Lahori Fish Fry

India and Pakistan – two countries infamous for their political differences. But I can’t help wonder how two nations that are so similar in food, culture and traditions can end up being such bitter foes.

Till my early teens, I wasn’t even aware of the political issues that plagued these two nations. In spite of the history lessons, I grew up blissfully unaware of these tensions. And this was not just because I grew up in Dubai, but because we had neighbours who hailed from Pakistan. My earliest friends were the children of that household and our fathers were colleagues who always went to office together.

I have memories of a childhood playing dress ups with the little girls of that household, memories of building sandcastles on the terrace from the materials salvaged from construction workers, memories of gazing at the beautiful aunty next door whenever she let her guard down and removed her burqa.

I also have memories of food, glorious food. The smell wafting from their kitchens during Ramzan and Eid, eagerly looking forward to the lamb dishes and little presents they would bring us after a holiday to Pakistan. I have memories of watching how both our moms would discuss and exchange recipes and dishes without speaking a word of each other’s language but understanding every word.

It pains me that nations can fight over nothing. And the only thing I can really do about it is practice tolerance within me and also teach my son the same….in the hope that a day will come when we will truly celebrate each other’s differences.

With these thoughts running through my head, I had to prepare a dish that originated in the region that is today called Pakistan…..the Lahori fish fry!

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In spite of its name, the Lahori fish fry is common in India too especially in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Punjab.

There are two ways of preparing this dish; one is the traditional version and the other is the restaurant version. In the former, the fish is coated with the spice marinade and deep fried while in the latter, the fish is coated in a spiced batter and then deep fried. I am using a marinade today because I want just a nice layer of spices without any thick exterior but if you wish to make the restaurant version, then all that you need to do is prepare a batter instead of a marinade.

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I have used Japanese thread fin breams, bones and all. But if you prefer a boneless version, then use fillets of any white fish. There’s much that you can do with this recipe. You can either go the route I took, fried whole fish to serve as an accompaniment to rice, vegetables and lentils. Or use fillets to serve with a side of salad as a starter. The fried fillets make interesting fish tacos too! And if you make the batter version, then add a side of chips to have your own spicy fish and chips.

Enjoy!!

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Ingredients:

1. 1 kg Japanese sea bream; head and guts removed, cleaned well
2. 2 ½ tbsp coriander seeds
3. 1 tbsp ajwain/carrom seeds
4. 1 tsp black salt/kala namak

For full recipe, visit here.

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Recipe developed, styled and shot for Supreme Seafood Pvt Ltd.

Bonfire Cafe (Springvale) – a Review

A visit to this restaurant has been on the cards for a long time as one of our friends had been there and suggested it’s a good place to try North Indian and Pakistani cuisine.

The Bonfire Restaurant (the café in the title is a misnomer!) is located in Springvale and is a rather small place nestled among many other Indian, Asian and fast food joints. The place is more famous for takeaways rather than dine-in due to the small space and not so appealing service. The food leans more heavily towards Pakistani style of cooking which is rather similar to the cuisine of old Delhi and parts of Punjab and North Frontier.

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We arrived there around 8.00pm on a Saturday evening and the place was only half full. Since it’s mostly a takeaway joint, you are likely to find place even on weekends but if you are part of a large group, I totally recommend calling ahead of time as the place can get really cramped, even with a few diners.

Though I have read mixed reviews about this place on Zomato, I kept an open mind and not get influenced by what I have read. The menu was refreshingly different and did not offer the same kind of dishes that are offered by most Indian restaurants. Like I said, this was because the menu leaned towards the Pakistani style of cooking; so that expectations were really high as I know that Pakistani cuisine is an incredibly delicious one, rich and packed with flavour.

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Since there were very few diners, we got seated fairly quickly and the menus were bought out. There was a good variety of dishes across all categories and I liked the fact that each dish carries a little note about the origin or history of the dish along with a description of the actual dish. This can be really helpful for those who do not understand the traditional names and can get confused on what to order.

For starters, we got the Chapli Kebabs which is a specialty of the region; lamb mince kebabs flavoured with coriander and dry pomegranate seeds. The kebabs were served with a mint raita and sliced cucumbers. Absolutely delicious and a must try…unanimously voted as the best dish of the day by all of us. There is a strong coriander flavour just as the description mentioned but it was beautiful and not too hot.

