Monday, 30 June 2014

Kolkata launch of 'The Big Book of Treats' by Pooja Dhingra and Chai spiced Cupcakes


'Meet Pooja Dhingra. Cupcake addict. Macaron lover. Baker. And founder and owner of Mumbai's most famous patisserie, Le 15.'
These are the introduction lines on her newly launched book The Big Book of Treats. 
When I received an invitation mail on behalf of The Corner Courtyard asking me to save a date to meet the ace baker Pooja Dhingra, I immediately put a big red circle on my calendar. Pooja, all of 27 and a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, is the new face of the baking scene in India and is known for her Macarons. She has a regular clientele which boasts of Bollywood stars, sportspeople, corporate czars and politicians. Selected by Forbes India for their 30 under-30 entrepreneurs list, she sure is an insipration to many bakers including me.



Pooja also conducts regular demonstration classes in Studio Fifteen Culinary Centre in Mumbai and was here in Kolkata for an interactive workshop teaching some recipes from her book. 
Down to earth and very encouraging, she started off the workshop by saying Baking is very easy. I could not agree more with her, being a baking enthusiast myself. I was impressed with the way she conducted the workshop with so such ease and elan. She made people come from the audience and do the basic mixing and pouring. 
We started the workshop with a basic Vanilla cupcake recipe which was frosted with Vanilla Buttercream. An immensely valuable tip I learnt from her, among many others was to always add any flavouring to the butter as it retains it very well. 
All through the workshop we were served some yummy starters from The Corner Courtyard which had some impressive names as Chicken Bites, Mushroom cupcakes etc. 



All along she kept amusing us with her lovely stories amongst which I loved the story of the chocolate chip cookie which she had come up with on a Tuesday which was a vegetarian day at her house. Her 16 year old Chocolate chip cookie was indeed very easy and impressive. I also laughed on an incident she shared about her college in Paris where she once asked the chef to tell her a particular recipe's eggless variation, to which the chef flipped and scratched his head trying to decode the protein structure of an eggless bake. Seeing them sweat and in a state of amazement, she told herself that she will simply ask her Mom. 



The star of the workshop was the third recipe Nutella Squares which Pooja confessed being the most popular recipe tried from the book. An eggless Bars recipe loaded with Nutella and hazlenuts, this one is definitely on my next make list. 
After the session got over we got our books signed by the baker herself and had pictures clicked with her. I bid byes to Sayantani and Archita who were attending the worshop and book launch with me and ran back home to turn the pages of the book. 
Aptly called the home bakers cookbook, the book has recipes from cookies, cupcakes, brownies, cakes and even Macarons. While leafing through the book, chai cupcakes caught my attention. Ever since I made the Coffee cupcakes, I have been wanting to try the chai spiced version and was happy to finally put my hands onto them. So as an ode to the ace Baker, I hereby share a Chai spiced cupcake recipe which has been modified to suit my requirements and available ingredients.



Ingredients : For 5-6 medium sized cupcakes

  • 1 egg
  • 50 gms butter, room temperature(I used Nutralite)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup chai/tea (made with milk without sugar)

Frosting
 : 


  • 4 tbsp butter, room temperature(I used homemade white butter, you may use Amul or any other butter)
  • 3-4 tbsp icing sugar/powdered sugar (You may adjust the quantity to your liking)
  • 1 green cardamom, powdered
  • 1 pinch or two of cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbsp chai/tea (made with 2-3 tbsp milk and 1 tsp chai, boiled till reduced to half)

Procedure :
Preheat oven to 180 degree Celsius. Line Muffin tray or cupcake moulds with liners. Alternately grease and lightly flour them.  
Make the chai first. I used 1/4 cup milk and 2 tsp of chai along with little crushed ginger. Give it a boil and when it is reduced to half, remove from heat and allow to cool. 
Take butter and sugar in a bowl and cream it very well. Whisk till it gets pale and creamy. Do not cut it short, this is an important step. 
Add egg and mix.
Sift all purpose flour with baking powder and add to the butter-egg mixture. Mix with gentle hands till the flour is incorporated.
Add the cooled chai through a sieve and mix. Your batter will have a light brown colour from the chai. 
Pour the batter in the prepared cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 
Allow to cool.




