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Oct 28, 2012

Cannelloni Tales!

Ally has a legendary story about cannelloni, one evening she saw me stuffing cannelloni shells and she looked up at me all doe eyed and said "ma can we  not have machboos or cannelloni, can we have something super fancy like ....egg curry"! I died laughing! Egg curry is the most basic of foods in so many of our homes and its kids who make us realize what we have forgotten, things we stop cooking for no apparent reason. It will be years before she will realize the value of home food. I grew up with a mother who grilled pomfret on a balcony, made pizza from scratch and never used a hand mixer, mixer or microwave. I loved the Kerala beef fry at  my best friends house but she couldn't get enough of our home cooking. I see the same with Ally's friends and as I stuff yet another batch of cannelloni, I can't help think of her expression at the dinner table, so for her I have made baked fish with a simple mornay sauce (cheese + bechamel, I used her favourite, cheddar, I also added zucchini slices, that are now all mushed up).

I had chorizo left over from A's trip last week and I hate stuff sitting in the freezer. I had cannelloni tubes leftover from a photo shoot and I had a pack of Feta that had just a few weeks to go. Both the chorizo and the feta are super salty and nothing takes the edge of salt like pasta, all that wheat to soak it all up. Topped with a simple bechamel (white) sauce, topped with parmesan and that's how it goes into the oven, yum! I loved baked pasta's when the evenings start getting cooler, I also love using warm elements during this time. If you have had a good saffron Risotto, you will realize the worth of an ingredient like saffron in Italian cooking, its so subtle but its right there! So I infused the sauce with few saffron threads and it worked like a charm.


Ingredients:

8 canneloni shells, I used dry box ones for quick dinners, making fresh pasta for cannelloni is easy since it's sheets you are working with rather that little bits but that takes another 40 mins!

200 gms Feta cheese

100 gms chorizo slices, I use the spicy Spanish chorizo that I get sliced from a salami roll, cut these into small bits to combine with the feta for the stuffing

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

Sauce:

50 gms butter
50 gms flour
500 ml warm milk
Freshly ground pepper
Few strands of saffron
Salt

Grated parmesan for topping.

Mash up the feta, combine with the chorizo bits and coriander. I fill the cannelloni shells by making stand upright and stuffing downwards so nothing escapes and its cozy, tight pack. Fill the cannelloni and line in a baking dish where they all fit well together, snug. Tweak the recipe to accommodate more or less shells.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy bottom pan, don't let it brown or worse, burn. take off the fire and stir in the flour, use a whisk or wooden spoon for this, it should look like breadcrumbs. Put back on a low flame and stir gently to cook the flour through, this takes about 3-4 minutes. Take off the fire and add the warm milk, its easier to break down the flour crumbs. Use a whisk to blend it all together, put back on a low flame and it thicken to the consistency of thick cream. Season with salt and pepper, add the saffron and set aside. Keep the sauce salt in control, the cannelloni filling is fairly salty on it's own. Once the saffron has infused a bit, pour the sauce over the cannelloni, drizzle lightly with EVOO and top with grated parmesan. Bake at 200 C for 12-15 mins. watch the top for over browning, parmesan browns fast. Serve hot with rocket leaves, a yoghurt dip of whipped yoghurt, salt, paprika and garlic powder or fresh paste. Enjoy!

Oct 27, 2012

Pining for Pinones!

I had the pleasure of meeting none other than Chef George Calombaris from Masterchef Australia! There I just said it ... I have been wondering how I will announce this momentous occasion, how will I express the madness I felt, how will I put the unreality of it all into words? It just happened, like a flowing river ..it just all pooled into place. I got a call from our lovely friends over at the Olive Kitchen, the doe eyed Astha called to say Olive Beach was hosting a breakfast with none other then George and Gary and the Bloggers just had to attend, forget attend, the bloggers were prepared to stampede the place. We had a  little group chat the night before, what to wear, what to say, how to be ...to bake or not to bake.

The Olive Beach was a delight as Olive kitchens are. The decor reminds me of the movie 'Come September', complete with a Canary yellow Vespa and a quaint hand painted white bicycle. It's a cross between that and Alice in Wonderland actually. We were in the company of some of the country's veteran Chef's and waiting for two internationally celebrated ones. Gary couldn't make it but George more than made up. He was charming, humble and pretty hilarious. He spent time with the group sharing anecdotes about Matt, Gary, the show, the process and his very obvious love for all things food. 



