Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Malabar Attierchi Curry #sikandalouscuisine

Recipe from 101 Kerala Delicacies by G.Padma Vijay
An aromatic and delectable mutton curry , the photograph does no justice to the recipe unfortunately .

500 Mutton Cubed.
1 Cup First Extract Coconut Milk.
6 Onions Sliced.
2 Teaspoons Curry Leaves.
1 Teaspoon Coriander Seeds.
1 Teaspoon Jeera Seeds.
3 Red Chilies.
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper.
6 Cloves.
1 Teaspoon Garam Masala
5 Flakes Garlic.
5 Green Chilies.
1" Ginger.
1 Teaspoon Salt.
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil

1. Roast seeds, cumin seeds , red chilies , cloves , pepper , curry leaves
2. Grind ginger garlic and green chilies.
3. Saute sliced onions , when light brown add mutton and bhuno 4-5 minutes.
4. Add 2 cups hot water and simmer covered till mutton is nearly done.
5. Add all the roasted powders and pastes , coconut milk , garam masala and salt and cook till mutton is tender.
6. Garnish with 2 teaspoons grated and roasted coconut.

Atul Sikand
Director, Asian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd.#asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine#veebaasianhawkersmarket
Administrator & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine
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Monday, 18 September 2017

Chili Chicken #sikandalouscuisine

This recipe is from All Under Heaven - Recipes From 35 Cuisines of China. The book itself is a fabulous read with many doable / adaptable recipes , here is one from The Central Highlands - easy and made for our Indian palates .

The recipe calls for an easy Guizhou Chili Paste , I substituted Thai chilies with the regular dried red ones we use and it  tasted just great .

Chicken & Marinade :
1/2 Chicken.
2 Tablespoons of Rice Vinegar.
2 Tablespoons of Guizhou Chili Paste.
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce.
1/2 Cup Cornstarch.
1/2 Cup Peanut Oil.

2 Tablespoons Guizhou Chili Paste.
2 Tablespoons Sweet Soy Sauce - or use regular soy sauce + 2 teaspoons sugar.
1/4 Cup Water.
Leek / Spring Onions Cut into 1" Pieces.

Guizhou Chili Paste:
1 Cup Thai Chilies Stems Removed - I used Dried Red Chilies.
1/2 Cup Chopped Garlic.
1/4 Cup Chopped Ginger.
1 Cup Peanut Oil Divided.

Blend all the ingredients with half the oil to a smooth paste. Heat the balance oil , slow cook the paste just till you see some oil.Cool and refrigerate.

Lets Get Cooking:
1. Fry marinated chicken pieces in oil till done - will takes 3-4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a wok , prepare the sauce by heating oil , adding Guizhou Chili Paste , and then soy , sugar and water .Bring to a rapid boil , reduce , adjust flavors , add in  chicken and leek/onions and cook 3-4 minutes.

This was so delicious and Guizhou Chili Paste is worth making and keeping - one taste of it and you will be hooked!

Atul Sikand
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Chettinad Prawn Masala #sikandalouscuisine

A wonderful recipe from The Chettinad Kitchen , no coconut is used here . The recipe is very simple , the tempering develops beautiful flavors in these dish.

1 Tablespoon Oil.
2-4 Torn Curry Leaves.
1 Teaspoon Crushed Fennel.

500 Grams Prawns.
1/2 Cup Chopped Onions.
1/2 Cup Chopped Tomatoes.
4-5 Garlic Cloves Chopped .
2 Tablespoons Minced Ginger.
1/2 Teaspoon Haldi.
1 Teaspoon Red Chili Powder ( color )
1/2 Teaspoon Jeera Powder.
1 Teaspoon Black Peppercorn Crushed.
1/4 Cup Dhania Greens.

