26 January 2016

Star Brunch at Five Star

                   Another bright morning in my favourite foodie city of Bangalore; and my next meet with the Food Bloggers Association of Bangalore(FBAB) at Five Star Chicken, CPF Tower, Indira Nagar. My first point of apprehension as with any vegetarian, or a non-meat eater was, would there be enough veg options for me to review? But a foodie at heart, must play the part!!
                  The venue was pretty easy to locate, right on the foodilicious 100ft road of Indira Nagar, opposite Dominos. 

On the outside, it would appear to be a simple take-away outlet. We were ushered up to the 4th floor. The team informed us that the entire building housed CP (Charoen Pokphand) Foods, a pioneer in the food industry with representation in as many as nine countries. Five Star Chicken, as a brand is already claimed to be popular in many countries in Asia and a good presence in India too. We were also informed that the brand renaming to Five Star Cafe was done with a view to attract more vegetarians and dilute the typical image of it being a meat-lovers' hub.
                    After a brief intro by the solicitous Five Star team, the goodies started arriving!! The first one to make its appearance was Thai Crispy Chicken. First impression, as the name suggested, crispy. A couple co-members liked the flavour too. (I shall leave the taste review to those who actually tasted it!!) Likewise for the Crunchy masala chicken. The flaky crust had me wondering if it was muesli-coated. But Chef Prabhmeet surprised us by saying no! The actual formula is apparently a Five Star special technique, all we could glean out of the chef was that it was refined flour-based!! Hmmm...'crunch for thought'!!
                    Eventually the veg offerings came our way. Veg burger to begin with. One has a certain expectation of a burger; crunchy patty, soft bun, generous mayo or cheese and few layers of veggies. The five-star Veg burger did fulfil that expectation to an extent, however they could go a bit easy with the onions, as they tend to over-power the rest of the flavours, and maybe add a dash of crisp lettuce (which for me is a sure-killer burger ingredient). That said, this burger would do well to satisfy that quick in-between appetite, or be good in a friends' meet platter, but I wouldn't term it a conversation-stopper. 
                    There is also the Veg Roll, which is stuffed with a crisp patty (sliced to fit into the roll), capsicum and onion rings. The roll has good promise, in my humble opinion, they could perhaps build on this further to make it more filling, or experiment with different fillings. Typically a veg (or non-veg for that matter!!) roll reveals its wares with each bite, so would be interested to know if they take this further in their culinary future.
                    Next on the list, Aloo Paratha. Mildly spiced, not too oily, the paratha was certainly soft and easy on the bite. A true Indian foodie though visualises a paratha as much more. The parathas could do with a little more generosity in terms of stuffing, spices, and richness of the crust, but less dough in the bite. 
                     The Veg Pulao was quite agreeable. Served with the humble onion raita, the rice was cooked just right, and the spice-level was great, which really brought out the flavours well. Not much of a rice fan, I did help myself to a few more fork-fuls this time!! I must mention here for those who might enter Five Star with hung-over visions from other fast-food joints, the option of having a complete meal is definitely there. 
                            But the true stars of the menu that can make any adult scramble around for more, were the Peri Peri fries and Cheese Corn Nuggets. The fries were not too oily, were quite crisp, and where we are used to the salted version, the light sprinkling of the Peri-peri spice was pretty awesome. They weren't too hot and certainly didn't make me reach for my chilled drink, but I did reach out for a few more fries!!! The corn nuggets were another delight, the team claimed that it was one of their fast-moving and more popular offerings. They were really crunchy and one is able to detect and delight in the killer-combo of mozzarella and corn. Note of caution : If you are in a group, and would like to have more than one, order plenty, coz the plate will be wiped clean in a blink!!
                     All in all, the Five Star outlet, and brand look set to grow. The outlet is a wi-fi enabled zone, so one can socialize in every way!! The staff is friendly, helpful and courteous. Outside seating is available at this venue as well. Would I come back for more? I would indeed!!!
Last but not the least, it was yet another amazing outing with the FBAB team, chatted up new and caught up with the old members. Had good fun the foodie way - Click, taste, review

Until the next meet, watch the space :) ...

