Friday, February 28, 2014

Poulet aux 40 Gousses d'Ail

Poulet aux 40 Gousses d'Ail 

(Roast Chicken with 40 cloves of Garlic)

 One of the big challenges I face when arranging for a special meal is narrowing down the options for the menu and even if you do decide on the menu the ocean of recipes in this galaxy of the internet is sure to confuse you. So the four banditas were meeting again and I was arranging a dinner party and for me deciding on the menu within a day is quite challenging so after much thinking, clicking, typing I decided Roast Chicken it was going to be but then which one ?

Lets talk a bit about obsession. I believe that we all have certain obsessions which we happily indulge in. My first obsession is of course white crockery and white linen and the second is making everything from scratch in my kitchen (as much as possible) and trying to search for by-gone recipes of a particular region of the world. Sure many a  times you need to alter or chuck out a few ingredients due to geography , unavailability etc but the pleasure of hunting it down is something which I find extremely satisfying. With Google translator things are much more easy. A certain image of a roast chicken caught my attention and it turned out this was the roast chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. Now I love my garlic and the simplicity of the roast attracted me instantaneously. Now that is the truth about French food. Everything feels its gourmet and difficult when in reality  it is simple elegant and delicious. Originally from the Lomagne region this one is a winner in my kitchen. Of course there were plenty of recipes differing a little bit from each other and I chose one which suited the ingredients available for me.

Now when you begin do remember that no matter what you use and what you don't the ingredients must , must , must be fresh.

Serves 6

1.7 kilogram Whole chicken (with the skin on of course)
40 large unpeeled cloves of garlic
2 stalks of rosemary
1 stalk of parsley
A handful of Thyme with the stalk
Salt and pepper
60 gm to 80 gm unsalted butter
1 medium sized lemon
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock . Here is a recipe for Chicken stock

Now roasting a chicken is the easiest thing in the world but for moist crispy chicken here are a few tips which perhaps you might really find useful. Tips for roasting

So once you have cleaned , dried , seasoned and massaged  let it rest for 1 hour or 2 hours, then prick the lemon with a fork all over and place in the microwave for 40 seconds at high heat (this ensures the chicken gets the full flavour) and put it in the chicken's cavity with the rest of the herbs  tie the legs and then preheat your oven to 180C and grease your baking pan well Place the chicken on the tray and splash half the wine  and then scatter the cloves of garlic all around and pour the chicken stock roast for 1 hour 50 minutes if using the convection oven or 1 hour 30 minutes for regular ovens. Do not forget to bast (in this case you can use the wine in one of your basting) and for the rest of the basting use the liquid from the roasting pan  and cover it in the last 15 minutes. You know its well roasted when you pierce the legs and the juices run clear.

Let it rest wrapped in the kitchen towel once done for 10 minutes and in the meantime peel the garlic and make a smooth paste with a bit of liquid from the pan. This is a topping for bread. Use the liquid as a fantastic gravy. My guests kept licking their lips and fingers. When serving the chicken take out the herbs and lemon from inside the chicken.

Tips for roasting

Now for those who love their roast chicken most of us love moist soft chicken with a perfectly crisp coating and I have gathered the very simple steps you need to keep in mind when roasting and so I am sharing what I have collected from the known experts of the world and the experts who never get recognition and yet are beautifully talented :-

  1. The Chicken must be cleaned well with lukewarm water 
  2. Once cleaned the chicken must be patted dry inside out with a kitchen towel before one begins with the seasoning with salt and pepper 
  3. Take your time with massaging the Chicken inside out with a generous amount of butter or oil (the key to a crispy moist roast) 
  4. Taking out the wishbone when cleaning the chicken helps in ease of carving at the dinner table 
  5. Tie the chicken's legs before roasting and put its wings behind the bird when placing it on the roasting pan
  6. Basting is the most important factor in a moist well roasted chicken. Basting means coating the chicken in its own juices from the pan or some stalk or stalk and butter or oil mixed together from time to time. I start by basting after 20 minutes of roasting and then follow it every 15 minutes 
  7. In order to keep the oven warm do not open the door and try to bast while the chicken is inside the oven but take it out and close the door quickly bast it and put it back in. 
  8. In my experience a  brush is the most useful tool for basting 
  9. Cover the chicken with a foil in the last 15 minutes of roasting to make sure it does not burn 
  10.  Letting the chicken rest post roasting it wrapped in a kitchen towel is very important to retain its moisture making the chicken soft and tender. 
  11. Use the liquid left in the pan for the best gravy ever. If you have used vegetables, mash them and bring them to a boil with the liquid and your guests will keep licking their lips 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

French Buttercream

French Buttercream 

Its silky, creamy , smooth and one of the best frosting ever 

After refrigeration 

Before refrigeration 

Now here is the only fact that makes any sense when it comes to frosting, it is hugely subjective. So while some like it fluffy , some like it rich and so if you are the kind who loves frosting with whipped cream you might or might not like Buttercream frosting since it is rich, creamy yet fluffy and melts in the mouth but when your base is butter you cannot but have a rice silky taste to it. I for one am crazy for butter cream and after much trial and errors found my favourite Buttercream recipe. You see there are a number of ways to make buttercream, you can use the most simple format of butter and sugar alone which is way too heavy for my taste, then there is the meringue based one which is very light and airy and needs you to whip your egg whites separately but I for one am simply in love with French buttercream, silky, smooth, fluffy which vanishes in the mouth it is a pure sinful delight. Of course I am yet to try the custard based buttercream but well with the huge success of this French sensuous buttercream I for one have the highest respect for French cuisine. This is egg based, more precisely yolk based but as far as the smell is concerned with the whipping that goes in I for one have never found it smelly, besides if you have had egg based mousse you are good to go. Now living in a tropical country means it is hot and humid the entire year round and so I use a little bit of double dairy cream. Besides, since I use a non electrical hand held whisk I have found that this addition of cream results in that homogeneous silky buttercream else it is not homogeneous (all from experience)