Chapli Kebabs

Chapli Kebabs

Mint raita and cucumber salad

Mint raita and cucumber salad

We also got a piece of Chicken tikka for the non-lamb eater in the group. Unlike many other restaurants where tikka is served as skewers, here you get a quarter piece of chicken marinated with a flavourful tikka sauce and a generous squeeze of lemon. Well cooked, not too dry with good flavours.

Chicken Tikka

Chicken Tikka

Next, we ordered some flatbreads/Naan along with a vegetarian and non-vegetarian side. For vegetarian, we chose the Paneer Jalfarezi and Beef Nihari for the non-vegetarian option. The flatbreads were a bit dry to my liking but not too hard. A bit of butter would have helped. The Paneer Jalfarezi was delicious and mopped up in no time at all. It is an excellent choice for vegetarians and also for anyone who is looking for a less spicy dish.

Flatbreads

Flatbreads

Paneer Jalfarezi

Paneer Jalfarezi

Though I have heard plenty about Nihari (a traditional dish dating from the 18th century Mughal cuisine and now considered to be the national dish of Pakistan), this is my first time actually experiencing the dish. Since I have no prior experience, I won’t claim it to be authentic etc…simply because I do not know. But what I do know is that it was delicious with the most tender and succulent pieces of beef I have ever eaten. The only complaint was that there were very few beef pieces and plenty of gravy. But nevertheless, a good dish.

Beef Nihari

Beef Nihari

The final dish was the lamb biryani. Of course you have to sample the biryani when out at an Indian restaurant and this one didn’t disappoint. The Pakistani style of biryani is much lighter than the typical Indian version; it is more flavourful but less spicy. And this makes it perfect as it does not fill you up completely allowing room for other dishes to be sampled. I wouldn’t say this was a great biryani; average but not disappointing.

Lamb Biryani

Lamb Biryani

If there’s anything to fault with this place, it’s the service. There’s none to speak of……

My rating – 7.5/10 (just because the food is good). So if you live nearby, a takeaway would be ideal if you do not wish to experience the non-existent service. For others, if a good meal counts over the service, then you will want to give it a go.

Bonfire Cafe

Shop 1
27-31 Springvale Road,
Springvale
Victoria

Phone no: (03) 9546 8445
http://www.bonfirecafe.com.au

Timings:

Open 7 days – 12.00pm to 12.00am
Breakfast available – Saturday and Sunday (8.00am to 1.00pm)

Click to add a blog post for BonFire Cafe on Zomato

Disclaimer – All the food and drinks were paid for by me!

Southern Fried Chicken with Paprika Wedges

Fried chicken – The ultimate global comfort food!

I remember vividly of a childhood eating my fair share of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken, is there anyone who doesn’t know it!). It was the only form of fast food that was welcome in our house simply for the fact that fried chicken was the only thing that my dad would eat outside South Indian cuisine.

Without going into the debate of health and junk food, I did enjoy the flavours of KFC, at least till I learnt to make a decent version of fried chicken myself. What can get more comforting than biting into a crispy chicken leg that eventually melts in your mouth. And accompany it with fries and ketchup…..greasy but good for the soul!

As my cooking skills strengthened and so did my knowledge of oven cooking, I learnt of ways to achieve a similar texture and flavour of fried chicken without actually deep frying. The fries got replaced with wedges and the store bought mayo slowly gave way to homemade aioli.

And of all the different varieties and styles of fried chicken, this Southern version staunchly remains my favourite just because it has liberal amounts of my favourite ingredient in it….spices.

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Southern fried chicken is another comfort food offering that originated in the US. The chicken pieces are tenderized by marinating in buttermilk and then coated with flour mixed with spices like cayenne pepper. But today, I am adding more crunch to the coating in the form of crushed cornflakes and Panko breadcrumbs. And we have not just cayenne for the chilli kick, but smoked paprika and Indian red chilli powder because I like it hot!

If you have an oven, then ditch the fryers and skillets; spray some oil and oven bake at high temperatures to get the same crispy exterior and your stomach will thank you for it. We also have paprika wedges instead of classic fries to accompany this Southern fried chicken. Homemade mayo and barbeque sauce complete this comfort food package making my weekend a delicious affair.

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Why don’t you make yours delicious too?

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

1. 1 kg chicken; broken into 6 pieces
2. 2 cups buttermilk
3. 3 tbsp barbeque sauce
4. 2 cups crushed cornflakes
5. 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (use ordinary crumbs if you do not have Panko)
6. 3 tbsp wheat flour
7. 1 tbsp smoked paprika
8. 1 tsp red chilli powder
9. 1 tsp cayenne pepper
10. 2 tsp onion powder
11. ½ tsp garlic powder
12. Salt, to season
13. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
14. Vegetable oil

Note – Adjust the spices to suit your heat preference.

