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.

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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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Kidspot #Voicesof2015 Experience + a recipe for Maccher Chop (Bengali style Fish Croquettes)

If you happen to follow me on any of the social media channels, you would have definitely come across my winning tryst with Voices of 2015 and the amazing experience I had over the last weekend with my blogging tribe. I managed to click a few photographs of the day’s events though picking up the camera was the last thing on my mind; I was busy soaking it all up like a sponge!

And for all those who aren’t yet aware of it, I take great pride in informing you that ‘The Spice Adventuress’ is a finalist in the Food and Travel category of Kidspot Voices of 2015.

KSV2015_Ford-FT-FINALIST

The feeling is yet to sink in! I hold onto it with a fear that someone is going to grab it away from my hands any second. I remember how ecstatic I was last year when I won a nomination; it meant the world to me even then. Would you like to read that post? It’s all here, and there’s an amazing recipe too.

We had an official event last Saturday which began with a networking breakfast, then went onto a Masterclass for almost the entire day and then finished off with the official launch of Voices of 2015 and the formal announcement of this year’s Top 100. Now I am not going to go into the details of the event; Michelle of An Organized Life has done a pretty good job of it so you can read it all on her space. If you are a blogger, then you must definitely read Michelle’s post.

But what I would like to share with all my readers today is why this recognition means so much to me.

I am a finalist, not yet a winner! But for me, deep down I feel like a winner. You would ask, are awards important? And I would say, yes……at least for me. It is important not because I want to brag about it or be in the limelight and feel like a celebrity for a few days but because it is a recognition of my hard work. It is easy to be passionate and it is definitely easy to dream; what’s tough is making it come true through bone breaking hard work, day in and day out.

This journey, which started around 2 years back, has been a difficult one….and for the most part, a highly emotional one. The decision to say no to a regular income and taking on the role of a full time blogger was not an easy one. I have swayed and wavered a million times, fallen down into the realms of despair and depression but fought on with a vehemence to realize and make my dreams come true.

Completely self taught and with hardly any support or encouragement from close friends or family, I stuck on to my passion which is why I am so very proud of this recognition. I will be honest that I will be disappointed if I don’t make the Top 3, but it won’t matter much because deep down, I feel like a winner already. Not winning is going to give me the impetus to continue the hard work fuelled by my passion and dreams.

And so much of it would not have been possible without the love and support that has been generously showered by my readers. Heartfelt gratitude to every single one of you who have been with me in this journey…every single like, follow, comment, share, interaction has been priceless. Thank you.

Phew! That was a long talk isn’t it. Ok, so let’s get back to what this space is all about…gorgeous food. Today we have a delicious seafood snack – Maccher chop or Bengali style fish croquettes.

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Maccher chop is a famous snack of Bengal. These delicious fish cutlets or croquettes are soft on the inside with a crunchy exterior that is enjoyed by both children and adults alike. Traditionally, these fish cutlets have a flattened shape but you can just roll it the way you want. Mine’s round, simply because I felt so….

If you are observing the Ramadan fast, then these fish croquettes can be a delicious addition to your Iftar platter. I have served these maccher chops with sweet chilli sauce but you could pair it with your favourite dip.

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You can use any white fish like barracuda, cod, basa etc… to make these croquettes. Purchase the fish as fillets or get your fishmonger to chop it into a coarse paste for you; this saves on the cooking time. Easy to make in large batches and can be frozen for upto a month.

Ingredients:

1. 2 Basa fish fillets (you can either purchase as fillets or as paste)
2. 2 large potatoes; boiled and pat dry
3. 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped
4. 1 medium onion, finely chopped…..

Find the full recipe here….

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Recipe Courtesy – Foodies Hut

Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar, Melbourne CBD – a Review

One of the heavily populated areas of the CBD, Swanston Street has a ton of eateries catering to all kinds of cuisines especially from the Asian subcontinent.

After a day of exploring the Sea life Aquarium, we found ourselves on Swanston Street en route to Flinders Station. And when hunger pangs got the better of us, we decided to hop into one of the Asian cuisine restaurants lining the street which proved to be a very difficult task as we soon found out.

To start with, there is a constant stream of people flowing in and out of these restaurants which makes it extremely hard to find a free table in any of these. Secondly, there is no way you can judge the quality of food served at the restaurants without actually reading a good review because all of these are anyway full of customers. So I dished out my smartphone and checked on the ratings of some of these restaurants on my Zomato app. But unfortunately failed to find a spot at any of the ones with a decent rating.

