Rendezvous in Baker Street

If I would give only one line of advice to those planning to visit Pondicherry, it is to make that list of bakeries to visit. Get their addresses, and a map, and start planning.

Most of them are located in the French Quarter of the city, in the quiet, picturesque by lanes. What is curious though, is that one of the best known bakeries has a very English name, Baker Street, complete with Sherlock’s profile in the logo. No one minds. Not when there is so much goodness to focus on, breads, pastries, croissants, pies, meringues, coffee, sigh. Here is some of that simple goodness.

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More than just Turkish coffee delight

The Turks have apparently mastered the art of making a good coffee. And we have to agree. On our first trip into the Spice Bazaar we saw copper vessels, well, smallish really, to be called vessels. They had long handles and a small spout like opening. And they looked gorgeous. Did not figure though, that it is in these that the Turks brew their coffee. Yes, freshly ground beans, water, a spoon to stir..and it is freshly made, each cup.

After all that walking and shopping, what better place than this cafe located on the third floor of a building right next to the Spice Bazaar. Quite by accident we found it, and it became a magical spot from where to sip a Turkish coffee and watch the people, street hawkers, boats, and everything Istanbul come to life as the evening matured.

turkish_coffee_baklava copy

…with some pistachio baklava.

The Turkish cappuccino with foam at the small cafes is lip smacking too. There is no foam in this lil cafe, but plenty of thick  cream..heaven.

cappucino copy

And the views.. less said….

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And I found this delightful little snippet with pictures, on how Turkish coffee is made… Another trip to Istanbul, to buy those little copper pots which I did not get this time..?

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Chillis and peppers

The second recipe on the table, after the chocolate cake of last week. Which is saying something, considering it has been about 6 months since I logged in to this site. Jamie Oliver..though I find him and his ever-so-cavalier shows..starts up an itch to try fresh fresh fresh ingredients.

So finding these super sized chillis and yes, big, socking lemons (not lime, not sweet lime, lemons), at the high-end grocer was the call to get cooking and get taking some pictures. Prohibitively expensive they are, so am sure to be using them up tomorrow as well!

So here is his chillis and peppers extravaganza (with a little variation). This is a small serving.

Chop up one big, red, chilli, a couple of fresno chillies (ripe yellow / green), and two medium sized tomatoes.

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Yes, I finally have a miniscule herb garden! Chop some rosemary and basil sprigs, add to the chilli-tomato mix.

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Add a few sliced black olives.

Splosh in a tablespoon of olive oil, one of lemon juice, and some salt. Stir well.

Slice two peppers in half, deseed. Fill them up with the mixture, press down. Place them on tin foil spread over a baking tray.

Peppers sliced, filled, and ready to go in the oven.

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Sprinkle some olive oil over the sides of the peppers.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 deg C. For about 25 mins, until the peppers have softened.

Nicely softened…

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Top with some feta..

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Turkish Delights: Konyali

(Only second in the Turkey series, which is long overdue, in my mind, because I do NOT want to forget :) )

Meandering through the first and second courtyards of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul (there are four courtyards, with loads of rooms, kiosks, and gardens in each) the entire morning can leave you with quite an appetite. Which is why the Konyali Lokantasi restaurant, right in the palace grounds, makes so much sense for visitors as well as those who run it!

When you are surrounded by so much history, you expect the afternoon repast to contain some of it too. And you will not be disappointed.

Konyali menu

You read that right, a restaurant that has been serving up traditional Turkish food since 1897.

Walking down a level from one of the courtyards, you see just a few tables scattered by an embankment, a few steps down and the ever present Bosphorus of Istnabul, gives you a blue poke in the eye. You can never tire of seeing the blues of this river from the city. It is GORGEOUS! It is the Asian side of Istanbul that you can watch as you eat.

View from Konyali restaurant

The menu has both traditional and somewhat internationalized fare as well. It is not the most favourable reviewed restaurant in Istanbul, but if offers up quite an enjoyable meal. Starting with the completely hearty and delicious yoghurt soup, quite a staple in Turkey.

yoghurt soup

But of course, before the soup order reaches the table, the breads do.

olive bread

Eat as is, dunk in olive oil, flavoured oils, or dips.

crusty bread

The mezze at Konyali looks a lot fancier than what you would get at other mid range restaurants, tastes as great! Hummus, haydari, stuffed peppers, roasted aubergines and tomatoes, and one that was a bit like coleslaw.

Turkish mezze

Flaky Turkish pastry and cheese…mmm.

cheese and pastry

If you catch a chatty waiter, he will tell you that the Queen of England, Jackie Kennedy, and Mohammad Ali have dined here. That, along with the aura of Sultans, treasures, and regalia surrounding you is enough to make this a memorable lunch. And how hot Turkish tea is served, in traditional costume, only adds to it all.

