Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seasons greetings!

Wish you all a merry christmas...
May the joys of the season
fill your heart with goodwill and cheer
May the chimes of christmas glory
add more shine and spread
smiles across the miles
today and in the new year!

I'm ringing in X'mas and the New Year in India with my family. As happy as that makes me, during the holiday season (especially around X'mas), I do miss Singapore. I miss the fun-filled parties, the alluring shopping sales, the non-stop dinner outings, the festive X'mas lights and decorations and obviously my dear friends and colleagues. 

Being a recent self-confessed Instagram addict, these are some images I took in Singapore a few weeks before I left on for my holiday.

 Now I'm off to go make some useless resolutions for the new year (most of which I'm not going to keep anyway!). 

I'll be back with more recipes, more reviews and more ramblings next year!

Happy Holidays!


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Recipe of the month: Egg Biryani

These past few days have seen a flurry of activity in my world - cleaning & sorting things out at home, tying up loose ends at work, last minute shopping trips, baking cookies for some of my favorite people and packing for my upcoming holiday to India. YAY! I'll be away for almost a month so I thought that before I go, I'd prepare a few draft posts so my blog doesn't go quiet for too long. I will be hitting the publish button for this post while in India. I'm grinning just thinking about it!

A few weeks ago while I was adding the 'Recipe Index' segment on my blog, I was startled to discover that I hadn't posted a recipe featuring rice ever. Now being a South-Indian and not having a rice recipe among the 30+ recipes I've posted so far is a little embarrassing. I do cook rice dishes pretty regularly but since the cooking I do for my blog are always done in the mornings over a weekend, I tend to lean more towards cooking breakfast items or snacks. So, I decided to post my first rice item in this entry. And what do I choose? No surprises here....for the egg-obsessed me, it has to be Egg Biryani of course!

Biryani is made with fragrant basmati rice, an assortment of aromatic spices and either meat, eggs or vegetables. It is one of the more popular rice dishes, not only in the Indian subcontinent but also in South East Asia and the Middle East. This dish has evolved so much over the years that are currently several variations and styles of biryani. 

I cannot take credit for this recipe because I hijacked it from my husband. I have no idea where he got it from because he doesn't like to follow a single recipe and tends to take bits and pieces from here and there to make a customised version. All I know for sure is that this recipe works like a charm - you can use it as a guide to test your cooking skills! It is slightly time-consuming but then again, with a dish like biryani, you have to make sure you have sufficient time and all the right ingredients before you decide to prepare it. This is not a dish that should be compromised by lack of ingredients or short-cut procedures.  All these years, I couldn't be bothered of taking the trouble of making biryani at home, comfortably settling for the biryani at my favorite Indian restaurant but after I tried this recipe, I know that my visits to the restaurant will lessen considerably!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Restaurant review: PS. Cafe (Palais Renaissance) - Singapore

DECEMBER - My favorite month of the year is here! For me, the festive atmosphere begins much before the arrival of Christmas. I love Singapore especially during this season. The sparkling lights and colorful decorations go up way in advance which makes the festive cheer linger for a satisfying amount of time. 

Me and my girlfriends always make use full use of the holiday season do do our Christmas shopping, gift exchange and enjoy a wonderful dinner together. This year we planned an early Christmas outing because several of us were scheduled to be traveling overseas for the holidays. We settled on PS. Cafe at Palais Renaissance, Orchard road because it was recommended by a friend. 

I had never been to any of the PS. Cafe outlets before (there are branches at Palais, Paragon, Harding, A.S.H park and Tiong Bahru) so I was looking forward to it. The restaurant features a western menu with an amazing array of desserts. There are minor variations in the menu depending upon the time of day that you go (brunch, lunch, dinner) and the location of the branch.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Baker's Corner: The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Before I say anything else, let me proudly announce that my quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie has ended with this recipe! Hurray!!!

To elaborate, I've been on the look out for the perfect cookie recipe for a long long time. Although I have posted only one cookie recipe on my blog so far, please believe me when I say that I've tried many! I like the soft, chewy kind of cookies and the two varieties that I love the most are white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies and chocolate chip cookies. The last recipe that I posted for chocolate chip cookies was good but it did not meet my expectations entirely. This recipe is an adaptation of an adapted recipe from Jacques Torres which was published on the New York times in 2008. The cookies turned out exactly the way I wanted them to be. They were chunky, soft, moist and chewy with a subtle hint of saltiness and gooey chocolate goodness as you bit into them....positively sinful! I made two batches to take to a friend's house and then to my workplace and the unanimous verdict was that my chocolate chip cookies were much better than the store-bought variety. The husband was one happy customer too. He kept going back for more! This is a recipe that I am going to laminate and preserve for my posterity! 

