I write from Paradise. There’s no other word that describes the feeling of being amid lush green nature in the heart of throbbing, cacophonic Manhattan. And even more tempting in the “Big apple” is the gourmet picnic fare that seduces with it’s masterful flavors and tastes. Each dish unerringly made by the brilliant and exceptionally gifted chef Ashfer Biju.
I love picnics and ever since my childhood have gone on one at the drop of a hat. But this is my most spectacular and memorable picnic ever. Interestingly, picnics have been a part of history and art and literature too. Did you know that in 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France? This was to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. Even here, in the United States, the 4 July celebrate American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday. The energy and abundance of nature infuses itself into the food and whoa! What amazing chemistry takes place. And when there is a maestro orchestrating the goodies in the picnic basket then even more magic happens.
BIJUS BEJEWELLED BREAKFAST
Kudos to Ashfer Biju, this young Indian chef who has captivated the highly sophisticated tastebuds of New Yorkers. Ofcourse, he has gourmet genes: his father had a highly popular restaurant in Hyderabad still runs a super restaurant in Malaysia and chef Biju started cooking in his teens.
Not only did this young Executive chef start off by wining the National Level Young Chef’s Competition, in Mauritius but has continued to be showered by accolades and awards. Nationally and internationally. Having worked in many a Leading Hotel of the world he now heads up the iconic Pierre hotel. Here elegant history and glamor tango with modern high-tech luxury. Not only has it played host to royalty and state heads but many a Hollywood star like Elizabeth Taylor have made it their home for several years. It is here in their cutting edge TwoE that he has introduced many an amazing flavor palatte. Two e goes classic, Classic reinterpreted and many such spectacular dishes blitz the tastebuds here. And chef Michael Mignano’s dessert menu also dazzles, with it’s sorbet samplers and more. Interestingly, Pierre also offers Mediterranean vegetable-based dishes, Indian vegetarian, vegan Halal, gluten-free and Kosher meals too.
Through the various menus this brilliant young chef’s passion for traveling and exploring different ethnic cultures, cuisines and people shines through.
His interest in Ayurveda and Medicinal Cooking keeps him evolving amazing recipes too.
Chef Biju has an impressive roster of international work, from Kreo-Asian Food Promotion at Hotel Palace, Luzern to
training at “Claridges Hotel”
“Mosimann’s Club” London.
Chef Biju’s culinary training is rooted in the French and Basque regions. Interestingly, The Pierre has a huge and impressive culinary history. It opened in 1930 serving food in the classic French style, initiated by celebrated Master Chef Escoffier who developed the original menus. That tradition continues. And Chef Biju brings to the table amazing and dazzling flavors and textures. Our picninc basket too overflows with tasty magic…I request for the recipe of the superb buttermilk pancakes and end with the wish “Ma your life be a picnic always”.
Silver Dollar Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes 25 tiny pancakes (the size of silver dollars)
2 cups refined flour sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 ea large eggs yolks & whites separated
2 tbl sp powdered sugar
2 tsp melted butter
¼ tsp icing sugar for garnish
10 ea strawberries for garnish
1 cup maple syrup as accompaniment
1 cup chocolate chips optional
1 cup blue berries optional
Method of preparation:
- Pre-heat a griddle or a non stick pan to medium high heat, lightly smear with oil (or use pan spray) and wipe off completely. There should not be any residual oil on the pan, but for a light coating
- Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a mixing bowl
- Mix egg yolks and buttermilk together in a separate bowl
- Prepare a soft meringue by beating egg whites and adding sugar gradually
- Combine all three mixtures in a large mixing bowl ensuring the mixture is homogeneous using a spatula or a paddle, Do not over mix
- Add melted butter to the batter
- Pour the batter on to pre-heated griddle (approximately a table spoon full for each pancake)
- To prepare chocolate chip or blueberry pancake, gently place some toppings on to wet pancake top at this stage
- Once the pancake starts to bubble on top, turn and cook the other side for about a minute
- Remove the pancakes from the pan, dust with icing sugar, Serve hot with maple syrup and strawberries
It is right here, on the patio, overlooking Rodeo Drive, (the glamor boulevard to the world) that, over the years, Ive met Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor, Gulshan Grover and Preity Zinta. Today, right here, I not only photograph three superstars of the hospitality world and my favorite French masterpiece of texture and flavor, Chicken Liver parfait, but also send you it’s recipe. This from the creative maestro Chef Thomas Bellec from the ultimate winner of a symbol of Hollywood highlife and dining. As they say, if its Hollywood, its got to be the “Pretty woman hotel” (the movie was shot here) Beverly Wilshire where eight decades of Hollywood history distils itself. Every sexy, sleek square inch here bristles with style and star power. It preens itself on the glamor boulevard of the world, the Rodeo drive. Hermes (creator of the Kelly bag) and Ferragamo (inventor of the Platform shoe) share the Rodeo drive with the glamorously elegant Beverly Wilshire. It is here that the prestigious and high profile Princess Grace of Monaco gala, Ferrari s 60 th Anniversary was just celebrated. It is here that Warren Beatty lived for fifteen years. As did Elvis Presley.
