Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: Divinity

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Trip to Leela Palace, Bangalore and {Recipe} Prune-Almond Phirni

True to its name, "The Leela Palace" is palatial hotel & resort depicting our rich heritage of kings and queens who ruled India in the past. Rated as one of 500 World's Best hotels, it is still to-date favorite  destination hotel for many. Numerous conferences happen here on a daily basis and we were invited for an exclusive event "The Perfect Nutrition for Women of All Ages" organized by International Prune Association in association with Jade magazine and The Leela Palace itself.

I grabbed this opportunity with utmost excitement and was thrilled to experience the grandeur that Leela Palace had to offer.

The Leela Palace, Bangalore


The Interiors

We learnt a lot about how good the Prunes are in this event. When I was in California, I ate prunes on a regular basis as a snack and was pleasantly surprised to know that even in Bangalore, these are very easily available in many super markets. I made some Prune-Almond Phirni for you all today. If you just want to jump tothe recipe, scroll down to the end of the post. :-).


Smiling staff warmly greet you as soon as you enter the premises and the magnificent upholstery in the lobby area will catch your eye instantly. there are flowers, flowers and more flowers every where and you wouldn't even think for a second that this hotel is located at the very heart of the buzzing Bangalore city.




The corridors are filled with huge paintings of young Indian princes and kings.


It has an impressive lobby decorated with many rare Indian artworks.




After the informative conference, we all gathered for lunch at "The Dining Room", where things were literally served on a silver platter.


With plenty of sunshine streaming through the huge windows, it was one pleasant day to enjoy good food, good conversations and meet new people.


Here is what was served in our Leela Palace lunch.

Platter of fruit and prunes. We gobbled up so many that we lost count. ;-)

Lemongrass soup which was so refreshing and a best start for any meal.

Sago Payasam.

Ever heard of Prune Biryani? It tasted delicious.

Dal Tadka with aromatic spices.

Baby Potato Dum Aloo. Super yummy and its taste still lingers in my mouth.

the very traditional - Tindora with Coconut

Chocolate Magic, the dessert.

the entire dessert platter

Prune-Badam Phirni (Almond Rice Pudding with Prunes)

My grandparents live in Old city, Hyderabad. With many muslim friends around, Phirni (or Firni as its called) was something which we had almost in every household especially during festival time of Eid. It tastes rich, creamy and delicious. Today, I have made Phirni with Almond paste and cooked Prunes. Never expected this to be better than the original version. Enjoy.


Ingredients:

5-6 pitted Prunes (which are nothing but dried plums)
1/4 cup Almonds
1 tbsp Rice
1.5 cups Milk
1/4 cup Sugar
3 tbsp slivered almonds
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
hot water

Preparation:

For Prunes:

Soak them in hot water to soften for at least an hour. In the same soaking liquid, cook prunes on a medium-high heat, bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until they become plump. With back of a spoon, mash them and keep aside to cool.

For Pudding:

1. In hot water, soak almonds for 15 minutes. Peel and keep aside.

2. Soak rice in hot water again for atleast 1 hour.

3. Grind almonds and rice together into a very paste. Add little water if needed.

4. Heat milk in a wide pan and bring it to a rolling boil. On low heat, add almond-rice paste, while stirring constantly so that there are no lumps. Continue to stir for next 15-20 mins, when it starts to thicken and you can no longer feel the taste of raw rice.

5. Add sugar, sliced almonds and cardamom powder. Cook until sugar is completely dissolved. Finally add about 1-2 tbsp or more of prune liquid into phirni. Mix well and set it aside for not more than 5 minutes. Transfer the phirni into a bowl and refrigerate it for 1 hour.

Note: If you wish to, you can mix the entire prune mixture to phirni, more or less based on the level sweetness you prefer.

Assembly: In a glass, put a layer of prune mixture at the very bottom and them pour phirni over it. Garnish with sliced almonds. Serve it chilled.



It is an universally known fact that - "Prunes cure constipation" and just 1 cup has 12g of dietary fiber. In addition to that, these are a great source of  Vitamins K and A, niacin, riboflavin and Vitamin B-6. A recent article dated Aug 22nd 2011, states Prunes could help prevent fractures and help post-menopausal women protect themselves from osteoporosis.These are a perfect as a fruit snack but limit these to 5-6 per day due to its laxative properties.