I hope you try this recipe because once you do, it will be your go-to cookie recipe for life!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Movie review: Jab Tak Hai Jaan (Hindi)

Before I delve into the movie review, here's wishing everyone a sparkling Diwali! May the festival of lights brighten up your lives with happiness and prosperity!

We had a nice and quiet Diwali this year. We wanted to stay at home to celebrate our first Diwali in our new home. I had a friend come over for dinner. The day whizzed by with a visit to the temple, conveying wishes to family and friends, beautifying the house, performing prayers, lighting diyas (lamps), making jelabis and other festive dishes, engaging in pleasant conversation and enjoying a hearty meal!

Now for the movie review...

Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ in short), released this month is a Hindi movie and the last directorial venture of the legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra starring Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma in lead roles. I couldn't think of a better way to end the Diwali celebrations than watching a love story with a Yash Chopra stamp on it. In my opinion, anyone who can make a movie like Dil Toh Pagal Hai is a genius. And Yash Chopra was a true genius. A visionary filmmaker who could interpret love in a way that could resonate with audiences of any generation. The man behind Dil Toh Pagal Hai - a movie I fell hopelessly in love with, a movie that I can never get tired of watching, a movie that was iconic in so many ways and most importantly, a movie that revolutionized Indian love stories. So, I feel I am justified in having sky-high expectations from his last directorial venture.

I feel bad as I say this but JTHJ for me was in one word - AVERAGE. It could have been magnificent but an ill-conceived story drags it down (quite literally if you consider the run-time of 180 mins!).

What makes cinema enjoyable for me is a good story - PERIOD. That is what gets me every time. I don't care who the director is, who the actors are, where the movie is shot or what kind of music it has. Unfortunately, that is where I find JTHJ's BIGGEST flaw. It has one of India's legendary directors, three of Bollywood's biggest stars, music by Oscar winner A.R Rahman, breathtaking locales of London & Kashmir (basically everything going for it) and yet it falters in many places especially in the second half, crippled by a weak story and poorly etched characters.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recipe of the month: Rava Vangi Bhath

Vangi bhath is a South-Indian breakfast/lunch dish that I am extremely fond of. It is a hearty vegetarian (can also be made vegan), one-pot, delicious and wholesome dish.

Basically, it consists of rice or semolina (also known as rava) cooked with eggplant/brinjal and flavored with a powdered spice mixture known as vangi bhath masala. Although it is made more often using rice, I like the rava version much better. I love eggplants so I tend to be a fan of any dish that uses this versatile vegetable. My mum makes delicious rava vangi bhath and she knows how much I like it so she makes it a point to make it for me whenever I'm around. During the avarekai season (avarekai is also known as surti papdi lilva; scientific name: hyacinth beans; similar to field beans), women especially in my home state of Karnataka have a tendency to add avarekai to almost every dish and rava vangi bhath containing avarekai is something that I pine for. It doesn't get any better than that for me! Unfortunately avarekai is not available all year round so green peas is used as a substitute. 

This dish features as a staple on our weekend breakfast menu. I learnt how to make it to appease my own palate but I'm glad that my hubby loves it too.

I observed my mom while making rava vangi bhath and over the years, I've developed my own method of making it. The first couple of times, I used to notice the rava forming lumps which would actually cause me to gag while eating because it is kinda disgusting. After I figured out how to overcome that problem, there was no turning back. I am very particular about the type of rava I use (either to make vangi bhath or regular upma) so even though there are a variety of acceptable quality brands available in Singapore, I get my rava only from India. After every holiday in India, I come back to Singapore with a bag filled with a few packets of what I consider, the best quality rava (yes I am that finicky!).

If you have never tried this recipe before, I hope you will be inspired to do so now. If you love eggplants, you are definitely a candidate for this dish and in case you are not a fan, you can still try it out to see if it turns you into one!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Baker's Corner- Cinnamon Rolls

When I was on holiday in the US between Nov 2007 to Jan 2008, one of my favorite haunts was Cinnabon. Whenever I would pass by their chain of kiosks, the heavenly smells of cinnamon and butter emanating from their baked goods would take on the form of a powerful lasso to rope me in (quite like how is depicted in cartoons!). And their cinnamon rolls are absolutely to die for. I always associate cinnamon rolls with the wonderful time I spent in the US. Guess who was grinning from ear to ear when she heard that Cinnabon would be coming to Singapore sometime next year! :D

I am obsessed with cinnamon and that is a serious statement. Ever since I began baking apple pies as a teenager, this aromatic spice has won over my palette and heart. I never miss an opportunity to add cinnamon in my cooking either as a tempered spice in savory rice dishes/curries, as a flavoring agent in oatmeal and pancakes, in desserts like rice pudding, fruit pies, sweets, baked goods and also in drinks like coffee (ask Starbucks!), milkshakes, hot chocolate and masala chai. For me, the exotic sweet, earthy and warm taste of cinnamon is reason enough to catapult it to the top spot of my favourite spices.

