Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Sydney's Sugary Affair Series - Part 1

 Being a Pastry Chef (subtle way of putting it out there that I did get my diploma :D Woohoo!), comes with a lot of perks. I have traipsed across Sydney for practically one and a half year, gobbling all the goodies under the pretext of *research and development* without a single tinge of guilt.
Mind you, I wasn't lying when I said that it was purely for research. Its just that it helped me to not think of all the gazillion calories that would have sent me on a miserable regret trip afterwards.
All the banter aside, Sugar Rushes is proudly going on a 12 part series, where we will try and cover all the hidden gems that Sydney has to offer the sugar and butter lover in you. We kick the series off with my number one on the list and a place that I had the beautiful opportunity to volunteer and learn at -  BlackStar Pastry. 
Also, a tiny little disclaimer - all the views you read are completely my own. I'm sure many people will have their own favorites and may vehemently disagree.  This series is not a list of which one is better than the other. It simply is a little virtual tour of all the places I have visited, and includes all the food that I have loved, not loved and want to try next! :)

 BlackStar Pastry is synonymous with Sydney's ever growing cafe scene. It has two permanent outlets at Rosebery and Newtown (which is also their oldest). They currently have a small outlet at The Galeries in the CBD. They also just shut down their Power House Museum outlet which used to be my favorite haunt for breakfast on a day off.
Late addition - They just opened another little store at Kinokuniya Bookstore in Sydney CBD.

BlackStar Pastry's Rosebery Outlet

 Insider's tip - No one makes chocolate milkshakes the way these guys do. Their coffees are absolutely fabulous. If I am not mistaken, their coffee is sourced from The Little Marionette, which is touted to be one of the best coffee suppliers around here. This place is the sole reason (and their fabulous Barsita, Harry - who I used to work with at the Rosebery outlet) why I started appreciating the good stuff and still love my flatwhite coffees without any sugar.

This was one of Harry's creations that I used to absolutely relish! :)

Being a vegetarian, my choices are pleasantly not limited here. My usual routine is to order either their chocolate milkshake or a flatwhite coffee to go with their mushroom and pesto toastie. All their breads are house made and wholesome. Their pesto is coarse, with a good hit of garlic that marries the mushroom and cheese amazingly well. Their portions are generous, so I would suggest you go along with a friend if you want to try out a wide range of their things.

The non vegetarians, on the other hand, are in for a treat. BlackStar prides itself in winning the Best Pie award almost every year. Their lamb and beef pies are one of the main reasons you see the winding, long lines outside their outlets almost everyday.

Coming to their most famous and absolutely mouthwatering product, their Strawberry - Watermelon cake. I am absolutely not ashamed to admit that I may have once single - handedly downed an entire four portion of this beauty. A light & beautiful masterpiece of a dessert that has layers of watermelon and rose cream, topped off with juicy strawberries. This is something you simply cannot afford to miss.
P.S. These usually get sold out by early afternoon, make sure you are there good and early to get your hands on these beauties.

My other personal favorites include their Vanilla panna cotta with a Caramel jelly. The clear jelly with a tiny gold leaf on top tastes as brilliant as it looks.
Their puff pastry products are beautiful too, though I am not a big fan of the boozy almond knots they have. But their croissants are definitely worth a shot.

Their Orange cake iced with lemon cream cheese frosting and dried figs is one of those comfort kindling cakes that you have on a cosy day in. Moist, dense and flavorful.

The last but not the least, giving vegans a reason to rejoice is their chocolate brownie topped with popcorn and freeze dried raspberries. It isn't cloying to your palette like a lot of the vegan cakes I have tried. The popcorn adds just the right amount of crunch to it and the raspberries provide the fruity zing.

All in all, BlackStar will always be my one true love when it comes to cafes in Sydney. Its comforting vibe that stands by their owner Christopher The's philosophy of - every piece of food having its own character, makes it worth every cent!

I hope you liked the first installment of this series. We have 11 more to come.
I would love to hear what you think of it in the comments section!

Until the next time then

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Prep, The Big Move & Settling in :)

