Amici Café … ♥ Good food, friends and menu sampling ♥

“Using lots of fresh foods, fruits and vegetables, helps to keep the menu buoyant – I don’t know if that’s the right word, but it keeps a balance of freshness and health.”
Sally Schneider

Got an invite from the beautiful Amici Cafe in Khan Market, New Delhi  … “In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’re reaching out to a select set of Delhi-based food bloggers to come in and sample our specially prepared ‘Aphrodisiac’ menu”. I looked forward to sample the special menu, and was also thrilled to get an opportunity to meet a few Delhi bloggers. Have virtually bumped into Anita from Mad Tea Party and Sid of Chef at Large in the past, but this was different. A face to face meeting over food sampling was a delicious call, and no way was I going to miss it! To meet over what we love to do was just the thing, and when it is hosted by a charming urban chic eatery, it’s even better! Also present were two other fun and amicable foodies -  Anoothi, a free lance journalist from India Food and Travel Guideand  Deepinder from Foodiebay, India’s largest restaurant and menu listing guide. 
 
You have been invited by Amici Cafe to “7 days of Love” at Amici Cafe.
~
Amici Cafe is a delightful cafe located in one of Delhi’s prime shopping locations, Khan Market. Originally allocated as seed land to immigrants from the North-West Frontier Province after the partition of India, Khan Market is one of Delhi’s upmarket shopping areas and is frequented by the expat and diplomatic community. It lies surrounded by the lush Lodhi gardens and has a variety of shops offering everything from grocery to boutiques, bric-a-brac, trinkets, street food, multi cuisine restaurants etc. Amici fits in well with the unique ambience here, offering quality food at a great value.
Amici meaning ‘Friends’ in Italian and the choice of name is reflective of the theme of the cafe. It has an urban Indian and casual feel; an inviting place where friends can meet and hang out. The cafe is mid-priced and targets the upper middle class urban youth, offering the authentic Italian cafe pizzaria experience at a value driven price. To enhance the taste of the extensive variety of pizzas on offer, the owners have imported the wood fire oven from Italy.
Amici is the brainchild of Andrea Aftab Pauro, also the creator of highly succesful Baci, one of the hippest restaurants in the Delhi. Andrea, half Indian, half Italian, has an ancestral heritage of hospitality, the iconic Imperial Hotel in New Delhi being founded by the Indian side of his family in 1934. His passion and love for this industry guarantee a brilliant culinary experience. Both Baci and Amici have a huge fan following of loyalists who swear by the ‘experience‘. 
Dishes served at Amici Café at the sampling…

Over valentines this year, Amici offered a chef’s special Aphrodasiac menu to get luscious this Valentine. It offered a daily dose of lover concoctions to set the emotions rolling. ♥♥♥ …  Love was surely in the air there!

From The Aphrodisiac Menu
Beet Root Ravioli  (Excellent,pictured above)
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Chicken stuffed with dry fruits (Very good, pictured above))
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Pizza Valentino
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Other food we sampled …
Pizza Bianca (Very good, pictured above)
  Lebenese Veg Pizza (Excellent, pictured above)
Carbonara penne pasta
(didn’t get a picture)
Salads – The Dylan salad, Caprese salad
(Both fresh and full of flavour.Didn’t get pictures again as they went by too quick)
  ~
Desserts …
Warm Gooey Mushy Chocolate
Peanut Blonde and Ice Cream 
Tiramisu (No picture, as it wasn’t picture worthy)
~
(All food pictures courtesy Sid Khullar @ Chef At Large
Thank you for being so large-hearted and sharing them Sid)

My verdict on Amici … I was won over by the authenticity in flavours and the freshness of ingredients in the salads and main course. The flavoured oils, the lilting chili flavours teasing the palate, the marriage of balsamic vinegar and rocket in perfect balance, the broccoli and french beans on the side done just right. The pizzas were outstanding, by far the best we’ve had so far. The Lebanese vegetarian pizza was fabulous in everyway, especially the baba ghanoush and fresh feta on top. Another dish worthy of mention was the beetroot ravioli. It had sensuos flavours of anise coming through beautifully, and the light cream sauce balanced the dish perfectly. It is rare to find such satisfaction in a vegetarian pasta, and I would possibly choose it over the non vegetarian options for the interesting blend of fresh flavours. Very creative!

I thought the desserts were a little low on ‘oomph’, and maybe creativity. IMHO, adding fruit or non run-of-the-mill options to the dessert menu in creative ways would make the Amici experience flawless. The gooey chocolate cake is one you find on almost every dessert menu. The peanut blondie was sweet and ‘peanutty’, nice, but left no long lasting impression. The tiramisu was served in a plastic glass and the savoiardi were soggy at the bottom. I think it was just savoiardi and mascarpone. As the conversation at the table reflected, it is very difficult to find an authentic tiramisu in restaurants these days. Most places don’t go the whole ‘tiramisu way’ with zabaglione, savoiardi and pastry cream.
 
Thank you for having us over!