Leaving you all for now with some beautiful rose petals and hope you all have a lovely weekend ahead.


until next time,
Siri



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mom's Spice Powder for Dry Curries

It is divinity that shapes, not only your ends, but also your acts, your words and thoughts.

~ Swami Sivananda

...and I truly believe in that. For me, God is just one force which is out there some where acting as a beacon, guiding us through the right path.

Many women hailing from the southern states of India - Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu perform a pooja called "Vara Lakshmi Vratham" for good health, wealth and prosperity. Every festival in Hindu mythology is associated with a story and here is how it goes for this Vrata -

You can see my mom's decorating skills here...

....In the kingdom of Magadha of yore, there lived a brahmin woman called Charumathi in a town named Kundina. The prosperous town was the home of Charumathi and her husband. Impressed by her devotion to her family, Goddess Mahalakshmi appeared in her dream and asked her to worship Vara-Lakshmi (Vara = boon, Lakshmi = goddess of wealth) and seek to fulfill her wishes. Varalakshmi is yet another form of Lord Vishnu's consort, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The prayer/worship was prescribed to be offered on the Friday of Sravana month preceding the night of full moon... Source: wikipedia


My mom, dad and little sister came to Bangalore to visit us. It felt so great to have them around and celebrate my first Vratam after moving back to India.

May Goddess Lakshmi bring loads of prosperity, good health, joy and happiness to each one of us. :-)

I must have mentioned umpteen number of times, how awesome-a-cook is my mom. She is the queen of express cooking as being a working mom and two children to manage, she always had little time on hand & 4 hungry tummies to feed.

Today, I am sharing one of her podi recipes - a spice powder when sprinkled on any cooked vegetable taste so great that you would want for more.



Mom's Spice Powder for Dry Curries

This is a must-have in every kitchen and comes handy when you are feeling lazy or short-of-time. Just sprinkle this at the very end on any cooked vegetable like - eggplant/brinjal, potato, bell pepper, okra etc and it transforms into something else. and the recipe is one of the easiest them of all. Try it for yourself! 

Psst Psst - I also used this as a stuffing for eggplant and it tastes amazing!


Ingredients:

2 cups dry, shredded coconut powder (or dry coconut, cut into small pieces)
Salt - to taste
3 tsp red chilli powder
10 garlic pods, with skin
2 tsp cumin seeds

Preparation:

Put everything in a grinder and grind until everything is blended together. Adjust salt if needed.

Note: If you are using dry coconut pieces, grind in small bursts and mixing in the middle so that oil doesn't ooze out.


Sending this as an entry to Back to Basics: Spice Powders hosted by Jaya, the Desi Soccer Mom and also to Valli's Condiment Mela.

With utmost happiness and joy, I want to let you all know that this blog has started its 5th year of existence. It wouldn't have been possible without your immense love and constant support. I hope you would continue to encourage me in future as well. :-)

until next time,
Siri

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: Wholegrain goodness

Brown Rice

When all three parts of the grain are in tact, including the fibre-rich outer layer &  nutrient-packed germ, that is a "Wholegrain". A diet rich in whole grains provides us a good source of fiber, reduces the risk of disease and its unique complex carbs gives us immunity. Try to incorporate more of these your daily menu planning. Will ya? :-)

Some previously blogged about recipes using Wholegrains -

Barley Lentil Chunky Soup
Buckwheat Pancakes
Brown Rice and 16 bean Adai
Perfectly Baked Brown Rice (Alton Brown's recipe)
Brown Rice Bisibelebath
Brown Rice for Dinner - A Roundup
Idlis with Wholegrains

Posted for Black & White Wednesdays.

Siri


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: Stir It Up with Spicy Fried Channa (Chickpeas)

I love food fiction and read lots of them every month. But, there are very few who manage to bring a smile on my face at their very first page. Stir It Up is one such book written by Ramin Ganeshram. The writing is so fresh and evocative. It has recipes yes, but it has recipes for something you wouldn't find anywhere else. It gives you how to make a "Be Who You Are Bread", a recipe for "Ambition" and a recipe for "Redemption". :-)


It is a story of Anjali Krishnan, a 13-year old who lives with her Dad, Mom, Deema and her brother in Queens along with many other Trinidaddians and  Guyanese families. She loves food and aspires to have a show on Food Network one day. The story is all about how she struggles and sacrifices many things in her life to achieve the same.

