Sunday, March 29, 2015

Shahi Tukda

Shahi Tukda 

Sometimes I make a dish quite out of the blue without any reason and this Shahi Tukda is one such dish. Basically I had milk which I had reduced by mistake and then on a lazy Saturday afternoon I was fidgeting with the idea of a dessert but I knew I did not want kheer aka Indian rice pudding and then I remembered Shahi Tukda . This is one of the first desserts which I had made for a huge dinner party while in college. 

This time I adapted the recipe given in Adil Ahmed's book 'Tehzeeb' You see I believe ghee is the answer to superior quality better tasting Indian desserts. You simply cannot get the same taste when you are using refined oil which has no flavour of its own. Not to mention the immense flavour imparted by ghee. The ghee makes all the difference along with the kewda water and using full fat milk.

The thing thing is this does not use saffron but uses Kewra water. I love saffron and love using it which is why using Kewda water was  such a  refreshing change for me and the flavour it imparts is truly amazing.

So this Shahi Tukda is royal indeed the recipe adapted from a semi royal family's cookbook

Serves 4 to 5

What you need :-

6 to 7 small slices of milk bread their crusts cut out
500ml full cream milk
130gm sugar
A few drops of screwpine ittar or a tiny sprinkle of screwpine water
A handful of pistachio blanched and chopped
You may also use raisins which I left out
6 to 8 heaped tsp of unmelted ghee

Start by reducing the milk with the sugar . When doing so add 1/2 tsp ghee. This addition of ghee prevents the milk from sticking to the bottom easily. keep stirring from time to time. Reduce it till it thickens. Takes about 30 minutes to 40 minutes. Once reduced add the screwpine water aka kewda water.

Blanch the pistachio and chop them up.

 Slice the slices of bread diagonally. Fry them till golden brown on both sides. Do this over medium to low heat lest the slices of bread burns.

Once all the slices of bread are fried arrange them on a serving dish and pour the reduced milk on top. garnish with the pistachio and chill this for a good 2 hours to 3 hours and then serve this decadent dessert which is sure to impress your guests.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chinese Food Festival at Swissotel Kolkata

Chinese Food Festival at Swissotel Kolkata 

Kolkata's connection with China goes back to the 18th century. Having grown up in a city where most people would declare that 'Chow mein' the stir fried noodles are one of their all time favourite dishes it is of no wonder that the prospect of a Chinese Food Festival got me all excited. 

My own brush with this cuisine extends a bit beyond the usual Chinese dishes which are served across this city. The Inod Chinese cuisine. The erstwhile Calcutta had a Chinatown right in the middle of the city and much later was the new Chinatown formed. 

Those of us who are used to and love the cuisine from Old Chinatown would think of silky soft wonton soup, Chimney soup, mild flavours and dishes which are a perfect balance of meat and greens. 

Imagine that its the weekend and you are bored and need a much needed break. How does a long drive and a stopover at a sophisticated hotel which is hosting a Chinese food festival where the Chefs have come all the way from Kunshan in China sound? 

Let me give you a bit of details of what you might expect once you walk into Cafe Swiss, the 24 hour coffee shop between 26th March 2015 to 29th March 2015. Well as usual Swissotel's courteous staff is sure to put a smile on your face and make you feel very special and then comes a whole range of dishes which is not just utterly delicious but the variety itself is quite a reason for joy. 

China much like India has many regions and each region has a regional cuisine to boast of much like our own country, India. This Food Festival focuses on Schezwan, Cantonese and Jiangnan cuisine.

For someone such as myself who believes in the immense power of a well made stock the very idea that some of the dishes rely on a well made stock is quite  comforting. The wonton soups had something very familiar interspersed with a delicious unfamiliarity. The silky wontons are something that Old Chinatown in Calcutta is used to but the way it is served is delightfully unfamiliar. The wontons are skilfully made by our Chefs and it is served with some well made chicken stock and then you choose your condiments from Chinese pickle made of root vegetables , soy sauce, vinegar, a chili condiment which is extensively used and this chili paste is one where the chilies are soaked in vinegar for over a year. Chef Yao told me that in China the usual preferred meat for wonton is pork meat. Well here in Calcutta we are no different but the chicken used for the wonton soup for this event is equally delicious. 

If you prefer meaty dishes there is plenty of options to choose from be it the delicious braised beef fillet in chili sauce or the delightful cold chicken with chili and vinegar where the chicken with its skin makes for a delightful texture along with mild yet amazing flavours but I would highly recommend that you do not miss out on the vegetarian items as well for these dishes are sure to delight you in the most unexpected way.

