Monday, March 31, 2014

A Few of my Favourite Things

Today, this post does not have any food, or recipe, any review on it.
As it goes, it has fewer words than I normally write as well.
What it does have, is a few of my favourite things.
What it does have, a peek into who I am.
I am..
A girl who loves to eat.
A girl who loves to write.
A girl who loves Loki, the God of mischief. Yes Loki, in the end I will always kneel :)
A girl who loves herself some ghar ka khana
A girl, who loves nothing more than a bottle of Nutella, feet up, and Supernatural/FRIENDS/Masterchef/Top Chef on the TV.
A girl whose life revolves around MS Excel, and is darn good at it.
A girl who LOVES to bake for her friends and family.
A girl who is extremely excited about starting a new life with her best friend and her soulmate.
A girl who will go to the end of the world for her Ma and Baba.
A girl who will win any Harry Potter trivia knowledge in her sleep.
A girl who has found a baby sister in her soon-to-be sister-in-law.
A girl who loves taking photos, because you never know what may happen tomorrow.
A girl whose grandmother is her sister, her friend, her sous chef, her teacher, her student and her life.
A girl who's madly in love with Jensen Ackles. Google him, you won't regret it. Thank me later.
A girl who watches Andaz Apna Apna every time on TV, and now knows the lines by heart.
A girl whose best-friend-turned-soulmate-turned-fiance is her Andaz Apna Apna partner.
 A girl who thinks Red Mango froyo is REALLY expensive.
A girl who will fight to death for women's rights and gay rights.
A girl who loves everything to do with chocolate.
A girl whose best-friend-turned-soulmate-turned-fiance is the joy and pride of her life.
A girl who will lick the screen when Avengers is on Star Movies, because Chris Hemworth and Chris Evans are really that hot.
A girl who has found her best friends on Indiblogeshwaris.
A girl who has her phone on charging the whole day because she can't stop browsing Pinterest.
A girl who remembers that time when her Baba picked her up and flew her on his arms.
A girl who tries to eat healthy, kinda succeeds but binges on a pizza once in a while.
A girl who, if she does not tell her Ma every little detail of her day, feels physically ill.
A girl who has a wicked collection of rings (and shoes and bags). #SorryNotSorry.
A girl who will forever be her Ma and Baba's little baby, because that is what I really am.
A girl who'll forever be the granddaughter who learnt baking from her Grandmother, because that is what I really am.
A girl who is always reminded by a mad boy, how lucky he is to have her, because that's how lucky I really am.
I am Aishwarya, the geeky girl who bakes, eats, reads, watches TV, pins, loves and is loved.

And I'm so proud of me.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Petite Fekkas: Eggless Moroccan Fennel Cookies

Everyone has a phobia. For some, it's cockroaches, for some it's heights, and for some it's small spaces. Mine is cookies.

Not eating them. Oh you silly! I can finish a whole sleeve of Milano cookies in one sitting, no biggie. Making them. I simply cannot make cookies. My chocolate chip cookies came out as weird blond pucks. My thumbprint cookies were not bad, just..weird. Even the Fates are against me. The one time I bought a cookie sheet, I ended up not measuring the inside of my oven because I am amazingly bright. Predictably, it didn't fit. I know use the detachable bottom of my standard cake pan or my usual rectangle cake pan. So basically, I can't do it.

Except this time.

I made Fekkas as my weekend project. Tiny buttery eggless Moroccan cookies, studded with toasted fennel seeds. The perfect size to eat by the fistfuls. You can make it regular-sized cookies as well, but this puts the "fun" in "fun-sized". Addictive, unbelievably delicious and goes incredibly with tea.

Seriously you guys, you need to try this out. It's super easy, uses stuff you have on hand in Indian kitchens easily. It's very easily customizable. You can use jeera, ajwain, or sesame seeds in place of fennel. It takes a little bit of time, yes. But at the end of it, you'll have a jar's worth of crisp aromatic cookies that you'll finish in three sittings, two if you're doing it well!

