Goodbye 2014 : A Food Photo Essay

It's the 29th! What better a date than this to recap the 29. endeavors in 2014.

2014 was a special year for me.  I completed my first full year as a chef. Yay! Swapping careers took a while, and despite the many times when I questioned the decision, I am happy to report that I am indeed exhilarated. This year was about growth, learning, accomplishments, partnerships and tiny milestones that mean a lot, yet keep me humble. The only drawback of being your own boss is that there is no team to throw a holiday party with! But I'd like to believe that I'm in part celebrating with hundreds of new friends I made in 2014. Wherever in the world they might be. (Are you listening folks?)

Read More

Dinner Under The Bridges - A PopUp Picnic

DSC_0121

"It's September! see what a season brings, a cooling breeze, and your heart does sing

Changes to the plate, and that sullen mood, it's time to reconnect with your food

Take a gamble, give a new cuisine a try, perhaps a spiced fritter in lieu of that french fry?

Whatever you dare, it'll be oh-so neat, for there will be new storytellers you'll meet

There is magic on a table that shares, moments of unparalleled freedom from worldly cares

So eat, smile, give a compliment or two...nothing like happiness from a taste new!

When you're done, take a look around, count the new friends you just found

Wasn't this as simple as just being you? and that my friends, is a dining experience true!"

You know those weeks when you wake up everyday and something seems to go wrong? This, is definitely NOT it. This week I feel elated, accomplished and pretty exhausted. Go on, ask me why.

On Wednesday, in a collaboration with Komeeda NYC, I hosted a popup picnic dinner under the Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridges. The setting was perfect, the wind was on our side, the sunset gleaned brighter than usual and along with my wonderful co-host, the guests were just the kind of bunch you want to spend a random NYC Wednesday evening with. In short, it was magical. And I was so glad to be a part of creating it all.

DinnerUnderTheBridges3Sep141

Sliders

In a true 29. style, the meal consisted of a 5-course indian inspired menu. The guests were welcomed with mini spicy rice frittata bites smothered in mint yogurt and curried eggplant toasties. Not a bad way to begin eh? While they said their hellos, got to know each other, and prepared for the surprise that awaited, we lit some candles, spread out the cushions and worked our way to the highlight of the day - the dinner.

DinnerUnderTheBridges3Sep14

As the sun set over the Brooklyn & Manhattan bridges, our popup came to life. The courses, seasonal, balanced and apparently scrumptious (duh!), started with a raw Chilled Green Grape Soup with with mint, ginger & spices. A roasted Chickpea Chaat in a tangy tamarind vinaigrette colored the plates next. Then came the Fishcake Sliders - my personal favorite - and complementing it was a little game to keep our guests in the spirit (and occupied while I plated the next course!). The fourth and final savory course was a trio of Turmeric Pilaf, Masala Chicken & Spiced Lentil Broth. I had to respect the carrot season so the dessert was one of my regulars, Carrot Halwa drizzled with gooey homemade burnt sugar caramel & coconut dust. (Mmm, I might have some leftovers as I type..)

DSC_0132

Chickpea Chaat (©FelixChen-CopperfieldWeddings.com)

DSC_0135

DSC_0108

Sliders (©FelixChen-CopperfieldWeddings.com)

Pilaf Trio (©FelixChen-CopperfieldWeddings.com)

DSC_0145

Needless to say I had fun. And as I leave with you with a more visuals of an event that we would've loved to meet you at, a BIG shout out to all those who came! Especially my collaborator-in-crime and the brain behind Komeeda, Jabber, and our shutter-eye for the evening, Felix, who's photos reflect the very essence of the event! (Check out his photography at Cooperfield Weddings)

Oh, and there is much more where this came from. 'Nuff said. Watch this space!

DSC_0122

DSC_0104

picnic2

©Komeeda

DSC_0114

©Komeeda

 

©FelixChen-CopperfieldWeddings.com

Summer Story - A Photo Essay

Every summer has a story. Mine is soaked in spice, color & laughter.

