No bake | Coffee White Chocolate Panna Cotta … ♥ indulgent ♥ indulgent ♥ indulgent ♥ #eggless #dessert #coffee

♥ “It doesn’t matter where you’re from – or how you feel.
There’s always peace in a strong cup of coffee.”

Gabriel Bá

Coffee White Chocolate Panna Cotta Coffee White Chocolate Panna Cotta, time for an indulgent dessert that screams coffee! It’s been a busy few days, or maybe weeks. A lot happening on every possible front which barely leaves me time to blog. Sometimes I fall into a guilt trap for starving the poor hungry PAB, so I figured the sweet coffee indulgence should be a nice way to offload my guilt. This dessert rocked, the flavours of local Bru shone through, the taste nice and mature after an overnight chill! For those who know me, coffee is my first choice in dessert. Coffee in desserts @ PABOf course it’s another matter that I was in Bangalore a couple of days ago styling tea for a shoot; tea that was almost too pretty to brew!!

Rose Mist Summer Darjeeling White Tea ...almost to pretty to brewPanna cotta has been in the news at home of late for all sorts of reasons. Good because this was an experiment that rocked, and one that I have made several times over. Made it most recently for my friends from the Swiss Made Grand Tour crew who visited last week. Bad because it was part of a plagiarism row that hit our small local food bloggers community. A similar panna cotta recipe, Espresso Panna Cotta,  from PAB was one of many to be ‘copy pasted‘ verbatim! We live and learn, and hopefully ‘the copiers’ will too!

Espresso Panna Cotta

Coffee white chocolate panna cottaMoving on, it’s also a panna cotta coz I’m happy; happy about a media mention that The Asian Entrepreneur carried about me yesterday. It was quite a fun interview and I am eternally grateful to them for offering me such a wonderful platform.

Interview with Asian EntrepreneurThis calls for a cuppa coffee!!

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No Bake | Chicken Pasta Salad in Home Made Buttermilk Salad Dressing #mealinabowl #comfortfood

“The cuisine of a country is the only exact attestation of its civilization.”
Author Unknown

Chicken Pasta Salad in Home Made Buttermilk Salad Dressing 1 800Chicken Pasta Salad in Home Made Buttermilk Salad Dressing. Stirring memories.

My one and only trip to mainland Europe was to Milan and that too decades ago. The UK has it’s own charm, but Europe is a different story altogether. The husband often carried back tales of Germany, Netherlands and France yet I get a first hand feel as I couldn’t connect very well. It took the recent trip to Switzerland to change my whole perspective on Europe, how culturally and historically rich it is. You also get a taste of local cuisine. It makes the heart sing out loud when you see the pride they take in stirring up and serving local cuisine, each platter served in style, laced with culinary history. As you cross regions, the stories of food change, the influences are varied, French, German, East European, maybe more.

Swiss cuisineI got back and possibly the first thing I dabbled was was this char-grilled tomato gazpacho, one which is found right across the country. In temperatures ready to sizzle Europe, this Spanish chilled soup is popular across menus in Switzerland. A tomato gazpacho, spinach, cucumber, peach too where they get a little experimental. It’s chilled, it’s bursting with flavour and possibly the most welcome bowl to douse the heat wave!Vine tomatoes with LFP

Gazpacho The Swiss love food and they love life. Local produce rules the roost, and it is heartening to visit a country that celebrates seasonal and local produce practically on every platter. Fruit in bakes, sweet and savoury, greens that are to die for, micro greens just in case you need an additional excuse. Cheese in every avatar, eat as much as you like! If there’s one thing I picked out, it’s there love for salads. Fresh, crisp, from farm to table. SwitzerlandSalad bars are standard at sit down restaurants. Pick and choose what you like, and then drizzle {or drench} with either French or Italian salad dressing. I love the generous servings of dressing that stand alongside, lashings that take the salad up a lot many notches.It’s travels like this that inspire you to stir up something special, maybe something different.Sydney 2015 The trip to Sydney this summer had the teen in love with a good Caesar salad. I soon played around with ingredients for the dressing as that’s what a good salad needs IMHO. The rest I can manage, a little painstakingly in summer of course. So I came up with this dressing, which is like a cross between a Ranch and Caesar, no anchovies in here, yet nice and creamy and zesty. I’ll call it a Home Made Buttermilk Salad Dressing. It’s nice because it’s easy to whiz up, the trusted Hamilton Beach blender being the workhouse through my experiments.Home Made Buttermilk Salad Dressing Home Made Buttermilk Salad Dressing I really should also be making my own mayonnaise, though always have an eggless one in the fridge! Del Monte does a really nice one. Just makes life easier on days when you are short on time. Using just locally available ingredients, this is a nice salad dressing to have in the fridge to perk up the most mundane of salads. Adjust the zinginess as you like, increase or decrease the garlic according to your palette, skip the cheese spread to go light. This is your dressing. Do it your way!