It is here, in the legendary Beverly Wilshire, that the high priest of American chefs Wolfgang Puck’s cutting edge steakhouse has won many awards.It is here that French chef Thomas Bellec’s brilliance at sourcing local foods and incorporating unique flavors into his classic French training shines through. He distils the world on our plates. The multi-talented Chef Bellec hails from Brittany, painstakingly and brilliant makes his own Charcuterie (has even introduced a charcuterie and beer night.) His menu at BLVD ( voted top “Power Tables” … Wall Street Journal) is in great demand. Having reigned supreme over Los Angeles, Chef Bellec is determined to put Beverly Wilshire on the world gourmet map too. Spearheading this legendary landmark (and three other hotels too) is the dapper, well-traveled gourmet, Benn Trodd. Having completed his post graduation from London and led many a hotel to win awards, he is injecting energy and youth in this legendary landmark.
Also with us today is writer, communicator par excellence, Vogue fashion network, blogger styleguru, the very lovely, Carrie Mitchell who along with Ben Trodd sits on the Board of directors of Rodeo drive.
Together the trio ensure that luxury drips in every practical detail and human warmth marks every hi-tech comfort. From the Ferragamo amenities to Fine foods to gliding in a sleek Silver Ghost Rolls Royce (“courtesy” car to all their guests to go within a 3 mile radius of the hotel) is a routine part of the stay here.Beverly Wilshire makes it a habit to make each one feel like a star. Therein lies it’s magic.
CHEF BELLEC’S PERFECT PARFAIT
Yields 4 portions
1 lb chicken livers, cleaned
Marinate with port wine (1 cup), 1 peeled halves shallot, peeled garlic clove, sprig of parsley, 1 whole juniper berry overnight.
Drain livers. Make sure the sauté pans are scorching hot. Saute livers, giving a hard sear (including all garnish). Pour livers into a bowl. Deglaze hot pans with brandy.
Blend livers in a food processor (robot coupe) until smooth.
Pass through a strainer.Season with salt, black pepper.
Add 1 whole egg, ½ yolk and 2 tsp heavy cream.
Finish with ground nutmeg, ground clove, raw brandy (splash). Check seasoning.
Pour into mason jars, ½ full. bake in a bain marie (water bath) in a 300 F oven for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool at room temp. Serve with baguette croutons.
