Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sour Cream Cake

Sour Cream Cake , Wine and  Teenagers in their mid 20s 

I blog simple because I want to. Period.

Anyway its that time of the year when bells are ringing , people are shopping and here I am making the best of a Sunday since its work throughout the week of Christmas for me.

Anyway it turns out work life for a freelancer has a life of its own which refuses to be tamed by me which means almost every year this time of the year when I actually wish to celebrate the festivities around me,  I usually get a truckload of work. By no means does that mean we the 3 witches of Eastwick one of whom actually came down all the way from a city across the country would not celebrate Christmas. We shall have our slumber party , get drunk, and basically need no decorative balls on our Christmas tree to have a ball.

Out of all the things that I appreciate in life in recent times the one I most appreciate is my husband's good decision to  study a course of his choice. Thank God for that, for while off eh went to South Africa I stayed back basically am reliving or in my case just living like a teenager which I didn't do in my actual teenage or college years , so that means its all about meeting my gal pals getting sloshed,   except at 27 it means we have wine and cocktails instead of cheap spirits.

The only problem is that most of us have jobs which basically run our lives but then again we make the best of things. Another perk of a faux teenager in her mid to late 20s is that you kind of sort of try to sulk less and and care less about perfection specially things that are not in your hands.

Moving on from overgrown teenagers to a repetitive love affair.

I simply adore tea cakes which if I tell anyone who knows me for even a month would beat me up with a newspaper having heard about my scandalous love affair with tea cakes over and over again.

Basically they rock. It doesnt overwhelm the flavour of my beloved Darjeeling tea and is light moist and teamed up well can even be passed off as not too bad a dessert.

So having baked enough Victorian sponge cakes I thought, ' hey a sour cream cake would be a lovely change'. Ya ya thats like moving from Mumbai to Vizag  in the winters and trying to wear  sweaters . Still basically I loved the recipe and hence here goes the recipe

Its BBC Goodfood's Sour Cream Cake 

What I did not use was the glace and what I  did do was  make my own sour cream by adding 1 tsp apple cider vinegar or wait was it white wine vinegar, basically just use any vinegar and add it to 200ml cream and let it sit in a warm corner for 48 hours and tada sour cream is ready.

So  I served mine with a dollop of sour cream and fresh strawberries with a sprinkle of caster sugar

Friday, October 30, 2015

Coconut Poppy seed Mutton

Coconut Poppy seed Mutton 

The first time I slow cooked mutton was after reading an article where the author spoke to a member of one of India's erstwhile Royal families who harped on the beauty of a meat dish when it is slow cooked. That was it I slow cooked mutton , loved it and stuck to it and then there was this one time where the Cooking gas was delivered a month late than it was supposed to be delivered and the household was in a chaos. So for sometime I tried reducing the time taken for slow cooking by slow cooking in a pressure cooker for half the time and then slow cooking the meat which suited me not too badly but then again I must have not even known that in the corner of my heart I did miss slow cooking meat.

One of the wonderful things about interacting with people who are passionate about food is that sometimes matters related to cooking becomes even more clear to you. I am lucky to be part of a group where we have professional chefs and passionate home cooks interacting with each other and so I once again realized I had to slow cook meat and so I did and now its either slow cooking meat or no cooking meat. The flavour is amazing as is the texture of meat which is neither tough nor over cooked but sticks to its bones and melts in your mouth when you take a bite.

I love the flavour of coconut and spices so I was set on this spice mix from Lucknow which uses Charmagaz ( a blend of 4 seeds) etc but then alas I was out of charmagaz.

Thankfully I met with a friend who was talking about how people in our neighbourng state makes meat curry with Poppy seeds. And I knew exactly how I wanted my meat curry to be.

Marinating the mutton in raw papaya juice lessened the time of cooking by half an hour and in the end we licked our bowls clean with some piping hot rice.

From my personal experience the meat tastes even better if you leave it overnight post cooking where the flavours get absorbed even better and you have a wonderful breakfast or brunch for the next day.

800gm goat meat / lamb meat

For marination :-

1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp raw papaya juice

130gm sliced onions
100gm yogurt

For the spice mix :-

2 tbsp heaped grated coconut
1 tbsp poppy seeds
2 blades of mace
3 green cardamom
1.5 inch cinnamon
4 cloves
4 whole dried Kashmiri Red Chilies
2 fiery hot dried red chili (choose a variant which is hot)

100gm clarified butter

Marinate the meat in raw papaya juice and ginger garlic paste for about 3 hours to 4 hours.

Heat the ghee and fry the sliced onions on low to medium heat till its golden brown. take care not to overbrown it. Add the meat and immediately lower heat to absolute low , cover and cook for 30 minutes. Keep it on low heat throughout.

Now whisk the curd well and add it to the meat and stir continuously till it forms a homogeneous mixture.

Now take the ingredients of the spice mixture and leaving aside the fresh grated coconut dry roast the rest and let it slightly cool down and make a dry mixture, add the coconut and grind further and then keep it aside.

When you have cooked the meat for 1 hour from the time you started cooking it add the spice mixture and salt  and lower heat sprinkle water and cover and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour till the meat is cooked through.

Keep sprinkling water and stirring every 15 minutes.

Once cooked cover and let the meat rest for 15 minutes and serve with hot piping rice

The resting period is crucial for better flavour and texture of meat.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Magic of Slow Roasting Chicken and the beauty of chili and garlic

 The Magic of Slow Roasting Chicken 

and the beauty of Chili and Garlic 

The Roast with Butter 

I am  inspired everyday. Sometimes it can be from a book, sometimes a movie, sometimes from the pages of Vogue or Elle , from icons . If you look around there is inspiration in every nook and cranny of this world.

