Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fine Dining Finesse - The Amaranta PopUp by Chef Tejas Sovani

Here is a plum opportunity to elevate your fine dining experience. The Uber talented and creative Chef Tejas Sovani of Amaranta, Oberoi Gurugram was in the city hosting a PopUp at Szechwan Court, Oberoi to showcase his interpretation of Modern Indian Cuisine.

A Cut Above - Chef Tejas Sovani of Amaranta, Oberoi Gurugram

Trained in Michelin star kitchens, Chef Sovani marries both traditional flavours and adds the pizazz of modern techniques and exquisite plating. Each dish stood out as a shining example of Modern Indian cuisine done right.

The PopUp will be run under Chef Nimisha Verghese until May 30th, 2018 and will be available for both Lunch and Dinner. The signature 4-course set menu offers both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian options under each course.

Amaranta PopUp Set Menu @ Szechwan Court Oberoi, Bengaluru

I will be reviewing the exquisite vegetarian options, my co-dinners chose other options and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Amuse-Bouche Batter fried Dhokla

The meal began with an amuse-bouche of battered and deep fried spinach leaf encased Dhokla in a teekhi meethi khatti sauce.

Compressed Melon Tartare with Lemon gel and Mustard Cream sauce

For the 1st course I had;

Compressed Melon Tartare. The melon had the texture of tuna and the mustard cream sauce reminds us of kashundi. Topped with ginger crisps, it brought all the flavours together. Paired with The Fishplate 2015, Sauvignon Blanc it was refreshing.

Spiced Potato Bao

The next course course was;

A Spiced Potato Bao came injected with a mint chutney that added an extra zing to the potato stuffing. The topping of a creamy mint avocado Tartare pulled all the flavours together. This was paired with the Viognier Grover Zampa Vijay Amritraj Reserve, a full bodied Red.

Fermented Plum Sorbet with Black Salt

We were presented with a delicate palate cleanser; A Fermented Plum Sorbet with black salt which had tart flavours and a salty component reminiscent of a kala khatta gola.

Birbal Ki Khichadi

Course 3, was an inventive dish;

Birbal ki khichadi made with Cous-Cous, Quinoa, dal and served with choice of 4 toppings and a CornTikki. The toppings were creative and playful. A mellow Garlic Burrhani raita, Rice Chiwdas that were tart and spicy, Achari Gajar Gobhi and a wedge of lime. We are sure that a while this dish was inspired by North Indian cuisine, I could detect a hint of Bisibele somewhere.

Lasooni Palak with pickled Vegetables, King Oyster Mushroom, Cottage cheese sprinkles and Curry leaf Snow

Course 4 started with a bang;

Pickled vegetables in a garlic flavoured Spinach puree was embellished with homemade cottage cheese crumble and the most delightful Curry leaf Snow. Studded in the bed of green was a luscious piece of King mushroom sauteed in butter and a few pickled vegetables. An intriguing play on textures and flavours that was outstanding!



The crowning glory was a medley of flavours and textures on our dessert plate. A Fig and Beetroot Halwa was stuffed in a Phyllo Sambusek and served with Aamras foam, Beetroot reduction and crusted with seasonal fruits.

What a way to end a spectacular meal, the accompanying wines were perfect and the company of fellow diners even better.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Tomato Pickle ~ Andhra style spicy Takkali Urugai or Thokku

Ripe for the picking - Andhra Tameta Uragai pickle

I stubbed my toe onto the dining table leg and the nail popped off but it was still barely hanging from the cuticle. Anyways I bandaged my toe and went about my chores. I dropped kids off to school and on my way back home I passed a thelewala (hand cart) selling ripe tomatoes. My driver knows me well enough and said, Madam, tomato chanagide, Photo tege (kannada language)? Don’t you just love it when people around you know what will cheer you up!

Anyway I bought 2 kg of these luscious desi/natti heirloom tomatoes which has a hint sourness and full of the sun ripened tomato flavour in them.

