Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A Taste of an age old Tradition - 'Bukhara' Celebrates 35 Glorious Years!!

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste, experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a wholesome and rich experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt                                   
Bukhara is celebrating a milestone!!
The much acclaimed Indian restaurant 'Bukhara' at ITC Maurya, New Delhi is celebrating 35 glorious years of excellence in authenticity and taste and we had the honor to be a part of this iconic legacy. The restaurant has been the consistent recipient of numerous awards and accolades, both national and international making it a perennial favorite with everyone, including foreign dignitaries and various visiting head of states. Topping the list of the distinguished guests who have dined here are President Barak Obama, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Bryan Adams, Hilary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenneger to name a few.
In this world of ever changing restaurant  trends and innovations 'Bukhara' proudly holds on strongly to its roots and tradition.  Infact since its inception in 1978, nothing has changed. Executive Chef J.P Singh, who has been associated with the restaurant since the last 23 years, proudly claims that the dishes found on the menu are exactly the same today, without a single new addition, as they were on the menu when it began. Even the taste of all the dishes is exactly the same as it was 35 years ago. Really, hats of to the chefs!! It is indeed quite a task to master this kind of consistency and perfection and deliver the same taste and flavor over a period of so many years. 
To achieve this level of perfection in making every dish a masterpiece, the menu is kept short and crisp with limited dishes and standardized recipes so that the quality and taste are not compromised on. Maybe this very reason alone beckons loyal customers to come back again and again to savor and indulge their taste buds with the comfort of their favorites flavors and aromas that are etched in their memories. 
Infact we were told that even the decor- the stone walls, log tables and stools, copper utensils hanging from the walls, the bead curtains and the earthenware crockery we were served in remains unchanged till date from the time the restaurant opened. 
All the food cooked here is made in tandoors or clay ovens, reminiscent of the traditional style of Indian North-West Frontier region. Though Chef J. P. Singh claims all the dishes served in the restaurant to be extremely popular, the signature favorites stand out to be Sikandri Raan, Murgh Malai Kebab, Paneer Tikka, Tandoori Jhinga, and of course the legendary Dal Bukhara. I believe 25 Lakh Dal Bukhara's have been sold till date. How is that for a benchmark? 
To commemorate the celebrations, Bukhara is holding a 10 day long promotion from August 2 to August 11, where every diner will get unlimited, complimentary Dal Bukhara and a glass of Champagne besides a big bowl of Phirni to take back home. Also the restaurant will be adding two new dishes and a bread to their menu after 35 years as a surprise element which will be unveiled only on 2 August. Not only this, every day at 8:30 pm and 10:30 pm there will be 'Celebration hour' where you get a chance to be a part of the 'Chef's Winning Table" where a table will be picked out randomly and the dinner for the lucky winning table will be on the house. 
Not only is the food at Bukhara unique but the entire hotel is a spectacular work of art and is no less an experience in itself,
As you walk around the hotel lobby you get an unparalleled art gallery experience. You can see showcased a rare collection of contemporary masterpieces by eminent Indian artist inclluding Tyeb Mehta, Krishen khanna, Akbar Padamsee, Sanjay Bhattacharya and M F Hussain.
One look at the huge central lobby of ITC Maurya is enough to take your breath away. The luminous central dome of the lobby has been created in the style of Chaitya(Buddhist hall) with the surrounding walls containing a beautiful 3000 square foot mural by Krishen Khanna, one of India's leading painters. Also in the lobby is a series of paintings on glass by M.F. Hussain, which illustrates Kautilya's "Arthashastra" written in Mauryan times.
The wall outside the restaurant is filled with framed photographs proudly holding testimony of the visit of every dignitary, head of state and celebrity who have enjoyed the flavors at Bukhara. Also on the wall is a framed photograph of M F Hussain and a painting of his trademark horses, a memento of the memorable time he had at the restaurant.
As you enter the restaurant  strong aromas of grilled meats engulf you, firing up your entire sensory buds and immediately making you salivate in anticipation of things to come. 
