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Monday, 25 August 2014

Beery-Beery Good!! Saying Cheers to the new menu at 'Beer Cafe' and .....Chef Saby's Recipe for Beer Chicken Vindaloo.

I have never understood people's fascination for drinking beer. Back in the forces, usually Sunday Brunch at the Army Mess would mean an opportunity of getting together with friends over large mugs of chilled beer followed by a scrumptious meal of biryani or idli dosa. But somehow the bitter fermented taste of beer never appealed to my tastebuds and on most occassions except for an occassional 'shandy' I have preferred to give it a pass. 
So, when I got an invite from Beer cafe at its flagship outlet  Beer Cafe Biggie in Connaught Place, for the launch of their new food menu, knowing my lack of interest in the drink, I almost had a mind to give it a skip. The thing that caught my eye, enough to interest me to change my mind was that Chef Sabyasachai Gorai had revamped their whole food menu and would be demonstrating how to cook some of his signature dishes - Beer Chicken Vindaloo and Banana Beerimisu
I had used other alcohols like wine and rum for cooking but never Beer. The only thing I was familiar with, apart from drinking the beverage was that it was great for washing one's hair with. Having met Chef Saby on a few occasions earlier and aware of his extraordinary culinary skills, I was quite interested to see what twist would he be giving to the dishes.
Also present on the occasion was Mr.Rahul Singh, Founder and CEO of The Beer Cafe. He spoke about how, "Beer Cafe was the largest beverage chain in India having opened 24 stores and looking at adding another 16 stores by December. Speaking about the newly revamped menu, he said that how till now they were mainly focused on beer and that food had taken kind of a backseat. The time has come to change that. Incorporating the feedback from valued guests, the food menu has been completely revamped by Chef Saby and his team Fabrica. Infact, our food menu will be customized for every outlet depending on the popular cuisine of that area. We aim to delight our guests by offering an array of international and modern dishes that will pair fabulously with their favorite brews."
During the launch the guests were introduced to the Whitlinger, produced in-house, which was being introduced for the first time in Delhi and would soon soon be available in all beer cafe outlets across india.
Chef Saby demonstrating how to cook Beer Chicken Vindaloo. Aromatic and spicy, The Beer Chicken Vindaloo had pieces of boneless chicken cooked to perfection in the  spicy - sour vindaloo sauce.
For the interested readers, Chef Saby's recipe is given at the bottom.
The classic Italian dessert gets a shot of Beer. Chef Saby and Rahul Singh making the Beeramisu - an interesting twist on the traditional tiramisu. I loved the way the the beer added a lovely hint of bitterness to balance the sweetness of the toffee sauce.
I gave both the beers served at beer cafe a try. To my surprise the 'Whitlinger' was quite light and I really enjoyed it - enough to get a refill. Stella Artois was a little strong for my taste, maybe because I am not a big fan of beer but I think it would be hugely popular with the Beer lovers.
A lot of thought has gone into conceptualizing the menu and the effort showed in the distinct taste and flavor of each dish. I loved everything on the menu and it is hard to choose any one favorite. I especially loved the melt-in-the-mouth Citrus Malai Tikka, The mouthwatering stuffed green chillies with corn kernels and Mozzarella, the hand tossed pizzas, the addictive Beer Batterd Prawns with wasabi mayonnaise, the sinful desserts which were absolute killers....that pretty much covers almost everything. I did tell you everything on the menu was fabulous!!
The menu comprises of international as well as regional cuisine with a generous dose of comfort food. Drawing inspiration from classic movies and songs some of the dishes have very quirky names- treat yourself to ‘Beer Bites’ that include a Chicken Run (BBQ chicken wings), Hollow Man (Crunchy summer vegetables stuffed rice paper rolls) and Tirchi Topiwale (stuffed mushrooms). Moving on to the signature Tacos and scrumptious thin crust pizzas that are made of fresh hand tossed dough. The menu also has an array of main course that consists of Gourmet sausage Platter, Australian Wok tossed noodles, succulent burgers Beer battered prawns and lots  more. Also making a debut are some delightful desserts like Beeramisu and Citrus beer pudding. 
Deconstructed Peanut chaat
Ripe Tomato, Mozarella Basil Pizza - The pizzas were fantastic - thin crust with loads on flavor and just the right amount of cheese on top.
Bacon and Sausages Pizza 
Beer Battered Prawns struck a chord. Something I would love to go back for again and again.
Green Inferno (stuffed green chillies with corn kernels and Mozarella) and Citrus Malai Tikka - another winner from the menu
The Greenfield Tacos
Dark Chocolate and Whiskey Mousse - you can actually lose yourself in its intense chocolate flavor enhanced by coffee and whiskey. Highly recommended for all chocolate lovers. Beeramisu layered with beer and bananas was also quite good.
What a cracking first encounter for me. I would definitely be saying more cheers to Beery times at The Beer Cafe.

