Protein Power: Sprouts Theplas

Sprouts Thepla3

There was a time when Thepla, Dhokla, Khakhra were a bunch of strange-sounding foods that belonged to a distant cuisine. Of course there were times when we were drawn close to them, thanks to the friendly Patel’s store in the suburbs where we lived, back in Chicago. There would be a plateful of spongy, turmeric-yellow Dhoklas topped with a most inviting seasoning of mustard, asafetida and slit green chilies, by the billing counter, screaming to be had. A dozen home-made Methi Theplas slid into a ziploc and arranged in a leaning tower right by the Dhoklas, would be bought impulsively on many an occasion, and eaten hurriedly with bowls of too-thick yogurt and a liberal sprinkling of sugar. And the lesser said of the Khakhras, the better – considering how our eyebrows would break into a happy dance upon sighting a new flavor on the shelves. And how, once procured, they’d be used as a base for virtually everything, ranging from masala corn chaat to super nachos!

Sprouts Thepla

Thus and so, once we had had a taste of these delicacies, we realized just how high their deliciousness quotient was, not to mention nutrition and shelf-life quotients. We made them our own, trying out various permutations and combinations of ingredients, given how well the recipes lent themselves to versatility. Our Tiranga Dhokla has stood the test of time, needless to say. Our Black-eyed Peas Salad has long been doing the rounds on broken crisps of Khakhras, too. And now we present a fortified version of Tadka-style Theplas. This recipe is a keeper, and the sooner you try it the better!

Sprouts Thepla1

Sprouts Theplas

(Makes 8)

  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour / atta
  • 1/4 cup curd
  • 2 spring onion greens
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 green chilli, de-seeded and minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (or more if you like your theplas yellow)
  • 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • About 1/4 cup oil for shallow frying 
  1. Put all the ingredients except the oil in the bowl of a food processor*. Run the machine for about a minute, or until the sprouts break down and are ground up into the flour.
  2. Add water by the tablespoon and process until the dough comes together and forms in a ball. Let the machine knead the dough for a few seconds.
  3. Remove the dough from the processor and roll it into a ball. Keep it in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes. This step can be done ahead of time and the dough can be refrigerated, after the resting period, for a few hours.
  4. When you are ready to make the theplas, divide the dough into 8 parts. Shape each part into a ball and keep covered.
  5. Meanwhile preheat an iron tava or griddle.
  6. Take one piece of dough and roll it out thinly to about 6″ diameter, using a little dry flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Place the thepla on the tava.
  7. Cook the thepla on medium heat, turning to cook both sides. Once it starts getting browned, smear a little oil on each side.
  8. Remove the cooked thepla to a paper towel kept on a thick kitchen towel. Cover and keep warm. Make the other theplas the same way.
  9. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, with curd, pickle or chutney and a bowl of salad.

*To make the dough without a food processor, first grind up the sprouts finely in a grinder. Then put all the ingredients in a large bowl or plate and knead, adding enough water, as needed to make a dough.

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You can use any bean sprouts for making these theplas. Here we’ve used heirloom black horsegram, but moong dal sprouts work equally well.

Sprouts Thepla1

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Soup Splash with Carrots and Leeks

Carrot-leek soup1

We’ve had a really short spring in our part of the world this year, with the cool winter days transforming almost overnight, and giving us a taste of summer even in the usually balmy month of February. Because of this the vegetable markets seem a little confused, as if the crates of winter veggies are unwilling to give way to the cartloads of mangoes and watermelon. We’re still seeing a lot of winter produce, like these pink carrots that are often called ‘Delhi carrots’ here in Bangalore since they come from the North,  fresh green peas, turnips and oranges.

Pink carrots are super sweet, crunchy and flavourful, and we use them in everything while we can get our hands on them, from carrot cake to eclectic stir-fries. Today we’re sharing a recipe for this beautiful blushing pink soup that we made with them, and it is all about the carrots here, with sweet onion-y nuances from leeks, and peppy dashes of pepper and fennel seeds.

Carrot-leek soup2

Carrot-Leek Soup with Fennel

(Serves 4)

  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 leeks
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup milk, or as required
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered fennel seeds
  1. Wash, peel and chop the carrots. Trim the leeks and wash them in a basin of water. Chop the leeks and garlic.
  2. Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the carrots, leeks and garlic. Cook on medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, lower the heat and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the stock into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Cool and blend the soup to a smooth consistency, or you can use an immersion blender to do this.
  6. Transfer the soup back to the pot, adjust to your desired consistency with milk or stock. Stir in the powdered fennel seeds. Check for seasoning and adjust.
  7. Serve hot!

