advanced Ayurveda a few years ago. When it comes to Indian food though, we have been taken on an exquisite culinary journey through India at Nilgiri’s so far.

IMG_0639 (1280x960)Nilgiri’s Food
I am one of those people who enjoys sophisticated alchemy of Indian cuisine. My problem with many Indian restaurants, though, is the fact that their food tastes like a mixture of every single herb and spice that is grown on the face of the earth which makes it almost impossible to identify any. Wait, I even have a name for it: spiced mud. At Nilgiri’s, however, every dish has its own star spice, a lead singer in a band so to speak. The star spice is then well-balanced by other spices (back-up singers) and well-orchestrated by the other ingredients carefully (like the rest of the band) and all of that is put together by the fantastic team of Nilgiri’s. And, this is the kind of music you can actually eat!

Gobhi 65 (1280x960)-PGobi 65 (above)

There are many things about Nilgiri’s that sets it apart from other Indian restaurants. Usually you get a particular style of cooking or region depending on where the owner comes from and that style never changes. Neither does their menu. It’s because Ajoy was trained by six Indian master chefs who are experts in their own regional cuisine, Nilgiri’s Sunday Buffet menu changes every month and each time it is another exciting regional food that blows your mind. Moreover, Indian food you have at Nilgiri’s is quite contemporary yet all solid foundation of the cuisine is still preserved.

Aloo Gobhi (1280x853)Aloo Gobhi (above)

The Restaurant
Nilgiri literally means Blue Mountain in many languages. This world class, award winning restaurant is located on Christie Street in St. Leonards. Upstairs, there is the actual restaurant and private function rooms. Downstairs, there is reception and tiffin room.

IMG_0640-P (1280x960)Malai Kofta (above)

Private Function Rooms
A friend of ours once told us that the current premise of Nilgiri’s used to be a Japanese restaurant and that’s how you may be able to explain some of those function rooms with a hole in the middle through which your feet go, in a dangling-in-the-air fashion. You take your shoes off before you enter and the table area has cushions on the floor. Each room is named after five elements in Ayurveda: boomi (earth), vayu (air), jal (water), agni (fire) and akash (space). Private function rooms are excellent for celebrations or get-togethers. We celebrate our birthdays with my husband as they are only a day apart.

IMG_3744 (953x1280)Tiffin Room
Tiffin means snacks; quick and easy bites people eat between meals in Southern India. At Nilgiri’s, they serve thalis, biryanis, dosais and uttampams. Open during the day for lunches.

IMG_0622 (1280x960)Ajoy Joshi
Ajoy Joshi is an award-winning master chef, an authority on Indian food, not just in Australia or in India but overseas as well. He also appeared on TV and radio as guest chef –including New Zealand television, yes, Dad told us. Apparently, Ajoy founded Nilgiri’s in the late 90s and is supported by his wife Meera –whose masala chai recipe is a killer –and his son Aniruddh –who is a pretty handsome fella. And of course, let’s not forget the fantastic team at Nilgiri’s.

Cooking Classes
I remember taking one of Ajoy’s vegetarian cooking classes with my husband long time ago. We learnt how to make our own paneer, aloo samosas, dal makhani, palak paneer –you make paneer first, of course. That was the beginning of my education in Indian cuisine. That was the first time I was introduced to not-so-mainstream Indian spices and how to source them in Sydney as well. Considering those were my early days in this country, Ajoy’s vegetarian cooking class was just the right thing for me. These days, we enrol Dad for a cooking class whenever he’s in Sydney. He has done one and I’m sure he wouldn’t say no to another one 🙂

Nilgiri’s is ever so changing, ever so evolving. Get yourself there so your education in Nilgiri’s food can begin too.

Nilgiri’s
Fully licenced and BYO (bottled wine only)
Address: 82 Christie Street St Leonards 2065 NSW
Website: www.nilgiris.com.au
Phone: (02) 9966 0636

Vegan Prawns in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

I found this recipe in Meena Pathak’s Flavours of India cookbook long time ago and it is called Karhai Jheenga. As Mrs Pathak says and I quote:

“It takes its name from karhai, the round-bottomed, cast iron pan in which it is cooked.”

I used to have one. I remember buying it from Fiji Market in Newtown when I first came to Sydney. However, because of that round bottom, I can’t use it on my electric stove. It’s a shame because food tastes better when cooked in karhai. Even deep-frying is a total bliss but it just doesn’t work on a flat electric stove unfortunately. Anyway, you could use a non-stick, electric wok instead. That’s what I do.

vegan prawns in spicy tom sauce (1280x956)

Ingredients:

8 Lamyong Vegetarian Prawns, thawed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
Ginger (about 3cm), peeled and grated
2 medium sized tomatoes, peeled and diced (try to reserve its juice)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
A handful fresh coriander, chopped finely

Method:
• Cut the prawns into two and then put them in a pot with enough water. Boil the prawns until cooked fully. Drain and set aside.
• Heat the oil, add the cumin seeds and when they begin to crackle add the diced onions and fry for 10 minutes. Add crushed garlic and grated ginger and fry for another minute. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, turmeric and red chilli powder.
• Sauté and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with a little water if needed.
• When the oil begins to separate, add the prawns, crushed black pepper and chilli flakes. Cook for 5 minutes stirring constantly.
• Remove from the heat and garnish with fresh coriander. Serve immediately with basmati rice.