I have always wanted to bake cinnamon rolls at home. Since I already had success with baking buns, I thought I would try my hand at baking these bad boys. I poured through the internet and found many many many recipes (enough to make my head spin!). I was looking for a roll that was soft, perfumed with the flavour of cinnamon and have a simple and light glaze. I saw recipes that boasted a short-cut version without yeast but I didn't think those would be very good. I feel that if you compromise on the recipe ingredients and time, then you compromise on the taste too and I was not willing to take that gamble on my cinnamon roll debut! I won't lie to you - these rolls take a considerable time to make but the results are totally worth the wait. I started making them at about 10am and was done by about 2pm. But the good thing is that the procedure for these rolls does not require your constant attention (because a large chunk of the time is devoted to the dough rising). As I prepped for these cinnamon rolls, I also made breakfast, loaded the dishwasher, tidied up the kitchen, did a load of laundry, watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother and chatted with my mum on the phone for about an hour!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Restaurant review: Cafe Iguana - Singapore

Cafe Iguana is located at Riverside Point and is a popular watering hole and contemporary Mexican restaurant in Singapore. It is ideally situated by the river and features their signature margaritas and much more along with authentic Mexican cuisine. Being a huge fan of Mexican food, I will readily venture out at anyone's request if it means good tortillas, salsa and guacamole all washed down with a few fruity margaritas. Unfortunately for me, I haven't been able to find good Mexican food in Singapore except for the time I went to this restaurant called Margarita's at Faber Drive (loved that place). Hoping to add to the list of good Mexican restaurants, me and DH went to Cafe Iguana on a Saturday looking forward to unwind. We made a reservation in advance as we heard the place can get crowded especially on weekends. We reached there early, at 5:30pm and were not surprised to find the place quite empty....a good thing for me because I got to take some pictures! Note that the crowds start coming in after 7pm. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Recipe of the month: Aloo Paratha (Potato Stuffed Flatbread)

Aloo Paratha - a delicious Indian whole wheat flatbread stuffed with with a spicy potato filling, cooked on a hot pan, smeared with butter or ghee and served with pickle and homemade yoghurt....comfort food at its best!

I love...love...love stuffed parathas! And for me, the KING of all stuffed parathas is aloo paratha. Aloo means potato in Hindi and I love anything and everything made out of aloos! Second-in-line to the paratha throne (for me) would either be gobi (cauliflower) paratha or paneer (cottage cheese) paratha. They have to be among my top picks for the Punjabi contribution to Indian cuisine. Stuffed parathas takes me way back to my undergraduate days as a dental student in India when I used to frequent the popular Punjabi mess (canteen) next to my college with my batchmates and tuck into their delicious aloo and gobi parathas. Coming back to the present day, if someone made me a plateful of these piping hot parathas for breakfast on a weekend morning, they would get a huge hug of gratitude in return! I don't make parathas at home very frequently because I've never considered myself as an expert at making them. I order them at North Indian restaurants most of the time or else get my mum to make them for me when I'm in India. But occasionally I do feel like making them at home to satisfy my paratha craving. And you know the best thing about aloo parathas? You don't require any special side dish - a dollop of plain yoghurt and your favourite pickle and you are good to go! 

You know those skilled women who can roll out perfectly round roti after roti at a robotic pace? Well, I am certainly NOT one of them! Although the rotis that I make may be be perceived as roundish, the same cannot be said for parathas. Initially when I started making stuffed parathas, I was plagued by two issues - one, the filling would invariably ooze out during the rolling process and second, the parathas would end up in all sorts of odd shapes. So, in order to overcome this, I would make two small rotis of roughly equal size, flatten a ball of filling in the middle of one roti, dab a little water around the edges of the roti, cover with the second roti and then roll it out. I would always get nicely round parathas by this method but the parathas would not be as soft as I would like them to be and there would hardly be any filling at the edges. So, I decided to make the parathas the conventional way (round or not!). Gradually I learned that the key to making good parathas is getting the right consistency of the dough, giving the dough some rest, ensuring that the filling has cooled down and is as devoid of moisture as possible and in the case of a aloo paratha, completely smooth (without lumps) before rolling them out. 

This is how I have started to make aloo parathas and I can honestly tell you that I am very happy with this recipe (hubby agrees too). The parathas turn out soft, well flavored and as you can see from the photos, reasonably round! Not too shabby for an amateur paratha maker, eh?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Movie Review: English Vinglish (Hindi)

What happens when an ordinary, middle-class Indian housewife makes up her mind to change something about herself in order to bolster her self-esteem and earn the respect of her family? You get a wonderfully empowering movie called English Vinglish. 

