Cranberry & Chocolates… at Cocoashala


Nuts and chocolate- yes, tried and tested..
Raisins and chocolate- yes, that has also been tried and tested
Cranberry and chocolate- well, ummm errr.. Sounds interesting, but do the flavours match? 

This was the question that popped in my head when Nitin Chordia mentioned the event that was in collaboration with US Cranberries. Having known and interacted with him for a few years, I knew now that it was going to be an interesting & insightful afternoon. So I headed to Cocoashala, their outfit in Gopalapuram curious to taste, see and experience the combination! 

But then it turned out to be quite an eye opener with ref to Cranberries. I have eaten the berries and tasted the sauce that my Uncle makes, but that was it! The juices we get here are quite sweet, and I know the fruit is quite tart and sour as well [ almost like a cherry]. 

That evening I was introduced to the dried cranberries, frozen fresh cranberries [ these are frozen berries that have been thawed] and cranberry juice [Ocean spray, that contained 27% cranberry juice as against others that had 4-5% only] 

It was a delight to experience the flavours of the fruit and see it being used across various dishes. There was Cranberry salsa and Cranberry thokku- both of which I loved… a good way to include the berry in our meal.. 






Drum roll please…. Time for the session on Cranberries and Chocolates. His wife/partner in crime Poonam Chordia [India’s 1st certified female chocolate taster] took over the reigns and showed us three dishes made using Cranberries & Chocolate.  The first two was made using dark chocolate, which also happens to be vegan [ no dairy included] and the last one was with white chocolate [ which contains milk in it, substitute would be condensed milk ]



Cranberry dark chocolate Mousse


Having watched enough of Masterchef and Heston’s shows, I knew the various methods of making mousse. One of them was chocolate and water, and a few years ago during a Magnum ice cream launched we witnessed Janice Wong make a similar mousse.  And so I knew it was possible, but today was seeing the same thing being made with cranberry juice instead of water. Pure cranberry juice [ no additives, no added sugar] was heated, and poured over the dark chocolate chips.. It was allowed to sit for a few minutes before being whisked over a ice bath. And voila, the mousse took shape right in front of our eyes, it was creamy & smooth and within minutes was beginning to dry out…  

I sprinkled a tiny bit of salt over it and must say it tasted yummilicious!! The tartness of the berry, the bitter dark chocolate and the salt was a match made in heaven… Few years back a friend was the one who showed me how salt enhances the taste of any chocolate based dessert, and since then I always add a tiny pinch of salt to chocolate based desserts/drinks… 







Cranberry dark chocolate ganache that was turned into truffles

Similar to the mousse, the ganache was also made by heating the liquid [ cranberry juice] and pouring it over the dark chocolate. Only difference being, after it was mixed in, a cling wrap was added [making sure it touched the surface of the chocolate] and left in fridge to set for a while … 

The mixture was then scooped up, rolled and coated with pistachio powder to form truffles… They melt in your mouth- literally, actually they start melting while you pick em up and pop em in your mouth…







Cranberry white chocolate payasam


Being a South indian, we make quite a range of payasams and so I was eager to experience cranberry in a payasam. This one was made with vermicelli, white chocolate [ which was the only element with sweetness in it], some water, coconut milk, and cranberry juice..  Allowed to simmer for a while , the final product was thick and delicious with the tartness of the cranberry ensuring it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet.. 


                                                   


Well, after that session in chocolate and cranberry, we continued to chit chat about chocolates, food and so much more.. Neelima Sriram & her husband shared insights on their life, change in lifestyle since they moved to Vegan & whole foods… It was overall a fun afternoon indeed..  Must add, my love for the berry has gone up a notch and I can’t wait to try my hands on these dishes… Maybe even experiment further~! If only I could find someone who would send me a box of them berries periodically πŸ˜€ 


Stay tuned to Cocoashala’s facebook page for updates on upcoming events/workshops…. 