He spoke our (the bloggers table) minds, when he spoke of local produce, his disdain for supermarkets and involving children in the process of not just planning meals but even growing what they cook, so they know that food comes from the earth and not from plastic bags. It is a pertinent point to touch upon because India is on the brink of the bag/can/box food culture and a few things that can save us is our love for fresh food, grains, local produce and dairy. Try and cook fresh as often as possible guys, shop for produce every day or every other day, you have to be passing a market on the way back from work or chores, this is India, we have more markets than playgrounds ...sooo! So as you can tell, George not only enchanted us, he engaged with us, explaining a part of the reason why the show is as big as it is, these guys have natural charisma, distinctive personalities and years clocked in the kitchen. Incidentally, they loved the food at Indian Accent, they have a container full of gifts, they feel most gratified about inspiring young cooks and chefs, they still cook as often as they can, Gary employed George as an apprentice when he was young boy, Matt can cook and cook well, I can go on!


It was a wonderful morning for an alfresco breakfast, the sun was bright and just about warm, the company was fabulous of course, there was retro charm all around and then came the Churros. Fried fresh outdoors, they were just right, served with a chocolate sauce infused with star anise. Breakfast had the most wonderful apricots preserved in a syrup with star anise and cinnamon, beautiful parma ham, chorizo, fresh olives on the stem, bruschetta's bacon and manchega. A selection of savoury pastries and more.The dessert cart served Financiers, brownies, more Churros and the heavenly sauce, a selection of exotic fruits, out of which I always love the dragon fruit the most, it has colours of candy!



Coming out of a morning like this, I couldn't help but think about what I could with all this inspiration and energy, I had to make something new, something with my signature of quick, homey and wholesome. I had found a recipe of fish in pine nut sauce - Merluza en Salsa de Pinones on Epicurious, I love Spanish food, I love pine nuts and I love fish, so this was ideal. I wanted something perfect for winter which for me usually means out of the oven or off the grill. I tweaked the recipe a bit, we like our poached fish done in the oven, moist and supple.This whole recipe with prep takes about 40 minutes and is enough for 4 people, supplement it with rocket leaves with a tzaziki like dip of whipped yoghurt, garlic and sea salt and crusty bread.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pine nuts, roast these on 120 C for about 6-8 mins or till light brown and fragrant. Grind 1/2 the quantity into a coarse powder and preserve the rest to garnish.
4 tbsp olive oil
1 Large onion, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, mashed and minced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc White Wine
1/2 bell pepper, sliced
Salt


Heat half the oil and saute the onion and garlic till translucent. Add the bell peppers and tomatoes and saute for a few minutes. Add the seasoning, the pine nut powder and breadcrumbs once the tomatoes are soft, pour in half the wine and stir till the sauce thickens a bit. Wash and dry the fillets, place tightly in an baking dish, top with salt, the leftover olive oil and white wine. Poach in the oven at 180 C for 10 minutes or till the meat turns white, you can peek in and douse with the oil and wine at the bottom of the dish halfway through, keeps the fish moist. Remove and plate individually and top with the pine nut sauce or top the fish in the baking dish and serve some on the side for those who want more. Garnish with the leftover pine nuts and Enjoy!

You can make this with any firm white fish, in Delhi NCR that would be sole, surmai, bekti, singhara (tad flaky but fine), I would love to try this with red snapper or something more fishy like pomfret, but that's best enjoyed on the bone.About the wine I used, it was light and crisp Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc, it worked very well with the flavours of this dish. 


Tasting notes:
Colour : Brilliant, clear, pale straw yellow.
Aroma : Refreshingly aromatic with notes of gooseberry, melons, capsicum and savoury herbs.
Palate : Zesty acidity carries the ripe taste of the fruit well on the palate.
Serving suggestion: Enjoyed best at 8 - 10° C with green vegetables, salads and rich fish & seafood dishes. Also pairs well with tomato-based sauces and dishes cooked with herbs and vegetables.

Oct 11, 2012

The Zanotta Experience!

