Monday, 28 December 2015

A Tapas Style Party

As the year winds down, it’s a lovely opportunity to spend some quality time with near and dear ones. If you plan to forego the loud, over-crowded parties at bars with a carefully put together bash of your own then consider taking a page or two from the Spaniard’s guide to a good time. With a vibe that can be upscaled into an elegant soiree, enjoyed as a casual gathering of friends or host to an intimate party, hosting a Spanish themed party is a great idea. The focus on small bites of food in captivating flavours along with bold wines is definitely a culinary trend that is quickly picking as people look to curate ‘something new’ that is exciting yet easy to prepare.

A tapas party is marked by the variety of dishes, usually meats, breads, potatoes and fried foods; all of which are great to nibble on while enjoying a glass of wine or sherry. So triangles of hard cheese, hunks of crusty bread, paper thin slices of cured ham are must-haves at a tapas spreads for guests to eat in between dishes. 

It’s a good idea to have bowls, plates and platters of food in different parts of the room to encourage conversation and nibbling through the evening. With low lighting and the strumming of Spanish guitars, your guests will find it a comforting, pleasant alternative to a rowdy evening on the town.

The tapas party aims to serve absolutely delicious food while giving people a chance to talk together. Plan to have plenty of bowls of fried olives on hand as they are a real crowd-pleaser. Simply coat whole green olives in an egg wash, roll in bread crumbs and deep fry till crisp.

A colourful dish from Spain is red and yellow bell pepper wedges stuffed with a mixture of chopped, garlic, anchovies, tomato, saffron, bread crumbs and oil. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley. These are perfect to make ahead of time and bake half an hour before the party. Serve it warm.

 A permanent fixture on any tapas menu are patatas bravas; fried potato wedges, served with a spicy tomato sauce and a garlicky aioli. Play around with the party staple; devilled eggs. Top the creamed yolks with crispy chorizo, a drizzle with chorizo oil and dusting of smoked paprika for a mouthful of Spain’s classic flavours in one bite.

Stay with the Spanish tapas theme for dessert as well with churros fried as small balls and served with a luscious, dark chocolate sauce. It really is the perfect way to round out an evening of great food, wine and the company of friends and family.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Are you Ready for Christmas?

Have you finished baking your gingerbread men? Iced your cookies? Set out the fairy lights, Christmas tree and hung up the stockings? Ready to celebrate the joy that is this season all over the country?

But if you find yourself lagging a bit behind, then no problem! We at Nature’s Basket pride ourselves on being a one-stop shop for all your shopping needs; be it whole birds for roasting, fancy cheese to arrange on a board, demarara sugar, molasses or flavoured syrups for your desserts or maybe a hamper of Christmassy treats for that special someone in your life. Here is a ready reckoner to get Christmas ready quickly!

Without doubt, carving a whole roasted bird is a classic Christmas tradition and now you can participate in the same too. Imagine yourself serving up tender, juicy slices of perfectly cooked meat with all the fixings for your family and friends. You can actually make this dream happen with our range of premium whole chicken, stuffed turkey and roasted ham. Flavour your chicken with lots of fresh sage and garlic and roast till the skin is crispy. You can serve it up with cheesy mashed potatoes and a kale-cranberry-pecan salad for a fantastic meal. Or try roasting a honey-glazed ham and serve it up accompanied with braised fennel, artichoke hearts with hollandaise sauce and a potato gratin. For a sweet note, serve your guests, mince pies from Theobroma that are small, boozy, fruit-filled bites. Then sit back and bask in the compliments that flow in.

A permanent fixture on a Christmas menu has to be the rich, dense cake studded with fruits and nuts with a slight boozy kick. People typically soak their dried fruit and nuts in rum, brandy or juice months in advance for that perfect bake. But if you haven’t managed to do so yet, then don’t worry. Our nifty trick will help you out. Simply soak organic fruits and nuts overnight in the soaking liquid of choice, then bake it into the cake the next day, Once it cools down, pick it with a skewer and brush the cake with the soaking liquid till it absorbs as much as is possible. Then wrap it tightly in a muslin cloth and repeat this each day till Christmas. The cake will be moist and flavourful.