Desi Natti Heirloom Tomatoes
I returned home and knew I’m low on my pickle/chutney stock so I decided to make a batch of Tomato thokku (cross between chutney and pickle), but I wanted to make it spicy Andhra style to eat with curd rice or Idli/Dosa.

Pulp and seeds scooped out of the tomatoes and placed in the sun to dry

The unique method of preparation is that the tomatoes pulp/seeds are scooped out and the tomatoes halves are sprinkled with sea salt and sun dried for a whole day.

Tomato Uragai
1 kg tomatoes, halved and the seeds/pulp scooped out
2 tbsp tamarind pulp
6-8 Guntur dry red chillies broken into halves
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
1/2 tsp mustard seeds for tempering
1 tbsp crushed garlic (optional)
6-8 curry leaves
1/4 cup sesame/gingelly oil
Salt to taste

Dry Roast/Sun dry and powder:
10-12 Byadgi dry red chillies
5-6 short dry red chillies
1 tsp each of Cumin, Fenugreek and Mustard seeds

Method
Sun dry the tomato halves in the sun for 1-2 days depending on the intensity of the heat until the skins attain a crinkly texture. Blend to a coarse paste the tomatoes and tamarind. Roast the powder ingredients and set aside.

Heat gingelly/sesame oil and add the mustard seeds and Guntur dry chillies. Allow it to darken then add the crushed garlic, curry leaves and asafoetida. Reduce the heat to low and add the powder and the tomato purée. Cook on low, stirring occasionally until the oil floats to the sides of the pan and it emits a beautiful aroma. About 6-8 minutes, add salt and turn off the flame. Cool and store in a glass jar in the fridge. This will keep for up to 3-4 weeks... but you will finish it before that!


Tomatoes after a whole day of drying in the sun

Dried tomatoes and a bit of tamarind ground to a chunky pulp
Large crinkly Byadgi chillies, Cumin seeds, Guntur chillies, Fenugreek seeds, Mustard seeds
Sun dried spices ground to a fine powder
Guntur dry red chillies, minced garlic, curry leaves

Heat oil, add the spices and cook along with tomatoes and spice powder

Cook until oil forms a ring on the side of the pan and the pickle has thickened and emits a beautiful aroma

1Q1 Buranchi ~ Gourmet Passport review

1Q1 Buranchi~ Gourmet Passport Dine with Rocky event
Buranchi is the Japanese word for Brunch and we recently had the opportunity to meet up with entrepreneur, cook book author and a raconteur of good tings in life, Rocky Mohan who I've known virtually for couple of years and am very fond of his Kashmiri Dum aloo recipe which is a staple in our household!
With the man himself, Rocky Mohan
His newest venture is the bible for gourmands, the Gourmet Passport app. While everything in life nowadays is driven by technology this Application is your one stop concierge service for all your dining needs. Carefully curated by Rocky and his team of experts ~ restaurants that offer truly exceptional dining options are part of this program. And that is how we landed at the cool and ultra hip new restaurant 1Q1 for their leisurely Sunday brunch of Pan Asian food with a special emphasis on Japanese cuisine.
Chef Mako Ravindran and entrepreneur Anirudh Kheny have put together a phenomenal menu that has something for everyone. Since I am vegetarian I tried all the vegetarian and vegan delights.

Steaming hot Dim Sum 
The dim sum were exquisite, super thin skinned dumplings were stuffed with a delicious assortment of vegetables and tofu and were served steaming hot with and assortment of dipping sauces. Next I tried the sushi, one of which was rolled with sweet crunchy pickled cucumber and was my favourite.
Varied Vegetarian Sushi, pickled ginger, fragrant umami Soy Sauce, Tofu Salad 
Classic Japanese fried dish ~ Tempura a light as air battered deep fried vegetables were perfectly crunchy coating and the beautifully julienned vegetables maintained their crispness while frying.

Vegetable Tempura and scallion flavoured dipping sauce 
The restaurant also served a Robatayaki (Japanese slow cooking grilling technique) Tofu in a sweet and sour glaze that was quite nice.

