Friday, August 29, 2014

Baking I Coconut Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake

I don't know what it is with me and overripe bananas. I mean I get them all ready to eat with my cereal but after the first day I kind of forget about them and they just lie there in the corner of my kitchen.

Some days when my brain works fine, I manage to salvage them and peel them and bung them into the freezer for future use, other days I let them blacken completely on the outside and make banana oatmeal pancakes out of them. And other days I stick to an old favourite, banana bread.

This time though, I caught these bananas in an in-between stage, too ripe to be bunged into my cereal but not ripe enough to be made into banana bread. And while I waited for inspiration to strike, I also chanced upon a packet of Coconut flakes that my friend Sangeeta had given Deeba and me a few weeks ago.

That was it. I've always loved the banana coconut combination and couldn't think of anything better to make. I decided to keep the fat at the minimal and up the coconut ante by adding  coconut milk to the batter as well.

I'd seen a Lorraine Pascal show on TV a few months ago, and I loved how she'd made a banana upside down cake, and figured that my bananas were perfect for this experiment. The result, a cake that packed a punch of both the coconut and bananas and had a lovely bitter-sweet after-taste from the caramel.

This cake is a brilliant tea cake and doubles up as a great dessert too. I love how the bananas adorn the cake and show themselves off.

Coconut Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake
Serves 8 to 10

For the cake2 eggs2/3 cup coconut milk1/3 cup olive oil1/2 cup sugar1 tsp vanilla1 ripe bananas mashed1  cup whole wheat flour1/4 tsp salt1 tsp baking soda1/2 tsp baking powder1/3 cup coconut flakes

For the topping2 bananas Caramel sauce made with1 cup sugar1 tblsp butter3 tblsp cream 4 tblsp coconut flakes
Method1. First make the topping.  Put sugar in a saucepan and slowly melt it.  Let it smoke and turn into a rich deep golden colour.  Turn off heat and add cream and butter. Stir well until it's mixed well  2. Cut the bananas in circles.  Arrange well in the pan and top with the caramel sauce followed by the coconut flakes. 3. In a separate bowl mix all the wet ingredients including the mashed bananas. Add sugar to the mix.  Keep aside.4. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 5. Gently stir in the flour mix into the wet ingredients.  Pour over the banana caramel arrangement6. Bake for 55 mins at 180 degree centigrade.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review I Depot 29

Depot 29 equals waffle heaven.

There I said it. I've been keeping this inside me for a while and I really really needed to say that. Because these waffles are to-live-for (to-die-for is so passe, this is the right thing to say). These waffles are what you want to wake up next to each morning, these waffles are what you want to take to bed each night. Because they ARE just that good.

I don't know whether you remember this book - "What Katy Did", but there's a bit about Katy going to boarding school and the morning before they start school her cousin sits in the hotel and orders crisp waffles one after the other. Those waffles, if I recall correctly, were buttery and pillowy yet crunchy on the outside. These waffles are exactly like that.

Which is why each time I've gone to Depot 29, I've ended up ordering waffles - either savoury or sweet or both- as a part of my meal.

The first time I went to Depot 29, it was barely a few days old. So while they had a few hits, there were misses that my friend and I couldn't help but point out.

The second time however, I dropped in just for their Banana waffle with toffee sauce and it was as delicious as ever.

The third time though, we sat down for a big meal.

The meal started with the watermelon and feta salad, something I love very much, but had an unexpected twist to it with the addition of pickled ginger. The ginger brought out a lovely piquancy to the salty feta and somehow made the watermelon which seemed cured, even sweeter. A win-win for me.

Depot 29 is also building a good reputation for their tacos and quesadillas, so we tried the pulled pork taco and the shrimp and bacon taco with the mango salsa. The pulled pork taco tasted very nice, but I didn't care for the beans in it, instead I think it would done better with some picco de gallo and a dollop of sour cream instead. Also it wasn't saucy enough and the soft to taco itself was very dusty, I mean with too much flour, which really ruined the whole thing for me.