For the wedges:

1. 4 medium potatoes
2. ½ tsp paprika
3. ¼ tsp Italian herbs
4. Salt, to season
5. 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

To prepare the chicken:

• Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl, pour the buttermilk and barbeque sauce on top. Season with salt and pepper; keep aside for at least 2 hours or overnight as time permits.
• Preheat the oven to 250°C. Line a tray with baking paper and lightly brush or spray with vegetable oil.
• In a bowl, mix the cornflakes, Panko crumbs, flour, cayenne, red chilli, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and season with salt and pepper.
• Remove each piece of chicken from the buttermilk and coat with the cornflakes mixture. Press gently so that the crumb adheres to the chicken and place it on the baking tray. Repeat for all pieces. Make sure that you do not crowd the tray; if necessary, prepare in batches or on 2 trays.
• Lightly spray or drizzle the chicken pieces with oil and bake for 10-12 minutes at 250°C. Then decrease the heat to 200°C and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye on the chicken and take care it does not burn.
• Flip the chicken pieces over gently, lightly spray or brush with oil and bake again at 200°C for another 15-20 minutes or till done. Check after 10 minutes to see if any pieces are done (the wings may cook faster than the breast pieces) and remove if necessary.

To prepare the wedges:

• Peel the potatoes, cut into wedges (leave the skin on if you wish to) and parboil in salted boiling water for 8 minutes.
• Drain and allow to air dry.
• Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan forced). Line a tray with baking paper.
• In a bowl, mix the potato wedges with paprika, herbs and lightly season with salt (remember you cooked it in salted water). Drizzle a bit of oil and line the wedges on the tray without crowding too much.
• Roast in the oven for 15 minutes turning once in between or till golden brown and done.

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Fish Ambotik

Do you believe in the ‘13th unlucky day’ concept?

I do, at some genetic level……though I haven’t become a freak yet!

I grew up with a mom who totally freaks over the number 13. She simply wouldn’t let us do so many things on that day, especially if involves travel, hosting an event, or even lodging an application…..If there was a way, she would simply bring life to a standstill and keep her family close by on the 13th.

My attitude, initially, was ridicule. It was plain crazy to attribute a day or number to be bad. And though I have read up a lot trying to figure out the scientific relevance of all this, the only answer I could come up with is that it has a lot to do with what you really believe in. As life went, the ridicule turned to frustration as mom wouldn’t let me do many things on the 13th, and it is not always possible in a practical, busy world. But I began to tolerate it much more because I began to understand the reasons behind her fears. Every undesirable or bad experience of her life has always been on the 13th and that fear has formed over many many years of such experiences.

And now, though I haven’t become like my mom yet, 13th has become a conscious date in my mind. Though I don’t prevent or impose on my family with my beliefs, there is an extra prayer in the mornings before everyone heads out, small prayers through the day worrying about the safety of my family till they are back in the nest and yes, sometimes consciously putting away doing things simply because I don’t feel great on that day.

Yesterday was one such 13th…..nothing has happened that stopped my life in any manner. But a couple of unpleasant and undesirable experiences peppered through the day that I just couldn’t wait for the day to come to a close. I went to bed with a heavy heart praying that I don’t want to believe that a date or number can have a hold on me.

Today’s dawn couldn’t have felt much better…a new day to start afresh with a better frame of mind. And all I wanted to do was fall back into routine and get cooking something to fire up my taste buds.

And that something happened to be this deliciously spicy and warm fish curry.

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Fish Ambotik curry is a famous sour and spicy seafood preparation commonly found in Goa and along the Konkan belt of Maharashtra (a state along the south west coast of India).

The unique sour flavour of the dish comes from the tamarind and fenugreek seeds while the heat is added from the kashmiri chillies and garlic. Ambotik curry can be prepared using a wide variety of fish but I have used Indian mackerel today.

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A bowl of steamed rice with this simple, no fuss, deliciously spicy fish curry can make the world feel a much better place……

Ingredients:

1. 1 kg Indian mackerel; gutted and cleaned
2. 1 ½ red onion; 1 finely chopped and ½ for making spice paste
3. 6 dry kashmiri chillies

Find the full recipe here….

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And if you love fish heads just as much as I do, here is special click for you;

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Recipe developed, styled and photographed for Supreme Seafood.

Masala Chai Semifreddo served with Crushed Pistachios and Fresh Figs

Surprised seeing another dessert so soon? Honestly, I am too…..