Sashi Godbole (Sridevi) is a middle-aged Marathi housewife, dutifully performing her responsibilities as a wife, mother to her two children and daughter-in-law. She runs a small-time business of selling home-made laddoos (an Indian sweet), something she excels in. Despite her selfless devotion to her family, she is taken for granted and her family is insensitive to her feelings. One of the main points of contention between Sashi and her daughter is Sashi's lack of spoken English. Her daughter makes no bones about the fact that she is embarrassed by her mother in public. Sashi's businessman husband (Adil Hussain) also frequently undermines her, makes fun at her expense and fails to acknowledge her as anything more than a housewife and a laddoo maker. She gets some solace from her kind and sympathetic mother-in-law and her adorable young son who makes her feel needed. 

A trip to New York changes Shasi's life when she secretly enrolls in an English speaking crash course along with a motley crew comprising of a Mexican nanny, a Chinese hair stylist, a South-Indian engineer, a Pakistani cab driver, a French chef and an African dancer. How Shashi reinstates her foothold in her family makes for the rest of the story.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Baker's Corner: Crème Caramel

Crème caramel (also called Flan or Caramel custard) is a custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top, as opposed to Crème brûlée, which is custard with a hard caramel top. This simple dessert features as a staple on the dessert menus of several global cuisines. 

I don't really have a sweet tooth. I like eating sweet treats occasionally but I'm not the kind who craves for confectionery or desserts. I actually don't even like ice-cream (many of my friends actually gasp when I mention this!). I am not very fond of traditional Indian sweets either. When I think of what I order at a restaurant at the end of a meal (which is not very often), there are only three desserts that pop into my mind - one would be Apple pie (my most favourite dessert in the whole world), another would be Cheesecake and the third would be either Crème caramel or Crème brûlée. 

I tried this recipe for Crème caramel last weekend as a practice attempt for when I would have guests over for dinner in the future. I came across the recipe by accident when I was casually browsing the Foodgawker gallery. The photo caught my attention and I immediately pinned it on my 'Must-try' food board in Pinterest. Having the dubious distinction of being as obstinate as a mule, if I once decide to try out a recipe, I will not rest until I see it through, come rain or shine! How glad am I that my stubborn nature comes in handy once in awhile 😁 This was one of those baking attempts that had me squealing with delight at the end of it! I feel jubilant when a recipe I try out for the first ever time turns out the way it is supposed to (the feeling lasts until the next inevitable kitchen disaster strikes!). But then again, this baking venture did have its fair share of drama...

In this recipe, sugar is heated to a caramel stage and poured into a mold before adding the custard base. It is then cooked in the oven in a water bath. The recipe called for the Crème caramel to be prepared in a large saucepan and then sliced into individual portions. But I wanted to use individual dessert moulds because I had acquired four new round metallic moulds and was eager to use them. After going through the ingredient quantities, I felt that six moulds would be required for this recipe. I already had the four metallic moulds so I decided to use two small ceramic bowls that I had with me to top up to six. The dilemma I had was that I didn't have a large enough tray that would act as a water bath to fit all six moulds at once. I decided to make them in two batches - using the four metallic moulds first and then the two ceramic moulds. The first batch didn't turn out perfect because I slightly over caramelized the sugar. The sugar had reached a lovely color but after turning off the heat, I failed to proceed with the next step immediately which resulted in the residual heat turning the sugar a darker shade, just short of chocolate brown. Slightly dejected, I proceeded with the recipe instructions anyway and when I loosened the moulds, the Crème caramel slid out cleanly and was perfectly set although it was obvious that the sugar was over browned (my hubby thought it was fine though....he likes burnt stuff!). I was much more careful with the second attempt using the ceramic moulds and the squealing with delight (that I mentioned earlier) was the reaction to this attempt! I could have been a little more careful and neater with the un-moulding process (I'll blame that on over-enthusiasm!) to get a smoother contour but hey, this was only a practice attempt right? Perfection can wait until the next time  😆

Update: I have made this dessert umpteen times since this blog post and it turns out perfect every time!

Just four core ingredients (all of which you will most likely have at home), a simple procedure, the advantage of being able to prepare it in advance and the joy of creating something so pretty makes this recipe a winner!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Recipe of the month: Æbleskivers

Æbleskivers are traditional Danish pancakes in a distinctive shape of a sphere. Somewhat similar in texture to American pancakes crossed with a popover, Æbleskivers are solid like a pancake but light and fluffy like a popover. They were traditionally cooked with bits of apple (æble) or applesauce inside but these ingredients are rarely included in modern Danish forms of the dish. Æbleskivers are not sweet themselves but are traditionally served sprinkled with powdered sugar and dipped in raspberry, strawberry, lingonberry or blackberry jam. BTW, all this information I've been rattling off like an annoying know-it-all is what I gathered from Wikipedia.....I am by no means an authority on Æbleskivers **grins sheepishly**

I first heard of Æbleskivers a few months ago on the television segment "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on Food Network. I was not paying much attention to the telly but when I heard this strange word, I cocked my head and went "Huh? Evil-...... wazzat now??" I saw celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez describing these sweet little Danish pancakes (which looked delicious by the way) and I was startled to see that the cast iron indented pan you use to make it looked very similar to a pan I had with me at home.

