Jun 16, 2015

Nizam-e-Awadh Food Festival

Holy Ramzan month is around the corner.  What better time to celebrate the cuisines of the Nizams and the Awadh. So it is that Sheraton Bangalore has curated another gastronomic extravagance revolving around Hyderabadi and Lucknowi food.

You will see fragrant, redolent, rich, and such adjectives being used repeatedly below. That should give you a good idea of what to expect at the Food Festival! Also unique here, is the presence of the Chefs, heroes who often are never in the limelight. It was a great initiative to bring them out of the kitchens and gave us a peek into the intricacies of the dishes.

Rose milk to set the note for fragrant courses to follow.

Rose milk

Warqi parathas – flaky, aromatic from the cardamom, great foil to the smooth-as-silk galouti kababs. Special baingan bharta, an exotic cousin of the Punjabi bharta we are more familiar with. Chef Jebin Robert deftly made the galouti kababs. His passion for his job was so evident!

Jebin Robert at work

Tafta – A unique sweet yeasted bun. Aromatic, pillowy soft. Served with Nalli Nihari. A specialty by Chef Ansari Ali.

The Chef also demonstrated the making of Roomali roti much to our delight. Flair and panache was evident in full measure. With practised ease, he made it look like child’s play. But one attempt by a blogger told us how difficult it is.

Chef Ansari Ali making the Roomali Roti

With Ramzan, can Haleem be far behind? The huge Lagaans for making the perfect haleem were brought in from Lucknow exclusively for the event. Chef Maksood is a soft-spoken, smiling person. Do not be fooled though! He can make a mean haleem, is a master of the Kachi Gosht Biryani and together with Chef Fahim Qureshi, had also made a perfect Subz Hariyali Biryani.  It’s vivid hue was inviting. The flavours lived up to my expectations. Gentle aromas of green herbs, perfectly cooked rice, accompanied by an enticing whiff of the Chef’s specially created spice blends.

Haleem

Subz Hariyali Biryani

Zarda Pulao, a fitting dessert. Sweetened with date puree and sugar, richly imbued with the hue and aroma of saffron, topped with chironjee, and dry fruits fried in ghee. Also on the dessert menu were matka kulfi and phirni. That the milk was patiently reduced by boiling and that the best quality of pistachios were used in the kulfi was amply evident in it’s flavour and perfectly grainy texture.

Chef Maksood and the Zarda Pulao Chef Fahim Qureshi and the Kachi Gosht Biryani

The Food Festival does tend more to the non-vegetarian selections. Go for an indulgent treat, for a feast to your senses! Beware of the calories. Nothing here for the dieter. Unabashedly rich and aristocratic offerings.

Open for lunch and dinner till the 21st of June 2015. At Feast, Sheraton at Brigade Gateway, Bangalore.

Jun 3, 2015

Idli – The Ultimate Guide to Softest Idlis.

Idli. Enough said. That spongy, light as air, uber healthy, steamed breakfast of millions in India. It is every idli lover’s dream to make the fluffiest, softest, ‘malli poo’ idlis (as soft as jasmine flower) at home. Idli is the stuff of  culinary dreams. The perfect idli seems so much in reach and yet, so elusive. As my friend put it, “Idli is the cause and weapon of marital fights at our home.” If you want Idli to be the cause of marital harmony rather than distress, or if you are looking for a healthy breakfast recipe, read on..

Much has been written about how to grind the perfect idli batter. Family and friends who have tasted my idlis have been reminding me to document my recipe at the blog. So here I am, with my method of making idli batter. Do share what works for you as well. It would be great to hear from everyone.

The key to good food begins with good ingredients. I use Salem idli rice. I use the best quality whole white urad that I can find. In Bangalore, Salem idli rice and whole white urad can be bought at most wholesale rice and grain shops. (rice mandi) Some supermarkets like Nilgiris, Spar, Star Bazaar, Towness also carry them. “Can I use idli rava instead of the rice?” You can. But the texture of idli will be different. Don’t tell me I did not warn you.

The next step is correct technique. For fermentation, timing is key! I soak the grains overnight, grind it the next morning and leave it to ferment through the day. By evening, the batter is ready. I store the fermented batter in the fridge and use it for up to a week without any loss of flavours.

Idli topped with two chutneys 

If you are eager to make the perfect idlis for your family, follow these steps carefully. Please read the method thoroughly before trying. As with other recipes, perfection comes with practise. If you have any doubts, write to me and I can try to sort it for you.

