Monday, December 29, 2014

Product Review: Instant Mixes from "Oota Tindi"

This is a post that I take great pride in writing. Right off the bat, let me make it plainly known that nobody requested me to write this post so I'm not going to brand it as an advertorial. This is just me voluntarily spreading the word about a group of Bangalore-based entrepreneurs who have kick-started this brand new venture called "Oota Tindi" that offers premium quality tasty processed food. 

Oota Tindi (which literally translates to Lunch-Breakfast in Kannada) strives to provide good food using ingredients that are consistently of superior quality without the addition of preservatives. Now you might be wondering how I can vouch for the authenticity of the above statement. Believe me, I can....because the culinary expert who has spearheaded this venture is none other than my maternal uncle who has over a decade of experience in the food industry. My uncle together with his daughter (my cousin) and her husband have joined forces to create products products that have been tastefully crafted to bring out the flavours and taste that your palate will fall in love with. In an era where ready-to-eat food and instant mixes are gaining widespread popularity owing to the lifestyle changes of today's generation, I think it is easy to lose track of the quality control and hygiene standards behind the manufacturing of such products. That is where Oota Tindi scores big because all the ingredients have been carefully sourced and the mixes are created and packaged under the most sanitary of conditions. 

Speaking of my uncle, I have actually mentioned him before in one of my previous post's chronicling my love for Masala Dosa and I have also acknowledged my cousin in a post that I did about Ukkarisida Akki Rotti. My uncle who has a penchant for perfection, is undoubtedly the best cook in our family and we all routinely bombard him with recipe-related queries. His proficiency in cooking is one of the reasons that people are drawn to his residence like a swarm of bees. Badam Burfi, Kaju Burfi, Dry Fruit Burfi, Mysore Pak, Basundi, Masala Dosa, Vada, Sambhar, Rava Idli, Bisibele Bath, Biriyani are some of his specialities that immediately come to mind. In the past, when he was actively engaged in the restaurant business, me and my cousins hardly used to eat at home, preferring to have all our meals at his restaurant! That is how good it was and that is how creative and talented he still continues to be in the culinary department  Once I heard that he was re-entering the food industry, I was thrilled for him and I knew that whatever he would do, he would do it with utmost honesty, sincerity and ethics. That is the reason why I readily posted a review for this venture without a second thought and without even being asked to. You can trust that the opinions in this post are completely unbiased.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Embracing motherhood....




Double the trouble, double the fun,
Our life with twins, has just begun!

So, the title and picture says it all doesn't it?! It gives me so much joy to finally announce to the world that I am mom to two beautiful fraternal twin girls! We were graced with this double blessing on 10th Nov 2014. Our precious angels, who we have named Anvitha and Navitha arrived exactly at 36 weeks measuring 47cm and weighing in at 2.1 and 2.0 kg respectively. 

I am recovering from (what I knew would be) an arduous hospital stay and looking forward to spending time with my little ones and settling into my new role as mommy. So, if you don't hear from me in a while, you will know the reason why! Despite being on the roller coaster ride that comes with a twin pregnancy and working full-time until well into my 8th month, I tried my best to keep my blog running these past few months. The temptation to take a break was overwhelming but I knew that a lull in posting new content would be inevitable once the babies arrived so I made up my mind to not neglect my blog (which in a lot of ways will always be my first baby )

There are a lot of people whom I'd like to express my heartfelt appreciation - the brilliant team of doctors and nurses at NUH who took such excellent care of me from start to end, my dear colleagues and boss for being so supportive and looking out for me each day that I was at work, my friends in Singapore for taking care of me during the tail-end of my first trimester while my husband was away in India, all those near and dear ones who sent me home cooked food, family and friends who graced my baby shower and lavished us with generous gifts, loved ones who visited me and the girls after the delivery and last but not least, my dearest mum for tending to my every whim and fancy during the last few weeks of my pregnancy and who continues to help me everyday. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who called/texted/e-mailed/visited me to check on how I was doing and praying for the well-being of my "peanuts" (that is what I called them from the minute I got the first glimpse of them on my first sonogram!). It is courtesy of your good wishes and blessings that the three of us made it through without a hitch despite mine being an extremely high-risk pregnancy from the start. I am eternally grateful to each and every one of you and I am touched by the genuine outpouring of love and warmth from all corners. 

I'm signing off now. I sincerely hope to make some time to blog once in a while and also give updates on how my girls are doing. So stay tuned and do keep visiting!


Cheers,



Disclaimer: The images in the title picture were obtained from Google images and have been used solely for illustrative purposes. 


Monday, November 3, 2014

Recipe of the month: Chitranna Shavige


Yes I know....I haven't been blogging as frequently as I usually do *sighs* but sometimes it is simply inevitable and I just brush aside the guilt and get on with my life! This is a post I had been saving for a rainy day. Sometimes, due to time constraints or prior commitments,  I find myself unable to post new content and those are the times that I frantically scour through my drafts folder for posts like these

If you have been following my blog, you would probably remember that the last time I was holidaying in India, my atthe (MIL) had prepared Otthu Shavige/Semige (hand pressed rice noodles) for my blog. Preparing homemade shavige is a cumbersome procedure so whenever this task is undertaken, a gargantuan batch of shavige is prepared so that everyone gets almost a week's worth of it and thus, don't feel the need to demand it again for quite sometime! 