Anyone who is close to me would know that my favourite way to unwind is to visit the fresh markets. The variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and the array of spices and pulses gets me all excited and then there is the new way to unwind by indulging in some yoga.

Anyway ever since the vegetable vendor I am loyal to taught me to wrap herbs in cloth and then store in the refrigerator I have had fresh green herbs for 2 weeks at a stretch.

Last week I was determined to use the beautiful green rosemary and since it was a mundane weekday I decided to make a roast.

Ripe red chilies  always cheer me up 

There are things that make me happy just by looking at them. It could the seasonal fresh fruits , fresh vegetables but then there are some ingredients which makes me feel extra happy and ripe red chilies remind of a beautiful shade of red lipstick always a sure way to pick up a girl. I did go to the market which is a few seconds away from my home for some chicken when I spotted a few ripe red chilies sticking out from a pile of green chilies. I requested the vegetable seller to pick out the ripe red chilies for me and I immediately knew what I wanted to do with my roast.

One of the reasons I like the Mediterranean coast is because of its wide array of flavours. While Italy can boast of its own unique flavours Moroccan cuisine is much closer to home. The use of cumin and coriander gets me all excited. Anyway I took my recipe's inspiration from the Mediterranean , included a bit of heat from the chili but the flavours as delicious as they were came second to this technique which I finally tried and am sticking to.

About 3 years ago while looking for ideas of roast chicken I had come across this French blog which caught my attention because unlike most recipes for roast chicken it recommended slow roasting the chicken at a low temperature for a long time.

The Roast with Olive Oil and Herbs 

So I finally decided to give it a try. Some of the articles suggested roasting the chicken at 120 C for 3 hours. I gave it a shot at 140 C for 2.5 hours. It was the best roast I have made or had. The breast was at its juicy succulent best and never again am I not slow roasting meat

4 to 5 medium sized cloves of garlic
4 to 5 ripe red chili
5 to 6 stuffed olives
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

3/4th tsp roasted ground coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp salt

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Whole chicken with skin (It weighed 1.6 kilogram with feathers) so it would roughly be about 1.2 to 1.3 kilogram when cooking it.

I preheated the oven at 140C for 15 minutes and slow roasted the chicken at 140 C for 2 hours 10 minutes.

Then this other day I had a craving for some buttery chili garlic roast and so here is another way to make hot garlicky roast which is so buttery and for me butter makes everything better

This was even more basic

The chicken with wings was 1.4 kilogram
17gm garlic
40gm butter
7 to 8 ripe red chilies
Salt as per taste

I roasted it at 120C for 3 hours and the result was exceptionally good but quite honestly the chicken was just as succulent when roasted at 140C.

Here are a few tips I most definitely follow when roasting chicken :-

  1. I always wash clean and pat dry chicken with a soft cloth 
  2. Trussing the chicken is important. This helps keep the chicken breast moist 
  3. I always use the dry brine the chicken 
  4. This is a most recent learning and its the holy grail of roasting for me. Always slow roast and the moistness will amaze you. (140C or 120C) 
  5. Rest meat . This is extremely important. 
  6. The dripping that you collect is simply amazing. Use it to make a gravy or keep it and use it for other dishes . If storing it use within 2 days to 3 days. 
  7. I roast the chicken breast down for the first 1 hour and then turn it on one side for 15 minutes each and for the remaining time its breast side up during the last stage of roasting. 
  8. Dont forget to baste the chicken. First use a bit of butter then you will have enough roasting dripping. I use a brush for this. I baste it every 30 minutes for the first 1.5 hours and then every 10 minutes. 
So my final verdict is while butter is always a winner it did not fail this time but the other one can hold its own with the lovely blend of spices and herbs. So frankly speaking I would be recreating both these dishes again and again. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

GT Route at Shiraz's Jameson Inn , Mullickbazaar

GT Route at Shiraz's Jameson Inn, Mullickbazaar 

I have fond memories of my scrap book from school. Those days it was a rage to buy them from the Archies stores all across town and it was a fantastic way to know your classmates and friends. So it would have these questions and one was supposed to fill them out. You were asked about your favourite movie, books etc and of course cuisine and if I take out any of the many many scrap books also known as autograph books the most loved cuisine was usually Mughlai and then came Chinese food. You see Kolkata has maintained  a very long and steady romance with Mughlai food. It is difficult to say exactly when the rich fragrant delicious cuisine entered Bengal to create its own version but the popular belief is that when Nawab Wajid Ali Shah came over from Lucknow along with him came his royal chefs.

What they created was a fantastic version of spicy and delicious food and it soon gained popularity. This was centuries ago.

Anyway there are very few people from Kolkata who would be unaware of the famous Shiraz restaurant at Mallick Bazaar.

Just across the famous outlet of the old Golden Shiraz is Jameson Inn, a part of the Shiraz group.
The restaurant housed in this hotel which was previously known as Dawat e Shiraz  upgraded their menu and given it a complete turnover calling it GT Route now. . While it still retains some of Kolkata's classic Mughlai fare it includes dishes from different regions along the Grand Trunk Road.

Diversity is the spice of life and Kolkatans have long warmed upto diversity in cuisine. Today we no longer simply stick to Chinese , Mughlai or the Kolkatan continental fare .

Chef  Rupam Banik says the spices of this route are mostly similar what changes is the way it is used in the different regions. So while there is the poppy seed chicken 'Murgi Posto' from Bengal which heavily relies of poppy paste , poppy seeds is an ingredient of some of Lucknow's dishes as well only there the amount used is much less and it is usually amalgamated with other spices.

What I did like most is that the menu is very comprehensive. So each dish not only has a description but it mentions the region that it originates from.