YOU NEED

COOKWARE – Wet grinder, big bowls, spatula, idli steamer 

INGREDIENTS

  1. 4 cups Salem Idli Rice
  2. 1 cup Whole white urad
  3. 1 tsp Fenugreek seeds – (optional)
  4. 2 tsp Salt
  5. 5-7 cups chilled drinking water for grinding.

METHOD

  1. Measure out rice and urad in two separate bowls. Add fenugreek seeds, if using, to rice bowl. Rinse in enough changes of water till water runs clear. Soak in fresh drinking water. Water level should be 1 inch above the grains. Soaking time can range from minimum of 4 hours to maximum of 8-9 hours. I soak overnight. (about 8 hours)
  2. Measure out 2+1/2 cups of drinking water. Drain the soaking water from urad and grind in wet grinder. Keep sprinkling a quarter cup of water every 8-10 minutes. Use all of the 2 cups of water. Add as much of the 1/2 cup as needed. I grind for 40-45 minutes. Remove to a deep bowl when the batter looks doubled in volume and is silky smooth when you feel between your fingers.
  3. Measure out 3+1 cups of chilled drinking water. Drain out the soaking water from rice. Grind in wet grinder with 1 cup of water to begin with. Sprinkle just enough water to keep the grinder running smoothly. Keep checking every 4-5 minutes while grinding. Add water as necessary. I grind rice for 20 minutes. I stop grinding when the rice feels a little coarse and before the rice becomes a very smooth paste. That is not to say a semolina texture. Rather, between fine semolina and paste….
  4. Remove to same bowl as urad batter. Add salt and mix well with your hand. Yes, I dip most of my forearm into the batter to mix it up. This is vital to good fermentation. Have you not heard?
  5. Set this covered bowl of batter to rest in a warm place. Make sure to fill you bowl only half way to give room for rising. You can divide the batter into two bowls too. At my home, the batter takes about 8 hours to ferment. If your room temperature is below 20C, set to ferment inside your cold oven. Or cover the bowl with a beach towel/blanket. And pray that the batter does not attach itself to your blanket!
  6. The batter is completely fermented when it rises to double in volume, has a sour-sweet fragrance. Stir it lightly. Pour into greased idli moulds.
  7. Steam for 10-12 minutes over a medium flame. The idlis are done when a knife inserted through the centre comes clean.
  8. Serve hot with assorted chutneys, or molaga podi or sambar. Or all of them!

Mini idli served with love

May 29, 2015

Watermelon Shikanjvi

In keeping with the need of the summer season, here is a winner drink recipe. Watermelon juice spiked with Indian spices. These spices were chosen not just for the flavours but also for their ability to aid digestion and add essential salts to the body.

In my earlier post, I had promised to share a drink recipe that does not include sugar. This is especially so that diabetics can also indulge in a refreshing drink. Summer need not be tiring or exhausting if we have refreshing, nourishing, hydrating drinks such as this watermelon shikanjvi in our repertoire. The ultimate thirst quencher. Rich with natural salts to rehydrate, and full of fruit vitamins and minerals. The fruit is rich in anti oxidants which helps in maintaining skin tone as well. Something we could surely use in the dry scorching months!

 
Enjoy a sip by the pool


In fact, most juices and colas are not advisable for diabetics since these release a surge of sugar into the blood stream almost immediately. A spike in blood sugar is dangerous for any diabetic. As is dehydration. In diabetics, if there is excess sugar in the blood, the kidneys will try to flush out some sugar through urine. It makes this happen by drawing on body water from blood, cells, saliva. This, in turn, increases the dehydration in the body.

Without further ado, here is the recipe for a super refreshing, very low calorie, drink. For ease, I am giving measures for 2 glasses. Of course, you can make a big batch ahead (do not add the soda ahead. Mix it in just before serving) and store chilled in the fridge. When you feel like downing a glass, pour yourself half a glass of this juice mixture, top with soda and sip for instant relief from summer.

Chilled watermelon shikanjvi


 ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Does NOT contain lactose, soya, corn, yeast, gluten.

Preparation Time – 10 minutes + chilling time, Cooking Time – nil, Serves - 2

YOU NEED -

COOKWARE - Mixer grinder, lemon squeezer, and serving glasses

INGREDIENTS -

  1. 1 heaped cup chopped, deseeded watermelon chunks
  2. 250 ml chilled club soda
  3. Juice of 1 lemon
  4. a  big pinch of cooking salt
  5. pinch each of roasted jeera powder and kala namak powder
  6. Ice cubes to top up and serve

METHOD -

  1. Whiz the watermelon chunks in the mixer until you get a smooth puree. .
  2. Add the lemon juice also to the mixer jar.
  3. Add also a big pinch of salt, followed by a small pinch each of roasted jeera powder and kala namak.
  4. Whiz the mixture well, and divide between 2 glasses.
  5. Top with club soda, ice cubes and serve chilled!