One of the popular makeovers of plain shavige is chitranna shavige, a simple preparation of shavige tossed with tempering, onions, chillies, lemon juice, curry leaves and nuts thrown in for crunch. Another one would be shavige oggarane which is shavige tossed with tempering and a coarse mixture of fresh coconut, mustard seeds and dry red chillies. The process of making chitranna shavige is exactly like the ubiquitous chitranna aka lemon rice, the only difference being that instead of cooked rice, we use prepared shavige....quite obvious no? This dish (which has also been prepared by my atthe), is really simple and you can get it ready on the table within 20 mins. It is light and flavourful and reheating it in a microwave makes it taste as good as freshly made so it makes for an ideal dish to pack in the lunch box too. 

Here is the recipe. This is how my atthe and my mom make it at home. Try it and you will be pleasantly surprised by how much this simple dish has to offer! 



I

Monday, October 13, 2014

Recipe of the month: Vegetable Pulao


It's time for a recipe that is very close to my heart. This is a recipe for Vegetable Pulao that I have been making for the past 6-7 years. Every single time I make Pulao at home, it is this recipe that I turn to, so in a way, it is my go-to recipe. I've made it on countless occasions when I've had guests at home and I very frequently get asked the recipe Since it works so well for me, I haven't changed a thing and have continued to make it the same way over the years. Why mess with a good thing no? 

This recipe does have some history attached to it. Immediately after I got married, I was a housewife for a while. I had just graduated from dental school and I was quite frankly quite fed up with studying and working. Since I was always highly enthusiastic about cooking, I used that short phase of my life to learn all the basic recipes that my mum and MIL had perfected over the years. One among them was this recipe for Vegetable Pulao. This is my MIL's recipe and it is one of her signature dishes. My husband was very eager that I learn this recipe from her and he used to frequently bug me about it. I did eventually learn it but the first few times I made it, the feedback I would always get is that - "its good but it tastes a bit different from mum's". I had no idea what I was doing differently. My MIL uses a mixture of two different pulao masalas for this recipe. One from Everest and one from MTR. This combination, gives it a distinct flavour that you do not get if you just stick to one masala. She also uses fried bread cubes as a kind of garnish which gives it a different twist and something my hubby really loves. I guess the saying 'Practice Makes Perfect' is true because as I continued to strive to get it right and eventually succeeded to get it to taste like her version (don't ask me how though coz I have no idea...hahaha).  


I use an equal proportion of basmati rice and regular rice i.e. sona masoori in this recipe. There are certain kinds of rice dishes that I make for which I use an equal ratio of these two varieties of rice. I just like it better that way. But then again, there are other kinds of rice dishes where I exclusively stick to either basmati rice or regular rice. You can use whatever rice you like but be mindful that the quantity of cooking liquid would change (more details on that as you read on). 

Here is the recipe. It is slightly labour intensive but the good thing with any pulao is that it is a one pot meal and all you need is a simple raita and some crunchy element on the side and your meal is ready!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Restaurant review: Dinner Buffet at Cafe Mosaic @ The Carlton, Singapore

Cafe Mosaic is a contemporary cafe located at level 1 of the elegant Carlton Hotel in Singapore. This restaurant is touted as a place where Asian and Western culinary favourites are brought together to give diners a taste of what the best of Singapore has to offer. From their menu, Cafe Mosaic presents a kaleidoscope of culinary choices in their buffet as well as on their à la carte menu.

I became aware of the buffet at Cafe Mosaic only after my boss asked for suggestions for a dinner venue to treat all of us to celebrate her being granted tenure at my University. A few of my colleagues had been to the buffet and so it was highly recommended. The 1-for-1 buffet promotion for Citibank, DBS/POSB and UOB Cardmembers was another compelling reason to pick this restaurant for the venue. We made a reservation on a Friday evening for 16 people which was handled efficiently so after work, we all headed in a big herd towards Carlton Hotel.

The hotel is beautiful and has an air of sophistication. Since we reached the hotel before 6:30pm, we waited for a while in the waiting area of the main lobby until the restaurant opened for service. BTW, the restrooms are located just outside the restaurant and they are super clean



The restaurant is a decent size and is somewhat compartmentalized. The decor is pleasing and the lighting is ample. We caught a glimpse of the spread as we made our way towards our table and it looked impressive indeed! 


I

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Baker's Corner: Mixed Vegetable Pizza with Roasted Garlic White Sauce


Today was a really nice day. Apart from being a weekend, it was one of those days that me and hubby decided to make pizza from scratch at home. We don't cook together very often (either I take over completely or he does) so its kinda fun when we become kitchen collaborators. To be fair to him, he did 80% of the work with me only chipping in between....hehehe. Whenever we make pizza at home, we take our own sweet time and the whole process from start to finish can take up a considerable chunk of the morning. It doesn't really feel like a chore but a fun kind of art project! (the cleaning up is however a different story altogether!). We decided to make two different pizzas today - one Margherita Pizza with Marinara Sauce and the other, a Mixed Vegetable Pizza with a Roasted Garlic White Sauce. We came up with the latter pizza as a contrast to the regular pizza that we make all the time which has the same ol' tomato-based sauce.

