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Coffee Choco Chip Muffins

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I maintain that I am not fully awake and ready to function each morning unless I have my cup of coffee. I am also a tiny bit particular that the milk should be freshly boiled and the decoction freshly brewed. I didn’t realise how important this was to me until a few years ago, on a trip to Bangalore, I stayed with my cousin. She offered to make my coffee. What followed is a tale I cannot forget. I watched her take milk from the fridge, heat it, add decoction that was sitting on the counter top, it wasn’t strong enough, so in went some instant coffee, mixed in some sugar and handed it to me. I tried my best to drink it. Telling myself it was just coffee. I failed and the coffee met the kitchen sink after a few laboured sips. She now laughs and asks me to make my own coffee when I visit!

It is my daily ritual, my start of the day and is kind of sacred. I set the filter with two scoops of coffee powder, add the hot water, soak Sage’s food and go for a walk with him. By the time we come back 20-30 minutes later, he is ready for his first meal of the day and I look forward to my coffee and morning peace.

Some days the coffee doesn’t turn out right. For no fathomable reason. I am decidedly irritated for the first hour on such days. I call them the ‘curse of coffee’ or ‘Kaapi shraabam’ days. You don’t want to meet me early in the morning on such days!

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I recently introduced a 6 day baking course at my studio. I get several requests for longer than my current one day basic class and decided to try it out. We tackle a different kind of bake in more detail than my one day class. One day is cookies, one day cupcakes and so on. Since a lot of my students come back for classes, I try not to repeat the items being taught. They appreciate the variety and I don’t get bored.

In last month’s class we made these beautiful Coffee Choco Chip Muffins. I am not big on chocolate, I have said it numerous times. Yet anything well made with chocolate is always welcome. This blog itself has a tonne of chocolate recipes. This one is a sure keeper. Best for when you have guests over for chai/ coffee or to add to a picnic / travel bag. These are easy to make and are very moist. I like to keep them for a day before eating them so that the flavours are nicely infused.
Try them and do let me know how you liked these muffins.


 Coffee Chocolate chip muffins (Makes 8)    

1.5 cups  Maida / All purpose flour  

1/2 cup  Choco chips  

1 teaspoon  baking powder  

1/2 teaspoon  baking soda  1/2 teaspoon  salt  

1/4 cup  vegetable oil  

1 medium  egg or ¼ cup yogurt  

1/2 cup  milk  

2/3 cup  sugar  

1 teaspoon  vanilla essence

1 tablespoon Instant coffee powder (reduce if you prefer it milder)

  • Sift the flour with the baking powder, soda and salt. Add the choco chips and set  aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees  Celsius
  • Whisk together the milk, egg or yogurt, vanilla, oil and sugar till the sugar has completely  dissolves.  
  • Add the flour in two parts, mix gently till the batter is formed. It will be a thick  batter.
  • Spoon into the muffin liners, fill ⅔ of the liner only.  
  • Bake for 25­-27 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Can store upto 7 days if refrigerated, cool  completely before storing.   
  • Instead of choco chips, use any chopped chocolate, or nuts

 

Garlic Rolls in a Convection Oven

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I posted this picture on instagram, and got so many comments about not being able to trust a convection oven to make bread/ cake and cookies.

 First things first, there are a lot of misconceptions about using a convection oven in India. Most low end models of convection ovens usually come in combination with a microwave and hence a lot of people feel they own a microwave oven and cannot bake in it. Higher end convection ovens are mostly stand alone ones. Check your oven user manual to find out how your’s works. These are observations I have made based on interactions with students and participants from my baking classes and I am hoping to debunk a few myths.

