Book Release: Around The World With The Tadka Girls

We are D-E-L-I-G-H-T-E-D to announce our latest book from Westland-Tranquebar PressAround The World With The Tadka Girls.

Around the World with the Tadka Girls

We invite you to take a peek into our world, to savor slices of our real-life stories, ranging from visits to a school potluck, to a drive down a wine trail in a Midwestern American town. Come, share these intimate moments, as well as the fruits of our labors, with us.

Go to your nearest bookstore, or online (Flipkart, AmazonSapna, rediffeBay), grab a copy, and send us a note, a pic (of you, the book, or both), and just do your thing, while we pour us some bubbly after all the toiling we’ve been upto!

If you’d like to review the book, please get in touch with us on: tadkapasta@gmail.com. Thank you for your support and encouragement these past two years and we hope you’ll keep coming by for a slice of Tadka Pasta fare!

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Event: Bloggers Table at Vivanta by Taj, Yeshwantpur with Tetley Tea

Tetley Green Tea event at Vivanta by Taj

This was an invite with a difference..the hosts were Tetley Tea and Vivanta by Taj, Yeshwantpur, coming together to promote green tea, not just as a beverage but as an ingredient in soups, drinks, baking and even on the grill! Now, we must admit that we’re not ardent fans of green tea, but this sounded intriguing enough to have us pedaling all the way across town to the Taj Vivanta, Yeshwantpur. Suitably fortified by cups of green tea lightly flavoured with citrus and spices and some surprisingly delicious green tea cookies we settled down to watch Chef Uddipan fire up his stovetop and grills.

Tetley Green Tea event at Vivanta by Taj

The first dish to be featured was a Thai-style vegetable soup. As the chef added aromatics, thick coconut milk, yellow curry and green tea concentrate to the soup we wondered if we would be able to taste the delicate flavour of the tea in this rich soup. Apparently not, but chef explained that even though the flavour may not shine through in every dish, the health quotient would definitely be upped with the addition of the tea.

For the uninitiated, research suggests that regular consumption of green tea brings about benefits like weight loss and lowering of bad cholesterol, and also protects against diabetes. All good reasons to down those cuppas every single day!

Tetley Green Tea event at Vivanta by Taj

Another dish that the chef demonstrated was grilled chicken wings with green tea. The wings were marinated in a zesty mixture of ginger, garlic, honey and soy sauce. The chef then added some minced fresh herbs for flavour before throwing them on the blazing grills. Once the wings were almost done he broke open a few tea bags and sprinkled the crushed tea on them. They were then returned to the grill for the final cooking. The wings had definitely picked up the green tea flavour and we quite enjoyed them.

Tetley Green Tea event at Vivanta by Taj

The drinks were a muddled apple with green tea and a green tea-melon fizz, both of which looked and tasted pretty good. We really liked the chef’s idea of having a jug of green tea decoction at hand to add a splash of its goodness to a drink or soup, and that was our major take-away from the afternoon.

Tetley Green Tea event at Vivanta by Taj

The lunch that followed the cooking demos included a delectable and classic Tea Poached Norwegian Salmon, some fabulous dim sum and sushi, and a lovely Mediterranean spread. Among the desserts, there was a light and refreshing green tea mousse cake topped with a thin jelly layer and a little chocolate sphere, which was the pick of the sweets for us.

Our goodie bags included packs of Tetley green tea bags in several interesting flavours, a little package of the green tea cookies and recipe cards for some of dishes with green tea. We’re surely going to try our hand at those cookies! Here are some of the recipes, courtesy Tetley Tea and Taj Vivanta -

Green Tea Cookies

Green Tea Cookies

Green Tea Cookies

Ginger Tea and Coconut Soup

Ginger Tea and Coconut Soup

Ginger Tea and Coconut Soup

Tea-smoked Chicken Wings

Tea-smoked Chicken Wings

Tea-smoked Chicken Wings

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Restaurant Review – Cafe of Joy

It wouldn’t be far from the truth if we said we were filled with, well, joy when we heard about the Cafe of Joy. Having to battle time constraints and tight schedules in order to actually go there, owing to being in the thick of the festive season, did disappoint a little, but it was worth the wait.