We previously tried making a pizza sauce using mayonnaise (inspired from a 'cool lime mayonnaise' sauce on a pizza at Pizza Hut) but I didn't like it because I don't really like mayonnaise in general. I don't mind it in really small quantities in sandwiches, burgers, wraps and stuff but a heavy hit of mayo is not my thing. My husband began searching for an alternate white sauce and found Emeril Lagasse's Roasted Garlic White Sauce which looked really appealing. The Marinara Sauce that we make for the Margherita Pizza is also adapted from Emeril's recipe so we have a tendency to trust any recipe of his. It is a really simple recipe but takes some time to make only because you need to roast a whole bulb of garlic in the oven. But the resultant sauce is smooth, thick, spreadable and has great flavour so I think it is totally worth the extra time. 


We chose a bunch of random toppings like bell peppers, mushrooms, red onions and pineapple chunks but you can customize your toppings depending on what you like. You could throw in some sweet corn kernels,  baby corn, olives, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, fresh mango, a choice of greens....basically whatever you like. The pizza tasted really great and I'm pretty sure it will feature as a regular in our household from now on. The crust turned out a little thicker than what we expected so rolling the dough out to a larger size is what we should have done to get it absolutely perfect. Oh well! There is always a next time to improvise :)



I'm going to skedaddle out of here now. Check out this recipe, try it and let me know if you like it!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Recipe of the month: Quesadillas with homemade Salsa and Guacamole


I haven't been cooking much lately (yeah that statement sounds strange to me even as I type!). I've kind of somewhat lost my cooking mojo! But it is just a passing phase so I'm not too flustered by it. I still do find the interest to bake occasionally but the cooking bug has crawled aside for the time being. I had plenty of draft posts ready that I had the good sense of creating during my cooking highs so that has really been my saving grace...hehehe. I think the last blogworthy dish that I cooked was the Dabeli which was way back in April (I posted it on the blog only much later). After that....zero....zilch....nada!

Anyway, ever since my husband (I call him 'A' remember?) contributed his Margherita Pizza as a guest post to my blog last year, I have been bugging him to feature another one of his recipes. There are lots of dishes that he exclusively churns out in our kitchen that I really REALLY like such as Quesadillas with Salsa and Guacamole, Jalapeño Poppers, Thai Green Curry, Mushroom and Pea Risotto, Penne in a Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce, Papdi Chaat, Paneer Butter Masala, Egg Biryani and so on. He makes these signature dishes for me usually over the weekend - on a leisurely Friday or Saturday weekend. While he is hard at work chopping, dicing, sauteing and serving, I'll be propped on the sofa watching some lame show on tv (and not helping one bit!). Yeah....I so look forward to those weekends!

I've already chronicled our love for Mexican food in the past so I'm not going to go there today. I like salsa but it is the guacamole that really does it for me. I can polish off a large bowl of guacamole all by myself....a bagful of tortilla chips and I am good to go! We have chips and dip at home quite frequently but occasionally hubby also makes Quesadillas to go along with it. I acquired the taste for Quesadillas from Blooie's Roadhouse, an American pub/restaurant on Upper Bukit Timah Road that was walking distance away from our previous rented condo. We used to go there ALL the time and we would always order the Quesadillas and Jalapeno Poppers without fail. When it comes to Quesadillas, I like them simple. I know of people stuffing them with refried beans, mushrooms, avocado, bell peppers, olives, tomatoes, ground spices, herbs and other stuff but I just like them to have grated cheese and nothing else. That's how it is done in Blooie's and that is how it is made in my home as well.

So, here is my husband's recipe for Quesadillas with homemade Salsa and Guacamole. I am responsible for the photos in this post this time round and I feel they didn't do any justice to his dish (boo!). But I can vouch for the flavour so you will have to believe me that it is good!

'A' will be taking over now.....bye y'all!

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Hello again readers! I am back on this space after a gap of around 1 year. As I've mentioned before, cooking is something I enjoy....writing not so much. That may be the reason why even though this photographs and recipe for this dish were ready months ago but it is being published much later. I had a few dishes in mind that I was considering to feature as part of my next guest post and among them, Quesadillas with Salsa and Guacamole was one of them. This is a dish that I make frequently at home and it something that both me and my wife enjoy immensely.

My introduction to Mexican food began way back in India but it was only truly during my stint in the US when I truly began to get further acquainted with this marvellous cuisine. On a brief visit to Mexico in 2008, I was able to appreciate the freshness of the ingredients, bold flavours and colorful presentation of several popular Mexican dishes. In particular, authentically made Salsa and Guacamole were two dishes that left me with a yearning to recreate them at home.

Making Salsa and Guacamole at home is pretty easy. It is just a matter of gathering the ingredients and chucking them into a bowl. Quesadillas don't even take that much time or effort especially if you are using store-bought tortillas (a 10-year old could do it). Sounds good doesn't it? Rest assured that this entire dish can come together in under an hour. Serve it to your family or while entertaining friends at dinner parties and it is sure to be a big hit.

So please go ahead and check out the recipe....



