Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Restaurant Review: 5 Senses

Pin It
When you saw the title of the post, you may have wondered why I am posting review after review and no recipes. Am I changing this blog from a recipe blog to a restaurant review blog? The answer is NO!

If you follow me on my Facebook page, you probably know I was feeling a little under the weather for a few weeks, and the truth is that I am still not feeling myself. I did visit the doctor, and there is nothing to worry about - thank God! But I haven't had the energy to do much baking or cooking and I've been doing only what is absolutely necessary.

Thank you so much for all the messages, emails and wallposts asking how I am doing! It really makes me feel so good... Truly!

On to 5 Senses!

This was my second time at 5 senses. I must admit that my first experience was a very memorable one - but not for a very good reason. I remember going there with a big bunch of friends. I had taken my little girl along too. The food was tasty. The drinks were interesting. The service and ambiance were nice too. My only complaint was the portion-sizes. My 2 year old ate all my food! Seriously. I had like 2 bites and she ate all the rest. Now this place isn't cheap - and so I didn't want to order any more. So why was this meal so memorable? Because I left the place desperately HUNGRY! Not a good thing.

This time around, I kinda expected the same minuscule portions, but I am so, so, SO happy to tell you that I was wrong! This meal was one of the nicest I have had in a while!

Do you remember the chilly-lime drink I had at Dewberry's and how much I loved it? So, when I saw a Watermelon-Habanero Iced Tea on the menu, you know I just had to have it! This was a bold, spicy-sweet drink and I just loved it! All the other drinks seemed very nice too...
We also had some lovely focaccia (too soft and fluffy for me - I like my bread with a little bite - but still quite tasty), and some wonderful hummus (though I felt it could have been more lemon-y) and adorable baby pita bread!

The starters were really delicious - because we couldn't make up our minds, we ordered a Chef's choice platter and a Tapas platter. Everything I got to sample was delicious. Each dish was unique in flavor, the textures were spot-on, and they were absolutely perfect with their accompanying sauces/garnishes! My favorites were the smoked salmon-asparagus starter and the pork spare ribs! So yummy!
Apart from that, a friend ordered Spanakopita and the chef recommended a curry stuffed mushroom & some jalapeno fritters with a raw banana mousse and goats cheese mousse. My first experience with Spanakopita was not good, and so I really didn't expect much. I am so glad I was wrong again!

The mains were just as yummy!

The green apple and prosciutto pizza was just delicious! I loved the texture and flavors.
The ravioli was really interesting! I loved how it looked all deceptively cheesy. But guess what? It had a lovely hit of fresh, green chillies. It was not a combination I had tasted before, but I actually liked!
The pork chops were tasty, well-cooked and well-seasoned, but the stand-out for me on that plate was the side! It was a fluffy white couscous with cubes of ripe mango, cubes of semi-ripe mango and bokchoi! I had three helpings of that! Really awesome stuff!
The lamb chops were nice too, but nothing to write home about. :)

Because I am a total sucker for smoked salmon, the smoked salmon and asparagus pasta was one of my favorites! Just loved it and the combination of salmon and asparagus is just brilliant!
The only main I didn't enjoy was the lamb shank tagine. I found the flavors overwhelming and too Indian. Or maybe my palate wasn't responding well to all the spices after eating so much of non-spicy food. :)

Desserts are usually what I look forward to the most - and when I heard about the mango creme brulee, I was excited!
Sadly, that was the only let down of the day for me. In my opinion, a creme brulee needs to have that cracking sugar crust and this one had a few brown spots and no crack. It was more like a mango custard - tasty but not what I expected. It was served with a white coffee sorbet. The flavor of the sorbet was brilliant but I didn't enjoy the mango-coffee combination much.

The other dessert was a Callebaut Crostata with a Bailey's ice cream. The tart was molten and looked very appetizing, but the flavor seemed a little weak to me. Still it was chocolate, and I was in the mood for chocolate, and so I was happy to dig in. :) Definitely better than the mango dessert. The Bailey's ice cream was also a winner!
The ambiance of the restaurant is definitely worth a mention. The outdoor seating is lovely and would have been my pick if it wasn't for this awful, humid weather we've been having! The restaurant is lovely and the walls are adorned with gorgeous black-and-white pictures of some legends of cinema. Very classy! Who wouldn't want to dine with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck watching over you? :)

Overall, this was a superb meal, and I would be happy to go back again, and again, and again! And I am so happy to see the larger portion sizes!

For some delicious, creative food, head to 5 senses on KNK road! Definitely a must-try!