My pan (a nonstick one) is used to make a South-Indian breakfast item called Guliappa which I've posted previously so, I immediately thought that this was something I should try in the future. I find having pancakes for breakfast quite filling but these little Danish pancakes are perfect for a little sweet craving at the end of a meal.

I found several variations in the recipe. Some mentioned separating the eggs and beating the egg whites to stiff peaks, some of them used buttermilk in the recipe, some didn't have any filling in them, some had bananas in them and some had the traditional apple filling. I stripped down my recipe to a bare minimum and thought I would do a banana filling since I had some bananas lying around at home.

This simplified version might not be the traditional way of making them but trust me when I say they are really easy to make and yummy too!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Movie Review: Barfi! (Hindi)

Just yesterday evening I caught the screening of Anurag Basu's 'Barfi!', a movie I would label a full blown entertainer rather than a romcom.

Plot Synopsis
This movie is about Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), a speech and hearing impaired but sprightly young man and the important relationships he forms during his life. It is a tale of love, friendship, heartache, self-discovery and hope. The movie shifts between different timelines in the main protagonist's life with a change in scene from the lush mountainous landscape of Darjeeling to the vibrant, chaotic streets of Kolkata. Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), whose real name is Murphy (he is called Barfi because that is how he sounds his name out) is deaf & dumb and lives in Darjeeling with his doting father. He is happy and carefree and lives a very  simple life charming the locals with his daily antics. Enter the lovely, doe-eyed Shruthi Gosh (Ileana D'Cruz), who has come to Darjeeling for a short stint with her parents. Smitten by the new arrival, Barfi makes his move (or rather, moves!) and with a simmering chemistry between the two, love begins to bloom. But alas! the Bong beauty doesn't have the courage to take her relationship with Barfi to the next level and ends up breaking his heart to go live a mundane existence in Kolkata as Mrs. Sengupta. At this juncture, enter Jhilmil Chatterjee (Priyanka Chopra), an autistic girl and Barfi's childhood friend who owing to her disorder has been shunned by her wealthy family and has lived most of her life cared by strangers. There develops this strange yet strangely uncomplicated relationship between a deaf & dumb boy and an autistic girl. Throw in a few mystery elements courtesy the bumbling local inspector (Saurabh Shukla) and the return of the 'ex' and you have the rest of this saccharine saga :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Baker's Corner: Homemade Potato Buns

If you have been following my blog, you will probably remember that I posted a recipe for Homemade Pizza Buns not too long ago. I was so high on the success of that baking venture, that I decided to carry it out again - this time with a different filling for the bun, the desire for a little more finesse in technique and not to mention, much better photography! 

Among the many fond childhood memories that I have, one of them was of getting back home from school with my mom and stopping by at the local bakery (Iyengar bakery) to pick up some freshly baked goodies to enjoy on the way home. Always being one to favor savory over sweet, I would invariably pick either a potato buns or an egg puff. Oh how I used to love those potato buns! The buns were soft and warm and the filling was a simple yet delicious combination of potatoes, onions, green chillies, ginger and herbs. At that point in time, I never imagined that I would try making them at home myself! 

So, here is my recipe for Potato Buns. The recipe for the bun is almost identical to what I had previously posted for Pizza Buns so I just did a copy-paste and then incorporated some minor revisions. The last time, in my baking frenzy I forgot to sprinkle the buns with sesame seeds....you can see that I didn't forget this time! I think it makes the buns look even more appetizing, don't you agree? If you need to see the step-by-step pictures, I suggest you go over to that post. The recipe for the potato filling is a very basic one. It is quite similar to the potato bhaji that I make for Masala Dosa. I wanted it to be as simple as possible because that is how I remember it from my childhood. 

I hope you try this recipe because it is a good one (if I do say so myself!). I took one leftover bun to my workplace for breakfast on a Monday morning and I swear my colleagues did not believe me when I said I had made them myself!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Restaurant review: Hatched - Singapore

Hatched@Holland Village

I've said it before - eggs have to be one of my most favorite ingredients in the food world. I love eggs so much that I can eat them at any time of the day, everyday! 

