Saturday, August 29, 2015

Recipe of the month: Methi Dosa

From where I come from, we have what we call a 'uppu-huli-khara' dosa which literally translates to salt-sour-spicy dosa that is a breakfast staple. It is made by grinding raw rice along with a range of spices, tamarind, jaggery and grated fresh coconut. It does not require any fermentation so it can be made at reasonably short notice. This ground mixture doubles as the paste used to make patrode (a dish from Mangalore-Udupi in which colocasia leaves smeared with this batter and then steamed or fried) and as the batter used to make a variety of dosas.

I make this dosa all the time because both me and my husband like it very much. What's more is that it doesn't require any side dish. Back home, for a basic uppu-huli-khara dosa, the accompaniments that are served alongside are honey, yoghurt and grated coconut with jaggery but in my household, we relish it just with a knob of butter. Another plus is you don't have to fret about perfecting the clockwise circular motions that are required for dosa-making. You can be as random and imperfect as you please!

Like I said, this is the same batter that I make when I'm preparing patrode. When I'm not going the patrode route, I make a few variations of this dosa. Sometimes I add in chopped fenugreek (methi) leaves, sometimes chopped colocasia (patra) leaves, other times I use thinly sliced roundels of eggplant, ridge gourd or bread fruit dipped in the batter and arranged on a tawa to form a dosa. Even shredded cabbage can be mixed into the batter and spread in the form of dosas but I am not too big on cabbage so I tiptoe around it. On certain occasions I've even used leftover batter to coat an assortment of vegetables like onion, capsicum, potatoes and baby corn to make deep-fried vegetable fritters. Whatever the variation, I can assure you that the outcome is finger-licking good  

When I first asked my mum the recipe for this batter about a decade ago, she said she just eyeballs all the ingredients so her way of explaining was telling me to add 'a little bit' of this and 'a little bit' of that. She also told me to keep in mind that the strength of the spices that I get in Singapore may not be comparable to the ones available in India. Of course that isn't much help to a novice cook so it took me a couple of not-so-successful attempts before I figured out the quantities of the ingredients that work best for me. After optimizing the recipe, I realized that even I tend to eyeball the ingredients so the last time I made this dosa, I carefully documented all the quantities and proportions that I used. Good thing I did the future, my daughters won't complain when they ask for the recipe and I don't give them exact measure of the ingredients! I'll probably just tell them to go  look at my blog (if it still exists then!).

Anyway, of all the possibilities with this dosa that I've discussed so far, my favourite by far is Methi Dosa that I prepare by adding chopped fresh methi leaves and chopped onions into the batter. Garlic is something I only started adding recently (I make sure the taste is subtle) and that is only in the case of methi and patra dosas. Adding garlic is optional though so if you don't want it then just skip it. My husband absolutely loves the taste and texture of chopped onions in these dosas so whenever I'm making them, he will be snooping around in the kitchen to check if I'm using enough onions to suit his liking! On the rare occasion that I end up with leftover methi dosa batter, the next day I get out my ebelskiver pan, grease the indentations with a little ghee, spoon dollops of batter into it and cook on both sides until it is cooked through. I had seen my MIL doing this so I've also started doing it. It makes for a different yet tasty variation.

If you master this batter, there are so many things you can do with it that you will be spoilt for choices. Just imagine, a huge batch of this batter and breakfast will be sorted for a few days!

Now that I'm done highlighting the versatility of this dosa, here is the recipe....

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Visit to Madame Tussauds Singapore

One of the first travel posts I published on the blog detailed the various tourist attractions within Singapore. However, after that post was published, several more tourist attractions sprung up on our sunny shores which I neglected to update. But I realised that there were way too many to compile in a single post so I would do separate posts under one label. Singapore is constantly evolving so I'm sure there will be something new to explore and enjoy every year!

Madame Tussauds brings a galaxy of stars to Singapore!

Aren't we all just that little star struck? Everyone wants a piece of celebrity. But it isn't everyday that commoners can catch a sighting of the bigwigs in politics, sports & the entertainment industry. For the likes of us, Madame Tussauds has come up with a teeny tiny consolation - displaying lifelike waxworks of the celebrities that one can interact with and get up close and personal. We tend to be very cautious while visiting museums because generally it is an offence to touch any of the artifacts/objects on display. Not to mention, there are security cameras zooming in on you and guards monitoring your every move. At Madame Tussauds, you can not only cozy up to the wax figures but strike your goofiest poses alongside them for as long as you please! In addition, there are props, interactive touch screen panels & live action games to liven up your experience at the museum. 

