Thursday, January 31, 2013

Masala chai and white chocolate Creme Brulee. For Typhoo

Of all the desserts in the world, Creme Brulee walked into my life when I least expected it.

I was 11, having a fancy meal with my father and sister, and he'd ordered a Vanilla bean creme brulee  for dessert. At first I thought it was just like caramel custard, only upside down, but one spoonful, it was as if a memory had been made. I licked the spoon and asked if I could order my own. And when it did arrive, I wiped the bowl clean. The blow torch fascinated me and I was warned, any closer to the torch I might just blow up.

Over the years,  I've eaten a lot of different kinds of creme brulee. But that particular one, I can still taste that fabulously light custard with a hint of vanilla and that crackling of sugar. It was perhaps the single most grown up dessert I'd ever eaten. For many years now, there's nothing more I'd wanted than a blowtorch so that I could make my creme brulee at home. I've asked so many people for it, that I've now totally lost  count. But last year, when I went home to Chennai, I found it at  Passionate Baking  at Anna Nagar.

So thrilled was I, that I picked one up for my friend Amrita as well. And since have made creme brulee thrice. The first time I made some, I used Dorie Greenspan's tried and tested  Creme Brulee recipe and used up lots of vanilla bean. The second time, I used some orange zest and Cointreau.

This Creme Brulee - was inspired after a brief meeting with Chef Vicky Ratnani who was in Delhi for a tea and food pairing session by Typhoo at The Park Hotel. He talked about how he used tea to flavour different kinds of food - including making stock, using it as poaching liquid and even substituting it in the liquid for cous cous.

Typhoo gave us this brilliant box of teas - that included a fabulous orange spice tea, an amazing earl grey and super Moroccan Mint tea. I however decided to venture out of my comfort zone and decided to work with Masala tea. And Creme Brulee just made so much sense.

I used the Dorie Method, that is baking it at a very low temperature rather than bain-marieing it. And before I can change your mind, let me tell you that each time, this method makes the creamiest of creamy brulees. 

Remember to poke the air bubbles if you are unable to tap them out and to check the oven after 40 minutes, also while working with tea, it;s important to note that you cannot possibly steep the tea for more than 3 minutes otherwise it will release tannins and ruin the entire dessert. Oh and you can use any kind of sugar you'd like, I used this red just for fun.

Oh and lastly, if you don't have a blow torch, don't worry, just broil the brulee after sugaring it on very high heat and then take it out of the oven and plunge it into cold water.

Masala Chai and White Chocolate Creme Brulee
Adapted from Pham Fatale's blog

Serves 4 to 6


3/4 cup cream
3/4 cup milk
4 tblsp sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 sticks cinnamon
3 cloves
2 masala chai tea bags
1/2 cup white chocolate - melted and cooled

4 -6 tblsp sugar for the topping


1. In a saucepan boil the milk and cream along with the cinnamon and cloves. Turn off the heat and throw in the masala chai tea bags. Let it steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the tea bags
2. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla extract, till creamy. 
3. Pour some of the hot concoction into the egg yolks to temper it and then add the remaining hot milk mixture.
4. Add the white chocolate bits to it, stir well. Do not whisk. If you whisk you'll get air bubbles and that's a problem.
5. Strain into ramekins and bake in a pre-heated oven at 110 degrees for 50-60 minutes
6. Once its set yet jiggly, remove and let it cool completely before wrapping in clingfilm and letting it set for 4 to 12 hours.
7. When you're ready to eat, sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar  evenly on top of the ramekin and the blister it with the blow torch. 
8. Crack and enjoy.

Chili Festival @ Roadhouse, Doubletree by Hilton. Too hot to handle?

I tried talking myself out of it. I really did. I meant to just cheer for others and drink some orange juice on the side. But there I was sitting across the table from Sid and Charis, thinking of ways to line my stomach before we brought on the attack of the chillies. And when I say chillies I mean read hardcore chillies - Serrano, ancho, chipotle, jalapenos, habaneros and then the dynamite - ghost chili or the raja mirchi - bhut jalokia.

