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Eating Out ~ Som Tam ~ A Pan Asian Sunday brunch at Thai Pavilion, Taj Vivanta Hyderabad

Thai Pavilion at Taj Vivanta, Begumpet has launched its Sunday Brunch offering called Som Tam. The Pan Asian Sunday Brunch has the theme of “Journey through the Silk Route” and brings together some well loved and a few unique dishes from Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Korean cuisines. Put together by Chef Arun Kumar Reddy and his able team, this brunch is set to delight lovers of Oriental food.

The gorgeous interiors

The gorgeous interiors

I was invited to sample the brunch a week ago and was very impressed with the many dishes some old favourites of mine and some new. The brunch is a 6 course spread and begs you to suspend your diet and rush while you savour the food and drinks.

We began with the Som Tam salad after which the brunch is names, is a Thai Pavilion speciality. Today too, it did not disappoint . The sharp flavours of the sweet and spicy sauce with the crunchy green papaya shreds is always refreshing.

Gado Gado ~ Indonesian Salad

Gado Gado ~ Indonesian Salad

Next I tried the Gado Gado – an Indonesian Salad of raw and steamed vegetables, still crisp to the bite with fried tofu and tempeh and boiled eggs. This was served with a peanut dressing that complimented it well. The mix of textures in the salad is something to enjoy.

The vegetable hot and sour soup that I tasted was very fresh with a burst of flavours and the vegetables retained a bite and were not woefully over cooked as is usually the case with soups.

Assorted Sushi Rolls

Assorted Sushi Rolls

The four kinds of sushi, Maki, uramaki, Temaki and Nigiri were very average. They seemed dry and no amount of kikkoman soya or wasabi was helping bring life (sic!) into it. Due feedback was given to the chef who promised to work on it.

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Dimsums

Dimsums

Loved the Dim Sums, delicately covered with a paper thin coating stuffed with prawns (Har Gao) for the non vegetarian option and mixed vegetables  (Sui Mai)  for the vegetarian option. Truth be told I preferred the vegetarian option better.

The appetizers were many and varied. Each one representing a part of the south east. The Tung tong (vegetarian thai appetizer) an outer crisp fried pastry filled with vegetables was superb. Crunchy on the outside and well seasoned filling on the inside.

Tahu Bakar

Tahu Bakar

This is the first time I tasted the Tahu Bakar – Indonesian tapas of grilled tofu pockets stuffed with sprouts and tho I am not the biggest tofu fan, I liked this one. 

The Ji Yuk Sung – another Thai appetizer which comprised of minced chicken (there is another version which uses pork) served on lettuce leaves was sharp and had a kick from the chillies. I loved this one.

Ca Nuong - Vietnamese roasted fish

Ca Nuong – Vietnamese roasted fish

The Ca Nuong – Vietnamese roasted fish (chunks of basa which is quite the norm with restaurants these days due to its neutral flavour) was so sublimely seasoned with fresh ginger and green onions and fish perfectly cooked that it had me taking second and third helpings of it!

Loved the Tung Tong – the usually money bag shaped pastry crust that is filled with a stuffing. In this case it was folded into a square star shape if that makes sense and filled with minced vegetables.

peking Duck Pancake Rolls

peking Duck Pancake Rolls


The Peking Duck Pancake didn’t allure me – it seemed too dry and the rest of the elements – the shredded vegetables and the actual pancake didn’t have anything binding them together and seemed like different elements forcefully rolled together in a pancake.

I loved the Chor Siu Pork – Roast pork cooked over charcoal, succulent and flavourful like only pork can be, I reached out for seconds and this will be a huge hit with pork lovers.

Temoura Prawns

Tempura Prawns

Also loved the Tempura Prawns, the fresh prawns succulent and the tempura batter lending it the right kind of crispness. These were great with the various dipping sauces.

Water chestnut and Cashews in a spicy Gravy

Water chestnut and Cashews in a spicy Gravy

I was already quite full from the starters when the main course was served. The Hei Phad Prik Haeng which is Water chestnut and cashewnut in spicy gravy was my favourite from the last time I ate here. The crispy texture of the water chestnut in the spicy sauce is terrific. I wish more restaurants in Hyderabad would use water chestnuts.