I'll be back soon with a recipe post! Thanks for being there for me while I've been away!:)
Pin It

Friday, May 25, 2012

Restaurant Review: Kryptos by Willi

Pin It
Let me just start off by saying that I am huge fan of Chef Willi's food. I love, love, LOVE the food at Tuscana. Burgundy has some tasty stuff as well, though hot buffets are not my favorite kind of dining experience - the food tends to get kinda overcooked and dry sometimes, don't you think? So when we were invited to review the Greek-Cypriot restaurant 'Kryptos', I was quite excited. I had been there once before, and enjoyed the cold mezze buffet!

This time, our hosts had a set menu planned for us. We had unlimited access to the cold mezze buffet (yay!) and a few warm mezze dishes, and our mains and desserts had been ordered for us. I couldn't wait to get started!
I started with the cold mezze and loaded my plate with all my favorite things. By the time I walked back to my table, I felt like I was being greedy, but there was really a LOT of yummy stuff on the buffet and I just had to try them all. I loved the salads - there were so many kinds, and my favorites were some awesome pickled vegetables, a really nice potato salad and the classic Insalata Caprese. Apart from the lovely salads they had some really lovely dips - hummus, tzatziki and a few more. And they had a few varieties of cheese. You know how I love me some cheese. Very nice spread!

The warm mezze dishes were served to us at the table and I sampled a few of them.
There were quite a few vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, and I just loved the vegetarian ones! My favorite of the lot were these rolls called Bourekakia Melitzanes (don't ask me to pronounce it!), which were deep fried rolls filled with cheese and eggplant. Oh my! They were really, really yummy! The falafel was also really good.

Among the non-vegetarian ones, I liked the Lamb and Aubergine rolls. There was a fried lady finger fish, which is supposed to be eaten whole - bones and all, but personally, I felt the fish was too big and the bones were too brittle. Swallowing was a little painful for me. But then again, maybe it was just me!

The mains arrived in quick succession. There was a chicken breast dish which was flavored with garlic and mint. I found it under-seasoned and didn't enjoy it much.
Next up came an impressive and intriguing looking claypot. In it was oven baked fish cooked with potatoes and herbs. While I loved the presentation, the flavors just didn't work for me, and I felt that the fish was a little over-cooked. The pot seemed to retain a lot of heat, and I feel that the fish kept cooking long after it was taken off the stove.
The beef dish, called Fried Hamburgers, was my favorite among the non-vegetarian dishes, but to be honest it didn't blow my mind either. It was fine. And it was well-seasoned.
My favorite main of the evening turned out to be a dish called 'Papoutsakia' which was eggplant halves (are you noticing a pattern here?) stuffed with some aromatics, a bechamel sauce and some cheesy topping that was all melted and golden. I just LOVED it and helped myself to a second eggplant half. The other vegetarian dishes were also good.
Along with the mains, we were served some sides of caramelized carrots, potato wedges and garlic rice. All the sides were really tasty and the potato wedges were so incredibly crispy! I was very impressed with the sides.

Finally, we got to dessert and we were served a moist chocolate 'pie' and baklava.
The chocolate dessert tasted pretty good, though I couldn't figure out what made it a 'pie'. It had a very unusual (but not unpleasant) texture and had a deep chocolate-y flavor. I quite enjoyed it. The baklava, I didn't like much. I felt there was a LOT of the filling and not enough pastry layers. Personally, my favorite part of baklava is the crispy filo pastry, and this one just didn't have enough for me!

An interesting new thing at Kryptos is that the menu is bilingual - with all the dishes explained both in English and in the local language, Tamil. Quite unique, I must say!

Overall, I enjoyed the meal - especially the mezze dishes (hot and cold). Would I go back to Kryptos? Yes - to enjoy some awesome mezze!

Pin It

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Foodie Exchange

Pin It
Before I get into this post, let me thank everyone who wrote in and commented congratulating me my 100th post! It truly feels like a HUGE milestone considering how much has happened this past year. I appreciate each and every one of you!

If you didn't visit the post, I hope you do. One of the most interesting things about that celebration cake was the filling. Without that awesome filling, it would have been a plain ol' butter cake - not that there's anything wrong with that. But the filling gave it a wonderful new twist. It was a sunflower seed butter filling and it was nutty, salty-sweet and delicious!

I mentioned in the post that I received the sunflower seed butter in a package from Ruchira of The Great Cookaroo, and today I want to share more about what we were a part of.

