180 Degrees, McIver Resort, Conoor

The Colonial Era has always been something magical for me. It takes me back to that age in my life where I was curled up with classics like Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights along with historical romance novels. Such a  lovely time in your life where you don’t have a care in the world – the stress of studying, getting a good job or managing a family is non-existent. I would imagine being back in the Colonial/Victorian period, wondered what it would be like to be dressed in corsets and be a part of the ‘Debutante Balls’, eating all the food that was described: pies, hot chocolate, toast with honey along with tea! Luckily for me, I actually had the chance to visit a place that has been so wonderfully restored and maintained to give me just that feeling and let the wonderful memories from my books wash over me.

S, his family and I took a trip to the beautiful town of Wellington, India this Diwali. I had been to Ooty when I was very young and apparently had been to Wellington, but I had no recollection of the place. The Wellington Gymkahana Club is steeped in a different kind of history – a mix of British and Army culture. The food is typical club food with great eggs, sandwiches and South Indian food but does tend to get a little boring, especially if you plan on staying there for 5 days. The 2nd Day, we decided to walk down and explore what was close to us. Wellington is a little way away from the Conoor market and there really isn’t much in close proximity. After a short 20 minute walk, we came across McIver Resort.

What a view! It overlooks the valley and you can seen the colorful houses that cover the Nilgiri mountains. They have the most lovely, colorful flowers planted in the property and that definitely puts you in a sunny disposition. We entered through their dining area and I felt like we were transported back to some other era. The dining area is all wooden, with accents of French decor and has a lovely fireplace. The windows are long and give you an unobstructed view of the valley, the tables are wooden and the chairs are simple yet elegant. We were the only ones in the restaurant and were happy to take up a table that would give us the best view.

The menu has cuisine options of French, European, Thai, Lebanese, Indian and Italian. A very mixed menu usually makes me nervous because the food is always a mish mash of the different spices. Nevertheless, I was quite sure I would enjoy what they had to offer because I had heard such great reviews about the place. We began with a French Onion Soup. As someone who has started eating onions just about a year and a half ago, this was my first French Onion Soup. It was a thin broth, flavored with the sweet taste of Caramelized onions with croutons that were topped with eggs. I personally enjoyed the flavors because it wasn’t very heavy on the onions.

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Next we ordered some ‘bruschetta’ which was actually bread, with a layer of basil pesto and some lovely melted mozzarella cheese. The bread was delicious, freshly-baked, home bread!  In the cool air, the aroma of hot, fresh bread awakened by senses. The basil pesto piqued my interest – I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but I swear I could taste a hint of tea as an end note. The hot, melted mozzarella cheese was a little much in my opinion, but it was piping hot which made it better. The bread came after the soup and the lovely weather just made everything go together heavenly.

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For mains, we decided to get a simple Veggie pizza. This was the only disappointing part of our lunch. We ordered one with olives, and they were charging a good Rs. 75 more for just the olives, and the pizza came with only onions and tomatoes. We did talk to the server who said they would not charge us for the original pizza and just for a simple pizza, but it was a bit of damper. The pizza was a square shaped one, with the dough tasting nice and yeasty. The pizza was not overloaded with cheese, which is something we prefer. The tomato sauce was simple and tasted fresh. All in all, we really did enjoy that piping hot pizza while looking out at the beautiful valley and feeling the clouds enveloping us every once in a while. All I missed was a nice glass of a Cabernet Sauvignon.

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By this time we were both so full but when we heard that the dessert of the day was ‘Apple Pie’ there was no way we could say no. Their version of an apple pie was completely unlike any I have eaten before. The pastry tasted very buttery, a tad salty and I think they did use yeast in the pie pastry. The apple filling consisted of apple slices that were sprinkled with a little bit of cinnamon and they had some absolutely plain, unflavored cream on the side. I personally feel the cream could have been sweetened a little bit, but after such a heavy meal, I was  happy to avoid it completely.

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McIvers Resort has some beautiful, restored rooms that really make you feel like a part of history. There are old style fireplaces, beds with canopies, old style tables, corridors that are decorated with French-style painted plates and fresh, clean air that really takes you back in time. I loved the place and would love to stay here for a night or two whenever I go back to Conoor.