Beijing Potato

Suan La Tu Dou Si, which is Beijing hot and sour potato string

Then we had the Suan La Tu Dou Si, which is Beijing hot and sour potato string. There is an interesting story behind this dish, apparently the Chef had a request from a Chinese guest, describing this dish and later the guest was taken to the kitchen where he demonstrated this dish. Fine sticks of potato were stir fried with sauces. To be honest, the potato is still crunchy because it isnt cooked through and while it is a great story to tell, I would prefer it fully cooked and then tossed in the sauces. This was a miss for me.

The spread for the main course

The spread for the main course

Pe Phad Prik Nam Manhoi, which is Lamb in ginger oyster sauce was ok, slivers of succulent lamb meat braised in the familiar sharp flavours of ginger and oyster sauce.

Gaeng Kiew Wan, or the green thai curry with chicken has always been one of my favourite Thai curries and at Thai Pavilion they do a smashing job of it. Since they don’t use generice ready made pastes, but make their own, they are able to customise it to the tastes of pure vegetarians who do not eat fish and shrimp paste and sauce. This helps cater to their large vegetarian clientele. The freshly made pastes add such a punch of flavour that is missing when a readymade paste is used. This was eaten with the fragrant steamed Jasmine rice.

Yang Zhou Chao Fan – better know to us as Chinese fried rice was a good accompaniment to the curries

I loved the Bamee Krappow which was a spicy stir fried noodle with lots of fresh basil leaves. A good change from the usual bland noodle dishes served.

The dessert platter

The dessert platter

For a sweet note to end up this expansive lunch spread, we had Tab Tim Grob which is a well loved Thai dessert of water chestnut pearls with rose syrup and coconut milk. I’ve enjoyed this at Thai Pavilion before but what blew my mind was this made into a cheesecake. The crust made of coconut cookies and the mascarpone and coconut milk cheesecake interspersed with the water chestnut pearls and rose syrup. It was sublime, not too sweet, creamy and so indulgent that it is tough to like any other dessert on the buffet after eating this one!

There was an ice cream made with Thai green curry paste which also I loved, the surprising flavours of galangal and lemongrass pairing well with the cool creamy coconut milk base.

Dessert Platter

Dessert Platter

There were also some chocolate filled rolls which I should have totally skipped, it didn’t have anything going for it.  

Priced at Rs. 1399 all inclusive, this is a very competitive price and worth every penny. The price is for the brunch buffet which includes house wines, brews and spirits. Lunch goers can also enjoy a dip in the pool for an additional Rs. 100.

Recommendations: The dimsums, Grilled Fish, Ji Yuk Sung (minced chicken served in lettuce cups), Green Curry, Water chestnuts and cashew gravy, basil noodles, tab tim grub cheesecake, green curry ice cream

Where: Thai Pavilion, Taj Vivanta, Begumpet

Date: Every Sunday from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Price: 1399/- All Inclusive

For reservations and more information: 040 – 6725 2626

Eating out ~ Journey of Godavari ~ Food festival at Okra, Hyderabad Marriott Hotel and Convention Centre

The Hyderabad Marriott has a special place in my heart. K and I frequented the coffee shop during our courtship, sitting at a table overlooking the pool, lingering over their delectable array of desserts while we tried to get some more time together. We also celebrated our first wedding anniversary there and it was probably one of the few times K agreed to sit with dim lights and eat!

When I was invited to sample the food at their Journey of Godavari, I was intrigued by the name. This a special food trail which chronicles the river Godavari’s influence on flavors and presents the cuisines of Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra.

Chef Yogi

Chef Yogi

According to Executive Chef Yogender Pal or Yogi as he is fondly known as, the planning and research took more than a month. Recipes were dug out from family and friends, ingredients were sourced and dishes were tested. A team of his best cooks, including those that hail from the regions of Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra came together to bring this offering to the people of Hyderabad. Each dish was tested for authenticity by putting it to a taste test by the experts.

I can’t remember when I ate anything Maharashtrian on a menu anywhere. So when we began our meal with the delightfully sharp Misal Rassa, I am pleasantly surprised. The thick tomato and spice based soup has a base of moong and mati sprouts. It is a thinner  version of misal and the chef says that when made into a thick gravy it can be eaten with bread or rice. The flavours are sharp and tangy, the sprouts adding a bit of body to the soup.

Ulli Garelu with Tomato and Onion Chutney

Ulli Garelu with Tomato and Onion Chutney

Next up we try the Andhra favourite – Ulli Garelu which is essentially the Andhra version of the medhu vada, served with a spicy tomato and onion chutney that is coarsely ground. I loved the crisp vada with the rustic chutney.

