Cooking with Sara Koshy

Ever since i became a part of the Chennai Food Guide group, well, more family, it has been an amazing journey. The only thing i have not been able to attend till date were the workshops, and i was about to change that…

Partnering with Gormei Market and Sara Koshy, CFG had begun this new series of workshops. The 1st one was held last evening at Gormei Market,, Sara Koshy created a few simple dishes within 2hours using the ingredients available on the shelves in the store. It was my 1st time at a Cooking show/demo [the last was when a friend & i enrolled in a baking and candle making class eons ago] 
If, like me you are hooked onto Masterchef Australia & for that matter other cookery shows, you will love this.
If you have drooled watching the chefs whip up delicious dishes within minutes, this class is one that you should not miss. 
With
a small group of participants, a patient chef, unlimited access to the
pantry [umm, the store in this case] the session was not only fun, it
was interesting and informative.  A wonderful way to spend a few hours
on the Saturday.
Sara showed us how to make Cream of Mushroom soup [except the soup was not blended and
creamy], a Pasta Pomodori [ pasta cooked with few vegetables in a tomato
sauce] and a simple Fresh Veg Salad.
The Mushroom Soup

  • Took in total about 20- 25mins to cook
  • Basic soup making recipe
  • Fresh button mushrooms
  • Sara used Organic Milk that was available in the store- Bhoomi
    milk [Rs 28, for a 1/2 litre]- this milk has a shelf life of upto 3days.
    And it is advised that you should boil the milk before drinking it
    [unlike the regular pasturised milk ]
  • Butter was Milky mist

The Pasta Pomodori

  • All vegetables were cut in same shape so they cook well 
  • Prego Pasta sauce was being used- simple tomato one
  • Sara suggested that while we add the Pasta after the water begins
    boiling, to add a pinch of salt but no oil [ she said the pasta will not
    stick, and the sauce might not either if you add oil] 
  • The water was boiling with the pasta cooking in it that was referred to as the Rolling-boil mode 
  • At the end, a drop of lime juice was added to the pasta after turning off the heat. [an interesting tip that i shall try]


The Fresh Veg Tossed Salad

  •  Cucumber, Celery stalk, carrots, red capsicum, cherry tomatoes and lettuce leaves were the core ingredients
  • Lettuce- never cut always tear the leaves apart with your hands. 
  • Rub a raw garlic all along the base and side walls of the dish to add a bit of garlic flavour
  • Salad dressing- apple cider vinegar, english mustard, olive oil[twice the quantity of vinegar], salt, sugar and pepper 
  • Add all the ingredients, and then toss well.

Ta da… All the dishes were done in less than 2hours… It was then
onto plating them, clicking photographs and trying them out!  

Gormei Market also gave each of us a T Shirt and some gift coupons… Which i and few others used up then and there…The store has just about every thing you could dream of- sauces, pasta, quinoa, rice, bread, cheese, herbs, organic ingredients, meat, biscuits, chocolates and so on…………..   🙂

Watch this space to know more about the next workshop!! You don’t want to miss it….

Veekes and Thomas, Chennai

There is a new eat out in Town, yes, one more, but this one seems promising. Why? It is pure Veg, a chain that has been quite successful in Bangalore, located in Nungambakkam, off Haddows Road and menu is simple, the icing on the cake- it is very reasonably priced!
And the decision was made. When a friend’s friend- SR was in town and asked if we could meet up, after a few messages, i asked if we could do lunch at Veekes & Thomas ?!
We landed there at 1pm, and on opening the door to the restaurant found it hot and stuffy. One the staff apologized and told us they were facing power issues. We then decided to sit outside, and luckily it wasnt too hot. 
Since we were meeting for the first time, we spent nearly an hour catching up, swapping stories, sharing work experiences and of course talking about the mutual friend…
It was nearly 2pm when we thought we should get down to ordering Lunch… 
They had about 3 soups and it mentioned “served in Chai glass” which is what got me curious.. The Basil & Tomato soup was not available and so we settled for the French Onion soup [i’d recently watched the Masterchef Masterclass episode where Gary made the French Onion soup and my oh my, it looked divine] 
The other day when i had been here, few friends were just winding up. One of them in particular mentioned that the Brocolli Corn Cheese Starter was delightful. And well, yes, i had to try it. It was crisp with a nice bite to it and filled with flavour- served with a tangy sauce. 
For the main dishes, i chose the Ratatouille [for some reason, the dish always brings the movie to my mind and i wonder if the dish is going to resemble a rat or come with a toon picture… lol]. I enjoyed the Ratatouille, but the rice had a bit of a bite, i wonder if that is how it is supposed to be or if this is a different kind of rice….
While my friend chose the Penne with Vegetables [which was a bit bland so we added chilli flakes and herbs to it and then  it sang like a tweety bird… :-)]