I

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Restaurant review: Mai Thai @ Chip Bee Gardens, Singapore


Me and my girlie gang spasmodically go out for dinner on birthday celebrations but since the past few months we've all been so preoccupied that our outings kept getting postponed until we realized that there were not one but THREE birthdays that were pending celebration. Not wanting to push it any further, we finally settled on a date where all of us were available (no mean feat that was!). The date being finalized, the next tricky bit was to pick the cuisine and restaurant. One of the birthday girls, expressed her inclination for Thai food and since all of us happen to be Thai cuisine enthusiasts, the choice was unanimous. Even though Singapore has many Thai restaurants, none of us had an absolute favourite so it required a little bit of brainstorming before we arrived at Mai Thai at Chip Bee Gardens, Holland Village. 

Established in July 2009, Mai Thai Restaurant is a casual fine dining restaurant with both indoor and alfresco seating, offering authentic Thai cuisine and warm hospitality in the rustic Chip Bee Gardens just opposite Holland Village. The location was super convenient for us because of its proximity to our workplace. We made a reservation in advance for 8 people, something I would recommend especially on a busy Friday evening. 

On arrival, we found that our reservation was in someone else's name so there was a little bit of a muddle before we were shown to our table. The restaurant isn't very big but the interiors are pleasing to the eye with subtle Thai influences. The largely white decor is interspersed with Thai-inspired art work, statues, rustic table setting and warm lighting. 


The restaurant seemed short of staff so it took a while before we got the menu. Talking about the variety of food, the menu of the restaurant is very impressive. It has an array of dishes in categories ranging from appetizers to salads, soups, rice, noodles, side dishes, drinks and desserts. What's more is that there are certain dishes that come in a large serving that is suitable for sharing and there are vegetarian versions of several popular dishes. 



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Baker's Corner: Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting


So, I'll try not to get into an elaborate introduction to this post. All I'm going to say is that these are possibly the best cupcakes I have ever made (like seriously). I've baked vanilla, chocolate and red velvet cupcakes in the past but these babies beat all the others by a mile! For a while now, I've been exceedingly conscious of the fact that my blog has not yet featured a cupcake recipe and even though I've baked cupcakes on a few occasions in the past, I did not deem any of them worthy enough to deserve a place here.

Anyhoo, I came across this particular recipe while I was browsing through the Foodgawker gallery for a tried and tested, fail-proof cupcake recipe. We were invited to a barbeque at a friends place over the weekend and I had offered to bring in dessert. The funny thing is for the past several months, I've completely stopped making desserts (ever since I embarked on a no-sugar diet - another temporary thing that I have going on!) so in order to skip the temptation, I have been avoiding going anywhere near or even thinking about the sweet stuff. I decided to make an exception just this one time so I went full-steam ahead with my baking plans



This recipe yields cupcakes that are moist and have great flavour. The moistness of this cake comes from three ingredients - the brown sugar, oil and yoghurt. I absolutely love to use brown sugar while baking and Greek yoghurt is something that I always have in my fridge (I dig the stuff) so this recipe appealed to me all the more. The addition of carrots by no means makes this dessert 'healthy' so don't kid yourself but it has that heady 'spiced' flavour that is unique to a carrot cake. I made a critical mistake in the frosting in that I used melted butter instead of just softened butter and that led to the frosting being too runny. I managed to salvage it by adding more confectioner's sugar but that could have been easily avoided if I had paid more close attention to the recipe. So please don't be like me okay? Moving on, in order to makes the cupcakes look pretty, I made the effort to pipe the frosting as opposed to just lazily slathering it on like I usually do. The frosting held its shape reasonably well so I was satisfied in the end.


I'd like to thank my gang of BFFs for gifting me the gorgeous plates that you see in this post. You girls are the best! Okay so that is me done babbling. Go on now....make these yummy cupcakes and make a bunch of people real happy!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

TV Series Review: Breaking Bad

Image Source: http://www.9to5hdwallpapers.com/
For a long time, me and hubby have been singling out an American TV series and watching all seasons of it. This binge watching not only makes for entertaining tv viewing but is also a great conversation medium and something to look forward to after a long day at work. We have amassed a huge DVD collection at home of movies and tv shows which keeps growing! We've watched several shows over the years - F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Everybody Loves Raymond, Two and a Half Men (the one with Charlie Sheen), According to Jim, How I Met Your Mother, Seinfeld, Desperate Housewives, Lost and so on. Right now we are switching between The Cosby Show, Different Strokes and Moonlighting. One of the series that we finished watching a few weeks ago is the critically-acclaimed Breaking Bad, the final season of which concluded on television last year. I thought why limit myself to writing only movie reviews....from now onwards, I'll include tv series reviews too

Breaking bad is an American crime drama television series starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, RJ Mitte, Betsy Brandt and Dean Norris in main roles. It is a ground-breaking series that explores the human psyche by showcasing the dark metamorphosis of a man's personality when confronted with adversity. Featured as one of the top-rated tv shows, Breaking Bad is widely regarded as the greatest television show in American cable tv history. It also has the distinction of entering the Guinness Book of World Records for being the highest rated show of all time. The show received numerous awards, including ten Primetime Emmy Awards, eight Satellite Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and a People's Choice Award.

Set in the arid backdrop of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Breaking Bad chronicles the life of unassuming high school chemistry teacher Walter White and his junkie dropout former student Jesse Pinkman who are sucked into the dark world of the cartel, crime and crystal meth. How this all comes about is a roller coaster ride that will leave the viewer dumbstruck.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Recipe of the month: Masala Vada

Wishing all my readers a very happy Krishna Janmashtami 2014!