This masala chai semifreddo is the result of inspiration striking from several different quarters!

First, there has been a lot of ‘semifreddo’ talk on Masterchef this season, and then there was this amazing masala chai ice cream by ‘A Brown Table’. But what really made me take this plunge finally was an event that I attended a couple of weeks ago – Melbourne’s first ever ‘Chai Festival’ hosted by T2 at their headquarters in Richmond.

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I am more of a coffee gal but I still wanted to attend this chai festival; to broaden my knowledge about this beverage and also play a little at the ‘make your own tea blend’ station which was the highlight of the festival. We came home with lots of special tea blends; my son went totally bonkers and I now have all sorts of crazy blends at home…..a Chinese tea blend with plenty of dried rosebuds (the aroma of this one is heavenly) and a spicy Indian chai spiced further by my son with loads of pink peppercorns.

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I tasted crème brulee tea for the first time ever (and here is a badly shaken picture of it!!)

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And how I envied this copper teapot….

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The idea of this Masala chai semifreddo just got stuck in my head and I really wanted to give it a shot. Had a small chat with the gorgeous girls at T2 who after hearing my idea, guided me towards their organic spiced chai blend. One of the girls got me a sample of the tea so that I could experience the taste and aroma before making up my mind. Little did she know that anything with spice gets me hooked!

So I did a fair bit of research on semifreddos and eventually today’s dish happened…..

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Traditionally, a semifreddo is made using eggs but I decided to try out this eggless version. The last time I made this no-churn icecream, there were so many readers who wrote to me asking for an eggless recipe. So this time, considering all those requests, here is my recipe for Masala chai semifreddo served with crushed pistachios and fresh figs.

If you have never made a semifreddo, seriously you need to give it a go. It is creamy, delicious, sweet, cold (yes, of course)…everything that you want from an ice cream but at a quarter of the time or effort. And what’s more, you can go completely bonkers with flavours…..get as creative, experimentative or wild as you like.

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For those who aren’t too familiar with the semifreddo term, it basically is the Italian name for a semi-frozen dessert which can be like an icecream/frozen custard/icecream cake……anything which has a frozen mousse texture comes under this class. Which means that there is plenty of room to play around in terms of flavours…….

Again, there is no particular shape to a semifreddo, though you are most likely to see it in a rectangular tin to scoop out like an ice cream. If you want individual portions, you can set it individual glasses or moulds. I wanted an ice cream cake sort of feel, so went for a circular shape.

So, here’s my humble dedication to India’s much loved beverage….a creamy, tea-licious masala chai semifreddo!

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Ingredients:

Note – This is not a sponsored post of any manner and my use of T2 chai is entirely my own decision. So please feel free to use your own masala chai blend; just make sure you adjust the strength of the flavour accordingly as the T2 organic spiced chai blend is really strong and full on.

(Serves 4-6)

1. 400 ml full cream milk
2. 400 ml condensed milk
3. A pinch of salt
4. 3 tbsp T2 organic spiced chai blend
5. 200 ml water
6. 250ml heavy cream
7. Crushed pistachios; to garnish
8. Fresh figs (optional); to garnish

Method:

1. Add the chai blend to water and bring to boil (adding the chai blend to cold water and slowly bringing the water to boil helps to deepen the flavours). Reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
2. Strain and return the liquid to heat; simmer for another 4-5 minutes to slightly thicken the infusion. Remove and allow to cool.
3. Place the milk, condensed milk and salt in a pan and bring to boil; stirring continuously. Reduce heat and add the tea infusion. I added one tbsp at a time, tasting after each till I was happy with the flavour. Since the strength of your tea infusion might vary, taste and add enough to get that warm chai flavour but not too strong to overpower the dessert. I added approximately 7-8 tsp of the infusion.
4. Continue to cook for another 10-12 minutes till it reaches the consistency of a thin custard. Allow to cool and then chill in the fridge.
5. Whip the cream into soft peaks and then fold into the chilled milk mixture.
6. Line the tin with baking paper and pour the mixture into the tin. Freeze for at least 4 hours or till set.
7. Garnish with crushed pistachios and serve with fresh figs on the side.

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Feast of Merit, Richmond – a Review

Enter Swan Street and you are spoilt for choice when it comes to food.

There are so many cuisines to choose from, interesting looking cafes and restaurants, quirky spaces, hot spots…plenty to choose from which can be a bit daunting. But if you are willing to take a chance and follow your instincts, then you are likely to end up with some great food and equally great experiences.

