Sunday, June 10, 2018

Gianduja Gelato

I'd like to think my palate has evolved enough to allow ice cream jostle and vie for a place that has long been occupied by cake (ok, chocolate cake). Chocolate ice cream and its variations only seemed an organic offshoot of that happy decision.

And thus, Gianduja gelato. Gianduja (pronounced giyandooyah) is this magical concoction of chocolate and ground hazelnuts, of Italian origin and the best(est) tasting cousin of the famous Nutella. Naturally, it had me at 'hazlenut and chocolate'. The texture is ultra smooth and not overly sweet. I have only tasted it at Fenocchio, the famous Glaçier in Nice, France, and while some of you may argue it isn't exactly what they serve in Turin, Italy, it did get me intrigued and hooked enough to eat it every single day of my stay there. 

I am no longer in Nice, France, nor am I in Turin, Italy. But I am thankfully with access to David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop that has the same dazzling flavor. And I went the whole 9 yards by making the waffle cones AND the super addictive magic shell! (That shell is da bomb! Just two ingredients, but the transformation it has when poured over the ice cream is beyond amazing)

So without further ado, here's the ice cream that has us swooning and having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Heavy cream 2 cups (500 ml)
Whole milk 1 cup (250 ml)
Sugar 1/2 cup
Vanilla extract 1/8 teaspoon
Salt 1/4 teaspoon
4 yolks
Toasted and skinned hazelnuts 185g
Milk Chocolate, chopped  115 g

-Process the hazelnuts in the food processor till it starts to become a paste. 
-Heat a cup of the cream in a saucepan until it just begins to boil. Once warm, remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Mix it with a spoon till it has melted completely and is smooth.
-Heat milk, remaining cream, sugar (all but 3 tablespoons) and salt in a thick bottomed saucepan. Once it is warm to touch, add the hazelnut purée and mix it in. Turn off the flame and leave it steep for an hour at least.
-Here again I deviate from the original recipe: I used a powerful stick blender and blended the milk/hazelnut mixture for 2 minutes: the result is a super creamy and flavourful mixture. The original recipe says that you strain the mixture with a strainer.

-Prepare an ice bath.
-Heat the hazelnut/milk mixture again on a low flame.u
-Whisk by hand the yolks and the remaining sugar in a bowl till pale in color.
-Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the warm hazelnut mixture into the yolks mixture in a steady drizzle while steadily whisking with the other hand (this is to temper the yolks; so that the yolks don't scramble on contact with heat).
-Pour the entire contents of the bowl into the saucepan over the heat and keep whisking. Continue cooking the mixture till it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
-Pour the custard through a strainer and stir in the melted chocolate. Add the vanilla and stir. Place over an ice bath and let it come to room temperature. 
-Chill the mixture in the fridge for 8 hours and then freeze it in your ice cream maker according the manufacturer's instructions.

-The original recipe calls for milk chocolate but I happened to have and thus use good quality dark chocolate from France and it made a world of a difference. In any case, use good quality chocolate. 
-The original recipe also calls for 5 yolks, but I only used 4.
As David himself recommends, I added a a good drizzle of melted dark chocolate to the ice cream during the last minute of churning. That extra step ensured that I have extra chocolate shards to bite into and the contrast in textures is amazing.

Magic shell

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats
Dark chocolate, chopped 125g
Coconut oil 50g

Heat the chopped chocolate in a double boiler. Add the coconut oil and stir to get a smooth mixture. And voilà! Store in an container in room temperature. For best results, let your dip harden on ice cream for 30 seconds before digging in. You'll know it's ready when the surface turns from glossy to completely matte and a light tap with a spoon gives you a knocking sound.

Waffle cone 

I make my waffle cones in this nifty contraption that I got from the US (Please make note that there is a non-compatibility with regard to the voltage/plug point, I made alternate arrangements to make it work for me). Needless to say, it is a priceless addition to my pantry and lets us don our self-appointed titles of ice cream connoiseurs with panache.

