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Showing posts from 2015

Jingle All The Way

Christmas is my favourite time of the year. And looks like a lot of people concur because Bombay seems decked out in the best of trees and lights at this time of the year. At the start of December, I asked all of you to send me your favourite Christmas pictures from around the city. And what a visual treat it has been, to see such gorgeous trees and Christmas set ups.

From all the entries I received, I present to you my top 10 picks. There are some trees plus some other fun things folks came up with this year. Trees first:

1. The star studded tree at Inorbit Mall



2. My favourite of the lot - white Christmas at Trident in BKC



3. The wooden tree at Taj Mahal Tea House in Bandra



4. The wine bottle tree at Sofitel in BKC



5. The tree that travelled the furthest - all the way from Four Points Sheraton in Vashi



And now on to other cute Christmassy things:

6. Elf's house at Oberoi Mall



7. Santa's sleigh at Pheonix Market City in Kurla



8. Hamley's London themed snow globe at Phoen…

Sugarcraft at Home: Marzipan Apples

I was a bit scared when I asked Zeba for a recipe. If there is one thing I haven't managed to learn in years of dessert making, it's tempering chocolate. And I was pretty sure that whatever recipe this chocolatier sends me, it will have me pulling out double boilers and thermometers. In the end, I did temper chocolate and it was easier than I thought it will be. The resulting candy was also super delicious and totally worth it.

This being December, Zeba shared with me her Christmas recipe for marzipan bonbons. What she does is pour tempered chocolate in the mould to create a shell, fills it with home made marzipan and tops it with more chocolate. I decided to play around with the recipe a bit and created these marzipan apples instead. I must admit I am not a fan of marzipan. Commercial marzipan must be blamed here because it is overly sweet and lacks any kind of texture. But Zeba's marzipan isn't too sweet and by rolling my chocolate dipped marzipan apples in pink hue…

Sugarcrafter: Zeba Kohli

Zeba Kohli did not head home like other children did after school. She went instead to her grandfather's chocolate shop in Marine Lines. As her grandfather and her mother went about their business of making and selling chocolates from the first 'Fantasie Chocolate', she sat in the office and finished her homework. Maybe she didn't want to become a chocolatier at first - she mentions that she studied Physics. But it was at an early age that Zeba took over the reins of the family business and not much later that she became a chocolatier extraordinaire, creating sweet treats that are synonymous with artisan chocolate in Mumbai.

The transition could not have been easy. After all, Zeba was not trained as a chef. But her inquisitive nature kicked in when she joined the business and she added to all the chocolate knowledge she had absorbed from her family by going to training courses around the world. "My grandfather will call one of his pastry chef friends in France an…

The Year of the Bao

I will start with a confession. Up until about two years back, I had no clue what a bao is. Yes, I had heard of folks raving about the pork belly bao at The Table but I had it filed away as something steamed and meaty that doesn't really concern me. Then Cafe Nemo opened and a little over a year back, I had my first taste of their tofu and mushroom baos.

Since then, it looks to me that everyone is putting a bao or two on the menu. The Fatty Bao opened earlier this year with a menu that left everyone raving about pork bellies. And The Bao Haus followed a few months later, doing a 'delivery only' business. But not all baos are created equal. There is monkey bar doing a paneer bhurji steamed bun, and Social calls its pita sandwiches 'pita baos' to cash in on the excitement. It can get pretty confusing.

If you are a vegetarian and a bao newbie like me, look no further. I have checked out all the baos and pseudo-baos in town, skipped over the pork bellied ones and pick…

The Dals of Punjab

If your knowledge of Punjabi cuisine comes from visits to dhabas and 'North Indian' restaurants, you can be excused for thinking that dal makhani is the only lentil dish eaten in Punjab. Made with whole black gram and laden with butter and spices, the delicious dal makhani is in fact a special occasion treat. Also, because it is tedious and takes a long time to cook, even Punjabis prefer getting a takeout of dal makhani from one of the many neighbourhood dhabas.