  • A convection oven is an oven which heats up using electric coil or a heating element, similar to an OTG. The difference is that in addition, convection ovens have a fan built in, which distributes the heat evenly. This means that heating is far more efficient in a convection oven when compared to an OTG. However in India, there is a feeling among users, that only OTGs (oven toaster griller) have the ability to bake cakes and cookies or bake them better than convection ovens. This is not true.
  • To use a convection oven, firstly read the manual thoroughly. Each oven functions differently and hearsay about what a friend / neighbour uses is mostly not helpful. If anything it only serves to confuse, unless validated with data.
  • To use your oven, you need to identify three functions and their controls in your oven. Thermostat – to set the temperature, Timer – to choose the time for baking, Preheat function – to preheat your oven, sometimes this is the power button or the start button if your oven does not have a separate preheat button.
  • Check if the thermostat is functioning efficiently. To do this, you can use an oven thermometer and place it inside the oven, after preheating, check if the thermometer is showing the same temperature as the thermostat indicates. If it shows a variation more than 5-10 degrees, get a technician to calibrate the oven and check again. Do not resort to guess work as it can lead to disastrous baking results. Get your oven fixed rather than trying to work around a heating problem.
  • Also, since most combination convection microwave ovens come with a turntable, it is important to place the wire tripod (usually provided with the oven) on the turntable and place the baking pan ON TOP of the wire rack. The heat needs to get to the baking pan from all sides. When the baking pan is placed on top of the turntable without any height, the bottom cooks poorly.
  • Once the oven is placed in the convection mode, oven proof utensils can be used. These include metal, aluminum, silicone, bake proof glass and paper.
  • One issue which most people complain about is that a convection oven does not result in a crust/ browning the way an OTG does. This is true, only because of the distribution of heat via the fan. To get a deeper coloured result, turn on the overhead grill in your convection oven for the last 1 minute of baking. Anything more and it will dry out your cake.
  • Unless the oven is overheating or underheating, do not change the baking temperature for any recipe. Follow the temperature and baking time as specified by the recipe instructions.
  • The key to getting the best results from your oven, no matter what kind it is, is PRACTICE. The more you bake, the more comfortable you get with your oven and its functions. All ovens are different and they do give varying results. But to solely blame the oven for a baking disaster is not correct. Many times, when probed, my students who complain about not getting proper results with a convection oven will confess that they messed up the recipe and then blamed the oven.
  • Baking is a science, mostly chemistry. It is the combination of the right proportion of Wet + Dry ingredients, combined with a rising agent and exposed to a certain amount of heat. An error in any of these elements will result in a bad product. I will do a baking 101 soon.

Garlic bread rolls recipe (Makes 12 rolls)

3 cups flour ( I used 1.5 cups wheat flour + 1.5 cups all purpose flour)

1 teaspoon active dried yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup warm milk (temperature of the milk should be about 95-97 degrees F – when you place your finger in the liquid, it should feel a few degrees warmer than your body temperature. Any hotter and you will kill the yeast)

1.5 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons soft butter

3-4 pods of fresh garlic, grated or use 1 tablespoon of garlic powder

1 tablespoon herbs of choice (optional, use dried or fresh)

room temperature water as needed (about 2/3 cup)

1/4-1/2 cup dry flour for kneading

Method: warm the milk and add the sugar and yeast to it. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes. The yeast should froth up and form a foam like cappuccino. If this does not happen, wait a few more minutes. If there is no frothing, it is safe to assume that the yeast is either inactive or that the water is too hot. Discard the mixture and start again. If it does not work the second time as well, get a fresh batch of yeast.

Measure the flour in a large bowl, add the salt and garlic to the bowl and mix with your fingers. Add the herbs also if using.

Once the yeast has frothed up, add the milk to the flour and combine to make a dough. Add extra water, at room temperature, to make a dough that feels a little soft and sticky. The dough should be much softer and wetter than roti dough. Do not be tempted to add dry flour to this mixture.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

On a clean and dry surface, sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of dry flour, dump the dough onto the surface and knead with your hands for 10 minutes. At first the dough will be very sticky and difficult to manage. But resist the temptation to add more dry flour. Add the butter and oil a little at a time to create a smooth and elastic dough. Use only half the dry flour and only IF needed. When you touch the dough, it should feel rubbery to the touch once kneaded. Roughly 10 minutes of kneading should be sufficient.

to check if the dough is ready, take a small marble sized piece and roll it into a ball. Gently spread it between your fingers to see if it spreads without tearing. If it tears too easily, the dough needs to be kneaded some more.

