Sunday, May 14, 2017

Recipe of the month: Spicy Mushroom Capsicum Fry

It is Mother's Day today. The second sunday of May each year is dedicated to celebrating these selfless souls. On this particular day, moms are acknowledged for their presence in our lives and pampered. Hardly enough is it? It seems more fitting that they deserve a lifetime of appreciation. Oh well....I don't make the rules! Wishing all the mothers out there a very Happy Mother's Day! From one mother to another, know that you are important, special and irreplaceable 💖

This is going to be a short (and spicy) post! Since it is Mother's Day, I am going to share a recipe that I got from my dear mom more than a decade ago. Rewind back to the time when I was a new bride, frazzled at the thought of managing a household by herself. Before embarking on my new journey as a married woman, I got myself a notebook in which I hurriedly jotted down a handful of simple recipes (including that of dal 😝 ). Among those recipes was this one for Spicy Mushroom Capsicum Fry that I nicked from my mom's handwritten recipe book. 

This recipe just needs a handful of ingredients, looks good, tastes good and can be made within 30 mins. Sounds like a winner right? Believe me it is! It has quite a few spice powders in there so it does pack in a punch. Go easy on the chilli powder if you want to tone it down okay? I used to make this dish very often before but over the years it has appeared considerably lesser on my dinner table mainly because of the husband who prefers gravies to dry side dishes. I think this would be a perfect side dish to serve alongside a simple dal/mild curry and cooling raita with any Indian flatbread or rice dish. That way you get a nicely balanced meal. 

If you are old enough to cook for your mom, you know what you need to do! Give here the day off and put a smile on that kind face that has worked a lifetime to make sure you always have one on yours 😊

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Raw Vegan Food with a Modern Twist: The Living Café @ Bukit Timah, Singapore


Before this review, my plans of visiting The Living Café (TLC) had been hanging in the balance for the past 3 years 😄 Unfailingly, something or the other would come up forcing me to cancel my plans or venues would get changed unexpectedly. On one occasion, I even entered the café having scheduled dinner with a friend only to find that it was half an hour away from closing! I had no other option but to head over to another food establishment in the vicinity 😞

So when I had the opportunity to catch up with two old friends over lunch and realized that Bukit Timah was the ideal locality (being sort of equidistant for the three of us), I suggested TLC without a moment's hesitation.

This time, the stars aligned and my plans finally came through! 🙌


The brainchild of master nutritionist Dana Heather, TLC embraces raw vegan food and this is what sets it apart from other cafés. Their chefs are continually creating their own versions of raw and raw-fusion to bring a wide scale of variety to the café. Although not 100% vegan, most of the dishes are vegetarian and vegan-friendly, with many raw options. Chicken, fish and eggs make an appearance in certain starters and entrees though dairy is entirely avoided. To be more specific, TLC does not use red meat, cow dairy, white sugar, preservatives, additives, artificial colorings and includes gluten-free alternatives on the menu. The café takes pride in using specially selected and sourced organic ingredients wherever possible and thoughtfully combines them to achieve optimum flavor for their healthy raw food establishment.

It was a Saturday afternoon and rather late by the time we reached the venue but much to my surprise, the café was bursting at the seams at 2pm. There was only one table vacant all the way at the back so we had to make do with that.

The naturalistic decor of TLC reflects the "green" concept of the café. Spacious and airy, prominent features of the space include mismatched furniture, earthy colors, indoor plants, chalkboards and a lofty ceiling. 



There are two floors - the lower floor consists of the dining area and the upper floor has a retail store selling premium quality food products, health supplements, essential oils and books amidst other things. 



Something that catches one's eye almost instantly is the glass case with their amazing array of raw desserts. While you are waiting for your orders to arrive, you could keep your peepers peeled on the enticing display!
 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Baker's Corner: Summer Tomato, Olive & Caramelized Onion Focaccia


It's the start of the long weekend! Gotta love those 💗 I have plans to catch up with family, colleagues and a close friend, cook (and stuff myself with!) lots of good food, binge watch season 12 of Grey's Anatomy and/or Sherlock with the husband, get started on a new novel and enjoy plenty of cuddles with my girls. That is more than enough to qualify for a fulfilling weekend for me 😊

Moving on, I have a nifty recipe for you to keep you busy this weekend!

