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Welcome to my blog. I created this blog with the intention of sharing my views on travel, food, books & movies which are among my top interests. From time to time it may include some ramblings as well!

Please contact me if you are interested in submitting guest posts. Thank you for stopping by!

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 my 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 which ever 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


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!


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!