Once this is done and in the fridge, then the rest of the Chicken Pasta Salad in Home Made Buttermilk Salad Dressing is usually a breeze. Summer is a pain for fresh produce here, everything wilts so fast. So I threw together a quick summer chicken pasta salad, inspired by a Caesar.Chicken Pasta Salad in Home Made Buttermilk Salad DressingIt’s a meal in a bowl, and quite balanced too. I’ve kept the carbs to a minimum, a generous dose of greens {iceberg is all I find locally these days} and a handful of roasted walnuts. On other days, you could find some sliced avocado, tomatoes, feta, pine nuts and rocket in there. Do remember to add the croutons just before serving so they stay nice and crisp.Char-grille Tomato GazpachoOh, and you could always serve a chilled tomato gazpacho on the side, making it a more filling meal!

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Travelogue | Swiss Made Grand Tour. Letting the good times roll #SwissMade #GrandTour #NDTVGoodTimes {part 1}

“Look past the silk-smooth chocolate, cuckoo clocks and yodelling – contemporary Switzerland, land of four languages, is all about epic journeys and sublime experiences.”
Lonely Planet

Switzerland, SwissMade GrandTourSwiss Made Grand Tour. 7 days. Road trip. Driving through the Swiss country. Hired cars. 6 cities, maybe more, hosted by Switzerland Tourism, organised by NDTV Good Times. Like a dream which kept getting better and better.Switzerland, SwissMade GrandTours

No watertight schedules. Tailor made. Something for everyone. Great company. Delicious food. Gorgeous views. Stunning architecture. Clockwork precision. Beautiful people. Adventure sports. Rolling meadows. Cow bells echoing. Bales of hay. Spires, churches, steeples that dot the entire country and are fascinating by design. Architecture inspired by the French and German that changes as you drive from region to region; every frame knocks your breath away. As you long to hang on to the wings of time, there is even more jaw dropping beauty ahead. For me, non stop gasps, endless shooting, obsessive camera overdrive. {Warning : Image heavy post ahead}

Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursDidn’t just end there. Filmed while experiencing the tour, sometimes quite hilariously, the show will be aired maybe around September, 2015 on NDTV Good Times. We stopped at beautiful hotels for the night, woke up to lavish breakfast spreads for those who chose to indulge, quick healthy deliciousness if ‘light’ was your call.Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursLunched by lakes, water bodies that magically appeared around the corner within 20 minutes of each other. We drove through the countryside because that’s what the Swiss Made Grand Tour is all about. More on the app here.Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursIt was a ‘pinch me, am I dreaming?‘ moment when I first got an invite to the Swiss Made Grand Tour. Completely unbelievable. I was told it was a scam, a ploy to kidnap me, an April fool gone late and a million bizarre such suggestions! After all you don’t get to experience a dream road trip in Switzerland everyday. Seemed like an unreal thing, out of reach. But guess what? It happened.

Sunshine country. Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursNow I cannot believe it happened. Did we really live those last few days? Yes we did, captured in a million and more images that will live with me forever! Best company ever! This time I was just so glad I am a compulsive shutterbug, an obsessive ‘picture taker’.SwitzerlandVisas arrived a day before, the IDL never materialized, no itinerary, muddled head. The unsure journey began as we all met for the first time at Delhi airport headed for Zurich, traveling business class on Swiss Air. Complete strangers. A bunch of 3 bloggers, names not disclosed, a team from NDTV, and bags wildly stuffed in panic made for a strange unsure scene. A few luxurious hours later we landed in Zurich where the very sweet and fun Ritu from Swiss Tourism Mumbai joined us. We took a connecting flight to Geneva where the journey was to begin.Geneva , Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursChecked in at the beautiful Mandarin Oriental, getting our first glimpses of culturally rich and beautiful Switzerland. Geneva, lies at the southern tip of expansive Lake Geneva. It’s the city we had our first meal together, where strangers broke bread! Back slapping and in comfort zone over a gourmet picnic, an inspiring meal on the lawns of Hôtel du Parc des Eaux-Vives, showcasing the finest local food and wine. Got our first experience of the clockwork like, very efficient public transportation in the city, armed with the amazing Geneva Transport Card. The card is a norm across Switzerland; very handy to hop on and off public transport. Geneva must sees include the iconic landmark,“Jet d’Eau”, Old Town, Reformation Wall among others. Mandarin Oriental Geneva, Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursUp the next morning to a beautifully set up and delicious breakfast, one of many to come, it was time to get those cars! Yes, the road trip beckoned. Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursFrom here on, we would explore this stunning country via roads, driving off piste, stopping when and where we desired. Driving here is left hand like the rest of Europe. For me, a first time ‘left side driver’, it took ten minutes or so to rewire my brain and get used to the mirror like driving. What did help is that I’ve been on the wheel for over 30 years, am a sticker for rules, and have been driving an automatic. Still it took me a while to grab the wheel, but more about that later.

