Friday, August 24, 2012

Badam Kulfi - The Chakle India Cookbook - A Review

A new cookbook launch from an Indian author is always interesting. Laid my hands on Aditya Bal's book The Chakle India Cookbook and read it end-to-end as I lay in bed nursing an allergy induced ENT shut down. Having the doctor tell me to keep quiet for a few days and not talk is torture. Having Aditya's book for company was a bright spot. Having watched his show on NDTV, was curious to see what he's put together in the book. Like the show, his book is a collection of recipes from different parts of India. A book is not a mere collection of recipes... It's a story... It's a connect... The book has lovely pictures of Aditya with various people across the country in each section.

What I like about Aditya is his gumption to follow his dream in the world of Food... being a crossover.. having changed his career from modeling to a television food show host.... he has a lot under his belt to show for the short years he's spent in this space... Travelling to various parts of the country, entering the kitchens and homes of countless people, bringing a focus on diverse regional cuisines in India is something admirable. The map on the front and back cover of the book is a sweet nuance.

Recipes like Rogan Josh, Mutton Yakhni, Galawati Kabab, Amritsari Paneer Bhurji, Kosha Mangsho, Goan Prawn and Mango Ambotik, Malabari Prawn curry and Moru Sambhar represent the varied cuisines from most states of India especially from Kashmir(Since he was born there) and Goa (his favorite place where he trained at some of the restaurants).

Am more of a baker than a cook in the kitchen, with a h-u-g-e sweet tooth.... Started reading the recipes in reverse from the desserts section... There is Badam Kulfi, Nariyal Ladoo, Doodhi ka Halwa, Fruit Custard, Shrikhand, Phirni, Gulab Jamun, Aam ki Kheer, Seviyan and Shahi Tukda....

Haven't made too many Indian desserts before so thought of giving Badam Kulfi a shot. Yes, I hear you... my ENT is shut down and yet I choose Kulfi..... What to do... am a total icecream lover... promised my friends online that I would have just a bite to taste...
pick up

Badam Kulfi
Recipe from The Chakle India Cookbook by Aditya Bal

1 cup blanched, peeled and ground almonds
4 tbsp fresh cream
1 cup condensed milk
Apinch of saffron strands
1/4 cup of milk
A small handful of pistachios
A small handful of almonds, blanched and peeled

1.  First, to make the kulfi mixture, put the ground almonds, cream and condensed milk into a bowl and whisk thoroughly, till it's fully combined and thick.
2. Heat the milk in a small frying pan and when it's steaming hot, add the saffron strands to the pan, and let it infuse. turn off the heat and let the milk cool, stirring it every few minutes.
3. Once the milk is cooled, add it to the kulfi mixture and fold it in to combine well. The ground almonds will act as a thickener and absorb the milk completely. Whisk the mix well, till it is thick, creamy and homogeneous.
4. Now, heat a small frying pan and add the almonds and pistachios. Roast them for a few minutes on low to medium heat, till they are nutty and aromatic. Transfer to a chopping board and crush them coarsely with the side of a heavy knife or a rolling pin.
5. Reserve about 2tbsp of the crushed nuts and add the rest to the kulfi mixture. Stir through to combine. Now the mix is ready for pouring into the kulfi moulds or clay kujjas.
6. Spoon the deliciously rich and creamy mixture into each mould, cover with a piece of butter paper and secure with a rubber band stretched across the rim of the mould.
7. Put the moulds into the freezer and freeze for 3-4 hours or till the mixture has perfectly set and is hard in texture.
8. Take them out of the freezer and remove the butter paper. Dip the moulds into hot water and turn out the kulfi on a plate. Sprinkle a little of the reserved nuts and serve right away.

I kept the kulfi overnight and got lovely results the next day. It was as Aditya described it delicious, rich and creamy. The only small thing i's have done was to add some crushed cardamom to enhance the flavour a little more. It's a thing with personal taste and not Aditya's kulfi.

