Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Fat Duck

Beet root risotto by Bombay Foodie

How do you describe the most amazing meal of your life. It's almost a whole day since I got back from lunch at Heston Bluementhal's "The Fat Duck". And I still can't find the words to explain what you experience as you sit there for four hours, enjoying his decadent 14 course tasting menu.

Maybe I'd start where he starts, the amuse bouche that was one of the my favorite courses. Sweet aerated beets with horseradish cream, the whole package looking like a tiny red velvet whoopie pie. The next course was an apertif. In mad scientist way, the server brought liquid nitrogen and converted vodka and lime or campari and orange into meringue like things that numbed your tongue and set you up for flavor assault about to hit you.

The other courses that would make my top 5 hall of fame include this risotto you see above. It's not from his main menu, and I only got it because I am a vegetarian. This is beetroot risotto topped with radish carpaccio, some kind of foam and frozen sour cream pellets. The other unlikely candidate to make it to the bestseller list was smoked mushroom jelly with frozen pea like thingies (I am pretty sure they were not actual peas).

And rounding up the top 5 list is what I thought was the best course of the day - the black forest gateau. I've read Heston's book where he went in search of the best black forest cake. What came out of that search is a cake with flavors so complex they overwhelm you. Heston also revels in cold and frozen foods (there were plenty of them through the meal) but nothing came close to the kirsch ice cream that was served alonside our black forest.

I also need to tell you about the weird and whacky stuff. You've probably heard of sound of the sea already - where they hand you ipod in a shell so you listen to the waves as you eat a course made to look like a beach with sea foam and sand and fish. But even whackier was mad hatter's tea party. Inspired from alice in wonderland, you get served a mock turtle soup, a gold pocket watch that you dunk in the said soup and "toast sandwich" - which is quite literally a toast sandwiched between two other slices of bread. Made very interesting of course, with the addition of truffles and mustard and cucumber.

The tasting menu is pricey but the service standards there kind of make up for it. Tons of people hover around you, making you feel special. Every course comes with its own set of instructions and the servers know enough about the food to answer any questions that come to mind. Given how whacky the food is, I certainly had plenty of questions.

Once you've finished your meal and are on to coffee, they will even quietly order a taxi to take you to the station. And away from the wonderland. But you still have a copy of the menu and a bag of sweets (the last course that no one ever manages to eat!) to remind you it was not all a dream.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chop!

Just when I thought he was getting old and a little bit fat, Jamie Oliver has landed himself another winner. His new "store", just opposite Notting Hill Gate, is called Recipease. On the ground floor is a takeout-cum-Jamie's signature cookware kind of shop. And some cooking counters, and stairs leading up to what at first glance is a chilled out cafe. But then, it's also a cooking school.

I signed up for knife skills class last week. It's something I've wanted to do for a while but also felt that it could be a bore - what's fun about chopping vegetables for a couple of hours. Well, let me tell you then, the class at Jamie's is actually fun. You walk in and get offered a glass of wine. Given that I was just about to be handed some very sharp knives, I stuck to water and saved that wine until after the class.

Then the class started. But it didn't feel like one. It felt instead, like you've walked into a friend's house, and she wants you to stand in the kitchen and chat while she fixes the dinner. Dinner in this case was an Asian prawn salad. And so the two women teaching the class started by cleaning the prawns. Then they showed us how to finely chop chillies, ginger, garlic and onions. At this stage, everyone went to their own stations and practised chopping everything that went into the dressing.

Next, we went back to the demo station and learnt to do a chiffonade with the cabbage that went into the salad. And chopped other assorted vegetables. Back to station, repeat the chopping for yourself, add the dressing and that's your dinner. Here's a picture of my finished salad, just before we sat down at one of the cafe tables to eat.