What's the big deal you ask? We weren't popping these chillies as a whole, we were getting regular pub grub that were all spiced up and made it super hot. Or not. Depending on the chef. 

Our meal started with glasses of plain cold milk placed on our coasters. Uh huh. The menus indicated that the the first dish was brought out was the voodoo chili chicken fingers where on a scale of 1 to 3, they were set at 2. How bad could it have gotten? Since they were dusted with ancho and had bits of raja mirchi on them, they were pretty hot. Hot enough for me to down my glass of milk.

Photo courtesy: Sid Khullar
Charis and I asked for a chocolate milkshake to brace us through the rest of the meal. The tex mex buffalo wings were out next. Nothing particular tex not mex about them. They were midly spiced but the serano salsa they came with was really awesome. Next up was the Roasted pork ribs with chipotle chili. Falling off the bone, they were rather delicious. And perfectly spiced for my taste buds.

Photo courtesy: Sid Khullar
The lamb patties braised in habanero sauce, had us going at our glasses of milk again but they tasted very good. Out came the next dish, Firecrackers or Vegetable and habanero rolls - which frankly I didn't care for at all. But they were pretty spicy.

Then came the most favourite part of the meal for me - baby aubergine with a chipotle ragout. Reminded me of a petite eggplant Parmesan and was just the best thing that had been brought out that day. Also they weren't hot but beautifully spiced.

Photo courtesy: Sid Khullar

The onion and green chili fritters - were neither spicy or particularly tasty. You can easily give that a miss. And then, it was the moment we'd  all been dreading. The piece de resistance, or the true test on the hot meter - Ghost chili fritters- fresh jalapenos (or was it a bhavnagari mirchi?) stuffed with molten cheese and large bits of the raja mirchi. OH. MY. GOD. One bite and all of us were completely done for. But I have to say despite the heat, they tasted awesome.

Photo courtesy: Sid Khullar

More milk and some fresh bread to wash it all down, we looked at each other wondering what was in store for us the next day. But hey, this is a great place to go and test your threshold. Especially since there's going to be a contest for who can eat the maximum amount of the Ghost Chili Fritters. And the prizes are to-die-for.

The Chilli Festival starts on 1st February, 2013 at The Roadhouse Bar and Grill, in DoubleTree by Hilton, Mayur Vihar. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pizza Muffins

You read that right. Pizza Muffins. What's a pizza muffin you as? It's a pizza that you can eat for breakfast. No not quite,. It's just an amazing way to start the day.

So as you know the good people at Del Monte sent me a nice basket of goodies. I made this Carrot and Apple Cake with the Evoo in it, but was really trying to work out some savoury things to make. Because the basket did have the latest pasta sauces, assorted pasta and a lovely jar of olives.

These muffins came to me quite by accident while I was filling some cupcakes the other day. The tomato basil sauce seemed perfect for filling and dipping and so I figured this could be perfect.

I've used both whole wheat and all purpose, but it can be easily be replaced by corn meal or even millet. The flavours can be intensified with more basil - maybe some fresh even - more garlic and lots and lots more cheese. The topping too can vary between salami, pepperoni and even a combination of olives. In other words, feel free to tamper, it's an extremely forgiving recipe. Serve it warm with some butter and some more of the sauce to make it sublime.