So what you need is :-

6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4th cup water
350 gm butter
120 gm double dairy cream whipped to soft peaks

Whipped cream 

Whip your cream and keep it in the refrigerator. Now prepare your syrup before you begin work and let it cool for a few minutes while you whip your egg yolks to a stage where it is pale and fluffy and then slowly incorporate the syrup bit by bit. You have to be super fast with the whisking else the eggs will scramble  from the heat.  What you shall first have when you have whipped all that syrup with the yolks is a foamy mixture , well you do need a lot of strength (of course if you are using an electric whisk I wouldn't be able to help and it would take you less time and not require too much skill but I for one am with the French when it comes to cooking and like it hand held old fashioned )

Before the addition of syrup 

Whip this till it reaches the stage of whipped cream and then add the butter bit by bit for a homogeneous butter cream once you have incorporated all of this slowly fold in the whipped cream . If you are adding any flavours do it now.  When making caramel flavoured buttercream you have to be extra careful since caramel has a very high temperature which can inevitably result in scrambled yolks. For that make a caramel sauce and incorporate that. If making coffee flavoured butte cream simply make 6 tablespoonful of strongly brewed coffee and whip with the butte cream .                      

Emulsion of egg yolks and sugar syrup 
Let it sit in the refrigerator for 5 minutes before using since ours is a tropical country but no more than 5 else it will become stiff  whip and use . With experience I have gained a valuable tip of using frosting in a tropical weather. Apply your first layer on the let it sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before applying the second cake base and then the frosting but do not let it sit for too long else it will before stiff and you shall not be able to make the base sit properly on the previous layer of buttercream.

Sample of frosting
(caramel frosting) 
Sample of Chocolate buttercream 

Sample of frosting caramel frosting

Fish pie

Creamy buttery soft smooth and silky Fish Pie 

 Coming back to food. Well my blog is about food and with my last post about insurance I feel it is time I get back to my culinary world. So when you have 3 wonderful friends for whom you arrange a dinner party the excitement begins with the planning itself. I usually love planning my menu weeks before but this time it was a quick set up and so on Monday everybody had decided on a meet and I was throwing a dinner party on Wednesday. To be quite frank with so many delicious dishes of varied cuisines floating around I was in trouble till I finally decided on a menu and so Fish pie it was as part of the dinner party because well I knew most of them love fish and well since winter has well lets be honest and say that it has waved goodbye the weather while mildly hot is yet to feel the full wrath of the Summers and so there are very days left to enjoy a rich creamy fish pie.

Finding a recipe was easy enough since I knew that it would be an English fish pie and so with the help of Mr.Martin's recipe which was twisted to suit the fresh ingredients of Calcutta (such as the salmon and cod was replaced by bhetki fish a soft boneless fish )this easy creamy delicious dish was ready within 1 hour 15 minutes taking preparation time and cooking time. While the amount of butter , cream and carbohydrate in this dish is not really very healthy per say but such divine taste needs to be indulged in at times and with the humidity and heat of the country you anyways have a few months of the years for such indulgences which are a definitely necessity. Its buttery , creamy with flaky soft fish and a culinary lover's absolute delight

4 to 5 servings

Potato Topping
900gm potatoes boiled
150ml double cream
60gm unsalted butter + 1 tbsp for greasing the baking dish
Pinch of nutmeg powder (preferably freshly grated)
Salt and pepper to taste

Fish layering
950gm fillet of Bhetki or any soft white boneless fish
3 tbsp unsalted butter
Juice of Half a lemon

Parsley sauce

1 tbsp flour
4 tbsp unsalted butter
200ml full cream milk
4 tbsp cream

Paprika sauce

1 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter
200ml of full cream milk
4 tbsp cream
Half a tsp paprika

Start by bringing the milk to a boil and leaving it aside. What you do is boil and mash the potatoes with the other ingredients for potato topping and keep it aside. make ti smooth without any lumps. Now saute the fish so that it is just about softened in butter. You will be left with some fish juice in the pan. Grease your baking dish and put half your fish in the bottom layer and squeeze some lemon juice on it and pour the fish juice left in the pan.

Parsley Sauce 

Make your parsley sauce by melting the butter but definitely not browning it and adding the parsley and then when the flavour fills your kitchen add the flour and form the roux by simply using a spatula to mix the flour with the butter but do not let it brown even one bit. Now slowly add the milk bit by bit stirring continuously so that you have a smooth silky sauce without any lumps. Once the milk has been incorporated add the cream whisk a bit and poor the thick silky sauce on top of the fish in the baking dish. Now arrange the remaining fish and prepare the Paprika sauce

Make the paprika sauce the same way as the parsley sauce by simply replacing the parsley with paprika and then pour on top of the layered fish. Now top this with the mashed potatoes.

Preheat oven to 200 c and bake for 50 minutes if using convection oven or else 40 minutes for regular ovens or OTGs

Believe me your guests will be charmed and wouldn't be able to stop saying 'OOh Aaah lovely , fantastic, so creamy' I say such indulgences should be made compulsory

An interesting Afternoon

From food to Insurance? 