In April, I had a wonderful time participating in a Foodie Exchange where food bloggers from around the country got the chance to exchange packages filled with things that a foodie would love. And let me tell you - I was totally in LOVE with the stuff I got. Ruchira really knows how to put together a wonderful package and there's so much for me to show and tell!

The packaging itself was classy and simple - just the way I like it. I love that she addressed it to 'The Harried Cook'. I swear most people (including myself) are forgetting my real name. I am fast becoming 'first name Harried, last name Cook'! :) And I absolutely LOVED the hand-written note! I wrote her one too, and it made me realize how long it has been since I actually wrote a letter with pen and paper!

So here's my stash.
Awesome, right?

What I loved most about this package, is that Ruchira took so much trouble and effort tying each little jar and packet with a ribbon and a handmade tag on which she wrote out her ideas on what I could make with it.
In comparison, I just chucked everything in a box and sent it off to her! Tsk tsk... You can see what I sent her by going here.

I really admire the effort she put into the package! Here's the awesome stuff I got -
Sunflower seed butter (you know what I did with that!), Harissa paste (yum on some chicken I made!), Mini Marshmallows (for me to make more Rocky Road Ice cream!), Organic Multi-grain flour (so cool! I'm going to make some bread!) and adorable heart shaped foil chocolate cups (so adorable!)... 

I feel so blessed to have been paired with Ruchira. She is an awesome baker and cook (as you will see on her blog when you visit it - yes I said 'when' and not 'if' - go visit), and she really knows her food. I loved chatting with her and getting to know her and we have a few things in common - including a crazy love for cheese. Thank you, Ruchira for this wonderful package!! Here is one of the things that I made with it - you know it already!

This post is SO late. I feel terrible about being one of the last people to post about my package. First there was the hectic-ness of my life, then camera trouble and so on. But let me tell you - I am sure I was one of the most excited. Here is a list of the other people who took part in the Foodie Exchange.

Charis of Culinary Storm  (who came up with the Foodie Exchange - *applause*)
Deeps of Naughty Curry
Madhuri of Cook Curry Nook
Sarita of The Clean Toothpick
Pratiksha of Honeyed Pandemonium
Jeetendra of Moody Foodie
Apeksha of Veggie Wiz
Poorna of Presented by P
Ameya of Kitty in the Kitchen
Sid of Chef at Large
Siri of Cooking with Siri
Geetha of Fragrant Kitchen
Renuka of Pinch of Salt
Sangeeta of Health Food Desi Videshi
Rekha of My Tasty Curry
Nikhil of Nonchalant Gourmand

P.S. - I am SO behind on posts. So, I will be back in less than 24 hours with a Restaurant Review! See ya'll soon!
Pin It

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sun Cake: Celebrating 100 posts & Summer!

Pin It
I made it. I finally made it.

I never thought it would happen, but this is my 100th post.

I remember when I reached my 25th post. Feels like forever ago! I made a Mini-cake to celebrate the occasion and felt quite silly for doing it.

Now that I have made it to 100 posts, I really feel like celebrating. So much has happened since I started blogging, and you know I've almost quit a couple of times! But I hung around, and I am still here! Yay! So I won't feel silly for celebrating this milestone. And what celebration is complete without cake, I ask you?

I call this creation my Sun Cake. You'll see why!
The cake is my new favorite recipe for a Classic Butter Cake. I love the simplicity of a butter cake. It is flavorful, moist and just perfect. 

But what really makes this cake special is the filling! I filled the layers with a flavorful, nutty, slightly salty sunflower seed butter! Yes - you read right! Butter made from sunflower seeds. If you're asking  "what's that?!", it is kinda like peanut butter but different.

I got my sunflower seed butter as a part of an awesome package I received from my friend Ruchira from The Great Cookaroo, as a part of a Foodie Exchange program! More about the awesomeness of the package in the next post. The sunflower seed butter is really lovely on a lot of things and I am feeling a little sad that the bottle's almost empty, and I haven't seen it in any stores around here! But you know what - you can make your own sunflower seed butter! Yay! I've got to try that soon!

I wanted this cake to be a celebration of summer, too. Yes. Why fight it? Summer is here to stay, and we might as well accept it. I know - the heat and humidity is quite unbearable. I fuss and moan about it a lot, too. But summer means a lot of nice things too - vacation (I hope I get one this year!), bright colors, watermelon and most of all - the mangoes! I colored the layers of this cake in three summery colors - a light lemony yellow, a bright sunflower yellow and a lovely orange. I didn't do a great job with the yellows because they're kinda similar looking, but you get what I was trying to do, right?
The outside of the cake is a classic vanilla butter cream. I love butter cream. It's rich, sweet and luscious. I don't understand when people say "I don't like butter!". Really? What's wrong with you?