Kothmir Vadi

Kothmir Vadi

There is also the Kothmir Vadi which is surprisingly moist, chickpea flour tempered with spices and a lot of fresh coriander leaves is steamed and then deep fried. This is served with a green chutney and I loved the flavours of this Vadi.

For the mains, the pre set tasting meal was served as a thali although the dishes for the festival are a part of the evening dinner buffet.

The Main Course Offering

The Main Course Offering

We had a Maharashtrain Kolambichi Bhaji – Lots of finely chopped onion sauteed with spices, tomato and lots of fresh grated coconut and fat succulent prawns lovingly nestled in the thick gravy. This is not a flowing gravy dish, but it isn’t dry weither. The prawns were very fresh and melded so well with the sweetness of the onions in the masala.

The crowd favourite Natu Kodi Pulusu – country chicken cooked homestyle in a gravy thick with spices, this is the legacy of the telugu states of both Andhra and Telangana. To me this was my least favourite dish, not because it was badly made, but there were other stand out dishes on the menu that I tasted.

The Konaseema Korameenu Kura was a tamarind gravy based fish curry which uses the regions favourite fillets of Murrel fish. What added superb flavour to this dish was the pearl onions used whole in this curry. What I loved about this dish was it was completely home style and the flavours of the ingredients were drawn out by cooking it on a gentle and slow simmer. This curry pairs excellently with the Pullattu – a thick and spongy dosa made from slightly sour batter.

There are many other delicacies such as the Pachi Royyalu Gongura (fresh prawns cooked with tart sorrel leaves) and a crab in the shell preparation also from the Coastal Andhra area.

For the vegetarians, there is a huge array of dishes. Each one representative of the region and robust with flavours.

I tried the Muvva Vankaya – Similar to the gutti vankaya, but drier because it is sans any gravy. Bursting with the nutty flavour of ground sesame and peanuts along with garlic and other spices that are stuffed into slit baby brinjals and cooked till the brinjals are melt in the mouth soft.

The Hing Aloo Jeera was adequately spiced and flavoured, a nice simple preparation for a vegetarian must have – potato.

The most impressive vegetarian dish of the day for me was the Ambat Godavaran – Channa dal cooked to a mush and flavoured with raw mango pieces and sweetened with jaggery, this had deep flavours and was so creamy and indulgent, that it is best enjoyed with some plain steamed rice. I am not very fond of sweetened lentils, but this was terrific.

Gummadi Kaya pulusu (pumpkin cooked in a tangy gravy), Panasa ginjalu vepudu (sauteed jackfruit seeds) and the famed Ullavacharu is also on offer.

The dishes are part of the dinner buffet. Each day there is a selection that is available. There are live counters serving dosa, rotis etc.

Amongst the rice dishes, the Karivepaku Annam that I tasted was superb! the fresh and strong flavours of curry leaves used both in paste and powder form to flavour tempered rice was an excellent accompaniment to the curries.

For desserts we had the Puran Poli – a delicate roti stuffed with benga gram and jaggery cooked and then mashed. We also had a crisp Arisey, which is a deep fried sweet made of jaggery and rice powder. The sesame seed crust gave it a nice nutty flavour and crunch.

The festival began on the 28th of August and ends on 6th September.

Recomended Dishes: Muvva Vankaya, Misal Rassa, Ambat Godavaran, Konaseema Korameenu Kura

Dates of the Festival: 28th August to 6th September

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

Eating out~ Molecular Gastronomic Drama! Tuscany at Trident Hyderabad

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Thanks to TV shows, the world of Molecular Gastronomy has been watched, savoured and drooled upon. Some unbelievable creations are made, served to the diner at the table with an unbeatable dose of pure drama. What meets the eye is seldom what hits your palette in the world of Molecular Gastronomy. I was excited to be invited to experience this spectacle at Tuscany, the Italian specialty restaurant at Trident Hyderabad.

The restaurant is always tastefully done with dim lights and the tinkling view of the busy Hitech City area traffic lights. We begin the evening with the customary freshly baked foccacia and a superbly made white wine Sangria. The citrus notes enhanced by the slices of fruits was just what the evening called for.

Chef Rahul Gomes Pereira and his team along with the Executive Chef Manik Magotra spent months prepping to bring this food festival to Hyderabad. In Chef Manik’s words “To give to the city something that’s never been done before”. The Kitchen turned into a lab and experimentation began in all earnest to prep for the 10 day festival which has been on from the 15th of August until the 25th of August.

