Thursday 24 April 2014

Fig tarts with pista crumble

24th of the month and it is time for our 'Sweet day' celebration. 
For those who do not know, every 24th I share a sweet creation to celebrate the birth of the little angel in our lives, our munchkin, our daughter Vaanya.
Next month Vaanya will turn 3 years old and we will have a grand family get together in Allahabad.
I love baking with fruits and look forward to seasonal ones to experiment. Having not much opportunity to find figs here in Kolkata, once I did I jumped onto trying 2-3 recipes with it which have been in the folder since months. 
This recipe was first viewed on Masterchef Australia where Gary Mehigan took a masterclass. The combination of pista with fresh figs intrigued me a lot and I was happy to finally out my hands on it. 
As usual I have reduced the recipe to suit our small family. I have modified the procedure to my ease and have used my tried and tested tart shell recipe. 

Recipe from : Adapted from Masterchef Australia

Ingredients : I reduced the recipe to get two 3" tarts 

Shortcrust pastry for tart shells:
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cold butter
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • cold water for kneading
Pista Crumble :  
  • 5-6 blanched, peeled and finely chopped pista
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tbsp chilled butter
Frangipane filling :
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 small egg
  • 1/4 tsp zest of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 15 blanched and peeled almonds
  • 20 blanched and peeled pistachios
  • 2 tbsp honey
Garnish : 
  • 1 fig, slices/wedges
  • chopped pista


Shortcrust pastry :
Take flour and butter in a bowl and rub the butter cubes with the flour till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (in texture).
Now add cold water 1 tbsp at a time and knead to get a smooth dough. Do not over knead.
Wrap this dough in a plastic sheet and refrigerate for half an hour.
Take out the dough and roll it with a rolling pin on a floured surface. Roll it roughly to the size of the chosen tart tin with 1/8" thickness.
Gently press the dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the tart tin. Trim excess dough.
Line all the tart tins the same way. Make holes on the sides and bottom with a fork and refrigerate for another half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. Bake the tarts for 15-20 mins or till they get a light brown colour.
Take them out and let them cool.
For a detailed step by step illustration refer here

Pista Crumble : 
Take a bowl and mix pista, sugar and flour. Rub butter into this mixture. Leave small lumps of butter in it. Keep aside.

Frangipane Filling :
Grind almonds and pistachios with honey till you get a fine paste. 
Preheat oven to 160 degree Celsius. 
Whisk butter and sugar in a bowl till creamy. 
Add egg, lemon zest, flour and almond-pista paste. Mix well. 
Spoon the mixture in the prepared tart shells till 3/4 full. 
Sprinkle the pista crumble on it.
Press in the fig slices/wedges. 
Bake for 20-25 minutes or till the top browns a little. 
Allow to cool.
Sprinkle chopped pista on top and serve.

Happy Fig tart enjoying

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Breakfast spread at The Corner Courtyard

The ancient proverb, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper”, is seldom followed especially with our Indian Food habits. We usually tend to do the opposite and then blame everything else around us for the ill benefits of it. 
Eating breakfast outside is usually synonymous with indulging in all sorts of junk food from poori sabji to samosas. The concept of 'Breakfast fine dining' where you are served fresh, healthy and delectable options is a new concept for Kolkata and is catching up fast.
The Corner Courtyard has recently introduced its breakfast spread where they continue their promise of  delivering fresh ingredients and an interesting menu. You have a wide range of choices from all sorts of egg preparations, breads, sandwiches, fruity dishes, beverages etc.
Me and Kamalika were cordially invited and greeted by their amazing and enthusiastic team. Chef Chanchal led us through the making of each dish and awed us by his beautiful presentation along with the delicate flavours of it which is clearly marked with the use of the most freshest of ingredients. 
Here are some of the choicest dishes we had the opportunity to sample among the other detectables on the menu.

Who ever thought a bed of fresh fruits topped with muesli and hung curd with a little drizzle of honey that they like to call 'Flipped Parfait' can delight your taste buds so much that you happily go for more helpings. The presentation of the dish is as delightful as the taste with delicately sliced kiwi and red grapes. I was very impressed with the health factor that the dish imparts. Chef Chanchal tells us that they add nuts and dry fruits to the muesli to enrich it further.

An inside peek of the Flipped Parfait

Soon to arrive was another fruity affair called 'Muesli with honey crusted banana with a fresh fruit mash'. Another super healthy dish with fresh bananas coated with slightly crushed muesli along with a melange of chopped fresh fruits.