As we made ourselves comfortable we were made to don aprons - red ones for the non vegetarians and green one for the vegetarians. Not only do they help the server to distinguish between  the meat eaters and vegetarians but also serve as great napkins to wipe your hands as in Bukhara there is no concept of using cutlery and the tradition is to eat with your hands. So go ahead and lick your fingers - no one will really mind!! 
We were also told that the table that we were sitting on was the same one on where President Clinton had dined. This obviously had us all feeling mighty pleased.
We were fortunate enough to have Executive Chef of Bukhara J.P. Singh join us for the evening. He walked us through the amazing journey that they had undertaken the past 35 years to make Bukhara the legend it is.
According to the chef strict precision is followed while preparing each and every dish. When the  Prawns and legs of lamb are procured they have to be within a strict weight range otherwise they are rejected. The sourcing of meats and raw materials are done by local suppliers making it easier to procure and maintain the consistency. The Jumbo Prawns, each weighing approximately 80 to 120 grams were specially cultured by the hotel in water tanksAlso no artificial coloring agent is ever used in any dish and only natural agents like Turmeric and Red chillies are used if the dish need any color. The cooking time and cooking temperatures are separate for each dish which the staff is trained to adhere to strictly. No wonder for these very reasons Bukhara is counted amongst the world's best restaurants.
Our gastronomical journey began with the server getting us four dishes precariously balanced on one arm. As he laid down the plate before us one by one, beautiful aromas began to tickle our nosebuds. The Paneer Tikka was soft and had a lovely smokey flavor. According to the chef, unlike the traditional way, there was a special technique used in making the paneer which helped retain its moisture and remains soft. Tandoori Jheenga were huge and really delicious. Both the Seekh kebab and Murgh Malai Tikka were exceptionally succulent and just melt in your mouth. Seekh Kebab made with lamb mince mixed with ginger and green chillies and spices which we were told were made fresh in the restaurant itself were served whole unlike other places where they are cut into pieces and served.
Till now I had considered the Burrah Kebabs at Karims to be the best but here the Burrah kebabs won hands down. Full of flavor, the kebabs were so tender that the meat literally fell off the bones. If you enjoy your meats, Sikandri Raan is a must try. It is a whole leg of lamb marinated with malt vinegar, black cumin, cinnamon and red chillies. Finished in a tandoor and then shredded to pieces it is served on top of a leg bone to give the illusion of a whole leg. Nicely charred and smoky from the tandoor, the taste is divine.
Amonst the vegetarian food, I thoroughly enjoyed the Paneer Khurchan and Tandoori Aloo. The Aloo had a tangy chatpata filling of mashed potatoes mixed with lemon juice, chopped ginger and nuts for texture. Another favorite was the Tandoori Salad which had grilled pieces of capsicum, onions, paneer and pineapple. You can't imagine how good the grilled pineapple tasted.
The best part about all the dishes apart from the fact that they were all grilled in the tandoor, was that they were not overladen with spices which meant that we could actually enjoy the true flavors of the dishes served.

Keeping in mind the Anniversary celebrations each dish had little flags to let the customer know how many of each dishes have being sold till date.  
Seekh Kebab
Murgh Malai Tikka
Lamb Burrah kebab 
Sikandri Raan
Chicken khurchan
To delight the Vegetarians :- Paneer Khurchan, Tandoori Gobhi, Tandoori Salad and Tandoori Aloo
Naan Bukhara accompanied the iconic Dal Bukhaara with much fanfare. We were told that virtually the Dal Bukhara is never put off the fires until it reaches your table. The chef told us that in 40 to 60 kgs of dal only 2 kgs of butter is used so it is actually not that rich as it is believed to be.  Actually the dal gets its thick creamy consistency due to it being constantly simmered for  a long time. Daily easily 135-140 portions of dal are served. The Naan Bukhara served with the dal was a spectacle in itself. At 4 feet long the naan is so huge that it can be easily shared by 5-6 people. The dal did not disappoint at all and truly lived up to our expectations.
