June 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake #6 : There’s Something About Doughnuts - Baked Yeasted Doughnuts (Regular, Glazed or Filled)

N
ational Doughnut Day is celebrated in the US on the first Friday of June which was June 1st this year, so perhaps it’s somewhat apt that the We Knead To Bake group is baking yeasted doughnuts this month. In 1917, Salvation Army female volunteers made thousands of fresh donuts for homesick American soldiers serving in France during World War I. Apparently the soldiers loved them so much, that it earned them a nickname of “doughboys”!


 
Then in 1938, first National Doughnut Day was held to raise funds for the Salvation Army. Today though, it’s not surprising that the US continues to dedicate one day a year to celebrate doughnuts considering that the US Doughnut industry is supposedly worth something like $3.6 million annually!
Have you wondered what would be the proper way to spell this confection with a “hole” in the middle? It seems that “Doughnut” is the proper way to do it, though the shortened form of “Donut” is now accepted and can be found in dictionaries along with the longer spelling.



 
There are some rather interesting, almost improbable stories which are told about how the Doughnut got its start. One theory has to do with a 19th Century sea captain, named Hanson Gregory. It seems his mother used to make a deep-fried dough with her son's spice cargo of nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon rind.
She would pack them for her son and his crew to take on their long voyages. Mrs Gregory used to put hazel nuts or walnuts in the centre of the doughnut where the dough would otherwise not cook well and this is supposed to have given Doughnuts their name.
However, the hole in the Doughnut is credited to Hansen. Some versions say he was eating a Doughnut (without the hole) while sailing in a storm. Suddenly, the ship rocked violently and a spoke on the ship's wheel impaled his cake, creating the now well-known “hole” in the Doughnut.
Other versions say that Hansen was a bit of a cheapskate and was just trying to save on food costs by making the hole in the middle. Another highly improbable version says he was visited by an angel who told him the doughy centres of the Doughnut had to go!!!
All we do know is that Gregory Hansen put the “hole” in the modern Doughnut and that he came to an unfortunate end when he was eventually burnt at the stake for being a witch in the mid-19th century.



 
Today, it is mostly agreed that it was the Dutch who brought Doughnuts to the U.S. in the 1800s as “Olykoeks”, or oily cakes which were deep-fried balls of dough. They’re supposed to have accidentally discovered the “Olykoek” when a cow kicked a pot full of boiling oil over onto some pastry mix, turning it golden brown!
Doughnuts and I go back a long way and I love them. I have always fried my doughnuts and a couple of my attempts have made it on this blog. Some time back, I discovered one could bake them too, but for some reason I never got around to baking mine.
A lot of people think that if something is baked, then it’s healthy or at least, healthier than something that’s deep-fried. While this is true in some cases, it’s not true in most. A lot of the taste and the crisp/ crunch in many baked goods come from the amount of butter in them which can be a lot.
And if people use hydrogenated fats like margarine instead of butter, that’s even worse in my opinion. It really might be a better bet to actually deep-fry than bake in some instances where the recipes call for huge amounts of butter!



 
However, I have always wanted to try baked doughnuts. A while back, I had tested some doughnut recipes for Lara Ferroni when she was writing her doughnut book and she was nice enough to send me a copy of her book. There’s a recipe for baked doughnuts in it, and I had marked that to try out eventually.  I have adapted her recipe a bit and turned it egg-free too.
Are baked doughnuts better than deep-fried doughnuts? It all depends on how you look at them. If you keep an open mind about the whole doughnut business, then you might find both versions appealing, but in different ways. I personally think that fried doughnuts are THE doughnuts.
Yet I must confess that I liked the baked kind as well. They are nice, but in a different way. Right now, they’re a big hit in my home. My daughter just loves them. One nice thing about these baked doughnuts is that they are good even when they’re a few hours old unlike the fried kind which are really best eaten fresh. 
Baked Yeasted Doughnuts
 

Ingredients:

1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup warm milk (45C/115F)
3/4 tbsp instant yeast (or 1 tbsp active dry yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour) divided, plus more for kneading
100gm butter, cut into 1 inch cubes 

For the topping:

75 to 100gm butter, melted
1 cup superfine sugar + 2 tablespoons cinnamon (more or less, depending on your taste), mixed together

OR

OR
jam to fill your doughnuts
 

Method: 

Using a processor to knead helps but you can do this by hand.
Put the sugar, milk, yeast, salt and vanilla in the processor bowl and pulse to mix well. Add the cake flour and 1 cup of all-purpose flour and process, adding a little more of the flour as necessary till the dough is thick and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Now add the butter pieces one at a time and process till there no large chunks of butter are left in the bottom of the bowl. Now add a little more flour until your have a soft, pliable and elastic dough that is most but not overly sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased large mixing bowl., turning it to coat well. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise till double in volume. This should take about an hour. 
 