So was it all fun and chatting and eating out with friends? Oh no! although it never felt like we were in a class, I went home having learnt a lot about the proper way to handle knives, how to save your hands from getting cut and that "rockstar" cutting movement TV chefs always awe you with. The teachers make sure you have fun but they also make sure you learn something at the end of the class. Therein lies the genius of Recipease!

Friday, September 14, 2012

When in Rome...

It is impossible to do as the Romans do. Because there aren't any! Every person I saw on the streets of Rome was a tourist carrying a map. Ah well, travel is meant to burst long held myths and this was certainly not the only one. From the last month of travel, I picked for you what I think of as three top myths:

Myth No. 1: China is Cheap
It has to be, right? After all, they export everything to the whole world. But no, it isn't. At least, not where we were in Shanghai. Every restaurant meal I had was way more expensive than what I would pay in London. Shopping was nowhere less than London prices either. Even Starbucks sells their cappuccino at prices at least 30% higher than anywhere else. Now you go figure.

Myth No. 2: French people are unfriendly and won't give you the time of the day if you don't speak French
Now come on, they were all so friendly. And absolutely everyone, not just the hotel people but passer-bys you ask directions from or wait staff in cafes, spoke some form of English. Or at least tried to, and made themselves understood. And they were amazingly helpful. When my friend got a little sick and went to a pharmacy, the lady not only offered suggestions for over the counter medicines but as a prescription was required in this case, phoned up a doctor and got an instant appointment.

Myth No. 3: You find good pizza everywhere in Italy
Not in Rome for sure! I assure you I went to more than one pizza place the guides recommend. And I insist I have eaten way better pizza in Mumbai. In fact, Rome turned out to be much harder to navigate than Paris, with far fewer people speaking English (and they were all tourists anyway! where are the Romans???). And even when, after lots of searching, I found a much recommended pizzeria or a restaurant, it usually disappointed.

What you do eat very well in Rome is gelato. Since I could not make myself understood well enough to find decent restaurants, I resorted to eating at least 5 scoops of gelato a day. And on this one, you can't go wrong even if you go to that chain called Blue Ice. But if you want to be completely blown away by how good ice cream can get, you have to look for artisan gelato makers. Like this one I went to repeatedly near Trevi fountain, where the lady sold us the most amazing melon and coconut flavors. Or the one next to piazza navona where the peach flavor was completely mindboggling. I don't remember the names of these gelato shops because I went to so many, but I never ate a bad scoop so just eat at the one nearest to you. A pity I can't say the same for their pizza!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Top 5 Things to Eat in Paris

When I planned my trip to Paris, I paid little attention to museums and art and all those things first time tourists think about. In fact, I only had two spots on my to-do list - Pierre Herme and Laduree. But because you can't live on pastry alone (well, you can, but let's say you need some variety!), I also bookmarked this highly informative post from my favorite American in Paris, David Lebovitz.

I stayed pretty close to the program, even though an occasional trip to Eiffel Tower or art gazing at a museum crept in, a temporary diversion from the feast in Paris. From all those meals, I've culled for you five things you should not even think about missing if you find yourself in Paris:

1. Start your day at Pierre Herme with a fantastic croissant. Or better still, a kugelof or a buttery koign amman.

2. If you find yourself at Pierre Herme after breakfast time, treat yourself to an ishpahan.

3. Or go to Laduree instead. You can linger in their tea room. But what's the fun in that. Instead, tell them to pack you as many salted caramel macarons as you can carry and eat them as you walk around the city or sit in a park.

4. People will tell you Angelina has the best hot chocolate in the world. On this, I disagree. But I urge you to go there anyway and eat a pain aux raisin. What makes this flaky confection different, and better, at Angelina is the addition of candied orange peel.

5. This is going to sound like really strange. But the best meal I had in Paris was a falafel. Guided by David to L'As du Fallafel, I found a crowded hole in the wall making the most amazing falafels.

