So long Summer! – A recipe for Peach ‘Varatti’ (Peach Jam – South Indian style)

 I never fail to get a bit down & out when Sept 21st (the autumnal equinox) rolls out annually. Days officially (and from the planetary perspective) become shorter than nights, Coats get yanked out, the frantic search for a matching pair of warm socks from the sock drawer and before you knowing the Daylight saving weekend is upon you. You may gain an hour that day, but it seems to be a terrible compensation for the fact that it gets dark at 6.00 p.m and even that gets progressively earlier until Dec 22.

I’ve spent the summer playing with peaches, in fact, two Bushel’s worth. Smoothies, jams, salsa but the best of them went into making a preserve of a different kind – Varatti . You see, the inherent tropical weather in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Southern India, meant that fruits would spoil rapidly and canning was not a method of preservation employed in traditional cuisine. The preferred method was to cook the fruit down to evaporate the water content and preserve it with a liberal coating of ghee (which was added to the mashed fruit until it began oozing out of the thick pate). The most popular candidates for this kind of jamming were of course the native fruits, viz, Ripe mangoes and Jackfruit.

Given its ethereal aroma and the ‘custardy’ texture so reminiscent of mangoes, peaches were a perfect fruit for making traditional Indian style preserves. As with making jam in the traditional way, it is a labor of love and time, lots of it, but in the end, you’re left with a lot of perfectly portioned jars to  savor and/or gift (as I did, I carted about half a dozen bottles to India share with friends and family)

Yep, there are other fruits being jammed & canned here in the pics, to be blogged about in later posts!

Peach Varatti: (Makes about  six 8.0 oz  and three 4.0 oz jars)

You need:

25 – 30 peaches (really ripe ones), enough for 20 cups of puree
1/2 – 3/4 cups ghee
3.5 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon powdered cardamom
1/2 cup fresh extract of ginger

To prepare the ginger extract, puree about 1/2 a cup of peeled & chopped ginger root with as little water as needed. Squeeze and strain out the liquid in a cup and allow to stand for about 15 minutes.

Wash the peaches, and peel the skin off. Cut off the flesh and discard the pits. Puree the fruit.

In a heavy bottom pan ( an enamel coated 5 quart chicken fryer works great), add 1/4 cup of melted ghee and add the puree.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to little above a simmer (medium low). Cover with a spatter guard and allow the puree to cook down  to about 1/5 of its original volume. You can  add the puree in batches, if you prefer, instead of the whole  quantity all at once. It takes up to 3 hours to reduce, keep stirring occasionally just to make sure that the bottom does not get burnt, especially as the mixture thickens down.

Once the puree has reduced, stir in the sugar, the remaining ghee and the cardamom. Gently decant the ginger extract, discarding  the white starchy residue at the bottom of the cup, and add it to the peaches. cook down on a low flame until the ghee begins oozing out of the jam (which, by now has turned into a deep brown color, for a lighter color, feel free to use white sugar instead) . Transfer into sterilized glass jars and can the bottles using the standard technique applied for other jams.


 Store in a dark cool corner of your pantry at room temperature. I made my first batch in July, using the yellow peaches, and another batch last week using the milder white fleshed variety, my personal choice for flavor would be the yellow ones.

The varatti is divine when paired with a sharp cheese to make grilled paninis.

Using rustic Tuscan Pane bread, spread the varatti over one slice, layer with some sharp cheese (I used cheddar), add some fresh cracked black pepper,
 

Lightly brush some melted butter on the outside of the bread, grill the sandwich until the cheese melts and begins oozing out and the grill lines sear into the slices

and serve hot with a side of plantain chips!


Bon appetit!










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The ‘We Knead to Bake’ Project 2013 # 9- Khaliat Nahal (honeycomb bread), Mumbai street food Ishtyle

 

I had hoped to bake 12 breads — one for each month of the year but it appears that hopes of a perfect record are moot, I missed the bread from last month – Pretzels, since I was on holiday. The good part, I got to personally deliver my excuse to Aparna Balasubramanian while on holiday in India.
The only problem with Indian holidays is that you’re left with a profound longing for the delicious foods that you indulge in, long after you get back to home base, i.e, The US of A. One of the dishes I missed out on this trip was authentic Vada Pav, the kind you buy from street vendors, not in restaurants.
When the time came to bake this months bread, It didn’t take long to decide what I wanted to fill it with, and tradition took a LOOONG hike into the Arabian desert! This months bread was a middle eastern classic Khaliat al Nahal ,translated as Bees Hive in Arabic for its honeycomb structure. The traditional version is a sweet one, filled with plain cream cheese & drizzled liberally with sugar syrup flavored with rose, saffron or cardamom.

And of course as usual, I tend to deliberately go the opposite direction.

This was a perfect opportunity to indulge & give in to my Vada Pav craving AND test out yet another one of Aparna’s fabulous bread selections & so, here is my bread creation # 9, for the month of September. The garlic chutney that coats the vadas in each of the little honeycomb buns is entirely optional, but here’s the recipe if you’re interested.