I am a big fan of the Leela Kempinski and that's no secret! Sometimes I am thankful I don't have an office to operate from because with Spectra (the Coffee Shop) doubling as one, I not only go up a notch in the 'cool' quotient, all my meetings have the best coffee and amazing meals. I remember my experiences at the Leela Bombay and I remember being charmed by the ambiance, the service and the general demeanour of the Hotel, it made you feel special, it made you want to dress up and when you did, it made you feel damn good about it! It's pretty much the same here in Gurgaon as well. No matter where in the Leela you go, the staff is super courteous, the environs are understated luxury (yes that does exist!) and you are sure to have a good time, every time!

I have eaten at Zanotta before and loved it, albeit after a few drinks at Rubicon, so I completely forgot that they had a marvelous view, of the Gurgaon Toll, now forget what you have read about it because from the 6th floor, from a luxury 5 star, with a glass of bubbly and Italian food, like hell you will care who's stuck there or not! It is a sparkly view that makes you extra thankful you are where you are, up there at Zanotta.

Our Bloggers Table evening started with a tete a tete with the General Manager, Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon, the very engaging and oft time hilarious Mr. Roger Wright, the wonderfully humble and gorgeous, Head of PR & Marcom, Ms. Vinay Narang and a man with some of the most interesting anecdotes, the Executive Assistant Manager F&B, Mr. Shisheer Manohar. We all congregated to welcome the new Executive Chef, Mr. Emmanuel Guemon, a man I soon went on to realize had a true passion for food, travel, photography and new-ness, there I have to say it, I am yet to meet a Chef I didn't like and I liked Chef Guemon, a lot! He spoke with true passion, his stories had depth and humour and he was up for all things new, the best qualities a man of the kitchen must have, so I knew this meal would mean a lot and you know what? It did!




The menu was specially designed for the evening, with menu cards we loved. I chose the non vegetarian selection, though I did love some of the vegetarian dishes jotted down, wish I had the space but with scallops and seafood on the menu, I can rarely see beyond it. We started with a wondrous portion of Pan Seared Scallops with a Zucchini Salad, screamingly good, perfectly cooked and the crunchy Arugula addition was just perfect. Paired neatly with a Craggy Range Chardonnay from New Zealand, apart from Chilean Reds, I feel Australia and New Zealand do the best whites, so the wine was absolutely perfect as well. Next came the hugely flavoursome and robust, Seafood Minestrone, the Italian version of a Talumein, this is a soup very dear to me, mainly because it is a meal in a bowl, tomato based and can be made as rich as you want it to be! The true kicker for me here was the Mussel in there, how I love mussels, how I worship seafood? Excellent eating at its best! Served with a Albert Bichot Cote de Rhone, Chardonnay from France, ideal, a special mention for the in house Sommelier, he was making me a very happy camper and no it wasn't just because there was wine it was because there was 'well paired' wine. The indulgence had only begun, we were then served a palate cleanser the way only Zanotta can do, an ice carved igloo with a little lamp inside, a pristine white napkin, upon which sat a bowl of delicate 'Strawberry Sorbet', dear God it was manna from heaven, took away the taste memory of any sorbet enjoyed before, raised the bar for any sorbet coming my way in the future, beautiful! The main course was yet to come and a part of me was wondering how it would surpass what has already been served? The next course was a Wild Mushroom ravioli in a Tomato Basil Sauce, now I have had plenty of ravioli over the years, I believe I make good Ravioli myself, but this stuff is what legends are made of, this kind of ravioli shuts a table up, gets everyone all dreamy and lost with that crooked crazy smile that only heartfelt food can induce. I loved it, I will go back for it, this paired with a Valpolicella ‘Classico’ Allegrini, from Italy would be on my list of 'meals I want if I were on death row'!! The main course was Salmon with Arugula Pesto (yay, I am not the only one who makes pesto with rocket leaves!!), I think this had walnuts instead of pinenuts and the Salmon was perfect as was everything else. Paired with an Australian Cabernet Shiraz, one of my all time favourite wines ....ever!! The meal almost felt like it was designed for only me, this is what I would have ordered had I been left to my own devices, how very very personal it was! The meal ended with a Bitter Chocolate Semifreddo with candied orange peel and a hint of mint, all my favourite words and flavours rolled into one, and our classic Bloggers Table call for Cappuccino ice cream, which by the way, Spectra does a spectacular job of. What a soul satisfying evening? Chef Guemon has won  me over, with each course, he has taken a piece of my heart and I hope that my time at Leela continues to be this elevating, for they have only gotten better with time!