So my blog is all about food,  then why am I writing this post which is mostly unrelated to food. Here is why. I got an invitation to an event a couple of days back and to be fair my first instinct to participate was to meet the Kolkata Food Bloggers' gang but then I realized it is basically a survey, well that was the impression. Now I have to confess that I work as a freelancer with Qualitative market Research and the prospect of being on the other side of the table (where you view your opinions instead of in depth probed questioning seemed unnaturally attractive to me and well I thankfully have my next project starting from tomorrow) and so I was getting ready when I messaged my fellow blogger to confirm her participation and alas she unfortunately could not and my first instinct was to cancel it but then I had RSVPs and it felt wrong to cancel it and so I went.

Now I neither have much knowledge about insurance nor am I a fan of a certain Mr/Tendulkar only because I have zero interest in cricket but I shall share my experience.

The friendly discussion as I am calling it took place at Hotel Kennilworth and on arriving at the reception I was directed to the room in question and a very friendly woman introduced herself as the person working with the PR department of Aviva.  Now the people from Aviva were warm and even though we were supposed to start at 12:30 we started a bit late since some of my fellow bloggers came a bit late.

So once the discussion began it was clear that we were encouraged to give our opinion to make insurance fun with regards to Sacin Tendulkar as the brand ambassador. From what I understood Aviva mostly focuses on Child Insurance Plans. Now after a very interesting day I have to say that while I shall probably stick to food alone from next time my day was not a complete wastage and her is why.

When you participate in certain discussions you automatically gather a lot of knowledge. So there are plenty of insurances in the market and for a woman in her mid twenties who freelances insurance is probably the last thing on her mind but what I got to learn interested me

Did you know about Aviva's book donation campaign. This is a campaign everybody knows about but the most interesting of facts for me was to learn that this particular company is one of the first insurance companies of the world. Now you might say all this information is anyways available over the internet but then again how many of us actually read about Insurance firms.

From the discussion what stuck with me was the social work which Aviva actively does and that has impressed me a lot.

There was even a little contest and quite frankly it was a lot of fun. There was a nice lunch served as well where the people from Aviva actively engaged in conversations making the event a truly informal and lovely one instead of a typical survey because this event was clearly much more than that  .

We went home with a biography of Sachin Tendulkar and an autographed framed picture of the Indian Cricket team before Tendulkar retired.

Now while I quite frankly am not their target blogger I would really love if such events are organized irrespective of whether I participate or not and here is why :-

  1. We need respite from our daily routine and many of us blog as a hobby and so such events not only make ti a fun day for us but it widens one's social circle if one wants 
  2. If you have free time and are bored of your books, movies music you remain busy and well an idle mind is the devil's workshop so being busy is probably quite nice. 
  3. Quite honestly in my opinion our voices in society are most of the times never ever heard and to voice one's thoughts (even if it pertains to a particular subject matter) is a very satisfying feeling. It gives you immense emotional satisfaction. 
While I cannot really recommend the brand since I do not understand anything about insurance,  a brand which has lasted over 300 years is probably worth trusting.  

Aviva Three Things that inspire me about Sachin

Three things I like about Sachin :-

  1. Humble nature in spite of being one of the greatest cricketers of our times 
  2. Taking out time to speak about his skills on television 
  3. Retiring in his  40's  which most people aim for these days but most cannot achieve because that gives him the greatest advantage as a father who can spend time watching his children grow

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chickpea Red Cabbage Salad

So eating healthy is a topic which is a dominant one in most people's minds. You can be eating it, recommending it, denouncing it but most adults are usually thinking about it at least once every 3 days. With the holidays and festivals it becomes mighty difficult to hold on to your healthy eating habit and everything goes into disarray and a little help is always very very helpful.

I have been on and off the eating healthy food from December, first there were the holidays and then the visit to my Mamma-in-law and then back to some healthy eating and then again there were a few celebrations with the other half and so it has been one see-saw ride and I am finally back home with a hopefully calm head and ready for some mild healthy diet. Now I personally do not like the word diet since it automatically conjures images of underfed stick-thin  sick people but the phrase 'following a healthy diet plan' is a huge hit with me because I am not above desires and so while I love my fresh salads and fruits and soups I might just reach out for that slice of pie once in a week but here is the problem. I speak from my personal experience and well what usually happens is once you go off track it becomes mighty difficult to come back to your senses. So the piece of pie leads to a piece of sachertorte and that leads to something else and then there is the period of panic when one realizes one has piled on a few kilos here and there and so when Claudia from My Continental Kitchen began an event of low calorie food I was relieved , you see  when there is a support group or reminder to eat healthy you are naturally  but conscious and for me once I start with a bit of participation it automatically becomes a habit and so I am grateful that the lovely lady has created the virtual event where everyone is welcome to share their ow calorie dishes (soups, salads and other low calorie dishes) and so come Monday and I was fully recovered from the welcome back to Calcutta Biriyani, Chocolate lava cake , pasta and decided on some filling yet healthy Chickpea salad.

Now before I go to the simple recipe here is a few tips from my experience which always helps me loose some kilos. Once you know you are on a healthy track you first need to stock up your pantry with. So fresh vegetables, fruits, legums , lean meat , fish but what one also must do is to think about the taste buds and so stock up on herbs, spices and any flavouring agent which helps a great deal. Imagine you have a few greens and carrots and lemon and you feel bored and are about to cook some deliciously unhealthy cheese toast but if you have a bit of parsley you can have an excellent salad in no time which reminds me that you need not give up on any ingredient when eating healthy. Controlling portions is the key factor for a successful healthy diet. So even if you do eat a single buttercookie and balance it with soups and salads for the main courses you are good to go but of course you must train yourself to stick to a single cookie or a tiny portion.

