Our return to Thali: we couldn’t resist

I don’t often blog twice about the same restaurant in the same year and this is the second time I’ve done it this year – we’re heading back to Thali. And it’s no coincidence that it’s two restaurants from the same group.

Chef Liam Tomlin is behind both Thali and the Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia (my other double blog). You can read about my previous lunches at Thali and Beau Constantia times two!

As well as great food, it’s a great concept. A set menu of dishes to share that are served as four courses for a set price. No menu indecision to cope with and no food envy, just loads of delicious flavours to savour.

And I find the food of Thali so inspiring that I think I produced some of my best food pics ever. Enjoy the extravaganza.

What’s on the menu

This crispy spinach bhaji came topped with two spicy sauces. Spinach has never tasted this good (and I love spinach).

Thali: Spinach bhaji

Deep fried spinach bhaji, mint and coriander dressing, date and tamarind

The next course was a delightful mix of vegetarian offerings served with the softest of paratha. The extravaganza of cauliflower was incredible – tandoori cauliflower served with cumin cauliflower puree and cashew and coconut salad. Who knew you should tandoor cauliflower? You really should!

Thali: Dhal, Paratha and cauliflower

The platter also included the wonderfully creamy and satisfying smoked tadka dhal, perfect for a bit of paratha dipping.

Thali: tadka dhal

Close up on the smoked tadka dhal

Thali: Cauliflower

What a delicious cauliflower collection

Tandoori chicken skewers were served with tomato chill jam and cucumber coriander raita. Triple yum. I do love the individual mini tandoor ovens that are delivered to your table.

Thali: Tandoori chicken

Tandoori chicken skewers served in your own mini tandoor oven

Next course was the two fishy plates. The fried fish tacos added a lovely fresh, crispy element and some beautifully zest flavours

Thali: fish tacos

Zesty fried fish tacos

Fresh line fish was served with delectable Cape Malay dressing, a coriander emulsion and saffron pickled onion. Such a fabulous combination of tastes and textures, I could so easily demolish a whole main course of this all by myself.

Thali: Line fish

Delicate line fish with Cape Malay flavors

The final course – and it’s curry time. Mappa duck curry with spiced mango chutney, Phatch Shoran seafood curry, warm buttery naan, perfectly cooked rice and a fragrant tomato salsa.

Thali: Curries

Two of the most delicious curries ever

I tend to avoid duck curries most of the time as it can be a somewhat chewy experience. Tonight’s dish gets my award for best duck curry ever. The flavours were so incredible and I can’t remember ever eating such tender duck.

Thali: duck

The tenderest of duck in a gorgeous sauce

The seafood curry was deliciously creamy with just the right hit of spice. A mix of mussels, prawns and line fish – heaven in a bowl.

Thali: Seafood curry

The delightfully delicious seafood curry

Thali: Rice

Even the rice is delectable at Thali

Thali: chilli jam

The glistening chilli jam

Thali: Raita

A bowl of cooling raita

Thali: salsa

A bowl of vibrant, zesty salsa

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town.

Today’s price point

Tapas for two at Thali is R700 (41 pounds at today’s exchange rate). For two, not each. Really great value as the portions are ample and you won’t get a better Indian meal around here. Seriously.

Delicious Indian dishes at Marigold in Franschhoek

Today we’re heading deep into the Cape Winelands to the beautiful town of Franschhoek. One of my favourite places in the world, it’s also one of the oldest towns in South Africa and known as the food and wine heartland of the country. There are so many amazing restaurants and vineyards to try out, all set in the most beautiful of surroundings. It truly is a little piece of paradise that I love to visit. And there’s always somewhere new to discover – like the first restaurant serving ethnic cuisine in the village.

Marigold is set in Franschhoek’s main street and offers spicy North Indian cuisine from the expert hand of chef Vanie Padayachee who hails from Durban (the hub of Indian cuisine in South Africa) and has also spent time in India, making sure it’s a wonderfully authentic selection.

There’s a comprehensive menu to peruse, so the box of tasty poppadoms and dips was a welcome arrival to snack on while we did some serious decision making.

Marigold: Poppadoms

A delicious poppadom and dip selection

What’s on the menu

I think the decision making got all a bit too much for us, everything sounded so delicious – so we hedged our bets by ordering the non-vegetarian thali to share. A beautifully presented tray arrived with seven dishes from different sections of the menu. We loved every mouthful. The dal tadka was amazing – slow cooked lentils tempered with whole red chilli, ginger, garlic, cumin and mustard seeds. We also snacked on crispy spinach leaves, tandoori chicken, lamb kebabs and a stunning salad of carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, and onions seasoned with cumin powder, lemon juice and fresh coriander.

