Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pancake Day



Today is Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Pancake Tuesday in some parts of the world. I didn't realise what a big deal pancake day is until I went to London where they have pancake races in the Parliament Square and every restaurant offers a pancake special. Apparently the pancakes are to use up all the butter and other good stuff in the house, this being the last tuesday before Lent begins. Pretty much like my mom's "eat up the eggs beta, it's navaratras from tomorrow".

Now you can easily whip up a pancake batter, pour some syrup on top and you are good to go. But to me, pancakes are like a blank canvas. There are infinite possibilities on what you can do with a pancake batter and there is one variation that's been on mind for a while. So for pancake day this year, we are making peanut butter and jelly pancakes.

What I did was whip up my regular pancake batter, but replacing butter with peanut butter. And a jam syrup. It's all super fun. Just read on for the recipe.

Ingredients1 1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg, separated
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp jam
2 tbsp raisins (preferably soaked in wine the night before)
5-7 almonds, flaked

In a bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. In a second bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolk, peanut butter and vanilla essence. The peanut butter will take a bit of patience and the resultant mix will be grainy but that's all right. Pour the liquids over the dry ingredients, add vinegar and whisk until just combined. Finally, add the egg white and stir until it mixes in with the batter. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Heat a non stick pan on low to medium heat and brush with melted butter. Drop 2 tbsp of batter. Wait a couple of minutes for the pancakes to brown, then flip and cook the other side.

While the pancakes are cooking, put the jam (I used apple and cinnamon but any berry flavour will work well too) in a small pan with 1 tsp water. Heat on a low flame until the jam is melted and all syrupy.

Stack the pancakes on a plate. Pour jam syrup on top and sprinkle wine soaked raisins and flaked almonds to finish.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Kochi in the Times of Biennale



For visitors to Kerala, Kochi is a transit point. It's the city you take the train or flight to, before embarking on your journey to Alleppey or Munnar or wherever. But for three months every two years, Kochi becomes a destination in itself. From December 2016 to March 2017, Kochi is once again playing host to the Biennale Art Festival. Whether you love art and culture or are simply the curious kind and have a free weekend in March, I'm telling you to put Kochi on your travel list. Here's what you are missing if you haven't been to Biennale yet and how to make the best of it.

Let's start with our star attraction. Until March 29, the whole city of Kochi, and specially the Fort Kochi area, will be one big art gallery. There are 12 official venues but that's just your starting point. Spread all over Fort Kochi and Jew Town are plenty of other collateral events and venues. My favourite venue and the one I spent the most time at was Aspinwall House. Enough has been said already about the immersive experience called the Sea of Pain. Other installations are no less haunting.

There is Yael Efrati recreating the memories and textures of her grandparents' house in Israel



There is Naiza Khan showcasing boats from the journeys never made, recreated in the minds of artisans from Karachi.



There are layered paintings, memories of houses lived in and shared multi-sensory experiences that are going to haunt you the way only very good, immersive art can.

How long a trip should you plan? There are a whole lot of cultural and cinematic events happening around the festival and there are guided experiences that only happen a few times a day. Plus, taking in all the art at once can get a bit intense so you might want to spread it out. I would give it three days at least.

So I've done Biennale; what else is there?
Let's sort out the basics first. Kochi is spread out between the main city (Ernakulam) and the Fort Kochi area. You are better off staying in Fort Kochi because everything will be within walking distance or a cheap rickshaw ride away. Be warned though that most properties are old and you are more likely to get 'old world charm' rather than the comforts of a modern hotel. But no matter which hotel you pick, check and double check that they have great airconditioning. Kochi is hot and when you are done walking around the art venues, you are gonna need cold air and ice cold drinks to revive you.

Now that you have a roof and an airconditioner over your head, let's talk about what else you should be doing while in the city:

1. Walk Around: Fort Kochi is full of beautiful buildings. And I'm not even talking about the touristy sites like the Mattancherry Palace either. Just regular streets in Fort Kochi and Jew Town can take your breath away.



