Monthly Archives: November 2015

Coconut Cravings

Coconut and its versatility never ceases to amaze me.  Savoury and sweet dishes, it lends itself beautifully to both. Kerala and of course Goa abundantly use it in their cooking, as it is grows locally, but even West Bengal makes use of coconut in several dishes.  Cholar(chana) dal with coconut pieces or in Patishapta (the pancake sweet) or even narkel naru (coconut and jaggery balls)

Of course, we Goans must have coconuts in our fridge all the time as it comes handy in most of our dishes. In Goa, coconut is used to give the local flavour to our cuisine.  And I love the flavour, it imparts.

Alle Belle 1

Goan sweets cannot be made without coconut. Coconut milk and grated coconut, in fact coconut, in some form or the other, is used in sweets like Bebinca, Bolinhas, Pinac, Dodol, Baath, Alle Belle, etc.

Dodol

 

I love the neutral, slightly sweet taste of coconut. Perhaps that is why it integrates so well in desserts.

Recently had a delicious Alle Belle at The Leela Mumbai. The coconut and jaggery filling was perfect. Neither ingredient was overpowering the other. I also love coconut in sweets like ladoos and barfi too.

Of course in Goan sweets coconut milk is made use of often, but somehow, I prefer the desiccated version. The texture of the coconut milk or cream does not appeal to my palate, except in savoury dishes like the Goa orange curry or even a Thai red or green curry.

Interestingly, the use of coconut for desserts is not limited to Indian cuisine only. Thai cuisine uses a lot of coconut milk in their desserts too. One of my favourites is ruam mitr. I first tasted it in Bangkok. It contains jackfruit, green noodles, palm kernels, corn, and water chestnuts in a red covering, in a very light coconut milk with crushed ice. It is refreshing and perfect for summer. And it is not very sweet.

Another popular one is Khao niew bing. This too is not overpoweringly sweet, but the undertones of coconut and fruit along with smoky hints from the grilled banana leaf make it irresistible.

Coconut in any dessert is fine  as it is fairly common in global desserts too, but I cannot handle coconut ice cream at all. Not the tender coconut one at Natural’s too, although people rave about it. But I can never resist coconut macroons. Some Goa bakeries make great ones. Even Pune for that matter. Crème brulee with coconut is quite innovative as well.

And now I am off to grate coconut for my Goan dessert! Maybe some godshem?

 

Advertisements

Of Chipotle & Churros

One of the world’s most popular cuisines, Mexican food has intense and varied flavours. I must confess, I have always been inundated with Tex Mex food and have thus not really tasted too much of authentic Mexican fare in India. Chef Guillermo Favela, from Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek who was at the Glass House, Hyatt Regency Mumbai, treated me to some traditional delicacies albeit with a contemporary twist. Many of his dishes were a revelation.

Corn, chipotle and beans (frijoles) are some of the most commonly used ingredients in Mexican dishes, Chef informed me.

Quesadillas are a flour or corn tortilla with some varieties of Mexican cheese and chicken, meat, sea food or even veggies. We too began our meal with Quesadillas de champiñones, made of mushrooms. This not-to-be-missed dish was cheesy and  had the right bite to it. I loved the texture as well as the generous filling.

Tacos, tamales, nachos, salads, and freshly made salsa. Chef Favela had all this and a lot more on offer for guests.

Guacamole - low

The Guacamole, made of avocado, Mexican salsa, totopos, is something I have a weakness for and this one was exceedingly well-made with fresh ingredients and was buttery alright. I can eat almost anything with this exciting dip. Not merely tortilla chips!

Our light flavourful soup came next. Crema Poblana, sweet corn cream soup, poblano pepper. It was nothing like I had ever tasted before. Of course corn was the main ingredient here too but it was not starchy or insipid as corn soups some times tend to be.

Camarones al ajilo, sautéed prawns, mushrooms, garlic, chili guajillo looked appetizing and were palate-tickling too. Spicy, but with subtle flavours, each bite, had me craving for more. The prawns were fresh and succulent and enveloped in the sauce.

Pescado a la veracruzana, seared red snapper with tomato, capers, olives, almonds, Arroz a la Mexicana, Mexican tomato rice, Cerdo en salsa verde, pork stew with green tomatillo sauce, were some of the interesting dishes on the menu but we did not really savour the main course.

Churros - low

We were served dessert which comprised a platter of churros, a cake and some Buñuelos, crispy dough, piloncillo syrup. “These are ordinary desserts easily available at every street corner,” Chef gushed.

The crispy choux, cinnamon and sugar was as sinful as ever, without a flaw. Calorie-laden though. The cake was simple, yet well-made with distinct flavours. Reminded me of the Goan baath (coconut and semolina cake)The piloncillo syrup, interestingly was made with jaggery.