Braised Tofu in sweet and sour glaze
For the mains I ordered my all time favourite, Thai green curry with vegetables and steamed rice. The curry was perfectly spiced and had the beautiful creamy texture that one expects to eat with aromatic steamed Jasmine rice that was cooked just right, neither clumpy nor under done. I would have loved to have a few leaves of basil and Kaffir lime added to the gravy to give that authentic flavour and aroma, though. Finally the dessert spread was not too large but it hit all the right notes in term of sweetness. I tried simply delicious the Old Monk chocolate mousse an ode to the iconic Indian rum Old Monk which is was created by the family of Rocky Mohan of the Mohan-Meakin fame.

Old Monk Chocolate Mousse
The brunch was made even more delightful in the company of Bengaluru glitterati like the dapper Suresh Hinduja, elegant Chetan Kamani who made a very short appearance, charming Sheetal C, handsome Nitin Hajela, delightful Debolina and her husband, the lovely Namita, fascinating Swati, ravishing Deena, lovable Anita and her husband and so many more!

An old friend, the dapper Mr Suresh Hinduja 

Caroline Radhakrishnan an avid punner, baker, blogger along with Aslam Gafoor an iconic Bengaluru gourmand

With the fashionable Shalini and her husband

Deena, Me, Suresh, Namita, Caroline, Chetan, Rocky and Anita
This app is worth its weight in gold and if you need to find gourmet dining options in Delhi, Mumbai our own Uru, then download the app and start enjoying its benefits today, you wont be disappointed.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Getting to the Root: Taro ~ Arbi ki sabzi

A native to India, the root vegetable Taro is recognized to have originated in southern India. Oddly Nigeria is the top producer of this vegetable and India is not even in the top 5!
Like any root vegetable it likes deep, moist, swampy type soil to grown in....very tropical indeed. There are over 25 varieties and the most common one in India are the small sized ones that range from 1.5-3 inches in length.

Arbi ki Sabzi - Taro root in yoghurt gravy

I cook this vegetable quite often as the boys enjoy this vegetable lightly spiced and plenty roasted, but then there are days when I like to make it gravy style so that we can have it along with roti or rice. I often surprise guests with the recipe I'm sharing today and tends to draw much curiosity and a new found appreciation for the vegetable that often stumps people on how to cook it!

Couple of important things to keep in  mind is that the tuber has a mildly gooey texture on the outer surfac after cooking.
  1. Choose even sized taro or arbi, so that they cook evenly.
  2. Boil the arbi in water for 6-10 minutes depending upon the quantity.
  3. Peel the skin off and then cut in even sized pieces.
  4. Roasting the arbi gives it a crisp exterior and is perfect to use in the Air-fryer.
  5. Finally, some varieties can give you an mildly itchy/tingely senstations in your palms while peeling so just lighly grease your palms and add some sour agent like, amchur, lime juice or tamarind water while further cooking the tuber to neutralize the oxalates.
Arbi ki sabzi in a thali meal: Raita, Arbi, stirfried mixed vegetables, thepla, pickle and chutney

Arbi ki Sabzi
Ingredients
500 gms Arbi or Taro root
2 tbsp cornstarch/arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp haldi/turmeric
1 cup curd or yoghurt
1 cup water
1 tbsp besan/ gram flour
2-4 cloves
1/2 tsp ajwain/ carom seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp amchur powder/dry mango powder
1/2 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
1/8 tsp Hing/Asafoetida
1 tbsp grated ginger
3 tbsp ghee
Oil for shallow frying
1 Green chilli, slit
Salt to taste
Juice of one small lime
Coriander leaves for garnish

Method
Boil the arbi in water for 6-8 mintures or until they are soft enough to pierce with a knife. Cool, peel and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. Coat with cornstarch and salt and shallow fry in a pan until pale gold in colour. Remove and set aside.

Blend to a thick puree the curds, water and besan and set aside.