1.Heat oil add curry leaves and fennel seeds. After a few seconds onions tomato ginger and garlic along with haldi ,chili powder ,cumin and black pepper, saute till you see oil, dont brown the onions.
2. Add 1/2 cup of water , cover and simmer for 3-4 minutes , flavors are developing now .Increase heat to maximum , add in prawns and give a good bhuno for 2-3 minutes till prawns are done. Stir in dhania greens.
3. Cook another minute.
This is a simple and delicious dish and doesnt have gravy , just masala.

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Spicy Prawns With Pasta #sikandalouscuisine

A nice and easy recipe spicy , garlicky and delicious.

2 Serving Portions Spaghetti.
2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil Divided
15 Prawns.
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic Divided.
Chili Flakes To Taste.
1 Medium Onion Minced.
1 Cup Tomato Puree.
A pinch of Italian Seasoning.
50 Ml Cream.
50 Ml Pasta Water.
Fresh Basil.
1-2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan ,Optional.

1. Boil pasta as per packet instructions , drain and retain some water.
2. heat some olive oil , add some chili flakes and garlic saute till garlic begins to sweat then tip in the prawns and saute for just under a minute till they change color.Set aside.
3. In the same wok , add balance oil , tomato puree , onions garlic herbs chilli flakes and salt . Simmer covered on low till you see some oil.
4. Add in pasta water , adjust taste - this will be your final flavor .
5. Return prawns to the pan , finish cooking for about 2 minutes , stir in cream , taste and serve on the pasta , or as I did add pasta to the prawn sauce cooking a minute or so to spread the sauce evenly and bring in flavors.
6. When plated , sprinkle the cheese if using .

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Muttai Kulambu / Eggs In Spicy Tamarind Gravy #sikandalouscuisine

Recipe adapted from Chettinad Kitchen

4 Boiled Eggs.
1/2 Cup Chopped Tomatoes.
1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Onions.
1/2 Cup Tomato Puree.
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic.
1/2 Teaspoon Red Chili Powder.
1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Peppercorn.
1/2 Teaspoon Haldi.
Green Chilies To Taste.
1 Teaspoon Garam Masala.
1 Teaspoon Thick Tamarind Paste.

The Tempering:
1" Cinnamon.
1 Bay Leaf.
Curry Leaves.
1/4 Teaspoon Methe Seeds.
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Jeera Seeds.
1 Teaspoon Fennel Seeds - Lightly Pound.
1/2 Teaspoon Urad Dal.

1. Make slit in boiled eggs , apply haldi on them , and lightly saute whole eggs. Set aside.Recipe didnt call for sauteing. 
2. Add more oil in the wok , when hot add in all the tempering ingredients till dal is golden - 30 seconds , then add red chili powder to infuse color.
3. Immediately tip in tomatoes , onions and garlic along with green chillies , haldi , black pepper and salt.Cook covered till onions soften , not colored.
4. Add tamarind and 1/2 cup water , bring to a boil . Tip in eggs , saute for 4-5 minutes.Adjust flavors.
The tempering ingredients create a fabulous flavor in the gravy - a signature and delicious Chettinad Egg Curry.

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Saturday, 9 September 2017

Mustard Fish in Veeba Sweet Onion Sauce #sikandalouscuisine

This is one of my happy experiments in healthy cooking that worked beautifully. Near oil free and a delectable blend of pungent desi mustard flavors with Veeba Sweet Onion Sauce - a perfect pairing.I used Veeba Sweet Onion Sauce as it has a nice sweet and tangy flavor - you can add a mayo or a sweet dressing of your choice. See my empty bottle , it tells you how much we use this sauce!

A go with the flow recipe - the only rule is that you have fun while cooking !

250 - 300 Grams Fillet Sole.
1 Small Red Bell Pepper Cubed.
6-8 Shallots - or use onion petals.
10-12 Cloves Whole Garlic.
Basil Leaves.
Lemon Juice To Taste.
Veeba Sweet Onion Sauce , or any sweet dressing.
Fresh Basil Optional.

