Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bloggers Table @ IICA, New Delhi

Food is what brings people together. A fact that we all are aware of, but often forget. A lot of us even take food for granted, eat only to stay alive etc. Although I find it hard to believe, because food is a very important part of my life, and always has been, for a lot of people, they just eat for the sake of eating and some don’t even enjoy their food. Maybe it is to do with my very Punjabi roots where every meal was crucial, and till date a lot of thought and effort goes into menus and food preparation. My Dad, loves to go spend his early part of Sunday, thinking of an exotic breakfast, even if it means picking up the famous puri-channa from one part of Delhi, and then picking up meat and fruit in the second half for the week. I guess, I may not have traits of a food connoisseur, but I definitely inherit the appreciation for good quality produce and food at large.  My brother is no less- he shares his food experiences miles away, with us through our i-devices. Thanks to the time difference, I see it first thing in the morning on my phone and most often, all I can say is Yum.
                Anyhow, food amongst other things is what has connected me and old school friend again, and we have been catching up. She is on her way to a wonderful new adventure which is sort of food related, and it was coincidental that I happened to meet her the day I got invited for a Blogger’s Table event, hosted by the International Institute ofCulinary Arts (IICA), New Delhi. She agreed to be my plus one, for this very interesting vent. One doesn’t get to savour a lot of French cuisine in Delhi often, and I was looking forward to it. IICA is associated with the Indian Culinary Forum and offers various programs and hobby courses for those interested in French cooking and patisserie. Founded by Chef VS Datta, the institute is a family-run business, offering multiple programs, suited to all audiences.
               The hosts were gracious, and took us all (Me, Sid, Charis, Mukta, Aishwarya and Himanshu) for a tour of the campus and a sneak- peek into the kitchen where the chefs were busy dressing up the meal that lay ahead.
Along with a Salade Nicoise, we were served an assortment for freshly baked bread. This was followed by the Classic French Onion Soup (Soupe a l' Oignon) and Pan-seared sole fish with sautéed spinach. The soup was nice- lighter than what I have had on many occasions in France- but I assume anything heavier would not work for the 45 degrees C in Delhi.  We were informed that this was also because the original beef broth was replaced by chicken broth. Oh, what a pity!
The Poulet Saute Chasseur (Hunter style chicken) was the dish that worked for everyone on the table, and for me, more than the chicken; the bundled vegetables were a great idea. This was followed by a Mango and cream based dessert- Mangue Romanoff that we had seen being dressed up earlier with the caramel sticks; the dessert floored everyone and everyone licked their glasses clean.  I am a bit spoilt when it comes to cream, and anything slightly liquidy or frothy just doesn’t work. But the flavours and the blend were just right I guess.
More than the food, I think the IICA is a great place for those who need an avenue to discover food as a passion. They have a lot of offerings and are happy to customize, for everyone. As far the Bloggers Table is concerned, everyone of course, had a lot of fun. 
Here is what the others have to say:
Mukta Varma @ Bake-a-mania

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lemon Tarts- The classic from Raymond Blanc

The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit.
Thomas Malory
The Regular readers of this blog would be wondering at the frequency of the posts this month. March onwards; I have a lot of birthdays and anniversaries. April- May really are hectic months for birthdays- There are days, when I know of 3 people at least, who share their birthdays on the same day. This has been enough cause for me to get my baking act together. It also gives me a chance to challenge myself with my baking. This birthday dessert was decided a long time back, when I discovered that my sister-in-law finds lemon tarts irresistible- and I had decided then itself, that for her birthday, I am going to try these. I started the research for the right recipe almost a week back- As simple as they may seem, I figured that this was going to be a lengthy process and one that would need precision. Luckily, it was a Saturday- and with no prior commitments until 4 pm- I decided to embark on the Classic French Tart journey.
It was one of discovery, learning, and of course some disappointments on the way. I am moderately happy with the results and I know that the next time around when I bake these again- I have to achieve perfection.  The error was in the baking time- I left them in the oven for almost 5 extra minutes- and by the time they cooled, they developed slight cracks. While baking I remembered a friend M discussing with me the other day- that it was easy to adapt a recipe- but it is quite challenging to follow it to the T and achieve desired results. I guess that is true for most baking. Even though my Sister-in-Law is far away, we honoured the traditional cutting ceremony- through the world of modern technology. The audience was happy with results- I believe I got the flavours right. By the time the birthday girl is here next- I hope to have perfected these. For those who love classic tarts, do try this one from the renowned Raymond Blanc recipe here.  A great summery birthday treat.

p.s. Since it was a trial, I only made half the quantity.