It doesn’t get any better than this. I’m getting a taste of the most sublime “lemon tart” which is made to the same recipe for the past many centuries and I am doing so on the worlds beautiful city’s most beautiful terrace. And it is acknowledged to be so even by the perfectionist Parisians. It has a 360 degree panoramic view of Paris and it has the city’s landmarks within kissing distance of each other. Please take a look at the photograph and you’ll see the terrace we are on, you’ll see the Eiffel tower right there, what you cannot see in this photograph is the other landmark of Paris, The Arc de Triomph (which is also within kissing distance.) This picturesque terrace is not only located between historic landmarks but also crowns one of the city’s most loved iconic landmarks, Hotel Raphael. Did I begin this paragraph by saying “it doesn’t get any better than this”? It does. Because with me is the fourth generation owner of the Raphael, the charming, well-travelled, dynamic Veronique Valcke
Baverez. Her family Baverez, since 1898 has been dotting the city of Paris with historic landmarks, Regina, Majestic and ofcourse Raphael.I not only get a first hand account of the history of Paris and Raphael but also the recipe of the most sublime”Lemon tart” . Every last detail (from the cuisine to the plants on this terrace) is overseen by Veronique and her mother. “My mother loves roses” points out Veronique as we inhale their fragrance and are surrounded by more than 100 kinds of flowers,. lavender, Japanese apple trees, Box trees. We sit under a snow white linen umbrella, the terrace has a refined floral atmosphere in a Belle Epoque style and right next to us is the giant marble chess board, a tribute to the founder Leonard Tauber, also the cofounder of the chess club of France.
Movie buffs will instantly recognize the Raphael, because not only have many a super hit film (Love in Paris, Place Vendome been filmed here but many a film star has stayed here.) And this includes legends like Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Kylie Minogue.Statesmen, political leaders, academics, film directors, actors, writers have favoured The Raphael over all other hotels.
It’s not just the movie world, even the art world has been dazzled by the collection of original masterpieces here. These are normally housed in museums but find place of pride in The Rapahel. From masterpieces by Turner to those by Classical artists…Raphael is a mini-museum. It even has origianl louis xv and xvi pieces of furniture, sofas, table et al. The young patisseur Nina metayer bakes to the time tested recipes of centuries, Thomas Chagray cooks to classical ones too. Overseeing it all, is the vivacious Veronique who ensures that every last detail is a masterpiece. Like the Lemon Tart (whose recipe follows).
P.S. Interestingly, the plot to eliminate a dictator was hatched in The Raphael and the conspirators were known as Raphaelites. I didn’t take part in any such conspiracy, but Ive succumbed to the Raphael magic and am also happy to be known as a Raphaelite.
- butter 300g
- icingsugar 190g
- almondpowder 60g
- salt 1g
- eggs 113g
- Vanillapowder 2g
- Flour 500g
In the butter, icingsugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla powder and flour.incorporate the eggs. obtain a homogeneous dough, keep in the fridge. Roll out the dough to 3 mm thick and place in the tart moulds about 1.5cm high on 7.5 cm diameter each. Bake at 170°C
- Sugar 480g
- eggs 500g
- Butter 400g
- Gélatine 3 leaves
- Lemon zest 10 units
- Lemon juice 10 units
Combine in a big pot lemon zest ( grate the skin) and juice. Place the gelatine leaves in very cold water.. Mix it all, slowly little by little with a spatula. Keep in fridge. When its cold put the lemon curd into the pastry shell.
lime meringue :
- Eggs white 200g
- Sugar 100g
- Lime zest 2 units
Whisk the eggwhites, add the sugar, add the lime zest more delicately with aspatula.Garnish the lemon tart with a piping bag. Bake for a few seconds in the ovenjust for a little color
Here it is. The best inheritance we can ever receive. The legacy of legacies…the passing on of recipes and cooking styles from an older generation to the younger one. Each time I conduct my “Whats hot” tasting session in Chennai, I get even more delighted by the keen interest in cooking and baking here. Especially in all generations. And more often than not this transgenerational transfer of recipes happens from mother to daughter. Twenty six year old talented and hardworking Nahla Fathima not learnt baking from her gifted mother Amira Kalifulla but also from her mother’s equally talented sister Yasmin. “I have been baking as a kid, thanks to my mother and aunts who sparked this interest in me, and were also the cause of my sweet tooth” Nahla explains. She used to bake cakes for mostly family parties and special occassions at home. Since then, Nahla has been taking orders for customized cakes, theme based cakes and cupcakes. She set up H H Gourmet cakes and cupcakes and in September 2013, put up a Facebook page too. She joined the Home Bakers Guild Festive show case too. Her customized cakes are fondant based but she also does special buttercream frosting. What is particularly commendable is that she makes it all at home and uses only the freshest and finest ingredients.