             

The food was really good, simple. We were stuffed and so passed up on Desserts. But the most amazing part was when the bill arrived- this meal for 2 was Rs538/- .. What a steal…. 
We lingered on for another half hour yakking away before parting ways. It was one good happy lunch! Will i go back here? You Betcha!
Ambiance- 7/10 [inside is nice, with all the music posters on the wall and pictures of food etc]
Price- 9/10
Service- 8/10 [ Umm, there were times when we couldnt quite understand what the waiter was telling us. Guess its their accent]
Overall Rating -8.5/10 
Address:
#15/4 Haddows Lane
Haddows Rd  Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600034
Ph- 09710026669
It is in the lane right next to Fashion Folks on Haddows Road [ Adj to Shastri Bhavan], go right till the end and you will see it on your left next to an apartment complex. 

OMG at Sandys

A plan was made, people were roped in and the venue was decided.. We were all headed to Sandy’s Wallace Garden to attack, or rather devour the Oh My God dessert… Found a table, parked ourselves and waited eagerly, wondering if the dessert will live up to its name or be a let down…
Ta da.. the waiter brought forth a huge white bowl that had a sparkler on it on our table. I looked at it, looked at it again… in sheer disbelief. Was it humanly possible to eat something this big? I was reminded of the Man Vs Food show on TLC where Adam wolfs down giant burgers and pancakes.. Thought to myself “hmm, maybe he can finish this dessert in a few minutes, but can we all?” and we were 6 of us.. not 1 or 2…. 6….

 The size of the bowl.. i kid you not!! 

 Can you see the yummy sauces that have been slathered on generously? a total of 100ml- Caramel Sauce, butterscotch sauce, White & Dark chocolate sauce
A few minutes of silence, each of us saying a silent prayer and ofcourse clicking away with our cameras, and phones.. staring at each other with the same question running through our minds and then attack… we grabbed a spoon each and began digging into this treat. 
Most of them were standing, well, they said they couldnt reach into the bowl sitting down… And slowly, steadily, the bowl was getting empty.. We could finally see the bottom of what seemed to have been a bottomless pit of divinity…. 
Oh My God
2 rich brownies

3 cookies with chocolate chips
6 scoops of ice cream- 3 vanilla and 3 chocolate
300 -600 ml of fresh whipped cream
100 ml sauces-  Caramel Sauce, butterscotch sauce, White & Dark chocolate sauce

Total weight of the dish- 2.2kgs

What do you know.. 10mins flat the bowl was empty… short of licking it we had polished it off …. Surprisingly, it was a light dessert, not the kind that goes sits in your tummy, giving you a nauseated feeling.  

Sandesh and Madan made a beeline towards our table and we had a quick chat with them about the OMG, how many have conquered it. Sandesh mentioned one guy had eaten the who had devoured it all by himself- took 45mins, strolled around, chit chatted and ate like he was eating a small cake… He also mentioned there was another guy who ate 75% and commented “i could finish it, but dont want to risk stuffing myself”… 
We were then served a platter of cup cakes- Red velvet with a cream cheese icing, Vanilla with plain icing sugar and rich chocolate with chocolate icing…. The vanilla won hands down…!!

That is what you call an amazing fun wacko evening with friends……………………

Kamat Swad, Bangalore

 Bangalore has so many eateries that sometimes i am overwhelmed, there are streets filled with eat out options, big and small, that i am amazed. I come back to Chennai and wonder why we dont have such a concept here, and quickly tell a Thanks to the Mystery man that my city is a little better.. Anyways, i digress!!  Kamat is a chain that you will find pretty  much in every area in Bangalore. I have been to a few of them- Kamat Bugle Rock is one i remember vividly. Had been there years, or was it months? ago with a friend and his son..

It was time to visit another outlet, “Kamat Swad in Koramangala” The thing about Kamat is – you see the place, check out the unassuming building, the simple structure, and the kaboom, the food hits you like a surprise!