Right from the moment we set foot in the cafe, to the time that we left, bearing goodies for our little ones, we were charmed by the pristine and inviting spread of white, the warm touches of lavender all around, and the divine aromas of baked flours and cheeses and sugars filling our lungs.

Cafe of Joy is a neat little place with a choice weekly menu that will have everyone who cares about that fuzzy, homely feeling when they eat a meal that’s not just easy on the eyes, but tastes delicious too from start to finish, drooling. With a variety of quiches and breads to choose from for the main course, we started off nibbling and pecking at a few of them, but couldn’t resist filling ourselves with the wholesomeness of the fresh baked breads, especially the 3-seeded German bread.

We also tried and loved the Flammkuchen with peppers and onions as well as bacon. The chicken meatloaf was quite alright but by then we were ready to dig into something sweet and picked apple streusel and the chocolate cheesecake, both good choices. We washed everything down with perfectly delightful cups of coffee and left with smiles that reached our eyes.

Below is a series of snapshots from our visit, and pictures, as they say, do speak a thousand words. But we recorded some real ones in a quick session of Ten Questions with Joy Basu who is a lovely and vivacious host.

Cafe of Joy

Ten Questions With Joy Basu

1. When and how was Cafe of Joy born?
I have been thinking of running a food business for the last decade, given that I am a huge foodie and have been on many holidays with the itinerary centered around finding the best food, wine or ambience! Since 2006 I have been a serial Entrepreneur – so while in living in Europe last year I decided to make my passion my purpose and bring the experience I had in many quaint cafes and bakeries back to Bangalore.

Cafe of Joy

2. What drives your passion to be up and about every morning and be immersed in flours and sugars?

To me starting the day in my café is about creating a place where people visiting feel at home – and I look forward to ending the day with memories of our guests spending time with us, promising to come back often and letting their friends and family know about us. I believe that the best interactions occur over a cup of good coffee, a delicious snack or a meal and a memorable experience – and I want to be known as someone who enables this.

Cafe of Joy

3. Where do you source your ingredients from? Do you use any imported stuff?

I am fortunate to have identified many qualified suppliers here in India – though for some of our unique offerings some ingredients are still sourced from the networks I established while living in Europe.

Cafe of Joy4. What gives you more joy, being at the forefront of managing the business or behind the scenes where you watch the dough rise and fall?

Both as one without the other doesn’t quite work – my goal is about scaling a sustainable business that creates Cafes of Joy in many neighborhoods for people to experience a good coffee, a delicious snack or a meal so I do not let anything be served from our kitchen without tasting and satisfying myself that it would be what I would serve to people in my home.

Cafe of Joy

5. Pick your favorite from the bakes that you sell.

The Sacher Torte The thin crust German/French Flammkuchen The Ciabatta The Monkey Bread Buttermilk Orange zest cake with cream cheese frosting …I have to keep my husband and son away from these otherwise we would run short for our customers!

Cafe of Joy

6. What’s the best compliment you’ve received so far from a customer?

I am blessed with the good wishes shared by people who have visited us. One of them, a chef from South Africa said – “This is one of the nicest meals I have had so far in Bangalore.  I have a vision for you – that every table will be full and there will be a line of people waiting outside…” I am working towards making that vision come true!

7. What’s the biggest challenge you face?

Ensuring that my team is well trained and feels as passionately about the Café as I do is where I spend most of my time.

Cafe of Joy

8. In one sentence, if you could sum up Cafe of Joy for our readers, in a way that would draw them in, what would it be?

I invite people to come to Café of Joy – as this is a place which should feel like an extension of their homes where they are valued and cared for, where they can share a coffee with friends and family or spend some time with themselves and enjoy a snack or meal that brings a taste of Europe in every slice!

Cafe of Joy

9. For a menu that changes every week, what would you say is the best part that lures your regulars in?

I believe the freshness of the food, uniqueness of our menu and consistent quality of our food – multiplies the experience as we aim to personalize the service – by making it a point to try and remember what each customer likes!