Molecular Gastronomy is a very modern style of cooking that marries the advances of science and technology with the actual preparation of food. What this means for you and me is that we are presented with stunningly plated dishes, which sometimes are very deceptive in their looks because they seldom taste what they look like. Flavours are highly saturated which makes you take notice of the core ingredients much more than what we would normally notice and the use of visually pleasing elements such as foam, smoke and liquids turning into little tiny caviar like balls or flash frozen greens or the dust of an ingredient presents itself on a plate.

Deconstructed Caprese

Deconstructed Caprese

The first course is an appetiser – Deconstructed Caprese. Caprese is one of my favourite ways to eat mozzarella. I even have a recipe for it on my blog. The plate arrives with small spoons laden with what looks like red coloured noodles topped with cheese. The noodles are actually flash frozen noodles made from tomatoes, the mozarella takes on a whole new texture because of the way it is presented and I am fascinated with the caviar like tiny balls of balsamic! It is a burst of flavours and the textures are so subtle that they belie their looks! I am smitten and wait for the next course.

Mushroom Cappuccino

Mushroom Cappuccino

I had a savoury cappuccino for the soup course. Presented like a regular cappuccino is, in a cup and saucer with a wafer as an accompaniment that turns out to be parmesan biscotti. The cloud of mushroom foam topped with the of porcini mushroom gives way to an intensely flavoured creamy soup. The texture contrasts between the crunchy biscotti, foam and the creamy soup is a good play off. I had more than what I intended to consume which will tell you how partial I am to mushroomy flavours. This one is not for those who do not relish the fungus.

For the main course, I sample both the Quinoa and pearl Barley and Buffalo Wings.

Quinoa and Pearl Barley with Truffle oil and Rucola Orange Salad

Quinoa and Pearl Barley with Truffle oil and Rucola Orange Salad

The Quinoa and pearl barley with truffle oil crumble is a very interesting dish that draws again on textures and flavours. There are sundried tomatoes and black olives studded into the quinoa and pearl barley, the textures complement each other. The Rucola (which I found very tough) and Orange salad that accompanies adds a nice fruity note with the balsamic and wine reduction, tempered with pomegranate molasses.

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Buffalo Wings with Blue cheese foam and Red hot caviar

The Buffalo wings with blue cheese foam and red hot caviar is a true showpiece of Molecular Gastronomy. Chicken marinated and beaten to derive the texture wanted then slow cooked using a technique called Sous-vide which is vacuum packed food that is cooked in a temperature controlled water bath for a few hours to retain its moisture, texture intensify its flavours. The blocks of chicken are topped with a soft foam of blue cheese and topped with red hot caviar which is actually pearls made out of a spicy sauce. I loved the flavours of every element of this dish although blue cheese isn’t for those who dislike strong flavours.

Chef Pereira is delighted with the response the food festival is getting and thinks that all the hours of prep is worth the delight on the faces of his diners who going by the full restaurant are lapping up this gastronomical spectacle. Chef Manik tells me that each item on the Ala Carte menu is painstakingly constructed from scratch. The nature of preparation is such that nothing can be made much ahead, stored or preserved. Ingredients and elements disintegrate if kept, some infact are constructed just seconds before it gets plated and some things have to be done at the table itself. This means that all hands are on deck in their kitchen and the training is super intense. Sustaining an elaborate menu as a regular offering therefore is not currently possible.

The meal is almost coming to an end and we are presented with Earth ~ Dusky planet. It is a plate with a spherical chocolate shell, a hot truffle sauce is poured on it, melting the outside and revealing the core which contains a duo of mousse – one a wild berry and the other is vanilla. There is a compote of wild berries as well and chocolate sand on the plate as a contrast to the texture of the silky smooth mousse and ofcourse the drippings of the hot chocolate truffle sauce! I am not a very chocolate person, but the combination of the berry flavours with chocolate is classic and I dig into even the last bits.

