Bring out the Salsa! Brown Rice, Mexican-style

Ever since the words Mexican Pink Rice appeared in a newspaper article, replete with a recipe, several years ago when we were starry-eyed eager beavers for Sunday specials to feed our families, we’ve had a thing for, well, Mexican Pink Rice.

While the Pink in it really refers to the flush skinned Pinto beans they use, the flavors running through the course of it are really what make it delectable and they’re not very different from what comes off the spices we experiment with in our everyday cooking. We took that idea as a key to work around and came up with our own spicy and slick version, with beans on the side.

Mexican Brown Rice

Brown Rice, Mexican-style

(Serves 4)

  • 1 Cup quick cooking brown rice (We used Daawat brand)
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 Large onion, minced
  • 1 Red bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 Spring onions, white and green parts chopped separately
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-3 Jalapenos, minced (to taste)
  • 1 Teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ Teaspoon red chilli powder/cayenne
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 5 Medium tomatoes, blanched, skin removed and pureed
  • Approx 1 cup of water or vegetable stock
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ Teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup chopped coriander/cilantro leaves
  • 2 Teaspoons lemon juice
  • ¼ Cup grated cheese
  • Sour cream, red or black beans, tomato salsa and tortilla chips to accompany the rice
  1. Wash and soak the brown rice for 15-30 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pressure cooker and add the onion, bell pepper and spring onion whites. Add a couple of pinches of salt and cook the vegetables on medium-low heat, stirring often, for about 5-6 minutes. Now add the garlic and jalapenos and stir for another minute. Toss in the cumin, chilli and turmeric.
  3. Add the drained rice to the pan and toast it, stirring gently.
  4. Meanwhile measure the tomato puree and add water or stock to make it up to 2 cups*. Bring this mixture up to a boil.
  5. Carefully pour the liquid into the rice. Stir well. Add salt and sugar.
  6. Pressure cook the rice until done* – bring the cooker up to pressure, reduce the heat to low and cook for 3 minutes. Allow the steam to release then open the cooker. Allow the rice to cool slightly. Stir in the lemon juice and coriander leaves. Garnish with the reserved spring onion greens and grated cheese.

* – Adjust the amount of liquid and cooking times to your brand of brown rice, as per the directions on the pack or your experience.

Mexican Brown Rice

Serve the rice in a shallow bowl with a scoop of beans, a dollop of sour cream and plenty of salsa. Add a few tortilla chips for crunch.

Mexican Brown Rice

Posted in Mexicana Munch, Rice 'n Spice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Restaurant Review: Soup, Salad & Sorbet at The Market, Ritz-Carlton

The Market

We could not find a better way to kick-start the week than stopping by to sample the Soup, Salad and Sorbet spread at The Market, an all-day buffet restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Bangalore. The restaurant has a light and open feel to it – over-sized windows and a complimenting colour-scheme of navy and silver, with bunches of red carnations providing splashes of colour.

The Market

There were four soups on the buffet to choose from that day. The pork and barley chowder was warm and wholesome, with carrots and celery providing the veggie quotient. Right after that we tasted the spiced Inji or ginger rasam. Since it was served as a soup the rasam had been homogenised into a soupy smooth consistency, with a pleasant sourness and a kick from the ginger.

There was also a cold gazpacho on offer, this seemed mild and something one could sip on along with the salads too. Rounding up the quartet was a wonton soup with prawns from the Asian counter. This was a clear soup and the broth seemed to lack flavour though the vegetables and dumplings were perfectly cooked.

The Market

Beckoning us invitingly to the next course was the elaborate salad bar with its array of crisp veggies, meats, dressings and add-on goodies, to concoct one’s own bowl of fresh, crunchy goodness. There were also several prepared salads, the onerous work of pairing and tossing the ingredients having been done by the chefs behind the scenes. We enjoyed quite a few of these, and appreciated the fact that there were no heavy, cream-swamped calorie bombs here.

The Market

The salad options included a choice of crispy chicken, lamb and marinated prawns and it was the latter that we relished the most, the prawns, having absorbed a ton of the light dressing had become really juicy and flavour-packed.

The Market

One can also enjoy a selection of mezze on the side – a scarlet beetroot hummus was on offer that day along with marinated figs, olives and more, with crispy lavash and grissini to scoop these up.

