Sunday, 21 February 2016

Paneer Florentine

I have been struggling to push myself and blog more on the regular savoury food that we have at home. But often, since I like to prepare food fresh and on time, I seldom get to click pictures and thus post on it. A stronger push was thus necessary to let readers know that I do eat things beyond all the cakes and cookies I keep posting. 
Frankly speaking I rarely eat my own sweet bakes and I bake in small quantities sufficient for my daughter and husband. So the regular everyday meal is just like in any other home though I must confess that I am a little lazy in savoury experiments.
Paneer florentine was born out of circumstances of unavailability. Many years ago, myself and Vishal had a dish called Fish Florentine in a restaurant called One step up on Park street. Vishal being the savoury experimenter at our home, decided to give it a try and it came out quite wonderful.
While trying out the same dish in Allahabad, we were stuck at an odd hour where we could not find fish so we thought of trying the same with Paneer. The dish came out wonderful and we were surprised how the humble paneer fitted perfectly in this French dish. 
The word Florentine (pronounced Flor-en-teen), in culinary world, refers to a recipe that is prepared in the style of the Italian region of France. Florentine recipes typically feature a bed of Spinach on which a main ingredient such as meat, poultry or fish is laid and then topped with a Mornay sauce which is a béchamel sauce with shredded or grated Gruyère cheese and an egg yolk. A florentine recipe may also be topped with cheese which is browned as in au gratin.

Ingredients : For 2-3 servings
  • half a bunch of spinach leaves
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 150 gms Paneer, cut in cubes
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp refined oil
  • 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour (maida)
  • 1/2 tbsp whole wheat flour (atta)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, warm
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
Procedure : 
Wash spinach leaves very well.
Boil water in a pan and add the spinach leaves. Turn off the heat and immediately drain the spinach leaves and put in cold water. Drain and roughly chop.
Take oil in a pan and saute half of the chopped garlic. 
Add the spinach and saute for a while. Season with salt.
Lay the spinach in a baking tray of your choice.
Place the paneer cubes randomly on it.

Preheat oven to 180 degree Celsius.
Now, make the béchamel sauce (basic white sauce) by taking butter and oil in a pan. As soon as the butter melts, add the all purpose flour and whole wheat flour. Turn the heat to medium and keep stirring till the flour turns a little brown.
Meanwhile keep milk a little warmed up. Pour this warm milk to the pan and stir continuously till the sauce thickens to the required consistency. Warm milk is poured to avoid the formation of lumps in the sauce.
Season with salt and black pepper.

Pour white sauce on the paneer cubes in the baking pan. 

Sprinkle the grated mozzarella cheese on top and some dried parsley. 
Bake for 15 minutes or till the cheese melts and gets a beautiful brown colour. 
Serve with Garlic toasts or plain buttered toasts.  

Happy Florentine-ing

Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Flavours of Telangana..!

Kolkata Food Bloggers with Master Chef Sakala Sankara of the ITC Hotel

"Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It's not about nutrients and calories. Its about sharing. Its about honesty. It's about identity".-Louise Fresco.

The quote above, in my opinion, couldn't be more truer than in connection to my experience with the 'Flavours of Telangana'; an exquisite cuisine from the state of Telangana in south India, presented by The ITC Sonar, Kolkata, at their Eden Pavilion, from 12th February to 21st February, 2016.

With Kolkata Food Bloggers it was indeed a pleasure to get the glimpse of the same.

The range of daily changing menu was intricately crafted by Master Chef Sakala Sankara himself who hails from the, now rechristened state of Telangana, and has developed mastery over the regional cuisine. 

Master Chef Sakala Sankara
I was surprised to see the variations in flavours and preparation of  so many dishes that was far beyond the conception of usual South India cuisine that we normally encounter in north Indian restaurants and sidewalks. Indeed I was blown over.

In the starters we were treated with 'Karjam Vepudu' or lamb liver spiced with onion and chilies. The touch of the curry leaves in it along with other spices was spectacular. It was devoured in no time and reordered again. 
Karjam Vedupu - Lamb Liver spiced with onion and chilies

In the main course the tangy spiced fish pulao or the 'Chapa Pulusu Pulao' was the first type of fish pulao I had had. Very beautiful balance of flavours. At first look it almost looked like a biryani. 

Chapa Pulusu Pulao

'Gongoora Mamsam' or Mutton cooked with Rossel Leaves was very soft, succulent and juicy with beautiful flavour of the rossel leaves. The mutton was slow cooked to perfection.

Gongoora Mamsam- mutton cooked with rossel leaves. 
The 'Royyala Vepudu' or Prawn tossed in thick Onion and tomato gravy was a treat to devour. It was not as spiced as it looked. 

