Monday, March 31, 2014

Vegetarian Dhansak

Vegetarian Dhansak 

Truth be told, for me my incredible love of Parsi food began when I moved to the erstwhile Bombay currently known as Mumbai in 2012. My stays are usually short in the City of Dreams but in that time I fell head over heels in love with this cuisine which is unique with its influence of Persian cuisine and of course the Western Indian influence. One of the dishes which caught my fancy was the Dhansak. Traditionally made with mutton (goat meat) it is also made with chicken. Now I usually avoid store bought spice mixes and so have made a big container of  Dhansak Masala. Now I was swamped with work this one day and had no chicken or mutton but a big box of this magic spice and what I like best about Dhansak is the addition of vegetables which makes it a super nutritious meal with some rice or chapati. Well traditionally it is taken with brown rice but I teamed it with some chapati (Indian wholewheat flat bread) since I prefer my flat bread. What attracts me is the fuss free preparation. Now there are many different family recipes but this is the  one I follow.

Serves 2

1/2 cup toor pulse
3 cups of water
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 small to medium onion
1/2 a big tomato
1 heaped tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander, cumin powder in equal portions
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp  Dhansak Masala

Simply pressure cook the pulse and pumpkin with 1.5 cup of water and half the amount of ginger garlic paste. Once done let it cool and blend away to make thick pulse paste and now heat some oil and add the remaining ginger garlic paste, add sliced onions and blend tomatoes. Once sauteed well add the cumin coriander powder , turmeric and chili powder. Add the blend pumpkin pulse and the rest of the water and bring to a boil and add the Dhansak Masala. Simmer for sometime and then serve with hot rice or chapatis.

Dilli-gate, Kolkata

Dilli-gate, Kolkata 

 A joint venture with a joint menu of  lip smacking food from North West India , Calcuttan Chinese and Mughlai dishes. Located in the Eastern hub of the city of Joy this place is a much needed multicuisine restaurant for the area.

I was invited as part of the Kolkata Food Bloggers to sample their divert menu. Locating the restaurant is not very difficult. If you are going from Park Circus keep an eye on the left hand side of the road and you shall reach the area within 10 minutes from Park Circus.

The interiors is done in green but the chairs and tables seem very comfortable to sit in, big back rest with cushioned chairs. One side of the wall is lined with pictures of street food be it the hearty punjabi food, the delicate noodles or the Mughlai Paraunthes.

This restaurant is the brain child of Mr.Manish Singh from the ever popular Balwant Singh Dhaba at Elgin road and Mr. Mukesh Agarwal.

What caught my attention was that the owners let us know that this is essentially a 'budget restaurant where it wouldn't cost more than Rs300 to Rs400 per person.' They have made their menu and pricing keeping the recession in mind and that is worth appreciating. The idea is to make available dishes from different cuisines so that one does not get bored with the same kind of cuisine.

The creamy spinach rolls 

We were first served an assortment of starters and I must say that their Mutton Seekh Kebab was soft succulent and juicy . The Murgh Tikka had the perfect balance of spices and saltiness for my palate and I was already a fan when we were served the Chicken lollipops. To be fair the chicken lollipops were quite a disappointment since it was too spicy and had way too much of soy sauce than I would prefer.

For vegetarians I must recommend the spinch spring rolls which were creamy and delicious . They serve it with an in-house made sauce which is perfectly spicy and tangy to balance the creaminess of the rolls . I personally did not take after the hara bhara  kebabs since it was a bit too mushy and salty  for my taste buds.

We were soon led to the buffet to sample the main course and I have to say that their sprout salad is quite delightful with its lemony tangy taste. The rajma was perfectly thick and delicious but could have done with a bit of extra spice. The Murgh tikka Makhani was delicious indeed creamy, spicy amazingly soft meat. The Mutoon which was simply served as Kosha Mutton (which means bhunoed mutton) was amazingly soft and tender and had the perfect balance of saltiness and saltiness. It was a thick almost dry curry which is a superbly made dish. Their malai kofta was soft and creamy and perfect for my taste buds.