A session on Vegan Cheese wit Neelima Sriram… The Conscious Market!

When I got invited by a blogger friend to a session on Vegan Cheese wit Neelima Sriram, I was quite curious.. I have heard of vegan food and cheese, but had no clues how it worked.. As in what did they make the cheese from, what did it taste like and why were all these different diets taking over the world [am talking about Vegan, Keto, paleo and the works…]… 
This event was part of the The Conscious Market which is on 26th & 27th at Express Avenue Mall! There was a special vegan buffet at E hotel, and stalls at the atrium in Express avenue mall. 
So, there I was with few others who had been invited sitting around a table waiting for the event to start. I did walk around the large table at the end that was piled with different fruits, olives, crackers and the bowls and platters of cheese [ each with a different label]. While they all looked like dips and creamy cheese varieties, I was still puzzled about the taste. 
It was then that Neelima started explaining the concept of Vegan cheese and how the variations were made. So the base for this cheese is cashew and other nuts, sometimes even fruits or vegetables are used. It was quite an interesting experience. Even though the cheese are all creamy and quite nice, they arent really a substitute for regular cheese, nor can you fool someone into thinking they were.
Being vegan is all about switching your lifestyle, no dairy, ergo no animal based products!While some switch to this lifestyle for health reasons, others are for the whole “I care about animals and so will not have anything made from them”… 
Take a look at the cheese platter and different cheeses we had… The one cheese that we did not get to taste, but I got a sneak taste of later on is the yellow in[ in the 1st picture], it was made with cashew cheese as base and blended with carrots and pumpkin. It was delicious, but felt more like a dip than a cheese. Hmmm.. i guess like everything else it is all about controlling the mind and giving new things a chance! 

Dabeli- the famous snack of Kutch region

If you hear the words Dhokla, Faafda, Khandvi, Oondhiyo, Khakra, thepla, you know you are in Gujarat… But then did you know about Dabeli, it is a famous dish from Bhuj, probably the largest city in the district of Kutch. It is almost like a desi version of the burger… There is a bun, there is filling, there are sauces/chutneys and well, you have a go by stuffing it in your mouth.. πŸ˜‰ 
I discovered it during my recent trip to Gujarat. Driving back from Rann of Kutch to Bhuj, hunger pangs were slowly creeping up. I did not want to go back to the hotel and have tea with sandwich or pakodas. Was quite keen on trying some local food, which is when I spotted this cart on the roadside and there was quite a crowd around it.  
Stopped the car and went over to find out what it was, and that is how I found “Dabeli”. The man behind the counter had an air of confidence about him. He barely looked up at the customers, just chit chatted as he went about moving the Pav [bun] about on the giant round pan , once in a while grabbing the slab of butter and rubbing some more on the pan. 
Since we were 4 of us, and 2 hadn’t had this before, there was a mini debate on how many we should order. Finally we ordered 4 Dabelis asking him to make them less spicy. When one friend asked how much it was, he literally snapped at her saying “stop talking, just take it , eat it and pay if you like.. You know I have had customers eat, drive off and then come back saying sorry we forgot to pay” [but the way he said it showed how passionate he was about what he made and that he was just happy to serve customers] I watched in fascination as he went about putting the dish together. He went on to say there was a youtube video made by a customer on him that we can check.. 
He took the bun from the tawa, spread a good dollop of spicy chutney, another of the sweet one, and then added the Dabeli masala [ mix of spices, peanuts and boiled potatoes], then came the spicy crunchy peanuts and finally it was shut tight and served. Now it was time to stuff our faces and enjoy this dish… I loved it.. infact I think two of these and a meal was done! Oh btw, he also sells packets of Dabeli masala powder [all you gotta do is boil potatos, and add this before cooking the mix down] and spicy peanuts as well.. 
While we were gorging down our Dabelis, I noticed a customer pull in on one of those specially Hand Control Bike for Handicapped, and he also suffered from some nervous disorder as his hands were shaking.. The guy at the Dabeli counter asked his assistant to give the guy in the bike his dabeli, making sure he held it right in his hand.. Few minutes later, he chit chatted with that customer asking if he needed anything more and if he liked what he had… Talk about service right!! This is something that changes the experience we have and what makes a world of difference..
As I made my way back to the car, I heard him continue to chit chat with the next lot of customers who had landed up at his stall.. 
Next time you are driving around in Bhuj and on Hospital road, look this guy up and thank me later! 