If you have kids, then there has to be a gingerbread house. Now the golden syrup, unsalted butter, flaked almonds and candies are easily available at the store which means a gingerbread house making project with the kids is possible. But if you struggle with icing, then we have some beautifully decorated ginger bread houses; the sight of which will light your kids eyes.

Want to celebrate the season with friends and family but struggling to find the time or energy to pull it off? Here’s an easy way to feel cheerful while entertaining well. 20 minutes before your guests arrive, heat ½ cup red wine with orange and lemon slices, caster sugar, whole cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and star anise. When it becomes a thick syrup, pour 2 bottles of Chianti into the pot and leave to simmer for 5 minutes before serving this mulled wine to your guests. It’s a warm, fragrant way to welcome your loved ones while having your home smell wonderful.

Spending the day with lots of relatives? Plan ahead and get ready to serve an amazing breakfast on Christmas morning. Amidst the rush to open presents and squeals of joy and happiness, quickly put together this large delicious dish. Just remember to pick up some bread, ham, cheese and fresh sage and thyme to whisk and bake into a quick, savoury breakfast casserole.

Of course no celebration can be complete without gifts. Did you know that in some countries people place oranges in stockings as a symbol of the legendary St. Nicholas and his sack of gold and as a reminder of gifts that are shared? Whether oranges or not, you can easily find just the right gift that will please your loved one in our chic range of Christmas hampers. For instance our Christmas Essentials Hamper is packed to the brim with delightful treats like a rich fruit cake from Theobroma, a bar of L’Exclusif dark chocolate and much more.

As we work to spreading joy and cheer to you and your loved ones, we have tied up with SOS Children’s Village of India to share this festive feeling with under-privileged kids and you can help too! At each store we have set up a Christmas tree but instead of the typical baubles we offer you the chance to buy a charm that goes up on the tree. For each charm you buy, we contribute the amount to this NGO who works to ensure the welfare of orphaned and abandoned kids. Join us as we share the merry-making with them this Christmas!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Basketful of Cheer!

The festive season is here! Which means it is also the season for gifting! It is a time of joy and celebration. However gifting can be difficult too. Picking the perfect gift to please those we love when each of our loved ones are unique with their individual preferences can be so difficult when picking out gifts for festivals. Well in case you have been worried about your festive gifting, worry no more!  
This festive season, we at Nature’s Basket are raising a toast to your fine taste. We are thrilled to unveil our latest collection of couture gift hampers for this season. This year our range is bigger, better and even more varied and delicious that ever before! At Nature’s Basket we are proud to carry a vast range of products on our shelves, and we hope you will find there is something for everyone! Our themed hampers make the ideal gift to show you care.

There is nothing more welcome than chocolate! And an easy idea to begin with are chocolate hampers; each one of them expertly curated to appeal to the desires of your chocoholic friend or relative. From a petite basket, to a tray of L’Exclusif cocoa treats, to a chic box of chocolate bars, or hot chocolate mix, the options are endless!

Talking about hot chocolate, in our country, the onset of the festive season brings with it twinkling lights and the need for warmer clothing. Hot beverage hampers such as our specially curated tea and coffee hampers are apt presents this season. As they sit down to a freshly brewed cup of exotic tea or coffee, you are bound to be fondly remembered well into the New Year! 

We all have that one friend or family member who is an avid cook! Forever experimenting with new cuisines, cooking up something exotic or trying to re-create a dish from a vacation. Make their festive season more delicious by gifting them a hamper from our World Cuisine collection. We carry the finest authentic ingredients from around the world and our experts have assembled hampers to cover a world of cuisines from Mexican sauces to Thai seasoning and Italian exotica.

In all celebrations, we share our heartfelt wishes for good health and prosperity with those we love. And what better way to make those wishes come true than with a present of delectable fresh fruit which will add a little exotic flavor and health to their days? Our exotic fruit hampers are packed with fruit like red globe grapes, tangerines, raspberries, red currants and dragon fruit among others. A wonderful way to introduce someone to new sensations and flavors.

As we write, baskets of different sizes and colors are lined up on our shelves, elegantly embellished with flowers, candles and ribbons. Just waiting for your selections of goodies to fill them up and go out to gladden the hearts of those you love. All that’s left is for you to make your choices, drop by our stores, ask our staff to help you select the best option and we will package them up for you! And if there is something we might have missed, tell us, we will try our best to put it together for you! 