'Fruit wrapped Pancakes' from their sinful delights menu was a brilliantly presented dish with chocolate drizzled pancakes (more like crepes) stuffed with fresh fruits combined with honey and fresh cream. The dish was a visual treat and a wonderful combination of the ethereal pancake and fruits.

Our savoury tooth was finally satiated with a beautiful dish from their vegetarian section called 'Stir fried assorted veggies, served with baked beans, cheese toast and mashed potato'.
The vegetables were perfectly seasoned and crunchy. Chef Chanchal informed us that he used oyster sauce and Worcestershire sauce to the veggies. I personally loved the flavour of baked beans which went perfectly with the entire dish.

Next to arrive was 'Mexican omelette topped with shredded cheddar cheese served with salsa and baked beans'. I loved the chunky omelette with vegetables thrown in. The baked beans was again brilliant.

As we were about to leave, chef Chanchal came with a dish that he made especially for us. He presented us with a plate of delicately rolled julienes of Norwegain smoked pink salmon with a dollop of cream cheese adorned with a basil leaf. This was served with a balsamic reduction. Me and Kamalika thoroughly enjoyed this dish and polished it off quickly in spite of a rather full stomach. The woody smokiness of the delicate pink salmon is a treat in itself.

Have you heard of dessert for breakfast? Well for a dessert freak like me who can have it any time of the day with any meal, I had the most famous dish of their menu aptly called 'Sinful Choco Oreo pancake stack'. Not only this dish was stunning but a treat to my sweet tooth with three chunky pancakes sandwiched with oreo crumbs, crisp roasted walnuts and a perfect hot chocolate sauce. The fruity bits added an extra zing to it.

Situated at Sarat Bose Road, The Corner Courtyard is open for its breakfast spread from 8 am to 11 am.

You may check our earlier experience at The Corner Courtyard here

Read about Kamalika's experience here 


Sunday 20 April 2014

Four Seasons Gourmet Indulgence - Afraa

The Four Seasons Gourmet Indulgence in association with Afraa, a fine dining restaurant at City Center 1, Kolkata, Salt Lake, was marked with the concordance of great wine, great food, company of some amazing people and an opportunity to interact exclusively with Abhay Kewadkar, Chief Wine Maker and Business Head of Four Seasons. 

The welcome led us with the introduction of Bouvet Brut with the backdrop of live solo violin play and the city skyline. 
The Bouvet Brut is a sparkling wine that's made in France, using Traditionelle Methode,  the revered old world wine producing method. 

The evening was marked with a lot of cheer (and cheers) that reverberated a vibe of exuberance; classy, fun-filled and a true pampered indulgence.

It is very commendable for the efforts that the Four Seasons puts together to bring to world of wine to the people rather than wait for the people to try to know about wine.  

Educating and introducing wine to people through their continued wine trail events such as this is a great initiative that has been taken by Four Seasons from a top-down flow where everybody sees the potential, the excitement and the belief that the appreciation for wine in this country is poised to explode at an exponential rate and an evening such as this "The Four Seasons Gourmet Indulgence" clearly showed the effects of that belief that was already on display with people just loving the world of good wine and good food. 

I wish to thank the Four Seasons for inviting me to experience and cover this event as a food blogger. This event was followed by another mega event called the International Food Vine & Food Experience at Taj Bengal where a number of Indian and International wine makers had come under a single roof to promote the world of wine. The Four Seasons participated and offered all the range of their wines to be sampled by the likes of both novice and experts. Abhay Kewadkar conducted a master class entitled "In the Barrel" where he shared his expertise of the art of barrel aging. There were other master classes held as well where experts from the industry shared their insights on various aspects of wine. 

I am very optimistic that the appreciation for wine in India is being discovered and enjoyed increasingly and it is only a matter of time when India would be regarded as a major consumer of wine. 


Vishal Tupper

Chocolate Vermicelli nests for Easter

Easter is a time for children and adults to indulge in chocolate eggs and other yummy goodies. The custom of giving eggs on Easter is to celebrate new life. The egg is seen as a  symbol of Jesus's resurrection when he rose from the dead. The eggs are thought to be special as they have life within them and are now synonymous with Easter celebrations.
My fascination for festival special sweets is known to everyone with a number of posts on festivity celebrations. Be it Diwali, Holi or Christmas, I love to whip up and create goodies with local ingredients.
I have been wanting to try my hands on these famous chocolate nests which is usually made with noodles or crushed cornflakes. I wanted to Indianize them and present them as an Indian sweet therefore I chose to use roasted vermicelli or sewaiyan for the nests and mould sandesh as little eggs.
After some trials I came up with the baked version which gives a crunchy texture to the nests very much like the vermicelli baklava.
Wishing all our readers a very Happy and Blessed Easter.