I have been to the original Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London but that was several years ago and I only have foggy memories of it. When I heard that a branch opened in Singapore in October last year, I was eager to visit but life got in the way and I wasn't able to go until the perfect opportunity presented itself a few days ago. After holidaying in Bali, my parents decided to stop over in Singapore for 10 days. Since none of us had been to Madame Tussauds here, it was a unanimous decision to go take a peek on a balmy weekend morning. Lady luck was with us that day because the museum wasn't terribly crowded and the kids were in a sublime mood. The museum houses around 60 wax figures of well-known personalities across the globe and I was able to take several photographs (but not many full-length ones because of the relentless photobombing!). This is regrettably the generation of the selfie and as exasperating as the wax figure monopolizing can get, there is no escaping it so get in line! Anyway, fair warning - this is a photo-heavy post so I suggest you read it when you have considerable time on your hands  

Madame Tussauds Singapore begins with a short boat ride and moves on to 8 themed interactive zones. Allow me to walk you through it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Baker's Corner: Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

My baking ventures have been going rather well lately (if I do say so myself!). Last month, I baked bread bowls for a soup (featured previously) which unexpectedly turned out to be a winner. The weekend after that, I was looking to bake something else savoury and ended up making these stuffed peppers which were a bit hit too. My oven has been good to me and considering I have a few more baking experiments lined up, I hope I'm on a roll here! 

Me and my husband love bell peppers. It is one of those vegetables that has a permanent spot in my fridge. I love that it has the ability to infuse tremendous color and flavour into any dish it is added to. I use bell peppers quite extensively in my cooking. However, the only time peppers see the inside of my oven is when I incorporate them in grilled vegetable sandwiches or bruschetta. I haven't tried baking/grilling peppers under any other scenario. So, I thought why not try to bake stuffed whole bell peppers. I browsed through several recipes but didn't find the 'one', so, I developed my own recipe merging ideas from here and there. I didn't have any time to go grocery shopping so I had to make do with whatever ingredients I had on hand. Most of the recipes I saw called for quinoa or brown rice to stuff the peppers with. I didn't have quinoa so I opted for brown rice. I didn't have black beans (which are common in Mexican cooking) either so I settled on red kidney beans. I had grated parmesan cheese and a baking cheese blend consisting of cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella so I incorporated both into my dish. As for the seasoning, cajun spice is something I really like and it is a staple in my pantry. It is a spicy blend of onions, garlic, red pepper, herbs and other spices. I used a combination of cajun spice, cumin powder and red chilli powder to flavour the rice with. Fresh jalapenos would have been a great addition but I didn't have any at the time (boo!). Anyway, after I was done assembling and adorning the peppers, they went into the oven and came out looking quite striking. And more importantly, they tasted delish! I was pleasantly surprised. My husband who isn't the easiest person on the planet to impress, said that they were really good so I was on cloud nine  

I love brown rice in general and in this dish particularly, I felt that the chewy texture of the brown rice went perfectly. The blend of spices complemented each other quite well so the overall flavour was spot on. I added sweet corn kernels, red beans, more bell peppers and cilantro into the stuffing so when it went into the tricolored peppers it was uber colorful indeed. I'm no purist yet I refrained from calling this dish 'Mexican Stuffed Peppers' since I modified the dish to the available ingredients in my kitchen and to suite my taste. But authenticity aside, take my word for it when I say this version is legit.

This is a great dish for parties because you can make the stuffing and prep the bell peppers ahead of time. All you have to do then is pop the peppers into a preheated oven about 20 mins before you want to serve them. It is not only a colorful and hearty dish but it can be made healthy too (if you go easy on the cheese that is). 

Here is my recipe. I have tried to make the recipe as versatile as possible listing all the possible ingredient substitutions.

I really hope you try it out and fall in love with it just like I did!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

My Photo Gallery: Home Sweet Home

A few weeks ago, I was getting a little weary of the same routine I go through every day and picked up my camera and started shooting random things around my home. There are a few corners of my home that I kinda like (and a few that I don't....but pray why would I photograph those?!) so I designated them to be my models for the day. Photographing subjects in broad daylight isn't something I find challenging. However, I am still unable to take respectable photos indoors (especially in low-light conditions) so that is an area I am striving to improve on. My little ones happened to nap much longer than usual that particular morning so I unexpectedly got some time to myself. Later that evening as the clock chimed 5:30pm signaling that it was time to head out for our daily stroll, I thought why not take my camera with me there too. Usually I strap the twins in their double stroller and walk by the canal that is behind my home up until we reach a small park where they like to keenly observe the children playing. But since it had been drizzling/raining pretty frequently in the evenings the past few days, I resigned to taking them a few rounds within the campus of our condominium. That particular day didn't seem like we would be facing the wrath of the rain gods but it was quite warm even though the sun had gone down so I decided to stick to staying within the confines of the estate.