Pizza Muffins
Makes 6

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 onion chopped and sauteed
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cheese of your choice
1/4 cup Del Monte Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tblsp + 6 tsp Del Monte tomato Basil sauce
1/4 cup Del Monte Olives chopped

For the topping
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Del Monte Olives sliced


1. Chop the onion fine and saute it in a tiny bit of olive oil and keep aside
2. In a mixing bowl measure out all the dry ingredients - flours, baking powder, seasonings, salt. Keep aside.
3. In a glass break the egg, measure out the oil and milk and Del Monte Pizza sauce and mix in the cheese.
4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix quickly.
5. In a muffin lined tray, into each case drop one tablespoon of the mix, followed by a tsp of the Del monte tomato basil sauce. Drop another another tsp of the mix to seal the muffins. Top each muffin with mozzarella cheese and sliced olives.
6. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 C till a skewer comes out clean
7. Eat hot, while using the pizza sauce as a dip.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kumquat cream tart with candied peels. Or the tartiest tart you've ever tasted

Have ever eaten a Sour Punk or the sour worms you get in candy stores? No, then you have no idea what I am talking about when I say the word tang. The gummy worms are so sour that your teeth will go numb. This tart could have been that but it isn't - infact it's the tartiest tart you'd have ever tasted.

But here's what brilliant about this tart - the sweet pastry crust and the candied peels contrast so beautifully with the Kumquat cream that you're instantly transported to another place. What's a kumquat you ask? It's also known as a chinese orange and is tart as tart can be with a beautiful supple skin that just peels off and is super bitter too. I got a bagful of the good stuff the other day from Deeba who was also gave me some of her lovely Kumquat marmalade. And ever since I saw those mini oranges, I have been dying to make something.

A couple of years ago when I first got Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours, one of the first recipe's I had ever tried was of the Fresh Lemon Cream tart. I thought that the kumquats would work wonderfully in that recipe.The lemon cream has the same ingredients as a lemon curd - lemon, sugar, eggs and butter but the the way it's treated - heated and then blended like mayo with butter to make an emulsion is what makes all the difference.

Because the result is a brilliant tangy melt in the mouth cream that you just can't stop licking the whisk or the spatula or the spoon. I made minor substitutions for the kumquat and made only half the recipe. And don't worry about the candy thermometer, I didn't have one, I just relied on my instinct and it came out fine.  I also used a little bit of Deeba's marmalade in the base to make it more-orangey. And then candied some the kumquats just to add another element to it.

The candying took the least amount of time. But here's what I suggest - make the tart dough and freeze and then go about making the Kumquat cream. It'll save you time and it will be in your hands when you'd like to assemble the tart. Also I know that the recipe seems really  long, but bear with me, because it will be worth every single minute of the extra time you've spent reading it. 

This short crust pastry is my favourite and I totally totally love it. And it really doesn't shrink much, which I think is the best part. Also whether its lemon, tangerine, orange, grapefruit or kumquat, this cream is worth every bite. 

Kumquat Cream Tart with candied peels
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. Available in India, US and UK


For the kumquat cream

½  cup sugar
Finely grated zest of  2 kumquats
2 large eggs
1/3 cup freshly squeezed kumquat juice
150 grams butter


Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the kumquat juice.

2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

3.As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

4. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

5. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the frige for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made

For the sweet crust pastry

Makes enough for one 9-inch tart crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg*

1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about 2 hours before rolling.

2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

Alternately, you can press the dough in as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You want to press hard enough that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that it loses its crumbly texture.

3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

4. To fully or partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. And here is the very best part: Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.

Do ahead: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher bake it directly from the freezer, already rolled out.

For the candied peels

1 cup kumquats cut into half
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Pinch of salt


1. Remove the seeds from the kumquats and keep aside. 
2. Bring the sugar, water and salt to a rolling boil and then throw in the kumquats
3. Let it boil for 10 minutes or until the colour changes of the sugar. When that happens immediately pour strain the fruit and put it on to a butter paper.
4. Let it rest for 15 minutes and then you can store it for up to a month


1. Take the baked pie crust and apply a tsp of the Kumquat marmalade
2. Spoon in the kumquat cream
3. And finally arrange the candied kumquat on top.

Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth.