 Watermelon Shikanjvi



 

Apr 25, 2015

Orange Basil Iced Tea

With summer on, in full swing, we search often for different drinks to soothe our parched throat! It is truly important to keep ourselves well hydrated in heat. Drinking plain water through the day can be boring, and nauseous at times. The trick, then, is to flavour our drinks with some palate pleasers. This way, we can drink enough fluids to keep the body hydrated well enough.

For more on hydration, and it’s importance, read my article here on importance of water.

Here is an idea which you can use to add fun to your fluid intake. Tea is a diuretic, which means it increases water excreted from the body. So to help maintain the fluid balance in the body, I have diluted the iced tea with plenty of water and added orange juice for extra vitamins and minerals.

  • People who have special fluid restrictions like in kidney aliments will have to stick to their prescribed form of fluid intake. This drink may not be suitable for them.
  • If you have diabetes, or are obese, this is not the best way to replenish fluids for you. Cheer up! I will be back with interesting drink recipes for you also.

Enjoy chilled Iced Tea

ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Does not contain gluten, soya, corn, yeast, lactose.

Preparation Time – 10 minutes + 1 hour chilling, Cooking Time – 3-4 minutes, Serves – 4-6 glasses

YOU NEED

COOKWARE – Tea pot/saucepan, jug, glasses to serve

INGREDIENTS

  1. Juice of 2 oranges, about 1/2 cup or more, freshly squeezed orange juice.
  2. 3 tea bags of your choice of flavour. Lemon, ginger, mint teas all work well.
  3. 2 cups drinking water + 4 cups chilled drinking water
  4. A tiny fistful Basil seeds/sabja seeds
  5. 2 tbsp honey
  6. Ice cubes and orange slices to serve

METHOD

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a saucepan. Place tea bags in the saucepan, remove from heat, cover and steep for 5-7 minutes.
  2. Soak the basil seeds in the remaining 4 cups chilled water.
  3. Squeeze out the tea bags. Mix in the orange juice, strained tea, chilled water and honey.
  4. Stir well, chill for an hour.
  5. Serve topped with ice cubes and slices of orange to garnish.

Orange Basil Iced Tea

Apr 22, 2015

U4IA – Review of Food Menu

Interestingly named, U4IA (Euphoria) has been conceived as a fun destination spot for all. It is built over four levels, with each floor offering different entertainment options. The ground floor has a screen for match days. The first floor houses the pub, the brewery vats, and seating. Wooden flooring adds to the charm. The second floor, I hear, is intended for banqueting/discotheque. The rooftop has a barbeque lounge space.

I was invited along with a few other bloggers to review their new food menu. A lounge or a microbrewery will surely have great choice of drinks on the menu. But to find a peppy menu, with diligent attention to the food as well, is surely reason to smile! We found just that. There were several bold fusion creations.

 Onion rings and Mozzarella sticks  Mushrooms with Schezwan peppers

Paneer Peshawari Baby corn Chili

Chef Vinod Laxman set the evening rolling with some great starters and finger food. Beer battered onion rings,  oozy mozzarella sticks, mushroom with Szechwan peppers, baby corn chilli, Paneer Peshawari were some of the starters we sampled that evening. Crunchy onion rings with the beer making its presence felt in a desirable acidic way – good to go with the brews they serve up. The baby corn packed a good punch and the Paneer fragrant with the marinade and grilled well. It was tough for me to fault the starters that evening. They scored high on both presentation and taste. Others who sampled the non-vegetarian starters also had the same opinion.

Thai curry Veg Pizza was one of the mains served. I liked the concept of Thai curry on a pizza. If I had to be picky, I would say the pizza could do with a tad more sauce and flavour. The mains menu also included some non-vegetarian dishes which I did not sample.

Thai Curry Veg Pizza

Veg Zarchaos  Pasta Primavera

We had no room left for dessert, thanks to the generous portions. Our interest was piqued when ‘Biramisu’, a spin on the traditional Tiramisu, was brought in. The chef informed us that this dessert had stout beer replacing the usual marsala, liqueur, or brandy used in traditional Tiramisu. Replacing a strong beer like stout with a lighter beer such as the Octoberfest may help. This experiment needs further tweaking before it can hit the right spot.

Biramisu

The starters are the best course on the menu. A glance at the bar menu revealed plenty of cocktails, shooters, flamers, and other high drama stuff to offer choice.

