Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Paan Shots once again at the Punjab Grill.


 Its an oft heard story, new restaurants open, offer fabulous food to the point that you count the days to going back, even though you and the restaurant are physically located on two different continents, and then when you go back, POOF!.. either the the food quality or the service has degenerated down the tubes.
is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. - See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf



It was by sheer serendipity that I ended up dining once again at Jiggs Kalra's restaurant 'Punjab Grill' (the Bangalore branch) yesterday. It was G's (the other Half) birthday and we initially decided to walk up to another restaurant closer to home that previously had served up great food, Just as we finished toasting our wine glasses and were contemplating what to order, there appeared a nasty unwanted pest of the 6 legged kind right on the table, the one that makes you scream and hop onto chairs. We called up Punjab Grill right then and there, made a reservation and set off immediately.

As I walked into Punjab Grill almost 2 years to the date of my previous visit, the first thing that struck me was that the decor was as elegant as ever, with minor re arrangements of the seating. Since the kids were getting peckish, we settled down to ordering food almost immediately.


The appetizer we picked was Paneer Tikka Multani, Huge morsels of smoky grilled Paneer cheese marinaded in a green blend of chile, cilantro and mint, washed down with a glass of chilled 'Shikanjvi' . Shikanjvi is a tangy Indian style lemonade spiced with salt, pepper & cumin. The version this time around was more of a delicious slushie made with crushed ice as opposed to the straight forward version chilled with ice cubes.


 There are some classics that one looks forward to eating again and two dishes certainly qualify as signature dishes in my book. One is the Dal Makhani, a blend of slow cooked lentils & dal in a creamy sauce. Rich, yet subtly spiced, it is a 'MUST ORDER' at the restaurant.


In contrast to the creamy Dal, is the other signature dish that is worth visiting the restaurant for is the Malerkhot de Achari Aloo -  Potatoes cooked up in a tangy lip smacking gravy of Indian pickling spices. Perfect for waking up your palate to the other offerings although I would have preferred more potatoes in the gravy.


The other dishes we ordered were the Pindi Channa, the drier version of Channa Masala, piquantly spiced with generous amounts of Dried mango & Pomegranate powder.

 The surprise was the Mixed vegetables, the Subzian de Milliyan, a mix of vegetables cooked along with crumbled paneer. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, retaining a light crunch and their characteristic flavors stood up and yet complemented the flavors of fresh ginger that dominated the dish.



 Dessert was a trio of Gulab Jamoons, the classic version with Pistachios, and the others flavored with white and dark chocolate. (Disclaimer: it was just one serving ordered for my 7 year old, who promptly dispatched them, Considering that he also happens to be one of my Taste testers, I'm going to conclude that they must have been delicious)


 And of course their ultimate signature sign off shot that beckons the diner for more visits in the future..The Freshly blended Paan shot, with fresh betel leaves, fennel, cardamoms & other spices.


It is a rare pleasure indeed to visit a restaurant the second time around and savor the same amazing food and service. If you're ever in Bangalore, Treat yourself to a meal at this wonderful establishment.  Punjab Grill's Bangalore outlet is located at SJR Primus, Koramangala , 7th block Bangalore 560 095, Tel: +91 80 40902161/62. Reservations recommended.
Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. - See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. - See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. - See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. - See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. - See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf


is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. - See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Airline Food review - The Good, the Bad & the Ugly


As much as I look forward to those crazy kitchen sessions, ensconsed at home trying out new recipes to share on the blog, there inevitably comes  sessions when I turn into a human mass spectrometry analyser, the minute I get my boarding pass in hand. My other half calls it the 'driving cabin crew crazy' phase.  I chew (food), analyse (the taste) and spit out  (my opinion) on the food that is served up on a long international flight. Then follows the barrage of questions to the crew that is  always answered very  helpfully. Its a delight to travel with such a wonderful crew as I did earlier this week in Jet Airways' flight from Newark to Mumbai via Brussels.

