Jul 31, 2012

Them Leisurely Afternoons!

And so few we have... sigh! You would sigh too if you were there! And by there I mean, at Olive Bar and Kitchen, on a fairly pleasant Saturday with my group of food lovers. We were invited by Dalmia Continental to experience their Leonardo range of products, cooked by none other than the famed Chef Saby and hosted by none other than Ms. Himani Dalmia, who I am pleased to note is carrying the mantle of her family's legacy rather graciously. I personally love brands that connect with regular Joe's or Jane's (mostly) in our case. It reminds me of the good old days when our mums had 2 maybe 3 brands to choose from and they always knew which one they would pick. Today its a fight for space, fight for numbers and everyone wants to say they're awesome, yummy, healthy, pocket friendly and you know very well they all just can't be! For me this afternoon meant a bit more mainly because over the last 2 years or so we had been buying Leonardo EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) regularly. My father believes that business houses that bring in products do it in a more conscious manner rather than distributors and consumers like us are more likely to find a regular supply of the products we grow to patronize. So being there that afternoon in one sense meant meeting a brand I had stocked at home.

We spent some time discussing the virtues of Olive Oil, some I was familiar with and some not so much, I had heard a lot of about Omega 3 but Omega 6 in oil was new to me. Apparently, cooking oils should have high Omega 3 and low Omega 6, which Olive oil has. But to be honest, more than the chemical and the compositional virtues of the oil, for me its so much about the taste and flavour too. Olive oil makes certain foods taste good... period. The only thing new to me that day was Olive Pomace oil, apparently bastardized by word Olive and a lot of bad press. I have used Pomace but mainly for curries and stir fries, I have never deep fried in it but watching Chef Saby make the most fluffy fried fish ever made me think a little bit more about my choice of cooking mediums. I loved the way the oil thinned as it heated and the resultant dish didn't have an altered taste at all. The afternoon flowed into hearty food, happy conversations and a whole new level of interaction with the people who had created this experience for us. Besides the tranquil and airy ambiance of Olive Bar & Kitchen, I was so taken with the rustic and textured look to everything, little nuances like carnation centerpieces, antique curios, prompt and affable service staff, smiling, chirpy sous chefs, this was a happy place with happy people serving happy food!

Now to the menu. Here goes ....

Apple, feta, arugula salad
 Mixed greens, roasted sunflower seeds, extra virgin olive oil, red wine cumin dressing

Olive’s Fish and Chips
Lean fillet coated with nitrogen batter, tartar espuma

Pasta Marinara
 Cherry tomato, olives, pomodoro sauce,extra virgin olive oil

Sizzling Gambas
Tiger prawns, olives, garlic, pomace olive oil

Pass around snacks

Mezze platter
Falafel, vegetable croquettes, vegetable shaslik, three dips, Lebanese pickle, dressed salad, mint yoghurt dip

Pizza- Chef’s selection of toppings

Marinara pizza
Asparagus, smoked Scarmoza cheese, walnuts, Parmesan, truffle oil
Spinach, sundried tomato, olives, feta
Pepperoni jalapeno

Olive’s Signature Milano Paper pizza
Fresh, hand tossed 18’’

Parmesan, rocket, cherry tomatoes

Olive cart trolley
Selection of olives, pickled onions, gherkins

Anti pasti station

Apple relish, onion jam, chili jam

Roasted garlic, roasted onion, Oven dried tomato, marinated olives

Hummus with Baby Lavash

Exotic Mushroom Pate
Caprese salad with basil pesto

Cold Meat platter
Selection of Gourmet meats with assortment of olives

Cheese Platter
Selection of table Boutique Cheeses with nuts, apricots and prunes

 Bread station
To make your own dip, a mortar and pestle accompanies the unique handmade artisan skillet bread

Main course

Black truffle porcini risotto
White Alba truffle paste, summer black truffle, truffle oil

Classical lasagna Bolognaise
Rustic hand ground tenderloin Bolognaise.