Spread a little oil on a clean bowl, shape the dough into a round and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm or a damp cloth. Leave it to rise in a warm spot which doesnt get direct breeze for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the weather and how warm your kitchen is.

The dough should become double in size. If you are unsure, just place the dough in a plastic see through container. On the outside, take a ruler and mark the inches. When you place the dough, if it is at 4 inches, it should come up to 8 inches when it is ready. When you place the dough in the container if it was at 3 inches, it should come up to 6inches. Etc.

Once the dough has risen, gently turn it onto a kneading surface. Press out the air gently and divide into 12 equal pieces. Shape them into balls, ensuring to press and seal the loose ends at the bottom. Repeat with all the dough balls.

Prepare a 9 inch round or square baking pan by brushing it with melted butter or oil. Place an aluminum foil at the bottom of the baking pan and brush this too with oil/ melted butter. This is optional, but makes for an easy clean up and prevents the rolls from sticking to the pan.

Place the shaped rolls 1 inch apart in the baking pan. Cover with a damp cloth or clingfilm and leave in a warm spot for 30 minutes to rise to double. The space between the rolls should be filled with the plumped up dough. The tops can be brushed with a beaten egg, I skipped this step. This egg wash gives a deep browning to the top.

Preheat your oven to 200 Degrees Celsius. Place the metal baking rack in the middle of the oven. Place the baking pan with the rolls on this. Close the oven door and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Check the doneness at 25 minutes, by gently opening the oven door & checking the rolls. They should have a uniform golden brown top. If they are still pale, continue to bake for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Brush the hot rolls with melted butter. Remove the rolls gently from the pan by turning the pan upside down onto a rack or a plate, cover with a dry clean kitchen cloth and cool another 5 minutes.

Enjoy the rolls warm with butter or a gravy curry/ stew or soup.

Home made bread will dry out if left exposed. Cover with a clean dry cloth until needed. Do not put the hot rolls in a closed container, they will steam and get soggy.

To store leftovers, either wrap with clingfilm and store, or place it on paper towels and then put it in an airtight container. Always refrigerate bread if not using within 24 hours.

I would love to answer any questions you may have for this recipe. If you have read this far, then thank you for your patience. If you try this out, please send me a picture of your bread rolls.

Happy baking!

Salted Caramel and Ganache Brownie Trifles

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Last week, I introduced a new class at the Studio. Try as I might, to juggle all the classes I run because they are popular and the ones I . want to do because I love teaching them, I fail to accommodate new ones as often as I would like to.

This week, I decided I would sacrifice one of the more popular ones for one that I have been wanting to do ever since everything stuffed into glass jars of all sizes and shapes became the rage. So anyway, I chose a few things that I had not taught before, because a large part of my students do come for multiple classes and I feel guilty if they’re learning something similar to what they’ve already done.

The Brownie trifle is fairly easy. One can make all the components well ahead of time and assemble them as and when needed. That’s the beauty of pre portioned desserts. Serving it up too is absolutely mess free.

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There are four components to this dessert – the brownie (pick your favourite one or use the recipe below), salted caramel sauce, simple chocolate ganache and whipped cream. Add or remove any element you don’t have or don’t like and voila! God level dessert at your fingertips!

Chocolate Brownie (Makes a flat 9 inch brownie)

100 grams Dark chocolate (melted)

½ cup Butter

¾ cup Brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon Instant Coffee powder

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

1 cup Flour (maida)

½ teaspoon Baking powder

½ teaspoon Salt

2 tablespoons Cocoa powder

Sift the maida with baking powder, salt and cocoa powder and set aside.

Add the melted chocolate and butter to a bowl and microwave it for 1 minute or till melted.

Add the sugar and stir. When cooled off a bit, add the eggs and vanilla and beat really well.

Stir in the flour mixture, mix gently without over mixing to form a thick batter. Pour into a greased and lined 9 inch pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25-26 minutes.

Cool before cutting into pieces for the dessert.

Salted Caramel Sauce (Makes 1 ½ cups)

1/3 cup salted butter

½ cup cream

1 cup fine castor sugar

2 tablespoons water

In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat the water and sugar till it comes to a bubble. Do this on low heat, do not stir. Shake the pan if needed. Keep cooking on the lowest heat till the sugar starts to caramelise a light golden colour. Take care not to burn the sugar.

