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Sep 26, 2012

Marry Me Bourdain!

Any man who can talk food like Anthony Bourdain is a man after my own heart!  Tony (I like to call him that!) makes you want to eat everything he sees, touches, cooks and eats. He brings such emotion to food that you sometimes wonder if emotional eating is really that acceptable, considering his metabolism, it probably is. And of course it doesn't hurt that he is such a beautiful man, in fact, if there is a perfect celebrity that exists (for me) it's tony!

It's stuff like this that makes me love him more"

"Now, I famously hate salad bars. I don't like buffets (unless I'm standing on the serving side: buffets are like free money for cost conscious chefs). When I see food sitting out, exposed to the elements, I see food dying. I see a big open petri dish that every passing serial sneezer can feel free to drool on and fondle with spittle flecked fingers." - A Cook's Tour

Dear God he is soooo right! There is nothing like fresh, beautifully plated food and we still live in a country where it is possible to 'not' eat out of a can, bag (yuck!) or carton and we need to enjoy that as long as we can! Despite being fussy about the way I like my veggies chopped and the way I like my mis-en-place, I have succumbed to asking our resident 'didi' to pitch in when I am scurrying back at 7 pm from some godawful meeting I was subjected to for the simple reason that I work in the F&B vertical, this is said specifically for brands I would die before eating or using at all for that matter! This recipe is something I concocted from vague memories of making 'piperade' maybe a decade ago, I just had to read how much Tony loved eating it and I could tell exactly what it ought to taste like. This is a variation of sorts because we don't get Cod (Bacalao) here but the rest is pretty close. And the sad fact that I used a Thai red chilli instead of a Spanish one (sigh!) but all in all, we have had this three times in 10 days, so thanks Tony, love ya like a food crazed woman loves a chef!

Balacao al Pil-Pil: Bacalao is essentially a dried and salted piece of cod, but this recipe is done with a fresh fillet and it works great for a quick, wholesome meal in a not so cold country. Native of Basque county, the fish is lightly cooked in olive oil, garlic cloves and rings of pepper, I used jalapenos coz I like the zingy tang. The piperade topping is good for us Indians since light, fishy, low on the spice dishes rarely work with us and I have to cook for a family, so I certainly don't need those disdainful stares that say "we know you like to experiment but we like food"!

Ingredients:

300 gms fish in 3 fillets
Use a white boneless fish like bekti, surmai, sole, red snapper or sea bass. I would love to use cod but not frozen


4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp EVOO
Salt
Pepper
1 jalapeƱo sliced
3 cloves of garlic
2 dry red chillies, cut into four pieces

Piperade:

1 red bell pepper, chopped small
1 capsicum, chopped small
1 red onion, chopped small
4 Cloves of garlic, smashed
4 tomatoes, blanched with skin removed and chopped coarse
1 red chilli chopped, we don't get Spanish red chilli so I used a Thai one, you can substitute with Tabasco if u like
2 tsp sweet paprika
Fresh ground black pepper
Salt
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil

For the fish, heat oil in a non stick, throw in the garlic and red chillies then sear fillets on both sides, I use thin fillets so I needed just 2 mins on each side, do this on a high fire so it browns the fish a bit. Remove and drizzle the pan oil over the fish. Add the oil for the piperade in the same pan, scrape the fish crisps into it, add the onions, garlic and the peppers with the chilli. Season with paprika and pepper, stir and fry till its all a bit soft. Add the tomatoes and salt and sugar. Simmer till soft and pulpy. I sometimes use 1/4th cup of wine to get it to be more like a sauce consistency. Enjoy!

Sep 25, 2012

Eau De Monsoon - Old World Charm

To begin with I have to state that the world is finally waking up to Bloggers, at least here in India its a new wave and its warm, refreshing and quite honestly heartening too. Yes we make a difference and its a bigger one than traditional media does at least in this 'age'. We are mavens by default, we are heard and accepted, we are referred to and we are consulted, it makes all the difference, to us and those who listen to us. Serious bloggers respect their reputation, they research like mad and they put out information they believe in, finding that one genuine Blogger who talks about what you want to hear is the key, finding that Blogger is however, your homework. This has been my 'take out' from the past year or so, where suddenly brands and properties have discovered that ordinary people and word of mouth are more convincing than ads in glossies, in fact even construed TVC's with 'real' people in 'real' situations are not looked upon with a smidgen of doubt!

All this banter comes out of the fact that the last jaunt we bloggers had at Le Meridien was such a success. The establishment had the staying power to hold on to around a dozen food and lifestyle bloggers for over 4 hours with not even a squeak of disdain. We were invited for a lunch date at Eau De Monsoon, their Indian restaurant serving a nouvelle take on Indian food and I was more than glad to go because for me Le Meridien is a big part of my growing up years. Revisiting the capsule elevator, the view from the top floor, the enchanting glass facade, it was all one of a kind when I was a kid and after an afternoon, so much of it, still is one of kind! The afternoon started with cocktails, which I never get enough of, honestly, it's best way to drink and not feel like an alcoholic. Especially if the bartender is going to take a couple of your favourite things and make something screamingly good, like the Espresso Martini I had! Those things are positively 'wrong' and I mean that in the nicest way! Some of the concoctions were pretty eclectic, I saw something with yoghurt go by, interesting but then coffee always wins. I left the passion fruits and the litchi's to the faint hearted and got my double fix anyway. After a quick chit chat with some new and some very familiar faces, we were introduced to the resident Sommelier and his bounty, the gorgeous and very well stocked wine cellar. How things have changed? No dingy basements, no musty smells, instead what stood before us was a well lit, temperature controlled, hermetically developed new age wine cellar, to die for! I would happily walk away with everything red and everything Chilean and white if I could.

