Monday, February 24, 2014

Namaskaar, Baden Baden: Revisited

Restaurant Facade. Photo taken from Namaskaar Website
The smell was pleasantly familiar and is already wafting through the air, half a block away from the restaurant, turning heads ,  drawing curious glances and slowing by-passers' steps . The moment we're inside , the smell, the sound and the sight engulfed and embraced us like an old friend. Aahh, It's nice to be back again. It's post valentine's day and we are at our favorite restaurant, sitting at a well lit table , in front the of bar and  just near the kitchen . I strategically sat at the corner , facing the restaurant, enabling me to secretly ogle at people's plate , while silently inhaling the trail of  enticing spices, as staffs deliver plates after plates of delicious treats,  from the kitchen to the tables. Next to follow were the all too familiar hhmms and ooohhs as anticipating  patrons,  finally got what they ordered. Many  automatically lean forward and take a long  and appreciative whiff at the dishes before them, eyes half closed. They are not so different from me after all, bewitched and if not already entrapped  by the hearty, rich and almost sensual flavors of northern Indian cuisine.  The best of what  Namaskaar could offer.

Restaurant interior. Photo taken from Namaskaar website.

We're early, yet most tables are already occupied by guests.  The empty ones however, are already been adorned by small white reservation cards,  names of those stalking their undeniable claim, boldly written. Keep out!  This one's taken! One could simply read between the lines. Yet, people keep on pouring in, asking if there might be an empty slot. The owner , ever apologetic , has to turn a lot of hopeful guests away, telling them to come back again next time.  Reservation, especially on weekend in this restaurant, is just a must. Something, a timid yet clever Japanese tourist couple knew, before flying 10 000 kms away from home. Bless the Japanese,  they always come prepared. Looks like Namaskaar is not only famous within this region, but it is also mentioned and recommended in many tourist guide books . I can't help but overhear the Japanese couple confirmed it. Made me glad, it's just 20 mins drive form where I live.

The restaurant Bar table. Photo taken form the Namaskaar website.
There's a fast efficiency in the restaurant service. For although smallish, 2 waitresses and the owner himself, go around and tend to the diners. FF and I, had a curt yet engaging talk with the boss before he hops again onto next other table, to exchange pleasantries with other guests. He does that often, asking patrons if everything's to their satisfaction.

We raked our eyes through the menu and decided to try something we haven't had before. That's quite a challenge since we've tried almost everything after numerous visits. It's also isn't easy to peel my eyes away from old favorites. But we place our orders  quick enough, the non- overwhelming menu enables that. FF's ice cold King Fisher was delivered first, along with my mango lassi.

Our table was overflowing with foods, soon after that. A usual scenario whenever we visit this place. I admit, we are easily seduced by the promise of  gustatory pleasure, we tend to over-indulge , ordering more than what we could muster. Yet, how could we not ? We had a feast. A glorious and delicious feast that filled our guts to both ends. And we are now looking for the next excuse to do it again. Encore! Encore! Anyway, here's the spread.

 Nan Bread. Crispy around the edges, yet soft and pliable in the middle. It is use to scoop delicious sauces into one's appreciative maw. These are ginormous, yet we ordered two. We mopped our plates so  clean, it was almost shining that night. Yeah. It was that good.

Left: Rogan Josh: Young lamb in yogurt and cardamon sauce. No trace of gaminess in any lamb dishes in Namaskaar. The meat was butter tender, sauce rich and very aromatic. I don't usually eat lamb meat,  don't even cook it at home, but  this dish make me forget  my aversion to it. Fancy that.

Right: Jal Frazie. Vegetable in creamy sauce. Indian cuisine makes vegetable dish very well. Sauce just as robust and the vegetable croquette  was so tasty, I did not noticed those were veges!

Murgh Birgani. Rice casserole with chicken, raisins and almonds. Served with Raita. Creamy yogurt sauce  with cucumber and finely diced tomatoes. I love everything in this dish. The confluence of  rice and spices mingled harmoniously , creating this excellent and hearty dish. There are  various textures, colors and flavors at play. I was enamored and found  
a new favorite! I could bury myself in it. This was the star of the night. FF shared my sentiment. ''Very good. Really very good!'' He murmured between mouthfuls. Portion is rather big,  it was filling and is great for sharing. 

The calm before the storm. My plate before it got massacred and refilled, many times over!

There's no better way to end  a spiced-laden and savory   meal than tampering one's palate with sweet treats. Our dessert of that night.
 Left: Aam Bahar:  Dense , creamy with almost sorbet- like texture, the ice cream tasted strongly of mangoes. Which happens to be my favorite fruit in the universe, by the way. Yay, lucky me! The 2 scoops are laid on   saffron tinged sauce. Golden hued, delicately sweet and  sublime    . Mango ice cream and saffron sauce. That's utter bliss times two. The pistachio nuts turn this tasty  delight into a  nutty trio. It cracks, tingles and melts in my palate. I could eat this for breakfast...everyday!

