Monday, December 28, 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 Phoenix Mills



9. The cutest life sized gingerbread house at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar



10. The best for the last, the most famous Christmas window in Bombay at Damian in Bandra sports Alice's tea party and other fairy tales




Now for a bonus entry. This home tree from Dipika just because it's so cute.





And finally, the prizes. The best entries came from Huban Kasimi, Dipika and Aniketh Dsouza. The three of them win a goodie bag that I am going to bake come this weekend!

Monday, December 14, 2015

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 hued coconut, I'm adding a layer of texture and another flavour that balances out the sweetness. I also divided Zeba's recipe by a fourth so this one makes about 20 marzipan apples.

Ingredients125 grams roasted and ground almonds
63 grams caster sugar
12 grams liquid glucose
1/4 cup water
300 grams dark chocolate (I use Callebaut 70%)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
2-3 drops red gel color

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix ground almonds, sugar, liquid glucose and water. Put on a slow heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is quite thick. Let cool. Lightly grease silicon moulds (apple or another shape). Press the marzipan into the moulds and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Take the marzipan out of the molds, arrange in a single layer in a parchment lined tray and let chill in the fridge for half an hour.

In the meantime, make colored coconut. Put desiccated coconut in a bowl and add 2-3 drops of gel color. Mix with a fork until the coconut absorbs the color and is uniformly pink. If you want your apples to be rose red, add more color.

Now temper your chocolate. Heat 1-2 inches of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Pop another bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water, making sure it doesn't touch the water. I get my chocolate in small chips but chop yours finely if you have bars. This recipe doesn't need all 300 grams of chocolate but it is hard to temper anything less than that. Reserve 60 grams of chocolate and put the rest in the bowl of your makeshift double boiler. Stir until the chocolate melts completely. You are looking for the chocolate to get to about 120F. Take the bowl off the heat, making sure to wipe the condensation at its base. Add the remaining chocolate and stir until the temperature reduces to 82F. Put the chocolate back on top of simmering water and heat back to 90-91F. Your chocolate is now in temper.

One by one, put the marzipan apples on a fork and dip in tempered chocolate. Shake to remove excess chocolate and drop into the bowl of coconut to coat. Remove to a parchment lined baking sheet. Once all the apples are dipped, pop the baking sheet into the freezer for 15 minutes for the chocolate to set.

You will be left with some tempered chocolate. Just pour it into moulds to create solid chocolates or wait until the next post to find out what I did with mine.

Friday, December 11, 2015

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 and I will go intern with them for a month", she recalls. Well trained and back in India, Zeba also had to learn finance and accounting and everything else that goes into running a business. "I believe in doing everything well" says Zeba and she really did well as she upgraded her chocolate factory and expanded the franchise to what are now six shops scattered all over Mumbai.

When I go to meet Zeba at the original Marine Lines store her grandfather first opened in 1946, her energy and passion is palpable. Even as we are talking about her life story, she keeps a lookout for any customer who needs a suggestion or little bits out of place that her staff needs to know about. Treating her staff like family is another thing Zeba learned from her grandfather. No wonder then that she bucks the industry trend of high employee turnover - her store manager tells me he's been there for more than a decade.

Fantasie sells the most chocolate during Diwali - I get their almond clusters as gift pretty much every year - and they are just gearing up for the next rush over Christmas and New Year as I visit. Zeba tells me that milk chocolate and almond clusters (or anything with nuts really) continue to remain her bestsellers. That hasn't stopped Zeba from experimenting though. She was a brand ambassador for Barry Callebaut and a judge for the World Chocolate Masters Championship for many years running. At her store, Zeba offers everything from 100% chocolate to unique flavours like wasabi for some of her discerning, well travelled customers. I also spot a chocolate game she has created for kids, while a video shows super creative chocolate projects Zeba has done over the years.

I always ask sugarcrafters if they tire of all the sweets around them. But Zeba, I don't have to ask. As she offers me a taste of her 100% chocolate sweetened only by date slivers, she pops in a couple herself, clearly enjoying the experience. We try her christmas special of chocolate dipped candied orange peel together and then move on to macarons and cookies Zeba has recently added to the menu. I ask her if the bakery is a new addition and she corrects me, telling about the bakery her grandfather ran at the same place the Marine Lines store is at now, and the macaroons he used to make. I don't think Zeba could have found a better way to continue his legacy.