Nahla started with the classic chocolate cake that uses melted liquid chocolate rather than cocoa powder. Initially, it was buttercream and freshcream cakes, but now her specialisation is themed and customised fondant cakes, although her clients do call her for buttercream cakes which she still does. she use french and swiss meringue buttercream which isnt like the popular and easier American buttercream available in all the bakeries.
Nahla is quick to point out “As I am a homebaker, it is mostly a one-man show, so I take only limited orders and well in advance. Especially for fondant cakes”. Nahla is happy to customise and cakes and make them as elaborately as possible usually with the client’s own reference picture. Another popular theme right now is the 2 or 3 tiered cake, especially for 1st bday parties, weddings as they rightly steal the show and look quite magnificent when placed at the venue with the themed set up. So it is Nahla’s two tiered cakes that are mostly in demand right now. Animal shapes, Barbie dalls, cars…you name it, Nahla will create it.
NUTRITIOUS & DELICIOUS
“The recipe i am sharing with you is a Banana Cake recipe, which is one that
i do frequently as a way to get my son to eat the fruit and also to use up those overipe bananas which no one wants to eat”. Nahla points out. The cake is not very sweet as most of the sweetness comes from the fruit. It also has all the healthful properties of the fruit.
The recipe is versatile as it lends to being made a pound cake, cupcakes, loaves or even as cake layers for stacking.
Butter – ¾ cup
Sugar – 11/4 cup
Eggs – 3
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Bananas Overipe – 4
Flour – 3 cups
Baking soda, Baking powder – 1 tsp each
Salt – ½ tsp
Cinnamon – 1 tsp
Buttermilk – 1 cup ( 1 cup milk with 1 tbsp vinegar )
Sour cream – ¼ cup
Preheat oven to 180 C. Line 2 9” pans.
Cream the butter. Add sugar to creamed butter. Mix until smooth.
To this add the eggs 1 at a time until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and bananas to this mixture.
In another bowl, sieve the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
In a third bowl, mix together the buttermilk and the sour cream.
Now, add the dry and wet ingredients alternatively.
Pour into lined pans and bake for 30 – 40 mins until springy to touch.
Do you work out of home? Would you like to be featured here?
Are you a home baker? Home chef? Please email (Rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com, Anjalisharma965@gmail.com) FB, instagram, tweet @rashmiudaysingh your contact details and the work you do and we will revert to you asap. We will conduct a “Whatshottasting session and invite you to it. Look forward to hearing from you and featuring you here…
You can imagine my delight at finding authentic homestyle Gujarati food in Chennai when all my life Ive been penning love letters to it.And whats more Geetha Mehta, is also well-known for rolling out and neatly packing 1,000 Roti’s & Pickles & Parathas (theplas) for students going abroad. These have a shelf life for a year, are cholesterol-free and yummy too.As though all this wasn’t enough to endear her to me, she also conducts cooking classes.
But first, heres an example of my open love letter to Gujarati food:
“Hu tane prem karu chhu.” I love you for your pristine vegetarian-ness, for your sheer balance of sweet and sour, tangy and bitter, in fact your sophistication and variety of flavors leave me kind of week-kneed. One look at that silver thali beckoning with a myriad dishes, from crunchy farsans to luscious sweets like the curd based shrikhand seduce.The melt-in-the-mouth, slim and silken rolls of besan (khandvi) the steamed, spongy wedges of besan (dhokla) and your winter special “undhio” are irresistible. Especially, the undhio with it’s broad beans, yams, eggplant and more baked in earthenware pots. And that “paunk” (fresh kernels of wheat or millet, eaten with sugar balls) is just poetry in itself. As for that famed Gujarati dahi “kadhi”, I love it most when it is sweetened, like the Surtis like it.