Turn off the heat once it becomes golden and add the butter to it. Mix gently with a whisk to melt the butter. Then add the cream and mix. Return to the lowest heat and mix till it everything has mixed well. Take it off the heat and cool completely before using. It will become thicker as it cools.

Chocolate Ganache (Makes 1 cup)

1 cup Cream + ⅛ cup milk

1 cup Chopped Dark chocolate

Heat the cream till it bubbles, do not boil. Add the chopped chocolate to the cream, mix gently and set aside. The heat of the cream will melt the chocolate. Once it has come to room temperature, gently mix to make sure there are no lumps. Use as needed.

2 Cups Sweetened Whipped Cream

1 cup Heavy whipping cream

4-6 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla essence

A pinch of salt

Chill the cream overnight. Chill a stainless steel bowl and the beaters of the hand whisk as well. Shake the cream in the unopened carton well and pour into the chilled bowl. Beat on medium speed till it begins to form soft peaks. Add the salt, sugar and vanilla and beat till it forms stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag with a star nozzle fitted (optional) and refrigerate until needed.

To assemble the dessert

Chop the brownie into bite sized pieces. Have all the ingredients ready. Add the whipped cream into a piping bag with a star nozzle.

Add one layer of brownie pieces to the glass jar, drizzle some chocolate ganache, Add 2 tablespoons of caramel sauce and top with whipped cream.

Repeat with another layer. Drizzle some more caramel sauce on the top for garnish.

Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.

Eating Out ~ Flavours of Malaysia, Okra, Marriott Hyderabad

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I am partial to Asian food, not that I have eaten it all, also since I am nothing but honest, maybe not the most authentic either. On the whole I do feel that Asian food, especially east Asian, is multi layered. There are so many flavours and ingredients, each one treated differently in each of the dishes they lend themselves to. I love the fresh citrusy bursts as much as the chilli and spice kicks, and the sweet notes in between!

Malaysia is one country that has eluded me despite having family there and receiving endless invitations from them. I’ve heard so much about how much I would enjoy it because it is truly the melting pot of Asia and has so much to offer for the foodie in me (almost an abuse these days!). So when I had an invite to sample the food of Malaysia, prepared by a chef who was flown in especially for the food festival, I was delighted to accept.

The Marriott Hotel and Convention Centre has been hosting some wonderfully curated food over the last few months. Read all about my previous experiences here and here. It is always nice to get to sample food that is less common and wins special brownie point from me  for the effort of Chef Yogi and his team for this.

The blogger’s table began with a very elaborate plate of assorted starters. The attention to detail in the selection of dishes was something that I enjoyed. The starters included that classic Malaysian street food, chicken satay – strips of marinated chicken, skewered and grilled and served with a peanut sauce. This was sweeter than I have ever tasted, but not in a bad way.

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The Bergedil Ikan (fish patty) in the appetizer platter

The Bergedil Ikan, had to be one of my favourites. It is a patty made of potato and fish, well seasoned with shallots and chilli paste.

Kerabu kambing (sliced lamb) was tender and succulent and I loved the flavour of the lemongrass which came through.

There were also two salads for the vegetarians, the Kerabu kacang kudasald which is a combination of chick peas, cucumber, coriander and tomatoes with lime and vinegar dressing and Rojak which was fresh fruit tossed with sauces and peanuts

The main course was quite elaborate and having whetted my palate I couldn’t wait to sample the next course.

Chef Ruhizad  who has a lot of experience curating Malaysian food around the world, had taken care to be sensitive to the local palate and toned down the use of extremely strong flavours such as shrimp paste, while keeping in mind the fact that Hyderabadis eat a lot of chilli. Spice powders and pastes were carefully made and hand carried by him from Malaysia for this festival. The rest of the ingredients were locally sourced. He shared some funny anecdotes of his experiences and was very pleasant to interact with. He also mentioned the well documented fact that Malaysian food is a melting pot of traditional Malay, Chinese, Tamil, Indonesian and Thai food & cooking styles. The dishes chosen were to showcase this diversity in their cuisine.