I was in the auto, glued to the Google maps on my Blackberry, giving directions to the auto driver in my so called Kannada. I spotted the Canara Bank, but couldnt locate Kamat, and then the map sweetly showed that it was behind.. Looks like we had gone past it.. A U turn and there it was… Dang, how did i miss this huge sign board?

Got off, and just as i was to enter, i spotted Monika drive in.. We rode the elevator to the 3rd floor, and found a place. A waiter came over asked if we wanted Normal meals or special meals..

The Special meals is the Normal meals with
A Sweet
Ice cream/Fruit salad and
Bottle of water

We opted for the Normal meals and waited eagerly.

There came the Banana leaf, a glass of water, a glass of Buttermilk and a cup of curd.. The Buttermilk was divine, just perfectly seasoned.

And then came a good serving of salad- Fresh Methi leaves, Spring onions, and a big piece of Cucumber, and finally a papad. I was amazed- i have never seen fresh methi leaves served, especially not as a salad. I tried eating, but found it too bitter…

As we caught up on our lives, trips and work, we were served hot jowar rotis. We passed on the dollop of butter and eagerly looked on as we were served the side dishes. There were 3 gravies- one with black eyed peas, a greens with daal, and brinjal curry[the gravy was delicious and i quitely kept the brinjal aside]. There was also a raida with cucumber, onion and tomato that was yumm. And ofcourse, how can a Karnataka meal be complete without the traditional Kosmalli [a raw lentil salad of sorts].

The rotis kept coming, till we finally said enough. There is also the option of Rice, which is eaten along with Sambar, Rasam or with one of the podi [powder] kept on the table.. I did try them, one seemed like it had curry leaves, the other felt like the one we eat with idli, dosa and the 3rd was made of daal, but could not really decipher the flavours. I skipped the sambar [ i dont like the funny sweetness found in karnataka Sambar] but instead had a few spoonfuls of rasam [which i quite like].

It was quite a filling meal, and yet so light on the stomach. The bill came after we asked for it [unlike it being placed on the table the minute we were done eating] along with 2 bananas.

All this for Rs130/-[per meal] Quite a steal i would say!! 

Was quite a change from the usual eating out i do- and i quite liked it. Not heavy, not greasy, not oily, not filled with masalas and coriander.  I noticed the place was quite full, probably people from offices nearby.

Ambiance: 8/10
Price: 9/10 [the special meal is Rs160- 170/-]
Service: 8.5/10
Overall rating: 8/10

Address:

100 Feet Road, 6th Block, Near Canara Bank/Opp Naturals salon,
Koramangala,
Bangalore
Phone: 080 22736419

Tuscana goes Gluten Free, Chennai

How many calories will that slice of Pizza add to my waist?
Is that Maida, dont you have something made with Bajra or Ragi? 
I have been asked to eat Gluten Free food, any idea where in Chennai i can find the same? 
Well, these are questions i have encountered in the past few months and well, today there is a place that answers all these.. “Tuscana” 
 Polenta cakes with mushroom filling..

 

 Risotto cakes that were served as starters
Tuscana has been one of my favorite places to eat at, and now they are just taking it one step further with this new initiative. Recently they launched the bi-lingual menu- English & Tamil.
 
And what an event the launch was, i left home and  it began pouring, most us reached the venue drenched, but what timing… Snuggled inside the restaurant, we eagerly waited for Vipin & Chef Willi to give us  some insight on Gluten Free, the products used in the dishes and get a taste of the final dishes. 

The different pastas- Rice and Corn based

  The four flour/starch used in the pizza/pastas
 Vipin & Chef Willi explaining the whole Gluten-Free concept, how it came about, the dishes and so on

What is Gluten?
 “Gluten” is present in flour like Maida and such. It is nothing evil, but just a protein composite in the
flour that gives it the elasticity and thereon the texture. When  you knead the flour, the gluten is activated. When talking to a nutrionist friend, i discovered Gluten traps the Carbon di-oxide from yeast,
making sure it works on the dough leading it to rise and become nice and soft. 

But, does this mean Gluten free food is flat and tasteless? No way… That is such a myth! 

 The vegetarian pizzas… 1st one with colour peppers & 2nd olives & Artichoke
Why Gluten Free? 
Well, sadly there are a few among us whose body does not digest gluten well. And the new range of dishes at Tuscana is such a boon for them.  They can enjoy them as much as the others, from main dishes to dessert. 
Gluten-free diet is a way of life for the person with celiac disease, a digestive disorder due to severe gluten sensitivity.  No one needs to tell someone with the disease to stay off gluten, the protein component in many grains.
However those suffering with joint pain, brain fog, loss of balance or other neurologic and auto-immune disorders may also benefit from a similar diet as some studies have linked these and other illnesses to gluten consumption. It is reported that one out of every 133 healthy adults in the United States has celiac disease and the accompanying digestive problems if they eat anything containing gluten.
 