Leafing through the book, I found many Meat, Fish n Seafood and Vegetarian recipes. The snacks were interesting too. Would have loved the book even more if it could have better pictures, most of them were extremely close up shots of the dishes with their garnish standing out. Since this is Aditya, the traveler's book, would have expected pictures which did justice to both. Would have loved to hear a traveller's tales on how he collected these recipes from various people across the country. I believe every recipe has a story to tell which gets handed from from 1 person to the next gathering lots of moss on the way making it a tradition.

All I can think now is Saffron.... It's an artists's delight on canvas... The crimson strands making a yellow hue on warm white milk....  While making this recipe, I chanced upon a large number of packets stashed away in my mom's pantry. Am just sooooooo compelled to use them. Had infused some of it in milk for taking these pictures and had it with a glass of milk this morning.... Step aside, cold coffee... make way for saffron milk every morning.

Anushree from Westland publishers sent over the book for a review. Thank a ton, really enjoyed it :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Breaking Bread with Chef Saby of Olive Bar at Leonardo Olive Oil's Blogger Table

What do you do when you get invited to to meet Chef Sabyasachi Gorai, better known as Chef Saby and blogger friends from Chef at Large over a discussion about olive oil..... A happy monkey jig jig :) This meet was sponsored by Leonardo Olive Oil, hosted by Himani Dalmia and Chandana Paul at Olive Bar and Kitchens in Mehrauli.

Any place that I visit is judged not just on the FSA (Food, Service and Ambiance) but also on how the cloak room / washroom is done up aswell.... This was definitely going to be an afternoon well spent as the teaser to this campaign was lovely... naturally lit, aesthetically done up and importantly spic and span.

Chef Saby played to the gallery... His warm welcome and friendly banter while carrying on the serious business of cooking up a storm was endearing. He's among India’s top ten chefs and has recently been awarded Best Chef of India National Tourism Award, 2011-12 by President of India. WHoaaaa... Quite a celebrity he is... appears regularly on Page 3 too... for all the right reasons ;)

Not just talented, also a willing teacher, he runs an academy for young chefs. He comes from a family of artists, no wonder his food reflects his artistic side. Good news or Bad news.... He plans to retire next year to spend time with his lovely daughter and paint....

Rare captures.... Sid having fun with the camera, just that it's on the other side of the lens this time. About the food, we were served fish and asparagus done in a nitrogen batter.

Vaibhav, the Executive Sous Chef was frying up a frenzy with the Espuma technique, which is part of molecular gastronomy . It's basically done with a Nitrogen vial which is attached to a 'gun' that pumps the gas into the batter and makes it light fluffy and crisp in texture when fried. It was quite yummy n crispy fresh out of the pan.

Aastha, assisting Vaibhav and Saby through the afternoon and a really sweet host. She even gave us little prize hampers if we answered her quiz questions correctly. She's a crossover like me... studied at Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and then working with Saby to train as a chef at all of 22. Cheers for Girl Power.... Hip Hip Hurray :)

Blogger paprazzi.... where Food is the star.... We descended on the food like a species which Himani's never seen.... Yes, we are a different species... were the 'Foodus Bloggerus'.... noone eats till we are done clicking ;)

Lovely plating of anti plasti platters, mushroom pate and yummy starters. They were a treat to our eyes and tasted delicious too.

 We were joined by Mr Donato Pantaleo(from Leonardo oils Italy) and Mr VN Dalmia (president Dalmia International) for lunch. Yes, we had the gumption for a sit down lunch after being plied with all that yummy food throughout the afternoon. There was Black truffle porcini risotto (White Alba truffle paste, summer black truffle, truffle oil), Classic lasagna Bolognaise (Rustic hand ground tenderloin Bolognaise.) and a Mezze platter too. Each table had it's own mortar and pestle accompanied their unique handmade artisan skillet bread.