Once we were through with our main course, we decided to give our poor tummy's a little break. The Chef was gracious enough to take us for a tour inside his kitchen. It was an experience in itself watching the humongous Naan Bukhara being made.
After the kitchen tour we were back to our tables to relish the Desserts. Amongst the sweets, a special mention to the Rasmalai (which I have always been partial to), but believe me it is a killer here. You literally can't stop at one!! Perfectly sweetened, the Phirni was smooth and creamy with an exquisite taste from the lightly infused saffron and pistachios.
Our gastronomical adventure ended perfectly with a plate of meetha paan.
Thanks ITC Hotels and Chef J.P. Singh for inviting us over and being such gracious hosts. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

You too go ahead and prepare yourself to join the celebrations and be a part of this iconic legacy. Get prepared to wrap yourself with the rustic charm and lose yourself in the warmth and comforting robust flavor that Bukhara so famously stands for.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Peach and Almond Tart

Come Summers and everyone in my household eagerly looks forward to the stone fruits - wonderful plums, peaches, apricots and cherries to make an appearance in the market. Unfortunately for us, just as you start to enjoy them, they start to disappear leaving just a sweet memory behind them. 
So while the season lasts, I make sure that everyone enjoys these luscious juicy fruits to their heart content. Ironically, whenever I have planned to make something with these stone fruits, there never seem to be enough left to make a complete dish. Inspite of my best efforts and careful planning the fruit disappears as quickly as it gets replenished. Moreover any announcement of my plans of baking with the fruit are always met with a huge wave of protest in the house (including dear hubby) as according to my frugivores lot, it is always better to eat the fruit than cook with it.  
Just the other day, I came upon some beautiful looking juicy peaches in the market and picked them up determined to have my way this time. Looking at the plump rosy beauties, ideas of some beautiful desserts started streaming in my mind. I got the fruit home with strict instructions to everyone that they were absolutely off limits.But I knew I had to act quickly as my threat wasn't going to work for too long and one by one the peaches would start disappearing 'mysteriously' from the refrigerator. 
Initially, I started off with a plan to make a Peach Galette as the rustic form of the tart seemed really appealing to me. By the way, a Galette refers to a free form tart. These tarts are not molded in tart pans. Instead filling is placed directly on top of rolled out pastry and then the edges folded up and around the filling giving it a very elegant and rustic look. But somewhere along the way, I changed my mind and instead decided to line the pastry in a tart tin as I really wanted the peaches to shine in this dish. They were after all the main hero of my dish, so I wanted not only the flavor of the fruit to stand out but was keen that they themselves should make a grand appearance.
Peach is really the star of the dish which is why I loved this recipe so much. The crust which I have adapted from The Smitten Kitchen is light and flaky and really easy to work with it. I made a Cherry Pie with it last year and believe me it was so delicious it is memorable. A thin layer of frangipane complements the peaches perfectly and helps up the taste just a notch. If the fruit you are using is too juicy just toss in a tbsp of cornflour or even plain flour which will help to soak in the extra liquid and prevent the bottom to get too soggy. 
So what are you waiting for, hurry up while there is still time and make this before the peaches do their vanishing act from the market. I am sure looking at the mouth-watering delicious pictures you would really want to wait till next year to taste this!!
For the crust
21/2 cups flour (315 grams)
1 tbsp sugar (15 gms)
1 tsp salt (5 gms)
200 gms butter        
4-6 tbsp ice cold water
For the frangipane
1/2 cup flaked toasted almonds
1/2 cup vanilla sugar or 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
For the filling
4-5 fresh peaches, pitted and thickly sliced
2 tsp powdered sugar
Slivered almonds for sprinkling on top (optional)

Cut butter into small cubes and put the bowl into the freezer. In a food processor fitted with a plastic blade pulse the flour, sugar and salt. Add in the butter. Pulse together 15-20 times until the butter has broken down into small bits about the size of tiny peas. Start adding the iced water gradually until the pastry just about begins to come together. Alternatively, if making by hand, rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar and salt and bring it together with the cold water. 
