Friday, January 30, 2015

Baking I Chocolate Chilli Cinnamon Chip Cookies



My friends spoil me. Yes they do. Because they know how much I love food which translates to new ingredients and anything that I haven't tried before.

So from their travels I might get a bottle of fabulous fig mustard, or a jar of truffles or a tube of wasabi. From others I might get 10 boxes of fabulous cocoa because they are moving cities or then there are those who know that the best gift given to me ever, will be edible.

Like my husband for example - this birthday I got fabulous macarons from Paris and the most delicious selection of cheese. That's how I brought in my birthday - with so much cheese.

So when Deeba gave me a packet of cinnamon chips, that I had only casually mentioned to her (something that her husband could bring on his travels to the US), I was ecstatic. These little nuggets of goodness are unfortunately only available in the States and are one of the best things that have happened to mankind.


I couldn't wait to try my hands at baking with them, that is, if I could stop popping them into my mouth like happy pills.

I wanted to make something simple and easy. And that I would have enough chips leftover to make something else as well. (I am greedy that way you know)

I had everything to make a bunch of cookies. I decided I wanted dunkable cookies - something that could be dipped into a nice cold glass of milk. I figured that thicker cookies would keep it sturdier for a longer time, and so that's what I did.



I added a bit of cayenne pepper into the cookies so that they offset the spiciness from the cinnamon and I cannot tell you how delicious these cookies tasted with this little twist. Spicy sweet with a hint of saltiness and yes chocolate!

I suggest you bake these for barely 12 minutes, because then you get a cookie that is chewy on the inside and has loads of texture.

And if you don't have cinnamon chips - just double the chocolate chips and make yourself a divine chocolate chilli cookie!




Chocolate Chilli Cinnamon Chip Cookies
Makes 16

Ingredients
100 grams butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper/ (if you are using chilli powder use 1/2 tsp only)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup cinnamon chips


Method

1. Soften your butter and in a bowl whisk in all the sugar.
2. Add the egg and vanilla extract to it and whisk well.
2. Meanwhile sift your whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder, cayenne pepper and salt together. Keep aside
3. Add all the dry ingredients into the butter mix and mix well. Tip in all the chips and give it a good rest. Let this dough rest for 10 minutes before you proceed to the next step.
4. Use your hands to make even balls with the cookie dough. Arrange them into your cookie sheet. Using a fork, flatten your cookies as much as you'd like.
5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 180 degree centigrade.
6. Cool completely before eating.



Food Festival I Rivaayat: Traditional flavours of Awadh, Hyderabad, Amritsar and Delhi. At The Oberoi, New Delhi




A food festival curated well is a thing of beauty. Atleast, I believe that strongly.

A good chef. A well thought-out menu. And a meal that is unforgettable - that for me is a good food festival.

Which is why Rivaayat at the Oberoi checked all the boxes for me. The group, as a whole, is going back to the roots and bringing back traditional cooking.Curating a series of festivals under the umbrella of Rivaayat has allowed them to explore cuisines from various parts of India - awadh, hyderabad, old Delhi. This then will be carried forward to all the Oberoi brands where people can sample some of the fabulous things that they have tried to revive.

On the night that Himanshu, Sangeeta and I were invited, we got to sample food from Old Delhi and Amritsar. The smiliest chef ever- Chef Arun Mathur had carefully picked out our meal.

As we sat down for dinner, beautiful bread baskets were placed in front of us. One of the things in the bread basket was this hard roll which was just so fantastic. It had a beautiful crust on top and was airy and light inside. I couldn't stop eating it. It was just that good.

And ofcourse it had to come from the Patisserie. The Oberoi Patisserie is a legend and for good reason. Almost anything that comes out from that bakery of theirs is just scrumptious.



Back to Rivaayat - our meal started with a selection appetisers from the exclusive menu - Amrtisari Machchi and Talli Murgh followed by Chonk ki Tikki.

While all three were fantastic, the clear favourite was the Amritsari Machchi. The fish had been deep fried in a light batter and was moist while bursting with flavours. You could feel that hint of carom seeds and the tang at the back which just made it so special.



The Talli Murgh was a splendid version of fried chicken. Chef Arun also gave us the story as to how they went into the bylanes of Old Delhi and understood the traditional marination and how they cook the chicken. I had really enjoyed this too.

The Chonk ki Tikki had beautiful fresh peas and ginger in them. I love my peas and potatoes so this was a win-win for me.

For the mains we were served Nihari Gosht, Rahra meat and Dahi-wala chicken. I loved the Nihari. It was so delicately spiced. The shorba that came with it was so flavourful that I couldn't stop licking the plate. And the best part, it was surprisingly light and oil-free.



