A Pear and Chocolate Tart to Celebrate

So Mimi is back in town and she is all of 21 months. Wow! Does time fly fast! (*sniffles*). I have missed her so much during my trip to London and with it I missed celebrating her 20th month birthday. I had to make up for it somehow. I had to ensure it was doubly special. I decided to do a special dinner with a stunning dessert to finish. I also invited Mimi’s favourite person to partake in the celebration – Namit, though she failed to recognize him after the hiatus of 3 months.

Mimi is a baby of simple tastes nevertheless a great one. I know, for dinner she would prefer her regular fare but dessert she would enjoy if it had chocolate in it. I decided to do a Chocolate & Pear tart in the honour of Mimi’s 21st month birthday.

In my recent visit to India I picked up a book which was solely based on chocolate treats. It was available on sale and I had to buy it. It is titled, no prizes for guessing there – CHOCOLATE. It’s a book published by UK-based publishers and has hordes of chocolate based recipes – desserts only. It’s a fat little book with jaw dropping pictures. That was how I was lured into baking one of the tarts presented in the book. Incidently, Pear is Mimi’s favourite fruit so a chocolate and pear tart sounded perfect.

Originally, the recipe serves 8 but I had a small pan so had to pack the remaining ingredients in the freezer for future use. I am giving out the original recipe with the original measure of ingredients.

The Recipe for Chocolate Pear Tart

Ingredients

For the Pastry

115 g/4 oz plain flour

pinch of salt

2 tbsp caster sugar

115 g/4 oz unsalted butter( not too room temperature-ish nor too cold)

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp lemon juice

For the Topping

115 g/4 oz plain chocolate, grated

4 pears ( thought I used only 3)

125 ml/4 fl oz single cream

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

1/2 tsp almond essence ( I used vanilla)

3 tbsp castor sugar

Preparation

1. To make the pastry, sift the flour and add a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and butter and mix well using a fork, until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the egg yolk and lemon juice to form dough. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Roll out the dough on the floured surface and use it to line a 25 cm/ 10 inch loose bottomed  flan tin.

3. Sprinkle grated chocolate over the base of the pastry case.

4. Peel the pears, cut them half lengthways and remove the cores. Thinly slice each pear-half crossways and fan out the slices. Scoop up each pear half with a spatula and arrange in a pastry case.

5. Beat the cream+egg+extra yolk+almond essence together and spoon the mixture over the pears. Sprinkle the sugar over the tart.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 180 C/350 F/ Gas Mark 4 and bake further for 20 minutes, until the pears start to caramelize and the filling is just set. Leave it to cool. (  I served it chilled)

To begin with, its sounds all complicated with the pastry case making and the placing of the pears in the case, but it really is a piece of cake…errr tart.

The chocolate and the cream mixture blend beautifully and the pears taste caramelized yet soft. Whats surprising was that, the flavour of the pear was intact inspite of the chocolate!

Everybody enjoyed their dessert including Mimi,who had it the next day (:-))

After the sumptuous dinner, we drove to the cinema for the Kung – fu Panda -2 show. This would be Mimi’s second trip to the movies in a movie hall, the first being the fantastic animation movie ” Tangled”.

Mims was thrilled to bits and kept jumping up and down the seat each time Po was in action. She kept pointing out at Po and kept calling him “teddy”. We were secretly happy that she sat through the movie without any major drama ensuing, wanting to run up and down the hall ramp. She was fast asleep before the movie ended.

It was a day and evening well spent. Happy Birthday Mimi.

Guest Post – Work of Fiction

Prateek Bagri is a fellow blogger who describes himself as being an anime addict, a humourist, a blogger ( most importantly) and an engineering student. He blogs at http://prateek-bagri.blogspot.com/. We have been following each other’s blog for quite sometime and give constructive feedback on how to improve our writing skills. Prateek specializes in writing quirky and funny pieces. His posts regarding the fascination of the general public with saas-bahu saga, bollywood influences in our life drip with sarcasm and smart wit.

