Chocolate lovers rejoice!
Non Chocolatey stuff but still terrific!
Valentine’s Breakfast Ideas
Chocolate lovers rejoice!
Non Chocolatey stuff but still terrific!
Valentine’s Breakfast Ideas
In a bid to serve guests with the afternoon tea experience, food rooted in nostalgia and served with a twist, Vivanta by Taj have introduced Afternoon High Tea at The Grill, beside the pool. The high tea experience is served beside the rooftop pool and offers a beautiful view of the otherwise busy Begumpet area. Seating is either indoors, outdoors beside the pool or under a cabana nicely placed at the end of the pool.
I love the concept of a high tea. The only issue being, Indian meals are so filling and heavy on most days, that having and indulgent little snack at tea time leaves me no room for dinner. It’s a good idea to have a small snack early in the evening, to keep you going till dinner time.
I was invited for a special demonstration and to experience the offerings. Hosted by the enthusiastic Executive Sous Chef Arjun Yadav and ably supported by his team, the cooking demonstration involved showing us the making of one of their signature offerings – Lazeez Kumbh Galouti (which is a griddle cooked minced mushroom patty) and a deep fried Lady fish preparation.
We began with a round of introductions and the thought behind putting this kind of Afternoon High tea together. According to Chef Arjun Yadav, “The afternoon high tea is a stylized affair with an edge of the plate dining experience, offering petite sandwiches, tarts, tea bread, chocolate truffles along with Nizami delicacies, specially crafted to enchant our guests”
We were served pucca Hyderabadi chai in glass tumblers. Hyderabadi chai is characterised by a very strong decoction that has been boiled and not brewed. The milk is thick and sweetened with condensed milk in addition to sugar. This is the Irani chai that the city so loves. There is also an array of imported teas, soft beverages or even a pint of beer.
The demonstration for the Lazeez Khubh Galouti was very interesting. It is a multi step dish which involves boiling and grinding the mushrooms to a paste, adding a paste of cashews and a paste of deep fried onions, masalas and chick pea flour is used for binding the delicate mixture. Which is shaped into a patty and fried on the griddle. And the spice coated and deep fried Lady fish (it is also called Kane fish) was fresh, the subtle spices and rice flour give it a crisp exterior and keeps the inside very soft. These two items tho demonstrated are not part of the high tea spread.
The Grill boasts of a large menu for both vegetarian and non vegetarian and some dishes like the Tandoori Peri Peri Baby Potato served with a sprinkling of sev sounded very interesting.
The tea spread was colourful and a lot of the items on display piqued my interest. The Chef mentioned Pinwheel sandwiches which used typically Hyderabadi Potli Masala for flavouring the filling. While the sandwiches were very pretty, I couldn’t really taste the potli masala and it was a bit of a let down.
What stood out for me was the open sandwich that had fresh fig a poached pear, on rocket leaves. The mild sweetness from the pear and fig, complemented the rocket and crisp bread beautifully. And the fresh mozzarella topped with pesto and a cherry tomato – crisp bread, soft fresh creamy mozzarella and just a hint of pesto! Yum! There was a delightfully fresh broccoli sandwich too with steamed and lightly spiced broccoli.
The spread also included some Coleslaw sandwiches made with wheat bread, herbed chicken turnovers (a mild form of the crowd pleasing chicken curry puff), paneer tortilla wraps which I found rather dry, tho the salsa served with it was tangy and hit the right spots.
The spread is a sweet fiend’s dream! from the bite sized and perfectly made Almond financiers, Indulgent chocolate eclairs, simple fruit studded tea cakes, and an array of fresh fruit tarts.
My heart was set on the very apt Chai in a kettle set up complete with the glass tumblers and Osmania biscuits to go with it.
The Afternoon High Tea experience is open from 3:30 p.m to 5:30 p.m on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The buffet spread is prices at Rs. 500 + Taxes per person. If you would like to enjoy a relaxing dip in the pool along with your tea spread, the charges per person are Rs. 1000 + taxes.