Royyala Vepudu - Prawns tossed in thick onion and tomato gravy. 

'Vellulli Kodi' or Garlic flavoured Chicken was as distinct as the other two of its compatriots. Very beautifully balanced flavours and perfectly spiced. 

Vellulli Kodi - Garlic Flavoured Chicken

Ragi Sangati, ragi flour cooked with rice and napped with fresh ghee was an entirely new dish I had tried. Very soft and flavourful. 

Ragi Sangati - Ragi flour cooked with rice in ghee

Coupled with the blend of raitas like mix fruit raita, mint raita and vegetable raita, the Flavours of Telagana was indeed a very special treat to have been invited to by the ITC Sonar and we from the Kolkata Food Bloggers have absolutely enjoyed it to the hilt.

The Flavours of Telangana would be on till the 21st of February 2016 at the Eden Pavilion of ITC Sonar, Kolkata. 

Happy Telangana

Vishal Tupper             

Friday, 19 February 2016

An Afternoon of 'no worries' @ Hakuna Matata

If you are someone who has grown up through the early 90's, the words Hakuna Matata (A Swahili phrase which roughly translates to 'No Worries') will instantly transport you to the memories of the movie 'The Lion King' and chances are that you will be humming the song to yourself 
'Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase
Hakuna Matata, ain't no passing craze....'

With many restaurants cropping up in each corner of the city, Hakuna Matata grabs your attention with its catchy name and location which is bang opposite Kwality on Park street. Park street is known for its old world charm and has patrons who swear by the food from eateries that have been there since a long long time.
An invite to HM was long due and so finally me and Sayantani decided to cover it up and landed there on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. We met with the cordial owners Pallavi and Prabhas who took us through the journey of setting up Hakuna Matata. A husband wife duo, both are passionate travellers and foodies and have been so far successful in running a complete vegetarian casual dining place in the heart of Park street which serves global fusion food. 
Pallavi tells us that they like to constantly engage their customers in contests and activities online and offline. Their mascot 'Koko' was also named through a contest. From having customers blow a shankh(conch) during Puja's to having a dance group perform and entertain customers, Hakuna Matata believes in engaging people interest with activities. 
Prabhas enlightens us with the decor which is a mix of modern and old. The hanging installation of rock climbers to the wooden borders with threads that we see on olden day sofas are all done by engaging local craftsmen. A quirky hanging light installation is done by using Graters. There is an interesting wish tree on ground floor which as Pallavi tells us has become synonymous to Hakuna Matata as people stick their wishes believing them to come true. They have even had customers whose wishes came true and so the wish tree is a popular corner in their restaurant. 
Hakuna Matata will soon be starting their cocktails section and so a bar with stools is all ready for the launch. They have also started their Sunday breakfast menu which consists of juices, hot beverages, sandwiches etc and an innovative desi and videsi tiffin where combo meals are served in old time tiffin carriers (dabba's). 
Hakuna Matata also has a special Jain menu with special dishes with no onion or garlic. 
They have a 'make your own Pizza' menu where diners can choose from the options of base, sauces and toppings. 
Each dish has a calorie count which give diners options to indulge according to their liking. Also there are chef favourites, healthy and vegan options in the menu. 
They also have special menu's on each occasion. So there was a Puja's special menu where they had bengali dishes and for Valentine's their menu had love themed dishes.
After an hour long chit chat we met Chef Chanchal who had planned a set of four dishes for us and in the lovely company of both Prabhas and Pallavi we indulged in a gastronomic journey to be remembered for a long time.

The first dish to arrive on our table looked no less than a piece of art. Chef Chanchal introduced us to it as Warm Chinese Casserole salad with szechuan and soya sauce. We learnt that this recipe is Pallavi's and we truly feasted on the visually appealing dish of cascading fried noodles standing on a bed of vegetables. The sauce added to the simple flavours of the dish. 

Next to arrive was a rather deceiving dish called Chocolate infused Falafel. Frankly speaking I thought weird about the dish and wondered if it was a forceful fusion. This dish was a special on their Valentine's menu and Chef Chanchal informs us that he incorporated chocolate in the falafel mixture along with the middle eastern spices and stuffed each Falafel ball with chocolate. It came with a dollop of Beetroot hummus and on  a bed of couscous salad. Personally for me that was the dish of the day. The beautiful coalition of the savoury falafel with chocolate was too beautiful for words. I really hope this dish finds a place in their regular menu very soon. 

On our tables, soon arrived another beautiful presented dish called Polenta stuffed baked mushroom which was also Pallavi's favourite dish on the menu. The dish was served Caprese style with the baked mushroom placed on a slice of Tomato and with a drizzle of the herbed cheese dip. The wooden platter had a dusting of the green-ed breadcrumbs which chef Chanchal tells us is made with a variety of herbs treated with breadcrumbs.