2 large egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons melted butter

In a small bowl stir together the egg whites, sugar and vanilla. Add the salt and half the flour, stir, then stir in the melted butter. Beat in the remaining flour until the batter is smooth. Make waffle cones as per manufacturer's instructions. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bekal, baby and back to blogging after a break

We have been MIA for a while now, all is well (it couldn’t have been better), just a few changes on the personal front. A baby joined the ranks 2 years ago, the pooch is still crazy and we are now calling Bangalore home. Apart from that, the baking and the cooking continues, though with a slightly more pronounced inclination towards ice-creams, chocolate cakes and a bolder foray into different types of cuisine. As is usual in our type of situations, finding time to sit down and blog in the midst of the chaos we call home is a tad unrealistic. But that said, the drive still remains (hence this post). 

We made time and a whole lot of stars align in our favour and take a break from the said chaos and headed to the sunny, beachside town of Bekal, in Kasargod, north Kerala. Kerala shares a border with Karnataka in the north and Mangalore is the closest airport. Bekal is an hour and thirty minute drive away from Mangalore airport. This idyllic town is famous for the Bekal fort and its scenic beauty. Picture a coastline that stretches as far as you can see and colourful painted fishing boats right out of a movie anchored on the beach. Needless to say, a haven of photo opps. 

The largest fort in Kerala, the Bekal fort is also located here. Enormous and with almost three fourths of its exterior being drenched by waves that continually play tag with it, it is a must-visit when visiting. The observation point in the fort offers a panoramic view of other towns in the vicinity. During the monsoon, the entire property including the walls and ramparts are covered in lush green moss and dew and and looks magical. (For reference, the song Uyire from the movie Bombay was shot here.) During the rest of the year, the laterite soil and the exposed  brick lend a different aesthetic to the fort.

It was going to be a short 3 day get-away and we couldn’t have made a better choice with the Taj Bekal Resort and Spa.

This property is like a well-kept secret, it's so far removed from the usual equation of open spaces, green cover and great food. The Taj Bekal Resort & Spa is much more than that. To say that the place oozes and drips luxury, but with a characteristically Taj vibe is an understatement. 


We must address the elephant in the room. Kerala, infamously, has only two seasons, the beautiful monsoon, and the humid, tortuous summer. The monsoon lasts 2 months and the rest of the year, well, is maths a child can do. We went in May, when summer is at its infuriating peak, BUT, I didn’t mind it one bit! I’m guessing the expansive green cover all over the property  has something to do with this magic. Thank you for the foresight and the execution of all that meticulous green cover planning, Taj!

The ecosystems that co-exist harmoniously make sure that birding will be a rewarding activity. The city boy had so much fun returning bird calls, it felt almost cruel to bring him back home.

First off, the picturesque environs. The resort is set in a lush green, immaculately maintained 26 acre property that rightly boasts of the confluence of beautiful backwaters and the Arabian Sea. That in itself is a marvellous holiday spot in itself for me, I mean, imagine, all that expanse of green foliage, interspersed with the gently rippled water of the backwaters and on the horizon, the point where the magnificent ocean meets the backwater. Unreal on paper, but so so real, and no pinch of salt too! The Kaapil beach is literally a few minutes away from the hotel lobby, within the hotel premises, so its thoughtfully equipped with beach chairs, beach umbrellas, fresh towels, water bottles (a God sent) and the rinse-off showers as well! 

Their rooms and villas are inspired by the design of Ketuvallam houseboats, and emanate a clean, sophisticated feel with their unique room décor, be it the earthy Chitra Pothi-style painting on the wall or the intricate jaali woodwork doors (They will actually leave you spellbound). The amenities are state of the art (as is to be expected), and I have always loved the Forest Essentials range of toiletries that the Taj offers. 

The 24 hour dining, Multi-cuisine restaurant Backwater Café offers a buffet breakfast every day, and buffet dinners as well during the weekends (depending on occupancy). Their spicy karuveppellai chemmen fry, fish moilee and the Syrian Fish biriyani are on the must-try list. The other restaurant, By the Bay, situated by the beach, is their signature seafood restaurant. The restaurant offers delicious seafood fare and to devour the same listening to the acoustic delights of the ocean waves is an experience like no other.

