At the Cakes & Desserts to Impress workshop


William Powell was so right when he said "Dessert is probably the most important stage of the meal, since it will be the last thing your guests remember before they pass out all over the table"!!

Oh yes - there was quite a bit of booze that went into these desserts and by the end of the class, short of keeling over, we were all in a happy place!

Here's what we created:

Liqueur fruit slice with fresh fruit and home made custard

Chocolate mousse cake
Fresh cream apple torte

Molten chocolate cake with ice cream

Someone once said, "Life is uncertain so eat dessert first."

I'm inclined to agree.

Dim sum deliciousness at The Flying Elephant


Yum cha is the tradition of drinking tea while eating dim sum. Dim sum are Cantonese style small morsels of food, the literal translation of which is "touch the heart", which means that these morsels are not meant to be a full meal.

Dim sum can be steamed, fried, boiled, baked or pan fried. The outer skin for each of these methods naturally differ in composition depending on the mode of cooking.

I love dim sums and when invited to review the ongoing festival at Park Hyatt Chennai, was thrilled till I read the accompanying note that listed out the dim sums on offer - fillings like broccoli...? pine nuts...? Sigh! The life of a food reviewer/ blogger is never easy and I decided that the least I could do was to go with an open mind. SmileySmiley

If you've been to dim sum restaurants in Asia, let me hasten to assure you that The Flying Elephant, Park Hyatt Chennai's spiral spaced restaurant does not have women pushing trolleys piled high with dim sum baskets. In spite of that, it was a fairly busy place that evening. Chef de cuisine Megha explained how she had devised 8 kinds of dim sums, 4 with veg and 4 with non veg fillings.

I ordered jasmine tea with the meal but before it reached me, a cocktail did. Ironically called "Happily Ever After", it was a concoction of vodka, Chardonnay, lime juice and red grapes. It did set the mood with the halved grapes along the side of the glass that looked like red lanterns! Maybe there would be a happy ending after all.

From top left:zucchini & bokchoy, asparagus & silken tofu, cheese & chilli, mushroom & edamame

A vegetarian dim sum basket was served first. The skins were so thin and translucent that you could see the fillings clearly. My favourite was the broccoli with cheese and bird's eye chilli. The greens had been very finely diced and bits of cheese doused the heat from the chilli. Another one had asparagus and silken tofu. Bits of crisp garlic livened the filling, sesame oil and coriander leaves added to the Oriental flavour. A third one had earthy mushroom bits, edamame, ginger and scallions. Truffle oil scented the filling resulting in a very sophisticated pairing. What didn't work for me was the one with zucchini, bokchoy, peas and pine nuts - the five spice powder had too strong a flavour for something as delicate as a vegetarian dim sum.

Prawn & shiitake, Chilean sea bass with peanut & fish roe

In the  non veg basket, the prawn dim sum looked interesting. The skin had been skilfully pleated and the tail of the prawn stuck out from one end. Inside was a mix of minced prawn, shiitake mushroom, ginger and coriander. It was delicious. Minced Chilean sea bass with peanuts, chives and Chinese wine was another interesting filling. Shaped like siu mai with a spring onion band tied across, it was topped with roe. I loved the play of textures - the smoothness of the fish, soft peanut bits and the crunchy bursts of the roe...that was so unexpected!    

Top: chicken with water chestnut, baby back rib dim sum

The chicken with water chestnuts was pleasant enough, but my favourite of the evening had to be baby back ribs. A Flying Elephant specialty, the barbequed meat had been minced, mixed with corn and crisp bacon. It was a little sweet, a little tangy, had amazing depth of flavour and was absolutely delicious.

All the dim sums are served with a thick red chilli sauce and a coriander sauce.

There are no dim sum desserts on offer but I was asked to taste a couple of new desserts.

Basil and orange frozen yoghurt, peanut mousse bar, coconut and chocolate mousse 

Frozen yoghurt flavoured with basil and orange was light and refreshing, an excellent palate cleanser. The peanut mousse bar tasted like Reese's butter cups. Of the three, the coconut and chocolate bar was my favourite way to end the meal. It had a dense mousse and an interesting dusting of coconut over the top.

All the dim sums are The Flying Elephant's take on the Cantonese speciality. A lot of thought had gone into combining ingredients and flavouring. Each one was shaped differently and the fillings were generous.  Service, as usual, was very good.
Vegetarian dim sums are priced at Rs.588/++ for a basket of 4, the non veg ones at 688/++.

And yes, I did get that tea. Brewed just right and perfect with the dim sums which did touch the heart!

Delish dim sums at The Flying Elephant is on till May 17th. Do call 71771234 / 8939871109 for reservations.