For the recipe, Visit the website here.
Tips: Do follow the techniques to the T. Take out the tarts from the oven, before they are done.
I did not use a blender at all- I think that really works.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tiramisu Cake

In the last few months, I have learnt to appreciate everything in my life a lot more. It's not that I didn't earlier; it is just that I am more aware of it, and also recognize the little bits more often.
                       From life, health, friends to family, work and even the basics around me, I am glad to have each of these in my life- in all forms. Most often, we never appreciate the things around us- and so I thought of baking something special for each of the immediate family members, to express my gratitude to them and thank them for being there, always. I got the idea a bit late in March with my brother’s birthday (find the cake here) , and I ended up missing 2 very important birthdays earlier this year in January and February of 2 of the best kids that I have known. To compensate, I will be baking some of their favourites when I see them later this year.
                 Coming back to the present, after the teeny disaster of my mom’s birthday cheesecake (more information here), I decided to play it extra safe, and invest some more effort later in the same week for my parents’ anniversary cake.  Although my brother rightly pointed out our feelings of gratitude towards them- something to the effect of how we have always got things served in a silver platter, and we can only begin with a stainless steel one, for me, I don’t think I will able to put it down in any number of words. Apart from the many things that I’m glad for, I think the one thing that I appreciate each day, and more as I grow older, is the flexibility and the freedom that our parents encouraged us with to go out there, discover who we are and expose ourselves to the Big, bad world. So what if we made/make the mistakes, they were always there to support us. If it wasn't for their undoubted faith in me, I wouldn't have had the experiences that I did, and I don’t think I would be the person I am. Even when we have lacked the confidence, our parents have shown more than a 100% confidence in the both of us. And this is true till date. So, thank you. This one is especially for you.
                 Back to the anniversary, Since both of them love the little alcohol in their desserts and chocolates, I decided to bake a tiramisu flavoured cake for them. I baked the cakes using my 2 new layered cake pans the night before (yes, I am showing off- I can’t believe my baking collection is building up so fast), and decided to do the frosting the next day morning. The cake has a hint of the tiramisu flavour- for kids; one can skip the coffee and the liqueur. For adults, who appreciate the alcohol a bit more, double the quantity of the liqueur. A simple frosting cake- perfect for occasions. Do try.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Eggless Mango Oreo Cheesecake (or Strawberry)

Do you believe in Signs?
I do. I try not to – but somehow always end up reading moments, songs, and people, as signs of something related to me or my life. I try really hard- but inevitably, something will make me feel that this is that power up there’s way of showing me something- as if someone is trying to tell me something and I must not be naïve, and just get it!

So today morning, when I checked my mail, 3 of the many food bloggers who I follow regularly, had posted about imperfections.

How ironic! This was a sign for me. And this sign comes in the morning after a big disaster in my own kitchen- I dropped a cake dish with a set biscuit base for the cheesecake that I was making for my mom’s birthday yesterday. I was halfway through taking photographs, it was the perfect dish (which I absolutely love), and just the right size- and guess what? While taking it out of the freezer, the usually not so clumsy, ol’ me dropped it. It was truly heart-breaking, just about 4 hours before we had to leave. The filling was about to set, and so, I instantly dropped the idea of making the cake, and called up Ak to buy one instead. Birthdays are just not complete without cakes. And this happened just after I had decided, that I will bake a cake for every single member in our family, no matter what part of the world they are in. (the first in the series is here). There goes my plan.

Anyhow, so while Ak was given the task of getting an eggless cake to compensate for my strawberry cheesecake, I embarked upon the task of rescue. The filling was due to set anytime soon- so I had no time to set another biscuit base. Ak, in his effort to cheer me up decided that he wanted some mini cheesecake shots with an oreo base. That was simple. I made a couple with a digestive biscuit base for my dad, and finally used up the rest as a mousse’ish filling set in ramekins. Turns out, it wasn’t so bad after all, as we all got manageable breakfast dessert.

Of course, imperfections and disasters happen all the time in our kitchen- and they definitely happen a lot in mine. Most often, the rescue task is not even accounted for- but on these moments, I often read it as a bad sign, finding it hard to see the positive. It is only later in the evening, when the mothers proclaimed that breaking a dish on a birthday is supposedly a good sign, and then the posts today morning made me realise something I had been failing to acknowledge- As much as I believe that I give up on failure, Picking up pieces and crafting the best out of what is left is not so much a turmoil after all, leaving me often with a pleasant consequence. I just need to remember that more often.

I had recently made a mango cheesecake for a dinner at home, which was lying in my drafts ready to be posted. I had been caught up with work and had been unable to post it. With the mango cheesecake, I used oreo cookies to heighten the contrast. Both the mango cheesecake and this ‘to be strawberry cheesecake’ were to be separate posts- but in this utter mess of cheesecakes, I am posting them together. For everyone reading this, do try the cheesecake for an egg-less celebration or a light, fruity summer dessert. And for those, out there like me, in case you end up with a broken cheesecake crust, do compensate for the imperfections in your life, with these mini strawberry cheesecake shots.

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