We all dream. Don't we. and We all have  secret aspirations buried deep within us and we want them to be fulfilled in this lifetime. Anjali has the same determination and just like ours, her ride too to success is not smooth at all. Say for instance, Anjali's father who runs a Roti Shop wishes his children to do something different. Little did he know that Anjali had the same passion like he and Deema had and she would take the same route and carve her own destiny in it.

Ramin did an amazing job in bringing each of her characters to life and she managed to take the reader (me) to tag along Anjali's journey to become a Food Network Star. At the end of each chapter you have a recipe and each recipe will make you hungry. The book says it is teen-fiction, but I say it is for everybody. A fun-read and you would never know when the 176 pages are over.

I bookmarked almost every recipe from the book but chose to make "Spicy Fried Channa (Chickpeas)" as I was craving for something spicy and crunchy to munch on.


Spicy Fried Channa (Chickpeas)

As delectable as it sound & look-like, these fried goodies also very easy to make. If using canned chickpeas, the prep time will be reduced considerably. I used fresh ones while making this recipe. 

Here is what I did for chickpeas: Soak 2 cups dry chickpeas over night in filtered water and then pressure cook them with enough water on HIGH heat for 9-12 minutes. Let the pressure be released naturally and there you have boiled chickpeas ready for use. I normally cook atleast 5-6 cups and freeze them. When required, all you have to do is thaw them a bit.


Preparation:

In a small bowl, whisk together - (1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper + 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper + 3/4 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp onion powder + 1/2 tsp garlic powder). Keep aside.


2. Heat enough oil in a frying pan and carefully add the chickpeas by gently spooning  them into hot oil. Make sure to use a long-handled metal spoon and stay away from it as chickpeas tend to splatter and pop up while frying.

3. Allow them to fry for 3-4 mins or until light golden brown. Remove them on a pan with paper towels to drain excess oil. Transfer them into a deep bowl and sprinkle & toss the spice powder little by little so that chickpeas are evenly coated. I didn't use the entire spice mixture for this. I have saved the rest in an air tigh container to be used for the next batch.

Serves as an awesome snack and I bet, you cannot stop with just a few!



I can't wait to read Ramin's next already. Wishing her all the very best and Congratulations on Stir It Up's success. . Just the fact that this book had managed to sell 140,000 copies before it was even released in August speaks volumes about its immense popularity.

until next time,
Siri

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: Chocolate Magic


"There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate." ~ Linda Grayson


Black and White Photography has a special place in my heart. Just the fact that we are looking at something which has no-color-whatsoever makes it so beautiful and intriguing. Isn't it. Susan of "The Well Seasoned Cook" has asked us all to do the same, but with food-related pictures. Here is my humble attempt with something I photographed at an event in The Leela Palace, Bangalore.

Posted for Black & White Wednesdays.

Siri

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Siri's Eat Outs | Restaurant Visits: Jalpaan, Bangalore

Note: This is not a paid-promotion. All the views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and does not represent the restaurant in any manner..

It has been on our minds to do Bangalore restaurant reviews since I have moved back here. Finally, we took the plunge and chose Jalpaan to be our first outing.

Located in busy Jayanagar 7th block, Jalpaan is a cosy little place which serves Indian, Italian and some Oriental fare. We went for a Sunday afternoon lunch and the place was almost packed with hungry diners. With some beautiful beaded drapes and carved headboards separate seating nooks, the place looked nice and well ventilated. Here is a glimpse of the table where we were seated -


Now, lets jump into the food part. Shall we? The one thing Jalpaan is very famous for is - its bubbling pot of goodness "Cheese Fondue". Mads tasted this before and gave a big thumbs-up. Since then, I was so eager to have it myself and Oh boy! it was an amazing experience.


...what's not to love about - cheese, herbs and that too set low on a burner so that you can slowly melt into its gooey-goodness. It is available in two flavors - The Original and Fondue Margherita


We ordered Fondue Margherita and here is a short description what it is -

Classic cheese fondue mixed with Italian herbs, ground sun-dried tomatoes & pesto served with grilled foccacia croutons, skin-on potato wedges, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms & peas tossed with Italian herb sauce.


Now, isn't the description by itself is mouth watering. Trust me, the entire, elaborative set up which costs INR 399 was truly a treat to our senses. It easily serves two people and I am sure you will fight for that last spoonful of herb cheese lurking at the very bottom. A high probability for a Fondue-Fork-War might happen. :-).