Afternoon High Tea at The Grill, Vivanta by Taj, Begumpet, Hyderabad
Price: Rs. 1000+ taxes (includes a dip in the pool) for one and Rs. 500 + taxes (excluding the use of the pool)
Hours: 03:30 PM to 5:30 PM – Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Location: Vivanta by Taj, Begumpet, Hyderabad
Credit Card Accepted: Yes
Valet Parking: Available
Telephone: 040 67253647 or 9818354494
PS: I was invited for the cooking demonstration and to sample the spread by the hotel. The views however are unbiased and are my own.
No cake has haunted me as much as this one. Also no post has disappeared 3 times after being written and saved!
Four weeks ago, the interwebs starting popping pictures of a beautiful strawberry cake. First one avid baker/blogger posted it and an avalanche was set off. Since we are a small incestuous group of bloggers who are connected on multiple social media platforms, I began seeing versions of cake all through the week and with each cake my anxiousness to make it increased. Sunken berries, wheat and other flours, egg-less and versions with egg, round, rectangular and square. There is a whole album dedicated to this cake if you want to check out the other versions. I stockpiled strawberries because I feared they would not be available as the season here is just a few weeks. And oh! I commented on how much I wanted to make this cake on every single picture that I saw.
I think everyone who saw my “OMG I need to make this cake” comment gave me the eyeroll.
I’ve now made this cake thrice over two weeks. The post has mysteriously disappeared thrice and the cake gets eaten so rapidly that I do not have pictures worthy of posting. But it is a fabulous cake, the sponge is gorgeous and I cannot wait to try it with other fruit. It comes together in no time and the most tedious thing to do if you ask me is to hull and slice the strawberries and then arrange them symmetrically on the batter before baking
The original recipe is from the famed blog Smitten Kitchen. I used home made white butter and the flavour was so deep that I saved the rest of the home made butter to make this cake again a few days later. I reduced the quantity of sugar and surprisingly, my cake took only 35 minutes to bake as against 50 mentioned in the original recipe. To stop the strawberries from sinking into the batter, I baked the cake at 200 degrees C for the first 10 minutes on Anand’s recommendation. This also gave me a beautiful golden crust on top and the sides.
Strawberry Cake (Makes a 9 inch cake)
Note: The batter rises quite a bit while baking and using a smaller tin will cause the fruit to be buried under the batter. So please use a 9 inch tin.
6 tablespoons – Unsalted butter, at room temperature
1+1/2 cup – Maida (or All purpose flour)
1+1/2 teaspoon – Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon – Salt
2/3 cup – White sugar (pulsed in a food processor for ease of mixing)
1 tablespoon – Granualated sugar
1/2 cup – Milk (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon – Vanilla essence
250 grams – Strawberries, hulled and halved
Preheat the oven to 200 Degrees. Butter a 9 inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
Beat the butter and the sugar till pale and fluffy, takes about 2 minutes. Add egg, vanilla & milk and beat till combined.
Add the flour mixture in 2-3 batches, mixing gently with a spatula. Do not overmix the batter.
Pour this batter into the buttered and lined cake pan, smoothen the top with the spatula. Arrange the halved strawberries, cut side down close together till most of the batter is covered. Sprinkle the cake with the granulated sugar.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 Degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 175 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes or till a cake tester comes out clean. The original recipe calls for 50 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Unmould and slice.
This cake is best eaten fresh and still warm from the oven. If you have any leftovers, refrigerate it in a covered box.
There is a special food festival happening at Kanak, the Indian specialty restaurant at Trident Hyderabad. Called Khasa Dastarkhwan which loosely translated from Urdu means, Special ceremonial dining and showcases Mughlai cuisine.
Being from Hyderabad, the raging debate about which city does Mughlai food better between Hyderabad and Lucknow is tough to escape. To be very honest, I find debates on authenticity and ratings of food from various places and communities extremely tiring. Each place and every interpretation of a recipe is dependent on so many things which include but are not limited to the geography and weather to the availability of ingredients. I would like to believe that each place brings to the table, its own version of a dish and can therefore not be compared.
This food festival is special because it brings to hardcore Hyderabad a version of the food so loved by the city and its people. Awadhi cuisine, largely represented by Lucknow and some parts of old Delhi is a richly documented and well-loved cuisine. The chefs from the Trident hotels across India were specially trained by some of the most famous cooks of Awadhi cuisine, both from Lucknow and the Jama Masjid area of Delhi even to maintain authenticity. Each recipe has been standardised to ensure the end product is the same no matter which hotel of the Trident one eats at. Chef Sandeep Bhattacharya is heading the kitchen here in Hyderabad and has done a wonderful job of putting together a menu with some of the most loved dishes and introducing new ones for the festival.