The Market

The highlight of the meal for us was the two salads served at the table – a rocking Caesar with shards of Parmesan and a beautiful quail’s egg on top. The egg, sadly was a mite overcooked but the salad itself was lovely and had us finishing every single bite. The other stunner was a simple plate showcasing fresh tomatoes – halved red and yellow cherry varieties with a single slice of a purple beauty. With nothing but a smear of the creamy cheese to dress them, they tasted like summer on a plate.

The Market

There’s no denying that the Sorbet part of the trio was what had drawn us to The Market that day. We tried all of the six sorbets on offer. The vibrantly coloured beetroot-cumin sorbet tasted quite like raw beets and could perhaps have worked as a savoury offering since it was very marginally sweetened. It was definitely not dessert. Texture-wise the sunny yellow pumpkin sorbet nailed it for us, and is perfect if you like..well, pumpkin. The pineapple flavour was delicious, as was the green apple-mint, though this one had an icy texture, reminding us of a granita. The plum with brandy rounded off the sorbet tray nicely, again with a more grainy texture.

The Market

There are also myriad options to pump up your cup of sorbet, including fresh fruit, candy, wafers, ice-cream cones, marshmallows and such. Though we do love to pile on the toppings on our ice cream sundaes, the lightness of sorbets is something we like to savour on its own. At our request the chef plated the six sorbets beautifully, and we enjoyed photographing these.

Overall, the Soup, Salad and Sorbet meal at The Market is great for a light working lunch. With summer-like weather hitting Bangalore mid-February it also seems a fitting way to welcome the hot months lying ahead. We do wish that the chef would add some more interesting and perhaps slightly out of the ordinary soups to the buffet. The lightly dressed salads with their just-picked quality of vegetables are definitely an attraction. The sorbets did leave us craving something a little more for dessert. Some of these could be sweetened a tad more, at least to suit our tastebuds, and perhaps prepared with a smoother texture, since they are serving as dessert here.

Address: The Market, The Ritz-Carlton,
No. 99, Residency Road, Bangalore 560025
Phone: +91 80 4914 8000
Hours of operation: 6:30 am to 12:30 am
Valet parking, Credit cards accepted
Soup, Salad and Sorbet: 1200/- plus taxes, not including beverages or other items on the buffet
Available: 17 – 21 February and 24 – 28 February 2014 with a break over the weekend. 
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Saying it with Strawberries

Strawberries and Cream Mousse

There’s little else in terms of a wholly satisfying experience in the kitchen than laying your hands on the season’s freshest produce to work wonders with. Plump strawberries that glisten like rubies in the sunshine dappled shacks of the local vendor, call out to you from a distance, this time of the year. You bag a load of them faster than your culinarily inclined mind could line up the things you can do with them. Cupcakes and milkshakes are passé, but cheesecake and mousse cannot entirely be ruled out. And with Valentine’s Day just a blink away, there has to be one choice and it has to be made now. You get to work and you make magic, naturally. You hold up your creation: lush, velveteen depths of berried deliciousness, brimming with creamy, chocolatey strains, topped off with a magic carpet of red and a cloud of white – and all else comes to a stand still. The little hands that reach out for this gem of a dessert, armed ably with a spoon and an enviable appetite, almost makes up for being left with very little of it for yourself.

Strawberries and Cream Mousse

Strawberries and Cream Mousse 

(Serves 6-8) 

  • 1 Cup strained strawberry puree, divided*
  • 200 gm white chocolate, chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons gelatin, divided
  • 450ml heavy whipping cream (such as Milky Mist or Nilgiris brands in South India)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 3-4 strawberries, halved, for garnish, optional
  1. Place the white chocolate in a large glass bowl and melt it in 30 seconds bursts in the microwave at low power. Stir until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Sprinkle 1.5 tsp gelatin over a shallow bowl containing 1/8 cup cool water.
  3. Stir together ¼ cup of the cream and the 1/2 cup icing sugar in a small bowl. Add the gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve the gelatin. You can heat this mixture slightly to help the gelatin dissolve, if needed.
  4. Make sure that the chocolate is still melted and smooth. Now, slowly pour the cream-gelatin mixture into the bowl of melted chocolate, and stir until smooth. Whisk in 3/4 cup of the strawberry purée, reserving the remaining ¼ cup.
  5. Whip the remaining cream until soft peaks form. Reserve a little of the whipped cream for garnish, if desired.
  6. Fold the whipped cream into the strawberry mixture. Scoop the mousse into the serving bowl or individual cups. Refrigerate.