 

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Light and Love-ly – Berry Heart Ice Pops

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Come February and there’s no escaping the Valentine’s day frenzy, whether one is online or around the real world. Kitschy, frilly heart-shaped cushions, mushy cards and teddy bears clutching corny notes suddenly sprout everywhere, including in the windows of our very enterprising neighborhood ‘fancy shop’. The flower-vendors get geared up to fleece their hapless patrons for that must-have bunch of red roses, trussed up tight with the obligatory shocking pink satin ribbons. Romantic movies line up to release on the all-important Friday before V-day, bringing even more mushy sappiness to the already saccharine-soaked atmosphere. And let’s not forget to brace for the overdose of confectionery and chocolate that’s customary at this time of the year.

If you thought that we’re excessively cynical about this day of love, let us assure you that this isn’t the case. We enjoy and celebrate this holiday with our loved ones year after year, but the glut of commercial and meaningless merchandising that this charming celebration is often turned into, has brought out the rebel in us. So, this year we’re planning a quiet, fuss-free holiday, with a meal that doesn’t tick all the Valentine’s Day check boxes, but nourishes love for our bodies and those of our dear ones.

But since we really can’t let the day pass by without a few red hearts scattered around, we carved up some ripe berry hearts, dipped them in honey-sweetened coconut water and turned them into these super cute and adorable ice pops. Three ingredients and ten minutes is all you need to put these together for your family, or just for the love of you!

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Berry Heart Ice Pops

Makes 5-6

  • 8 ripe strawberries, preferably triangle-shaped
  • 1 cup coconut water 
  • 2-4 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
  1. Hull the strawberries and cut a rounded V at the top. Now slice the strawberries into 2 pieces vertically, to get heart shapes. If the berries are very big you can slice them into 3 or 4 hearts. You could also use a small, heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the hearts.
  2. Divide the hearts between the popsicle moulds (3-6 per pop). Place the hearts so that most of them stay the right side up. Set the moulds aside.
  3. Stir enough honey or agave into the coconut water to sweeten it to your taste.
  4. Pour the coconut water blend into the popsicle moulds.
  5. Place the sticks into the pops and then freeze for 4-6 hours or overnight.
  6. To remove the pops, dip the mould in a bowl of tap water for a few seconds or until the pop pops out.
  7. Enjoy!

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Note: You could also use white grape juice in place of the coconut water, in this case you would not need the honey to sweeten.

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Restaurant Review: Shang Palace

Shang Palace5

Pics by Shangri La Hotel

The Shangri-La Hotel opened its doors to Bangalore a few months ago and now offers a range of fine dining experiences, including the specialty Chinese restaurant, Shang Palace. The restaurant serves regional cuisine from many parts of China, with a spotlight on Sichuan dishes, and of course this works all too well with spice-craving Bengalureans.

It’s a long walk down a nondescript corridor to the Shang Palace but don’t fret, because a dramatic, yet comfortable setting awaits you. The subtle Chinese accents and vibrant decor are offset by the theater of spectacular burnished gold chandeliers that seem to run as a theme throughout the hotel.

We were whisked away to one of the private dining rooms in the restaurant, and this we found lets you soak in all the extravagance of the restaurant in a convenient, intimate setting, complete with a powder room and a dedicated personal host for your party. Apart from two private dining rooms Shang Palace also offers alcoves that can work as semi-private dining spaces for groups, and there is a prominent central dining area, the heart of the restaurant.

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The Shang Palace kitchens are presided over by Chef Lin Lin Yang, and we learnt that many of his team are Chinese nationals, thus bringing us the real deal – Chinese cuisine without the customary tempering and moderation for Indian taste-buds. The food is authentic, the flavours are punchy and the entire experience is superb.

The bi-lingual menu is extensive and accessible, with items being ranged into easy-to-map sections like Hot Appetizers, Cold Appetizers, Dim Sum, Barbecue and Marinated, and Hot Pot, apart from the customary classifications. Vegetarian choices are plentiful and interesting, and one of the cuisines being served is Chinese Vegetarian. The pricing is very attractive, with the restaurant being focused on giving their guests value for money.

An extensive wine-list, with the ease of ordering wine by the glass, is available, including a few themed mocktails, and they also serve a range of Chinese teas and herbal drinks. We started with a hot cup of tea in a pretty red and gold cup and saucer, and this just melted away the stress of Bangalore traffic, leaving us primed and ready for the spectacular spread that was coming up.

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Boiled peanuts (bottom right in the above picture) that had picked up just a hint of sesame dressing, and a little dish of pickled carrots and cucumbers were at hand to nibble on as we waited for the appetizers to arrive.