Pineapple and Pepper corn crepes flambed with dark rum and served with a Licorice ice cream

Pineapple and Pepper corn crepes flambed with dark rum and served with a Licorice ice cream

Just as I think the drama won’t get better, we have another dessert plate sent to our table. This time it is Fire ~ A small block of pineapple and peppercorn crepes (Carribbean inspiration here), served with a liquorice ice cream which I am excited to try. Not happy enough with the myriad flavours on this plate, the chef decides to set it on fire and flambes the whole thing! The dark rum caramelises the flavour of the crepes, and the peppercorns hit the tip of the tongue so intensely that the crepes can be had even without the ice cream and would taste complete. The licorice icecream! Oh man it just took my breathe away ~ the flavour of the licorice is just perfect, enough to entice, but not strong enough to overwhelm. I drained every last drop of this. For me this was the piece de resistance and I ended my meal on a very high note. I do not think any other dessert will replicate this experience for me for a long time.

This was a whole new experience in food for me. It would be safe to say that this city has not experienced anything like this before and is truly something that takes you by surprise. The winner for me in this whole experience was the play of flavours. Each essence captured and intensified, the drama is just a huge bonus.

Recomended Dishes:  Fire ~ Flambed pineapple and peppercorn crepes with licorice icecream

Deconstructed Caprese

Buffalo wings with blue cheese foam and red hot caviar

Dates of the Festival: 15th August to 25th August 2015

Price: A meal for two (A la carte) would be approximately Rs. 3500 + Taxes.

Hours: 7.30 pm to midnight.

Location: Tuscany, Trident Hyderabad, Hitech City, Hyderabad

Credit Card Accepted: Yes

Valet Parking: Available

Telephone: 91 40 6623 2323

PS: The meal was complimentary as I was invited by the hotel to the restaurant, however the views are my own.

Lahmacun ~ Boat Shaped Turkish Flat Bread Pizza (without an oven)

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Lahmakun ~ Turkish Flat Bread Pizza

Lahmacun ~ Turkish Flat Bread Pizza

There is a new (old now, its been 4 months) Deli in our neck of the woods that we obsessed about for a while. Eclectic interiors and great food. We had a Turkish style flat bread pizza that I was quite impressed with. Crisp at the bottom, thin crust and with options for versatile fillings, this was one dish that I knew I would try making at home.

I’m a big fan of flat breads for their versatility. Give me rotis, I’ll make it into a Tortilla wrap🙂 or a Kathi Roll or a Quesadilla or at-least an Anda Roti Flat breads have so much more potential than just languishing about as a roti IMO.

The day I decided to make the Lahmaksun, apparently that’s what it is called, I was running late to serve dinner and instead of making a yeasted dough, I used baking powder to give the dough some fluffiness. It all came together quite easily and I baked it on a hot tava, although the original does better in a really hot pizza oven.

There are four elements (although I am pretty sure they are far from authentic) to this Turkish pizza that made it an easy weeknight dinner

  1. Dough made with baking powder instead of yeast
  2. Frozen pasta sauce I had on hand
  3. Caramelised onions which really elevate the flavours
  4. Use of any spicy dry sabzi to top it

I topped a couple with a dry chicken mince, and another couple with a dry aloo sabzi that I had. Both turned out fabulous. Since these have a fancy braided border, they make for great party food either as appetizers or as a main course.

Lahmacun ~ Turkish Flat Bread Pizza

Lahmacun ~ Turkish Flat Bread Pizza

Turkish Flatbread Pizza with Chicken Mince and Caramelised Onion (Makes 4)

To make the flatbread

1 ½ Cups Wholewheat flour

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Baking powder

½ teaspoon oil

Water to knead the dough.

Add the salt and baking powder to the flour and mix, add the water and make a soft dough just like for chapati. Apply the oil and set it aside for 30 minutes.

Make 4 equal parts of the dough and roll it on a lightly floured surface like a roti into a 7 inch diameter circle. It should be about 1/4 of an inch thick, similar to a paratha. 

Using your index fingers, twist the edges of the dough circle to form a rope pattern, you can also use the tines of a fork to make the border. Seal the bottom and top by twisting. Prick all over with a fork and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Heat a tava to medium hot and cook the flatbreads on medium heat, turning a couple of times till brown spots appear all over and the bread is cooked. Place between soft cloth to keep warm while you make the topping.

For the topping

¼ cup pasta sauce (can use store bought)

¼ cup caramelised onions

Fresh Coriander sprigs

1 cup spicy chicken mince (recipe follows) or a dry sabzi such as potato, green onion, cauliflower etc. Avoid using a south Indian style poriyal.

Heat the flatbread on a griddle to warm them. Place 1 tablespoon of pasta sauce onto the bread and spread. Top with the chicken mince, top with the caramelised onions and serve with some fresh coriander.