The private plunge pool was one of our highlights, considering we have a water baby who would rather be in water than on land, anytime of the day. The ornate outdoor bathtub and the gorgeous double swing add oodles of oomph to the aesthetics.
The Jiva spa is the other highlight of the resort. With Ayurveda and therapies as old as time itself as the cornerstones, the Jiva spa offers not just massages and manicures, but wellness and healing therapies. Yoga sessions happen every morning and those with the inclination can also choose to indulge in beauty rituals. 

The inimitable stamp of Taj hospitality and personalised care is intact here as well, and for folks traveling with toddlers, that is a HUGE plus. They are thoughtful, accommodating and go out of their way to make us, especially the toddler, happy. In fact, that is one the main points that stood out for us during the stay there. The Taj Bekal is extremely, amazingly child-friendly! The well equipped crèche with a small outdoor play area and the modestly utilitarian Activity room are just two of the thoughtful offerings. Multitudes of activities for kids are planned through the day and the schedule keeps changing, and the activities range from Dumb charades to painting. The sheer number of families that were staying at the resort was a testimony to this.


Cycles are provided to run amok in the sprawling property, kayaks are offered along with rafts that take you for a cruise on the backwaters, right up till where the backwater meets the ocean. They also offer moonlight cruises on the backwaters. Dreamy, right?

I for one, know where to head to the next time I want to sit back on a double swing with a view and get lost in the tranquility and serenity of nature. 

P.S: This is not a sponsored post (though i wish it were :P). It is purely a reflection of my experience.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Almond Hazelnut Dacquoise Cake

It was our anniversary and what is a celebration without a home baked cake? In all honesty, i was looking for another reason to indulge my sweet tooth and challenge myself at the same time. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the regular cakes and bakes, but something challenging is always fun for me. So i set out with a recipe i had bookmarked a while back - the french classic, the dacquoise cake. I ended up baking an Almond Hazelnut Dacquoise Cake with a chocolate mousse and ganache filling, and topped it off with more ganache. I also did a few spun sugar elements to top the cake. The whole process will take a while, so i had spread out the elements over the weekend, thus making it not-as-labor-intensive. But the end result bowled me over and i'm already looking for an occasion that'll justify this yummy dessert.

The dacquoise is a meringue based French dessert, it is exquisite and is different from the conventional soft, spongy cake. The different elements add depth to this masterpiece. The elements can be made upto 2 days ahead so that it is not too much strain on a single day and assembled on the day of serving.
P.S: The recipe has been adapted from here with changes made to different components.

1) Dacquoise layers:
¾ cup almond toasted
¼ cup hazelnuts toasted
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites (room temp)
Procedure: Preheat oven to 120 C. Using ruler and pencil, draw 13 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle on piece of parchment paper. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it, ink side down.
Process almonds, hazelnuts, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until nuts are finely ground. Add 1/2 cup sugar and pulse to combine.
Using a mixer, whisk egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds. With mixer running at medium-high speed, slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to whip until glossy, stiff peaks form. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 2 batches. With offset spatula, spread meringue evenly onto the parchment, using lines on parchment as guide. Bake for 1.5 hours. Turn off oven and allow meringue to cool.
(Do not open oven during baking and cooling. Cooled meringue can be kept at room temperature, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days)

2) Chocolate mousse:
170 g Semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons Butter
1 cup Cold Heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon Pure vanilla extract
Procedure: Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Continue to stir and once melted, let it cool to room temperature
Meanwhile whip the cold whipping cream in a bowl.
Whip till you get soft peaks using hand mixer or stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract.
Add a third of whipped cream to the cooled chocolate mixture and fold it in gently.
Continue with the remaining cream and fold. It will be airy in texture. Keep refrigerated till serving.