So coming back to my Chickpea red cabbage salad this one is easy and extremely healthy and delightfully delicious. I chose Chickpeas because a cup of boiled chickpea is nto only filling but has a mere 269 calories.

Serves 2

1/2 a cup of dried chickpea which should yield 2 cups of boiled chickpea
3 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1/4th cup finely chopped parsley
1 medium sized onion
20 almonds lightly toasted and halved but with the skin on since it contains some much needed nutrients
Salt and freshly ground pepper as per taste
2 heaped tsp feta

Dressing :
1 tbsp :2 tbsp -> lemon juice: extra virgin olive oil

Simply soak the chickpeas overnight and boil them in the morning. Let the chickpeas cool down and in the meantime shred the cabbage ,slice the onion and  chop the parsley and toast your almonds at preheated oven at 140 C for 5 minutes to 7 minutes of each side. Alternatively one might toast the almonds on a skillet on the gas-stove on medium flame but in that case one must keep a constant eye on them so that they do not burn one bit. Whisk the oil and lemon juice together to form a smooth silky emulsion. i use a fork which is good enough for the amount .

Mix everything together except the dressing  and add some crumbled feta on top. You have a delightfully healthy meal waiting for you.  Along side some grilled lean meat or fish this is perfectly healthy and wonderfully tasty.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cafe Military

I have to admit that I usually associate certain cuisines with certain cities and for me Parsi cuisine represents old Bombay. I had made a list of parsi eateries to visit and this tiny eatery was definitely on the list. In today's virtual world the information on a certain topic of your choice is abundant and so I read reviews, noted the route and I was going to have a date with Old Bombay.

The cafe is not that difficult to locate. When going from CST railways station you need to take D.N.Road and then keep walking ahead, walk past Flora Fountain and then look for the Old Oriental Building which bifurcates the road in two on the left side of the road when traveling for CST and keep to one's left. walk straight ahead and you find this unpretentious eatery.

The eatery is not really a cafe. This is a typical Parsi lunch home. From my experience and talks with some of the owners it is clear that most of these Parsi eating establishments were originally intended for office goers who wanted to grab a quick bite during lunch. So they remain closed on Sundays and function between 11a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The decor has been maintained like it was when they opened the gates and so you have the solid wooden tables and chairs along with the addition of a few new age iron chairs , simple and clean. The restaurant isn't air-conditioned but with high celings and thick walls you are in a cool haven. There is a vintage clock and little posters of 'Bawa tips' (Parsi jokes) stuck on the clean but well maintained walls.

The bald smiling server came up to me with the menu but since I already knew about the menu thanks to Zomato I asked for the chicken cutlet gravy and a pack of Chicken Biriyani to be packed for dinner. Their menu keeps changing everyday so that the regular customers do not get bored and you have reason to go back again and again. As expected from these old establishments the servers are extremely courteous. This is one eatery where you get beer at cheap rates (as mentioned by many a reviewer on Zomato) but since I do not drink beer I ordered a glass of lemonade.

What pleased me first was the huge size of the glass. I usually like my fresh lime soda with a balanced taste of sweetness and saltiness and most restaurants make it either a bit too sweet or too salty. This cafe's fresh lime soda was perfect for my taste. It was perfectly chilled and there wasn't any ice which means you get extra value for money.

My chicken cutlet gravy along with six mini sized white sliced bread was served within 7 minutes and at Rs90 the size of the cutlet impressed me and with bite after bite I realized this was a few cafes where the ration of chicken to potato was 80:20 which means you again get value for money and the taste is amazing. Now I feel very uncomfortable clicking pictures at restaurants and so I do not have a visual image but imagine a cutlet which is as big as a big tea cup's saucer, big enough for an entire meal . The cutlet is perfectly crisp on the outside with succulent melt in the mouth minced meat inside. Doused in a balanced gravy it is simply perfect. From what I could make it there was a generous amount of garlic and onions,tomato and jeera dhanu (Cumin and coriander) if I am not mistaken which makes this dish one of the best friend for your taste buds.

I was completely full and since my packaged Biriyani was already placed on my table I was ready to ask for the cheque when the gentle server asked me if i did not want the caramel custard. His tone had suggested that I couldn't but miss it and one spoonful of that dessert and I knew what he was talking about. Somebody has rightly said that you get the best caramel custards of Bombay in this place and I completely agree. It was the creamiest, smoothest and most delicious creme caramel or caramel custard that I have ever had. The caramel was perfectly dark in colour and full of flavour not the usual syrupy liquid but dark, full bodied and a delight. I was almost ready to order a second helping when I realized I would barely be able to move after that and so I left wanting for more which means I am sure to go back as soon as I visit Bombay again.

Now I carried back the Biriyani and had a delightful supper. You see there are numerous types of Biriyani and to compare one with the other is foolishness. The Biriyani here has rice which is moist layered with  the chicken which is cooked in a dry  curry. So you mix everything and then enjoy a hearty meal of chicken rice and curry together. There was the distinct taste of caramelized onions with tomatoes , garlic, ginger and spices blend well .That it was saffron which imparted that yellowish colour was clear because turmeric would inevitably give out a strange smell.

My total bill came to a mere Rs315 . It is completely value for money and in fact econimic.

I definitely recommend a hearty meal at cafe Military.