Right: Kheer: Rice pudding with almonds and pistachios. I could not say much about this dish, but FF lapped it up to the last  grain. Must have been good.

Kreuzstraße 1, Baden Baden
Tel. Number 07221 24681

Open Hours:  12:00- 14:30 and 18:00-23:30
Closed on Tuesdays

Monday, February 17, 2014

Humba Recipe

I am one happy, happy girl! No, I don't have a new handbag or pair of shoe. Those things, though could may any girl including myself happy, wouldn't make me this giddy. I did some shopping though. I just purchased the fattest, unhealthiest looking pork belly in the supermarket today! Yay! I have been meaning to cook some Humba for months and now is just the perfect day to do it.  What could be better than an artery clogging, fatty meat, swimming in caramelized sugar?! This is not for the faint hearted and health conscious. Thankfully, I ain't both. Tsehee!

Humba Recipe ala Emily

500 g Pork belly, cut into cubes
1/2 cup light soy sauce
6 cloves  of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar + 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp of powdered star anise
salt and pepper
3 tbsp brown sugar 
Optional: 2 tbsp of tausi or fermented black beans 

1.Marinate pork belly in soy sauce, garlic, vinegars, star anise, salt and pepper  .Cover and refrigerate for about 30 mins. 

2.Heat oven to 190 ° C, bake pork belly and marinade, baking pan covered with aluminum foil, for about 1 1/2 hours or until meat is pork tender.Once meat is tender, take meat the out from the baking dish, save the sauce.

3. Heat a  non stick pan. Add in the pork belly, oil seeps out of the meat as it cooks, browning the meat in its own essence. Add in tausi if using. Sprinkle  brown sugar and stir until it caramelizes.

Stir in sauce. Test taste , season with salt or pepper if needed. 

Sprinkle with toasted minced garlic and serve. Stop grinning as you look at it and start digging..Blessing or a curse? Your choice but while contemplating on it,enjoy that belly with fluffy, white rice.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Panna Cotta

This is a foolproof dessert recipe . I mean really, it's -dump-everything -in-the -pot easy and there's no sense making it more complicated  than that. Cooking it is a brisk and the best part is, it looks and tastes great too.  It is rich, silky and delicately flavored.  Who would ever say ''No!'' to that?! So if you are to serve dessert at home but got no clue what to do or perhaps too intimidated to make something that requires serious whipping, baking or kneading, then give this recipe a try. I swear, your guests will love it. If not, then bring those creamy goodness over to me and I will be glad to be your human waste bin! 

This recipe was given to me by FF's cousin. She did state that if you want your Panna Cotta sweeter, you could add more sugar. I find 3 tbsp sufficient since Panna Cotta is usually served with other sweet sauces to compliment its subtle note. Again, it's up to you. The Basic recipe could be doubled,  tripled depending on the number of guest you're having and serving. Today, I will be serving Panna Cotta to FF's entire family and end up cooking 2 Liters of cream. Hellow Caloriesssss! 

Basic Recipe
500 ml cream
3 tbsp white sugar
1 vanilla pod, seed scraped
4 sheets of gelatin ( equivalent to 2 tsp of powdered gelatin)

 1. Bring Cream to a  boil under medium heat. Once it started to simmer, add sugar, stir and let it seethe gently for 10 minutes.

2. Using a small knife, spit vanilla pod into half, scape out seeds, stir into the cream mixture.

4. Soften jelly sheets in cold water.Take out from the water, squeeze out excess liquid.
Take the pot out of the stove. Let it cool off for about a minute or two, then stir in the gelatin until it dissolves.

4. Pour  Panna Cotta mixture into your serving dish. Big bowl or individual glasses. Some recipes require sieving the mixture. That will  complete waste of vanilla seeds though, if you ask me.   Allow mixture to  cool off completely before refrigerating. 

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce

Serve cold and with you favorite sauce. Berries, fruit compote, caramel or chocolate. It's your call. Now If this ain't easy, then I don't know what is. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Beef Caldereta

Calderetang Baka or beef stew is probably my husband's favorite Filipino dish. We consider it so special , we usually serve it here at home, in many occasions. That fact that it taste way better when reheated the next day, makes it a great and time saving party alternative.

There are few tricks that I've come up with, during my years of cooking caldereta. I enjoy food, that's no question. I'm also quick to compliment anybody,  friend , chef or relative , who could cook and serve an excellent dish. But,  I never claim to be a good cook myself  and even admit that I'm a mediocre baker. However, I'm telling you now, I make mean Caldereta ! It's so good, I managed to feed the pickiest eater in my husband's family, Princess L. She usually turns her nose to almost everything served to her, expect those cooked by her own mom. Having her eat anything in party, may it be at a relative's home or restaurants, is as easy as convincing  a cat to eat a carrot. 
She came with her grandma and grandpa at FF's birthday celebration.  I made some Caldereta among other things.  Like always, everybody's already busting a carotid just to have her eat or at least try anything. Spring roll, satays, curries and many things, most European like having since they can't have it at home. She skeptically surveyed the spread, hesitantly ordered some potatoes from the Caldereta . ''Just potatoes, please!'', she says. So 2 sauce-laden potato wedges were placed on her plate, which she first nibbled timidly , then swallowed. Then she stated eating, with less reluctance, if I may add. ''More sauce, please.'', she asked for picky as she is, Princess L is one sweet girl. Then comes the sauce. ''Can I some pasta too?''. Before we know it, Princess L got a full serving of Pasta Calderta! Beef, sauce, peas and all!  I felt like superwoman that day, almost grew another nice taller. That's one achievement , many great aunties still have to accomplish. 