3)  Ganache:
200 g Chopped Dark chooclate
200 g Fresh cream
Heat the cream in double boiler till it gets hot and starts to form little bubbles on the edges. Add the chopped chocolate and stir it into the cream as it melts. Take off the double boiler and let it cool to room temperature.

4) Spun sugar (Optional):
¼ cup sugar
½ tablespoon water
Place a silpat on the workspace.
Heat the sugar and the water in a thick, wide bottomed saucepan. As it starts to caramelize, swirl it around, till it turns a dark amber in color. Take off the flame and once the sugar starts to cool,  using a fork, dip into the sugar and twirl patterns onto the silpat. Once it starts to cool, form shapes and set aside in an airtight box.

Carefully invert meringue and peel off parchment. Re-invert meringue and place on cutting board. Using serrated knife and gentle, repeated scoring motion, trim edges of meringue to form 12 by 10-inch rectangle. Discard trimmings. With long side of rectangle parallel to counter, use ruler to mark both long edges of meringue at 3-inch intervals. Using serrated knife, score surface of meringue by drawing knife toward you from mark on top edge to corresponding mark on bottom edge. Repeat scoring until meringue is fully cut through. Repeat until you have four 10 by 3-inch rectangles. (If any meringues break during cutting, use them as middle layers.)
Place 3 rectangles on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Using offset spatula, spread 1/4 cup ganache evenly over surface of each meringue. Refrigerate until ganache is firm, about 15 minutes. Set aside remaining ganache.

Using an offset spatula, spread top of remaining rectangle with 1/2 cup mousse; place on wire rack with ganache-coated meringues. Invert 1 ganache-coated meringue, place on top of mousse, and press gently to level. Repeat, spreading meringue with 1/2 cup mousse and topping with inverted ganache-coated meringue. Spread top with mousse. Invert final ganache-coated strip on top of cake. Use 1 hand to steady top of cake and remaining mousse to lightly coat sides of cake and to coat top of cake. Smooth until cake resembles box. Refrigerate until it firms, about 2 hours.
Final ganache layer: Make sure the ganache is fluid and of pouring consistency. Keeping assembled cake on wire rack, pour ganache over top of cake. Using offset spatula, spread ganache in thin, even layer over top of cake, letting excess drip down sides. Spread ganache over sides in thin layer
Holding bottom of cake with one hand, gently press almonds onto sides with other hand. Chill on wire rack, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours. Transfer to platter. Garnish with spun sugar and almond flakes. Cut into slices with sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each slice. Serve and enjoy! Bon appétit! :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Thenga paalu meenu curry / Fish curry in coconut milk

 We are back with a recipe after what feels like eons, and here's hoping the next one will not be after eons.

Fish and seafood play a vital role in our meals. This below recipe is a close cousin, if not a replica of the classic, the fish moilee, i do not knowthe connoisseurs could chime in here. In any case, this dish was born one fine day when we happened to have coconut milk, fresh fish and tomatoes handy, in additon to the other staples. It can be done in a jiffy, and is an excellent accompaniment for chapathis.

You will need:
-1/2 kg sliced sear fish
-2 medium sized onions
-2 medium sized tomatoes
-5 green chillis
- 1 teaspoon mustard
-1.5 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
-1/2 teaspoon turmeric
-1.5 teaspoon ground pepper
-2 stalks curry leaves
-juice from half a lemon
-1.25 cups randaam paal (coconut milk diluted a wee bit)
-salt to taste

For the marinade:
-1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
-1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
-salt to taste

-Marinate the fish in the ingrediens for marinade (turmeric, chilli and salt). Shallow fry halfway through and keep aside.

-Heat mannu chatti with oil, sputter the mustard, curry leaves and add onions, ginger and green chillis. Saute till onions turn translucent and then add tomatoes, Saute for another 5 minutes.

-Add pepper, turmeric and lemon juice and cook for 3 minutes.

- Reduce heat, add half a cup of water and stir it in. After a minute, add the coconut milk. Let it simmer for couple of minutes.

