Sunday, February 26, 2012

Red Velvet and a little boy's smile...

My younger child Neil remains somewhat of an enigma to me. Every time I think I have him figured out he takes me by surprise. Today on his eleventh birthday he had his heart set on a Red Velvet cake with a simple cream cheese filling. Still reeling from my trip to India and having to play catch up, I tried to tempt him with store-bought ganache filled chocolate cakes and vanilla cakes with 6 inches of icing but to no avail. So Red Velvet it was....
I used a recipe which claims its origins to the Waldorf Astoria, but I played with the recipe and made a few small variations. A red velvet cake is a deep red color which is atributed to the soda reacting to the cocoa. In times of scarcity, beets were commonly used for their color but lately red food coloring has become an accepted way of getting the deep red color which is characteristic of this cake. It is not very different from a chocolate cake or a Devil's food cake in terms of taste because of the cocoa but it's bright red color set against the cream cheese frosting does give the cake a certain edge. So here's to a 11 year old with discerning taste buds..
Happy Birthday Neil!

1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp red food color
2 tbsp cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the pan by lining it with parchment paper. Cream the shortening and sugar together till creamy. Add the eggs one at a time making sure to incorporate it well.
2. Mix the food color and the cocoa together and add to the creamed mixture.
3. Combine the flour and the salt. Continue mixing on low adding the buttermilk and the flour alternately.
4. Add in the vanilla. Mix the soda to the vinegar and it to the batter.
5. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
12 oz cream cheese
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup icing sugar

1. Cream the butter and cream cheese till light and fluffy.
2. Add in the vanilla and icing sugar and mix on low. Cover cake with frosting with a palette knife and pipe on decorations with a star nozzle.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Red Hot...

My sincere apologies to my faithful readers for the long silence. A family emergency had to be taken care of and I headed once more to the Northeast of India. Once the crisis was under control, my first agenda was to check out my brother's new restaurant Red Hot Chili Pepper. The last time I was here only a few short months ago it was literally a hole in the ground (a foundation was being laid) Now magically it is transformed into a world class restaurant boasting chefs who have worked overseas as well as at the Taj, Calcutta. The menu is primarily Szechuan; redolent in red hot peppers as it's name indicates but there are surprising elements of Cantonese style cooking throughout the menu. My aim was to remain objective in my assessment and was pleasantly surprised by every dish, each with it's own distinct flavor and identity. Wok cooked stir fries, kongees, steamed seafood and barbecued duck on the table is money well spent in my opinion. Fresh ingredients, varied flavors, delightful ambiance and
attentive service made for a wonderful meal.
I tried the sliced Basa fish in black bean chili oyster sauce on the insistence of my nephew Raman. A well executed dish, I enjoyed it just as he had predicted. Basa, a more easily available alternative to Becti is a salt water fish indigenous to Asia. It's subtle flavor makes it versatile for making the flavors of the sauce more pronounced. The coriander soup, honey sesame chicken, chili crab balls and fragrant fried rices were equally flavorsome, but my personal favorite was the pan fried noodles, a mixture of soft noodles topped with crunchy noodles and vegetables.
Chefs Kanaiya and Francis are enthusiastic for feedback and beam with pleasure at each compliment as satisfied customers stagger out the door.
All this talk about food is making me hungry and it's probably a good thing that I'm a healthy distance away from RHCP. I miss it already....