That is exactly what happened last week while we were out shopping in Richmond. Seeing the number of choices, our first instinct was to pull out our phones for the Zomato app and check for good restos which we did too. But then it got a bit overwhelming because of the vast number of choices so we decided to do our random test. Walk into a place that catches our fancy, an experiment of sorts guided by our instincts.

And that’s how we ended up outside Feast of Merit; a quick look at its front door and we decided that this was the place for us.

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Stepping inside Feast of Merit was like stepping inside another world. From the din and bustle of the outside world, the ambience of this restaurant offers you an escape into a relaxed, peaceful and content atmosphere. There is a distinct charm to the place that comes collectively from the décor, service, food and drinks.

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We came to learn that Feast of Merit is a communal dining space and a YGAP initiative. YGAP is a social organization that focuses on education and youth programmes in several different countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Rwanda, Malawi and Australia.

The concept of a communal dining space was inspired by a practice called ‘Feast of Merit’ practiced in Nagaland, a state in North East India. There is a beautiful hand written board inside for the readers to understand more about this concept and what it means.

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Since we walked in early evening, the staff informed us that lunch time was over but there was a small snacks menu that we could choose from. We were comfortably seated though we would have preferred a larger table; when the dishes eventually came, there was a fair bit of juggling happening.

There is a well stocked bar with a really good mix of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks; also on the menu were healthy options like smoothies (for breakfast) and kombucha.

The menu is predominantly Middle Eastern with a touch of Modern Australian; a delicious combination I must say.

Sam opted for the Bicycle Beer while I chose a glass of ’14 Alta ‘for Elise’ Pinot Noir Rose. The wine was refreshing, light and went beautifully with the snack menu while Sam couldn’t stop raving about the beer.

Bicycle Beer, ’14 Alta ‘for Elise’ Pinot Noir Rose

Bicycle Beer, ’14 Alta ‘for Elise’ Pinot Noir Rose

From the snacks menu, we opted for a couple of dishes since the portions were small. The first to arrive was za’atar flatbread with hummus and beetroot dip. Oh my! Delicious is the word. I fell in love with the bread which was soft, generously spiced with za’atar and olive oil. I make a great hummus myself so was impressed with the quality of this one too. But it was the beetroot dip that stole my heart. Luscious, sweet and spiced just right to bring out the sweetness of the beets.

za’atar flatbread with hummus and beetroot dip

za’atar flatbread with hummus and beetroot dip

The next dish we ordered was the soup of the moment (like the surprise factor!), again served with the delicious za’atar flatbread. The soup turned out to be a delicious carrot soup, yet another dish to fall in love with. Luscious, creamy, sweet and spicy, I totally recommend this one if you are a soup lover.

Carrot soup with za'atar flatbread

Carrot soup with za’atar flatbread

Next was the Makaneh sausage with tahini labneh and pickled onions. Absolutely delicious, this one took me back to my childhood, the aroma of old Dubai. There is a fair bit of spice in the sausage which goes beautifully against the labneh; another great dish to sample.

Makaneh sausage with tahini labneh and pickled onions

Makaneh sausage with tahini labneh and pickled onions

And finally came the triple cooked spiced lamb croquettes with whey dressing….yet another delicious dish to complete the meal. We also got a plate of pickled vegetables to accompany this amazing feast. The croquettes were crispy with a delicious lamb filling and spiced just perfectly.

triple cooked spiced lamb croquettes with whey dressing

triple cooked spiced lamb croquettes with whey dressing

Overall, an amazing experience. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and drinks making it a point to visit again for lunch or dinner. The prices are on the slightly higher end but with a good cause being supported, we were only glad to contribute. A place I would totally recommend to all those who love Middle Eastern flavours.

And an event to attend if any of you are interested;

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My rating – 8/10

Feast of Merit

117 Swan Street
Richmond
Melbourne, Victoria

Phone no. 03 9428 8480
Website: http://www.feastofmerit.com/

Timings:

Monday: 7.30am to 3.00pm
Tuesday to Friday: 7.30am to 11.30pm
Saturday, Sunday: 8.00am to 11.30pm

Click to add a blog post for Feast of Merit on Zomato

Disclaimer – Not a sponsored post; all the food and drinks were paid for by me.

Malvani Fish Fry

The combination of school hols and cold winters is not exactly the most inspiring time for me to cook. In between work, activities and freezing your butt off, I hardly feel like entering the kitchen and on some days, it almost seems like a punishing chore.