So, my parents were in town last month for a fleeting visit and I was preoccupied with them the whole time. As might be expected, I haven't had much time to devote to my blog. I didn't take time off work during their visit so every minute after I got back home in the evenings were extremely precious. I did take a day off and there was a public holiday for Eid and of course the weekends but you know how it is with time...it just flies when you are having a good time

As with most mothers, my mom too fusses over what to cook for her kids when they are around. I have a list of favourite dishes that I always ask her to cook for me whether I'm back home in India or she is here in Singapore. This time was no different and I was rattling off different items that I wanted her to prepare each day of the week. Among those dishes, this Masala Vada was one of them. This recipe is actually from one of my best friends mom. Once, a long long time ago, when I had been to her house (which is only two streets away from my home in Mysore), her mom had made these vadas which I really took a liking to. I immediately asked my friend for the recipe and my mom has been making them for me ever since. 

There is something about deep-fried snacks that leaves you yearning for more. These vadas have great flavour which come from the onions, ginger, garlic, chillies and medley of fresh herbs. I just love the herb dill (sabsige soppu in kannada) so these vadas hold extra appeal for me. These vadas are pretty easy to make too. While the chana dal is soaking, you can get all the other prep work done. Grinding the dal without water can be a little cumbersome but if you have a good blender/grinder, it can be a cinch. 

Try this recipe and it may just become your new favourite snack! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Staycation at Hotel Fort Canning, Singapore



What do you do when you are longing for a getaway but thanks to some reason or the other, your plans don't materialize? Well, you do the next best thing....you plan a staycation! A staycation, simply put, is a vacation in the place where you stay. It might sound a bit lame but trust me, a break is a break no matter where you go, passport or no passport. Just breaking away from the monotony of a routine is enough to get you recharged and rejuvenated. Apparently, staycations are very popular with Singaporeans and I think I'm beginning to understand why! 

For National day, we had a holiday on a Monday making it a much anticipated long weekend. Having not made any other plans, we decided on the spur of the moment on a staycation in Singapore. Since it was quite last minute, most places were already booked (including Resorts World Sentosa which would have been my first choice). For a couple who plans their vacations a great deal ahead of time and in painstaking detail, this was very unusual for us! After spending considerable time browsing Tripadvisor, we settled on Hotel Fort Canning for our sojourn. 

Hotel Fort Canning

Hotel Fort Canning is an iconic heritage hotel in Singapore nestled in the historical Fort Canning Park, a lovely and tranquil wedge of lush greenery located in the midst of the buzzing central business district. The history of this hotel dates back to the 20th century and is the result of the restoration of a former British Military Administration Building. The amazing location imparts an oasis of calm to this charming colonial style hotel. 





I

Monday, July 14, 2014

Baker's Corner: Cheesy Garlic Herb Whole Wheat Loaf

So I'm currently in a healthy eating phase (I go through these phases a few times a year!). For me that means eating a lot more whole grains, low-fat dairy, greens, nuts, fresh vegetables and fruits. Normally, I shun the brown stuff in favour of the white (with the exception of brown rice which I really like). I'm not a huge fan of brown bread or brown pasta but nowadays I make it a point to preferably opt for multigrain or at least whole wheat products. I really hope this fad will become more of a permanent thing! 

Bread is something that is found in my fridge 24x7, 365 days. For the past few months, I've been having breakfast at home which is unusual for me because usually I get myself a steamed vegetable pau and a portion of pink dragon fruit from the canteen at my workplace everyday. My breakfast has now become quite a standard affair comprising of a grilled cheese sandwich made with multigrain bread and low-fat organic sharp cheddar, a handful of fresh strawberries and a glass of low-fat skimmed milk. There is a local bakery near my place which makes really good multigrain bread which I really dig so I get the bread for my breakfast from there. I've resorted to eating my regular pau and fruit as a mid-day snack instead. It helps me considerably with portion control during lunch

Anyway, I have been contemplating baking a loaf of bread at home for quite sometime but I never got around to doing it. I recently saw a version of Cheesy Garlic Herb Pull-Apart Bread on Foodgawker and I was tempted to try it out. I made a few modifications to the original recipe by substituting bread flour with 100% whole wheat flour and whole milk with skimmed milk. I also modified the technique to make it more like a regular loaf rather than a pull-apart bread. My intention was to be able to slice the loaf into uniform slices so I could use it for my grilled cheese sandwich. I've provided the description for both techniques so you could follow whichever you prefer. 



Here is the recipe. Go on....bake your own loaf of bread at home. It's super fun I assure you!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Recipe of the month: Mixed Vegetable Stew

There are recipes and then there are recipes that stick with you for life. My policy has always been to feature only those recipes on my blog that I deem worthy enough for sharing. There are of course dishes on my blog that I've made only once despite being good. This could be attributed to a laborious procedure, lack of ingredients or sometimes even plain forgetfulness! I do have a select few recipes that are my go-to recipes and these are recipes that I have depended on time and again to get me through dinner parties, potlucks or even routine meals at home. As and when I come across an awesome and fool-proof recipe, I prudently add it to my treasure trove of favourite recipes. One of my dear friends gifted me a lovely recipe journal last Christmas and I have just started filling it up. I have a very stringent selection criteria for which recipes go into it because my vision is to preserve this precious journal for posterity

This mixed vegetable stew (also known as mixed vegetable kurma) is one recipe that will go into my journal for sure. This was a recipe that I had jotted down eons ago in a flimsy notepad. I have made it several times over the years and I can honestly say that it works for me every time. I make it for appam, neer dosa, rava dosa, ragi dosa, poori and even for rotis. It does involve some prep work (considering it has quite a few veggies in it) but the outcome is worth all the effort. The aromatic whole spices perfume the stew, the addition of almonds imparts a richness and the coconut milk adds that dash of sweetness. The vegetables aren't overpowered by the subtle gravy and they retain their natural flavour, remaining tender yet crisp in texture. The addition of turmeric gives that subtle yellow colour but if you don't want to infuse colour into the stew, you can skip the turmeric. 