Cafe of Joy

10. And finally, what’s the best part about living your dream, and the worst.

The best part is that my purpose and passion are now the same. The worst is when my son tells me I am not as aware of the happenings in his school as I used to be when I was not running this – though I feel he is quite OK with that!

Café of Joy

(Closed Sundays)
No.8, Siddhapura,
(Next to Bhagini Iris restaurant)
Whitefield Main Road,
Bangalore.
Ph: +91 9886329015
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Diwali Dhamaka! Mawa Mania

Mawa Muffins

Diwali meant new clothes, a bag of firecrackers peeking from the shelf in a closet, the sound of the sacred bell and chants during the morning and evening Pujas, and the explosion of cardamom, sugar, mawa, saffron, coconut, flour, and ghee kissed flavors in the long lineup of sweets in the kitchen.

But raising children who have roots in America often makes us come up with ways in which to marry cultures and flavors in our food, especially if there’s a celebration in the offing. Which is why, when we came upon an idea that called for preheating the oven and reaching out for bakeware this Diwali, we couldn’t resist. We lapped it up and employed it in a recipe that we knew would work best for our girls, in little pick-me-up portions. These soft and crumbly muffins come packed with the richness of mawa*, and when crowned with pretty slivers of almonds and blobs of comely, crinkly raisins, they make for elegant center pieces as well as gifts in your Diwali hamper to hand out to neighbors and friends.

Mawa Muffins

Kaju-kishmish Mawa Muffins

(Makes 12)

  • 1 1/3 Cups (160gm) all purpose flour
  • 1½ Tsp baking powder
  • ½ Tsp baking soda
  • ¼ Tsp  powdered cardamom seeds
  • 1/8 Tsp powdered cloves
  • 100gm khoya/mawa*
  • 200gm (½ can) condensed milk 
  • 40gm unsalted/cooking butter, melted 
  • ½ cup (120ml) milk
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar, optional**
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted almonds or cashews
  • ¼ cup raisins, washed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp almond flakes and a few raisins for the top
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Line 12 cups of a muffin tray with paper liners. Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and cloves. Set aside
  4. Microwave the mawa for about 30 seconds and then mash it thoroughly.
  5. In a medium bowl beat together the mawa, condensed milk, melted butter, milk and sugar (if using).
  6. Tip in the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Stir in the nuts and raisins.
  7. Transfer the batter to the muffin cups, filling each about half-way. Top with the almond flakes.
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted into their centres comes out clean.
  9. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Top with the raisins if desired.

* Mawa is the milk solids which result from cooking down whole milk and evaporating all the liquid in it. This can be found at most Indian grocery stores.

** These muffins are soft and very rich, and we have kept the sweetness on the lighter side to balance. Add the sugar if you like your muffins fairly sweet.

Mawa Muffins

Inspired from – http://saffrontrail.blogspot.in/2007/11/diwali-delicacy-eggless-mava-cake.html

Mawa Muffins

Posted in Bakes And Cakes, Festive Fare, Homestyle Indian, Snack Attack, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Restaurant Review: Buffet at Spaghetti Kitchen

Spaghetti Kitchen

Spaghetti Kitchen calls its buffet, Gusto D’Italia, the biggest Italian affair in Bangalore. And like most buffets it has a p-r-e-t-t-y exhaustive array of dishes, to suit every whim and appetite. A sunny weekday afternoon found us, the Tadka Girls, catching up over a leisurely lunch at the restaurant in upmarket Koramangala.  The restaurant seemed to have been decorated in an informal, outdoorsy kind of style..tables with wrought-iron bases, large windows, a splash of turquoise at one end, coloured glass hurricane lights..all of which contributed to the light, airy and pleasant atmosphere.

Spaghetti Kitchen

We started with a pretty but much too sweet mocktail for the designated driver and a hot toddy for the sore throat sufferer*. Some warm bread quickly appeared on the table along with a garlicky bean dip that we quite enjoyed. Soon after, a couple of sips of a very standard chicken consomme had us wandering off to the buffet for more interesting fare.