Comfort food and familiar tastes seem to reign high during this time. So there are a lot of curries, fried food and saucy pastas on the menu. Not a time to watch your waistline!

My definition of fried food is a little different to others. For me, it is mostly seafood – I am so very partial to fried fish and there are a zillion ways to do it too. A bowl of rice, this lentil curry and some fried fish; that’s the way I am keeping sane this season.

Today’s fried fish recipe comes from the coastal regions of Maharashtra, India. The cuisine is often referred to as the Malvani style of cooking.

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There are a lot of similarities between the Malvani and Konkani (this is the term used for Goan cuisine) style of cooking. Seafood is big in both cuisines given the proximity to the coastal region. A common seafood preparation is the rawa fish fry, in which fish pieces are first marinated with a wet spice paste and then coated with coarse semolina/rawa and shallow fried.

The use of coarse semolina is ingenious; it gives that instant crunch without needing any egg or flour; also, there is no need for deep frying to get the crispy exterior. Now, that’s a winner! I have tried the same technique to make chicken nuggets and my kiddo loved it.

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The Malvani fish fry is a delicious, crunchy preparation usually made with kingfish, mackerel or pomfret but today, I have used Indian anchovies/nethli. Being a small fish with a single line of soft bones, the anchovies when made this way is super crunchy and the perfect, delicious starter to any meal. And of course you have to eat it, bones and all.

Ingredients:

1. 400gm Indian anchovies (Nethli); cleaned with heads and guts removed
2. 1 tsp turmeric powder
3. 2 ½ tsp red chilli powder (adjust to heat preferences)

For the full recipe, visit here.

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Recipe developed, styled and photographed for Supreme Seafood.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream

I am a very reluctant baker!

And I know I would have never baked these ‘chocolate cupcakes with nutella buttercream’ if I weren’t a mother.

The whole world of baking, sweets, desserts gives me the nerves. I am the savoury girl who does not believe in measurements or recipes; one who uses her fingers to play around with spices instead of measuring spoons and weighing scales. A pinch of this, a dash of that kind of cook whose strength lies definitely in the savoury world.

So this whole thing of being precise, weighing out ingredients, following instructions and recipes freaks me out. And top it off with an intense dislike for sugary tastes; I am definitely the wrong person to make these chocolate cupcakes.

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But there are some things that you will do for love. And these chocolate cupcakes with nutella buttercream has love written all over it….a mother’s love.

Just like most 6 year olds, Adi is crazy about chocolate and Nutella is the answer to every problem in his world. I do a lot of nutella rationing at home, and he is only allowed to have it once in a week. But the school hols are here, and it is time to break all rules and let chaos descend. A fun sort of chaos…with flour and cream everywhere, a lot of bowl licking, giggles and me going crazy!

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Nope…..I am not saying more. Let’s just bake some deliciously moist chocolate cupcakes and pile it up with Nutella buttercream frosting.

The chocolate cupcake recipe comes from Sugar et al…..and this is the blog that you must follow if you want a serious dose of sugarporn!

Ingredients:

For the chocolate cupcakes:

(Makes 16 cupcakes)

1. 50 gms Dutch processed cocoa powder
2. 240 ml boiling water
3. 175 gms all purpose flour
4. 2 tsp baking powder
5. ¼ tsp salt
6. 115 gms semisweet chocolate chips
7. 113 gms unsalted butter, room temperature
8. 200 gms granulated white sugar
9. 2 large eggs
10. 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Nutella buttercream:

1. 170 gms butter (must be softened so keep out of the fridge much before starting)
2. 300 gms powdered/icing sugar
3. 2-3 tbsp milk
4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
5. 20-25 gms nutella

Method:

To make the chocolate cupcakes:

1. In a small bowl, stir the cocoa powder in hot water till completely mixed. Keep aside to cool.
2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, chocolate chips, baking powder and salt.
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
4. Lightly butter the muffin tray or place paper liners in each.
5. Using an electric/hand mixer, beat the butter and the sugar together till light and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time and beat till smooth.
6. Add the vanilla extract and continue to beat till smooth.
7. Next, add the flour mixture and beat lightly till just incorporated.
8. Add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir lightly till smooth.
9. Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling it upto two-thirds of each cup.
10. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the cakes have risen and springy; check after 15 minutes with a tooth pick and bake accordingly. (If cooked, the toothpick should come out clean). Do not overbake or you end up with dry cupcakes which is not good at all.
11. Leave on a wire rack to cool and then decorate with the buttercream.