Note: As intimidating as 18 servings can be, they’re small 2 bite versions of the real thing, & they tend to disappear quickly. all the better since they don’t taste that good, (rather stale), the next day. Finish them off the same day by sharing with friends & Family!

For the Vadas:
4 large Idaho potatoes, boiled in their skins
2 tablespoons oil for the seasoning
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 green chiles chopped coarsely
1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated fine
1 sprig curry leaves, torn into small bits
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon Red Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
1 pinch turmeric powder
Plain seltzer water as needed
2 cups oil for deep frying
Peel the potatoes & crumble. Set aside

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet. when it gets hot, add the mustard & allow it to sputter.
Add the green chiles, ginger & garlic, Saute till the garlic emanates an aroma. Add the curry leaves, stir and add the turmeric & salt. Remove from fire, mix well and add to the crumbled potatoes.

Combine the seasoning until its well distributed in the potatoes. using melon baller, scoop out potato mixture, and shape into spheres about 1 inches in diameter. Cover with a plastic wrap & refrigerate till ready to fry.

Combine the chickpea flour, baking powder,salt, turmeric & chile powder. mix with a fork to distribute the spices. Add seltzer to make a batter the consistency of pancake batter.

Heat 2 cups of oil in a cast iron pan. when it just about begins to smoke, dip the potato spheres into the batter completely coating them & drop into the hot oil. Fry till golden brown. Remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

Set aside 18 of the best looking vadas to cool down to room temperature, and feel free to gobble down the  rest!

Khaliat Nahal Vada Pav:

You need: (for the dough)

1 cup lukewarm milk
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 to 1 teaspoon sea salt
40gm butter, melted
2 tablespoon milk for brushing the dough
2 tablespoon white sesame seeds for sprinkling on top (optional)

 Add 2 cups of the flour, salt,  and melted butter (make sure that its been cooled down, or else you run the risk of killing off the yeast) in the bowl of your stand mixer (fitted with a dough hook). Start the machine at the lowest setting couple of times to mix well.

Combine the milk, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and keep for 5 minutes. Add this to the stand mixer bowl and knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough which is not sticky. Add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour as you need to get this consistency of bread dough. I used all of 2 1/2 cups of flour for mine.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning it to coat completely with the oil. Cover and let it rise till double in volume, for about an hour.

Turn the dough out onto your work surface. You won’t really need to flour it as the dough is quite manageable as it is. Cut it into 2 halves. With your palms, roll out each half a “rope” about 9” long. Cut each rope into 1” pieces (each piece should weigh approximately between 35 -40 gms, if you’re particular about it.
Take each piece and flatten it out a little and place half a teaspoon of  garlic chutney  in the center. Place a vada in the middle of the chutney.
 Pull up the sides and wrap the dough around the filling, pinching it closed at the top. Smoothen it into a round ball. Place this in a well-greased round 9” cake tin. Repeat with the remaining 17 pieces and the filling. Arrange the filled balls of dough in concentric circles, filling the base of the cake tin.

 


Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for about 30 to 40 minutes. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle the sesame seeds over this.  Bake the buns at 180 C (350 F) for about 25 minutes, until they’re done and a nice golden brown on top.
Let them cool in the tin for about 5 minutes and then on a wire rack.

Serve warm with a cup of Masala Chai.

This Bread is being Yeastspotted.

Bon appetit!

Product Review: Ninja Mega Kitchen system and a recipe for Masala Dosa

 One of the biggest reasons for attending conferences is the priceless experience of meeting fellow bloggers and get an invaluable exposure to all things  culinary. This includes vendors with new products to savor and get inspiration from.

I had no complaints about whatever appliances I had for making traditional Dosa (Traditional South Indian rice & lentil crepes) batter, a sturdy tabletop stone grinder that you could add the Urad dal, turn the timer on , and 30  minutes later, come back to a container full of fluffy, batter with the consistency of whipped egg whites. The
The cons of this is the cleaning up, of the various parts, the roller, the grinding bin, the multiple trays on which the rollers need to be placed while transferring the rice & lentil batter, the invariable drips of thick batter on the counter…. you get the point, It takes quite a bit of time.

I was pleasantly surprised when the appliance company, Ninja asked me if I’d like to try any of their appliances (the Ninja team at BlogHer Food ’13 were real stars in terms of the delicious food samples they made on site). I accepted their offer and picked the  Mega Kitchen system. Unlike smaller passive gadgets such as scoops & knives, Electrical appliances cannot be verified with one successful try. I had to run the machine through multiple testing sessions before I could bring myself to vouch for it (even though , the delighted cook within me was already raving about the machine to anyone who listened).