Take the example of the raddish  pie. Flaky and crispy on the outside and creamy inside. The steamed baby bok choy in chicken broth is probably not technically vegetarian but the mild sweet flavour is an absolute delight when the heat is knocking on our doors. 

The hot and sour soup is entirely different from any hot and soup soup we get in the Indian sub continent. Here the soup is mildly sour and the heat comes from black pepper. 

Quite honestly I would highly suggest that you do not leave out one single dish because every dish will make you taste flavours which are familiar yet completely and delightfully unfamiliar.

And with all the steaming boiling and braising its one of the lightest meal on your stomach which means you can indulge without feeling guilty. The good news is that some of these dishes would be included in Swissotel's regular menu which is indeed something to feel joyous about. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chocolate Indulgent Cake

Chocolate Indulgent Cake 

I shall be honest. Lately I have come to find chocolate cake to be highly overused mostly because most good Indian bakeries mostly keep two to three variants of cakes , one with a lot of fresh cream and then there are 3 to 4 variants of chocolate cake.

To be fair while one can never get tired of a good slice of chocolate cake it can be tiring at times. While growing up I would see my aunt bake chocolate cakes which were the typical buttercakes which meant it was butter based and used a bit of cocoa powder for that taste of chocolate which somehow did not really click.

To be fair the ones you get at good bakeries are quite honestly very delicious but then again once you start baking at home and expand your knowledge you realize that you can actually customize a chocolate cake as per your liking.

What is 'my perfect chocolate cake' will perhaps not be your's. Anyway I have tried a good 6 variants of the good old butter based chocolate cakes. I am not even going into the sponges . So it turns out this cake is one of my favourites mostly because it is moist and light enough to stand out on its own with your cup of tea  and with a dollop of whipped cream it can be turned into a fabulous dinner time dessert. In my experience when one uses icing it is best to stick to sponge cakes because a butter based cake is quite heavy on its own and layers of buttercream or ganache makes it too rich an indulgent but then again there are those times when you simply just need some indulgence. And this cake happens to be one of them. Hence I named it the Chocolate Indulgent Cake.

I had already shared the recipe for the main cake in one of my earlier posts. Use the recipe for the cake and leave out the recipe for icing given there  So here is the link: My Perfect Chocolate Cake. Let it cool down and slice in half. Cut the top of the cake to level it out.

For the icing try this ganache , its rich , chocolaty and when fluffed up and used with the cake it becomes a pure sinful indulgence

Recipe adapted from Larousse Gastronomique

150ml fresh cream
225gm finely chopped chocolate (70% dark)
1 tbsp sugar syrup

Use the bain marie method to heat up the cream and add the chocolate and stir till you get a smooth creamy mixture and then keep whipping till it fluffs up. use this as a filling and then cover the cake and let it set at room temperature for an hour and then serve it up.

Important tip :-

A cake is meant to be eaten as fresh as possible so it is a good idea to finish it off within 2 days of it being baked. try not to refrigerate the cake but in case you do refrigerate it make sure you take it out 1 hour prior to serving. The cake if served straight from the refrigerator will be hard as lard. It needs to be soft hence it needs to come to room temperature.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Genoese with Vanilla Buttercream frosting and Almond praline

Genoese with Vanilla Buttercream frosting 

and Almond praline 

Learning something new always gets me very excited and I do not know why but when it comes to cakes and pastries or a sweet dish I get even more excited.

Like everyone else I had started baking cakes with butter cakes. I personally still do believe that once a person can understand the characteristics of a Victorian Sponge Cake one has a good base to begin with but ah this is solely constricted to butter based cakes meaning cakes which use flour, butter , a raising agent etc.

I had quickly learnt about the existence of the other kind of sponge cake meaning the ones which do not use a raising agent . Some of these cakes do not use butter as well.

I had personally started off with this other variety of cakes with the Dacquoise cake. A light foamy meringue based cake which uses egg whites alone with almond flour to create these light airy nutty bases to be sandwiched between layers of frosting. My thrill of whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks is something I can never forget. You see this might not really be of great importance for many a person but for someone such as myself who does not use an electric whisk it is something which gives a tiny ray of pride.