In a nutshell, it was a fun tasting session. Would have been nice to have met Andre but he got caught up in his factory with work. However, the evening was carried forward beautifully by Caroline Rowe and Anindita Rai Deka from Perfect Relations who co-hosted the session, and regaled us with their foodie banter. It was a wonderful evening with the conversation merrily touching a variety of topics … Madhur Jaffrey, Anthony Bourdain, black pepper crabs, fermented drinks in North East India, World Food Symposium in London, street food to snob food in Delhi, what comes to mind when you say ‘peppers’ … and much more! We also had a brief meeting with the chef who was under pressure to look after the restaurant patrons.

Amici Cafe
47, Middle Lane,
Khan Market,
New Delhi – 011
Tel 4358 7191
Opening Hours: 11:00 – 23:00
A meal for two is Rs 900/- plus taxes

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Apple, Cranberry & Praline Cake… and Ten in 10!!

“One that would have the fruit must climb the tree.”
Thomas Fuller

Here’s a fruity filled beginning to 2010, a year that’s already beginning to look good. The year that we just wrapped up was filled with goodness too, ever so satisfying. The high points being blogging with friends, Food Blogger Connect, Twitter and macarons! Who would have dreamt that life would change monumentally with a microapplication called Twitter?? I’ve made breakfast club pals, macaron pals, laundry club pals, dragon pals and even snail pals!

Food blogging led to fabulous new friends, and some I was actually able to meet at the Food Blogger Connect! We exchanged gifts there, BIG TIME, and so came the idea of this absolutely delicious dessert! This is one from the heart, and is thus sweeter. It tasted so good!!

I used the praline from Pamela and cranberries from Jamie, both fine foodies and fab friends from France. As a matter of coincidence, I had apples on hand and was browsing one of my favourite French food blogs, Bea‘s La Tartine Gourmand. I just had to make this comforting cake. Bea’s blog is heart warming, just like I love it … full of connections, memories, family, food and gorgeous pictures. If you need a dose of inspiration, do head straight here! Vive la France!!

Twittering with food bloggers offered things to make life even better this year. I am delighted to have joined up for a wonderful challenge Ten in 10: ten Weeks to Healthy in 2010, the brainchild of a wonderful blogger Lori @ Recipe Girl. What is this all about?

It’s about wanting to feel healthy. Everyone has a different vision of what being healthy means. Some want to lose weight, some feel that they’re already at a comfortable weight but they would like to make a commitment to exercise, some would like to eat healthier, etc. Everyone will have their own individual goals for this healthy challenge.
Read about it here, and you can join in too.

I have penned down a few goals that I hope to work towards…(easier than putting down New Year resolutions LOL!)

  • Eat healthy
  • Increase vegetables in meals
  • Decrease non-vegetarian options on the table to 2 days a week
  • Make more stuff at home vs store bought to decrease preservatives, & my carbon footprint
  • Stick to local & seasonal food
  • Use more fruit in the daily diet especially for the kids
  • Focus on fruit and natural sugars in dessert

I have learnt to look at food in new ways. Fruit have become a HUGE part of my baking life, and I aim to include vegetable in the roll call too. I am waiting for a recipe of brownies with sweet potato that my sister has promised to mail me. Broccoli has been won, and I have my sights set on cauliflower. I can say from recent experience, persistence pays with kids; I can see them battling their veggies less now!

I will attempt to explore and achieve my healthy goals over the next 10 weeks, and will hopefully carry them through the rest of the year too.

Apple,Cranberry and Praline Cake
Adapted minimally from this recipe from La Tartine Gourmand

Ingredients:
3 large apples
2 oz dried cranberries (soaked in hot water for 20 min)
3 eggs
7 Tbsp butter, melted (1/2 cup)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (or 1/2 tsp fleur de sel)
75gm plain flour
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar (or light brown sugar)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup nut praline (optional)

Method:
Sift the flours with the baking powder and keep on the side.
Soak the cranberries in hot water for 20 min, then drain.
In the meantime, peel your apples, remove the core and slice them thinly.
Preheat your oven at 180C.
Break the eggs in a large bowl and beat them with the sugar and salt, until light.
Add the melted butter and the rest of dry ingredients. Mix well but not for too long, until everything is incorporated.
Add the apple slices and half the nut praline.
Butter a round 9.5″ mold and pour in the apple batter.
Top evenly with the cranberries and nut praline.
Cook in the oven for 30 to 35 min. Remove and let cool for a few min before unmolding on a large plate. Eat it lukewarm, it is even better.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥
A little news that I just got that I am excited to share. I am one of the 50 bloggers & chefs whose recipes have been included in the free STRAWBERRY mobile app for iPhone and iPod touch.