Previously, I had compiled a photo tour of the garden at my in-laws and parents homes so I thought why not do one on my own as well! The girls didn't mind as I clicked a few pictures here and there and they even seemed quite interested in what I was doing! Of course it isn't the same as when I have all the time in the world to leisurely shoot whatever catches my fancy so the pictures aren't anything out of the ordinary. The landscape of the property is indeed picturesque although I couldn't do it the justice it deserved. 

Anyway, since I am admittedly an amateur photographer, I decided to go ahead and include these photographs in my photo gallery collection. Maybe when the day comes when I leave Singapore for good, I can look at these pictures and fondly remember the wonderful life that I lived here ☺ 

All righty then....lets get started!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Recipe of the Month: Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I said I would be back with the Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar Soup Copycat recipe and here it is! See....I keep my word, don't I? If you read my previous recipe post on Quick and Easy Bread Bowls, you will know what I am talking about. If not, then go read it right away so that I don't have to recap 

Soups are a labour of love. They usually take time and effort to make but in the end, the satisfaction of enjoying a hot, piquant bowl of goodness makes it worthwhile. As I've mentioned before, I am partial to creamy soups - chunky or smooth. To me, they are comforting, heartwarming and therapeutic. The best way to fulfill the appetite, nourish the soul and revive the spirit.

I have used plenty of delectable adjectives to describe this particular soup in my previous post so I won't go on about how luscious and creamy and cheesy and yummy it is (oops! there I go again!). This sure is a soup but it is no diet food believe me. It has butter, cream and a ton of cheese so it is pretty heavy. And if you decide to go ahead and serve it in the bread bowls, it does fill you up even more. I was gasping for air after I was done with my soup-filled bread bowl! This is so satiating that it is more than a main course in itself. If you are planning to serve this soup as an appetizer, go easy on the portion and you could probably skip the bread bowls for a later time when you decide to serve it as a main course.

I finally have a soup recipe on my blog and I'm so glad it is this one that made the debut. I will be on the hunt for more great soup recipes to join the club  

So, what are you waiting for? Go make this soup right away! You can thank me later! hahaha

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Restaurant review: Table by Rang Mahal, Singapore

Its been ages since I posted a restaurant review. The restaurant reviews on my blog garner a decent number of hits so it is something I need to feature more often! Unfortunately, we have drastically cut down on going out to restaurants choosing take-out or home delivery as more practical and convenient alternatives. I do sorely miss going out though....sob....sob 

We recently were invited to a family dinner at Table by Rang Mahal, a relatively new restaurant set in the heart of Singapore's Central Business District. My cousin’s family lives in Singapore so we take turns inviting each other home or sometimes we head out to enjoy a meal together. My uncle and aunt had come over to Singapore for a holiday so it was a great opportunity to catch up with them as well. Table is the modest and more casual cousin of Rang Mahal. Me and my husband have been to Rang Mahal before (we love it!) but not to Table. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it and was surprised when the name propped up in a conversation on choosing the restaurant. I did a quick check on google and it looked impressive (wasn't too crazy about the name though!). So after everyone was agreeable for the venue and time, a reservation was made for a Sunday evening. 

I was a little hesitant at first about taking my little ones. They do tend to get a little cranky as the evening progresses and one of my girls especially hates being strapped in the car seat. Lately, her most favourite thing to do in the world is to stand up (which she tries to do even in her sleep) so she shows contempt towards anything that prevents her from doing so! I didn't know how they would handle a double whammy! It took some reassuring from my husband to stop being a worry wart and take them along.  

Table is located in the state-of-the-art luxury boutique hotel Naumi. We couldn't locate the parking lot so ended up parking two blocks away. The Naumi hotel has a modern and sophisticated facade. The first thought that popped into my mind was - great place for a staycation!

On entering the hotel, the restaurant has been designed right at where the lobby is usually located. It is spacious with a contemporary and chic decor befitting the offshoot of Indian fine dining stalwart Rang Mahal. The interiors has an open dining room concept. Shades of white, amber and grey give the space an inviting look and the numerous gleaming mirrors adorning the walls amplify the light and make the space look larger.

The swanky bar counter

The food menu is not extensive but features most of the crowd-pleasers that you would expect at any Indian restaurant. There is an assortment of Chaats, Kulzaas, Kebabs, Curries, Rice, Indian bread and Desserts. Also, there is a mix of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. The description of the dishes was quite lacklustre. I was thinking that I could do a way better job!

We ordered at least two portions of most of the dishes so there was enough to go around. Here is a line-up of the dishes that we ordered,