Spaghetti Kitchen

The buffet tables were loaded with a range of salads, dressings, a live pasta counter, the mains in their chaffing dishes and some artfully arranged pastries. A sculpture made entirely of margarine and a vegetable carving were pointed out as products of the chef’s hobbies and we duly admired these :)

Spaghetti Kitchen

After we had taken some pictures of the restaurant we were ushered back to our table with the assurance that the appetizers would be served to us hot and fresh. We started with the Chermoulah chicken thighs. Though crumb-fried chicken is one of our guilty pleasures, this interpretation of the classic dish left us shaking our heads – the chicken had been very thinly sliced and had become a tad leathery during the cooking process.

The prawns that came dressed in lemon butter sauce and for the the spice enthusiasts, in a vibrant harissa, an African chilli-based condiment, were both flavourful. There were also chicken drumsticks in a thick green basil-y marinade that seemed to be a little worse for the wear after a stint in the hot case.

Spaghetti Kitchen

Among the vegetarian appetisers, the Involtini funghi stuffed with spinach were good, the mushrooms perfectly cooked and the filling soft and cheesy. The Parmesan cream cheese potatoes..what can we say..some of the potatoes were not cooked through and the liberal dose of the heavy dressing did not help matters. There was also a paneer dish, yes, paneer, marinated in Moroccan spices and tossed in a light tomato sauce which we quite liked.

Spaghetti Kitchen

At this point we had to call a halt to the steady stream of starters arriving at the table and head onto the pizza, pasta and mains. We were pressed to try the restaurant’s signature penne a la vodka in which the strips of almost-raw onions were quite unappealing. The chef then offered to toss up another pasta dish for us but by that time we were quite content to just watch him at work. Two kinds of thin crust pizza then appeared and we nibbled on these, leaving mains to sample on another day.

Spaghetti Kitchen

There’s nothing that we usually enjoy as much as the sweet course while eating out but the desserts served definitely disappointed that day. The worst offender was the Tiramisu served in a shot glass – a creamy concoction with no espresso, cocoa or mascarpone flavour coming through. The vanilla gelato seemed to be laced with artificial flavouring rather than the real stuff. The cassata too seemed dry and tasteless apart from the thick layer of ganache on the outside. A square of a dry brownie completed the platter and did nothing to satiate our sweet tooth.

Overall there were hits and misses in the food, as there are in most buffets. The service and hospitality on the other hand were splendid and do deserve a special mention.

* Drinks are not included in the cost of the buffet.

Spaghetti Kitchen Restaurant & Bar, 1,SJR Primus , 1st Floor,
Adjacent to Raheja Arcade , Koramangla, Bangalore.
 
Lunch buffet – Rs. 399 per person
Dinner buffet – Rs. 499 per person
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Roasted Veggies, Served Street-cart Style

Roasted Veggie Chaat

The Desi Quotient (DQ), or Indigenous Quotient, is a darned thing. We score high on it, naturally, sometimes to the point of being unapologetically crude. Which you’d be too, if you were raised on a diet of “munchies” or “fillers” that are messy foods, for one, and best relished with the table manners of a slob. While being street-food-like or even junk-food-like for the most part, these snacks always had a dose of nutrition hidden somewhere in their depths.

Now, being hopelessly hungry for these varieties of snacks, or chaats, to be specific, we’re constantly revisiting our favorite recipes and tweaking them so as to befit the nature of the everyday diet these days, given how everything is hinged on sugars and fatty acids, colors and additives. We love to put a dreamy-eyed spin on things and let our kids have fun with their food, all while sneaking veggies into their meals either in camouflaged form or dressed up skillfully so they no longer seem blah.

This Roasted Veggie Chaat, for instance, is packed with flavor and spice, and certainly didn’t warrant the twisted mouths and flared nostrils when it was served as an after school snack. And we’re not even tallying their DQ, just as yet.