The shrimp and bacon taco, however, was a winner all the way. The shrimps were grilled perfectly and the saltiness of the bacon worked wonderfully against the fresh sweetness of the mango salsa. But for the heavy hand on the flour.

Next up was the lamb and habanero burger which came with pickled beets and onions and a side of onion rings. The lamb was cooked medium to well-done, which is perfect for the Indian palate and spiced well. What surprised you the most however was the way the habanero worked its way up for that sudden kick where you actually felt that your mouth was on fire. So fun.

I also want to mention the jackfruit burger is a-mazing. As is the vada pav.

But word of advice, don't order the onion rings. They are outright terrible. So oily, that your tongue is coated with oil instead of the crunchiness of the flour coating and so limp that you know you've seen better. The thing is I understand that onions rings are hard to get right, but if you've tried over and over, just buy the frozen kind, they'll save you all kinds of heartache.

The other dish I regret ordering was the Pumpkin souffle, which fyi, was not a souffle at all, but a kind of a roulade. I love all things pumpkin, but this was completely misleading. Instead of being light and billowy, it was dense and well, terrible. There were no flavours of pumpkin and absolutely no flavours of the cheese that should have stood out. What was the saving grace though, was the sweet potato mash, which if I have my way the next time around, I will order by the plateful and devour.

Our order of the savoury waffle was next, and we chose the bacon and eggs option. Which was terrific. I just wish there was a side of the cream cheese or a hollaindaise sauce to work in all the flavours together. We were given a chipotle sauce with it, which was nice, but not quite the thing to tie it together.

And finally, the moment we were waiting for - the sweet waffles. We did a half and half - half chocolate giundaja and half banana toffee. I've already waxed eloquent about them waffles, but I can't stop talking about them, because sometimes they come in my dreams.

I have to point out a few things that Depot 29 has got wrong. The seating is off. Two people sitting diagonally across from each other, is just wrong. A table for two cannot become a table for four. And as cute as those cutting chai glasses are for the guacamole, they are highly inconvenient to eat out of.

The last time I went, they'd just got their bar license sorted. Which means the cocktails are now pouring. But that's not why I'm going back, I'm going back for them waffles.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Baking I Multigrain multi-seed crackers

Lately, I've become obsessed with dips. I suppose staying at home is making me all nibbly. And while I've been mostly making yogurt dips, it's roasted beetroot that seems to be the flavour of the season with me.

I've been roasting beets and throwing them in salads, making my Egyptian Dip with it, and even throwing it into my morning savoury smoothie. But this post isn't about them beets, it's about these crackers.

Crackers that stay crunchy at all points. Crackers that are the perfect bed for cold dips. Crackers that can last for a long long time.

I used this recipe from my friend Sangeeta's blog as the base and tweaked the recipe as I went ahead. I wanted it to be more seedy than floury and I wanted them to hold shape even if the dips sat on them for a while. I used four different kinds of seeds - flax, watermelon, nigella and sesame and three kinds of flours - whole wheat, finger millet and oat flour. I also added a lot more olive oil to it because the first version I made of these crackers had an acrid taste and I knew adding a little more fat would fix that.

You'll see I've used flax seeds twice, this is because by coarsely grinding them the first time, the crackers got a lot of depth and by keeping some whole they became nice and crunchy.

Also, I didn't bother chilling them and instead rolled them straight on my silicon mat and then baked them straight out. Since it was important to dry the crackers, to get them to be crispier, I baked them on low heat for about 40 minutes. And they turned out perfect.

Do remember, because you want the dough to be pliable but not wet and since the finger millet drinks up a lot more water than you think, you'll really have to eyeball the amount that goes in.