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Ikan goreng berempah ~ Deep fried fish marinated with shallot, garlic, fennel and other spices was rather dry, tho I suspect the amount of time it spent on the table before the bloggers were satisfied with their photographs of it was the actual culprit here!

There was also a giant grilled red snapper, marinated in spices which was served to us. The preview was a sit down meal although the festival is presented as part of their buffet.

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I liked the simplicity of the Ayam masak merah, a dry chicken dish. The joke around the table was that it was similar to Chicken 65, a dish that Hyderabadis absolutely love!

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Kambing bakar percik sos for me was one of the highlights of the evening. A roasted lamb dish that was flavoured with coconut milk and chilli. It was done to perfection and I couldn’t but help be pleasantly surprised that despite my expectation of Malaysian food showcasing sea food well, the lamb dishes here stood out completely.

Sotong sambal, I’m not the biggest fan of squid, but I relished second helpings of this dish. Cooked in a classic malay sauce, it was the right balance of fishy.

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For the vegetarians, the Kentang masak lemak chili padi which reminded me of Thai style curries was subtle and multi layered with the chilli paste and coconut milk. Eaten with rice, this was comfort food for sure.

Curry Sayur sayuran, a mixed vegetable curry with kaffir lime & galangal again had familiar flavours, very similar to the red Thai curry but very sublime.

The almost Indian style Kobis goreng kunyit bercili which was sautéed cabbage with garlic, red onion & hold your breath! curry leaves was my least favourite dish of the day. I would give this one a miss, unless I hadn’t had a dose of roughage for the day!

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The dessert platter

We ended the wonderful meal with a Malaysian dessert platter. There were banana fritters, with a lovely indulgent vanilla sauce. The classic Badak Berendam which to put it (sacriligeously) frankly is a Malay version of modak. Glutinous rice encases a filling of palm sugar and coconut the dumpling in its green food colour drenched avatar was gummy, not a texture I enjoy.There was also a pudding kind of preparation which was mild and flavoured with coconut milk. The best was the coconut milk creme brulee. I loved the fact that there was so much variety and that the sweetness was mild.

Food festivals are a good way to sample a cuisine. Care is taken to showcase a wide variety of dishes so that one gets a birds eye view of it. The next best thing if you cannot travel to sample local eats is to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities.

The food festival is in collaboration with Tourism Malaysia and is part of their regular elaborate dinner buffet. It is on until the 29th of May, the menu changes everyday, so expect to see some new and well known dishes on the spread.

Price: The buffet is priced at 1358 All Inclusive

Hours: 7.30 pm to midnight.

Location: Hyderabad Marriott Hotel & Convention Centre & Courtyard by Marriott Hyderabad, Opposite Hussain Sagar Lake, Hyderabad – 500080

Credit Card Accepted: Yes

Valet Parking: Available

Telephone: 91 4027522999

 

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Whole Wheat Carrot Cake with Garam Masala

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IMG_20160328_121406.jpgPS: This post has been in the writing since Easter………Yes it has taken me that long! And it isn’t even a spectacular post!

The long weekend of Easter was spent mostly in sloth. Even baths were taken only when I was threatened by the presence of people other than K. Wait….. that’s not true. We went out for a party on Friday night, so I had the said bath and dressed up, even wore lipstick to draw the attention away from my overgrown brows, Saturday I finished class and got home at 3 p.m. Which only left Sunday for sloth, which I think is acceptable.

But my brain works in mysterious ways and told me it was Easter, in another life I would have been up at 4 a.m to attend sunrise service. We’ve come a long way from it and I woke up well after 8 a.m. After realising the day would not have any tedious activities, I started to feel guilty for not doing anything. Chatting back and forth with a new friend, I was prompted to make a carrot cake that she sent me the recipe for. I thought I’ll make it eggless since we were contemplating an evening visit to the in laws who don’t eat eggs, but I was out of yogurt and surprisingly well stocked with eggs. So egg wala cake it was!

