Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A sumptuous lunch at the Empress of China...

I am very very apprehensive of eating out because of two reasons. I have lost interest in going out and enjoy during the last decade of my life, interestingly the time when the culinary scene in the country got an overhaul. And secondly I have encountered a few places which claim good food and it turns out they serve substandard ingredients doused in spices so the fresh taste of any ingredient is not distinguishable anymore. Most Indians like spicy food after all. Drowned in spices to say the least.

I like spicy food too. But I respect the fresh ingredients more than that. Spicing just so the ingredients's character is enhanced and not diminished.

So I was apprehensive about the food when Sid Khullar suggested to do a review of Empress of China's lunch menu with a few Delhi bloggers. Empress of China is a part of Eros hotels managed by Hilton. Meeting a few fellow bloggers was my reason to go there in the first place. I was in for a surprise as the food was really good as well. And at affordable cost too.

'Big place, big menu, small price' as Sid put it to introduce the menu, it really was such.

Not just the number of dishes being served, the quality was really very good.

The starters were quite delicately spiced, soft and succulent. Steamed chicken wings, Stir fried baby corn with sweet chilly sauce, Steamed dumpling with mixed vegetables, Steamed siew mai with minced prawns stuffing, and a delicious Steamed chicken with spring onions, garlic etc. On the plate clockwise.

The best was the Baby corn stir fried and laced with sweet chilly sauce. Tremendously flavorful and great texture. Chicken wings were rightly steamed and flavorful, glutinous and soft. The steamed boneless chicken was good but nothing special to write about. The Steamed dumpling was not good at ll, I don't like it when the pastry is dry and chewy. Someone who makes quite decent dimsums , this was a case of double disappointment as the Siew mai was floury and under cooked too. Dumplings apart, I liked everything else.

Main course had all my favorites. Sauteed fish with black bean was soft, flaky and delicately flavored. Prawns were well done, fresh, paired well with Asparagus. Schezuan chicken was rightly hot, well spiced for my taste. The best in the main course was Lotus stems and water chestnuts in black pepper sauce. I make something similar and that was just yummy. Silken tofu with preserved vegetables in chilly bean sauce was very very flavorful and rightly delicate too. The chef informed it was imported silken tofu.

My favorite bites were the very fresh serving of garden greens, it looked like it came right from my own garden. Beautiful and so good to bite into. I had a second and probably a third serving of the garden fresh sauteed vegetables, Broccoli and Bok choy to be precise.

Refreshing Jasmine tea was served along the meal, one more favorites of mine, though all my teas are in between the meals thing. With such a meal with varied textures and flavors, the tea served as a palate cleanser to say the least.

I would have been really happy if it was a Chinese dessert too. But I guess there are no takers for those and probably the Chinese don't finish their meals as Indians do. Their desserts are a meal or a snack in itself rather than being served to wrap up a meal. No wonder Chef Thomas Wee came to meet us just after the main course concluded, before the dessert was served. The food was really wonderful. Forget the dimsums.

And forget the chocolate cake with ice cream too. Not that it wasn't good , as I finished just about half of my serving. Though there was no space or interest left for such a regular kinda dessert after such a sumptuous, refreshing meal.

Thanks to Mr Sanjay Keswani, Operations Director of the hotel who introduced us to the lunch menu and had great discussions with us. I was talking about how I was tempted to meat a few fellow bloggers there. I met Parul Paratap Shirazi, Charis Alfred Bhagianathan, Jaspreet Singh and Prateek Rungta apart from Sid Khullar. A great conversation about food among foodies is something to look forward to anytime.

Good ambiance, good conversations and good food was what we enjoyed there to the core. I would recommend this place for someone who wants to see beyond the several avatars of Indo-Chinese food available aplenty all around. A calm serene place to have a refreshing meal.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Egg less brownies with vanilla ice cream and Hot Chocolate sauce...

So this post is about two recipes. An egg less brownie and a hot chocolate sauce. The ice cream was store bought because I had to serve a crowd this time. Clicked a few pictures of the leftover slices of brownie topped with the black and white sinful opposites, the cold white ice cream and the dark hot chocolate sauce. Actually I served myself a generous helping as a lunch today and teased a few friends on facebook. An extempore poetry here and a few forgotten promises reminded by some other friends led me to post the recipe here.