You should obviously walk to the shore and see the Chinese fishing nets that have come to define the Kochi skyline. But don't count on any life changing views here - you walk to the shore, you see the nets, you say okay and that's that. The other place I loved walking around in are the crazy, shopping filled streets of Jew Town.

2. Go to the city: From Fort Kochi, you can take a ferry or an uber to downtown Ernakulam. I loved walking on the marine drive and taking in the views. Kochi's not much touristy anyway and Ernakulam is somewhere few tourists get to. Which means that even at peak tourist season, on a weekend evening, we had the walkway and the views almost entirely to ourselves.

3. Eat: Fort Kochi has a whole lot of cute cafes and bakeries. You can find several of them selling the traditional Kerala plum cake and that's definitely worth a try. But I discovered Qissa Cafe in the 18 Hotel early on in our trip and pretty much made it my base.



This cheerful cafe was my point of call every time I was in search of a cold ginger ale or a late sandwich for lunch. They bake a mean carrot cake too. If you are in the city, however, look for Gokul near the Marine Drive. It's a chaotic local joint that serves snacks and meals and my favourite Kochi discovery - puttu kadala or rice flour cakes with chickpea curry.

My final suprise recommendation is actually inside a mall in Ernakulam. I had my final meal in Kochi at Calicut Paragon inside Lulu Mall and the rasam and the malabar parotas there were my favourite of the trip.



4. Shop: When in Kerala, you must buy spices grown in the area. You will see shops selling pepper, cardamom and cloves everywhere in Jew Town but on a local friend's recommendation, I went to the spice shop inside the bustling Lulu Mall (which also accounts for the lunch above). The spices here are fresh and nicely packaged. I would recommend buying all sorts of peppercorns - my favourite was dried green pepper - as well as the locally grown black and green cardamom, cloves, vanilla beans and allspice. These spices last forever if you leave them whole in the fridge and grind as you need them so you are sorted for at least a couple of years.

Go ahead then, plan that trip now. You won't get to see art that impressive until Biennale comes back to town in 2018.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Tale of Four Cocktails



I have a big thing for molecular gastronomy. Foams, spheres, gels and anywhere else you use science to create unique food experiences remains a big plus in my book. But as the trend took off, there came a wave of subpar molecular restaurants in Mumbai. Only one group of restaurants have consistently managed to combine good flavours with all the fancy footwork that goes in creating the magical molecular experience and that's the Kalras. I'm a big fan of Masala Library, I adore Papaya and after my experience at Masala Bar a few days back, I'm adding it to my favourites in the city.

Masala Bar opened about a year ago but I only made it over there this week as part of a whole group of bloggers who were there to witness the launch of big bang nights - their new menu and offers like 2-for-1 on all drinks on tuesdays. But we'd get to food and drink in a minute. Let's talk about the place first.

Masala Bar sits on the first floor on a corner of carter road. And they have plenty of window seating to maximise the sea view the place offers. Inside, the bar is gorgeously romantic, the whole place lit only by candlelight. Set in sconces by the walls, put up in holders on each table and sometimes bunched together, the candles give Masala Bar an ambience like no other.

For such a beautiful setting, both the food and drink menus are an apt match. The bar counter looks like a science set, with even a mini distillery on the side. My first drink of the evening was Berry Cooler, a non alcoholic drink made with watermelon and passion fruit. It looked pretty but turned out to be too sweet, leading me onto the special cocktails they had for the night.

First came malabar point with notes of apple and camomile. The drink gets topped with a thyme foam and I was particularly intrigued by this gizmo that was constantly churning out more foam as the bartenders made the drinks. After these smooth caramel notes, my next point of call was Bandstand Songkran, with a refreshing jolt of lemongrass.

The final drink of the night was Bollywood Bhang. No, there is no actual bhang in this one but the concoction has mascarpone cheese and enough basil to make the herb stand out. Super texture on this one!

