Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Say Yes to Color: L'Oreal Paris Brings an Exclusive Store to Flipkart






L'Oreal Parish has decided to bring three complete new style statements on Flipkart. The luscious, rich chocolate shades of Casting Créme Gloss all boast of a distinct personality that we all can identify with. Based on these shades, L'Oreal Paris and Flipkart created looks that are easy to put together and super stylish, as we believe every girl will find herself in one of them!


For example, take the shade Golden Chocolate. The girl who wears this, the Golden Goddess, is poised and elegant. She is classy, and she is perfect! Your girl next door with a gorgeous smile and a sense of style. Golden Goddess loves her Sunday brunches and quiet dinner dates. She wears timeless colors and shines with the exuberance of Gold. Check out her store in Flipkart here.


Or what about the shade Iced Chocolate? The girl who wears it is the super cool Iced Diva! She is bold, she is stylish and she shimmers brighter with every step. She loves a Saturday night out or a lavish shopping spree with her girl friends. Jet Black dresses, stilletoes are her absolute favorite! 


But I think my personal favorite is Black Chocolate - We bring to you a traveler, a wanderer, a dreamer - the Chocolate Chic. She is spontaneous & loves an occasional long walk on the beach and dresses wild and free with crop tops, harem pants and bold jewellery. Being a Bohemian at heart, and the girl who would be the first to go out for long walks, I could totally identify with her, and you can click here to check out her store on Flipkart. I loved some of the stuff on this store, especially this bag. Click on it to check it out! 

Buy Ivory Tag Ambrose Sling Bag: Sling Bag



If you want to check out the complete set of stuff on Flipkart, then click here. Or, you can also participate in the contest jointly held by Flipkart and L'Oreal and get 1000/- off on your next Flipkart purchase, or participate in the mega contest hosted by Flipkart & L'Oréal Paris where you can win the entire look you liked which is worth INR 10,000/- in total.

Disclaimer: This post is in association with L'Oreal Paris and Flipkart.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Akhrot Paneer: Cottage Cheese Cooked in a Rich Walnut-Based Gravy

Akhrot Paneer
My family has a simple philosophy about cooking - get out of the kitchen as soon as you are done, or else. That particular philosophy had made me think of a huge number of recipes which are very quick, very simple, and needs as little time spent in the kitchen as possible.

For example, this particular recipe. Akhrot Paneer is essentially something I make if I am on the run, and I am absolutely pressed for time. A simple dish, with less than ten ingredients, including salt, sugar, oil, paneer and walnuts. There's five ingredients right there, and the remaining five are probably in your pantry too. But in twenty minutes, you would get a dish which can save your weeknight woes about wanting good food but not willing to work for it. Serve it with Jeera Rice, or a paratha, and you would not want much more from your life.



Make a fine paste first - about 50 gm. roasted walnuts, unpeeled, 2 teaspoon charmagaz or melon seeds, with a bit of water. Make the paste as smooth as it can be, scraping down the sides of the blender as you go, to ensure there's no pieces of walnut intact. Once done, I generally strain it, and paste whatever is left still standing, but you can skip this step. I do this because I am slightly anal about the texture of the gravy.


Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and add 1/4th teaspoon caraway seeds (shahi jeera), a blade of mace, and a single bay leaf. Let splutter over medium heat for 30 seconds.

 
Add the paste of walnuts, 1/2 teaspoon ginger paste, and cook over medium heat till the mixture is dried up. At this point, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to see the oil separate from the melon seeds. Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly crushed pepper (or 10-12 roughly crushed peppercorns), 1 cup hot water, and 250 gm. paneer (cottage cheese), cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Stir briskly.


Let the water come to a rolling boil before simmering and covering the pan. Let this cook for 4-5 minutes, then open cover, add salt and sugar to taste, and remove from heat. Serve hot. I have also made this with semi-firm tofu, and it tastes pretty good. However, increase the cooking time from 4-5 minutes to 10 minutes in case of Tofu, to let the juices get absorbed better.

Paneer in a walnut gravy

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Durga Puja Beauty Trends Revealed at Green Trends Salon


I've been going through a crazy schedule these last few months, and I have to say, I have had no time to pamper myself beyond the occasional threading and trim. So, when K asked me and a group of Kolkata Beauty and Lifestyle Bloggers (check out our Facebook Page HERE) to join her at the Green Trends Salon, in Salt Lake to check out their newest trends for Durga Puja, I was grinning like crazy. So on a rainy afternoon, I hopped into an auto (there was a taxi strike!), and made it just in time for the event.