The Chinese Cucumber Salad (top left) generously dressed in zesty soy, was super crunchy, and this is one thing you can eat a lot of while still saving room for the mains. If you’ve never tried lotus stem, the Crispy lotus stems (top right)is a good option..thinly sliced slivers of the stems tossed in chilli and hoisin, the Chinese barbecue sauce.

The Pan fried mushroom (bottom left) bun that we tried from the vegetarian dim sum menu was filled with an interesting shiitake mushroom mince, this is good if you are looking for a more substantial starter.

Shang Palace1

For the pork lovers we’d recommend both the dishes we tried. The Roasted crispy pork belly (top in the above picture) was superlative – little cubes of porky heaven, a total delight, from the crackly-crisp skin to the juicy meat inside. Served with fine granulated sugar to dip in, and a dark dipping sauce, these are most likely to be the first item that gets grabbed off its plate! The spectacular crown of Guangdong style roasted pork (bottom) had been marinated and then roasted to juicy succulence, and the colour on the pork was truly magnificent.

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The other dim sum that we enjoyed was the traditional Cantonese Prawn Hargau (top right in the above picture) that had all the trademark moist and mellow appeal of a well turned out steamed dumpling.

If you can’t imagine a Chinese meal without Chilli Chicken, then the Chongqing chilli chicken (bottom left) is quite perfect. The judicious addition of Schezwan peppercorns here makes this dish interesting. If you leave these tiny bombs too long on your tongue you are likely to enjoy a true tongue-tingling experience, and this is all we’re going to disclose here🙂

The Crabmeat soup (bottom right) with asparagus and egg drop seemed a trifle pedestrian after the explosion of textures and flavours in the other starters, so we dutifully tasted it and then sat back to await the main dishes. Shang Palace2

The Hunan style steamed fish (top in the above picture) is not something that would usually feature on our order in a Chinese restaurant, but this preparation is definitely a game changer. The delicately steamed fish fillets, fork-tender and juicy, were dunked in a soupy soy sauce laced with pickled chillies, and we really enjoyed this.

The Roasted Beijing duck (bottom) is another signature dish at Shang Palace. Moist slices carved out of a perfectly roasted duck with the crispy skin intact are served with scallions, cucumber, sweet bean sauce and pancakes. The hostess quickly put together rolls for us using the pancakes, each with a succulent slice of duck, and the accompaniments, and these were delicious!

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We’re huge fans of tofu, and found the Mapo tofu (top left in the picture above) excellent. The soft cubes of tofu were offset by a luscious chilli bean gravy, with bamboo shoots and mushrooms adding texture. This went well with the Chinese fried rice (bottom left) that was served in vegetarian and egg-laced versions.

Stir fried Chinese greens (bottom right) are a lovely, wholesome side that diners often miss out on. These were garlicky and tender-crisp, with asparagus, broccoli and pok choy adding their flavours to the dish.

Authentic dishes and flavours, modest pricing and generous servings are all things to look forward to here, along with beautiful ambiance and proficient service. The Shang Palace is going to be our new favourite destination when the craving for Chinese hits, and to be honest, it does hit us on a fairly regular basis. We’d recommend that you reserve your table ahead of time though, the restaurant was packed and busy on the Friday evening when we visited.

Address: Shangri La Hotel, Palace Road, Bengaluru 560052

Timings: Lunch – Noon to 3pm  ; Dinner 6:30 to 10:30pm

 

 

 

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Restaurant Review – Banjara Melting Pot

Banjara Melting Pot

Lets start with saying that multicuisine restaurants don’t often feature on our lists of favourite places to eat at. Menus that run to pages, covering a whole plethora of dishes from different cuisines that really have nothing in common, just leave us confused and wary. We would be more at home with a choice of 3-4 chef’s specials scrawled on a chalkboard. That said, when we received an invitation to review the new Banjara Melting Pot at Koramangala, we were tempted to go because, one, there were several good reviews floating around about the food, and two, we were intrigued that the restaurant had opened in what had been MF Husain’s former Bengaluru home!

The restaurant is located right on the bustling 80 feet road in Koramangala, in a stand-alone building with a bit of greenery outside. Once the stained glass door closed behind us, it was pretty quiet inside, and there’s a little patio in the back too, if one wants to venture outside. A large bar kind of closes things up a bit, but the floor to ceiling windows balance it out by bringing in generous amounts of light. The ambiance inside is cool and classy. There’s a lot of exposed brick, stone and wood in the decor, and most of the structural elements in the house have been retained from the artist’s time.

Banjara Melting Pot

A painting of the artist and prints of some of his signature creations reminded us that we’re dining in what used to be his home. Other memorabilia included a red letter box that he had placed outside his home, confusing neighbors and residents who would mistakenly post their letters in it!