All this fabulous food, the company of my fabulous friends, Roger's hilarity, Vinay's quiet charm, Shisheer and I sharing common friends, that's what perfect evenings are made of and I thank all these wonderful people for making mine ....perfect!

The Bloggers Table that evening included:

Sid Khullar, the glue - Chef at Large
Deeba Rajpal of the super famous - Passionate About Baking
Ruchira Hoon-Philip, a true inspiration - The Great Cookaroo
Charis Alfred Bhagianathan, the perfect BFF - Culinary Storm
Himanshu Taneja, the adorable baker boy - The White Ramekins
Sangeeta Khanna, my soul sister - Benaras Ka Khana
Rekha Kakkar, multi talented, multi tasker - My Tasty Curry
Antara, waiting to know her better! - Antypasti

*Image Courtesy Ms. Deeba Rajpal of Passionate About Baking ... I love you D!

Oct 9, 2012

Parsi Fish, London Chef!

We don't have a bona fide Parsi eatery here in Delhi/NCR but apparently London has an awesome one! That's what I read in June's Jamie magazine, which I happen to collect and if I every happen to meet the mighty Jamie Oliver, I would love to tell him how many of the recipes I actually make from his mags. In my fantasies (yes I have food fantasies!) I have already met him, professed my crush on him ...to him and even cooked with him! That's it guys...he has 4 kids, cooking with him is about all the action I would like, fantasy or no fantasy :)

Back to Parsi food! I had a Parsi room mate in culinary school and every time I went to Bombay I stayed with her, she had this geriatric couple who doubled as caretaker and cook and they made some insane Parsi grub. The best mutton chops, Dhansak to die for, killer custard and fish that will make you swoon. Since then I developed quite a taste for their cuisine and realized that all the joy lay in the simplicity. Parsi food has very simple flavours but complex combinations, that's actually the secret of a good custard if you deconstruct it. I make their potato fish cakes often but with tuna, I LOVE Patrani Machchi but I am yet to have a near decent version of it here in the North, my dad can eat the Dahi Nu Gosht every day and most of all they do fabulous justice to the 'paneer' of the meat world, chicken! I found this particular recipe in the Queen's Jubilee edition of Jamie's magazine and it is by Chef Cyrus Todiwala, he owns the Cafe Spice Namaste in London and this is his recipe for the queen! Now that it has been wiped off the wok, I can safely say it is pretty fit for royalty, once again, you will not believe how simple it really is!

Ingredients:

2 tbsp cooking oil (I used soybean)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tbsp ginger, crushed
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
400 ml coconut milk
4 green cardamom
4 cloves
1" stick of cinnamon
6-8 curry leaves
2 tbsp chopped coriander
400 gms white, boneless fish cut into 6 pieces (sole, surmai, bekti, singhara, though sole is the most firm, you can make this with sea bass or red snapper too!)
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a wok, lightly saute the onions till transparent but not brown, add the ginger, garlic and chillies and saute on low flame for 2 minutes or so. Add the turmeric, mix and then add the coconut milk, let it come to a gentle boil, add the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom along with the cuts of fish. Throw in the curry leaves and chopped coriander, stir and cook for 5-7 minutes depending upon the thickness of the fish pieces. White, boneless fish cut in piece of 3x3 inches and about 1.5 inches thick don't need much time to get done, over cooking with make the fish break up, don't stir too much either. Season with salt and serve with white rice and papad. Enjoy!

Oct 3, 2012

To Each his Own!