But then, the best meals of Paris are not in any of its restaurants or cafes. What you need to do is make your way to Rue Cler, a pedestrian lane near Eiffel Tower. And there, you buy a grainy baguette, some soft cheese (tell the cheese shop what kinds you like, and let them find the perfect one for you) and fruits. Mirabelle plums were in season when I was there, and so were little wild strawberries. Add a bottle of wine and take it all back to your hotel for a picnic. Or better still, do as Parisians do - find a sunny spot on the bank of Seine and spread your picnic. A better meal you will not find anywhere else in the city!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ispahan

Ispahan by Bombay Foodie
We need to talk, you and I! In the two months I've been gone from these pages, I've collected so many stories I need to tell you. Stories of course, of experiences in London and school and what not. But also of travels to China and a trip out to Europe.

Or I could just sum up all these new experiences in one word - Ispahan! For the uninitiated, ispahan is a pastry created by the legendary Parisian pastry chef Pierre Herme. And in one little treat, it sums up everything that's right with the world.

What you see up there is a crunchy rose flavored pink macaron. The filling is a rose petal buttercream, which has some lychees mixed in. This is then topped with fresh raspberries.

A trifle sweet, a little tart, and very, very pretty - that's how life's been lately. And this time, I am going to be back and blogging regularly so make sure you check back to hear the stories.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Julia Child's Life in France

Chocolate Cake by Bombay Foodie

This may seem like a long time ago but back in May, our book club - This Book Makes Me Cook - picked the iconic book "My Life in France" by Julia Child. I've read this book before, I've seen the Meryl Streep movie based on the book and I readily re-read this highly enjoyable saga last month. I even created a dish inspired from the book. But it's been so crazy around here with exams and assignments that I've only just gotten around to telling you about it.

First the book, it's all about Julia. And the way she immersed herself in France the moment she arrived. In all the culinary surprises Paris has in store for her, her trips to the coast to see that special food and her training at Cordon Bleu, the real Julia shines through. Her passion and her personality then reflect in the book she writes with her two new found friends. A book that has inspired home cooks ever since.

I could have picked a French dish from the book. But to me, the message that Julia is trying to send across is that cooking should be simple and it should be perfect. So I decided to look for the perfect version of one recipe that's been out of reach so far - chocolate cake. Well, I do have a fabulous eggless chocolate cake I swear by and a fantastic flourless cake I will tell you about sometime. But so far, I had nothing going in the normal chocolate sheet cake/cupcake world.

I only tried one recipe but I agonized over which one to bake for weeks. The final choice was Chocolate-Chocolate cupcakes from my other baking icon, Dorie Greenspan. Perfectly moist, and topped with an intense chocolate topping, these cupcakes were an instant hit at a party I took them to.

And we might have some exciting book read coming up this month, so write in if you would like to read along.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Orange Berry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins by Bombay Foodie

Now people claim all sorts of distinctions between muffins and cupcakes. But except for the fact that one has icing and the other doesn't, muffins are really just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. A concept I am totally in favor of. These are even healthy, with so many blueberries in there.

The recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My home to yours and it produces a tender, light cake that I loved. There is also loads of citrusy sparkle in there that simply makes the muffins shine.

Outside of these small touches, its your standard muffin recipe. You line 6 muffin tins with paper (I got 8 muffins but then I have tiny tins!). Then you mix up the liquids whisking together in this order: 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup buttermilk, one egg, 1 1/2 tbsp honey and 50 grams melted and cooled butter.

Next the dry ingredients. Rub 2 tbsp sugar with zest of a lemon. Mix in 1 cup plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of baking soda and another pinch of salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, stir to mix and finally add 1/2 cup fresh blueberries.

Divide the batter among muffin cups, filling them 2/3rd the way and bake for around 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Halloumi

Halloumi by Bombay Foodie
This is officially my new favorite cheese. It's not that I hadn't seen the appeal of halloumi before. But living in India, it is hard to replace paneer with any other choice. London, on the other hand, has slim pickings as far as paneer goes. The packets of frozen or stale paneer don't really excite me and rather than compromise with bad versions of my favorite, I've been eating more of the other varieties of cheeses. And before you ask, yes, I know how to make my own paneer. But i have a rather hectic class schedule and paneer making doesn't fit in currently.