-Add the fish and let it simmer for five minutes or till just cooked.

-Serve piping hot and enjoy!

P.S: Garnish with thick coconut milk and curry leaves before serving for added flavor and visuals

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunset Grill, Westin, Chennai

We recently visited the latest offering at Westin, the Sunset Grill, and boy, was it an experience. Situated on the rooftop, it offers a sweeping view of the Chennai skyline and a good breeze to accompany the cozy dinner or an elaborate group affair. Being an open space, rains are a foreseeable threat, however it did not rain the night we were there; and instead, the excellent sea breeze accompanied a memorable dinner with eclectic music, a no-frills ambiance, delicious food and hospitable service. The Executive chef was kind enough to join us and offer his delightful company; he took us through the elaborate meal and explained the thought and insight behind every dish.

The food is, as the name suggests, a good mix of grills and on the outset, will certainly do any meat lover proud. Don't get me wrong, the vegetarian options are quite the sizzle too, but if you have a meat lover in your circle, then Sunset grill will not disappoint.
Cooked to order in the open kitchen in vicinity of the restaurant, not only does the chef take pride in the freshness of the meals he dishes out, but also the breads that are served along side the meal. These breads, including focaccia and assorted buns are freshly baked in their oven. This ensures the freshest, tastiest  loaves to accompany the rest of the meal. Needless to say, we were impressed!

Moving onto the meal, their peri peri prawns and boti talwar lamb kebab in the appetizers section are dishes to look out for. The peri peri prawns are juicy and the peri peri rub lends a flavor unlike any other. They have an eternal fan in me with their bharawan e khumb, it is a mushroom dish, stuffed with cheese and spices, and cooked in the tandoor.  The boti talwar kebab was an instant hit, tender and moist, seeing as it is baby lamb legs in spiced yogurt and cooked in a clay oven to retain all the flavorThe other veg dish of note was the lahori paneer tikka, the freshest and softest paneer with a hint of  spices and again, cooked in a clay oven. They were succulent and left us asking for more. The murg hawa mahal, coated in egg white and cooked in the clay oven was a different take on chicken, and was alright. Frankly, we were too busy with the lamb, mushroom and prawns to notice anything else! The ocean crumbed calamari was served with a garlic aioli and it would have tasted best if we had eaten it as soon as they brought it to the table - the constant breeze cools the food in a jiffy.

They take their salads seriously, with a short but interesting range, they are fancy and leave a refreshing hit. The mesclun with feta and orange segments was the favorite of the day, and the insalata parmigiano e limone came a close second - it is a vegetarian ceaser salad with parmesan dressing, a garlic baguette and arancini. Wholesome, light and refreshing! The tuna nicoise looked fascinating too, but we were ready to move onto the mains.

The mains blew us away with the Sunset grill signature dish, the Slow roasted spiced pork belly - it is a thyme, coriander, fennel and demerara sugar rubbed juicy belly ensconced in the crispiest crackling that just snaps and cracks with the knife passes through it. A delight to the senses, it is by far the best belly eaten here in Chennai.

The tenderloin steak is commendable, served on a bed of mash, the lamb chops knocked it out of the park, as did the jumbo prawns. The other main dish worthy of mention is the Norwegian Salmon. A point of mention at the Sunset Grill is, the quantity per portion. The Salmon weighing in at 10 oz. is a meal in itself. Fresh Salmon with crisped skin and served with a side of sauteed veggies, the meat, though a little overcooked was delicious.

As always, all's well that ends well, and so was the case here at the Sunset Grill as well - the desserts of course! The New York Cheesecake did not disappoint, and the Tiramisu was a crowd pleaser as well. The best dessert though, was the baked yogurt with a berry compote.

We are looking forward to the next visit, and can't wait to find out how they have maintained the initial standards. They are generous with the portioning and flavors, and that makes it easier on the conscience to order that extra jumbo prawn main course dish.

P.S: The food portions featured in the pictures were tailored for the photography and not the regular servings.