Banjara Melting Pot

We started our meal by selecting our drinks and appetizers from a menu on a tablet. This was a nice touch and quite convenient, though our server was on hand to explain and help. Contrary to our expectations, the menu wasn’t too elaborate. We found a lot of tandoori and classic north Indian dishes, with some southern specialties, and a section devoted to Asian cuisine.

Since both of us were driving that afternoon, we opted for mocktails. The drink on the left was a ginger-ale based cooler that was missing some sweetness and the touch of lychee that had been promised in the menu. The other beverage, a minty virgin mojito was pleasant and both drinks were light enough to whet our appetite without filling us up.

Banjara Melting Pot

For the appetizers we mostly went with the suggestions from the restaurant folks. The vegetarian dishes – Asian-style, were Cottage Cheese with Three Peppers and Kung Pao Potato.  We weren’t bowled out by either of these – the texture of the paneer was on the chewy side and the potatoes were a trifle over-sweet.

Banjara Melting Pot

The non-vegetarian plates were both very good, though. The Murgh Lalwari Kabab (on the left, above) was smoky tandoori grilling at its best, perfectly spiced and terrifically succulent on the inside because of a deliciously creamy minced spinach and cheese filling.

The Lucknowi Seekh Kabab (above, right) was done pretty well..the meat was fork-tender and assertively flavoured with green chillies and coriander.

Banjara Melting Pot

For the main course we decided to experiment with Kori Rotti (above, left) – a Mangalorean dish which consisted of a red fish curry and the rotti – brittle cracker-like bread. The rotti was to be soaked in the curry and eaten. This was truly delicious – the crisp rotti softened and absorbed the thick curry, resulting in a melange of textures and spicy flavours in each bite. This dish can be ordered with chicken too, if you prefer that to fish.

The other combo that we tried was Spicy Corn Balls in Sauce with some Panfried Noodles (above, right) to go with them. The noodles were pretty colourful, with lots of shredded peppers and other vegetables, and both these dishes had the typical Indo-Chinese flavours.

Banjara Melting Pot

And then, it was time for dessert. The Tiramisu looked perfect but lacked flavour. We’d recommend that you go with the Chocolate Mousse, which was richly creamy and high on chocolaty-ness.

When we do visit multi-cuisine restaurants, we usually find that it is safe to order Indian food, and we’d recommend that you do that here too. All the Indian dishes we tried were really nice and we’d love to go back and try more of the tandoori and seafood menu at Banjara Melting Pot. But, if you are with a large group or with kids and would like to add on some noodles or Chinese starters to your order, then this place would work pretty well for that. A special mention for the service..quick, unobtrusive and helpful!

Banjara Melting Pot
32, 80 Feet road, 4th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore
Phone – 080 49653253
Meal for two – 1100 plus taxes
Parking – Valet
Credit Cards – Accepted
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Salute to Summer – Creamy Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies

Pasta Salad with Yoghurt Grilled Veggies

If there’s one ingredient that is used and loved in many cuisines around the world, it is yoghurt. It was one of the first foods that we fed to our babies, and is a staple on our dinner tables every night, either on its own, or in a raita or curry. Later we discovered even more magical ways of using it – for example, in cakes and muffins, where yoghurt’s tang and richness contributes to tender and tasty baked goodies. Yoghurt panna cottas, parfaits, popsicles, semifreddo and gelato are all delicious, and these desserts play on yoghurt’s creamy tartness to impart a decadent mouth-feel while still keeping things light and refreshing.

While many of the desserts we’ve tried with yogurt are Italian, it seemed that we had rarely seen yogurt used in savoury Italian dishes, unlike Greek food where it is a mainstay. A little digging around the internet however showed us how little we knew. Italians were using yoghurt in all sorts of applications like tart fillings, inside ravioli, fritters, sauces, marinades, bechemel and more. And thus it came about that we thought of creating a summery dish that showcases this beautiful ingredient in one of our favourite cuisines – Italian.

Pasta Salad with Yoghurt Grilled Veggies

The other ingredient that’s a star in our salad today is vegetables. When one looks at vegetables in Italian cuisine, it is fresh, local and seasonal produce that is used. And then, there’s not much that’s done to it..just quick cooking and simple dressings that don’t mess with the integrity of the flavours and textures.

Pasta Salad with Yoghurt Grilled Veggies

So, for our pasta dish today we just cut the veggies into large strips and grilled them. Grilling is a fantastic way to keep the veggies juicy and tender-crisp and even if you just use a grill pan in the kitchen. The sizzle and char of the grill bring out the flavours in even bland vegetables like zucchini, amp up the sweet pungency of onions and accentuate the piquancy of bell peppers.