I prepared this dish while I was in my in-laws home in Bangalore during my last visit to India this February. I had made this dish for them while they were visiting me in Singapore last year and they had liked it (I think!). A few other people for whom I have made this dish had also been asking me for the recipe so I thought I would draft a post and keep it ready. My atthe (MIL) had made neer dosa for breakfast that morning and this delicately flavoured stew made a perfect accompaniment to the dosa. I finished the cooking, photography, structuring the post and formatting within a record 2 hours. I find photographing for my blog so much easier in India. With an expansive garden and terrace, I don't find any issues with space or natural lighting like how I do in a cramped apartment setting while I am in Singapore. Oh well! 

Anyway, here is the recipe. Try it and I promise you that you will like it! I don't have the step-by-step photos for this recipe but the steps are easy to follow so you wouldn't miss it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Baker's Corner: Hasselback Potatoes


Okay spud lovers....listen up coz boy do I have a treat for you! Tired of the same old french fries, wedges, mashed potatoes or foil-baked potatoes? Fear not, for the Swedish have come up with this unique and impressive way of turning the humble spud into something quite fancy. I had seen this recipe a long time ago and not wanting to forget about it, I had pinned it onto my must-try recipe board on Pinterest. It was the way it looked that appealed to me instantly!

Hasselback potatoes are rather like sautéed potatoes on the stem: each one is cut into thin slices across and almost right through but not quite, and then roasted in buttery oil; as they cook, the potatoes fan out, like slightly fleshy crisps with their bottoms still attached. These potatoes have the crispy edges of your favorite french fries, but with middles as creamy as mashed potatoes. How cool is that? Not to mention that they have the advantage of being, essentially, wholesome baked potatoes in clever disguise. To be honest, they take slightly more time and effort than your average foil-wrapped baked potato but they come out looking so pretty that it’ll make everything worthwhile. As the potatoes bake, the slices fan out slightly for a show-stopping presentation. Serve it as a side dish at a dinner party and you will be sure to wow your guests!



You can flavour these potatoes in a number of ways. You can use garlic, chilli flakes, other spice powders like cajun or paprika, dried Italian herbs and grated cheese. You can serve them just the gorgeous way they come out of the oven or dress them up with some sour cream and chives. Whatever makeover you give them, they will be sure to taste great!

Go on then....try this way of serving potatoes and you will be glad you did 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book review: The Palace of Illusions


The Palace of Illusions is a novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni which tells the story of the Mahabharata from Draupadi's perspective. It is an insightful and enthralling account of the events that occurred during the end of the Dvapar Yug or Third Age of Man that she initiated which eventually lead to the terrible Kurukshetra battle. 

I've been fascinated with Hindu mythology ever since I was a child. Among my early childhood books were simplified versions of the Ramayana, Mahabharatha and tales of Krishna. Reading these books transported me into a magical world - a world completely alien to me where kings, queens, warriors, sages, reincarnation, boons and curses existed. A captivating realm where there was intermingling of gods, demons and men. The tales were rich, colorful and rife with grandeur, bravery, devotion, loyalty, righteousness, but also deceit, jealousy, humiliation and death. I would often spend hours, gazing at the beautiful illustrations, often tracing them in my colouring book, memorising complicated names of the characters and quizzing myself on them. I remember quite vividly the time I participated in a competition on the Mahabharatha in school and won a prize. It was something that I was extremely proud of. Back then, you could ask me absolutely anything about the epic and I would answer it correctly without batting an eyelid. To add to my burning thirst for the epics, I watched numerous mythological movies and weekend soaps on television. Even now, the world of mythology has a firm hold over me and I would never pass up an opportunity to revive those fading memories.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Women's fashion: Tops for Women from Zalora

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Okay ladies....this should perk up your attention for sure! Let's face it....whether you are a shopaholic or fashionista or not, you have to admit that it is bloody hard to resist the allure of a good deal when it comes to clothes. I know I can't! I completely succumb to the oldest stereotypes on the planet that (most) women love to shop!

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of women in this world - women who love fashion, know exactly what they want and find shopping a joy and then there are those who can be clueless as to what to wear and find picking out clothes from their closet a colossal challenge. I identify with both types because I've been through both those stages at different phases of my life. If you belong to the former category then good for you....you go girl! If you belong to the latter category, then you can check out one of my previous blog posts titled Fashion 101 which chronicles tips regarding women's tops and dress styles to suit different body types.