1 Teaspoon Yellow Mustard Seeds.
2 Teaspoon Black Mustard Seeds.
2-3 Green Chilies.
2-3 Cloves Garlic.
3-4 Tablespoons Dhania Leaves.
2-3 Tablespoons Thick Curd.

1. Marinate fish in the MUSTARD PASTE for 20-25 minutes.
2. In a hot oven or wok place peppers , garlic and onions , bake covered till vegetables just about soften, garlic cooked too .While veggies are still hot mix in 1-2 Tablespoon Veeba Sauce.Set aside and chill. 
3. In a wok stir fry fish , it will cook in its own juices and what liquid curd leaves.Cook covered for 5-6 minutes. When fish is done add in 1 tablespoon of Veeba Onion Sauce , mix gently into the fish, just to get a hint of sweet.Chill.
5.Plate lettuce , drizzle some Veeba sauce , add on vegetables and fish , sprinkle lemon juice and garnish .This was delicious.

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Thursday, 7 September 2017

Garlic Cheese Focaccia Bread #sikandalouscuisine

Recipe from the net - many ' originals ' had the same version and description !Heat the oven to 375 / 190 C degrees.  25 - 28 mins. 
Am all set to travel to Italy in a few days and the mood seems to have set in , hence the post ! A simple recipe , no effort or skill required the results , yum ! I added in Semolina and made a few changes I mentioned. Do eat it with the dipping sauce mentioned in point 6.
Focaccia1 Cup Water.2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter.*1 Teaspoon Salt.2 Cups Plain Flour.
2/3 Cup Semolina.*
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme.*
2 1/4 Teaspoon 
Instant yeast.
2 Tablespoons Melted Unsalted butter.
1/2 Tablespoon Minced Garlic.
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning / Dried Herbs.
1/3 Cup Asiago , Parmesan, or Romano cheese
1. Heat water until warm (about 105-115 degrees). The water should feel just warm and comfortable, not hot.Pour the water into a large bowl and add yeast, stirring with a fork until it dissolves in.
2. Add to this  2¼ cups flour, 2 tablespoons of very soft butter, and the salt. Mix until a soft dough forms, then turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
3. Knead the dough with a push turn method, dusting with flour when needed to keep the dough from sticking to the surface. While kneading the dough, add in additional flour about a tablespoon at a time or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. This should take about 5-10 minutes of kneading. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rest 10 minutes.
4. After resting, place the dough onto a greased baking sheet. Using your hands, pat the dough into about a 12 inch circle. Cover again with greased plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size (about 30-45 minutes.)
5. When the dough has risen, using your finger tips, poke ½ to ¾ inch deep holes throughout the dough, spacing the holes about an inch or 2 apart. Brush the top of the dough with the melted butter, making sure to get some on the top of the foccacia bread and down in the holes as well. 
Spread the minced garlic on top and sprinkle italian seasoning and shredded cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until nice and golden brown. Serve hot.6. Serve with homemade dipping oil recipe - add some dried herbs like rosemary, oregano, basil and salt, pepper, red chilli flakes and minced garlic to some extra virgin love oil. Mix well.
* My Changes:
I used 1 tablespoon soft butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
I added Thyme into the water while making the dough.
I reduced flour and added semolina . Original recipe called for 2 & 2/3d cups flour.

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
Director, Asian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Stuffed Breaded Chicken Breasts #sikandalouscuisine

There isnt a recipe as such here - what you choose to stuff the chicken with is optional , I went with bacon , feta cheese , cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and parmesan.

1. Brine the chicken - In one litre of water with 2 teaspoons each salt and sugar .To the water add 1 teaspoon olive oil.Soak chicken for 2 hours. This results in a juicy and succulent chicken.

2. Prepare your chicken breast -Slice through the chicken breast to a butterfly shape keeping the piece intact.Dry well , apply salt and pepper and dry herbs , then gently beat the breast to thin it out .