With your hands, flatten out the ball of dough, then wrap it in cling film or place in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge for atleast 30 minutes or if you are really pushed for time, in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, before using. 
To roll, take the pastry out of the fridge and place it between two sheets of clingfilm. Using a rolling pin, roll it out until no thicker than 1/4cm thick. Rolling the pastry between sheets of clingfilm is a trick that I have learned from watching Rachel Allen's show 'Bake'. This method is absolutely non messy and it also ensures that the pastry does not stick and no extra flour is needed while rolling . Keep stretching the clingfilm as you roll the pastry. Take care not to roll out too much as the butter need to stay intact to give you that beautiful flaky pastry layer.
Peel off the top layer of the clingfilm.
Flip the pastry with the cling film facing up into a flan tin.  Press the pastry into the edges, cling film still attached, and using your thumb, 'cut' the pastry on the edge of the tin. Remove the cling film.
Prick the pastry base with a fork to prevent it from bubbling during baking. Pop the pastry in the freezer for atleast 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Now make your frangipane or your almond paste. Roast the almonds in a dry frying pan till light golden. Set aside to cool. In the bowl of a food processor or blender finely grind the almonds, sugar and vanilla. Add the egg and blend till smooth. But be careful not to add the whole egg at once. I did that and landed with a very runny almond paste on my hands. The egg should be just enough to give you a thick smooth paste.
Spoon the frangipane evenly over the tart.
Place the peaches slices on top of the tart base.
Sprinkle with 2 tsp of sugar
Chill the tart again in the fridge for 10 minutes. Place in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden.
If you desire to glaze your tart, you can brush the top with a mixture of 1 tbsp melted jam or honey while the tart is still hot. 
Leave it on the wire rack to cool for atleast 20 minutes before serving.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Healthy Spring Rolls - The Airfryer Way!!

There is good news for all of us sweating out there - the Monsoons finally seem to have arrived!! 
I know it must have have brought big smiles and a great sense of relief to all the Delhi people, who have by now had just about enough of the unending sweltering heat the last few days, which obstinately was refusing to simmer down its scorching temperatures. We will think about all the problems that the rains brings along with it later, but for the time being lets revel in the moment and enjoy the cool air and the beautiful change of season.
Come monsoons and your taste buds automatically start craving for hot and spicy fried foods -  a plate of hot pakoras accompanied perfectly with a steaming cup of tea tempts you to throw caution to the winds and makes even the strongest of us forget all resolutions about losing weight. But not with this recipe. You can actually have your cake and eat it too. 
Can you imagine hot, crispy spring rolls without a drop of oil? Don't believe it? It is actually possible with Philips Airfryer which is basically a multi-cooker that lets you cook food without the need for oil. The Airfryer has 'Rapid Air Technology" which uses circulating hot air and a grill element to cook the food evenly without the need of vegetable oil. Now you actually don't have to worry yourself sick about the amount of oil you have consumed when indulging in your guilty pleasures and most importantly without compromising on the taste. It is a win-win situation!!
If you want to know what more you can do in the Philips Airfryer, you can check out my earlier posts - "Healthy oil free Gujiyas" and "Papaya and Jaggery cake".
Atleast I am totally smitten with the Airfryer. I find that it is not just another gadget which will occupy space on your kitchen cabinet and lies forgotten, but it actually delivers what it promises. It is perfect for those of you who are health conscious and and want to keep the use of oil to minimum. You will be surprised how quickly it cooks things with the least amount of effort. Start eating the healthy way with the Airfyer, make it your way of life too and I can assure you that like me, you too will fall in love with it.
So now, you no longer have to say no to your favorite fried food !! Just go ahead and indulge yourself and enjoy  the flavor of these monsoons with your favorite crispy fried snacks without an iota of guilt.
