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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pizza Making Contest At Serafina

The invitation for Pizza Contest seemed exciting, although I had no intention of participating in this contest, it would be interesting to watch other contestant prepare a pizza. I accepted the invitation at Serafina, in Palledium, Lower Parel.

I reached the restaurant to be greeted by food bloggers. The tables were set with big bowls containing flour and small plates with sugar, salt, yeast and oil.

Do we have to participate?” I asked the host.

 Yes, It would be more fun participating than just watching as an audience.” She said.

 And why not? Was there to have some fun, no?

While we waited for the others to arrive, I got acquainted with staff and the hostess of the restaurant. The interiors of the restaurant took me in with a warm embrace. Artistically done, the d├ęcor is beautiful with interesting murals on each wall. There is a bar closer to the entrance, where one can wait till tables are vacant An open cooking station dominates the restaurant where you can actually see a live coverage of your pizza rolled out and bake in the fire oven.

With every blogger at their table, donning the chef’s cap, the contest began. It was not a serious contest but more of a fun-contest. If you don’t know what to do, you just watch and ape others. Chef Rahul Kulkarni guided us as we dissolved yeast and sugar in warm water and used this to knead the pizza dough. Later, we were led to the cooking station and asked to work in pairs. The cook demonstrated a rolling of pizza technique. There was a strong smell of roasted pizza and it was getting difficult to concentrate on making a pizza without popping some toppings into our mouth. We worked in pairs, creatively adding the toppings of vegetables, sauces and spices and inserting the pizza into oven for three full minutes.

   The drinks and snacks were served while participants took turns to prepare pizzas. The atmosphere was affable with bloggers sharing the stories of their adventure with food. Food blogging is lot of hard work. It is not just eating and preparing dishes, there is writing and creative photography too that makes blogging successful. One blogger was telling me that she clicks on average, two-hundred-and-fifty photographs of an event. Editing and selecting few to make a blog post is a tedious task.

We waited at the tasting table closer to the cooking station. Every participant prepared one pizza and posed for a picture with their creation.  (A professional photographer clicked the picture that will arrive at snail mail after few days) Pizza was next brought to the table and explained in details about the toppings they had used; chef took a small slice to taste and graded the pizza. All the participants would then grab a piece to try. There were 20 participants and after trying so many, it was starting to taste the same. Some used extra cheese, some extra sauce; there was difference in taste as per the spices and topping used.

I wondered what was chef looking for? He tasted every pizza and had good word for everybody. He never showed any emotion of disliking any pizza. Every participant thought his/hers was the best. At the end of the contest when we stood round him to hear the results, nobody could guess the winner. Three of the bloggers were felicitated with diploma and it was a happy event for all of us. He said that he was looking for ethnic flavors, the kind that he would love to serve in his restaurant. The pizza may not have too many toppings, but there should be even distribution of flavors.

Congratulations and for winning the Pizza making competition

This was my creation. I had made pizza to my liking and I prefer lots of vegetables. (it’s the kind that I normally order at the restaurants) After baking I had added basil leaves and olive oil as garnishing. I wanted to add red chili flakes too, but didn’t want to offend those who don’t like it too spicy.

It was a fun evening and I really enjoyed a lot. Thank you @FoodBloggersAI and SerafinaMumbai for organizing this event. Made new food-blogger friends, learnt a lot from the chitchat with other bloggers. Brought home the pizza dough that I had kneaded during the event, and made mushroom pav the next day.

Recipe of mushroom pav coming up in next post….

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thai Street Food Festival At J W Marriott

What I like best about Thai street food is that it is cooked fresh in your presence; it is spicy, fresh and contains exotic vegetables. The dishes are less likely to be spoilt by cheap meat like in other restaurants.

 Some years ago, during my visit to Bangkok, I had an opportunity to attend Thai food workshop. I learnt few tricks there and that has benefited me a lot. It is easy to prepare, convenient, very beneficial especially when the unexpected guest arrive and the meal has be prepared in a jiffy. I had developed the taste for Thai food then and presently, it is my preferred and favorite cuisine.

So, when the street Thai food festival comes to my town, how could I miss it?