Moving on to the focus of this post - it is all about online shopping with regard to women's fashion which is an emerging trend and fast becoming the mantra of women of all ages today. Once upon a time, women spent their weekend afternoons in a large, posh, air conditioned structure called a shopping mall. “The mall” was a place where women would pass by scores of brightly lit, dazzling stores to either “window shop” or go into a particular store to try on clothing, buy the items in person and actually take them home the same day. In the past, the shopping mall was the most efficient way to locate a variety of products in the same space, until e-commerce was introduced and the Internet revolutionised itself into a digital mall – quick, simple, convenient and effective.

Zalora is one of Asia’s leading online shopping destinations. Many of my local friends in Singapore have purchased from Zalora (and have vouched for their authenticity) so the name was very familiar to me. They have an impressive array of merchandise for both women and men. The women’s section offers shoes, bags, beauty products, accessories, pants and leggings, dresses, tops, skirts. They also have  an extensive range of international and local brands and designers such as Dr Martens Boots, Mango for Women, Men Herschel Bags, Men Nike, New Look, Longchamp Bags, Aldo Shoes or Kate Spade Bags. The men’s section has t-shirts, shirts, shorts, pants, shoes, accessories, bags and grooming products. Just imagine, all these goodies literally at your fingertips! If that doesn't translate into convenience then I don't know what does!

Today, I specifically want to draw attention to Zalora’s range of Tops for womenThere are a number of different brands and styles to choose from. I've poured through their online catalogue and I've found their tops to be not only affordable but they also trendy and appear comfortable. Depending on the cut, style and fabric, they have tops for both casual as well as formal occasions. If you swear by neutrals or prefer bold colors or have a penchant for prints....there is something to cater to every woman's sartorial sensibility. I loved their peplum style tops, tunics, wrap hem top and chiffon blouses in particular. I personally have my eye on a few and will be buying from them soon enough! (but more updates on that later).

What do you think? Cute right?




Anyway, to be completely honest, I used to be a bit weary of online shopping primarily because of the the sizing of clothes. “What if it doesn’t fit?” was the one and only concern that stopped me in my tracks from clicking on the mouse and placing an order from the comfort of my home. I would often notice my friends and colleagues indulging in online shopping and I kept thinking that I should try it once. As much as I love frequenting shopping malls, sometimes trawling through store after store to find that perfect fashion item can be a drag. With Zalora’s collection of tops, you have a variety of sizes (depending on the item) ranging from XS, S, M, L and XL. If this kind of sizing befuddles you (like it does to me sometimes), you have the International sizing guidelines - UK, EU, US and AUS to make it easier. If you are still confused, you have the size chart to help you out. Furthermore, you also have the option of choosing other colors, obtaining information on the care for the clothes and reading reviews (if available). Their website is well designed and very user friendly so maneuvering through it should be a breeze.



So, if you are considering online shopping or are already a pro at it, check out Zalora's collection of tops. You might just find that next can't-do-without fashion item that may go on to become a treasured piece in your precious closet

Happy shopping ladies!


Disclaimer: I received a gift voucher from Zalora as a token of their appreciation. All views and opinions expressed in this post are purely my own 


Cheers,


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Recipe of the month: Dabeli



Dabeli is a very popular street food snack which originated in the Kutch region of Gujarat. It is also called as Kutchi Dabeli or Kachchhi Dabeli. It is popular throughout Gujarat, Maharashtra, parts of Rajasthan and several metropolitan cities across India. Basically, Dabeli is a spiced potato & pomegranate sandwich. I am obsessed with potatoes so if I come across any recipe that makes use potatoes, it immediately catches my attention! 

Now this is a recipe I never thought would feature on my blog. Why, you ask? Well, considering I had only a foggy idea of what Dabeli was and had never even tasted it before, it seemed an unlikely recipe candidate. This recipe was suggested to me by my sister-in-law who is somewhat of a gastronomic goddess As soon as she mentioned Dabeli, it did ring a bell somewhere. I envisioned something that looked like vada pav (Indian burger) but I wasn't quite sure. A quick search on google made the picture clearer....it did indeed look like a fancy, decked-up vada pav. She asked me if we get the ready-made spiced powder (called dabeli masala) in Singapore. I had no idea since until then, I had never gone looking for such an ingredient. After a few days of that conversation, I was shopping in Musthafa in Little India and I happened to pass by an aisle of masala powders. I wasn't particularly paying any attention to it but something caught my eye. I stopped and did a double take. Sitting prettily on the shelf was a clearly labelled packet of dabeli masala. Even though at that point in time I had not done any recipe search for Dabeli and neither did I have any immediate plans of trying it out at home, I picked up the dabeli masala. I made sure to buy a pomegranate and two packets of pav (Indian version of burger buns). I ardently hoped that I would have the rest of the ingredients at home (which I did....thank goodness for that!). 

Here is the recipe which I have adapted from a cookbook. I must admit I took a few short cuts by using ready made dabeli masala and date-tamarind chutney. But I have provided the recipe for both these two items in case you would like to prepare it yourself. After I prepared the potato filling, the green mint chutney, the spicy chilli garlic chutney, slightly diluted the store bought date-tamarind chutney, roasted the pav until golden and arranged the garnish ingredients in bowls, I started carefully assembling the sandwiches. Me and hubby thoroughly enjoyed the delicious dabeli with its balanced flavour profile and interesting textural elements. The soft buns with the spiced potato filling smothered in a medley of sweet tangy, spicy minty and fiery garlic sauces, garnished with crunchy peanuts, sev and finally the juicy sweet bursts from the pomegranate seeds....what can I say except it is a raging party in your mouth!