Jet airways (as do most airlines) has a dedicated team that works with various culinary establishments the world over to design the menu for all their three classes of travel. The menu is changed every month and there are 3 or 4 sets of menus that get rotated through out the year. For the premium classes, they have Michelin star chefs (such as Yves Mattagne,) who designs their western food menu.

The science behind what makes food taste good

Human physiology is not designed by nature to operate optimally at 35,000 feet in a pressurized can and the entire experience of savoring food at high altitudes is different from what you enjoy at the dinner table at home. First, the olfactory (smell) senses go for a toss. Since most of the tasting experience is actually done by the nose (which gets seriously compromised in the high altitude, pressurized environment), only the strongest & most assertive of aromas get detected .. Not a good thing - almost everyone has experienced the aroma of egg salad or garlicky curry wafting from  the seat 3 rows ahead, haven't we?
Thus the tongue has to take on the added responsibility. There isn't much one can do in terms of changing the four parameters that the taste buds can identify, especially when the food is being served to 300 passengers,  The onus is on creating variations in texture that appeals to the palate. Creamy is good, gritty is not.


There were two different food uploads, I'm not sure about who the Jet airways caterers are on the EWR - BRU leg, but kudos for presenting a decent dinner offering. So here's my 2 cents worth.

The GOOD!

The wine on Economy was a Sauvignon blanc from Chile (Concha y toro), generic enough to cover all palate sensibilities.



The salad on the meal tray was a black bean, corn and roasted red pepper salad. A good contrast to the usual wilted lettuce leaf , dried out cucumber slice (topped with a single black olive from a can). Black beans tend to have a glutinous texture that works well on the deprived palate, and even though the beans were a tad mealy, the overall tanginess from the vinegary dressing pushed this into the 'good' category.


The Main meal tray consisted of a Paneer makhani, a garlicky mung dal and basmati rice spiced with cloves. Paneer is always a great option for Indian meal uploads, since it retains its chewy texture well at high altitudes and the milk fat in the cheese confers a creamy sensation on the palate. The spiced rice was surprisingly quite tasty, the heated up rice was soft and without being dry, and the cloves added a nice sharp flavor that managed to hit the olfactory system effectively.
The garlic in the mung dal was rather strong, and the dal was cooked down almost to a paste, but the overall combined effect was good enough to polish the entire serving.


Desert was a spiced cake square with cream cheese frosting. the baked part was your average offering that you find in any coffee shop, but the cream cheese frosting tended to cover up and compensate the slightly dry texture well. Just the right amount of sweetness.


The BAD!!


 The snack provided prior to landing in Brussels was the classic banana nut muffin you find at Rest Area vending machines. The aroma of the fake banana extract was matched only by the acrid sensation of the preservative that they use to prevent spoilage. Left practically untouched after splitting open the 'confection' for the photo - op!

The UGLY!!!


The catering for the Brussels Mumbai leg is  undertaken by LSG sky Chefs, but  the actual planning for  the menu is done by the Jet Airways team in collaboration with well known restaurants in Europe. The restaurant for this particular leg was Bombay Brasserie based out of London. The food for economy class is prepared 48 hours in advance in London, frozen & flown to Brussels where its uploaded onto the various Jet Airways flights flying out of their Belgian hub.

I had never heard of this restaurant before, but their website appears to market the establishment as a high end eatery. If they intend the food served on board to be a food sampler advertisement for the actual restaurant, They may as well be closing down in due course.


Just as there are taste memories associated with good food (one such wonderful memory was the on board  food festival on Air India in Dec. 2002 by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor), there is a set that latches itself with bad food as well, and the Bombay Brasserie offerings take the proverbial cake (& the bakery) in the bad category.

The Salad was a potato chaat. It tasted like it came out of a ready to eat package that was approaching its expiry date. Stone cold, the thawed potatoes were gritty &  inedible and the 'coating'  over these pieces of spud, defied any attempt to try and ingest even the first forkful. The partially chewed bite went straight into the napkin.