SwitzerlandAfter much futile racing around at the courts in Gurgaon, I didn’t get my International Driving License and was sorely disappointed. I kept just one day in hand. Not enough. Make sure you have 2-3 days in hand. On the brighter side, Switzerland doesn’t really require one. A valid license in English is good for short durations. Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursThe cars we hired – a snazzy VW black convertible {how could we not}, and an Audi Q3. Vroooom, vroom … we were ready to go.

Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursThere is something special about driving off the motorway, through winding village roads, narrow streets, rolling meadows. Oh the countryside, the houses, the landscapes, the shimmering blue lakes, the Alps, the lifestyle. Every corner you turn in picture worthy, every frame tells a story. It isn’t a country in a hurry. Every region has it’s own beauty, and even though the next few days whizzed by like a dream, I am now recounting the journey through images.Driving through Brienz, SwitzerlandHere we go. Our beautiful drive from Geneva to the canton of Vaud, in pictures {far above and below}. First glimpses of steeples, spires, geranium filled window boxes, vineyards, meadows, cattle, cars, dogs, culture, cuisine, lifestyle. Also literally how picture perfect the country is, nothing out of place. Even dilapidated abandoned houses fit right in!Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursVaud – part of the French speaking region of Switzerland, foothills of the Alps, by Lake Geneva. We explored Montreux and Lavourne, and a bit of Vevey, home to the milk chocolate giant Nestle, and where the Charlie Chaplin Museum is. We stayed at the well located Hotel Astra. Vevey,  a 5 minute crisp walk to the gorgeous waterfront, was brimming with activity because it was Swiss National Day. Live music, food stalls, celebrations … then later spectacular fireworks to mark the event.

Vevey,  Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursAug 2nd, still had Swiss National Day celebrations on. Travel cards rule! A 15 minute bus ride to the main square at Montreux which has a strapping huge Freddie Mercury statue overlooking Lake Geneva. Montreux is known for the Montreux Jazz Festival held annually every July since 1967.  It’s a beautiful walk along the lake. We were on our way to the Chillon Castle but stopped because of this …Montreux, Switzerland. Swiss  National Day, SwissMade GranTouts NDTVGoodTimesAn unplanned hop off as the festivities and colourful armies beckoned, the medieval army one of my favourites. The ease of the marches, the national pride, the ‘chilled out attitude’ to the photo crazy tourists milling around, is reflective of the Suisse community. So relaxed, friendly and accommodating, we felt like one of them!

Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursBack to our original destination, Château of Chillon, a Swiss heritage site with over a 1000 years of history. It isn’t Switzerlands most popular castle for nothing. One of the most visited in Europe,  this is possibly the most important historical monument of the country. Stunning architecture, well preserved, like a page out of history, almost every window gives you a marvelous view of the lake.Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursThe underground dungeons of the castle inspired Lord Byron to write the Prisoner of Chillon, in 1816, a poem which chronicles the imprisonment of a Genevois monk, François Bonivard, from 1532 to 1536. Written in typical Byron style, the narrative describes the trials of a lone survivor of a family who has been martyred. The character’s father was burnt at the stake, and out of six brothers, two fell at the battlefield while one was burnt to death. The remaining three were sent to the castle of Chillon as prisoners, out of which two more died due to pining away. In time only the narrator lived.

Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursThe castle itself is a window into the daily life of the Court of Savoy, as also of the Bernese bailiffs. Three courtyards, huge banquet halls, a spartan Bernese chamber and much more. You can spend hours exploring each corner. We had barely an hour, soon hopped on to the boat back to the square, some shopping, coffee ice cream, posing with Freddie Mercury, walk in the lake. It was time to head for the vineyards and lunch with the rest of the gang for an amazing gastronomic experience in the vine district of Lavaux, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Lavoux Vineyards, Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursIt’s vineyards as far as the eye can see, over 10,000 terraced vineyards held together by ancient stone walls built by monks over 500 years ago. Thanks to Lake Geneva and the many walls, they say that there are three suns in Lavaux: the one shining in the sky, the one reflected in the lake and, during the evening and night, the one coming from the heat accumulated within the walls during hot summer days.

Auberge de la Crochettaz,Lavoux, Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursThen a sublime lunch overlooking beautiful Lake Geneva, and run by a chef from our own Mumbai. Was an unusual experience to have delicious hot zucchini pakodas by the lake. We guzzled Rivella on the side, a local soft drink produced from milk whey, a by product of cheese making. It’s interesting to see how environmentally conscious the country is. Nothing goes to waste; innovation rules! Lunch for me was fresh fish fillets, filets de perche meunière, sourced from the lake, and my, was it delicious! It’s a local specialty and you can find a recipe here. I love that right across Switzerland  they celebrate local seasonal produce. Also, you will find the freshest of salads with greens and micro greens on the menu. Potatoes form an inherent part of the menu – fries, rosti, hash browns etc.Lavoux Vineyards, Switzerland, SwissMade GrandTours Thanks to the three suns, the wine here is special and different. It is made for local consumption as the vineyards are small family business, each producing their own limited editions. We stopped by for a wine degustation along a cobbled village road tasting two crisp white wines from the locally grown Chasselas, and a red wine too. My favourite was the Grand Cru Dézaley, though I failed miserably at pronunciations.Lavoux Vineyards, Switzerland, SwissMade GrandToursWe bid adieu to the canton of Vaud and headed further north towards Interlaaken.

That’s another story. Until then, please meet the crew, our very generous host and the 3 bloggers. Loads of hidden stories!

Mandakini Malla aka Mandy– NDTV. Director. Hill girl. First among equals. Boss. Perfectionist. Knows what she wants. Gets it done. ‘Wicked’ the tee reads. Is not. Nature lover. Animal lover. Great fun once the shot is canned! Walking encyclopedia. Colourful footwear.
Neha Dixit – NDTV. Anchor/Host of Swiss Made Grand Tours. Hill girl, eco warrior. Animal lover. Thoroughly professional. Polite to the core. Never ruffled. Sharp, hilarious, nonsensical tongue at comfort levels. Workaholic. Great company. Peppy. Colourful! Very sporting. Also sports this odd little plait.
Ritu Sharma – Deputy Director, India. Switzerland Tourism. An Indian quite Swiss. Chilled out wonderful company. Rarely ruffled, but when she is, ouch! Knows Switzerland like the back of her hand. Hat ‘forgetter’. Punctual. Knows where to find the best food and wine. Loves black.
Jalaj Kathuria – NDTV. Senior camera person. Calmest in the group. Quiet. Thorough gentleman. Never an animated moment other than a sudden hearty laugh at the stupidest of jokes. Supportive to the core. Hears it all, never says a word. We heard there is another side. Yet to see it.
S Arun Kumar – NDTV. Strong shoulders camera person. Social media activist. Drama Queen King. Hilarious when in the mood. Ready for encore. Baby face. Bee bitten. Loves Indian food.
Dheeraj Hellan – NDTV. Omnipresent camera person. Call me ‘D’. That says it all. Then again. Charming to the core. Loves to drive. Couldn’t this time; that’s another story. Great behind the camera, even better in front. Fun all the way. Hindi, urdu, english…words roll off the tongue like butter. Chillon? Another story. He knows!
Siddhartha Joshi – Travel blogger. Dreamer. Cracker of a guy. Can get you to spin a tale. Peoples person. Quite the wanderer. Hyper. Super sporty. Super fun. Nonsensical banter person. Predictably unpredictable. Thorough gentleman. Great company. Selfie lover. Self ‘in the air’ portrait lover. Full LS paisa wasool!
Rachit Hirani – Auto Blogger. Vroom Vroom. Calm, composed, mature. Knows evrything that walks the road! Been there, done everything. That’s until you scratch beneath the surface. 1000 watt smile. Baby face. Parsi accent. Thorough gentleman. Mumbai lad. Super hero. Car selfie addict. Patient as can be, and great company.

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