For the topping-

  1. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tsp gelatin over a shallow bowl containing 2 tbsp cool water. Let this soak for a few minutes. Heat gently until the gelatin melts.
  2. Stir the gelatin into the reserved strawberry puree along with the remaining 2tbsp icing sugar. Pour over the mousse in a thin layer. Refrigerate until set.

Garnish with the reserved whipped cream and halved strawberries.

* To make the strawberry puree – Place about 300gm washed and hulled strawberries in a mixer and process briefly until smooth. Strain and discard the seeds.

Strawberries and Cream Mousse

The mousse is also lovely when made in individual portions, or perhaps portions for two, to share with your sweetie.

Strawberries and Cream Mousse

Adapted from –


Posted in Festive Fare, Summer Coolers, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Restaurant Review: Riwaz at The Ritz Carlton, Bangalore

Riwaz There’s really nothing we enjoy better than a grand Indian meal, especially when it’s been done right – classic dishes, true to their roots, but with a twist or two to add a spark and lift them out of the humdrum. Riwaz, at the swanky Ritz-Carlton, Residency Road, Bangalore pretty much knocks it out of the park with its signature specialties based on the cuisine of the North-west frontier of India. Located on Level 4 in the first and at present, only Ritz-Carlton hotel in India, this classy restaurant opens only for dinner. We picked a balmy Sunday evening to visit this beautiful property at their invitation and enjoyed every bit of the meal and the ritzy experience.

After being greeted warmly by the staff at the entrance we headed upstairs to the restaurant, having gotten only a fleeting glimpse of the grandeur and charm of the hotel. The entrance to the restaurant is dominated by a glittering wine ‘enoteca’, which, the good dictionary tells us is an Italian word used to describe a repository for wines. There are a couple of tables in this area devoted to wine and whiskey tasting, perfect for spending a leisurely evening with friends, if you are so inclined, before heading to the main restaurant area for dinner.

Riwaz The ambiance at Riwaz is modern and elegant, the decor is understated, perhaps to allow the kitchen and the food to take centre-stage. The highlight of the interiors is the sparkling open kitchen that seems to operate almost too peacefully considering the complexity of the delicacies they were dishing out. Three barrel-like, gleaming tandoors have the chefs bustling around them, armed with the traditional red-checked cloth pads for pasting breads to the sides of the oven, long skewers to retrieve them and wicked-looking seekhs for kababs.

A bevy of tables in white, beige and silver, and two lavishly appointed but cozy private dining rooms completes the scene. The hostess mentioned the theme of Indian jaalis or mesh-work that runs through the hotel and we saw it echoed in the screens here, the menus and later, in the garnishes that the chef created. Ably holding fort in the kitchen was Chef Ramandeep, the designer of the complete Riwaz food experience and we were fortunate to have our meal planned and crafted by him personally.

Riwaz We settled down at a table right next to the open kitchen and started out by selecting our drinks. The restaurant’s beverage menu includes several cocktails and alcohol-free options inspired by indigenous spices and other ingredients. We tasted the Sweet and Spice, a green concoction with the fresh coolness of coriander leaves and the lemony notes of coriander seeds. Nectar, with pomegranate juice and whiskey was smooth and interesting as well. Both the drinks that we tried were very mildly sweetened, and complemented the food nicely. Alongside we were served a light amuse bouche – a dahi vada bite adorned with a dainty pastry ring.

Riwaz We had left the choice of dishes to Chef Ramandeep and he obliged by selecting for us an interesting trio of appetizers. These were served with a bowl of vegetable crisps and a salad with chilli dressing. The Sunehari Jhinga (one of Chef’s signature dishes) – jumbo prawns with a delicate marinade of yogurt and saffron – was light and delightfully juicy and did not last long on the platter. Minced herbs, ground nuts and perhaps a hint of pomegranate made the Seekh Kebab Kandahari, which is a Pashtoon staple, a rich and flavourful treat. The third kebab was a ghee-lavished piece of tandoor-cooked chicken, the Turra Kebab, made to resemble the crest of a turban or a cock’s comb!