The Mutton 

I personally did not like their Chinese offerings be it the noodles or the fish in coriander sauce which were salty and had way too much ginger garlic paste. It is unfortunate because the new China town of Calcutta is located right near this restaurant. The only item which caught my fancy was the chicken in pepper sauce which had soft succulent pieces with vegetables which provided the right bite tot the dish.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Laal Maas

Laal Maas 

(A regal recipe from Rajasthan) 

 The truth is , for me virtual forums are a boon in life and here is why. You see you may have tried a recipe a hundred times but then somewhere these old favourites take a back-seat with new recipes to be explored,  healthy diets to be followed etc. Currently Kolkata Food Bloggers is hosting this amazing East or West Food is the best event, which explores regional cuisines from across western India to the far eastern states. Located in the extreme West,  Rajasthan is the state I picked for this event. There is something mysteriously attractive about this state which has always drawn me to this magnetic land of princes and princesses. Popularly known as the 'Land of kings' my earliest memory of this state with its rich cultural past is Abanindranath's 'Rajkahini' (A member of the Tagore family who wrote these mesmerizing short stories about regal Rajasthan) which captured my fancies when I was a child and continues to do so even today.

What one needs to know is Rajasthan unlike other states of India is a very dry state. After all , the Thar desert is located in Rajasthan and its culture and cuisine has developed accordingly . So most dishes use a lot of clarified butter to keep one's skin from drying out. It also uses a lot of spices and the fiery Rajasthi lal mirch.

Legend has it that the Regal families from Rajasthan would go hunting and the royal chefs would develop these amazing meat based dishes and Laal maas is one of them. Even with the unusual number of dried red chilies used , it is fiery yet not so fiery that one feels choked because all that fiery red chili remains whole and the flavours come from assorted spices. I was lucky enough to stumble upon this article when I was searching for information about regal Rajasthani cuisine. You may have a look at this article if it interests you.

What I gathered from the article was that the important part of the recipe is the browning of onions and the meat and the long hours of cooking to achieve that melt in the mouth texture of the meat.

As usual the website is filled with numerous recipes of laal maas. I have personally followed one I had gathered from 'The telegraph' Calcutta, years ago and have loved the taste. Even though it might sound rich and the process very tedious I suggest you follow it to indulge in that regal experience once in a while.

What you need is :-

1kg goat meat (the lean part)
400gm onions sliced thinly
4 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp cumin seeds
16 whole Rajasthani dried red chilies
Salt as per taste
4 tsp heaped Rajasthani dried red chili powder (lal mirch powder)
4 tsp ground coriander seeds
350gm ghee to 400gm ghee
10 black cardamom
10 green cardamom
350gm thick curd whipped

Start by marinating the meat with salt and 1 tbsp ghee. Marinate for 2 hours and then heat the ghee and add the cumin , when it splutters add the garlic and when the beautiful aroma hits your nostril add the whole red chilies and the onions and then brown the onions on low heat, when browned add the meat and seal the juices on high heat for 4 minutes or so and then lower the heat and brown it completely. This process of browning takes about 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Add the coriander powder, salt , red chili powder and then keep stirring till the spices are mixed well with the meat, add the whipped curd and bring to a boil and then lower heat and cook for the next 30 minutes to 45  hour. Now there was a time when I would waste a lot of  fuel and cook it on low flame for 3 hours or so. I have learnt a trick for domestic cooks which saves fuel and yields the exact soft meat and retains all the flavour. Use a heavy bottomed pressure cooker and simply transfer everything from the big wok in the pressure cooker and then seal it and put it on low flame allowing the steam to develop very very slowly. It takes about 20 minutes to 30 minutes and then wait for 2 whistles and let the steam come out on its own. Here you must be patient. Once the pressure is lowered to the point where you can open the lid open it and transfer it back to the wok and now you need to be careful because your meat is already soft enough and for that melt in the mouth experience you need to bring it to a boil and simmer for not more than 5 minutes to 7 minutes because if simmered for a longer period the meat melts in the pan instead of your mouth and no one wants melted meat in a mass of gravy. Once you have simmered the meat put it through the fork test to understand the softness . What you do is  take a piece of meat and try and take out a bit with a fork and it comes off you know the meat is done. Now turn off the gas stove and use a lid to cover the pan and let it stand for sometime and serve with some hot Chapati.