Heat a kadhai with ghee and add the cloves, jeera, and carom seeds and allow it to sputter. Add the hing, turmeric, ginger and red chilli powder. Add the curd puree, lower heat and cook for 6-8 minutes until it comes to a soft simmer, add a bit more water if you want the gravy to be thinner, add salt and the pan fried arbi. add a slit chilli and cook for another minute or two and then add lime juice and coriander leaves and turn off the flame. Serve hot with phulka rotis or any bread of your choice. 









Friday, March 2, 2018

Sindh Kitchen Restaurant Review

Very rarely does one have the chance to interact with the owner of a restaurant and his family, and recently I had the opportunity to meet Akshay Luthria and his elegant mother Ms. Vandana and vivacious sister Ankita. It was so wonderful to meet Akshay, who cooks from the heart and his team of chefs who are trained in the kitchens of 5*star hotels deftly combine flavors from his childhood, his heritage, and the bountiful produce from Namma Bengaluru to create wonderful Sindhi and North West Frontier cuisine which are absolutely delectable.

Mixed Appetizers
Sindhi cuisine is not very famous as there are very few restaurants pan India that serve it, but its here.... ready to rule the hearts of all and give the regular North Indian restaurants a run for their money! 

Since I am a vegetarian and this blog is about Vegetarian cuisine, the dishes I will focus on the Vegetarian menu, but they have an extensive non-vegetarian menu as well.

We started off with a mint drink that were refreshing and cleansed our palate as we moved onto a mind boggling variety of appetizers, and the winners without a doubt were Dal tikri ~ chana dal served on crisp puris and topped with sweet and spicy chutneys and chopped onions. Palak Papri chaat ~ crisp deep fried palak leaves served with spiced yoghurt, then came Crispy Coriander Paneer, cubes of paneer stuffed with spinach, cheese, nuts and coated with coriander and deep fried ~ the dish just melted in the mouth as the paneer was so succulent and moist, this dish was a clear winner for me. Other equally awesome dishes were the famous Soya chap, a dish made with sheets of soya to mimic chicken, Stuffed Karela ~ large pieces of bitter gourd stuffed paneer and afghani style spices. The stuffed Mushrooms were filled with fenugreek cheese and cooked in the tandoor and had that wonderful smoky flavour too it. Served with the appetizers were onions soaking in curd and spices and a variety of Chutney's including one made with tomatoes and green chillies that is Akshay's mother special recipe/blend.

Mushroom stuffed with cheese and tandoori spices
Moving to the Mains, we tasted the traditional Sindhi Sai Bhaji and Bhugga/Wari chawal, then to Sindhi kadhi, steamed rice and Aloo Tuk. Next came an onslaught of gravy dishes like Paneer Peshawari, Dal Bhukara, Sabzi Lazeez ~ a melange of vegetables cooked in a saffron infused yoghurt sauce and another unique dish Sunheri Kofta Makhan palak ~ succulent koftas in a creamed palak gravy, truly delicious and these were served with Balochi Naan, Kadak Mirch ka parotha, soft Khameeri roti, and Kashmiri Naan which was studded with assorted dry fruits. I wish I could describe in detail about each dish.....but the bottom line is that everything was delicious and well worth a visit. It might just become a family favourite and your go to place in Malleshwaram.

Bhugga/Wari Chawal, Sindhi Kadhi, Sai Bhaji

Satpura/Kadak Mirch roti, Naan, Khameeri Roti

Kashmiri Pulao

Top row: Paneer Peshawari, Moong Dal, Dal Bukhara
Bottom Row: Mushroom corn, Sabzi Lazeez, Sunheri kofta Palak makhan 

Finally, while I had no place left for dessert...I squeezed in Angoori rasmalai (the most softest melt in the mouth Ras Malai I've ever had) served on a bed of Gajar ka halwa and studded with a piece of Pragree, deep fried pastry stuffed with khoa and dunked in a sugar syrup (a seasonal Sindhi dish served for Holi festival).

Angoori Ras malai on Gajar ka halwa and served with Pragree
Photo Credit: Nameesh Rajamane
COE: I was invited for the preview by the restaurant and am posting voluntarily this unbiased recommendation of their amazing Menu.