I was invited to the Salt Lake Branch of the salon. Green Trends is essentially a Chennai based salon chain, and they now have around 200 salons around India. In Kolkata, they have three branches, and their brand ambassador is Kajal Agarwal, popular South Indian actor, who also featured in Singham (I hated that movie, though!). We met with the brand trainer Saddique Alam, who was discussing beauty trends for the upcoming Durga Puja. He was pretty enthusiastic about the trends, and loved talking about the hair and style trends that he thought would work out the best.


He emphasized on coloring and adding curls to hair, especially adding color blocks. Now I was thinking of getting my hair colored, but he took one look at my baby fine hair, and my extremely tired skin, and ordered me to get a facial, and then have my hair treated, cut and styled. Goshdarnit, that man can be bossy.


Naturally, the others decided to go for something fun and fabulous. Some chose to get their hair cut and styled, some went for nail arts, some decided to color. S from Sorelle Grapevine, and D from FlySongBird, two of my favorite beauty blogs, decided to color their hair. While D colored the ends of her hair blue (and it was GORGEOUS!!!), S had her hair cut and styled by Saddique Alam.


And then SP from Sold for Shoes decided to get nail art done. Isn't it absolutely pretty? They have a number of nail art effects, like marbling and drawing pretty details, and it is all very cute.


D from Poutpretty was in a hurry, but wanted her hair cut and styled to enhance the curls. I took this picture of her when she was trying to relax while getting her hair wet. Needless to say, she glared at me right before closing her eyes, and giving me this oh-so-serene smile.


S looked every inch the reigning queen as Saddique Alam did what he had envisaged - color blocking. She got thick streaks added to her hair in fiery red shade, and then got her hair cut by him.


Just LOOK how pretty she looks!



Meanwhile, this lovely lady (her name's Priyanka) took charge of me, and pointed me to a spa room. I spent nearly an hour there, my skin getting pampered by Mousumi, a sweet girl who gave me a Puja Special Facial and a backrub while she was at it. They have five new facials, especially for the Durga Puja season - Fair Bloom, White Sparkle, Glowing Radiance, Platinum and Bright and Shine, which are priced at 1250/- to 1950/- plus tax (members pay less). She took one look at me and told me to get the Fair Bloom, which was priced at 1450/-, and boy, was I in for a treat.

They have private, small rooms, in which you can change into a comfortable gear, and then the procedure begins. My masseuse, Mousumi, expertly gave me a dry massage first, and then applied a tan removal pack. Then she removed it and scrubbed my face lightly before steaming my face and getting the whiteheads and blackheads on my face out. Then she continued by putting some serum all over my face. After that, she used a machine on me to ensure the serum went in deep. Then, another round of massage later, she applied a mask on me which was unlike any mask I have been given till date. This one was spread thickly all over the face, including my eyes and lips, and I effectively shut up for 10 minutes (STOP LAUGHING). When she peeled it off, I could see my face imprinted on a rubber mask.

Cool, I thought. So that's how the film guys do this! Only this one seemed to draw out loads of dirt and tan from my face, and left it looking clean and fresh. S commented on the fact the moment I came out of the room, that she could see my face looking much better, without a single scrap of makeup.
Fair Bloom, Platinum, Bright & Shine, White Sparkle and Glowing Radiance - See more at: http://www.sorellegrapevine.com/2014/09/beauty-trends-for-durga-puja-by-green.html#sthash.mkJLIip9.dpuf
Fair Bloom, Platinum, Bright & Shine, White Sparkle and Glowing Radiance - See more at: http://www.sorellegrapevine.com/2014/09/beauty-trends-for-durga-puja-by-green.html#sthash.mkJLIip9.dpuf


I was thinking of getting my hair colored, but I got a reproachful look from Mr. Alam, who told me that my hair would not be able to tolerate the attack of color just about now. It needed some help for the time being, in the form of tender loving care, and a cut would make it look much better. They have cuts with regular or premium shampoos used. They used premium on mine, so I am assuming the price is going to be around 450/- plus tax.

