30 May 2013

My grandaunt's recipe for Mango Moar Kuzhambu : Tamil style Ripe Mango Kadhi

Last week I was in Chennai, I had the good fortune to eat at my grandaunt's place. She is my father's Maami, around 75 years of age and she is one of the best cooks in our family and even a simple weekday meal at her place will pretty much end up being a feast because of the number of dishes on the table.

I remember when as a newly married girl, I went for lunch at her place with my husband, he nearly fell asleep on the table after that grand lunch. Last week, the menu at her place was Maambazham (ripe mango) moar kuzhambu, beans usili, yellow pumpkin olan, pumpkin peel thogayal, keerai masiyal along with rice. Among all the dishes, the mango moar kozhambu was a surprise for me and such a delight for the taste buds. Big chunks of ripe Banganapalli mango steeped in buttermilk mixed with freshly ground spices, mixed with rice was a new kind of high for me. I immediately asked her how she made it and Maami was generous enough to share the recipe with me. Of course she didn't give me exact quantities because they don't measure out ingredients using spoons in our homes. I assumed it would be a handful of this and a bit of that and it turned out beautifully for today's lunch. See that big mango slice intact on my lunch plate below? That's how it should turn out in the end - cooked but intact :-)


Lunch is served

A couple of weeks ago, I made another kadhi using ripe mangoes. That one was Fajeto, a Gujarati style kadhi where ripe mango is ground to a puree and added to buttermilk thickened with chick pea flour. But this recipe keeps the whole mango slice intact and it absorbs the flavours of the curry so beautifully that I'd happily cast my vote for the Moar Kuzhambu over the Fajeto. You must try this recipe while the mangoes are in season. This keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, so you could make in advance and keep refrigerated for week night dinners as well. 

17 May 2013

ChefAtLarge Table: The big Sunday Brunch at Novotel

Novotel, located in Outer Ring Road, one of the business districts of Bangalore, targets customers for both business and leisure. Their signature restaurant, The Square, offers a global buffet concept with a mix of live cooking added to it. The Sunday brunch is mainly laid out in The Square and it extends into their new restaurant Blue Terrain, on the first floor.

As a part of Chef at Large bloggers table, we were invited to one of the Sunday buffets. It's fun to meet the fellow bloggers (in this occasion with the spouses & kids), for a relaxed weekend meal over conversations. When we got in, the others were already tasting the food and clicking pictures (well of course!) and seeing the vast spread laid out, I was surely in a spot as to what to eat :) A few sips of their house sangria was very much in order.


Where you start all depends on what you are in the mood for. If it's breakfast you are after, there's a variety of freshly baked breads, with bacon, chicken sausages and baked beans to choose from to construct your own version of the full English breakfast. You can get freshly made eggs, waffles, pancakes, french toast and dosas to order, at the live stations specially set up for all of the above. 



After this, it's a good thing to do a full survey of what's on offer, because there's an enormous variety here - A whole range of veggies, meats, cheeses and dressings to make the salad of your choice, Pav Bhaaji / Kheema Pav station, SE Asian curries, noodles, soups, South Indian varieties, Continental varieties, Pasta and Pizza stations. Needless to say it's impossible to even taste everything and it can even get a bit overwhelming with one not knowing what to eat.

I started with a salad picking some of the fresh vegetables on display with the Italian dressing. A little more attention to keeping all the raw ingredients covered (especially the cold cuts) will get them more points on food hygiene.  Since I love Mediterranean food, I hovered around the antipasti section which had the mushrooms, rosemary olives, hummus, tabbouleh, marinated cheeses and eggplant and chose the hummus with some bread, along with some olives and mushrooms. 