With this as the background, and having eaten on numerous occasions at the various restaurants at Trident, I was excited to join my dinner companion and fellow blogger Preethi to try out some of the dishes.
We began with a delightfully sharp Chilli vodka martini for me and a Pina colada for Preethi. The chilli martini had a nice kick from the green chilli and was a good accompaniment to the Kadak Roomali – a crisp version of the roomali roti, served with toppings of freshly shredded onion, tomato, coriander and herbs with a generous sprinkling of cheese.
For the appetizers, we had the Seekh Nilofari – a seekh kabab made of khoya which is reduced milk and finely minced vegetables, a generous amount of nuts and subtle spices, grilled on a skewer. The sweetness of the reduced milk khoya (khoa) which is generously used in mughlai cooking both in sweet and savoury dishes, the crunch of the nuts and the very subtle flavours of the carefully chosen spices of which cardamom and mace stood out. Usually Mughlai cuisine is partial to meat eaters, but this kebab was delightful.
For the non vegetarian appetizer, we sampled the famed Galouti kebab, soft succulent lamb meat, pounded till the texture becomes buttery and cooked with kebab spices on a heated griddle. This was served on small discs of Tava paratha and one needs a few moments of silence to savour this brilliant rendition of the Galouti kebab.
For the main course we were served Amrood ki Subzi which piqued my interest when I glanced at the menu. So far, I had only eaten guavas raw as fruit, or the occasional jelly or guava cheese. I had never eaten it cooked as a vegetable in a savoury curry. The gravy was thick and rich with a nut paste, almost like a qorma, and the distinctive flavour and aroma of saffron was hard to miss, but the flesh of the guava was the most surprising. Firm and yet moist, with a light hint of sweetness, the guava did not feel out-of-place in the sabzi and went well with the Sheermal that I ate it with.
The Mahar Paneer was large chunks of paneer, stuffed with nuts and cooked in a rich tomato gravy. This was the least impressive dish of the evening for me.
For the Non vegetarians, Mughlai cuisine is synonymous with tasty qormas and gravies that are rich and indulgent. And the two dishes that were presented did not disappoint.
The Murgh Handi Qorma which was a gravy similar to the Amrood ki sabzi. Chicken drumsticks simmered in a gravy that was fragrant with saffron and rose-water and rich with a nut paste. The qorma is best eaten with lightly sweet Sheermal which is a flat bread, the dough kneaded with milk for its softness and mild sweetness.
The stand out dish of the meal was the Shahi Nihari which is slow cooked lamb with a rich yogurt and saffron gravy. The lamb was succulent and almost falling off the bone, the gravy flavoured with the juices of the lamb and rich from the slow cooked spices, it was a terrific combination with the pudina paratha.
The Lacknawi dal similar to the kaali dal, but less rich and therefore not so heavy. I had this dal on its own and it was very good.
How can one have a Mughlai feast and not taste some biryani right? The Rampuri murgh biryani, subtle and yet full of flavour at the same time, succulent chicken cooked to perfection with minimal spices and chilli was fabulous. Even though I desperately love Hyderabadi biryani for it’s in your face spice and flavour kick, it was a delightful little detour to eat an almost delicate version of this much-loved dish.
We ended the meal with two beautiful desserts, the Kesar Phirni which is a rice pudding flavoured with saffron and a Rampuri Gulathi which is a semolina and Khoa pudding, from the royal kitchens of Rampur. I personally preferred the Kesar phirni because it was just the right balance of sweet and richness.
The festival ends on the 28th of January and they have a four course preset menu that one can choose from, that highlights this cuisine. The dishes are also available to be ordered A la Carte.
The preset menu is priced at ₹ 1975 + taxes per person.
We were invited for this meal and it we were served a tasting menu which was complimentary. The views are my own.
K’s lunchbox is like my one excited cooking moment of the day. What to make (and subsequently pack) is a question I am asking myself almost everyday.
