Friday, October 28, 2011

On Golden Sponge Cake

This post is dedicated to my wife - the world's greatest cakemaker.

For the record - I have an incredibly active sweet tooth coupled with an obsession for carbs and the two of these come together in their most holy union in plain ole Golden Sponge Cake.

I am an absolutely shameless glutton and a very snooty connoisseur  of Sponge cake ... Sponge Cake/Golden Sponge Cake/Plain Sponge Cake, etc -  is deceptively simple looking to cook and extremely easy to screw up. 

My wife Rhea makes some of the worlds finest sponge cake keeping alive a tradition started by her Mum ... Her mum Manisha is the first person I have met (and the only one to date) who bakes without precisely measuring her ingredients and yet manages a perfect outcome every time! Rhea has resolutely and effortlessly followed in her footsteps and her Golden Sponge Cake is a thing of beauty and of immense joy to me and all those who have eaten it. The perfect Sponge is neither too light nor too dense and is just a shade undercooked (moist) on the inside and a shade overcooked (golden and chewy crusted) on the top. Don't ask me how she does it 'coz I have no clue. Perhaps it has to do with the loads of TLC she mixes in.

You'll find her recipe here and a variation on the same here.

In this version she added some Vanilla and Cinnamon flavoured sugars that fellow blogger Vinda Dravid had given us at one of the Bloggers Meets. The hints of a lil' extra vanilla and the faint whispers of cinnamon sure enhanced an already perfect creation.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Mumbai Food Bloggers Dinner at the West View Bar & Grill, ITC Grand Maratha

The title of this blog is kind of self descriptive but doesn't even skim upon the absolutely fun time we guys had there.

Rushina magically conjured up a dinner for The Mumbai Food Bloggers at the West View Bar and Grill at the ITC Grand Maratha, Mumbai on the nite of the 1st of October 2011. It was a very erudite and eclectic gathering of Vegans, Vegetarians, pro Food Writers, a Tea afficionado, Food Bloggers and a lone Caterer (namely me). We met up in the small lobby cum Wine display area of the Grill and were immediately set at ease by our host Rini Sinha (of the ITC) and her team ... the bloggers descended on the meat, veggie and salad display like paparazzi at the Royal wedding!! Oh what joy!

Rini and Rushina soon rounded us up and we introduced one another over some lovely Prosecco and some nice Gouda, Edam and what I thought was pretty weird and according to Shanky - a Provolone ... not my strong suite these Italian cheeses.

We moved on to our tables (where we were served some superb light and airy but heavenly herbed Focaccia .... in its very baking pan) and pontificated on the concept of the Grill Restaurant. The Grill is essentially a New York favourite that has permeated the entire restaurant world. A classic example would be Les Halles - Anthony Bourdain's last place of employment. A Grill is essentially a place that has a wide choice of meats (and in India veggies) which are grilled to the clients specs and then plated straight off to the table. It's essentially a meat lovers paradise.

After a bit of 'chit chat' and all around introductions we set forth to pile our plates with the choicest of meats and some of us with some veggies ... me I'm a Meateatarian and very allergic to most forms of veggies ... esp at a Grill!! Just kidding folks.

There was an amazing selection of fish, fowl and red meat along with some very nice looking German sausages. The non-veg spread included: Himalayan Trout (Maseer), Andaman Tuna, Indian Salmon (Rawas),  Snapper (Ghol), Butterflied Tiger Prawns, Chicken Legs, Beef Tenderloin, Mutton steaks, Mutton chops, Bacon and three kinds of German sausage - including Weiss Wurst. I was already in heaven!

I took my plate over to the chef and asked her to do my tenderloin medium-rare and to do with the rest of my plate of fish, prawn, chop and wurst as she deemed fit. We then turned our attention to the rather well stocked Salad Bar. I've been to the ITC's restaurants on numerous occaisons and as always there was a superb spread. Unlike many other 5Star's the ITC really does a super salad spread and their cold cuts are some of the best in India. As usual they did not disappoint. Amongst the usual suspects was a new addition - a Mulberry balsamic - and it was superb, I kicked myself for not having thought of this and filed it away for future reference.

We returned to our tables with our salads and Shanky and I got a nice glass of Sula Red to go with our greens. The cold sliced Ham was the show-stealer amongst the Salad section.

The plates soon arrived at our tables whilst Rushina marshalled the troops and warned us of a competition post Dinner. The spontaneous arrival of 20 plates had created a bit a a snarl and a small bit off confusion and the first couple of plates were kinda lost ... order was soon restored by Rini and her staff who apologised for the mis-plating(?).

We clicked and zoomed and clicked away in a frenzy before knuckling down to the eating.

The meats were superb and my tenderloin was near perfect! I was one happy puppy. The chop, wurst, prawn and the trout were also cooked to perfection. The tuna though was overcooked and very dry. The meats and fish though were very lightly spiced and whilst this appealed to me it did'nt appear to go down too well with everyone. Many of my fellow bloggers felt the fish was overcooked. My only real complaint on the other hand was with the jacket potato which had obviously beein boiled/par-boiled in advance. But considering that they had to plate for 20 of us in less than 20 minutes and that too with plates piled high this was understandable though a tad bit cheeky. Jyotika then tried her hand at some chops, prawns and veggies with her 'Papa's' spl masala mix and added a very nice twist to the taste.

After all that meat (and veggies) we circulated from table to table talking shop and catching up and before we knew it all the tables were being cleared and a small granite super-heated granite/basalt slab in a ceramic vessel/plate/case was placed before us and we were asked to quickly marinate and cook some lamb chops ... which we proceeded to do with gusto.

Team Rushina won the challenge which was judged by Chef Padmaja herself .... Team Kurush got an honourable mention in dispatches :) - Team vegan had the most fun though ;) (see pic below)

Just when we thought it was over Rini and her team brought out a small very carefully planed set of desserts keeping in mind, vegan, veggie and non-veg preferences!! The carnivores got a lovely slice of Apple Strudel, a generic Choc cake/mousse and an absolutely heavenly and fantastic Lemon Grass flavoured Creme Brule!! The Creme Brule had a delicate taste reminiscent of Summery English High Teas and with a very nostalgic trip down memory lane for the Parsi in me. Parsis have been making lemon-grass tisanes for ever and have regularly added it to tea and milk.

The very cherry on the cake was a packet of Laya-chana from Jyotika and a very pretty hexagonal box with hand made tea bags (with Shri Lankan tea in them!!) from Snighda. What a wonderful end to a funky and phenomenal dinner - Good Food, Good Company & Great Ambience.

Thank you Rushina and thank you ITC.

PS This blogpost is dedicated to my friend Gurleen - Enjoy!!