I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Suriya Phus irimongkhonchai at Spice, J W Marriott. I asked him how Thai food was different from Chinese cuisine. He said that it was less oily, contained more fresh exotic vegetables and he preferred to use roasted meat. Thai cuisine also contains fresh herbs like holy basil, lemon grass, kaffir leaves, that gives it that peculiar taste, other tropical ingredients like coconut milk and fresh fruits bring out its rich flavors.

Almost all Thai dishes are balanced in flavor; they are spicy, sour, salty and have sweet after taste. All the taste buds are aroused with every bite.

 Thai cooking is not only about the right amount of ingredients but also about correct levels of heat and the method of preparation. For instance, papaya salad has to be prepared on the spot, stir-fries tastes good only when served immediately; grinding chilies and garlic with a mortar and pestle really makes a difference in bringing out the flavor of the ingredients.

 Spice at J W Marriott was all set for the festival with different live counters in buffet style serving authentic Thai cuisine.  There were fruits and vegetable carving showcased at different cooking stations. Tuesday, being my strictly veg day, I only ogled at exotic veg food but silently drooled over non-veg dishes.

 I started with Mango salad. Perfectly prepared, (sweet and sour) it transported me back to the narrow lanes of Bangkok. Normally peanuts are used for crunchiness, but cashew nuts lent a richer taste.

Evening passed, trying out the various vegetarian dishes. There was great variety to choose from. Curries, soups, pastas, BBQ, stir fries, exotic salads There was a bigger variety of non-veg food, but I am glad there was limited selection for me or I would have over eaten.

 My favorite was Pad Thai. I stood at the cooking station and watched him prepare, directing him on the quantity of sauces and ingredients as per my taste.

This is how he prepared.

On a huge flat pan he stir-fried the soaked rice noodles, kept them aside
Fried par-boiled vegetables like broccoli, onions, cauliflower, bean sprouts, green beans, and carrots.
Added Pad thai sauce to it
Mixed vegetables with fried noodles
Added peanuts and chili flakes
Squeezed lime-juice on it.

The authentic taste is in pad thai sauce that contains tamarind paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, cayenne pepper, white pepper and brown sugar.

 And finally the plate of exotic fruits with traditional Raum Mith

Worth a visit!! Thai food festival is on from 15th November to 1st December at Spice, J W Marriott, Juhu.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Traditional Cake Mixing Ceremony In Mumbai

When I got an invitation for cake mixing event, I didn’t know what to expect. I accepted it out of curiosity.

I was surprised to see many chefs, hotel guests and food bloggers at the pool area of courtyard by Marriott.

A huge table was set with 80kgs assortments of dry fruits like Golden Raisin, Dry Figs, Dry Apricots, Pistachio, Almonds, Cashew Nuts, Back Currants, Candied peel, Candied Cherries, tutti-frutti, etc, surrounded with bottles of hard liquor that included Beer, Red Wine, White Wine, Brandy, whisky and Rum. On another table there was a large bowl of mixture of ground spices like Cinnamon, Cardamom, aniseed.

While we waited for the ceremony to begin, Executive Sous Chef,  Amit Dash, told us that it is the ritual followed all over the world and is said to be a harbinger of good luck. Originally a family affair, it is celebrated with much joy and happiness. This ceremony dates back to 17th century in Europe; it marked the arrival of the harvest season. During this time all the fruits were harvested and used in making of the traditional plum cake.

We were handed apron, gloves and cap and then led to the table. All of us stood around the table and began mixing the fruit. The big bowl of dry spices were added and mixed. Two bottles of fruit jam was added to it. The fun part of the ceremony was pouring the hard drinks over the mixture.

The plastic lining containing the fruit mixture was lifted off the table and the mixing continued. Sweet fragrance of spices, drinks and fruits filled the air. The mixture was then transferred into large bin.

 High tea followed after this ceremony with big range of street food on display. Samosas and Pani Puri was very tempting.

Chef, Amit Dash, informed us that the bin would be covered with an airtight lid and kept for fermentation at room temperature till Christmas. This would be used during baking, taking out the handful of this cake mixture to bake a cake.

He has promised to invite me again when he bakes the cake, using this cake mixture.
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