Thursday, May 26, 2011

Better Than Sex Banoffee Pie

He promised it would be better than sex. Each bite would explode and tantalize every part of the tongue. I believed him because Anand is a tremendous cook and everything he has made for me in the past has been stellar. I also know Anand would not talk lightly about sex and even though food and porn and sex are some of the most over used clichés, I had a feeling this pie would be mind blowing.  
If any of you have wandered the streets of Colaba Causeway and into Café Churchill or found yourself in a bakery in the far ends of Jaiselmer or on the beaches of Goa, Banoffee pie is no stranger to you. Personally I am a chocolate girl but once in a while I crave a creamy fresh fruit delight.  What makes Banoffee a little over the top special is the layer of toffee along with bananas. Of the entire flavor pairing in the world this one is just delightful. Imagine it- banana and toffee- they just flow into each, clinging and blending, wrapping their arms and legs around each other. Their sweetness combined with their smooth gooey textures.  In fact the name Banoffee is a portmanteau of the two words- banana and toffee.
As the legend goes – a Mister Ian Dowding and a Nigel Mackenzie of the Hungry Monk restaurant in East Sussex are responsible for creating this beauty in the early 70’s. It was inspired by the American Blum’s Coffee Toffee pie, which is a layer of toffee with coffee flavored whipped cream. In the English version, developed by Dowding, the toffee was made by boiling the can of condensed milk to create a soft gooey toffee and further add a layer of bananas – a contribution attributed to Mackenzie. This pie was an instant success. Many restaurants adopted the Banoffee and later supermarkets sold it as American Pie something the duo disputed over.
Dowding is very particular about his recipe- hates biscuit bases and whipped cream that comes in aerosol containers. Dowding has found a perfect follower in Anand who very carefully worked on various layers of this pie following the very pedantic recipe by Mr. Dowding
When I got to Anand’s the piecrust was ready. It was a beautiful golden brown perfectly shaped looking crust.  I had wanted to photograph him making the piecrust but he said he worked on it in the middle of the night as the temperatures are cooler and allows the butter to not melt too fast. In a way I am glad I missed how much butter is used to make the piecrust so perfect and crispy.
He was boiling the can of condensed milk in a pressure cooker with the right amount of water (perfectly dunking the cans in water- he boils three cans together as toffee does not get spoilt). On opening the can, the condensed milk is a toffee brown color thick, gooey liquid, the kind of stuff little kids would love to lick clean.  He poured the toffee on the crust and evened it out.
Anand used 8 small sized bananas which he split in half, length wise and carefully laid in concentric circles. And on that he applied a layer of the double whipped cream- whipped with some instant coffee.  In a previous post, I have posted pictures of how the heavy cream is whipped into stiff peaks.  He applied the cream on the bananas and created a beautiful rosette form. Sprinkled some cinnamon and hazelnut chocolate shavings and voila.
As a treat on the side Anand made us a delightful Dulce de Leche Coffee with Old Monk- instant coffee and a dollop of toffee stirred in, topped with some of the cream and sprinkled some chocolate shavings to go as a side with this incredible piece of pie. He attributes this creation to his goddess The Pioneer Woman.

Let me tell you about this pie. The first bite, it takes a few seconds to decipher and discern all the flavours and understand the joy that is taking place in your mouth.  You close your eyes and your eyelashes flutter in delight. The softness of the whipped cream, the gooey texture bite of the banana and toffee blending into one heavenly sweet bite and finally the crunch of the perfect biscuity piecrust. It was unimaginably good. Delicious. It was orgasmic- yes and better than sex!
This article has also been published on Bon Vivant's website- which has a collection of some serious good food articles. Check it out and more
And now for the delightful pics:

Natasha was the other friend who got to participate in this beautiful pie orgy. Her sunny dress made a lovely backdrop to the pie photos. She also provided us with non stop giggles throughout this photoshoot.

Anand and Natasha. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Of Rendezvous, Run-Ins and Sinful Chocolates

The following blog post is more of a memory of one run in after the next in which the food was just incident and celebration of these run ins. The photos were taken by my Iphone which does not do well in low light but definitely attempts to capture the story.

It was a Friday- I was at site in Bandra and done with work early. Somehow going home felt like it would be a let down so I decided to call a few folks and see what they were doing. The first person I got through was Natasha who said she was in the changing room at some fancy wancy place in Paladium with her mum. The next person I got through was a buddy of mine from college Zameer who runs a beautiful design shop called The Busride housed in the incredible Ranwar Village in bandra. The Studio is a small two room house in the 1st floor of one of those gorgeous old Goan homes in the village. Some of the work these guys do is outstanding. Beautiful sites, great briefs and a whole lot of fun. My other friend from college Ipsit also works with Zameer. They had an intern Maulik and it was decided we will all go out for dinner. Soul Fry was the destination everyone seemed to settle on.

An hour later, wrapping up the week's work, we all set out for Soul Fry. When in Bandra walking seems to be the way to do things. The streets are sprinkled with old beautiful homes that one can only dream of even entering. My mind always wanders in to a what if.. I had inherited one of those homes. We walked past the Bandra gym where cricket was being practiced. One fellow in there recognized Zameer and got chatting. His name was Calder Salazer. What an amazing old name. We said goodbye to Calder and marched towards Pali Hill past a streetside chaat wala called Ranjeet. Zameer told us this guy was legendary even the Bollywood Khans ate at his Paani puri. The fact it was called Ranjeet cracked us up (a long lost dearest common friend). A plate of Pani Puri and Bhel Puri it was. As we ate these nice crispy balls stuffed with warm potatoes topped with spicy water, someone came up from behind me and closed my eyes. It was Natasha. We invited her to join us but she declined. So we walked further up Pali Hill to Soul Fry. Aah Soul Fry! Its probably not the best Goan food, because I dont think some nice old Goan aunty actually cooks in the kitchen but it is an honest attempt to make the food as delicious as possible. Seafood is their speciality.

