Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review: The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi

Do you believe the Mahabharatha War took place in reality? Its not just a myth? Did ancient sages knew about nuclear power,cloning etc? Do you believe in Krishna or the Dashavatars of Vishnu? Is it time for the last but never the least Kalki Avatar? Read the Krishna Key if you have answered most questions in the affirmative. Here science and mythology have been combined to produce a thriller.

I had wanted to read the first novel by Ashwin Sanghi -The Rosabal Line. I missed the second book also and  finally got to review the latest 'The Krishna Key'.  This was my first time with historical thriller. And from first page itself, I was hooked to it. This is big coming from a person who avoids thrillers and have always questioned mythologies.

Right from the first chapter we come to know about the murder of top archeologist  Anil Varshaney and who murdered him? But why? How is it related to Krishna? What is the Krishna Key?  The plots thicken as we go through several twists and turns,planned murders and from Dwaraka to Kailash to Somnath to Brindavan along with top historian Ravi Mohan Saini who is accused of murdering his best friend Varshaney.

The book picks up speed as we go through well researched characters with devious minds.The style of writing is good, like Bollywood flashbacks and entertainment is guaranteed. Except for stretching and dragging at few places and one or two errors at page 301 where the inspector's name is replaced by that of another character. Proof reading er,.. not done?Such errors are deterrant to a keen book worm. 

The book and the contents  shows how well or exhaustively the author has researched and woven fact and fiction to create a entartainment fabric. For the research and the mindset gone into it the author deserves applause.Overall the book is a good read. And I can't wait to catch up with the other two books that I've missed. 

For those who are surprised to see a non food post let me repeat that I am a book worm who chomps through all sorts of books. Though recently it has been restricted to food books, I wanted to review this book because I had missed the previous titles from the same author. Thanks BlogAdda for giving me the chance to review the book.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Trader Vics: Fine Dining Polynesian Style

Few days back, I was invited for Bloggers Meet at the newly opened Trader Vics restaurant @ Phoenix Market City, the new destination for Bangaloreans. The restaurant is a part of the TraderVics International Chain of restaurants. It is managed in India by JSM corporation who run the Hard Rock Cafe and the Shiro restaurants.  The restaurant launge is  supposed to cater Polynesian food to the Indian tastebuds and from what I saw that day ,I believe its already on its way to success.

From the moment you walk into this restaurant situated in a corner from the malls foodcourt, you will be trasnported into an another world. The ambiance of the resto-lounge with its tiki statues and wooden panelling lifts it up a notch. But this is to be expected in a lounge run by JSM corporation I suppose as I had earlier visited the Shiro restaurant at UB City as well. 

Coming to the food part, the restaurant has an excellent food and cocktail menus. We -I mean the bloggers who had been invited had a blast trying out several options right from the soups till desserts. For the soups we had tried the Tonga style corn bisque - slightly sweet thanks to the vanilla essence and also the spicier Tom Kha veg. I later tried the TV speciality Summer roll with its pickled veggies and Maui Waui dressing and also the veg pyramids. 

The major drawbacks I found with the starters was that the portions were small and they were blander for me unless you always dipped them in  the accompanying soy based dip. !  The summer roll was cold as preferred in summer, bite size but the spices and dressing were not up to the mark as per me.The complimentary starter of lavash bread was completely bland  unless you always dipped/drenched it in accompanying peanut sauce/dip.

But we mentioned about the portions to the staff and  were pleasantly surprised to see the large shareable portions of mains. Our table of veg bloggers had asked the staff for recommendation and we were told about the vegetarian chow mein and other Chinese/Malay dishes. Finally we settled for a Beijing Vegetable chow mein, a fried rice and smoked tofu bowl. The first two made no impact for me as they tasted just like the Indo Chinese food dished out every where whereas the smoked tofu bowl was the winner of the three. 

The bowl consisted of Chinese oven smoked eggplant,bell peppers, cherry tomato with Szechuan sauce served atop seasoned rice - a one pot meal. In one word it was excellent. Still, the drawbacks were, the sauce was slightly sweeter and the smoked pumpkin added to its sweetness.Ditto with the Thai Green Curry that had been ordered. Szechuan and Thai curries are normally spicy and NEVER sweet.May be it depends on the palate.!Also another dish to be mentioned is the Indonesian Vegetable Satay with potato cakes. The dish was served just slightly warm with cold and bland potato cakes and was a big NO-NO. But I might still order/recommend a smoked tofu bowl next time I visit. 