Marigold: Thali

The platter of thali for two

Also on the platter were two little bowls of chilli deliciousness. Fresh chopped green chilli and an incredibly spicy chilli paste. Seriously tongue tingling.

Marigold: Chilli

Plenty of chilli to spice up life

After our delightful selection we tucked into an amazing Kadhai Murgh. Chicken cooked in a thick tomato gravy with whole red chilli, peppers, onions and Indian spices.Marigold: chicken

Dessert was included in our thali selection, and what a good thing that was, too. I very rarely order pudding in Indian restaurants which is clearly a big mistake. The kulfi was delectable. A trio of Indian ice creams were made with boiled milk, sugar and fragrant spices. Such delightful flavours of cardamom and cinnamon. Gotta eat more Indian deserts.

Marigold: dessert

What a great addition Marigold is to the wonderful Franschhoek restaurantland. Another reason to head back to paradise in the Winelands!

Marigold: marigolds

Marigolds on display to welcome you

Today’s price point

Finally, the bill.

Tonight’s food cost R501 which is about £29 at today’s exchange rate.

White wine starts from R130 (£7.60) a bottle.

Red wine starts from R165 (£9.70) a bottle.

Marigold is at Heritage Square, 9 Huguenot Street, Franschhoek.

Tasty Indian cuisine tapas-style at Thali

Thali for two

Today we’re heading up bustling Kloof Street to an exciting new Indian restaurant. It’s the brainchild of Chef Liam Tomlin – who runs the successful Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street (where I still haven’t been – must remedy that soon) and also recently took over the kitchen at Beau Constantia.

Thali has the same menu concept of Tomlin’s other two restaurants – a set menu of dishes to share that come up in groups, making for four tasty courses. Thali literally means “a set meal at an Indian restaurant” which for me means the joy of no menu indecision and a chance to taste everything the chef wants to offer. The food comes served in small dishes arranged on large round copper platters which look stunning but do make photography tricky (food blogger problems!). However, I’ve done my best to give you a good flavour of what’s in store.

What’s on the menu

So first up we received the Aloo Tikki, a beautifully soft and spicy potato cake served topped with yogurt and a touch of tamarind paste. I love potatoes and I could definitely consume this version of my favourite starch on a regular basis. It’s served with curry salt and spices which you keep on your table for the duration of your meal.

Thali: Aloo tikki

Starting off with a delightful potato dish

Thali: aloo tikki

Close up on the delicately spiced morsels

Our next course consisted of three dishes (dhal, cauliflower and tandoori chicken), a buttery paratha, two dipping sauces and an onion mix.

Thali: second course

Never have vegetables looked so vibrant and tasty

The cauliflower plate was a veggie revelation with Tandoori cauliflower and cumin cauliflower puree served with a cashew and coconut sauce. A genius way to showcase the humble cauli, producing a dish with incredible depths of flavours and a wonderful range of textures.

Thali: cauliflower

Close up on the spiced-up cauliflower

Beautifully flavourful and creamy smoked tadka dhal was served with the softest of buttery paratha. Dipping heaven.

Thali: dhal

A beautiful bowl of glistening dhal

And the tandoori chicken skewers arrived in their own little tandoor, complete with burning coals. Great theatre and these little morsels were so perfectly cooked they melted in the mouth giving a pop of those tasty tandoori flavours. Another wonderful dish that was very difficult to photograph well, but you get the idea.

Thali: tandoori chicken

Happiness is…your own tandoori oven

Time for some fabulous fish

The fish course added a real freshness to the dinner. The fried fish tacos were packed with juicy cubes of kingklip, crunchy fresh veg and chilli.

Thali: fish tacos

Vibrant fishy tacos with a chilly bite

Unusually for an Indian restaurant, a ceviche-style bowl of raw line fish was served with a Cape Malay dressing, coriander emulsion, saffron and pickled onion. Even more fabulous flavours and textures to savour.

Thali: Linefish

Fresh fish with a Cape Malay dressing

Wonderful curries to finish with

Our final tray of delights brought the curry element to our table. Another incredible combo of dishes. Two curries, served with rice and naan – the perfect ending to our Indian extravaganza. The smokey lamb curry was packed with flavour with a silken sauce and wonderfully tender meat.