I love cake! I love baking 'em and eating 'em... except for one thing, I hate when they are sliced and left and dry up by the next day and I also hate cakes out of the fridge. So the idea is to make sure the entire cake in consumed in 24 hours which is now becoming a bit difficult since A is not here and V is on a  perpetual diet! Now that the weather is opening up a bit, my cake dome should manage to keep the cake as is for longer but summers are a bitch when it comes to large, voluminous yummies we bake. So finally I decided while waiting for autumn and then the loveliness of winter let me make cakes in a cup, individual portions, so that one person eats the entire thing and no cake assembly is massacred. Out came the ramekins and that was the plan. I decided to do pineapple upside down cake with no intention of plopping them out before serving, just 10 second buzz in the micro and 'ready-to-eat'! Baking in cups or ramekins keeps cakes moist and rich for longer, they are easier to preserve in the fridge because you just take out what you need when you need it, nuke in the micro and there you have it, soft, fresh cake ...ready for all!

Ingredients:for 4 mini cakes
 
Topping:

4 round pineapple slices
4 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp dark rum
4 tbsp butter

Heat the butter in a pan, add the brown sugar, let it start to bubble, if you are using large sugar granules then let it melt down a bit, best is to use fine brown sugar, everyone super promotes Tate & Lyle though in India one should not have to pay that kind of money for brown sugar, best is Solar, its affordable and does the job well! Add the rum last and take off the heat, don't let the booze burn off. line each ramekin or baking cup with portions of this mixture, line with a slice of pineapple and start with the cake batter. Oh ya, don't forget to grease the ramekins first, once this is all in it won't be possible to grease evenly. You won't need to remove these cakes from the baking dish, but it will be easier to eat if the ramekins are greased. I use the leftover butter sheets to do this. 

Cake:
 
60 gms Butter
100 gms flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
100 gms Sugar
60 ml milk
1 tsp Vanilla essence

Cream the butter and sugar till light in colour. Add the egg and blend well, then the vanilla essence. Sift the baking powder with the flour and add in two additions, alternating with the milk. Mix it all up well, pour into four portions in the greased ramekins and bake at 200 C for 20 mins or till a toothpick comes out clean. Serve with 1 tbsp rum poured on to or even better serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drenched with that tbsp of rum. Enjoy!



Oct 2, 2012

Molten Chocolate & I = BFF's

I am always looking for the perfect cupcake/brownie/lava cake recipe. I will try dozens, love them all and still not be satisfied. For me this is an elusive dessert that can only get better. This particular recipe was a bit of a fluke as in I didn't expect or attempt for it to be a lava cake per se, it just turned out to be one and honestly, I am glad it did! What it took was a shorter cooking/baking time and voila, we had lava cakes, that would stay moist for days, yes days, that's if they survived days. The recipe is from the latest edition of BBC GoodFood India and I have tweaked it ever so slightly, along with a shorter baking time.

Chocolate is revered in my kitchen much like Thai Chillies, sesame oil, good cuts of pork, prawns and crabs, these are few things I don't mess with, in terms of waste and in terms of taste. I needed a perk me up kind of recipe and I think I have found it, we will be eating a lot of these in the days to come and I have Chef Alain Coumont to thank, along with a gorgeous smile, he is a chocolate man, now what could be more attractive?!

Ingredients:

300 gms dark chocolate, I used Callebaut
250 gms butter, I use Amul as always
200 gms caster sugar, the dark chocolate is mildly sweetened, so I reduced the sugar and I am glad I did because you can really taste the chocolate then!
60 gms flour
5 eggs

Gently beat the eggs and sugar till light and fluffy, I used a whisk because I didn't want the batter to be overly aerated. This took about 5-7 minutes, amazing work out for the arm and real feel of baking, somehow hand mixers take the pain/joy out of baking sometimes.Then I added the flour to the egg mixture, this needs a bit of work because you don't want lumps.  In a separate bowl, over a double boiler, I melted the butter and chocolate till it was smooth. Cool the chocolate mixture a bit but not too much else it thickens and is harder to blend with the eggs/sugar/flour mix. However it can't be too hot else it will cook the eggs (ewwww!). Pour the chocolate into the eggs/sugar/flour mixture, mix well without beating or whipping, just fold it all in. Pour into broad cupcake liners and bake at 160 C for about 15-20 minutes. The toothpick trick won't work here since you want these to be gooey, so best is to see if there is a firm film on top and the sides look done. Remove from the oven and cool, the will collapse in the center but that's fine, that's where the gooey goodness lives, so all you need to do is dig in with spoon and ENJOY!
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