In my opinion, Dosa batter is definitely one of the toughest tasks that any kitchen blending system can be tested with. First, soaked, hydrated rice turns to the consistency of concrete when blended and this puts quite some strain on the motor. The Urad lentils have a glutinous texture and grinding this to a smooth paste is non trivial, let alone eventually whipping the batter into a light airy texture.The aerating part seems to be tackled perfectly by the design if the blender has to survive for a number of years in a traditional Indian Kitchen. (we Indians lay a lot of emphasis & importance on the durability factor).
In Ninja’s blender jar, 6 blades (which can be removed for cleaning easily)  stacked up over each other ensure that the lentils & rice are pulverized with out having to go through that whirlpool motion of the conventional models that draw the ingredient down. The Ninja system packs a punch in terms of power – 1500 watts of power.

The entire system consists of a Large blender jar (which I’ve been regularly using for making Dosa batter), a dough & food processor attachment, and a small single serve smoothie attachment which I find perfect for grinding masalas & dry spices such as the classic Milaga Podi (pictured above).

New York Times  had published an article last year about pairing Dosas with Champagne,  and of course, I simply HAD to test it for myself. The yummy  (and pleasantly tipsy) brunch that followed the photography session verified NYTimes claim to a T, with the emphasis that it paired best with  Dosas made with Ghee instead of sesame oil (as the regular day to day breakfast menu goes). While the recipe below describes the traditional way of dosais, I opted to make miniature versions of the dosas topped with a marble sized scoop of the Masala.


Masala Dosais:

  • 1.5 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1/2 cup Spilt dehusked Urad Dal
  • 1 teaspoon Salt.
  • Melted ghee (for drizzling over the dosai) and Sesame oil (for brushing over the griddle)
  1. Rinse & soak the rice & lentils separately in plenty of water for about 2 hours (preferably overnight).
  2. Grind the rice to a thick paste in a blender. Transfer to a large container. Repeat with the lentil, taking care to add sufficient water while blending to obtain a batter which is somewhat fluffy in consistency. (like beaten egg whites). Combine the rice & the urad batters with the salt taking care to mix well using your hands (yeah , its messy, & the batter isn’t even worth licking!).
  3. Cover & place in the oven with the light switched on over night. Alternatively bloom a packet of yeast in warm water and add to the batter. Allow to rest for an hour. Mix well before making the dosai.
  4. Heat a cast iron griddle. Add a teaspoon of oil & wipe it using a paper towel. When the pan gets really hot, pour about 3 oz of the batter in the center & spread it around using the rounded side of the ladle. Drizzle with 1/2 a teaspoon of sesame oil. (the batter will bubble up leaving nooks & crannies on the surface. when the lower side begins to turn golden brown carefully flip the dosai over & cook till the other side turns a similar color. Serve with your choice of chutney, or jam, or even just a dollop of yogurt.

  1. For making dosais with the potato filling, spread the batter on the griddle & drizzle with the melted ghee. (Cover with a large lid & allow the top side to steam cook.). Remove the lid, and place a scoop (ice cream scoop ) of the potato masala in the center. Using the spatula, gently roll the dosai around the filling. (Like rolling a burrito, but without tucking the sides in, I guess like a cannoli). serve with your choice of chutney, or sambhar.

Potato masala:

  • 4 large idaho potatoes, boiled & peeled
  • 1 large onion, quartered & thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  1. crumble the boiled & peeled potatoes. Set aside
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet, when it just begins to smoke, add the mustard & cumin seeds & allow to sputter. Add the curry leaves and the onion. saute till the onion turns translucent.
  3. Add the crumbled potatoes, salt and turmeric powder. Sprinkle with some water, stir, lower the heat, cover & cook till the flavors combine. remove from heat, add the lime juice.

The Ninja Mega Kitchen System is available online via their website , or Amazon.com ( Ninja Mega Kitchen System – Model BL771)  or at any retailer in the United States or Canada.

A big Thank you to the folks, especially Sarah Knutson at Ninja Kitchen Systems for the opportunity to test this appliance!

Bon Appetit!

Somewhat Rare Treats – Banana Stem Stir Fry

The banana tree  has often been described as a perfect example of being totally useful from root to fruit. (well, considering that the ‘tree’  is in reality a mutant, giant grass, the description begs for quite a bit of clarification). The banana ‘plant grows from fat squat entities called corms which are the actual stems of the plant, the ‘trunk’ in reality is the base of the leaves which are tightly layered in concentric layers. In terms of its use, other than the fruit, the inflorescence (banana flower)  is often used as a vegetable in Asian cuisine, the leaves are used for wrapping food for steaming, as disposable plates and the occasional umbrella. The fibers from the exterior part of the stems are used for textiles as well as yarn.

The core (or the heart)  used for cooking consists of the central, compressed part of the stem, the part which cannot be peeled off in layers. Its been used as a folk remedy for kidney stones and thanks to its fiber rich nature, its a great vegetable to add to your diet for weight control. (Its another story that the stems are rarely seen even in the ethnic grocery stores here in the US of A).