Riwaz The vegetarian platter included a mild and velvety smooth Sabji aur Gucchi di Galouti, a delicious meat-free avatar of the popular kabab that is usually made with ground meat. The Chef suggested that we eat bites of these patties alternating with the vegetable crisps (lotus root, spinach and okra) for a contrast of textures. Accompanying this was a drizzle of beetroot chutney that was meant to provide a change from the ubiquitous green chutney that is usually served with kababs.

If you love garlic then the multi-layered Tehdar Paneer Tikka with a minted garlic stuffing would be a good choice, though it was a tad too garlicky for our liking. We did like the Bharwan Tandoori Aloo with its stuffing of raisins and peas, all wrapped in a tandoori masala and grilled to a crisp tenderness.

Riwaz The spread laid out by the chef for our main course had us truly bedazzled. The superbly-spiced Baluchi Raan, lavished with beaten gold leaf was a star, as was the gorgeous Lobster Masala. At over Rs. 1700 per portion these are also the two most expensive dishes on the Riwaz menu. The raan or leg of lamb is marinated overnight and then slow cooked in the tandoor, a long process that results in the most delicious and tender chunks of lamb on your plate. This is lamb with a melt-in-the-mouth texture that you’re really not going to get with another method of cooking.

The Lobster masala had a lot going for it apart from the dramatic presentation. We’re not huge fans of drowning quality seafood in heavy masalas and sauces but this dish did work. The lobster chunks were soft and succulent and the gravy was mild and complementary.

The haleem served by the chef was a little out of place amidst the grandeur of the other two dishes, but deliciously so. Its down-home flavours were soothing and we could add our own toppings of diced tomato, caramelised onions and herb chiffonade for added flavour.

Riwaz Our vegetarian pick of the day was the Dal Makhani, which Chef asserted is the best in Bangalore. Well, we’re not playing the numbers game, but it was definitely a very appetizing preparation and we found ourselves going back for bites of dal after tasting the other dishes. The Kandahari Bharwan Gucchi Sabj had meaty morel mushrooms from Kashmir and we savoured this rare delicacy. Another dish served was the Bharwan Kofta, the koftas here could be softer, perhaps they were not heated through. Sarson ka saag is a winter specialty of the region and it was served with juliennes of ginger and the traditional accompaniments of ghee and jaggery.

Riwaz Even the most down to earth curry or basic dal tastes delectable when scooped up with hot-off-the-heat bread. Left to us we would have opted for the simplest tandoori rotis to counter the rich creaminess of the curries. But it seemed that Chef Ramandeep was in a mood to pamper us. Three bread baskets with a mind-boggling assortment of fresh rotis had us scrambling to taste each one while they were still warm. The Chef’s signature bakarkhani was yeasty and satisfying, as was the Rogani naan. Peshawari kulcha, khasta roti, missi roti..we loved them all. There was even a special tandoori parantha (pictured in the centre above) that was to be paired with the lobster dish – this was delicately flavored with star anise and herbs.


Just when we thought we could not eat another morsel, the dum biriyanis made their appearance. They were beautifully presented, with a crispy layer of pastry sealing the top, that was then garnished with chopped herbs and melon seeds. The pastry was cut and folded back with appropriate ceremony and then the rice was served up. We could only manage a spoonful at this point but could imagine heading back to Riwaz after a few days to appreciate this dish better.


The dessert platters were quite spectacular and thankfully did not have the heaviness that traditional Indian desserts are usually associated with. The saffron and pista sandesh is always a favourite and this was one of the best we’ve eaten. The Riwaz Belgian chocolate and cardamom pudding served in an earthen cup was warm from the oven and the molten chocolate concoction was luscious indeed.

The garnish of a graceful mesh made from crisp pastry brought back to mind the hostess’s comment about the jaali theme running through the hotel. And a special mention must be made for the pyramid of saffron ice cream. This had been placed on a crust that tasted like a katli, then covered in a shower of soan papdi and finished with a heavy coat of beaten silver. Accouterments aside, the saffron ice cream itself was superb, and we’d suggest that the chef add it to the dessert menu.