This post is dedicated to my lovely sister-in-law Reshma. I hope I was able to do justice to her suggestion  If this dish is new to you, I would recommend making it as a snack on a rainy day with a steaming cup of masala chai (tea) or eventually as a main course for a pot-luck party, especially if it is chaat-based theme. It will be a guaranteed hit!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Baker's Corner: Chocolate Raspberry Marshmallow Bars. A guest post for The Big Sweet Tooth

I am super stoked (and a tad nervous) about this post. I can proudly say that on my blog, it is the first of its kind. Presenting to you my first guest post on The Big Sweet Tooth

I've always wanted to do a guest post on another blog but I wasn't sure how to go about it. Do I wait until someone asked me or do I put myself out there? To me, such an invitation isn't much different to being invited to someone’s house. A blogger invites you into their virtual home out of regard and trust which is a pretty wonderful gesture. I don't know many food bloggers on a personal level and being an extremely lazy blog reader, I have only begun interacting with fellow bloggers within the blogosphere off late. I saw Rafeeda’s guest post a few months ago on a blog that I follow and after taking a peek at her lovely space, I saw how welcoming she was towards other bloggers to do guest posts on her blog. She is a mother of two adorable little girls and despite that, she manages to keep her blog running at breakneck speed with posts of her own, guest posts, hosting events and what not! Kudos to her for that! I thought it couldn't hurt to drop her an e-mail and in uncharacteristic fashion, I did. She replied almost immediately and was very nice about the whole thing. It being the year end holiday season, I was very busy during the time this whole conversation between me and her took place so I had told her that I would get back to her in a few weeks time. Picking what to make for someone else’s blog took longer than I thought it would. I had with me one sweet and one savoury dish so I ultimately sent her this dessert in January (going by the title of her blog....no prizes for guessing why!) that you see here

During her last visit, my sister gifted me with a recipe book from Marks & Spencer titled My Little Afternoon Tea Book. I flipped through the pages and caught sight of the recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Marshmallow Bars. I was drawn to the lovely photos and made a mental note to try it. I still consider myself a novice baker so I was wondering if it would turn out just like in the book but once I did, my fears were allayed. The only gripe I had with the finished product was that since I didn't have the recommended size of the baking tray and had to improvise, the bottom layer ended up being a little thicker than what it was supposed to be. Initially I was a bit hesitant about sending this recipe to Rafeeda because marshmallows usually contain gelatine but I discovered that nowadays you easily get not only halal certified brands but also brands that are suitable for vegetarians.

This is an interesting and versatile dessert with different layers of flavours and textures. You can make in advance for parties, potlucks or lunch boxes. It has chocolate, jam and marshmallows....what’s not to love!

I’d like to thank Rafeeda for welcoming me into her personal space. I thoroughly enjoyed doing this guest post for her

So, for the step-by-step recipe and photos, please hop on over to Rafeeda's space here.


Cheers,


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Restaurant review: Jamie's Italian, Singapore

Jamie Oliver is one of my favorite celebrity chefs. He is unquestionably one of the most famous and recognized British chefs in the world. I've watched his shows on the box for years. I like how he cooks simple, unpretentious and wholesome food, time and again stressing on the importance of using fresh produce and natural ingredients. His enthusiasm and energy are infectious and I've always gotten the feeling that he is genuinely trying to revolutionize people's eating habits. He seems a tad mad at times but I only find that charming! Needless to say, when I heard his restaurant was coming to Singapore, I went a wee bit mad meself (tee...hee). I was even happier to note that the restaurant was scheduled to open in Vivocity, a mall which I happen to haunt as much as an in-house poltergeist!

Jamie’s italian was founded in 2008 on George Street, Oxford when two unique minds, Jamie Oliver and his friend/mentor Gennaro Contaldo (whom he met in the kitchen of London’s Neal Street) collaborated together to share Italian cuisine with the rest of the world. To bring to the forefront fresh, locally sourced ingredients, the bold and simple flavours and the relaxed way of sharing dishes. Since then, the successful chain has since grown to 30 restaurants worldwide with a growing international market.

Jamie's Italian is the newest restaurant that I patronize and a place that both me and hubby are fixated with! I had been waiting patiently to check out the place but the initial clamour was ridiculously insane with tables being booked months in advance. I knew that there was a walk-in option too but in a mall like Vivocity which is perpetually crowded 24x7, I didn't think that getting a table would be much easier. We visited this restaurant for the first time to celebrate our anniversary in January and it left us with a good first impression. We were extremely keen to go again on Valentine's day but having just returned from a holiday, we didn't get a reservation at the last minute. The next special occasion was my hubby's birthday in March so not to take any chances, he made a reservation weeks in advance. After that I went yet again with my gang of girlfriends on my birthday early this month. My review is a compilation of my experiences at the restaurant during the multiple times that I've been here.

On all occasions, once we informed the staff of our reservation, we were requested to wait a few minutes either at the bar table or the waiting area. Waiting goes by quickly when you are admiring the Jamie Oliver memorabilia (they have some good stuff for sale). The staff are friendly and eager to assist which reflects the restaurant's courteous attitude towards their customers. 





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