May 13, 2013 § 4 Comments
It’s been a while! Now that I’m back from my vacation, it’s time to get back to blogging! There was some excitement the weekend before my vacation as well, and I must share it now, as it is already late enough!
So I got a chance two weekends ago to watch and learn, from a cooking pro. One of my favourite websites, Mumbai Boss, had a little contest earlier in April where 10 lucky readers got a chance to attend a cooking demo with Chef Kelvin Cheung of Ellipsis in Colaba.
Fingers crossed, I entered and was absolutely thrilled when I got a spot.
So on April 28th, Sunday afternoon, off I went.
Chef Cheung is a third-generation culinary professional from Chicago, and has been working in the kitchen since he was about 12 or 13, in his family restaurant. After culinary school, he worked at restaurants in Chicago and Belgium before making the move to Bombay. (Interestingly enough, he enrolled in medical school first, but opted out once he realized that his real love was food!)
The cooking demo was amazing! There was a cozy group of 6 of us and we got to watch Chef Cheung cook and talk technique at the open kitchen, and taste as well! It was a pleasure to watch- art, intuition and science all coming together to create a wonderful meal. What I loved was Chef Cheung’s approach to food- clean, simple, honest food using the freshest and best ingredients available. The menu, in fact, changes everyday to accommodate the fresh produce of the day.
The food was delicious- as per Chef Cheung’s philosophy, the ingredients are the heroes and all the dishes were subtly flavoured; not overpowering, not drowning in sauce or buried under strange garnishes. Fresh and elegant.
I’m not going to wax eloquent about the decor or the plating- because you could read that in any review. But here some things I learnt, and find useful for home cooks like myself.
- Always wait for the pan to get hot before you add oil. Don’t be in a hurry. A hot pan needs less oil and your food will not stick. Chef Cheung used just a spoon of oil to sear the fish fillets!
- A simple pan sauce tastes wonderful and is so very easy to make! (The market fish on a bed of greens is dressed with a pan sauce.)
- Making your own stock at home is actually pretty easy- and tastes better than using cubes or stock-in-a-box.
- The fresher an egg is, the stronger it is. Inferior eggs are often the reason why some desserts do not bake in time. While it may be difficult to get farm-fresh eggs in Mumbai all the time, if you can find a trusted supplier or andawaala, stick to it.
I took some pictures, unfortunately only with my smartphone.
Potato and leek soup
Chef Cheung preparing the creme brulee
Creme brulee with chocolate cookie soil
If you live in Mumbai, are here on vacation or plan to visit, make time for Ellipsis. It’s totally worth it- I’d go just for the rocky road!!
Thanks Mumbai Boss, Chef Cheung and Ellipsis for a wonderful experience!
April 25, 2013 § 11 Comments
For the past 3 weeks my husband and I have been on an experimental regimen. Oatmeal or smoothies for breakfast, regular lunch and lighter dinners, usually salad/soup/stir fry/baked fish and chicken. We decided to keep all the heavy-duty eating for the weekend, and stick to simpler stuff during the week.
Ok I’ll stop trying to fluff it up, basically both of us realized we were spending too much time gorging in front of the TV and now we’re getting our act together, exercising regularly and eating better.
I have been using lentils and beans as a base for salad and soup, and kidney beans are great for soup because of their velvety texture. I am a sucker for rajma-chawal, and sometimes I have rajma from a bowl, just like soup, with some grated cheese on top. But since the purpose was to eat kidney beans in a healthier fashion, I made a soup, pairing the beans with vegetables and less spice.
This is one of those recipes I just made on the fly, combining whatever vegetables I had on hand and using very few spices- just cumin and paprika. Cumin for that nutty flavour and paprika for heat.
If you do some weekend prep and cook your kidney beans ahead, this is a simple meal you can get home and make after work on a weekday. Just throw everything in and let it simmer; by the time you unwind and freshen up it’s done!
KIDNEY BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP
- 1/2 cup kidney beans, cooked and drained
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika powder (optional)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 stick celery, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 700 ml vegetable stock (if you don’t want to keep it vegan use chicken or beef stock)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
- Heat the oil in a large pot. When oil becomes hot, add the garlic and allow it to soften a little.
- Next, add the cumin and paprika powder and stir gently till the raw smell of the cumin powder disappears.
- Now add the diced veggies and sweat them out a little, 2-3 minutes, allowing them to release their aroma and soften.
- Add the kidney beans and stir fry for a minute or two.
- Add the stock, season with salt and pepper and turn the heat to medium-low; simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through to your liking.
How do you like preparing kidney beans?
April 24, 2013 § 14 Comments
We all need a basic cake recipe- a basic vanilla cake recipe. Sometimes, we get so carried away with creating fancy flavours, gooey ganaches, dense Dutch chocolate confections, that we sort of let the plain vanilla cake languish in the back of the cupboard. Or recipe box. Or of you are digital, saved away in the depths of your Evernote or Springpad app, tagged carelessly and not pulled out often enough.
When I was younger, it was all about chocolate for me. Dessert meant chocolate; whether it was ice-cream, cake, mousse or anything else. I still love chocolate, but I have begun to appreciate vanilla and fruit-based cakes and desserts a lot more now. The thing about a simple vanilla cake is, you can’t really go wrong with it. It’s a very agreeable base to begin with, and you can build from there and add chocolate chips or frosting or serve it with ice cream or fresh fruit- because the pairing of vanilla with anything sweet cannot go wrong.
I learned how to make this cake at the Purple Foodie Workshop as well, it’s actually taken from the caramel-apple upside down cake we made in class- which just goes to show how much you can do when a plain vanilla cake is at the heart of it all.
I made this when we had guests over and couldn’t get my hands on Granny Smith Apples. I decided to leave out the caramel sauce since I didn’t have the apples, and serve it with some nice strawberry ice cream instead.
Keeping in line with my new obsession, I swapped half the measure of flour for almond meal, just to give the cake a nibbly texture and for that speckling of brown (I don’t blanch the almonds.)
A nice tip I learnt from Shaheen is the addition of warm milk to cake batter. The warmer the milk, the moister the crumb will be. This cake has a nice, moist crumb and springs back beautifully when you gently push the surface to see if it’s done. It is moist and dense enough to be eaten all by itself; but still manages to be light and fluffy enough to soak up cold ice cream. Yup. This cake is actually that awesome.
VANILLA ALMOND CAKE (Adapted from The Purple Foodie.)
- 100g butter, at room temperature
- 200g castor sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100g flour
- 100g almond meal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 80 ml warm milk
- Preheat the oven to 190C, grease a 9-inch round baking dish and set aside
- In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Now, the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal and baking powder until well incorporated. Fold this into the wet ingredients.
- Now add the milk and whisk everything together until you get an even batter with no lumps.
- Pour the batter into your baking dish and bake for 30-40 mins, until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
This cake is really good. It may not be stacked and fancy; it may not have Tahitian vanilla or marzipan fondant- but it’s an honest cake; elegant in it’s simplicity and it can be paired with most anything. (Though it’s pretty great on it’s own, too!)
♥WHY DON’T YOU♥
♥Serve it with ice-cream or creme fraiche?
♥Top it with fresh cherries or cherry preserves?
♥Slather it with chocolate ganache or good old Nutella?
♥Pipe on some tart-and-sweet cream cheese icing or basic buttercream?
♥Drizzle some caramel sauce over it, like we did in class?