This is part of the event,

Friday, March 28, 2014

French chocolate truffle

French Chocolate Truffles 

The truth is that, there is precious little difference between Swiss chocolate truffles and French chocolate truffles. As per Wikipedia while Swiss chocolate truffles have the added butter, French truffle chocolates use cream and chocolate alone. Now I had already tried my hands at Swiss chocolate truffles and it was but natural for me to venture into the French chocolate truffles. Easy to make and easy to please your guests

What you need is :-

200gm double cream (the more the fat the creamier the taste)
250gm good quality dark chocolate
50gm cocoa powder to roll the truffles in

Chop the chocolates (it is advisable to chop them as small as possible for ease of mixing with the cream) Simply use low heat to warm the cream but make sure you do not burn the base, so keep stirring and when its warm enough pour it over the chopped chocolates and use a spatula to mix it well till its smooth and creamy and then let it cool down to room temperature and , in it goes in the refrigerator for 12 hours to 24 hours and then take the cocoa powder on a flat surface , dust your hands with cocoa powder and make little balls to make your friends and family go Mmmmmm

Mousse au Chocolat (Elizabeth David) / Chocolate Mousse

Mousse au Chocolat/ Chocolate Mousse 

by Elizabeth David 

I am pretty obsessed with trying out different recipes for the same dish. Take the case of the simple Mousse au chocolat, its available at virtually all bakeries around the world. Its chocolaty , airy and creamy but not creamy in the way dairy cream is supposed to be and that is exactly where I find my disappointment. That being said I always have maintained and still maintain that 'taste is subjective' Mousse made with cream is something I do not condone. Ever since I had stumbled across Maman Blanc's Mousse au chocolat I have sworn by it for the extra airy and light texture . Her's uses egg whites alone but then again this time I wanted something with a bit more body. Felicity Cloake has tried numerous recipes for Mousse au Chocolat (with cream and without it) and calls this 'the perfect mousse'. I do not consider any recipe to be perfect because what is perfect for me might not be perfect for someone else but if you like your's chocolaty , airy yet with that richness this is your mousse.

What you need is very simple

Makes 2 servings

2 eggs separated
60gm  dark chocolate , preferably 70% if you like it dark like I do or at least 50% dark ( the better the quality of the chocolate the better your recipe turns out to be)
A drop of lemon juice
1/2 tsp alcohol based coffee extract  Or You may experiment with any alcohol of your choice)

The whipped egg whites 

Start by whipping your egg whites to stiff peaks. Add the lemon juice to your egg whites when whipping it which prevents it from collapsing.

Now melt the chocolate over a double boiler (chocolate being a very delicate food item seizes,  that is forms a grainy mass with a little extra heat )

Quickly add the yolks and whisk it well till it is silky and smooth.

Quickly fold in 1/3rd of your whisked egg whites to loosen the chocolate yolk mixture and quickly fold in the rest of the egg white and pour it in your serving glass or cup of dessert bowl and set in the refrigerator for 2 hours and voila its done.

For a boozy and might I say better variant add 1/2 tsp alcohol based coffee essence. When folding in the whipped egg whites with the chocolate egg yolk base.

Very important tip :-

  1. Never try and melt the chocolate and egg yolk together because not only will that make the chocolate seize leaving your mousse a bit grainy it might even scramble the egg so melt the chocolate and only  after melting it whisk in the egg yolks. 
  2. Your expertise in folding the egg whites with the yolk-chocolate base will determine how mousse like the texture would be. 
  3. I make my coffee extract at home by soaking 4 tbsp cracked coffee beans in 200ml vodka, for 1 week and then straining the extract. It stays for months in the refrigerator. So far these last me hardly 3 months or so because I use it to soak cakes , make mousse , ice-cream etc etc 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

French fries

French Fries 

Alright when you have tried all methods available for the one basic Fries and then hit the jackpot you feel a kind of calm which gives you pure joy.

Truth be told the secrets in the fat , yes pork fat which retains the yellow colour makes it perfectly crispy yet soft inside.

Here is what I did :-

4 large potatoes chopped in finger sized sizes
Vegetable Oil
50gm pork fat
Salt as per taste

Bring a large pan of water to boil. Now her is the trick there are different varieties of potatoes across the globe and the time you take depends on where you live so you have to look out and feel things with your hands. You have to boil the potato sticks till its firm yet not soft or completely cooked. I took exactly 4 minutes to reach the stage.

Now heat the oil and chop the fat and melt and then when it turns dark brown take the fat out and fry the poattoes batch by batch on low heat for 5 minutes and then re-fry on medium heat till it turns crispy. take them out and leave on a paper towel but not for too long else they become cold and then mix well with salt and serve

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce 

The truth is I do not like store bought bottled sauces. I mean sure there are some sauces which you cannot make at home mainly due to unavailability of ingredients but the whole idea of using bottled sauces is not a great source of comfort for me. The truth is the best food you can cook is with ingredients which are easily available around you. To be fair I have never ever been a huge fan of Tabasco Red Pepper sauce mostly due to the excessive amount of vinegar. I do not know if its authentic or not but that amount of sourness just does not suit my taste buds but then again isn't India the land of hot spicy food and do we not have a wide variety of chilies. So making hot sauce at home is a better of 1 hour.