Thali: curries

A tray of curries to finish with

The Panch Phorand seafood curry was possibly my favourite dish of the night. Wonderful cubes of flaky fish, plump prawns and the freshest of mussels in a rich and spicy sauce. The mussels are so fabulous in Cape Town at the moment. So I’m eating them whenever I have the chance and boy were they great in this curry.

Thali: seafood curry

A masterpiece of spicy seafood

The rice was also spectacular – which I think is a sign of a really great chef. I battle with cooking good rice dishes – wonder if they’d be available to give me some lessons?

Thali: Rice

Rice doesn’t get better than this

Phew! What a great selection of dishes. Portions are substantial at Thali, and there’s quite a lot of heat in the sauces, dips and spices. You can taste the love and care that everything has been prepared with and you can feel the energy emanating from the busy kitchen.

Thali doesn’t take bookings (one of my pet hates) so we got there just before 6.30 to make sure we could nab a table for six. The restaurant was already about three-quarters full and soon filled up completely. While we were having dinner people queued up at the bar and some didn’t even stay, having been told they would have over an hour to wait. This is one popular place! Because of this service may be inconsistent.

The menu tells you to expect a selection of dishes to share which can take up to 90 minutes – it will probably take longer (as it did in our case). But what’s the rush? Arrive prepared to take your time and enjoy the courses as they come and I guarantee you’ll enjoy a wonderful Indian extravaganza.

Thali: kitchen

There’s plenty of activity in the open kitchen

Thali: kitchen

Making sure the platter looks perfect

Today’s price point

And finally, Thali for two is R700 (about £45 at today’s exchange rate).

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town, just off Kloof Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talli Joe for tasty Indian tapas

Talli Joe in Shaftesbury Avenue

Today I’m heading for Talli Joe on what I think of as the border between Soho and Covent Garden. The buzzing street called Shaftesbury Avenue. What a good place to be to try some Indian food with a difference.

The restaurant describes itself as serving Indian half plates and full drinks. It’s a stylish, modern little eatery with an intriguing menu. This one took a lot of perusing – thank goodness for the half plates idea, it gave us the chance to try more of the exciting options.

I love Indian food which means I’ve eaten it all over the world (though I haven’t been to India yet – must be remedied). Today’s interestingly different menu meant time to experiment and explore new flavours and dishes.

What’s on the menu

Lentils are usually beautifully done in Indian cuisine so the Moon daal Pahari seemed like a good place to start. The lentil fritters (described at Delhi’s favourite) came with grated radish and green chilli chutney. Flavoursome and crispy with the raw veg adding freshness and the chutney bringing a real chilli bite. A stunning vegetarian dish.

Talli Joe: lentil fritters

Lentil fritters nestle under freshly grated veg

The Kohapuri Chop is a tenderly tasty tandoori lamb chop served with a potato salad with mustard dressing.

Talli Joe: Tandoori lamb

Succulent lamb and a mustardy salad

Because they sounded so good, today we seemed to order more vegetarian dishes than usual. And the good news is that the Halve ki Mutter Kachori tasted even better than it sounded. Soft bread parcels were stuffed with a spicy pea mix and served in a butternut and potato curry.

Talli Joe: Pea and butternut

Pea-stuffed bread and a rich butternut sauce

Now this is an exciting and unusual dish. The Parsee Venison Keema Ghotala offered a richly satisfying spicy venison mince which was served with an organic egg yolk, lightly toasted sweet-flavoured bread and a side of pao (a chopped chilli and onion mix). We mixed the egg through the mince, making for an almost creamy delicacy and spread it liberally on the bread. Wow! The chefs here have certainly mastered those complex spice balances that make for the very best Indian cuisine. Every dish popped with a delightful roundness of flavours.

Talli Joe: Venison mince

A magnificent mix of spices for a fabulous mince

Talli Joe: Venison mince

Close up on the mince and yellow yolk

The Bohri Chicken was cooked with a combination of masalas and served with a pretty fenugreek flatbread. Another perfect spice blend for the melt-in-the-mouth drumsticks. Love a good Indian flatbread –  and doesn’t this look lovely with its herby greens and seeds.

Talli Joe: Bohri chicken

Spicy chicken drumsticks with fenugreek flatbread

Time for dessert – and fabulous dessert, too. The berry malai was a warm, creamy bowl of baked yogurt topped with fabulously zesty seasonal berries.

Talli Joe: baked yogurt

Sweet creaminess combined with great berry flavours

I love a bit of rose flavouring so couldn’t resist the rose-flavoured ice cream. A little glass of perfect pinkness with flavours that danced on my tongue. The perfect refreshing finish to a wonderful lunch.