Also, the toor dal or arhar dal, a pulse that most of India (I'm thinking of you Gujarat, Maharashtra and UP) eats every day has no place in Punjabi cooking. My parents didn't even know such a thing existed until the first 'South Indian Dosa' place opened up in the 1980s and starting serving sambhar.

So what lentils do we cook then? A whole variety of them. In my home, where a lentil dish is cooked for dinner pretty much every day, the options range from the 'light' moong dal to both red and br…

Contest Alert: The Best Christmas Tree

Today is the first day of the Christmas month, which means that soon enough, the hotels, shopping malls and streets of Bombay will be sparkling with lights. Every year, the city puts up an impressive array of Christmas trees and decorations. This year, you can help Bombay Foodie find the best looking Christmas Tree and win a prize too!

Here's how it works:

1. Click a picture of your favourite Christmas Tree or an interesting christmas decor you spot around town. The picture must be of a tree/christmas decor that is:
(a) set up for 2015 Christmas
(b) within the city limits of Mumbai/Greater Mumbai and
(c) accessible to public (for example, in a shopping mall or a hotel or store)

2. Leave a comment here with a link to the picture or share it with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by tagging it with #BombayChristmas. Do mention where the picture was taken.

3. Just to make sure I know you and can reach you, please follow BombayFoodie on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram and tag @…

In praise of ID

You will rarely hear me talking about specific food brands on this page. But this one brand in particular needs to be talked about. Because unlike Zomato or Tiny Owl, ID hasn't pulled in zillions of dollars in investment funds. Nor do you see them roping in Shahrukh Khans of the world and advertising on TV.

Quietly, simply, one day the packs of ID idli-dosa batter showed up on the racks of my neighbourhood supermarket. Bombay's used to buying packs of dosa batter already so let me tell you what ID does better. The batter is sealed in a thick, ziplock bag that you can pop in the fridge. It's also already salted, so you can pour ladlefuls of batter out directly onto idli moulds or the dosa tavaa. The batter is also perfectly fermented every single time.

ID batter works equally well for idlis and dosas. Also, on the days you are feeling fanciful or have sudden guests, you can drop spoonfuls of batter into hot oil and deep fry into the vadas you see above. Then a few months b…

Thanksgiving Bread

India does not have a Thanksgiving tradition. But then, tradition or not, what's the point in ignoring a festival devoted almost entirely to eating and shopping. As a vegetarian, the turkey meal at thanksgiving is not of much interest to me. But there are so many sides to pick from and so many variations on the pumpkin. So for today's thanksgiving special, I bring you a bread roll that's not only shaped like a tiny, squat pumpkin but is also chock full of pumpkin puree and flavour.

The pumpkin bread was the bread of the month at my bread baking group 'We Knead to Bake'. Every recipe I have baked with this group has been a winner and this is no exception. The rolls that come out of the oven are super soft and amazing with a pat a butter. Plus the house smells of cinnamon and ginger and nutmeg for hours. The original recipe makes 8 rolls but I halved it so the one below makes 4 tiny pumpkins, just enough for 1-2 people.

Ingredients3 tbsp. warm milk 1 tbsp. honey
1 ts…

The Soul of Punjab

The moment you mention to someone that you are a Punjabi and a foodie, you are likely to hear one of the two things in the sentence that follows: 'Butter Chicken' or 'Sarson ka Saag'. Of these two iconic dishes, butter chicken is a year round phenomenon and of little interest to me as a vegetarian. But let's talk of sarson ka saag or mustard greens that are just coming into season and will be a staple diet in Punjab for the next three months.

Before I get to the recipe, I need to add a little preface about the food in Punjab. We are an agrarian state, which means that most of our traditional dishes are peasant food - simple to make and hearty enough to help the men and women brave a hard day of work on the fields. Even though most folks I know no longer sweat it out on the fields, not much has changed food wise. Dainty dishes, small portions and fancy food doesn't really go down well in my hometown and literally everything gets served with a large dollop of ho…

Happy Diwali

The last few days, my drive back from work has been brighter than usual with buildings and malls all lit up. The markets are all full of people scrambling for last minute gifts. And any minute now, the air will get thick with smoke of firecrackers, the sky will light up with shooting stars. No wonder then, that Diwali is my favourite time of the year.