After that, my hair was washed, a mask was applied to the length of it, and then the guys talked about the fine quality and too much damage. Trouble is - my hair is thin and limp - always has been, so they suggested certain products to make it better. They cut and blow dried my hair to enhance my natural curls, and the result was this.


That's my natural curls, feeling happy after a long time!

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to the Blogger's Preview Event organized by Green Trends Salon. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

South Italian Food Festival at The Bridge, The Park Hotel, 5th to 29th September, 2014


The southern part of Italy is known for the food cooked simply, and with the freshest ingredients, to preserve the flavors and enhance them with a touch of this and a bit of that. Under the expert guidance of Chef Sharad Dewan, Area Director, F&B, The Park Hotels, Chef Surojit, Senior Sous Chef of The Bridge, and Chef Vikas, Executive Chef of Flury's recently made a visit to a small town in Southern Italy, Soverato, and learned a few dishes from Master Chef John Nocita.

Bellini

A glass of Bellini is placed before me. The combination of sparkling wine and sweetness is always a hit for me, and I take a thirsty sip, and giggle as the bubbles hit my nose immediately.

Chef Vikas from Flury's
Chef Vikas Kumar from Flury's sits down with us for the meal. He talks animatedly about his experience, and explains the importance of simplicity in food. Most South Italian dishes are extremely simple - it is a fare which can be easily cooked and easily digested, and vegetables are given far more importance than meat. In fact, pork is commonly eaten there, but beef and lamb are expensive there, so they are left for the festivities. Eggs, chicken, fish are consumed widely, and they are cooked with minimum fuss. They make their own pasta, and have a huge number of them, based on their shape and size. Most of the times, the pasta in question is the star of the show - the sauce clinging to it is merely a flavor enhancer. 



We chat about a number of topics, as I take a look around. There are little details here and there which make the setting of The Bridge just a tiny bit whimsical. From the little "tree" made of garlic pods and dried chillies, to the almost chemistry lab-like set-up of the bread rolls, that come with a bowl of pesto, a bowl of red pepper coulis, and four test tubes filled with olive oils. The oils are all flavored with something or the other - I spot one with sage, and pour some of it generously over my honey-glazed lemon chicken roll.

Bread Platter

I find the chicken stuffing to be inadequate in comparison to the bread, so I slather some Pesto on it to enhance the flavors. On the other hand, the apple-raisin-cinnamon rolls have little nubbins of raisins on them that add hit of sweetness, and strangely enough, I liked dipping it in the red pepper coulis, enjoying the combination of salt and sugar with a touch of the tang from the coulis.

Stuffed Piadine
The stuffed piadine is a thin layer of dough encasing cheese, a slice of tomato and a tiny amount of greens. It is served with a little puddle of extra virgin olive oil, and ideally you are supposed to dip a bit of the bread in the oil. I find the procedure to be too troublesome, and simply inhale the entire thing in one bite, savoring the crunch of the dough and the creaminess of cheese perfectly enhanced with the fresh slice of tomato inserted within.

Calabrian Seafood Soup
A small glass of the Calabrian Seafood Soup is placed before me. The glass is little, the top covered by a thin cracker. I remove the cracker, take a bite out of it, then tip the glass and take a sip. A light seafood broth enhanced with a bit of tomato and herbs, and some fresh crustacean at the bottom of the glass, to boost the flavors. I personally find the broth slightly overpowering, and the shrimp too tough for my liking, but others on the table has no complaints, I note.

Pollo Ala Diavado

A thin fillet of chicken is served next, with a simple lettuce and rocket salad, and drizzled with some more of the excellent pesto I had sampled before. The chicken is rubbed with herbs and paprika (or so I assume) before cooking, and the resultant flavors were subtle, yet their presence was unmistakable.

Fornarina
I am more in love with the Fornarina, a single raviolo stuffed with egg yolk and cooked lightly, and then served with a beautiful yellow sauce on top, lightly tangy and drizzled with a tiny bit of basil. A prick of my fork releases the rich yolk and it mixes with the sauce, and I am instantly won over by the simplicity of it all.

Pan fried Chicken Risotto with Chicken Tempura

But my other favorite has to be the pan fried chicken risotto, which is served with a chicken tempura on top. I am not that fond of the tempura - it is drier than what I expected, but the risotto itself is a thing of dreams - creamy, perfectly cooked rice, with the flavors from the chicken bursting through. I delicately discard the rosemary on top to one side before digging in with a spoon, and wish for more afterwards.