I more or less used the blueprint of the Banana Loaf I posted here. This works well with whole wheat flour and gives it a beautiful crust. You can use all refined flour if that’s all you have. Indian kitchens/ pantries have whole wheat flour that is used to make rotis and the commercial ones are very good for baking. If you are using a home made / freshly ground flour which contains more bran, then the recipe may need some more moisture and a little extra pinch of baking powder for aeration.

The cake turned out very good. I was happy with the texture and the mild sweetness. We had it with a scoop of vanilla icecream to celebrate Easter! The flavours intensified the next day. I love nutmeg in bakes and really think cinnamon is so overrated as a spice/ flavour.

Here’s the recipe for this simple carrot cake.

1 cup Whole wheat flour

1 cup Maida (all purpose flour)

1.5 teaspoons Baking powder

1 teaspoon Baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional but substitute with cinnamon powder if you prefer)

1/4 teaspoon Garam masala (yes! I know. Trust me on this!)

2/3 cup sugar ( a mix of brown and white gives it a deeper colour – can add upto 1 cup)

2 medium Eggs at room temperature

1.5 cups Grated carrots

1/2 cup Milk

1/4 cup Vegetable oil or melted butter (I used sunflower oil)

1 teaspoon Vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, line a 7 inch loaf Pan or a 7 inch square cake pan and brush with oil or melted butter and set aside.

Into a bowl, add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, garam masala and nutmeg, whisk to mix well and set aside. This can also be sifted a couple of times. 

In a blender jar (or another bowl, whisk by hand), add the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, oil and pulse till it resembles a thick milkshake. Make sure the sugar has dissolved.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and gently whisk till there are no lumps. Add the grated carrot and mix gently again. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, place on the middle rack of the oven and bake at 180 degrees C for 40-45 minutes, depending on the oven, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. 

This is a rustic style cake and will crack in the middle a bit. If you do not want it to crack, add 3-4 tablespoons extra melted butter / oil and bake it at 170 C.

When done, leave in the pan to cool for 15 minutes, remove from the pan and peel off the paper lining, slice and serve.

Keeps well in an airtight box for 1 day at room temperature or in the fridge for upto a week.

 

Eating Out ~ High on Highway, Spice Junxion, Taj Deccan

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Highway food has always been something I looked forward to on road trips even as a child.

There is something quite adventurous in finding a spot on a rustic Charpai (rope woven cot) and ordering basic (the menu’s in my childhood consisted of 8-10 items only) but lip smacking fare.

Highway dhabas catered mostly to truck drivers on the go and therefore the food needed to be robust, fresh and quick. Today there are a lot of ‘permanent’ Dhaba style restaurants across the country which serve up dhaba food. This is a testament to how popular this genre of food is.

High on Highway ~ Food festival at Spice Junxion, Taj Deccan

High on Highway ~ Food festival at Spice Junxion, Taj Deccan

The Spice Junxion at the Taj Deccan is hosting a 10 day food festival that is showcasing this food. They’ve chosen dishes served up in eateries along the National Highway 1 which according to Wikipedia, runs between Punjab, starting from the town of Attari, through Haryana and ends at Delhi. This is a part of the Grand Trunk Road which extended from Bengal to Kabul. Read more about it here.

I was invited for the preview of this festival and the food is available off a special A la Carte menu.

This is the first time I was dining at this restaurant of the Taj and the ambience was delightful with dhaba-esque souvenirs, brass and copper crockery and lots of flowers dotting the place.

Executive chef Rishi Manucha explained that a considerable amount of research had gone into capturing the authentic flavours of the dishes being presented. I think this was important because north Indian food and particularly Punjabi food has become common place at restaurants. I was curious to see what twist they would present.

For starters, the vegetarian fare included Chatpati Dahi Arbi – yogurt marinated colacasia, deep fried. There was also Bhuni Shakarkandi – Sweet potato, chargrilled and served with a mango chutney. I loved this, one because I like sweet potatoes, two the flavours were subtle.

The non vegetarian starters had the ever popular Tandoori Chicken – I loved that they used really tender chicken and the extra cumin in the marinade really gave it a nice heft.

Ambarasari Machi – batter fried fish which was succulent on the outside and had a very lightly crisp and spicy exterior was my favourite. This could be because I am partial to fish!