Our family has always bought rather than cooked diwali sweets so we don't really have a tradition of any special diwali dishes. This year though, I wanted to create a special dessert. I chose to take on my favourite jalebi. Typically, jalebi spirals are deep fried and then immediately dunked into sugar syrup, making them way too sweet. When I fried my jalebis though, I added a tiny bit of sugar into the dough itself so they were crisp and lightly sweet. And then I spooned over an orange caramel sauce, adding some citrusy goodness. There is more sauce to dunk your jalebis in if you want them sweeter. To round off the hot jalebi with …

Winter Panacotta

We are at that time of the year that's the cusp between summer and winter. It never really gets too cold in Mumbai but the air will start getting a little nippy in the evenings soon. Even when everyone is starting to talk about pumpkins and gingerbread, right now it feels too early to let go of the bright fruits and vegetables of the summer. Which is why this panacotta is a perfect dessert.

The panacotta itself is the 'warm' and wintery element in the dessert, full of cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger. To complement the creamy panacotta, I have added two more components. Well, three if you count the fresh pomegranate seeds. In addition to the pomegranate seeds, there is a pomegranate syrup, made fresh at home and tangy enough to cut through the panacotta's sweetness. The final element - the chocolate soil - provides the much needed textural contrast.

If you have never made panacotta before, let me assure you that this is the easiest dessert to whip together. No good pan…

Aloo Tikkis and Memories

My favourite memories of college are the time spent with my four friends. There were classes of course, but there were also long gossip sessions in the garden. And when we could afford it (not too often at the time), there was food. I recall our college had a juice guy and we went on a juice kick for a while. And then there was the canteen - fairly basic cafe - dishing out coffee and samosas and other fried snacky stuff.

One dish in particular stands out - the band tikki or potato tikki in a bun. This was the precursor to McDonalds aloo tikki burger; a potato patty fried and encased in a burger-like bun, full of spicy chutneys. I was the nerdy type in school and a friend of mine claims she would offer to buy me band tikki after class, so I could bring her up to speed on whatever got taught that day. Fact or not, a mention of band tikki still brings a smile to all our faces.

I make band tikki often. At first, I used to make the potato patty from scratch. But a few months back, I disco…

Barmbrack

Halloween is just around the corner which means that foodies and bloggers have started thinking about spooky foods to put on the table. However, if scary food and candy is not the way you lean, you will be glad to hear of this Irish hallow's eve tradition that my bread baking group 'We Knead to Bake' has found - the barmbrack. The name of the bread literally means speckled bread, on account of the bread being studded with raisins. There are all kinds of dried fruits you can use and I went for a combination of golden raisins and apricots. The original recipe I saw used sultanas and cranberries for a much better colour contrast so pick the ones you like.

Now many bread recipes use dried fruits so you must be wondering what's special about this one. The distinctive feature of barmbrack is that the fruits are first soaked in tea. Some of that tea then also gets incorporated in the dough, giving the bread a warm and delightfully spicy kick, which gets complemented by the s…

Ashtami Food

Yesterday was ashtami, the eighth day of the navratras. Twice a year in my home state of Punjab, in April and then again in October, ashtami is celebrated as kanjak. Technically, this means that it is a day you pray to the Goddess Durga and invite 7 girls to your place to treat them to a meal. But given the logistics of everyone needing to invite girls (there are only so many kids in the neighbourhood after all), here is how it works: my mum and dad will get up early in the morning and make the traditional ashtami meal of puris, semolina halwa and dried black chickpeas. We will then create little snack packs with two puris topped with a scoop of halwa and another scoop of the chickpeas.

