Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the tag “chocolate”

Review: Cooking Up A Storm With ‘Chef In A Box’

How many of you, in the confines of your kitchen, have wanted to create restaurant style dishes. I personally believe that plating, even for dinner for one on a cold weekday night, elevates the food just that much. You want to eat something pretty. And trust me, it’s not tough. If I can, so can you.

I’ve been reading a lot about these new ventures whereby one can order restaurant dishes and eat them at the confines of their home. What’s impressed me about Chef In A Box is that you get to create restaurant style dishes in your kitchen in a matter of minutes (ok, not minutes but easily enough) and then eat them till your tummy fills up. At least, that’s what I did!

Well-packed ingredients

Well-packed ingredients

Gayatri Iyer is passionate about food and she decided to pursue this venture giving up her job. As a customer, I fully support her decision. Not only do you get variety to choose from the menu but I tried two dishes on the opposite ends of the spectrum — they were both delicious.

As a Bengali, the more I miss home, the more I want to eat food from my region. Hence, I chose the Potoler Dolma which for a layman is Pointed Gourd with a meat filling cooked in succulent tomato-based gravy. Then, I also ordered for Rich Dark Chocolate Pots for desert. I was not disappointed. Not only did they turn out exactly as the pictures on the recipe leaflets but tasted so delicious that I’ve decided to order other items from the menu when I’m in the mood to create dishes usually cooked by professionals.

Fresh stuff for the Potoler Dolma

Fresh stuff for the Potoler Dolma

Easy Ordering Process

Ordering is simple. Just log onto and sign up. Once you do, the options are plenty. You have food items based on the time needed to cook, non-vegetarian and vegetarian options and cuisines. One gets a variety to choose from – Thai Green Curry to Burmese Khao Suey to Bengali delicacies. Choose what you want to order and pay online, the boxes with the freshest ingredients get delivered to your doorstep the next day from the restaurants associated with this venture.

Potoler Dolma turned out exactly like the picture on the leaflet!

Potoler Dolma turned out exactly like the picture on the leaflet!

The Cooking Bit

I love cooking and I find my time in the kitchen therapeutic. But if you don’t and yet want to create something restaurant quality, don’t worry, it’s easy. Every ingredient is boxed carefully so as to avoid spillage. Then, a recipe card with a step-by-step process tells you how to achieve the desired results. All you need to do is follow one step after another and voila, you have your dish on your plate.

What I Made

I tried the Potoler Dolma and Rich Dark Chocolate Pots. Both came in cardboard boxes with instructions. Every ingredient was fresh and what I liked about was it was a no fuss affair. The potol was cleaned ands scooped out, the mutton came in individual portions for each potol while the gravy which was so tasty was already made. All I needed was to put in a bit of effort to create something delicious. It barely took me time, maybe a maximum of half an hour. The chocolate shots were even easier. The chocolate, cream, liqueur and chopped nuts came in individual containers. I just had to melt the chocolate, add the cream and liqueur, freeze and then eat with a layer of chopped nuts as decoration!

I've had to fill two glass up to the brim because I broke the two! But it's perfect for 4, a lot for 2!

I’ve had to fill two glass up to the brim because I broke the two! But it’s perfect for 4, a lot for 2!

Value For Money

I feel what you spend on these recipes is full value for money. For example, the dolma was Rs 280 while the desert was Rs 455. The dolma, though for one person, can easily be had by two with a plate of steaming rice. The desert is decadent and serves four. The other items on the menu range from Rs 250 – Rs 1400 approx. The portions are perfect and I feel that you’d end up playing a lot more if you eat out than if you order in and make it yourself with just a tiny bit of effort.

Book and chocolate, the perfect way to indulge an evening

Book and chocolate, the perfect way to indulge an evening

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Weekend Cupcakes – Orange with Chocolate and Coffee

Baking and I have never been THAT fond of each other . The reason – specific measurements. Unlike cooking, one can’t really wing it. (Who likes a cake that falls flat or lacks taste, right)
My grandmother loved to bake. She would bring out her many aluminum cake tins and make basic vanilla sponges or variations adding cocoa powder and/or essences. The kitchen would smell all buttery and vanilla-y, heaven really.
My younger sister has got that gene. She loves to bake. Though not often, when she gets into that zone, there’s no stopping her. It’s scary I tell you, especially when you’re dreaming of dancing with Patrick Swayze (when he picks you up as ‘Time of my Life’ plays all around) and instead get woken up rudely with the words “Cupcake time! You need to sift the flour.”
R tried two variations. Orange with chocolate and coffee with cocoa. Both with a gooey chocolate centre (dark and white) and dark chocolate icing. I can’t describe you how delicious they were as we gobbled them up with coffee. What are cheat days for after all!

For Cupcakes (Makes 12)
150g self-raising flour (half for each batch)
150g caster sugar (half for each batch)
150g butter (half for each batch)
2 eggs (1 for each batch)
2 tbs milk (1 for each batch)
3 tbs cocoa powder
Handful of milk and dark chocolate shards
1 tsp natural orange essence
2 tsp strong coffee

100g icing sugar
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tbs hot water

-Preheat oven to 190 C
-For each batch whisk together the butter, egg, milk and sugar. Sift in the flour.
-Add 1 tbs cocoa and orange essence in one. Add the 2 tbs cocoa and coffee in another. Whisk till you get a nice tasting mixture.
-Line the muffin tins with 12 cupcake wrappers. Carefully spoon in the mixture.
-Add shards of chocolate and then add another spoonful of mixture on top.
-Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Take out and cool.
-Make the icing in a bowl. Whisk all ingredients together and decorate the cupcakes.
-Enjoy with coffee, hot chocolate or just as it is!