Multigrain multi-seed crackers
Makes about 60 small crackers

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup finger millet / ragi flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup flax seeds - coarsely ground
1/4 cup flax seeds - whole
1/4 cup watermelon seeds
1/4 cup nigella seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Water as much as your require (I used about 1/2 a cup)

1. Toast the finger millet flour in a pan, so that the acrid taste mellows a bit. This takes about two minutes
2. Meanwhile toast all the seeds as well and keep aside.
3. In a bowl add all the flours, garlic powder, salt and all the seeds along with the olive oil. Mix well.
4. Add water slowly and knead into a pliable dough, till it all comes together well.
5. Using a heavy rolling pin, roll out the dough to as thin as you can and spread it across your baking sheet. Alternately you can roll int on your counter with some butter paper underneath which can be slided easily on to a tray.
6. Once you get the desired thickness, cut the dough into the shapes you wish.
7. Bake at 120 degree centigrade for 40 minutes. You will need to cool them completely to know how crisp they are, and if they are not, give them another 10 minutes at the same temperature.
8. Store in an air tight container and serve with assorted dips.

Review I Neung Roi at Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi

There are certain places, where you know you have to dine at least a couple of times before you can actually sit down to review it. Neung Roi, Radisson Blu's Thai restaurant is one such place.

The menu is so vast, that you need atleast a 15 minutes to go through it before you can really order what you want. Divided in four distinct regions of Thailand with each region further divided into soups, salads, appetizers, mains and dessert, there's just so much you can learn from the X-treme menu. Ofcourse the downside is that it takes forever to decide.

This is a restaurant that helps you expand your palate to the fact that there's much more to Thai food than just Red curry, green curry and Chicken Satay. This is a restaurant that tells you how to eat authentic Thai food.

Fortunately, I'd eaten there before. A few times atleast, and each time I'd ordered some of the things I'd loved from the time before and some new things to mix things up.

Which is why this Pomelo and Onion salad always makes it to my list. It's sweet, tangy with undertones of bitterness thanks to the Pomelo (which is a cousin of the grapefruit) while two kinds of onions - raw and crispy fried are used in equal quantity to amp up the flavour. Not only did we wallop the first plate, we ordered another plate, because it was just THAT good.

To mix things up, I ordered the winged bean salad on the recommendation of the friend and the Chicken salad. The latter was quite a disappointment as the flavours of the dressing hadn't seeped in and what you ultimately got in your mouth were a few herbs and boiled chicken. Not the best way to eat a salad. The former, however, was a revelation. I'd never seen or eaten a winged bean before, so this was a first for me. The beans were barely blanched which made them super crunchy and the tamarind dressing just elevated the flavours completely.

As we sat back, sipping our iced teas, our appetisers were brought out the Grilled Chicken, Fish with lemon grass and the vegetable popiah or the rice paper roll. Both the poultry and the sea-food were wonderful, with dramatic flavours of lemongrass packing a punch but the vegetarian appetiser is something I'd never order again. The wrap was too thick and the vegetables were boiled. I didn't really get the point of this dish because I know that it's the raw veggies and fresh herbs that really make the dish.

For our mains we ordered the Lamb Massaman curry, Green eggplant in five spice and Chilli fish. I loved loved loved the lamb. The broth was so flavourful, with beautiful undertones of peanut and coconut shining through and the meat was so tender that it just melted in the mouth. The Chilli fish was suprisingly not that spicy, instead had a lovely delicate flavour that complemented the rice well. The green eggplant was really not my thing, but that's only because there was a lot of star anise in it, and let me tell you, this is one spice I'm not particularly friends with.

Dessert was up next and we ordered the Tub Tim Grob - or the Waterchestnuts in coconut milk, and the sago pudding. Both were delicious but the real star of the evening was the sweetened pumpkin in coconut milk (which I couldn't photograph since I ate it up so quickly). This dessert was a first for me. The pumpkin had been steeped in a mix of palm sugar and coconut and perhaps even slow cooked in that mix, because it had taken on both these flavours. Bathed in sweetened coconut milk, this dessert just blew my mind.