Using only the finest ingredients and “plenty of love” Saurashtra-born Geetha makes the most delightful of authentic Gujarati food (also South and North Indian). Its her unique pumpkin khatta dhokla that I taste at our “Whats hot tasting session”. And dry fruit shrikhand (she makes more than ten flavors, including Cadbury chocolate for kids). Looking for diet options ? Bread Rabri, variety of Shrikhand, Aam Ras and so on
Even her true blue Gujarati pickles unerringly spiced are worth trying. Call and check about her classes, tiffin dabbas and ofcourse the longlasting theplas for taking abroad.
1605, J Block, 9th Street, 15 th Main Road
Tamilnadu – 600 040
26164841 and 98400 66263
The story is that when a new Gujarati bride is being checked out, the very first and most important test that she must pass is that of making the perfect dal , with just that perfect balance of sweet and tangl. So I requested Geetha for her authentic recipe. Here it is
- Thoor dhal 1 cup
- Green Chilli 1
- Ginger 1 small piece
- Ground nut 1 spoon
- Salt to taste
- Haldi powder ¼ teaspoon
- Chilli Powder ¼ teaspoon
- Jaggery small piece
- Kokum / Tamarind to taste
- Oil 1 table spoon
- Mustard seeds ¼ teaspoon
- Methi Dhana ¼ teaspoon
- Asafoetida 1 pinch
- Curry leaves 4 – 5
- Coriander leaves 1 table spoon
- Tomato 1
Boil the dhal and separately ground nut. Then, mash nicely, mix the ground nut and keep aside. For seasoning, heat oil and put mustard seeds. Then add asafetida and cut tomatoes. Cut chilli and ginger and add all the remaining ingredients. After frying nicely, add to dhal. Add water as required and boil for 5 to 7 min. Then add coriander leaves.
The perfect snack, silken rolls of khandvi are my favorite and delightful to taste. Light. And healthy roo.
- Sour Butter milk 3 cups
- Gram dhal 1 cup
- Asafoetida 1 pinch
- Ginger chilli paste 1 teaspoon
- Salt to taste
- Haldi powder ¼ teaspoon
- Oil 1 table spoon
- Mustard seeds 1 teaspoon
- Til 1 teaspoon
- Curry leaves 10 – 15
- Coriander leaves 1 table spoon
Add all ingredients to butter milk and mix well and keep stir on slow flame till it thickens. Pour on individual plates and spread well and let it cool down. Heat oil and mustard seeds, til and curry leaves. Make the poured batter into rolls and cut to smaller pieces. Spread the seasoning on the rolls and sprinkle coriander leaves.
Which is the first place Id look for recipes and love passed down through generations? A home kitchen ofcourse. And when that home kitchen also caters professionally then the treat doubles.And each time I fly into Chennai I find that the home kitchen magic works wonders. Heres a happy story that began in Bangalore, when three gifted women cooked together. Marium Banu and her two young daughters Sabira and Rashida not only cooked to their mothers recipes but were also actively encouraged by their father to attend cooking classes and learn Moghlai and Continental cooking. Not only did Sabira learn and cook at the young age of fourteen but also rapidly picked up all her mothers cooking tips and guidelines. After marriage Sabira moved to Chennai. Along with her husband Javed,
Sabira has been catering from home for the past fifteen years. They pay personal attention to every detail…from shopping to cooking. They also customize their cooking and menus to the specific needs of their customers. She devotes most of her time to cooking and refining her skills.
At our “Whats hot” tasting session she brought along some of her signature dishes for tasting. Fragrant and rich with masala Biryanis (both mutton and chicken) their specialties are malai chicken, butter chicken, tandoori, drums of heaven, sachlik kebabs, shami kebabs, chicken croquettes, malai kebabs, kheema naan, vegetable naan and assorted desserts. While home delivery is free within 2 kms, they take orders atleast 24 hours in advance.
Sabira shares below her easy-to-make and yummy-to-taste chicken lollipop recipe,
48 Ramaswamy road, D 2. #rd floor, G R A partments, KK Sagar,
Contact Numbers: 9962023786, 9380668064, 9382209805.