I wondered if the spice quotient remains unchanged since in my experience the northern part of our country has a spicier palate when Chef assured me that he has had the freedom to keep it as authentic to the origin of the dish as possible due to the wide variety of dishes which is available so spicy or non spicy there is something for everyone's palate.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart 

If you ask me I would say happiness is subjective. For instance if you ask my husband what happiness means to him he would probably say that he loves going for weekend treks and yes he does it every other weekend no matter where he is. If you ask the same question to my father he would probably say reading a good book, having a 5 course Bengali lunch which includes both fish and mutton and taking a nap and playing the violin.

Happiness in my experience does also keep changing over the years but some things remain constant. For me some time with some of my closest friends over some enjoyable food, some meaningful and meaningless talk and wine or coffee is a consistent source of happiness.

Blogging the way I see it is also an expression of happiness. It doesn't matter why I started blogging at all but within a month of having started a blog I was told I should focus on recipes instead of writing my heart out. That makes zero sense given that I blog because I like expressing myself.

I do also believe in passing off information. For instance when I get a tip for a particular dish and it works well for me I like putting that up on my blog because not only would it help me if I try the dish in the future I would be glad if someone else benefited from it.

I was supposed to meet my aunts and uncles on a warm balmy September afternoon. Of course on such occasions I always try and bake something, a cake, a pie or something else and this time I decided to bake a lemon tart, one which took me a while to master.

Then the plan got cancelled and I had butter , cream , lemon in the pantry which I didn't want to store so I called up one of the besties and when she said that she was free I got down to making the tart.

The first time I had tried this tart I was mighty disappointed. I had followed my favourite chef's recipe to the tee and it had failed miserably. I was heartbroken but then I realized it was the size of my pan which was the problem. In baking precision is of utmost importance. Period.

Sure enough you can throw ingredients in to make a wonderful tasting cake but for traditional bakes precision goes a long way.

Well after that what happened was that I bought a few extra tart pans , turned to my favourite culinary book which kind of solved most of the problems I was having but yet again I wasn't fully satisfied so finally I kind of took half of Raymond Blanc's recipe, half the recipe mentioned in the copy of Larousse Gastronomique that I own and that created something which was perfect for me. Just because its perfect for me doesnt mean that it would be perfect for you so I suggest you create the tart once and then play around a bit.

The tart had a crisp buttery shortcrust base and the filling was just about set and deliciously creamy.

Recipe adapted from Raymond Blanc and Larousse Gastronomique

Makes 8 servings :-

For the shell :-

225gm all purpose flour
110gm chilled cubed unsalted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 large egg
Fat pinch of salt
1 egg white to seal the base

(In case you are using salted butter omit the salt from the recipe)

For the filling :-

3 eggs
2 egg yolks
100ml lemon juice (you may reduce this to 85ml as given in  Blanc's recipe )
Grated zest of two lemon
150gm caster sugar
130ml dairy cream
30gm butter

A 9 inch tart pan

Prepare your tart pan by greasing ti with butter.

Rub the butter in the flour till it becomes a breadcrumb like consistency. Whisk the egg with the sugar and add to the flour butter mixture and quickly knead to create a ball.

Most traditional recipes suggest that you chill the dough wrapped in a cling film and then roll it out after 2 hours. I have always tried that but then I came across a tip on one of the websites. It could be Joe's pastry but I am not sure where the writer suggest rolling out the dough and placing it on the tart shell and chilling it and this works very well for me.

So You roll it out and carefully line the tart pan and trim the edges and press the edge. Use the rolling pin to smoothen the edges and press with a fork so that the dough takes the shape of the pan and is crimped around the edge. Take a fork and create little lined holes all over the base.

Now chill the tart shell in the tar pan for 1 hour to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 160C and blind bake for 10 minutes and then take off the weight and bake for 20 minutes. Now brush the base with the egg white and bake for 2 minutes to 3 minutes.

Let the shell cool down completely. In the meantime melt the butter for the filling and leave aside and then go on to make the filling by whisking the eggs, egg yolks and sugar and slowly add the cream and finally add the butter , keep whisking and add the lemon juice and grated zest.

Now use a double boiler and cook the filling for just a few minutes till it just about begins to thicken. Here timing is everything and it takes a little bit of practice to take it off the heat just in time. Cooked a minute more and the filling curdles so be careful. Keep whisking over the double boiler . Take it off the heat and fill your cooled tart shell with the filling. Preheat oven to 120C for 10 minutes and bake for 25 minutes to 35 minutes.

Let it cool down completely and serve it. If you are living in a tropical country like I do once it cools down completely chill it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle a bit of caster sugar round the edges and serve.

This one was a hit with every guest whom I served that Sunday.

Tips :-

  1. When you brush the tart with the egg white when its almost baked and then bake it for a few minutes it creates a coat so that the filling doesn't seep through 
  2. Just in case you see the filling curdling while you cook it over a double boiler take it off immediately.. Fill a large container with ice water and whisk over it. 
  3. If overbaked the filling doesn't stay smooth and soft so for that timing is everything and this depends on the one baking the tart. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chicken in Wine Cream Butter Mushroom Sauce

Chicken in Wine Cream Butter Mushroom Sauce 

I don't like competition when it comes to food. For me food symbolizes love, togetherness and a sense of sharing. If I close my eyes and think of the word 'food' what immediately comes to my mind is an old rustic table beatified with a white linen table cloth ,laden with delicious food from the rustic kitchen , friends seated around the table passing the dishes around, laughing and in short making special memories.

The first time I saw one of Raymond Blanc's videos I immediately felt I would love to have him as a teacher. What I liked most was not only did he give valuable tips , he filled the programme with laughter and music. For me its music when a person seems to enjoy what he is doing. I considered him my 'Guru' ever since I made his coffee parfait. It was fantastic and from then on I adore and look upto this one celebrity chef. That was some time ago.