The main course consisted of a cauliflower curry, with an overpowering single note of fennel served up with a greasy flat bread that reeked of vegetable shortening.


 The plain steamed rice was paired with a gritty dal, which seemed to be spiced with cardamom in a Gujrati style. While the spice level may be perfectly delicious on the ground, the altitude renders this extremely mild and the net effect is that of a bland offering which when coupled with the grittiness of the cooked lentil, makes this dish unpleasant to enjoy.

There is a reason why many in flight  Indian vegetarian menus include Okra and Urad dal . Both have an inherent  glutinous component that translates as a creamy texture on the palate. 


Have you ever pulled out a bowl of microwaved  rice that's been sitting in the refrigerator for a day and tried to reheat it in the fervent hope that it reconstitutes into the fluffy satisfying form that it was when it was first cooked?. And invariably, chances are that it morphs into a gritty form no matter how much you mash it up. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, leave alone a trained chef who is designing In-flight meals. And yet, the dessert offering on the tray was just that, a gritty tasteless mess of a paste with 3-4 slivers of fuzzy fruit peel that called itself Apricot kheer.  The bowl of dessert was not even worth taking a picture of!
 

The prepackaged snack was a wrap with a curried baby corn filling. Pleasantly surprised to discover that there was an actual WHOLE baby corn nestled inside. The not so good aspect - having to ingest a generous amount of chewy par cooked flour wrap. This was quite possibly the best of the Bombay Brasserie offings though, there was a generous amount of the spicy curry and the bell pepper flavor stood out well.


Looking forward to the offerings from Jet Airways on my return trip.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cherry O Cherry O Baby! - The 10 lb Cherry Challenge!


There is something about cherries that is utterly addictive. Its a combination of factors, the size - that enables you to scarf down a whole fruit at a time, The childish delight that invariably suffuses you when you sit outside on a balmy summer evening with a big bowl of freshly washed cherries spitting out the pits, one by one (Yes, its summer companion, the watermelon allows for that as well, but the seeds just do not have the size and shape that allows for a good projectile), and of course the fact that the season is so short and fleeting simply means that cherries get their rightful priority.

OXO and NorthWest Cherries sponsored a cherry challenge where they invited bloggers to host a Cherry party with friends and blog about the experience. Each participating blogger received a set of nested mixing bowls with colanders, a weighing scale & cherry pitters from OXO and 10 lbs of the best cherries that you could ever find from the cherry growers association. They were wonderfully accommodating in allowing me to do a solo cherry marathon and it was a wonderful experience indeed. In my true style, I could not decide on any one recipe to work on and before I knew it, the recipes began piling up.

Here's the list.


1. Cherry Compote for an Indian style Cheesecake.


2. Basil infused Cherry-Lime Granita.


3. Summer veggie Cous cous  salad with a smoky Cherry Chipotle dressing.


4. Boozy Cherries!  (Cherries in Bourbon with basil simple syrup).


5. Cherry Buckle cake.



6. Cherry Jam with Lemon zest & Mace.



 
Just click on the Tab on the top of the page to access the recipes. Bon appetit!












Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The 'We knead to bake project' 2013 - Savory Kugelhopf



 It never fails to amaze me how it seems like a short while ago that the new year had rolled in and a bake-crazy bunch of us bloggers signed on to Aparna Balasubramanian's  suggestion that we collectively bake one yeasted recipe a month and post it on our respective blogs as a group. Before I knew it, we were half way through the year and I had made  6 wonderful breads that the family loved. Of course, there was a slight hiccup when my kitchen went out of commission and I'm quite happy about the fact that this post will push me into the 'current' status.