The best part of making a recipe at home other than the extreme emotional satisfaction is knowing what goes in and customizing it as per one's taste. Mine is thick , hot as per my taste buds and not too salty

Yields 250gm thick sauce :-

What you need :-

Approximately 500gm fresh big red pepper  (The ones you use for mircha pakodis)
1 large red bell pepper
5 to 6 Rajasthani dried red chili for the punch
Salt as per taste
5 tbsp vinegar
12 tbsp water
4 tbsp olive oil
Cloves of 1 pod of garlic
Transparent plastic gloves for hygiene and protection

Start by de-seeding the fresh chili peppers and bell pepper. Now skin the garlic and press them with the flat of the knife. Heat  the oil and then add the garlic and from then on use low heat throughout the cooking  , when it is softened add the sliced bell pepper and chilies and then use high heat for a minute or two and add salt and vinegar and then simply simmer on low heat for the next 10 minutes to 15 minutes till the peppers are all softened well and add the water and bring to a boil and then simmer on low heat covered till all the water evaporates.

The texture before being sieved 

Let it cool down to room temperature and then simply blend away, taste it and if required add more salt . Once blend wear gloves and use strainer to strain this hot sauce.

After being sieved 

Spoon into sterilized jars and let it age for 2 weeks. You have thick hot sauce ready for you, well ready in another 2 weeks. Once you open it refrigerate immediately and it lasts for 6 months but then again I suggest using it as fast as possible

Cafe Mezzuna

Sometimes Wonderful things happen to a city 

Beer batter fried fish 

There are times when a city suddenly gets a break from cafes mushrooming all over the city and a brilliant cafe opens its doors. It started on a weekday evening when ,after a particularly bad experience with one of the new cafes I strolled over to Forum for a bit of dessert and was positive happy to see a delightfully inviting cafe, from across the glass door the wooden interiors coupled with the pastel green shades attracted me and so I went in for some coffee and dessert. Before I move on to the brilliant bit let me pause for a little while about the tiny little problems.

I was a lone diner and being an usual lone diner I expressly note down how a restaurant reacts to lone diners, some are positively unhappy, some welcome you whole-heatedly and then there are those who seem almost flabbergasted. Whosoever had done the beautiful interiors had completely forgotten about solo diners which I do not appreciate. Even with the place being virtually empty my server had to look around and then finally seated me at a table for 4. The sofa was soft and well cushioned and to my liking since iit was comfortable but you thankfully do not sink in.

Their menu done in a particularly sweet style which reminds one of the school days with the paper resembling the brown papers one used for covering copies and books was a very lovely change of the usual big menus, it comes in a transparent file which is innovative indeed.  Now let me be clear about my taste in coffee, I like ti particualrly strong to the point that it is bitter with creamy foam on top and so I expressly requested them to bring a very strong cup of cappuccino for me which I teamed up with the batter fried fish. Tired of the usual set cheesecakes i was delighted to know that theirs is baked and so I  asked for the two berry cheesecake.

I particularly loved the pristine white napkins and I was extremely impressed with the coffee which came in a cup with a saucer. The coffee was perfect for my taste. My batter fried fish soon followed and it was fresh fish with the most perfect batter. crispy crunchy and deep fried it is perfectly batter fried fish. I would have loved it had they served my coffee and batter fried fish together since I had mentioned that I would like to eat something with my coffee but then again I would not hold it against them. Their presentation was delightfully unique and wonderful with the fish in a paper cone on a wooden slab with the tartar dip.

What came last after a considerable amount of time blew my mind away. The cheesecake with freshly prepared warm compote is soft, creamy with the perfect crust which is neither dry nor soggy and gets people like me addicted to it.

I have to include my second experience at this cafe where we ordered a cocktail, my fizzy cocktail with vodka, ginger and lime was divine.

What I noticed on both my visits was that the servers though polite do not keep an eye on the tables to note if the water glasses are empty after the first fill. On my first visit I was very thirsty and since nobody looked my way I had to wait quite a bit for water. This I would definitely request the management to take care of this issue. My total damage on the first day was Rs600 and considering that it filled me up and was superb in taste I would say it is complete value for money.

I can honestly say this is has become my favourite cafe in town.