Butter Cake Layers
Adapted from
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy.
3. Add the sugar and cream until completely combined.
4. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Beat in the vanilla extract.
6. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by 1/2 of the buttermilk, another 1/3rd of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and finish off with the rest of the flour mixture. Stir well to combine between each addition.
7. If desired, divide the batter equally into three bowls and color as desired.
8. Bake in greased and floured 8" round cake tins at 350F/180C until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean - about 20-25 minutes per layer.
9. Allow to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, and transfer onto racks to cool completely.
10. Fill and frost as desired.

Sunflower Seed Butter Filling
Adapted from
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 - 2.5 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1-3 tbsp milk
A few drops of yellow food coloring, if desired

1. Cream the butter and sunflower seed butter in a bowl until light and fluffy.
2. Add the vanilla (and the food coloring, if you're using it) and continue creaming for about 30 seconds.
3. Add 2 cups of sugar - 1/2 cup at a time - until completely incorporated and fluffy.
4. If you find the filling too thick, lighten it with milk, adding 1 tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. If you find the filling too running, add more powdered sugar.

Vanilla Butter Cream
Adapted from
1 cup unsalted butter
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp whipping cream

1. Cream the butter until light and fluffy.
2. Add the vanilla and salt and cream for about 30 seconds.
3. Add 3 cups of the sugar - 1/2 cup at a time - until you have a light, fluffy frosting.
4. Add 1 tbsp of the whipping cream and beat for about a minute. 
4. If you find the filling too thick, lighten it with more whipping cream, adding 1 tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. If you find the filling too runny, add more powdered sugar.

Assembly: Divide the sunflower seed butter filling into two equal portions. Fill the cooled cake layers with the sunflower seed butter, and frost the sides and top of the cake with a plain vanilla butter cream. Decorate with yellow and orange fondant daisies, if desired.
With colors of summer and flavors of sunflower, I think Sun Cake is a good name, don't you? I love this cake because the salty sweet sunflower seed butter filling offsets the sweetness of the cake and frosting. I just love that sweet-salty hit! 

This post is also hopefully the beginning of more regular blogging. Life has been crazy this past month and I really miss posting regularly. And more than that - I miss visiting all my favorite blogs! Don't be mad at me for not visiting you, okay? I am going to start being more regular this week. 

I am a lot more active on Facebook these days, and if you haven't connected with me on Facebook yet, please visit my page and say 'hello'! 
I wish I could share a slice of this cake with each and every one of the people I've met through this blog. Who knew, when I started posting 100 posts ago, that I would meet so many awesome new people, and make some friends who will stay with me for life? Thank you all for the love and support!

This post is dedicated to each & every person that I have met through The Harried Cook. 

Have a blessed week, all!
Pin It

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sesame Overload Cookies - My Guest Post at Priya's Bon Appetit

Pin It
Can I just say how much I love my readers and blogger friends? I really, truly do!

I know I said in my last post that I was considering quitting the blog, but now I know I most definitely won't be doing that! I love and enjoy this too much! And I couldn't bear it if I lost touch with you guys, you know? :)

This week has been crazy because we're in the middle of Summer Camp (V.B.S.) at church and just like last year it is 600 wild kids who are full of energy! So sorry I still haven't gotten around to visiting your site... I am just catching up on my Google Reader updates (which is at a CRAZY number!) and I will get around to you soon... I can't wait to see what you've been cooking! <3

Today, I am I guest posting over at Priya's fabulous blog - Bon Appetit - where she has given me the title "Blogger of the Month - May 2012"! Very cool :) I was really excited when she asked me to share a recipe with her readers. Priya makes some yummy food - check out impressive recipe list! She has also had some really amazing guest bloggers on her site. I am so glad to be guest posting there today.

If you are a regular follower of The Harried Cook, you already know about my love for sesame. This cookie recipe is a tribute to the awesomeness that is the humble sesame seed!
To see the recipe and read more about it, you must go visit Priya's site! And while you're there, don't forget to leave her a comment and tell her I said hello!

Also, I would like to thank Manu of Manu's Menu (she's just such an AWESOME cook, baker, blogger and friend!), for these awards. I am truly honored to accept them, Manu... Thank you and BIG hugs to you!
I will see you all next week with a very special post! :)

Have a wonderful weekend & God bless you!
Pin It

Monday, April 30, 2012

Christina Tosi's Crack Pie & Awards

Pin It
Have you missed me?