The appetizers were no less a match with a selection of baked potatoes, sushi and paneer topped khari. For someone who doesn't like spicy food, my surprising favourite at Masalabar turned out to be cheesy deep fried jalepenos.

Now if that doesn't make you plan out an evening at Masala Bar, a final note on the bartenders. They all seem to know what they are doing, and the service, even in the crazy group setting was fantastic. Overall, a great, great place to catch the sunset.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Quick Gun Murugan



Sometime last week, I flew into Chennai, spent a day doing meetings and made a long trek to reach my hotel at 7 pm. At this point, most people would order room service and crawl into their beds. But I had friends who were heading out to dinner to Murugan Idli. I'd never heard the name before but it came highly recommended and I am easily persuaded. Thus came a one hour cab ride in Chennai traffic and a bit of a wait outside the T Nagar branch of this famous chain. Then we sat down and the world turned a whole lot brighter.

The moment you sit down, they spread a banana leaf in front of you and spoon in 4 kinds of chutneys. These are your usual coconut and tomato relishes though I was particularly taken in by the tamarind one. From here on, I left it to my friend to order. The folks at Murugan don't linger so just a few minutes after we ordered, we had food coming onto our banana leaf plates.

The plain idli is super soft but just you wait until you taste idli-podi. It's the same idli; just completely covered with a layer of ghee and gunpowder. We also had crisp medhu vadas and delicious paniyarams. I was pretty full at this point so I just tasted a bit off my friend's onion uttapam. And that brings me to my unfinished business in Chennai and Murugan.

I count my life by 'aha' food moments and Murugan Idli certainly qualifies to make my top ten. That onion uttapam, my friends, is really what's right with the world. Perfectly crisp and topped with podi and deeply caramalised onions, it has to be the best uttapam I've ever eaten. So if you see me making another trip to Chennai, it's likely because I want to polish off an uttapam, or five, and top it up with Jigarthanda.

What's jigarthanda you ask! I wondered too, on how you would name a drink cold heart. Apparently this one is a milkshake-ice cream hybrid and a pretty popular one too, if the queues are anything to go by. We finished our meal with filter coffee so Jigarthanda is on the calendar for my next trip to Chennai. This is one trip you should take too, and soon!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Have a Healthy 2017



It's almost the end of first week of January which means that most new year resolutions to eat healthy and lose weight have already been broken. But if you are still going strong or will like to get back on the wagon, this is the right time to talk about a fun way to eat healthy - grain bowls. Filling and full of flavour, grain bowls offer so many possibilities that you will never be bored. Plus, unlike salads, these can be warm or cold depending on your liking, the mood and the weather.

So what's a grain bowl. It's half a bowl of cooked grains, combined with an equal quantity of some combination of proteins, vegetables and other toppings, plus a dressing that brings the whole thing together. The possibilities, as I said, are endless so let's put together a template for what a good, hearty grain bowl should look like for your lunch.

Start with a healthy grain: Millets, quinoa and wheatberries are my favourites but you could also go for brown rice or couscous. Cooking times vary and if you are going for something hardy like the millet above, you need to plan ahead. I soak millet the night before, then pressure cook it until it's cooked through.

Add a protein: Even as a vegetarian, there are many options to pick from. You could add slices of tofu or paneer (Indian cottage cheese). Lentils work well too. If all else fails, just top off the whole thing with a poached egg.

Now for the veggies: Preferably, add some greens to add color and flavour. Spray or brush a nonstick pan with olive oil, then stir fry spinach or swiss chard or kale until wilted.

Something fresh: So far, everything's cooked or stir fried in your bowl so add some sparkle with tomatoes. Orange and grapefruit segments work well too. And if neither of these complement the flavours you already have in the bowl, add a handful of fresh herbs.

Something crunchy, something fun: Now that you have the key elements of the bowl in place, go crazy with the toppings that add another layer of texture. Nuts, toasted seeds, crispy seaweed, olives, capers, sundried tomatoes - these are elements that pack a punch even though you will add them in tiny quantities.