I make a weekly list of things I can make in the stupor of the morning that won’t take too long. It helps to have a list because in the mornings, the last thing I can do is to be creative while watching the clock hands tick away. This pasta (like most pastas in my life) is crowd pleasing and can be done in less than 20 minutes. Quantities can be altered according to need and passes muster on my benchmark for a dish that is a crowd pleaser – is welcome at a lunch / brunch buffet.
You know those garlic pods, that decide to spring to life in the vegetable tray of the fridge? I planted a bunch of them in a plastic takeaway tub filled with growing medium. In a week, green garlic shoots were ready for cutting. I snip them with a pair of scissors and they grow back. Conveniently placed on the wall of my kitchen, they are at arms length to be thrown into scrambled eggs, omelets, pasta, soup or a salad. Sometimes I use them in place of fresh coriander leaves as a garnish for Indian style vegetable dishes. They add a mild garlic flavour and are subtle enough not to make you want to drink mouthwash after your meal :P
Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta (Serves 2)
3 cups cooked pasta (I used penne, but any short pasta will do)
1 medium onion, sliced thickly
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
1/4 cup fresh garlic chives
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons Olive oil
Heat a pan over medium high heat and add the oil, when warm, toss in the red chilli flakes, after a couple of seconds, ensuring the chilli doesn’t burn, add the onion and mushrooms and a little of the salt.
Saute for 3-4 minutes until the mushroom and onions are very lightly caramelising.
Add the cooked pasta, and toss well. Season with salt as per taste, garnish with the garlic chives and toss again. Drizzle with 1/2 a teaspoon of olive oil and serve.
A few days ago I was at Seasonal Tastes, the popular coffee shop of The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace to sample the food at their “Flavours of Indonesia” a food festival. I was seated at a table in the busy coffee shop buzzing at lunch time. Seasonal Tastes is very popular for their extensive lunch spread and an assortment of the Indonesian dishes are part of their regular buffet. The coffee shop takes advantage of the lobby’s sky-high ceilings and offers both tables and couches for seating. It is always buzzing at meal times, so choosing a quiet corner may need a reservation. The food is spread out extensively and access to the counters is easy.
I was introduced to the shy Chef Mohammed Muhsoni who is helming the food festival. The Chef is with Le Meridian in Indonesia and has come to this hotel via a collaborative association. The chef traveled with a lot of the ‘difficult to find in India’ ingredients. He also brought with him curry pastes, etc which would be used in the preparation of the food. Executive Sous Chef Rakesh Anand Singh played interpreter and buffet guide and indulged in my questions and finally a request for some galangal to grow in my kitchen garden too! A lot of Indonesian cuisine shows the influence of their trade with India, Arab countries and the rest of Asia and this is visible in the familiar ingredients and flavours that are presented. The food tends to be spicy and fiery for the most part, to pique the taste buds, but is well-balanced and uses a lot of steaming and flash stir frying as their cooking methods to keep the flavour and colour of the ingredients fresh and retain the nutritional value of the food.
I went around the elegantly set and busy buffet to do a survey. The Indonesian offerings sat choc a bloc (distinguished by their promotional pictures and labelled neatly) with the dishes on their regular menu which is a melange of global dishes along with local Hyderabadi, Telangana and Andhra offerings. Seasonal Tastes has a really extensive buffet and it is not possible to do justice to the food unless one plans to vegetate for the next couple of hours. I requested for only the Indonesian fare to be served to me to be able to stay sane amidst all that food and focus on reviewing it.
I started with the Udang Goreng (batter coated deep-fried prawns tossed in green onions, peppers and paprika) the batter coated prawns were done just right, crisp exterior and succulent prawns and I am beginning to marvel at the technique of managing this. The kick of this dish is the paprika that the prawns are tossed with. Fiery is an understatement and I was quick to realize this would set the pace for the rest of the meal. The flavours are fresh and yet hit you with spice. Its going to be interesting for me I keep thinking because I have a high threshold for heat in my food although most of the food I make otherwise is not spicy (only because I cater to another living being at home).
Next up was the Sayur Goreng Chumpur (Crispy fried vegetables sauté in sweet chili sauce) I loved the thin discs of vegetables, my favourite being zucchini and the sweet sticky sauce. Quite a contrast from the heat of the prawns I tasted earlier. This will hopefully be offered on the buffet much after the festival ends.