Petite Eggless Fekkas: Eggless Moroccan Fennel Cookies
Adapted from Gayathri's Cookspot

You need:
  • Caster sugar: 1/2 cup
  • Softened salted butter: 1/4 cup
  • Any neutral oil (sunflower, rice bran): 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla essence: 1 tsp
  • Yoghurt: 1/2 cup
  • Baking powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt: 1/8 tsp
  • Maida or APF: 2 1/4 cup
  • Fennel seeds (or ajwain, jeera or sesame seeds): 1 1/2 tbsp (more if you are doing the ajwain version. Source suggests 2 tbsp, but with fennel or jeera, it becomes a little difficult to knead)

The How:
  • Mix together the yoghurt, butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  • Add the flour and fennel/ajwain/jeera/sesame and knead to form a soft dough. It will be a bit oily, but don't worry.
  • Divide the dough into 12 equal parts.
  • Roll it on a clean surface (do not flour it) with your hands to form ropes (don't worry if they're unequal in length, width, shape or evenness). The ropes will look like weird alien fingers, but don't worry.

  • Chuck it in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up a little bit.
  • Take it out, and arrange them neatly. Cut them into small squares.

  • Forget that you had to preheat your oven at 200 celsius. Rush and do it.
  • By the time it preheats, line or very lightly grease a baking tray (or as I do, the detachable bottom of a baking pan, or a baking pan itself). Lay out the cookie dough side by side. You don't need to space it out, these don't expand at all, so you can cram the tray. Like I did. I left a little space between them in the first batch as you can see below, but later batches (there are so many squares and such little oven space!) I crammed it.

  • I baked at 200 celsius for about 20 minutes, but you need to keep a track, because the source recommends 4-5 minutes. Mine were completely raw at 5 minutes, and you know your oven best.
  • Take out the batch, empty on to a plate to cool, chuck another batch in the oven, lose patience, try one and fly to heaven.

I made a huge batch, which was finished in one evening alone, because you can't keep your hands off them.
Here's an empty bottle of olives filled with it. This was the last I saw, because the next evening, this wasn't there. Mystery, I know right?

That's it! Try it, and trust me when I say it, it's easy-peasy and simply mouth-watering. Let me know how it goes!

Till the next time!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Paranda @ Vivanta by Taj, Surajkund: A Review

Happy New Year Foodie-peeps!

This year, I'm really thankful for my life. The fact that I'm alive. The fact that I'm loved. The fact that I'm surrounded by my loved ones, in flesh and in spirit. The fact that by the end of this year, I begin a whole another phase of life, something in the making for a few years now. The fact, that I have food to put on the table.

And of course, the fact that sometimes, I have food put on the table in front of me, and I stuff my face and review it!

This time, it was the turn of Paranda, at Vivanta by Taj, Surajkund. This was previously Dhaba, when Vivanta was Claridges, both Surajkund as well Aurangzeb Road. Remember when I reviewed Dhaba? Now all I see lately is dhaba cuisine everywhere. Everywhere. Hotels, smaller restaurants and of course, dhabas. what I wouldn't give for REAL dhaba food, the smell of the highway dirt lingering! In one sentence, Paranda does a fairly good job; it's delicious North-Indian food, but just misses the cut for dhaba food.

At Paranda, we started with a shot glass of chaach, sensitively tempered with jeera, mustard, coriander and curry leaves. This was absolute bliss! We chased that down with our amuse-bouche, a golguppa, sitting atop a shot glass of meetha pudina paani. Cool and khatta-meetha, this did a fantastic job of whetting our raging appetites.

Our soup course was Magan Murgh Shorba. This had the texture of a sweet corn soup, generous on the pieces of chicken. And a few strand of saffron floating about. It was really delicious, because that's all we asked for on a cold evening. I just felt though, the saffron was a bit misplaced. In the sense, it stood out with its own flavour, and did not tie in with the taste of the soup.

We followed that up with the appetizers course, which was EASILY the star of our entire meal. Teh vegetarians were served a Punjabi Paneer Tikka (tasty, but a bit under-seasoned), a Bhuttey-Matar di Seekh (nice, quite nice) and Bhune Broccoli Aur Kale Chane ki Kebab (under-seasoned, but not bad at all). The Non-vegetarians (that would be me) were served Methi Machchi Tikka, Murgh Sunheri Shahi Tikka and a Bhutta Malai Jhinga. The fish tikka was tender, and really very well seasoned and pretty darned tasty. The chicken tikka was slightly tough, but oh so flavourful. But the prawn kabab, one single tiger prawn butterflied and slightly charred around the edges: explosion of flavours on my tongue. Soft enough to cut with a table knife yet crunchy enough, spicy and a subtle lemony flavour: this was the highlight of our entire meal.