Ingredients : For 5 such chocolate nests
  • 60 gms roasted vermicelli/sewaiyan (roughly 3/4 cup of broken vermicelli)
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 cup melted dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp cream (I used fresh cream that sets as top layer of boiled milk, you may use Amul)
  • 2 tbsp warm milk
Easter eggs : 
  • 1 cup milk 
  • a pinch of citric acid/1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp powdered sugar
  • a drop of red, yellow and blue edible food colouring
  • grated milk chocolate

Procedure :

Chocolate Nests
Preheat oven to 180 degree Celsius.
Take roasted vermicelli/sewaiyan in a bowl and crush them.
Add melted butter and mix well with the vermicelli.
Grease a muffin pan or individual muffin tins and spread the vermicelli in the pan.

Put the muffin pan in the preheated oven and bake for 10-15 mins or till you see them brown a little.
Allow to cool.
Take melted chocolate in a bowl and add the cream and milk. Mix it well. 
Dip the vermicelli nests in the chocolate mixture and keep on a plate. Refrigerate for the chocolate to set well. 

Easter eggs
Take milk in a pan and bring it to a boil.
Mix in the lime juice or citric acid and stir till you see the milk curdling and the whey separating.
Turn off the flame and let it stand for 2 mins. Meanwhile prepare a vessel by placing a muslin cloth or use a colander.
Strain the mixture into the muslin cloth. I usually save the whey to use it to knead my dough for roti or use it while boiling dal.
Bring the sides of the muslin cloth together and hang it to drain excess liquid for 20 mins. This is the Chenna.
Take the chenna in a plate and knead it with the heel of your palm for 5-10 mins till you get a smooth and doughy texture. Mix in the powdered sugar and make it into a ball.

Divide into four and add a drop of the red, yellow and blue food colouring to each. 
Mix it well and form small balls out of each colour and then shape into an egg. 
I made red, yellow, blue and white eggs. 

Sprinkle the grated milk chocolate over the nests and place the colourful eggs in the chocolate nests.
  • I used readymade roasted vermicelli. You may dry roast the unroasted ones and use. 
  • If you do not want to add chocolate to the nests, add some powdered sugar along with melted butter and then bake. 
  • You may melt the chocolate on a double boiler or in the microwave for about  a minute with 15 seconds bursts.
  • I made a little runny chocolate mixture to coat the vermicelli nests. If you want a thicker coat of chocolate skip the milk and substitute with cream. 
  • If you do not want to add food colours, keep them plain white or add a drop of any fruit crush to get some colour and flavour.
Happy Easter

    Tuesday 15 April 2014

    French Culinary experience with Chef Marc Thuet at Taj Bengal

    Chef Marc Thuet with his wife Biana Zorich

    I had a glimpse of the man in action, his arm and forearm full of various tattoos and black shades on his blonde hair, at the International Vine and Food festival held at Taj Bengal and immediately recognized him as the famous gourmet chef Marc Thuet who has flown in from Toronto to treat the people of Kolkata to an unforgettable French culinary experience. Kolkata Food Bloggers had the fortuity to be invited by Taj Bengal to sample the Chef's creations. 
    Chef Marc Thuet, born in Alsace, France,  is a fourth generation chef and started his stint with food at the young age of 12. Along with his beautiful and charismatic wife Biana Zorich who is also his business partner,  they are called Toronto's Culinary Power couple. With a growing chain of gourmet bakeries called Petite Thuets serving the likes of Ritz Carlton and running an empire of critically acclaimed food with a clientele of the likes of Musician Prince and Actor Sylvester Stallone, Marc Thuet believes in steadfast styling and use of organic produce. He has also appeared in reality television series called 'Conviction Kitchen' where he trains ex-conmans to run a restaurant and  has completed two seasons.

    We started our culinary journey with Chef Marc with a 'Cold Cucumber soup with Goat cheese and sun dried tomato'. Chef tells us that once he reached Kolkata he had to make changes to his menu to suit the climate and food preferences. This cold cucumber soup is just perfect for our humid weather and is blended with curd and mint and served with chunks of salty Goat cheese and slices of sun dried tomatoes. It comes with a generous drizzle of olive oil.