1 packet of Spring Roll Wrappers - thawed if frozen (Try in a supermarket or even your nearest department store- you will be surprised how easily available they are now)
1/2 cabbage - sliced in thin strips
1 small carrot julienned
1 onion, finely sliced
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 spring onions, finely sliced lengthways
200 gms boneless chicken breast, sliced into thin strips
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp cornflour
salt and pepper to taste
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan till smoking. Add the cabbage, carrots, onions, spring onions, and ginger. Saute the vegetables quickly on very high heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, oyster sauce and soy sauce. Be careful not to overcook. The vegetables must still have a crunch. Remove from heat and keep aside to cool down.
In the same add the chicken and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Season. Stir in with the vegetables till well mixed and keep aside to cool.
Make a thick paste of cornflour with 1 tbsp water.
These are the spring roll sheets I got and that too most surprisingly from my local supermarket. There were over 20 sheets in one packet. You need to thaw them to room temperature before separating the sheets. The great thing about this spring roll wrapper is that what you don't use you can throw them back in the freezer to reuse.
Peel your spring roll wrapper off and lay down one sheet on the surface like a diamond as shown..Cover the unused wrappers under a damp cloth as they dry off very quickly. 
Divide the filling into equal portions. Place some filling on one corner of the wrapper.
Roll tightly and when you are about halfway stop and fold in the opposite corners towards the middle so it looks like an envelope. Brush each corner with the cornflour paste.
Roll the pastry tightly towards the top corner.
Repeat with the remaining spring roll wrappers and fillings.
Place them seam side down (helps secure the corner so that the corners don't open). keep the rolls covered under a damp cloth.
Heat the Airfryer for 10 minutes @ 200. Brush the rolls with oil and place in the Airfryer basket.Cook for 5-8 minutes or till golden and crispy. You will be seriously impressed how crispy these spring rolls turn out to be and that too without oil.
Cut into smaller pieces and serve hot.
Some important Tips (from the net)
  • The best way to defrost a spring roll wrappers : overnight in the refrigerator or keep out on the counter for 30 minutes.
  • once the wrapper are defrosted,, open the package and immediately cover with a barely damp towel. The wrappers will quickly dry out and get cracked if left out in the open uncovered.
  • if the wrappers  dry out and are stiff, you can put a few wrappers on the plate, cover with a damp towel and microwave on medium for 10 minutes. The wrappers will soften up.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Launch of Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor's Restaurant 'Sura Vie by tyc' in Punjabi Bagh

I was awestruck!! I couldn't believe my luck!! In my mail were two invites to meet two of my favorite people - Madhuri Dixit and Sanjeev Kapoor - both megastars in their respective field.
Madhuri Dixit was in Delhi to launch Brooke Bond's new flavour of Darjeeling tea - Taj Mahal. Grown up in an era where Madhuri Dixit's was considered an icon for her acting skills, I was immensely thrilled at the prospect of meeting her in person. 
The second mail was an invite to attend the launch of Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor's new restaurant 'Sura Vie by tyc' in Punjabi Bagh. India's most celebrated Chef Sanjeev Kapoor needs no introduction. A household name, renowned Celebrity chef, entrepreneur, host of the extremely popular TV cookery show 'Khana Khazana' (which I believe is the longest running show of its kind in Asia and was telecast non-stop on TV for more than 17 years), author of many best selling cookbooks, National Award winner for 'Best Chef of the Year 2008', recipient of Best Executive chef of India Award by H & FS and the Mercury Gold Award at Geneva by IFCA besides many other accolades adding to his fame. He is also the mastermind behind the conception of India's first 24X7 Food Lifestyle channel 'Food Food', a treasure trove of inspiring recipes telecast on TV throughout the day, an amazing concept for food lovers like me.
Infact, my journey into the world of cooking actually began thanks to the great chef. As a newlywed in 1993, I was totally new to the world of cooking. That was the time Sanjeev Kapoor's cookery show Khaza Khazana had just started airing on TV. His charming personality and easy narrative style made him instantly connect with the audience young and old alike, keeping us totally glued to his show and diligently following his recipes to the last word (his dish Shaam -Savera which was spinach and cottage dumplings in tomato gravy, still
ingrained in my mind after all this years). Sanjeev Kapoor's style of presentation made the hardest of recipes look like fun, instilling in you the confidence that yes, even the most novice of us can cook. 