The main course, like many others, though well done, failed to whip up magic. There was an array of breads like pudina paratha, lachcha paratha and the like. For the gravies, there was a Chooza Khas Makhni, indistinguishable from a butter chicken, Bhatti Aloo Shimla Mirch, Dry Fry Matar Mushroom (there needs to be more magic and imagination in the vegetarian department), Palak Kofta Makhani wala (flavourful, but the gravy failed to permeate the kofta, leaving it dry and tasteless). The Sood de Dhabey di Daal was, however, smooth and tasted of butter, even though it wasn't much more than a regular kaali daal. Something the parathas could totally wipe up. And the last one, Mutton Tariwala, was a delightful mutton preparation. The gravy was intensely flvourful yet light and the mutton was fall-off-the-bone tender. It went fabulously well with the breads and God knows, I was smiling ear-to-ear after that one.

From L-R: Bhatti Aloo Shimla Mirch, Chooza Khas Makhni, Mutton Tariwala, Palak Kofta Makhni Wala, Dry Fry Matar Mushroom and assorted breads

The desserts were a let-down though. We had a Malai Chamcham, Gulab Jamun and Anjeer ki Kulfi, topped with Falooda. Honestly, Malai Chamcham is something I'll find at a CR Park sweet shop, not a restaurant at Vivanta, even though the theme is earthy. The Anjeer ki Kulfi was quite tasty, though studded with ice crystals, and hence not churned well enough. By the time the Gulab Jamun reached us, we couldn't take another sweet bite.

One simple line to sum up Paranda: Has so much potential, has some very delicious food, and some very well-read and courteous staff, but has to get out of the shadow of the restaurant whose premises it presides on, and needs more imagination in the vegetarian and desserts department. But yes, an evening very well spent!

Till the next time!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blog reviewing Shocks and Shoes for Chistmas!

‘Twas the night before Christmas,
My kitchen in disarray
With the plum cake in the oven, I thought,
What should I write today?

A gift was in order, I felt
But who should I give it to?
Indiblogeshwaris had taken care of that
It would be Fab, from Shocks andShoes!

She writes on all my favourite things
It took me all night to read
From fashion to food to reviews and thoughts
I like her, in she gets to my RSS feed!

Let’s talk of her style,
Yes girl, she’s full of style,
And sarcasm and wit and all things sassy,
She’s like my sister for a while!

You know her recipes,
She puts step by steps photos,
I love that so, because you know me
Sometimes I can be such a dodo!

She gets us up, when we are down
Through many her Thoughts posts,
I thank her so, for being the one
To find me when I’m lost.

And the fashion! Oh girl..
The outfit posts go
From casual chic, formal to DIY to accessories,
I love that Red and Gold kurta so!

Photo courtesy: Shocks and Shoes

I love her reviews the most, I swear
She reads the book and tells us
What’s good and what’s bad
And what to expect, without a fuss.

Do you know she’s been featured?
In places where I can only hope,
From Femina to Parentous to many other blogs,
Good God I need to up my game, else I’ve got no scope!

There’s one thing I saw,
Though many might skip it,
She replies to all comments the same day,
Fab, here comes my respect to you, you have it!

So that’s it for now,
I hope Fab finds it good and right..
Oh no my cake’s burning!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Soya Nugget Breakfast Sandwiches

Hi there!

Breakfast is certainly the MOST important part of the day. I do feel that it should be healthy, and packed with nutrients, and did I mention healthy?

But sometimes, healthy needs  little bit of leeway. With some mayo (light, of course), two buttery crispy slices of bread (hey, c'mon, brown of course!), a bit of diced veggies, and the most divine vegetarian sandwich filling in the world. 

Did you just hear me say vegetarian? It's because I did. This is easily the best, ooey-gooey sandwich filling in zis world. So take it down, but it'll be imprinted in your memory once you eat it. Also, it's seriously easy.