    We were served Baguette which is a sourdough bread with a bowl of olive oil and were told by Biana that the bread is supposed to be dipped in the oil and eaten. The yeast for Baguette is cultured by them and was brought all the way from Canada. The bread was crisp from outside and soft like cotton from inside. A treat for our taste buds to devour an authentic Baguette.

    For main course we had 'Cured Quebec Duck magret, sweet water prawns, black cumin caramel and mango'. The duck magret is a special variety fed to plump and its breast is then cured for 3-4 days with sea salt and a special rub made with 14 ground spices. The meat is then hung for a week. The cured duck was brought all the way from Canada by the chef. 
    The duck was served with prawns in a creamy sauce with pickled ginger and fresh slices of mango. The chef informs us that he loves to pair seafood with fresh mango. 

    For my prawn allergic friends, Biana was very sweet to ask for a plate of cured duck which came with Parmesan shavings and fresh rocket leaves.

    Our next dish for main course was Gremolata crusted lamb rack, basil and goat cheese mashed potatoes
    The meat was cooked medium and came with a lovely reduction which the chef tell us is reduced three times and has fragrant herbs like rosemary and thyme. The goat cheese and mashed potatoes were an excellent pair with the lamb rack along with baby carrot, mushroom, asparagus and sun dried tomato. 

    Next came 'Wild Mushroom risotto with Parmesan shavings'. The rice was al-dente and had generous bits of Shitake mushrooms which gave it the smoky flavour and chopped truffles. The creamy risotto was a dish that was loved by all and was over in no time.

    My favourite course, desserts, was served with two very stunning dishes. 
    'Saffron tartlet with golden peach and alphonso compote, maple syrup and walnut crumble' had an amazingly crisp and buttery tart shell. I love fresh fruit desserts and this was such a winner with peaches and alphonso chunks in it. 
    'Chocolate caramel mousse verrine with sea salt crumble' was the most amazing and delicious mousse I have had for a long time. Biana tells us that they have used chocolates available locally and we were blown away with the richness, smoothness and silkiness texture of the mousse. The sea salt crumble on top added a wonderful salty touch to the bittersweet chocolate mousse.

    The French culinary experience 'Le Thuet' at The Hub, Taj Bengal, Kolkata is on till the 18th April, 2014 and is open for both Lunch and Dinner priced at INR 2500 +taxes for two.


    Disclaimer : The opinions shared here are my own and have not been influenced monetarily or otherwise.

    For more reviews, read here : 

    Sunday 13 April 2014

    Kamalika's Bhapa Baigun (Microwave version)/ Steamed brinjals in coconut gravy

    It comes across as a surprise to most that being a Sikh, our family is more of a vegetarian. As a child I remember my Grandfather was the one who was more excited about any meat. He would bring it home for my Grandmother to cook who happened to be a strict vegetarian. She kept separate vessels to cook any kind of meat. In fact, she would keep a different pan for frying eggs too.
    Therefore when my grandparents shifted to my Aunt's place to stay with her, non-vegetarian food at home  became extinct. My father had no liking towards meat and preferred homemade simple vegetarian meals. I guess he had gone on my grandmother. So naturally, food at home also was a simple affair. When people asked me whether I am a vegetarian or  a non-vegetarian eater, I would simple say I am both but more of the first. 
    Kolkata Food Bloggers has been the most amazing group I have been blessed to find. All kudos to the spirit of this incredible person Kamalika Chakrabarty who envisioned this group and formed it. It has been over a year and within this time I have found not only an enthusiastic leader in her but a very simple, homely and extremely humble person in her. It is very rare to find someone so dedicated towards her group where day in and out she is thinking and planning about the up gradation. It is only because of her efforts that today Kolkata Food Bloggers is a visible face in the culinary world. 
    Kamalika is a great friend and a very giving person. Once when we got together at home she prepared an incredible and lip-smacking spread for me from Chingri Malaikari, Yogurt Chicken and Bhapa Baigun amongst other yummies. Being a vegetarian lover, I fell for the delectable flavours of the Bhapa Baigun more than the prawn and the chicken dishes. 
    When Kolkata Food Bloggers announced their new event to celebrate Poila Boishakh with vegetarian dishes from Bengal, I knew this recipe needed a place in the blog. Extremely simple yet so yummy, this recipe has now become our weekend favourite. 
    This recipe has no ginger, garlic, onions or tomatoes, the pillars of our Punjabi cooking and yet you will relish it and crave for more. Moreoever this recipe is a quick and modern one where the Microwave method is used. The use of mustard powder further reduces the tedious process of grinding. The recipe calls for a dash of sugar which I almost forgot the first time I made, so do be careful to add that bit as it makes a huge difference to the taste. 