Anyway soon enough I created my foam cakes and slowly practiced till I was satisfied enough and then I moved on to sponge cakes all of which either uses the egg whites alone or has the eggs separated and whisked and folded.

Anyway ever since I have started religiously following Larousse Gastronomique's recipes I have had the scope to learn a lot more and so after many a successful desserts which I have created following its recipe I decided that it was time for me to make the Genoise cake which is a type of sponge cake but is different by only one factor as in for normal sponge cakes the eggs are separated and here it is beaten whole.

The base turns out light airy a bit dry as what I have read is supposed to be and a great base for layered cakes. These cakes usually need a syrup or a bit of alcohol to keep them moist before being layered with some sort of frosting.

Anyway so with all the syrup and icing these cakes are a bit sweet but an absolute delight. I would personally say that if you happen to live in a tropical country try these cakes during the winter months.

Recipe source : Larousse Gastronomique

For the Genoese sponge cake :-

4 large eggs
125gm flour sifted twice
125gm caster sugar
1 large pinch of salt
30gm unsalted butter

For the frosting :-

125gm caster sugar
500ml water
4 egg yolks
125gm unsalted butter
Vanilla seeds from Half a medium sized vanilla pod

Praline :-

100gm sugar
100gm blanched almonds

For the syrup :-

50ml water
50gm sugar
1 tbsp rum

Start by preparing your pan (I used an 8 inch pan) by lining the bottom with butter paper and then greasing it. Melt the butter and keep aside.  Sift your flour. Whisk the eggs with the sugar over tepid water till the sugar melts in the eggs and then keep whisking till it doubles in volume and then keep whisking till it reaches the ribbon stage and then gently add the butter and whisk well .

At this stage preheat the oven to 180 C.

Quickly fold in the flour with a firm but gentle hand but make sure you do not knock down the air bubbles in the egg mixture else.

Immediately pour in the batter in your prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes to 25 minutes till a toothpick comes out clean and the cake turns a golden brown colour.

Let the cake cool down completely. In the meantime prepare your syrup and praline.

make your praline by bringing the sugar to a slow boil  and caramelizing it and adding the blanched almonds and cooking it on low flame for 1 minute and then letting it cool on a parchment paper. Once it has completely cooled down use a mortar and pestle to crush it.

Make your syrup by bringing the water and sugar to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes and then turn off heat and add rum and mix well.

For the butter cream frosting make sure that the butter is softened and is at room temperature before you begin preparing the icing. Start by bringing the water and sugar to a boil and then simmer it for 10 minutes. Lt it cool down just a bit and usinge a bain-marie  beat the egg yolks to a ribbon stage and then add the still warm but not hot syrup bit by bit while whisking it vigorously. Add the vanilla bean and keep whipping. Keep whisking till it cools down completely and then add the softened butter and beat till it reaches a fluffy creamy texture.

This icing is not really meant to be piped and decorated but it is so silky smooth and delicious that you need not really worry about piping.

Now carefully take out your cake and remove the lining of baking paper and slice the cake into two thin halves and brush some syrup on each layer. If the top of the cake is uneven then use a serrated knife to level it. Whip your buttercream and layer the cake and add the crushed praline and then cover the cake with buttercream , add crushed praline on top and let it set in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Take it out 1/2 an hour before serving allowing it to come to room temperature and enjoy this decadent cake.

Tip :-

If you do not allow the cake to come to room temperature its texture would be hard.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Culinary Revelry at ITC Sonar

 Culinary Revelry at ITC Sonar 

With David Rocco
Photograph Credit : Poorna Banerjee 

He says that India is 'rich in history' and this man with his charming smile is none other than the famous David Rocco. He talks about the 'power of food'  and his love for Naples the land of 'Pizza' and fresh sea food.  

When I ask him why he had chosen India as his destination he says that he wants to learn from the country which is 'rich in history'. He believes in using 'fresh local ingredients' and you my readers should not have to wait too long before Food Network Canada, TLN and National Geographic air David Rocco's Dolce India Season II for David Rocco's Dolce Vita for its 5th season which covers Goa, Kerala, Kolkata , Kashmir and Delhi.

Sneak Peak at West View's Grills 

ITC Sonar has teamed up with David Rocco to present an evening of gourmet delight which would see a beautiful amalgamation of Indian and Italian elements on the 16th of March 2015.