Soya Chunk Breakfast Sandwiches

You need:
For the filling
  • 1 cup of dry uncooked soya chunks (Nutrela)
  • A bit of diced capsicum. You can use any colour for this.
  • A bit of corn kernels (like in a Green Giant or Del Monte tins)
  • May be some sliced and blanched mushrooms
  • Mayonnaise: as many spoonfuls as is required
  • A squidge of American Mustard (optional)
  • Oregano/ garlic chips/ chilli flakes

(I'd recommend this only. Any more than this, the stuffing will be too full and chunky and not creamy enough)
For the sandwich
  • Brown or multigrain bread
  • Little bit butter

The How:
  • Drop the dry chunks into boiling water. They'll absorb some of the water, puff up and the water will become foamy. Once perfectly puffed, drain into a colander, and rinse with plenty of drinking water at normal temperature. Squeeze the chunks by the fistful to rinse out any foamy residue. It's done when the water runs clear.

  • Shred the boiled chunks with your hands.
  • Meanwhile, drain and rinse the corn kernels, wash and dice the capsicum, and blanch the sliced mushrooms.
  • Pile the shredded chunks and the veggies in a bowl.
  • Add the squidge of mustard (if you want). I find it adds a delicious vinegary acidity to it. You can leave it out if you want.
  • Chuck in the oregano, chilli flake and garlic chips, in the quantity you want.  I seriously OD'd on the garlic!

  • Now add in mayo one spoonful at a time, and mix till it's creamy yet sufficiently chunky. You don't want it to be flooded in mayo creaminess, but you don't want it be totally dry either.

It should look like this:

  • Once done taking a photo and tasting copious spoonfuls (ahem), lightly butter two slices of bread (you could leave this out as well. The mayo provides enough moisture), slather the filling as much as you want and use a panini-maker, or a regular sandwich maker to toast and seal it.

  • Go nuts!

So this is it! You can sub soya chunks with chicken, paneer or even hard-boiled eggs, and it will still be as delicious. Seriously, you've got to try this! It's fast, easy and oh so delicious!

Till the next time,

Happy Eating!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Japanese Shokuji @ Guppy by ai: Bloggers' Table

My life of blogging has spoiled me. Spoiled me rotten. I'm enjoying fests and world cuisine almost every week. The one week that I don't have anything scheduled, I feel bored out of my mind and begin to re-imagine the delicious foods I had the last week. What did I have last week you ask?

Oh you'll love this. We met at Guppy by ai, the newest Japanese place in Delhi. Well, it's not really new. But it's totally reinvented, now at Lodhi Road. The place is all about colours, fun, anime, Japan and a wonderland. There was the sweetest lighting fixtures, like one that was a upended wok. Yes, a upended wok. There was one bird cage, strung with blue lights, creating a strangely imaginary environment. But my most favourite was a chandelier, that resembled the dry leaves of a caped gooseberry. There were kakeshi dolls, vintage cameras, crazy prints on the walls and made us smile! See, take a look for yourself!

We met up with the chefs in charge of Guppy, Chef Vikram Khatri and Chef Vaibhav Bhargava, who very kindly decided to order for us, a tasting menu, that would showcase Guppy to us. We started with an amuse-bouche of Tomato and Jasmine Tea, topped with a Prawn Cracker with Pickled Veggies in a Goma Dressing and Furikake, a lovely Japanese seasoning. Sushmita, a resident vegetarian blogger, got the same, but with a Sesame Cracker. I loved the Tea in a small ceramic shot glass. It was hot, flowery from the Jasmine and reminiscent of a very juicy tomato. Just perfect to whet up an appetite. Which was good, because we had a veritable exercise ahead of us!

Oh and on the side, we had a bowl of Edamame, spiced with flaky Sea-Salt, Chilli and Garlic. I am now an addict of this beautiful thing. Buttery, sweet and tender edamame, in the pod, tossed with chilli, garlic and sea salt. It was spicy, but not hot. It was intensely garlicky. And insanely addictive. I could have made a meal out of this alone! I will try to make this at home. I promise you.

We moved on to the Guppy House Salad, which was vegetables, palm hearts, bamboo shoots and slices of beets dressed in a Karashi Mustard dressing. It was fresh, superbly crunchy and you could taste the freshness of the ingredients.