A few days back he wrote to me that he needed me to do a guest post for him. He had his exams going on that made it difficult for him to post regularly. I accepted gladly since this was the first time I was going to do a guest post for a fellow blogger. He insisted that I do a funny piece and none of those baking related stuff that I usually post. I found this reasonable as it would be a total mismatch if his readers were to read about making tea breads and cupcakes instead of the usual fun pieces. It was challenge but fun at the same time to do this piece of fiction for Prateek’s blog.

You can go ahead and read it here

Things I haven’t done in a long long time…

Now that I am back in Bahrain and still sans Mimi, I get a lot of  free time to loiter in my own home trying  to figure out how I am going to expend myself the entire day. I listen to the radio, I read some, I browse the internet, bake a cake, watch tv and spend a lot of time looking outside the large windows in my living room.

Right outside I get to see the most heartening sight from my fourth floor apartment. There happens to be  an all boys arabic school dot outside my home. Early in the morning I observe them standing in lines saying their morning prayers. Thereafter they disperse and go their respective classes. After an hour or so, some class or the other has their games class which means I get to see tiny specks of red and white spilling out on to the basketball court. Their teacher splits them into teams for a game of basket ball. Sometimes I see a group playing a serious game. Over a steaming cup of black coffee, I find myself cheering and jeering at them. I get so involved in their game that I lose track of time and enjoy myself immensely. I talk aloud to myself, chiding them when a player misses a pass or makes a wrong one. When the bell rings, they all abandon a good game to my disbelief and walk away. I feel like calling them back to start again.

Really silly, I know.

After one such angst-ridden morning, I caught myself reflecting upon a time when I used to regularly play basketball after school. I even played when I was pursuing my MBA in Pune. All the exam tension, placement stress vanished after a quick 30 minute session at the basket ball court. After I joined my job through campus placements, I don’t remember a time when I have ever played any sport at all. I had dreams of learning how to play tennis, taking up swimming seriously and even attempting squash. None of them materialized. I do work out obsessively, but it is different as compared to the joy that I realized, I get from playing a sport. There’s no pressure of doing certain number of sets of crunches or burning calories. Playing a sport ensures that it engages you in such a way that you don’t bother about the calories burnt, rather enjoying the activity itself. A huge difference.

When was the last time I played a SPORT, really? Its been more than 5 years now!!

This lead me to think about all the lovely things I hadn’t done in a long time.

PICNICS – When was the last time I went for a picnic. Snacks, drinks, frisbees and quiet little board game with friends and family on a lovely day at the beach or somewhere scenic? It has been forever. Last I remember hitting the beach at Mithapur with my class 12th schoolmates for a picnic with food and frolic. I have such beautiful memories of that evening. Sigh!

Arts & Crafts – I don’t remember the last time I might have doodled! Was it to pass time during a boring lecture in college or while time away at an office meeting? It was mostly an absent-minded effort. No conscious effort to create anything beautiful, funny or remotely interesting.

PLANT A SAPLING – We had the loveliest garden growing up in my small town of Mithapur. Well it was mostly because  my father was passionate about it. For hours, I used to watch him, labouring away, watering, sowing seeds, tending to the vegetable patch and enjoying the fruits of his labour. He would grow the most succulent of gourds, the snappiest of lady fingers, plump tomatoes and all the local produce possible seasonally. I used to help him out sometimes planting a rose stem here, burying the hollyhock seeds there and plucking out weeds. I haven’t done this for years and absolutely miss the joy of watching a  beautiful red rose bloom and the beans saplings sprout.

One can argue that these joys have been replaced by other joys but then I can’t help being nostalgic and missing these simple joys. When people ask me what I enjoy doing, I almost always mention that I love shopping, working out, clubbing with friends ( before Mimi) and browsing the internet. Nothing wrong with that really, but I know that these activities don’t really give me the same sense of joy but are merely acts of filling my time with things to do.