Here's the thing, despite having a few misses, I have rarely ever had a bad meal at this restaurant. Because what's been good has been really really good and it stays in my head forever. I've perhaps tried only one-tenth of what they offer, and that's enough reason for me to go back again. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dessert I White Chocolate Raspberry Panna Cotta

About a decade and a half ago, when I was visiting my aunt in L.A., I made a discovery - that not all good things are made of dark chocolate. And that there's ice cream and then there's ice cream. You see, living in India meant that were only exposed to certain flavours, and even though Nirulas did some pretty good ice creams, but the US of A just knew how to elevate the (not-so) humble ice cream into something so decadent that you wouldn't ever want to look at another bowl without comparing.

As we walked down the supermarket aisles, I was always asked to pick out a tub of what I liked. At first, I'd hit Ben & Jerrys, then Haagen Daaz and finally Dreyers. I'd try the mint chocolate chip, the chocolate decadence, chunky monkey, cookie dough, butter pecan, baileys bar. I mean, you name it and I'd have plodded through the flavour. 

But that was until I saw my aunt pick out a box of the white chocolate raspberry ice cream from Godiva. White chocolate I said, isn't that a bit too sweet? So pick you own, she told me instead. I picked out the Belgian chocolate.

A movie at home and then some dinner, it was time to grab our tubs and dig in. I don't really like chocolate much, my aunt told me. I just rolled my eyes and asked her if I could have a spoonful of hers.

The white chocolate raspberry ice cream wasn't really white, the creamy texture matched the cream colour and the ripples of bright pink raspberry made it so very pretty. One mouthful and I was in heaven. The white chocolate was so buttery and so sweet while the tartness of the raspberry contrasted so beautifully that it was a party in my mouth. 

Another spoonful, she asked me. No, gimme the whole tub.

You see, that's where my love affair of all things white chocolate and raspberry began. At the Cheesecake Factory, it was the white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake that became my favourite. At Starbucks, it was this flavour of hot chocolate I wanted over and over again. I was obsessed. 

Even when I got back home, it was this flavour that haunted me. I was recreating everything adding raspberries in anything I could see. Except raspberries weren't easy to source in India, so I would constantly rely on the tinned variety. Which, as you know, isn't really the same. 

But that was then. Today, you find frozen raspberries just about anywhere. And good quality white chocolate too. 

Which is why, when we had a load of white chocolate tobelorone sitting pretty in the fridge, I decided to make the one thing that would require nearly no effort and take me back to a time, when I could eat ice cream by the bucket. 

This is a pretty standard recipe for a Panna cotta, but in case you'd like to omit the gelatin just substitute it with some agar agar. The result though, is spectacular. It's really hard to put your spoon down on. 

White Chocolate and Raspberry Pannacotta
Serves 4

400 ml cream
200 grams white chocolate
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp gelatin soaked in cold water
a pinch of salt

200 grams raspberry
1/3 cup of sugar 


1. In a saucepan place the cream, white chocolate, sugar and salt together. Bring the cream to a boil. Turn off the heat, and allow all the chocolate to melt. Add the vanilla extract and keep aside.
2. Meanwhile nuke the gelatin in the microwave for 30 seconds until it melts. Add it to the cream mix and stir well. 
3. Strain the mixture and put into individual serving bowls. 
4. Refrigerate
5. In a separate saucepan add all the raspberries and the sugar. Turn on the heat and let the raspberry and sugar boil together for five minutes. Turn off and let it cool.
6. Once the mixture is cool, blitz it in a blender. Strain the raspberry mix. 
7. Once the panna cotta has set, pour the raspberry coulis on top of it. Chill till ready to serve.

Food Festival I Dehlvi Cuisine. threesixtyone at The Oberoi Gurgaon

It's not everyday that you have a meal where every dish has a story to tell. Where each mouthful transports you back in time. Where you suddenly feel you are a part of history of the city that you live in.