Pork Ragout from Verona
But well, at this point the server places a plate of the pork ragout from Verona. The meat-to-fat ratio is 40:60, and I thoroughly enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth pork, bursting with fresh flavors, mildly spiced, and wish for some bread to soak up the thin jus it is served with. Within seconds, my fork makes short work of the meat, and scrapes out every bit of meat to be had.

Pastiera Napolitana
For dessert, there is a Traditional Italian Pie, with a crumbly base and a slightly dry texture. To counter, a light custard and chopped fruits accompany the dish. In the entire meal, this was possibly the heaviest dish for me, with the rich zabaglione (I think it was ) and the cinnamon-laden glazed pie proving to be too heavy for me. Pleasantly satisfied, I roll out of The Bridge, and head over to find and rescue my sister from yet another mischief she had managed to pull off.


The South Italian Food Festival will begin on the 5th, and it will continue till the end of this month. The menu can be ordered a-la-carte, and a meal for two would set you back around 2500/- plus tax. There is also a prime rib with mushrooms and bearnaise sauce in the menu which is worth checking out.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at the preview of the South Italian Food Festival courtesy of The Park Hotels.

New! Tea Tree Flawless BB Cream



Dont Just Hide It, Fight It!

We all know how having troublesome skin on the outside can make you feel on the inside. But keeping blemished skin make-up free sometimes just doesn’t feel like an option.
Tackle blemished skin the right way with NEW Tea Tree Flawless BB Cream from The Body Shop. Powered by purifying Community Fair Trade Tea Tree Oil from Kenya, the lightweight cream not only perfects your complexion, it fights the look of blemishes.
Use in the morning or grab and go for daytime emergencies with this complexion-perfecting dual action cream! Discover the right shade for you with three shades to choose from – 01 Light, 02 Medium and 03 Dark - that blend seamlessly into skin.
Available in a 40 ml tube priced at Rs 1095.

The Power of Tea Tree
First used by Australian Aborigines, tea tree oil has been known for centuries for its natural antibacterial, skin healing properties.
Sourced from the foothills of Mount Kenya, the Community Fair Trade organic tea tree is handpicked and steam-distilled within 12 hours of harvest to preserve the oil’s natural purifying antibacterial properties.

Clearer Looking Skin In 3 Days
YOUR TEA TREE REGIME
1. CLEANSE/EXFOLIATE
Gently cleanse skin daily with Tea Tree Cool & Creamy Wash. Exfoliate with Tea Tree Squeaky-Clean Scrub once or twice a week to unclog pores and smoothes skin.
2. TONE
After cleansing, remove remaining traces of make-up and impurities with TEA TREE SKIN CLEARING TONER (Rs 795).
3. MOISTURISE
Rehydrate skin with TEA TREE SKIN CLEARING LOTION (Rs 995), a light non oily lotion with shine control for a matte finish.
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Use TEA TREE PORE MINIMISER (Rs 1495) before BB cream to reduce pore size and smoothes, prime and mattify skin.
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Apply TEA TREE FLAWLESS BB CREAM (Rs 1095) all over face and blend using fingertips for instantly spotless-looking skin, or take it on-the-go to dab on emergency spots.
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For more details on the range please click the link below:

http://thebodyshop-mediaroom.com/in/en/tea-tree-flawless-bb-cream.php


Disclaimer: Press Note.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mangsher Jhaal, Or, Chilli-Overload Mutton Curry

Curried mutton with chillies

The key difference between the jhol, jhaal and kawsha (kasha) in Bengali cooking is in the level of heat and the amount of gravy remaining after one finishes cooking. Ideally, a Bengali person would sit down for a meal, use his fingers to subdue a sufficient amount of rice and mash according to his/her preference, and then scream, "Maaa... jhol dao!" (Mother... now pour in the gravy!) Said mother will stand alert, pouring in the piping hot jhol and hearing her precious child grumble about how hot it is, and it just burned his/her finger, but at the same time, you could see the fingers moving, mixing the right amount of gravy with the rice to get the perfect texture and consistency before consuming furiously. In this, every person has his/her own way of mixing. Some barely mash the rice, preferring to chew the rice. Some would mash the rice and then add the gravy to make the result into an almost porridge-like consistency. Some would love to drown the rice in the gravy, and after finishing the rice, pick the plate up, put his/her lips on one side, and tilt carefully, to drink up the remaining liquid in the plate. Then, under the watchful gaze of the mother, the Bengali person would carefully use his/her palm to scrape up every bit of food from the plate, and eat it. A good Bengali child is he/she who cleans the plate so well that washing it afterwards is just a formality.