25 January 2016

Cheesy Veg Casserole

              A cheesy Veg Casserole with a fused Tricolor theme for our 24th BlogHop. Why fused? Well, aren't we all like that too!! The love of food has, since time immemorial, gone beyond boundaries and today we find so many fusion flavours around us, of not just the national, but international cuisines as well.. 
This dish is an ode to our ever-growing love for food...


Saffron/Red layer -
Olive oil - 1.5 tbsps
Cumin (Jeera seeds)  -1 tsp
Diced Carrots - 1/2 cup
Diced Red Bell Pepper - 1/2 cup
Diced Red Pumpkin (optional) - 1/4 cup
Tomatoes - 4 medium (Blanched and puréed)
Salt to taste
Chili powder - 1 tsp
Dried herbs / oregano - 1 tsp

Green layer -
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Chopped spinach - 1/2 cup
Spinach purée - 1/4 cup
Diced zucchini - 1/2 cup
Diced capsicum - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Black pepper powder to taste
Dried herbs / oregano - 1 tsp

White layer -
Olive oil - 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp
Diced potatoes - 1 cup
Refined /Wheat flour - 2 tbsps
Milk - 1/4 cup
Cream - 1/4 cup (If you wish to keep it light, use 1/2 cup milk instead)
Salt to taste
Black pepper powder to taste
Garlic powder - 1/s tsp
Shredded cheese - 1/4 cup

Brown bread slices - 5-6
Grated cheese - 1 cup
Dried herbs
Olive oil

Method :

1. First, the saffron/red layer....Heat olive oil in a pan or wok. Season with cumin seeds. Once they crackle, add the tomato purée. Add salt to taste and let cook till gravy starts to thicken. 

2. At this point, add the carrots, cover and cook for about 7-8 minutes or till carrots are semi-soft. Now add the red bell pepper and pumpkin, along with chili powder, cover-cook for 5-7 minutes, again till veggies are semi-soft. Check for salt and finally sprinkle the dried herbs. Give it a quick simmer, and remove. Keep aside.

3. We'll do the white layer last as the white sauce will thicken further when cooled. Let's prepare the green layer next. Heat olive oil in another pan. Add the zucchini along with salt and let cook for about 5 minutes. 
4. Follow it up with capsicum, chopped spinach, pepper powder, stir well and let cook for 5-7 minutes more. Finally add the spinach purée and dried herbs, check for salt and let cook for 5 minutes more. Remove and keep aside.

5. Now for the white layer, heat olive oil in a pan. Add the diced potatoes and a little salt, cover-cook till 3/4th done. Remove to a bowl so we can use the same pan for the white sauce. 

6. For the traditional roux, the flour is roasted in the fat, but to make it easier, I whisk it along with the milk. Heat oil in the pan, keep heat on low and add the milk-flour mixture. Quickly stir to avoid lumps, add in salt, garlic powder and pepper powder and keep stirring. As the sauce starts to thicken, add in the cream, stirring all the time. (If you are not using cream, add in the entire 1/2 cup milk with the flour). 

7. Add in the cooked potatoes and let simmer for 2-3 minutes more. Turn off the flame. Finally add in the shredded cheese and dried herbs, stir again till cheese mixes well with the sauce. Keep aside.

8. Now for the assembling. In a baking dish, arrange the brown bread slices to cover the entire base. (The idea behind using the bread is that it gives the dish an unofficial crust, plus it soaks up the excess moisture and prevents the layers from running over each other too much)

9. Gently pour the green layer mix over the slices and spread it out evenly. Follow it up with the white sauce layer. Spread carefully so as to not disturb the green layer underneath. Now finally, the red layer (drain out any excess gravy water before adding to baking dish). Spread out again carefully. 

10. Sprinkle cheese generously, along with dried herbs. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 deg C for about 15 minutes (or 7-8 minutes in a microwave) till cheese turns golden brown. 
Remove, let cool a little. Drizzle olive oil over the baked casserole. Cut into wedges and serve.