One of us will then go out out get hold of neighbourhood kids - both boys and girls are welcome and the more the merrier. They will come in, you will spend 5 minutes doing the puja. My dad will light the traditional lamp, hand over tiny bites of halwa as prasad to the kids and then fill the plates the…

A Field Guide to Avocados

Anyone who thinks fats are unhealthy has surely not met an avocado. High in both calories and fat and yet good for your heart, avocado is one of the most delicious ways to stay healthy. Because I love avocados and can eat guacamole for pretty much every meal, several readers of this blog have asked me where to buy good avocados. I can't vouch for the rest of world but if you live in Mumbai, specifically the western suburbs, read on to find out where and how to buy the best avocados.

Step 1: Local or Imported - There are several variants of avocados. In Mumbai though, storekeepers only know of two varieties. The imported avocado (it's typically haas avocado) or the Indian avocado. I have seen the quality of Indian avocados get better over time so I see little point in paying 3-4 times the price for the imported version.

Step 2: Where to buy - In order of preference, my top 3 locations to buy the avocados are:

Pali Hill Vegetable Market: First get to 5 Spice/Wok Express on Pali Na…

Lessons in Bread Baking

I remember the first time I baked bread. It was a pizza, and I was nervous as I followed the recipe exactly, wondering if the yeast will work at all and if the dough will rise. Fast forward a few years, to this bread I baked last week. I warmed some water, added a bit of sugar and oil, then eyeballed the quantity of yeast that went in. My kitchenaid made short work of kneading the dough after I added flour and salt, and then it was just a question of waiting for the dough to rise, shaping it and popping it in the oven. So what's changed between then and now, you're thinking, that makes me so confident I don't even need a recipe. It's really just some basic rules and things to keep in mind when you set out to bake breads. So if you are just starting out or still scared of yeast, here are my top tips:

Every yeast is different: Recipes are really just guidelines for baking breads. For everything from how long to wait for the dough to rise to how long it should spend in th…

Sugarcraft at Home: Fougasse

You were expecting jam, weren't you? And quite rightly too. Chef Anees makes a lovely range of quirky jams and he first shared with me a recipe for his red pepper and chilli jam. But I couldn't find any pectin at short notice so he sent along a second recipe for a cherry tomato and onion fougasse.

The dough was easy to make and an absolute delight to work with. I've made some adjustments to allow for how my yeast works, and I ended up using sundried tomatoes but it's a lovely, lovey bread either way. The original recipe was for 4 fougasse breads but I have halved it here to make two.

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried or fresh oregano
2-3 sundried tomatoes (the ones that come in oil)
1 small onion. thinly sliced
sea salt

Heat the water to a little bit warmer than lukewarm. Add olive oil, sugar and yeast. Leave it aside for 5 minutes until the yeast is all bubbly. Add the flour, salt…

Sugarcrafter: Anees Khan

Growing up in Berhampur, a small town on Orissa, Anees Khan wanted to be a doctor. He made it to dental school but not wanting to be a dentist, he started looking for other options. One day, his dad brought home a flyer for hotel management degree. Why not, thought Anees, did some research and soon became the first student from his school to go to Institute of Hotel Management. The rest, as they say, is history.

Before he opened his classic French patisserie called Star Anise on Bandra's Linking Road about a month ago, chef Anees got himself years of experience all around the world. On his first day of his first job at the Leela, he asked to cook continental food and was promptly shipped to the pastry kitchen. It took him several months and a meeting with Beat Loffel, a Swiss pastry chef whom Anees counts as a mentor, to convert him to a life of pastry. Chef Anees then went on to head pastry kitchens all over the world. Everything from his stint in Canada, the newly set up restau…

Upma 'Polenta' Cakes with Mushroom Sauce

I seem to be getting quite a flair for competitions this year. First there was Kitchenaid Probaker. And then, a couple of months back, I saw this Facebook post for a contest that Lufthansa was running, called Cook and Fly. Since all you needed to do was send in an Indian inspired main course dish that could potentially go on the Lufthansa in-flight menu, I send out several entries from the blog's archives. Then, with just a day to go for the contest, I created a new dish - the one you see above. As luck would have it, this dish went on to win the 'dish of the week' contest for the last week and then got picked as the top 8 entry for the finals.