To make Nutella buttercream:

1. Sift the sugar to ensure there are no lumps.
2. Using a hand/electric mixer, beat the butter till pale and fluffy. This will take at least 5-6 minutes by an electric mixer and more by a hand mixer so be patient and let the mixer do its work.
3. Add ½ cup sugar, first mix on low speed and then on high till the sugar is fully incorporated. Continue until all the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly with the butter.
4. Then add the Nutella and vanilla extract; beat further till incorporated.
5. Add 1 tbsp of milk to fluff up the mixture. The texture of the cream is a personal choice so if you prefer a thick cream, then add just a tbsp but if you prefer a softer and more wet cream, then you can add more milk.

Note :

• You may increase the amount of Nutella to suit your personal preference. I made a lighter version since I was making chocolate cupcakes and didn’t want it to be too rich.
• If there is excess buttercream, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for upto 2 weeks and in the freezer for a couple of months. To use again, bring to room temperature and mix in the beater to fluff it up.
• If you wish, you could decorate the cupcakes with edible silver balls, grated chocolate or sprinkles.

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Anything for this happy smile and the chocolatey kiss that followed…..

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Café Sapore, Chadstone – a Review

Ok, so you have heard about my fixation with the Chadstone Shopping Centre and I have no plans of starting it off again. Let’s just get straight on to the review this time.

I have noticed this Café a zillion times and make a mental note to visit it every time I pass by as it is situated right in the middle of the shopping centre with absolutely fantastic boutiques surrounding it….Ugg Boots Australia, being my favourite.

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And since it never happened naturally, I decided to make a conscious effort to visit this place the last two times I was out shopping at Chadstone. We tried out different items from the menu both times but I am going to include it in one single review, which would make more sense to all of you.

Speaking of ambience, Café Sapore is bang in the middle of the shopping centre so the only atmosphere that you get is of busy shoppers and of course, a lot of window shopping from your seat. The café is pretty much full throughout the day but you are likely to find a place soon enough with the constant streaming in and out of people.

Both the times, we were promptly approached by the staff and seated comfortably. The menu was bought over immediately which included both the meals and drinks. Look out for the specials board as it changes every day. There is also an in house bartender but he is only available at certain times of the day so check with the staff and then order the cocktails. But otherwise the drinks menu covers all the basics.

There is a kids menu too with the standard fare but I am always happy to see one as it means spending less money and also lesser portions.

There is a also a selection of sandwiches, pastries, cookies and baked good at the counter for light bites.

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Now since we went twice, I am going to break down the review as Day 1 and Day 2.

Day 1:

For drinks, it was the Peroni for my hubby and the Pinot Grigio La Maschera (Limestone Coast, SA) for myself. A refreshing white, not too strong and went well with the seafood dish I ordered.

Peroni, Pinot Grigio La Maschera (Limestone Coast, SA)

Peroni, Pinot Grigio La Maschera (Limestone Coast, SA)

And that seafood dish was the risotto with an assortment of seafood, white wine, garlic, cherry tomatoes, chilli and extra virgin olive oil. I was really happy with the risotto; it had a real good flavour, not gluggy or starchy at all and that hint of chilli totally lifted the dish for me.

Seafood risotto

Seafood risotto

My husband got the Open style souvlaki with both grilled lamb and chicken served with a Greek salad, lemon, tzatziki and pita bread. It was average; the chicken was cooked well but the lamb fell short of expectations. Good portions but just average.

Open style souvlaki with both grilled lamb and chicken served with a Greek salad, lemon, tzatziki and pita bread

Open style souvlaki with both grilled lamb and chicken served with a Greek salad, lemon, tzatziki and pita bread

And from the kids menu, we ordered a plate of chicken nuggets and fries. A classic which can’t go wrong with children; it was polished off in no time.

chicken nuggets and fries

chicken nuggets and fries

Day 2:

This time, the hubby ordered a chicken parma with fries and garden fresh salad. It was a really good parma, cooked well and lots of flavour from the tomato sauce and cheese. And good portions too.

chicken parma with fries and garden fresh salad

chicken parma with fries and garden fresh salad

I ordered the special of the day – grilled snapper with a radish, green apple, witlof salad. I loved the salad; fresh, vibrant and zingy which went so beautifully with the fish. The snapper was cooked well but I would have preferred a bit more flavour to the fish.

grilled snapper with a radish, green apple, witlof salad

grilled snapper with a radish, green apple, witlof salad

And we finished off the meal with a Nutella cupcake served with chocolate drizzle and fresh cream. Yumm! That’s all a nutella cupcake needs.