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More information can be found about McIvers Resort here.

After all that delicious food, we needed to stretch our legs and walked around the property. Here are some pictures of the resort.

The French-Style plates

The French-Style plates

The View from the Dining Room.

The View from the Dining Room.

Fireplace

Fireplace

An outside view

An outside view

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The view of Connoor from outside

The view of Connoor from outside

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And we had to walk through the clouds to go back! A perfect ending!

And we had to walk through the clouds to go back! A perfect ending!

Next up, I’ll be posting about where we stayed – Wellington Gymkhana.

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What’s coming up in the next few weeks?

Its my first Diwali with S and his family so its been quite hectic for me! I am enjoying all the delicious food and snacks being prepared at home and visiting a whole lot of people. I can also tell you that I am mastering the art of wearing and carrying a saree a little more everyday! 🙂 Its a great experience to see snacks being prepared at home and to realize that each house has their own way of making the same snack or sweet.

Delight in Pink is becoming more of my passion and I love writing regularly. My first and foremost passion remains baking. While I have been baking a lot I just haven’t had the chance to put up some more recipes. I have made an amazing Lemon Mousse Cheesecake, gorgeously rich brownies, a very simple vanilla frosting and a decadent chocolate buttercream. Alongside I have been cooking a lot of mains like Chinese stir fried rice, hot Chinese sauce, Mexican rice, Mexican beans, Vegetable Biryani, Raita, a rich potato vegetable and so much more.

The next few weeks are going to be great! I will be taking more pictures, hopefully, and add them to my recipes. We are also going on a little vacation and I am looking forward to taking my computer and feel inspired in a whole new environment. So don’t give up on me and keep watching this space! Its time to have your own little restaurant at home with my tried and tested recipes! 🙂

Trois Kitchen & Bar – Pune

We wanted to go to this new place which supposedly had wonderful food and excellent wine choices. I had read wonderful reviews about it and I was very excited to try some fine dining restaurant other than Olive Bistro.

 We went on a Thursday, mom, my husband and I, to look for this restaurant. Thank God for Google Maps! I don’t think I could have found this place very easily without it. Its right opposite the Big Bazaar in Kalyani Nagar, tucked away in the a corner. My first impression was, this can’t be right! It looks like someone’s home. But it turns out I was wrong. Trois seems to be a home that has been converted into a restaurant. The ground level has an open kitchen and the wine cellar. As you climb up the stairs, without railings or a support, you see a small dining area. We were keen to sit on the terrace and enjoy the wonderful Pune weather. The terrace has about 5 tables with a seating capacity of about 40-50 people. I am sure they can add more tables and seat a larger number of people if needed.

 The menu looked impressive. Not cheap by any standards, but looked exotic. We started off with French Onion Soup and a vegetable ratatouille.  We were happy to notice a beautiful warm bread basket was put in front of us. I love bread but its always disappointing when restaurants serve a cold bread basket. I understand most places are busy and maybe it costs just a little but it definitely leaves an impact on the customers’ minds. Anyway, back to Trois, they served a white bread, bread with sesame and an herb whole wheat bread alongwith some Lavash and bread sticks. The bread was wonderful. Gorgeously soft, smelled beautifully yeasty and with butter, it was wonderful! We ended up asking for another basket. The French Onion soup was glorious! Beautiful colors, onions caramelized well and just the right seasonings. The ratatouille with grilled vegetables was bursting with fresh vegetables and had all the right flavors! While some may think the portion sizes are small, they’re just right to enjoy the beauty of the flavors.

 For mains, we ordered a pasta in a pesto sauce and a vegetarian lasagna. Both the dishes had a generous amount of Parmesan cheese and were well presented. I loved that all the dishes tasted of fresh ingredients. Salads that came on the side had nice, crisp lettuce, all the mains tasted of vegetables cooked just right and the herbs and seasonings complimented the vegetables. Nothing was over powering but the meal was extremely satisfying. While the pasta definitely felt heavy on the stomach, the lasagna left you satisfied just right. You definitely didn’t feel hungry at the end of it.