Chef Mayank , executive Chef of ITC Sonar who has been in the industry for over 24 years believes in innovation yet his firm stand on tradition is what makes the innovation seem like its carrying a part of history itself. He firmly believes in the power of ghee and he gives his reasoning as well . You see ghee 'absorbs trace materials' not to forget its incredible power to enhance flavours and give a magical twist to dishes that it is used in. He shall team up with our man from Naples for the segment on Calcutta to create innovative dishes which use the best of Indian and Italian elements to create magic on the plate.

March has been quite an eventful month for ITC Sonar with a host of events to make your days special.

West View Grill apart from serving some of the best grilled meat in town has Louis XIII the God of Cognacs waiting to be served to you at Rs14,500 per person all throughout March.

And if Indian flavours is what you crave head over to Peshawri and order Sommelier's Chateau Margaux.

If south east asian food is what you want head over to Pan Asian for some exotic dishes such as the tea smoked Duck or the comforting Korean Bibimbap at Rs2250 + tax for a Sparkling Brunch or Rs3250 + tax for a Champagne brunch.

ITC is also one of the chosen participants for Gout de France on the 19th of March when over 1000 Chefs are expected to join this event from all over the world to bring contemporary France on your plate. head over to West View Grill for a night of French delight.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

An Evening of French Gastronomical Delight at the Park Kolkata

An Evening of French Gastronomical Delight at The Park Kolkata

Coagulated peking duck mince meuille feuille

19th March 2015 is a very special day for it is on this day that 1300 chefs across 5 continents are expected to join an event dedicated to French cuisine. The prestigious hotel, 'The Park Kolkata' is participating in this global event called  Gout de France / Good France which is an initiative by the The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International development and the famous chef Alan Duccasse.

Our gracious host Supreeta invited us for a tasting of the dishes to be served in this exquisite event for which Kolkata should get ready on the 19th of March 2015 8 p.m. onward.

Located in the very heart of the city it hard to miss The Park Kolkata and this grand event will be hosted by its restaurant 'The Bridge' which is The Park's 24 hours coffee shop and the menu has been set by Chef Sharad Dewan.

What impressed me was the fact that the event gives you a chance to experience modern French cuisine interspersed with its traditional elements. So we have tomato pearls which is a part of molecular gastronomy and then there is the use of Gruyere cheese in the age old beautiful souffle which is an absolute delight paired with the pear and grape salsa.

I personally loved the fact that this was essentially French food which has evolved and what is served uses culinary elements from around the globe which is being used in traditional French dishes . For me the peking duck mince  meuille feuille was the proof of the pudding of this perfect amalgamation of the pastry which is essentially French with Peking duck which is mostly an element from the far East of the world.

Tuna Nicoise,tomato pearls , olive foam from the Cold Starters

I would highly recommend opting for this fantastic experience paired with some French wine at Rs5000 per head but in case you want to skip the wine you get to experience this wonderful gastronomical experience at Rs3500 per head. For more details call 03340049000.

I have to make a special mention of The Bridge's quality of coffee. I love my coffee strong and robust flavoured  and I mostly get disappointed with the coffee which is served in most places around Calcutta thereby when I was served a cup of coffee which was strong and full of flavour I could not help but mention it for those who love a good cup of coffee.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Kesar Pista Malai Kulfi (Saffron pistachio cream kulfi)

Kesar Pista Malai Kulfi (Saffron pistachio cream kulfi) 

When it comes to traditional desserts I do not believe that a healthy version can do justice to the dish. Now I have always used whole milk to make my kulfis yet I was simply not satisfied till I tried this version. This is one of the reasons that I have not shared the recipe on my blog till now.

I have a book called the 'Classic Cooking of Punjab' by the legendary Jiggs Kalra and needless to say it contains quite a few recipes for kulfi but he adds eggs to his kulfi and since my grandmother is allergic to eggs I am not much in favour of using eggs for my kulfi.

So what I ultimately did was use his recipe as a base and after a short chat with my friend Somnath who is a food enthusiast I finally decided to give the kulfis one last shot at making it perfect for my taste buds. I had an idea of how I wanted it to taste which is smooth creamy silky .

The trick is in using the 'malai' aka extra cream

Its actually one of the simplest desserst that one might try

Makes 7 Kulfi when using the moulds :-

1 litre full cream milk
400ml cream (I used Amul cream which has 25% fat)
80gm sugar which you can change as per taste
1 green cardamom pounded well in a mortar an pestle
Half cup whole pistachios (Cup used holds 220ml liquid)
A fat pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp ghee
Ghee to prepare the kulfi moulds

Start by first blanching the pistachios and then chopping them.