Kokkarakko, Kodambakkam…

The cool logo..

Vadam with 4 chutneys…

The drinks- Panagam, Rose milk, Nannari Soda, and Neer Mor

Tomato Jeeragam Soup

Veg Starters- 

Muttai Kalakki 


Bun parotta
Desserts- Pomogranate Payasam, Tirunelveli Halwa with ice cream, Black forest cake with akkaravadasal, Panjamirtham panna cotta, Coconut saffron pudding and Rose Falooda…

The Entire meal- 63 items!!

Well, now that you have feasted on the photographs, time to read a bit about the place and all that they offer. When I heard the name “Kokkarakko”, the 1st question that popped in my head was “Would there be any, absolutely any veg food at a place with such a name?, the 2nd question was – would it be too non veggy?, as in there are some restaurants that specialise in non-veg, and the minute you enter the aroma of non veg food hits you, it lingers in the air and everywhere around..”

I got answer to both questions the minute I walked up the flight of stairs to the restaurant. The place actually had a lovely ambience, they have both indoor and outdoor seating area, that were well lit and spaced out. And then came the menu, I spotted not one but quite a few vegetarian dishes, bringing on a smile!! 

And then I met Kaushik, the “Mad Chef” who spoke passionately about the food, the ingredients being sourced from specific places ensuring best in quality and how most recipes were home recipes, things that we have grown up eating. I know we hear that very same spin in many places, but here I actually agree to all that he said, cos the Vadam served with 4 kinds of chutneys, the tomato jeera soup, the seppangkezhangu fry were all exactly as we make it at home. On request, I got a Muttai Kalakki [a famous egg omelette type food from Coimbatore region]…While the dishes have all been taken to the next level, the flavours were spot on, almost as if they had been transported from our home kitchen… πŸ™‚ 

Each and every dish arrived piping hot to the plate, some of them cooked in pure ghee which added to their flavour, esp the Nei soru [ghee rice], that was perfect with the podi and pickles… {remembered my gramma who keeps saying how some dishes need the extra spoonful of ghee to give it that zing…} … 

What a roller coaster that meal was and we had happily sailed through nearly 40+ dishes in a span of 2.5hours. Non veg folks do have a range of chicken dishes to choose from, each one cooked differently but when I saw my friends dig into them, it was evident they were all good. Including the Parotta that they slurped away with salna [ which I discovered was a basic gravy when cooking Chicken dishes, which most times is ignored, but is the perfect combination for the parotta… the salna is poured on top of the parotta, let to soak and then you dive in.. paints quite a picture, right? Who knows, it might catch on]… 

The biggest surprise came in little tea cups called “dessert”..  With every spoonful, your mind tells you it cannot be while your taste palate tells you otherwise. There was one with warm Tirunelveli halwa served with ice cream, another with panna cotta topped with panjamirtham [pazhani panjamirtham to be specific, which is more of a jam consistency]…  
They have a Veg Thali priced at Rs149+ tax [ with 23 dishes] and 

There is the other elaborate one with 63 dishes priced at Rs 659+ tax [perfect for an evening out with your gang of friends]

AddressVelvette House, 1st Floor, Dr Ambedkar Rd, Kodambakkam, 
                Chennai – 600024
Phone: +91 99625 71111


Disclaimer
The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember these were just my views!! Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon AppΓ©tit  πŸ™‚