SABIRA BANU’S RECIPE OF CHICKEN LOLLIPOP
Chicken – 4 Breast Pieces (Boneless) Grind in the Mixer
Add Chopped Coriander, 2 Onions, 4 Green Chillies, Salt, Red Chilli Powder (As Requried), Juice of 1 Lime.
Mix the above ingredients along with the chicken and form lollipops and insert a toothpick for easy holding. Dip in egg and bread crumbs and shallow fry.
Serve Dipped in Garlic Sauce.
Recipe for Garlic Sauce:
2 Tbsp ginger, 4 Tbsp Garlic and 4 Green Chillies ( Grind Coarsely in the mixer )
Maggi Hot and Sweet Sauce – 4 Tbsp
8 x 8 Sauce – 2 Tbsp
Ajinomoto – A pinch
Sugar – 1/4 Tsp
Salt – 1/2 Tsp
Tomato – 1 (Blanced and Cut Finely)
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Corinader – Finely Chopped
Fry the Ginger Garlic Chilly Mixture in 1Tbsp of oil till all the smell is gone. Then add the finely chopped tomato and fry again. Add the sauces kept measured one at a time. Bring to a boil and switch off.
It is here in this sundrenched glamorous city that I get my first taste of Rockstar food (literally too).
For the past 50 years, Sunset Marquis has been the secret hideaway for actors, writers, artists, filmmakers, supermodels, restaurateurs, billionaire entrepreneurs and rock stars.
Interestingly, the stories of the Sunset Marquis and the history of rock ’n’ roll are inextricably intertwined. Several bands debuted in the bar here, The Doors to Led Zeppelin. Neil Diamond ( used to perform by the pool to pay his tab) to Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, George Clooney, Jennifer Aniston and many other regulars here.
BOLLYWOOD TO HOLLYWOOD
Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek and Aishwarya Bachchan have stayed here and enjoyed not only the place but also the food. Moreover, it is the worlds only hotel which has a state of the art recording studio where many Grammy-winning songs have been recorded. Madonna has recorded here so has Elton John (to name a few). It is here that the winners of “American Idol” stay for months and even as I eat the most unique “cauliflower steak” Michael Bolton strolls past in the 3.5 acres of Mediterranean oasis tucked away on a hill just off The Sunset Strip.
Guarding these superstar’s “peace and privacy” for over 23 years is the dapper and dynamic Rod Gruendyke who is so passionate about his work that he started working as a manager of travel lodge, when he was 15 years old. Since then he has not only launched several prestigious hotels but continues to redefine hospitality. He recounts how actor Kevin Costner bumped into the Bachchans and concluded a deal without having to go to India. Interestingly Rod is also a believer in Amma, the hugging saint and has a long-standing affinity for India.
TASTY AND HEALTHY
Taking care of the beautiful people’s tastebuds and balancing it with their health and fitness needs is
the brilliant Chef Roger Eggleston. He believes in appreciating what the earth gives us, to never stop learning and using the braising technique, of searing and then cooking in a liquid. The trick is to keep the temperature
“low and slow” he points out. To intensify the flavor, he uses vegetable stock but adds apple to it. He shares his recipe…
- 4 Cauliflower steaks cut 1 inch thick. Make sure to leave some as the stem to hold it together
- Vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Sprig of thyme
- 4 cloves of garlic
Season the cauliflower with salt. Heat a heavy pan with some vegetable oil just until smoking. Add the steaks and sear them until a nice color forms. Flip them over; add just enough vegetable stock just to come up ½ way on the steaks. Add the garlic and thyme and bring up to a simmer. Place the pan in the oven and lightly braise just until tender: about 15 minutes. When done, remove from the liquid.