 
Punch down the dough and roll out to a thickness of 1/2" thickness. Cut out doughnuts using a doughnut cutter or whatever you have on hand to cut out 3” diameter with 1” diameter holes. If you’re making doughnuts to fill with jam, then do not cut out the holes. Place the doughnuts and the holes on parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheets, leaving at least 1” space between them.
Re-roll the scraps and cut out more doughnuts. I used the last left over scraps of dough by pinching of bits, rolling them into balls and baking them too. 
 
 
Let them rise for about 20 minutes or till almost double in size and then bake them at 200C (400F) for about 5 to 10 minutes till they’re done and golden brown. Do not over bake them.

This recipe makes about 12 to 14 doughnuts and holes.
Take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with the melted butter and then dip them into the cinnamon sugar mixture. If filling the doughnuts with jam, let them cool.
Put the jam into a piping bag with a writing nozzle/ tip and press into the doughnut from the side and gently press out the jam into the doughnut till it starts oozing out. Jam doughnuts do not need too much jam to fill them.
If glazing your doughnuts, let them cool completely and then dip one side of the doughnut in the glaze of your choice and let it set.

And to round off this post, here are some fun facts about doughnuts.

1.       The average doughnut hole is 4/5” in diameter.

2.      The glazed type of doughnut is more popular than any other type of doughnut.

3.      The average calorie content of a glazed donut is about 200 calories, so perhaps eating five donuts per day would take care of daily calorie needs………..

4.      It seems the U.S. alone makes more than 10 billion donuts every year, and the rest of the world makes its own versions. However, per capita, Canada has more donuts shops than any other country!

5.      The largest donut ever made was an American-style jelly donut weighing 1.7 tons and measuring 16 feet!

6.      Legend says that dunking donuts first became a trend when actress Mae Murray accidentally dropped a donut in her coffee.

7.      On one of his expeditions, Admiral Richard Byrd took along 100 barrels of donut flour, enough for making two years' worth of doughnuts. Now that’s a doughnut lover for you!

8.      According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for donut eating is held by one John Haight, who consumed 52 ounces of doughnuts (that’s about 700gms or about 26 average sized doughnuts)in just over six minutes in 1981. This, to my mind, can only be described as doughnut greed!
 
These yeasted and baked doughnuts are also getting YeastSpotted!
 
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June 20, 2013

Naan-e-Barbari/ Noon Barbari/ Barbari Bread (Persian/ Iranian Flat bread)

I
f there’s one thing to be said about flatbreads, apart from the fact that they are flat, is that almost every culture/ cuisine in the world makes at least one version of it. Some flatbreads are leavened, some are not. Flatbreads are very versatile. They can be thin or thick, sweet or savoury, topped with seeds or spice mixes, stuffed with a variety of fillings, wrapped around fillings into rolled wraps, and are great to either mop up gravy preparations. Eastern European cultures also make some of the most beautifully decorated festive flatbreads for weddings.
So when I saw a group of bakers baking Naan-e-Barbari this month, I knew I wanted to have a go at it myself and decided to bake with the Babes! Naan-e-Barbari is also known as Noon Barbari or referred to as Barbari bread and is perhaps the most commonly baked flat bread in Iran. A longish oval shaped furrowd bread that is usually topped with Nigella seeds, it is traditionally served with a ewe’s milk cheese similar to Feta, and tea for breakfast.

Now this Naan-e-Barbari is not the same as the Indian Naan, though both are flat breads. The word “Naan” is a generic word in Persian, for bread and usually used to refer to flat breads. So the name Naan-e-Barbari means “bread of the Barbars”.  The Barbars are a group of people belonging to Khorasan near eastern borders of Iran and are supposed to have brought this Naan to Iran.