So to wrap up the post: My recommendation is pretty self evident, please do give it a try and I'm sure you will not regret it. Unique dishes prepared with seasonal produce, cooked without excessive use of cream, oil, ghee and cooking soda. The restaurant is located inside Bloom Boutique hotel and are open for Breakfast, Lunch, High Tea/Snack/Chaat and dinner. They also have a catering arm and can customize our party/needs and also do Boxed lunches for offices, etc.

Taste: 4
Ambiance: 3.5
Value for Money: 4

Sindh Kitchen
Location: 8 Sampinge Road, opposite GRT jewellers Malleshwaram (Inside Bloom Boutique Hotel)
Phone: 91-7760260406 / 91-9650616707

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Tangy Twist - Puli Mologai or Puli Inji

My ancestors hail from a small village deep in the heart of Southern India. The family owned large tracts of fertile lands along the Kaveri river, however as they moved en mass to big cities for better opportunities they eventually sold some tracts and donated parts of the lands to faithful family retainers and farmers who tilled the land. The ancestral house was the last surviving piece of the vibrant history that had seen famous musicians and academicians emerge from its hearth!

During a family gathering, I was casually informed that I had inherited 1/9th share of a 150 year old tamarind tree that used to produce well over 2-300 kgs/year of this tart fruit! Sadly during a major storm few years ago the tree was damaged and it eventually had to be cut down to prevent it from breaking down further....well it died after that ordeal and it was the end of an era!

Previous generations enjoyed its goodness and every year like clock work, large sacks of rice, tur dal, young tamarind, huge stems of plantains (hanging clusters of over 100 bananas), ripe jack fruits (each weighing at least 50kgs) would arrive with a housekeeper and his help from the village to my Grandmas house in Bombay, and she in turn would visit each of her children to give them a share of the bounty!

The tamarind pod holds a special place in the hearts and tongue of South Indian food lovers, as quite a few dishes like Sambar, Rasam, Kuzhambu, Pulikachal and many other gravy dishes are made with tamarind pulp. I love the sweet and mild tartness of young tamarind pods, when they are a light brown shade versus the strong sour flavour of tamarind that has aged over 6 months and turned a deep shade of dark brown to almost black.

Today I made a dish that is my families repertoire of dishes that are made on special occasions like festivals and other celebratory meals. It is unique as it can be classified as a pickle or chutney. It is sour from the tamarind, spicy from the ginger and green chillies and a hint of sweetness from jaggery, to round out all the flavours! It can be eaten along with steamed rice and ghee or as an accompaniment with curd rice, but I like to have it on my breakfast toast or along with dosa.

Ginger and green chillies in thick tamarind sauce
Puli Mologai ~ Puli Inji
Puli Molagai

1/4 cup finely chopped ginger
1/4 cup chopped green chillies
1 1/2 cups thick tamarind juice (pulp  and water of about 80 gms of tamarind or size of an orange)
1/4 tsp mustard seeds 
1/4 tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp haldi/turmeric powder 
1/8 tsp hing
8-10 curry leaves
1-2 dry red chillies 
Red chilli powder - optional depending on how spicy you want the dish to be
2 tbsp grated jaggery
2-3 tbsp gingelly (sesame oil)
Salt to taste

Method

Heat oil and add the dried red chillies, methi seeds and mustard seeds and let it sputter. Add hing, curry leaves, ginger and green chillies. Cook for 1-2 minutes on low heat. Add the turmeric, red chilli powder and salt. Then add the tamarind juice. Allow to cook on low heat for 10-12 minutes until a beautiful aroma is released and the gravy would have reduced by half and thickened up. Add the jaggery and cook for another minute or two. Serve warm or at room temperature. It will keep well for a few days outside or longer if stored in the fridge. This yields about 3/4 cups worth of Puli Molagai. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Little Green Café - Restaurant review

A few of us decided to meet up on a Friday night at Little Green Café, situated off Church street on Museum road opposite Chutney Chang in the bustling restaurant row near Bengaluru's famous MG Road. The restaurant has a quaint artsy cafe/cottage like ambiance which serves exclusively vegetarian organic fare.