Spicy Chicken Mince

250 grams Chicken mince

1 medium onion finely sliced

1-2 green chillies chopped finely

¼ cup fresh coriander leaves

½ teaspoon ginger and garlic paste

¼ teaspoon cumin powder

2 tablespoons oil

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Heat oil in a pan, wash the mince and set aside.

Add the onions and green chillies to the hot oil and saute till they are just turning golden brown. Add the ginger garlic and saute for a minute.

Add the Chicken mince and saute till the colour changes to opaque.

Add the salt, pepper, cumin and coriander leaves, mix well, cover and cook on a low flame for 10-12 minutes or till the mince is turning a light shade of brown. Turn off and cool.

{Eating Out ~ New Menu Review} Le Cafe, Novotel, Hitech City

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Le Cafe

Le Cafe

Cafes and I go back a long way. I’ve spent time at them waiting, courting, reflecting, absorbing and grieving. Every verb attached to an emotion that can exist has been experienced over the last two decades at coffee shops by me. I love them with company and they are ideal places to get lost with your thoughts, books or for that matter in today’s times, a screen. There are the ones run by chains, which look and feel familiar across most cities and then the stand alone ones with a charm of their own.

Novotel at Hitech City in Hyderabad has a lovely, sunny (air conditioned) side walk style cafe in the hotel premises and I was invited to sample their new menu offerings last week.

The timing was perfect, tea time and I walked in and was seated at the seemingly small but surprisingly uncongested cafe. It is built like the many sidewalk cafes across Europe and particularly France and is situated on the left of the main entrance. Tho Le Cafe occupies the corridor between the hotel and the convention centre. It has plenty of seating with tables and chairs nicely spaced. Open from 6:30 AM till midnight, Le Cafe has a wide choice of bakes, pastries, short eats like sandwiches and a good selection of beverages.

Previously the cafe had an ever changing menu. Which included promotionals for special occasions such as Valentine’s Day and seasonal offerings to incorporate seasonal produce such as Mangoes during season. Now the menu operates in three ways, displayed as a small standee on each table, comprising of made to order sandwiches, wraps and beverages, a black board display of the bakes and desserts available adorning the walls of the cafe and baked offerings in the display units, with prices mentioned, which change daily.

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The selection is very extensive for a Cafe and includes Sandwiches and Wraps, Salads, Baked Goodies, Made to order Cakes, Cookies and Macarons, Made to order menu all-day breakfast, Icecreams, Beverages etc.

Macarons ~ in many flavours

Macarons ~ in many flavours

We begin with a bunch of macarons. Delicate meringue sandwiched with pastry cream in an assortment of flavours. Cardamom and coconut – reminiscent of old world biscuits to be dunked in tea, a little strong on flavours. Saffron – delicate and subtle. Blueberry – my favourite of the lot, just the right balance of fruit, cream and crunch.

Chocolate Fudge Cookie

Chocolate Fudge Cookie

Next up from the variety of cookies that include oat and raisin and granola cookies, I tried the Chocolate Fudge Cookie – its decadent, dense and very deeply chocolatey in a nice way.

Le Cafe entices you with a range of baked goodies like several variants of croissants and doughnuts, glazed with chocolate or dusted with cinnamon sugar, made in house and fresh each day. The rows upon rows of pastries make one feel like a child in a candy shop. Colours, flavours and the promise of indulgence.

Chicken Sausage Strudel and Mushroom & Cheese Quiche

Chicken Sausage Strudel and Mushroom & Cheese Quiche

The Mushroom and Cheese Quiche – stellar – crisp tart shell, creamy and delicious filling, lovely flavours of the mushroom and melted cheese coming through. This is a must try. The second savoury bake I try pales in comparison. A Chicken sausage strudel made of puff pastry, the layers of puff pastry are perfect but the filling does not live up to its promise. They are priced at Rs. 120 for a serving.

Chicken Tikka Sandwich

Chicken Tikka Sandwich

They have a range of made to order breakfasts which are served all day and there is a wide range of wraps and sandwiches that can be had with a choice of bread – Panini, whole grain, multigrain or sandwich. I tasted the Chicken tikka sandwich. It is a large portion priced at Rs. 300 and comes with a side of potato wafers. Succulent pieces of chicken tikka, lots of mayonnaise and some other sauces, I think there was cheese also and it was grilled to perfection. The fillings are interesting and one can choose from cheese and mustard, achari paneer and tomato bocconcini amongst the others. The chef at the counter will put together your order on the spot. Le Cafe also has a range of fresh salads one can order.

