Blueberry and almond tart and 7 years on

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My son's birthday is in October and every year, I try to come up with a new bake for that special day. Let's face it - I've been baking for a pretty long time and he's seen everything in my repertoire. No point asking him what he'd like either - the standard answer the past few years has been, "Anything Ma, whatever you want." Which sounds exactly as if he's indulging me!!

More than an year ago, the macaron baking bug had bitten me and in an attempt to making the perfect one, I had spent a small fortune on almond powder. This resulted in almost every shelf in my fridge (even the freezer) occupied by bags of almond powder... err...did I  say it was a "small" fortune?? I became a frequent visitor to the egg shop and the owner, seeing me buy dozens of eggs every week, once asked me if I was running a "hotel" ...duh!  My maid's eyes would light up with sheer happiness every time she saw me take out my macaron-baking paraphernalia  because she knew that she would be taking home plenty of egg yolks and "button biscuits" (she's seen and profits from my failures) for her kids the next day. Much angst, trial, error and pulling out of hair happened; the occasional batch turned out well but most of them didn't and "macaron" became a banned word in my house for some time.

So then, what to do with those packs of almond powder all over the fridge? Google assured me that there were fruit tarts I could make with it. Nothing could be simpler - a blueberry almond tart was going to be the birthday cake.

So you're wondering where I was going to get blueberries from in Chennai, right? Frozen
ones of course. Thaw them and they're just as good as fresh, maybe a little less messy on the bake. You need to make a sweet shortcrust pastry first and bake it blind. I add an egg to my pastry mix because I like how crisp the crust becomes but have done it without too. While the pastry is baking, make the filling and as soon as the pastry is ready, pour in the filling and pop it back into the oven. 45 minutes later, you can admire your beautiful tart. 

As I did. What we liked about it was that it was not too sweet but packed with flavour. The crust is buttery and the filling is little dense too, thanks to the almond flour which made slicing it a dream. Serve it with thick cream or a runny custard or ice cream. If you ask me, a sprinkle of icing sugar is all it actually needs. I kept mine unadorned because I had to write a message on it.

Also, I was given strict instructions not to place any of those *%*$#m******s on it (he's figured me out...sigh)!

Blueberry almond tart

Blueberry almond tart

Ingredients for pastry 
200 gm flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1 egg, beaten
100 gm chilled butter, cut in cubes
Ice water to mix, as needed

Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
Rub in the butter till the mix resembles breadcrumbs,
Stir in the icing sugar.
Make a well in the centre, add the egg and just enough water and mix lightly to form a dough.
If you need a little more water, add it in drops till the dough comes together  and does not crack when pressed.
Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
*It's important not to add too much water or to knead the dough.

Preheat your oven to 190°C.
Dust your work space with flour and roll out the pastry into an even circle.
Line a 9" flan tin with the  pastry, trim off excess.
Bake the pastry blind for 15 minutes, remove paper and beans and bake again for another 10 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 170°C.
(To bake blind, place a large sheet of baking paper over the pastry. Place baking beans over the sheet and place it in the oven. This helps partially cook the pastry and prevents it from puffing up.)

Filling
300 gm frozen blueberries
90 gm butter, at room temperature
170 gm sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp grated lime rind
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
150 gm almond powder

Place berries in a colander to thaw and drain.
While the pastry is baking, make the filling.

Cream butter and sugar for a minute.
Add in eggs, rind and vanilla bean paste, cream till light and fluffy.
Fold in the almond powder and lightly mix in the drained berries.
Spoon the filling into the prepared crust.
Bake the tart for about 40 minutes or till the filling is firm and golden.
Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about 15 minutes before unmoulding.

It's another trip around the sun for my blog and we're 7 years today. Thank you for reading, for commenting and for being in our orbit! And this image is just to show how far my mac journey too has progressed. I'm off to the store now to pick up more almond flour!

Cheers!

I can say it now - macarons!

Bessie gets a Wok Monk

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At first glance, the red, white and black bowls stuck on the wall look like a random arrangement. Why would anyone hang bowls on a wall? Step back and look at it through your camera and then, there's no doubt you're at Wok Monk!


A branch of the restaurant has opened at Besantnagar. Which is a really good thing because that's what Besantnagar lacks - a pan-Asian restaurant. The kitchen is Chef Ilankumar's territory and it's quite a ladle that he wields here. Around 130 dishes on the menu - those are some mind-boggling numbers indeed! And they are vegetarian-friendly too!

Iced Milo Recovery Shake; Chendol Champion

Better than the Iced Milo Recovery Shake is the Chendol Champion. That drink is a champ indeed and closest in taste to chendol you get in the land of its birth!

In-house dips and sauces

Bhutanese soup with chicken

The Bhutanese chicken soup has sliced chicken, broccoli and bamboo shoots in a clear broth. Providing crunch are water chestnuts. Curry powder in my soup - no, not my preferred flavouring though my tablemates just slurped it up.

