One week to go!!! But, just when the baking side of my pantry was beginning to look worryingly bare, one of my PhD students very sweetly gave me a bottle of agave nectar that had been lurking in *her* pantry for over a year, because she didn’t know what to do with it. Accepting unsolicited gifts of pantry items is totally within the rules of this pantry challenge, so I must think about what I can combine the agave with for a delicious raw dessert of some kind.
I have to admit, I’ve been very dopey today, and have been very reliably forgetting to photograph food. Breakfast, though (which I did photograph), was the end of the rye bread and an apple, eaten in hand as I walked to the West Coburg tram stop this morning. The Global Corporate Challenge has started, and it is imperative that we beat the other team on our floor!
Morning tea – because I was strangely hungry after all that walking and after going up and down the stairs a ridiculous number of times this morning – was a collection of toasted nuts, broadbeans and corn kernels from Harvest Box, and much needed.
Lunch was leftovers from last night – pasta with broccoli and sausage. It was still excellent.
And dinner was gorgeous, delicious, and totally unphotographed Indian food from Satgurus. This is where my blog post morphs into a restaurant review, because I was really delighted with this restaurant.
We don’t eat out much. Partly, it’s because we don’t have a huge amount of spare money for such things, but mostly it’s because the better I get at cooking, the more cranky I get when I eat out and the food isn’t as good as what I can make at home! I don’t mind when it’s cheap takeaway, but if I’m paying restaurant prices, the food has to be good, and usually, I’d rather buy extra delights at the Farmers’ Market than take the risk.
But Scoopon, while endlessly irritating with its infinite emails, has a handy habit of periodically offering cheap restaurant deals, where you go along to somewhere with a set or semi-set menu, and eat at, effectively, takeaway prices. This is fabulous for someone like me, because suddenly, restaurants that I might not want to risk come down into a price range where, really, one can’t go wrong. And it’s particularly fun when the cuisine is something like Indian, which I’ve always wanted to like, but have never really enjoyed, principally because I’ve only ever had the cheap takeaway variant (or things I’ve attempted to make myself – and infusing Indian flavours into things seems to be a particular skill-set, and one I have not yet learned). Scoopon has offered a few Indian restaurants recently; I chose this one because the chef is one of the few Indian female chefs in the country, and because it was a family-run restaurant – usually a positive sign, in my experience.
I’m so glad I did, because Satguru‘s turned out to be absolutely wonderful. It’s an unassuming little takeaway-looking place on a shopping strip in Balwyn North, and I must admit, I had my misgivings on the outside. But the inside was warm and cheerful and welcoming, and simultaneously busy and quiet. As someone who lives on Sydney Rd, the concept of eating out somewhere that doesn’t have ear-shatteringly loud music playing is both novel and pleasing.
The service was friendly and extremely efficient: our booking was for 8:00, and I think our entrées and drinks were on the table by ten past – by 9pm we had finished our mains and our dessert was on the table. We didn’t feel rushed in any way – in fact, we hung around chatting for about another half hour – they were just very efficient and organised, which makes sense, given that they are a café / takeaway.
We started with samosas and onion bahija, sered with a mint and yoghurt sauce and lassi to drink. I really liked the samosas, though I sort of felt that the pastry was redundant, but the bahijas were amazing – for those who don’t know, they are sort of fritters made from onions and chickpea flour and spices, and they were crispy and oniony and spicy and gorgeous. The mint sauce was fresh and tasty and complemented it well, and the lassi was fabulous – I’ve never had lassi before, since I like my yoghurt thick and Greek, but this was beautiful – tangy and cold and refreshing and just slightly sweet. An excellent start.
Our voucher then allowed each of us to choose one curry, which was served with rice and naan. We decided to pick four different curries and share them, so we had mango chicken, lamb balti, garam spicy beef and vegetarian malai kofta. Of the four, the kofta were the best – wonderful little dumplings of paneer, potato, and (allegedly) raisins (I saw no raisins, but this isn’t a complaint, because I loved the kofta regardless), in a cashew curry sauce. Very, very good. The mango chicken was fun, but probably not something I’d get again – it was sweet and mild and fruity, but I think a whole dish of it would have been too much.
The lamb balti was good – I don’t really know how to describe it, because my knowledge of Indian spices isn’t really good enough to discriminate between curry types. It did seem to me to have just the right amount of spice, and the lamb was good quality and perfectly cooked. I only nibbled at the beef, because it really was spicy, as advertised, and a bit much for me. But again, clearly well cooked, and everyone else enjoyed it very much.
It’s difficult to find much to say about rice. It was rice. It wasn’t over or under-cooked and it did the ricey job of soaking up curries. And the naan, equally, was very plain, but had a good, fluffy texture for soaking things up.
For dessert, we could choose mango or pistachio kulfi, or milk dumplings. Everyone else chose kulfi, so I felt compelled to choose milk dumplings out of sheer curiosity. In retrospect, kulfi would have been a better choice. The milk dumplings reminded me strongly of golden syrup dumplings – very sweet and syrupy and dense. This sounds like a criticism, but it isn’t – they were excellent for what they were, but what they were was not something I needed after samosas, bhajia, rice, naan, and sampling four curries.
I did taste Andrew’s mango kulfi for quality control purposes, and it was excellent – sweet and smooth and cold and deliciously mango flavoured.
Altogether, it was a fabulous meal, and we’ll definitely be going back. For me, it was really a revelation and a delight – I’ve never really liked Indian food before, and this has frustrated me, because now that my spice tolerance has improved somewhat, I’ve been able to tell that there are some really interesting flavours there that I might like if the actual quality of the cooking was better.
The quality of cooking at Satguru’s is, I think, excellent, and I like these flavours very much. We’ll definitely be going back – for one thing, Andrew is very keen to try their Indian pizzas, and as for me, I want to try more of their vegetarian curries. The other dishes were great, but those kofta were really sublime.
And speaking of vegetarian and other dietary requirements, we cunningly brought a menu home with us for further study (though we are well outside their delivery range), so I can tell you that there are lots of vegetarian options on this menu: all three starters, a daal, five curries, and three pizzas, as well as all the accompaniments and desserts, most of the stuffed breads, and the vegetable biryani. Somewhat slimmer pickings for vegans, but the daal and three of the curries look safe, and I suspect the starters may actually be vegan, too. Most of the sides and several of the stuffed breads look good, too, but you’re out of luck for dessert, which is heavily reliant on dairy products.
I did not ask about gluten-free options; clearly, their kitchen cannot be 100% gluten-free, because they have all those naan breads and pizzas, but most of the curries are served with rice, and I can’t think of any culinary reason why curry sauces made from scratch would contain gluten – cashew seems to be the thickener of choice for a lot of the sauces, and chickpea flour is much in evidence. Please, if gluten is a problem for you, don’t take my word for it and do ask, but my gut feeling is that the gluten-free pickings would be pretty good here.
As for fructose-friendly things, again, I’m not very knowledgeable about this, but the waitress did tell us, unprompted and quite specifically, that a couple of the things we ordered did not have onion in them, which I take to be a sign that they may have had dealings with this dietary requirement in the past.
All in all, a really enjoyable evening out, and it’s inspired me to get out my Indian vegetarian cookbook again, and give some more of those recipes a try.Satgurus 139 Bulleen Rd, Balwyn North
Tel: 9859 5955 Open Tuesday – Sunday, 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm
Two years ago: Recipe: Chocolate, Coconut and Raspberry Cupcakes