Frosting : 
Take butter and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Add cardamom and cinnamon powder. Add the prepared chai mixture through a sieve and mix gently. Refrigerate for half an hour for the buttercream to absorb all the flavours and colour from the chai. 
Fill the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe on the cupcakes. 


Notes : 
  • Use a good quality chai/tea for a richer flavour
  • Infuse flavours of your choice while making tea. You may add black peppercorn, tulsi leaves etc. 
  • The flavours enhance with time. The cupcakes taste better the next day.

Enjoy the chai spiced cupcakes along with your cuppa chai and a favourite book. 

I want to thank team The Corner Courtyard for yet another memorable experience at their fine dine restaurant and Boutique hotel situated at 92 B, Sarat Bose Road. You may check out my earlier experiences here and here

Amrita

Thursday, 26 June 2014

A Brunch to remember at Durbari, Swissotel

Team KFB with Swissotel staff (Pic coutsey Anwesha Bhattacharya)
A trip to Swissotel always means great food and great hospitality. The extra cordial staff makes you comfortable right from the start and their food takes you to heaven straight away. Kolkata Food Bloggers were invited to sample the re-launch of Sunday Brunch menu at their Indian restaurant Durbari and I along with my fellow friends was awed at the spread on offer. It was literally a non-stop flow of one amazing dish after the other. 
The brunch was special in more ways with the lovely company of Enakshi Kundu, assistant marketing and communication manager who guided us through the all time favourite and loved dishes and Aashish Shaw, restaurant manager who very patiently informed us about the variety they offer and the personal changes they make to suit individual taste buds. 
Our tables were soon adorned with Papads and a beautiful array of lovely homemade chutneys. They offer apart from the usual tamarind and mint chutney, a yoghurt saffron, mango mustard and the absolute favourite burnt garlic chutney. 





Soon to follow was a non stop flow of the delectable starters and we had our fresh lime sodas ready to help us gulp down. 


First to awe us was the famous Dahi ke kebab from their kitchen. Aashish informs us that this is the only cold starter on their menu. Spiced hung curd coated with semolina and fried is truly a star dish. It did wonders to my chatpata taste buds. I really did not even want to use any chutney with it, it was so good in itself. 


Next on offer was the fusion dish that they call Naaza which is a cross between naan and pizza. Chef Aditya informs us that the base is actually a Khameeri roti which is topped with Murgh Makhani, cheese and colourful bell peppers. The smoky flavour of the Naaza screamed at us to have another portion but Enakshi warned us to have space for the delicacies in line. 


The Gondhoraj Mahi Tikka was declared a winner unanimously. Delicate chunks of Bhetki marinated with the traditional gondhoraj lime and the imported counterpart Kaffir lime lifted this dish to another level. I again did not feel the need to spoil the flavour of the fish with any chutney.  


Just about when we begged them not to serve us any more starters, we were offered another creation from their kitchen by the ever smiling chef Aditya called Murgh Balai kebab which was chicken breasts filled with oodles of onions, cheese and pomegranate. The chicken pieces were grilled to perfection but I personally found a bit too much of the onions in it. 


Remember we still had the buffet to sample and all this was just the starters. 
The buffet spread had soups, salads, starters, main dishes and desserts on offer. The starters had Zafrani Paneer tikka and Dalcha kebab in the vegetarian section and Murgh Achari Tikka and Sarson Mahi Tikka in the non-vegetarian section. The main course boasted of vegetarian dishes like their most famous Dal Durbari, Palak paneer, Diwani Handi and Aloo Dhaniawala. The non vegetarian main dishes were Ajwaini Fish curry and Methi murg. We were also served on our table Murgh Makhni Andaz and Kumbh do pyaza along with their famous Swiss cheese Naan.

The buffet spread
Most naturally I could not even sample half the dishes on the offering. My pick from the spread was the Dal Durbari, Aloo Dhaniawala, Methi murgh, Achari murgh and Sarson Mahi Tikka along with green peas pulao. And yes how can I miss the drenched-in-sin Swiss cheese Naan. You will want to go back and live just on their Dal Durbari and Swiss cheese naan. It is such a sinful combination. 