The triangular slices of a refreshing pan kulfi (pictured in the centre of the above collage) were garnished with a dry pan mixture that made it the perfect meal-closer for any pan fanatic. Served with the kulfi were tiny anise-scented meringues to add a sweet crunch. Flavoured chocolates and jellies were offered to end the meal, but we were so full that we could only admire these and take pictures.

The restaurant absolutely lived up to its claim of serving great dishes inspired by the North-west. We thoroughly enjoyed the best of Riwaz put out for us by Chef Ramandeep and will remember this meal for a long time. A word for the excellent service at the restaurant, which was warm, friendly and attentive. We also liked the interesting anecdotes behind some of the dishes which were narrated to us by the chef and can also be found on the menu itself. We’d recommend that you head to Riwaz for that special occasion, to savor their Indian-inspired drinks, perfect kababs, curries and amazing desserts.

Address: Riwaz, The Ritz-Carlton,
No. 99, Residency Road, Bangalore 560025
Phone: +91 80 4914 8000
Hours of operation: 7 to 11:30pm
Valet parking, Credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Approx. 4000/- plus taxes, not including beverages
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Review – Chocolate Tour at Jus’Trufs Chocolaterie

Living in the ‘burbs has its merits, no doubt – swanky eateries within an arm’s reach, and even trips to specialty stores clocked in a few kilometers to buy a block of imported cheese, or exotic produce. But when it’s a call between fine chocolate and long distance commute, we’d pick the former. Which is just what we did by traversing half the city, stopping just short of the international airport, and heading on over to Jus’Trufs, Bangalore’s one of a kind chocolate boutique, for their chocolate tour.


A warm welcome awaited us the moment we stirred into the chocolaterie, literally and figuratively – a strong, heady dose of cocoa in a chocolate shot – to set the mood for what was to come.

justrufs2Upstairs was a well organized set up of slides and a suave speaker, who took us through the history of not just the chocolaterie, but of chocolate itself. Informative and illuminating facts about the conducive environmental conditions for growing cocoa, right down to how the bitter, dark beans are transformed into edible chocolate, were discussed at length.

justrufs3Then came the exciting part of the session – getting hands-on experience with making chocolate truffles. Different forms of chocolate – white, milk, dark – were not only tinkered with, but tasted. We even got to grind the nibs and sample them in all their biting, tingling, raw glory. There were pre-made batches of chocolate ganache for the truffle starter exercise, which got off to a rather good beginning with marbled balls, dark chocolate solos and white chocolate solos being the popular choices.

Tadka cooking-002Next, the chocolate callets were melted, and the tempering process was demonstrated by the head chocolatier, followed by every participant taking a shot at it, some willingly and some not so willingly, given the amount of elbow grease it involved. The tempering done, the chocolate balls being left to set in the fridge were dunked in the melted chocolate, with a host of fun sprinkles at our disposal to add finishing touches to the creations.


While the truffles went back into the refrigerator, we sat around and nibbled on some tasty sandwiches and talked about the journey of the Jus’Trufs’ team, among other things. Finally, the truffles were boxed and readied to take home, and those interested walked right down to the shop to pick up their choice of handmade chocolates and holiday treats. After a quick peek into the factory where the chocolates are handmade and boxed for customised orders, we were homeward bound, nibbling on our very own, handcrafted truffles.

This chocolate tour is a unique and fun experience, and although a mite steep at 2000/- per head, we recommend it if you’re a die-hard chocolate lover. Even better if you have a child or children to take along, or are looking to celebrate a special day doing something interesting. To schedule your personalised chocolate tour, contact Jus’Trufs on:

Location: Jus’Trufs Cafe, Jakkur Road, Jakkur, Bangalore 560064.

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Restaurant Review: Christmas Brunch at Novotel

NovotelChr Brunch

It may not be a white Christmas like so many we’ve celebrated together, but the feasting is something we can’t be expected to give up. A four-course Christmas lunch was just what we needed to get us into the spirit of the season, and the promise of Chef Kailash Gundupalli preparing traditional Christmas specialties drew us and a few other blogger friends to the Novotel Hotel in Bangalore on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.

NovotelChr Brunch1

The mulled wine was a lovely way to start the meal, reminding us of the familiar Refreshing Reisling recipe in our new cookbook, Around the World with the Tadka Girls. We also tried some of the pretty mocktails and cocktails on offer; do note, however, that these are not included in the Christmas lunch package.