The last dish was the very interesting concept called Indian inspired mezze platter which had portions of Baingan Bharta inspired from Baba Ganoush, Chana masala flavoured hummus, Dal pakoda, mixed vegetable raita with kachumbar salad and laccha parantha strips inspired from Pita bread. Each element of the dish was flavoursome and wonderful. 

Pallavi ordered a Matata cooler and a Mojito for us and I truly thank her for introducing esp the Matata cooler to us. Adorned with a heart shaped watermelon chunk and a sprig of mint leaf and  served in a chemistry lab like round bottomed flask, it was like a breath of fresh air with a concoction of watermelon juice and coconut water. This is definitely a must if you are visiting HM.

The portions served in each dish were pretty good and the quality of food and presentation of each dish was impeccable. 
I would like to thank team Hakuna Matata for giving us an afternoon of lovely food and wonderful company.

Address : 12D, Park Street, Park Street Area, Kolkata

Call for reservations : 033 30990403

Timings : Mon- Sat -12 noon to 11 pm 
              Sun - 7 am to 11 pm

Cost : Rs 800 for two (approx)

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

New Menu launch @ Smoke House Deli

Smoke House Deli at Quest Mall, Kolkata recently added new options to their list of scrumptious menu which also boasts of a whole new range of sizzlers.
Kolkata Food Bloggers were invited to attend their new menu launch which also featured a live demo by the chef. 
I along with fellow KFBians nestled myself in the doodled decor of Smoke House Deli. One of the first things that catch your attention are the pleasant white walls neatly doodled with things that represent the essence of Kolkata. Quirky old day items like a gramophone, a typewriter etc give you the feeling of getting transported to a world of serenity. The flavoured water jugs lined up welcome you to indulge yourself to a gastronomic journey at Smoke House Deli.  
A pleasant conversation with Majri Agarwal and Abhilasha Sethia, co-owners, divulged the idea of a new menu launch which was basically to give the diners a wider range of flavourful food.
The afternoon kicked off with a live food demo by Chef Saurabh where he rustled up a simple yet flavourful plate of Penne pasta in tomato sauce which was topped with some vodka. 

Penne in Tomato vodka sauce
The latest additions to their menu include soups- Smoked corn Puree and Pesto Minestrone.
The smoked corn puree soup is a definite crowd pleaser with its fragrant smokiness along with the sweetness of the corn. 

Smoked corn puree soup
The new range of sandwiches include Smoked bell peppers with leeks and pesto Mayo, classic 3 cheese grilled sandwich, SHD mustard chicken sloppy Joe.

The new salads- Smoke house beetroot+Orange+Feta, Citrus salad with Asparagus capers and cherry tomatoes, Soba noodles with asparagus and minted zucchini.

Soba noodles

For vegetarians, there is Shitake and field mushroom Stroganoff  with saffron rice, Spicy millets with vegetable stew, Potato shitake and pepper Lyonnaise. 

3 layer polenta cake 
The new range of sizzlers are available in vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Chermoula spiced cottage cheese sizzler, sizzling spinach and corn lasagna and SHD penne sizzler are to name a few.

Our tryst with the lip smacking new menu got over on a sweet note with the beautifully arranged dessert platter which had the new menu additions of Apple cake, Hazlenut feuillantine and lemon tart with toffee sauce. 
The normally chocolate lover in me was bowled over with the warmth of the apple cake and the refreshing tangy lemon tart.  

Dessert platter
With their exciting new menu, diners have all the more reason to drop in and enjoy the flavourful food.

Smoke house deli located on the 5th floor of Quest Mall is open from 12:00pm-11:30pm 7 days a week. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

'Struck by an arrow' Heart shaped Boozy Cake-pops

Sometimes experiments can take you for a ride, I mean the good way. The little cake hearts I made were so little in quantity that they got over in no time. So I had to kick my 'nowadays laziest' self and make something on similar lines. With just 2 days to go to our Anniversary, I thought these cute 'Struck by an arrow' heart shaped cake pops that I had eyed on Pinterest shall be a good idea. A perfect treat for the 2 Valentine's of my life, my husband Vishal and our darling daughter, Vaanya. 
For me and Vishal, I decided to go the boozy way and added some dark rum to the cake crumbs. And for our daughter, I made some non alcoholic cake pops in her favourite colour Pink. 
Cake pops have been a rage in the world of confection for some years now. In simple words, it is cake shaped as lollipops. The credit goes to Angie Dudley, a food blogger who runs a blog called Bakerella. On February 1, 2008, she posted something on her blog that literally changed her life. She posted these cupcake pops 