Yes, SugarRushes has been down and low for quite some time, thanks to all the last minute stuff and obviously the settling down and getting familiar with your absolutely new surroundings, which is always a little slow. Anyway, coming back to the point; its time for a life update :) As I was saying my goodbyes and farewells, I ended up meeting a lot of people who I got the chance to know because of my food blogging. So a day before leaving, I had the opportunity to visit the Four Points by Sheraton in Vashi, Navi Mumbai to take a look at their Buffet Breakfast. After having a long conversation with Mr. Ahsan, the F&B Director, along with the Head Chef of the hotel. Atika, who is their Senior MarComm Exec, helped me understand the concept around which their menus are designed. Being mainly a business hotel, who often has repeat guests, the key to happy customers is keeping in mind their eating habits and provide them with what they are used to. So the Starwood (their owner brand) hotels try and keep a regulated variety available. From American breakfasts to Indian, you will find what you want. I went for the Indian breakfast options - vegetable utappams with chutney and sambhar. I felt that there was a lack of seasoning in the utappam and the food was lukewarm - but then again it may be because their breakfast is over by 10 - 10.30 and we were a few of the last ones there. A mention for their Bakery department. I was impressed with the spread and the variety they had laid out (check pictures below). Also, the options of sweetened oats with walnuts, a variety of fruit cuts, and a good number of options in the fresh juice section added to a lot healthy options for the calorie conscious. They also had a few live stations for grilled paninis, pasta etc. So the next time I'm too bored to cook breakky at home and need some good change, I'll just drive down to Four points (which is like a 5 minute drive from where I live). Next time you are in Navi Mumbai, You should keep this option in mind :) 

Finally, after an entire year of build up, I finally moved to Australia on the 5th of July. It was heart breaking to say goodbye to the people and the place that make me and my life what it is. Most of all, saying goodbye to my parents. I never thought it would be so difficult. In short, I learnt you can never have what you want, unless you are ready to let something go. In this case, it was giving up home, comfort, friends and family for my dream and career. I know it sounds horrible, but let me be honest, I was worried too. But the minute I entered my college, and that moment I tried my Chef Jacket on, it breathed purpose into my life. I had to pinch myself to really believe that this was happening and it wasn't all just a fancy shmancy dream and I had to try really really hard to not cry out in joy, in full public view :)  The orientation was fantastic. I ended up making quite a few acquaintances. The most exciting part of the day was receiving the uniform and tool kit :D Somehow, that made it all official. 

The gorgeous view from my college

The coveted uniform

With college starting at the end of this week, I and a few friends decided to spend this time exploring the beautiful city of Sydney. At this time of the year, its really really cold (I'm rather cold intolerant, being born and raised in a hot city like Mumbai). But that added to the over all chilled out atmosphere of a very cosmopolitan city. The only thing I am still not used to, are the rather early sunsets (5.30 pm!?! WTH?! :O ) 
Here, take a look at the city through my eyes :) ( Don't forget to notice the two amazing food experiences below) 

Rocks Market

One off my Bucket List :D

Inside the Queen Victoria Building

Pretty Sunsets
Darling Harbour
Yess!! Nitrogen Frozen Gelato

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Until Next time then,

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Sunday Shopping & some Brunch

         This month in general, has been so extremely busy for me, that the Sunday brunch plus shopping outing at Renaissance, Powai (Mumbai), was nothing short of a mini vacation. 
          Bringing in this new concept, of a Sunday market, where home - run brands are given the opportunity to showcase their products, Renaissance is trying to offer a unique experience to their guests. This Sunday market, which is being organised in collaboration with The Smallfry Co, is going to be running all month, i.e. every Sunday in the month of June. The idea behind this is to provide an avenue to bring friends and family together for some really good food along with some fun things to shop for. The brands being showcased change every week, therefore providing a wide variety for the regulars, as well as for the newer patrons. The brunch itself is the highlight, with the chefs pulling out all stops when it comes to the number of cuisines they had. With both Vegetarian & Non- Vegetarian options, there were different stalls like Western, Indian, Grills, Chaat, Mexican Counter, Mumbai Toasties Section, South Indian, Thai and Pasta. Not to mention a stunning selection of desserts. 

 This weekend's market showcased the following brands - 

       Tea trunk - one of the premier fine tea brands of India. Dress your Tress, was selling cutesy hand - made hair accessories. I absolutely loved them and HAD to pick up a few cloth bow - clips!! Eight Thousand Miles had a rather impressive line of kids wear. Asya had beautiful Chikankari (traditional Lucknowi art) t-shirts made by the women of Jais village, in Uttar Pradesh. These t-shirts act as a medium to their empowerment and progress. Pride of Cows - an upcoming organic milk brand, which promises to home deliver nutritious and untainted milk. I tried their sample, and yes, it did seem fresher and tasted much better than the packets we use on a daily basis. Splurge - which was probably one of my favourites - was an all natural, handmade, chemical free skin care and cosmetic brand. I picked up two delicious smelling vanilla lip balms which I intend to share with no one! :D The Shuddhi Therapy stall was selling beautiful aromatic products for body & mind healing. Last, but not the least, some very aesthetically pleasing handmade clay ceramics, by The Curators of Clay. They had some really unique pieces on display. 