 

What is unusual about this flat bread is that a baking soda-flour solution/ glaze, also called “Roomal” is brushed over the dough before it is baked. This gives the Naan a beautiful golden brown colour and a distinct aroma and flavour that sets it apart. The glaze also gives the bread a slightly crispy crust.
It is usually topped with Nigella seeds (also known as black onion seeds) which are the best with this Naan because of their flavour, but you can always use sesame seeds or poppy seeds instead. I have seen a recipe for Barbari bread in the book “Ultimate Bread” by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno and that is a much simplified version but they use a little honey in their dough. So I used that and then adapted Elizabeth’s recipe a bit to make my Naan-e-Barbari.


 
Her recipe makes 2 largish Naans, but I have small oven so I made 4 smaller ones from the same dough. She also cooks this bread on the grill but I chose to bake it instead. For instructions on how to cook this flatbread on a grill please see Elizabeth’s post for detailed instructions.
Here are two videos that demonstrate how Naan-e-Barbari is made. The methods in the videos differ slightly but give a good idea on how to shape the bread. The baking soda-flour glaze should be thick and of pouring consistency which you can brush on, rather than a thick paste.



 
One thing I must mention is that the dough for this bread requires to be kneaded really well to make it soft. It will seem a little sticky and please don’t be tempted to deal with this by adding more flour. The kneading method here is a bit unusual, as one has to literally beat it into submission. I’m not joking!
You may use a kneading machine/ processor to the initial kneading, and after that you have to work the bread dough by slapping it down against your work surface and folding, repeatedly. This gives you a really soft and smooth dough, and it’s a good way to work off some of your negativity too. The "window pane test" is a good way to check if your dough has been kneaded enough.
Feel free to serve your Naan-e-Barbari with Feta and herbs or whatever else you might like, or eat it warm from the oven with coffee/ tea like we did. This bread was an unqualified success with all of us.
Naan-e-Barbari/ Noon Barbari/ Barbari Bread
(Adapted from Elizabeth’s recipe)
 

Ingredients: 

For the dough: 

 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp honey
 1 1/2 cups warm water, at 45C/ 90F
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
 1/2 tsp baking powder
 1 tsp salt
 Nigella seeds / Sesame seeds/ Poppy seeds to sprinkle 

For the Roomal:

 1/2 tsp flour
 1/2 tsp baking soda
 1/3 cup water
 

Method:

This bread dough is traditionally made by hand, but I always opt for the food processor, because it is easy on my wrists.
Put the yeast, honey and the warm water in the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix, and allow the yeast to dissolve. Then add 1 1/4 cups of flour and pulse a couple of times so you have batter-like mixture. Leave this in the bowl for about 20 minutes.
The mixture in the food processor bowl should be “spongy” looking by now. Mix the remaining flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. . Add this in two portions to the “sponge” and process until you have a pliable dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out the dough onto an unfloured working surface. The dough might stick a little to your surface and if you find it difficult to work with this, lightly oil your work surface or use a dough scraper. Do NOT add flour!
Hold the dough in both hands and flip it over and plop it down hard on your work surface while still holding it. Think of yourself beating your work surface with the dough while still holding on to it. The dough will stretch a bit and the other end will land on the work surface with a “thwacking” sound. Fold the dough in half away from you, and repeat this “throwing/ plopping/ thwacking” motion a few times until your dough is really soft and smooth. Your dough should pass the window pane test.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl (you don’t need to oil the bowl, but you can lightly do so if you want), and cover. Let it rise until double in volume. 
 