Whenever I feel low I watch one of his videos. In one such video I came across this magnificent chicken dish. Usually when I invite my friends over for a meal I tend to serve red meat  since most of my friends love red meat but the moment I saw the dish being made I knew it would be a star dish. The amalgamation of butter, cream, mushroom and wine seemed a sure shot formula for success.

I kept delaying making it in my kitchen because I felt such a fabulous sounding dish deserves to be shared with friends.

The other factor which drew me to the dish was the technique of poaching the chicken breasts. I personally feel that poaching  is one of the best ways to cook chicken breasts which tends to overcook and become dry very easily.

So when the bestie came over to stay with me I knew it was time I made this fabulous sounding dish.

I do have one of Blanc's cookbooks which has the recipe in it but owning to the fact that I had forgotten to pick up button mushrooms and leeks I did customize it a teeny bit to the ingredients available in my kitchen.

The chicken breast remains juicy, succulent and moist 

The end result was absolutely magnificent. Then a week later I wanted to try the same dish but this time I was missing one of the key ingredients, the wine itself which is when I made a version by myself which was quite fantastic as well. So I am sharing both the recipes the way I made it with wine and without wine.

Recipe  sourced and adapted from Raymond Blanc :-

Version 1 : With wine : The one close to the original recipe 

Serves 2

250gm to 300gm chicken breast (1 whole breast which you shall cut in half before cooking )

80ml white wine
200ml dairy cream (double is preferred but in its absence single will do)
5 to 6 dried mushrooms (Blanc uses morel mushrooms but since thats not easily available in India just use the available dried one)
50gm butter (unsalted is preferred but salted would do)
A sprig of rosemary for garnishing
Salt and pepper as per taste

Onions or leeks to be served with the dish

Version 2 without wine :- 

250gm to 300gm chicken breast (1 whole breast which you shall cut in half before cooking )

100ml chicken stock
200ml dairy cream (double is preferred but in its absence single will do)
5 to 6 dried mushrooms (Blanc uses morel mushrooms but since thats not easily available in India just use the available dried one)
50gm butter (unsalted is preferred but salted would do)
A sprig of rosemary for garnishing
Salt and pepper as per taste
50gm Gouda cheese or any other semi solid cheese of your choice
Onions to be served with the dish
20gm butter

Soak the dried mushrooms in water and leave aside for 1 hour. Squeeze the mushrooms wash thema nd squeeze. Do not throw away the water in which you have soaked the mushrooms. Strain it twice and keep it. Chop the mushrooms

Before you start make sure you remove the chicken flaps from the chicken breast.

Now wash, pat dry and rub freshly crushed pepper and salt on both sides.

For version 1 simmer the wine for a few minutes and keep it aside.

Melt the butter in a pan which just about fits the chicken breasts. Once the butter foams brown the breasts for 1 minute on each side and remove them and leave it aside on a plate.

In the same pan add the mushrooms and stir fry it for a minute and add the reduced wine, 150ml of the mushroom soaked and strained water and cream and then bring it to a simmer. Add the chicken breast and reduce the heat to an absolute minimum . Make sure the chicken breasts are completely immersed. Cook on low heat for 1 minute and take it off the heat cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the chicken on the serving plate . Halve the onions and saute the onions in butter till golden brown . Bring the sauce to a quick boil and pour it over the chicken and serve with the onions.

Version 2 is the same as version 1 except that you do not need to reduce the stock. Just add the stock once you fry the mushrooms and after adding the cream add the cheese. Garnish with the rosemary and serve. I bet it would be the softest chicken breasts that you have served.

Tips :

  1. You must make sure the chicken breast when it is being poached is completely submerged ni the cream based wine liquid else the inside remains uncooked. 
  2. Chicken breast overcooks very easily so timing is everything. 
  3. The pan in which you make the chicken must snugly fit it . If its too big it will overcook. In case the pan is a bit big brown the chicken in it and make the sauce in it but when poaching the chicken transfer to a snugly fitting pan which has enough space so that the liquid covers the chicken. 
  4. Shred the cheese before adding it to the sauce. It melts easily. 
  5. Lastly poaching chicken breasts properly takes some practice. If you haven't poached a chicken before practice poaching chicken in water or chicken stock. Place the chicken breast in a snugly fitted pan and cover with liquid about an inch over the chicken , bring to a boil and immediately switch off the gas cover the pan and leave it for 10 minutes. Once you are confident with poaching chicken  make this dish. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Chocolate loaf Cake (with your cup of coffee or tea)

Chocolate loaf Cake 

(with your cup of coffee or tea) 

There are times when I bake or cook for someone and when I do that I usually take into consideration what they like or dislike. For instance my parents love the Victorian sponge cake or a nutty tea cake.

Yesterday I kept craving a chocolate cake not just any chocolate cake one that was a plain loaf cake, no nuts no chocolate chips just one that reminded me of my childhood except that as an adult I have developed a taste for dark chocolate so much so that unless its a minimum of 75% cocoa I don't enjoy chocolates. I like the bitter undertones.

There are these rare times when you try a recipe and it hits the nail on the first day itself and that's something worth documenting, besides being a fan of tea cakes these days there are times when at times I don't really need to search for any recipe to even take inspiration from.

I have tried quite a few chocolate cakes to have a basic idea of throwing things together and because the cake was exactly what I had wanted , moist , soft , extremely chocolaty with a bitter undertone and perfect with a cup of coffee I hereby am sharing my recipe. Its not an exceptional creation. A very basic chocolate cake with the sweetness on the lower side which is why my mother who does not like Dark chocolates found it a bit bitter and it is exactly because of this taste that I know that one of my best friends would love it.

For those who are calorie conscious if you divide this cake into 8 servings it would be roughly 309 calories per slice. I managed to make 10 slices out of the loaf and made quite a breakfast with a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. While 370 calories out of my 1200 calorie diet on a  normal day is gone it is totally worth it.