Monday, February 17, 2014

B.Merwans (Grant Road Mumbai)

A Date with History 

 It was a early Sunday for me. Having slept early the previous night I was thrilled to have woken up at 5 a.m. I love waking up early. I feel fresh, my thoughts are clear and watching the night sky slowly waking up leaves me feeling happy. The other half was participating in some 7km Green run and had left by 4 a.m. and so after a glass of my detox concoction I decided I wanted to download some of my official work and while it was getting downloaded I decided on a sneak peak of my wishlist of restaurants in Bombay since I am due to return to Calcutta in less than a week. On an impulse I was going through B.Merwan's reviews and the first one shocked me. It seemed it was due to close in 42 days. B.Merwan Closing its shutters. I was shocked. 

Alright I did not grow up in Bombay but I grew up in another historic city and I have read enough reviews about this classic eatery which turned a century old this very year. With more and more Parsi diners shutting their doors I feel terrible. When I came to Bombay I immediately fell in love with the history that these Parsi Cafes offer. The solid bentwood chairs, the beautiful marble top tables is more romantic to me than candies and roses. 

It was 5:45 a.m. and I decided I had to immediately get my breakfast from this place which is a witness to history itself. 

So a long train journey later I was stunned with my passion. I have been a visitor of this city for over 1.5 years and have never before mustered courage to change trains at the busiest station of Mumbai and yet I effortlessly pranced from one end to the other. Of course the number of people at 6:15 a.m. overwhelmed me. That can only happen in Bombay. Locating this eatery is really a piece of cake. You get down at Grant station and go to the Eastern side. The shop is right opposite to the station. 

At 7 a.m. it seemed there were at least 200 people buying , shoving, pushing trying to make themselves heard at the counter. I entered and found the place in total chaos. All the tables were taken and I stood there happily stunned when a server rushing by asked me to please enter the inner room and eat my breakfast. Even though he was in a  rush the 'politeness' of his words touched me. 

You have to experience this place with all your senses else you can never ever understand its beauty. There is beauty in those peeling yellow walls in the room where I was seated. As I sat down I wondered how many young lovers might have had their sly romantic tryst sitting on the solid polished bentwood chairs or the beautiful white marble top tables. The two massive mirrors on the walls are pieces of beauty you cannot simply take your eyes off. There was a huge family enjoying their breakfast and that left room for 2 to 3 other parties.

Now there will be no menu provided to you so be sure you check the blackboard in the outer hall listing the items. I simply ordered Scrambled eggs, brun maska , tea and caramel custard. Well this is one joint which actually serves 'bhurji' scrambled eggs and not the special Parsi scrambled eggs, 'Akuri'. While I was breathing in every detail of this iconic place my food arrived within 5 minutes of having ordered it.

Now coming to my food the scrambled eggs were made with green chilies and very few onions but it won me over due to its less salt content. You see the salt and pepper shaker is provided so that you might adjust the salt content as per taste. I declined the bread that comes with the scrambled eggs and instead opted for the brun maska meaning hard bun with butter. This bun has a crispy delightful outer coating and soft fluffy bread freshly baked and slathered with butter. The caramel custard was creamy and good but I have had better ones from other Parsi establishments. The tea is not overly sweet even though it has some amount of sweetness. All this at a mere Rs48 is surely the most economic breakfast you can have. Oh I almost forgot that the scrambled eggs was made with 2 eggs.

What amazed me is that when I asked my smiling courteous server where I might pay he showed me the counter and did not even come along with me. The man behind the desk simply asked me , 'Kitna hua ?' 'How much do you owe us?' I can understand why this place has had a faithful army of customers over the years. This kind of trust between the customer and the owner is rare.

The flaky delightful Kharis

I quite obviously wanted to take back a few goodies and asked him where I might get them and he pointed to the sea of men. Now here are a few tips if you brave the crowd to place your orders. Everyone is in a   rush and no-one behind the take-away counter shall entertain you if you want to take your time. I suggest deciding from before be it what you want or the amount you would like. After a lot of  pushing shoving I finally was in front of the counter and quickly ordered 10 mava cakes, Khari biscuits and bread pudding.

Early birds catch the worm here. At 7:45 a.m. their Jam puffs and sweet buns were sold off. I got back home with two massive sized bread puddings enough to be served to 4 people , 500gm of khari biscuits, 10 mawa cakes at Rs190.

With all that rush activity and demand I still cannot believe they are closing their gates.

The soft fresh hot Bread pudding 

Now coming to the goodies, the mava cake has a nice browned exterior with soft moist interiors and though I have had better ones I shall still say that these are excellent in fact the slightly browned exterior gives it a whole new character than the ultra soft ones. The Khari is flaky and delightful as should be. The bread pudding was creamy, moist , sweet with a dominant flavour of vanilla. I say pay your respect to this century old eatery and you shall be a part of history.

These mava cupcakes at Rs10 are addictive and delightful 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Feast of love 2014

Love is in the air. Well to be frank Valentine's Day for me is much hyped yet the celebrations of the day is infectious. To be fair my husband and I feel even more loved when we make ordinary days into Valentine specials. I will be honest here. I believe that love for thyself is the greatest love one can have and only if you love yourself can you love another being with all your heart. I decided I needed some much needed pampering and my better part of the day was spent in one of my favourite places, Downtown Bombay. The architecture , the brilliant food and everything else is a romance in itself. I treated myself to a wonderful lunch and would highly recommend Cafe Churchill to anyone who loves Western Cuisine and happens to visit Bombay. I have written about My Experience of Cafe Churchill which left me in a much better mood for love.