 
In the meanwhile prepare the “Roomal” or baking soda-flour glaze for the bread. Put all the ingredients together in a small pan and whisk together to mix. Place the pan on medium heat, and while constantly stirring it, bring it to a boil. The solution will thicken slightly. Take the pan off the heat and let the solution cool to room temperature.
Lightly flour your work surface. Turn out the dough onto it (do not knead) and divide it into four equal pieces (or two if you prefer). Shape each piece into a ball and place them apart on a sheet and cover with a towel and allow to rise for another hour or so, till double in volume.
Work on one ball of dough at a time, keeping the others covered so they don’t dry out. Place a ball of dough on a lightly floured work surface and, using your fingers (lightly dust them with flour if you feel the need), lightly press out into an oval approximately 7” by 5”. Brush the entire surface of the dough well, with the “Roomal” or baking soda-flour glaze.
Dip your fingers in the “Roomal” and then use them to form 4 lengthwise furrows. You can press down almost to the bottom, as the “furrows” will disappear once the dough rises. Sprinkle the Nigella seeds over the surface of the furrowed ovals.
Pick up the furrowed oval piece of dough with your fingers by one end and transfer to a baking sheet dusted with semolina. The oval will elongate slightly when you pick it up. Otherwise, very gently stretch the oval from both ends making sure it is uniformly thick along its length and breadth. Allow the ovals to rise for about 30 to 40 minutes till they’re nice and puffy.
Bake them at 190C (375F) for about 30 minutes till they’re done and golden brown. Serve them warm with cheese or a dip or just plain with a hot cup of coffee or tea. This recipe makes 4 small or 2 slightly larger Naan-e-Barbari.
 This Naan-e-Barbari/ Barbari Bread is being YeastSpotted!
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June 16, 2013

BongMom’s Cookbook : A Review, A Dim Kosha (Bengali Spicy Egg Curry) & A Giveaway!

I
have to confess right here, that I know very little about Bengali food. I am from Kerala, which has something in common with Bengal including Communist/ Marxist governments from time to time, a love for fish curry, plain white saris with a red border in Bengal and gold in Kerala, and an obsession for football that goes beyond the believable.
It is also not unusual to find people in Kerala bearing Bengali names like Ghosh and Das. However, Bengali food has had little or no impact there, though rice is the carbohydrate of choice in both states, and Malayalees who eat fish love it as much as their Bengali counterparts.  
I know that Bengalis love sweets, especially those made with “chenna” (a softer and moist version of paneer) like “Rôshogolla” (I was told off by a reader who was offended that I called them Rasgulla!), Cham Cham and Sandesh (I should have said “Shôndesh”?) and their Mishti Doi (sweet yogurt). I know that what the rest of us in India call “Gol Gappe” is “Puchka” for Bengalis and that they also love Aloo Poshto (a potato curry cooked with poppy seeds). And I know they like to use mustard oil in their cooking which I find a very acquired taste (and aroma) that I haven’t been able to manage to acquire so far! I also know that in Bengal, fish is considered vegetarian fare!




As you can see, what I do know about Bengali food is not very much. So what am I doing reviewing a cookbook about Bengali food? In the first place this book is written by a fellow food blogger who is also a virtual friend of sorts. I say, of sorts, because I really do not her very well, but I have read her blog on and off (she writes very well) and we keep crossing each other’s paths frequently on Facebook while commenting on each other’s pages and those of mutual friends. I also firmly believe that good food, whatever its style of cuisine, will transcend all man-made borders/ divides.
So when Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta wrote her first book, “BongMom’s Cookbook” published by Harper Collins, I was there to read and review it. I’m doing it with an open mind, though it is one that’s slightly unschooled in the matter of Bengali food.


 
I guess the place to start would be to ask, “What do Bengalis (really) eat?” Sandeepa tells us that Bongs (slang for Bengalis) will eat apparently “anything and everything, as long as it is followed by Gelusil, Pudin Hara, Jowaner Aarak or Nux Vom 30!”
She also tells us, “Bengalis don’t eat breakfast: they eat a complete meal in the morning, or else they eat luchi (deep fried bread)”. It’s obvious that the Bengalis like their counterparts in the other states of India have a great love for their food!
The book started on that note and just went on getting more enjoyable to read as I turned page after page. And if you’re thinking of asking, “Why would you read a cookbook?” here’s the answer. Sandeepa’s book is more than just a cookbook. S
ure, there is a lot of traditional authentic Bengali food that has been cooked by the older generation of women in her family, and Sandeepa’s recipes make them easy to cook in a modern kitchen. She also weaves stories of her childhood which are invariably connected to food to gives us glimpses of a lifestyle where people had time to cook and savour the simple pleasures of everyday life.