Yes, it may not be over, but the end of warm months is nigh. And before I go on holiday, I want to leave you with glimpses of some of my past dinners. The flowers, berries, sunny days and sweet compliments sure inspired me to roll out one event after another. And with that came many a new dish. Some good, some amazing and those that just got by. But each plate was a learning experience.

"It starts with the lists, grueling with many a slip...

The Preparations

The Table

On to the little wins, that welcome the guests as they step in...

Chickpea Profitrolls

Colorful Fryums

Brussels Slaw w/ Sour Cherry Raita

I might be the host of the night, but it's the food that steals the show at every bite

Masala Fish w/ Bean Puree & Carrot Slaw

Spicy Chicken w/ Fenugreek Flatbread

Beet Salad w/ Cinnamon Plum Compote

And sometimes I am caught in a moment deep, or a note that makes me weep! 

At work

Bean Sliders

And when the sweet does come into sight, you gotta see the guest's plight!

Ginger Chai Custard + Banana Pops

Chocolate Chai Pot De Creme

Hopeful, happy or just hungry, whatever your emotional yearning may be

Don't wait for a friend or two, come join my table already will you!"

Tandoori Chicken Drumlets

“Chicken so tender

It melts right through,

With flavor & spices

Oh-so fool proof.

Baked or pan-fried

That’s your call,

But the taste takes you back

To that late-night tikka stall!

Munch away, no guilt

It has not much oil,

But superior in every way

From that [yawn] soup on the boil…”

 

Ingredients

6 chicken drumlets (skin on)

2 tablespoons full cream yogurt

6 cloves of garlic, finely crushed

2 teaspoons grated ginger

1 green chili, finely diced

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon red chili powder or paprika

1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

Juice from one lemon

Handful of fresh coriander , roughly chopped (leaves & stalk)

Salt to taste

Olive oil to cook

DSC_0452

Wash the chicken pieces and pat try on a kitchen towel.

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade.  Rub the mix all over the chicken pieces, making sure you rub under the skin as well. Refrigerate overnight or for 6-8 hours.

To cook, you can follow either of the below.

Baking method

Pre heat the oven to 400 F. Grease a cookie sheet/ baking tray and line the drumlets, skin side down. Drizzle some olive oil over the pieces. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cover, turn the drumlets skin side up, and bake for another 30 minutes, till the skin begins to brown.  Give it a quick 5-6 minute broil in the end to crisp the skin. Remove from the oven and let it rest covered for a few minutes.

Stove top method

Heat 2-3 teaspoons olive oil in a non stick pan. Once hot, line the drumlets skin side down (they should sizzle immediately!). Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes on medium flame. Turn the pieces around and cook for another 8-10 minutes or till full cooked. Remove cover, turn up heat to crisp up the skin. Remove from heat and let it rest covered for a few minutes

Serve hot with a dash of yogurt or sour cream and your favorite salad.

Leftover tip: Remove the meat from the bones and refrigerate for a second treat the next day! Can be turned into a delicious lettuce salad, chicken sandwiches, nacho cups or a topping on your favorite pilaf or biryani.

DSC_0451

The 29. PopUp in Pics

"On the nineteenth day of June, we played it chic

In a space downtown, neat & slick

The table was laid, candles lit

Smiles were in, and frowns didn't fit

People twelve, came for 29.

Foodies at heart, and souls so fine,

They talked & laughed, over courses five

Left happy, with a little bag of spice

The night that started 2 months ago

Ended with pride, and much more

And after all the gratitude & love

All I want now, is to "pop" my feet up!"

DSC_0017

The first of 29.'s PopUp dinners was a huge success! 12 people, 5 courses, and an experience that you can't put a number on.

The preps were grueling (specially for a single pair of hands!)

photo 2

photo 3

But the outcome? Well worth it all...

DSC_0033

DSC_0020

DSC_0013

DSC_0012

DSC_0007

DSC_0005

DSC_0003

DSC_0001

I did some rummaging around NYC for fresh off-the-tree (literally) berries & flowers, and I think the love showed on the plates! The food, bearing the usual 29. style, was well received by all the hungry guests. Phew...