Overall, it was a light meal, well-presented and boasted of authentic Mexican flavours.

Chef Favela is extremely passionate about what he does and takes care to painstakingly present each dish and explains what he has prepared patiently. It was a delight to meet this talented Chef who has worked with some great masters.

Mexicans are gifted cooks and their ability to use herbs, spices and chilies allows them to create flavorful food which is prepared in a host of interesting and different ways. Chef Favela clearly belongs to this category.

If Mexican fare is what you fancy, head to the Glass House as this promotion is on for  a lunch and dinner buffet till December 1. What’s more, you are eligible for a 15% discount if you mention the code GHMFE15 (GH-Glasshouse /MFE-Minifoodescapades/15%) at the time of reservation.

 

 

 

Burgers anyone?

Burgers in India have evolved. Today, burger chains in India as well as five star hotels serve the best of burgers at par with the ones we get abroad. Big, value for money with interesting fillings made of fresh high quality ingredients.

Mexicano Burger

I was thrilled to see  that McDonalds has recently incorporated so many Indian spices in the burger bun.  This new variant is truly welcome. McDonald’s  new range of ‘Indi’ McSpicy burgers actually give consumers a kick of Desi spice with the unique flavor of Hari mirch sauce, made of Green Chillies – one of the commonly used ingredients in Indian Food.

Indi McSpicy Chicken

Originally from Hamburg in Germany, Burgers are now globally eaten and accepted.The varieties in burger patties today are plenty too. Chicken breasts grilled to perfection, sautéed in  interesting sauces, well made, delectable  fried chicken or paneer patty,  and even tofu. The options are endless.

Whether it is a classic meat burger or its healthier counterpart the Soybean burger , one can experiment with herbs and spices for an unusual result.  And chefs and burger chains alike, are doing that.

Chefs now experiment with toppings like Avocado salsa instead of melted cheese and fried onions. Instead of normal white bread you now have a range of healthy options to choose from.

MINI-BURGERS

I remember eating innovative stuff at the Leela Goa. Moong bean sprout patty, tamarind chutney, baked tapioca chips, coconut and cucumber salad, Shiitake, tofu and rice patty, sesame bun. Yes all this instead of the usual oily and unhealthy options we commonly indulge in. 

Woodside Inn Andheri does some great burgers. Loved their festival of global burgers from across the world, some months ago.

Fish or chicken burgers always catch my eye as these are fairly uncommon. Am not a meat person anyway. A chewy meat patty which some burger chains often tend to serve is a strict no no. A juicy, succulent burger is something we all enjoy.

Add-ons like sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, melting cheddar cheese and bacon rashers add variety even to an ordinary burger.

I am all for these fusion burgers rather than the age-ol’ classic burger. Innovation is fun and it is great to tease your palate with unusual flavours and textures.

And yes I love sliders or mini burgers too. Easy to eat and one can try our several different ones. And these make a pretty picture too.

I am now craving a burger. And you?

 

 

Let’s Get Cheesy…….

Cheese is something I have an incredible weakness for. It is a versatile ingredient, eaten and relished standalone, as well as used widely in cooking. My fridge is always well-stocked with several varieties. After all it comes handy as cheese makes an excellent ingredient to add both flair and flavour to the menu.

I relish it in dips or fondues. Perks up my taste buds instantly. Every type of cheese, fresh, semi-soft, washed rind, blue, semi-firm, or hard, has its special characteristics and properties. And yes, each variety of cheese has a unique, taste, texture and nutritional profile.

Cheese Burger Pizza

Some of the cheese dishes from my list of favourites are Swiss Fondue, Tiramisu made with mascarpone cheese and even a pizza generously topped with cheese. Or a crust filled with cheese. Pastas, pizzas and salads are incomplete without cheese.  Who can resist a well-made cheese toast for breakfast or a cheesy omelette for that matter? Another way to relish cheese is with crackers, nuts, fruits, bread.

A somewhat underutilized version is cream cheese. Can work wonders in desserts especially the New York cheese cake, which lends a great texture and richness to the dish.  The texture appeals to me a great deal.

Most varieties of cheese can be enjoyed cooked or uncooked. It depends on personal preferences. Few cheeses taste divine once heated, whereas some lose their distinct taste with application of heat. For example the pizza mozzarella is enjoyed in a better way if served warm.

????????????????????????????????????

Gouda, Cheddar, Colby, Gruyere, Parmesan, are the hard varieties. European cheeses like Cheddar, Ricola, Emmental, Gruyere, Mozzarella are equally popular in India now and easily available at gourmet stores too. That is heartening to see though I wish these were a bit more affordable.

I need no reason or occasion to savour cheese. I love it anyway, anytime. I still love my Kraft cheese even though my palate has now accepted many more newer varieties.