The Rahra meat came a close second. The meat was so tender, the spice rub so heavenly that I wish I could have taken some home for later. The Chef told us that real reason it was called Rahra was because "usko itna ragadna hota tha ki woh mulayam ho jaye," that you pulled the meat so much that it became completely tender.

The Dahi-wala chicken reminded me of something my father used to make all the time, Which was lovely. But given a choice between mutton and chicken, I'll always opt for the former.

Next up  we ate Saag Kofta and Maa Chole Ki Daal.  Himanshu looooved the daal, it reminded him of home, and I think for the rest of the meal he was supremely nostalgic. Served with an assortment of bread - Khameeri and sheermal - which were both fantastic,

Now, here's the thing, I'm neither a kofta fan nor a daal fan. But both the dishes were delicious. The saag kofta was made with minced chicken and delicately spiced, the saag which was a mix of mustard and spinach was just the best. That I could have eaten plain for sure. While the daal was so wholesome that you could taste the ghee in it. Totally divine.




We ended the meal with two desserts - Guletthi - a cross between rabri and phirni and Carrot Halwa. I preffered the Guletthi, although, might I add, that even though I have a terrible sweet tooth, it was really too sweet for me too. But I loved the undertones of rose and beautiful flavours pistachio that came through,

And then some mint tea was brought out. It was the perfect finish to a great meal. A meal that I wish I could eat this week too



Monday, January 26, 2015

Review I The Pop Up



This is going to be a super short review only because I didn't spend as much time as I'd have liked to in a new restaurant and was in and out in about an hour.

Also it was an extremely depressing day - cold, grey and raining, and the dimly-lit interiors only depressed me further.

Let's start with what I liked about The Pop Up. The concept is such fun. A restaurant pops up in the middle of the city for 90 days and then either appears at another location. (Apparently it's going to Goa next). Which is why the minimalistic decor with strings and odds and end and old furniture only adds to the charm. I loved the chalkboards all over the restaurant and the brown paper mats. The menu is easy and quick - lots of grills, lots of veggies.

Here's what I didn't like about the place - the service. Pretty sad. I am normally not one to diss the service staff, but it was rather disappointing. I don't know how they managed this but they were inattentive and intrusive at the same, quite strange no? Oh and the dim lights at 12 noon. I mean,come on - either let the sun stream in or turn up the lights - otherwise it retains that sleazy Tonic (the bar that it replaced) feel.

The menu sounded so promising. But the food had its hits and misses.

As soon as you sat down a freshly baked bread and some tomato jam and chilli oil made its way to the table. So fab, I loved both the bread and the jam. And we went on to the meal almost immediately.



I loved the baked brie that arrived at my table first. It was delicious and gooey. Served with a portion of a greens on the side and some fig jam and some toasties, only thing missing was a nice drizzle of balsamic reduction. Otherwise it was just perfect.

Next up was the Chilli Chicken strip dusted with rice flour and served with a side of vegetables such as green bell peppers and spring onion. Highly highly missable. Yes, they were trying something different but the result was an extremely oily and overpoweringly spicy dish. The chicken strips were not crispy and with each bite you felt you were swallowing a teaspoon of oil.

We'd ordered a warm winter vegetable salad with Kalari Cheese (a ripened Kashmiri cheese). This was really quite delicious - caramelised carrots and sweet potatoes and even some yam. So yum! And it was warm, quite the thing to hit the spot.

For our mains we ordered the garlic risotto and the bacon and cheese doh'nut burger. We loved them both! The risotto was light and easy on the palatte and flavours of roasted garlic shone through beautifully.



But the star of the afternoon was definitely the burger - a savoury doughnut stuffed with creamy chicken and dusted with bacon bits and parmesan. Honestly to-die-for. The doughnut in itself soft and chewy and had a hint of sweetness which made it quite delicious. Oh and the thick cut fries. Just perfect.



It was so good, that we ended up ordering the vegetarian version of the same  - with mushrooms and that did not let us down at all.

Finally, dessert time - we ordered the carrot cake and the berry crumble with ice cream. A word of advice for those who love carrot cake - DO NOT ORDER HERE, It was perhaps the worst possible cake I've ever eaten. It was burnt, fallen and eggy - and I have no idea why in the world the chef would send something like this out.




The berry crumble was soooo much better. It had lovely tart berries masked in a crisp of the crumble and served with Vanilla ice cream it was so delicious.

Here's what I have to say to the peeps at The Pop Up. I know you're here for a short while, but please please pay attention to the basics. The goodwill will go a long way.