DSC_0014

fishcakes

DSC_0031

DSC_0030 DSC_0027

DSC_0024

Thank you to all who came, trusted me with their meal, and left with a smile that made me believe in myself just a little bit more. Here's to much more PopUp fun in the days to come!

Looking for a unique way to celebrate that special occasion? 29. can arrange a private PopUp dinner in lower manhattan for a group of 8-12 pax. Contact me today for details!

Sausage & Green Lentil Curry

Sausage & Green Lentil Curry1

“Green lentils with a kick

Taste-worthy of every lick

A stew for the cold

For the mighty & bold

Herbed & spiced

With vegetables diced

With crusty ol’ bread

For a yummy dinner spread!”

Ingredients

1 cup green lentils, boiled [don’t drain the liquid]

2 Italian chicken sausages, casing removed and crumbled/finely chopped

1 small red onion, sliced lengthwise

2 plum tomatoes, diced

½ cup carrots, diced

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small green chili, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 dried red chili, broken in half

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

½ teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 tablespoons light olive oil

A small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Salt to taste

Sausage & Green Lentil Curry2

Method

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet. Add cumin seeds, bay leaf & dried chili and cook for a minute. Add garlic, ginger, fresh green chili and cook till the garlic begins to brown. Stir in the onions along with a little salt. Cook till they turn translucent. Now add the tomatoes, along with remaining dry spices. Cook covered on a medium-low flame till the tomatoes are tender and oil begins to separate. Crush any big tomato chunks and add the sausage & carrots. Sauté till the chicken is fully cooked and then add lentils, ½ cup water & fresh coriander.  Cover and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot with a dash of cream / yogurt & warm crusty bread. Healthy, wholesome & absolutely delish!

Try this, and other scrumptious dishes at my upcoming dining experiences!

Food20

Sausage & Green Lentil Curry6

Hosting Tips & A Photo Essay

With spring in full bloom, it's time to dust off the cobwebs from that pile of party invites.

Whether you are a pro-host, or one who struggles with putting out an appetizer table, these simple tips will help you make your night just a tad fancier.

Also check out my latest recipes for inspiration, some upcoming supperclub meals and my very first PopUp dinner in NYC this June! And if you can't be bothered entertaining, but love a feast, contact me & join my table instead. It's always dressed to host you!

DSC_0359

DSC_0360

1. Spring is all about color. Not only should your dishes be dressed up with fresh produce, even the table deserves a little love. Use old wine bottles to create DIY vases that look oh-so-adorable with a swig of flowers!

photo 1

2. Be creative. Use wine tumblers to serve entrees like rice based dishes. Why you ask? Well, why not! Isn't it simply beautiful?

DSC_0369

3. Mix & match ingredients. Play around with food - sometimes the strangest of combinations create the most mind blowing bite. The jar of olives in your cupboard, the almost-stale bread, the endless bunch of kale ....are not quite as unworthy as you think. This dish - a spicy chicken dumpling served atop a creamy curried cauliflower puree was an absolute hit at my dinner!

DSC_0367

4. Get people in the mood. The only thing worse than bad food at a party, are bored guests. Get the happiness started with little shots that help break the ice and get the conversations flowing. Trust me, it'll work.

DSC_0366

5. Something fresh. Salads - an element that most Indian meals are devoid of. Add an individual sized  seasonal salad, like this squash & cucumber 'spaghetti' w/ pickled radish & cilantro lime dressing, to your buffet table. Not only is it uber simple to put together, but it will also add a vibrant crunch to your meal. Oh, and chill your dishes before serving - it will keep the crunch that much longer!

GuestChefSuite306

6. A Giveaway. Who doesn't love a little competition. Incorporate an easy game into the evening, with a winning gift of something edible, something handmade or something you prize - like a cookbook. Not only does it encourage interaction, it shows you off as the power host you now are...