Next up: The Chirashi Seafood Salad. This is an assortment of greens, with pickled prawns, crabs, and chunks of fresh red tuna and pink salmon in a Goma-ae dressing. Now you guys know, I cannot bring myself to scarf down uncooked fish. Nachiketa was happy to assist me with that! You know there are somethings, which when you eat a forkful of it, intense taste is what hits you? This was it. Secondly, there was no fishy taste, which is what affects me. And for this, I was happy! And thirdly, there was the surprise element of roe! Roe popped in my mouth the same way mustard seeds or sesame seeds pop. It was the sweetest and funnest sensation!

Next up? The Gyozas or Pot-Stickers. We got Prawns Gyozas, served with Chilli-Ponzu Sauce. The Prawns were soft, yet crunchy and the Gyoza covering was perfect: not too thin, not too thick. Loved it. But the surprise was with the Exotic Mushroom Gyozas. Chefs had made this a gluten free versions, with Wheat Starch as the gyoza covering. Brilliance, or what?! I love how the gyozas have a crisp bottom, but is absolutely Melt. In. The. Mouth. You could taste the woody, meatiness of the mushrooms, and I adored these babies!

We then had the Vegetable Harumaki, crispy flaky phyllo rolls encasing a vegetable stuffing. Loved these for the taste, but were nothing special. We also had the Rice Paper Vegetable Rolls, that was served with a yuzu-sesame sauce. Fresh, cool, crunchy and yum!

We then had this yummy, albeit super oily Agedashi Tofu, which was chunks of silken tofu, speared on a satay stick, fried and served with THE most interesting dressing. It had cucumber, finely sliced onion greens, chilli, lime and tomatoes, at least as far as I could taste! Alongside this, we had a Spicy Salmon Roll. I let this one pass, but was told that it was lovely.

Oh and we also feasted on the crunchy, crispy and fresh Asparagus Tempura Rolls. I loved all the components of this piece. The asparagus spears tempura fried crispy. The sushi rice round and sticky. A spicy mayo. Ah, that was heavenly.

Next, there was the Signature Pork Belly, which was slow-braise Belgium pork belly, glazed with soy-honey and served with mustard-miso sauce. The pork was falling off its satay stick, the sauce all sticky and sweet and NOT oozing fat. It had a splatter of sesame seeds on it, that gave it a nutty vibe. It was delicious!

For the mains, we were in for a treat. What we got next was the star of the entire dinner, and possibly the whole menu. It was a filet of Guppy Signature Black Cod, skin-side up, in a miso marination. On a large, round, very hot, stone. Yep, you heard me right. This hot stone baked the soft layers of the fish in a flash, but in the process also sealed the marination tight. What happened thanks to that was, the moisture and fat of the fish got sealed in, making it soft, flavourful and perfectly flaky. And the skin! Crispy, blackened and heavenly! Take a look!

Oh no, I'm not done yet. Along with this, we had a Teriyaki Glazed Artichoke and Tofu. The artichoke had its tanginess intact and the tofu, while a bit stiff (and spongy) was very flavourful. This was served alongside a Garlic Fried Rice.

By this time, we were sipping copious amounts of green tea to help settle things. Not that it helped, because we soon had our dessert platters at the table. We had a Yuzu Lemon Cheesecake with a Kaffir Lime Glaze and a Classic Carrot Cake. The cheesecake, though it had the pop of fresh lemon, was a bit too dense. The carrot cake on the other hand was divine. Warm, mildly sweet, with a beautiful cream cheese frosting. I saved it for my last bite!

We were full to our gills by this time. But were our amazing chefs done with us? Oh no! We were given two lovely plates of Petit Fours. One contained Nutty Clusters of chocolates. The other one had cute pyramids of chocolates, that strongly suggested a liquor filling, and these amazing balls of Red Velvet cake. So amazing!

And finally, we were done. The staff, always smiling, always helpful, and so attentive to individual dietary concerns. The chefs, now friends. The decor, something I'd love to replicate. And the food? Something I didn't expect in a million years, and something I will never forget! Please visit, and preferably in the day time. Guppy by ai is a DELIGHT! Look, here's us with the amazing chefs :)

Photo courtesy Sushmita Sarkar

Till the next time!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

New Foods of the North-East @ Rosang: Bloggers' Table

The best part of my awesome life is my hobby. My hobby of tasting the most amazing foods, from every corner of the world, click them, (put them up on Instagram for my friends to feel jealous!), write about it. And when this hobby is fulfilled with some of my closest friends, then it's all I want!