For others, go to The Pop Up for a fancy sounding menu and SOME good food. Otherwise catch it in Goa, where I think it'll be sunnier and so much nicer.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Baking I One Pot Chocolate Buttermilk Cake



Have you ever felt this overwhelming need to bake? Or just create something that gives you instant gratification?

I have. And very often because I'm running super short on time, I just want to bung everything into a bowl and just get it all done and over with from start to finish in under ten minutes.

The thing is, somedays I crave a good old fashioned cake so bad, that I have to do with watching an old Nigella Lawson episode or find one with Heston Blumenthal. Other days, I am content just stirring the pot and making something yummy to eat on the stove.

But there are some days where I just have to get something into that oven. With barely anytime to spare I am looking at doing something quickly. Super quickly.




This cake is something like that. It all starts with some buttermilk. And if you don't have buttermilk handy in the house, with some milk and vinegar. All you have to do is stir in all the liquids together and top with all the dry ingredients and give it a quick whisk. Pour into a tin, bake while you watch a rerun of a soap and by the time you know it, the cake will be done.

There's only one piece of advice that I will give about this cake. Use good quality oil. If possible use Olive Oil versus any other kind, but regular cooking oil will also work.

Oh and don't over mix - otherwise you'll end up with a very dense cake - just some light mixing will do. And then a bit of love to make it an amazingly moist easy to eat yet decadent cake.



One Pot Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
Serves 8

Ingredients

1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup hot water
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Method

1. Take a large bowl and add the milk and vinegar in it. Let it stand for five minutes while you collect the rest of the ingredients.
2. Add the egg into it along with the vanilla and oil.
3. Add hot water.
4. Throw in all the dry ingredients and whisk well once.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Pour into a prepared pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake at 180 degree in a pre-heated oven for 40 to 45 minutes,
7. Cool and frost as per your hearts desire



Review I The Winter Menu @ Le Bistro du Parc



Every once in a while you get to eat a meal that you cannot stop talking about. And every once in a while you have the option to eat a meal with someone who loves food as much as you do.

Which is why the meal at Le Bistro du Parc this time round was special. One, the weather was spectacularly dreary and two, we hadn't caught up in a year.

So can just imagine the gastronomical delight that we were both in for. As she took in her surroundings, the quaint restaurant's menu which was written on a blackboard was propped up for us to read.


We chose somethings that we couldn't wait to try - the Mushroom and leek veloute with goat cheese and the carrot sponge with vegetable maki also with goat cheese - not that we meant to be vegetarian but just chose to eat more veggies before we decide on our entrees.

Beautifully presented, we got a plate of the house special - the chicken liver pate with pear coulis first. As delicious as it was, we knew that if ate this one big started we'd end up eating nothing at all. So we nibbled on the pickled cucumbers and ate the coulis instead of smothering it over a piece of toastie.



The Mushroom and Leek Veloute was like drinking silk. So velvety and so smooth this was a brilliant appetizer option to opt for.  The Carrot Sponge in the meanwhile was strangely very light and the foamy goat cheese was an excellent topping. The savouriness of both the ingredients made it quite spectacular because the carrots also brought in a hint sweetness with it.



Next up was the pan fried calamari. Which was by far our most favourite dish that day. Almost made in the style of a dry-tossed pasta, it was chock-ful of olives and tomatoes and beautiful garlic. It tasted light and heavenly and was so easy on the tongue.

Our mains included the tomato and mozzarella tart with caramelised onion with sauteed spinach, a fillet steak with beetroot medley and sweet potato cigar and the steamed black pomfret with mustard greens.



My favourite was the tomato tart. I love love love caramelised onion so this was a winner from the word go. The tomato too had been beautifully roasted and imparted a sweetness to the mozzarella and I just couldn't stop eating it.



The fillet steak was also excellent. Done to medium, it was beautifully succulent and almost melted-in-the-mouth. I loved the beets that came with it and wished they were slightly more so I got them in each bite.

The pomfret was the least favourite of my mains. I found the flavours extremely overpowering, somehow the mustard greens did not work for me at all.



We were already stuffed to the gills when we went ahead and ordered dessert -Valrohna Chocolat Rocher, Poached pear with vanilla cream and caramel sauce and Banana Pistachio Dacquoise with home made marshmallow.

Of course the chocolate was stellar. You cannot have a bad dessert if you're using Valrohna but what blew me away was the Banana Pistachio dacquoise. It was like eating a banana split without all the ice cream hassle. And the marshmallows, oh the marshmallows - bruleed and delicious with a tang from lemon.