It's been a while, but I am back (with an extra-long post). It has been a crazy few weeks, and I really thought that I might have to give up blogging somewhere in between. No hasty decisions were made, and for now, I am here to stay. :)

Today, I am back with a recipe that's really popular right now - Christina Tosi's Crack Pie. I wanted to see what all the hype was about, now, post-crack (not the drug kind - please be smart and don't do drugs!), I am here to share my experiences.
Before we get into the recipe though, I must issue the following warnings. IMHO, this pie must be made ONLY under the following circumstances -

1. You have a LOT of people coming over.
2. You have supernatural self-control.
3. You are desperately skinny and need to gain weight rapidly.

Seriously. I was warned, and I didn't listen, and ended up eating half this pie by myself (and sharing the remaining 50% very grudgingly).
In case I haven't made myself clear enough, I LOVED this pie, and I think Christina Tosi is a genius.

As you can see, I made only half the recipe - which makes 2  10-inch pies. I made 1 9 inch pie and increased the cooking time a little, as recommended by the L.A. Times.. I am so glad I decided to go with only half. Who knows how much I would have eaten if I had made the whole recipe!

Christina Tosi's Crack Pie
Recipe from the L.A. Times, who adapted it from the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook

Ingredients - Cookie for crust
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour
A large pinch of baking powder
A large pinch of baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/4 oz (1/6  cup) light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 an egg
Scant 1/2 cup rolled oats

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. In another bowl, beat the butter and the sugars until fluffy and light.
4. Whisk in the egg and mix well until completely incorporated.
5. With the mixer running, add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. 
5. Stir in the oats and stir to combine.
6. Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set. 
7. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.
Don't you love the giant cookie? I couldn't resist taking a small bite!

Making the Crust
Crumbled cookie for crust
1/8 cup butter
1 3/4 tsp brown sugar
A large pinch of salt

1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times until blended.
2. Press the crust into a 9 or 10 inch pie tin to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides. Set aside.

Ingredients - Filling
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/6 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon milk powder
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup plus a scant tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
Prepared crust
Powdered sugar, garnish

1. Heat the oven to 350/180.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, salt and milk powder. 
3. Whisk in the melted butter, followed by the heavy cream and vanilla.
3. Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.
4. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.
5. Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325/160 and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown on top (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes (15 minutes if you are using a 9-inch tin). Remove the pie and cool on a rack.
6. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. 

It is a lot work, this pie, but SO worth it. The cookie crust needs to be made from the cookie recipe that is a part of this recipe, and not just any generic cookie. The amount of salt in the crust perfectly balances out the sweetness of the filling.
And the filling, - oh the filling - the filling is amazing. Buttery, creamy, butterscotch-y, sugary sweet brilliance.

Obviously, as the recipe says, it is meant to be served chilled. I tried it FOUR ways - it is lovely eaten slightly warm, it is great at room temperature, it is awesome chilled and it is fabulous frozen! In the picture below, you can see how ooey and gooey it is at room temperature.
At the end of this, here is my reasoning as to why this is called 'Crack Pie'.

1. I have not tried crack ever, but I am sure this pie is better.
2. It is addictive.
3. You are not willing to share it with ANYONE.
4. It gives you a high - a sugar high, that is!
5. You have withdrawal symptoms when the pie is all gone! :(
6. After the high, you have some serious lows.

I think my low lasted 2 weeks. Hence, the lack of posts.

I blame it on the pie & on Christina Tosi.

So there!

Here's my message for today - don't do drugs, make this pie!

Now, onto some important stuff that I have put off forever! Some awards :)

First up, a BIG (and very belated) thanks to Manu of Manu's Menu! If you haven't heard of Manu's blog, you seriously have been missing out! Please go visit her. Now!!!

Thanks to Manu for this award! Big hugs, Manu! <3

Second, thanks to Ruchira of The Great Cookaroo, for these two awards!

I met Ruchira through a Foodie Exchange just recently, and you will be seeing more of her on my blog soon, when I reveal what we exchanged! But in the meanwhile, go check out her site and do tell her I said hello!

Both bloggers asked me to share things about myself, and so here are some little known facts about The Harried Cook.

