28 August 2012

Saturday Dinner at the Raj Pavilion - ITC Windsor

When I received an invite for the 'Your Grill, Your Way' festival at Raj Pavilion at the legendary ITC Windsor, Bangalore, it was a tough one to turn down. We have some fond memories of dining at the ITC restaurants starting from the Pan Asian & Peshawari at the ITC Maratha in Mumbai to the Kababs & Curries at the ITC Kakatiya in Hyderabad. They know their hospitality and they choose their chefs well, no wonder eating there is a near perfect dining experience.

Being a Bangalore newbie, this was my first time at the ITC Windsor, while the husband having lived here and been a regular in their restaurants, was just reminiscing about old times, not that much had changed. Raj Pavilion is their multicuisine 24 hour restaurant and the first thing that strikes you is the massive windows that open into the outdoors and the pool. I learnt later that this was inspired by the 100 year old glass house at the Lal Bagh gardens.

Their regular menu has some beautiful stuff from the Anglo-Indian cooking repertoire and items like the Southern Railway Mutton Curry that you rarely find in many other restaurants. 

Since we were there to try out their grill event, Chef Prashanth explained to us the marinades and rubs available that we could choose from and use on our choice of meat or vegetables. 


We started our meal with some battered and fried lotus root and coloured bell peppers. Crunchy and full of texture, it made the perfect appetizer.



S chose the grilled bhekti and basa, both in a mustard-garlic marinade. The fish were grilled to perfection and flaky, served with a lemon butter and barbeque sauce. 

Grilled Eggplant
Grilled Vegetarian Platter



I asked the chef to serve me a platter of vegetarian grills. My favourite was the stuffed grilled eggplant with bold mediterranean flavours, which I had a double serving of. The other interesting grill was cabbage leaf roll stuffed with mashed vegetables with creole spices. I intend to try this out at home soon. The stuffed bell pepper is always a good option to put on the grill but I didn't find the filling very interesting. There was also a grilled paneer but since I saved it for the end, it didn't taste that great. It is indeed too much expect that cold paneer taste good :)

There was also grilled corn on the cob served with butter of choice but after having eaten a bit of everything, I was already stuffed. The husband ordered a grilled chicken breast with a black pepper rub and he seemed to savour it in silence while I had a conversation with the chef.


While I had made up my mind to give dessert a miss in anticipation of the long hours on the treadmill to make up for all this, the phirni that made an appearance on the table was far too enticing not to try. It was creamy, light, just the right level of sweetness, in short-deliciousness out of an earthen pot. It was tough to stop at one spoonful. 



The serving staff also forced me to taste their best-loved item, the Windsor mousse convincing me that they will only get me a tiny portion and I'm glad I succumbed to the melt-in-mouth chocolatey goodness. I also had a taste of the creme caramel from a friend on the table and it was the perfect ending to a good meal.

I realised that the peace of the dining experience was enhanced by some good music which was playing all along, soothing without being an intrusion to a good conversation. The service was highly attentive, right from the personal welcome every guest got into the dining room to the grace with which it was served to us. 

I am told their Sunday brunch is highly popular because the guests can not only dig into the buffet spread and live counters but also sample stuff from any of the restaurants on the floor such as Dakshin, Royal Afghan and Dum Pukht Jolly Nabobs. But for my current fitness regime and training for a marathon, I would be here the very next Sunday :)

ITC Hotels know how to make you feel special, even over a dinner and no wonder we have celebrated most of our special occasions with them.


20 August 2012

Crustless Quiche using homegrown Swiss Chard

Crustless Chard Quiche 



There's something wonderful about quiches, they fit perfectly as a meal for any time of the day - be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. The only thing that probably deters people from making this is the mess (well, a little) of making and blind baking the crust and the quantity of butter that goes into it and the thought of burning all that butter off the next day on the treadmill. Well, may be that's just me but yes, if the crust is eliminated, the quiche becomes healthy, quick while still tasting delicious. It's also a great way to use up spinach, mushrooms, corn and bits of any cheese you may have in the refrigerator. 

Freshly plucked swiss chard


I used chard because they were just plucked that evening, all fresh and luscious green, you could by all means use spinach, or a combination of other greens and add any other lightly sautéed vegetables like zucchini or bell peppers to this. A spinach quiche is also the best way to make kids eat their greens up without much fuss.