A bold attempt from the Tea trove

The best of intentions unfortunately does not always lead to the best of results 

The Thai style Chicken wings

We were invited as part of the Kolkata Food Bloggers to sample the new dishes of offer on their brand new menu. Located near Southern Avenue locating the cafe is not too difficult, simply cross Rashbehari Avenue if you are traveling from AJC Bose road and keep your eyes on the right for a showroom of 'Blackberry' and then take an U-turn or walk over to the other side of the road and get into the street adjacent to the showroom and walk straight ahead and the cafe is located on the left hand side of the street. You go up and notice a very low-lit place with trendy music which is being blasted from the stereo. 

My fellow diners were already present and we were seated near the glass wall overlooking the street. What overwhelmed me right in the beginning was this smoky atmosphere which was a direct result of an open kitchen with no room for ventilation. This was probably one of the biggest turn offs. Throughout the evening I felt uncomfortable and my eyes were burning while I almost felt choked. 

When it came to service I am very sorry to note that the server did not serve a glass of water which was later noticed by my fellow diner as well. There were two drinks which were already on the table and a sip from each left me very disappointed. The Tom and Jerry drink which is supposed to be an iced tea with coca cola had the overpowering taste of cocoa cola and on top of that it was watery. The other creamy drink whose name I forget was not creamy at all but in fact watery again without any flavours. 

I was happy to learn that the cafe was open to suggestions. 

We were then served the chicken wings which came in the sweet Thai chili flavour and the Barbeque flavour. While the sacue from the Thai flavoured wings with its distinct taste of chili was working well with my palate the sweetness was a turn off for my palate but the biggest problem with both the dishes was that it had not been tossed in the respective sauces as a result it was rather crunchy fried chicken wings with some sauce and so the flavour was uneven. What I liked though was that the chicken was perfectly fried for my taste buds, the meat was juicy and soft and the batter was crunchy and crispy. It was neither over-fried nor underdone. 

We were served a third drink which probably was the best one for my palate among the drinks served. It had a strong flavour of strawberry and there was some amount of creaminess. What was a disappointment was the watery taste. As pointed out by my fellow diner a cafe named The Tea trove should offer drinks with a stronger taste of tea. I would rather appreciate a well made classic lemon mint iced tea over fusion drinks which has no flavour of tea. 

What followed from their offering was a tangy crispy vegetable snack which honestly did grow on me but the problem is when I write about my experience where I do not pay for the meal it is easier to be generous. Frankly speaking if I had been a regular customer and had to pay for it I would leave a very angry customer. I would suggest that the restaurant explains the dishes on their menu so that the customer has a clearer idea of what they are ordering. What I liked was the balsamic vinaigrette which was tangy and tasty but then again  quoting the Chef 'Brussel sprouts' are an acquired taste and so it might not be too popular. I suggest keeping an option of vegetables for customers to choose from. 

Their lasagna did nothing for my taste buds with the overwhelming spicy taste. ideally even with vegetarian lasagna I would have preferred a greater amount of homemade tomato sauce to be used. The layers were hardly there, the cheese was burnt on top and the pasta was not well cooked and stuck together. This was indeed a huge disappointment. It reminded me of a fictional character who would make 'burnt and under cooked' mac n cheese.

There was Arancini , which are basically 'rice balls with cheese' , theirs had pomodoro sauce (a tomato based sauce) which was a bit sweet for my taste due to the use of onions which had been caramelized but it was a nice dish with the nicely cooked arborio rice inside and the cheese. 

The chef personally came to us for suggestions and I really liked his openness to suggestions. He insisted that we try the last dish, a Mediterranean salad which basically was basically Grilled Chicken with the skin on for a nice crispiness , mushrooms and lettuce. The vinaigrette was again well made , but  it was a tad too salty for my taste but I liked the taste of rosemary . 

Most of the dishes expect the lasagna were well made but did not reach the finishing line due to a few faults here and there. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Mediterranean Experience at Souk

A Mediterranean Experience at Souk 

A good culinary experience takes time to prepare and needs time to be thoroughly enjoyed. 

I was invited as part of the Kolkata Food Bloggers for a tasting from the upcoming menu at Souk - the Mediterranean restaurant at The Taj Kolkata which would be on the offer very soon. To be honest the only experience I have had at Taj Bengal was at their European restaurant which serves some of the best Continental fare in town and then of course there is La Patisserie with excellent pastries and gateau on offer. So good are the offerings from the two mentioned restaurants that I did go back for the pastries and pizzas and got stuck with these two restaurants when there are so many lovely restaurants at The Taj as I found out today.