Pasta Salad with Yoghurt Grilled Veggies

We used yoghurt and tomato paste in the marinade for creaminess and colour, along with garlic and a little seasoning. It is important not to marinate the vegetables for too long, or else they will start losing their juices and become watery.

Pasta Salad with Yoghurt Grilled Veggies

Any good quality short cut of pasta can be used in this salad. We’ve used Del Monte’s Chifferi Rigati, which looks almost like elbow macaroni, but with ridges along its length that help the sauce to cling on to the pasta. We cooked the pasta as recommended by the good folks at Del Monte – in plenty of generously salted water, as this is the only chance to flavour the pasta itself.

Pasta Salad with Yoghurt Grilled Veggies

Grilled fresh vegetables, al dente pasta and a garlicky yoghurt dressing make this pasta a firm family favourite. We make it a lot in the summer, since it is light and cooling, waist-friendly and comes together quickly. And if you need a dish for a potluck or picnic, our Creamy Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies is perfect since it tastes wonderful at room temperature as well.

We like to make a big batch and stock this mayo and cheese-free yet satisfying pasta dish in our refrigerators to have on hand for a quick meal. You can even add grilled chicken chunks or prawns to the dish to make it even more hearty.

Creamy Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies

Servings – 4             Serving size – 1 heaped cup salad

Preparation time – 30 minutes          Cooking time – 15 minutes

Special Equipment – Grill pan or outdoor grill, or use an iron tava or even an OTG

For the grilled vegetables – 

  • Marinade –
    • ¼ cup thick yogurt 
    • 2 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste*
    • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated pepper
    • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or mixed dried herbs
    • ¼ teaspoon red chilli flakes, or to taste
    • Salt to taste
  • 1 onion
  • ½ zucchini
  • ½ red pepper
  • ½ yellow pepper
  • 3-4 baby corn
  • 8-10 asparagus spears or 3-4 spring onion greens
  • 1 tablespoon oil 
  1. Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl.
  2. Peel and then cut the onion into wedges, keeping the root intact so that the pieces stay together. Cut the zucchini into 4 sections length-wise. Cut the peppers into 1″ thick strips. Slit the babycorn lengthwise. Trim away the woody asparagus ends or if using spring onions, cut them lengthwise.
  3. Preheat a grill pan on medium heat, and brush it with a little oil.
  4. Toss the veggies in the marinade and immediately place them on the hot grill. Do not crowd the veggies on the grill, you can grill them in batches instead. Remember to clean the tava with a paper napkin and then drizzle oil before you grill the next batch. Grill the veggies on both sides until softened and starting to char, but still crisp.
  5. Once grilled, cut the veggies into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Set aside to cool.

For the salad – 

  • 1.5 cups Del Monte Chifferi Rigati 
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thick yoghurt
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste*
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup fresh basil, loosely packed
  • A few lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes, olives and pickled chillies for garnish
  1. Boil the pasta as per the directions on the package, taking care to keep it al dente. Drain and then toss the pasta with the extra virgin olive oil. Set aside to cool.
  2. To make the dressing whisk together the yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice, honey, pepper and salt until smooth. Taste and season if necessary.
  3. Put the pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add the fresh basil, tearing up the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Reserve a quarter cup of the dressing and pour the rest over the pasta. Toss well. Add the grilled veggies to the bowl and mix very gently.
  4. If you are not serving the pasta right away, refrigerate it and the reserved dressing separately in closed containers. Mix in the reserved dressing just before serving. If serving immediately, add in the reserved dressing only if the salad looks dry.
  5. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl lined with lettuce. Add cherry tomatoes, olives and pickled chillies for garnish, as desired.
  6. Enjoy!

* To mash garlic by hand for this recipe, smash the pods with the side of a heavy knife. Remove the skins, then chop the smashed garlic into smaller pieces and mash them up using the side of the knife, adding a few grains of salt to provide an abrasive. You can also use a pestle and mortar.

Pasta Salad with Yoghurt Grilled Veggies

We’re sending our Creamy Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies to Del Monte’s  #DelMonteItalianEscapades campaign

Read more about Del Monte’s pasta, sauces and other popular products here – https://www.facebook.com/DelMonteIndia

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An afternoon with George Calombaris

George Calombaris Bangalore

We discovered MasterChef Australia fairly late by any set of standards. This happened soon after we moved back to India a little over three years ago. We’ve definitely made up for lost time since, and the show is a firm fixture on our TVs every season now. All the three judges are well-loved and respected everywhere, and getting to meet any of them is such a privilege. So when George Calombaris, celebrity chef, restaurateur and MasterChef judge was in town, we were totally thrilled to be sent an invitation for a meet and tasting with him.