I take this opportunity to apologise to my readers here for being absent from the blog for so long. I am back with a dark mean treat for you friends. Was busy in a family wedding and then many of the guests at the wedding were invited home for several rounds of meals and snacks and desserts and all... This brownie was served to a crowd of some 20 people, made a whole loaf of brownie , although the thin slices were not as easy to handle it was the best solution in a hurry. Made in microwave to save time so I could work on other main and side dishes that day...And the brownie was egg less because many of the older people don't even eat onion and garlic.

Brownie is better egg less I always feel anyways.

Lets cheer up at Banaras ka khana with a brownie that wrapped up a busy bustling day for me some 3 days back.... and then illuminated a noon today with a warm cheer..


( about 2 dozen servings)

all purpose flour (maida) 2 cups
cocoa powder 1/2 cup ( I used Cadburry's)
baking powder 1 tsp
softened butter 1 cup
thick yogurt 1cup
sugar 3/4 cup
melted dark chocolate 1 cup (I used 72% cocoa)


Mix the all purpose flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together. I stir it with a fork, you can sieve them all together if unsure.

Whip the yogurt, butter and sugar together and then add the flour mix to it slowly while whipping all the time. The batter has to be just loose so it doesn't look like a dough and the whisk moves freely. Add a little milk if required, depends on how thick is the yogurt being used.

Now melt the dark chocolate over double boiler. i do it in microwave with a tbsp of water added to it.

Add the melted dark chocolate to the prepared batter and whisk and mix well.

Pour in a wide baking tray if making bars or squares of brownie. The batter doesn't flow well and has to be smoothened  into the tray. Bake at 180 degree C for about 20 minutes. Check with a needle before taking out of the oven.

I made a standard size loaf in the microwave as I was multitasking that day and had very little time for this brownie. The loaf was microwaved for 6 minutes on high.

Let it cool and slice accordingly. The brownies are slightly sticky , dense and decadent. I like them as it is warm too...

Served this way, they are a crowd puller.

The recipe of the chocolate sauce is quite simple too. You just need the best quality of cocoa powder you can get your hands on. I made the sauce in the microwave too , in the same jug it is served. can be easily cooked in a pan too, stirring all the while ...

ingredients for the chocolate sauce...

half cup of cocoa powder (Cadburry's was used)
quarter cup of all purpose flour
pinch of salt
half cup of sugar
1.5 cup 0f milk or water (some more to add while cooking)
1 tbsp or a little more butter


Tip in the first four ingredients in the mug or jug (or the pan if you are cooking in a pan on gas stove). Pour about 1/4 cup of milk and make a paste of the ingredients. Now add the remaining milk and whisk vigorously to make a smooth emulsion.

Microwave the mixture for 2 miutes, take out the jug, whisk it till smooth and microwave again for a minute and whisk again. repeat doing the same some 3-4 times till the mixture bubbles and is thick and creamy.

Add a little milk if you want a dilute sauce. The thickness is variable to taste. Whisk the sauce even after it is cooked as it helps in keeping the right consistency later.

If you decide to cook the sauce in a pan, cook over direct flame stirring all the while till it thickens.Adjust thickness as above.

Add the butter to finish the sauce , off heat, and mix well. Use hot or cold, as required.

The chocolate sauce can be used with cut fruits to make a rich dessert or can be served with plain vanilla ice cream any time. It keeps well in the fridge for a week so make it in generous amount if you like it.

This sauce can be made slightly thicker too and can be used as a cake frosting or a cheats version of Chocolate Ganache. It wouldn't be as rich and silken in texture as a real Ganache made using dark chocolate and heavy cream.

Nevertheless, we all need cheats versions of the expensive foods once in a while. So why not.

The richer version of chocolate sauce would melt equal amounts of heavy cream and dark chocolate in microwave or over double boiler...chose your pick... whatever suits you.

Would you like to bake a gluten free version of a Brownie? I am working on that and will soon post it on my health food blog

I have also made a  facebook page for all my friends and readers who like to discuss health and wellness with me. Please go like the page if you really want to live healthy , eat healthy and think healthy...

In that case , you would chuck this version of brownie in the air.

I would be one happy soul for such a choice. Believe me. I bake such sinful indulgences only for guests who like these, my own indulgence in such treats is quite balanced most of the times.I expect everyone who follows me, to chose wisely and to control portions when served occasional treats like this brownie.

What do you chose as your foodie sin ?