For dessert I went for a  Trader Vic speciality Chocolate Tiki - or a cake like nutty brownie. It was excellent. It actually made other dishes pale in comparison. The other dessert was snowball which was vanilla icecream with toasted coconut and chocolate sauce. To be honese, I found appearance can be deceptive. The presentation of snowball was excellent, but taste was just so -so. On the otherhand the chocolate tiki was definitely the winner. Perfect for a chocoholic.

I also had the opportunity to talk to the chief chefs Rahul and Priyank (who also manages Shiro @ UB City) and got to see the Chinese wood fired oven that they use for smoking. Its definitely different from the tandoor but the smoking was perfect as I had tasted the tofu bowl.

The staff is confident,warm and friendly but slightly less knowledgeable about the food. Lavash was passed off to us as Italian flatbread(!) and would not look beyond the Chinese Mains though  they knew the drinks.Also, our table had ordered two smoked tofu bowls, but only one came and despite telling several times and waiting another 20 minutes, it didnot materialise until I was ready to leave. 

Overall the experience was excellent. The ambience was spot on and full marks to it.There is also an outdoor dining area which was cozy and comfortable The food comes around Rs. 2000/- for two without alcohol. The portions are worth the money paid for. So what are you waiting for? 

Drop in at  TraderVics where decor, food, drinks and service come together to provide you with an amazing experience.

Trader Vics,
Phoenix Market City
Bangalore -48

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

It seems I am becoming a huge fan of roasting. Thanks to the cold weather and warmth and taste induced by smoking, I recently tried roasting cauliflower and turned it into a salad. And not just any salad, but a Calabrian style perfectly vegan salad which I adapted from here.It seems Calabria in Southern Italy developed its own style of cooking thanks to it being conquered by several nations.. The salad is supposedly adapted with changes from the "The Food of Southern Italy" by Carlo Middione.

Cauliflower: 1 small head
Garlic: 1 big clove minced

Olive oil: 1-2 tbsp divided

Black Olives : handful : chopped
Capers: 1 tsp
Italian flat leaf parsley: 2 tbsp+/- chopped
Red Chilli flakes: 1/4 tsp
Lemon Juice: 1 big squeeze or as per taste
Salt& Pepper: as per taste


Cut the cauliflower into bite sized florets and thoroughly wash them. I put them in warm salted water for a minute or so ,so as to rid them of small worms if any. Drain the florets and thoroughly dry them in paper/kitchen towels.

Put them in a large bowl along with minced garlic and drizzle with 1-2 tsp of olive oil. Toss them and spread in a lined baking sheet.add a nice sprinkle of fresh grated black pepper.

Roast in a preheated oven at 425F for about 10-15 minutes or until they start browning. Switch off the oven and let them site so as they are nicely caramelized. Caramelization brings out the natural sugars of the vegetable and takes taste to another level. Make sure the florets have a nice flat base so that they start caramelizing and make sure your florets are almost equal sized.

Take out and cool the florets and then toss in with other ingredients of olives,parsley,capers,red chilli flakes, lemon juice and remaining oil. Adjust the seasonings and salt as per taste.

Serve as a side salad.

A simple fuss free salad. Roasting cauliflower definitely  its taste. Very flavourful, the sweetness and smokiness of the cauliflower balanced by the tangy capers,olives and lemon juice while the chilliflakes add the spiced and warmth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rustic Apple Galette - Guest Post for Cakes& More

Some or most of you might have heard of a galette or rustic pastry or pie. Compared to pie its easy to bake a gallette which means we are tension free. You can go for sweet and savoury galettes as desserts or mains respectively. And hey, they save the day when you are doubting what to bake for the avid baker and dessert queen! 

What you curious.?... Bet you are. Stumped too when you go through her recipe/dessert menu.It reads like a huge enticing bakery menu and I am yet to go through the entire list.

 Psst... She is self confessed dessert lover! :)

Add to it, Matt Preston booming inside your head,"Is this dish Masterchef oops Cakes& More Standards? " 

Now you got it! So jump right into Cakes&More and dig into your portion of Rustic Apple Galette which I baked  for dear friend Suma of Cakes&More.

Thanks Suma for the wonderful opportunity. It was a pleasure writing for you.And galette topped it all.Hearty thanks for the nice words. They made my day.

