Thursday, September 25, 2014

Baking I Flourless Chocolate Whisky Cake with Whisky Chocolate Ganache

In an ideal world, each of us should have our own queen-sized beds. I mean that way we can sprawl all over it as if it's meant for you and only you and not have to share it.

Look, I grew up sharing my bed with my sister, so sharing isn't the problem with me. And even when I lived alone, I slept on only the edge of the bed, making plenty of room for anyone who'd want to crash at my place.

But lately, I feel this overwhelming desire to sleep diagonal across the bed. It doesn't matter what time of day or night it is, I find myself sprawled diagonally across. Obviously this is a bit of an issue with the husband since he's never sure which side to sleep on, because he's never sure which side I'd wake up on. So every night I get a sounding off, that ends with "we're sharing".

I think the the "we're sharing" started getting bit too much for me because the next time I baked a cake I ensured I made individual portions. No sharing here!

This is a delicious gluten-free cake, that takes a bit of effort, only because you have to separate the eggs and fold in the whites. Ofcourse the whisky gives is a nice boozy effect but feel free to omit it from both the cake and the ganache. I, for one, will recommend to go the boozy way, it really adds a yummy edge to the cake.

This is a very moist cake and keeps well refrigerated. In fact I'd say it tastes best cold. I also suggest you make a boatloads of the whisky chocolate ganache so you can plunge in a spoon when no one is looking. Better still, don't share.

Flourless Chocolate Whisky Cake
Makes four small cakes or an 8-inch cake


For the cake
100 grams good quality dark chocolate
50 grams butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tblsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tblsp good quality whisky
50 grams almond meal

For the Ganache
100 grams dark chocolate
100 grams fresh cream
1/4 cup whisky
A pinch of salt


1. Separate the eggs. To the yolk add the sugar and start whisking till the yolks turn pale and creamy. Add vanilla and whisky to it and continuing whisking for one minute.
2. Melt the chocolate and the butter together. Keep aside. To the egg yolks add the almond meal and cocoa powder and stir until just mixed. Add the melted chocolate mix, stir well.
3. Beat the egg whites till firm and fold into the egg yolk chocolate mix. Stir until just combined.
4. Pour into a greased tin that has been lined with butter paper. Bake at 190 degree centigrade for 30 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean.
Note: The cake will not rise much so you can fill the tin to quite a level.
5. To make the ganache, break the chocolate into small pieces and boil the cream. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add the whisky to it and the salt. Pour into a jar and keep aside until you're ready to assemble.
6. Let the cake and the ganache cool completely before you slather on the delicious goodness. Eat.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review I Biggie at the Beer Cafe, Connaught Place

I'd been reading so much about this new menu that had been curated by Chef Saby that I couldn't wait to visit Biggie at The Beer Cafe. So much so, that even torrential rain didn't deter me from making it across town. And in that excitement, ofcourse I ended up at the wrong Beer Cafe. 
So by the time I reached the real place, I was pretty much drenched and just wanted to sit in a cool dry place. I shouldn't have worried about that, because Biggie was all that and more. 

We chose to sit next to a large window that gave us the view of the Central Park and CP and set out ordering. How about a beer? We were asked. Unfortunately neither of us felt like one, but since we were at the Beer Cafe, beer shots were really the thing to do.

The menu at The Biggie is pretty much pub grub but not quite the run-of-the-mill stuff. There's a bit of south Indian fare in the mix, some Mexican and some fusion. Plus there's an excellent food to beer pairing which is very fun to do.

The Deconstructed Peanut Chaat caught our eye straight out. Served with tamarind mayo on store bought nachos this was a very interesting way to start the meal. I do wish that the peanuts were slightly more toasted than boiled because a bit more of the crunch would have worked well.

Next up, The Green Inferno - stuffed chillies with mozzarella and corn kernels - but when it came we got paneer with cheese sauce and no hint of mozzarella. Yes, the stuffed chillie was delicious but the rest of the dish was very passable.

We chose the El Pollo Luco from the taco section, and while the filling was great, the taco in itself tasted like cardboard, it tasted old and extremely stale. 

After that, our pizza trudged along - The Good, Bad and the Ugly - a spinach, walnut and feta. The pizza was quite good. The sauce worked well with the feta and the walnuts added a great crunch to the pie. A regular sized pizza is great for two to three people. 

Up next was the Beer-battered fish, which was really the most amazing part of the meal, The batter was so light and the fish so fresh, that I couldn't stop eating it. The fries that came with it were sprinkled a spice mix that made them so fabulous. Served with a wasabi mayo those double-fried fries were really special. 

Finally it was time for dessert, and we really went the whole hog. We ordered the tiramisu or the beeramisu, coffee and beer made decoction so heady that you could taste the barley as you plodded on through the dessert. The steamed beer date pudding was up next. The citrusy ness of the beer shone through but the toffee sauce really brought the dessert together. 

But the piece de resistance was the 5-star whiskey chocolate mousse. A dessert so sublime that you couldn't stop licking the spoon. If I ever have to pair anything with a beer it's this. The whiskey hit, the bits of candy and the intensity of the chocolate only match up to one thing - the cleansing taste of beer. Plus the bruleed marshmallow just added an oomph to it all. 

Biggie has got a few things right which is a good thing, and it's going in the right direction, which is great for any place that's focus so far has only been the beverages. 