And as promised here's the recipe for Beer Chicken Vindaloo 
This recipe serves 4
For the Marinade
3 tsp each of cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cardamom pods
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves
3 fresh green chillies
50 ml Beer
salt and pepper
For the Curry
4 skinless and boneless chicken thigh, chopped into large chunks
2-3tbsp olive oil
1 large onion finely sliced
3 tomatoes 150 ml chicken stock
100 ml Beer
a few coriander leaves for garnish

Method:
Dry fry the cumin, coriander seeds, cardamom pods and mustard seeds in a saucepan for a few minutes.
Add these spices in a food blender with all other marinade ingredients and blitz into a paste.
Cover the chicken with the marinade and leave in the fridge for atleast 4-8 hours.
Heat the oil and fry the chicken when the color comes, add the onions tomatoes and fry till they soften.
Add the remaining marinade, chicken stock and half of the beer.
Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Add the other half, just before serving and serve garnished with coriander leaves.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Thai Green Curry Chicken

I am just back today after a heavenly lunch at the Thai pavillion at Vivanta By Taj Gurgaon. And frankly I cant stop dreaming about it!! 
An exclusive Bloggers table was held today at the hotel to commemorate the first Anniversary of Thai Pavillion and we were privileged to have amongst us the legendary Chef Ananda Solomon who cooked up quite a delicious fare for us to tantalize our taste buds.
Back home, the fresh vibrant flavors of the memorable food still lingered in my mind and I was inspired enough to try out a Thai dish for dinner tonight, much to the delight of my kids. Thai cuisine is one which still lies unexplored by me due to which I am not quite comfortable cooking it. As my husband is not very keen on Thai flavors, I have never felt the inclination or inspiration to try out my hand in it. Even if I wanted to try it out sometimes, the fresh ingredients were not easily available. But ofcourse times have changed now. I was surprised to find that even my local grocery store has a stock of ingredients like readymade spring roll wrappers, wasabi paste and whipped cream and fresh herbs like basil, celery a big boon for food enthusiasts like me.
This dish was also made keeping my daughter in mind as she is extremely fond of Thai food and especially now that she stays in a hostel and comes home only for the weekends, it gives me real pleasure to put in the extra effort to concoct something special which I know she would immensely enjoy.
To save myself some real effort, I have used a ready made green curry paste to flavor the chicken. It was surprisingly good and added the additional flavors to the curry. Also, what I liked about the ready made green curry paste was that the flavors were pretty balanced and the level of the chillies were quite toned done, perfect for a non-chilly eating family like ours.
This curry calls for Kaffir lime leaves but as this dish was kind of last minute thing I substituted the leaves for some lemon zest and lemon juice. Just be careful not to add in the zest too early as it will leave a bitter aftertaste in your curry. It should be stirred in just before serving. A dish that is totally effortless and made with the least of ingredients, a quick fix dinner that you can prepare in a jiffy and enjoy on a busy weekday.