The prepping process is not straight forward. The instant the stem is cut, it turns brown due to oxidation. For this purpose, the diced bits need to be immediately immersed in acidulated water ( for some reason, the medium of choice is water mixed with a ladle of diluted yogurt or buttermilk).

When the stem is sliced into coins, the immature fibers that stretch out need to be removed. Don’t get grossed out, these are not slimy like Okra or sticky like spider webs.

They’re more like strands of delicate cotton that are pretty strong enough to lift the slice of stem.

The optimal way to extract them is to gently twist the fibers out of the stem, using your index finger and discard.

The coins are then diced and added to the acidulated water, and left for about 1/2 an hour.

The banana stem by itself does not have a particular flavor, just a delicate vegetal, grassy aroma. This make it the perfect vehicle for adding your choice of spices as per your preference. The crunch of the vegetable even after cooking gives it a textural distinction that is rather delightful.

Banana Stem Stir Fry:

You need:

 12″ banana stem core.
4 cups of water (whisked in with 1/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 arbol chiles broken into bits
1 teaspoon split urad dal
1 pinch Asafetida powder
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1 sprig fresh curry leaves, torn

1/3 cup shredded coconut
salt to taste
Coconut oil for finishing

Prep the banana stem as per the instructions listed above.
 Drain the yogurt/water mix and transfer the diced stems to a pot containing water with the turmeric added. bring to a boil and cook the stems for about 15 minutes until they’re pleasantly crunchy to the bite. Drain the water and reserve the stems.
Heat the olive oil in a  wok and add the mustard seeds & the urad dal, just as the mustard begins to sputter add the broken arbol chiles and the torn curry leaves along with the asafetida.
Toss in the cooked stems, stir to combine. Add the salt and stir fry on medium heat until any residual water has completely evaporated. Stir in the shredded coconut to evenly distribute it. and transfer to a serving dish.
Drizzle with the coconut oil prior to serving.

Serve warm with rice and traditional South Indian dishes such as Sambhar & kootu.

 Bon appetit!

Dishes to Die For From the deep South! Dakshin – A review.

 I could not scripted it if I tried, but I had the opportunity of dining at two splendid dining establishments in as many days. The first, dedicated to Frontier cuisine of the North-west & Punjab, the second, a fitting complement paying tribute to the best of Southern Indian Fare.

The two styles of cuisines , (for those who are under the misguided notion that Indian food revolves around Paneer & Naan) , are about as alike as chalk and cheese. Its almost like trying to understand and compare two languages which never had any common origins or script to begin with. South Indian cuisine makes full use of spices that originated in its native soil (such as pepper, cinnamon, cardamom & cloves, originated and evolved in the Southern Indian peninsula).  When paired with the magical aromatic combination of Curry leaves and asafetida, the end result is truly magical.

Dakshin, the flagship ethnic cuisine restaurant at the Park Sheraton in Chennai has consistently been THE place to go for great South Indian food. Some of the best memories of my life have been celebrated with a dinner at this very restaurant, The other half’s promotion to a Bell Labs DMTS, my son Ishaan’s first birthday, to name a few, and the taste memories of every one of them linger on pleasantly.

I needed no coaxing to visit the restaurant once again on a whirlwind overnight trip to Chennai for a family celebration. The only difference, I allowed myself the luxury of letting Sous Chef Harish advise me on what to eat, and the end result was an unforgettable culinary journey to be savored and cherished for all times.

The Beautifully designed menu

opens up to a cornucopia of dishes.

Every table is set with gleaming brass containers of deep fried Appalams (Paapads) , Vadaams (wafers made with Rice flour) and sun dried Chiles & guar beans,

and a selection of traditional Chutney powders.

Every female guest is welcomed with a string of fresh jasmine blossoms,

And then the Feasting begins!

Its starts off with dollar sized versions of classic Iyer (Tamil Brahmin) dishes such as the Banana Dosai and the Adai, a lentil pancake with a crunchy bite and an extremely satisfying chewy texture.  While the Adai is a familiar staple in many households, the next offerings were completely new to me.

Little addictive hush puppies made with shredded plantains spiced with curry leaves, and classic masala Vadas  with fennel.  The palate cleanser at the end of the appetizers was mildly blanched Cauliflowers tossed in a heady blend of toasted cumin, crushed peppercorns and curry leaves.

I was practically in seventh heaven with these goodies when the Chef announced that they would be setting the plates out for the main course There were six different curries, each representing the different culinary regions of South India, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu as well as Pondicherry & Chettinad. These included a Tomato flavored dal from Andhra, A tamarind based curry with shallots from chettinad, a spiced potato roast, The classic ‘Ishtu from Kerala,  and an amazing turnip Kootu from Pondicherry made with toasted garbanzo beans.

and the surprise , a divine, crispy Okra Stir fry with coconut (For an avid Okra hater like me, I actually not only tasted it, but liked it as well).
Each one of these dishes were paired with classic breads (if you can call it that) from the south, Flaky, layered Malabar porottas, Pillowy Aapams,

Freshly squeezed and steamed rice noodles,

which were topped off with a classic dish that binds all of South India together, Thayir saadham (Yogurt rice), served up with your choice of spicy Achars & ‘Thokkus’ (cooked chutneys)

And in saving the best for last, Chef Harish presented an unforgettably brilliant bread pudding from the erstwhile French colony of Pondicherry,  a true genius of an idea bringing together influences not just from the Southern Indian Peninsula, but also reaching out the French influences from further east in Vietnam.

