Friday, March 25, 2016

Olive Redux



I remember coming to Mumbai 10, maybe 12 years back and being taken to Olive for a fancy dinner. Even back then, the partially open air Mediterranean restaurant on Carter Road defined luxury dining. I remember eating a spinach ravioli on that first trip, drowned in a brown butter sage sauce, the taste lingering months later. I went back occasionally for a Sunday brunch or a drink but over time, the menu started to look ready for a redo.

That menu revamp has happened this month with the arrival of the super cute chef Rishim Sachdeva. Having worked with the likes of Marco Pierre White and even in the Fat Duck Kitchen, Rishim describes his food as modern. Not Italian although there are tons of pastas and pizzas there; not Mediterranean in particular, just modern food done well.

We start off with an excellent minestrone that comes blanketed with parmesan, both in melted and crispy wafer form. A kale and strawberry salad follows - the chef explains that the strawberry vinegar is homemade - but the salad is truly made by gnocchi like pillows of goat cheese. For the mains, the chef brings out polenta in a sauce bursting with fresh vegetable flavours.

In fact, I realise the whole menu seems to focus on fresh flavours as I try the sexiest version of cauliflower I have ever seen. Its barbecued, pureed and fresh cauliflower, interspersed with dates, burnt cream and cocoa nibs. It's a starter but it could be a pre-dessert, a prelude to what comes next. What comes next in our case is a glass of yogurt sorbet, topped with flavours of milk, reduced or transformed into crisp wafers. It's a modern dessert but I can see it's not a dessert to everyone's liking which is why there seem to be safe chocolate and strawberry options on the menu.

While all the change I have noticed is good, some Olive traditions remain. The chicken skewers could never be taken off the menu I think, and my friend pronounces them excellent. Also present is the signature plate of olive oil, vinegar and tiny bowl of olives that greets you when you first sit down in the candle lit place bursting with dating couples and ladies on their night out.



And among all this talk of food, let's not forget the special guests who have popped up at Olive for 3 weeks, all the way from Philadelphia. 1 Tippling Place proudly takes its place among the top 24 bars in US. Head bartender Myles, who is currently manning the bar at Olive, explained to me the difference between craft cocktails and the regular pub fare. It came down, I think, to creativity but also to the attention to detail they pay each drink with homemade syrups and bitters and large chunks of hand cut ice. Myles then wandered off to make me an indulgent drink full of gin, lime, lemon, champagne and just a hint of lavender. My friend got something pink, with berries mushed in. The drinks don't stinge on excellent quality gin so for our next rounds, we requested Myles to go alcohol free. He came back bearing house made ginger ale that sparkled with spicy ginger and had none of the syrupy feel your commercial ginger ales do.

The 1 Tippling Place popup is on for just another week so you really need to rush that trip to Olive. Thankfully, the fresh new menu and chef Rishim Sachdeva are here to stay.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

An Adieu to Strawberries



Bombay has a strange strawberry season that starts in winter and ends before summer sets in. We are now at the end of this season so you'd be lucky to find a box of strawberries with your fruit seller now. I found what I think would be my last box of the year yesterday and made this gorgeous cake to celebrate strawberries one last time this year.

BBC calls this a coconut cream cake. There is plenty of coconut yes, but with all the polenta the recipe calls for (which I substituted with cornmeal), the texture and flavour is more like a cornbread. Eat it plain, top it with icing sugar as BBC suggests or top it with strawberries my way, this is a great cake to have in the fridge for your weekend snacking needs.

Ingredients
For cake
140 grams butter, at room temperature
140 grams caster sugar
juice of 1 lime
50 grams desiccated coconut
200 ml coconut milk carton (I used Dabur Homemade)
85 grams fine polenta or cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
140 grams plain flour

For topping
2 tbsp toasted desiccated coconut
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 box (approx. 400 grams) strawberries
1/2 tsp vanilla essense
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar

Line a 7 inch round baking tin with parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream butter with sugar until soft and fluffy. Add 150 ml coconut milk (reserve the remaining 50 ml for later) and whisk in to blend. Add all the remaining ingredients and beat until you have a well blended mixture. Pour into the cake tin and bake for about an hour, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the cake tin.

While the cake is baking, prep your strawberries. Wash and hull the berries and cut them in quarters. Put in a bowl and add vanilla essence, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Stir to mix and pop into the fridge for about an hour.

When the cake is cool, remove from the tin and put on a serving plate. Mix the reserved coconut milk with icing sugar to make a thin glaze. Brush the top and the sides of the cake with the glaze and put it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to set. In the meantime, strain out the syrup from the strawberries. Put the syrup in a small pan and on a medium heat, boil until it reduces to 1/3rd the original quantity. Pile the strawberries in the centre of the cake (or make a pretty pattern if that's more your thing), sprinkle toasted coconut and then spoon over the reduced balsamic syrup.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Aloo Paranthas



In all these years of blogging, I've somehow never managed to talk about aloo paranthas, the potato stuffed flatbread that's a standard breakfast in North India. Possibly because they are such a staple in our home, I found there wouldn't be enough interest in the recipe. But I've also realised over time that my mom's recipe is unique, using a combination of flavours and spices that make these paranthas delicious.

But that's not the only reason for this post. I also wanted to tell you about a super cool party and some ways we found to make aloo paranthas even better and believe it or not, healthier. The party in question was hosted by Rushina at her cooking studio a few months back. For a while now, Rushina has been talking about the merits of cling film, parchment and something called cooking foil made by Asahi Kasei. Because we won't believe that you can really cook without oil but using science, she invited a bunch of us over for a potluck lunch.

I decided to make aloo paranthas and I did two things differently. One, I used the cling film to wrap potatoes in and microwaved them instead. It took about 6 minutes and the potatoes cooked so much better than the boiled version. They are also drier which makes for a better potato filling. Secondly, I used the cooking foil to line the pan which means that the paranthas won't stick and you can cook them without all the ghee that typically goes in one. Now mind you, I didn't really stick to the plan because I am a Punjabi and I can't not put ghee on parathas. But you can get away with very little and the healthier version tastes just about the same.

You can see the party in action in this video, where several other bloggers make loads of cool dishes. And then, if you are tempted enough, go make my mom's aloo paranthas. They are the best in the world.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8gyhXe47vA

Ingredients
(for four paranthas)
1 cup whole wheat flour
3-4 tbsp. ghee (less if you are using non-stick pan or cooking foil)

For stuffing
2 medium sized potatoes, boiled
1 small onion, chopped finely
handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp anardana (dried pomegranate seeds)
1 tsp dried coriander seeds
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
salt to taste

Put the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add 1/4 cup water. Slowly bring the flour in and mix. Knead until you have a smooth pliable dough, adding more water if needed. Cover and set aside for 15-20 minutes.

Mash the potatoes. Add all the other ingredients for stuffing and mix well. Take a golf ball size portion of dough. Dredge in dry flour and roll out into a thick circle. Add about 2 tbsp. of potato filling in the middle and gather up the dough around the filling, sealing to make a ball stuffed with potatoes. Roll the dough in some dry whole wheat flour and roll out into as thin a circle as possible.

Place on a heated pan, let cook for a minute. Flip, apply a little ghee on each side and cook until golden brown and crisp. The paranthas are served with mango pickle and plain yogurt in my home.