NovotelChr Brunch2

The chef’s opening dish was a soft and deliciously cheesy concoction topped with a crisp beetroot chip and set on a smear of balsamic. The roasted pumpkin soup drizzled with drops of truffle oil was a delight too, though we felt that the serving was really big for a soup course and wondered that it would ruin our appetite for the rest of the meal.

NovotelChr Brunch3

The appetizers were colourful and flavourful. A bright and fresh salad for the vegetarians, their only quibble being that the French beans used were not tender. The scallop and confit of pork belly combo absolutely hit the spot, with a few lightly dressed greens to provide a foil for the rich deliciousness of the pork. A palate cleanser followed, in the form of a pineapple sorbet and here we enjoyed the hints of cracked pepper here with the sweet-tart pineapple.

NovotelChr Brunch4

The star of the main course was the mille feuille of cottage cheese and vegetables. The turkey dish included dark and light meat with a scoop of whipped potatoes, gravy and some ribbon vegetables, again a really large portion and lacking the flavour that we had enjoyed in the earlier courses. The impressive looking grilled beef tenderloin too got a nod from our fellow diners who said that it paired well with the curry sauce.

NovotelChr Brunch5

What can we say about the dessert platter! Christmas cake with a crackling sugar glaze, plum pudding with a light brandy sauce, stollen fried in butter, mince pie with raspberry sauce and a light vanilla gelato to round things off. Though all the goodies were in the traditional style we could not help but wish for a lighter option after the heavy meal.

NovotelChr Brunch6

A choice of tea or coffee and cookies is included in the package and we lingered over our cappuccinos before we could muster up to the thought of the long drive home. We really enjoyed the meal and felt that it had a nice blend of modern and traditional elements.

This special Christmas 4 Course menu will be served at Lunch and Dinner on 25th Dec, 2013 at the Square, Novotel, Bellandur, Bangalore and is priced at Rs 999 + taxes. A glass of mulled wine is included.

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Quick-fix Chocolate-cheese Tartlets

Mini chocolate-cheese tarts

’tis the season to be jolly, no doubt. But when the hands drop down at the very sight of, say, the whisk, in the aftermath of having baked too many holiday treats; and the kids beg for a little something in all earnestness, we churn out a pile of these easy-peasy tartlets. No painstaking processes like stacking sheets of phyllo a mile high, or making elaborate fillings involved. These lively beauties round up rather quickly, looking festive and delectable with crowns of berries and powdery wreaths of sugar.

Mini chocolate-cheese tarts

Mini Chocolate-cheese tartlets

(Makes 24)

For the tart shells – 

  • 6 sheets ready Samosa Patti (we used the Switz brand) or phyllo pastry
  • 50gm unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tablespoon fine-grain castor sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Brush a 24-cavity mini muffin pan with melted butter and set aside.
  3. Work with one sheet of the samosa patti at a time and keep the rest covered with a wet paper towel.
  4. Cut one sheet of the samosa patti into 4 equal parts. Brush both sides with melted butter. Make a small cut on one side and then nestle it into a muffin cup, overlapping the edges and pushing down the middle slightly to make a flat-bottomed tartlet shell. In case the pastry tears, just patch it up by adding a little piece from another sheet. If you are using phyllo, add another layer of pastry to the cup.
  5. Sprinkle a large pinch of the castor sugar on each cup.
  6. Bake the cups for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow the shells to cool in the pan.

Mini chocolate-cheese tarts

For the chocolate filling –

  • 100gms dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 100ml cream
  1. Heat the cream in the microwave until hot but not boiling. Pour over the chopped chocolate. Wait for a couple of minutes and then stir until smooth. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

For the cheese filling – 

  • 50 gms cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon butter at room temperature
  • 75 gms icing/confectioners sugar, sifted or to taste
  • ½ Teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together all the ingredients until smooth and then cover and refrigerate to thicken. Taste and add more sugar if desired.

To assemble the tarts – Put a dollop of the chocolate filling and then a teaspoon of the cheese filling into each tart. Top with a berry – a raspberry, a quartered strawberry, blueberry or a chunk of any fruit of your choice.

Put a tablespoon of icing sugar in a sieve and dust the tartlets generously just before serving.