Mushroom and Corn with Cilantro (Khumb makki hara dhania)

As promised, Mushroom and Corn with Cilantro (Coriander) or Khumb makki hara dhania is the dish that Dad cooked for us during his visit to Sydney from Ajoy Joshi and Jay Purser’s book; Indian Home Cooking. Happy Birthday Dad 🙂

mushroom and corn with cilantro (1280x777)

Ingredients:
2 ears (cobs) of corn
2 tsp vegan margarine
3 tbsp vegetable oil
½ inch (12mm) cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
2 yellow (brown) onions, chopped
½ tsp salt, plus extra salt to taste
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 large tomato, unpeeled, finely chopped
1lb (500 gram) small button mushrooms, wiped clean
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup (1/3 oz/10 gr) chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)

Method:
Use a sharp knife to remove kernels from ears of corn. In a large saucepan, melt vegan margarine over medium-high heat. Add corn and cook, stirring, until softened, 2-3 minutes. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.

In same pan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onions and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until onions are dark golden brown, 10-15 minutes.

Add ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add chili powder, coriander and turmeric, and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato and cook, stirring often, until tomato is soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and corn, and cook, tossing occasionally, until mushrooms are slightly soft, 5-10 minutes. Add lemon juice and add salt to taste if necessary. Add cilantro and toss gently. Serve hot.

Serves 8-10 as part of an Indian meal.

Deep-Fried Spiced Baby Potatoes

deep-fried spiced baby potatoes (956x1280)
I am the queen of doing things differently. Let me explain; the recipe below is from Meena Patak’s cookbook called Indian Cooking for Family and Friends. I remember making it once before although I cannot remember what changes I made on the day. Because this is something I do. I add something, change things. This time, though, I took notes and photos.

Please note that I have enclosed the original recipe at the end of this post.

Ingredients:
10 new potatoes (I used tiny little ones)
1/2 piece Kashmiri chilli (whole)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, peeled and sliced thinly
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), washed and chopped
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
Salt for frying onions

Method:
• Boil the new potatoes in their skin until they are cooked. Drain and allow to cool.
• Meanwhile, dry roast the chilli and cumin seeds in a pan until they are fragrant. By using a pestle and mortar, crush them roughly.
• When the new potatoes are cool enough to handle, transfer them onto a flat place and press to flatten slightly.
• Heat the oil for deep-frying in a large heavy-based pan. Add the new potatoes to the hot oil and deep-fry for 5 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
• Remove the potatoes from the oil and drain on absorbent paper towel.
• Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan. Add the onion and ½ tsp salt and fry them until the onions are nice and brown. Add the chilli and cumin towards the end of cooking and stir well. Quickly mix them with the potatoes and fresh coriander. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve hot.

The original recipe by Meena Patak:
Deep-Fried Spiced Baby Potatoes
I make this when I have leftover cooked new potatoes –it makes a very good starter or accompaniment.
Serves four

400 g (14 oz) new potatoes
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
¼ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds (see page 22)
Juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon chopped fresh coriander
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)

If you are using uncooked potatoes, boil them in their skins until they are cooked. Drain and allow to coll. When cool, hold each potato in your hands and press to flatten slightly.
Heat the oil for deep-frying in a large heavy-based pan to 180°C (350°F). Add the potatoes to the hot oil and deep-fry for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
Remove from the oil and drain on absorbent kitchen paper. Place in a bowl, add the remaining ingredients to the potatoes and mix well. Serve hot, drizzled with a little natural yogurt, if liked, and accompanied by Coriander and Mint Raita.

Tip on page 22: To roast cumin seeds, place them in a glass bowl or on a plate and cook in the microwave on high for 30-40 seconds. Crush coarsely using a pestle and mortar. Roasted cumin can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2-3 months.

Cauliflower Pakoras and Mango Chutney

This is a very much loved Indian snack/starter in our family. Both recipes –cauliflower pakora and mango chutney- came from an Ayuvedic cooking class notes that we did together with my husband during my early days in Sydney. Serve these lovely pakoras with Mango Chutney –recipe below- or any other chutney you like.

You will end up with more chutney than you need for the pakoras here. Place the left-over chutney in a clean jar and store in the fridge. It makes an excellent addition to burgers and sandwiches.

Recipe for Cauliflower Pakoras

Ingredients:
1 cup besan flour (chickpea flour), sifted
Water to make batter (add gradually until the right consistency is reached)
3 tablespoon ginger, grated
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ bunch fresh coriander, washed, dried and chopped
½ cauliflower, cut into florets and blanched
Oil for deep frying

To make the batter:
• Mix together spices, coriander, ginger, besan flour and water and whisk into thick batter.
• Let it sit for 20 minutes in the fridge.

Method:
• Steam the cauliflower until just tender. Drain and cool after steaming. I usually put it in the fridge for at least ½ hour. They get firmer and fry better this way.
• Dip florets into batter and fry slowly to golden brown (you might like to use gloves as the turmeric leaves a yellow stain, especially under the nails).
• Serve with mango chutney.

Recipe for Mango Chutney

Ingredients:
2 large very ripe mangoes, peeled, stoned, squeezed and scraped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoon cumin seeds
1-2 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce (I used Macro)
¾-1 cup raw sugar

Method:
• Heat the oil in a saucepan.
• Add cumin seeds and gently roast.
• Add chilli and swirl around.
• Add the mango pulp, then the sugar.
• Cook gently, stirring constantly for about 15 minutes.
• Allow to cool slightly before serving.