FREE IPHONE STRAWBERRY RECIPE APP LAUNCHES
“STRAWBERRIES” iPhone App to View and Share 50 Strawberry Recipes
from Top Food Bloggers and Chefs
Watsonville, CA (January 13, 2009) – The California Strawberry Commission today announced the availability of the free “STRAWBERRIES” mobile app for iPhone and iPod Touch users featuring more than 50 mouth-watering strawberry recipes from some of the most popular food bloggers and chefs from around the web. Individually selected for that “wow” factor, these recipes will inspire families, foodies, cooks, the health conscious and strawberry lovers everywhere to get even more creative with strawberries.
iPhone and iPod touch users can now access different strawberry recipes complete with vivid food photography and step-by-step directions to create that special dish for those around you. The free app neatly categorizes recipes under Snacks & Appetizers, Breakfast, Cocktails, Main Courses, Salads and Sweets. Recipes range from traditional favorites, such as shortcakes and pies to more exotic dishes like strawberry dumplings, salsa and ceviche.
Individual recipes can be shared with friends, family and online networks by simply posting the recipe to Facebook or Twitter with the click of a button. Recipes can also be emailed to anyone for viewing or printing.
Availability
The Strawberries app for the iPhone and iPod touch is available immediately as a free download at the Apple iTunes Store. Click here to download: http://bit.ly/8LANJo

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CASHEW CHICKEN KUNG PAO… & FOOD BLOGGER CONNECT!

“Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.”
Charles Pierre Monselet

Life is full of memories, surprises, connections. Who would have thought that 20 years ago the Berlin Wall would be broken down calling an end to the cold war? Then I was too young to even understand what it meant. The politics meant nothing in my secure little world, but I did get 2 pieces of the Berlin Wall from a cousin who stopped by Germany around that time. In those days, they used to let out hammers & chisels at 5 $ an hour. You could chip pieces of the wall & take them away as souvenirs. Novel way to bring a wall down…

Talk about cementing relationships, building walls, breaking them down, building relationships … word play I find intriguing. I remember my cousin telling me that my 2 precious bits of the wall were a lot of hard work to chip because the wall was strong & made of concrete!! I looked at the 2 bits the other day, read editorials, saw news reports & pictures from the 60′s and got goosebumps. Somehow thankfully, the world has moved forward from such tumultuous grey times … leaving us with memories of days gone by, some sad, but mostly happy! It’s always a good time to reflect back, look at the days gone by … …and then again, look forward to what life has to offer. My free spirited nature finds boundaries very restrictive, which brings me to blogging. Ah, the freedom of blogging without boundaries, and with it comes sweet joy. October came with a nice surprise … a call for a food bloggers meet in the UK – FOOD BLOGGER CONNECT. The first of its kind being held in London on the 28th of November 2009, the prospects exciting beyond words. Food Blogger Connect is a fabulous conference/party being held in London on Saturday, November 28 at the Lebanese restaurant Levant. This is your chance to meet your fellow food bloggers face to face over a great meal, get to know them better, share ideas, network, plan. We will have an incredible line-up of speakers – some of whom you can help choose depending on what food-blog-related topics you want to hear about – with time for questions and discussion. And as a plus, we are all meeting up on Sunday for breakfast and a morning foodie tour.It’s being organised by 4 very creative and passionate food bloggers, each very talented & fun all the way. Beth of Dirty Kitchen Secrets , Jamie of Life’s a Feast, Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and Mowie of Mowielicious. My UK visa’s finally arrived & there’s excitement in the air as I will finally get to meet some of my favourite food bloggers. We tweet to each other everyday, virtually live each others lives on twitter, walk into each others kitchens, share our food, find ‘FEET’, swap ideas, squeal over highs & weep over lows … am sure you get the drift. It’s a tight knit community, addictive to the hilt, very supportive, filled with silly banter, & is growing bigger by the day.

This Cashew Kung Pao Chicken reminds me in many ways of my foodie friends, especially the four wonderful Food Blogger Connect folk. Like them, this dish is full of flavour, colourful, addictive, adaptable, forgiving, accommodating & popular! I saw it a few days ago at Cathy @ Noble Pig & knew there was no time to waste. I had to make it soon. I did, & it was finger licking good. I added some veggies to it, and garlic of course, because I can’t think of a meal without garlic. I might add the veggies in towards the end next time, or saute them right after the cashews, reserve and toss back in the end as a variation. This was the first time I tossed lunch together, from scratch in 30 minutes flat; so QUICK and easy to put together. It also accepted the garlic, extra chili flakes & veggies with open arms. We loved this delicious & simple all time favourite chicken; oh-so-good over steaming hot rice. YUM!! Try it & you won’t ever order out for it again!

Cashew Kung Pao Chicken
Adapted from Cathy @ Noble Pig
Adapted from Food & Wine by Cathy
Ingredients:
500gms boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ pieces
5 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sherry (I used apple wine)
1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tablespoons white-wine vinegar or rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
3/4 cup cashews (or peanuts)
4 spring onions, white bulbs and green tops cut separately into 1/2″ pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small head of broccoli, broken into florets
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
3-4 garlic cloves, sliced

Method:
In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the apple wine and 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, water and the remaining 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of apple wine and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the cashews and stirring until light brown, about 30 seconds. Remove from the pan.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the garlic & chili flakes. Stir for 2 minutes till fragrant & light pink. Add the white part of the spring onions, bell pepper & broccoli and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
Add the chicken with its marinade and cook, stirring, until almost done, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture and the scallion tops and simmer until the chicken is just done, about 1 minute longer. Stir in the cashews. Serve over steamed rice.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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