    Ingredients : For 2-3 servings
    • 6 medium sized brinjals
    • 2 tsp mustard powder
    • 2 tbsp curd
    • 1 cup coconut milk
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • sugar to taste
    • salt to taste
    • oil for shallow frying
    Wash, wipe and cut brinjals vertically in two halves.
    Take oil in a pan and shallow fry the brinjal halves.
    Drain them on a tissue paper and arrange in a microwave safe vessel.

    Soak mustard powder in little warm water for 5 minutes.
    Beat curd to remove any lumps.
    Take a bowl and add soaked mustard powder, curd, coconut milk, salt, turmeric powder and sugar. Mix well.
    Pour this mixture over the brinjals. 
    Drizzle some mustard oil on top.

    Put the vessel with brinjals in the microwave and switch on for 5 minutes on normal microwave mode.
    Check and adjust seasoning.
    Microwave for another 10 minutes in 5 minute batch till the mixture thickens.
    Serve with boiled rice and plain dal. 

    • You may use fresh mustard seeds paste instead of mustard powder.
    • I have used canned coconut milk, but you may also use fresh coconut milk. 
    • If you like a more sour taste, add more curd.
    • Add green chillies if you love spicy food. 

    This recipe is part of Kolkata Food Bloggers new event to celebrate Poila Boishakh where we are sharing Vegetarian Bengali dishes.

    Happy vegetarian relishing

    International Vine and Food Experience at Taj Bengal

    Probably this particular post will clear the clouds of a special 'soft corner' that I have developed over past few years for the Four Seasons Wine brand without taking away the credit, contribution, accomplishments and market standing of other prominent wine brands in India. For me, however, it was the Four Seasons that first introduced and unlocked the mysteries of wine to me in their ongoing efforts to educate Indian public at large of the wonders of wine through their wine trail events. Ever since, my culinary world has taken a higher dimension with the addition of wine pairing.
    The International Vine and Food Experience at Taj Bengal was the very first of its kind in Kolkata and in such a huge scale where numerous Indian and International wine brands came together under a single roof. You could sample from a range of more than hundred Indian and International wines. I wish to sincerely thank the Four Seasons for inviting me to cover their participation in this event. 
    The range of wine from Four Seasons
    The Four Season's station had all their range of wines to be sampled, which they harvest and process in Maharashtra. The range included Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Blush, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon etc and my personal favourite the Barrique Reserve Cabrenet Sauvignon and Barrique Reserve Shiraz.

    Master Class by Abhay Kewadkar "In the Barrel"
    The reserve wines are matured in the oak barrels and to explain the art of barrel aging we had a master class from none other than Mr Abhay Kewadkar himself, Chief Wine Maker of Four Seasons, who shared deep insights in the subject. He covered points such as
    subtle flavours are imparted to wine as it ages in barrels,
    different types of oaks used,
    the subtle changes that the wine goes through as it matures in the barrel resulting in greater complexity and softening of tannins and flavours present at the end of fermentation,
    flavour notes from Barrel
    Origin of Oak, choosing the barrel etc
    No wonder that the Barrique Reserve from Four Season is truly a result of such intricate art of wine making where the oak barrels are imported from France itself and wines are matured for months at a time which gives an infusion of a beautiful woody vanilla flavours and other complexities to pamper our taste buds. 

    With Peter Mitter and Abhay Kewadkar of the Four Seasons

    International Brands.

    I enjoyed the company of very charismatic F. Javier Perez Bernal of Grupo Faustino representing the Gusto brand. He shared with me a very special Faustino V Reserve from the region of Rioja in Spain.

    With F. Javier Perez Bernal of Grupo Faustino
     The evening was marked with many prominent chefs displaying their culinary expertise. It was truly a great combination of great wine and great food.
    I believe that the appreciation for wine in India is perfectly poised to take off at a remarkable rate and events such as this would contribute to spreading the awareness and go on to build a strong base for people to be educated. Certainly with the explosion of the food industry it is only a matter of time when India sees itself as a major consumer of wine. 

    I wish to thank Four Seasons Wine again for their cordial invite as a part of their team to cover their participation and also congratulate all the wine brands and Taj Bengal as a whole for organizing such an event.

    Vishal Tupper

    Read about Kamalika's experience of this event here.

    Disclaimer: Views expressed above is purely individualistic and without any monetary compensation. 


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