Your Thai had a rating of 3.2 which seemed good enough when you are ravenously hungry and there was just one free table available. So in we went….

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Being an extremely busy place with a constant flow of people, there is no particular ambience as such to speak of. Very noisy and filled mostly with students, Your Thai is all about a quick and affordable meal. Functionality is the key word here so expect that when you walk in.

As soon as you are seated, the staff comes over with the menus. Service is cordial and friendly yet swift and food arrives at your table within minutes.

For drinks we ordered a mango smoothie and orange juice. Though the menu had several Thai beverages, we decided to stick to flavours we were familiar with. The drinks didn’t disappoint; refreshing and delicious.

Mango smoothie, Orange juice

Mango smoothie, Orange juice

We ordered prawn sesame toast for starters. Though it arrived first at the table, the mains also arrived almost immediately so be prepared for all the food to come almost at the same time unless you can eat real fast. The sesame toast was crunchy and tasted fine; average and nothing more to write about.

prawn sesame toast

prawn sesame toast

For mains, we ordered Red curry rice (seafood) and Massaman curry with coconut rice. Both the mains were just average. The seafood curry did have good flavour but if you have eaten a good Thai curry before, you will find this rather average. The meat was cooked well but again, the Massaman curry was just average and the coconut rice didn’t have much flavour through it and tasted just like plain sticky rice.

Red curry rice (seafood)

Red curry rice (seafood)

Massaman curry with coconut rice

Massaman curry with coconut rice

Overall, an average meal with really fast service and at affordable rates. I will definitely not go back for the food again because there are so many places in Melbourne that serve amazing Thai food. But if caught up in a similar situation on Swanston street and really hungry, I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up here again.

My rating – 5.5/10

Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar

255 Swanston Street,
Melbourne CBD
Victoria

Phone no: 03 9663 8010

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YourThai255Swanston

Timings:

Mon: 11am – 11.30pm
Tue: 11am – 11.30pm
Wed: 11am – 11.30pm
Thu: 11am – 12.30am
Fri: 11am – 12.30 am
Sat: 11am – 12.30am
Sun: 11am – 11.30pm

Click to add a blog post for Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar on Zomato

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

Dark Chocolate Beef Chili

I am definitely not a winter person.

Huddling (and sometimes getting lost) inside layers of clothing is not my idea of fun at all. I hate having to wear jackets all the time, running up huge electricity bills and totally getting blamed for it, washing dishes after dishes in the cold tiled kitchen (a food blogger nightmare!), existing on mugs and mugs of coffee that I turn into a caffeinated zombie half way through the day….

But if there’s one thing I love about this crazy weather, it’s my one pot, rich, spicy warmers in the forms of stews, curries and now this chili….

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Chili or Chili con carne is a Tex Mex delight; in fact it is the official dish of Texas. At its heart, a chili con carne is a rich meat stew with hot chili peppers and tomatoes. To add or not add beans to a chili is a matter of much debate and you can choose to make it however you wish to. I had a tin of black beans languishing in my pantry so in it went.

Dark chocolate in a chili is not very common but you will be surprised at the depth of flavour that a bit of chocolate can add to this beef chili. It has to be dark chocolate and not the sweetened milk ones as it would make the dish too sweet. You do not get to taste the chocolate as such but there definitely is a balance, a meeting of flavours that happens which makes this dish a delicious treat.

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And of course, what’s a chili without some chilli? Used in a couple of different varieties, the chilli is what makes this dish a real winter warmer. You can play around with the quantities to suit your tastes; mine can’t be anything but hot.

Beef is the meat of choice but if you do not eat beef, then lamb would be a good substitute. You really do not need any other accompaniments with a chili con carne; just a bowl of it topped with jalapenos and plenty of grated cheese.

So, here’s how you make a comforting pot of dark chocolate beef chili to warm your insides on a cold winter night!