Do I really enjoy them? Yes it brings me joy but only for a brief moment. It is a life of ultimate highs and spiralling lows. It leaves no lasting impression in my heart and it never really gives me a sense of fulfillment.

The funny thing is I know it all, yet I feel I am incapable of changing anything.

 

 

Restaurant Review Project 18- Traders Vic’s

I have been to Trader Vic’s before and absolutely loved the place. This a Polynesian themed restaurant that promises to give you the true Hawaiian experience. At Traders Vic, which is located at Ritz Carlton, Manama, it feels you have entered a different era altogether. You will find waitresses sashaying in Suzie Wong like dresses  like  the one I have pasted below

Sizzling right?

Trader Vic’s  sports an easy , idyllic atmosphere that makes you feel comfortable at once. It gives you the 1970’s kind of a feel for some reason though everything that they offer and the music that they play keeps with today’s times.  A live band belts out jazz numbers and enthusiastic guests can shake a leg to get the mood going. There is outdoor seating that is very tempting to take but only when the weather is a tad clement. We opted to be seated indoors. Guests were streaming in on a lively friday and it was easy to be bedazzled by the blitz of decked up women and swashbuckling men. I could have spent all my time just looking at this lot, dressed in their designer best and looking like million bucks.

All of this and the beautiful decor of the place put me in a party mood.

My company for the evening were my husband and our friend Namit.

The server came over to take our order and we had a tough time choosing from the wide array of food choices. Trader Vic’s boasts of the best of the world cuisine on their menu – from the finest of caviar to the best of seafood cocktail platter. We settled for platter which offered us cheese balls, crab meat fritters, prawns cocktail and fried/seasoned chicken pieces. I fail to recall their precise names but it was wonderfully tasty.

I loved their  sea shell printed plates.

They offer a complimentary basket of breads and dips such as a mustard dip, chinese mustard dip (which is extremely tart , spicy and strange), a soy concoction and butter.

The appetisers looked so great that I felt coerced to order one more and  ordered the very delectable Calamari ( deep fried squid)

After the sumptuous appetiser treat, I was absolutely sure about skipping the main course because I had to sample some desserts. Oops!I totally forgot about the special part of the whole dinner. The DRINKS!!! Trader Vic’s specialize in shaking up some mind blowing cocktails. We ordered for a shared Rum Kegel. Though am not a habitual rum drinker neither was our friend Namit, who is a teetotaler. For once, Namit decided that he would want to give the spirit a try. The rum kegel was beautifully presented in a conch shell with 3 straws and adorning purple orchid. Sigh!

This rum concoction put us is a jaunty mood and I was quite surprised that  Namit was quite enjoying himself  after a few sips of the spirited confection.

My cohorts were up for some asian and continental cuisine so they ordered the main course.

Amit ordered for the Chicken 9 spice which looked brilliant and from all the mmmm sounds that Amit made by devouring it, meant it was really divine

Namit ordered the Udon Vegetarian noodles which were spicy and colorful.

Finally the best bit came when we ordered the dessert. … erm when I ordered the dessert.  It was the Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee. It looked elegant and tasted so light and fresh. The burnt caramel on the top gave a crunch to the otherwise delicate dessert.

And last but not the least, I was awfully excited about the fortune cookie that was offered along with the bill. I love the fortune cookie for the cookie bit and not for the fortune bit. Anyways, the fortune cookie predicted some kind of imminent doom in the near future. So all I did was to gobble up the cookie and toss the fortune chit away!

A meal for 3 with drinks landed us a fat check of 47 BD but worth every buck.

So Trader Vic’s has been SLICED and verdict is

Food – 4/5

Service 4/5

Ambience – 4.5/5

Overall – 4/5

You can be certain about having a great time, if you are at Trader Vic’s and I would highly recommend it, if you have  a birthday to celebrate or a promotion with a small set of friends. It is not the most ideal place for children but Mimi has already been there inspite of it and she had a good time.

I particularly liked the little knick-knack on our table. Presenting – Mr. Salt and Mr. Pepper