18 January 2016

Veg Sambhar (Pongal spl)

              In continuation with Pongal celebrations, comes 'Maattu Pongal' , the day when, in villages, people worship their cattle. I keep hearing about many interesting stories & rituals attached to festivals from my mother, who spent a good part of her growing-up years in a village. 
              One such story/ritual related to Pongal was that during this harvest season all the farmers living in the lane adjacent to our ancestral home, would simply dump their produce in the house's backyard. This was then left stacked up in a special store room in the house, free for any neighbour to take their pick and stock. As a thanksgiving, on the day of Maattu Pongal, the ladies of the house would prepare a huge urn-full of a special tamarind and vegetable stew, using the very produce given by the farmers, and this would be then supplied to the latter, as much as they could take.
              Simple rituals like these brought together people of all walks & occupation, and helped strengthened the bonds at a time when social life had a much more human touch to it!!
             This is a mixed stew that we prepare on Maattu Pongal, but slightly different to the one mentioned above. This one is a relative of the Sambhar family and includes a bit of every possible & complimentary vegetable as part of the tradition. We live in times when we hardly appreciate the seasonality of vegetables anymore. But those days were special, when tired of the monotony of Bhindi (Okra) and Tinda (Apple gourd) in the summer months, we used to look forward to winters, when vegetable shopping was a sinful pleasure :)

Ingredients :
Chopped vegetables - 1 cup
[Potato, Raw banana, Red pumpkin, White pumpkin, Lima beans or Mochai, Fresh green peas, Broad Beans, French beans, Capsicum, Sweet potato, Carrot]
Tamarind - size of a small lemon (using enough water extract juice to make 1.5 cups)
Curry leaves - a few
Pigeon peas (Tuvar/ Arahar dal) - 1/4 cup (cooked using a little turmeric powder)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves

For Sambhar powder - (If you have a readymade Sambhar powder available, you can use 2 tsps of that)
Coriander (dhaniya) seeds - 2 tsps
Fenugreek (Methi) seeds - 1 tsp
Bengal gram (Chana dal) - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds (Sarson) - 1/4 tsp
Dry red chilies - 2 (medium)

Sesame (Til) oil - 2 tsps
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
Dry red chili - 1 small
Asafoetida (Hing) powder - 1.5 tsps

Method :

1. Cook vegetables in a large saucepan using just enough water, little salt to taste and haldi powder. The veggies need to be just 3/4th cooked. If using a pressure cooker, take care to shut off flame immediately after the first whistle and keep aside to let the pressure drop. Drain the water.

2. Heat a small pan, dry roast mustard seeds till they start to splutter. Now add the methi and coriander seeds, followed by chana dal and red chilies. Roast for 3-5 minutes. Take care not to let the methi seeds become too brown else they will taste sour. Let cool and dry grind in a mixer.

3. Add vegetables to a large saucepan or wok, add tamarind juice, salt, curry leaves, about 2 tsps of ground or Readymade sambhar powder and let boil till tamarind juice leaves its raw flavour & aroma. This should take about 10 minutes.

4. Whisk the cooked tuvar dal, keep the consistency slightly thin but not too watery. Add this to the sambhar mix, stir and let simmer on low for 7-8 minutes more. Add chopped corainder and stir again.

5. Prepare the seasoning by heating the til oil, adding mustard seeds, methi seeds, the red chili and finally the hing powder. The hing powder added in the end gives the sambhar the "kick" it needs!! Add this to the sambhar, and remove from flame. Serve hot with rice.

12 January 2016

Shout-out for Pizza - 'Whooppeezz'

                You got to love Indians for one thing, among many others; and that's their love and adaptability for International cuisines. And I say adaptability because we do "adjust" it to suit our palates :) One such cuisine that has been and will always be a hit is Italian; and not just for its pizzas, but we are appreciating the pastas and gnocchis too, at the gourmet, quick-serve and also home-food levels. 
                A new pizzeria in town is always a welcome deal, and when I came to know of the 16th FBAB (Food Bloggers' Association of Bangalore) meet at the newly opened Whooppeezz I rushed to buy my ticket. This was to be my first meet as well with this wonderful group !! Saturday, 9th Jan 2016, and I set out in search of the pizzeria. First thought - excellent location, right opposite Raheja Arcade in Koramangala and next to Starbucks; couldn't have asked for a better launchpad (w.r.t location) to get going with a bang!