So back to halloumi. And London's short lived summer. For about a week, the temperature rose to 28 degrees and it was sunny. And everyone was wearing short skirts. Then it started raining and we are squarely back into the 14 degree weather and warm jackets all round.

I did have halloumi on a barbeque during the summer week. But then, I wanted to have it again yesterday amidst a rainy storm. So I made it on a grill pan. I cut thin slices of halloumi. Put them in a wide bowl and drizzled over a tbsp of olive oil and juice of a lemon. The cheese is already over salty so this is all you need. Half an hour later, I put the cheese slices on a hot grill pan and cooked both sides until browned.

You see it served here over sharp rocket and sweet baby plum tomatoes, both flavors that work very well with the cheese!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tomato Bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta by Bombay Foodie

Do you know where to find the best tasting tomatoes in the world? Head to Pioneer Woman's recipe for bruschetta. I've never been disappointed by anything Ree's recommended but these tomatoes are really special.

Step one - you halve a whole lot of cherry tomatoes. I used all red tomatoes but Ree says to add half yellow if you can find them. And when I say plenty, I mean plenty. Because you're gonna miss them when they are gone. I think I had about 400 grams in there.

Step two - mince five cloves of garlic. Heat olive oil in a pan, add garlic and fry until it's golden but not too brown. Move the oil/garlic mixture to a bowl that will fit all your tomatoes and let cool a bit.

Step three - To the bowl with garlic, add tomatoes, a tbsp of balsamic vinegar, chopped basil, salt and pepper. Mix everything up, cover and put in the fridge for a couple of hours for the flavors to mingle.

You can then toast some bread and top with the tomatoes to make bruschetta. Or you can do a zillion other things with them. Like serve them with pasta. Or cheese. Or just eat on their own.

Oh! and see if you can spot some Greek basil for this one. It's got leaves that are much smaller than your regular basil. I bought a pot from my local Waitrose a couple of months back, and it just keeps on living and giving out leaves of fragrant basil. Looks very pretty on the window sill too!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is that beer in my cake?

Guinness and Chocolate Cake by Bombay Foodie

I don't drink beer. Even in London, where there is a pub at every corner (one right inside my school in fact!), I refuse to touch ales, stouts or lagers. But then I saw this cake on Valerie's website and was hooked. It's guinness and chocolate cake, people and there is a nutella and cream cheese frosting to go with it.

I still might have given it a miss - buying guinness here means buying at least 4 bottles and what would I do with the rest! But I showed my flatmate the pictures and she showed up the next evening with guinness all purchased and waiting to be turned into a cake.

I made this for a girls' night out and it was a total sell out. The texture is different from your typical cake but the guinness makes it so moist. And the frosting...well, if I wasn't taking this cake out for company, I just might have eaten the whole bowl. It was that good!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My favourite salad

My favourite salad by Bombay Foodie

Since I eat this salad at least twice a week ever since I came to London, I thought I might as well tell you about it. It's pretty easy to assemble too - all the effort really happens at the grocery stores.

First the leaves. I am happy for you to pick any of the designer packages of salad leaves. Just make sure it contains some form of rocket. Rocket (or arugula), let me repeat, is a must. In fact, sometimes I do this just with plain arugula. The one you see in the frame above is called baby salad leaves. A couple of months back, my absolute favorite was a brand called Steve's Leaves that sells pea shoots and baby salad leaves.

Once you've washed a couple of handful of leaves and plonked them onto the salad bowl, halved cherry tomatoes are next. Again, the supermarkets have at least 3-4 varieties to pick from over here. But the ones I like best are called baby plum tomatoes. They are sweetish and a great match for spicy leaves.