What? Still here!, you are gonna miss it big time,... 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cornflakes Cookies: Baking Partners Challenge 2

I love baking cookies. Whenever I am low, baking a cookie cheers me up. If kneading is therapeutic, then baking cookies for me is like oops, I do not have a word ,.. call it a happy medicine. If pulls me up from dumps and gives me confidence, seriously. I sometimes dream of my own cookie shop, with varieties of cookies from each and every country and for each occasion. But hey have I covered all types? Nah, I am yet to do. Like these cornflakes cookies from Priya which is our challenge this month for Baking Partners group.

They were a hit with my daughter and her friends. Normally my daughter thinks twice before consuming a coconut enriched baked product. If you go through my blog, you can see that I have never baked coconut cookies except for these Chocolate Coconut Candy. I always thought the cookies would be wasted if she did not eat them. I actually went for half of the recipe because of this factor only. But now I am thinking I should have doubled the recipe. All thanks to Cornflakes cookies. 

Unsalted Butter: 5 tbsp soft
Sugar: 6 tbsp

Egg: 1 or Ener G : 1.5 tsp packed tbsp of powder with 2 tbsp of water whipped together  + 1-2tbsp of water as needed 

Vanilla extract: 1/2 tsp

Black Raisins/Craisins: 1 tbsp
Dessicated coconut: 3/4 cup

All Purpose Flour: 1 cup
Baking Soda: 1/4 tsp
Baking Powder: 1/4 tsp

Crushed Cornflakes: 1 cup + as needed


Mix together flour,soda and baking powder. Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F and line a baking dish with silpat or foil.

Cream together butter and sugar till light and fluffy.Beat in egg and mix well. If doubling the recipe, then beat well after adding each egg.

Beat in vanilla until combined. The entire mix will look like curdled but do proceed.

Stir in the raisins and coconut. Now fold in the flour mix until you get a smooth sticky mix.If you are using EnerG egg then you can add 1-2 tbsp of water if the mix is looking dry. Else proceed to the next step.

Spread the cornflakes in a shallow dish. Drop a tablespoon of the batter onto this and roll into ball. 
Place in the baking sheet. Repeat this with the rest of the batter.

Bake the cookies for about 10-15 minutes until the edges are brown and the top is golden. 

Take out the baking sheet and let the cookies rest in the sheet itself for another 10 minutes or so. In all the probability the centre of the cookies may not have set while taking out of the oven. But allowing them to rest will take care of this and makes the cookie crispy and crunchy.

Cool them completely and store them in air tightened  box. 

Excellent anytime munchies these are.You just can't resist these and definitely keeper recipe.So hearty Thanks Priya and Swathi for choosing this recipe for this month's cookie challenge.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Herbed Sour Cream Bisuits

I have this affinity towards biscuits. I mean the Southern or Baking powder biscuits. They are bready and can be made quickly. The waiting time is almost nil when compared to yeast breads.This time around I tried biscuits with sourcream in them. When I had made sourcream the first thing that came to my mind were these herbed biscuits that I had seen. The recipe was quick and easy and bisuits were ready under an hour.

All Purpose Flour : 1 cup + more for dusting
Baking Powder: 1.5 tsp
Salt: 2-3 pinches
Sugar: 3/4 tsp

Cold Cubed Butter: 1 tbsp

Dried Herb (I used rosemary): 1/4 tsp - 1/2 tsp or as per taste 

Chilled Sour Cream: 3 tbsp
Milk: 5 tbsp
Minced Onion: 1 tbsp

Mix together flour,baking powder,salt and sugar. Cut in cold butter into this mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. 

Stir in the herbs into this.

Mix together milk,sour cream and minced onion. Add the liquids to the flour mix and stir until it is moistened and comes together to form  a sticky dough.

Place the dough onto a floured surface and gently knead it few times to make it soft and pliable. Roll it out into an 1/4' thick rectangle and cut in rounds using a 3' cookie cutter. 

Place the biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet - I lined mine though - and bake for about 15 -20 minutes in a preheated oven at 400F or 200C.

Take out and let them cool till able to handle and then consume. 

You can serve them as snacks or with soups. I loved them as such though you can think of accompaniments if needed. They are very filling with a soup and a simple salad. 

Very bready biscuits with a slightly crunchy crust -very slightly - and a soft crumb.I prefer them that way and they came out that way. Simple and delicious with the crunch of onions added. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Homemade Sour Cream & Ranch Dip

Some of you who are in US might be wondering how come I am posting a homemade version of something that is very easily available there. But in India it has not yet become an ordinary routine stuff though its definitely available in speciality stores at high prices.Basically sour cream is nothing but "mildly soured cream". More plainly it is fermented regular cream or milk cream to which the bacterial culture has been introduced. If you are one of those who make your yogurt at home then you might get it. You add yogurt/sourcream/lemon juice/vinegar to heavy cream to ferment it in the refrigerator and voila you have got sour cream. A very basic recipe.