Prawn hargao; corn and water chestnut dumpling

Mixed veg dumpling; xiao long bao



Neat pleating

Wok Monk has quite an impressive list of dumplings. The prawn hargao and fish-shaped corn and water chestnut dumplings were the tastiest. Chennai restaurants have now caught onto the trend of making xiao long bao and for ease of handling,  the dumplings are steamed on spoons, which I think totally takes away from their charm.

Yakitori; satay gai

As for food on sticks, both chicken yakitori and satay gai were tasty. Slices of leek added texture to the yakitori while the satay had good char and flavour. The peanut sauce was spot on, a perfect balance of peanut paste, tang and spice.

Dry chilli basil chicken

WM chilli chicken

Dry chilli basil chicken could have done with more basil. The Wok Monk chilli chicken was the usual kind that is served in most pan Asian restaurants. Perhaps some smoked chilli oil might have given it more personality.

Teriyaki chicken pizza

The thin crust Teriyaki pizza is quite a dish. This one's just for those who don't mind a twist in the tale...err...pizza.  Cheesy and slightly sweet from the teriyaki sauce-infused meat, it was an unusual pairing.

Fire cracker lotus stem

Pad thai

WM vegetables even have cloud ear fungus. Delish! 

WM rice with chicken and comes wrapped in a lotus leaf

Veg mie goreng with the works - grilled tofu, cucumber and keropok

Steamed rice and Thai green curry prawns

A pad thai is a beautiful balance of Thai flavours. Wok Monk's version was a little too heavy on the tamarind sauce and the noodle was just that little bit overdone. We tried Mie goreng and lotus leaf wrapped Wok Monk rice with chicken, both main courses were very ordinary. What was impressive though was the Thai green curry prawns served with steamed rice. Wok Monk makes its own green curry paste and it's a perfect blend of aromatics, spice and aroma. And those prawns are large and absolutely fresh.

Kawaling pinoy

Chocolate tsunami; fried ice cream

It's nice when a restaurant makes the effort to create a list of desserts suited to their menu instead of passing on uninspiring copycat versions. Kawaling pinoy is one such delight where sweetened sago and mango do a tango. Then there's the oft-served fried ice cream, tiny but well made. The one that took us by surprise was definitely the chocolate tsunami. It looks like just another dimsum till you bite into one and a flood of chocolate ganache fills your mouth. The hint of sesame oil adds a savoury touch and that's what makes it moreish.

All Wok Monk needs is a few minor tweaks to the recipes. But that menu is going to draw me back because I spotted some of my favouite Asian dishes on it. And Chef IIan says that he knows exactly which ones I'm talking about!

Wok Monk is at 15, 17, 5th Avenue,
Urur Kuppam, Besantnagar.
044 4212 3399

*This was an invited review 


The Flavours of India at Café G

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There's absolutely nothing like a festival to bring loads of fun and food into our lives. It's the season of Holi; Holiday Inn OMR is celebrating the festival of colours with an array of regional cuisines at Café G. The food festival, Flavours of India, features cuisines from Rajasthan, Kerala, Hyderabad, Maharashtra and Gujarat, on a rotational basis.

Thandai

Chilled thandai, served in a little mud pot, set the tone for the evening. The flavours of saffron and cardamom shone through in the lightly sweetened milk. Thickened with ground almonds, it was so refreshing.

Paneer Shahjahani kebab

Kalan milagu pirattal - mushrooms cooked in a peppery paste, a local favourite


Kerala potato cutlet

Gilafi ke seekh - minced lamb kebab flavoured with a robust spice mix 

Chapli kebab

Murgh gol mirchi laziz kebab - tender meat with slightly milder flavours 

Mint chutney and curd dip

An impressive list of starters were served at the table; paneer Shahjahani kebab, with a prune and cheese filling between slabs of cottage cheese, was particularly nice. Don't let the name "Kerala potato cutlet" fool you for a minute. It's stuffed with minced meat too and it's delish. The non veg kebabs too had plenty of personality. What stole the show was the dip made with hung curd and mustard oil.

An array of chaats

Making the appam

Appam & paya

At the live stations, the chaat counter has an interesting menu. The pani puri stall had 4 kinds of paani, you can opt for a combination of them to go with the puri. The next stop was the appam chef and we watched him twirl his pan expertly, spreading the batter almost to the very edges. With it, I had paya (trotter) curry. Long, slow cooking had resulted in extremely tender meat though the gravy was faintly bitter.


Goan style omelette and gravy

Well, there was even bun omelette, a Goan speciality. It was fascinating to watch the chef make an omelette and wrap it around a bun. A delicious gravy was ladled over, it was so good that a friend had 3 helpings!