                  I entered the place a bit apprehensive, since I knew no one, but I was immediately made to feel welcome, both by the FBAB members and the  Team Whooppeezz. After the initial introductions, it was time to get down to business, a.k.a Clicking & Tasting !! To begin with the starters....we had Nachos with Cheese sauce and salsa plus Cheesy Garlic breads - one with Cheese & mushroom and the other with cheese alone. Needless to say, all of these disappeared quite fast!! I liked the Salsa especially as it had a bite to it. Between the two variations of Garlic bread, my vote would go to the Cheese version, the mushroom one would have to take second place. The bread, though was super soft, warm and along with the cheese simply dissolved in my mouth.

                  The pastas - Arrabbiata and the one with White sauce, which I believe (as per their menu) would be " Pasta Rosé " were quite appealing, here again I shall be partial to the Arrabbiata version; maybe I was expecting something more traditional when it came to the white sauce. Suggestion - the white sauce could be slightly thicker and cheesier, perhaps with the bite of finely chopped, sautéed Garlic; I am happy for the seasonings & accompaniments to be minimal.
                       Moving on to the main course, i.e, the pizzas, we were served a mix of Veg and Non-veg varieties. Being a non-meat eater, I confined myself to the Green dot, that said, their "Eggizza" sure caught my fancy. More on that a bit later. Of the veg ones I tasted, I quite liked the simplicity of "Hawaiian Fusion" served on a thin crust. The other regular crust varieties had the usual toppings of Paneer, Capsicum, bell peppers, olives, sundried tomatoes and a pretty sprinkling of herbs. The Tandoori paneer version disappeared just as quickly, however my humble opinion, the chef could go a little easy on the Tandoori sauce.
                 The "Eggizza" (top right) was really an eye-catcher. Now I dig presentation as much as the dish itself, and to me, the boiled and sliced eggs with cutely cut olives on top were its USP! Though not much of a fan of Eggs on pizzas, I indulged in this one and went in for a second helping too :) But then came the Centre-piece or their Show-stopper - The "Whooppeezzoo" (Bottom left) - sinfulness loaded!! Its claim to fame -  it needs a double base to support all that goes into it!! And I agree, I couldn't down more than a slice! Good option to go for if you are out as a family and are happy to share a pizza :) Statutory warning - look out for cheese dripping all over, yep, that sinful!!
                 And no meal is complete without the dessert round. I doubted if I could do justice to the sweet offerings, being stuffed with all of the above, the Whooppeezz desserts did change my mind! The 'Tres leches' (Top left) stood up to its definition. The cake was super spongy and the milk sauce was divine. Our host Sujata had a twinkle in her eye when she said it wasn't condensed milk.. Well, I leave it to you to find out what it could be and let me know too!
                   The other dessert - Chocolate Bomb (Bottom right), served in a shot glass and made up of four delectable layers was gone in a jiffy too. But what we were waiting for were the Chocolate pizzas that were staring at us from the wall posters. One came topped with Almond flakes and the other with gems. To hell with modesty, in a few seconds we all had chocolate covered faces and that is a testimony in itself !! Must credit its crunchy and flaky base, instead of a chewy one.
                 The other selling factors of the brand, their pricing is wallet-happy and the outlet has a competent staff, the hosts are amazing and of course, the location. As one of my FBAB co-member mentioned, parking would be a concern for quite a few. So a better option would be to go with hired or public transport. 
                 Well, Whooppeezz look set to mushroom throughout Bengaluru and BTM layout is mentioned as the next probable destination. I for one am definitely looking forward to an outlet in my area and soon :) A big Whooppee for Whooppeezz !!!
[You can stay updated via their social media channels and their website...]

11 January 2016

Atte-Alsi-Bajre Ki Pinni

             It shall soon be the time for harvest festivals across India, our own Thanksgiving, when we give our gratitude to the forces of nature without whom our food sources wouldn't have been nurtured. Sankranti in itself denotes transition of the Sun from one Zodiac sign or Rashi into the next. At this time, Sun's transition into the sign of Capricorn or Makar gives the festival its name of Makar Sankranti.
             In terms of food (ah, our favourite topic :) ), different regions have different prepartions that mostly have their roots in the agricultural produce, such as grains, millets, pulses and so on, which in turn is offered back in the form of cooked food, as a thanks to Sun and other complimentary natural forces.
            Here's my experiment - Pinni, using Wheat flour, Flax seeds and Bajra flour. Yep, couldn't leave the millet alone!!! Pinni is a traditional dessert that's popular in winters and one benefits from the goodness of wheat flour, ghee, jaggery and dry nuts, all of which provide our body with much needed warmth and energy that keeps us going in the colder months.