Dehlvi cuisine does that to you. Because it is the cuisine of the capital. Of an era that's long forgotten. The glorious food of Delhi.

Truth is, there is no such thing as indigenous Dilli ka khana or the cuisine of Delhi, because Delhi has been made up of trans-migrants. Perhaps one of the oldest melting pots, it is where the food of the Punjabis meet that of the Kayasths to that of the Marwaris and Rajputs. It is where the Vaishyas and the Mughals left their legacy. All in a place called Dilli 6.

Celebrating the glorious food of the past, threesixtyone at The Oberoi Gurgaon has paid tribute to the era with its Dehlvi Food Festival. Under the tutelage of Chef Dirham Haque, this festival is not just a feast for the eyes, but for the senses too.

On a muggy Saturday afternoon, us bloggers sat across from the beautiful waterbody that threesixtyOne overlooks and began eating a fabulous meal curated from the menu of the food festival.

It all began with a spice trail. A range of spices including Sandalwood, Vetiver and Mica, we were given the spices to touch, feel and ask questions about. Some of the spices such as the Indian rose chestnut (a close cousin of the allspice) and the Betel roots are extremely difficult to source (mostly found with hakeems and ayurvedic houses), yet the good people at the Oberoi even gave us a goodie-bag filled with the spices (Yay!)

The meal began with the an exquisite drink called the Mufarra, a royal or shahi sherbet which is made with saffron, ittar (perfumed oils), rose petals and vetiver. And even though the drink was extremely sweet (perhaps to whet the appetite) it was the intoxicating aromas that rose from it that really made you want to keep sipping it.

Pic Courtesy: Deeba Rajpal

Dahi gujiya were the first of the many dishes brought out. A fried ball of lentil bathed in cool yogurt encased in a bits of sweet and tangy tamarind sauce. As delightful as it tasted, I had to stop after the first bite because this is one dish I truly cannot understand.

A platter of kebabs was up next. From the old favourite Gilawati Kebab to the mildly spiced Chicken Tangdi  to the Sillabatte ka Shammi and the gosht methi doka, it was a fabulous selection of meats that would have truly been enough to feed an army. The matar ka kebab or the green peas kebabs was a revelation with its bright green interior standing tall with its meaty plate-mates.

Pic Courtesy: Anamika Singh

 We were served the amuse bouche next - a Jamun or Java plum sorbet which was so creamy that it felt like silk in the mouth. The tang from the plum alongwith the roasted cumin and rock salt was extremely light and refreshing. This was to prep us for the assortment of main course that would arrive any minute.

It all started with the paneer laung latika, cottage cheese with clove flavoured curry and the bharwan tindora kheema, or minced meat stuffed in apple gourd. Both these two were extremely flavourful and easy to eat. The murgh mussalam, the chef's favourite - tender chicken in a rich nutty gravy had very definitive flavours which were all together very rich but delicious ofcourse.

Pic Courtesy: Anamika Singh

Next came two of my favourite dishes of the afternoon - the amrood ki subzi and the bharwan karela - a curry made with almost-ripe guavas and stuffed bitter gourd. Both the fruit/vegetables were a class apart. And as delicious as the meats had been so far, these two held their own fort. And all this was served with an assortment of paranthas, all inspired by the paranthe wali gali at Dariba Kalan.

The Dehlvi Nalli Nihari was up next. Served with plenty of fried onions, coriander and lemon on the side, each bite caused tiny explosions in the mouth. This was light, and the meat had flavoured the broth beautifully.

Pic Courtesy: Deeba Rajpal
And then came the desserts. (please notice the plural). These were no ordinary desserts. These were desserts with a lot of thought in them. These were desserts that recreated the past in itself. Up first - the royal fruit cup. Served at the Embassy restaurant till the late 80s, the royal fruit cup was lots of tinned fruit, a bit of cake and lots of rabdi on top. But Chef Dirham elevated this dessert. The Royal Fruit Cup at the Dehlvi food festival was a lovely novae take on it. A layer of spongy rasgulla, topped with tinned fruit and fresh fruit, and rabdi with cream that had been whipped into submission. The result? A decadent trifle-like dessert that you couldn't stop eating.