The finals at The Leela in Gurgaon were pretty much like the masterchef. We had an hour to recreate the same dish that we sent from home. When I got there in the morning of the contest, the folks at Leela had already prepped and laid out all the ingredients so all we had to do was cook. And pose for interviews and stuff. Did I say …

Lagan nu Custard...my style

When I went to the Parsi food festival at Sofitel, Chef Tehmtan Dumasia gladly shared his recipe for lagan nu custard, a delicious baked dessert. The recipe is so simple it's hard to believe you get something so sublime at the end of it. While I stuck to the classic recipe for the custard, I'm topping it with Heston Bluementhal inspired crystallised nuts to add some crunch and texture.
First the custard. Pour one litre milk, preferably the full fat variety, into a thick bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer until the milk reduces to half. This can take a really long time but be sure to stir every few minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, add 50 grams sugar and stir well to mix it all in. Take the saucepan off the heat and add in 1/2 tsp each of rose water and vanilla essence.

Let cool. Separately, beat two eggs lightly. Add to the cold milk and whisk well. Chef Dumasia did not say this but if you see any cooked egg bits, even tiny one…

SugarCraft at Home: Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

When I asked Kainaz for a recipe of hers that I could recreate at home, I was wondering if she will share a brownie recipe. Or maybe the recipe for her unique orange loaf cake. Instead, she sent me something that's better than both - an orange chocolate cupcake with a spiced chocolate ganache. The cupcakes, with very little cocoa and loads of orange - both zest and orange juice - come out the color of brown sugar and taste quite distinctly of citrus. And while I make ganache regularly, this is one of the best versions I have come across. Kainaz not only adds more orange to the dark chocolate but also add spices like nutmeg and star anise that pop up as little flavour notes as you bite into the cupcake.

The batter is pretty easy to put together. Don't worry if it feels thinner than your regular cupcake batter; the cupcakes rise quite nicely in the oven. The only trouble I had was that my chocolate chips all sank to the bottom and stuck to the wrappers but if you are willing to…

SugarCrafters: Kainaz Messman

For the past many years, any time I am near a Theobroma patisserie, I get myself a pain au raisin. Buttery, flaky and full of raisins, it's the best Danish there is. Then, a few months back, Theobroma suddenly stopped baking my favourite pastry. I was so disappointed, I ranted and raved on Twitter. Five minutes later, the owner of Theobroma tweeted back, offering to bake pain au raisin for me on special order. We exchanged some mails, picked a date, and she even coordinated with her store and the central kitchen to make sure I got my treats.

When someone is so passionate not just about baking but also about making customers happy, it beholds you to tell their story. Which is why the sugarcrafter this month is Kainaz Messman. And what a story it is of Kainaz's journey as a pastry chef. For it is a story of a girl growing up in a family that loves food, with a mother who loved to bake. Of a girl who went to France and fell in love with the most classic of cuisines. Of the girl …

Tempura/Pakora

In my home, you don't mess with my mom's kadhi chawal recipe. For starters, it is just about the best version of kadhi you will taste. Plus it's pretty near perfect, with the right amount of tang and spiciness. But there's one thing I've been thinking of trying for a while, and that is to use the techniques of making tempura to make a crisper version of the pakoras.

It's just a couple of tweaks really, but they somehow make the pakoras a lot crisper to bite into. And once you dunk them in the kadhi and wait 15-20 minutes, you get soft pillows that absorb all the kadhi flavours.

So what's different you ask. Nothing much in the onions, which are sliced thinly lengthwise as you would for your regular pakoras. The magic happens in the batter. For one large onion, start with 1/2 cup gramflour (besan). Now add 1 tbsp cornflour to make your flour a bit lighter. To the flour mix, add salt, a pinch of chilli powder, 1/2 tsp ajwain, 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1/2 tsp …

On Parsis and Vegetarians

You never hear a lot about Parsis if you are in North India. But living in Bombay, you can't help but notice this charming group of people. Known for their vintage cars and quirks, their sense of humour and generosity, the Parsi community has left it's mark on pretty much everything that defines Bombay.