George Calombaris Bangalore

After an introduction and a few questions George Calombaris and his team started plating up the first dish – Ouzo Cured Indian Seabass with Miso Eggplant. Chef explained that the original dish had been planned with salmon but since that did not work out they switched to Indian Seabass.

The peppery spice crust on the fish, the ouzo and the eggplant were a nod to the chef’s Greek heritage. We don’t usually opt to eat fish that’s not felt the heat of the stove, but were pretty glad we tried this. The texture of the fish was very different from anything that we’ve tasted before, and the peppery crunch of the crust as well as the celery set it off very nicely. The eggplant sauce was incredibly smooth, the miso gave it real depth, and a deliciously savoury appeal.

George Calombaris Bangalore

Soon after the chef along with two of his team members from his restaurants in Australia started working on the second dish – Soft Shell Crab Souvlaki. Souvlaki is popular Greek street food – usually a grilled skewer of meat wrapped in pita bread. The chef mentioned that he had not found the bread as per his requirement so he was improvising by using naans for the souvlaki instead of the traditional pita. The filling was crispy fried soft shell crab, being fried aromatically right in front of us.

George Calombaris Bangalore

The souvlakis were prepared by the chef at a speed that would match any busy street vendor’s, and served in paper cones. He urged everyone to “eat them while they’re hot!” and no one needed any further prompting to do just that.

George Calombaris Bangalore

Some fresh lettuce and a schmear of honey-lime-mint dressing was all that came between the crab and the naan. Delicious flavours and such a contrast of textures between the chew of the naan, crunch of the crab and smoothness of the dressing.

George Calombaris Bangalore

Dessert was Salted Caramel Rice Pudding with Almond Biscuit, Rice Ice Cream and crushed pistachios. Again there were plenty of contrasting textures that popped around our mouths as we dug into this creation. The chef talked about how every culture has a rice pudding which infused wild ideas of salted caramel ribbons running through our next pot of kheer.

George Calombaris Bangalore

We loved how friendly, witty and sociable the chef seemed. His down to earth attitude, love for food, his inventiveness, outstanding creativity, affection for his team and his business expertise were evident as we listened to him talk.

It was a really inspiring afternoon. The food, as well as the chef’s banter as he answered questions about everything from his take on molecular gastronomy to his dessert preferences, his aversion to spicy food and his vision for his restaurants.

We thank Zomato and Gold Rush Entertainment for bringing George Calombaris to our city, and for the invitation to meet him. And special thanks to JW Marriot for hosting a wonderful event.

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Restaurant Review: 25 years of Karavalli!

Karavalli

When it comes to experiencing the varied cuisine of the South-Western Coast of India, we’d like to go out on a spindly limb and declare that no place does it better than Karavalli. For 25 amazing years they have been consistently bringing authentic specialties from the home kitchens of Kerala, Mangalore, Karwar and Goa to their guests, in a vintage Bengaluru setting, just off Residency Road.

We haven’t really eaten these dishes in our grandmothers’ kitchen, but it doesn’t need a stretch of imagination to conjure up vivid images of how they could have been prepared. A lovely old traditional kitchen, crackling wood-fires, ancient pots and pans filled with well-seasoned curries simmering placidly away, the rhythmic thuds of masalas being pounded, and spicy, savoury aromas lingering in the air, is the picture that springs to mind, as we listen to Chef Naren Thimmaiah talk to us about the kitchens that are so close to his heart.

Karavalli

We’ve been to Karavalli a while back, for a seafood wood-fired grilling experience that we really enjoyed. This visit was even more special, since they were going to serve handpicked classics from the top twenty-five in the iconic Karavalli menu. Having arrived a little early, we wandered around the restaurant, admiring the beautiful and unpretentious decor. Karavalli is all about dark wood panels and pillars, weathered tables, cobbled pathways, interesting shiny brass and copper accents and golden globe lights. The display of fresh seafood on a bed of crushed ice in the garden area subtly nudges you to check out the outdoor grilling station.

Karavalli

A lump of jaggery in the tiniest bowl ever is how you start your meal here. There are papads to munch on, and pickles and chutneys to get your taste-buds warmed up. The iced tea with kokum is a delicious twist, and the chef is quick to share that kokum is one of six souring agents that are used in the kitchens here. We’re now quite done with the preliminaries and can’t wait to get started on the goodies.