Ingredients:

1. 1 ½ kg beef mince
2. 1 large onion, finely chopped
3. 1 can crushed tomatoes
4. 3 medium tomatoes; finely chopped
5. 1 can black beans (optional or use any variety you prefer)
6. 2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
7. 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
8. 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
9. 3 red jalapenos; finely chopped
10. 2 tbsp red chili powder
11. 1 tsp cumin powder
12. 2 tsp red chilli flakes
13. 1 tsp cayenne pepper
14. ¼ cup melted dark chocolate
15. 1 tsp brown sugar
16. 2 tbsp tomato sauce
17. Salt, to season
18. Black pepper, to season
19. 1 red jalapeno; sliced for garnish
20. Cheddar, grated for garnish

Instructions:

1. Keep all your ingredients chopped and ready to go.
2. In a large heavy bottom pan, brown the ground beef.
3. Next add the onions and brown for a couple of minutes.
4. Then add all the other ingredients and mix well to combine. Add less seasonings if you wish to and build up as you go.
5. Simmer on low heat for around 45 minutes; check and stir occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings especially the sweet: spice balance.
6. Serve hot with sliced jalapenos and grated cheddar.

Note: If you prefer a thinner chili, add stock or if you prefer the tomatoey flavour, then add an extra can of crushed tomatoes.

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A big thanks to ‘Two Red Bowls’ for sharing this wonderful recipe.

Uppu Kari (Chettinad Mutton Fry)

A conversation I had with my 6 year old last week…..

Adi: Mama, I am watching a cooking show
Me: Oh, that’s nice Adi; I am happy you are interested in cooking
Adi: Yes Mama, I also want to learn to cook yummy food like you make before I get married.
A flabbergasted me: Marriage? What’s the connection between cooking and marriage Adi?
Adi: Mama, you learnt to cook when you married dada rite? Just like that….
Me: No dear, I always liked to cook though I started to do it frequently only after marriage. I was studying till then rite!
Adi lets out a long sigh! As if what I have said makes no sense at all.
Me: Adi, you don’t need to get married to cook yummy food. You can learn to cook whenever you want.
Adi (in a slightly sterner voice): Ok Mama, but I will also cook yummy food when I get married!

I ended the conversation, but making a mental note to return back to it at some point in the future. I was happy that he thought that he should learn cooking and also the fact that he thinks highly of my food and that I have been able to inspire him in some way. I am also relieved that I have not bought him up thinking cooking at home is a woman’s job. But cooking and marriage – I don’t think I understand quite what’s going through his little mind.

And later at dinner, over this delicious plate of Uppu Kari (Chettinad Mutton Fry), I shared this conversation with my other half, who as always laughed it off saying that I am going to make my son a chef.

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Uppu Kari is a very traditional Chettiar dish and one of the best kept secrets of the vibrant Chettinad cuisine of Tamil Nadu. Today, one can find several variations of this dish but very few of these do justice to the real heritage of this preparation.

This recipe comes from the famed heritage restaurant ‘The Bangala Table’ situated in the Chettinad region. Uppu Kari or Chettinad mutton fry may have only a few ingredients but it has complex, fiery flavours and is so uniquely reminiscent of this cuisine.

The Uppu Kari is all about the smoky, vibrant and fiery flavour of the dried chillies; not just any variety but the plump round ones that are called goondu milagu in South India. Easily available at all Indian stores and grocers, these chillies are not very hot when kept intact. The combination of dried chillies with the shallots and garlic slow roasted with the mutton in a large wok is what gives this dish its flavour.

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The ingredients are few and the technique simple; all you need is a bit of patience while the mutton roasts itself slowly absorbing all the flavours. And do add that bit of liver, the texture it provides to the whole dish is amazing.

Ingredients:

1. 500 gms boneless mutton (cut into 1 inch cubes) + 150 gms liver
2. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
3. 15 dry red chilli (round variety/goondu milagu)
4. 1 ½ inch cinnamon bark

For full recipe, visit here

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Recipe developed, styled and shot for Supreme Seafood.

400 Gradi, Brunswick – a Review

I have been hearing quite a bit about the food scene of Brunswick but haven’t had an opportunity to explore that area till now. Recently, I was there to attend a pottery open studio and also to pick up a few ceramic pieces to add to my prop collection. 400 Gradi was right across the street and somehow, very inviting too.

Now I must admit that I am quite new to the restaurant scene of Melbourne which is why I had absolutely no idea of this restaurant when I walked in. It was good in one way…since I didn’t go in with any kind of expectation; I was able to assess the quality and experience in an unbiased manner.

The connection between 400 Gradi and Pizza Master, Johnny Di Francesco dawned on me only when I happened to see a program of his on television. 400 Gradi is his flagship restaurant but he also runs many pizza and calzone outlets across Australia. With plenty of international acclaim for his pizzas, Johnny is fondly referred to as Melbourne’s Mr. Pizza which reflects perfectly at 400 Gradi.