The delectable Mezze 

It was an experience which was educational and a sheer pleasure for my taste buds and created a want to go back again and again.

Located at The Taj Bengal , Kolkata the decor with its low lighting and the beautiful yet modern chandelier gives the place a soft touch. As soon as we were all gathered together we were served the Wine Rosette which I found appealing for my taste buds.

We begun our Mediterranean culinary journey with the amuse bouche which is essentially a French term for mini starters  in the simplest words that I might put. In this case it had the essential Mediterranean flavour with a  bite sized watermelon and  a dollop of creamy feta cheese.

Here I have to mention that I am a cheese addict, and I love feta cheese but its saltiness usually has to be balanced well and the chef had wonderfully balanced the saltiness of the feta with the fresh juicy watermelon and it was a sheer delightful start indeed .

To be fair each and every food item was exquisite but what I personally enjoyed was the detailed explanation of each and every  dish which made the experience more interesting.

The mezze on offer was superb . There was hummus of two different kinds. So while the Hummus Turki with its chopped piri piri olives was smooth with the particularly delightful taste of olives the Hummus Bil lahm with the lamb morsels was exquisite. The secret behind their smooth texture is the usage of the even sized chickpeas which the chef takes extra special care to make. The lamb used is not the lamb with a lot of fat but the lean meaty portions which gives it a beautiful texture.

The Felafil caught my fancy with its grainy texture and the distinct taste of garlic and cumin. There is lamb kibeh, stuffed with mince meat and pine nuts  which I personally did not find to my liking because of its dryness .

The crunchy Swada Dilaj is tangy sweet and beautiful. The Tabbouleh has cracked wheat and parsley but the taste which stayed in my mind was that of the mehir lemon. Tangy and fresh it is delightful but not something I would personally highly recommend. From the assorted pita bread I chose the zatar Pita bread which has the herb zatar and that with the hummus is something worth giving a try due to the very unique flavour from the herb and the smooth hummus.

There then came individual plates of assorted grills. The chef was kind enough to interact with us and discuss how even though Indian kebabs have their origin in the middle eastern grills the spread on offer is unique in its own way. Unique indeed, the Adana kebab (lamb kebab) was soft with a firm texture and that tantalizing taste of turkish chili which is hot but does not leave you in tears. The fish (samak Meshwi)  with the base of tomato marination was tangy and spicy . By the time I took a bite of the Tavuk Yogurtulu Bitlis I was probably in need for a break to cleanse my palate and as a result I do not clearly remember its  taste but I definitely recommend the Adana kebab with its delightful flavours and a subtle after-taste of Turkish chilies.

From their main course I would personally recommend the Moussaka for the perfectly baked aubergine which was delightfully thin yet crispy and the buttered Burghul was a sheer delight for the senses. The samak Moroccan (which is a pan fried fish dish) is delightful indeed with a tangy taste from the lemon and a blend of assorted spices. The lahm tagine had the softest lamb meat ever and the preserved lime gave it a beautiful taste of pickled lime and the chickpea gave it a lovely body.

The pasta which was not on the menu from which we had our tasting but is on the regular menu was delightfully tangy and very different from the usual Italian counterparts since it is from a different country. The prunes in the tomato based sauce gives it a lovely touch.

The delightful spread of dessert 

My favourite bit was their offer of desserts. Creamy rose petal ice-cream , it not the rose flavoured ice-cream but ice-cream made with pure rose petals. The Omali which is a delightful combination of in-house made condensed milk , filo sheets and pistachios was surprisingly not too sweet for my palate and the baklava though a tad sweet for my palate was a delightful dessert indeed, nutty with the crisp  filo sheets  was a true Mediterranean experience, indeed. We ended our meal in a true Mediterranean way with some mint tea which definitely helps in digestion.

All their ingredients are imported from the Middle east and so for an authentic Mediterranean culinary experience I definitely recommend The Souk. What I personally would specially recommend are their kebabs which are full of flavours , light on the stomach and utterly soft and delicious. And you simply cannot miss their spread of desserts.