Grilled Focaccia Croutons and Potato Wedges, ready to be dipped into the cheese fondue

Broccoli, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes coated with one of the best pesto sauces I ever had!

Though we were already full by the cheese fondue, we were determined to taste more. Just one dish is not enough to rate a restaurant. Isn't it.

California Quesadilla
We moved on and ordered a California Quesadilla. Stuffed with red, green and yellow peppers, onions and zucchini, it tasted yum. :D Served with a relish and sour cream on the side, which tasted more like hung-curd to me.

Peppers, Onions and Cheese - California Quesadilla
Dish # 3 was a Fried Chilli Baby Corn lightly coated with sesame seeds. The latter provided a nice crunch to the appetizer and amdist of all our chatter, it was gone in minutes.

Fried Chilli Babycorn coated with sesame seeds
Their menu was quite long with many choices covering across 3 cuisines. As we were not able to decide what to try next, we asked the manager to send in their best signature dishes, the ones it is hard to get anywhere else.

Hence came "Potli Biryani"...

Potli Biryani
Doesn't the dish look super cute and fancy. It is like a laddle-full of biryani stuffed in a poori. ;-). It was quite impressive how the waiter chopped off the top of this potli and served us the biryani inside. But, it tasted too tomato-ey for us. All we could taste is just the tomato flavor mixed in with rice & some spices.

As the wise say - "All things potlis that look good, doesn't necessarily have to taste good".

Sizzler Dum Aloo Makai Biryani with Raita
But the saying doesn't go well with all the dishes, I must say. Lets talk about this Sizzler Dum Aloo Makai Biryani for a second. It truly looks colorful and tastes even better than that. Served with some mixed raita, it was moderately spicy. Having tasted many hyderabadi biryanis before, this definitely gets a big nod from my side.


If the folks of Jalpaan are reading this - We have a little feedback for you. Wrap this sizzler biryani into that potli above. I am pretty much sure, it will be a winner and that's when a true justice to potli is done ;-)!

Lal Mirch Ka Paratha
When tasted as-is, this Lal Mirch Ka Paratha, is just like as the name suggests - chilli powder rolled into a paratha. If you are ordering this, I would strongly recommend to go with a milder side-dish like daal tadka to compensate for the spiciness in the paratha.

Jantar Mantar
Jantar-Mantar was the next that we tasted and sadly it was too oily for me. Not a great pairing with the lal mirch paratha either. All I can say is - it tastes like many other mixed vegetable dry curries that we get out there but I like the pomegranate seeds topping.


Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first. ~ Ernestine Ulmer

...but we saved the best for the last. Litchi Ki Teheri, with its payasam-like-consistency and topped with chopped nuts was out-of-this-world. Definitely, there couldn't be a better ending than this. A must try :D

Litchi Ki Teheri
After tasting so much food, we would definitely need some of these - ;-)


My Recommendations: Fondue Margherita, Sizzler Dum Aloo Makai Biryani, Litchi Ki Teheri

Jalpaan Details:

Address:  # 539-49, 9th Cross, 7th Block, KanakaPura Road, Jayanagar, Bangalore - 82
Phone No: +91-80-26761992
Cuisine: Italian, Oriental, India
Service: Good
Cards Accepted: Yes
Vegetarian Menu; Home Delivery & Dine In Facility Available.


I hope you enjoyed touring and tasting Jalpaan as we much I did. I would highly recommend to give Jalpaan a try and if you do, I would love to know how your experience was...

until next time,
Siri

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Olive Oil Tasting and {Recipe} Spaghetti Aglio Olio

It is my dream to go to Greece and then Italy one day. To enjoy their pristine blue beaches and also to spend a day or two on their olive oil plantations. I love olive oil and for me, garlic bread with olive oil could be a meal in itself. It is always intriguing to me how each of the olive oils taste and vary by the region in which they are cultivated and the extraction process as well. Some are spicy & pungent, Some fruity with bitter peppery tones and some very delicately fruity.

So, when I got an opportunity to know all about olive oil & taste them, I literally jumped with joy and landed there.

Beautiful Red Roses at the conference..

Olive Oil ready for tasting..
It was an initiative by Oliveitup, a three-year campaign in collaboration with Italy and for promoting European olive oil in India. It organises a series of training activities and information services to disseminate correct knowledge of this amazing product.