Mini chocolate-cheese tarts

Posted in Bakes And Cakes, Festive Fare, Funnibles, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Restaurant Review – Shebestan


What hits you, and hits you hard when you enter the newly opened restaurant, Shebestan at Sterling Mac’s hotel is the exotic decor, which is right out of an Arabian Nights extravaganza. The restaurant serves authentic Arabic specialties and you feel like you are wandering around a dimly lit Sheikh’s palace. The wall of colourful glass lamps behind the bar (since the open display of liquor is frowned upon in the Middle-east) is just stunning. Row upon row of ornate picture frames houses everything from hand-painted tiles to antique guns. Genies in kitschy costumes, over-the-top figurines, shiny pitchers, they’ve got it all and more!


We were a group of food bloggers, invited to the restaurant for an experiential dinner. Once we had been shown around the restaurant and refreshed with warm towelettes, we were offered potent Arabic coffee in small glasses. The coffee tasted strong and cinnamon-y and we were instructed to just sip at it, and then take a bite of a date. This combination is most definitely an acquired taste and we were happy to just try a sip and then munch on the other delicacies arriving at the table.


The appetizers were all vegetarian, beginning with a huge, on-the-house platter of over-sized crudites served with a tahini dip. This was followed by a basket of steaming hot Arabic bread, yeasty and delicious. To go with the bread were two excellent dips – Hummus and Mouttabel, an eggplant based concoction. The salad was super-fresh and tangy, the chunks of haloumi providing a nice contrast to the crunchy vegetables. Crispy falafel and delicate pastries filled with spinach and cheese rounded off the lavish starter spread. We would have been happy to make a meal of these but it looked like the chef had other plans for us.


The next course was a meat-lover’s delight. We had grilled chicken, lamb chops, beef chunks and sheesh kababs. The meat was excellent and cooked to perfection. Each of the kebabs were placed on a hunk of bread spread with a tomatoey condiment and accompanied by onion salad, roasted tomatoes, a pickled chili and fries! Altogether it was a feast for the eyes and the taste-buds.


Two kinds of Arabic rice were served, one with chunks of beef and the other with pieces of richly glazed chicken. We loved both and the rice was just so rich, flavourful, and enriched with tiny bites of vegetables and crunchy pine nuts. Perfectly delectable with a little cup of raita.


There were no real winners in the desserts that were served. If pressed we’d pick the semolina cake and bread pudding stuffed with nuts. The rice pudding topped with ice cream was very ordinary and so was the coconut pudding. We had high expectations from the baklava but could not like this one – it had a lot of crystallised sugar and an overwhelming flavour of shortening.

So..what’s the verdict? Great food – the appetizers and mains were outstanding. Dessert – not so impressive. Among the cocktails that we tried there wasn’t anything that we’d go back for. The shocker, however was seeing the princely, five-star pricing. To avoid burning a hole in your pocket, you could, perhaps, have your drinks at home, then head to Shebestan for their specialties, and go elsewhere for dessert if you’re up for it.

Sterling’s Mac Hotel,
134, HAL Airport Road, Near Manipal Hospital,
Off Domlur Flyover, Bengaluru – 560017
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Healthful and Heavenly – Wholegrain pancakes

Pancakes with Str syrup

Nothing spells brunch like a pile of pretty pancakes, topped with runny syrup and a cloud of cream swirls, and a dusting of more sugar, perhaps. But if you’re a health nut, the very mention of these doses of artery-cloggers could send you into a coughing fit. Which is why, we took the heaviness out of the image and replaced it with with the wholesomeness of grains and the freshness of plump, raging red strawberries. We could devour a whole stack of these pancakes and wash them down with jugs of tea without wincing. And we’ve had our little girls chomp on them without missing a beat too, which is a great compliment in our books.