My plate
Swiss cheese Naan
Alright before you wonder the size of my appetite, we were still yet to satiate our sweet tooth. And considering all my teeth are sweet, I was waiting to dig into the dessert counter which had a mixture of modern and traditional sweets. The spread had fresh fruits, bite size pastries, Mango Rasmalai, Mihidana and Rabdi. The Mango rasmalai was exceptionally yummy and was my favourite dessert for the day. 

The dessert platter
If my experience hasn't allured you enough, go for yourself and just try out their splendid hospitality and out-of-the world food . 

Functional from Tuesday to Sunday between 1900 hrs to 2300 hrs,the restaurant is open for lunch from 12:30 hrs to 15:00 hrs on weekends as well. Mondays are closed.

The Sunday Brunch is available every Sunday and the packages start at INR 1000 plus taxes.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Profiteroles-my affair with the French pastry



A month has flown by and its time to share a sweet something for my 'Sweet day'. 
Vaanya has turned 3 years and 1 month old. We had the most amazing birthday celebration for her 3rd birthday in Lucknow with family. The theme was Mickey mouse clubhouse as it is her new fetish. Kids and adults of the family joined in to decorate the house and have a Clubhouse party. From the food to the games, every little detail was planned collectively a month back. I tried my hands on a Surprise Mickey mouse cupcake and shared here for my last Sweet day. You can view the fun we had through some pictures that I shared here
Today I planned to share something that I have attempted various times for family and simply love the texture of this unique pastry called Choux pastry(pronounced shoo pastry) This is a classic french pastry which is first made on the stove and then baked in the oven. The pastry has an amazing crispy,buttery and extremely light texture. The Choux pastry can be used to make Cream puffs, Profiteroles or even Eclairs where the basic mixture is piped in different shapes and baked. 
Having tried this recipe several times, I have realized the importance of technique which is solely responsible for success in this pastry. It is a very simple pastry but only if you follow the instructions carefully otherwise you can end up with a flat disc of baked dough. The pastry is supposed to puff up in the first few minutes of baking getting the quintessential crinkles on top and then it is given further time in the oven to get cooked from inside. 
Once mastered, this pastry will become your favourite and will win many weak 'sweet' hearts. In the past I have also tries a Savoury variation in this pastry with some savoury fillings. 


Ingredients : Makes about 10-12 profiteroles
  • 1/4 cup +2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 2 egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup +2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • a pinch of salt
Procedure :
First things first : 
  • Preheat oven to 200 degree Celsius
  • Sift all purpose flour, salt and sugar and keep aside
  • Beat the eggs lightly and keep aside
  • Line the baking tray with an aluminium foil, lightly greased and keep aside
Now take butter and water in a pan and bring it to a rolling boil. Remember to use butter at room temperature otherwise the butter will take longer to melt and by then the required quantity of water will reduce due to evaporation. 
As soon as it starts to boil, take it off heat and dump the flour,salt and sugar mixture into it. Mix well. 
Put it back on low heat and let the mixture attain a dough like consistency, mixing all along. Do not let the flour mixture scald. 
Take it off heat and allow to cool. Keep checking, when you can touch the bottom of the pan with your finger you are ready for the next step. 
Add a tbsp of the beated egg and mix. Keep adding a spoonful or two and mix. Do not dump in the entire quantity of egg as the size varies which can change the consistency.
You need to achieve a consistency where when lifted with a spatula, the mixture falls off in 3-5 secs in a 'V' shape. Do not add any more egg , once this stage is achieved.
Put the mixture in a ziplock bag or a piping bag and snip off one end. 
Make rough round shapes around 2" diameter on the prepared baking tray(lined with aluminium foil)
If there are any pointy ends, smoothen with a wet finger. 
Put the baking try in the oven and bake on the same temperature(200 degree Celsius) for 10 mins. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. This is because in the first ten minutes the pastry puffs up in the hot oven and opening the oven door in between can prevent a good rise of the pastry.
Check if your pastry has risen well otherwise give a little more time. 
Now reduce the oven temperature to 176 degree Celsius and let the pastry cook for 15-20 minutes. The oven temperature is reduced to ensure that the pastry gets well cooked from inside. 
Take them out and allow to cool. But while they are still warm make horizontal slits on the sides for hot air to escape.
You can also cut the pastry in half to make room for any filling. 
Your pastry is ready for infinite number of fillings. I have used a whipped cream filling which I have just piped in with a star nozzle. 
Drizzle or spread a generous amount of melted chocolate on top for an amazing french pastry experience. 