Now one needs to make the rabri for the base of the kulfi.

Keep aside 1/4th cup milk and mix 200ml cream , ghee and the rest of the milk in a heavy bottomed pan (preferably aluminium or iron)

Now reduce this on low heat till it reaches half its content and then add the sugar and 100ml cream and add half the amount of chopped pistachios in the milk while you further reduce it. Keep checking every 7 minutes to 10 minutes and stir it well.

Reduce the milk till it reaches 1/3rd of its original content. In this case you are reducing 1.3 litres milk + cream which means you need to reduce it till it reaches 433ml.

This process of reducing the milk took me 1 hour 45 minutes.

Let the rabri base rest for 15 minutes and then add the saffron an mix well and add the remaining 100ml cream and gentle mix everything.

Use a tiny bit of ghee to grease the moulds and then pour in the kulfi to be frozen. Freeze it till its just about frozen (takes me 2 hours to 3 hours but the time require largely depends on your freezer and the amount of things it is storing when you are freezing the kulfi)  and then de-mould and serve garnished with the remaining chopped pistachios.

Important Note

  1. The ghee used when reducing the milk prevents the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan keeping it smooth and silky. This is a valuable tip I have learnt from my aunt.
  2. The ghee used to grease the moulds helps you easily demould the kulfi .
  3. From my experience with ice-creams freezing it till its just about frozen gives you the most creamy and silky tasting kulfi. Excessive freezing makes it very hard in consistency and prevents you from enjoying the creaminess.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Chocolate Truffle III

Chocolate Truffle III


Truth be told at times the whole point of blogging seems pointless because I personally am not a trained cook who has attended any culinary school and at times the whole saga of clicking photographs before I can enjoy my meal annoys me but then sometimes when kind people from food groups request you for the recipe of the post that you have shared, you cannot but share the recipe.

Before I move on to the chocolate I have to say that making truffle chocolate is one of the easiest things to do in the kitchen but tempering chocolate needs a thermometer and since our country is hot most of the year it can be difficult to temper chocolate which gives chocolate its snap along with shine. This is the third recipe that I am sharing for truffle chocolate and I must say that it is one of the best recipes but then again the quality of chocolate makes a huge difference.

If you want your chocolate to be of superior quality you have to use ingredients which are of a superior quality.I suggest that you use 70% dark chocolate. In India finding a good brand of chocolate (such as Callebaut ) in retail  is almost impossible. So if nothing else do try and use Morde since it is easily available but in case you get a better brand I would say that investing a bit of money for good quality chocolate is worth it .

The recipe for truffle is simple

Recipe source Larousse Gastronomique

300gm bittersweet chocolate (Since I like dark chocolate I used 70%  dark Callebaut )
75gm cocoa powder
120ml strong coffee
250ml heavy cream

Use a  bain marie (double boiler method) to mix all the ingredients till its smooth and silky.
Refrigerate overnight.

Now use a melon baller to scoop out little balls and wear hygienic gloves and make little balls of the truffle . Be quick lest they melt. Put the balls back in the refrigerator while you temper your chocolate.

Tempering chocolate is not rocket science but needs precision of temperature which you can only achieve with a thermometer

For tempering chocolate :-

200gm finely chopped dark chocolate
A tray with baking paper placed on it

Before you temper chocolate remember that even a drop of water can ruin your chocolate making it seize. Once chocolate seizes it can only be mixed with cream to make more truffles or used for baking.

Use the bain marie method to melt 2/3rd the chocolate  and here it must reach a temperature of 46 C to 49 C . Then let the temperature drop to 27 C and now we add the remaining chocolate and mix it. This is called the seeding method. Now use your clean and dry wooden spatula to mix everything and you have to make sure the chocolate reaches a temperature of 31C to 32C . To test whether its tempered dip a clean spoon and put the spoon in the refrigerator. Check after 5 minutes. if the chocolate has a shine and appears smooth then voila its tempered.

Now drop the truffle balls in the tempered melted chocolate and leave it on the tray and once you fill the tray put it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes till it sets well and wrap it with a chocolate wrappers or aluminium foil if you don't have wrappers and store them in an air tight container.

If this method seems to complicated you can still make the truffle by rolling the truffle balls in cocoa powder.

You can check out the recipe for Swiss Chocolate Truffles and French Chocolate Truffles if you want  a recipe without tempering the chocolate.