Life in Little Bites : Food Photos

"Plates of bites savory, and those with spice

An echo of claps, or a room of smiles

Thank you notes, praises & song

Meeting strangers, bringing a friend along 

Birthdays and reunions, food for thought

This is my life, the one I always sought..."

Dinner1803

Working in the Investment Banking world was tiring. But only till the day I decided to swap it for a frying pan.

Running your own business, specially one related to food, is not child's play. From a multi-person corporate support system, you're suddenly down to being your own admin, sales, technician, social media specialist, event organizer, caterer and... dish washer. Hours of standing, less than plump pay checks, no public holidays and always having to smell of food are truly balanced by the little things my guests do. They don't know it, but every tiny gesture goes a hellafa long way. That request for a signed menu, laughing at my attempted jokes, an almost standing ovation, a flattering blog post or a simple gratifying smile - these are the things that make me do what I do. These are the things that make being a chef worthwhile!

And if it isn't already fun enough, along comes the visiting best friend who happens to also be a brilliant photographer. In a month that is swamped with dinners & events, I could think of no better way to show my love, than to make her work a little ;). Below is proof of the stunning genius that she is, a master of capturing every tasty moment! Oh, and she also makes a remarkable sous chef! Do give Gayatri Nair Photography a look, and for those about to get married, you should know that you need her there for your special day.

Some people call my work face serious. I call it focus for deliciousness. Happy Thursday!

Check out some recent reviews of my dining experiences via Sanura Weathers on her award winning blog: My Life Runs on Food & Ohneka Farm's most talented blogger: Navriti SoodContact Me to setup a private tasting or visit Events for upcoming dinners in NYC.

[Follow all the scrumptiousness on FaceBook, Twitter & Instagram]

_WBG3880 _WBG3981

_WBG3961

_WBG4401

_WBG4409

_WBG3904

_WBG3987

_WBG4404

_WBG4006

_WBG4005

_WBG3990

_WBG4420

_WBG4433

_WBG4438

_WBG4423

_WBG4487

_WBG4474

_WBG3934

_WBG4062

4 Culinary Finds in & around Durban, South Africa

DrankensbergPanoramaWhen people think of South Africa, they think apartheid, history and a few scattered beaches. Rarely does anyone think food. But after traversing miles of sun-bathed vineyards, conquering grueling hikes & engulfing waves, jumping off cloud-high bridges & driving down spotless roads, people get hungry for more than just adventure. Thus, knowing places that serve up delicious fare in my 'hometown-in-law' always comes handy.
I spend at least 2 weeks every year in South Africa. Housing the big five, it also happens to be home to my husband's family ;)! My trips are always about quality time with the in-laws, baking gooey brownies for the nieces & nephews, exploring the Drakensberg mountains near Durban and of course, letting the sleuth in me dig out those tucked away cafes and culinary spots! To me, no holiday is complete without any of it. 
Below is a list of some places I have loved visiting. Whether it's the food, coffee, decor, ambience, the crowd or a simple memory, each place has a special place in my heart, and today I'd like to share it with you.
 
Puppy Love at Freedom Cafe: An old shipping container houses this quaint coffee shop and brunch spot for the Durbanites. Nestled away in the popular & artistic Musgrave district of Durban, this is surely a midday go-to date spot. With a distinct love & theme of dogs, the cafe is adorned rustic seats and plenty of colorful curios. And as though the concept wasn't creative enough, each cup of coffee comes with little dog-bone shaped biscuits. Just the sight makes you go 'awwww..'. I'd go back just for those!  
 
Coffee & Cakes at I Want My Coffee: Yes, I absolutely do. This quirky spot near the Gateway mall in Umhlanga is the place to go for a tall iced latte & a light bite - all while soaking in the relentless Durban sun. With communal tables, plenty of books, wall-full of writings and a range of sweet & savory options, you will never feel alone here. The cafe also boasts of unique home-made coffee flavors such as orange cinnamon or chili chocolate (what!). Oh, and their lamingtons are delish! So, next time you're in surf city over the holidays, gather some cheer with their ever-smiling baristas and give this little birdie a try. 
 