Finally, dress your bowl: The goal is to eat healthy so the dressing has to match. Depending on what you have in your bowl, even a dash of balsamic vinegar or lime juice may suffice. Or you could go for a vinaigrette. My bowl was looking fairly oriental with millet, kale, tomatoes, nori and toasted sesame seeds so I concocted my dressing by mixing up soy sauce, sriracha and rice wine vinegar.

Happy eating, everyone! May all your goals for 2017 come true.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Top Flavours of 2016

With only a few hours to go before the new year rings in, all my feeds are full of reminiscences of the year past. And what a crazy, crazy year 2016 has been. But no matter what ups and downs the world and the life throws your way, there's always food.

From myriad variety of new dishes I tried this year, I have culled for you the top 9 flavours I discovered this year. Some you may know, and others are for you to add to your wishlist for 2017.



1. Desi Chai: In my mind, chai has always been something you drink at home. When outside, it was almost coffee for me since restaurants and cafes usually get the tea flavour wrong. Then Chaayos happened. Their desi chai is good a tea as I make at home. Plus you can customise it any way you want - add more milk or less, make it light or strong and choose from a wide range of spices. If you must know, my standard order is a full milk kadak (strong) chai with tulsi and ginger. With a bun maska, I now prefer it to starbucks.

2. Butter Pecan Ice Cream: This one has been on the Indigo deli menu forever but I only discovered it earlier this year. It's saltier and nuttier than you expect, and a better icecream is hard to find in Mumbai.

3. Baked Brie: A classic this one, yet 212 All Good in Lower Parel, Mumbai managed to reinvent it with a dash of honey and some amazing crackers to dip into the melty cheese.

4. Jhama's Gulab Jamuns: I've had many a gulab jamun in my life - most bad or average, some good. And what a delightful surprise it was to discover this sweet shop in Chembur's Sindhi Camp rightfully claiming its place as the best gulab jamun in Mumbai. For fans of this deep fried happiness, Jhama has versions ranging from tiny bite sized pieces to some unique variants like the ones soaked in rabdi.

5. Gobindobhog Rice: In Punjab, I grew up eating only the basmati rice. Over the years, I've tried and liked a few other varieties. But when the folks at Lavaash by Saby in Delhi brought out this ghee laden Bengali rice, it even outshone the excellent Armenian curries it was meant to accompany. Fragrant and flavourful, this has potential to become my favourite rice variety.

6. Savoury Panchamrit: Earlier this year, I made a trip to Konkan coast with the folks at JW Marriott. At one of the homestays, we tried this super flavourful coconut soup that derives its name from the five flavours (savoury, spicy, sweet, sour, bitter) that go into its making. Think of this one as khowsuey on steroids.

7. Almond Croissant: Blue Tokai entered Mumbai this year and this Delhi roastery proudly takes its place as the best cafe in town. And the croissants that accompany this coffee are buttery, flaky and simply perfect. They sell three variants of croissants of which my favourite is the almond crusted, lightly sweet version.

8. Pithla Hummus: 2016 was the year of modern Indian and fusion food. Most of it failed but where it worked, it worked brilliantly. The newly opened Kala Ghoda restaurant, Hitchki, came up with an Indian mezze platter that blew me away. The pithla hummus is surely an improvement on the original by a big margin.

9. Polenta: Yes, polenta gets a bad rap but that's because it's so difficult to cook well. When Mumbai's favourite fine dine restaurant Olive got a new chef earlier this year, he added a polenta dish to the menu that is full of Mediterranean flavours and vegetables that make the dish sparkle.