Cakes & Desserts To Impress Part 1- a workshop


There are the times when you need to impress people with your cooking skills. You've got recipes for the perfect appetisers, deliciously crunchy salads, lip smacking main courses and then the dessert...yes, what to do about dessert? A lot of people I know serve fruits and ice cream. No, no...make something that will make your guests go weak in the knees and keep them wondering how in the world you've been able to cook a delectable meal AND make a stunner of a dessert.

At part 1 of a two part workshop on Cakes & Desserts to Impress, you'll learn to make:

Liqueur fruit slice - the glamorous cousin of cake and custard;
Chocolate mousse gateau - alternate layers of sponge cake and a decadently smooth chocolate mousse. On second thoughts, you might just keep this one for yourself and serve those fruits with ice cream;
Molten chocolate cake - softly baked chocolate cake with a molten centre, served with a scoop of ice cream. This one's a one way trip to chocolate heaven;
Fresh cream apple torte - some cake, some pastry and some apples come together to create this delicious and unusual torte.

On May 16th from 10.30 am - 2.30 pm at Kottivakkam.

At Chef Shivajee's pop up kitchen


Someone likened a pop up restaurant to a summer romance - too short to form an emotional connect but good fun while it lasts!!

Pop ups became popular around the start of the millennium and by the very name, suggests something transient in nature. I'm not too sure how many times pop up restaurants have happened at Chennai but when Chef Shivajee told me he was starting one, I knew where I was having dinner that night.

Dewberrys (, a resto-cafe situated in a lane off R.K.Salai, was the venue. The GPS directed us but on entering the lane, we wondered if we were in the right place. It looked like a residential area but finally we spotted the cafe's sign and had a bit of a time trying to find a place to park.

It was a warm summer's day and the aroma of food grilling on a charcoal brazier led us into the space. Chef was at his counter, surrounded by various ingredients and condiments. A cheery welcome from him and we were led across the pathway into the air conditioned dining area. It is a functional room with no particular ambiance. Two other tables were occupied and a party of sorts was going on in an adjoining room. Well, we were there for the food, right?  

The menu is unabashedly Malaysian in flavour. There were 3 of us and we decided to split everything 3 ways.

The first to arrive was rojak, an amalgamation of veg and fruit with as many ways of making it. There was a vegetarian version but we wanted ours with hae ko, a thick black prawn based sauce which might be an affront to those not used to the flavour. The rojak itself had cucumber, pineapple, tofu squares, slices of yiotiau and crushed peanuts sprinkled over the top. We missed the crunchy texture rojak usually has but it was tasty and suitably dark in colour.

Satay with peanut sauce

We had also ordered chicken satay. Eight sticks to a plate and with slices of onion and cucumber on the side, the aroma was heavenly but the meat was a tad dry. However, the flavours were all there - coriander, cumin and lemongrass along with turmeric. The peanut sauce that accompanied it was spot on.  

Prawn and chicken laksa

The dish of the day was definitely laksa. Thick noodles, tofu cubes, beansprouts, half an egg, prawns and chicken in a mildly spiced coconut milk broth. Flavoured with laksa leaves, it was delicious. Tasting that lemak (rich and creamy) gravy, I closed my eyes and for a minute, was transported to a hawker stall in Singapore... When we finished, we almost licked the bowls clean...

Char hor fun
The one other dish that was outstanding was the char hor fun - flat rice noodles and vermicelli cooked in a garlic seafood sauce with greens. Green chillies in vinegar is the ideal condiment for this and we loved the blandness of the noodles that was offset by the bite of the chillies.
Char kway teow

Chef's char kway teow - flat rice noodles with prawns, egg, Chinese sausage, chilly paste and sweet dark sauce is our favourite. When it comes with a calamansi lime, you just can't get more authentic than that. We were so stuffed by now that we had to asked for this to be packed up.

Droolworthy ice cream with nutella sauce

The lone dessert on the menu was apom balik but my niece wanted something cold and we ordered Dewberry's layered chocolate ice cream with nutella sauce and biscuit crumble. It was delicious and if you happen to be a chocoholic, you'll be a very happy one by the time you're done with it.

Plenty more on the menu including otak otak, spring rolls, nasi biryaniwantan noodles and a mean chicken rice. Service was good and the crew was quite attentive.

We had a bit of the tussle with the bill and chef won. However, there was a compromise and I can reveal that the menu has 6 starters that cost around Rs 200/ each and 8 main courses that cost around 260/ each. Most of these dishes have vegetarian versions. The prices are quite reasonable and the portions are generous.

Unlike a summer romance, this pop up kitchen will be open for lunch and dinner every Thursday. For more details, do check out Pop-Up by Chef Shivajee on Facebook.

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