Roasted Veggie Chaat

Roasted Veggie Chaat

(Serves 6)

  • 2 Tablespoons peanut oil
  • ½ Teaspoon salt
  • ½ Teaspoon red chilli powder/ cayenne or to taste
  • ½ Teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ Teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  • 1 Sweet potato, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 Potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 3 Carrots, peeled and cut into medium chunks
  • 5-6 Cauliflower or broccoli florets
  • 1 Zucchini cut into large chunks
  • 1 Onion and cut into large chunks
  • Black salt* to taste
  • Chaat Masala** to taste
  • ¼ Cup green chutney (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. Prepare a large baking tray by lining it with parchment or foil and greasing well.
  2.  In a large mixing bowl pour the oil and add the salt, red chilli powder, coriander and cumin powders.
  3. To the bowl add all the veggies and toss well using a large slotted spoon. Wipe the bowl with a paper towel and set aside.
  4. Spread the veggies on the prepared tray in a single layer. Place in the oven. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes or until the pieces are tender and browned, tossing once after 25 minutes.
  5. Transfer the veggies back to the same bowl used earlier. Sprinkle black salt, chaat masala and add the chutney. Toss lightly. Serve as an appetizer with a side of radish slaw (recipe follows).

* From the Himalayas, Black Salt is a special type of mineral salt that is pink-gray in colour and has a distinctive taste.

** A blend of select spices, Chaat Masala is available in Indian grocery stores and is used to impart a delicious tang to street food.

Roasted Veggie Chaat

Green Chutney

  • 1 Small bunch coriander leaves, cleaned and washed
  • ½ Cup mint leaves, washed
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-4 Green chillies/Serrano peppers, to taste
  • 1 Small pod garlic
  • Salt to taste
  1. Blend all the ingredients in a blender or mixie until smooth. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

Roasted Veggie Chaat

Radish Slaw

  • 2 Tender, young radishes
  • 1 Small carrot
  • A few coriander/cillantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ Teaspoon red chilli powder or cayenne pepper 
  • Salt to taste
  1. Finely grate the radishes and carrot. Toss with the lemon juice, red chilli powder and salt. Serve immediately.
Posted in Appetizer Alley, Funnibles, Homestyle Indian, Party Planner, Picnic Basket, Snack Attack | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Restaurant Review – RWI at Caperberry

Caperberry Having once passed up a ripe opportunity to dine at Caperberry, there was not a chance in all of Foodieville that we’d err again. When we got an invite to savor a three course prix fixe meal there as a preview for Citibank Restaurant Week India which is kicking off on September 16*, we were thrilled to bite-sized pieces.

We had heard enough about Caperberry and its food to have retained the sparks of curiosity in us as we nudged our way through the brimming traffic last week to finally reach our destination. We were instantly taken by the warmth of our attendants, one of whom kindly offered to brew a warm ginger-lemon concoction on seeing how the sniffles and whoops had struck. The ambience was dim-lit, unabashedly toned down in terms of colour, and smacked of a melange of Yankee and Parisian styles in aesthetics. An all too perfect playground for a date night or even a girls’ night out, as ours turned out to be.

* September 16th for Citibank card members and September 18th for general public

Caperberry Within minutes, our order was taken and warm breads made their appearance on the table, accompanied by a creamy pesto dip that was fresh and extremely scoop-smack-lick worthy. There were a bunch of breadsticks too to munch on and wash down with a crisp, frothy, beet-orange gazpacho that had just the right blend of tang and sweet. Although we were a trifle hesitant at first – being raised in a culture that appreciates warm soups as it were – it took just a sip to do us in.

Caperberry The Golden Corn Velvet was true to its name – a light corn soup with a saffron infusion poured tenderly over the comely little mound of vegetable timbale that was an explosion of mellow flavours with just a hint of spice. While the soup was lovely, it was rather filling – not that we’re complaining in so many words!

Caperberry The Paprika & Cumin Grilled Chicken was a meal unto itself. With a lovely spiced up flavour cutting right through the succulent chicken pieces, the pep of the olives and cherry tomatoes and the crispness of the lettuce – complemented it very well. Again, this was a biggie, portion-wise, but worth every pence and posture change!