That's it for 2016 folks. Hope your new year is sweet, salty, nutty and chock-full of love.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Cake




Decked out streets, lit up trees and loads of delicious food - there are plenty of reasons Christmas is my favourite time of the year. We don't really celebrate Christmas at our place but I've made it a tradition to bake a fruit cake every year. Some years, I soak my dried fruits in advance and there is a traditional cake. This year, though, I only got my act together yesterday and with just a day to go for Christmas, I went for the most logical fallback of Christmas cake procrastinators, the mincemeat cake.

Mincemeat, for the uninitiated, is a British concoction of raisins, apples and other dried fruits cooked down with sugar, butter and rum (or sherry or brandy - some booze basically). It's used to fill mince pies that most Londoners loathe but I love. And I love mincemeat so much I use it to make cookies and this year, cake. This is how I make mincemeat. The fruits I use vary each year and this year's batch was a mix of golden and black raisins, prunes and just because I had a bottle open, sweet white wine instead of rum.

Once you have a jar of mincemeat, the cake is simple. I picked a recipe by Delia Smith and this has to be the best cake I've ever baked, even if I say so myself. I know I'm posting this at the end of Christmas day but it's winter still and this will make an excellent snacking cake to have around the house. At the very least, bookmark this for the next Christmas.

Ingredients
(adapted to my 7 inch tin; Delia's original recipe is for an 8 inch deep tin)

For the day before
250 grams mincemeat
100 ml sweet white wine
150 grams raisins or mixed dried fruits
75 grams chopped dried figs

For the cake
100 grams butter
90 grams dark brown sugar
2 tbsp date syrup or molasses
2 eggs
150 grams plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
zest of 2 limes
50 grams almonds, chopped

The day before you are to make the cake, put all the presoaking ingredients in a bowl, stir to mix, cover and leave in the fridge.

The next day, make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Set the oven to preheat at 170C and line the base of a 7 inch springform tin with parchment paper. Whisk butter, brown sugar and date syrup until they are mixed through. Add the eggs and whisk to combine. Mix the flour with baking powder and lime zest in a separate bowl, then add to the mixture alongwith pre-soaked mince and dried fruits. With a wooden or silicon spatula, mix everything together and pour into the prepared tin. Smooth the mixture as much as you can with the back of a spoon and sprinkle chopped almonds all over the top of the cake mixture.

Bake for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the cake is cooked through and the centre springs back when lightly touched. Let cool in the tin for half an hour, then unmould and cool complete on a wire rack. Delia says the cake will keep 3-4 weeks in an airtight tin but with new year's eve around the corner, I won't blame you for polishing this off in the next week or so.

Monday, November 28, 2016

An Equal World for Diabetics

Diabetes is a disease that afflicts millions of Indians. It doesn't kill, but it asks for lifestyle changes that usually take away most of the fun from your life. I come from a family of diabetics and things that normal people do - eating out, going to pubs - become a challenge when every food and drink option you have out there is laden with sugar.

Seema Pinto is a diabetic who had the same problem and instead of sitting around eating a green salad at parties, she decided to do something about it. Last year, Seema started Diabetic Food Trail. In its second avatar, the month long festival is bigger and better. What Diabetic Food Trail does is encourage regular restaurants to come up with diabetes friendly menus. This year, the menus run from 12-30 November at 61 restaurants in Mumbai and many more in Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Pune. There are also fitness bootcamps, cooking masterclasses and dessert trails.

When Seema invited me to try out the diabetic food menu, I wanted to pick a restaurant that typically serves heavy, calorie and carb laden food. Which is why I went to sample the special menu at Made in Punjab. I was curious to see how these purveyors of butter-laden curries and dal makhani will cope. As it turns out, they cope really well, serving a menu that retains the fine dining Indian food persona but is easy on calories, carbs and glycemic index.



We started with a buttermilk that came swathed in smoke from the dry ice it was sitting on. The soup was a spinach consomme - light yet flavourful with mint. For starters, a green salad and a veggie kebab full of green vegetables. The mains let go of the signature dal makhani in favour of a lighter mixed dal. My friend tried out both the chicken and mutton curries and pronounced them as good as the ones they cook at home. I love theatrics in my food and there was drama aplenty in the strawberry sphere that came as palate cleanser and the phirni that was shockingly cold and smoky from, you guessed it right, dry ice.