 The experience at Trois is wonderful. The servers are attentive, well trained and well versed in fine dining etiquette. They are well aware of the menu and suggest good wine pairings as well. Sitting to the open sky, surrounded by lush greenery and looking onto the quiet lanes with a candle lit table sure makes up for a romantic dinner. It was also a wonderful place for us to talk to mom in peace and solitude. The tables aren’t placed too closely to each other so you feel some privacy. While a little bit on the expensive side, (Mains from Rs. 450 onwards) and the alcochol being slightly on the higher side (Sula wines from Rs. 300 onwards) the place does offer a very different ambience. My only complaint was, the wine glass was less filled than I normally have seen at other restaurants. It kind of upset me and made me undermine the management. Other than that, I cannot complain about the food or the service. We were too full to have dessert but I have heard their desserts are amazing! Trois is open all day.

 If you are looking for a different fine dining experience, Trois is the new ‘IT’ place! I give it 4 stars. 1 star less because of my unhappy wine experience! Happy dining!!

Restaurant Timings: 12 noon to midnight
Contact Information: +91-20-65220068

Chocolate Covered Oreos

With some White chocolate drizzled over the oreos to look pretty!

Holiday seasons are the best for two reasons:

  1. You get to meet your family and friends
  2. You get to make/eat ridiculously yummy things!

Diwali is one of the biggest festivals for Hindus. On this day, it is said, the Lord Rama returned back to Ayodhya from his 14-year exile in the forest. To celebrate his return, the people of Ayodhya lit the entire city with lamps. To this day, the tradition of lighting house with oil lamps or diyas continues. It is one of the most beautiful sights in any city. There are so many lights and lamps and colors all around. All the shops are lit up, houses are beautifully decorated and there is a festive spirit in the air. Firecrackers burst every few seconds and in some cities, it is almost impossible to carry out a conversation because the noise of the firecrackers refuses to let you! Nevertheless, this is the time when family and close friends surround everyone. It is the perfect season to get dressed up – its not too hot nor is it too cold. I love wearing my brightest colored Indian wear and accessorizing with big earrings.

This is also the time when people visit each other and give each other gifts and wishes to celebrate the New Year. Sending something sweet – either Indian sweets, chocolates, dry fruits along with candles or diyas is the norm. I decided to make some chocolate covered Oreos to send across to some friends.

This recipe is easy and perfect to make with children. There is very little ‘cooking’ involved and you can change the basic recipe to suit your tastes. It hardly took me 30 minutes from start to finish these. After two hours in the fridge, these were ready to be eaten! I love the combination of peppermint and chocolate so I added some peppermint flavoring to the chocolate. I loved the flavors and will probably experiment with a few more flavorings soon! These are perfect to gift for any season, including Christmas.

All ready to spread the joy!

 Chocolate Covered Oreos 

(Adapted from a recipe from The Sunday Paper)

Ingredients:
  • 12 oz (340 grams) of semi-sweet chocolate
  • A package of biscuits (This much chocolate can coat about 40 cookies)
  • 1 tablespoon of Vegetable shortening
  • 50 grams of white chocolate chips, to drizzle on the finished biscuits
Method:
  • Mix the chocolate and 1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening and set over a double broiler.
  • Allow the entire chocolate to melt evenly.
  • In the meanwhile, prep a baking pan or cookie sheet with Aluminium foil or parchment paper
  • Remove the chocolate from the heat. Drop a cookie into the chocolate mixture and turn it in the chocolate using a fork.
  • Once the cookie is covered in chocolate, lift it from the mixture using a fork and tap it against the side of the bowl to get rid of excess chocolate.
  • Place the cookie on the prepared sheet.
  • Repeat for all other cookies.

Just out of the bowl – chocolate covered Oreos

  • Once the cookies are all covered in chocolate, refrigerate them for about 10 minutes.
  • While the chocolate-covered cookies are setting, melt some white chocolate with 1/2 teaspoon of shortening, if desired.
  • Pull the chocolate covered cookies out of the fridge. Using a cone or a fork, drizzle the white chocolate over the cookies and put the trays back in the fridge.