Whole wheat flour - 1 cup (200 gms)
Flax seeds meal (coarsely ground) - 75 gms
Bajra (Pearl millet) flour - 50 gms
Ghee or clarified butter - 50 gms
Gud or Jaggery - 100gms
Elaichi or Cardamom pwd - 2 tsps
Roughly chopped dry nuts of choice - 2 tbsps


1. Melt / heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Simultaneously melt jaggery in another saucepan using about 3-4 tbsps water. We need a syrup of 1-string consistency.

2. Add wheat flour to the ghee, keep flame on low and roast for about 5 minutes. Add the flax seeds meal and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Finally add in the bajra flour and give it a stir for 3 minutes more.

3. Add the cardamom powder and mix well. Once jaggery syrup is ready pour it into the flour mix, stirring well so the syrup is incorporated properly into the flour. Add in the chopped nuts as well and stir for 5-7 minutes till a nearly dry halwa consistency is reached. You will also notice the ghee gradually separating from the mixture. Remove from flame and set aside to cool a bit. 

4. While the flour mix is still tolerably warm, start preparing the laddoos or pinni. If you wish to have it as barfis instead, you can pour the mix into a greased tin, level using a greased knife, let cool and once set cut into desired shapes. 
Store in air-tight containers. 

4 January 2016

Multi grain Uthappam

         More I move away from the refined fare, more I am drawn towards millets and whole grains. Our Bloghop theme being regional breakfast, I was oscillating between khichdi, upma or the usual idlis and dosas. Then the thought of wheat dosa struck me..... what more could I do with it. After some brainstorming beween me and my guru, i.e, my mother(!!), we decided upon a multi-grain batter that we could use for a Uthappam. This one has the goodness of Flax seeds too, it's amazing what adding these seeds(or meal) does to any batter!!
One can use any topping for this, being a cheese lover, I had to use both paneer and grated cheese !!
This batter is best prepared 6-8 hours in advance, or left overnite to ferment. If you are running short by couple hours, you can add sour buttermilk to the batter (to adjust consistency).
Ingredients :
Black gram / Urad dal - 1/4 cup (*See notes)
Whole wheat flour - 1 cup
Ragi flour - 1/2 cup
Bajra flour - 1/2 cup
Flax seeds meal - 1 tbsp (*See notes)
Salt to taste

Topping (optional)
Finely chopped capsicum
Chopped onions
Chopped tomatoes
Diced paneer
Dried oregano
Grated cheese
Method :
1. Wash and soak the urad dal for about half an hour.

2. In a mixer, add together the soaked urad dal, wheat flour, ragi flour, bajra flour and flax seeds meal and grind to a fine batter using just enough water (We can add more water or buttermilk later, before preparing). Add salt to taste and give it another quick whisk. Transfer to a bowl and let rest for about 6-8 hours or overnight.

3. Heat a dosa tawa on medium heat. Grease it with a little oil. Pour a ladle-ful of batter and spread to form a thick pancake / uthappam. Quickly add the desired vegetables and paneer on top (Except cheese), sprinkle some dried oregano or any spice of your choice. Pour little oil around the pancake and over the toppings. Cover and let cook for about 2-3 minutes. Keep the flame on medium heat. Now remove the cover and flip the uthappam to let cook on the other side.
4. To make it interesting for kids, we can add some cheese as well. If adding cheese, flip the pancake back to the right side, i.e toppings side up, add grated cheese and cover-cook on low heat for 1-2 minutes more or till cheese melts. 
Serve hot with desired accompaniments. 

Notes : 
1. The whole urad dal, not the 'sabut' brown one, but the unbroken white urad dal specially used for idli batter is best for this, if available.
2. If you have whole flax seeds instead of the meal, soak the seeds along with the urad dal.