Apple and walnut crumble  
Warm toffee sauce, liquor soaked raisins

Olive’s signature tiramisu
Coffee ice, cappuccino cream, espresso foam

Praline mud cake
Chocolate truffle

 I am so tempted to do a Julie & Julia take on this and say, I am going to recreate every dish in this menu in the next 2 months, it may not look the way it did that day but it will be the food listed above! What say? It's totally doable, the only things I worry about are some of the ingredients but then I have always been adept at sourcing and substituting ...so am gonna do it! That's my personal challenge for the next month considering I am planning huge changes at a personal level, this is the perfect project to keep me happy and sane. Everything we ate that day stood out individually, had a personality and enough potential to have me go back and order it again. What I plan to have at my next Olive visit is the Mezze Platter, the Marinara Pizza, Sizzling Gambas, the Black Truffle Porcini Mushroom Risotto and all the desserts. I am going to attempt to recreate this menu in my home kitchen with Leonardo products and report back to you guys with my version of the recipes. This is by no means a way to take on Chef Saby's creations, I would rather say it is a tribute. I eat out at least twice a week and it is very rare for me to savour a meal over several hours and then be talking about it days later. Big and hearty Thank You to the folks at Olive Bar & Kitchen and at Dalmia Continental for introducing me to new products, an unforgettable experience and an afternoon I have written home about!

And here is the Goodie Basket that is going to make some of the above menu happen...gosh I am sooo excited! I don't have the fancy contraption Chef Saby used to infuse nitrogen into the batter for the fish but I do have a can of excellent non alcoholic beer which is going straight into my batter and into a wok full of hot Pomace oil ...wish me luck! 

I have already made the Penne over two meals, recipe coming soon. One was a tri bell pepper and pan fried chicken in a 3 cheese sauce (yes I am insanely inspired by Olive Bar) and the second was again Tri bell pepper in a cheddar sauce with ham an olives. I am now eying the wholewheat spaghetti, we are big on Bolognaise and meatballs too ...so there the journey has already begun!

Jul 21, 2012

Crepes on a Saturday

So it's Saturday and it hasn't rained in days! So much for the 'monsoons'.. they are now officially jinxed and we are yet to experience a wet wet week like we did back in the day. So after a morning of random shopping, a delicious South Indian lunch, we find ourselves twiddling our thumbs at 4 pm! Ally suggests we get ourselves a pack of cookies, rustle up a milkshake and surf channels aimlessly, I like the last two ideas but the first one makes me ache. Ache with annoyance. Store bought cookies are hardly ever anything to write home about and they are so obscenely laden with empty calories, I have to be down with the viral to want to have them. I suggest pancakes and she makes this face - "breakfast for dinner I understand but for tea time ...ummm no!" ...how about crepes...she ponders on that ...how about crepes with milk chocolate ganache I say ... "I don't like the word ganache, but yes!!" So crepes with milk chocolate 'sauce' it is!

Ingredients for the crepes:

1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
1 tbsp butter, and about 2 tbsp more for moistening the pan to make the crepes
1 cup milk, don't use all of it right away, start with half and add on to create a thick cream consistency.

For the Milk Chocolate Sauce:

1 cup Hershey's Milk Chocolate chips, you can use any good milk chocolate, the Indian ones tend to be very milky and when melted are almost like caramel, though Nestle Classic is pretty yummy once melted. You can go in for an imported one like Lindt or even Galaxy if you like.
4 tbsp cream
1 tbsp butter
Keep a few tbsp of milk handy, to make the consistency right once the chocolate melts. I use warm milk because I sometimes worry cold milk will make the chocolate seize.

Sift the flour, add sugar to it and set aside. Mix the egg into milk, add the vanilla essence and the butter (I use runny butter but not heat melted). Use a whisk to make a thick creamy batter for the crepes. Whisk gently but whisk well, you don't want lumps in the batter, at all!

For the chocolate sauce. Boil water in a deep pan, to make a double boiler (if you are proficient with the microwave then by all means use it!), put the chocolate and the butter in another pan, hold over the boiling water (don't let the bottom touch the water, that can overheat the pan with the chocolate and make the chocolate burn). Use a clean, dry whisk to blend the chocolate while it melts, add the cream slowly and work it in to make a thick chocolate sauce. Once it is almost all melted, take it off the boiler and whisk it all into a glistening bowl of yummy chocolate. You can use warm milk to peter it down to the thickness you like. We don't like to apply the chocolate like nutella, we like it runny so it drips out of the crepes like a decadent and amazing snack!