Mouth Wateringly  delicious Apple and walnut crumble, Olive’s signature tiramisu, Praline mud cake

Chef Saby is truly special... at a mere cheeky mention of wanting to see his kitchen.... He walked us through and gave us demonstrations and let us into his pantry too... and YES... His BAKERY too... *Jumping up and down with GLEEEEEE....* 
Picture Credit - Sushmita of My Unfinished Life
The bunch of us had a lovely afternoon with Sid Khullar of Chef at Large, Sangeeta Khanna of Banaras ka Khana,Ruchira Hoon-Philip of Cookaroo, Charis Alfred Bhagianathan of  Culinary Storm, Sushmita Sarkar of My Unfinished Life, Deeba Rajpal of Passionate about Baking, Parul Pratap Shirazi of The Shirazine, Rekha Kakkar of My Tasty CurryPs: All the pictures you see of me are clicked by the lovely Rekha. Special hugs for you Rekha {{{}}}... Thanks :)

Ps: All these yummy goodies were cooked and drizzled with Leonardo Olive Oil.... 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sri Lankan Food Festival at Blooms, Eros Hotel

I thrive on trying new cuisines and different sorts of foods whenever I can... (though not taking the Andrew Zimmern route to bizarre ;) ) Was invited to Blooms at Eros Hotel managed by Hilton for a Sri Lankan Food Festival.... Am I glad I accepted the invite or what.... It was a wonderful experience dining with Chefs Ravindra Pushpakumara and Ajith Hewabandula who came all the way from Sri Lanka and Chef Ramandeep from Eros Hotel, Delhi.

The decor at Blooms set the mood for our afternoon.Sri Lanka's cuisine has elements common with cuisines from Kerela and Goa. Spices occupy a predominant place in most of the dishes... Chilies are an integral part of the dishes(supported by the government's data too ;) ) . Chefs told me about using coconut husk being used to smoke and cure meats... wouldn't that be such a lovely flavor profile.
The live counter for fried snacks was popular among guests. We had banana fritters, yams, cutlets but what we like best were the prawns.
The salad spread was interesting too with Fish moju, Curried Chicken salad, Cucumber-Tomato-Orange salad, Capsicum-Tomato-Mango salad, Fried bittergourd salad... did you read Bittergourd... me eating Bittergourd is such a remote possibility but this salad has me converted.... Pssstttt : The chef told me his secret.. These bittergourds came all the way from Sri Lanka and were not grown on Indian Soil... The soil makes all the difference to these bittergourds. Sri lankan ones are sweeter n much less bitter than the Indian ones....

Show me a punjabi and I'll show you a pickle lover.... The condiments were an absolute delight. We were served Dehi achcharu (Lime pickle), Sinhala achcharau (Sri Lankan pickle), Amba achcharu (Mango chutney), Katta sambol (Onion and tomato sambol), Pol sambol (Coconut sambol), Seeni sambol (Tamarind and onion sambol) Each of these Chutneys n Pickles were lip smacking :)

The main course consisted of Kukulmus Hoddi (Chicken pepper curry), Elumus Kaluwata (Mutton black curry), Rathu Kakuluwa Hoddi (Fish red curry), Red rice (Sri Lankan country rice), Parippu Hoddi (Dhall curry), Rathualla Hoddi (Beetroot dry curry), Dhabala Themparaduwa (Wing beans tempered), Wattakka Kalupol Maluwa (Pumpkin curry), Keselmuwa Themparaduwa (Banana flower tempered) and Awara dry curry. What my friend and i freak out on was the Kukulmus Hoddi (Chicken pepper curry). These curries were served with Pittu and hoppers. hoppers are very close to appams.
The desserts were Kallu dodol (much like Goan Bebinca), Sago cream, Wallithalapa (also called Weli Thalapa and is made of Rice flour, Coconut milk and Kithul or Coconut trealce). Here's the link to an blog with lots of Sri Lankan dessert recipes.

Also read my friend Sid's experience at the festival here.