1. I was (emphasize WAS), a sportsperson - a swimmer to be more specific. I won a few medals here and there, represented my state and won a national medal too. Seems like ages ago, in another lifetime. I wrote it here today, just so I don't forget it myself.
2. I am a singer. I am in a band - though we're all very busy these days with kids and other stuff we're working on! But we do perform once in a while and have recorded on a few compilation albums too. I sing almost every week in church though.
3. I was a BIG nerd in school & college. Always did well in my exams. I still kinda like exams. Yes. You read right. Please don't un-like me on Facebook!
4. Before I became a mom, blogger and baker, I too was a stooge in the corporate world. Worked long hours, complained about my boss and all that jazz. That's one part of my life I don't miss!
5. I almost went to Paris to study cooking after I finished school. Long story, but it didn't happen, and things still worked out.

In other news, The Harried Cook is doing well. The baking workshop went very well, and was covered by a friend who is a very popular blogger in the city. You can read about the workshop and see some lovely pictures HERE.

The baking is going well! I've been making cupcakes, tarts, muffins, breads and a whole lot of stuff and it's been a blast! If you are in Chennai, and need to order something, write to me at

That's all from me for now, folks! Posting may not be very regular, but I am still around. Keep in touch!
Pin It

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bacon, Chives and Cream Cheese Rolls

Pin It
This recipe has been crying to get made forever! It has been in my head for the longest time, and  I finally got around to making it last week!
My husband declared this 'the best 'bready' thing I have ever made', and that is a high compliment coming from him! But truth be told - how can it not be the best when it has bacon, right? The combination is quite a classic - cream cheese and chives - with crisp bacon bits thrown in, just because I can.
The dough can be a little sticky, but don't be tempted to add in too much extra flour. Just handle the dough with well floured hands, on a well-floured counter-top!

What you could consider adding more of is bacon. Is there such a thing as too much bacon?

Bacon, Chives and Cream Cheese Rolls
Recipe Source - the same voices in my head that told me to put Mars bars in oatmeal cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, plus 1 extra tablespoon for the egg-wash
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup oil
1 egg
1/2 + 2 tbsp cream cheese
200g bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup finely chopped garlic chives
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Stir together and set aside.
2. Combine the milk and water in a saucepan and heat till lukewarm. Don't make it hot, or it will kill the yeast.
3. Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk it lightly. Remove one tablespoon of the egg into another small bowl and set aside. Add the remaining egg and the oil into the milk  mixture.
4. Pour the milk mixture in to the bowl with the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Continue beating for a further 3-4 minutes.
5. Add the remaining flour a little at a time, until you have a soft but sticky dough.
6. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, cover with greased clingfilm, and set it aside to rise for about an hour.
7. At the end of this time, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (400F). Punch down your dough and transfer to a well-floured work surface.
8. Using your hands (flour them first) or a rolling pin, form the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 thick.
9. Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
10. Spread the filling over the surface of the dough, leaving about 1/2 an inch on all sides.
11. Starting with the long side of the rectangle that is furthest away from you, roll the dough toward yourself and pinch the seam.
12. Slice this roll into 4-6 slices, and transfer them, on their sides, onto a greased baking dish.
13. Take the reserved egg and combine with tablespoon of milk. Brush this mixture over the top of the rolls.
14. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bread is springy and golden brown.

This is bread is amazingly soft on the inside and when eaten fresh, has a slightly crispy crust. The filling is amazing in flavor - salty, and with garlicky undertones from the garlic chives. Just brilliant!
There was just one complaint about this recipe - that it doesn't make enough! After we had a roll each, all of us (my husband, daughter and I) actually argued about who would get to eat the last roll! We ended up sharing, and I got the smallest piece and was told (very strictly, I might add), "next time, make more!"

I guess next time, I will have to make a double batch! Or maybe even triple! :)

P.S. If you are in Chennai and are interested in getting a start in baking, don't hesitate to sign up for my Introduction to Baking workshop. More details here. There are only a few seats left in the next batch - so sign up soon!

P.P.S. - I made these for breakfast, and so the pictures were taken in a hurry while my daughter and husband were already at the table, waiting! The pictures are not great, but the rolls were!!!
Pin It

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Restaurant Review: Zaica

Pin It

This was one of the most mind-boggling, confusing reviews I have ever been part of. Everything about it threw me off - some in a good way, and some - not-so-much. Let me start at the beginning...

So we pull up the front of the restaurant, and I look at this tiny entrance surrounded by high buildings, and I am wondering - how many seats could they possibly have in this tiny place? And then I walk in, and the place is really, really BIG! Lots of little private dining rooms and even a gaming room with game consoles that you can use - free-of-cost - while you wait for your food to arrive!
The decor of the place itself was a little confusing - some modern pieces, some antique looking baubles and a gaming room. But somehow, it didn't feel wrong!