Some of the kababs, the saffron fish etc. were lying on the hot plates for too long, looking somewhat shrivelled and overcooked. It would be good to do the basic prep and then prepare these nibbles when the customer asked for them. From the mains, I had a Mediterranean Style Grilled Veg with Cous Cous, which was a good dish, the vegetables generously grilled and flavoured and the couscous light and fluffy. I would have loved to have a go at one of the Thai curries which I was told had the options of red, green, massaman and yellow curry, unfortunately I didn't find when I was looking for it and so had to give it a miss when I discovered it well after dessert :)

This brunch extends to Blue Terrain on the 1st floor which is a barbecue restaurant by the poolside. You could choose from chicken, fish, meats and also a selection of vegetables, fruits and paneer. Personally I wasn't over enthusiastic over the barbecue spread at the poolside, probably because I'm vegetarian, or because the spread at the Square was so much better. The vegetables on skewers and the grilled fruit were two of the dishes I liked here. The paneer dish was quite under seasoned and didn't have anything much going for it. With their menu listing a number of rubs and marinades, I'm sure they could have done better with the paneer after informing us of the available options. The swimming pool here is bound to be a hit with the kids and adults to love to swim and work up an appetite. My meat eating friends quite enjoyed the steaks done to their liking and the chicken on skewers. 



Grilled veggies, Paneer Tikka, Grilled fruit, Mango Mojito
After a few nibbles on the barbecued stuff and cooling off with mango mojito, we went back down to the Square, to escape the heat of the outdoors and to have a taste of the desserts.



The dessert counter again had plenty to choose from - the macarons especially were very well made! A live churros counter where you could choose to have the churros with chocolate, vanilla or caramel sauce was interesting addition to the array of desserts served, such as the Picardi, baked chocolate tart, a blueberry based dessert and a seasonal mango dessert which was a light sponge topped with some chopped fresh mango.  I very much loved the mango based sponge dessert and the macarons were just the way they should be - a mix of crisp and chewy. The deconstructed cheesecake kind of dessert served in a glass was definitely the show stealer for me.





Being a mom to a 4 and a half year old boy, I must give special mention to the kid friendly aspects of this brunch. They had a separate menu laid out for kids at a low level so kids can serve themselves, including a special candy section. Kids' menu comprised of fried potato wedges, pasta gratin, mini samosas, fish fingers among other stuff. There was an extremely friendly lady in the lobby with a fully set up table to do anything arty and crafty the kids wanted to do. She also turned out to be so good with face painting and balloon art. The kiddie pool at Blue Terrain means the kids will completely exhaust themselves splashing around and will be ready for a long snooze once you hit home.

(This review is a part of the ChefAtLarge Bloggers' Table)


Novotel Bengaluru Techpark, Opposite RMZ Ecospace Business Park, Marathahalli - Sarjapur Outer Ring Road, Bengaluru – 560103
Sunday brunch-12 noon – 3.30 pm
Rs 1499 (Plus taxes) Includes Buffet at the Square, Barbeque Grills from Blue Terrain, Unlimited Soft Beverages and complimentary usage of pool. One Kid below 10 years of age eats for free with every paying adult.
Rs 1899 (plus Taxes) Includes Buffet at the Square, , Barbeque Grills from Blue Terrain, Unlimited Alcoholic Beverages and complimentary usage of pool. One Kid below 10 years of age eats for free with every paying adult.



16 May 2013

Easy Eggless Choco-Vanilla Cookies


"If I hear "I'm hungry" one more time, I'm going to check myself into a nearby hotel and switch off my mobile phone!"
 That's me telling my four year old, who tells me he's hungry every 15 minutes and the minute I rustle up something, he conveniently forgets about his hunger and runs off to rebuild a Lego castle for the 500th time. But yesterday, I went out for a beautiful wine evening at The Sheraton #socialhour- it's when people at Sheraton Hotels around the world come together for a toast at the decided time. What's more, the wine served at each hotel across the world is from the same winery, for that week. After multiple cabernet sauvignons & rieslings, a good night's sleep at my cousin's place & breakfast with a wonderful friend at the legendary Veena Stores, I'd had enough of me time and couldn't wait to get back home to my mischief monger boy. So today, when he said "I want cookies, mummy" - my guilt pushed me faster than a runaway train to start the oven and then think of something to bake on the spur of the moment.

13 May 2013

The Punjabi Food Festival at Jamavar, Leela Palace, Bangalore


                         


Some of us bloggers and food writers were invited for the Chef's tasting table on occasion of the Punjabi Food Festival at the Indian restaurant, Jamavar, the Leela Palace. Chef Farman Ali, the Corporate Indian Chef at The Leela Palace Bangalore had designed the menu using his innovations on traditional Punjabi cuisine. 