Hatched is an egg-inspired, all-day breakfast restaurant. The humble egg is subjected to many different forms of cooking here - boiling, poaching, baking, scrambling, frying and more. For someone like me whose favorite meal of the day is breakfast (given a choice, I'd have breakfast for dinner too!) and is a major egg fanatic, a restaurant that features this kind of menu and theme is really hard to pass up. It is an (EGG)citing prospect! 

Hatched in Singapore has two branches - one in Holland Village and one on Evan's road. Since I've been to both, I've divided my review into two segments based on the individual branch.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mad about curry! My mum's recipe for Methi Paneer....

Recently, I was asked to submit an entry for a "wet curry" for a monthly food blogger event organized by The Spanish Wok. I realized that I hadn't posted that many curry recipes on my blog so it wouldn't hurt to participate 😊 This is the first time I'm submitting an entry to a blogging event of any kind so it feels nice to be part of something outside of my own blog.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Baker's Corner: Iced Chocolate Cake

As I sat mulling over what sweet treat to bake next, it occurred to me to flip through one of my trusted cake books for inspiration. Hmmmm.....shall I bake a simple, non-fussy cake? How about if I whip up a batch of dainty cupcakes? Or shall I step out out of my comfort zone an attempt an intricate layered cake? All these thoughts were zooming through my head. At the end, I thought I'd stick to something basic since the realization hit me that a layered cake would be way out of my league! My agenda is to master the easy cakes first before going for something more complex. I always learn something new during each of my baking ventures and I have found that this helps me to better my next attempt. I picked this simple Iced Chocolate Cake from the book Mary Berry 100 Cakes and Bakes. Chocolate cake is an absolute no brainer....it never fails to impress! And when it comes to cake toppings, a good icing is what I prefer.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Recipe of the month: Appam and Chettinad-Style Egg Curry

Appam (also called Aappam or Aappam hoppers) is a type of food in South-Indian (mainly Kerala) and Sri Lankan cuisine. It is eaten most frequently for breakfast or dinner. There are several variations of this dish. The variety shown here is the Vella Appam. These appams are fairly neutral in taste and mostly served with some spicy condiment or curry. They are made from a batter using rice, yeast, salt and a little sugar. After the mixture has stood for a couple of hours, it is fried in the "appachatti" which is a specially designed pan. In South-Central Kerala, it is mostly served with kadala (chickpea) curry, stew or egg roast.

Hailing from the state of Karnataka, I never had much association with appams during my childhood. The first time I ever tried them was probably a decade ago at a restaurant in Mysore that we used to frequent for brunch every Sunday. I had it with vegetable stew and I remember liking it a lot. During those days, my only association with appams was at that particular restaurant. I decided to learn how to make it (several years later) when I discovered that my hubby is a big fan of the dish and also because I am extremely intrigued by anything that requires a special pan/vessel to prepare it! Every time I go to India on holiday, I end up picking up some special kitchen gadget or equipment in order to try out the unique dish that requires it.

I arrived at this particular recipe for Vella Appams after a few failed attempts with other recipes. This one hasn't failed me to date. It is easy and the end result is good. I have no idea where I got this recipe from since I found it scrawled in pencil in a corner of my tattered old recipe book. After getting frustrated with recipes that were leading nowhere, I tried this one out (without much hope) and it worked like a charm. So, whoever came up with this recipe - thank you very much!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Happy Friendship Day!

"A true friend walks in when the whole world walks out."

It is the first Sunday of August and this day is celebrated as Friendship Day. Friendship Day is quite a phenomenon in India, especially among the school and college going kids. I haven't observed the same level of enthusiasm here though. The first thought that came to my mind this morning was the many happy memories that me and my friends shared on this day during our undergrad days in India. The tying of multicolored friendship bands, exchange of greeting cards & gifts, the thoughtful notes and messages, going out to the cinema and the parties...those were the days! Ah! What would we do without friends. We love them unconditionally yet sometimes we feel like strangling them! 

Here are 10 reasons I'm thankful for having such wonderful friends in my life

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Restaurant review: La Nonna, Singapore

La Nonna at Holland Village 

Holland Village is one of my favorite spots in Singapore. It is a small busy enclave in Buona Vista in Singapore which happens to be near my workplace. A popular venue for younger Singaporeans and expatriates, it is dominated by and often visited solely for its eateries and watering holes, along with some specialist shops selling non-traditional wares.