Reading carefully, I realized that unfortunately both the invites were for the same day!! Not fair at all!! Considering the distances and the time taken to travel in Delhi, as much as I would have loved to, it was impossible for me to attend both the events. So a decision had to be made.
There are no prizes for guessing what I chose - did I decide to meet the beautiful Madhuri Dixit or went ahead to meet the person who inspired in me the passion for cooking? 
Guessed right!! Without a second thought, I decided to follow my heart and attend Chef Sanjeev Kapoor's event, because, after all cooking is what I am passionate about too.
With the grand success of the first restaurant in Connaught place, Master Sanjeev Kappor unveiled the second Sura Vie by Tyc (tyc stands for The Yellow Chilli group, incase you haven't figured it out) to delight the palates of the people of West Delhi. The name of the restaurant Sura Vie rightfully is a combination of the words Sur (meaning a musical note in Sanskrit) and Vie (french for life). The menu which has been handcrafted by the Masterchef himself, is a fine compilation of international cuisines and fusion food. Tucked in the posh locality of West Delhi, Punjabi Bagh, Sura Vie is a family restaurant which, according to Chef Saurabh has a little something to delight everyone's palate whether it be North Indian, Chinese, Thai or Italian cuisine. It also seems to be very popular for holding kitty parties.
I was amongst the first to reach the restaurant. I know what you are thinking. No, it wasn't my eagerness to meet the chef which was entirely the reason. Delhi had just received it first pre-monsoons showers and though it brought a big relief from the sweltering heat, everyone knows what happens when it rains in Delhi. Total chaos on the roads and huge traffic jams had everyone else running late.  
At the launch of this franchise outlet, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor said, “I am delighted to be in West Delhi to launch the Sura Vie by Tyc concept. We always do a lot of research on the menu and deliver exactly what our patrons want. Sura Vie is a perfect destination for the people who love fusion food. It has a variety of about four cuisines from across the globe". He also said that “I am overjoyed to set up Sura Vie in West Delhi as I have spent my childhood days in this area and I wanted to open one of my restaurants here. I always wanted to tap this region of Delhi and I am extremely grateful to have finally one of the restaurants here. Sura Vie is a perfect destination for the people who love fusion food. It has a variety of about four cuisines from across the globe.” 
Also on the occasion, Franchisee owner of Sura Vie by tyc- Mr. Navneet Gupta said, It is a great honor to be an owner of the restaurant which is under the umbrella of Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. I have been into this industry from about two decades and I am excited to add Sura Vie too in my kitty. I wanted to open an Indian restaurant to diversify & liked chef’s recipes, tastes & presentation. I am so happy fulfilling this obligation today.”
At the restaurant, we got to savour some delicious snacks and refreshing mocktails. Each snack served was distinctive in taste and presented creatively. Unfortunately as the event started pretty late due to Chef Sanjeev Kapoor's flight being delayed due to bad weather, the thought of driving back alone to Gurgaon at night prompted me to leave early. I couldn't stay back for dinner, even though the lavish spread looked extremely tempting. 
But I leave you here with a few mouthwatering visuals of the food served that day to feast your eyes on. After a sample tasting of the outstanding cocktails, atleast I will surely be going back to sample their main course.
Chandi kaliyan- mild flavored chicken tikkas with wealth of cheese and lemon butter with warming spices and fresh basil.

Sukha murgh siyamirch - cheese and yogurt marinated boneless chicken cooked on dum with peppercorn and loads of fresh coriander
Sura vie nachos -served with jack montrey cheese,refried beans and pico de galo
Fish Curry Patta - crunchy crumb fried fish nuggets with a touch of South Indian flavors and crunchy curry leaves.
Shabnam ke moti.
Prawn sticks - shrimps rolled in spice crumbs, pan fried and served with smoked mustard sauce.