Sending this to Tea Time Treats where the theme is citrus and is being hosted by Lavender and Lovage this month and What Kate Baked

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Vietnamese bento box at Blue Ginger with the bloggers table

Round tables. How I love them. No one feels isolated, you can have multiple conversations where everyone can contributes and it  gives you a chance to peer into everybody's plates. So when the Blogger's Table met at Blue Ginger to sample the Vietnamese Bento Box you can imagine the delight on my face on I saw this round table. It meant you didn't need to talk across a long table, it meant you could feel involved.

Except there was no bento box. We were, instead, treated like kings to a 7-course Vietnamese meal that easily went on for a couple of hours. And each time a new course was brought on, you'd be like I don't think I can eat another morsel, only to realise that your stomach had made some room. But that's really the beauty of Vietnamese cuisine, light flavourful and easy on the palate, it was no surprises that we ate as we did. Truth is, Vietnamese cuisine doesn't have a lot of vegetarian options, so it was wonderful to see the chefs at the Taj were able to create such a diverse menu.

We were offered a menu to pick what we'd like in each course as the amuse bouche of a teeny curried rice cake with sriracha was brought out. It was meant to whet the appetite and it did! Deeba asked me to pick things for her as well, as both of almost always opt for the same courses. The first course arrived - fried tofu that was meant to be dipped, summer rolls- which I make a lot at home and beautiful raw mango salad that was peppered with fried onions. That was all vegetarian, so we decided to peck at Sangeeta's lamb morsels to see what the tofu counterpart was like.

The soup came next - we'd opted to drink the mushroom soup which had ceps, shitake and enoki - all three kinds of mushrooms that I love. I felt that the soup was under seasoned but with the condiment bowl right in front of me, jazzed it up to my taste.

The grills were brought out next - tofu with lemon grass, smokey chicken that just melted in your mouth, grilled zucchini and okra that were fabulous. All served on a bed of lettuce and some rice noodles. All meant to be wrapped and dipped and devoured. Truly wonderful. For me, the meal could have stopped right here. I mean, I could have had a couple more wraps and I'd be done. But obviously the good peeps of Blue Ginger had other plans.

Between the grills and main course, the palate cleanser arrived  - a tamarind sorbet that was amazingly light, fresh and provided instant gratification.

Of there mains which included stir fried lobster, lemon grass lamb shanks edamame beans and a red vegetable cari and a brilliant lotus stem in sticky tamarind sauce, I ended up moping my plate with the baguette that came with it.. Because at the end of the day, it is said that the Vietnamese do do a better baguette than the French :) And also my favourite sandwich is the bahn-mi, whoever knows me, will tell you I am obsessed with.

The desserts came out next. The chocolate bombe - with coffee mousse and amaretto chocolate sauce, the lemongrass and matcha ice cream and the the ginger coconut caramel  pudding. Of the three, I actually only enjoyed one - the Lemongrass icecream because of its extremely refreshing notes and the perfect use of flavours. And while the chocolate bombe was nice, the mousse inside was phenomenal, the chocolate itself was a little overpowering. The only damper was the caramel pudding - neither did the flavours of ginger nor coconut had come through (maybe the ginger hadn't been steeped long enough?), nor was it sweet which would have contrasted beautifully with the caramel and it was baked for a tad (Parul, I hope you're reading this) too long.

Despite that, the meal was wonderful. No scratch that, exceptional. And did I mention the service? Beautifully orchestrated, not for a minute did you have to wait between the courses.And so polite.

Don't believe me? See what everyone else has to say:

Sid @ Chef at Large
Sangeeta  @ Banaras ka Khana
Rekha @ My Tasty Curry
Himanshu @ White Ramekins
Parul @ Shirazine
Mukta @ Bake-a-mania

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pinterest Picks: Soups for January

I hate chicken soup. There I've said it. I don't like the chewy meat that's thrown into it, I don't like the smell from the bones and I especially don't like how it tastes - so chickeny- so bleah!