Here is another tip. The quality of the cake would largely depend on the quality of cocoa powder used so try a good quality dutch processed one.

Here is another tip. I had a clear idea of exactly what I wanted which is to team it with a hot beverage so I did not want to too buttery . If you have plan to serve this just by itself I suggest teaming it with some whipped heavy cream or say a bit of ganache or if you want it plain increase the amount of butter from 150gm to 180gm and the amount of cream from 50ml to 100ml. The best cakes are the ones which satisfy you , the baker the most.

You can also increase the quantity of sugar from 150gm to 180gm to 190gm if you like it a bit sweet. Plus sugar adds more moisture to the cake in which case keep the amount of butter to 170gm and caster sugar to 120gm.

Here is my chocolate loaf cake which I feel is exactly what I would want with my cup of coffee :-

Makes 8 servings to 10 servings :-

150gm All purpose flour
50gm Unsweetened cocoa powder
75gm brown sugar
75gm caster sugar
150gm butter at room temperature
50ml cream (must be dairy)
4 medium sized eggs separated carefully to not get a drop of yolk in the bowl containing the egg whites
1 tsp alcohol based Coffee extract (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bi-carbonate of soda
A drop pr two of lemon juice

Extra butter + cocoa powder to prepare pan

Before you start prepare the pan by greasing it with dusting it with cocoa powder.

Preheat oven to 160C. I used an OTG but if you are using a convection cum micro oven I suggest 180C.

If using OTG use both the heating elements top and bottom that is you hat up the rods on top and bottom for even baking.

In the meantime quickly sift the flour with the baking powder and bi-carbonate of soda and then sift the cocoa powder and then sift all the dry ingredients together. This leads to a fluffier cake.

Cream the butter with the sugar till its fluffy and separate the eggs and add the yolks and whisk it with the creamed butter till its fluffy . Add the cream and whisk it a bit more.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks with a drop of lemon juice .

Now quickly add a bit of flour to the egg yolk butter mixture and fold it in with 1/3rd of the whisked egg whites and then sprinkle the flour and egg whites and fold  quickly. If using the coffee extract fold it in at this point. and spread it out in the prepared pans and tap it on a solid surface and tap the sides for even baking.

Bake for 40 minutes. After 15 minutes of baking use a loose foil to cover the top so that the top does not brown too easily. Else in my experience the top overbakes a tiny bit. I must admit that I have often baked without the foil and it doesn't make too much of a difference.

Check after 35 minutes by inserting a toothpick. if it comes out clean its done else bake for another 5 minutes.

Once done take it out let it cool down for 5 minutes in the pan and then use a blunt knife or cake spatula to loosen the cake and transfer to a wire rack and cool it completely before slicing it.

In my experience it tastes best after 12 hours of resting.

Enjoy it with a cup of coffee but like I have already mentioned if you plan to have it just by itself without an accompanying beverage increase the amount of caster sugar to 100gm to 120gm and the amount of butter to 180gm. Or else keep the amount of  ingredients as is and team it with some whipped cream or flowing chocolate ganache made with 2 part cream and 1 part chocolate.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Almond Cake

Almond Cake 

I believe there is a cake for every occasion and there is some cake in this world for each and every one.

Sometimes its a silky buttercream iced layered sponge cake, sometimes an old fashioned butter based cake with buttercream frosting and since we don't get heavy dairy cream in India at times making some homemade mascarpone substitute and using that as an icing is what a girl needs.

In our house the most beloved cakes are cakes sans icing. These cakes are butter based and a perfect accompaniment with that cup of delicately flavoured Darjeeling tea or a cup of robust  coffee.

I have always maintained that a classic cake like the Victorian Sponge Cake is one of the best tea cakes but then again so is the sour creamed cake or the fruit cake.

Anyway the first time I baked with ground almonds it was for the classic Dundee  Cake and it was simply delightful even though the quantity of almonds is very less. The next time I made a dacquoise I was hooked. I simply loved the nutty light flavour.

I came upon the blog The Ordinary Cook when randomly searching for recipes for almond cakes and I liked what I saw and made a small cake last year for a birthday and my aunt called me up later to tell me what a wonderful cake it was.

My parents do not like iced cakes. The problem is in my family we are 4 members at present at least 4 2 legged members and 3 members out of the 4 are above 55 years and not too fond of sweets. That said they love cakes sans icing and so this seemed like the perfect anniversary cake for my parents who completed 28 years of togetherness and have a mutual dislike for iced cakes.

This cake is nutty buttery light and an absolute keeper. I mostly stuck to the recipe but where The Ordinary Cook replaces one of her eggs with 150gm greek yogurt I used the egg and I separated the eggs which gives a lighter texture to cakes

Makes about a decent loaf of cake

Loaf tin used 9inch by 4 inch

What you need :-

250gm almonds
100gm all purpose flour flour which is sifted with 1 tsp baking powder
175gm caster sugar
175gm salted butter (In case you are using unsalted butter use a small pinch of salt) at room temperature
4 eggs
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Blanch the almonds peel them, toast them lightly making sure you don't brown them , cool the almonds and then leave aside 10 to 15 almonds and use a coffee grinder to grind the rest. Do not grind for too long else you end up with almond paste.

Preheat the oven at 160C. Prepare the loaf tin by greasing it and dusting it with flour.

Cream the butter and sugar together. In my experience a wooden spoon used for this is the best option.

Now separate the eggs and make sure your whites are in a container with absolutely no fat else the whites would not form soft peaks which we want to achieve

Add the yolks one by one and whisk well. Now use a separate whisk to whisk the egg whites after adding the lemon juice to soft peaks

Add a bit of flour, a bit of ground almonds and egg whites and fold well. The folding technique determines how light and fluffy your cake will be. Quickly add the flour, ground almonds and whisked egg whites and fold it well and spread the mixture evenly on the loaf tin . Tap it from all sides and bake placing the rack in the center of the preheated oven at 160C for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top is evenly browned

Let the cake cool down in the pan for 5 minutes and then use a spatula to loosen it and cool is on a wore rack. Slice the almonds which you have kept aside and decorate the cake if you please.