See the below pic. it is Mr.Michele Labarile, the tasting expert who shared a wealth of his knowledge about tasting different kinds of olive oil that were put forth in front of us. The procedure is as subtle and similar to wine-tasting. Here is a brief overview for you all -

1) Pour the oil in a small glass and gently swirl in order to release all the aromas.  2) ..smell the oil, first briefly then more deeply. 3) ..now sip a small quantity of oil and try to keep it in front of your mouth between your lower lip and your tightly shut teeth... 4) .. now breathe in through the clenched teeth, first delicately, then more vigorously, so as to vaporise the oil inside the mouth and the sides of the tongues, where the taste buds are... 5) ..then while trying to identify the aromas & flavours, exhale from the nose so that the vaporised oil particles can reach the nasal membrane giving even more precise sensation.. 6) ...once you can a clear taste profile (ranging from being fruity to bittery to peppery), expel the oil!

Phew!, see it is not that easy to taste olive oil and needs a lot of precision & practice. :-)

Mr. Michle Labarile, the tasting expert in action.
Did you know: a diet rich in olive oil (esp extra virgin variety) can strengthen your immune system, reduce cholestrol, prevent many cardiovascular diseases, lower blood pressure and can have a positive impact on the emergence of diabetes.

I, like many others out there was always under the impression that olive oil is good for no-cook recipes as I was under the impression that it should not be heated to a high temperature. I was so Wrong!!!!. Olive oil has a higher smoking point and for all our Indian cooking needs, it can be comfortably used. Nutritional Expert - Ishi Khosla confirmed that fact during this meet. From then on, I have started to use more of Olive oil and less of processed oils such as vegetable oil & canola oil.

The next big highlight of the whole event was to see the most exuberant celebrity chef on Indian TV - Vicky Ratnani live, in action Yes, the Gourmet Guru himself.

Here are some shots from his cooking demo -

Chef VR mostly uses Olive Oil for his cooking..

Different colors of peppers, finely chopped & ready for use..

Chef VR's very famous "Hathoda", a.k.a Pepper Grinder
Guess what Chef VR made for us? The most unusual combination of flavors which came out so beautifully.


He made Root Vegetable Cutlets with Peach & Bell pepper chutney. Yumm-de-dum :D. Both of them were like match-made-in-heaven and super fantastic.

Root Vegetable Cutlets, ready to be shallow fried.
Of course there was media too in the event and here is Chef VR giving a brief interview - why he loves olive oil over others..


The final dish: this is how it looked. You can see the amazing plating skills of Chef VR in the below shot.


Image Credits: A special thanks to Mads for letting me share the pics above from the olive oil tasting event.

Now, coming to the recipe - Spaghetti Aglio Olio. It is totally Italian-o, as Chef VR says and it is his recipe of course from the show "Gourmet Central"!!!. :-). One bite and you are transported back to Italy. It is simple yet very tasty and if you are a pasta-lover like me, this could be a perfect snack at any time of the day. We were given couple of bottles of Italian olive oil at the conference, So I used them for making this dish.




Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Recipe Source: VR's show "Gourmet Central". You got to watch this episode on perfect midnight snacking and to see two Vicky Ratnanis cooking for you ;-) 




Serves 1 (which was me of course as Mr.Husband is not a pasta-person like myself)


Ingredients needed:

1 fistful of spaghetti
3-4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
4-5 garlic pods, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (you can add more if desired)
fresh parsley, finely chopped

Preparation:

1. Boil water and add salt to it. Add spagetti and let it cook. Note: Watch Vicky video for a nifty tip about how to check if pasta is cooked)

2. Heat pan and add olive oil on a low-medium flame. When it is luke warm, add garlic. Let it simmer in oil for 1-2 mins. Now, add red chilli flakes. Mix and turn off the heat.

3. Drain the pasta and add it to the oil mixture. Mix well and serve immediately.

Simplicity at its best!






I highly recommend everybody to use Olive oil or at least a blend of oils (such an 1:1 proportion of Olive oil & Rice Bran oil, a tip I got from Mads). Oil is a form of fat that goes into our bodies and it is imperative to make sure it is something which increases good cholesterol and decreases the bad.

..and Olive oil does exactly that!!

[UPDATED] - Sending this as an entry to Jayasri's Only Pasta, Pizza and Noodles event, originally started by Pari..

until next time,
Siri




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