I also think that's really strange because I love all sorts of soup. Tomato. Pumpkin. Carrot. Onion. Sweet Potato. You name it, and you'll know we are friends. There's really nothing like a hot cup of molten broth to calm you down on a cold winters night. And trust me, we've been getting a lot of that lately. But I have a small problem, while I like thick broths, the husband is a fan of clear soups especially that with chicken.

So there's always a tussle at home and cooking for one, is, well, a bore. I'm always looking for ideas to make things that the both of us like and what better place to turn to than Pinterest. The place brimming with ideas, the place full of possibilities. So this month I've picked up ten soups that I'd really like to try at home, and will too. The recipes are linked to the titles, so do click on them. So while I stir the pot, won't you please ''follow" me on Pinterest?

I'm starting with my most favourite soup in the world:

1.  French Onion Soup


10. Vegan Mushroom Soup

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sticky Date Cake with Jack Daniel Toffee Sauce

© Cookaroo
Very often I find myself stuck with a glut of dry fruits, especially in the winter. I mean I like raisins very much and apricots too. I can pop figs whenever I want. But things likes dates and prunes, I'm a goner. I used to love this date milkshake that we'd get at the Fruit Shop on Greames Road in Chennai and each time I'd try replicating it at home, I end up with something either too sweet or just too milky. There's obviously something missing some where.

Anyhoo, I was cleaning the fridge the other day and found a pack of dates which were obviously leftover from something I was trying to make I suppose last year. It took me a while to finally settle down to a recipe, because as much as I love sticky date pudding, my attempts to replicate it at home, has been well awful. A date cake however sounded super doable. My friend Arjun's bakery does a nice date and walnut cake and I thought I could try a variation of the same. When I checked my freezer for walnuts, I realised I'd run out, so that meant a trip to the market.

I didn't want to go. It was just too cold. So I decided to make do with whatever I had at home. Google reminded me I had an Ina Garten book which had a Sticky toffee date cake. It sounded light and yummy, and sooo quick to make. Plus I'd got these really cute mini cake pan which I'd been dying to try. I have just halved the recipe and done nothing else

The toffee sauce doesn't really need alcohol, I just wanted to make it seem slightly more adult for myself. I'm glad I did. The whole combination works super well. The cake isn't very sweet so the toffee sauce is the perfect accompaniment.

© Cookaroo

Sticky Date Cake with  Jack Daniel Toffee Sauce

From Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Foolproof Recipes. Available in India, US and UK

For the cake: 
200 grams dates, pitted and chopped 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

100 gram butter, at room temperature 
3  tblsp granulated sugar 
1 egg, at room temperature 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/2 plus 2 tblsp cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
3/4 tablespoons baking powder 

For the sauce: 

50 grams butter
½  cuplight brown sugar, lightly packed 
¼ cup heavy cream 
¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
2 tablespoons Jack Daniels
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

1.       Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the pans

2.       Place the dates in a deep saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to boil, stirring a little to break up the dates. Allow to simmer 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the baking soda (it will bubble up!). Set aside. 

3.       Meanwhile, in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, scraping down the mixing bowl. (It may look curdled.) Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer still on low, slowly add it to the batter. With the mixer on low, add the hot date mixture in two batches to the batter, scraping down the bowl. The batter will be runny but don't worry! Stir in the baking powder, which will also bubble up. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

4.       Meanwhile, combine the butter, brown sugar, heavy cream and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the bourbon and vanilla and pour into a 2-cup heat-proof glass measuring cup. Set aside. 

5.       As soon as the cake is done, poke holes all over it with a toothpick. Pour three-quarters of the sauce evenly over the cake while still warm and allow it to soak in for 30 minutes. Turn the cake out bottom side up onto a flat serving plate and pour the remaining sauce on top. Cool completely.
6.       Serve at room temperature with sweetened whipped cream. 

Sending this to Alphabakes for things beginning with the letter D. I think Dates should make the cut :). It's hosted alternately by More than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes.