Serve it with your favourite hot beverage or enjoy a slice of this nutty light buttery cake by itself.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Celebrating Iftar at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata

Celebrating Iftaari at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata 

Kolkata was once known as the city of Palaces and if you take a walk down the roads of the older part of the city you would know why it was called so. Most of these palatial buildings are now almost in ruins but when a heritage hotel restores its buildings to welcome you all over again it makes me confident that a part of the old erstwhile Calcutta  now Kolkata will live on.

The Great Eastern Hotel is now called The Lalit Greast Eastern Kolkata and all throughout Ramadan they had a beautiful celebration of this season's festivity every Friday with an array of dishes from different corners of the world to celebrate this festive season .

It was held every Friday throughout the holy month of Ramadan at their elegant restaurant, Alfresco.
Their motto is to spoil you with choice and once you are happily over fed you cannot but leave the restaurant with a smile on your face a satisfied heart and a reason to come back again.

The start to this lovely meal was very traditional. I have always been tempted by the range of fried fritters that are served just as roza is about to be broken and in keeping up with this tradition which I see in Kolkata our starters comprised of a range of assorted fritters from Bengal from poppy seed fritter to the humble potato chop which was very tasty by the way and some egg chop and meatball.

If the beef Moroccan salad tempted me in  one corner the the haleem simmering away on another end of this restaurant to draw my attention.

On Chef's insistence I tried the vegetarian haleem and I must say this was a revelation. As a puritan I have mostly scoffed at vegetarian versions of non veterinarian dishes but this comforting amalgamation of grains and spices was exactly what I needed on a rainy evening. There are very few haleem even the non vegetarian versions which can taste as good as what I had been served. Chef later told us that the haleem was made the Lucknawi style which makes it spicier than its Kolkatan version and I have to say that it was completely and utterly triumphant in its own right.

The fresh aroma of assorted middle eastern bread instantly drew us to the counter.

There were the usual dishes such as Nihari, Mutton Kosha and a host of other  dishes but what caught my attention was the Afghani meatballs and Khichda (the meaty version of Khichdi which is a dish made with assorted pulses , rice and meat) Though the consistency was more like Pulao than the creamy soft khichda I happily settled for it with some afghani meat balls as an accompaniment.

As I took a tour of the entire buffet spread all I could think was 'this spread is humongous'

What I also liked was how the chefs keep the customer's palate in mind when setting a menu. So the assorted European cheese platter is hands down a lovely combination with the Middle eastern breads along with some shorba to make it a fusion affair.

In case you want to enjoy a light bite there is a whole counter of salads to tempt you.

So impressed was I with many of the dishes that I hoped that they would include this in their regular menu but chef told us that if included in their regular fare it would lose its charm and somehow I could not but agree. I genuinely hope they put up this lovely spread for some other festival in the near future so that all of Kolkata might enjoy it.

I can never leave the dining table without something sweet and hence a visit to the dessert counter got me all excited. There was baked cheesecake and Baklava and then there was fig halwa 'anjeer halwa' , Sewain kheer , nutty tart and a host of other desserts which we did not have the guts to even look at so full were we by this time.

The baklava was excellent, rich inside with the pistachios with a thin crisp filo pastry covering it all up. What I liked was that it was less sweet than the traditional baklava. Somehow for me if a dessert is too sweet it becomes less enjoyable after the first bite . Then there is the nut tart with a perfectly crisp tart shell and nutty caramelized filling which I feel was again a revelation since I expected it to be much more sweet than it was.

To be fair the mild disappointment was the cheesecake which seemed a bit too compact after those desserts which took my heart away but then again who am I to complain when I had a fantastic phirni to enjoy.

In case you missed this event do try and drop in The Bakery for a lovely Sunday brunch.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sewain Kheer

Sewain Kheer 

I believe that memories play a huge role in our lives. The memory of watching movies throughout the weekend with your cousin sister, the memory of that first kiss, the memory of romance and then there is memory of food.

I met Lubna at a culinary event and we both loved the Sewain kheer and that is when we got to talking and I requested for the recipe of Sewain kheer the way her family makes it at home. She was sweet enough to share it and basically the recipe is quite easy which is when I asked her where I might get the best sewain in town. She told me to go to Zakharia street during Ramazan and pick up good sewain.

From that day onward I knew that I had to make that trip to Zakharia street for the Sewain. I can be crazy that way. Anyway Pritha and I headed to the old neighbourhood of Nakhoda Masjid to get haleem, have kebabs and I knew I wanted to buy the sewain.

The man at the counter had 6 different kinds of vermicelli aka sewain and he was patient and kind enough to explain how the white ones need to be roasted at home and the brown ones are already roasted. I noticed the finest of fine  sewain and asked him the difference between that and the other thin variant.

The two variants of vermicelli
(The one on the right hand side is the super fine one and the one on the left hand side is thin but sturdier than the other one) 

He told me that the finest of fine sewain which I am calling 'thread sewain' needs a few seconds of cooking else it turns into 'halwa' a thick sweet dish which is not what you want to do with sewain. I picked up 500gm each of the 'thread sewain' and the normal thin sewain and we headed back home happy and content.

I made some sewain that night itself and as I took my first spoonful a memory took me back to that day when I had first fallen in love with sewain. The truth is I was not really a fan of Sewain kheer which my grandmother would make quite often. So instead they stopped making sewain kheer at home and switched over completely to rice kheer which we call 'payesh' . Anyway one day a friend of mine had got some nut filled dessert for lunch at school and a spoonful got me addicted to it. I made her promise that she would request her mother to make it again and the kind lady sent an entire bowlful of fantastic sewain kheer the next week. I guess its the ultra thin sewain which makes all the difference.