Anyway, back to the home tricks that I developed:

* Instead of frying potatoes, boiled it whole, with skin on. Many recipes ask for fried potatoes. Potatoes tend to break apart and become starchy when cooked in stews. That's why, to hold its shape, many cooks fry it. Boiling the potatoes the day before make it firmer, plus it's healthier too. The potatoes stay firm even after it is served the next day.
* Use beef leg shank. It has lots of tough and leathery connective tissues. Is it bad? No! Once cooked well and throuroughly, it becomes tender and almost gelatinous, adding not only richness but flavour to the dish as well.
* Marinate beef chunks few hours or preferable overnight. Marinated meat taste better.
* Use beer during stewing. Alcohol with be cooked and evaporates during the cooking process, making it child-friendly, but beers flavor sticks to the dish. It will be robust and rich, plus it adds great color too . It also helps tenderize the meat.
* Use lot and lots of onion. If you don't intend to  French kiss your hot neighbor while cooking, put enough onions into the dish. Onion gives it sweetish flavor and make the dish aromatic.
* Lastly,Cook caldereta long and slow. Like every good stews, it need time. Don't rush it . Let the meat and the spices, dance and party  together , sweating it out and bring each other to a placid and tender end. 

Now, there goes the secret of my happy marriage. Let's start cracking!


1,5 - 2 kg beef shank, cubed and bones removed
2 large onions, chopped ( when I say large, I mean really large, each weigh more than 300 g)
2 whole heads of garlic, mashed
1/4 cup soy sauce
2   limes or calamansi
Oil for sautéing 
5 cooked potatoes
4 big carrots
4 stalks celery
5 medium sized  tomatoes, chopped
Few bay leaves
1 cup green peace
a handful of olives,sliced.
1 bottle beer ( 400 ml) 
1 L warm beef stock or water
5 tbsp Tomato purée/Paste or 1 can  ( 350 ml) of tomato sauce
1 can liver pate ( pate has a milder flavor. I don't like the caldereta to have a strong liver-y taste)


1. Boil the potatoes in water with skin on until cooked. Takes about 15 - 20 minutes depending on the potatoes' size . To test , prick cook potatoes with the tip of a knife. If it could be pierced, with little  pressure halfway through, then it is cooked. Discard water, keep potatoes. Cool off completely before peeling and cutting. Could be made a day ahead.

2.Remove bone from the beef shank. By Thor's mallet, don't you dare throw those bones! You see that marrow? That's gold mine you're holding. Cut meat into 2-3 inches cubes.

 3.Marinate meat in 2 whole and mashed garlic, juice of  the limes and 1/4 cup soy sauce for few hours or overnight.  
You could also use Paprika powder and chili flakes for some spicy kicks.

4.Heat oil in the pan. Brown meat along with the crushed garlic. Keep the marinade. 

 5.Add in chopped onion , stir until aromatic. Add in chopped celery. Putting celery stalks is a personal choice. I like the aroma and taste it renders to the stew. Sauté for about 5 minutes.Add in marinade into the pot. Stir until well blended. Let it cook for few more minutes. Chop tomatoes and add into the pot, stir well.

6.Pour the beer into the meat. Let it boil uncovered until liquid reduces into half. Dish will be very aromatic by then.  Throw in bay leaves.

7.Dissolve tomato purée/paste in broth or water. If using tomato sauce, just add into into the meat.Add about 800 ml tomato and broth mixture into the pot. Remember those bone I'm practically begging you to save? Throw it in to pot! Season dish with  salt and pepper. Bring to a rolling boil, once boiling, cover pot. Turn heat to medium low and let it simmer gently until beef is tender. Takes around 3 1/2  hours . If the dish become too dry and too thick, just add cup full of water, stir once in a while. 
8.Dissolve the liver pate in the remaining tomato broth.  Add into the pot.Crack up the heat. Let it simmer for another 15 minutes . Be careful not to burn the meat at the bottom of the pot. Some people stir in cheese in their Caldereta, if you want a cheesy note in your stew, feel free to stir in some cheddar cheese.

9.Add peeled boiled potatoes, then carrots, . Let it simmer for  around 10 more minutes. Few minutes before serving, stir in the bell peppers, green peas and sliced black olives. Test taste and season again with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with white rice or your favorite pasta.

Pasta Caldereta with cheddar cheese.

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