Nothing defines Parsis better than their love of good food. I've had the fortune to meet several Parsi friends and foodies in the years I've spent in the city and come to love their delicious dishes including the famous berry pulao at Britannia and dhansak at countless Parsi cafes around town. But there is one thing no self respecting Parsi will be caught dead with; and that is vegetarian food. So when I got an invite to try out the Parsi food festival at not one but two restaurants, this vegetarian foodie took it on as a challenge.



My first stop was Sofitel in Bandra Kurla Complex. I am sure hotel chefs get bored with serving the same buffet day in day out so Sofitel …

Heirlooms

Every year, in the middle of summer, it's pickle season at my home. Usually my mom's the cook in the house but pickle day is one of the five or six times a year my dad chips in. Either he or my brother will bring the mangoes home, as well as the spices and then the day long process of drying and mixing will begin, followed by many days of curing the pickle. This mango pickle is fairly standard in Punjab, which means that you can even get the mangoes pre-cut at the farmer's market and local spice stores sell premixes; you just tell them how many kilos of mangoes you got and they will hand over everything you need.

With this being such a common pickle, you would think it will be easy to get a recipe down. But you can't believe the struggle I had when I first asked my mom for the recipe so I could give it to Srivalli for her Indian Cooking Challenge. Four years later, when mom made this year's batch, I figured I should have the recipe up on my blog too. And guess wha…

SugarCraft at Home

At the end of my interviews with Sugarcrafters, I intend to ask them to share one of their signature recipes. Just so I can recreate some of that magic at home. When I asked Chef Deep this question, he didn't give me a recipe, he gave me a jar.



Chef Deep introduced these DIY jars after he took over as the executive pastry chef for the Trident Patisserie for his customers to easily recreate his bakes at home. In fact, everything about these jars defines thoughtfulness and ease. The recipe is printed on the jar itself so you don't have to look around for any extra papers. There's even a wooden spoon attached to the jar to stir your batter and the jar itself will come in handy once you have finished baking your brownies so you can store the goodies.

My only complaint was the recipe - it could have been written a bit more clearly, as I had to mail Chef Deep to clarify a few doubts before I started baking. But all that is excusable when you look at the sheer goodness of these …

SugarCrafters

In the enchanted village created by the writer of Wishcraft mysteries, every witch and wizard is known by their special skills. But even among all that magic, there is no one as intriguing as the pastry chef who creates a magical world full of candy and chocolate.

SugarCrafters is a brand new series on Bombay Foodie that takes a trip to the sweet worlds of these magicians of the pastry kingdom. Stay tuned to read all about these wizards who make our lives a whole lot sweeter.




Deep Bajaj's love affair with food started early, watching his grandmother find that perfect Chicken Tikka or the best jalebi during his school holidays. Even then, it couldn't have been an easy decision to him to pick hotel management after high school. The only non-doctor in his entirely family tree, Deep went to Institute of Hotel Management and then straight on to the Oberoi Institute. He's stayed with the Oberoi family ever since, working in the pastry kitchens of Udaivilas and properties across A…

Tingmos for 'We Knead to Bake'

A few years back, a group of bakers started 'We Knead to Bake' - a monthly bread baking group. At that time, I was busy moving between countries and student life and work so I had to pass on the bread baking challenges. But I've been following the group's beautiful breads and finally, this month on, I've decided to join in as well.

As luck will have it, the first bread I got to make wasn't baked but steamed. The group chose to make tingmos, a Tibetian/North East Indian steamed bread that's used to mop up everything from hot sauces to noodle soups to curries. The dough came together beautifully and even when risen, was one of the nicest doughs I have worked with.
With a coriander, ginger-garlic and spring onion filling, the buns are good enough to eat on their own. But I chose to make a meal out of it, pairing the buns with a sweet and sour vegetable curry full of flavour from the Tibetian kopan masala. The full recipe follows, but once you've read it, …