© Cookaroo

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dinner by Michelin star Chef Baptiste. By Four Seasons. ITC Maurya

Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Khanna
I know. I know. Am terribly late posting this and it's been like an albatross around my neck. I didn't really mean to let so much time lapse, but now that I'm back to blogging almost normally, I had to clear my back log before I got to this.

That said, I have to tell you that this one of the nicest dinners that I had been to all of last year and perhaps the last of the year as well. Four Seasons  and ITC Maurya had invited us for a formal dinner with French Michelin Star Chef Baptiste as the winter was just about setting in. So on a nice mildly chilly evening, the four of us  - Deeba, Rekha, Sangeeta and I arrived at the rooftop restaurant West View only to be surprised how large the event was.

As the wine -  selection of award winning wines from Bouvet-Ladubay and Four Seasons - was being circulated, a lovely nibble bar had been set out at one end of the terrace. Anti pastis of all sorts - marinated olives, six kinds of cheese (including one of the most fabulous parmesans I've eaten in India), mushroom salad, cold cuts, the tone for the evening had already been set.

We chatted away, nineteen to a dozen and totally forgot that they we should ideally be circulating and instead  caught up with the good peeps of Maurya and decided to try out own pairings and before we knew it the gong for the dinner rang. We were just about to figure out where we'd sit when Chef Baptiste walked towards us and struck up a conversation. 

He'd worked with Alain Passard and Guy Savoy, two chefs I admire so much. He chatted about them with us and then went on to explain that he got all his 'showy' skills from Alain whereas the nuances he'd picked up from Guy Savoy. I wish I was in his shoes!! At 29, he seemed seeped in experience and totally loved what he was doing. And as it turned out he'd been voted as one of the top 6 young chefs in France by the famed Gault Millau guide.

We'd just settled into conversation, when he realised he had to run back into the kitchen to give the finishing touches to his meal. And we were ushered indoors as well. In that confusions Sangeeta and I ended up sitting on one table and Deeba and Rekha led to another. Cha-os!

You had to put your preferences down, I opted for the vegetarian menu. The first course was brought on - Light Winter vegetable Carpaccio with Eggplant Caviar. This was paired with the Bouvet - Ladubay Saumur Blanc Val de Loire. Apart from the raw cauliflower in it, I quite enjoyed this course and was perhaps the first person on our table to wipe my plate clean.

The next course - Beetroot orange and crottin de chavignol - a sort of a beetroot and orange mousse was brought in tall and beautiful. I have to admit this was my favourite course of the evening. The sweetness of the beetroots worked beautifully with the creamy goat cheese and the tang of the orange. And what a spectacular display too. 

Photo courtesy: Rekha Kakkar
This gorgeous gorgeous dish was paired with a Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc that worked perfectly with it. The next was Black truffle and the artichoke risotto which was paired with the same wine. Deeba really liked this dish, I was very sceptical. I think this would have tasted fabulous with fresh artichoke, the tinned really didn't cut it for me. White bean and tomato ragout in basil pesto came up next, paired with Four Seasons Cabernet Sauvignon which was a really a lovely little dish as well. While the wait between the courses increased, Sangeeta and I decided to hop across to where D and R were sitting. And waiting for next bit. 

The wait was well worth. The piece de resistance however were the desserts. There was an either or on the menu but for some reason we ended up with both the desserts - Hazelnut and chocolate ice crunchy cappuccino and the Pineapple ravioli with passion fruit with yogurt and basil sorbet. 

Photo courtesy: Sangeeta Khanna
What a dish that was. Thin slices of pineapple caramelised and drizzled with fresh passion fruit and a quenelle of the most amazingly fresh sorbet was really the clincher for me. I mean, the French really know their desserts! And this was something I'd never eaten in my life. Paired with Bouvet Rose Excellence it was just awesome.

I have to say thank you. This was a wonderful meal. Really quite lovely. The Four Seasons guys did an awesome job, and just like the last time where we got a  take away pack of wine (which I made a Thai Eggplant Salad with ) we were handed a pack of Macarons, which was such a lovely gesture.