Caperberry The main course had us in awe right from the word go. First, the Filo Stack was a work of art. Tactfully paired flavours and textures made it not just a delight to the tastebuds, but to our aspiring gourmet chefs’ senses too. Asparagus, aubergine, raisins and olives, tomatoes..all sandwiched with layers of flaky, crunchy filo sheets, topped with a liberal amount of mozzarella and baked to bubbly and brisk perfection. The fresh basil pesto added a pop to this dish and our only niggle is that it was a messy affair, although to be sure, we did finish it down to the last crumb.

Caperberry

The Picada Grilled Chicken Supreme came with irresistibly juicy and tasty chargrilled vegetables, and a delicious tomato basil sauce that was bursting with freshness. The grilled chicken did need a wallop of flavour and these assortments played their role extremely well, to say the least. The sautéed baby potatoes were, well, as appealing as potatoes are wont to be.

Caperberry We were bursting at the seams by the time we washed our hands off the main course, but dessert had to be had and the choices made us drool silly even before they manifested on the table. Crackling crisp churros – hot off the oil – kissed with cinnamon and a dusting of sparkly white sugar..and a rich, velvety chocolate sauce to dunk into – never mind that we later swigged it down to the last drop.

Not big fans of regular ice cream – which is on the menu for the RWI, as is a sugar-free Kiwi Panna Cotta – we were generously offered two house specials that are not in the lineup, for taste: pineapple and rosemary sorbet and poached-pear (in red wine) sorbet, both of which we did enjoy, except that the pineapple was a mere glint in the former and the cinnamony essence in the latter was rather overwhelming. The cutesy petit fours were duly taken home for our little girls and they vanished before we could blink. Verdict: they were toooooo good!

We were happy to meet Chef Abhijit Saha, who is also the founder/owner of Caperberry and extend our compliments to him. Needless to say, we went back home happy and content, with a vow to go back soon.

On an ending note, we’d highly recommend Caperberry as a choice for your Restaurant Week India trail, if you like to be treated to a special feast and have a penchant for food that looks, smells and tastes classy. The pre-set menu includes a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes for the first and second courses and three options for the dessert course. Priced reasonably at Rs. 750 for lunch or dinner, it is definitely worth every penny.

Note: Reservations for all restaurants participating in the Citibank Restaurant Week India in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore can be made only at http://restaurantweekindia.com/The event will run for 10 days from September 23 through October 2, 2013 with over 70 of India’s finest restaurants participating.

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Restaurant Review – Chef’s Table – Pizza Hut & Barilla

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut is forever tops on our kids’ list for well, pizza, but for us it is more of a nostalgic experience, bringing to mind the craze for deep dish pies that swept us up when Pizza Hut initiated the Italian dining experience in India, all those years ago. It is safe to say that we are not wont to get hyper about an evening there anymore, but a Chef’s Table invite to the restaurant with the promise of a culinary jugalbandi between Head Chef Arjyo Banerjee and Luca Ciano, Executive Chef, Barilla Pasta had us traipsing across town.

As expected, the camaraderie between the chefs and the live cooking demos were the highlight of the event. The chefs generously shared tips and techniques on cooking pasta, pairing it with the right sauce, selecting olive oil, use of different herbs, plating, garnishing and more. Chef Luca talked about the different regions of Italy where the dishes and ingredients originate from and gamely added a dash of hot crushed peppers to his dressings and sauces, keeping in mind that he was cooking for Indian clientele.

The chefs cooked with gusto, all the while indulging in animated banter with each other and the audience. As that familiar, striking garlicky aroma wafted across the room, they brought their saucepans around and served everyone at their tables.

Pizza HutOf the drinks served, our picks were the candied lemon and a blushing-pink gingery concoction, both of which were refreshing after a seemingly unending drive to the venue. The Sipping Cheesecake drink that came with a caramel drizzle and whipped cream on the other hand, was way too thick and heavy to start a meal with. We’d recommend that you save this one to accompany your dessert.