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Though there is a large al fresco area, I would recommend that you get seated inside to enjoy the classic and decadent ambience of 400 Gardi. While the seating areas are done tastefully in hues of black and antique gold, the bar area is all vintage wood with rows upon rows of great wines and drinks and a glass salumi cabinet.

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Going through the menu, the first thing I noticed was the prices. It is an expensive place to eat especially if you are going as a family or paying for a large group. But there’s quality to match the prices which was a solace.

For drinks, my husband chose a Peroni while I went for a glass of 2012 Mocandunda Riesling. While I may not know how to speak in the wine language, I can definitely say that this was one of the best wines I have tasted in a long time. I love Rieslings and this one was sweet, citrusy and zesty…..totally refreshing and highly recommended.

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We started off the meal with Polpette al sugo (Italian style beef meatballs cooked in Napoli sauce served with toasted bread). I have eaten and prepared so many different types of meatballs in my lifetime but none as delicious as this. Melt in the mouth meatballs with an equally delicious Napoli sauce. It was delicious…..

Polpette al sugo (Italian style beef meatballs cooked in Napoli sauce served with toasted bread)

Polpette al sugo (Italian style beef meatballs cooked in Napoli sauce served with toasted bread)

The next dish we ordered was Fiori di zucca (Stuffed zucchini flowers with fresh buffalo ricotta, spanner crab and chilli). Oh my! I just didn’t want the dish to end…..wish I had a deep wallet to go on eating these. Beautifully fried zucchini flowers with the creamy insides. In yum heaven!

Fiori di zucca (Stuffed zucchini flowers with fresh buffalo ricotta, spanner crab and chilli)

Fiori di zucca (Stuffed zucchini flowers with fresh buffalo ricotta, spanner crab and chilli)

And of course, you cannot dine at 400 Gradi and not eat pizza. For someone who is much more acclimatized to eating pizzas from the fast food chains, real Italian pizzas can be a revelation. There are very few ingredients as toppings unlike the former which comes loaded with toppings. We ordered the Salsiccia e friarielli (with mozzarella, sausages and friarielli). Many of the dishes were explained using Italian terms on the menu so if you are not familiar with the language, it is best to ask the staff who are very helpful.

When the pizza arrived at the table, we were thinking of how the taste would be since there were just 3 ingredients including the cheese. But the quality of the ingredients is so good that you begin to savor each individual ingredient. The taste of the mozzarella and the sausages was so delish; a different pizza eating experience for me.

Salsiccia e friarielli (with mozzarella, sausages and friarielli)

Salsiccia e friarielli (with mozzarella, sausages and friarielli)

Overall, an amazing experience. The staff was wonderful and attentive, the food arrived on time and we had nothing to complain. Eating at 400 Gradi is a costly affair so a bit of planning might do you good especially if you want to sample many dishes or go in a large group.

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My rating – 8.5/10

400 Gradi

99 Lygon Street
Brunswick
Melbourne, VIC

Phone no: 03 9380 2320
Website: http://www.400gradi.com.au/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/400Gradi

Timings:

All days – 12 pm to 11 pm

Disclaimer – Wish someone had paid the bill! All of it went out of my own pocket.

Maccher Korma (Bengali style Fish Curry with Yoghurt and Spices)

All of us have preconceived notions when it comes to cooking and eating dishes from other cuisines, especially those which we are not very familiar with. For me, this has been the case with Bengali cuisine….

For the longest time, I avoided eating or cooking Bengali food simply because of the notion that I would not enjoy the flavour of mustard oil. It’s true that mustard has a pungent aroma and flavour but if used in the right manner and with the right flavour combinations, it can be an amazing ingredient to work with.

I was in for a delicious surprise when I finally gathered the courage to cook Bengali dishes. Now, a month does not go by without trying a dish from the region.

The Bengalis’ love for seafood is legendary which identifies well with me because I am a huge seafood lover too. And so this Maccher Korma or fish curry with yoghurt and spices ticks all the right boxes for me.

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All of us are familiar with a korma. Dating from the Mughal era, the korma is a rich, creamy dish usually made using meat or vegetables. But in Bengal, you will find a seafood version of the korma which is a much loved dish in most households.