So I shall revel my secret today. My husband and I are far from being romantic and I have realized that while I am completely head over heels in love with love itself I am not a very romantic person in reality. Most of my romance is swimming around in my mind. Thed other secret is that my green husband is not far from being passionate when it comes to culinary interest. Having said that I must mention that he has expressed his love for my cooking from the day I had put something on the table. So while I personally love love love elaborate lunches and dinners since we are Celebrating Valentine's day I decided my food should be an ode to love and so I prepared a dish which is cherished by my husband and well I love it as well. I bought a bottle of white wine to make the day a bit special and with enough praises from the bear half I was quite happy and might I say romantic as well. The surprise element was the dessert. You see my husband does not have a sweet tooth and more importantly he had expressed his utter repulsion for dark chocolates so while I cannot have my chocolates but dark, bitter, creamy silky he loves his chocolates milky and sweet.

 The surprising part was when I made some Dark chocolate Swiss truffles a few weeks back for my dear friend Claudia and well there were a few leftovers. I will go on to give a detailed description of what happened. I was in bed with Anna Karenina where she is madly in love when my bear half came over murmuring ' Mmmm Manjari , these are delicious. I love them' I looked up to find him relishing the dark chocolates truffles. I said, 'but you do not like dark chocolates' to which there was no reply since he kept popping one chocolate after the other in his mouth. My personal belief is that the cream which is used for truffles makes it a delight for all people unless they dislike chocolates.

So for dessert I decided on some Swiss Truffles. Now we did not actually have the dessert on Valentine's Day per say since both of us believe that any day can be Valentine's day and so my basic truffle was ready by the next day and even before I could roll them in the nuts or coat them with chocolate 7 of them were polished off by a man whose teeth was dark after the overindulgence. I couldn't be more happy. By night I was done with the coating and well who knew that the man who once despised desserts would pop in two more truffles.

So coming back to my food I chose Spaghetti alla Arrabbiata a dish which is cherished by my husband. Now usually I make Arrabbiata the old fashioned authentic way which simply uses garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and chilies and I love how you can play around with taste by adding a bit of basil on some days and a bit of parmesan on other days .I have personally even added red bell pepper with raving reviews. Here I must share a particularly important bit of information that I have learnt myself. You see most people would have you believe that Arrabbiata is incomplete without Parmesan or basil but that is not the case as I have mentioned already. Arrabbiata means angry and the pasta is called so due to the presence of ripe red chilies which give it is fiery taste. For a true gourmet feel do add the cheese and basil , it might not be absolutely authentic but is certainly tastes heavenly. The best part about this dish is that it hardly takes 15 minutes giving you ample time for other romantic activities.

What you need for 2 lovebirds :-

2/6 of 500gm pasta or a bit more if you have a strong appetite
5 to 6 plump tomatoes
4 to 5 garlic cloves (Indian medium size)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe red chilies
A good handful of grated Parmesan cheese
5 to 6 fresh basil leaves
Salt as per taste

Start by boiling your pasta as per instructions mentioned on the packet. Bring water to boil and add salt and pasta and cook as per instructions. It usually takes 10 minutes to 11 minutes . In the meantime mince your garlic as finely as possible, finely chop the chilies and chop those plump tomatoes and grate the cheese. Leaving 2 basil leaves finely chop the rest. When the pasta has cooked for 4 minutes start making your sauce by heating up 2 tbsp olive oil and saute the garlic. Saute the garlic but do not brown them one bit. Add the chilies and then the tomatoes and basil and cook on medium flame mashing them with a masher from time to time. When you see little bubbles lower the heat to low flame and add salt and cover . Once the pasta is done drain it and give the sauce a good mash so that it is smooth and simply mix the sauce with the grated Parmesan reserving about a tablespoon . Use a spatula to make sure that the cheese has melted which it anyways will due to the heat from  the sauce. Mix the spaghetti with the sauce and arrange in a pasta bowl or dinner plate and sprinkle Parmesan cheese and garnish with the basil leaves. Its simple easy , quick and a lover's delight. Oh by the way its red the colour of passion. Ah but did you know that basil is an aphrodisiac. So make anyday of the year a Valentine's special dinner with this easy simple delightful recipe which is tangy with the fresh sweetness of basil and the delightful fieriness and creamy cheesy taste.

Now what is Valentine's Day without some chocolaty indulgence.

Try some Swiss truffles, smooth silky soft and delicious inside with a nutty coating or a solid chocolate coating

This is part of Kolkata Food Blogger's Love on Plate  do check our Page for scrumptious dishes you might prepare for your romantic partner

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cafe Churchill

Hidden among a million shops on the Colaba Causeway on the left side of the street when coming from Regal Cinema it is quite possible that one has walked past this tiny haven and not even noticed it. To be fair my only agenda to go to Colaba on a warm (to be truthful almost hot) sunny February afternoon was to dine at this place. After a delightful lunch I realized how right I had been to have added to my wishlist of restaurants to be visited in Bombay.

The decor is a perfect amalgamation of the old and the new. While the walls are redone to a humble modern lilac colour the old wooden menu that hangs from the walls or the beautiful iron grills on some windows is an ode to the past. The place cannot host too many people at one time and I was lucky to have gotten in without waiting. As luck would have it I was seated right next to the big glass refrigerator where they keep all those tempting desserts all of which looked exquisite.

A menu is handed over to you which has the prices written on it and well they have added some items since the days of the wooden menu-tablet on the wall. I had come for some juicy steak and so I chose the hash steak. I must mention here that their menu is extensive and they have something for all pockets .The smiling server asked me if I wanted it medium or well done. I wanted mine medium to well done to which he replied , 'Ah you like your's just perfect' Well when a restaurant appreciates a diner's taste all one can do is wait with breathless apprehension. 8 minutes later I found a beautiful steak with a side of grilled carrots and french beans , mashed potato and a delicious looking steak was served by one server while another was holding a gravy boat very carefully with both hands which seemed a bit unnatural at first and only when they placed it on my table did I realize the reason for the fuss. The gravy boat was filled to the brim so you cannot complain about the serving size.