mutton jhal
Now the word jhaal means "hot from spice". For those who come from what is now Bangladesh, or commonly known as East Bengali people or Bangaal, jhaal is not just a type of taste. It's a way of life. But more than that, chillies and garlic had more than one purpose when it came to cooking in the Bangaal household. Adding these two ingredients meant adding a considerable dose of natural preservative to the meat or fish, which meant, they would not be spoilt too quickly, especially in the muggy heat of Bengal. Moreover, you would not be able to have too much of spicy food - it was a natural way to control one's hunger and reduced overindulgence. Most people during the late 1800s and 1900s could not afford to eat well everyday. Even meat would be a one-off thing, reserved for special occasions, which slowly became a once-a-week thing during the fifties and sixties in Kolkata.

Mangsher Jhaal with Rice


The jhaal I make came from my paternal Grandmother, who originally was from Patna. She came to Kolkata, a sixteen-year-old bride, heavy with her first child, to a household consisting of around ten people. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law were not very interested in helping her out with recipes, so she sought her own mother's help in cooking. My great-grandmother was a legendary cook. She apparently could make anything tasty, including uchhe (bitter gourd) and neem leaves. Her recipe was simple, contained a few items, and was HOT with a capital everything. Apparently, the first time my grandmother made it, my fussy grandfather finished an entire handi of rice alone, something he had never done before.

Start by pasting the chillies. You will need around 12 dry red chillies for this. Soak them in about a cup of warm water for at least an hour before making a thick, fine paste. I used a stone sil but you can use your blender. Be very careful while making the paste, do not let the paste get to your eyes.



Marinate 1 kilo good quality mutton, preferably from the foreleg of a goat, without too much fat hanging off it, with 2 teaspoon garlic paste, 2 tablespoon onion paste, 1 cup plain yogurt (with fat), and a big pinch of salt for at least 2 hours. I prefer marinading overnight, or around 8 hours. An hour before cooking, add a large tablespoon of coriander powder, a teaspoon of turmeric powder, and a teaspoon of garam masala powder. You should ideally use a blend of green cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon, roast them over dry heat on a flat surface for 2-3 minutes, and then grind the lot together to make a fine powder. You can also make a paste of them. Massage this on the meat pieces and set aside.

onions frying in mustard oil


Heat 4 tablespoons of mustard oil in a thick-bottomed vessel, and add a very small pinch of salt. Let the mustard oil lose its raw flavors, then to this, add 3 medium potatoes, halved, and fry lightly. Remove the potatoes after a few minutes, and then add a bay leaf or two, three to four dry red chillies, 8 peppercorns, 2 green cardamoms, bashed slightly, one stick of cinnamon, and 4-5 cloves. Stir around for 40-50 seconds over medium low heat, then add 1 cup of chopped red onions and a teaspoon of sugar. At this point, you can add any stray piece of mutton fat, which will enhance the flavors further.



Cook over medium high heat, stirring, till the onions are golden brown. Add the meat and stir continually for 4-5 minutes, to get everything mixed in. Raise the heat to high, and make sure the meat is browned. At this point, add the red chilli paste, and stir till the red chilli paste is incorporated. Add around 400 ml. of hot water, stir again, and let the water comes to a rolling boil.


Transfer the contents of the vessel to a pressure cooker, close the lid and let the pressure cooker come to full steam. Once it does, drop temperature to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool down and release the steam on its own.

Once that happens, add the potatoes, and then cook over simmering heat, covered, till the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. You can also be like me, and put the pressure cooker lid back on, and let the pressure cooker come to full steam and the moment it releases the first whistle, turn off the heat and let the pressure cool down and release all the steam yet again. Add salt to taste finally, and remove from heat when the gravy is thick - not too thin and runny, or absolutely reduced to cling to the meat. No, this gravy should have the consistency of ... well, a semi-chunky tomato sauce, which is the closest description that comes to mind. Serve with rice, and a slice of lime, which should be squeezed into the rice while mashing it with the meat gravy. Of course, you can serve this with other things. But the beauty of mangsher jhaal will be totally lost.


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