So now that Zeba has met her goals of building a better manufacturing plant and more outlets for her chocolate brand, what's next for Fantasie? Zeba tells me how much she loves teaching and while she no longer mentors the contestants for world chocolate championship, a chocolate academy is very much on the cards. She's already been doing chocolate pairings and gazillion of workshops at Starbucks and Kala Ghoda Festival and what not but soon you might be able to learn chocolate making from her at her Marine Lines store or her Andheri chocolate factory.

I wonder what Zeba's favourite chocolate is, but she refuses to pick one, showing equal affection for the bitter dark and the sweet white chocolate. It must be hard to pick when you are surrounded by such beautiful creations. The ones I'm leaving you with are the specials she's made for christmas this year. Did Zeba share one of these Christmas recipes for me to make at home? Just wait until next post to find out.





Fantasie Fine Chocolate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, December 6, 2015

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 picked the top three veggie baos for you to feast on.

The Fatty Bao: With layers of fillings and sauces that offer textural and flavour contrasts, The Fatty Bao's buns pack a punch. My unlikely favourite turned out to be the fried eggplant bao you see up there, with miso marinated eggplant, kimchi and a shot of sriracha. The garlic loaded mushroom bao is also great but I will personally stay a bit far from the mock meat one.

Cafe Nemo: The first one to put a vegetarian bao on its menu, Cafe Nemo still rocks with their mushroom bao that comes loaded with herbs and peanuts. It's a bit on the spicy side though. Your other option is their excellent tofu. Just like the Fatty Bao, I will stay away from the mock meat one. Really folks, if I wanted meat, I will eat meat.

The Bao Haus: The newest kid on the block has set up a delivery only service out of a kitchen in downtown Colaba. They only serve in South Bombay at the moment, so my tasting of their baos happened at their kitchen. I'm saying this because I am not certain how well these baos travel and whether they will be still as soft as hour or so later. But eaten fresh, the baos were flavourful with layers of ingredients and homemade sauces.



My favourite at the Bao Haus is their quinoa bao that comes topped with heaps of arugula and beet chips. The only other vegetarian bao on their menu is the fried tofu one. I loved the flavours and the peanut/herb contrast but this could be bit spicy if you don't each much chilli. You can of course go down the spicy route and promptly follow it up with their chocolate bao. Full of banana slices and marshmallows, the bao is way too sweet but it's new and different and fun to have, at least the first time round.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

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 brown lentils. But our favourite dal is this combination of yellow split peas (chana dal) and split urad dal. It comes in two avatars that my brother and I dubbed yellow-white dal and black-yellow dal growing up. The first one is a combination of split peas with split and peeled urad dal (hence white). The second one has the same chana dal but uses split urad dal with its husk intact (hence black).

To make my family's favourite yellow-white dal, mix 1/2 cup each of chana dal and white urad dal. Wash thoroughly, then put in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp red chilli powder and salt to taste. Cook for 6-7 whistles until the dal is soft and cooked through but you can still see individual grains. You need the consistency of a thick soup so if the dal appears too watery, put the pan back on heat and boil until the excess water dries off. You can now set the dal aside until you are ready to eat.

Just before eating, temper the dal. Chop 1 onion finely. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a small pan. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds and wait until they start to splutter. Add the chopped onion and stir fry until the onion turns golden. Pour the tempering into the dal, stir to mix and sprinkle garam masala and optionally, finely chopped coriander leaves to garnish.

If you are making black-yellow dal, follow exactly the same process but change the mix to 3/4 cup chana dal and 1/4 cup split urad dal.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

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 @bombayfoodie when you post.

4. Contest closes at midnight Bombay time on 19th December. Top 3 entries win handcrafted Christmas goodies baked specially for you. If you win, I might even take requests to bake your favourite dessert.

There is more fun in store too. On 20th December, I will pick my favourite entries and go check those trees out. Of course, you are welcome to join the #BombayChristmas trail too. I will post a schedule here when I know where we are going.