Garnish· Corn grilled on the cobb and then cut off· Cleaned morel mushrooms, lightly braised just as the cauliflower steaks· 1 tsp butter· Sliced chives· Baby fennel shave thin and placed in ice water· Raw purple cauliflower· Garlic blossoms
Heat the morel mushrooms up with some of their braising liquid, add the charred corn and finish with a little butter to glaze the vegetables. Season with salt and finish with the sliced chives
You can make a Truffled Yogurt by
Whisking 4 egg yolks into yoghurt. mustard, wine, canola oil,
squeezed lemon juice
- Spoon about 2 tbsp of the truffle yogurt onto the center of each plate· Place one cauliflower steak on top of the yogurt
- Spoon the vegetable mix over the cauliflower steaks· Using a micro plane, grate the purple cauliflower all over the plate· Garnish with the shaved fennel and garlic blossoms
Enjoy! keep rocking!
I’m rejoicing! I’m getting a taste of centuries of family recipes lovingly passed down generations. Sure! There is plenty to be said about restaurants, about masterchefs, about modern and fusion cuisines too. But, give me original, authentic and traditional recipes anyday. They brim over with love, they preserve a flavor of history, tradition and culture. They are created by home makers who keep in mind economy, speed, efficiency and health. These are steadily not only getting lost over time but also diluted and corrupted.
So when I come in contract with Gold medalist in M.Sc maths, ex- Scientist in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre Kalpana Venkatesh a brilliant cook herself who continues to be inspired by her mother in law Muthulakshmi Gopalan, I am overjoyed.
“Amma” as she is affectionately called by her family is a feisty and multi-talented native of Papanasam (Tirunelveli district). The seventy year old grand dame is extremely erudite, loves reading, is involved in family finance and family management and ofcourse her cooking is unmatched. Amma continues to have a very close and affectionate relationship with her family, especially Appa.
MUTHULAKSHMI’S MUTHUS (PEARLS)
Muthulashmi (Amma) learnt cooking from her mother Chellammal and with great precision and meticulousness has preserved each recipe. Traditional and authentic, these pure vegetarian recipes also inspire her daughter Viji.
Today, even their fourth generation of Nethra , Nikhil and Raji love these dishes.
Harmonious flavors are coaxed out of Jaggery, nutmeg, urad dhall, rice, milk, ghee and more. Some are served as parsadam, some celebrate special occasions.
On my request Amma shares some of these recipes. Here’s my second request to them…that they preserve them in a book so that the whole world can partake of Ammas recipes and love.
Pori Vilangai (Porulangai) Urundai
Moong dhal = 4 cups
Jaggery = 6 cups
Fresh coconut (cut into small pieces) = ½ cup
Cardamom powder = 1 tsp
(Optional) Dry ginger powder = ½ tsp
Take a thick bottomed pan and dry fry the moong dhal, till it is golden brown and a nice aroma starts emanating. Take care not to over brown it. Cool and grind it into a fine powder in a blender. Transfer the contents to a wide thali or plate. Add cardamom powder, dry ginger powder and mix well. Spread it out on the plate.
Take a thick bottomed vessel. Boil the jaggery in 150 ml water over medium flame, till it dissolves completely. Strain for impurities. Reboil the jaggery water along with the coconut pieces till it comes to a consistency as follows: If you put a drop of the jaggery syrup in a cup of normal water, it should stay like a globule. Switch off the stove.
Add 2 laddles of jaggery syrup to a portion of the powdered dhal mix on the plate, just enough to be able to make into small laddu balls. Mix and make small laddus. Repeat this procedure, till the jaggery syrup and dhal mix get exhausted. Speed is very important here since otherwise the jaggery syrup tends to harden. These laddus have a shelf life of about 10 days
Instead of 4 cups of moong dhall; we can use 3 cups of moong dhall and 1 cup of channa dhall.
- S: This is an important traditional Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) sweet dish, served during Deepavali day.
Ukkarai ( Deepavali Sweet dish)
Channa dhal (Bengal gram) = 400 grams
Jaggery = 500 grams
Ghee = 150 ml
Grated fresh coconut = ½ cup
Cardamom powder = 1 tsp
Cashews = 100 grams
Salt = ¼ tsp
Soak Channa dhal in water for one hour with ¼ tsp salt. Strain the channa dhal and grind to a thick paste in a blender without adding water. Spread the mixture in an idli plate and steam cook for 7 minutes (As similar to idli making). Remove it from the idli plate and let it cool off for about 10 minutes. Put the cooled cakes in a blender and grind to a powder. Transfer the contents into a bowl and keep it aside.
