Saturday, 14 November 2009
Before I continue, I should briefly explain that my intrepid fiancé and his friend were involved in an 'incident' involving a plane and the ground at Heathrow almost 2 years ago (namely, a crash-landing - thankfully, no one was seriously injured), and BA compensated by providing us with a holiday which included business class flights and 5* accomodation - I am not normally in the habit of dining in 5* hotels, just in case you were wondering.
The first hotel we stayed in was the Oberoi, New Delhi: very plush, very posh, GREAT food. The first morning I opted for a traditional Indian breakfast, Aloo Paratha, which is a potato pancake, mildly spiced. Indian breakfasts are a bit strange if, like me, you are used to having toast and marmalade or cereal for breakfast, but I did my best to be adventurous in my choice of cuisine!
The first evening we opted to dine in the hotel's dedicated Chinese restaurant. Oddly, I can now say I've had the best Chinese food I've ever had, in India. For our starter we ordered a whole barbecued duck to share between the four of us. The wonderful thing about this (apart from the beautiful flavours, obviously) is that once the duck is cooked they wheel it near to your table and carve it in front of you. Then they make up duck pancakes for you. Wow. I have never before had duck so delicious. Even the hoi sin sauce was better than any other I had tasted. Once we had devoured the meat of the duck the waiter asked us if we'd like to have some duck soup cooked from the duck carcass. The duck soup was equally delicious and I liked the choice of vegetables used which complemented the flavour of the duck broth (baby sweetcorn, pak choi, mushrooms). I think I'm going to have to learn at some point how to make duck soup for myself.
Of course, I did eat some Indian dinners as well. In fact, I managed precisely two before my stomach gave in and I was officially diagnosed by the doctor as having a classic case of 'Delhi Belly' (ironically, by this time we'd left Delhi and were staying in the Oberoi Hotel, Agra) - apparently, the authentic Indian spices hadn't agreed with me, my stomach not being used to it. The two Indian meals I had were very delicious, and stupidly, possibly thanks to being distracted by my poorly tummy, I didn't write the names of them down. One was chicken in a tomato-based sauce, which was so rich and creamy and filled with the most aromatic and tasty spices - it was heaven. The second dish was made with aubergine, but I think my memory of that particular dish is tainted by the fact that I got to taste it in reverse. That evening though, I also had a traditional Indian Rice Pudding - this is almost completely different from the Rice Pudding I had as a child which came out of a tin and was warm and lumpy. For a start it's cold and pretty smooth. It's fairly sweet with hints of cardamom. Here's a recipe if anyone fancies having a go at making it for themselves - I probably will at some point.
The doctor advised me not to eat spicy food for a few days, but I didn't feel like doing so anyway. It took me about a week before I could face eating anything remotely spicy again! Fortunately, all the hotels we stayed in served a variety of different foods and I got to eat some fantastic things (a deliciously cooked rack of lamb, scrambled eggs with black alba truffle served on brioche, quail, some fantastic ricotta and spinach ravioli).
The foodie highlight of the holiday for me was when we were staying in the Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore. In between going on safari to try and spot tigers (unfortunately, we were unsuccessful, but we did see crocodiles and lots of monkeys, deer and all sorts of different birds and insects), we had a tour of the hotel's herb garden given by the chef Deep Mohan Singh Arneja, who has collobarated with Jamie Oliver on some Indian recipes (you can check them out as well by going here and selecting pages 18-19). Chef Deep was a thoroughly nice and accommodating chap and put up with my ignorant questions very well! The herb garden is very impressive (unfortunately I didn't get any photos because my darling fiancé had left the camera behind) - a fairly large plot of land divided into rectangular sections for the different herbs and vegetables. What the hotel does is grow produce which can't be sourced locally, so all the food eaten at the hotel is very fresh and very local. There were some wonderful plants I'd never seen before, including a curry leaf tree, and I was rather taken with the purple basil. Some produce was behind schedule because of the unseasonably warm weather and some had already made a tasty meal for the peacocks! But it was still a fascinating experience and before we had left for India I had already had vague plans to start growing some of my own herbs and the tour really inspired me to get cracking with it, so I shall let you know how that goes.
One of the other great things about this particular resort, is that being fairly small in terms of guests meant that it only had the one restaurant, but the menu was different every day. It made me really wish I had been able to spend more than two nights at this venue. But it was certainly an experience I shall never forget.