The bread in this pudding is a baguette made from rice flour, spiced with cloves and cinnamon, soaked up in a creamy coconut milk  reduction redolent of cardamom, saffron & Pistachio.

Anything I write about this unforgettable dinner will not really do justice to the food that is served up at this flagship restaurant. The best way to experience is to visit and treat yourself to the best food that the deep Indian South can dish out!

Dakshin is located at the Sheraton Park & Towers, TTK Road Chennai , TN 600 018, Tel : (91) (44) 24994101

Paan Shots once again at the Punjab Grill.

 Its an oft heard story, new restaurants open, offer fabulous food to the point that you count the days to going back, even though you and the restaurant are physically located on two different continents, and then when you go back, POOF!.. either the the food quality or the service has degenerated down the tubes.

is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

It was by sheer serendipity that I ended up dining once again at Jiggs Kalra’s restaurant ‘Punjab Grill’ (the Bangalore branch) yesterday. It was G’s (the other Half) birthday and we initially decided to walk up to another restaurant closer to home that previously had served up great food, Just as we finished toasting our wine glasses and were contemplating what to order, there appeared a nasty unwanted pest of the 6 legged kind right on the table, the one that makes you scream and hop onto chairs. We called up Punjab Grill right then and there, made a reservation and set off immediately.

As I walked into Punjab Grill almost 2 years to the date of my previous visit, the first thing that struck me was that the decor was as elegant as ever, with minor re arrangements of the seating. Since the kids were getting peckish, we settled down to ordering food almost immediately.

The appetizer we picked was Paneer Tikka Multani, Huge morsels of smoky grilled Paneer cheese marinaded in a green blend of chile, cilantro and mint, washed down with a glass of chilled ‘Shikanjvi’ . Shikanjvi is a tangy Indian style lemonade spiced with salt, pepper & cumin. The version this time around was more of a delicious slushie made with crushed ice as opposed to the straight forward version chilled with ice cubes.

 There are some classics that one looks forward to eating again and two dishes certainly qualify as signature dishes in my book. One is the Dal Makhani, a blend of slow cooked lentils & dal in a creamy sauce. Rich, yet subtly spiced, it is a ‘MUST ORDER’ at the restaurant.

In contrast to the creamy Dal, is the other signature dish that is worth visiting the restaurant for is the Malerkhot de Achari Aloo –  Potatoes cooked up in a tangy lip smacking gravy of Indian pickling spices. Perfect for waking up your palate to the other offerings although I would have preferred more potatoes in the gravy.

The other dishes we ordered were the Pindi Channa, the drier version of Channa Masala, piquantly spiced with generous amounts of Dried mango & Pomegranate powder.

 The surprise was the Mixed vegetables, the Subzian de Milliyan, a mix of vegetables cooked along with crumbled paneer. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, retaining a light crunch and their characteristic flavors stood up and yet complemented the flavors of fresh ginger that dominated the dish.

 Dessert was a trio of Gulab Jamoons, the classic version with Pistachios, and the others flavored with white and dark chocolate. (Disclaimer: it was just one serving ordered for my 7 year old, who promptly dispatched them, Considering that he also happens to be one of my Taste testers, I’m going to conclude that they must have been delicious)

 And of course their ultimate signature sign off shot that beckons the diner for more visits in the future..The Freshly blended Paan shot, with fresh betel leaves, fennel, cardamoms & other spices.

It is a rare pleasure indeed to visit a restaurant the second time around and savor the same amazing food and service. If you’re ever in Bangalore, Treat yourself to a meal at this wonderful establishment.  Punjab Grill’s Bangalore outlet is located at SJR Primus, Koramangala , 7th block Bangalore 560 095, Tel: +91 80 40902161/62. Reservations recommended.

Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf
Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf
Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf
Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf
Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

Airline Food review – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly


As much as I look forward to those crazy kitchen sessions, ensconsed at home trying out new recipes to share on the blog, there inevitably comes  sessions when I turn into a human mass spectrometry analyser, the minute I get my boarding pass in hand. My other half calls it the ‘driving cabin crew crazy’ phase.  I chew (food), analyse (the taste) and spit out  (my opinion) on the food that is served up on a long international flight. Then follows the barrage of questions to the crew that is  always answered very  helpfully. Its a delight to travel with such a wonderful crew as I did earlier this week in Jet Airways’ flight from Newark to Mumbai via Brussels.