Recipe for Crustless chard quiche 
Adapted from a recipe on Food.com
Serves 2-4

Ingredients
1 tsp olive oil
3 cups of roughly chopped chard (include tender stalks too) or spinach
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 medium sized eggs
3/4 cup milk 
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup cheese (grated or crumbled, as per the cheese used. I used fresh mozzarella, crumbled)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground pepper
Handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped or 1 tbsp dried herbs (Oregano and thyme)

Directions
  1. Preheat oven at 180C. Grease a 6" pie dish or a baking tin.
  2. In a pan, heat olive oil. Add the sliced onions and garlic, lightly saute for 3-4 minutes on medium flame, until onions are soft. 
  3. Add the chard or spinach and saute for 2-3 minutes until just wilted.
  4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, herbs well and add the crumbled cheese.
  5. Transfer the chard mix from the pan into the bowl and mix with a fork.
  6. Pour into the greased pie dish. Top with bread crumbs, more freshly ground black pepper and dried herbs and bake for 20-25 minutes until a knife comes out clean.


Serve with a salad for a light lunch. 
Crumbled feta pairs well with spinach and it's a classic combination in Greek cuisine. 
You can easily scale up the recipe and bake in a bigger dish with increased baking times. Leftovers make great breakfast, just microwave for 30 seconds or so before serving.

15 August 2012

Three Birthdays, One Tart : Recipe for Baked Yogurt Berry Tart



It's lovely when a plan comes together perfectly. Aparna, Arundati, Arundhati, Arundathi (yes, they are three different girls with same name and different spellings) and me, started a little baking group to egg each other to bake and write about it, not that Aparna needs any egging on. We've christened it The Sisterhood of The Traveling Cake Tins and each month we bake something together. 


Behind the beautiful posts, what you wont see is some frantic activity on our (secret) FB group page, where each of us spams recipe links, where to source ingredients, what to substitute, what to do when something seems to be going wrong and of course, pictures and commentary at every stage of the recipe. This time was no different. Also, seeing my post about this exciting group, Monika asked to be a part of it too and now we are six of us.




We decided to bake something to commemorate the legendary Julia Child's 100th birthday. In my early years of food blogging, I won the book 'My Life in France' for showcasing the best marketplace, and this foodblogger shipped this book to me all the way from Switzerland. I've read the book many times and it's never failed to inspire me on how Julia found her life's calling in her 40s, how she had never been interested in cooking until then, how she went on to write the most applauded cookbook of her times and went on to make the most watched cookery show of her time. 


This is a simple recipe, by French cooking standards. I used a simple mix and 'press-into-tin and bake' crust recipe over one that needs resting and rolling. The filling itself it extremely easy-just good yogurt, eggs, sugar, flour topped with fruit and nuts of your choice. I was telling my fellow group members how this makes a perfect breakfast recipe, minus the crust. 


Coming to the other two birthdays, it is the husband's birthday today and we did a little 'cake' cutting ceremony over our morning tea and had it for breakfast. It is also India's 65th Independence Day which makes this dessert fit three special occasions beautifully.




Recipe for baked yogurt berry tart with oatmeal crust

Serves 12-16

For the oatmeal crust:

Adapted from here

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup oatmeal flour (lightly roasted and powdered the oats)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
100 grams butter, melted and cooled (but still liquid)
1 egg beaten-to seal crust once nearly baked

Line a 9" pie tin with a detachable base or a regular pie tin lined with foil. Grease the foil. 


In a large bowl, mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt till combined. Add melted butter and gently bring together everything. Tip this onto the pie tin and smoothen with fingers to line enter base and the side of the tin, pressing down with a flat bottomed cup to even it out and chill in the fridge or freezer for 10-15 minutes.


Preheat oven at 170 C (325 F).


Place a rack in middle of oven and bake this crust for 20 minutes, until nearly golden.

Remove and brush with beaten egg all through and bake again for 5-7 minutes. This prevents the crust from becoming soggy.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.


For the filling (adapted from Julia Child's recipe for Tarte Au Yogurt)

3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 eggs
2 cups yogurt (I used Danone-regular fat, after lightly tipping out any whey on the top, no need to drain)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour

1.5 cups berries or sliced peaches or nectarines (I used dried wild blueberries and cranberries, rehydrated and drained)

1/3 cup chopped nuts (I used almonds)

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar for 3-4 minutes till pale and thick. Lightly fold the yogurt and vanilla extract into this until mixed. Sieve the flour into this gently, folding it into the mix in batches. Once the crust is baked, pour the mix into it, it will reach almost to the top of the pan. Once you arrange the fruits in the center and nuts around the circumference, the tart is ready to go into the oven for 40 minutes at 170 C (325F), until lightly golden around the edges.