For those who are interested, their microbrewery turns out these organic brews in house with fully imported German machinery and methodology as well. The staff informed us they have 4 beers on tap currently. Col. Stout, Brew master’s special, Oktoberfest, and Capt. Wheat. Folks at U4IA take care to ensure their brews are fresh and carbonated just right to give customers a happy experience. If you are in this part of the city and want a fun space to watch the IPL or just to unwind, you could check U4IA out.

Samplers of inhouse brews

U4IA - Opposite Yamaha Showroom, 2nd Stage, Raj Mahal Vilas, New BEL Road, Bangalore,India.

Open on Monday to Thursday and Sunday from 11 am to 11 pm. Friday and Saturday – 11 am to 1 am.

Cost for 2 – Rs.1500 (approx)

Warning – Healthy Slurps does not endorse irresponsible drinking. Please adhere to legal age limits for drinking at your place. Do not drink and drive. Be aware that alcohol can be habit-forming and addictive.

 

Apr 16, 2015

Jowar dosai

Why millets? Why so much brouhaha over these pseudo cereals? Why is it important in a modern urban diet? Are they good at all? Who should eat millets? Who should not? These and many more facts set out for you here. Read on to know more.

Millets are not cereal grains, so they are called pseudo grains. Millets are smaller grains. They belong to five (or more) different botanical families, but are classified under one name as millets. Millets are grown for bird, animal and human consumption. Factors that go in favour of their cultivation are that they have a short growing season, grow in semi arid regions, (they need very little water) need very little attention. Different countries across the world have been growing and consuming millets for thousands of years. Unfortunately, urban diets have not included millets for about 50 years now.

So what is the good and bad about eating millets? Here, I split it up into its constituents and make it simple for all to understand.

The Carbohydrates -  Millets have complex starches in form of amylose and amylopectin. Such a starch can only be digested in cooked form by humans. Since they not easily digestible, they have a low glycemic index. That means they release their sugars into the blood stream in a slow steady fashion. Much like how a sustained release medicine works. There are no highs and lows in blood sugar when you are eating such starches. And yes, you guessed it right: this is great news for diabetics and pretty much everybody else.

The Proteins – After carbohydrates, proteins form the major part of millets. Egg and human milk are considered perfect proteins because they have the best combination of amino acids that the human body needs. When compared to these proteins, most millets are found to have insufficient amino acids to provide all nutrients for infants and growing children. Millets have been found to be deficient mainly in lysine, an essential amino acid. What are amino acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are 21 amino acids that form all the proteins ever known. Several of these amino acids are made in the human body. These are called non-essential amino acids because the body can make it on its own. Some of these are called essential amino acids. Why are they called so? Because they are necessary for growth and cell repair but cannot be synthesised in the human body. So they have to come from the food we eat. Lysine is one of these essential amino acids.

Does this mean that millets are not good enough for weaning food? Or to feed growing children? No. Millets are very good for children, when cooked well and when paired with a legume such as mung bean or tuvar dal. Legumes are naturally rich in lysine and by combining them in the same meal ensures that the meal gives complete protein for the growing body. Besides, millets are gluten free as well. So they are a safe bet for all, children, older people or those with gluten allergy.

Look forward to more information and recipes with millets in my forthcoming posts.

Meanwhile, here is a recipe for Jowar Dosai. This recipe is good for beginners who are not sure about how to begin including millets. Millets are great for people who need a gluten–free diet as well. Besides, here, the ground batter is fermented which increases the food’s digestibility as well as increasing the availability of several vitamins and minerals from the grains.

The initial trouble of soaking, grinding and fermenting is well worth the effort. The batter keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. When you have batter ready in the fridge, making dosai for a meal takes only a few minutes. You can choose to make regular size dosai for breakfast, dinner or coin-sized ones for your child’s lunch box.

Coin Dosai platter dotted with molaga podi

ALLERGY INFORMATION

Preparation Time – 8 hours soaking+1 hour grinding+8 hours fermentation, Cooking Time – 10-15 minutes, Makes – about 20 dosais.