Whenever me and my colleagues have time to go out for a leisurely lunch, we invariably end up going to some restaurant at Holland Village. A few weeks ago, me and a bunch of colleagues decided to treat a fellow colleague for a farewell lunch as he was leaving to Switzerland to pursue his higher education.
We picked La Nonna, an Italian restaurant as the venue since we had heard that it had a good lunchtime promotion. La Nonna means 'the grandmother' in Italian so we were looking forward to some hearty Italian comfort food. We made the mistake of not making a reservation so by the time we reached there at 1pm, the restaurant was full and there were even people waiting ahead of us. One of the staff told us that the waiting time was about 15 to 20 mins, so we decided to wait while going through the menu. I liked their menu although it is limited. It had an interesting selection of antipasti, pastas, pizzas, other Italian main courses and desserts. There was a decent selection of vegetarian dishes too. We discovered that it was the last day to order the 3 course set lunch menu (priced at 22$ per pax) and since it looked really good, we all decided to go with that. We finally got a table but were disappointed to have been told that the 3 course set meal was sold out! It was only about 1:30 pm in the afternoon. They were offering another promotion for 1-for-1 any main course, pasta or pizza so we settled for that.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Before I say anything about the movie, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the senseless shooting at the movie premier of the Dark Knight Rises in Colorado. Killing the innocent is an unforgivable crime and I hope the accused is brought to justice so that the families of the departed can get some closure.

And now for my review...

Source: http://www.thedarkknightrises.com/downloads.php#

After the stupendous success of the earlier Batman movies (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), the expectations from Christopher Nolan's next were sky high. Personally speaking, I came out of the movies, one happy customer. I think watching the movie in IMAX may have also contributed to that happiness! I read that The Dark Knight Rises was the final installment of Nolan's Batman trilogy but after having watched it, I can't help but think otherwise!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baker's Corner: Homemade Pizza Buns

There is something so simple yet addictive about pizza that people of all ages can't seem to get enough of.  It is no different with me. I can eat pizzas for breakfast, lunch or dinner (Pizza Hut-Singapore will vouch for that!). Whenever I make pizza at home, I use the store bought pre-fabricated crust but I always end up wondering that since I'm getting half the pizza from outside, I may as well order home delivery! I have never made my own pizza dough and considering that my baking antics started only recently, it wouldn't have crossed my mind. I've always known that making pizza dough at home is simple albeit time consuming. I'm quite convinced that if I get hooked, I may never return to the store bought crust again!      

Before I attempted to make pizza from scratch at home, I made pizza buns. These are bite-sized snacks which taste just like pizza. I found several recipes and I compiled points from a select few to make my own version. I was delighted with the results. The buns were soft and the filling was delicious. I still think I can improve upon the execution but I'm sure that with more practice, I'll get there (fingers crossed!). The next on my agenda is to bake pizzas and calzones from scratch and I'm hoping that they turn out good enough to be worth the extra effort. 

Here is my version of the recipe. I usually don't put up step-by-step pictures for all my recipe posts but in this case I decided to do so because it isn't exactly what I would consider a straightforward recipe (especially for a baking novice). I've put in some tips and footnotes to help you overcome some of the challenges that I came across. If you are new to baking breads, I hope you will find this post useful  😊

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recipe of the month: Guliappa

Guliappa (also called Appe, Paddu, Paniyaram or Gundponglu) is a dish originating from South India. It is goes by different names and I reckon it has subtle variations from region to region. This dish is essentially made for breakfast and goes well with a variety of accompaniments. I frequently make the masala variation of guliappa by adding chillies, ginger, curry leaves, coriander and onion and serve it with coconut chutney and/or tomato-onion chutney or else sometimes even just pickle and spiced chutney powder. A lot of people also make the sweet version of it with jaggery.

These bite-sized rice and lentil balls are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. They are naturally gluten-free and can be made vegan if you substitute the ghee with vegetable oil. Leftover idli or dosa batter can be used to make guliappa but I always grind from scratch because I use slightly different ratios of rice to urad dal and I also add in poha (beaten rice flakes) for this dish which is not the case when I make idli or dosa. This recipe works well for guliappa and if you end up with leftover batter, it makes for fabulous onion uthappams (scroll down to the notes section for more details).

You know those annoying kids who are picky eaters and make faces at almost every plate of food you put in front of them? Well, I used to be one of them! When I was a child, I didn't like guliappa and would kick up a fuss until my mum would get exasperated with me (sorry amma!). I guess I never gave it a chance. Growing up brought me to my senses and I do like it now  it features as a regular on our weekend breakfast menu at home. It is easy to make and since the batter is a slight variation from the regular dosa batter, one round of grinding (of the urad dal and rice) can yield two different dishes. The only unusual aspect of this dish is that you need a special pan with several hemispherical indentations called as the Appe pan (may also be known in the Western world as an Ebleskiver pan - Ebelskivers are Danish pancakes in a distinctive shape of a sphere). You can get a pan made of cast iron or non-stick material.

This is what my pan looks like...

Buying this pan is totally worth it because it serves a dual purpose - you can use it to make a savoury South-Indian dish as well a sweet Scandinavian dish! How is that for variety? 