The kulfi khaas madhubala was up next. Chockful of nuts, with a splash of Rooh-Afza and bits of faluda, this was perhaps my least favourite.

As if that wasn't enough - out came the best surprise of the afternoon - dabba ice cream, alongwith all its paraphernalia. An old-fashioned ice cream maker, that needed to be hand churned so that you'd get the smoothest consistency ever was brought out to make us all gasp. And the ice cream that came out of it? Mind blowing. Perhaps the creamiest, smoothest ice cream ever that tasted like fresh mangoes.

Stuffed to the gills, with fingers still smelling of sandalwood and vetiver and armed with our own goodie-bags of spices, we called it a day. And boy, what a day it was.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Frozen I Eggless Cinnamon Ice Cream

To be honest, that really isn't the complete name of this ice cream - it's cinnamon ice cream with bits of stewed apple - but the name was so long that I just decided to short cut it.

This is a very simple ice cream, however it requires time to for the cinnamon to steep and the apple to stew before you actually churn the ice cream. And so I'd suggest that you break it down to two parts or start in the morning so that you can at least get it churning by the evening.

I've used cinnamon in three steps and if you aren't a cinnamon fan, then recipe really isn't for you. For starters, it uses whole cinnamon bark, crushed cinnamon stick and cinnamon powder, and believe you me, it packs quite a punch.

Initially I wanted to make apple swirls, but the lazy person that I am, I really couldn't wait, so I just mashed the apple with a fork, so it wasn't really pulpy enough, but it had enough texture as bits of apple. I loved it. And if you don't want any bits of apple in your ice cream, you can totally omit this step.

I also omitted the eggs this time, only because I had none at hand, so this ice cream is slightly heavier on the cream. Nonetheless, it's very good too.

Eggless Cinnamon Ice Cream
With stewed apple bits

Serves 6


500 ml heavy cream
300 ml milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 whole cinnamon barks
3 cinnamon sticks beaten down in a mortar pestle
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp corn starch/ corn flour

For the stewed apple
3 whole apples
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. In a pan, heat the cream, milk and sugar along with all the cinnamon together. Bring to a boil and turn it off.
2. Let this mixture steep for 1 hour.
3. Once the mix has steeped, put it back on the stove and add corn flour/starch according to the instructions on the back of the pack.
4. Add vanilla and salt. as well.
5. Stir well, cool till the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool.
6. Strain this mixture and put it in a box to cool completly for 4 to 6 hours.
7. Meanwhile stew the apples by peeling and dicing the apples and adding sugar and cinnamon to it and let it cook down. Once the apples change colour, make sure you keep and eye on it so that it doesn't catch at the bottom of the pan. Mash till pulpy.
8. Once the ice cream mix has cooled, churn it according to your ice cream machine's instructions while adding the stewed apple to it.

Review I Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House

As much as I love my kebabs, I find it rather difficult to just walk around the streets of Old Delhi and pop the ones that seem interesting. Sometimes I feel that the meat is suspect, or maybe it's just in my head. 
But here's the thing, when you find a place that can match both taste and quality, then you know you've hit home run. Al Karam is something like that. It's a place where the palate meets hygiene meets authenticity. It's a place that you just have to go.

I must warn you though, if you're planning on visiting their SatyaNiketan outlet, you have to pass a rather disgusting and smelly dumpster which can put a damper on your mood. But worry not, once you've made it past the garbage dump and into the tiny eatery, you're going to be just fine. 

The balmy Monday night that we visited, we'd expected the place to be nearly empty. How wrong could we be though! For the hour we spent there, we'd seen the restaurant fill up three times over, which was quite fantastic. 