 Quite the perfect lunch, watching the boats raise foamy white, a gentle breeze, good food, and lovely company!

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Turkish delights: Haci Abdullah Restaurant

In the last week of May, I traveled to Turkey to celebrate a little something with a few like-celebratory friends. Why Turkey? Well, it was picked by the adventurous instigator of this trip, M, and it was simply the best choice! And for good reason. Mind boggling and thought provoking history, breathtaking landscapes, a safe and cool night life, and almost most importantly, simply fabulous food and drink!

You discover a nation’s people through its food, I have heard said. If this is true, then the Turkish are warm, spicy, sweet and everything in between.

There is so much to talk about, and remember. The vibrancy of the restaurants and street cafes in the big city of Istanbul, to the quaint ones in the small towns of interior Turkey. The Ottoman cuisine which is so delectable, and of course, the drink.

Starting, with the Haci Abdullah in Istanbul (where we had our first meal), located in the very bustling Beyoglu area of Istanbul. This area is chock a block with street side restaurants (the most charming facet of traveling in these countries, for me).

Beyoglu, Istanbul

Street view, not Haci Abdullah!

Haci Abdullah happened to be on the very next street where our hotel was located, so a few enquiries on day 1 about where  to eat authentic Turkish food (oh, these tourists, by gad!) all pointed to this beautiful restaurant.

It is a stones throw from the extremely busy Istiklal Avenue, which sports Sephora, Gap, Calvin Klein, and The Body Shop and more. And you are hit by history right here. This place is a 124 years old, no kidding. Haci Abdullah opened as Abdullah Efendi towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, in 1888, with the trading license granted by the then Sultan Abdulhamid II. Since then, it has passed through three generations, changed three locations, and since 1958, has been in Beyoglu.

The restaurant has a nondescript front… we were greeted right at the door with what we were to discover is very traditional Turkish hospitality,  “welcome to Turkey”,  “welcome to Istanbul”, being asked how many we were, and quickly whisked to a large table.

And the delights begin. Almost all Turkish restaurants begin a meal with a platter of starters. The Turkish meze. Meze platters are a whole delectable range of cold starters, only some of which were familiar. But who wants familiarity on a holiday far away? Eggplant salad, hummus, dolma (vine leaves, cabbage leaves, chard leaves, peppers, tomato, squash, pumpkin, eggplant or mussels stuffed with rice and/or meat), haydari, cacik (cucumber, olive oil and dried mint in yogurt), and quite a few non-veg choices too. Surprisingly, the meze is mostly vegetarian.

Turkish meze

And everywhere, every meal – the breads. Warm, piping hot, covered in sesame seeds, wheat, grainy, or plain, the breads are to die for.

bread

Sounds like lunch done?!

rice in dough, baked

Rice, delicately flavoured and cooked in a clay pot, covered with dough. This was absolutely delicious.

rice, baked

There is tons more on the menu. Unfortunately, I only have so many pics… too busy eating! As you tuck in to the starters and rice and bread, the staff are swiftly offering up more varieties, of kepabs, more bread, relishes…

ground floor kitchen

Haci Abdullah serves up over 150 types of dishes in a day, on some days. But that is not all that they are known for. Their fruit compotes leave one longing to transport half the ones on display right back home. Masters at the art of pickling, it shows in the sheer variety of fruits and vegetables that are showed of in rows upon rows of clear jars. Peaches, apricots, olives, pomegranates, cherries…

fruit compotes

Some of these are SO old, well… the manager at the restaurant explained it so sincerely, we have to believe them!

in a pickle

Haci Abdullah has a little something to take away, and I don’t mean surreptitious silver. They give away little books, documenting the history of the restaurant and share some of the recipes that have been passed down from master chef to apprentice. Now isn’t  that a great foodie legacy to carry around in a pocket all the way back home!?

recipe book

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Classic French onion soup

A classic soup in 5 or 6 ingredients only. Very easy to give in to trying, especially if you have been watching culinary show after show on a rainy evening. The urge to get off that sofa and into the kitchen… was worth it.

French onion soup

Making French onion soup when you already have white wine at home is easy (I hate it when you decide to cook up a dish and realize there is one ingredient you abso need and it is currently in the store shelf…)

So, what you need:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter (olive oil may work well too, if you are not keen on butter)
  • 6 to 8 medium sized onions (to serve 4 helpings of this soup), sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup flour (white flour)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • About 1 to 1.5 litres of water (or stock, if you are have-stock-ready types)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Slices of baquette or just bread
  • 1/2 cup of grated gruyere cheese / cheddar cheese for the soup, and some more to top the bread with.

To make this hearty soup:

  • In a big pan, heat the butter and put in the onions. Saute for about 15 minutes, until they brown.
  • Add the flour and stir vigourously, to both cook the flour and mix it all in.
  • Pour in the wine, mix.
  • Add the stock / water and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Add in some cheese and keep stirring until the cheese mixes in well. About 3 minutes.
  • Add salt and crush pepper to taste.