I added up the calories and even with a rich multi-course menu, we came in at 900 calories. This has to less than half of what a regular lunch at Made in Punjab sets you back. Plus the chef told us there wasn't a drop of cream or butter in everything we were served. Despite these omissions, I felt the food was higher on the taste quotient than anything I've had at Made in Punjab before so I only hope Seema can convince these restaurants to run such menus all year round and not just for three weeks.

Now, I couldn't go round tasting food at all the other 60 restaurants but I got quite a taste of what they had in store when Seema took us around on a dessert trail. An apt thing to do, since desserts are the bane of a diabetics' life - you end up sitting around when everyone is eating something tempting at the end of the meal. We headed downtown one Sunday afternoon and covered five of the participating restaurants in Nariman Point, Cuffe Parade and Kala Ghoda.



During the course of the afternoon, we sampled everything from light panacottas to flavour laden matcha crepes. Then there were cheesecakes, so many cheesecakes. The desserts ranged from average to simply sublime but none were bad and all are a progress in making diabetics happier at the end of their meals.

If I have one complaint, it is that way too many restaurants took the easy route of replacing sugar with Splenda or Stevia. Which is why the one dessert that stood out to me was the sweet potato and chocolate cake at the Sassy Spoon. It builds on the natural sweetness of the ingredients, eschewing artificial sweeteners and making for a delicious, hearty dessert.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Sassy Chef



First, there was the Sassy Spoon, a rare fine dining cocoon in the bustling business district that is Nariman Point. Then came another one in Bandra's Hill Road and a few months back, a cute Juhu bakery called The Sassy Teaspoon. Even if you didn't make it to the restaurant, you couldn't help notice their charming Tata Nano zipping around the neighbourhood, apparently to pick up and drop off customers. I've had many a lunch at the Nariman Point Sassy Spoon but hadn't managed to make it to the Bandra outlet. So when they went through a recent menu change, this was my opportunity to sit down with the very talented yet super modest chef behind the brand - Irfan Pabaney.

The Starter

The Sassy Spoon in Bandra has that mix of quirkiness and old world charm. When I walk in for lunch, the outdoor seating space is bright and cheery with the sunshine. Service, always a high point in the Nariman Point branch, is equally warm and welcoming here as I sit down to talk about Irfan's life story. But first, the food. Irfan's first pick of starters from the new menu at Bandra is a bright and vibrant raw papaya and mango salad. There is crunch from peppers, freshness from the greens and richness from fried onions and a gorgeous dressing. Every element perfectly balanced.



As I munch on my starter salad, I discover Irfan is a quintessential Bombay boy. He spent his early years in Philippines, and the Asian influences still show in his food. But he finished high school in Mumbai, at which point he wanted to go into hotel management. He somehow got late sending in his application and ended up doing a regular graduation. He still wanted into hotel management though, and went for a post graduate course over at Sophia's. That's when he finally figured he wanted to be a chef, not just a hotel manager. A 20 year restaurant stint followed, starting with a 5 star hotel but a lot of it working with the legendary Rahul Akerkar, someone Irfan counts as a friend and a mentor.

We reminiscence about Irfan's move away from Rahul's continental food at 'Under the Over' and into Asian cooking at that now-shut Bandra hotspot, Seijo and the Soul Dish. From Seijo, Irfan moved back to do continental cooking with Rahul at Indigo and then more Asian with the Hakassan group. By this time, it was 2012 and Irfan was itching to break out on his own.