Rara goshtkozhi pacha korma

Whole wheat laccha paratha

The buffet spread of main courses encompasses everything from pasta to noodles to biryani, justifying the tag "multi-cuisine". The gravies can be had either with rice or Indian breads which are brought piping hot to the table.

Mango rasmalai

Ada pradamam; Kerala halwa

There's plenty of desserts to choose from but we tried the ones that are the made exclusively for the festival. Can you turn down spongy mango rasmalai, Kerala halwa or even that comforting pot of ada pradamam? I think not 😊

Flavours of India at Café G is on till March 24th. The dinner only buffet is priced at 1399/++ per head. 

Café G is at Holiday Inn Chennai OMR IT Expressway
#110, Rajiv Gandhi Salai, SRP Tools Junction, Thiruvanmiyur.

The private theatre at Score, Sports Bar & Grill, Holiday Inn

Eastern Wedge - pan-Asian and vegetarian

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It's called Eastern Wedge and it's fast becoming an extremely popular pan-Asian vegetarian restaurant in Chennai. Situated at Poes Garden, this 55-seater restaurant is wheelchair accessible. The seating is spread out across several rooms and the interiors are very elegant.

Chefs Ram Kumar, Yanagida and Alex

Chef Ram Kumar of Va Pho and Benjarong, heads the operations here. Expat chefs Yanagida from Japan and Alex from Malaysia have helped in curating the menu.When he invited Smitha and me to the review, he told us that if non vegetarians like us did like the food, it would be a huge endorsement for the concept.



One part of the kitchen features an open space. Inside stainless steel compartments, there are skewers threaded with appetisers. Mis en place is impeccable, in the otherwise clinically clean space, the burst of colours of the veggies is eye catching.

Nutty Milo; lemongrass cooler

The Lemongrass Cooler, fragrant with the aroma and flavour of lemongrass is so refreshing. If you like Milo and peanut butter, it's the Nutty Milo you should be ordering. It's a perfect blend of both ingredients and deliciously addictive.

Kushi yaki with sauces and dips

Kushi age

The menu that features Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian cuisines used to have about 80 dishes but now has been whittled down to about 40! 40??? So it's a good idea to start with Kushi Yaki. Our platter had a selection of broccoli, mushrooms, tofu and capsicum. The veggies were grilled just right and retained their colour and crunch. Artistically plated and sprinkled with pumpkin floss, they were served with miso mayo, wasabi mayo and kushi yaki sauce.
The Kushi Age basket held baby potatoes and cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes were lovely, the batter that coated them was light. Of the dips, the tonkatsu sauce was quite delicious. 

Spinach dumpling; pandan paneer

Szechuan shiitake

The skin of the Spinach Dumpling is soft and chewy. The filling is substantial, vegetable protein bits give it an interesting texture. Pandan Paneer, an out and out fusion dish, comes wrapped in a pandan leaf. The paneer is soft, the fragrance of the leaf has permeated the cheese and it's an absolute standout. Each of these appetisers comes with a set of sauces that are the result of much R&D by the chefs. The star dish at Eastern Wedge must be Szechuan Shiitake. Slices of shiitake mushrooms are batter fried and tossed in their signature Szechuan sauce. It's chewy, garlicky and spicy and the flavours do a salsa on the tongue.

Glutinous rice in lotus leaf

BBQ buns

Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf is on the menu. I've had the non veg version several times while abroad so was interested in trying out Eastern Wedge's interpretation. Though a dead ringer in looks and texture, the tea-like aroma of the leaf was a tad too strong and the rice was quite sweet. The BBQ Bun was rather doughy and I found the filling pasty in parts. Chef Alex revealed that they do not use yeast to ferment the dough. 

Chanko nabe with udon noodles

Baama curry rice; Eastern Wedge eggplant

Dandan noodles

Chanko Nabe with Udon Noodles in tomato is a filling, one-pot dish. The broth was thick and flavourful though there was no perceptible Asian flavour to it. Still, if you want something a little different, this will be apt.
Northern-style Bamaa Curry Rice is delicious. The gravy is quite similar to Thai red curry but here, it's thicker and aromatic with the fragrance of kaffir lime. Even the carrots had been sliced artistically. Eastern Wedge Eggplant could do with bolder flavours but it is an interesting presentation of the humble aubergine. I loved the different textures of Dandan Noodles, it's definitely a dish worth ordering. 

Sesame ball

Dessert was Sesame Ball, filled with a red bean paste and served with a scoop of ice cream. Honestly, I was quite content with the Nutty Milo!

Plenty of pan-Asian favourites have found their way into the menu at Eastern Wedge. If you're a vegetarian and have wondered what a proper Asian meal would taste like, it is worth exploring the menu.

Eastern Wedge is at 11, Kasturi Rangan Road
Kasturi Estate 2nd Street, Alwarpet. 
044 48689800

 
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