Jet airways (as do most airlines) has a dedicated team that works with various culinary establishments the world over to design the menu for all their three classes of travel. The menu is changed every month and there are 3 or 4 sets of menus that get rotated through out the year. For the premium classes, they have Michelin star chefs (such as Yves Mattagne,) who designs their western food menu.

The science behind what makes food taste good

Human physiology is not designed by nature to operate optimally at 35,000 feet in a pressurized can and the entire experience of savoring food at high altitudes is different from what you enjoy at the dinner table at home. First, the olfactory (smell) senses go for a toss. Since most of the tasting experience is actually done by the nose (which gets seriously compromised in the high altitude, pressurized environment), only the strongest & most assertive of aromas get detected .. Not a good thing – almost everyone has experienced the aroma of egg salad or garlicky curry wafting from  the seat 3 rows ahead, haven’t we?
Thus the tongue has to take on the added responsibility. There isn’t much one can do in terms of changing the four parameters that the taste buds can identify, especially when the food is being served to 300 passengers,  The onus is on creating variations in texture that appeals to the palate. Creamy is good, gritty is not.

There were two different food uploads, I’m not sure about who the Jet airways caterers are on the EWR – BRU leg, but kudos for presenting a decent dinner offering. So here’s my 2 cents worth.

The GOOD!

The wine on Economy was a Sauvignon blanc from Chile (Concha y toro), generic enough to cover all palate sensibilities.

The salad on the meal tray was a black bean, corn and roasted red pepper salad. A good contrast to the usual wilted lettuce leaf , dried out cucumber slice (topped with a single black olive from a can). Black beans tend to have a glutinous texture that works well on the deprived palate, and even though the beans were a tad mealy, the overall tanginess from the vinegary dressing pushed this into the ‘good’ category.

The Main meal tray consisted of a Paneer makhani, a garlicky mung dal and basmati rice spiced with cloves. Paneer is always a great option for Indian meal uploads, since it retains its chewy texture well at high altitudes and the milk fat in the cheese confers a creamy sensation on the palate. The spiced rice was surprisingly quite tasty, the heated up rice was soft and without being dry, and the cloves added a nice sharp flavor that managed to hit the olfactory system effectively.
The garlic in the mung dal was rather strong, and the dal was cooked down almost to a paste, but the overall combined effect was good enough to polish the entire serving.

Desert was a spiced cake square with cream cheese frosting. the baked part was your average offering that you find in any coffee shop, but the cream cheese frosting tended to cover up and compensate the slightly dry texture well. Just the right amount of sweetness.

The BAD!!

 The snack provided prior to landing in Brussels was the classic banana nut muffin you find at Rest Area vending machines. The aroma of the fake banana extract was matched only by the acrid sensation of the preservative that they use to prevent spoilage. Left practically untouched after splitting open the ‘confection’ for the photo – op!

The UGLY!!!

The catering for the Brussels Mumbai leg is  undertaken by LSG sky Chefs, but  the actual planning for  the menu is done by the Jet Airways team in collaboration with well known restaurants in Europe. The restaurant for this particular leg was Bombay Brasserie based out of London. The food for economy class is prepared 48 hours in advance in London, frozen & flown to Brussels where its uploaded onto the various Jet Airways flights flying out of their Belgian hub.

I had never heard of this restaurant before, but their website appears to market the establishment as a high end eatery. If they intend the food served on board to be a food sampler advertisement for the actual restaurant, They may as well be closing down in due course.

Just as there are taste memories associated with good food (one such wonderful memory was the on board  food festival on Air India in Dec. 2002 by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor), there is a set that latches itself with bad food as well, and the Bombay Brasserie offerings take the proverbial cake (& the bakery) in the bad category.

The Salad was a potato chaat. It tasted like it came out of a ready to eat package that was approaching its expiry date. Stone cold, the thawed potatoes were gritty &  inedible and the ‘coating’  over these pieces of spud, defied any attempt to try and ingest even the first forkful. The partially chewed bite went straight into the napkin.

The main course consisted of a cauliflower curry, with an overpowering single note of fennel served up with a greasy flat bread that reeked of vegetable shortening.

 The plain steamed rice was paired with a gritty dal, which seemed to be spiced with cardamom in a Gujrati style. While the spice level may be perfectly delicious on the ground, the altitude renders this extremely mild and the net effect is that of a bland offering which when coupled with the grittiness of the cooked lentil, makes this dish unpleasant to enjoy.

There is a reason why many in flight  Indian vegetarian menus include Okra and Urad dal . Both have an inherent  glutinous component that translates as a creamy texture on the palate. 

Have you ever pulled out a bowl of microwaved  rice that’s been sitting in the refrigerator for a day and tried to reheat it in the fervent hope that it reconstitutes into the fluffy satisfying form that it was when it was first cooked?. And invariably, chances are that it morphs into a gritty form no matter how much you mash it up. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out, leave alone a trained chef who is designing In-flight meals. And yet, the dessert offering on the tray was just that, a gritty tasteless mess of a paste with 3-4 slivers of fuzzy fruit peel that called itself Apricot kheer.  The bowl of dessert was not even worth taking a picture of!
 