 
Every chapter is redolent with the aromas of spices used in a Bengali kitchen interwoven with her memories of life in Bengal as a child, from her grandmother’s Calcutta kitchen, all the way to through her life to her kitchen in the US where she now lives. Married and a mother of two young girls, she also shares her attempts to keep India alive and real for her daughters and her trials to connect them to their Indian roots through the Bengali food she cooks.
I can relate to large parts of her book. I have grown up seeing grandmothers, aunts and other elderly ladies in the house spend a large part of their lives cooking up a storm almost every day, and belong to a community where food is so important that there are even prescribed dishes, ingredients, combinations and menus for each occasion (small or big). So I’m not surprised that her mother would be appalled to think that milk and cereal or something similar could be considered any sort of a meal, let alone breakfast!



 
To get back to the BongMom Cookbook, it a book dedicated entirely to recipes and narratives related to Bengali food.  Sandeepa’s has a way with words and descriptive phrases, and her style of narrative makes for interesting reading and her recipes are easy enough to follow. Where specific ingredients are needed, that are commonly unavailable outside Bengal, she provided easy alternatives.
The chapters in this book have quaint titled and some examples are The Great Bong Breakfast, The long Lost Lunch, By God! Bongs Also Eat Veggies, Every Bong Girl Needs Her Tiffin and Love In The Time Of Dessert! Each recipe in preceded by a short narrative about the dish and its place in her family saga and the book is interspersed with further factual details either about Bengali meal-time or food traditions and the masalas (spice mixes) used in their cooking.



 
One masala/ spice mix that I always associate with Bengali cooking is the Paanch-phoron which is frequently used in their recipes.
Paanch-phoron is a mix of 5 (Paanch) spices - Fenugreek (methi), Nigella seeds (kalonji, Mustard seeds or (rai/ shorshe), Fennel seeds (saunf/ mouri), and Cumin seeds (jeera/ jira).
To make Paanch-phoron, grind equal quantities of these 5 spices into a powder and store in an airtight bottle. This spice mix is usually added to a hot oil to release the flavours, while cooking.

Good photography is always a bonus in a cookbook, but this is one cookbook that really doesn’t need the photographs.
However, I would have been happy to see some more sketches illustrating the book beyond those that adorn the first page of every chapter.  
I would have definitely liked to see a recipe index in the book, as it took me time to trace down the recipes I wanted to cook from the book since there was no way to do that except search.
While there is a list of spices used in the book, translated to English, I also feel a glossary of some of the Bengali terms used throughout the book would be helpful as a ready reference for the non-Bengali reading public.
Beyond this, I have only good to say about the book and it will have a happy resting place on my cookbook shelf even though most of the recipes in the book are of no use to a vegetarian like me.

About the author:

Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta loves food, is a food blogger and mother of two who is dedicated to connect them to their Bengali roots mainly through food. Her cookbook showcases this attempt along with sharing the mysteries of the BongMom’s kitchen with the rest of us through heart-warming stories and easy to cook recipes.
 
I have marked a few recipes to try from the BongMom Cookbook and Sandeepa’s mother-in-law’s Dim Kosha or Spicy Egg Curry caught my eye first. Egg curry is something that’s cooked in quite a few variations in Kerala and the Egg Moilee is our favourite. While we are not egg lovers, the occasional good egg curry is always welcome at our table.
I did over salt my Egg Curry a wee bit (my fault, not the recipe’s) but otherwise we liked the curry very much. Be warned this is a bit on the richer side as it involves frying boiled eggs and the potatoes, but that’s what adds a lot of flavour.
This is my somewhat adapted version of Sandeepa’s recipe.
 The BongMom’s Ma-in-Law’s Dim Kosha (Egg Curry)
(Adapted from BongMom’s Cookbook by Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta)
 

Ingredients:

4 eggs
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into cubes
4 tbsp oil (mustard or vegetable)
1 tsp oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup puréed tomatoes (fresh or store-bought)
1 1/2 tsp ginger paste
1/4 tsp garlic paste
3 or 4 green chillies, slit (more or less according to your taste)
1/2 tsp paanch-phoron (see above for recipe)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (if you want more fire in your gravy and mouth!)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
 

Method:

Boil and peel the eggs. Score a small “X” on the top of each egg with a knife. Smear a bit of turmeric powder, salt and a little chilli powder on this and keep aside. Fry the chopped onion in a tsp of oil till it turns brown at the edges. Let ithis cool and grind to a smooth paste.  Heat the oil.
Put the 4 tbsp of oil in a wok and fry the eggs till they turn reddish orange and the skin starts crinkling. Remove and keep aside. Fry the potatoes in the same oil till they take on a light golden colour. Remove and keep aside.
Put the paanch-phoron masala into the remaining oil in the wok, and when it gives off an aroma (in a few seconds), add the onion paste and fry for a minute. Add the tomato purée, grated ginger, garlic paste, and slit green chillies and a little salt and fry this masala on medium heat, till you see the oil separating from it.
Now add the cumin powder, turmeric and Kashmiri chilli powders. Sprinkle a little water and keep frying the masala on low to medium heat until the raw smell of the spices disappears and the masala turns a deep red in colour. While it is cooking, if the masala seems to be drying out (it will then burn), sprinkle some more water as needed and cook.
Add the potatoes and stir to coat them well with the masala. Add a cup of warm water, increase the heat and let it come to a boil. Add more salt as needed and then turn down the heat so the gravy simmers. Once the potatoes are done, add the eggs, sugar and garam masala. Let the gravy simmer and the oil will float on the top.
Take the curry off the heat and serve with rice or rotis. This recipe serves 4 as a side dish.

Two days after I received my review copy of the BongMom’s Cookbook, I received another copy of the same book for the publishers, Harper Collins. I think the 2nd copy was probably sent to me for reviewing through Indiblogger. All I know is that 2 copies of the book arrived from the publishers, both addressed “Urgent”!
The good thing about this is that I have a copy of Sandeepa’s book to give away to my readers. It’s easy enough to try your luck at winning this book.
All you have to do is leave a comment at this post telling me if you have ever cooked or eaten Bengali food, and if so, what your favourite dish is.

This giveaway is open only to readers residing in India or those who have Indian shipping addresses.
Please also leave a link to your blog or an e-mail id for me to contact you, in case you win the book. This giveaway is open till the 30th of this month.

This event is now closed!


 
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June 12, 2013

It Was About Wine – The Grape Escapade, 2013 : Some Glimpses

T
his is a post that should have happened sometime in February, and is about 4 months late to highly avoidable reasons, one of which was sheer laziness on my part since work on this post would have meant uploading a lot of photographs, sifting through them to discard undesirables, and then edit the worthy ones I would have been left with. It might also have had something to do with the fact that this post is all about a local Wine Festival (read Wine “Marketing” Festival) and we don’t drink any kind of alcohol!
 
Live music and entertainment at The Grape Escapade.
I can some of you thinking, “Why does she want write about a Wine Festival if she doesn’t drink wine or know it?” That’s a good question and it is true that I’m not overly knowledgeable about grapes and wine, though I do know more about both for someone who does not drink it. No, I wasn’t paid to write this post, so that’s not why I’m doing this post. This post is nothing more than a desire to share my take on a visit to the Wine Festival and share some of photographs of the same.  
Goa is a good place in India to promote wine for various reasons. One is that there is a sizeable Catholic community in Goa for whom wine is a part of their culinary tradition. Then Goa is a very popular tourist destination, so wines sell whether it is the international tourists or the wine-discovering domestic Indian tourists who buy them, or order them at restaurants.
 
Everything in Goa is a photo-op waiting to happen! At the entrance to The Grape Escapade, 2013.
So naturally, Goa now hosts an annual Wine Festival with a catchy name, “The Grape Escapade”. For some reason the previous editions escaped my attention, but this year I decided to go and take a look around, see what the “Escapade” was all about, and soak up some atmosphere if not the wine.
It is another story that someone from one of the better known wine brands in India invited me to visit their stall despite my telling them that we didn’t drink, and I walked into their stall only to find their staff rather unhelpful and unconcerned despite having been told that I might drop by. The person in-charge of the stall finally turned up, apologised for not being there to meet me, started telling me about their wines only to be become almost speechless when I told him I didn’t drink!
When I asked him about which of their wines could be used for cooking, he told me they didn’t make any wines that could be cooked with!! I must have looked surprised at that statement because then he told me that some of the locally well known Italian restaurants had reported that they were happy cooking with some of the wines.
 