Ingredients

250 ml coconut milk
1 cup veg stock or chicken stock
4 tbsp green curry taste
1 tbsp oil
1 garlic cloves finely chopped
¼ cup basil leaves, chopped
½ cup  blanched beans and carrots
1 cup boneless chicken, boiled
1 tsp palm or brown sugar
2 tsp fresh Kaffir lime leaves or a 3 wide strips lime zest
1 tsp lemon juice
Method
In  a large frying pan, heat oil until almost smoking point.
Put in the chopped garlic and stir quickly making sure it does not get browned.
Spoon  the green curry paste and stir it around for a few seconds.
Next pour in the coconut milk and let it come to a bubble.
Add the sugar,  pieces of chicken and vegetables.
Simmer covered for about 8 minutes.
Stir in the shredded lime juice and lime zest.
Just before serving add in the  basil leaves.
Scatter with the lime garnish and serve immediately with boiled rice.

Quick and Easy Kadhai Chanas

Weekend has started and most of us are looking forward to unwinding, relax undisturbed, put up our feet and do absolutely nothing if it was in your hands. And of course, I am absolutely sure that spending long hours in the kitchen is absolutely not in your list of agendas. 
So, here is something special for you - a quick fix recipe for Kadhai chanas that is absolutely going to sweep you off your feet. It is so easy you won't believe it  - no grinding, no frying or standing for long and sweating over bhunoing the masala. You can literally throw in everything together and the chickpeas and spices just blend together beautifully in a blink of an eye. And the best part is that they taste so good. 
Conscious of calories, I usually serve the chanas with kulchas  but once in a while I like to indulge the kids (and myself too!!) and serve them with hot, crispy fluffy bhaturas.
Are you salivating already? Go ahead and try it out yourself to see how easy it is. You will surely be thanking me later.
                     
Ingredients
1 cups  chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 tsp Amchur (dried mango powder)
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
2 tsp powdered cloves
2 tsp Coriander powder
2 tsp powdered cinnamon
2 green cardamoms
4-5 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp anardana(roasted pomegranate seeds) powder
salt to taste
2 green chilli, sliced
3 tbsp ghee (optional)
2 tbsp ginger juliennes
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste 
To Garnish:
1 finely chopped onion
juice of 1 lemon
2 potatoes - cubed and fried
Method
Soak the chickpeas overnight in plenty of water. Wash the chickpeas in fresh water and discard the liquid. Pressure cook the chickpeas in 3 cups of water till soft and plump. Transfer the chickpeas to a heavy bottom pan.
Add in the chopped onions, tomatoes, green chilli and all the dry spices.

Allow it to simmer on low heat for 20-25 minutes till all the liquid is evaporated and the spices blend in and coat the chickpeas thoroughly.
Add in the ghee, fried potatoes and garam masala. Adding the ghee is optional. If you are conscious about your calories it can be avoided totally. 
Cook for another 5 minutes.
Stir well and switch off the gas.
Garnish with finely chopped coriander and cut onions.
Serve the Pindi chana with Kulchas or if you are in an indulgent mood with piping hot, crispy bhaturas. A glass of buttermilk and cut onions sprinkled with chaat masala and lemon wedges will complete your Punjabi experience.
Your weekend brunch ready at the snap of your fingers!!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Illusionary Food Art at Farzi Cafe, Cyber Hub, Gurgaon

“Eating is a complete sensory experience. It’s the only thing we do that engages all of our senses. What I try to do is play with this idea to extend and deepen one’s interaction with food. I want to create meals that are a delicious spectacles, where every bite is a delight to the senses". - Heston Blumenthal