The prepackaged snack was a wrap with a curried baby corn filling. Pleasantly surprised to discover that there was an actual WHOLE baby corn nestled inside. The not so good aspect – having to ingest a generous amount of chewy par cooked flour wrap. This was quite possibly the best of the Bombay Brasserie offings though, there was a generous amount of the spicy curry and the bell pepper flavor stood out well.

Looking forward to the offerings from Jet Airways on my return trip.

Cherry O Cherry O Baby! – The 10 lb Cherry Challenge!

There is something about cherries that is utterly addictive. Its a combination of factors, the size – that enables you to scarf down a whole fruit at a time, The childish delight that invariably suffuses you when you sit outside on a balmy summer evening with a big bowl of freshly washed cherries spitting out the pits, one by one (Yes, its summer companion, the watermelon allows for that as well, but the seeds just do not have the size and shape that allows for a good projectile), and of course the fact that the season is so short and fleeting simply means that cherries get their rightful priority.

OXO and NorthWest Cherries sponsored a cherry challenge where they invited bloggers to host a Cherry party with friends and blog about the experience. Each participating blogger received a set of nested mixing bowls with colanders, a weighing scale & cherry pitters from OXO and 10 lbs of the best cherries that you could ever find from the cherry growers association. They were wonderfully accommodating in allowing me to do a solo cherry marathon and it was a wonderful experience indeed. In my true style, I could not decide on any one recipe to work on and before I knew it, the recipes began piling up.

Here’s the list.

1. Cherry Compote for an Indian style Cheesecake.


2. Basil infused Cherry-Lime Granita.

3. Summer veggie Cous cous  salad with a smoky Cherry Chipotle dressing.


4. Boozy Cherries!  (Cherries in Bourbon with basil simple syrup).

5. Cherry Buckle cake.


6. Cherry Jam with Lemon zest & Mace.


 
Just click on the Tab on the top of the page to access the recipes. Bon appetit!

The ‘We knead to bake project’ 2013 – Savory Kugelhopf

 It never fails to amaze me how it seems like a short while ago that the new year had rolled in and a bake-crazy bunch of us bloggers signed on to Aparna Balasubramanian’s  suggestion that we collectively bake one yeasted recipe a month and post it on our respective blogs as a group. Before I knew it, we were half way through the year and I had made  6 wonderful breads that the family loved. Of course, there was a slight hiccup when my kitchen went out of commission and I’m quite happy about the fact that this post will push me into the ‘current’ status.

July’s assigned bread was a yeasted savory bread referred to as ‘Kugelhopf’  or gugelhupf in the southern regions of Germany, Austria and regions in Alsace. Its basically a rather large cake baked in a Bundt pan and the original sweet version calls for raisins, almonds and Kirschwasser or Cherry brandy. There is a colorful history regarding its origins, Austria, Alsace, Germany all lay claim. For details, I’ll take the easy way out and simply refer you  to Aparna’s post from my Diverse Kitchen.

I opted to give my version of bread (an egg free version that used Flax meal instead) a touch of Mexican flavors with roasted Poblano peppers, sundried tomatoes, smoked ancho chile pepper, and a sharp, smoky spicy Chipotle Cheddar from Cabot Creameries.
 

The end result was a perfectly soft, yet texture rich bread with the right amount of heat from the chiles and redolent with the aroma of Mexican oregano. Toasted pumpkin seeds add a pleasant crunch to the slices.

Savoury Kugelhopf ( yields about 12 generous slices)

You need:

3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon instant (rapid rise) yeast

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

5-6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons finely powdered Flaxseed
6 tablespoons boiling water

1 tsp oil for brushing the pan.

1/3 cup chopped roasted poblano peppers (about 2 large whole peppers)

1/3 cup reconstituted sundried tomatoes (~ 8-10 pieces of the dried fruit)

1 cup shallots, finely chopped

1/2 cup diced chipotle cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon smoked ancho chile powder

1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1 – 2 tablespoons dried Mexican Oregano


Method:
Lightly oil the poblano pepper skin and place over the gas flame. Grill until the skin blisters and chars black. Place the peppers in a paper bag to sweat. Once cool, rub the skins off with a paper towel, Remove the stem and the central core and chop into small pieces and set aside.
Whisk together the flax meal and the boiling water until it forms a wet liquid glutinous ‘blob’. Set aside this ‘egg substitute’.

Sift together 3 cups of flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. You can knead by hand but it will be a bit sticky to handle.  Start the mixer on a low speed and then add the butter, a little at a time, and process till incorporated.

Incorporate the warm milk and process till it is integrated. Now add the flax mixture and process till mixed.  The dough will now be soft and sticky. Knead some more, adding more flour, a little at a time and just enough till the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Do not be tempted to add more flour than absolutely necessary.