Oatmeal Pancakes

Wholegrain Pancakes

(Makes about 15)

  • ½ Cup oats
  • 1 Cup atta/ whole wheat flour
  • ¼ Cup maida/ all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2¼ Tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tsp baking soda
  • ½ Tsp salt
  • ¼ Cup melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups thin curds or buttermilk
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • Ghee/oil for cooking the pancakes
  1. Place the oats in the bowl of a food processor and grind well. Add all the remaining dry ingredients and pulse until combined.
  2. Keep the processor running and add the melted butter or oil in a steady stream. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl.
  3. Meanwhile whisk together the eggs, curds and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl containing the dry ones and whisk until smooth.
  5. Set the batter aside for about 20-30 minutes
  6. To make the pancakes preheat a nonstick tava or griddle and lightly brush it with a little ghee/oil. Keep the heat medium.
  7. Pour about ¼ cup of the batter onto the hot tava and let it spread to about 5-6″. Allow the pancake to cook until the edges start drying and bubbles rise to the top without breaking. Now flip and cook the other side briefly. Remove and repeat with the remaining batter
  8. Serve the pancakes hot, topped with a pat of butter and ladle the syrupy strawberries all over(recipe follows).

Oatmeal pancakes with syrupy strawberries

Syrupy Strawberries

  • 2 Cups hulled and sliced strawberries
  • 3-4 Tbsp sugar

Gently toss the strawberries with the sugar and set aside for 30 minutes to an hour to macerate at room temperature. The strawberries will release their juices, making a lovely syrup to pour over your pancakes.

Oatmeal pancakes with syrupy strawberries

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Honey I Made a Hash of It!

Grated Cauliflower with Peas

It was long ago, at a stall in the Saturday Night Market in Westfield Shopping Center in Auckland that the first coloured cauliflower varieties were spotted. Vivid and distinct in both appearance and appeal, the purple, green and orange cauliflower heads were piled up in a neat row alongside organic mescul mixes, blood-orange carrots and silver beet bunches, practically begging to be picked up. With suggestions from the vendor’s friendly wife – who was even kind enough to hand down a recipe for silverbeet muffins – the family picked up the silverbeet, purple cauliflower, some red carrots, as we waddled our way across to other inviting stalls, where the aromas of homegrown mandarins and gingerroot blended vivaciously with those of piquant Pavich berries and flattering Oratia feijoas. A variety of things were dished out later in big sister’s sunny little kitchen with the finds – a mixed vegetable pickle with the purple cauliflower and red carrots, silverbeet sambhar to dunk everyone’s favourite mini-idlis in, and a refreshing feijoa-mandarin cooler that seemed to slake us even on a typical rainy day in the Land of the Long Cloud.

Eight years later, the initial sightings of the irresistable coloured cauliflower heads came in from a corner of a Mexican market bin in a quaint US town in Indiana. With a sizeable stock of Khana Khazana’s Gobhi Shalgam pickle already in the pantry, and the oven-baked Gobhi Musallam recipe that had become a little too familiar, was there something we could do differently with the chubby old chou-fleur? After rehashing all the ideas that presented themselves, including a finespun French au gratin and spiced Spanish tapas, a spicy, gingery sabzi was born, and it’s been a hot favourite with our friends and families ever since.

Grated Cauliflower with Peas

 Grated Cauliflower with Peas

  • 1 Small-medium cauliflower
  • 2 Tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
  • A pinch of asafoetida/hing
  • 1 Onion, chopped – about 1.5 cups
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

The spice array –

      • ½ Teaspoon chilli powder or cayenne
      • ½ Teaspoon turmeric
      • 1 Teaspoon coriander powder
      • ½ Teaspoon cumin powder
      • 2 Teaspoons kasuri methi(Dried fenugreek leaves)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ Teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ Teaspoon amchur (dry mango powder), or a teaspoon of lemon juice
  1. Grate the cauliflower using the shredding disc of a food processor or on the larger side of a box grater and set aside. It is important here to have long shreds rather than a powdery mince.
  2. Warm the olive oil in a deep non-stick saucepan or kadhai. Add the cumin seeds and wait until they start to sizzle and darken before adding the asafoetida and onions. Let the onions cook for a while on low heat, stirring occasionally. Once they turn golden, put in the ginger, and after a minute, all the spices and salt. Stir the mixture for a few seconds, and then add the tomatoes. Once the masala has dried up, stir often to avoid burning, and roast for a couple of minutes.
  3. Next, add the cauliflower with the peas, stir well to mix everything and cover the pan briefly to let the vegetables cook. Then take the lid off and let the dish roast on high heat until done, stirring often to avoid anything sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Mix in the garam masala and turn off the heat before adding the amchur or lemon. 

Grated Cauliflower with Peas

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