Event I South African Wine Tasting. Plus meeting Nelson Mandela's Chef

Sometimes, you think you're going to do one thing, but instead end up with two things in your pocket. That's what happened with me. I thought I was going for a spot of wine tasting, but instead ended up meeting Xoliswa Ndoyiya, the resident chef of the late Nelson Mandela.

Xoliswa Ndoyiya, Nelson Mandela's chef for the last 22 years

As we all sat around at The Wine Company waiting to taste the South African wines that had been picked out for the tasting, the conversation obviously steered towards how and what Mr Mandela was like. Xoliswa, who had worked with him for over 22 years, had quite a few things to say about him - that he welcomed people with open arms so there were atleast a 100 people at any given meal at the Mandela household. That he liked simple food and what he'd crave for at the end of the day was a bowl of rice and beans. And that he was, perhaps, one of the world's most large-hearted persons.

Alan Nelson with Xoliswa
We sat around listening to her, as the wines began flowing. The tasting began with a Sauvignon Blanc, which was light and refreshing and crisp. Fortunately for us, we didn't have to use our heads to decode the wines as we had Alan Nelson, owner of the Nelson Wine Estates, to guide us through what we were drinking. 

The Rose followed which went perfectly with the cheese board that the good people of The Wine Company had put out for us. Which was then followed by the Pinotage, made by a South African native red grape which is a cross between the Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. The beautiful earthy flavours of the wine clearly made it one of my favourites for the evening.

More hors d'oeuvres - rice crackers with whipped feta and pizzas with lamb and spinach made their way to our table and the next wine  - the Cape Blend - was poured out next. This is a relatively new variety of wine that South Africa has just started producing. Nobody really knows what really goes into it, but I can say this safely - I'm not going to be trying to again - since it was a bit too dry for me. 

Mushroom risotto as my main, and the wine poured next was the Merlot. Which was really quite fabulous and worked well with my risotto. But it was the last and the final wine for the evening which was really fantastic

Nelson estate's Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot was beautifully intense yet so smooth that you couldn't help but ask for another glass. The spiciness from the Cabernet grapes was quite apparent but it was the balance in the acidity which made this the wine to drink. 

Which is why the second glass of this fab wine, went perfectly with the delicious Tiramisu that brought the evening to an end.

Needless to say, this was a Friday evening well spent. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dessert I Balsamic Yogurt Cheesecake with Whiskey Roasted Cherries

I have the nicest friends. No really, I do. Some inspire me, some motivate me and some are just there for me no matter what. Scratch that. They are all there for me no matter what.

But I think I don’t thank them enough. I don’t think I tell them that often what they mean to me or that I love them. It’s not because I don’t want to, it’s that I’m naturally wired in holding back my emotions, especially the positive kind.

It’s taken me a while to overcome this kind of withholding. Perhaps it’s age, perhaps it’s personal growth. Whatever it is, I can see myself evolving. And that’s a good thing right?

So this post is for all my friends – every single one who has made a difference in my life (and you know who you are) – that I love you and I can’t thank God enough for y’all.

Which is why even this recipe today is inspired from my friend Deeba’s two-ingredient cheesecake. I was fortunate enough to receive my own portion of this delicious cheesecake when it was made and it’s stayed with me ever since.

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While the filling takes barely 10 minutes to bake, I found that it’s the topping that needs some thought put in. This cheesecake is a cross between my super favourite baked yogurt and a luscious New York-style cheesecake.

Ofcourse Deeba’s used only two ingredients – hung yogurt and condensed milk – I went a step further by adding a huge glug of good quality balsamic vinegar to add a depth to it and cut the sweetness to an extent. The balsamic also bound the two ingredients very beautifully by giving it a freshness that you don’t really expect in anything but a citrus cheesecake.

I used cherries in my topping only because I had them in my pantry, but feel free to pick out any fruit of your choice – mangoes, sapotas, strawberries, oranges, litchis – I mean just about anything.  I roasted the cherries with a good splosh of whiskey (which can be omitted very easily) and some balsamic vinegar and honey. The result was a sticky fruit that tasted of the mountains.

I made three small tart-like cheesecake, but if you double the recipe you’ll easily get a nice 8 –inch cheesecake

Balsamic Yogurt Cheesecake 
with Whiskey roasted Cherries
Adapted from here

100 grams digestive biscuits
2 tblsp melted butter
400 grams yogurt that needs to be hung
200 grams condensed milk
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract 

For the topping
300 grams cherries – stemmed and pitted
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
2 tblsp honey
4 tbslp good quality whiskey

1.      Hang the yogurt in a cheesecloth for atleast four hours if overnight
2.      Meanwhile mix all the ingredients for the topping together and roast them in the oven for 40-50 minutes at 200 degree centigrade
3.      Crush the digestive biscuits and add the melted butter to it.
4.      Press down this mixture into your tin or tins. Chill for atleast 15 minutes
5.      Once the yogurt is drained, mix in the condensed milk and the balsamic vinegar. Whisk together gently making sure there are no air bubbles.
6.       Pour this into prepared tins
7.      Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 180 degrees. DO NOT OVERBAKE
8.      Remove let it cool and then bung into the refrigerator to cool completely for two to four hours.

9.      Once chilled, spoon the topping over and serve immediately.