If you are as hooked on to Masterchef Australia as everyone at my home is, I am sure you would be familiar with the term 'Molecular Gastronomy'.
Basically, Molecular Gastronomy blends Physics and Chemistry to transform the tastes and textures of food. It has now commonly being used to describe a style of cuisine in which chefs explore culinary possibilities by borrowing tools from the science lab and ingredients from the food industry.
My first brush with this modern style of cooking was when in one of the episodes in Masterchef Australia, Heston Blumenthal (he is an British celebrity chef most famous for his food experiments using Molecular gastronomy) prepared ice cream within a matter of seconds using liquid nitrogen. As he poured the liquid nitrogen into the mixer, I watched with complete awe and fascination as clouds of smoke tumbled out of the mixer giving you the feeling of being in a magical fantasy land. But I had never thought I would get to see the same magic performed right here in a restaurant, before my eyes. 
An invite for lunch at Farzi cafe had me experiencing the same magic, holding me totally spellbound and awestruck at their incredible culinary creations. I swear what I felt was nothing short of an mystical experience. 
Farzi Cafe, the hottest new dining spot in Cyber Hub, Gurgaon is creating quite a buzz within just a month of its opening. A modern Indian bistro, it is wowing its diners by serving the finest of modern Indian food using elements of molecular gastronomy for showcasing some of the iconic dishes and that too at a very affordable price. A brainchild of culinary maestro Jiggs Kalra and his son Zorawar Kalra, Farzi cafe is the third restaurant to be launched by Massive Restaurants after the resounding success of their premium fine dining restaurant, Masala Library and the casual dine-in chain Made in Punjab.
You will be perplexed as to why someone would name their restaurant Farzi (atleast I was) because to the best of my knowledge Farzi meant 'fake' or something that is not genuine. When I asked Sonali Priy Kapoor, Marcom head of Massive Restaurants and also our charming hostess for the day, she told me that the word Farzi here means creating illusions with food - a dish that plays with your senses and looks and tastes entirely different than what you would expect it to. 
Another thing that I was curious about knowing was that would the use of chemicals and synthetic flavors used in creating a dish with Molecular gastronomy be harmful to us. After all, in my mind the various processes like spherification, gelification, powderising, deep freezing using chemicals like maltodextrin and liquid Nitrogen just did not sound right to a layman like me to be consumed by our body in any possible way.
All my fears were dispelled by Chef Himanshu Saini, the young Chef de Cuisine at Massive Restaurants, as he explained that the "chemicals" used are all of biological origin and are extremely safe for consumption. The elements used in Molecular Gastronomy are all natural and mostly extracted from plants. Also we were told that very small quantities of additives were used which were approved by EU Standards. 
Truly, my dining experience at Farzi Cafe was one of the best I have had so far for the gastronomic value. It seems a lot of thought has gone into everything - the casual bistro ambiance, the imaginative menu playfully done up and the exquisite food which not only looks stunning but tastes amazing too. Frankly not a great Indian food fan, at Farzi cafe, I literally felt as if I was given a whole new definition to Indian cuisine. The flavors here are decidedly Indian but the approach is refreshingly modern. A whole new vocabulary of tastes, textures and techniques - an exciting new twist to the boring old Indian flavors.
On sitting we were offered Farzi OK, a delicious blend of fresh orange juice, kaffir lime juice with vanilla essence. Served chilled in a trendy mason jar it was a perfect start to our meal especially after I had spent the last half an hour outside in the heat, waiting to find a parking space. I understand not getting parking in Cyberhub on weekends but on a weekday at 1:00 p.m in the afternoon? It  just shows how popular Cyber Hub is becoming with the foodie clan.
We start our meal on a dramatic note with Misti doi spheres topped with strawberry coulis and served on a platter steaming with smoky liquid nitrogen.  Made with 'Reverse spherification', the Misti doi spheres were small jelly like balls of curd which when popped into the mouth exploded, leaving behind a refreshingly sweet, tangy flavor of curd. What a wonderful surprise!! My magical journey had begun and I just couldn't wait to discover what other mystical things lay in store ahead.
Next up was a Mini Raj Kachori with Crispy Okra salad topped with a chutney foam. Unusual though the combination might be, the crispy okra beautifully complemented the sweet and spicy Raj kachori. The chutney foam served on top, though deceptive in looks, tasted just the way it was supposed to, like a sweet tamarind chutney spooned on top of your chaat, making your mouth salivate and leaving your taste buds craving for more.
The Chilly Pork Ribs in Kashmiri Rista Reduction were cooked to perfection. The meat was juicy and tender. The marinade was delicious and combined well with the pork ribs. I literally had to stop myself from licking my fingers. 
Vada Pav #Farzified was another excellent reflection of the chefs creativity. Here the twist was that it was an inside out vada pav- that is the pav was stuffed inside a potato ball with all the classic flavors intact. Maybe this dish will be a trendsetter and take Mumbai by storm!!
Braised Lamb Chops Maple Soy Sauce Whiskey Cream Reduction was another example of deliciousness. Extremely tender and full of flavor, the meat was just falling off the bones. It took all my willpower to stop myself from taking a second helping as I did not want to fill up too much knowing fully well there were some more magical treats for us up the chefs sleeve.
Then came the Sarson Ki Galawat with Corn and Cheese Tostadas
Looking pretty as a picture, the  taste perfectly matched the presentation. Little kebabs of sarson accompanied with mini makai rotis and small balloons of buttermilk surely took our humble Sarson ka saag - makki ki roti to a new level. 
Chicken 65 lollipops, egg drops and tomato chutney was bursting with flavors of chilly and coconut with the fried curry leaves giving it a unique flavor. I loved the way this classic dish was made in the form of lollipops making it so much easier to eat.
There was drama brought to our table by the chef when he made the Farzi Apple foamintini right there in front of us on our table. The mocktail was made from fresh green apple extract mixed with elderflower syrup and mint foam on top. Having seen it only on Masterchef Australia before, It was quite impressive to see the chef shake the 'siphon canister' vigorously and take out a light frothy foam on top of the drink.
The Chilly Duck samosa with hoisin chutney was finger licking good. Though I wasn't really convinced about the use of duck meat inside the samosa. Somehow I felt that the duck meat encased in the thick outer covering of the samosa and then being deep fried did nothing to enhance the delicate flavors of the duck - for me it tasted no different than a chicken samosa. Of course, I understand the whole point is in being different and to present an unique experience to the adventurous palates of diners.
The vegetarian option was the Chilli Potato Samosa and according to my vegetarian friends was quite good.
Dal Chawal Arancini made me nostalgic with memories of my childhood. Arancini, which is essentially a Sicilian dish is given an Indian twist here as dal and rice are used to stuff the balls before being coated with bread crumbs and fried. On cutting the ball, you could actually spot the whole grains of rice and dal inside. Served with aachar and papad and chutney it reminded me of moms meals back home. 
Next we were presented with a book on the table with the charming picture of Audrey Hepburn on it. On opening the book, kept inside were sticks of Bailey's Lollipop which were chilled hajmola candies. Inside the restaurant, licking the lollipops made you feel like a small kid again.
The Pumpkin Khow Suey was accompanied with steamed jasmine rice and various toppings like crispy black rice, chives, nuts and lemon. Bursting with strong flavors of lemon grass and galangal, it was delicious. Being a hard core non-vegetarian I seriously didnt think that a vegetarian dish could ever impress me so much. This is a dish that I would like to go back for again and again.
Chicken Tikka Masala with Cornish Cruncher Naan made its grand appearance riding in a telephone booth, a replica of the telephone booths one can spot throughout London. Though popular throughout the world, we were told by the chef that Chicken Tikka Masala is now considered as the national dish of Britain. Coming back to the dish, the flavors were spot on with just the right amount of spices. The cornish naan too was delicious and could very easily be had on its own without any accompaniments.
The vegetarian version with paneer.