Now heat a small, non stick pan, moisten with butter, best is to use the paper lining of a block of butter so you get even coverage and not a little pool of butter in the center. Use a large milk ladle if you have or a small cup to measure the batter, pour on to the hot pan and tilt the pan around to cover the entire base. Let it cook on one side completely, you will see the sides come off and know its done. You can flip it if you like. Remove, slather with chocolate sauce and indulge!!


Jul 19, 2012

Shirazine Paneer Pakora

We love fried stuff! I may have said that a few times before, this will further reinforce it! I remember a time when A and I were still in college and staying together, in order to economize I would urge him to avoid meats in every meal and he would ask me to make batter fried cauliflower florets. I'm thankful those days have passed ...and for the last 16 years we have been our hyper carnivore selves. However when I entertain I am compelled to rethink this carnivorous state of mind and expand my kitchen horizons. Paneer or cottage cheese is one ingredient that hovers in my head very often when I am planning starters or snacks, I don't much care for cottage cheese main courses. So when it comes to making anything with Paneer, I need for it to be pretty darned good else its not worth the trouble! These poppers are yum, they melt in your mouth like Mozzarella would sans the stringiness and if you season them right, they can actually be great main course additions as 'kofta's' in a curry.


250 gms Paneer, mashed well
2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp Zeera powder
1 tsp chilli powder, or less if like for them to be less potent
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 tbsp white flour
Salt to taste
1 cup breadcrumbs
Oil for deep frying

Mix the mashed paneer with all the coriander, spices and the flours, knead the dough like mix well till it all blends together. Moisten your palms with water and roll into even sized balls. spread the breadcrumbs on a plate, roll the paneer poppers on the breadcrumbs till coated and drop into hot oil, fry for just about a minute till the outside of the popper browns, you don't really need to cook these much. You will get around 8-10 poppers from this quantity, serve with coriander chutney or ketchup and make sure you serve 'em hot!

Alternately, you can make a basic onion, ginger, garlic, tomato gravy and use these as 'kofta's' too! I do that with the leftover ones since these aren't as yummy if reheated.


Jul 18, 2012

Massaman Madness!

I have to call this post that! The scene at home gets a bit mayhem like when Thai food is made... umpteen tasting sessions, 3 and 4 helpings and all that 'madness'. Massaman is something we order when we eat at Thai restaurants and I usually love it with pork and potatoes or lamb but this is a light, quick and easy version with all the flavours intact! Though I love to cook and I cook every day, the weather doesn't permit long, leisurely sessions churning out gourmet spreads, recipes like these have a full on gourmet appeal but half the work. Also because we can now find gems like 'Massaman paste' in stores and no matter how much I rave about 'from scratch' sometimes bottled masala's have the balance just right and then you can never go wrong. The paste has a pretty long shelf life so I don't have to worry about what to do with it after this meal. Also this is probably the only dish where I combine potatoes and chicken, potatoes are pretty much a deal with lamb or beef but with chicken... that's new for me. I also love peanuts in this curry ...though Ally tends to pick them out like peas ...wait for it ...then eat them later when the curry is over :)


1/2 kg Boneless Chicken cut into equal sized cubes
1 large potato cut into small cubes
3 tbsp Massaman Curry Paste, use 1 tbsp to marinate the chicken and the rest for the curry
1 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
1 large onion, chopped fine
3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp peanut oil (optional)
1 tbsp fish sauce
3-4 Thai basil leaves 
2 cups of coconut milk, I use the MAGGI powder or a can of Coconut cream, petered down with a little warm water. For the powder, I use one small pack with a cup and a half of hot water.
Handful of roasted, salted peanuts, you can pop them in the oven for a bit to make them extra crunchy.
Salt to taste

2 tbsp Olive Pomace Oil (I like cooking in olive oil but EVOO is usually reserved for salads and dips)

Marinate the chicken and potato cubes in the peanut oil and 1 tbsp of the Massaman paste. Heat the oil, fry onions and garlic till light brown, add the cinnamon stick and the star anise and fry till you get the aroma of the spices, nice and potent. Add the massaman paste and the marinated chicken and potato pieces. stir fry and low flame for about 5-6 minutes, then add the coconut milk, the tamarind paste, brown sugar, fish sauce, Thai basil leaves and salt. Check for salt and simmer for 3-4 minutes on a low flame. Sprinkle with roasted peanuts. Serve with white rice.