I had just used the regular low fat (25%) Amul Cream to make mine. Just added 1 tbsp of vinegar to 1 cup (200 ml) of cream and let it sit in the fridge overnight. So you can say I had made low fat sour cream. :)

This will definitely be different from commercial sour cream as different bacterial cultures and commercial thickners and sometimes even MSG(!) are supposed to be used. 

Usually you can substitute thick yogurt or hung yogurt instead of sour cream. 

How sour cream is different from regular yogurt/greek yogurt?

Sour cream has higher fat content than your regular stuff. Once sour cream is formed it thickens the already thick cream. Unlike yogurt sour cream is not very sour, but just mildly. This makes sour cream an excellent choice while baking as it can be sweetened/spiced up as per the dish and it adds fat which ensures butter can be cut down. 

Creme fraiche is also used an alternative to sour cream. If is actually French  for "Fresh Cream" but this is less sour and less thick than sour cream. It comes in between yogurt and sour cream when we think of thickness. Whereas in terms of sourness, yogurt comes first followed by sour cream and then creme fraiche.

Now that sour cream is made the first thing I made was the ranch dip. A Ranch dip/dressing/sauce is actually a mix of fresh herbs -usually parsley and chives, mayo and sour cream. You can add additional seasoning and aromatics like garlic (as much as you can consume raw garlic), hot sauce, routine salt/pepper, worcestershire sauce etc. You can even add buttermilk to make it thin to be used as a dressing/sauce.

I had googled several ranch recipes and have added mine also in the varied list. The given quantities are guestimates and can be changed as per your taste.

Sour cream -1/2 cup
Eggless Mayonaisse: 6 tbsp +
Fresh Cilantro: 2 tbsp finely chopped
Fresh Parsley: 3 tbsp+ finely chopped
Garlic :1/2 of a clove or can use garlic salt
Salt & Pepper : as per taste
Hot Sauce: few dashes as per taste

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl or even processor and adjust the salt and seasonings. Can spice it up or play down as per your taste buds.

 I wanted a thick dip to go with my fritters and this one definitely enhanced them. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I know I am back after a short break. I know you might not have missed me much. :) But FYI, I was still baking and cooking though could not post the dishes. Anyways, I thought I would post a simple chocolate cake which works very well for me. You must have seen several versions of this vegan chocolate cake and some of them might or might not have worked out for you. I too have tried several recipes given in cookery sites but still the one that worked is from Joy of Vegan baking by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. I went for a simple cream cheese frosting to go with it and it was definitely heavenly.

All Purpose Flour: 1.5 cups
Cocoa Power: 4 tbsp
 Sugar: 3/4 cup
Salt:1/2 tsp
Baking Soda:1 tsp

Ice cold Water: 1 cup
Canola/Vegetable oil: 1/3 cup
Vanilla :1.5 tsp
White Distilled Vinegar: 1 tbsp 

Combine flour,sugar,cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Mix well and make a well in the centre. Add in the wet ingredients of vanilla,oil,vinegar and water. 

Mix until just combined.Pour the batter in a lightly greased bundt pan or another appropriate baking dish.Bake in a preheated oven at 180C or 350F for about 30 minutes until the tester comes clean.

Take out and cool completely before turning out onto a rack or serving dish.It will not come out properly otherwise. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes atleast incase you have not used a bundt pan.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Cream Cheese: about 8 tbsp
Butter: 4 tbsp
Confectioners Sugar: 6 tbsp + /- as needed
Milk: 2 tbsp+ as needed
Vanilla extract :few drops

Beat together cheese and sugar until creamy adding in vanilla and milk as needed.Adjust the ingredients to get the taste and thickness you prefer.You can make it as thin for drizzling our thick so that you can pipe or spread all about.

Drizzle over the cake or spread as a layer. 

In the pic given I have simply drizzled over the cake. The frosting is optional and you can simply dust the cake with powdered sugar. The cake  is vegan but the frosting is not. If you have access to vegan ingredients feel free to make the dish entirely vegan.

A moist tasty yet easy to make cake. The frosting is excellent and compliments the cake. Make it, and enjoy it.Yum, Yum, let me make it once more. :P

Thanks for visiting my Blog

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