Image from Bakerella
These cupcake pops became so popular that they paved her way to a new chapter of life. A month after she posted these adorable treats , she was invited to the Martha Stewart show. She went on to write a book and is recognized worldwide as the inventor of cake pops. For more details about her journey read here

Ingredients : No particular measurements here. I made my favourite Comfort Chocolate cake  with a little more cocoa powder and used it. You may use any cake recipe. 
  • about 1 1/2 cups cake crumbs (just crumble the cake with hands)
  • 1-2 tbsp dark rum (you may use vodka,wine or make them non boozy with some orange juice) I made half batch boozy and another non alcoholic for my daughter
  • about 1/2 cup Melted white chocolate(done on a double boiler)
  • red food colouring
Take cake crumbs in a bowl and mix rum/vodka/wine a little at a time. Take a little mixture in your fingers and see if you can bind it. 
If apprehensive to use alcohol, leave it altogether and use some melted butter, chocolate ganache, some cream or orange juice for binding. Remember to use a little at a time because you just need to bind the cake crumbs together and not make a gloopy glue :)
Take a little mixture at a time and shape them in hearts. Keep them on a greased plate and refrigerate.
Take melted chocolate and dip one end of the lollipop sticks (you can use the wooden ones like I did or stick to the plastic ones) Insert that end to the cake hearts from one side and leave it to set. If you want, you may also insert the lollipop stick at the bottom of the cake heart.
Dip half of the hearts in the white melted chocolate and keep aside to set. Remember to keep them on a piece of parchment/butter paper. Once set, you will need to dip them again to give a second coating as the chocolate cake will see through white chocolate coating. Once done keep a spoonful of the melted white chocolate in a piping bag.
To the remaining white chocolate, add a drop of the red food colour. Ideally gel based, but I did mine with the regular liquid food colour. Add drops and mix till you get the desired pink colour.
Now dip the remaining cake pops in the pink coloured chocolate and repeat the same process as done with white chocolate coated cake pops. After the second coating is dried, take a spoonful of pink coloured melted chocolate in a piping bag. 
At any point of time if the chocolate gets hard, put it back on double boiler.
Now just drizzle randomly pink coloured chocolate on the white cake pops and white one on the pink cake pops. 
Allow to set.

Vaanya, my daughter, enjoyed the non alcoholic heart shaped cake pops I made with half the batch. Her thumbs up to my bakes is my biggest reward. 

Happy Cake pop eating
and Happy Anniversary to us :)

Monday, 8 February 2016

Little cake hearts

'The town is getting painted red', literally, with Valentine's day just around the corner. Everywhere across the city you see heart shapes of all sizes and the colour red in everything. The flower shops are getting geared up with red flowers and the card shops have stacked themselves with cards that express love. 
I have never understood the importance of one particular day to express love. But a Valentine's day is of utmost importance to me as it is the day I got married to the love of my life, my husband Vishal. We have never been flower and card crazy, but yes I love to make something special for this memorable day. 
This year, I took the cheats way and made these little cake hearts out of leftover cake and chocolate ganache. It requires a bit of patience to shape them in perfection and the rest is a breeze. Just dip them in your favourite melted chocolate, milk or dark and let it set. For the more experimental lot, try binding the cake crumbs with some rum or vodka instead of the ganache and you have some boozy little chocolate hearts. 

Ingredients : No fixed measurements. I made these with some leftover brownie and leftover ganache. You may use any cake recipe. Try one of these : Comfort chocolate cake, Perfect chocolate cake, Everyday yoghurt cake, brownies
  • 1/2 cake crumbs (crumble the cake you are using with a fork or with your fingers)
  • 1 tbsp chocolate ganache ( made with equal quantity of chopped dark chocolate stirred in hot cream(Amul cream) ) 
  • melted Milk chocolate or dark chocolate compound for the coating on top
  • melted white chocolate for drizzling on top
Procedure : 
Take cake crumbs in a bowl and mix with the ganache. If not using ganache, use a little bit of butter or cream to bind the cake crumbs. If you want to be more experimental, try binding the cake crumbs with some alcohol like rum or vodka. 
When squeezed between your fingers the cake should bind together. 
Make little heart shapes with the cake dough.
Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes.
Dip these little cake hearts in the melted chocolate. Keep on a sheet of parchment paper/butter paper and allow to set completely. If in a hurry refrigerate them. 
Take melted white chocolate in a piping bag and snip off the end. Drizzle the white chocolate on top of the cake hearts and allow to set. 

It can't get easier than these bite sized little delights. For the lazy bakers, these can even be made with store bought cake. All you need is a little bit of patience, some melted chocolate and loads of love to make them. 

My little valentine, my daughter Vaanya enjoying her cake hearts. After much cajoling (and more cake hearts) she agreed to pose for some pictures. 

Happy little cake hearts relishing


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