We ordered prawns, clams (teesri dagdabeet) and fried surmai with pao and a pitcher of Beer. For the sweet intern boy it was the first time eating all this seafood and wine. After a bit Natasha messaged me that she is joining. We ordered up some more food and more beer. Soon the table was filled with insane laughter and crass jokes. The teesri- clams is my favourite. The sauce is slightly sweet, warm and rich. It is done in a typical Maharashtrian style which means no coconut only onions and masala. Would explain the sweetness. The fried Surmai was spicy but gentle which is what makes surmai so special.

After dinner it was decided that we must indulge and sin some more. Chocolate seemed the right way to go. San Churros was voted upon and we headed down the hill to this delightful little cafe on Waterfield Road. The place was almost full of Friday night post dinner revelers. It was very loud and mostly felt like people were on a chocolate high. We settled for some churros with white and dark chocolate and two sinful strawberry with brownies and chocolate and custard cup (cannot remember its name). Our very loud and talkative table got silent all of a sudden and in five minutes flat and finished all three desserts. The Churros are a deep fried Mexican treat, crispy on the outside ans slightly warm and gooey inside. Dipped in dark chocolate, they awaken the child inside you. The other dessert was a lovely combination of all the things you love in this world, brownie, strawberries, custard and chocolate. Cannot go wrong.

The conversation was fun border line inane and full of laughter. The food was delicious. The run -ins were unexpected and very delightful. Bandra makes a lovely setting for such Friday evenings. Could this be planned - I dont think so. We all wanted to attribute our evening to Ranjeet Pani Puri walla.
Promise for more such evenings are always made. Will they happen, we can only hope so.

To the Busride


The three boys

At soul fry- the clams


Maulik and Ipsit

Clams all gone

Prawn curry and rice


The entrance of San Churros with a promise of the beyond.

Beautiful pies

The fondue plate

The energy of the people seated at the table behind us was wild.

The Churros and the strawberry brownie chocolate thingy

Disappearing quickly

All gone. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Chinese Stir Fry- A little bit of what I feel.

A writer's block. No a blogger's block. Or maybe a blogging block. I am diligently collecting stories but no juice. None. Was I just disappointed in blogging.. Was I having an existential moment with this. What is the purpose of this? Was I just disillusioned?
So in typical Jyotika style I snapped my fingers and said enough. (And a little chat with my friend helped). We never let anything bring us down. We must tell the food stories. We must keep on marching.

These last few months have been very busy at work. And I have been channeling Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals. A revolutionary food show that got people back in the kitchen and stop take-out and eating out because of crazy work days. Rachel Ray always had a full meal- salad/ appetizer, main and a quick dessert. All in 30 minutes- "The amount of time it takes for you to watch this show, I will have a full meal ready from start to finish in 30 min." I love her shortcuts and her kitchen efficient tips.
I still follow them to organize my cooking.

So here is a healthy delicious Chinese Stir Fry with Egg Fried Rice.
It is so easy, hassle free and quick, you will want to make it all the time. Infact I have made it twice in a week. Each time with a slight variation of the previous. Mom is vegetarian so I went with Tofu (Soya Paneer) as my source of protein in the dish. But tofu can be easily replaced with chicken, prawns, beef, add a little bacon in the oil to get that bacony salty taste.
But for now we are going vegetarian. And trust me it was absolutely delicious. Its the kind of meal that is hearty, filling and yet so healthy you feel good after it and not heavy and miserable.

For the vegetable stir fry.
1 Onion Sliced
3-4 Green Chilies sliced
Minced ginger and garlic (lots)
2 Carrots peeled and sliced
1 Yellow bell pepper sliced
1 pack of Soya Paneer cubed. (can replace with chicken, prawns, beef, paneer - any protein you fancy)
Last time I added mushrooms and corn this time added sliced french beans for the crunch.
Soya Sauce

 In some olive oil stir the garlic, ginger and green chilies.
 Add the onions.
 Add the carrots, bell peppers and green beans. Adds such lovely color to the food.
 Add a generous splash of soya sauce.

 Stir and Fry. Add the tofu pieces.
 Let it cook till it looks done. Add salt and some pepper. So easy and only 15 minutes.

Now for the egg fried rice.
Boiled rice ( I used brown rice)
Some garlic minced
Some onions sliced
One egg for the scramble
Green chilies
Finely chopped cilantro

 Add some milk, salt and pepper to the egg and beat
 In a large frying pan. Add some oil and scramble the eggs.

 In the same pan stir fry the onions, garlic, chilies.
 Add the rice and stir. Add the scrambled egg. Sprinkle some more fresh Cilantro. its a wonder what a little cilantro can do.
 Serve together. Light, fresh, crunchy, warm.

Season with salt and pepper
A dash of Sriracha always does the magic. Is it really Chinese. I dont think so. or Maybe. The Soya Sauce does add the light Chinese flavour. Unlike what we are used, deep fried veggies, this is a much healthier option and so easy to make. Boil the rice while you prep. I try to keep a box of chopped onions, chilies, garlic and ginger so that my prep time reduces.
While cooking keep a garbage bowl (any large bowl to throw all the peels and trash as you work) on the counter- A GB- A girl's best friend. Its easy clean up after you cook.
Make the effort, to cook your meals and its a wonder what it does to your energy levels. For my waistline- I have still to see.