Pendant Lighting at Little Green Cafe Bengaluru Pic Credit, RupaB
Couple of things that immediately got my attention was that they used reclaimed wood to make a beautifully patterned floor. The lighting was next, the almost 60-80 LED lights hanging from the ceiling only consume the energy a regular 60w bulb uses!only 1 watt per bulb and there were at least a hundred of them hanging down from the ceiling. Finally, they use a unique air-conditioning/cooling, that works like a cooler and so their is less carbon footprint from cooling the whole place down. With large picture windows that surround the restaurant, light and cool breeze pour in all the time.

Now coming to the food, we started with non-alcoholic drinks, mine was the Lemon mint cooler with Basil seeds and another friend ordered a Watermelon Basil. Both were refreshing and cost Rs180 each, however I wish they offered natural stevia sweetener as I felt it was a bit too sugary.


Lemon Mint cooler at Little Green Cafe Bengaluru, Pic Credit: RupaB
We tried several appetizers, the Mezze Platter, little Tikkis, Bruschetta 3 ways and a Mushroom Cappuccino soup.

Mezze Platter at Little Green Cafe Bengaluru, Pic Credit: RupaB
The Mezze platter at Rs300 was the best, the Beetroot hummus a clear winner in terms of taste and texture. It was served with pita halves and crisp lavash sticks and a small helping of tatziki. The other hummus served was Chia hummus, basically a regular hummus with a sprinkling of chia seeds which did nothing to add to the flavour as barely 1/2 tsp of chia was used as a garnish. We asked for some extra lavash sticks and they kindly brought us some at no extra charge.

The Little tikkis at Rs250 had 6 mini tikkis that are made with quinoa & feta and ricotta and greens. I could neither taste nor see the said ingredients, hence I will not recommend this dish.


Bruscetta at Little Green Cafe Bengaluru,  Pic Credit: RupaB
Next up were the Bruscetta at Rs250, 6 slices of baguette bread with 3 different toppings. Sauteed mushrooms was outstanding, next was the Tomato avocado...even though these two flavours work well together, it did not have any of the creamy avocado flavour making it very average in terms of taste. Finally the traditional tomato/olive and herbs was again quite bland!


Mushroom Cappuccino at Little Green Cafe Bengaluru, Pic Credit: RupaB
The soup, while the name suggests coffee, I'm assuming it means there should be a froth/foam that is supposed to top the soup (faux molecular style). The bowl was quite large and the flavour of the soup was quite good and had a unusual sweet after taste for a savoury dish, but we did not see any foam and the waiter had no clue why it was called cappuccino!

In the mains we ordered two dishes, starting with Thai curry with red rice at Rs380. The gravy was sufficiently thick, mild Thai flavours with a few vegetables and firm tofu complete with the aromas of basil and lemongrass which was served with well cooked chewy Kerala red rice.


Pav Bhaji Fondue at Little Green Cafe Bengaluru, Pic Credit: RupaB
The second main was Pav bhaji Fondue at Rs360. Now the only thing fondue about this dish was that it was served in a fondue pot and an assortment of 2 pieces of grilled breads: mini pav, bruschetta, lavash sticks and mini pita. The flavour was quite good, reminiscent of a Bombay style gravy, but the portion was quite small in my opinion.

Desserts are placed up front by the cashier station and it changes everyday. We saw barely 6-8 pieces individually placed in little plates and placed in the cold cabinet, and it was not appetizing looking so we decided to pass on dessert.

Code of Ethics: We went on our own accord and paid for our meal.

Overall Rating
Food – 7/10
Ambiance- 8/10
Service – 8/10
Value – 7/10


Little Green Cafe
9/3, Prestige Pearl House, Museum Road, near Church Street, Bengaluru
Timings: 11am-11pm
Phone: +918861726457