All in all, a perfect Sunday afternoon spent well. You don't want to miss this experience. Especially the ladies - where else will you find fantastic shopping options and good food, without having to step out in this heat?? :D 
A special mention to Payal Shah. An absolutely friendly & warm person, who made me feel completely at ease. It was wonderful meeting you! :) 

Until next time, 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Cadbury's Bournville

     I am a woman, and nothing will make me believe that a woman's best friend is anything other than Dark chocolate. Yes, you heard that - diamonds, opals and whatever weird coloured stone you are. I would choose a chunk of 70% dark over you any day.
      Coming to this blog post; you may have seen recently, that Cadbury has been on an image makeover drive - right from the packaging to the advertising. Their Bournville is no exception. If you are a dark chocolate fanatic like me, you would know the joy I had experienced when Bournville first launched in India. It was being touted as India's first step into the dark chocolate market, but like any other new product, this too had its share of the initial hiccups.
      Firstly, you know the Indian weather. It is very temperamental and is not kind to food and food products, chocolate being no exception. The older Bournville (released in 2009) was 44% dark, was more brittle, dry and very sharp. It wasn't one of those chocolates, which you could down an entire bar of in one go (Yes, I do at. No judging). So, Cadbury has made multiple changes and introduced their new Bournville. It is now 50% Dark. Hurray for more! Has a softer texture, is richer and more complex making it more pleasing to the palate.
     Instead of just eating up the chocolate, like I normally would, I was asked to try and see how many different things I could use a consumption ready Bournville bar for. Because I was short on time, I stuck to only 3 new recipes. So here you go - Below, you will find 3 really easy, tasty yet different recipes you can whip up in less than hour, using the New Bournville :)

Mango and Chocolate Layered trifle

This is a layered cold dessert, using the fruit in season - the mango.
For this recipe (serves 2), you will need -
1 Alphonso mango - peeled, quartered and pureed
1/2 litre of whole milk - remove a cup from this and keep aside
3 heap table spoons of vanilla custard powder (any brand - I used Brown and Polsons)
1/2 Cup of granulated sugar
2 Cups of fresh cream (I used the Amul tetrapack)
100 Grams of Bournville 
4 Graham crackers/ Marie biscuits

Mix 1 cup of the whole cream with the puréed mango and refrigerate until plating
Heat the remaining milk (not the one cup we set aside) with the sugar. Do not let the milk boil, keep the heat constant. In the one cup that was set aside, mix the custard powder and form a runny paste. Slowly add this paste into the rest of the milk and KEEP STIRRING with a whisk, because the moment you stop, lumps will formed and you will have clotted custard. Once the custard is thick (Lassi - like consistency), take it off the heat and transfer into another vessel and let it cool. When it has cooled, it will be even thicker, hence pipe-able. 
While that cools, boil water in a pot and place a bowl atop its mouth. Break the chocolate into the top bowl and let the heat from the boiling water melt the chocolate into a smooth liquid. When the chocolate has completely melted, put 4 tablespoons of the cream in it and whisk till the mixture has a shiny glaze. Take off heat and let it cool.
Once the custard has cooled - mix the mango cream mixture into it and  put it as well as the chocolate cream into the fridge and let them cool for another 20 minutes. Once that is done, Put them in separate piping bags. In the serving glass/ bowl of your choice, layer the mango creme and chocolate ganache (cream), alternating between both. Top with crushed biscuits and/ or diced mangoes/ dark chocolate chips and serve.
P.s  - always serve this one cold. You can prep this and keep it refrigerated until serving time.

Dark Chocolate and Espresso Granita with Fresh Fruits

The summer is getting unbearable, and what better than something chocolatey, cold with a brilliant caffeine kick to help cool off? Heres the recipe for a Dark chocolate and espresso granita which can be paired with the fruits of your choice 
You will need (serves 3)
100 ml Espresso (or the filter coffee pressed concentrate) 
100 gms sugar
50 gms Bournville chocolate
150 ml hot water.
Cubes/ dices of your favorite fruit - chilled


Mix all of the above in a big bowl, until both the chocolate and the sugar have dissolved.  Transfer into a tray to cool. Once it has reached room temperature, put it into the freezer. Every 20 minutes, take a fork and scrape the ice so that small granules of ice are formed, instead of a slab. Do this atleast thrice, with a minimum gap of 20 minutes in between. Your granita should be free, without chunks of ice in between - more like gravel. To serve - Spoon into a glass and top it with the fruit. You could also serve this granita with a spritz of lemon and mint syrup, for the alcohol lovers - spritz with vodka and use it as a boozy dessert at the end of a party! :)
P.s. - Granitas melt very quickly, esp in this weather. so take them out only when you want to serve it 