Wines, waiting to be tasted, at one of the many stalls.
To get on with the Wine Festival, I was a bit disappointed. What I expected was to see was a lot of grapes/ wine related activity that was educational and interactive with visitors to the Festival like more information about the kind of grapes that are turned into wine, which ones are good for which wine, how wines are made, the details about aging wine and the whys and hows of it, some cooking/ dessert making demonstrations with a variety of wines, glassware/ stemware best suited for serving wines, about wine pairings with Indian food, how to best store wines, etc.
While there were people, at individual stalls, talking about things like the different varieties of wines and pairing wine with Indian food, and offering wine for tasting, these were mostly focused at selling/ marketing individual brands rather than educating the public about wines on the whole.
 
If there's wine, food is usually not far behind. A food stall run by a locally well-known restaurant.
In the manner of most of these “dos”s in Goa, The Grape Escapade did see a lot of visitors and many of them families with elders and children out to enjoy an evening at a local fair/ fête. For others it meant a chance to catch up with friends over food and a wide variety of wines. All the time I was there, which was for a couple of hours, groups of people kept walking in and out with the crowd getting bigger as the evening gave way to a full moon night.
This meant that the atmosphere was perhaps not what one might otherwise expect of a Wine festival but more of a picnic style evening out without the hassles of carrying one’s own food. A live band provided music with a host and hostess on stage, to liven up things with their own brand of humour, a couple of balloon sellers, an African dance troupe, one person dressed up as an eggplant for some strange reason, and lighting up floating paper lanterns were all part of the general entertainment.
 
Getting together with friends for an evening out.
What I did see was quite a few food stalls run by locally well-known restaurants and caterers selling a lot of food and doing brisk business. I think it would have been nice to see a couple of stalls serving vegetarian food for vegetarian public at the Festival. I also saw some visitors, mostly tourists, walking from one stall to the next, getting a bit tipsy on the free wine tasting samples.
 
 
Where the grapes were to be stomped!
There were also a few strategically placed wooden tubs at the venue which were meant to be part of a much publicised “grape stomping” exercise but that event died a premature death. When it was time for the stomp, there was only one wooden tub in evidence and the exercise ended up with 4 or 5 small children climbing into the tub much against their wills, egged on by their eager parents, and then not really knowing what to do!
Frankly, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the organisation on the whole and thought it could have been managed much, much better. I went on the last but one day and I think by then the Festival had kind of run out of steam. To be fair to the organisers, I understand there were a lot of activities and more entertainment including a beauty pageant and some stage shows by dancers from abroad (not really my kind of thing) on the other days of the Wine Festival when I wasn’t there. You can also see a short video taken by someone else who visited The Grape Escapade earlierin the day.
 
There was small chocolate fountain too! I didn't ask but did wonder if they were actually selling the whole chocolate fountain for Rs. 20 like it said on the board!!
I did have an opportunity to walk around and take some photographs and I’ll leave you with those glimpses of The Great Escapade, 2013. Hopefully, the next year will be a good year for grapes and wine, and perhaps a better year at the Wine Festival in Goa.
 

Some of the foreign tourists enjoying the evening with Indian food and Indian wines.
 
 
 
 
 The entertainment on the stage didn't seem to have too many takers, as the visiting public seemed to prefer the food and drink.
 
 
 
 
 As I mentioned before, there's always a photo-op waiting around the corner. You can see the wooden tubs that were supposed to be "stomped" in.
 
 
 
 
And the tubs all disappeared mysteriouly, and only this one was left. It was large enough to accomodate some 4 or 5 rather uncomfortable looking young children!
 
 


 Let there be food and wine! And there was. Plenty of it...........
 
 
 
 
 Balloon sellers may not seem the thing at a Wine Festival, but these guys did brisk business keeping quite a few bored and cranky kids (and their thankful parents) happy.
 
 
 
 
 "Mr. Eggplant" as I named him privately. I couldn't figure what purpose his presence served, other than entertainment for a lot of people. Many with cameras, would insist on posing with him to have their pictures taken and after sometime I could see him finding the whole thing painful. I rather felt for him, as the heat from the lights, the sultry weather and his humungous costume getting to him, yet all he could do was grin and bear it.
 
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