Happy French pastry indulgence
Amrita

A Nawabi Rendezvous with Grand Master Chef Imtiaz Qureshi

Chef Imtiaz Qureshi with his team
Kolkata Food Bloggers were invited by ITC, Sonar for an oppurtunity of a life time to meet the Grand Chef Imitiaz Qureshi and sample royal masterpieces crafted by him. Chef Imtiaz Qureshi belongs to a remarkable lineage of cooks in the royal court of Awadh where Dum Pukht originated about 200 years ago! 
When the chef arrived to our tables, we were collectively in a state of awe with the deep knowledge of the cuisine that he masters in. He explained us the meaning of 'Dum Pukht' where 'Dum' means 'to breathe in' and 'Pukht' means 'to cook'. He emphasizes on the age old importance of maintaining a clean kitchen before cooking. Dum Pukht uses a round heavy-bottomed vessel where food is tightly sealed and cooked over slow fire which intensifies the flavours of the food. 
  
 

While we waited for the enchanting five course to unfold we were served fruit juices of our choice along with beautifully rolled conical Papad served with some amazing chutneys. 




Our Nawabi treat began with Kababs and the first one to amaze us was the Raan-e-huzoor (baby lamb legs cooked on dum with thick date sauce, embellished with almonds and walnuts) The meat was super tender and the date sauce gave it a unique flavour. 


The sheermal served along with the Raan-e-huzoor made a delectable meal in itself.



Next to come was Jhinga Qureshi, a dish created by the chef where Jumbo prawns stuffed with dried apricots and cheese are covered with a layer of puff pastry giving it a unique presentation. 


Our next course comprised of Qorma, Qualiya and Salan where we were served Samudri Ratan which had crabmeat koftas in a raw mango and tamarind flavoured gravy. The gravy had delicate hints of fenugreek. 



Desi Murgh Ishtew was next where country chicken is braised over slow fire with onions, yoghurt and spices. Tender, juicy and flavourful, this dish is a winner. 


Koh-e-Awadh is the chef's specialty where a special kind of lamb meat is used and is cooked in dum in its own juices and marrow, finished with saffron. 



Dal Badami is something you will have never tasted before. Here urad dal is cooked with badam and is tempered with dill leaves. The chunks of badam that come in your mouth along with the dal makes a unique combination. 



The Naans presented with the above dishes were Naa-e-Bah Khummach, Muglai Parantha and Roomali roti. 



The Biryani served was named Dudhiya Biryani which the chef told is made in olive oil and is cooked on dum with milk. The biryani truly was very light and flavourful and had tender lamb morsels.  


The Biryani was served with a garlic flavoured Bhurani Raita.


The last and always my favourite course, for Meetha we were served the famous Shahi Tukda (saffron rabdi on syrup drenched bread) and Lab-e-Mashooq which was kulfi served on a sugar lace. 


We also had the company of whiskey expert Mr Sandeep Arora who broke myths about drinking and pairing whiskey with food. He represented a famous brand of scotch whiskey called Royal Salute 21YO. 


The royal Nawabi lunch was finished with the quintessential Paan. 


Dum Pukht, ITC offers a unique dining experience where each dish on the menu comes with its own story. Truly labelled as a 'Nawabi Dawat' (Royal Feast) this experience can be savoured till the 30th June, 2014.

The signature collection is available at the Eden Pavillion from 22nd June to 30th June, 2014 for dinner (7:30 to 11:45 pm) It is part of the dinner buffet and i priced at INR 1850 plus applicable taxes per guest. 

There is also a Royal Repast at Dum Pukht (Dinner only) from 22nd June onwards priced at INR 6500 plus applicable taxes per guest. 