The awesome thing about Al-Karam is that it allows you to order half and even quarter plates. Which means you can actually try a whole lot of food in a matter of a few hours.  

We started our meal with the Roasted chicken, which is an Al-Karam speciality. Drenched in butter, the chicken was absolutely melt in the mouth. It had a beautifully well-rounded mouth-feel which the cardamom only enhanced. What a cracker of a start!

The Gilafi Kebab was up next. Not my favourite since I actually really love the Seekh and Kakori, and this was neither. The meat was a lot more coarse and the flavours slightly lost in the yogurt sauce that been poured atop. This was followed by the Chicken Methi Tikka, a chicken tikka that was encompassed with yogurt and dried Kasoori methi. I found this very interesting, since it had a very unique aftertaste, almost bitter-sweet.

As the Roast Quail made it's way to our table, all we could do was marvel at its plumpness. For a game bird that's hardly got any meat on it, the quail here was robust and juicy and bursting with flavours. I loved the undertones of the cumin that made it taste so much more earthy. 

But the piece de resistance was yet to come. Since I wasn't such a big fan of the duck, I was rather skeptical about it being a part of my meal. I really shouldn't have been. The Roasted Duck was just spectacular. Marinated in orange juice and Indian spices, the duck was so flavourful that you couldn't stop at just one bite. The jus that it ran made for a very tasty dip. And unlike Indian-style ducks that can get rather chewy this was so succulent. My only complaint would be that I wish it was served in all its glory, but I get it, maybe us Indians are just too lazy to carve. 

Ofcourse, several might argue what a duck is doing on the menu of a restaurant that is trying to keep traditions alive, my argument is thus - game meats were very popular in the Mughal period while the British Raj ensured that shooting ducks became a past time - then why should duck not be a part of something that's calle Purani Dilli? 

As we moved to our main course, we opted to eat the Haleem and the Nihari. This is not your average Hyderabadi Haleem, this is more of a Khichada, and as rich as it may be, I thought the accompaniments were a bit skimped on. I mean, who doesn't want an extra side of fried onions with their Haleem. Favour-wise, I felt that it could been a lot more in terms of the spices (not heat).

Nihari though was very nice. Contrary to popular belief Al-Karam's Nihari was a lot lighter and wasn't greasy on the palate, a win for them. And it paired beautifully with the Khameeri Roti.
The Chicken Stew was the last of our mains. And sadly the most missable of the lot too. It lacked that sweetness from the onions and was more on the sour side. Considering this is one of our all-time favourites, this was certainly did not make the mark.

Stuffed to the gills, we made our way to the dessert - Shahi Tukra and Karachi Halwa. The Shahi Tukra missed the bus completely. It was a soggy mess that, frankly, should not have been served at all. And while the restaurant says that this dessert will get better by the winter, as they will be able to get a halwai to make this sweet live for them, a reprise will then have to be made.

The Karachi Halwa which is one of my favourite and (perhaps one of two Indian sweets that I like) was lovely. Chockful of nuts, the chewy jelly-like texture seemed to be having a party in my mouth.

All in all, even though the food is rich at Al-Karam, it's a place that deserves the accolades its been getting. I'm going to go back, but only in the winter. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Baking I Sprite and Apple Cinnamon Cake

Before you all go whoa, what you mean by Sprite, let me at the onset tell you that there's really not that much Sprite, only a half a cup. But what that bit of soda pop does to the cake is elevate it completely. It boosts the flavours, makes this cake incredibly moist and is perhaps one of the nicest apple cake you'd have ever have eaten. Ofcourse you can make this with 7-up or Mountain Dew too, but this is what I had in hand

The fact that it is super chockful of apples, also helps. And the fact that it's made with Olive oil is definitely a plus. Because this cake isn't incredibly sweet, it's just a super light on the tongue, it's a cake that's as great for tea as it is for dessert. And even though it's really quite cinnamony, somehow between the apples and the sprite, it's mellow.