Good food does not and cannot come cheap so indulge in some luxurious treat but that which gives complete value for your money. A delightful experience would set you back approximately by Rs3000 to Rs4000 for A la Carte (where you choose from the dishes mentioned above)

This is part of the experience from the Kolkata Food Blogger's team.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dhansak Masala

Dhansak Masala 

by Nilofer 

I am obsessed with certain things in life, be it the white crockery, the white table linen, using as much fresh herb as possible flowers in my vase or making my spice blends from scratch. Well you can certainly take the easy route and always buy a packet of spice and use it and well your dish will come out tasty but homemade blend of  freshly ground spice is aromatic , romantic and a complete addiction. With India's varied cuisines the blends are varied and numerous. Today its time for the famous Dhansak masala. Now my first brush with Parsi cuisine was in Bombay and the day I put that spoonful of delicious thick pulse in my mouth I was a fan. I followed Nilofer's blend and the taste was as close as the one I had at Sassanian.

What you need :-

Coriander seeds 1 cup
Bay-leaf 1/4th cup
Cumin 1/4th cup
Dried red chili 6 to 7
White poppy seeds 1 tbsp
Cinnamon sticks 2
Black pepper 2 tbsp
Cloves 1 tbsp
Green cardamom pods 1 tbsp shelled
Black cardamom - 4
Caraway seeds - 1 tsp
Black cumin seeds 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Saffron a pinch
Ground mace - 1/4th tsp
Nutmeg 1

Simply dry roast everything expect the powdered spices and grind it together with the powdered spices .

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mint grilled chicken

Mint grilled chicken 

The only truth with maintaining a healthy diet is to not only know what portions to eat but planning a bit further ahead of time. Take my current project. I have been drowning in work from the past 7 days but working without eating is a sure-shot recipe for disaster. I mean here is what happens if you do not have a well stocked refrigerator,, (what I mean is filled with vegetables, fruits, lean meat, nuts, herbs etc etc) You are anyways cramped for time and ultimately you reach out for take-out food or something which is as unhealthy as buttered white bread . To be fair a dark portion of chicken is all the protein you should be having in one single day. Here is information from the American Heart Organization to give you a fair idea of portions  So I do not need to blabber on about the benefits of lean meat and fish over red meat . So for this recipe you need over-night marination for best results.

What you basically need is :-

1 dark portion of chicken
1 stalk of mint leaves plucked and ground into a  paste with water
2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt as per taste
Half a tsp freshly ground black pepper

Simply marinate over-night and grill the next day for brunch or lunch or you could leave it for marination if you work from outside home and enjoy a hearty healthy dinner with some fresh side salad .

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bhuna Murgh (Pan Seared Chicken)

Bhuna Murgh (Pan Seared Chicken)

by Purna Chowdhury 

The truth is when you have a virtual world you are well connected with and sometimes some lovely person asks for a recipe you cannot but write it down for them as quickly as possible. Well truth be told I am swamped with work. With a deadline for Wednesday I would probably have taken my own sweet time with writing it down but then someone wanted to make it today and so I cannot but write it down. What had attracted me was the ease of the recipe , the quick cooking but one must remember that the marination plays a very vital role. Now as with everything else in this world there is a dispute between marinating lean meat and fish for long hours because some adhere to the fact that it becomes mushy whereas many Middle-eastern and Indian recipes calls for over-night and one or two even calls for 24 hour marination. Well we all form opinions with our experiences and I would have to say that when making kebabs, grilled chicken or pan seared chicken over-night marination or marination for 6 to 7 hours does render 'melt in the mouth' chicken. The end result is a spicy coating with soft melt in the mouth chicken.

This recipe is Purna Chowdhury's , a true culinary wizard , so all the credit is her's alone and following it is so easy that anyone can make it easily . Before continuing lets  be clear about two factors, this cannot use any water or acidic agent which of course includes lemon . I did include some techniques which I have learnt in the kitchen with experience and reading.

What you need :-

1 kilogram of dark portion of chicken (dark portion means the leg and thigh together sans the skin)
Garlic paste 2 tbsp
Ginger paste 2 tbsp
Freshly coarsely ground coriander seeds and dried red chili 2 tbsp
Salt as per taste
Mace 1/4th tsp
Ground cloves and cinnamon 1/2 tsp
Mustard oil 6 tbsp
Freshly chopped coriander 1 tbsp

Marinate the chicken with half the amount of garlic and ginger paste , salt and 2 tbsp oil. Now the original recipe had not called for marination with the oil but from experience I have seen that the marination with oil helps render the chicken even more juicy. Leave it alone for 6 to 7 hours. if you do not have time marinate it for at least 3 hours. Now heat the oil and saute the ginger garlic paste till it is golden brown but not blackened . Add the chicken and keep on stirring as in bhunoing on high heat for 2 minutes to 3 minutes to seal the juices and then reduce the heat to low and add all the spices and keep stirring. What I did after 7 minutes was cover it and let it be (so that the insides of the chicken gets easily cooked) then open the lid and keep stirring till the juices run clear and you can easily pierce a fork right till the bones. Sprinkle some coriander leaves which are freshly minced if you want to Enjoy with a side salad or some Hot soft flatbread.