Nutella cupcake served with chocolate drizzle and fresh cream

Nutella cupcake served with chocolate drizzle and fresh cream

Overall, it was a good experience on both days. I would definitely step back in for a quick meal or coffee while I am there.

Psssst…be prepared for a bit of Italian charm from the boys!

My rating: 6.5/10


Café Sapore

Chadstone Shopping Centre
Upper Level
1341 Dandenong Road
Chadstone
Melbourne, VIC

Phone no: 03 9568 8443

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cafesaporechadstone

Timings:

Mon: 9 am to 5.30pm
Tue: 9 am to 5.30pm
Wed: 9 am to 5.30pm
Thu: 9 am to 9pm
Fri: 9 am to 9pm
Sat: 9 am to 5.30pm
Sun: 9 am to 5.30pm

Click to add a blog post for Cafe Sapore on Zomato

Disclaimer – Yup, I paid for it all.

Lychee and Cardamom Bellini

2015 has been an absolutely rocking year for me so far. There have been so many unique experiences to add to my book of memories. And today I am going to share one such experience with all of you.

Earlier this year, I got the opportunity to attend a ‘Spice and Wine’ Masterclass held as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Chef Adam D’Sylva of Tonka and Shashi Singh of Avani Wines took us through a learning process on how to pair and match wines with Indian spices and flavours.

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All of us who attended the event were encouraged to participate in the #socialfeeds cookbook competition hosted by Bank of Melbourne who was the official sponsor of the festival. I can’t seem to turn down any challenge these days and to cut a long story short, one of my recipes was chosen as a winner in the contest. And that meant, my winning dish gets to be featured in an e-cookbook curated by none other than Chef Benjamin Cooper of Chin Chin. The book is a first of its kind featuring recipes from home cooks across Victoria and is a beautiful showcase of how important food is to Australia and drawing inspiration from the multicultural vibe of this country.

(My winning dish was Fish Mappas – a traditional seafood preparation from the backwaters of Kerala, India which I am sure many of you have already seen on the blog. If you would like to download this ebook, just visit here. It’s free!)

Apart from this, there was another special prize….a copy of ‘Chin Chin – the Book’ by Benjamin Cooper. A collection of amazing recipes from Chin Chin, with a lot of detailed information on basic Thai cooking like making curry pastes and broths from scratch.

chin chin

This cookbook is going to be a much treasured one, not just for the beautiful memories now associated with it but also because I finally get to learn how to make these curry pastes from scratch, a long cherished culinary activity I have wanted to indulge in.

But today we are not having a Thai curry although the weather is just perfect for it. The cocktails included in this book were rather fascinating and so today, we are making a simple Bellini with Asian flavours.
Cocktail lovers would know this one for sure; for all others, Bellini is an Italian cocktail traditionally made using peach nectar and Prosecco sparkling wine.

But instead of using peach, today we have a Lychee and Cardamom Bellini. As far as cocktails go, I fall in the ‘rarely make and often drink’ category. So this Bellini was exciting as it was a very simple recipe with easy to find ingredients and hardly require any bar accessory as such. A simple blender would do the job!

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A very refreshing drink and one more suited for the summery months; but I don’t mind drinking this all year through. The sparkling freshness of the Prosecco, tangy sweetness from the lychee sugar syrup and just that hint of spice from the cardamom….this Lychee and Cardamom Bellini is just gorgeous.

Even though my photographs don’t do any justice to the actual drink, I strongly urge you to give it a go if you are a wine drinker.

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Ingredients:

(To make 1 drink)

1. 30ml lychee and cardamom syrup
2. 90ml Prosecco
3. Lemon slice/twist, finely cut; to garnish
4. Lychee, to garnish

For the syrup:

(Makes enough syrup for 10-12 drinks)

5. 250gm white sugar
6. 5 cardamom pods
7. 1 can lychees

Method:

To make the syrup:

1. Heat 250ml warm water and 250gm sugar in a pan. As it starts to boil, crush the cardamom pods and add to it. Continue to heat till the syrup turns aromatic and turns a shade or two darker (should take approximately 15-20 minutes). Remove and allow to cool.
2. Blend one can of lychees along with its syrup till smooth.
3. Combine equal quantities of the sugar syrup with the lychees to get the lychee cardamom syrup.
4. Store in a bottle and refrigerate; use as necessary.

To make the Bellini:

5. In a champagne glass, pour 30ml of the lychee cardamom syrup and then gently top with the Prosecco.
6. Garnish with a lychee and lemon twist.

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