July's assigned bread was a yeasted savory bread referred to as 'Kugelhopf'  or gugelhupf in the southern regions of Germany, Austria and regions in Alsace. Its basically a rather large cake baked in a Bundt pan and the original sweet version calls for raisins, almonds and Kirschwasser or Cherry brandy. There is a colorful history regarding its origins, Austria, Alsace, Germany all lay claim. For details, I'll take the easy way out and simply refer you  to Aparna's post from my Diverse Kitchen.

I opted to give my version of bread (an egg free version that used Flax meal instead) a touch of Mexican flavors with roasted Poblano peppers, sundried tomatoes, smoked ancho chile pepper, and a sharp, smoky spicy Chipotle Cheddar from Cabot Creameries.
 

The end result was a perfectly soft, yet texture rich bread with the right amount of heat from the chiles and redolent with the aroma of Mexican oregano. Toasted pumpkin seeds add a pleasant crunch to the slices.






Savoury Kugelhopf ( yields about 12 generous slices)

You need:

3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon instant (rapid rise) yeast
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
5-6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons finely powdered Flaxseed
6 tablespoons boiling water
1 tsp oil for brushing the pan.
1/3 cup chopped roasted poblano peppers (about 2 large whole peppers)
1/3 cup reconstituted sundried tomatoes (~ 8-10 pieces of the dried fruit)
1 cup shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup diced chipotle cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon smoked ancho chile powder
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 - 2 tablespoons dried Mexican Oregano


Method:

Lightly oil the poblano pepper skin and place over the gas flame. Grill until the skin blisters and chars black. Place the peppers in a paper bag to sweat. Once cool, rub the skins off with a paper towel, Remove the stem and the central core and chop into small pieces and set aside.

Whisk together the flax meal and the boiling water until it forms a wet liquid glutinous 'blob'. Set aside this 'egg substitute'.

Sift together 3 cups of flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. You can knead by hand but it will be a bit sticky to handle.  Start the mixer on a low speed and then add the butter, a little at a time, and process till incorporated.
Incorporate the warm milk and process till it is integrated. Now add the flax mixture and process till mixed.  The dough will now be soft and sticky. Knead some more, adding more flour, a little at a time and just enough till the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Do not be tempted to add more flour than absolutely necessary.

Your dough will be very soft, elastic and just short of sticky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise until double in volume (takes about 1-2 hrs)

In the meanwhile, heat 1/2 tsp oil in a skillet. Add the chopped poblano, the soaked & chopped sundried tomatoes  and a pinch of salt.  Transfer from the skillet and set  aside. To the same pan, add the remaining 1/2 tsp oil and sauté the shallots with a pinch of salt till they turn golden brown. Remove and add to the poblano/tomato mixture, sprinkle the dried Mexican oregano and keep aside.



Grease an 8” kugelhopf mould or bundt pan well especially around the center (I used a garlicky tomato basil infused oil, worked just fine. Place some of the toasted pumpkin seeds in the bottom of the mould.


Once the dough has risen, deflate it. Then work the cheese,  the vegetable mix and  the remaining pumpkin seeds  into the dough. The best way to do this is to flatten the dough out and spread all this over the surface, fold the dough over and then knead it. This will ensure a more uniform incorporation of the “filling”. The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a scraper to help you with the kneading. Do not add more flour!

Roll the dough into a longish log, long enough to fit into the mould comfortably. Lift the “log” of dough and place it in the mould in a circular fashion and pinch the two ends together to close the “circle” of dough.




Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour or so, until it reaches the edge/ rim of the mould. 

Pre-heat oven to 400 F  and bake the Kugelhopf  for about 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when it is tapped. 



Unmould the Kugelhopf and let it cool on a rack. Slice and serve with a dab of  butter. Alternatively slice it up thick and lightly toast. This melts the cheese lightly and the crisp surface texture coupled with the soft pillowy interior makes for a delicious breakfast treat.

This Kugelhopf should serve about 10.

This Savory bread is being Yeastspotted.

Bon Appetit!








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