Next, enough crumbled parmesan to make you happy. Some salt, a couple of twists of fresh ground pepper and finally, a dash of the best balsamic vinegar you can find. I use the one that's aged 5 years. You can find older vinegars but they tend to be too sweet and are best kept aside for an occasional dipping pleasure.

That's it; a perfect lunchtime salad!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I went to a cake decorating class...

Rose Cupcake by Bombay Foodie

Sometimes you need to do certain things before you believe you don't need to! Take cake decorating. I always look wistfully at beautiful cake displays and sigh at the lack of my piping skills.

Now you know I am a self taught cook. If I can't figure out a technique from a recipe or a blog, there is usually a youtube video out there to help. But cake decorating and those neat flowery cupcakes were just not happening for me. So I decided to go to a cupcake decorating class.

London has loads of these 2-3 hour classes and the one I picked was from Sugarshack. It's a lovely way to spend 2 hours. You are given some buttercream, then shown techniques to pipe shells, stars and swirls. Also in the course, the way to color and tint buttercream and make it sparkly.

Once the lesson's done, we were given four cupcakes each to decorate and take home. The one you see above is my pride and joy. I piped in the rose, then sprayed it with pearl lustre spray for that sparkly finish. In fact, I went quite overboard on the bling and covered all cupcakes in glitter and gold dust.

Then I brought the cupcakes home and ate them. And well! they didn't taste half as great as they looked. And with all the buttercream, they were way too sweet for me. That for me is a lesson learnt. I'm going to appreciate these decorated cakes from a distance now. They're great obviously; but they're just not for me!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In the Land of Heston Bluementhal

Chocolate Exploding Cake by Bombay Foodie

I just got back from a jaunt down to London's Oxford Circus and happy to report that everything's just as it should be. Flowers and heart shaped balloons everywhere, stores decked out in pink and red and almost all guys on the bus carrying elaborately wrapped gifts. Pretty much your typical Valentine's Day.

Selfridges (one of my favorite stores) had long queues in front of chocolate and macaron counters. It's gotten slightly warmer here so I treated myself to Pinkberry frozen yogurt instead.

And here's another treat. A chocolate exploding cake, courtesy none other than legendary Heston Bluementhal. Heston does a weekly show on BBC here. He picks an ingredient and shows simple yet quirky dishes on the theme.

The week he picked chocolate, he made this cake. It's very quick to put together and is way too simple on first glance. But nothing's simple in Heston's world.

The bottom layer is store bought shortbread cookies, baked again until they are golden brown. These are then bashed up and mixed with butter, caster sugar and a secret ingredient. Depending on where you grew up, you are looking for either pop rocks or space dust. Either way, this is the exploding bit in your cake.

The top layer is ganache infused with passion fruit. What may seem like a simple addition isn't. I tasted the ganache plain and then after I added passion fruit puree and the transformation was unbelievable.

You then freeze this cake and in Heston's world, spray chocolate all over it with a paint gun. I didn't but it was a decadent dessert all the same.

A word of warning - don't unleash this on unsuspecting guests with weak hearts. This really does explode!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Four Years of Bombay Foodie

Cookies by Bombay Foodie

February 3, 2008: I baked my first cookie. I also wrote my first blogpost.

I didn't know this blog will change so many things in my life.

I didn't know Mumbai food blogger community will grow to 40-odd people. And we'd have so much fun when we meet.

I had no idea I will make so many blogging friends in so many parts of the world.

I also didn't think I will stop buying flowers or wine or other gifts when I go visit a friend and will bake them cookies instead. And they'd all love them so much.

I couldn't imagine the way people's eyes light up when you talk about food, and the way everyone's interested no matter what they do or who they are.

But most of all, I didn't know I'd have so much fun on the way.

To everyone who stopped by Bombay Foodie to read my posts, or leave a comment: A HUGE THANK YOU!