To serve:

  • Spoon the thick soup into bowls.
  • Toast the bread, top with cheese and then grill for a couple of minutes.
  •  Place the bread slices on top of the soup and there is your mini meal in a bowl.

French onion soup

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Healthy eating workshop

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Mint choco cookies

There seem to be only two reactions to the onset of the summer holidays. Relief, for all those parents who have angels for kids. That is not me. So the other is dread, wondering how the heck to handle the two brats for another 4 and 7 extra hours respectively! I would like to blame the absence from the blog on the same two mentioned brats, but I guess there is more to it than that :D .

Our non-profit venture Second to None has taken off with a bigger impact than anything expected and quite a few hours are whiling away watching and delighting, and of course, working a little on it.

So getting back to the kitchen, while the nation waits for mangoes (we have already tried it thrice and the experience has, as always, been of the utmost satisfaction), we go back to chocolate.

This choco-mint scandal is anyone’s secret sin. A nondescript cookie turned wicked, drowning in chocolate glaze and decked with mint crumble. (The recipe is from a 2006 “holiday” cookbook :) but who the heck wants to wait for December anyway?!) The recipe calls for a cookie sandwich with marshmallow cream, but I did just the plain cookie… Sinful enough!

You need:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brewed coffee (no milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the chocolate glaze (loved that this was soooooo simple!):

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (I used the Amul cream)
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

How to make it:

Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together.

Flour, cocoa mix

Whip up the butter and sugar until it is thick.

Add vanilla extract, coffee liquid, and beat together. Ha! Got this vanilla extract finally that all the gourmet chefs keep talking about. But I could not taste that much of a difference in this recipe. Will it, ever? Perhaps in a recipe with more delicate flavours…

vanilla extract

Add the flour mixture and mix gently until you get a firm dough.

cookie dough

Make 1 inch balls of the cookie dough and roll in super fine sugar.

Place them on a baking sheet (greased). Flatten with the flat bottom of a glass! (Found this tip very useful).

Bake in a pre-heated oven for  12-15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, then cool on a rack. I use the metal racks that came with my microwave.

For the glaze:

Put the choco chips in a bowl. I used chocolate buttons hauled from a trip abroad. These things are like little treasures!

chocolate buttons

Heat the cream in a saucepan until bubbles form at the edges and simply pour the cream over the buttons.

In 5 minutes, the buttons are soft enough to whisk. Just use a hand whisk to mix and the glaze is done!

Dip the half the cookie in the chocolate glaze, then in crushed candy. Use any hard candy that you like, actually. As long as it adds a crunch and it is your fave tasting.

Chill for 30 minutes… and they are good to chew!

candy cookies

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Very South

Every time we have friends over for lunch or dinner, we end up having a mix of continental and Indian. Most times, north Indian. Realized we hadn’t  had our neighbours over, ever, for a typical south Indian meal, duh! So here are some pictures to share, all captured by Chirag, of our very south Indian lunch.

On the menu…

Majjige huli (like a buttermilk sambar), pineapple gojju.

majjige huli and kootu

The Kootu  (a nice thick sambar with veggies and peanuts) and flat beans dry curry.

palya

Carrot and moong dal + cucumber kosambari (salad) and puliyogare (seasoned tamarind paste mixed with white rice)

carrot kosambari and puliyogare

Nucchina unde (toor dal dumplings, seasoned, mashed and steamed, usually eaten with the buttermilk sambar)

nucchina unde

Mango ras (this is not very south Indian, but which Indian can resist mangoes?)

mango pulp

The table! And yes, that IS red wine. After running through a list of what we could possibly drink along with a south Indian meal, this was it. And it went down rather well!

the south indian table

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Strawberry cream cheese frosting

I am going to stop searching for recipes for dishes that have 3 ingredients. I mean when there are only 3 ingredients how tough can it be to figure what goes in, in what proportion :) ?

I get all thrown off balance by all the references to gelatin, heavy cream, double cream, single cream (is separated cream next?). So this is keeping it ultra simple.

You need:

  • 3 cups cream cheese
  • 20 medium sized strawberries, mulched. (it is great to keep some of the fruit in pieces to chew down on)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (if you like the frosting a little sweet, add more sugar)
  • Vanilla essence – 1 teaspoon

Whipping up the frosting:

  • Whip the cream cheese in a bowl until it is soft. Use a chilled bowl, preferably.
  • Add the sugar and whisk again to mix in the sugar and cheese completely.
  • Add the vanilla essence and the strawberry fruit and gently mix until the fruit is blended in really well.

A pretty pink frosting, especially for chocolate cup cakes.

chocolate cup cake with strawberry cream cheese frosting

The cup cake recipe is from joyofbaking.com, except that I added half a cup of mini chocolate chips to the cake batter.

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