FISH, ONLY FISH!

Great place to rendezvous…Simply Grills. For seafood lovers and much more…these days it’s stylish to welcome guests with pretty berry mocktails or cocktails in slender test-tubes!.

Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

By Tara Narayan

I’VE got fish on my mind lately. If I could, I’d switch over to an only fish menu this season in Goa! For one thing seafood is good for any damaged cardiovascular system and another there’s nothing as lightly delicious as a mildly steamed/poached, seasoned fish with a fresh sauce alongside.

Try one of green parsley, celery, coriander in a curd-based mayonnaise or better still tartar sauce, or best of all the aromatic Greek olive-laced garlicky tzatziki served with a salad of fresh  arugula lettuce and a generous helping of lime wedges. It’s preferable to use an aromatic Goan lemon which is organically cultivated, thin-skinned and oozing with pale orange coloured citrus juice. Don’t discard the seeds. Grow a lemon tree in your garden.

I much prefer Bengali-style fish curry too, especially doi machch or machcher jhol.

All this fish talk is because I feasted on continental-styled mustard-honey kingfish chunks last weekend at where else but that most exquisite outdoors poolside café – Simply Grills at the Goa Marriott Resort & Spa. This is the place for non-vegetarians and discerning fish, sea food and meat lovers, the pool and river side setting so seductive that after a meal one may doze off listening to the river’s lullaby and satin, star-studded night sky above. I call it my marbled darkness feeling!  

SIMPLY GRILLS is a perfect place to hang out for a warm evening with friends or family and Chef Anupam Gulati tells me their menu pricing has actually dropped! I laughed, all of us are familiar with five-starred killer rates. Sometimes it’s value for money and it helps to be equipped by a membership card to get discounts/freebies real or half-real. Once in a way it’s okay to treat oneself.

That evening was to announce that Simply Grills has open for the season. It means the weather post-sunset is balmy enough to drink, eat and breathe out. We’re so lucky to be able to breathe in Goa – breathing being a pleasure if you know what I mean. Hope Goa never goes the Delhi or Mumbai way.

At Simply Grills, for the occasion they had live salad and grill fish stations, as also a dessert stop. I loved the cauliflower hors d’oeuvres served with tartar sauce and ordered mustard honey kingfish to go alongside.

Others at my table ordered tiger prawns, crabs, fresh oysters, free range Brazilian beef and side orders of grilled veggies, tomato-arugula salad, mashed potato…ahhh, mashed potato an old favourite of mine so hard to get right!

One could mix and match one’s order with the marinades of BBQ, pepper sauce, Cajun spices, Goan masala of which there are many (think cafreal, reichado, xacuti, ambot tik). You could choose your fish for the evening – red snapper (tamoshi), seer fish (surmai), mullet (shevto), mackerel (bangdo), sole (lepo). Need I tell you that smaller fish has more character (less residues of heavy metal pollution)!

Order the pesto marinated grilled vegetables or crispy chilli potatoes with organic tossed field greens (`325 plus taxes) if you wish. Too many choices confuse me.  

THEY are also doing mini burgers, although with my dislike for bread I tend to put it aside to simply make a meal of the filling! A friend next to me raved about the double cheese loaded potato tikki burger though and particularly enjoyed the “delicious roasted garlic in this cheesy garlic bread”. I know folk who can make a meal of just hand-made herbal breads which are all the rage. Mediterranean breads are usually savoury winners and come with fresh herb-laced butters. Fresh herbs of parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, rosemary are easily available nowadays and it’s easy to make these butters and sauces at home. Use Indian herbs of green mint leaves, coriander leaves, ajwain patti, curry leaves. A friend of mine uses tender lemon leaves to make an onion relish.

Simply Grills is one of my favourite places in Panjim even though I order nothing more than a jacket potato laced with garlic butter! Actually, there are so many health-conscious ways to make a plain jacket potato come alive – purple cabbage-celery coleslaw or feta cheese-cucumber relish. Try out an olive oil-lemon juice-honey-black pepper-sea salt/pink salt dressing or the French aioli. Be adventurous with baked jacket potatoes or keep it simple. I can eat jacket potato with Korean kimchi.

There’s no food like potatoes and the hubby can eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This reminds me many folk can do so too and there are entire recipe books devoted to just potato! Grant you, potatoes are special and I don’t mean Lays wafers or French fries.  

Nowadays, these are not even made of honest potatoes but some mixed up adulterated potato/corn/tapioca/soy flours and the fries are yuck! Fry ‘em oil is recycled to death too. Honest French fries are hard to find.

THERE was a time when every birthday I’d want to go to Lila Café at Baga (now Arpora) just to treat myself to Elizabeth’s German potato omelette called roesti. It came buttery gold and I’d eat it with butter-laced croissants. Overdoing it to die, of course. But this was when I was young and fancy free on birthdays. As a friend of mine would say, those days are gone.

The hubby thinks he is a connoisseur of potatoes and especially mashed potato. I can make it for him easily at home but he says he can’t eat my mashed potatoes. He prefers the one at Bar Code at Porvorim! You’d think what’s there to making mashed potato. Nothing really? Boil them, mash them smoothly (sieve out the potatoes if you wish for a finer grain), beat in butter, hot milk and cheese if you wish, season with sea salt, freshly grated black pepper, even bit nutmeg if you wish. You can also lace in some herbal greens – spring onion/garlic greens, chopped celery, parsley, etc.

Mashed potato is a great standby at home. Mash in olive oil, fresh/roasted garlic, black pepper and sea salt in mashed potatoes and use this as a spread atop toast or roll in a chappati. It’s yummy! Some folk like their mashed potato buttery thick, some like it buttery thin. Both versions can be delectably savoury. Ever tasted mashed potatoes with Mathura chaat masala in it? Mathura chaat masala would have tangy pomegranate seed powder in it. It makes all the difference!

HAVE you ever thought that left-over mashed potato can easily turn into an aloo paratha? It’s one of my short cuts to cooking. At one time I used to buy Café Central batata vada, discard the this deep fried covering and use the stuffing to turn out an aloo paratha without anyone the wiser. Another trick – if you find medhu vada, you may soak them in hot water, squeeze and dunk them in seasoned curd to present as dahi vada! I do this when I have some decent medhu vada (from Kamat), turn them into a dahi vada lunch time.

Well, these are just two quick fix ideas here for lazy cooks like me, say thank-you! Even the ever alert hubby can’t tell how I can fix a meal so jhat pat but then again, most often he can but knows better than to say anything!

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