Unmould with the foil or from the detachable base and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or so. Peel off foil and place on a cake tray, slice into wedges. Once such tart will yield 16 slices.



PBS is celebrating Julia Child’s 100th birth anniversary with a “Cook For Julia” right through this week and you can join them by cooking any one of Julia Child’s recipes. The deadline to join the party is 15th August, Julia’s birthday.



Posts by the others in my baking group:

12 August 2012

Bread baking tales and recipe for cinnamon rolls

The high point of July was this artisan bread-baking workshop most generously organised by Breadworks Boulangerie. We were hand held (literally) through this process of bread kneading, shaping and baking by master artisan baker, Maurice Chaplais from UK. It was so much fun messing around with flour, yeast, butter and other baking enthusiasts to help with the sticky business. We got to take home the gorgeous stuff we baked-challahs, baps, scottish mist and a most decadent chocolate rum tart. It was also the first time I worked with fresh yeast. You may call it a strong smell, but I'll most definitely call it an aroma, which mellows and infuses every corner of your home as you bake with this.  Call it a stupid coincidence, but I came back home from the workshop and my hands were desperate to get kneading some bread and every batch of yeast at home died on me. I had a painful wait as I ordered fresh yeast online, and the very evening it came home, I got started.


Top L-R: Anadama bread, Whole wheat loaf /
 Bottom L-R: White Sandwich loaf, Fig walnut loaf from Masterchef Australia


Now, the recipes we learnt in the workshop asked for accurately weighed ingredients, while my favourite cookbook-How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman has a section on leavened breads with all metric measurements. So I got started with two sandwich loaves, one white and other, part whole wheat. The next was an Anadama bread, which uses part cornmeal, because in my baking spree, the flour in the bin was all scraped out and I need half a cup more and this recipe fit the bill perfectly.

That was three loaves in two days. 




Yesterday presented me with a perfect opportunity to bake something that's been playing on my mind for a while, the cinnamon roll. We had a farewell tea party for a neighbour and bingo, I wanted to bake these. Again, a Mark Bittman recipe with slight modifications, turned out pillowy soft, just the right amount of sweetness and that hit of decadence from the sugary almond glaze. These were my babies, lovingly baked and of course I loved them. But when my friend, Bharath, who never offers praise unless truly deserved raved about them after taking a bite (in stone cold sober state), that these were the BEST rolls he's eaten, I knew these were deserving of good pictures and then a post with a recipe, may be.




So here goes...

Recipe for Cinnamon Rolls with glaze
Makes 15-16 rolls

Ingredients
3.5 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp fresh yeast or 2 tsp instant dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp butter (soft)
1 cup milk (3% or whole, not skimmed)

For filling
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
2-3 tbsp butter

For brushing
2 tbsp melted butter

For glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp milk
few drop almond extract or vanilla extract


Rolls before baking, after baking and after glazing (Instagram pics)





Directions
In a large bowl, combine flour, crumbled yeast, sugar, salt, butter with your finger tips until they are like crumbs and well mixed.
Make a well in the center, add the eggs one by one, mixing well with finger tips.
Add the milk to this, combining with wooden spoon or fingertips to get the dough together. Once it forms a ball, transfer to lightly floured counter and knead for 10 minutes with heel of your palm, folding it back and again stretching with heel of palm. In the end, make a smooth ball with floured hands. Place in oiled bowl, covered properly, to rise to at least double the size (1-2 hours) in a warm, draught free place.
Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and keep aside.
Butter a baking dish 9X13 inches or use two smaller trays and keep aside.
Once dough has risen to double, remove from bowl on lightly floured surface. Punch down and lightly roll out using a rolling pin, roughly 15 inches in length and 9 inches wide.
Cover the entire surface with the cinnamon sugar, lightly pressing down the coating into the dough with finger tips.
Roll along the length into a tight jelly-roll. Cut into 1" slices, placing them cut side up on the greased baking tin. Keep a little space between rolls, to allow for the second rise.
If you baking in a single large baking tray- place them in 3 rows of 5 rolls to make 15 rolls.
Cover and keep aside for 45 minutes. Or you could place the entire tray inside of a big plastic shopping bag, twist the end and tuck it under tray to have a warm, draught free environment.
Preheat oven to 175 C. Once the rolls have doubled / risen, brush with melted butter and place them in a middle rack and bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the powdered sugar, milk and extract until you get a glaze of pouring consistency. While the rolls are hot, using a spoon, drizzle the glaze criss cross all over the rolls.
Eat/serve warm straight from pan.