Karavalli

The starters arrive in quick succession, but the taste of the Tiger Prawn Roast that is served first is unbeatable. The tangy onion-tomato masala clings to the perfectly cooked prawns and leaves us hungry for more. The next feature is the very different Meen Eleittad, fillets of Black Pomfret, dressed in a spicy marinade and grilled in the folds of a banana leaf, ensuring that the fish retains its delicate juiciness and flakes at the touch of the fork.

Then comes Kane Kaidina – whole ladyfish with Mangalorean spices, deep-fried to a crispy finish..delicious but a little hard to eat due to the fine bones in the fish. And there is the Koli Barthad – succulent chicken chunks pan-roasted with Coorgi spices, nicely balanced with a touch of vinegar.

Karavalli

The vegetarian starters that we enjoyed included a super delicious raw-banana fry dish from Kerala – Pachakkai Varathathu – crescent-shaped slices of banana, deep-fried and then tossed in a perfect blend of spices. Another appetizer is Oggaraneda Aritha Pundi – tiny rice dumplings tossed in a powdery lentil ‘n coconut blend with a light crunch. Also served is the classic Pathrode – colocasia leaf rolls layered with a spicy paste, then rolled, steamed, panfried in ghee and served with more ghee to offset the irritating effects of colocasia on the throats of diners.

Karavalli

An array of curries is served along with a platter heaped with steaming coconut-speckled idiyappams, all made from scratch. The fish curry – Allapuzha Meen Curry – has seer fish poached in a smooth coconut and chilli curry that isn’t as hot as the dramatic red colour might indicate. The vegetable stew with a silky coconut milk base is mild and pairs perfectly with the appams served hot and fresh from the live counter. We love the spicy chicken and veggie curry (Kozhi Malliperilan) and this tastes wonderful mopped up with the Kerala-style Malabar paranthas. Another favourite is the mango curry – Mavinakkai Mensukkai, tangy and sweet, with succulent mango pieces that were preserved in brine.

Two dry dishes that we tried were a classic baby potato roast with really tiny potatoes in a chunky onion-tomato masala. The roasted lamb with fennel was the only dish that we didn’t care too much for since it was a little on the dry side.

Karavalli

In a world filled with a multitude of pages of the same-old multi-cuisine and fusion menus, the home-style fare at Karavalli is something one can contemplate eating even a few nights in a row without getting weary of it. Exactly like in grandma’s own kitchen.

If you haven’t already, head to Karavalli to enjoy a relaxed evening over dishes from the 25 years of Karavalli menu and savour the taste of a time almost gone by.

Address: Karavalli @ The Gateway Hotel,
Residency Road
Bangalore
Availability: Lunch & Dinner
Cuisine – South Indian Coastal, with Seafood specialties 
Phone: +91  80-66604545
Accepts Cards: Yes
Parking: Valet
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Swing it on the Stovetop – Cornbread Paniyarams

Crusty Cornbread Bites Ebelskiver

With the amount of diverse flavours and textures available readily to us in our little Indian kitchens, we could traverse the world in a few days with prudently created regional recipes. Give us a block of good cheese and some fine eggs, and we’ll serve up a classy Continental breakfast, with our signature masala edge. Rope in some fine wine, a bunch of fresh basil, and a heap of vine-ripe tomatoes, and ask for a pasta party, in true-blue Tadka Pasta style. Some fresh corn and peppers, de-boned chicken breasts, and some advance notice to make a slab of paneer..is all we’d ask for if you’re in the mood for a backyard cookout, minus that different tasting barbecue sauce – we make our own desi tikka marinade, thank you. If ever you happen upon a variety of chilis, God knows we could build them up into a tall Tex-Mex treat. We’ve done this before, and we love doing it again, so here’s our latest multi-cuisine offering, with a wallop of heat and a punch of spice: stovetop cornbread, slotted neatly and deftly in the cute little hollows of a paniyaram pan.

Crusty Cornbread Bites Ebelskiver Crusty Cornbread Bites
(Makes 18-20)
Special Equipment – An Ebelskiver pan, or as we call it in India, Paniyaram pan

  • Dry Ingredients –
    • ½ cup yellow corn flour (our  sub – makki ka atta)
    • ¼ cup whole wheat flour/atta
    • ¼ cup all purpose flour/maida
    • ½ tsp baking powder
    • ¼ tsp baking soda
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1½ tsp Mexican chili powder (sub – ½ tsp red chili powder + 1 tsp cumin powder)
  • Wet Ingredients –
    • 3/4 cup buttermilk (at room temperature)
    • ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
    • 2 eggs (at room temperature)
  • oil or ghee for cooking
  •  Any or all of these add-ins –
    • ½ cup grated Cheddar cheese
    • ½ cup boiled corn kernels
    • 1 small green chilli, minced
    • 1 chopped onion + 1 tomato and/or capsicum, sauteed together in a teaspoon of oil
  1. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl or measuring cup
  2. Preheat the ebelskiver/paniyaram pan as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Stir briefly until mixed.
  4. Stir in any or all of the add-ins mentioned above
  5. Put a few drops of oil or ghee into each cup. Spoon in the batter into the preheated pan – about a tablespoon in each cup, leaving a little room for the cornbread to rise.
  6. Cover the pan with a domed lid.
  7. Cook for about 3-5 minutes or until set. Carefully turn them over using a thin spatula or bamboo skewer. Cook the other side for about 2 minutes or until well-browned, adding more oil or ghee, if desired.
  8. Remove from the pan and serve immediately