Well my first bite into the steak and I knew that this would become one of my favourite restaurants. The steak was perfectly done to my taste. It was tender enough to easily use your knife and well perfectly juice yet not overdone. The gravy was amazingly good. From its taste I was certain that it had the full fatty goodness. The little bits of smoked chicken bacon was an additional delight. They had chopped a few french fries in the gravy and I must say it was a surprise bonanza.

While I was enjoying my delightful lunch Aunt Churchill asked me after my meal. Well there might be many a fancy restaurants where the managers ask you the same question but if I ever find one who has as much warmth as aunt churchill did I would be touched. She is constantly on her toes making sure every diner leaves satisfied. With a few tables to look after she personally sees to it that you are not kept waiting.
I was even more impressed when I asked for a glass of water and well at first she had of course asked one of the servers to serve it but finding him busy at another table she personally brought me a glass of water. If this is not being the best host possible I do not know what is.

I was well fed and satisfied yet I simply could not leave without indulging in some dessert . After all I was seated right next to the glass door with all that goody inside. I asked for the Irish Bailey which they did not have and so I asked them for the house special. The grinning server told em all that was on the other side of that glass door was house special . Being a coffee lover I settled for the Irish coffee cheesecake. They took the entire cheesecake to the kitchen and brought back a delightfully large slice of cheesecake. While they were slicing and placing it on my plate I was almost regretting having ordered it since I was quite full but one bite and I knew I would never regret it. A very strong taste of coffee left be giddy like a little girl. I savoured every bite and asked for the bill. The server simply said , '495' so there wasn't really a printed  bill but I did not really mind. Such an amazing lunch for a mere Rs500 seemed every bit the value for money.

While I loved my experience and believe that having had such a scrumptious meal and having met the loveliest of hosts  I shouldn't even try and find any faults I must be honest and so the only reason I would rate is say a 4.5 out of 5 is because of the absence of fresh fruit juices from their menu. Their offering of beverages is limited but then again with an extensive menu for delightful dishes I must say it makes up for more than enough for me. I am definitely going back again and again and again, and I highly recommend this place to any person who loves  western cuisine. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Of Breads Bombay and Health

"Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all food;    
and good bread with fresh butter,the greatest of feast" - James Beard 

Well I could not agree more with James Beard. For the better part of my years of growing up breakfast with bread was something which was a common sight at the breakfast table, be it the slice of bread toasted and buttered well with an omelette or fried egg sunny side up of the egg sandwich or the ever favourite French  toasts but the one type of bread which makes me think fondly of my great grizzly bear at home were these simple loaves of bread baked fresh at 6:30 a.m. which would inevitably reach our home by 7 a.m. and my father would go on to layer it with butter and sprinkle it with sugar. Times have changed and we have all moved on from the humble milk breads, casting it aside as the unhealthy demon, but oh what a treat it is to slather the freshest of soft fluffy white loaf with a generous layer of butter. Of course, the days when we would get our supply of cow milk from our village home, it would be a real treat with the addition of the thick natural cream on the buttered bread. This treat was of course limited because the village some 200km away from the City of Joy was far away. 

In recent times, we as consumers, have become quite conscious. There are innumerable articles which educate people and so we are horrified to know that, 'those who eat lots of white bread raises the risk of a cancer' as reported by the DailyMail from United Kingdom. Rows and rows of multigrain bread and wholewheat bread and names I don't even remember but all claiming to be the healthiest of breads occupy shelves of bakeries. 

Kolkata Food Bloggers have decided to keep this week and the coming week as the 'Yeasty Feasty' week and while there are delicious recipes of bread you can find on the page I shall try and share my experience and tips on purchasing good quality bread. 

To be fair I haven't had the best of breads in Calcutta and after my tryst with the bread that is on offer in Mumbai the erstwhile  Bombay my love for bread wakes up whenever I reach this city and it leaves me sad whenever I leave the city. This story takes us to the by-lanes of Old Bombay. While you are mesmerized by the beauty of the architecture that the city has to offer you cannot miss the little bakery tucked away in-between two buildings in Fort, the famous 'Yazdani bakery' , started in 1951 it is a bread lover's paradise and the prices will astonish you in the happiest way possible. They open up in the wee hours of 5:30 a.m. and close down at 7 p.m. in the evening. 

The entrance with its tiled roof is a beauty itself. The place is tiny rustic and mesmerizing. So you have fresh bread being made on one side of the room you share the wooden benches with strangers and the peeling walls adorned with pictures of bodybuilders is hard to miss. The menu is written in colourful chalks on a blackboard and the waiters simply ask you, 'Kya doo?' (What shall I give you?) If you are lucky enough the old man at the cashier will indulge in a little small talk and quite frankly if you have not been lucky enough you sure are missing something. His ever smiling robust presence is so cheerful that the Grinch who stole Christmas would be a changed Grinch.  

When in Bombay you just cannot miss the buns and bruns on offer. You see while these soft fluffy buns are moist and pillowy its harder cousin the bruns are soft inside with a beautiful crust outside. So throw caution to the winds and enjoy it like you should by slathering it with butter and dipping it in some Irani chai. And one brun maska (maska meanign butter) can keep you full for a good 3 hours to 4 hours . Wake up early and head straight to Cawasji Patel Street and sink your teeth in fresh from the oven brun with a cup of irani chai. You see enjoying the brun without dipping it in tea is quite possible and so dunk and feel the magic of these crusty yet soft inside delights. 