The menu was selected from the vast special menu that's out for the two week Punjabi Food Festival from 13th May-26th May. Jamavar has four food festivals in a year, two showcasing North Indian cuisine & two from the South.

The current festival gives the food connoisseur a wide range of Punjabi dishes to choose from - both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. We started the meal with a refreshing Ambi Panna- a raw mango drink before moving on to starters. There's also the thandai and a variety of shorbas to start the meal with.




The vegetarian spread of starters comprised of  palak di tikki,  paneer amritsari, and gande di bhaji (onion fritters). This Palak tikka was like no other I've ever tasted. Soft inside with bites of corn for texture, crisp on the outside and the roasted tomato chutney on the top not only provided a brilliant contrast of colour but also of flavour. 


Palak Di Tikki

Tomatoes roasted in the tandoor and ground with a mix of spices for the perfect balance of sweet, sour and spicy was what made this chutney extra special with great depth of flavour. If there is one thing you must taste from their special menu, I'd recommend this one. The other starters recommended by the chef are tandoori kukkad di chaat (tandoori cooked chicken tikka tossed with chutney and vegetables), jheenge de pakore (tiger prawns marinated in a tangy masala coated with gram flour & deep fried), machhi de tikke (fish tikka). 








In the vegetarian main course, we got a taste of curries showcasing different flavours and textures. Amritsari vadi paired with potatoes in a spicy-tangy sauce, the legendary sarson da saag with generous quantity of white butter (they didn't leave out the extra butter and jaggery when serving this), and the simple home style gobhi mutter where big florets of cauliflower mingled with plump green peas in a delicately spiced mix. Some of the other options from the extensive festival menu are Jheenga kadai, Kukkad Sarson da, Lobster masala, Bharmay Kareley and Bharwaan Guchchi Kesari. Of course, no self respecting Punjabi menu is complete without the ever popular Mah Ki daal, tasted as luxurious as the silver cups they were served in.





What's a festival meal without some sigh-inducing desserts! Punjabi cuisine has some lesser known desserts like badam te gurh da halwa (almond-jaggery fudge), Pinni Nabha Di (sweet made using udad dal & dried fruits which were served as a part of the tasting plate. Also served were the ever popular desserts like kesar pista kulfi, jalebi-rabdi and a slice of fruit. Chef Farman Ali was also talking about Haldi ka halwa something I've never heard of, where fresh turmeric is ground and roasted in ghee before proceeding to make a halwa with it. This is not a part of the menu, just the constant innovation the chef tries to bring in by introducing ancient foods to the modern palate.

The special menu also has set menu options at INR4000/person comprising of 3 starters, 4 mains, roti, rice and desserts.
To check the whole bunch of pictures from the Chef's table I attended - click here (Facebook album)



Details:Jamavar, Leela Palace, 23, Airport Road, Bengaluru
Punjabi Food Festival from 13th May-26th May 2013
Open for lunch & dinner
For Reservations, call 080-3057 1344 / 1234
Meal for 2 - Approx INR5000





8 May 2013

Molaga Maanga - an instant raw mango pickle



This was the only pickle I liked as a kid, which I had fondly christened- 'square maanga' because it was cut in a square dice. In the hot summers of Bombay, curd rice would taste divine anyway. A tiny bit of this square maanga with the curd rice would always take it to another level of divine. Often, my granny would mash the rice and curds until smooth and give one big spoonful of this in my hand with a small bit of this pickle on top of it, all ready to be gobbled up. No chewing required. I can guarantee you that using the above tactic, a small mountain of thairsaadam (curd rice) can be easily demolished even by someone who claims to hate this Tamil comfort food.

In weddings, this pickle is usually made fresh on the morning or the previous day and when served with the wedding meal, it is still crunchy. The caterers often give the leftover pickle to the family and it actually tastes a lot better after 4-5 days of soaking in the spices, gets a lot more softer with more rounded flavours.