I've made this cake several times now, but the last time I made it was in Pakistan, in my aga. The difference is marked, The aga really caramelised the apples and made them slightly crunchy while the oven (with the fan) stewed the apples more than caramelising it. The end result is still fab, but it was interesting discovery for me.

Just like last month, where I had a glut of peaches, this time around, I have apples coming out of my ears. The reason? There's a fruit stall right below the husband's office and this was the pick of the season.

Whatever it is, I'm happy because these apples are perfect to bake with and put in salads. Crunchy, tart and super juicy - a fruit after my own heart.

Sprite & Apple Cinnamon Cake
Serves 8

Loosely adapted from this recipe of Smitten Kitchen


3 large tart apples/ 6 small tart apples
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp sugar

1 1/2 cup flour - (I used a mix of all purpose and whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Sprite / 7 up/ Mountain Dew
1 cup sugar

extra cinnamon to dust


1. Peel and dice the apples. Mix with the cinnamon and sugar and keep aside
2. In a separate bowl measure out all the dry ingredients - flours, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. Keep aside
3. In a another bowl mix all the wet ingredients - eggs, olive oil, sprite and add the sugar to it. Mix well.
4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and fold until incorporated. DO NOT OVERMIX.
5. Grease a 7 inch bowl and put in all the apples at the bottom. Pour the batter gently over the mix
6. Bake at a 190 degree for  55-60 minutes, checking after 45 minutes for doneness.
7. Let it cool. Dust with cinnamon before serving.

Review I Etc. Pan Asian Dining at Ambawatta One

The first time I went to Etc, I fell in love with their iced tea. The second time, I went to Etc, it was their Vanilla ice cream made with real Vanilla beans that blew-my-mind. The third time, well... I knew exactly what to order.

Because the first two times, I'd also had my handful of misses. First things first, the starters the first time around were as if they were straight out of Golden Dragon or Taste of China (and I don't mean this in a good way) but on my second visit, they had improved by leaps and bounds.

But it's the mains that had me wanting more. Each time I tried a different main, and each time it tasted better than the last time. So this time around I ordered three to tango with.

We started our meal with the iced tea - made with absolutely fresh tea, crushed mint, freshly-squeezed lemon juice and lots of ice, this is perhaps one of the best iced teas I've had in Delhi. It had just the right amount of sweetness, the tea was perfectly brewed and it the spot despite the scorching heat.

Next up were the Water chestnut and carrot money bags, chicken springs rolls thai style and the calamari rings with the citrus mayo. My favourite from the trio were the calamari. The squids were beautifully cooked through and a squirt of lemon, posivitely elevated them. The citrus mayo just complemented the squid in so many ways that it had me thinking why I hadn't done that before.

Also I'm a sucker for spring rolls. But a word of caution, if you don't like lemongrass and coriander then this is a dish to avoid. I, on the other hand had no such problems so was very happy to devour (half) the plate.

The chicken and chinese cabbage dimsum came out next. The beautiful transluscent skin worked well with the array of sauces that were given to us.

The USP of Etc, is that their mains are served as one-pot-meals or Bowl Food as they like to call it. There's a whole range you can choose from - seafood, poultry, veggies and meat. This time around we called for the Chicken Teriyaki, Malaysian Style Lamb Korma and the Vegetable Masaman Curry.

I loved all the three. But I have to add that the Chicken Teriyaki which is served on a bed of Japanese rice has been my favourite forever. Followed closely by the Lamb Korma, which had beautiful flavours of sambal and caramelised onions.

To end our meal we opted for the gauteau chocola with caramel sauce, which was passable but the vanilla bean ice cream, which is hand-made and hand-churned and is F-A-B.

Oh they also give you the option of a Matcha Chiffon Cake, perhaps the first in the city to do so, so that 's worth a try as well.

All in all, I've really enjoyed my eating experience at Etc, and can't wait to go back for a bowl of that Teriyaki Chicken followed by the vanilla bean ice cream.