Take a pan; add ghee and fry the cashews till golden brown. Similarly fry the grated coconut in ghee till golden brown. Keep it aside.
In another thick-bottomed vessel, boil the jaggery in 100 ml water until it dissolves completely. Now strain this for impurities and re-boil the jaggery water on medium flame, till froth comes fully, along with good aroma. At this stage, add the powdered dhal mixture and mix well. Keep stirring for 5-7 minutes till bread-crumb like texture is achieved. Add the fried cashews, grated coconut & cardamom powder and mix well.
Spread in a flat bottomed dish, garnish with fried cashews. Dish is ready to be served.
1. Instead of channa dhal, a combination of Channa dhal 200 gms + Moong dhall 100 grams + Tur dhal 100 grams can be used.
2. Replace jaggery with sugar. To prepare sugar syrup, boil 500 grams of sugar in 100 ml of water and bring to 2-string consistency (when you take the syrup between thumb and index finger and release it, you can see two strings). For additional flavor, along with cardamom, a pinch of edible camphor can be added.
- S: This is an important traditional Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) Iyengar dish, served during Deepavali day.
Looking for unusual and personalised Diwali Cupcakes? Need eggless cupcakes, desserts et al? Low calorie, Low fat, and Sugarfree? 3D Mickey Cookies ? 3D Batman and Spiderman ? Voila! The “Sweet fairy” conjures them all. Tops the diwali specials with chocolate diyas, festoons them with rangoli and more.
I don’t know about you, but I believe in Santa Claus and elves and fairies. And for our “Whats hot tasting session” when I met “ Sweet fairy” I was delighted. “I was always obsessed by fairies since my childhood”Apeksha Agarwal explained and so when this daughter of the Kitchen Queen title winner of Jaipur took to baking “Sweet fairy” was the most natural name for her home kitchen company.This young lady learnt her first recipes from her mom and heres the good news, she bakes only eggless desserts.
“Since my closeones are vegetarians and prefer eggless, food, I ve specialised in EGGLESS baking” Apeksha clarified. And sure enough all her creations are soft and sweet and yummy… be it cupcakes, teacakes, custom made cakes, cookies, customized cookies, desserts (Apple Pie, Tiramisu, cheesecakes, Trifle puddings and eclairs), homemade breads, chocolates .
Particular about the finest ingredient and freshness she keeps introducing new desserts in their menu, Red Velvet Cupcake, “I have also started making the Green, Yellow and the Orange Velvet Cupcakes. The major change here is flavour of icing, these are frosted with Cardamom flavour cream” she explains. I have yet to try these, but enjoyed the ones I did.
“There is a common misconception in baking that eggless bakes are not as soft as those made with eggs. This is not true at all and the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Literally and otherwise.
- “Sweet fairy” kiddy specials include designer cupcakes with any cartoon characters, 3D mickey cookies, cake pops, designer cookies (doremon, mickey, winni the pooh), designer cakes (for example doll cake for girls, car cakes, cricket cakes for boys).
Apeksha Agarwal, Sweet Fairy
Call – 9677267380
email – firstname.lastname@example.org
One can call, email or contact her through their Facebook page and place orders and pick their desserts.
SWEET FAIRY CHOCOLATE CAKE
1/2 can (400 gms for a full can) condensed milk
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
125 gms all-purpose flour
1 tbsp Cocoa
1 tbsp Chocolate powder
60 ml, melted butter
1 tsp Vanilla essence
– Sieve flour, cocoa, chocolate powder, baking powder and baking soda.
– Mix the condensed milk, flour, 75 ml water, vanilla essence and melted butter thoroughly
– Grease and dust a 7″ diameter pan
– Pour the cake mixture in the prepared pan.
– Bake in a hot oven at 190 C for approx 20 min (check by inserting a toothpick, when inserted it should come out clean)
Take it out on a wire rack and cool it away from the fan