Dark Chocolate and Spiced Chai cupcakes

Initially I was a little sceptical about how dark chocolate would go with spiced chai, but rest assured, these little delights will win you some brownie points with any person who loves dark chocolate because the flavors of the spice chai, act like the perfect undertones to complement the richness of the dark chocolate. Just one thing is that I wasn't able to take good pictures of this recipe because of technical problems, but I shall certainly put them up when I bake the next batch. 
You will need (Makes 6 standard sized cupcakes)
1 large cup of flour
1 glass (around 175 ml ) of masala chai, which has no sugar and has been prepped in the 50:50 ratio of water and milk and about half a teaspoon of chai masala in it (I used home made chai masala, market bought is also fine)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1/2 cup of granulated brown sugar (demerara sugar)
1 teaspoon of baking powder and baking soda each
3 Tablespoons of vegetable/ rice bran/ canola oil
A pinch of salt 
100 grams of roughly crushed Bournville
1 Tablespoon of white vinegar

Sieve the dry ingredients together (save the chocolate and sugar - add these after you sieve the rest into a big bowl). The add the wet ingredients one by one and mix well after adding each . Add the vinegar last and whisk well. Scoop into the cupcake moulds and bake at 180 degrees for 17 minutes. 
You can serve  these with a dollop of sour cream, or with herbed butter. 
They taste the best when warm. 

From what I tried and tested, Cadbury's seem to be on to something, because not all ready to consume chocolates can be used to bake well. Try these recipes, and tell me what you think about them!! :) 
Until then,

Friday, 30 May 2014

Ooty Diaries Part - 2

      Yes it has been very long, but I am sure you guys completely understand, like every damn time :D oh you wonderful people you. So back to my amazing vacation. Post my two days in Coimbatore, we took to Ooty. First thing, the weather in Ooty was blissful. As compared to Mumbai's scorching heat, Ooty was a breath of fresh, cool air. Ooty is that small quaint town, which is buzzing with population because of the ongoing vacations, full of small homely bakeries, home made chocolate stores and easily available brussel sprouts! (No, I am not weird. Just that where I live, brussel sprouts are difficult to find)  I was there for 3 days, and I absolutely loved every minute of it. :) 

       The road journey itself from Coimbatore to Ooty was brilliant. Miles and miles of green tea estates. We stopped at this cafe called Orange Pekoe. Honestly, I don't remember the last time a simple mug of hot coffee and toast with butter was so soul satisfying. 

Now, like last time I'm going to take you through my vacation through the pictures :D . My idea of seeing a new place, is on foot with a camera with some good company. This is going to be a compilation of all my three days, in no particular order.
 So here you go -

Pretty flowers outside my hotel :)

Fresh green tea leaves, when I went to visit a tea factory. Anyone else who can't tolerate Nilgiri Green? I'd take Darjeeling green over it anyday .


Gorgeous tea estates

The first rains of the year

 One little piece I had to do was about this lovely chocolate shop in the commercial market, called Jai's King Star. This shop has some great history and is a family business being carried out by the third generation. They have the most amazing array of chocolates. Vivek, who is the proprietor of Jai's King Star, told me that they actually procure their cocoa pods from Kerala and process the raw chocolate themselves. They also make fudges. Along with a wide variety of chocolates, the usual ones like rice crispies, truffle, fruit & nut, marzipan etc to the other delicious but not frequently found coconut filled ones, bonbons, black current, cranberry etc. (p.s. My absolute fav was the caramel filled one) . I actually visited their shop twice because I finished the first batch I had bought. Impressive fact - Their products don't have preservatives and yet have a very long shelf life. They also courier chocolates to major cities. If you are ever in Ooty, you must make a pit stop there. 

A Part of my chocolate haul

A better display :P 

 Below is everything that made my vacation absolutely worth it :) Talking about chocolate overdose, there is a chocolate museum where I laid my hands on 70% dark chocolate. Yum. 

Buttered masala steamed corn. Delicious snack in the cold winters of Ooty. Perfect to carry around while wandering the streets :)

Here I discovered something new called Sukka coffee.. which is basically coffee with a little bit of ginger. Nice no?

One big regret - on my way to see Coonoor, I happened to see this place called the McIver Villa. It looked so absolutely beautiful that I totally wanted to stop there and go check the place off. But sadly I couldn't. I checked them out on TripAdvisor and it looks just as amazing as I imagined. So if anyone has been there, please let me know about your experience. 

Lots of other bits - like the amazing Varkey (local baked item - very much like our khari - somewhat), litres and litres of excellent filter coffee, not finding fresh vanilla beans, lip smacking south Indian fare, overdosing on chocolate, shopping for my year's supply for Darjeeling green tea - from the place that produces Nilgiri tea :P  Also, just as we were leaving, our road was blocked by a wild Bison - wildlife native to Ooty. What a magnificent and intimidating creature. That was like the perfect ending :) All in all, it was one of those vacations, that leaves you mildly happy, calm, humming songs your way back home. Thank you for being such a hospitable place Ooty and Coimbatore :)

Lastly, I hope you enjoyed my vacation through my eyes. Do drop in a comment and tell me what you think :)

Until next time,