It appears as if focaccia is to Italy what baguette is to France. This oven-baked salty and oily Italian bread is a delight to have on hand. Focaccia takes on different guises with aplomb. It can be served as is, alongside pasta, soups or stews, dunked in an array of dips, to make fabulous sandwiches or even as a pizza base.

Basic focaccia dough requires only five ingredients, flour, water, olive oil, salt and yeast. A simple focaccia dough lends itself to so many variations that once you master the dough, your options are endless. You can use a combination of two or more of the following ingredients (among others) to adorn your focaccia: rosemary, thyme, basil, garlic, olives, cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, bell peppers, parmesan and nuts. Focaccia is the perfect canvas for culinary experimentation but getting carried away with too many ingredients would be overkill in my humble opinion.

Pssst.....let me let you in on a secret. I really don't fancy olives much. It is an ingredient that does not enjoy a place in my fridge at any given point of time and whenever I am at a salad bar or sandwich joint, I pointedly request for olives not to be included in my order. Then why have I included it in this recipe, you ask? Well, I made this focaccia bread to take to a friend's house and while choosing the ingredients to adorn the focaccia with, I cast aside my preferences in favour of something that complements focaccia and is generally liked. So gregarious of me, no? 😝



Making focaccia at home does not require any fancy schmancy gadgets, uses inexpensive ingredients, is simple to make and turns out unquestionably impressive. For anyone intimidated by the idea of making your own bread, focaccia is a perfect place to start. And did I mention there is no kneading involved? This one delivers on every single level now, doesn't it?!

Your choice of flour depends very much on what kind of focaccia you’re looking for. Using plain flour, or even finer “tipo 00” flour will give you a softer, more tender crumb; while a mixture of strong bread flour and coarse semolina creates a more robust, chewy texture. In this recipe I have used bread flour alone with great results - a delicate crusty exterior with a soft fluffy interior.

A few things to keep in mind - this dough is really wet and that is how it is supposed to be. Once the specified quantity of flour is added, put the bag of flour back into the pantry pronto so you don't get tempted to add any more!

The secret to the best focaccia bread is great tasting olive oil. Since there is quite a bit used, the bread really takes on the flavor. Also, you have to ensure that you create lots of dimples with your finger tips into your dough and then drizzle enough olive oil into those dimples which will then get absorbed while the focaccia bakes creating a flavorful bread with a crisp crust and tender interior.

This bread is delicious eaten on the day it is baked, but it will keep for a few days and you can freshen it up in the oven for a few minutes just before serving.

I know I've rattled on for quite a bit so I will give my fingers some rest now. Besides, I do need to enjoy the long weekend too 😎

For your next baking project, take on this humble yet delicious focaccia and I guarantee it will be love at first bite!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kids Day Out: Palawan Pirate Ship & Palawan Beach at Sentosa, Singapore

It had been a while since we had taken the kids to Sentosa. The last time was to the S.E.A aquarium and before that to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (both visits which had been a success much to my surprise!). I wanted to take them outdoors for some fun in the sun and Sentosa was the first place that came to mind. 

Palawan Pirate Ship

Did you guys know that the iconic Port of Lost Wonder in Sentosa that had ceased all operations since Dec 27th 2016, has reopened its water play area?  Due to public demand, families can now access its signature water play area – the Pirate Ship which is now goes by the name ‘Palawan Pirate Ship’.

Even better news - it is free for families to enjoy. An attractive water park with a ship, slides, a giant water bucket, water canons and the works that has no admission charge....how can young parents pass up on that! 

We reached the water play area on a Saturday morning just before opening hours in the hope that it wouldn't be terribly crowded and parked the car at the parking lot located at Palawan beach. I spotted a huge KidZania as I walked towards the water play area. KidZania Singapore offers children real-life experiences through many different role-play activities in the kid-sized city. A place I definitely want to take the kids to one day! 

Anyway, coming back to the Palawan Pirate ship, it is a water play area designed for children aged 3-10 years old. An exciting and safe place for the little ones to splash around and have a whale of a good time! There are sheltered rest areas and benches located nearby. Also, paid locker facilities, shower rooms, and nursing rooms are available for use. 

The kids immediately bolted towards the water play area and there was no turning back! I was allowed to take both of them on the water slides and they loved it so much that I was coerced to take them close to 50 times (after which I had to feign a broken back and only then they let up!). They spent a good hour and a half exploring every water feature, running and splashing to their heart's content.

Although the sky was gloomy on that day, we were fortunate that it didn't rain and the weather was quite pleasant.