The Mains

A chef's journey is a lonely one, and your choice of partners often determines that thin line between success and failure. For his maiden venture, Irfan teamed up with investor and baker Rachel Goenka. The first Sassy opened in February 2013 with an eclectic menu that's basically all of Irfan's cooking philosophy on a plate. There is no one cuisine - the flavours a mix of pan-Asian, European and Indian - but every plate is perfectly balanced and flavourful. This is no molecular gastronomy and no fussy, foamy stuff; just simple yet modern cooking that makes sense. As an example, Irfan brings out a sweet corn soup that they set, then batter and deep fry so it's like eating fresh sweetcorn. Both the texture and the sauce work perfectly.



My mains of mushroom tortellini come in one of the most flavorful porcini broths you can imagine. Fresh, honest and balanced seems to define not just the food at Sassy but the chef as well. Even as we talk, Irfan is busy phoning the Sassy staff in Nariman Point, organising events they are looking to host over the next few days and getting logistics in place. He is clearly a chef who knows not just the kitchen but also the business of food very well.

The Dessert



Rachel Goenka's desserts perfectly complement Irfan's food at the Sassy Spoon. I often find red velvet cake too sweet but here it comes paired with a capuccino cream that breaks the sweetness. I also sample an excellent basil and pinenut ice cream, and make a mental note to come back for their famous scones and afternoon tea.

As we wind down our meal, we finally get talking about Irfan the person. Naturally, the talk quickly veers to what he himself likes to eat when not at Sassy. He doesn't cook very often at home, he says. And eating out is often a social occasion that gets controlled by what the family wants. But even there, he likes simple Indian flavours best. His favourite is the thali at Shree Thaker Bhojanalay. And anything mutton - he reminds me of the childhood in Philippines where seafood and chicken were the most obvious choices. He still enjoys fish, but will eat a good mutton curry every chance he gets.

There is already a fantastic Goan bread on the Nariman Point menu and more Indian influences in the Bandra menu, so I really hope there is an Indian restaurant in Irfan's and Sassy's future. I sure will be the first one to queue up to eat at the Sassy Indian.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gnocchi



They say you have to be an Italian grandmother to make light, pillowy gnocchi. Now that's the kind of statement that keeps you from trying out making your own potato gnocchi. But I happened to have some boiled potatoes at hand and an extra hour to kill so I finally gave the recipe a shot. And won't I surprised at how easy it turned out to be. Plus for a first attempt, not bad at all.

So go ahead, boil a potato or two and give Italian grannies some competition in the gnocchi department. You can also make your own tomato sauce (and the recipe for that follows) but this gnocchi will be equally good tossed in some butter and herbs or mixed with some creamy alfredo if that's more your thing.

Ingredients
For gnocchi
2 potatoes, boiled
3 tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper to taste
For tomato sauce4 tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tbsp oregano
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
10-12 basil leaves

The sauce takes longer to cook so lets start with that. Peel the tomatoes - you do that by blanching them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then putting them in cold water so the peel just slides off. Quarter the peeled tomatoes, take out the seeds and puree the deseeded slices in a blender. Put the puree in a saucepan alongwith canned tomato paste/puree, vinegar, oregano, chilli flakes and garlic powder. Add 1 cup water and bring the whole mix to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and let the sauce cook on its own for 45 minutes to an hour until it is reduced to a consistency you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mince half the basil leaves and mix into the sauce, reserving the rest for garnish.

Time for gnocchi now. Peel the potatoes and grate/mash them. Add salt and fresh ground pepper. Add 2 tbsp flour and knead lightly until you have a dough. You might need to add some more flour, depending on your potatoes. Just mix until the potatoes and dough are combined, taking care not to handle the dough too much. Divide the dough into two halves and roll each half into a rope about 1/2 inch thick. Cut off 1 inch pieces of the rope and press each against a fork to create indentations on your gnocchi.

Boil water in a saucepan and add 1 tsp salt to it. Drop gnocchi into boiling water 5-6 at a time. They will rise to the top in 2-3 minutes; keep cooking for around a minute after that. Remove with a slotted spoon and pop straight into the simmering sauce. Mix lightly until the gnocchi are coated with the sauce. Serve garnished with basil leaves and if you like, parmesan cheese.