For the salads, there was a nice selection of three varieties. First up, I loved the presentation of the vegetarian salads in champagne flutes. Makes for a pretty picture and prompts those passive to salads to try them out. I tasted all three salads. The Bakwan Udans (Tamarind marinated shrimps with vegetables) was fresh tasting and I loved the woody earthy balance that tamarind gives this otherwise crisp salad.
The Ayam Pelallah (Kafir lime turmeric and galangal roasted chicken and glass noodles with vegetables & sprouts) served with a peanut and tamarind dip which had the consistency of a proper chutney. While the salad was good, because I am partial to glass noodles, I loved the familiar flavours of the peanut and tamarind dip. The same ingredients (used extensively in south indian cooking) were given a completely different dressing in this Indonesian dip.
The vegetarian Tofu salad with sprouts was delightful and I loved the creamy texture of the tofu and the contrast it created with the fried tofu pieces and the sprouts. This had a mildly sweet and spicy dressing.
For the main course, there was a Fish and beef dish. The Ikam Stim Lada Hitam (Lemon grass steamed fish in black pepper sauce) was so different from anything else I had tasted. Readers of this blog will know that I am partial to citrus flavours and I think lemongrass and fish are a match made in heaven. Served on a bed of steamed spinach, I loved the combination of the mild lemon grass and the heat from the coarsely ground black pepper in the sauce.
The Daging Tumis Paprika dan Cabe Merah (Sauté beef with capsicum sauce) small slices of beef sauteed with capsicum was a tad chewy and I would happily give it a pass.
They have a live stir fry counter that makes the well known favourites from Indonesian cuisine, Mie Goreng (noodles with vegetables, meat and herbs) and Nasi Goreng (Indonesian style fried rice). I loved the Mie Goreng, taking several helpings of the vegetarian version until I just had to stop.
From the main course, the one dish that stood out for me was the Gulai tahu dan buncis (tofu and beans in a coconut and chilli curry paste) the flavours subtle and layered and so delicate it was a welcome difference from the fiery dishes I’d eaten till then. I was stuffed to the gills, but couldn’t resist taking another helping of this aromatic curry with sticky rice.
They had three signature desserts of which the Pulut Hitam (a coconut rice pudding) flavoured with coconut milk and garnished with ripe banana, lychees and rose water soaked raisins) reminded me of the Thai dessert Tub Tim Grob. The flavours are well-balanced and the sweet comes both from the coconut milk and sugar and is subtle, creamy and rich.
The Kue Mangkok (Cup cakes made from tapioca flour) I found them very dry, would give this a miss
The Dadar Gulung (Pancake rolls stuffed with jaggery and coconut) again, I love the combination of jaggery and coconut and this dessert tho a little sweeter than what I prefer is reminiscent of eating another version of a poli due to the stuffing.
This buffet especially with the Indonesian dishes is highly recommended and will be worth all the calories that I ingested. I loved the fiery spice balanced with sugar and the flavours of the fresh herbs of lemongrass & galangal. There is just enough to keep the palate delighted and yet not overwhelm the senses. The dishes change everyday, but some favourites may be repeated based on the requests from guests or the popularity of the dish. At 1327 (All Inclusive) it is total VFM.
Selamat Datang Indonesian Food Festival (part of the lunch and dinner buffet at Seasonal Tastes ~ The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace
Recommendations: Sayur Goreng Chumpur (Crispy fried vegetables sauté in sweet chili sauce), Ikam Stim Lada Hitam (Lemon grass steamed fish in black pepper sauce), Mie Goreng (noodles with vegetables, meat and herbs), Gulai tahu dan buncis (tofu and beans in a coconut and chilli curry paste), Pulut Hitam (a coconut rice pudding)
Price: Rs. 1327 for one (All Inclusive)
Hours: Lunch: 12:00 PM To 03:00 PM
Dinner: 07:00 PM To 11:00 PM
Location: Mindspace IT Park, Hitech City, Hyderabad
Credit Card Accepted: Yes
Valet Parking: Available
Telephone: 040 33165071 (Reservations are recommended)
PS: The meal was complimentary as I was invited by the hotel to the restaurant, however the views are my own.