3. Cook and prepare your stuffing - I sauted chopped bacon , added in cherry tomatoes as mentioned.

4. To Assemble - On the seasoned chicken breast grate parmesan , add the stuffing , fold and nicely coat in flour .Now dip in egg wash , fully covering the flour , and then onto fresh bread crumbs . Pat and cover nicely sealing the joints.

5. Shallow fry chicken breasts , 3-4 minutes on each side . Rest the chicken breast , and slice into 1" thick pieces.

I described the process , go with the flow ... use your imagination and come up with a stuffing that works for you .

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Monday, 4 September 2017

Turai Aur Narial Ka Milan #sikandalouscuisine

This is one of those happy experiment that worked out very well. I am not a big fan of Turai , and we get a lot from the farm , so one eats it I guess, cooked in one standard way at home. This time we experimented and came up with this very happy looking and delicious tasting dish.

The chutney I shared yesterday ,was from the peels left when preparing this dish . 

400 Grams Turai - Peel and cube.
​1 Medium Onion - Dice.
2 Medium Tomatoes - Chop.
1/2 Cup Grated Coconut.
1 Heaped Teaspoon Sliced Ginger.
​1 Teaspoon Garlic Paste.
Chilies To Taste.
Curry Leaves.
1 Teaspoon Black Mustard Seeds.
Lemon Juice To Taste .

​1. Heat oil , splutter mustard seeds ,then add torn curry leaves and chilies. Tip in onions, haldi and salt. Cook till onions soften, don't allow them to color.
2. Now add turai , mix well and cook till turai is half done , then tip in ginger , garlic and tomatoes and cook till turai is done while tomatoes still retain their shape somewhat . 
3. At the end add in half the coconut and dhania greens , mix well , cook covered for 2-3 minutes for coconut and coriander to release their juices and all flavors to marry.Taste , add lemon juice if needed.
4. Serve garnished with balance coconut.

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Sunday, 3 September 2017

Turai Ki Chutney #sikandalouscuisine

Recipe credits - Neha Mathur

I have been a fan of Neha's cooking for ages and for good reasons too . This chutney is a fine example of her cooking ..  eat this chutney with hot rice and you are in a great space! 
2 Cups Ridge Gourd Peels.
1 Tablespoon Oil.
1 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds.
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds.
1/2 Teaspoon Channa Dal.
1/2 Teaspoon Fenugreek seeds.
1/2 Teaspoon Hing.
5-6 Garlic Cloves.
3-4 Green Chilies.
1 Teaspoon Tamarind Paste.
For Tempering:
1 Tablespoon Oi
1 Teaspoon Mustard seeds.
1/4 Teaspoon Hing .
1 Teaspoon Chana Dal.
10-12 Curry Leaves.
1. Heat oil in a pan.Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chana data, fenugreek seeds and hinge and let them crackle for a few minutes.Add garlic cloves and green chili and cook of few seconds.
2. Now tip in ridge gourd peel and salt and cover and cook on low heat till the peel are softened.When softened add tamarind and blend to a smooth chutney.
For Tempering:
Heat oil ,add all the tempering ingredients in the oil and let them crackle for a few seconds.Pour the tempering over the chutney.Serve this chutney with ghee rice and Dal.
Thank you Neha , we all at home loved this and it's been made twice in 4 days !

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
Director, Asian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine
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Thursday, 31 August 2017

Bhetki Paturi #sikandalouscuisine

I finally got to cook Bekti thanks to group member and friend Partha who home delivers to us lucky ones in Delhi / NCR the freshest of seafood , cleaned and cut to specification. Along with my order he sent this fantastic very detailed recipe - here reproduced in his words. 

Bhetki fillet 500 gms - cut into pieces ( rectangle shape 3” x 2” ) 
3-4 Tablespoons Mustard paste – Soak yellow mustard seeds ( 50 gms) for 30 – 45 mnts, Grind / Paste**
1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric powder.
2 Tablespoons Freshly grated coconut.
1 Tablespoon Green chili paste.
Green chillies – slit - To place on each fish.
4-5 Tablespoons Mustard oil.
Salt to taste
Banana leaves cut into rectangular pieces – 6 x 9”  or similar 
String to tie the banana leaves  for Paturi .