Anyway since the recipe given to me by Lubna and the sewain seller was exactly the same I guess this is the standard recipe for very good sewain.

I cannot call this recipe Sheer Khurma because Khurma means dates and if I do not use dates it does not make it sheer khurma which is why this is called Sewain kheer.

I love cooking with a lot of ingredients but saffron and pistachio happen to be my top favourite ingredients when I am making Indian desserts. I use it very frequently for a lot of dishes hence when I get the opportunity I use other flavouring and so I used 'Kewra water' Panadanas water. I did use a lot of pistachios though.

The timing for cooking vermicelli 'sewain' will largely depend on how thick it is. I had bought 2 variants one very thin yet not as thin as the one which hardly needs cooking. So while buying your vermicelli ask the shopkeeper how much it would take to cook the variant you are purchasing. I am sharing 2 methods.

Method 1 which needs minimum cooking time for the Vermicelli

The Variant of vermicelli which takes 20 seconds to cook on fire 

Makes 4 small servings or 2 large servings

500ml whole milk (full fat milk)
1/2 cup thinnest variant of Vermicelli aka Sewain {cup used holds 250ml liquid}
2.5 tbsp almonds
3.5 tbsp pistachios
2 tbsp raisins
1/2 tsp Kewra water 'Panadanas water'
2 tbsp sugar which you should adjust as per taste
1.5 to 2 tbsp melted pure desi ghee 'clarified butter'
1 green cardamom roasted peeled and pounded

Start by first bringing 1 cup of water to a roaring boil and blanch the nuts. Now reduce the milk with 1/4th tsp ghee {using the ghee helps keep it smooth and the milk does not burn easily} for 10 minutes. Keep stirring from time to time.

Skin the blanched nuts and chop them up. Slice the almonds and chop the pistachio and raisins.
Now take a heavy wok and heat the remaining ghee and add the chopped nuts on low heat and fry till golden and quickly add the milk and sugar and the pounded cardamom and Kewra water and simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes to 8 minutes.

Now here is the tricky part. When using the ultra thin variant of sewain it needs minimum amount of cooking.

So once you add the sewain count till 20 and switch off the gas else the sewain will stick together and become lumpy.

Let it stand for 10 minutes cool it chill it and then serve. Before serving make sure you mix it well. Clarified butter tends to solidify in cold temperature hence you need to stir it well before serving.

You may also have it warm or at room temperature but I find the taste to be better when served chilled.

Method 2 with a slightly thicker variant

The Variant used needs 5 minutes to 8 minutes cooking time 

500ml whole milk
3/4th cup vermicelli
3tbsp pistachios
2.5 tbsp almonds
2 tbsp 'ghee'clarified butter
2 tbsp, sugar
1/2 tsp Kewra water

Blanch and chop the nuts. Now heat the ghee and fry the nuts on low heat and keep aside. Fry the vermicelli and keep aside. Now add milk to the same pot and the nuts with sugar , kewra water and reduce the milk for 8 minutes. Add the vermicelli and cook on low flame for another 6 minutes to 8 minutes till you see the milk changing its colour to a beige shade and bubbling away . Once the colour changes immediately switch off the gas stove.
Cool, chill, serve.

Personally speaking I loved both of them because both were more or less thin but the ultra thin one simply melts in the mouth.


  1. This is a dessert and has calories so I would highly recommend that you do not lessen the amount of ghee. If you want a healthy dessert I suggest having some fresh plums, peaches for this season which I often have.
  2. In case the sewain you are using is slightly thicker you need to cook it for a longer time. I do have that variant so one of these days I shall make Sewain kheer with the thin yet slightly thicker variant and mention how much time that takes. 
  3. I used my favourite nuts. You can always add cashew nuts or repalce one of the nuts with cashew nuts. Please do not add peanuts.  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Some new additions to the menu at The Bridge , The Park, Kolkata

Some New additions to the menu 

at The Bridge , The Park, Kolkata 

I love classics whether movies, music, food and while on the way to The Park I told myself that Park Street is indeed a classic road in Kolkata.

Most of my friends and I have a million memories associated with Park Street. If my childhood was spent holding my father's hand and walking into Kwality for one of the best ice-creams available during the early 90s and turn of this century the teenage years meant first dates at Oxford bookstore and Someplace else.

Later when The Street opened its doors when we were in college we were more than happy. It was affordability , chicness and a youthful vibe all mixed in one long space. Much later came the time to head over to Saffron with the first pay-cheque.

Anyway when the lovely and vivacious Supreeta called us over to taste a few  dishes which are being added to The Bridge's menu I could not say no to it. The Bridge is The Park hotel's 24 hour restaurant and the idea is to bring home cooked food on your plate. It may be the homely Rajma chawal or a rustic yet comforting pasta which is probably home cooked somewhere in the land of Parmesan and Olives.

You can be hungry and tired after landing in the city or you might just be walking along Park Street and feel hungry or plan a get-together with friends , whatever the reason might be the Calabrian Spaghetti is not worth missing. The emulsion created with fresh beautiful chicken stock and extra virgin olive oil is subtle yet delightful so much so that even after 2 days the taste is something I am craving at all hours of the day.

The chicken satoosh is a puff pinwheel which is spicy and juicy with flavours of green chili and red onion and bits of chicken to tickle your taste buds and goes perfectly well with a glass of red wine to compliment the robust taste. This is what I could call a lovely start to a meal.