Even though I was full to the brim, the dessert looked so inviting that even if I wanted to, I just couldn't resist atleast taking a little taste. enough not to give it a miss.  Parle-G Cheesecake was cheesecake sandwiched between two Parle-G biscuits standing in a pool of rabri and topped with brightly colored gems. The taste was so familiar - I remember as children my mom used to make this delicious dessert layering parle-g biscuits with cream. A real blast from the past - especially the gems really brought out the child in me.
Like all grand finales, the end of our sumptuous meal was also full of drama and extremely exciting. A huge tray  of semi solid phirni was brought to our table on which the chef poured liquid nitrogen. We watch in amazement as clouds of smoke start pouring out from the tray. Then the frozen phirni was hammered and broken down with a spoon and warm rabdi  poured over it. Quite a thrilling show. 
Even if you are not much of a dessert person, order it purely for the presentation. 
I loved everything about the Farzi cafe right from the cool ambiance to the well conceptualized menu, the friendly staff and of course the delicious food which I have raved about so much. 
My experience at the Farzi cafe was fantastic, full of fun, fantabulous, Farzisome, Farzifying - this is one 'F' word I would not mind using a lot from now on!!
If you haven't visited the place as yet and want to experience some of the Farzi magic too, I highly recommend a visit.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Pain au lait: My Bread Baking Obsession