We were seated at a table by the buffet counter. And then we were told that we would be eating from the buffet. I am not a big fan of buffets. But hey - I don't know much about Peshawari food, and I probably wouldn't know what to order! Just based on the names, I definitely would NOT have ordered the dishes that turned out to be my favorites!

While we waited for the starters to be served at our tables, we were given some papads with some very yummy chutneys to snack on (pictured below).
And there was some Papdi chaat. The chaat wasn't impressive, and I was hoping the rest of the meal would be a lot better!

The first course arrived. Soup! If you've read my blog, you probably know I love soup. I usually don't pass up on the soup unless it looks or sounds particularly unappetizing. This one was a mutton based soup called a Yakhni Shorba (pictured below).
It didn't look very appetizing, but since I am a big fan of mutton, I just had to try it! Sigh. I wish I had passed up on the soup. It was really not good. It was lukewarm, with undertones of mutton and overtones of.... not good. The vegetarians got a Tomato Shorba, and that was the first time in my life I wished I was a vegetarian! The Tomato shorba, while not amazing, had flavor and the flavor was well-balanced. I loved the sour notes in the shorba. Really pleasing on the palate. And it helped wash the the other soup's taste out of my mouth.

Then the starters began to make their way to our tables. First came the vegetarian starters. I'm thinking, "Beetroot tikkis? Seriously? I like beets, but honestly - I heard there were some yummy sounding chicken tikkas coming soon! I wanted to save tummy space for those. But I am a food blogger. I need to taste everything, right? Okay, maybe just one tikki so I can write about it on my blog."
The first bite of Beetroot ki Tikki (pictured above) and I was floored. And this time, in a good way. Not just good - great! That beetroot tikki was one of the best vegetarian dishes I have eaten - ever! I asked for more. And I ended up eating about four that afternoon. Oh my goodness! SO good!

Then came a paneer based dish called Gul Gul Fom Ki Paneer (pictured below). The name made me giggle. And then I thought, "Could this one be good too? Should I try it?", and I did. Wow! Another starter that was knocked out of the park!
Amazing! Layers of soft paneer, and sandwiched in between were some sort of mushed up peas, and mushrooms, and covered with a sauce that for the life of me, I cannot identify. All I can say is that it was yellowish in color. But it tasted great! I asked for more. What was happening to me?

Third vegetarian starter of the day was Bhutiyan di Seek. Three for three? Was it possible? Nah! :) While this one also tasted very good, it didn't WOW me the way the first two starters did.

The non-vegetarian starters came next - a sesame based chicken tikka (Murgh Til Tikka), and cream and fenugreek marinated chicken tikka (Murgh Malai Methi - pictured below), and fried fish.
All three were good - the best of the lot being the sesame based one. The other two tasted nice enough and I tasted all three, before asking for more beetroot and paneer. Um. What's wrong with me?

For the mains, we headed to the buffet counters. Nothing really impressed me here.

The vegetarian curries were okay - and marginally better than the non-vegetarian options. My favorite curry was the Vegetable Makhanwala.
The Mutton Roganjosh (pictured above) tasted fine, and the meat was tender, but it didn't taste like any roganjosh I've ever tasted. Maybe that's the Peshawari way of making it? It was nice enough. The classic Chicken Tikka Masala was just okay. Nothing to write home about. The Dal Makhani was nice.
The Chicken Biriyani (pictured above) was decently flavored and you couldn't really complain about it. I personally don't like Chicken Biriyani, and maybe that's why I wasn't impressed. For me, biriyani = mutton! :D

Finally, my favorite part of any meal - dessert!!!

The cake was terrible! The worst part - there was pink layer of 'skin' over the top of the cake. I think there was some sort of gelatin-infused fruit coulis over the top. But the harsh lights of the buffet dried out the layer and it became a sort of fruit leather. Not good.
The Gulab Jamuns (pictured above) were average and were served too hot. If only the soup was as hot as the jamuns, it may have tasted better. Or maybe not. I usually like jamuns and ice-cream, but this time, I passed on the ice cream.

Overall, I can say that my meal at Zaica was a strange experience. I guess the best way to put it would be that the good was great and the bad was really bad! The chef really knows how to cook a mean beetroot tikki. If they increased the standard of the main courses, and totally revamped the dessert section, it would be a lovely place to eat.

The non-vegetarian lunch buffet is priced at Rs. 480 and the vegetarian at Rs. 425, and the menu is different everyday. Zaica is located on Cathedral road next to Zara's Tapas Bar.

Would I go back? For sure - for those righteous vegetarian starters! I feel a beetroot tikki craving coming on right now!!!
Pin It

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Cupcakes & Homemade Fondant!