For the person who cooks this you cannot but mop up all that spice left in the pan after serving it so sneak into the kitchen and mop it up with some fresh hot chapatis or bread for that indulgent experience.

While mustard oil brings out the best flavours of the chicken in case its availability is not possible use refined oil but that does diminish the flavour a little bit.

Sunday, March 16, 2014



To be fair my first brush with jaelbis was quite some time back when I was in college. Well I made it once but then I do not remember how I had made it the first time . My second brush with them was on last year's  Diwali. See, the problem is when you follow recipes without understanding they wouldn't turn out that well. So basically I decided to keep some recipes as the base and work on it. Thankfully a brush with these juicy buddies last year had made me jot down a few things.

Sometimes I make it without the Rabri
This was made when my mother-in-law came over 

I am  completely a person of extremes so on a regular day I would rather have steamed vegetables and steamed meat with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil but jalebis , ah you know already they are high in calories, completely tasty and so why not go all the way and make them as good as possible and in my book Indian food especially food cooked the Northern Indian style is best done in pure ghee, thick curd etc etc

Now, it being holi and a 'holi-day' (this was concocted by my uncle) I had initially decided to simply not try anything since I am swamped with work but then last night at 10 a.m. I felt it would be wrong not to celebrate even a little bit on Holi.

So this is what I did, I created my jalebi batter, noted the things I needed to buy and then went off to sleep a happy girl.

What you need :-

Serves 5 to 6

1 cup + 6 tbsp (these cups hold 210ml liquid) all purpose flour /maida
2 tbsp rice flour
1 tbsp semolina/sooji
Approximately 400gm very thick curd
1 fat pinch of bicarbonate of soda . It is popularly known as 'khnewale soda' in some places
1 pinch of yeast
1 pinch of saffron soaked in water for 10 minutes

For the syrup

3 cups of sugar
3 cups of water
1 fat pinch of saffron
4 to 5 small cardamom

For the Kesari Rabri :-

1 litre full cream cow milk
1 handful sugar but you can increase the amount of sugar as per your palate and taste
A handful of blanced pistachios
Pinch of Saffron soaked in water

150gm ghee
100ml oil

Cloth to whirl the jalebi batter in oil

The batter post fermentation and addition of saffron 

Create a batter with the all purpose flour, semolina, yeast, bi-carbonate of soda and the curd. Now remember that you have to use your instinct and so pour the curd bit by bit to create a batter of dropping consistency like that of a cake batter. I ask everyone to use their instincts because the initial recipe I followed had called for 1.5 cups of flour and 1 cup of curd and that yielded a dry dough and that is when I increased my amount of curd and I later thought that perhaps that other recipe had used churned thinned curd. I used thick curd. Anyways as long as you have a batter with a heavy dropping consistency you are good to go. Cover with a cloth and let it ferment overnight.

The next morning start with the making of rabri by first soaking the saffron in water and  bringing the milk to a boil with 1 tbsp ghee. Now this addition of ghee ensures you have the smoothest of rabri. Then simmer for 1.5 hours to 1 hour 45 minutes till you have a beige thick mass with tiny bubbles. Add the saffron mixture halfway into cooking say after  30 minutes of simmering. This simmering low heat though a long process makes the most amazing rabri. In the end you have an yellowish thick mass of rabri and now simply add the blanched chopped pistachios.

By the time the rabri is done make the syrup by bringing everything to a boil except the saffron and then simmering on medium flame for 15 minutes. Add the saffron mixture after 5 minutes of simmering

Take out the batter add the saffron and mix well and then start with the jalebi making

Now heat the ghee and oil together and while making jalebis keep temperature at low at all times  make a small hole in the middle of you cloth and simply whirl circular patterns in the oil. Use a slotted flat spoon to turn the jalebis once you see the golden brown colour. Remember that the only key to golden brown jalebis are low heat and a constant eye on the frying jalebis. Turn and fry golden brown on each side and then soak in the sugar syrup for 3 minutes to 5 minutes and take out and leave it for a minute or 2 (this helps in making them crispy)  before serving with rabri.

Enjoy these crispy , sugary amazing delights with or without rabri .