It's always lovely meeting talent that just needs encouragement and I was glad I was a part of that entourage. Plus what a fun evening it was!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Maple Granola cupcake

© Cookaroo
I love maple syrup. But you know that already. I try and use it everywhere - in baked goods, in ice creams, as a topping, as a drink. I mean you have to see it to believe it when I tell you I've run through nearly two litres over the last couple of months.

The thing with good maple syrup is that it shouldn't be cloyingly sweet (a phrase, apparently, my father hates). It should have that mellow woody flavour and shouldn't stick to the back of your throat. If what I am saying doesn't sound familiar then you've really not tasted good quality maple syrup. When you cook with the flavour that comes through is almost smokey, something that you can never get with other sweetners like honey or even jaggery. Maybe that's why I've make so many things with maple syrup

I began this year by making some delicious granola and so far I've given away some three jar full of it. I'll come to that later because first I really want to share a memory. Of yummy maple syrup. Although I think I used to call it just Aunt Jemima's because for some reason we'd only get that brand at home.

© Cookaroo
I remember drenching my french toast that had been patted with butter with maple syrup and when it wasn't enough I remember taking a small bowl and dunking pieces of toast into it, so that each bite would get a lovely syrupy taste.

As I grew older, i started experimenting my making a bread pudding which I'd soak in a mixture of eggs, milk and maple syrup and then bake, the result was yummy and always something that took away my carb and sweet-thing-wanting craving (you can tell why!).

But it's only been lately that I have become so much more active about using maple syrup as a secondary food form. For example I made this Spiced pear cake, said goodbye to the summer with Maple ginger gelato and drenched maple cream over my apple pie in the fall, so really I'm quite all seasons about this divine liquid. So I suppose there's really no need to be surprised when I decided to make something cosy and warm for the winter.

© Cookaroo
The idea behind these muffins came when I was going through a book I got for my birthday from Deeba. Extraordinary pictures and really yummy recipes made me want to bake as soon as I flipped through those pages. Called Cupcakes, this book was something my extensive cookbook library lacked - I had one cupcake book and nothing I ever made from it came out ok. But this book seemed like the real deal. The Rose cupcakes looked to-die-for, the lemon amazing and even the same plain jane vanillas looked fluffy and light.

But the recipe that caught my eye was of the Honey and Granola Cupcakes. Cakes that you could eat for breakfast and what's more they were marked New years. I kept looking at the recipe. I wanted to make it and eat it and I had half a jar of granola left from a week ago. The timing seemed just perfect. I made a few changes ofcourse. I didn't use honey for one, and substituted it with maple syrup instead. I also went half and half on the flour - half whole wheat and half all purpose. Other than that I stayed true to the recipe.

I got 15 cupcakes out of it. But I feel I should have reall gotten only 12. I could have filled up my cases a lot more. But whatever said, I was glad I got that many. I sent some off as a present. Gave my mom some and then kept some for the greedy person that is I.

I ate them with a pat of butter, but the book suggested I could also make some lemon cream cheese and slather on top. But I was fine, because just plain, they were divine.

© Cookaroo

Maple Granola Cupcake

Adapted from Cupcakes by Primrose bakery. Available in India, US and UK

110g  butter
120g light brown sugar
175g maple syrup
2 large eggs
100 grams whole wheat
120 grams all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
65ml semi-skimmed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
65ml low-fat yogurt
250g granola


1. Preheat oven to 180c
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and maple syrup together until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each one.
3. Combine the flours, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder  into a separate bowl. In a jug combine the milk, vanilla extract and yogurt. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter, sugar and honey mixture. 4.Then pour one-third of the milk combo in. Beat each time. Repeat until it has all been added. Now fold in the granola.
5. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. About two-thirds full. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Also sending this to Calendar Cakes which is being hosted by Laura Loves Cakes and Dolly bakes

© Cookaroo