Step 1 Wash the fish pieces properly and keep them separately in a plate. Add some lemon juice drops and sprinkle salt in it. Marinade keep aside for 15-20 minutes.

Step 2 - In a bowl add mustard paste, grated coconut, chili paste, Mustard Oil, salt and turmeric. 

Step 3 - Add this paste to the fish pieces. Pls. carefully coat each piece and put it inside the fridge .. for 20 – 25 mnts.

Step 4 -  pls. wash the banana leaves properly and dry it properly. Rub little mustard oil on both the sides of the leaves then lightly roast the banana leaves to make them soft and foldable.

Step 5  - Important step – keep the Bekti piece at the centre of the banana leaf and add some marinade on it on both sides. Also don’t forget to place a slit green chilli on top of it & just a 2-3 drops of mustard oil . Fold the banana leaf to wrap the bekti piece from all sides and tie with a piece of thread or even toothpick. Pls. make it a square parcel , make sure parcels will not open while cooking. 

Step 6 - Heat a frying pan coated add little mustard oil, place the banana leaf  in one layer and close the pan with an air tight lid and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes each side. 

When all the fish pieces are cooked, take it on a big dish. The Bekti fish and the thick gravy is take it out from the banana leaves and served with hot steam rice.

​This was such a big hit at home - and though we make a lot of mustard fish in banana leaf - nothing ever came close to this .

** I used 40 grams yellow Mustard Seeds and 10 grams Black Mustard Seeds.​

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Masaladar Noodle Fry #sikandalouscuisine

Enough of fancy pastas , my tastebuds demanded some familiar flavors with a kick and what better than Chinjabi food for such moments . Have fun with your recipe , go with the flow types and let your imagination take over . Here is what I did.

2 Serving Portions Noodles - Boil as per packet instructions.
1.5 Cups Assorted Chopped Vegetables - I used Cherry tomatoes , shallots , carrots , beans ,baby baingans, mushrooms and bell peppers etc.
2 Teaspoons Mustard Seeds.
1/2 Cup Tomato Puree or more if you like.
1 Teaspoon Ginger Paste.
1 Teaspoon Garlic Paste.
1 Heaped Teaspoon Sambar Powder.
1 Teaspoon Red Chili Powder.
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice.
Whole Dried Red Chilies.
Curry Leaves.
10-12 Thinly Sliced Garlic Flakes.

1. Heat mustard oil , brown garlic flakes , remove from oil . Now fry some curry leaves and remove from oil . Your oil is beautifully flavored.
2. Reheat oil , splutter mustard seeds, add whole chilies , red chili powder , hing, curry leaves.After 30 seconds add shallots , toss around , and add tomato puree , ginger and garlic paste, sambar powder and salt . Cook a minute.
3. Add in all the vegetables and lemon juice, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes till done but firm. 
4. Toss in noodles , mix well ,cook covered for 2-3 minutes for flavors to be picked up by noodles.
5. Adjust flavors , add in fried garlic flakes and crushed curry leaves , pull out a thaali and sit down to some masaladar noodle fry !

Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe #sikandalouscuisine

This recipe is inspired by Tyler Florence . My home touches **  are the additional egg yolk served in its shell - something I experienced in Tuscany where I ate one of the best carbonaras ever .The idea of the additional egg yolk is to have the option of whisking it into you steaming hot pasta for additional richness if desired.I also added Pecorino Cheese which is sharper than parmesan and adds a beautiful flavor . 
1 Pound Spaghetti.
2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive )il.
4 Ounces Pancetta or Bacon- cubed or sliced into small strips.
4 Garlic Cloves- Finely chopped.
2 Large Eggs +1 Egg** yolk served in a shell.
50g Pecorino Cheese** .2/3d Cup Freshly Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano- Plus more for serving.
Freshly Ground Black Pepper.
1 Handful Flat-Leaf Parsley Chopped.
Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian "al dente.") Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.
Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and cheeses together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Add the egg in the shell on top and pass more cheese around the table.
​Follow this recipe you cannot go wrong !
Atul Sikand
Founding Member ,Delhi Gourmet Club
DirectorAsian Hawkers Market Pvt. Ltd. #asianhawkersmarket #sikandalouscuisine #veebaasianhawkersmarket 
Administrator  & Owner Sikandalous Cuisine 
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Monday, 28 August 2017

Ngala Safari Lodge , Mpumalanga .

Sunday, October 9, 2011 Ngala Safari Lodge , Mpumalanga .

This morning we drove from Mashishing to Ngala Safari Lodge , yet another superb private game reserve from & Beyond . A large water hole faces all the common areas ( dining / reception ) and elephants amongst other animals come here to drink water . We are escorted to and from our cottages after dark as animals have been known to stray into the lodge . At all times all cottages are well locked – baboons seem to enjoy the cottages and the contents therein !

Our first safari was this afternoon and was it an experience . We drove past the now mundane sights of giraffe, zebra, kudu, nyala and elephants etc. in search of a leopard and her 2 cubs who had been sighted earlier in the day .

Crashing our way through the bush , scratched and bumped around we had written off our ranger Derrick who comes across as  he’d rather be doing a million other things than driving us around and showing us stuff .He is a big burly Shangan local very much the strong and silent guy – a cultural trait we think. This is in strong contrast to our previous ranger Giles at the Mountain Lodge was fantastic .

A couple of minutes of being buffeted around we come across a half eaten bush buck carcass hanging from a fork in a tree with a mass of flies swarming around it. A little ahead we spotted a leopard sleeping in the sun . We tested her by inching closer in our jeep , she was alert but not alarmed . By now we had spotted one of her two cubs .

Greed got the better of us and we edged almost  by her side , and thank God we did . At first she appeared to sleep , no sign of the cubs . Then one peeped out between 2 branches , figured out that we were harmless and made a dive for milk ! It suckled away as it’s mom slept and after a bit slept by her tail .

Realizing that moms tail could be fun the cub started to pull it ! For the next 20 minutes we watched the leopard and her cub play . The cub tugging at moms tail , jumping all over her , she rolling on her back , cuddling him – it was such a happy heart warming sight . Reminded me of how are dogs are with their pups . It was amazing . This cub must have been 2 months old and was adorable !

Suddenly cub moved away from mom and got all inquisitive about the hanging half eaten buck and climbed that tree . The lioness too got onto the tree , a sight from an animated movie ! Simply fascinating . She then got cracking on the carcass , and scooped out an eyeball and then slurped out some brain and even as we watched chomped down on the skull, bones crackling loudly . This amazing sight we witnessed not more than 20 feet away .

We also learnt from our ranger that this must be a young mom as an experienced mother wouldn’t expose her cubs to danger by being so close to the kill – the smell of which would attract hyenas .

I also learnt that guinea fowl sleep on trees !

Monday, October 10, 2011

This mornings safari was quite dull – or maybe we have seen it all so as to speak . I’s disappointing that the spotting’s have been so few and the bush seems not populated at all ( other than impalas ) . This seems odd considering we border Kruger National Park and there are no fences between Kruger and Ngala .

Impalas apart we saw the odd kudu . A lone female giraffe which is odd to spot . Derrick pointed out that she was probably looking for an isolated spot to deliver her baby – which is the only time one sees female giraffes alone !

The highlight was another magnificient male leopard . We tracked him closely alongside a river bankfor 30 minutes or so . There was a tense few moments when a herd of impalas who were near by gave an alarm call . That turned out to be a non event as the leopard was well fed and was looking for a nap !