Pizza Hut

There were no real surprises in the starters that made the rounds. The vegetarian platter had the typical Pizza Hut deep-fried trio of onion rings, potato wedges and vegetable croquettes. Everything was crisp, hot and crunchy, and came with a choice of sweet-chili and jalapeno cheese sauce to dip in.

The non-vegetarian starters were a jumble of flavours – Lamb Kibbeh with a tzatziki-style sauce, Jerk Chicken skewers and some crisp tortilla triangles topped with ground chicken and cheese, served with a tomato salsa. Though the servings were generous, none of these had us reaching for seconds. We were missing a pop of flavour, and there was a lack of the freshness that these dishes are usually associated with.

Pizza HutThough the event centered around pasta, the organisers had decided to serve two of Pizza Hut’s signature pies. The vegetarian pizza came with roasted peppers, a mound of fresh arugula, finished with shards of parmesan cheese. A pretty slice, with lots of texture, the sweetness of the peppers working nicely with the sharpness of arugula and parmesan. The chicken pizza was average, with sliced onions and torn basil strewn over it, and if pressed we’d definitely vote for the vegetarian pie.

Pizza HutThe pasta demos started with a very Pizza Hut-style fusilli in a tomato-cream sauce, with lots of stir-fried vegetables by Chef Arjyo. This one is usually a crowd-pleaser, the richness of the sauce balanced with a little tang from blanched tomatoes and tomato paste.

Chef Luca’s vegetarian offering was really interesting – he made a rich caponata with eggplant and tossed it with penne cooked al dente. The skin of the eggplant was finely shredded and deep-fried to make a garnish for the dish, while the flesh went into the caponata. Healthy glugs of extra virgin olive oil and wine flavoured the sauce and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts completed the dish. Delicioso!

Pizza HutThe other pasta that was served included a minced chicken lasagna..the filling for this was a little soupy and the lasagna seemed to lack structure. The spaghetti salad on the other hand was outstanding. It had thinly sliced prawns that were marinated in a rich lemon juice-extra virgin olive oil dressing, and then cooked with the heat from the steaming pasta alone. Olives and capers for bite, a pile of crisped-up breadcrumbs on top, oregano, basil, garlic and a whole lot of other delicious ingredients that we’re probably forgetting to list down, but the lip-smacking taste was a revelation. This, clearly was the dish of the day!

Pizza HutWe finished the meal with a dessert of soft chocolate cake doused with warm chocolate sauce. On the whole the experience was lively, interesting and beyond our expectations. A special mention for the service, which, as always at Pizza Hut, was fantastic and we really appreciated it. We’d be sure to head to Pizza Hut again for a family meal with our kids. While the food may not be authentic Italian, as Chef Arjyo says, it does cater to Indian tastes, by spicing-up the sauces, cooking the pasta to a softer state and serving the popular favourites.

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Gulp And Gone! Avocado Pani Puri.

Avocado Pani Puri

The buttery, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture of avocados is far too appetizing to let go of a chance to use them in our recipes. When we’re left with a heap of avocados, when we’ve made ample batches of sandwiches and kababs in the days leading up to the acquisition of a fresh lot, we don’t blink twice before jazzing it up to use in another fun-filled snack, pun unintended. These roly-poly deep-fried beauties come alive with the punch of sweet-hot-sour tastes of the typical chaat variety, and the lusciousness of avocados walloped with a dusting of chilli powder and a squirt of lemon juice.

Avocado Pani Puri

Avocado Pani Puri

(Serves 3-4)

  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Lemon
  • 30 Puris (Crisp, hollow, spherical crackers)
  • ¼ Cup fresh mung bean/dal sprouts
  • Salt and chilli powder, chaat masala to taste
  • ¼ Cup sweet tamarind chutney
  • Pani or spiced water (recipe follows)
  1. Slit the avocado into 2 halves and remove the seeds. Scoop out the flesh using a sharp-edged spoon and cut it into chunks. Transfer the chunks to a bowl and squeeze some lemon juice all over the chunks. Sprinkle with salt, chilli powder and chaat masala to taste.
  2. When you are ready to serve, crack the tops of the puris and make a hole just enough to fill them. In each puri add an avocado chunk, some mung sprouts and a dollop of sweet chutney as the filling. Pass the Pani (spiced water) in wide-mouthed cups, one for each person. Dip the filled puris in the Pani and stuff the entire puri in your mouth.