A beautiful Sunday had me travelling to Hauz Khas Village, to feast on food from the Seven Sisters of our country, the mystical North-eastern part of our country. I'll be honest, I knew very little about it, barring some unsavoury rumours. All I knew was that there's a lot of pork that's used, bamboo shoots and vegetables. But that was it. Charis was gung-ho about Rosang, a sweet little cafe in HKV. And there it was that we went.

The restaurant is tiny, barely 25 covers, and embellished with lots of North-Eastern jewelery. The entire place was done with wood, which is my favourite element. The top floor of the building has the shop, where you get bamboo crafts, jewelery and beautiful crockery. The service was really sweet, as was the owner Mary. The table started with some Rice beer, a sweetish, mildly pungent and super potent beer drink, and definitely an acquired taste. We pounced on the menu, and Parul and I came up with almost same choices! We chose Bawngsa Kan and Spare Ribs for starters. The Bawngsa Kan, from Mizoram was fried red meat slices, with Bamboo Shoot and Cherry Tomatoes. While the meat was way too dried out, almost like jerky, the salad tasted fresh and seriously different. The bamboo shoot slices felt like they were marinated, and tasted deliciously mouth-puckeringly tangy.

Along side the Bawngsa Kan, we had the Pork Spare Ribs. This was phenomenal. The ribs, that were deep fried, had no pretenses of being healthy or low fat. On the contrary, there was chunks of glistening melting pork fat, bubbling on top of the tender fried meat, with bone. Served with a lemon wedge, salad, and a spicy chilli sauce, a better version of the sauce you get with momos, this was insanely delicious. The fat, fried and seared, sealed off the moisture and a luxurious taste in the meat. It was like my best fantasy was deep-fried and served to me. For me, completely the star of the meal.

We moved on to the mains then. We had Jadoh, from Meghalaya, which was Wild Red Rice with Pork, a meal in itself. This is a acquired taste, which must accompany one's awareness of unhusked grains. I was not aware. While the taste was quite delicious and intense, the texture was extremely off-putting, to someone who is not accustomed to textures of whole grains. The rice was interspersed with something that strongly resembled the unpleasant gritty taste and texture of dirt. Charis tells me, that texture is thanks to black sesame seeds. It should be noted here, that my fellow bloggers found it very good, so do decide taking both opinions into account.

Along with Steamed Rice, we had Dohneiihong, which is Smoked Pork with Black Sesame. Again, a delicious dish, with that crunch of black sesame, just not unpleasant this time. The dish was a dense jungle-green in colour. The fat was almost melty, the meat was falling off the bone, and was tasting perfectly hand-in-glove with the rice. It was the fat that kept the meat to such a tender stage. The best main dish I had that day, easily. 

Aside from this, we had Ngatok, a fish stew, made without oil from Arunachal Pradesh, Aloo Taama from Sikkim and Bai, a vegetable stew. The Ngatok was the perfect diet food, light, flavourful and absolutely oil free. The fish was tender, flaky and very tasty. The Bai, which is made with butter or oil is supposed to be a lot better than what we were served, made with fermented pork fat, just for us. Having said that, being a light vegetable stew, full of aubergines and beans, it would be pretty good for health. Aloo Taama was a potato curry with bamboo shoots, tasting just like ghar ka aloo ki subzi

All in all, Rosang is good for a visit when you want to taste something different. I have to admit though, North-Eastern food is not my cup of tea. And that's certainly not because of Rosang. Rosang does a very good job of very home-style North-Eastern food, prepared and served with lots of love and smiles. We had ordered a lot, two servings of many, and we had a bill of about Rs. 700, including beverages and taxes. Which, in my eyes is pretty cost-effective! And here's us!
Photo courtesy Nachiketa Chandra

Also present at the table:
Charis @ Culinary Storm
Nachiketa @ Crazy Over Desserts
Parul @ The Shirazine

Till the next time!


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