For this, use fresh, raw mangoes, with a very firm flesh. No need to peel the skin. I've used mangoes from the tree in our Chennai house. I don't know the exact variety, but this one has a very small stone and plenty of flesh. 3 mangoes yielded roughly 10 big ladles of finely chopped pieces- I'd assume this would be roughly 7 cups in terms of metric units. I'm sure different families have different recipes for this, but this one is from my amma & chithi, joint instructions provided over the phone. Make sure all the utensils used for pickling and throughly clean and dry or the pickle has a tendency to spoil quickly.

2 May 2013

Saffron Trail Food Times Edition 02

It's turning out to be quite a task to keep track of the food scene in Bangalore. New restaurants are opening almost every week. Restaurants are coming up with the idea of food festivals and new menus to introduce their patrons to new flavours. Here are some of them being featured in the second edition of my food news post.

Some of foodbloggers were invited to a chef's table at Saffron, Park Plaza, famous for its kababs & cuisine from the NWF Province for a tasting from their new menu.


Bhunee chaat, palak shorba, chutneys & condiments, raw papaya launji

 The menu for was planned meticulously by Chef Mohd. Ishtiyak, who is fondly known as Master Chef – India of the restaurant. Right from the condiments platter which had pickled shallots, raw papaya launji, mint chutney, hung curd chutney among other mouthwatering items, his deep Indian traditions and attention to food preparation was evident.
Panchrattan seekh kabab, Blueberry cocktail, Mutter aur corn ki shammi

 The aim of the menu was to showcase Indian spices- a few preparations had over two dozen spices ground for the marinade. The simple style of preparation, whether meat, seafood or vegetables marinated and cooked in the clay tandoor at high temperatures was the hallmark of the menu. This focus on rustic cuisine preserving the flavours and ingredients can be experienced at this restaurant. The Bhunee chaat (using a mix of fruits & veggies) and the panchrattan seekh were my favourites!


Bread basket-Bhutte tamatar ki subzi-Subzi Abir


Saffron, Park Plaza, 90-4 Outer Ring Road, Marathahalli, Bangalore.
Meal for two - INR 2000 plus taxes

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 And 100 ft Rd Indira Nagar gets one more restaurant. This is La Tagliatella, an Italian restaurant chain from Spain which opened its first Indian outlet in Ambience Mall, Delhi. Their focus is on cuisines from the regions of Piamonte, Liguria, and Reggio Emilia of Italy.




 Their portions are quite large (serves groups of 4 well) and their salad is actually a 'big' salad too. While the pricing seems somewhat steep at first, one look at their portions and quality ingredients used, they seem to be justified. Almost all ingredients such as flour, cheese, tomatoes etc are imported to maintain the same quality across restaurants in all countries. We tried this place pre-opening and I can say it has a lot of scope. Their pizzas are made in Morello Forni pizza oven which simulates the wood-fired oven & is very eco friendly as compared to the wood-fired oven. The decor totally transports you from a high street shopping place in Bangalore to a quaint cafe in Italy. A word of caution-make sure you leave sufficient space in your tummies for dessert-their tiramisu & Mascarpone-cream are truly sublime.






766, Amrest Bunglow, HAL 2nd Stage, 100 feet road, Indiranagar, Bangalore

Meal for two-Around 1800 plus taxes | Valet parking | Only wine served





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A couple of ongoing food festivals are the Beer & Burger festival at Windmills Craftworks, a microbrewery-restaurant and a jazz theatre with live performances on weekends. You'll find a range of vegetarian, beef, pork, chicken and seafood burgers paired with beer of which you get a complimentary 1/2 pint glass. 331, Road No. 5 B, EPIP zone, Whitefield, Bangalore, India 560048, (80) 2569-2012, +917259024652

St.Marks hotel is celebrating a Maharashtrian Food Festival, vegetarian food buffet at 499 per person. It's on until 5th May, so hurry if you are a fan of regional cuisines. My friends tried this yesterday and have given it a big thumbs up. They are open for lunch and dinner. 
Curry with a 'K', St. Mark's Hotel, Lobby Level, Plot No. 4/1, St.Marks Road, Bangalore.
+919019150966





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