Beer Tasting at Claren's Brewery: A short trek from Durban, but totally worth it. Situated in the quaint & arty town of Clarens in the Free State, this bar-cum-brewery is surrounded by everything that should surround a beer - mountains, art, color, sun & smiling faces. With an in-house roastery and a range of beers & ciders to chose from, this is exactly the boost you need at the end of that breathtaking hike!
Oh, and if beer isn't your poison, there are also an aromatic roastery next door churning out the best coffee in the region - the popular Highlands Coffee!

Bunny Chow at The Grove, Chatsworth Centre: Bunny chow! Where do I even start. Legend has it when Indians first migrated to South Africa, as laborers in the sugarcane plantations, they required a meal that was not only wholesome & flavorful (yes, we Indians have very strict palates), but also easy enough to carry to the field. Think grains, meat, bread etc. That's when the ladies decided to hollow a loaf of bread, and package the curry inside for them to carry. Pretty brilliant if you ask me. And definitely delicious! Anyway, Bunny Chow is somewhat of a culture in Durban. With each spot vouching to serve the 'hottest curry in town', there are a handful that the locals love. The Grove, situated in the old Indian area of Durban, is one such place. Don't expect an ambience when you go here. Walk in, take your pick from the extensive menu, wait with bated breath for it to arrive and then devour it with all your might. You might need a few bottles of water and a handful of wet wipes on the side. But the feeling in the end of it all will make you float. Spice lovers, your satisfaction is guaranteed. 

29. Dining Experiences : A Visual Journey

It's the 29. Busi-versary! {err, do you have a better word for it?}

Last year on this very day I launched the 29. Private Kitchen. Without a firm idea of the direction I was headed in, I decided to just cook my way through it. And that is exactly what I have been doing!

With a busy start to the year [in a good way!], more & more people are rolling up their sleeves to dig in to some Indian Tapas. Well, high time! Thus, the 29. kitchen has been anything but untouched. And although I might have been less-than-prompt at posting recipes, I always have enough photographs to keep you occupied. Here is a snippet of my culinary journey through Jan & Feb 2014...

[Unless otherwise mentioned, all photography is copyright of 29.Calories]

Pickled Potato Cracker Cups - Photo Courtesy Suite3-Oh-6

Sweet Potato Chaat - Photo Courtesy Suite3-Oh-6

Vegan Fritters - Photo Courtesy Suite3-Oh-6

29. Business Cards

Water Station

Spicy Potato Cups

Tandoori Shrimp Cakes

Eggplant Kulcha Bites

Choco Coconut Tarts

Red Bean Salad Cups

Spouts & Kulcha Chaat

DSC_0188

DSC_0192

Tandoori Meatball Chaat

DSC_0216

Sweet Potato Bites

Appetizer Buffet

Mint & Veg Biryani

Carrot Halwa Custard Parfait

DSC_0243

Date Tea + White Chocolate Truffles

 

This Week in Food Pictures

"A busy week it's been
Successes, failures & new challenges seen,
A lot of cooking, yes lots
From little puddings to flavorful pots,
Trials & errors, recipes that repeat
Bites with crunch, and those with heat,
Events & dinners, people new
Reviewers, readers, and comments few,
Here are the snippets, simple & clean
Of food, colors, and the week that's been..."

It's been one busy week! While I work on the recipes, here are some pictures from all the adventures this week. If only these could fill you up eh!

Come try my food at one of the upcoming dining experiences! Got a large group? No problem! Contact me to discuss a private tasting.

Carrot Pudding with Burnt Sugar Pot De Creme

Event Buffet Table

Curried Cauliflower Soup 

Vegan Semolina Halwa with Orange Compote

Masala Minced Chicken Sliders with Beer Shooters

Popcorn & Chocolate Bread Pudding

Mint Chicken Tikka Salad on Bread Cups
Vanilla Cupcakes with Pomegranate Swirl