For your regular use try the multi-grain bread Soft, dense and full of flavours this healthy bread is perfect for your taste buds and your health. You see, the whole wheat releases sugar slowly and just one slice is enough to fill you up. At Rs70 for 600gm it is quite a delight. Try their Laadi pav one half of the infamous Pav Bhaji or Vada Pav from Bombay, These soft delight are not just for your regular Bombay street food, slicing it in the middle and adding a bit of jam Homemade Strawberry Jam is what a good morning or a beautiful afternoon paired with a cup of tea is all about.

While not all of us have access to Yazdani bakery or cannot always bake fresh delicious bread at home all of us can make little differences to our regular affairs and indulge once in a while :-

You do not have to shun bread altogether simply try and pick up 100% whole wheat bread which is not brown bread. Brown bread is made with all purpose flour and whole wheat .

Healthy bread is supposed to be dense. So try and give your loaf a gentle squeeze before buying to ensure you get your whole grains. Most manufacturers make soft pillowy bread  with the use of all purpose flour.

Here are a few tips on how to buy bread and keep it fresh  which might interest you.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Strawberry Jam

The Simplest of Strawberry Jams 

Of Fruit preserves, Jams and Jellies 

Most of us , well at least most people I know have at some point in their lives started their days with a table laden with fresh slices of bread, a bowl of softened butter and a variety of those delicious fruity delights. Why silly? The jams and jellies of course. Of course it is through these meals that one might have gotten her ears pulled for using the butter-knife in the jam jar or worse licking the spoon of jammy deliciousness and trying to put it back in the jar.

Of course then we suddenly grew up and at some point cornflakes suddenly started dominating the breakfast table and soon enough the elaborate affairs of breakfasts were reduced to a quick but filling start of the day with muesli because well we all want to be healthy so how could sticky fruit preserves win over healthy muesli. It came to a point where Jams became a part of special occasions say the spread for the Victorian Sponge Cake, the rare picnic or carried for treks.

To be fair I usually stay away from Jams because of the quantity of sugar that goes in it. I mean sure one can use honey but it would not be the same. Honey has this ability to impart its flavour to anything it is used in and I would hate for my peachy preserve to have a similar taste of my Strawberry Jams.

They say curiosity kills the cat . In recent times shelves of many a store is lined with confusing labels. So it is not enough that there are Jams and Jellies now there are conserves and preserves and compotes as well. While curiosity did not kill me , it certainly made me a bit confused. You see I have need to know everything there is to know about a dish I cook and so my first step was to know the difference between Jams, Jellies, Conserves, preserves etc.

While the difference between Jams and jellies and marmalade  is the easiest. In very simple terms Marmalade means citrus fruits alone, Jellies use the juice of fruits alone and so Jams should naturally mean something which has fruits. Low and behold that is not that simple.

While good Jellies have been described as "clear and sparkling  and has a fresh flavour of the fruit from which it is made. It is tender enough to quiver when moved, but holds angles when cut" Marmalade is 'fruit preserve made from the juice and peels of citrus fruits"  but Jams , they are supposed to have a "soft even consistency without distinct pieces of fruit , a bright colour, a good fruit flavour and a semi-jellied texture that is easy to spread but has no free liquid" but a conserve is a "whole fruit jam'.

So to my understanding a Jam must not have any pieces of fruit once cooked but a conserve will have pieces but then searching for a recipe for Strawberry jams it is astonishing that most uses fruit pieces which after cooking leave behind little cooked pieces as well. Now even if you have never made Jams I am sure you must be knowing how you like your jam. I personally prefer mine to be less sweet , firm and thick with little pieces of fruit.

So here comes the simplest of strawberry jams or preserves recipes

You need

1 kilogram of Strawberry
750gm of sugar
Juice from 1.5 small sized lemon

Soak the whole fruits in water to remove all dirt 

Now before you get started there are just a few things to be kept in mind:-

  1. Jams need pectin for its setting which doesn't mean you have to use any store bought pectin. Fruits usually have a certain amount of pectin which works with the acid (lemon ) to give you that set Jam
  2. Choose unripe or just ripe strawberries since overripe strawberries have lesser quantity of pectin

Start the night before. Wash the fruit by soaking it in a bowl of water to remove all dirt . Remove stalks of the fruit and chop them in small sized pieces. Make sure to discard any soft fruit and if a fruit has marks on the body slice it and throw that part away.

Put them in a large , heavy bottomed pot and mix 500gm of granulated sugar with the pieces of fruit and simply let it rest covered for the night.                                                                                                          When making the Jam the next day the first thing you must do is put a plate made of steel in the freezer to test the Jam when it sets and then mix the rest of the sugar and juice of lemon with the fruits which by now will be in a mass of liquid and slowly heat it (low heat) till all the sugar dissolves and then bring to a roaring boil and then keep boiling for the next 20 minutes  checking every 10 minute and remove the scum(foam) that forms on top. Do not overcook your Jam else you loose flavour. So you should never cook the Jam over a total of 40 minutes.

All the scum must be removed

At 25 minutes check if the jam has set by simply dropping a spoonful on the plate from the freezer and wait a few seconds and touch with your fingers. If the jam wrinkles on your touch it has set and you have to simply cool the Jam for 25 minutes before spooning it in sterilized Jars else keep boiling for another 10 minutes. It personally took me 35 minutes for the Jam to reach its setting point and of course another 25 minutes of cooling .

Enjoy this lovely Jam with fresh bread, sponge cakes or buns

Source of information: Wikipedia , BBC