Crusty Cornbread Bites Ebelskiver Put a stack of these crusty bites on the table and watch them disappear in no time! They can moonlight as a side for any meal or as a wholesome after-school snack with a glass of milk. And they happen to be perfectly portable to take along for a picnic or potluck. Crusty Cornbread Bites Ebelskiver If you’re serving them on their own, put out a bowl of spicy salsa, pickled chilies and sliced olives or let guests dip them into a thick yogurt ‘n honey-mustard sauce. Crusty Cornbread Bites Ebelskiver Sometimes we take this recipe a step further by making cheese-stuffed bites. For this variation you can gently push in a small cube of cheese into the batter once you’ve poured it into the cups. Crusty Cornbread Bites Ebelskiver Leftovers can be refrigerated and then re-heated briefly in the same pan to crisp them up before serving.

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Restaurant Review: Lunch @ Riwaz, The Ritz Carlton

Lunch at Riwaz

Riwaz at the Ritz Carlton is one of the finest restaurants in Bangalore, serving authentic and inspired North-west Frontier cuisine. Chef Ramandeep had hosted us for dinner at Riwaz not too long ago, and what a grand and unforgettable experience that meal was! When we heard that they are now open for lunch, we had to take them up on their invitation to go and check it out. So, off we trotted to the Ritz once more, and after trudging through the infamous Bangalore traffic and coping with inconveniently AWOL taxis, reached in plenty of time for the first course.

What is now on offer at Riwaz is a prix fixe three-course quick business lunch, that gives the vegetarian as well as the non-vegetarian diner several choice points in each course. The chefs promise that the entire experience would take not more than 45 minutes, though it did take considerably longer for our group that day. The all-inclusive pricing of Rs. 1200/-with taxes, is a definite attraction and gives folks a great opportunity to get a taste of the Riwaz classics, relax in the distinctive ambiance and of course, enjoy the impeccable service.

Lunch at Riwaz

Bhatti Da Kukkud, Jaali designs on the windows, saffron cream brew

The first course brought us the Bhatti Da Kukkud – chicken that had been marinated in mustard oil and “Bhatti Masala”, and chargrilled. The chicken was succulent, and the little salad and red chili chutney that came with the dish added crunch and freshness. We couldn’t really taste the zing of mustard but the spices were beautifully melded and quite perfect.

Lunch at Riwaz

Tandoori roti, Subz dum biriyani, Saag Murgh, Subz dum biriyani

For the main course one can select a bread-based meal that consists of a choice of main course, with a bowl of Dal Makhani, Steam Rice and Chef’s Bread Basket served alongside. The other option is a biriyani-based meal, where the Subz or Murgh Dum Biriyani is served with a raita.

The Saag murgh that came as the main course was simply prepared and very delicious, the ginger, garlic and caraway flavouring the velvety saag nicely, and nary a streak of cream in sight. We’d recommend pairing plain tandoori rotis with this dish to go along with its rustic, home-style flavours. The Dal Makhani that is also part of the meal, was spot-on, with a depth of flavour that long, slow simmering brings.

The other dish we tried was the Subz Dum biriyani. The presentation of the Riwaz biriyani is quite spectacular. The rice is given dum under a thick, flaky layer of golden pastry that is peeled away at the table to reveal the delicious, herb-scented hot biriyani underneath. This is the route to go for biriyani fans.

Lunch at Riwaz

Dessert gives one a choice of gulab jamun, fresh fruit or kulfi. Our vote goes to the kulfi, which comes in two flavours, with a dark chocolate disk and some blingy gold foil too. Now, who can resist that!

A great deal and good food is what awaits you at lunchtime at Riwaz! Here are some details –

Address: Riwaz, The Ritz-Carlton,

No. 99, Residency Road, Bangalore 560025

Phone: +91 80 4914 8000

Hours of operation: 12:30 to 3pm (Mon to Sat)

Valet parking

Credit cards accepted

Meal for one: Rs. 1200/- including taxes

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