We were served three kinds of drinks. The Shikanji (lemon juice), Aam panna (raw mango juice flavoured with cumin and black salt) and my absolute favourite Sweet lassi with a generous dollop of cream. I wished I had a bucket full of this, but exercised restraint!

For the main course, we had Gosht aur Shalgam ki Tari, a nice home style mutton and turnip dish. This had a gravy which was not loaded with cream and other stuff, just nice clean flavours, melt in the mouth meat that was cooked to perfection. Paired well with the crunchy Khamiri Roti.

The Penda, which is a chicken korma cooked with potato and garam masala was also good. I was beginning to love that the dishes were mostly home style. What a dichotomy it is, to crave home style food in a commercial restaurant! And yet, more and more people are seeking this out.

There was a Pudiney ki tari wali macchli which had all the right flavours, but the fish pieces sort of didn’t hold their shape in the gravy. I usually like my fish curries in the south indian style with lots of tang, so I enjoyed the flavour of mint for a change.  Although the fish was supposed to be barbecued, the flavours didn’t come through at all.

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Aloo Methi ka saag on the left and Amchoor wale Kareley in the middle, above that is rajma masala

Aloo methi ka saag was a clear favourite even with my fellow diner, it was a wet gravy dish (again homestyle) instead of the usual dry aloo methi one is familiar with.The sharpness of the fenugreek leaves a nice contrast with the bland creamy potato.

Amchoorwaley Kareley – bittergourd stuffed with green pea and dried mango powder, I spotted a few raisins in it too. While the stuffing was very good, I felt the bittergourd itself was rather tough and uncooked. It either needed more cooking or using very tender gourds would be good. I’m impressed that the chef chose this dish because bitter gourd is automatically one of those most hated vegetables!

The Rajma masala was everything it should be. Cooked to soft creamy perfection, not too many spices and yet, deep flavours coming through. I’ve eaten a lot of rajma masala to be tired of it, but this was very comforting and spot on, even though a tad too familiar. There was another lentil preparation – Maash ki dal (red lentils) which looked good, but I didn’t taste it.

We were served a pillow soft Aloo Kulcha which was terrific. I had second servings of this.

There is a choice of Pudina (mint) rice and Jeera (cumin) rice to go with the main course.

There was a refreshingly different raita made with aubergine, baigan ka raita, which had me going for second helpings.

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The desserts served were Malai Ghevar (I didn’t like this, never have been a fan of ghevar, so don’t take my word), Gajrella (carrot kheer) which was nice, because it wasn’t sickeningly sweet unlike how its cousin the gajar ka halwa is made. And the piece de resistance – Pan ka mitha – Rose flavoured icecream, sandwiched in a betel (pan) leaf with a nice dollop of rose petal preserve (gulkand) which is used to sweeten pan. The whole thing was frozen and totally hit all the right spots for me. I am a big big fan of gulkand, known to eat it out of the bottle like jam, so for me, pan flavoured anything is a must have. A lot of restaurants now do pan flavoured ice cream or kulfi. The pan ‘masala’ including fresh betel leaves are ground and added to an ice cream mix. But this was brilliant because it hits the palate at different times, just as you are savouring the icecream, you get a hit from the gulkand! As you can see, for me this was the show stopper of the whole meal.

The festival is on till 26th April and is available for both lunch and dinner.

Check it out if you would like a deviation from the highly commercial dhaba food, and want to sample some really well made north Indian fare.

The options are served A la Carte. Prices for the Starters are Rs. 345 – 450 (excluding taxes). Main course dishes are priced between Rs. 445 – Rs. 595 (excluding taxes)

Recommended Dishes: Bhuni Shakarkandi, Ambarasari Macchi, Tandoori Chicken, Gosht aur shalgam ki tari, Rajma masala, Aloo methi ka saag, baingan ka raita, sweet lassi and Pan ka Mitha

Hours: Lunch and Dinner

Location: The Spice Junxion, Taj Deccan, Banjara Hills

Valet Parking: Available

Telephone :66663939

Multi Millet Thepla with Methi and Palak

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methi thepla

That’s a mouthful, to say and to eat. I posted a picture of this on my instagram feed and I had a lot of friends asking for the recipe. To my mind, that was odd, because this was more of a ‘throw everything you have in the fridge together’ type of preparation. I’ve had this long standing habit of making a roti / flatbread mixed with fresh vegetables (grated carrot or bottlegourd) or leafy vegetables such as spinach or even pureed leftover dal and curries. Its an effective way to get some flavour into a plain roti and cleans up your fridge, what’s not to love?