Your dough will be very soft, elastic and just short of sticky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise until double in volume (takes about 1-2 hrs)

In the meanwhile, heat 1/2 tsp oil in a skillet. Add the chopped poblano, the soaked & chopped sundried tomatoes  and a pinch of salt.  Transfer from the skillet and set  aside. To the same pan, add the remaining 1/2 tsp oil and sauté the shallots with a pinch of salt till they turn golden brown. Remove and add to the poblano/tomato mixture, sprinkle the dried Mexican oregano and keep aside.

Grease an 8” kugelhopf mould or bundt pan well especially around the center (I used a garlicky tomato basil infused oil, worked just fine. Place some of the toasted pumpkin seeds in the bottom of the mould.

Once the dough has risen, deflate it. Then work the cheese,  the vegetable mix and  the remaining pumpkin seeds  into the dough. The best way to do this is to flatten the dough out and spread all this over the surface, fold the dough over and then knead it. This will ensure a more uniform incorporation of the “filling”. The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a scraper to help you with the kneading. Do not add more flour!

Roll the dough into a longish log, long enough to fit into the mould comfortably. Lift the “log” of dough and place it in the mould in a circular fashion and pinch the two ends together to close the “circle” of dough.
Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour or so, until it reaches the edge/ rim of the mould. 

Pre-heat oven to 400 F  and bake the Kugelhopf  for about 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when it is tapped. 

Unmould the Kugelhopf and let it cool on a rack. Slice and serve with a dab of  butter. Alternatively slice it up thick and lightly toast. This melts the cheese lightly and the crisp surface texture coupled with the soft pillowy interior makes for a delicious breakfast treat.

This Kugelhopf should serve about 10.

This Savory bread is being Yeastspotted.
Bon Appetit!




The ‘We Knead to Bake’ project 2013 : Baked Doughnuts



Doughnuts.. There are those who claim that America runs on these yeasted goodies from a certain international chain. And they may not be completely off the mark. Its hard for me to think of anyone who’s been able to completely resist these deep fried rings of dough, especially if they carry the label ‘Krispy Kreme’ ( the lighted ‘hot doughnuts’  sign on the storefronts has been known to elicit pavlovian responses in those that are fortunate to pass by it)

Thanks to my extended break from the kitchen, this post is technically a month late. It was originally supposed to be posted in June, (June 1st happens to be ‘National Doughnut day’), but then, as with all good things, Its a classic case of better late than never!Aparna from ‘My diverse kitchen’ picked this recipe from Lara Ferroni’s book  ‘Doughnuts’ and the primary reason for choosing this particular recipe is that its a baked version, instead of a deep fried one. I opted to keep it simple this time and just dunked the finished doughnuts in cinnamon sugar and coated in chocolate sprinkles.


 Baked Doughnuts: 
(Recipe by Lara Ferroni, adapted from her book ‘Doughnuts’)

You need:

1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup warm milk (45C/115F)
3/4 tbsp instant yeast (or 1 tbsp active dry yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour (or 1tbsp cornstarch + enough all-purpose flour to make up to 1 cup)
1.5 1/2 to 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
100gm cold butter, cut into 1 inch cubes

For the topping:

 melted butter for brushing
1 cup superfine sugar + 2 tbsp powdered cinnamon as per taste
Sugar glaze (combine 1 cup of icing sugar with 2 tablespoons of boiling water.)
Chocolate sprinkles 

Method:

Combine the sugar, milk, yeast salt and vanilla in the bowl of the food processor and pulse about 5 times to mix all the ingredients. Gradually add the cake flour and about 1 cup of the All purpose flour. Process the dough, gradually adding the flour until the dough thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
At this point, add the pieces of butter one at a time. Process until there are no large chunks of butter left at the bottom of the bowl. Continue adding flour until the dough becomes soft and pliable, but not overly sticky.


 




Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased large mixing bowl., turning it to coat well. 



Cover with a damp towel and let it rise till double in volume. This should take about an hour.




Punch down the dough and roll out to a thickness of 1/2″ thickness. Cut out doughnuts using a doughnut cutter or whatever you have on hand to cut out 3” diameter with 1” diameter holes. Place the doughnuts and the holes on parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheets, leaving at least 1” space between them.




 

 Save the little balls cut out from the center of the doughnuts. They bake up into perfect little doughnut holes.



Re-roll the scraps and cut out more doughnuts. Allow the dough to rise for about 20 minutes or till almost double in size and then bake them at 200C (400F) for about 5 to 10 minutes till they’re done and golden brown. Do not over bake them.

Take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with the melted butter and then dip them into the cinnamon sugar mixture. To cover the doughnuts with chocolate sprinkles, allow them to cool completely, dip them in glaze and immediately dunk them into the chocolate sprinkles.






Bon appetit!



This recipe is being Yeastspotted.