We also saw a few zebras . Derrick informed us that the stallion always hangs out behind the herd – to cover the females urine smells with earth or his own droppings to prevent other studs from getting to her .

Chin tells me that they also are forever trying to ‘ abduct ‘ females from other ‘harems’ – that being natures way of preventing inbreeding ,
After breakfast I went for an hour long ‘ nature ‘walk with a bunch of geriatrics . We crawled at  5 km an hour . Waste of time .

The evening run was initially a very dull as we drove endlessly trying to find buffalo . After an hour Derrick gave up and led us to a hyena den . Turned out that there were two litters , but only one mom around . The cubs were very cute and their markings were similar to those of baby leopards . The mom was very pretty ..and played with her pups just like dogs do . This was a very exciting sighting and we were mesmerized watching the cubs inquisitively bounce all around us and roll over the mother .

Interestingly hyenas live in abandoned termite mounds .

Before that we had spotted mini mongoose – no bigger than common rats . Not to get fooled by their size , apparently these mongoose were capable and did kill large snakes by going in for a collective attack on the reptile . They looked like ugly critters!

Dulini Lodge  ( post noon )Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tired , I decided to jam the morning safari . I did expect Murphy’s Law to to swing into action . Am told that the morning’s run had all the missing links – herds of buffalos on a stampede , elephants going on a rampage , rhinos , or was it hippos doing a never seen before number … regardless was happy for the sleep in as we had to drive again , this time to new park - Dulini , yet another masterpiece from And Beyond .

Before setting out to Dulini we ate  breakfast and halfway through 8-10 of the serving / kitchen staff came out singing ‘ happy , happy to you ….’ Carrying a ‘ cake ‘ – 3 pancakes surrounded with large strawberries , all beautifully arranged and a sparkler doubling up as a candle ! They then stood around our table singing to Chin who by now resembled a deep red beetroot . They knew his birthday was 2 days away , however as we were leaving today they brought it in 2 days  in advance ! It was very heart warming an happy a moment .

The drive was supposed to be 2 hours . Navigator ( Chin ) got it wrong , but that we cant say aloud ! It took us almost 4 hours to get here . I was in a rush because if we checked in late we would have missed the afternoon safari – so I ran into a cop looking for a bribe . I was speeding and he asked me to head back with him to the cop station to pay my fine . I pleaded that I was a tourist from India , and showed him my wallet – I was carrying only Rand 200 ( Rs 1200 ) on me . He took the 200 , and gave us directions to the camp ! I wasn’t too happy about the bribe . I also had the only other option- to miss the afternoon safari , so I guess unfortunately I took that option .
Dulini is another beautiful property , a small one , perhaps 8-10 rooms or cottages in all . We have a beautiful cottage it’s a large flowing room demarked with curtains and furniture – simply beautiful . What’s great is our deck . It’s large and overlooks a green area and has a small pool with running water . Very pretty .The loo is all glass on 2 sides and looks onto the deck area .

The best part of the day has been Craig . We had met Craig and Giles in Kanah a year and a half ago . Never remained in touch . However when we were coming here Chin tracked them down and they both very sweetly got themselves allocated to us . Giles in Phinda and Craig here in Dulini .

Craig is very easy to be with and it felt like being with an old friend . He was very considerate and went that extra mile for us during the afternoon safari . I am so glad we caught up , and this time will keep up as we really like them .

We spotted lepord and were with her for almost 30 minutes . She was very comfortable with us 10 feet away . Along the drive we saw elephants from close . By now the sun was setting and we drove through some beautiful parts of the park , stopping near a water body where a bar was set up I the middle of no where – and for snacks there were samosas !

It’s a beautiful full moon night , the silhouetted bare trees looked dramatic against the full moon . We made our way back to camp FOR A BIT drove through a flowing river .

In our room they have setup a dinner table , candles and all ! The printed menu tells me we are going to eat lamb shank and chicken stuffed with celery and some other stuff .
Dinner was delicious ! The lamb tender and the chicken superb  !