With some White chocolate drizzled over the oreos to look pretty!

  • The cookies should be set in about an hour in the fridge!

I never knew the difference between extract, essence and flavorings till I made this recipe.

  1. Extract: Real spices (like vanilla, chocolate) are infused in alcohol or a liquid base.
  2. Essence: Completely artificially created flavors meant to imitate extract.
  3. Flavoring: Spices infused in vegetable oils, made from natural or artificial substances. These are free from alcohol or water hence, perfect to use with melted chocolate.

If you want to know more about the difference between the three I recommend reading this article.

I had a great time making these. I tried most with peppermint flavoring and I am waiting to get my hands on some more flavorings so I can experiment making these with all kinds of flavors!

The chocolate covered oreos lightly drizzled with white chocolate.

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful time making these with the family and sharing them with the ones you love!

Happy No-baking!

 

Baked Falafels in Whole Wheat Pita Pockets with Lemon Tahini and Hummus

Falafel sandwiches are my favorite things in the whole wide world! A few years, I was with my family in Dubai. For the whole week, I ate nothing but falafel sandwiches for lunch and dinner! I was in heaven. I did not need anything more! Back home, I tried a bunch of places and the falafels were obviously slightly adapted to Indian standards.

Cream Center and New Yorker in Bombay are two absolutely legendary restaurants. They have been around for years & years and for a lot of Bombayites, the first taste of international food. They serve Nachoes, falafel sandwiches, pizzas, burritos, enchiladas and pastas. This is the place where I tried my first nachos, first pizzas and yes, my first falafel sandwiches. All the food here is adapted to serve the Indian crowd and it has its own unique appeal. I suspect it’s still super popular because a lot of people want to bask in their nostalgic days. My parents still talk about their samosas, Russian salad sandwiches and cold coffee.

A few years ago, Lebanese and Mediterranean food became big in Bombay just the way there is a Japanese food fad right now. Never the less, I am thankful for the Lebanese food boom because now I get to enjoy my favorite foods in a whole bunch of restaurants! A lot of places the falafel sandwiches are too dry, in other places, too soggy. I am pretty sure a lot of places skip on using tahini in their hummus or use less of it, but in either case, they accompany the sandwich with some delicious sauces. One of the best parts about falafels is the yummy pickled vegetable salad that comes along with it. I still have to figure out how to make it but I was super happy with my version!

I love bread, especially the smell of freshly baked bread. I had tried a few times to make bread at home and for some reason, I just could not get it right. I finally went for a bread making class where I picked up a few techniques. I always try to use whole-wheat flour and maybe that is one of the reasons I never got light and fluffy bread. Someone told me to use half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour instead of all whole wheat flour to give the bread a better texture. That’s exactly what I did for these pita bread and they turned out quite well. I have been looking for fresh yeast in my city, but none of the usual places I know have it in stock. So I’m using packaged yeast and am quite happy with the results.

Whole Wheat Pita Pockets

Adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1 packet yeast. (About 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 ¼ cups – 1 ½ cups water at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter

Method:

  • If you are using active dry yeast, follow the instructions on the packet to activate the yeast. Remember to reduce the quantity of water to be used in the flour mixture accordingly.
  • If you using instant yeast, like me, add the flours, sugar or honey, yeast and oil in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the water, about 1 ¼ cups first and mix using a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  • All of the ingredients should form a ball. If all of the flour does not stick to the ball, add some water gradually.
  • Once all the ingredients are incorporated in the ball, move the ball to a work surface like the kitchen counter or a large dish for about 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix on a low-speed for 10 minutes.
  • The purpose of kneading is to thoroughly combine the ingredients and to break down the flour so that the dough will become stretchy and elastic and rise well in the oven. A simple hand kneading technique is to firmly press down on the dough with the palm of your hand, fold the dough in half toward you like you are closing an envelope, rotate the dough 90 degrees and then repeat these steps, but whatever technique you are comfortable using should work.
  • When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly covered with oil.
  • Form a ball of the dough and place it in the bowl. Roll the ball  of dough around the bowl so that it is lightly coated with oil all over.
  • Cover the dough with a damp kitchen cloth and set aside until it has doubled, about 90 minutes.
  • When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the air.
  • Divide the dough into 8 pieces. 
  • Roll each piece of the dough into a ball. Cover them with a damp kitchen cloth and leave aside for 20 minutes.
  • In the meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius. Turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it in the middle rack of the oven to allow it to heat. This will be your baking surface. (I had never heard of this idea and it is totally fabulous!!)
  • After the dough has relaxed, roll each ball into 1/4″ thickness.
  • Open the oven and place as many Pita breads on the baking surface as you can and close the oven door. The Pita will need to be in the oven for 3-5 minutes.
  • Once the Pita bread is puffed and slightly browned, its ready!

Keep the pitas aside while you make the falafel.

I found this recipe for baked falafels and since I am scared of deep-frying anything, I was happy to come across this recipe. While making it from this recipe, I realized it is important to NOT cook your garbanzo beans. I used to make this mistake and always found my mixture to be very wet. To combat that and to help me create a proper falafel bullet, I would invariably add more flour to the mix. In short, it would be one heaping mess! This recipe is much easier and the falafel bullets taste perfect right out of the oven. However, these don’t stay well overnight or if re-heated. Make this and eat them immediately in my advice!

Baked Falafel

Recipe adapted

from Chow Vegan

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight.
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilly flakes
  • 2-3 tablespoons whole wheat flour (add gradually)
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180o C (or 350o F)
  • Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Put in a blender and pulse till the beans are very coarsely grounded.
  • Put the coarsely grounded beans in a medium mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients except water. Add only 2 tablespoons of the at this stage.
  • Once the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, try to see if you can make a falafel patty from the mixture. If the mixture seems to dry, add a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  • If the mixture feels too wet, add a little more flour.
  • Once you are happy with the consistency, form small balls of the mixture, about 1½ inches in diameter. Flatten slightly.
  • Place the balls on a well-oiled baking pan. 
  • Bake for 15 minutes on each side. With the baking process, only the side that touches the baking pan will be browned.

Once ready, keep aside.

Lemon Tahini

Recipe from Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Sesame Tahini
  • 5 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 small to medium clove of garlic
  • 3/4 cup to 1 1/2 cups of water (depending on desired thickness)
  • 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of salt (depending on the amount of water being used)
  • a tablespoon of finely minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika or Cayenne pepper

Method:

  • Place the tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. (You can also use a blender.) Begin to process.
  • Keeping the motor running, slowly drizzle in the water, checking every now and then to monitor the consistency. When it is as thick as you want it, turn off the machine.
  • Transfer to a medium-small bowl or container, and season to taste with salt, parsley, and cayenne. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready for use. If you’re using this as a sauce for steamed vegetables, serve at room temperature over hot, freshly cooked vegetables (any assortment!) 

Hummus is my favorite dip. I love the fact that it is so healthy and I enjoy eating it with some sweet carrots. Many evenings, I crisp up some pita bread and sit down happily to eat my hummus. I have to confess, I love my hummus super-garlicky and that’s what I prefer to eat it all alone! Haha.

Hummus 

Recipe adapted from RoyHobbs

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup dried gabanzo beans, soaked in water overnight and cooked the next day.
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sesame tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons plain yogurt

Method:

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Transfer to a bowl.

Assembling the Falafel Sandwiches

  • Take a pita bread and split it in half to create a cavity.
  • Take some hummus and spread it on the pita bread.
  • Next, take 2 baked falafels and place them in the readied pita pockets
  • If you like, place a cucumber slice and a tomato slice with a little lettuce in the pocket as well.
  • Finally, drizzle some of the lemon tahini sauce on the pita pocket.
  • Your super yummy falafel sandwich is ready!

I hope you enjoy these as much as I have. I know the pictures aren’t the greatest, but I think I am improving!

Happy cooking everyone!