 
Having a tough day? Just head for the kitchen and bake yourself a bread!! 
Seriously making bread from scratch is actually quite therapeutic. You can pound, knead, thrash the dough with all your might leaving you feeling much lighter and free of all your pent up frustrations. On the plus side, you are rewarded with a delicious loaf of freshly baked bread, the heady aroma completely healing your soul.
That is why I am so glad to be a part of this bread baking group "We Knead to bake" on facebook where you get to bake a new bread every month. (Though it is another matter that the healing therapy is required much more than just once a month but I cope). Each member is supposed to make the assigned bread where sometimes it is quite interesting to see the variations the members come up with. Aparna, who is the admin, does a lot of research and comes with amazing new breads every month, which probably would be hard to discover on your own. Check out my recipe of the two of these breads which I baked along with this group - Flaounes, which is a delicious Cypriot bread made on Easter and Foccacia Caprese. The recipes given for the breads are tried and tested by Aparna herself and not once have the breads failed to 'rise to the occasion'. 
Another great bread that we baked recently was Petit Pains au Lait which are basically small French bread rolls enriched with milk. As might be evident from the title, the only liquid used in the dough is milk and of course a generous amount of butter. The resultant texture is rich but still not as rich as Brioche and have a light airiness about them. Pains au Lait typically have a hint of sweetness in them and the pearl sugar that dots the surface adds to the sweetness. They have a beautiful golden crust on the outside concealing a soft flaky inside because of the unusual technique rolling and folding technique used. Then they are decorated by cutting through the top with scissors in a manner which results in a beautiful pattern typical of a Pain au lait. 
This dough is also pretty good to shape into any pattern of your choice.
                

Ingredients: 
(Adapted from Gourmet by Kat -http://gourmetbykat.blogspot.in/2013/10/pain-au-lait-milk-bread.html )
2/3 cup warm milk (you might need a little more)
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup bread flour*
1/4 tsp salt
60 gm butter, soft at room temperature
Extra milk for brushing
Pearl sugar for topping (optional)**

Method:
*If you don’t have bread flour, put 2/3 tsp vital wheat gluten in your 3/4 cup measure and top up with all-purpose flour. Mix this well. 
If you don’t have vital wheat gluten, then just use 3/4 cup all-purpose flour like I did.
**This topping is optional. The pearl sugar looks pretty and adds a little crunch. You can also use large crystals of sugar or a bit of regular granulated sugar.

You can knead by hand or use a machine. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer. (No, please I am not trying to show off my KA machine here but I just can't stop telling everyone how fantastic it really is!!)
Put the warm milk, yeast and sugar in the bowl. 
Whisk it for a couple of minutes. 
Then add all the flour and the salt and mix until it looks crumbly.
Add the butter and knead until you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough that’s not sticky. Add a little more milk (in teaspoonful at a time), if your dough is dry, until you have the required consistency of dough. 
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, turning it over to coat with oil. Cover loosely and set aside to rise until double in volume. Punch the risen dough and knead well.
Once the dough is ready, punch out the air and make 10 equal parts.
Use a rolling pin to roll out a circle of about 8 cm.
Roll up the circle from one end, jelly roll style into a cylinder.
Pinch the ends and place seam side down on a greased tray. Allow to rise again.
Before baking, brush the dough with egg wash
                   
Using a sharp scissor make diagonal cuts and sprinkle with sugar. 
(Check out the video here if you are interested to see exactly how to make the pattern on the bread.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYJXPnVo4uUandhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q_VLU1IDfI )
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for about 15 minutes or until they are golden brown.
Let them cool on a rack. Serve them warm or at room temperature.