Pin It
Okay, first things first... if you are here expecting a quark based recipe based on my last recipe post, I am sorry to disappoint you! I was going to make something really yummy. I swear!!! But then my friend came over, and told me all about how they eat quark in Germany (she's half German), and that was that! The next morning, we ate quark on toast, loved every bite of it, and now it's gone! Poof! Just like that!

So, I owe you one 'quarky' recipe. 

But until then, please have a cupcake?
It has been a while since I worked with fondant. And this week, when I was asked if I would make these for church, I jumped at the chance! It's so fun and it's been ages!

I don't know about you, but fondant isn't up there with my favorite frostings, in terms of flavor. I have tasted a lot of fondant and most of them are tasteless and dry. Homemade fondant to the rescue!

I followed the rolled fondant recipe from Zoe Bakes, and I was thrilled with the results. All the fondant recipes I have used before pale in comparison to this one. It rolls out beautiful and is really easy to work with! If you are afraid of working with fondant, this is the recipe to try. And you know what the BEST part is? It tastes nice! I increased the quantity of vanilla in the recipe just a little bit, and it tasted really nice. Of course, it is still really sweet, and so I can't eat too much of it, but at least it doesn't taste like cardboard!

Homemade Fondant
Adapted from Zoe Bakes
900gms Icing Sugar
1 tablespoon gelatin (unflavored)
3 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon Liquid Glucose
1 1/2 tablespoons glycerin
1 tbsp + 1 tsp vanilla extract
(If you want pure white fondant, pure vanilla extract is too 'brown'. You will need to use clear vanilla which is usually an essence and not an extract.)

1. Sift half the icing sugar into a large bowl and set aside.
2. In a medium heatproof bowl, pour the cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of it. Allow the gelatin to bloom by leaving it in the water for about 3-4 minutes.
3. Place the bowl over a double boiler and heat until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Don't allow the mixture to boil. Alternately, you can zap it in the microwave for short 10 second intervals, stirring in between, until the gelatin has completely dissolved. I haven't tried it in the microwave myself, and so I cannot vouch for this method.
4. As soon as the gelatin mixture comes off the stove, stir in the liquid glucose, glycerin and vanilla extract. Stir well to combine.
5. Make a well in the center of the icing sugar, and pour in the gelatin-glucose mixture.
6. On low speed, mix them together until completely combined and sticky.
7. Transfer onto a clean counter which has been sprinkled with some powdered sugar.
8. Add the remaining powdered sugar a little at a time, and begin to incorporate with your hands. Keep kneading until all the sugar as been added and you have a smooth ball of fondant.
9. Wrap the fondant in two layers of clingfilm and set aside to rest for 12-18 hours. Do not refrigerate.
10. When you are ready to use the fondant, if you find it is too dry, you can microwave it for 15-20 seconds and you will find it has softened slightly and is more pliable.
11. Divide into portions and color as desired. Gel food coloring is recommended because liquid coloring can make your fondant too wet.

There you go! Homemade fondant :)

In case you were wondering, the cupcakes are just regular vanilla cupcakes, and the 'grass' is a Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting tinted green!

I had fun playing with the fondant, and so did my little girl! We made eggs
eggs in nests
and chicks
and a rabbit, too!
I am sorry to report that this rabbit died an untimely death due to overweight.
This is a picture of him, minutes before his sudden demise. Poor guy. He didn't know what was coming! :(
He toppled off the cupcake platter, fell a good 5 1/2 feet into the dirt and had to be buried in the trash. The rabbit in the next picture is his square-jawed brother who stepped in to take his place.
In case you didn't notice, or if you were wondering why some of the pictures look different, some of the pictures in this post were taken by Zippora (my half German, quark eating friend), who also took the pictures of my Triple Dark Chocolate Cookies post. Her pictures and mine were taken in different lighting settings, and with different brands of camera (Nikon vs. Canon.... hmmmm) and lenses (hers is a 50mm lens, and mine is not). What a difference, right? :) You can check out her photography blog here.

I've been seeing so many cute and adorable fondant Easter toppers out there! Bunnies, chicks, flowers, eggs, and SO much more. But I just wanted to share this last cupcake to remind us what Easter is all about! Let's not forget about the death and resurrection of our Lord, which is the reason we celebrate!
If you are looking for some ideas for Easter cookies, you can check out my Easter post from last year. Not very professional looking cookies, but hey - I tried! :)

Happy Easter!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3

Pin It
Real Time Web Analytics