Talli Joe: rose ice cream

Two tasty puds made for the perfect ending

Today’s price point

Our seven dishes cost £38.75 – really great value for delicious food.

Wine starts from £21 a bottle and there’s a good selection of spirits and cocktails.

Talli Joe is at 152-154 Shaftesbury Avenue.

Download the CAKE up and get £5 free

I used my CAKE app to book and pay at Talli Joe. A really simple and quick way to eat out in London – yes there’s an app for it. CAKE has a wide range of restaurants on its books and you can also earn credit when you eat out with plenty of chances to get a percentage of the cost of your dinner back.

Download the CAKE app now at thecakeapp.com and quote the referral code EATINGCG to get £5 credit for free and start exploring London’s wonderful restaurantland.

 

Recipe book review: Saffron Soul

I love trying out new dishes in the kitchen and what better place to get inspiration than from a beautiful recipe book. I often sit on the floor surrounded by cookbooks trying to decide what to cook for dinner. Seriously, I can while away hours in a little food recipe world.

So I’m always delighted when I have a new book to try. I recently went to the launch of Saffron Soul by Mira Manek and was treated to some of her delightful dishes for breakfast. Most notably, the amazing tofu scramble with numeric and spices, topped with pink peppercorns and served with peppered sweet potato wedges and cumin tossed kale. Never has tofu tasted so good, like a spicy version of scrambled egg!

Mira’s quest in this book is to show us how Indian food can be healthy and delicious at the same time. Her range of vegetarian recipes are inventive, tasty and easy to make once you have all the relevant spices. She explains the importance and health-giving values of the main spices used in Indian cooking. For example, turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, cumin is good for digestion and fenugreek may help control blood sugar levels and cholesterol. And of course they make dishes taste fabulous, too.

I cooked several recipes including the amazing spinach parathas. A recent love of mine – I’d never cooked parathas and was surprised at how well they came out! The cauliflower and pea curry was crunchy and packed with flavour. But my absolute favourite of the dishes I’ve cooked so far is the Gujarati dal, an amazing dish made with yellow split peas and an orchestra of spices.

How to make Gujarati dal

Here’s Mira’s amazing dal recipe. You will note that she says some of the spices are optional – I would advise that you put absolutely everything on the list in as they produce an amazing depth of flavour.

I used yellow split peas which I bought from my local supermarket.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

The ingredients

200g toor dal, yellow split dal or pigeon peas

1.2 litres boiling water

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

Half tsp fenugreek seeds, optional

1-2 dried red chillis, slit lengthways

2 cinnamon sticks, optional

2 cloves, optional

On quarter tsp asafoetida

10-15 fresh curry leaves

5 fresh tomatoes, chopped or 5 tbsps tinned tomatoes

Half tsp ground tumeric

Half to 1 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1.5 tsp sea salt

3 tbsps brown sugar

Handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Juice of 2 fresh limes

The instructions

Rinse the split peas in a sieve under running water until the water is clear, then tip into a saucepan.

Add the measured boiling water and boil for 1 hour on a medium-low heat until the dal is a porridge-like consistency.

With a hand-held electric whisk, whisk the dal so that it becomes completely smooth or blend it in a blender until smooth.

In a large, non-stick saucepan melt the coconut oil, then add the cumin and mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds have popped, add the dried red chillies, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves, then the tomatoes and stir for a minute.

Add the ground turmeric, red chilli powder, grated ginger, salt, sugar and coriander to the tomato mixture and stir.

Pour in the blended dal, squeeze the lime in and leave to simmer on a low heat for 10-15 mins until it turns orange-brown.

Taste the dal and add more lime or sugar, as required.

My copy of Saffron Soul is bookmarked with several slips of paper, ready for my next Indian vegetarian feast. This is a book I know I am going to be returning to frequently. And here’s how to win one of your own.

Reader giveaway

The prize

One copy of Saffron Soul by Mira Manek worth £13.20.

How to enter

Tell me what your favourite Indian spice is in the comment section of this post.

Terms and conditions

Competition only for residents of the UK.

Closing date for entry will be Sunday 28 May 2017 at midnight.

The winner will be chosen at random after the closing date.

The winner will be notified by email.

No cash alternatives to the prize will be offered. The prize is not transferable.

The editor’s decision is final.

Saffron Soul by Mira Manek is published by Jacqui Small, an imprint of The Quarto Group. Out now.

Available from all good retailers. Photography credit:  © Jacqui Small

To find out more, visit www.miramanek.com