Decadent Pastries and Desserts

Decadent Pastries and Desserts

The indulgent pastry and dessert menu is hopeless to resist. A very dense and yet delightfully satisfying flourless chocolate pastry (apt for those who are on a gluten free diet).

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

There is the famed Tiramisu – Indulgent mascarpone layered with coffee drenched savoiradi cookies, best indulged in small portions because of its richness.

Decadent Desserts and Pastries

Decadent Desserts and Pastries

The white chocolate and raspberry slice – a mousse that comes in a block and the pistachio pop cake with blueberry dome – pistachio sponge filled with blueberry mousse though are very goodlooking desserts, they do not live up to their looks. I was disappointed particularly by the flavour and dryness of the pistachio dessert.

The deeply satisfying Opera Cake

The deeply satisfying Opera Cake

The stand out pastry for me was the Opera Cake, slivered layers of Almond jaconde (sponge) soaked with coffee syrup and layered with chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream. The knock out melded flavours and textures are worth every calorie they hold.

Its a great option to catch up with a friend, for a casual date or just to spend time alone with a cup of coffee and a nibble appropriate for the time of day. Their range of beverages ranges from many kinds of coffees, teas and smoothies and shakes. The cafe also has free WiFi which is useful if one is hanging out alone.

The prices for the baked goodies range from Rs. 60- 150 which is very reasonable considering they are housed in a five star hotel. Wraps and sandwiches are about Rs. 300 each, desserts and pastries are from Rs. 150-200 and beverages are Rs. 170 onwards.

They also have a range of ice creams and you can order for fresh custom made cakes which are upwards of 500 grams. They also sell a range of breads like Ciabatta, Baguettes and Rye bread by the loaf.

I enjoyed the range of options Le Cafe offers and have marked it as a place to catch up with friends over coffee the next time I need to meet someone. The ambience is calm and peaceful, for the price they charge is much more sophisticated than a noisy coffee bistro.

 Le Cafe

Recomended Dishes: Chicken tikka sandwich, Opera Cake, Mushroom and Cheese Quiche

Timings: 6:30 AM till Midnight

Price: The prices begin at Rs. 60 and go upto Rs. 300

Location: Novotel Hotel, HICC Complex, Hitex road, Kothaguda, Hyderabad

Credit Card Accepted: Yes

Valet Parking: Available

Telephone: 040 66824422

PS: The meal was complimentary as I was invited by the hotel to the restaurant, however the views are my own.

Wonton Wrapper Samosa

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Wonton Wrapper Samosa

Wonton Wrapper Samosa

I’ve had wonton wrappers sitting in my freezer since err….I can’t really remember. Actually I buy a lot of stuff at the grocery store which I don’t really needand when I am in the act of buying it, I have visions that include dreamy, beautiful and totally stunning plating of the end product. What happens in reality is that they languish in the deep recesses of my fridge, freezer or pantry cupboard and after a few months, depending on their state, they get used in something totally ordinary or they get trashed.

A packet of wonton wrappers was one such item I picked up imagining great parties being thrown around wontons and spring rolls. But like a blot on my conscience, every time I opened the freezer, the pack of wrappers would guilt trip me! This weekend, I made samosas with them. I usually do not deep fry at home, I am terrified of filling a kadai with oil and God knows I don’t need to eat anything deep fried. But I felt those wrappers had patiently waited to come out of the freezer for so long that they did deserve their own kadai of hot oil.

I was doing an Iftar food coloumn for Hans India, the paper I write for and wanted to include a recipe for samosas which are one of the most popular Iftar foods (in Hyderabad). These wonton wrappers make samosa making a breeze, if you have a dry leftover sabzi or even some chicken or mutton keema, it can be shredded and used as a stuffing. The wrappers make for a terrifically crunchy outer covering which is my favourite part. In fact the outer covering is very much like the Hyderabadi Chota Samosa. For those of us who have eaten and relished onion filled Chota samosa, being able to replicate the taste and texture of them in a home kitchen is a big score!

Wonton Wrapper Samosa

Wonton Wrapper Samosa

Wonton Wrapper Samosa (Makes 20)

20 wonton wrappers (easily available in the frozen food section of a supermarket)

1 cup filling of choice –

(I used a dry Aloo filling for half and a chicken mince filling for the other half. The recipe for chicken mince filling is mentioned below)

oil to deep fry

1 tablespoon flour mixed with 2 tablespoons of water to make a ‘glue’

Method

Spread the wonton wrapper on a flat surface covered with a kitchen towel.