Lunch was served in the private room, a spacious yet cozy space, dressed beautifully in reds. The menu in front of me read something like this -

Deconstructed Samosa
Twin Flavoured Chicken Tikka
Kaffir Lime and Basil infused King Prawn
Seabass Madras Curry
Oven Roasted Chicken, Makhni Gravy
Lamb & Aged Basmati
Discovery (this did turn out to be one!)

The Deconstructed Samosa turned out to be quite nice, different, yet familiar. I love when Chef's are able to pull that off, a new look with the same taste. The Twin Flavoured Chicken Tikka's were flamboyant looking, well cooked and nicely flavoured. The Kaffir Lime and Basil Prawn however was amazing, something to truly write home about, something I would go back for. I liked how the Seabass Madras curry was served, it was light, well done and beautifully plated. The Oven Roasted Chicken in Makhni Gravy though was something new for me, it looked nothing like butter chicken yet it tasted exactly like it, nice! Considering I detest Butter Chicken, this was a bit of a revelation for me, we perceive food in the way it looks as much as in the way it tastes, so (this is for Andy!) I reiterate, food needs to be pretty and yummy, both! The Biryani of Lamb and Aged Rice was pretty good but then in a place like this, it ought to be, the quirky part was the dough cover to 'dum' the biryani was edible, much like a 'khameeri roti' with a touch of aniseed and sugar. I loved the subtle 'kewra' flavour and the fact that the salt was so controlled, that I could really taste the meat, in a biryani, this is essential I feel.

All the while we had the lovely company of Magandeep Singh, Master Sommelier and man about town! His pairings were both perfect and very enlightening. I know wines, but then considering I cook with them, their pedigree is usually suspect, I am someone who can be happy with a table wine as long as it is red but when there is education involved, I can understand how wine or the right wine can make a difference in a meal. The dessert wine he served us was the talk of the table for at least an hour and now I am trying to get my  hands on it. Are you listening Magan?!  Then came time for a 'Discovery', the dessert platter, usually my favourite part of a meal and this time around it was a justified favourite. We had a Mascarpone Kheer which I went on to make and love, Caramelized Gulab Jamuns (mmmm!) and an Alphonso Panna Cotta, which was slightly out of place but well done nevertheless. I think I am going to like this nouveau attitude to Indian food, its bringing back the old in a brand new garb and people seem to like it, smart thinking, coupled with Le Meridien legendary service (impeccable) and retro chic interiors, Eau De Monsoon is definitely a grand place to dine.

A few highlights about the hotel that some of us were unaware of bt were pretty awed by -

* They have a 'Pillow Menu' wherein you can choose from a range of pillows, from cotton to hypoallergenic to pregnancy and more!
* Room service includes a Variety of teas - tulsi tea apart from chamomile and Darjeeling
* They issue Designer key cards
* No night chocolate .. Soaked almonds instead
* Interiors are coordinated as Classic and contemporary with Art and installations


Warm thanks to the team at Le Meridien ...till next time ...Bon Appetit!

Sep 11, 2012

Dear God ...it's Eggless!!

I have an aversion to eggless recipes! I don't know why, I just do. If its meant to have eggs in it, it shall have eggs in it....that's just the way it is. A lot of people call me for eggless recipes or ask me if I do eggless cakes, I don't, mainly because from a 'chemist' perspective towards cooking, I know what eggs do for cakes and I am yet to gain faith in a substitution. But then that's the thing about cooking, you learn something new every day, you learn something new every time you cook and you learn something new from every one you talk food with! All this happened to me all in one day, last week. I had a party to attend (one I never ended up attending) and I wanted to do a chocolate cake. I opened an old Time Life Series Baking book, got all the ingredients together, started prepping, which is when I realized that there was something missing, this recipe didn't have any eggs, none! I was already wrist deep in the process and there was no turning back ... I was not only baking an eggless cake, I was doing it under duress. So I did it, it smelt great, it rose beautifully and the biggest clincher was, it was yum (if I may say so myself!).

That night was a classic crazy night that our friends are excellent at pulling off. Four of us converged at one home to have a couple of drinks and carry on to the party home later in the night. I had the cake for one of the guests who was the bringing in her birthday, so we figured we needed to be there by midnight. by quarter to twelve, I was certain we weren't budging but then I was also certain the 'birthday girls' boyfriend had alternate plans. So we just stayed and stayed, we stayed so long that the host of the party we were to attend joined us :) ... classic crazy night!

So don't fear the eggless, this is a good recipe to start with. I tweaked it a bit and doused it in ganache, which kept the cake moist through the evening.



Chocolate Cake:

Ingredients: 

200 gms flour
200 gms sugar
50 gms cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
80 gms butter, melted
240 ml warm water
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Icing:

200 gms dark chocolate in pieces
180 ml fresh cream
2 tbsp butter, room temperature

Mix the melted butter, warm water, vinegar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda together in a separate larger bowl. Pour in the liquid and mix together with a spatula till blended well. I don’t use a hand mixer for this cake because I realized it over-aerates the batter and since there are no eggs, the cake comes out a bit denser than required. Bake at 200 C for 20-25 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy!



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