Avocado Pani Puri

Tadka’s Shortcut Pani for Pani-Puri

  • 1 Litre cold water
  • ¼ Cup mint-coriander chutney (Or 2 cups mint+1 cup coriander leaves+2 green chillies ground to a paste)
  • 2 Tablespoons sweet tamarind chutney
  • ½ Teaspoon chaat masala
  • ½ Teaspoon kala namak or powdered rock salt
  • 2 Tablespoons boondi

Stir the chutneys and spices into the water. Top with the boondi just before serving.

Avocado Pani Puri

Note: 

For a dressed up version of the avocado filling, mix in some finely chopped onion, tomato, minced green chilies and cilantro/ coriander leaves before squirting the lemon juice.

Stop by an Indian grocery store and you should be able to pick up a kit that includes everything you need for this dish – the crackers, instant mixes for hot and sweet chutneys and the pani. Ask for a Pani Puri kit by Haldirams.

Posted in Appetizer Alley, Homestyle Indian, Snack Attack | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The Everyday Side Dish – A Pickle No More

Achari Aloo Gobi

From raging reds to flaming yellows, Springy greens to pristine whites, the colors of Indian food are as much a feast to the hungry eyes as they are to the discerning nose and desirous taste buds. Red hot chilies and turmeric, fiery green chilies and fresh coconut, all these ingredients, in distinct combinations and permutations, or as stand alone bases for gravies and sauces, lend their striking and mellow flavors all the same to the entirety of a recipe, enhancing the tastes of vegetables and meats and making them much favored and sought after. While there could be scores of uses for each of them, we went with the Pickling Spice/ Achaari flavors to wallop the mundaneness out of the time-tested everyday side dish: Aloo Gobhi. The slightly tangy, mostly spicy masala makes this recipe a hit, even with the undertone of the mildly bitter methi/ fenugreek, which, to be sure, is actually what rounds this dish off.

Achari Aloo Gobhi 2

Achari Aloo Gobhi/ Baby Potatoes And Cauliflower In Pickling Spices
(Serves 3-4)

  • 2 Tablespoons + 1 tablespoon sesame/ til oil
  • 1 Teaspoon each: mustard and cumin seeds
  • 1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 Large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons garlic paste
  • 1 Medium-sized cauliflower, cut into florets and soaked in warm water with a bit of salt, for 5 minutes.
  • 10-12 Baby potatoes, peeled (and microwaved with a sprinkling of water for 1-2 minutes, 30 seconds at a time)
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 2 Tablespoons pickling spice powder (see below)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 Teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons vinegar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped green onions or chives for garnish

Warm the 2 tablespoons oil in a pan/ kadhai, and add the mustard and cumin, followed by the turmeric, once they crackle. Add the onion, fry for a minute or so, then add the garlic paste. Drain, pat-dry and toss in the cauliflower florets and fry for 4-5 minutes on a low-medium flame. Then add the potatoes, tomato paste, salt, stirring well to mix everything in. Add the masala powders and mix well so they coat the vegetables thoroughly. Add the brown sugar, vinegar, and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, stir well, and finally add the water, cover and cook on a low flame for 8-10 minutes. Garnish with the green onions/ chives and serve hot with rotis.

Achari Aloo Gobhi 3

Pickling Spice Powder

  • 1 Tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon lightly roasted fenugreek/ methi seeds
  • 1-2 Red Chillies (optional)

Grind the above to a fine powder in your coffee grinder or small blender container. This recipe can be doubled or tripled and the excess stored in an airtight container for upto 2 weeks.

Posted in Homestyle Indian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments