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Cloud Eggs – The Latest Instagram Obsession

Philadelphia White Chocolate Cheesecake

Cheesecakes have always blown me away by their silky texture, super delectable flavors and the variety of eyeball grabbing, mouthwatering toppings the vendors use. My personal favorite is the blueberrytopping.

Easter was just around the corner and house party was on the cards.
Being my first time making a Cheesecake at home, I wanted to start off with a really simple recipe that would be a sure-shot success and loved by all. So, I went pillaging the net and bumped into this mind-blowing recipe by Lorraine Pascale. This was just the one I was looking out for…a no-bake cheesecake.
It’s undaunting, super easy and guaranteed to steal the show. And the best part is, you can have tonnes of fun with the decoration and toppings.


Serves: 15

Ingredients:
Base:

300 gm pack of chocolate digestive biscuits, blitzed to crumb texture
60 gm butter, melted and cooled

Filling:
4 x 180 gm packs of Philadelphia full-fat cream cheese
500 gm white chocolate
100 gm icing sugar

To decorate:
100 gm dark chocolate

Method:
1. Line the bottom and sides of a 23cm spring-form tin with baking parchment.
2. Put the blitzed biscuits in a bowl, add the butter and mix well. Tip into the tin and press it well with a wooden spoon. Using hands is the best. Pop into the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
3. Put the cream cheese and icing sugar in a bowl and mix gently.
4. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water. Add the cream cheese mixture into the melted chocolate, one dollop at a time, stirring well until the mixture begins to look uniform, smooth and silky. Tip it over the biscuit base and smooth the top.
5. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes,
6. Chop the chocolate into shavings or use a peeler to make chocolate curls.
7. Remove the cheesecake from the tin and peel away the parchment.
8. Place it on a plate and decorate with the chocolate shavings or toppings of your choice.

P.S.: If you feel Philadelphia Cream Cheese is going to burn a big round hole in your pocket, D’lecta Creme Cheese or any good quality cream cheese should serve the purpose.

If you are in a pursuit of happiness, this is happiness… a smooth, creamy, yummy mouthful of happiness 🙂

Bangda Recheado Fry – Crisp Fried Stuffed Mackerel

Mackerel or Bangda in Marathi hits the perfect spot when it comes to nutrition. This gorgeous steely-blue fish is loaded with proteins, B vitamins and is a top notch source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

I usually fry this fish by applying the marinade only on the outside. This time I went all Goan by doing the recheado.
Now, recheado is frequently mistaken as the spice paste used for marinating the fish. But, it actually is the Portuguese word for Stuffing 🙂

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Marination time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
4 medium size Mackerels
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
6 tbsp red chili powder / kashmiri chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 cumin powder
4-5 black pepper corns
1 inch cinnamon stick
5 cloves
4-5 fenugreek (methi) seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp Sugar
3 – 4 tbsp vinegar
Chickpea flour or Besan for coating
Salt as per taste
Oil for frying

Method:
1. Slit the fish lengthwise on the narrower side, but don’t cut it into two.
2. Marinate with salt and turmeric powder and leave it aside for 10 minutes.
3. Grind all the other ingredients together into a smooth paste – chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, ginger-garlic paste, pepper corns, cinnamon, fenugreek seeds, cloves, mustard seeds, vinegar, sugar and salt.
4. Rub this spice paste equally on to the surface and then stuff it within the slit.
5. Again, leave it aside for 15 minutes, so the fish absorbs all the flavors.
6. Heat some oil in a fry pan.
7. Sprinkle the chickpea flour equally on both the sides of the fish.
8. Fry the fish on medium flame, about 2 minutes each side, till brown and crisp.
9. Drain the excess oil on an absorbent paper.
10. Serve hot with rice and curry.

P.S.:
1. You can use lemon juice or tamarind paste as an alternative to vinegar.
2. Vinegar has a very strong tangy flavor. So don’t go overboard, else it will dominate all the wonderful flavors other spices impart.
3. Fish can also be coated in semolina or rice flour.
4. Sprinkling the flour prevents wastage of the flour and the spices while frying.
5. Being patient with marination goes a long way in making the fish more flavorful.
6. It’s best to fry the fish when you are ready to serve.
7. If you’ve fried it before hand, instead of warming it up in a microwave, heat a skillet/ fry pan/ grill pan and warm it up on medium flame for few seconds each side. You don’t have to add oil here. This will not just warm up the fish but also retain its crispness.

Sherlock, Ooty

This isn’t the place where the great Sherlock Holmes once lived. Or ever lived. Boy! he was fiction. But, I’m sure he would have given an arm and leg to buy this eponymous mansion as his post-retirement home. After all, even an eccentric detective like him covets this kind of haven to rest his deerstalking hat, stretch his legs and puff his calabash pipe.

So captivating is the charm of Sherlock, a century old mansion that hasn’t aged a day since it’s birth in the Raaj era.

Driving uphill the narrow winding road and no trace of the hotel, Oniel blurts out his anxiety, “wonder how the place is gonna be”. I pretend to have not heard, rather ignore, thinking to myself, “it better be good. After all that micro-research, it has to be”.
All those apprehensions rest in peace the moment we enter the gates of Sherlock. It’s heaven up there. It is.

Cocooned within the soothing confines of Pine dotted hills, the property shares its neighborhood with a terraced farmland splashed with the greens and aroma of the seasonal cabbages.

We are received by Mr. Sanjay and Ms. Shabnam, two wonderful people who manage the property. It’s 3.15 by the time we complete the check-in. Kitchen is about to close. The three hour long journey has us aching and famished. Michael and Godwin are accommodating enough to cook us some creamy Chettinad Chicken Curry and rice after which we are escorted to the Honeymoon Suite named Gloria Scott.

Honeymoon? you ask. Well, i know, we are way past that …like, more than a decade past. But, for a five day stay laced with comfort, tranquility, spectacular views and most importantly…memories, why not?

The room is large and painted in happy warm hues. It’s adorned with the same century old furniture, sepia toned photographs of Mr. Holmes grace the walls, a walk-in wardrobe, a fireplace and an extremely spacious bathroom. That jar plonked atop the fireplace is filled and refilled with melt-in-your-mouth buttery Shrewsburry Biscuits.
Can this get more English!!!

Thaw yourself in this charming patio, dunking those buttery biscuits in your steaming hot coffee and catching up with some reading, while the bone-chilling winds blow outside.

And, when the sun comes out, go sit in your private little, flower dotted garden, breathing in the fragrant mountain air. Lend your ears to the faint birdsong that’s emerging from somewhere in the woods.

Then again, hold your breath as you witness the dark rainy clouds push the sun behind and the eerie mist comes undulating down the hills, accompanied by strong gushing winds, straight at you. Let out a terrified scream and run back to the room.

Apart from the Honeymoon Suite, there are nine other spacious rooms named after some or character the other from the Holmes diaries.

Taking a walk around the property is something you must not miss. Impeccably manicured lawns peppered with most beautiful flowers are all worthy of appreciation. Two really old uncles are the ones who pamper these babies with their tender love and care.

The kitchen prides itself in various cuisines and equally delicious food. Buffet breakfast is wholesome with South Indian fare like Idlis, Dosas, Uttappam and a touch of Continental like pancakes with maple syrup. Lunch and dinner are served a la carte with host of options to choose from.

If you wish to stay warm, there’s the Adler dining room, named after Mr. Holmes’ muse, the beautiful Irene Adler,

Then there’s the Sunroom, where you can get a little chilly while devouring your food and the stunning views of the piney peaks, both at the same time.

Evenings will never be the same once you are here. Ours were mostly in the lounge area, warming by the fireplace as soft music played on. Conversations just flowed with Sanjay, his unforgettable anecdotes, his giggles and the lip-smacking Onion Pakoras, yummy Chicken Satay and piping hot Masala Chai… unbeknownst to any of us, when the burning wood turned to ember.
Service is extraordinary, whether it’s the reception, the housekeeping or the cheerful kitchen team. It was incredibly kind of them to pack us some yummy mayonnaisey sandwiches at 7 in the morning for our journey back to the airport.

After all this in-house pampering, when you decide on going about Ooty, which you should, because it has plethora of insanely gorgeous sights to offer; dial Sanjay. He’ll help you plan your day and make all the necessary arrangements to get you going. If it wasn’t for him, our plans of doing the Mudumulai Tiger Safari would have gone for a toss.

After soaking in the stunning views of the Kamraj Lake, clicking countless pictures in the Rose Garden, sampling numerous teas and homemade chocolates, walking up the windy Doddabetta Peak and various other captivating sights, you are sure to work up an appetite for dinner. So, loosen your belts and let Adler serve you some of her most delectable dishes.
Later, ask Yuvraj to light up the fireplace in your room and sink in the warm cozy bed, looking forward to yet another wonderful Ooty day.

Sanjay, Shabnam, Marshall, Michael, Godwin, Andrew, Sabri, Yuvraj, Carlton, Thangaraj aren’t just names. They are memories we brought back home. These are real good friends we made during those five days at Sherlock…

How To Get There –
By Air: Coimbatore International Airport is about 95 kms, around 3 hours drive. Airport taxis charge fixed rate of Rs. 2500. The hotel too can arrange a pickup and drop at the same cost.

By Rail: The Udhagamandalam Railway Station is only fifteen minutes drive away. It’s linked with the major cities like New Delhi, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Chennai, Kochi, Mysore, Lucknow, Chennai, Kanyakumari, Puri, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.
Autos charge Rs. 250/- from the hotel till the station. 

For bookings and other details hit:
http://www.littlearth.in/sherlock/contact.php

Arco Iris, Curtorim, South Goa

I remember coming across a similar picture of a courtyard in one of the travel magazines. I also remember how it yanked me from my chair and ricocheted me decades back, playing in my grandma’s Malvan home, with a bunch of cousins.
How I miss those days…
That picture never really left me. The longing to be there followed and kept following until I cajoled my dear husband to celebrate our anniversary in Goa. And, he instantly agreed. That’s very rare of him. May be the universe-to-your-rescue funda worked or something 😉

So, Arco Iris…
There are sounds you must like before you get here. Sounds of rustling trees, chirping avians, sounds of bow-wow, sounds of wind chimes, sounds of absolutely nothing… quietude!
Perched atop a tableland, smiling at the seasonal Zuari river is this 200 year old colonial Portuguese manor restored to an unimaginable glory.

Plonked happily on a sprawling 1.5 acres of verdant upland, Arco Iris, is located in the sleepy village of Curtorim, away from the city hustle-bustle and yet close to Margao, the capital city of South Goa.
A good 50 minutes drive from Panjim airport later, we arrive at our destination. The car halts right at the steps and down comes Feni, tottering and sashaying, along with the rest of her family; a twig in her mouth, her style of welcoming her guests.
Feni, the cutesy, roly-poly lab is the biggest highlight of the home-stay. She’s warm, social and well-mannered than most of the kids would be. Her demeanor is so infectious that she can turn even the biggest animal-intolerant to an ardent animal lover.
Here… Isn’t she adorable!
Arco Iris means ‘Rainbow’ in Spanish. Which is why the colour of the five rooms – Indigo, Orange, Violet, Yellow and Blue. We stayed in the Yellow Room.
All of these are Wi-fi enabled and spacious. Well, spacious will be an understatement.
Unobstructed sublime views of the lush greens come rushing in through the large wood-paneled windows.
One of the doors opens into the balcony.
The lobby of yore, primordial courtyard, mighty high ceilings, four poster beds, rocking chairs, antique furniture take you through the time warp to an era gone by.
Ensuite bathrooms are so spacious you can stick a DJ in one corner and turn the place into a dance floor.
Everything here is an intricate blend of traditional grandeur and modern comforts… threads of the past delicately woven into a gorgeous carpet it is today.

Mobile phones barely receive signal. But that’s exactly what we want, don’t we? Be far, far…far away from all the noise… noise of the ringtones, alarms, beeping messages, noises in our head that remind us of the cacophonous cities we live in.

Fret not if you’ve forgotten your kindle back home. This is a place that’ll spoil you with literary options. Curl up in your rocking chair, plonk down on the veranda or sunbathe on the hammock. Evoke the reader in you and keep him awake with endless cups of coffee… without making rounds of the kitchen yourself. If this ain’t your idea of perfect relaxation, don’t know what is.
Bennita, the lady of the house runs the show along with her better half, Ganesh. She’s warm, friendly, kind and very very helpful. One email before our check-in and she had everything organised… the room, pickup, two-wheeler… She’s more than happy to share her Goan anecdotes and enlighten you with stuff to do, places to eat, thus make your stay a memorable one.

Lunch and dinner are arranged with prior notice. Buffet breakfast is complimentary with a limited menu -fluffy idlis, fresh cut fruits, jam-bread-butter and tea / coffee. The super-soft, yummy cake deserves a special mention. It’s that one time of the day when and where everyone gathers before heading out to hit the sands of Goa. And it’s this time when you make new friends from across the globe 🙂
The wishing well; you wish you never grew up…
Amidst all that holiday-spa and pampering, if you ever decide to peel your slothful self out, there are hoards of activities to indulge you.
If you are adept at spotting birds, the early mornings are totally for you. Stroll in the property gardens while soaking in the morning sun. Or take a walk along the winding roads, marvel at the beautiful old houses and admire the locals going about their daily lives.
Stone’s throw away is the Zuari river. You’ll most certainly spot the kingfishers in their beautiful, bright plumage. Amble along the banks or take a cruise when the skies are painted with sunset hues that reflect off the shimmering waters.
Benaulim, Colva and other beaches are a short ride away and offer a platter full of beach activities.
Primeval churches, archaic chapels, ceremonial temples are things you just don’t want to miss. Then, there are spice plantations, wildlife sanctuaries, museums and heritage buildings that mirror the life of the Portuguese days.
The home-stay can also arrange travel packages for you.

While you are on the wheels, exploring and eating, you obviously lose the track of time. This is when the dark slowly creeps in and it’s time to head home. South Goa goes to bed early. Really early. There isn’t a soul outside, just the Google Maps to guide you home. The dark, never-ending roads illuminated by the glistening moon and very few street lights, may feel eerie, but are totally safe.

You park your scooter in a corner of the facade and are ready to take the first step when… the mighty Feni comes charging. She’s sensed an intruder who’s about to enter her home at those freaking hours of night. 10 o’clock is not really a night in cities like Mumbai, is it.
It’s only when you smile and call out her name, does she apply her brakes and starts to nudge you. She’s welcomed you home.

Members of the house are in deep slumber. Hallway lights are dimmed. Candles at the alter are still burning. The courtyard is quiet. You tip-toe into your room, rather stealthily, so no one wakes up. You dust off the sands and shower off the fatigue, craving to sink into the cozy, cuddly bed. Instead, you make your way to the veranda. Consumed by the deafening tranquility, you sit there, on those cold, red-washed steps and let your mind wander into the night, again, through those by-lanes you just returned.

Crisp Fried Bombay Duck – Bombil Fry

Now, Bombay Duck is not a duck from Bombay, okay. Rather, it’s a fish. Lizard Fish, to be scientifically precise. Weird, no. So is its unusual, slimy appearance. But the history, I tell you, is a lot more amusing… dates back to the British times. You have to Google it 🙂
Commonly known as Bombil, this peculiar fish has made Maharastrian kitchens its home.
And, this is one fish in particular that has intimidated me all these years. I somehow, couldn’t muster courage even to touch it. Bombil is wobbly, slippery and doesn’t have a taste of its own. It needs to be flavored with a really nice marinade and believe me, it’ll love you right back 🙂
Posting a link that shows how to clean and cut the fish. I followed it too.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D53lpR_GJ2g

Ingredients:
8-10 medium size Bombay Ducks
8 cloves of garlic
1 inch ginger
2 green chilies
4 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Juice of 1 lemon / 2 tbsp tamarind extract
1 cup rice flour (if you don’t have the flour, blitz the rice in the mixer to a really fine powder)
4 tbsp semolina
Sal as per taste
Oil for frying

Method:
1. Slit and pat dry the fish as per the link above and place them in a bowl.
2. Grind together ginger, garlic, green chilies, turmeric powder, red chili powder, salt and lemon juice to a smooth paste.
3. Apply the marinade and 1 tsp of rice flour to the fish. Leave it aside for 30 minutes.
I believe in marinating a little longer. I have it in my head that more the marinating time, the more flavored the fish will be.
4. Heat oil in a non-stick pan.
5. Mix the balance rice flour and semolina together.
6. Now dip the marinated fish in the flour+semolina mixture so it’s coated well on both sides. Dust off the extra bits and shallow fry till crisp and golden brown on both the sides.
7. Drain the excess oil on absorbent paper.
8. Serve with steaming hot rice and curry or just like that with green chutney or ketchup.

P.S.:
1. Oil has to be really hot for the fish to fry properly and turn crisp. Reduce the flame if you feel the crumbs are burning.
2. There’s one central bone or thorn in the fish that is soft and tender. And it cooks well while frying the fish. So don’t bother to chuck it out while slitting the fish. I too didn’t.
3. It’s best to fry the fish when you are ready to serve. That’s when you really enjoy the crispness. Keep it for long and it wears off and turns flat.
May be you can try warming it up in the OTG. I’m yet to try it.

I believe in my heart, whatever dish you cook with all your love and care, it will be the most celebrated dish ever…