All in all, this was an extremely memorable meal. We talked 19 to a dozen and ate till we were ready to burst, In the end, it was all about good food and great company.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dessert I Roasted Cocoa and Chia Seed Pudding



I know what you're going to ask me: what in the world is roasted cocoa? It's exactly what you think - slow roasting cocoa powder in the oven, so that its flavours deepen and the result is a beautifully deep dark powder.

I've obsessed with roasted cocoa ever since I read this Dan Lepard piece in The Guardian  where he explains all that happens to the cocoa powder when it's roasting. 

The trick to roast cocoa, is not to be afraid. It's like making caramel, so there's a fine line between things getting burnt and the powder getting roasted. But don't worry, trust your instinct. You'll know where to stop. 



Now that I've been roasting cocoa for over a year, I've made roasted cocoa cakes and cookies, all of which just turn out so deep and moreish that I can't help but making it over and over. This time after roasting a batch for some cake, I had some leftover which I decided to make into a low fat low calorie pudding. 

And it worked. This pudding is so easy to make and can totally be kept in the refrigerator for a few days. It works as well with Stevia or Splenda as it does with sugar, so really you can pick.  And it's eggless! 

I added some Chia seeds to it because they were in my line of sight. I think  mashing a banana into it would make it even better or some caramelised walnuts. What ever you do, do top it with some low fat cream for a dessert so decadent and delicious, you'll thank me later.




Roasted Cocoa and Chia Seed Pudding
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 1/2 plus 1/2 cup low fat milk
1/3 cup roasted cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
2 tblsp corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp chia seeds
1/2 cup water
Sweetened whipped cream
extra Chia seeds for serving

Method

1. In a small bowl mix the Chia seeds and water and keep aside.
2. In a large saucepan add 1 1/2 cups of milk, sugar and roasted cocoa and mix well. Bring to a boil. Let it simmer. 
3. Meanwhile mix the cornstarch with the remaining milk and make a thick paste. Add this gently to the cocoa milk mix.
4. Let the cocoa mix thicken, add the vanilla extract to it. Turn off the heat and add chia seeds into this mix. 
5. Pour into individual serving bowls/glasses and set aside to cool for three to four hours.
6. When you're ready to serve top with whipped cream and sprinkle chia seeds over it. 




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dessert I Buttermilk Lemon Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries




Happy New Year Peeps! Here's to making this year count and making a difference! I wish we had something we could clink. Oh wait, we do!

I had to start this year with a dessert in a glass only because we need to clink something. It has to be festive enough. Something pretty enough. And therefore I present a really simple, and really pretty dessert - the panna cotta.

My first panna cotta was in a restaurant in Pondicherry. So tiny and rustic, I'm fairly sure it doesn't exist anymore because for the life of me, I cannot remember its name. That said, what I do remember was the eggplant parmigiana and the Cocoa panna cotta. Velvety smooth, so creamy on the palate, I remember the panna cotta as a mousse-like jelly. Okay, okay, that just sounds wrong. What I mean it was just such a different texture that I was hooked.



When I asked the lady who owned the restaurant how its made, she said oh just four things - cocoa, cream, sugar and gelatin. How cool is that, I thought to myself. And then I had to make it myself

Making a panna cotta is really no rocket science. Just a bit of sugar, cream, whatever flavours you want and gelatin or agar agar. I've realised that if you're making a non-chocolate or coffee pannacotta, substituting half the cream with yogurt or buttermilk always makes a big difference.

For this pannacotta too, I used half buttermilk and half cream to make a lighter and truly delectable dessert. I used a bit of dark chocolate balsamic in mine and infused the cream with lemon peels, so that the oils from the lemon would realise it flavour it well.

This is a great recipe to make ahead. It sits well for three days as long as you haven't topped it with anything.




Buttermilk Lemon Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup low fat cream
1 cup milk
2 tblsp vinegar/lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract / balsamic vinegar
11/2 tsp gelatin
2 tblsp cold water


For the strawberries

200 grams strawberries hulled
2 tblsp sugar
2 tsp chocolate balsmic vinegar


Method

1. In a bowl mix together the milk and vinegar or lemon juice and keep aside to slightly curdle.
2. In a small saucepan add the cream, lemon zest, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil. Keep aside to infuse.
3. In a small bowl measure out the gelatin and top with the cold water. Set aside to bloom
4. After half an hour, mix together the curdled milk/ buttermilk mxiture with the cream mix.
5. Meanwhile heat the gelatin gently and add to the cream mix. Stir well.
6. Strain and pour into individual bowls.
7. Let it set for 3 to 4 hours.
8. For the strawberries - wash and hull the strawberries, chop into slices.
9. Add the balsamic and sugar and mix well. Let it sit for atleast half an hour,before topping the pannacotta with the berries.
10. Serve cold.


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