I have been using a multi millet mix for rotis off and on and used the same to make these theplas. Millets grow in abundance in the Telangana region, of which Hyderabad is the capital city. The area is land locked, dry and arid and millets which do not need much water, are suitable for these semi drought conditions. Millets are also extensively eaten in Maharashtra and Karnataka. All this changed over the last few decades with everyone shifting both cultivation and consumption to rice. However, the last few years have brought a surge in the interest and consumption of millets, much to the delight of farmers. This is due to the fact that millets are gluten free and low in glycemic index, making it suitable for those on a gluten free diet or people who need slow release foods, like diabetics. Millets are very ‘filling’ that’s what a lay person would call a low GI food. It makes one feel less hungry and delays the next meal. Farmers would make a gruel from millets such as ragi and consume it early in the morning before they head out to the fields. This would keep them full till their next meal.

Due to the nature of the grain, millet rotis tend to become dry and are best eaten hot, smeared with a little butter or ghee. It is also a little difficult to roll out as a roti, again because it doesn’t contain gluten, the roti breaks and tears and doesn’t hold shape. The traditional way to combat this, is to knead the dough with warm water, and pat out the rotis instead of rolling them. It is a treat to watch ladies do this, ofcourse this is a dying skill.

To make my life easy, I simply add a little bit of wheat flour to act as a binder and help roll out the rotis. Wheat also ensures the theplas remain soft for a few hours after making them. Millet flours are coarse, they also have a strong nutty taste which takes a little getting used to. Adding spices, grated or pureed vegetables or even a dab of ghee or butter, makes it easier to eat. It is definitely an acquired taste. So start with small quantities.

There is a pseudo grain amongst millets, looks and tastes like cooked broken rice, this is my favourite, because it can be cooked and eaten in place of rice. Do check out Foxtail millet. I have a few recipes for it on this blog such as patties and pulav. Jowar/ pearl millet can effectively be used in many non Indian dishes too, I have a recipe for a tabbouleh salad that uses jowar instead of Bulgar wheat!

For a recipe that I didn’t think was blogging worthy, that’s a lot of story!

I make my own multi grain flour mix but you can also use a premix. I add equal quantities of Ragi, Jowar, Bajra to a container and mix it. The wheat flour is added when I knead the dough and in as much quantity as desired. For this thepla, I used equal quantities of ragi, jowar, bajra and wheat flours.

 

1/2 cup each of ragi, jowar, bajra and wheat flours (2 cups flour in all)

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust according to taste)

1-1.5 cups finely chopped spinach and fenugreek leaves

1/2 – 3/4 cup warm water to knead the dough

3-4 teaspoons of oil / ghee

Mix together all of the ingredients except the water, add water slowly and knead into a slightly stiff dough. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a tava / griddle on medium high heat, divide the dough into 8 portions and make balls out of them.

Using a little dry wheat flour and a rolling pin, roll out the dough balls into thin discs, about 5 inches in diameter. Repeat with all of the dough balls.

When the griddle is hot, cook the theplas on the first side for 20 seconds, flip over when small bubbles/ brown spots form. Cook the other side for 30-45 seconds, press down gently with a clean kitchen towel, to ensure all the edges are cooked, drizzle some oil/ ghee and repeat the pressing down on the other side. This is to ensure that the edges get a few crispy bits.

Take it off the flame and keep it in layers of a kitchen towel or serve immediately. Repeat with all the dough. Serve them hot with lots of white butter (:D), yogurt and pickle on the side.

If you liked this recipe, or tried it out, do let me know how it turned out. You can also write about how you use millets in your kitchen, or what your favourite recipe for thepla is.

 

 

 

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