Fold one corner of it over the rest of the wrapper to form a triangle, fold over again to form a pocket. Here’s a helpful video on samosa folding.

Spoon in 1 tablespoon of filling into the pocket, cover the loose flap and seal with the glue, set aside. Repeat with all the wrappers.

Heat the oil in a kadai drop the samosa into the oil carefully, fry till golden, turning over to cook all sides. Use a spoon to remove the golden samosas, place onto tissue paper to drain and serve when still hot.

Chicken Mince for Samosa Filling

250 grams Chicken mince

1 medium onion finely sliced

1-2 green chillies chopped finely

¼ cup fresh coriander leaves

½ teaspoon ginger and garlic paste

¼ teaspoon cumin powder

2 tablespoons oil

salt and pepper to taste

 

Method

 

Heat oil in a pan, wash the mince and set aside.

Add the onions and green chillies to the hot oil and saute till they are just turning golden brown. Add the ginger garlic and saute for a minute.

Add the Chicken mince and saute till the colour changes to opaque.

Add the salt, pepper, cumin and coriander leaves, mix well, cover and cook on a low flame for 10-12 minutes or till the mince is turning a light shade of brown. Turn off and cool.

 

Eggless Pistachio Cake with Thandai Buttercream

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Pistachio Cake with Thandai Buttercream

Pistachio Cake with Thandai Buttercream

I’ve been going over my food pictures over and over again for the last hour. I’ve missed writing here. A lot has been happening and I wrote about it here. Dismal little has been said here. I miss writing here, sometimes the words fail me, sometimes I’m too tired, I have about 25 draft posts and yet nothing to publish. I haven’t been cooking much, definitely nothing fancy and blog worthy. Sometimes I just want to post something, but even that I haven’t been able to…

I’ll start with this cake. I made it last Diwali. Yes that’s a long time ago, but wait, I have pictures that date back to about 5 years ago that will probably never get posted here, or anywhere else. So its ok I think to be posting stuff from not older than a year ago.

So about this cake, it started with wanting to make something with an Indian mithai flavour. One of my favourite Indian sweets is the Pista roll, very similar to kaju katli, but the flavour of pistachios and the colour just gets me as excited as a child each time. I made this cake eggless since I took some of it to share with K’s parents who don’t eat eggs. I used a little buttercream to pretty it up and cut the cake into squares. You can also bake this batter as cupcakes in a paper lined muffin tray.

 

DSC_0432

 

Eggless Pistachio Cake

2/3 cup                  Milk at room temp

3 Tablespoons       Yoghurt/ curd

1 teaspoon             Pistachio essence

1 1/2 cups              Maida

1/4 cup                  Ground Pistachios

3/4 cup                  Sugar

1/2 teaspoon          Salt

1 1/2 teaspoon       Baking powder

a pinch                   Baking soda

7 tablespoons         Vegetable Oil

1/2 teaspoon          green food colour (optional – I used this)

Preheat oven to 350F / 180 C. Line an 8 inch square cake pan with paper and grease.

Powder the sugar till fine. Add the maida, ground pistachios, salt, baking powder and baking soda to a mixing bowl and whisk with a fork or a spoon to mix together.

Whisk together the milk, yoghurt, pista essence, colour if using and oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and with a wooden spoon or a hand held whisk, mix till well blended.

The batter should fall in thick ribbons. Pour the batter into the cake pan and tap it to remove air bubbles.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire cooling rack before slicing into 16 equal squares.

To make the buttercream

1/2 cup    Butter at room temperature

1 1/2 cup   Confectioner’s Sugar / Icing Sugar

2 tablespoons Thandai syrup (substitute with 2 tablespoons milk mixed with crushed cardamom pods, rose petals and a few drops of rose essence)

A few drops of pista essence and green food colour

With a hand beater, beat the butter until it is creamy. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time and whisk till fluffy. Add the thandai syrup, essence and colour and beat. Taste and adjust for sweetness or flavour. Place a star tip nozzle in a piping bag or in a ziplock bag and add the buttercream to it. Press out swirls or rosettes onto each square piece of the cake. Serve with some tea or coffee or with a scoop of icecream as dessert.

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