A small investment of careful thought from you, a little gratifying labor from us and we will reap the rich dividends of making someone feel cared for. 

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Thursday, 24 September 2015

A Cheese-y Party!

Throwing a cheese centric party can often be a confusing, stressful affair with numerous doubts over what cheeses to serves, what ingredients to pair with, how much and how many kinds. Thankfully there are a few easy to remember guidelines that if applied can transform a potentially stodgy cheese platter into a source of gastronomic delight and animated discussion.

A good way to start assembling a fantastic cheese platter is to ensure there is atleast a sampling from each cheese type. Imagine a spread featuring the hard, umami rich taste of a hard cheese like Parmesan or pecorinio alongside the funky softness of a Roquefort sharing space with toothsome mature Cheddar and a bloomy Brie or creamy mascarpone cheese. Having such representatives of cheese keeps the experience interesting and full of diverse flavours. Another good rule of thumb when planning a cheese flight is to consider cheeses of different types of milk. For instance a cow milk based Cheddar or a hunk of aged Gouda made from goat’s milk, or salty sheep milk’s feta from Greece all have their own unique characteristics which is really what a good cheese platter is about. However, be careful not to overdo it and limit the number to 3 or 5 at most based on the type of occasion it is meant for. Planning to serve in a cheese-wine party? Then more options with interesting accompaniments will provide the right amount of food needed for such an event. However, if you intend to present this platter as a light course to start of a multi-course meal then stick with 1-2 types of the best cheese you can procure.

Once the number and types of cheese to be presented are settled, the next element people get stumped over is the serving board. It is crucial that the cheese is laid out on a stable, solid surface to ensure easy cutting and serving. To this end, a thick wooden cutting board or stone slab is ideal to highlight and present the sort of earthy features of cheese. Accompanying the cheese platter should be little placards or notes on toothpicks referencing the type of cheese being displayed. Another cool idea is to spread brown paper on a sturdy table, place the cheese directly on it and with good handwriting inscribe the names of the cheese on offer. Be sure to leave space between cheeses to avoid mingling of flavours and to provide separate knives for each type of cheese. 

Every cheese connoisseur will agree that if all other rules are broken, this must be followed. Serve all cheese at room temperature. There are few things as disappointing as seeing a beautifully laid out platter with cardboard-like cold cheese.  Whether you serve a selection of two simple cheeses or an elaborate arrangement of 7-8 types, remove the cheese a good 3-4 hours before serving. This will allow the natural textures and flavours to emerge fully.

When pairing foods with cheese, the goal is provide tastes and flavours that accentuate the cheese while also providing something like a palate cleanse between each kind. This is a reason why bread of any kind is a permanent fixture on a cheese flight. Opt for thin crackers over baguette slices that leave crumbs or maybe tiny round buns or baked pita chips or squares of olive oil rich focaccia for an interesting twist.    Fruit provide a natural sweetness to the salty, rich cheese; so thin crescents of apple, jewel red globe grapes, soft fresh figs can all find a place on a cheese board. Another sweetener could be a small glass pot of organic honey with a tiny spoon to drizzle  slices of Cheddar
For some crunch, arrange nuts like roasted almonds, candied pistachios around the board, creating visual dividers between the cheeses. Other accoutrements to an elegant platter can be bowls of olives, roasted bell peppers, thinly shaved curls of meat held together with a toothpick, artisan whole grain mustard or tart fruit chutneys.  The key however is to not over do it.  But above all, don't underestimate the ability for cheese to stand alone.  

Now that you have these easy to execute ideas, head down to any of your nearest Nature’s Basket stores and talk to our experts at the cheese counter. Ask for and sample the cheeses on display, discussing the area of production, type of milk used and what it is usually paired with and let your own preferences guide you to assemble the perfect cheese platter.

Did you also know that our experts at the stores curate beautifully hand crafted cheese and/or meat platters, tailored to your imagination? If you’re still baffled on how to get the perfect platter for your cheese party or would like to gift your loved ones an exquisite cheese and/or meat platter, you know where to head!