Freshly baked and cooling

Freshly baked and cooling

All iced and ready to devour. My Jackson Pollock moment!

All iced and ready to devour. My Jackson Pollock moment!

Coffee and cupcakes!

Coffee and cupcakes!

A delightful frozen chocolate cake

When I was growing up, bars of chocolate could never act a bribe to get me to do something. Chocolate for cleaning your room or putting your toys away would never work because I despised milk chocolate. It was only the dark bitter ones I had a craving for, which in those days, were not easy to get your hands on.

But as I grew older, I started to understand why does chocolate drive everyone crazy. Thankfully the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans understood how important cocoa beans were! From making the ‘drink for the Gods’ to using cocoa beans as currency, the world today would have never had chocolate had it not been for the Mexican and Central American civilizations!

While I love to cook, the younger sister loves to bake. Her only request is to buy her an oven in Delhi. Back home, she had access to three but here, only a microwave. And she refuses to bake in the microwave. “Please Sharmi, a microwave? You’ve got to be kidding me,” she says every time I ask her to make brownies. Very fond of frozen cheesecakes, she decided to make a frozen chocolate cake. Believe you me, it only takes less than 15 minutes to make and after freezing for an hour, it’s time to devour! It’s a great option for vegetarians because it’ an eggless cake.


150 gm of dark cooking chocolate
1 cup cream
100 gm frozen butter (50gm for the base and 50gm for chocolate)
8 digestive biscuits (bashed with a rolling pin)
Extra chocolate for shavings to decorate
Cocoa powder to sprinkle on top

The process to chocolate goodness

First mix the frozen butter with the grounded biscuits till it forms a nice crumbly mixture. Do it with your fingers and not a food processor. Put it in a cake tin making sure it’s levelled before freezing it for five minutes. Not more because then it will become so hard, your teeth will fall out trying to bite into it.

While the base is freezing, melt the chocolate along with the remaining butter. In another bowl start whipping the cream. Once the chocolate has melted into a dark rich brown sauce, add it to the cream. Fold the mixture carefully, not whipping it, with a wooden spoon or spatula.

(At this point, you can add fruits, nuts, more chocolate in the form of chips, well it’s your call. Orange and dark chocolate is a heavenly combination, just saying)

Pour the melted goodness over the frozen base. Cover with cling film and put it in the fridge for about an hour. Not the deep freeze. Don’t be impatient just because you’ve already licked the wooden spoon and bowl clean! The wait will be worth it!
(Tip: I prefer to eat it the next day because I feel the taste is ever better if that’s even possible!)

Once the cake is ready, put some chocolate shavings and cocoa powder to decorate before inhaling the cake instead of eating it! But warning you guys, its a very very rich cake. So take your time to finish it.

I wanted it to look old fashioned thus the waves of chocolates instead of a levelled layer

I wanted it to look old fashioned thus the waves of chocolates instead of a levelled layer

A slice of rich and dark chocolate cake!

A slice of rich and dark chocolate cake!

Indulgence, a Tuesday treat

It’s Tuesday afternoon. A weekday neither here nor there. Too far away from Saturday while Sunday memories are still fresh. An extension of the Monday morning blues. Thanks to my job, I sometimes go to work at 9 in the morning and return the next day or leisurely stroll into office at 4 in the evening. Unpredictability seems to be the norm.

Well, this Tuesday as my grogginess wore off I realised I wasn’t in a rush. Once the daily chores finished, the dessert craving kicked in, overwhelming me. I needed something sweet, desperately! Italy came to mind. From tasting Tiramisus in Rome to a delectable Cannoli in Venice, I drew my Tuesday inspiration from a small pastry shop in Firenze. It was a simple dessert — vanilla custard and some frills in a dessert cup.  I felt I had died right there as the flavours exploded in my mouth.

So, for all you out there, here’s a little something you can whip up on the weekdays which bother you just that much. It’s a little time consuming but when you dip the spoon into the cup and taste the fruits of your labour, you won’t have a single regret!

Vanilla custard with a side of chocolate
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1/3 cup castor sugar (or just break down regular sugar in the mixer)
1 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornflour
100gm dark cooking chocolate
1 knob of butter
6 digestive biscuits
Instant custard powder for the desert cravers with an eye on the clock

The process to sinful goodness
Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan but don’t let it boil. Cut open the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds and add to the mixture (Add the pod for more flavour). In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, egg yolks and cornflour.
Take the saucepan off the heat and pour into the bowl with the eggs, sugar and cornflour, remembering to remove the pod. Mix well and transfer back to the saucepan stirring constantly for 15-20 minutes over low heat. You’ll know the custard is done when it coats the spatula. Refrigerate for 30 minutes till cold.
For instant custard powder users, please follow the packet instructions.

Biscuit base
Bash the digestive biscuits in a plastic bag with a rolling pin till it forms a crumbly texture.

Side of chocolate
Melt the chocolate and butter over low heat till its forms a glorious gooey dark sauce. Keep a bit of the uncooked chocolate aside to make shavings.

Plating up
Take a glass of your choice and add the biscuit crumbs as layer one. Spoon over the cold custard for layer two. Finally, add the dark chocolate sauce to create layer three. For decorative purposes (how much of chocolate is enough anyway?) use a peeler to shave the dark chocolate on top. Add extra crumbs if you want too.

ImageTuesday blues? Try this. Once you scrape off the last remaining bits, you’ll know all’s right with the world!

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