 The panna cotta with Blueberry compote[ a Tuscana signature yummilicious dessert]

 
Whats special about Tuscana’s Gluten Free menu?
Chef willi showed us the various flour used to make a Gluten Free pizza- Potato Starch, Bajra, Jower flour & Tapioca Starch. He said  the pizza takes about 8 mins to cook against the normal 4mins and similarly for the Pasta, he said it has to be cooked on order, unlike the normal pasta, which can be cooked and kept aside. 
They have a separate section dedicated to the Gluten Free dishes- utensils, cutlery and oven space as well.

 

How does it taste?
I was a bit sceptical, but the pizza tasted real good, now if you have eaten Bajra roti, you will identify the base texture and flavour. When we questioned Chef on the life of the pizza [store it overnight and eat next morning or few hours later] he assured us a few minutes in the microwave was all it would take and the pizza would be good as new..

The pasta was yumm, not as smooth as the normal pasta, but held the flavours beautifully. Very light and simple
 

Oh and they have desserts too.. We each got a Gluten Free cake [made with Almond meal and orange flavoured icing] when we bid adieu to the team at Tuscana.. Wish them all the best!!

Zara’s, Chennai

I had been out on a long early morning meeting across town, one that went on for nearly 2 hours. After that, caught up with a friend for coffee and before i knew it, time was 1pm. I checked my phone to see a text from the bestie asking if we can meet for lunch.. A few text messages later, we had decided to do lunch at Zara’s, Cathedral Road.

I called to check if we needed to book a table, the person who answered the phone said there was no need and then proceeded to tel me this “i should tell you, we dont allow access to anyone below 21yrs of age” ;o) [i was kinda flattered that he thought i was 21 or younger..hehe..]

For lunch, they have a combo or you can do a la carte. The combo looked interesting and the price had our eyes twinkling in joy. Vegetarian combo was Rs245, while Non Veg Combo was Rs345. That is quite a steal for the number of dishes they offered.

We ordered one of each- decided to split the soup- Cream of Tomato[ was quite yummy- fresh, and filled with flavour] and the Greek Salad [well, wish the salad was a bit more generous, there was barely anything on the plate]

The combo also came with the option of a Beer, which we gulped down along the meal. For starters, i had ordered the Veg & Cheese Quesadilla served with a side of tangy salsa. My friend got a chicken and cheese Quesadilla. The quesadilla was perfect, crisp, yet not hard, and the filling was good- avocado, capsicum, zucchini, tomato and cheese. The salsa had that little bite and burst of chilli that lingered in the mouth, a perfect side for the nearly bland quesadilla.

While we caught up on the boring, fun, interesting and quirky stories of our life, the main dishes were served. Mine was a penne with red sauce [ wonder why restaurants call it that, instead of saying Tomato based sauce] and oodles of vegetables with a side of Coleslaw and the most soft divine Garlic herb bread [we couldnt stop relishing the bread and asked for a few more as well]

The penne was good, but i wish it had a bit more seasoning- salt, spices and herbs- these would have brought the flavours “bang” to the top.

Finally, it was dessert time. Unfortunately this is the only section with not too many options on the Combo. I chose the Peaches cooked in orange sauce served with a dollop of Vanilla ice cream, while my friend chose the Brownie with ice cream.

I thoroughly enjoyed the dessert, the peach was fresh, soft, and had just that tiny bite to it. The orange sauce blended well, and gave it that acidity cutting through the sweetness of the peach. The brownie was ok, i have had better ones, so dint really go beyond a bite.

What a fun lunch that had been! and to think it came for that price, we felt it was quite a steal. Cheers!!

Ambiance: 8/10 [ it was a weekday and only a few tables were occupied, so peace and quiet]
Price: 8/10
Service: 8/10 [ there is a person waiting on you, asking you if they can bring the food in, and they dont pressure you to pay up and leave]
Overall Rating: 8/10 ..Will i go back here? definitely!!

Address:
Zara Tapas Bar
Above Copper Chimney/China town
#71, Cathedral Road,
Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600086

Ph:- 044 28111462

PS: They dont allow people below 21years and men- remember to wear shoes!!