If Indian food is what you crave the Chicken Kosha with flaky lachcha parata is a great choice. The spiciness is well balanced and to tear a bit of flaky paratha and eat that with a bite from the juicy spicy chicken curry is quite comforting and the taste would  remind you of the home cooked kosha chicken.

What is equally comforting is the lehsuni dal. If I were traveling all I would want is some home cooked pulse , chicken curry and rice at the end of a hard day's work and that is exactly what The Bridge is giving you.

Though it was delicious in its own right the molten lava cake served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream has probably been overdone by most good restaurants in town and personally speaking I would much rather go for that exotic and delicious Kiwi Cheesecake. Fluffy cheesy and baked it is just the dessert to indulge in. For a long time I was tired with the offering of desserts in Kolkata with the same old Truffle Chocolate cake and Tiramisu etc etc hence the sight of the Dobostorte makes me 10 folds more happy and I wholeheartedly recommend that you try it.

Other than the mentioned dishes there is a host of thin crust pizzas and a lot more to choose from. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sesame Chili Garlic Chicken

Sesame Chili Garlic Chicken 

These last 3 weeks have been absolutely crazy for me. I am overworked and that means on most days of the week I am working almost 10 hours to 12 hours. My workout and diet has gone for a toss , my sleep cycle has literally changed but in between all this the only silver lining is the fact that every 3 to 4 days I try and cook something nice and that energizes me and I get motivated to work again though work has no connection with cooking or with food for that matter.

The thing is even when I have a lot of work I always find time to cook. Sometimes when I cook something special even with a mountain load of work I share the photographs on social media but then it becomes impossible to write about the experience because after all those hours of work or a break in between work all I want to do is watch some episodes from my favourite soaps and relax.

So I am yet to share my experience of making this lovely Pork Roast and handmade pasta and then there are some dishes which I didn't even bother documenting.

Anyway finally there is a 2 to 3 day break between 2 projects and I have very little work to complete today and so I finally managed to visit the market in the morning.

When it comes to food I usually listen to what my heart wants. I have been wanting to make my favourite Oriental stir fry which I make quite often . Its extremely simple easy to make and with a simple trick you get juicy succulent chicken which I learnt from Rasamalysia's website. Basically this recipe is something I tossed up taking reference from Oriental cooking but Rasamalaysia's tip on getting juicy chicken is a foolproof method.

Serves 2 :-

200gm boneless chicken cut up in bite sized pieces

2 tsp chili garlic paste (I usually make mine by soaking  1 head of garlic, 70gm dried red chili in enough rice wine vinegar and salt for 2 hours and then blend it to a paste) This stays in the refrigerator for 6 months since it has no water in it and can be used for a variety of Oriental dishes
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1.5 tbsp peanut oil or refined oil
2 tsp Oyster sauce which can be repalced by Hoisin sauce
Salt as per taste (Usually I do not need salt because the sauces have salt in them)
1/2 tsp bi-carbonate of soda
1 tbsp cornflour

For garnishing :-

2 tbsp finely minced spring onion
1 tbsp sesame seeds

So chop the chicken in bite sized pieces and its important that its bite sized and marinate with the bi-carbonate of soda and leave it to marinate for 20 minutes and wash the chicken very well. Now pat the chicken dry and marinate with half of the rest of the ingredients  except the sesame oil and peanut oil and let it marinate for 45 minutes.

Dry roast the sesame seeds on low heat making sure it does not brown and leave aside

Heat the oil and stir fry the chicken on high heat for a minute and add the rest of the ingredients from the marinate and then toss for 2 minutes . You should ideally use a pan with a handle and keep tossing it. This comes with practice because toss it for too long and you get tough chicken, toss it for too little time and the chicken remains under cooked.

Garnish with the toasted sesame seeds and finely minced spring onion and let the chicken rest for 3 minutes and serve it as a snack or with hot sticky rice.

P.S. You can always make a version of your own but swapping the ingredients gives a different flavour if you omit some of the ingredients.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Frozen Plum Yogurt

 Frozen Plum Yogurt 

One of the ingredients I miss in the Indian market during the summers are berries. As it is India does not grow too many berries and we get out share of strawberries during the winters. The truth is there is an abundance of fruits we get here during the summers but somehow I always crave a tart fruit during the summers especially to be used for frozen desserts etc etc.

Anyway the rains came in, the humidity rose and along came the season for plums. So when I got this season's first batch of plums it turned out a bit more tart than expected and while at first I did not know what to do with them I suddenly had an idea and it resulted in a creamy tart frozen yogurt.

I adapted BBc food's recipe for Plum preserve and made some frozen yogurt

You might be left with some extra plum sauce which you can use later on

Please note that the  amount of sugar I have used is a bit on the lesser side so feel free to use more sugar

For the Plum Preserve

450gm Plums
170gm sugar
200ml water
2 inch cinnamon stick
A few drops of lemon juice

For the frozen yogurt :-

400gm yogurt which is made into hung curd
100ml dairy cream

Tie the yogurt in a cheesecloth or muslin cloth and let the water drain away for 2 hours to create hung curd.

In the meantime make your plum preserve. Stone the plums and chop them. After chopping them they would roughly weigh 400gm or so.

Bring the water and sugar to a boil and boil for 1 minute and add the chopped plums , cinnamon stick and lemon juice and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the scum. Let it cool down.

Chill the cream in a large bowl. Once the hung curd is made whip it with the chilled cream and then add 1 cup of the plum preserve and fold it in.

Cup used holds 250ml liquid.

Freeze for 2 hours to 3 hours until just set and scoop out and serve immediately. Do not over freeze it else it becomes rock hard and you end up with scoops of frozen yogurt with a little bit of ice crystal in them.

The end result was perfect for me , mostly tart with a hint of sweetness. If you want it to be sweeter make some syrup of single thread consistency and add the syrup which you must cool before adding to the yogurt and cream when whipping it.