I have used white pomfret to prepare this maccher korma. Pomfret is not the preferred variety traditionally but I am all for local and seasonal catch. And moreover, I am a big fan of white pomfret…..especially the fish head. Are you a fish head lover?

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This Bengali fish curry or maccher korma is deliciously creamy, fragrant and spiced perfectly to enjoy over a bowl of steamed rice. Though you might think the ingredients are many, the dish is rather simple to prepare.

So bring home the seasonal catch from your market and let’s get cooking this cracker of a dish….Maccher korma or Bengali style fish curry with yoghurt and spices.

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Recipe adapted from this blog.

Ingredients:
1. 1 kg pomfret, cut into medium slices
2. To grind:
• 4 tbsp freshly grated coconut
• 1 tbsp poppy seeds
• 5 cashewnuts

To view full recipe, click here.

Recipe developed, styled and shot for Supreme Seafood.

Beer and Cheddar Soup

Beer, cheese (loads of it), bacon, jalapeno, cream….no, this soup is not for the faint hearted or the calorie conscious!!

The idea of making a beer and cheddar soup originated on a Facebook group discussion. I had posted a dish with red wine and thus began the conversation of cooking with alcohol. While I may have a bit of experience cooking with wine, I am practically a newborn when it comes to cooking with other forms of alcohol. But the beer soup came highly recommended from a bunch of food buddies who seem to understand my sense of flavours. And so of course, I had to give it a go!

Now, I am not really fond of alcohol especially beer. I have an intense dislike for its bitter flavours. Beer aficionados are not going to take this line easily! But I have never been able to stomach its taste; so how do I cook with it?

I remembered the time when I used beer to make the batter for fish and chips; that was a delicious experience. Though this was nothing remotely similar, I still decided to give this soup a try….after all, there’s plenty of cheese and bacon in it right!

And my…what a delicious experience was it! All my skepticism vanished with the first taste of the soup. My 6 year old absolutely loved it; he called it the best soup ever. Don’t worry about giving it to your children; most of the alcohol is cooked off so you are not feeling boozy or tipsy drinking this one.

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This beer and cheddar soup is autumn in a bowl. Flavours that are strong yet comforting……

Good quality cheddar can make a huge difference to the flavours of this soup. I used a mixture of vintage cheddar and flavoured cheddar (onion and chive). But it is not necessary to stick to these flavours; the only important thing is to use one or two types of real good cheddar with at least one being vintage or aged cheddar for that sharp punch.

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This beer and cheddar soup is not just about flavour, it’s also about texture. Every spoonful gives you the soft onions and celery along with the salty, delicious bits of browned bacon. And just when you are lulled into a safe sense of flavour, the fresh jalapenos pop up for that vibrant heat which explodes on your taste buds.

Like you figured, I can rave about this soup but you know what….let’s just get cooking.

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Recipe adapted from this site.

Ingredients:

1. 150gm bacon, chopped
2. 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3. 1 onion, finely chopped
4. 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
5. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6. 2 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
7. 1 bottle pilsner (300 ml)
8. 2 ½ cups chicken stock
9. 4 tbsp unsalted butter
10. ¼ cup plain flour
11. 250 ml cream
12. 100 gm flavoured cheddar (onion and chive), grated
13. 150 gm vintage/aged cheddar, grated
14. Salt, to season
15. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

To serve:

16. Garlic toasts
17. 1 jalapeno, finely sliced into discs
18. Browned bacon

Note – I used pilsner, but you can use ale also.

Method:

1. In a large pot, cook the bacon pieces till browned. There is no need to add any extra oil as the fat of the bacon will render and crisp up the pieces. Remove and keep aside leaving the remaining oil in the pot.
2. To the same pot, add the chopped onions, celery, jalapenos and thyme. Cook till softened which should take around 8 – 10 minutes.
3. Once the veggies have softened, add the beer and cook till the liquid has been reduced by half; this will take you around 5-7 minutes.
4. Then add the chicken stock and continue to simmer on low heat.
5. In another pan, make the roux by melting the butter and whisking the flour into it. Whisk till the mixture has lightly browned and then add this to the stock and mix well to combine.
6. Continue to cook till the stock has thickened and then add the grated cheese and cream.
7. Cook for another 5 minutes and then add the bacon (reserve 2 tbsp for garnish); taste and season with salt and pepper.
8. Serve warm with garlic toasts.

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Do you cook with alcohol? I would like to learn more about your experience……

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