YOU NEED -

COOKWARE - Wet grinder or mixer grinder, Iron skillet/griddle, Big deep dish mixing bowls, ladle, sharp metal spatula

INGREDIENTS -

  1. 1 cup Jowar grains
  2. 1 cup salem idli rice/boiled rice/raw rice
  3. 2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
  4. 2 tbsp urad dal
  5. 1 heaped tsp salt
  6. Sesame oil for drizzling over dosais, about 1/4 cup oil

METHOD -

  1. Measure out all ingredients except salt and oil. Rinse the grains well, Soak overnight. To do this, steep in enough water to cover the grains plus an inch higher.
  2. The next morning, grind the soaked grains. If using wet grinder, keep sprinkling water every 7-10 minutes. You can use up to 3 cups water for grinding. I grind my batter in a wet grinder. When using jowar grains, it takes longer to grind. About 1 hour of grinding gives me a smooth batter. When the batter looks smooth, add salt, mix well and remove to a deep bowl. Allow plenty of head room for fermentation. Leave overnight for fermentation.
  3. The batter is ready when it has risen to double volume.
  4. Heat up an iron skillet/dosa tawa. Smear oil all over to grease.
  5. Pour a ladleful batter in the centre of skillet. Spread with back of ladle in concentric circles. Drizzle few drops of oil around the sides. When brown at edges, loosen the edges, flip over with a sharp spatula and cook on other side. Repeat for the next ladle of batter.
  6. Alternately, pour tiny spoonfuls of batter all over the skillet to make ‘coin dosais’. Drizzle oil around the sides, flip over to cook briefly on other side. Remove to serving platter when done.
  7. Serve with any chutney of choice or with dosai molaga podi!

Coin dosai topped with molaga podi

Crispy or soft - fragrant Jowar Dosai

Apr 15, 2015

Baisakhi Food Festival @ Sheraton

Come April and the harvest festival is celebrated all through India under different names. Baisakhi, celebrated in this season by the hearty Punjabis, is a good reason to launch the Baisakhi Food Festival at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore. Now, this is a restaurant that is never dull. While the buffet spread at Feast is always a feast literally to all your senses, the folks do not believe in resting. Several events and food festivals are planned on a regular basis to give their old and new guests new food experiences.

When I was invited to review this event, I agreed, for Punjabi cuisine is known for its robust flavours and great variety as well.

View of Feast

View of the buffet and live counter

The menu includes all the traditional favourites. The Chefs have not wasted time in tweaking recipes or creating fusion dishes. Baisakhi it is, and Punjabi food, you get! Offering equal choice to both the vegetarians and the non vegetarians alike, pick as the fancy takes you. Among the vegetarian starters, you can enjoy Bharwan Paneer Tikka, Alu Mushroom Tikki, Tandoori Alu, or Rajma ki tikki.  Wash it down with salted lassi, or a pleasantly sharp jaljeera. If I felt the lassi was lightly watered down and not creamy and thick as I would expect, I realised it was a good thing. The drink was just right to whet my appetite instead of silencing it. Of the starters, the Rajma Tikki stood out for its silky smooth texture and balanced spices.

Drinks to start the meal

 Vegetarian starter platter

It would be wise to head on to the main course before you are filled up with the starters.  For, by no means should you ignore Sarson ka Saag. Set up at a separate station, with befitting accoutrements, this is probably the best you can find outside of Punjab! Bajre ki roti and Makai ki roti lend good support to the Saag. Enjoy the symphony that plays out in your tongue and brain while you are at this.

Sarson ka Saag with accompaniments

View of the open kitchen 

Can Paneer tikka Masala be not around when the cuisine is Punjabi? The folks at Feast do not disappoint. You will also find Dal Makhani, Sabz Masaledar, Alu Saagwala and such typical Punjabi dishes on the menu. Dal Makhani stood out for me for its rounded flavours and a rich, engulfing mouth feel. Steamed rice, choice of breads, fragrant pulao to accompany the entrees, you will find them all.

The Entrees of the evening

The live jalebi counter caught my attention. Piping hot jalebis with chilled rabdi is a match made in Punjabi heaven!  You can choose to satisfy your sweet cravings with flavoured falooda with matka kulfi, gajar ka halwa, and even a sugarless lapsi kheer for people with diet restrictions. These Punjabi desserts are in addition to their regular array of baked desserts and Teppanyaki ice cream.

Live Jalebi counter

desserts 

This special menu is in addition to the regular buffet spread available for lunch and dinner. With a sleek ambience, sunlight streaming in the day and cosy lighting at dinner time, Feast is a location you must try out. While there, soak in the ambience, enjoy the courtesy of the staff and tuck in into one of the biggest buffet spreads in the city. You will not be disappointed.

I was delighted to find the staff sensitive to special dietary requirements of guests. Be it vegan, vegetarian, Halal, gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free or any other needs that you may have are sure to be met with.

The Baisakhi Food Festival is on at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore from 10th to 19th April, 2015. If you can glug 500ml of the lassi at one go, your meal is free! Is that not a great reason to try out?