Happy Nawabi Indulgence
Amrita  

Thursday, 5 June 2014

'Vicky Goes Veg'-Celebrity Chef Vicky Ratnani's first Book Launch at the Corner Courtyard.

The mundane of vegetarian food for hardcore meat-eaters, such as myself, received a very pleasant antidote of renewed and refreshed perspective of the wonderful world of veggies through an amazing collection of self conceptualized dishes by the man himself, Celebrity Chef Vicky Ratnani launching his maiden book 'Vicky Goes Veg' at The Corner Courtyard, Kolkata. The collaboration of the blends of international styling and flavour-prints by using locally procured ingredients comes from the vast experience that Chef Vicky gained over many years through his travel and work in numerous countries. The compounded result was a robust synergy of international styling with local ingredients bearing an outlook of simplicity and class. 

Sampling from the range of Chef Vicky's Salads

Chef Vicky Ratnani who recently launched his book in Mumbai with Farhan Akhtar and Mr AP Hinduja, unveiled his book in Kolkata at The Corner Courtyard.

The book’s inspiration was the increasing demand of “not-so boring vegetarian” recipes from the audience of his very popular show “Vicky goes Veg”.

Farhan Akhtar at the launch in Mumbai  said ‘Going green has never been more deliciously exciting! Bon appĂ©tit..’

Thrilled to have the jolly chef launch his book, The Corner Courtyard generously hosted the event and even served the guests, high tea, appetizers and salads with recipes from the book itself.

Chef interacted with the audience and shared trivia and insights on the making of his maiden read.

Megha Agrawal – Director, The Corner Courtyard, said, “We are deeply humbled that a celebrity Chef like Chef Vicky chose The Corner Courtyard to launch his first ever book. Our kitchen is ecstatic to serve and more importantly learn from the master himself”

Chef Vicky Ratnani “Kolkata is one of my most favourite food destinations in India. Food being one of the most integral part of Kolkata’s culture, I have been eagerly looking forward to launch my book in the city.
I am very touched with the team of The Corner Courtyard for beautifully supporting my launch and serving my recipes as a part of this special day”

About the book:
Vicky Goes Veg has a collection of different and out of the box recipes for Vegetarians like Garlic Soup, Chickpean and Almond Crouquet, Green Chillies and Raw Mango Risotto as well as the general favourites like Braised Plantain with Thai Spices sharing space with Hing-roasted Pumpkin, Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie, and so on. The recipes here are not the usual, mundane ones. The dishes hail from all over the world but come with an Indian twist. 

The recipes mentioned in Vicky Goes veg are precise and have been rendered even more mouth-watering by the series of delicious photographs on the side.


About the author, Vicky Ratnani

Vicky Ratnani is a chef, TV host and food connoisseur. He hosts a popular TV cookery show by the same name on NDTV Goodtimes, and is the corporate chef at Aurus, a fine dining restaurant in Mumbai.

About The Corner Courtyard

Located in the heart of South Kolkata near the junction of Lansdown and Hazra Road, The Corner Courtyard recently opened its doors to Customers during the 1st week of October 2013.
The Corner Courtyard is the brain-child of its founder & CEO, Megha Agarwal, an alumnus of the prestigious Symbiosis Institute of Pune. It was finally her life-long love for travelling, hospitality and an unfulfilled entrepreneurial drive that has now culminated in realizing her dream project, resulting in converting a 108-year-old building in South Kolkata's Lansdowne area into a Boutique Hotel-cum-Restaurant, probably the first such restoration project in the hospitality sector in Kolkata.
Housed in a Colonial era building that dates back to 1904, TCC aims to capture the aura of a classic colonial ambience, and provide a semi-fine dining experience, based on a Global cuisine menu that is designed to stand out from other establishments for its offering as well as the presentation.
TCC also incorporates a unique accommodation with seven individually designed and themed boutique rooms, using 50-100 years old period furniture, which has been painstakingly restored over a period of over one year by restoration experts.
Very thrilled to have my own copy signed by Chef Vicky

I for sure would be savoring the veggies for some time to come and hope Chef Vicky launches another book before my veg spree comes to an end...!

Happy Reading & Eating

Vishal & Amrita

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