You can check out my super simple recipe for Ebleskivers here

Getting back to this recipe, I hope you try my version of guliappa and enjoy it!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

A vacation in Vietnam

I've said it before....even though Singapore is a tiny speck on the world map, it has an enviable geographical location being surrounded by the jewels of South East Asia. There are no dearth of places to visit when you live in Singapore and you will be left spoilt for choices. Me and my husband have been slowly ticking off countries from our list of must-see destinations in this part of the world. As we began planning our next holiday, we realized that we were left with Vietnam, Cambodia and Philippines. We zeroed in on Vietnam because it has fascinating history, interesting culture and raw natural beauty all rolled into one. 

Vietnam is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the east. Vietnam's history is one of war, colonization and rebellion. It's past is imprinted with Chinese, French and Japanese influences. The Vietnam war was a major event in its history that made the world sit up and take notice of this country. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and other anti-communist countries.The war ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975. After the war, Vietnam was unified under a Communist government and soon integrated into the world economy.

This was a trip that almost never happened because we got our Vietnam visa only the previous day of our flight. That was one helluva nerve wracking experience! But we were lucky that we got it just in the nick of time. Having only 5 days to spend, we decided to devote all our time to Northern Vietnam - Hanoi and Ha Long Bay in particular. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the second largest city. It is a popular destination with tourists. Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a renowned travel destination, located in Quang Ninh province. It is said to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The bay (with an area of around 1,553 km2) features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Ha Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà islands to the southwest.

Here is a compilation of some of my experiences in Vietnam

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baker's Corner: Banana Walnut Cake

I recently bought a recipe book titled 'Mary Berry 100 Cakes and Bakes' at a local book fair. It was the variety of recipes and beautiful pictures that caught my attention. This was the first recipe I tried from the book. The original recipe was for an 'Apple and Cinnamon Cake'. Being a sucker for anything with apple and cinnamon in it, I knew I had to try it out. I did adhere to the recipe strictly the first time round and it turned out great The cake was rich, moist and it had the delightful flavour combination of apple and cinnamon. I loved it so much that I couldn't stop eating it. For those of you who are not a big fan of icing or cream on a cake, you will love this cake because it is all cake and no frills. I think it is perfect served with evening coffee/tea, at a casual get-together or at a picnic. I was so impressed with this recipe that on my subsequent baking venture, instead of experimenting with a different recipe from the book, I made a slight change to the same one. I substituted the apples with bananas to make a banana-walnut cake and the result was great as expected.

I hope you try this recipe and let me know the outcome!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Recipe of the month: Patrode (Step by step preparation)

Patrode is a dish from Mangalore (a major city and the headquarters of Dakshina Kannada) and something I have grown up eating. A spicy batter is made by grinding rice, dal, tamarind and red chilli. This batter is smeared on the colocasia leaves (also called taro or eddoe), which are rolled and steamed or fried. It is interesting to know that the primary use of colocasia is the consumption of its edible corm and leaves. In its raw form, the plant is toxic due to the presence of calcium oxalate and the presence of needle-shaped raphides in the plant cells. However, the toxin can be destroyed and the tuber rendered palatable by cooking or by steeping in cold water overnight. In patrode preparation, a generous amount of tamarind is added to reduce the itchiness of the colocasia leaves.

I absolutely love patrode but I never imagined making it myself. A few reasons are because the colocasia leaves are so darn hard to find and the preparation of this dish is time consuming, messy and has to be executed properly to prevent any potential itchiness of the tongue and throat by the leaves. Every time I visit India, my mom and MIL go out of their way to make sure that I get a year's worth of patrode so I that won't miss it much until my next visit! These leaves grow contentedly in the vegetable patch of their backyard so my mom and MIL make it all the time. I bring back a carefully wrapped box or two of home-made patrode to Singapore and eat it judiciously so that it lasts up to a week. That is the extent of my love affair with patrode!

Recently, my hubby came home grinning ear to ear with two bundles of colocasia leaves which he stumbled upon in an Indian store in Singapore. I was surprised to see them because I had assumed that you don't get it here. I was slightly apprehensive of attempting to make it myself since I had never paid much attention to the procedure when it was made at home (eating was all I was interested in). I called my mom anyway and she explained to me how she makes them. I thought to myself, 'Ok, here goes nothing' and embarked on my patrode journey. An hour later, after I was done preparing it, I was afraid to even sample it. I handed it on a plate to my husband and I was intently watching his expression as he ate it. A few minutes and some contemplative expressions later, he announced that he could not tell the difference between the one his mom makes and the one I had just made! That was the biggest compliment I could ever get (the guy has taste buds like you cannot even imagine). 

There are different ways to make patrode. It can be steamed, shallow fried or made into a stir-fry or gravy but the shallow fried way is the one and only way I like it. I don't know why I've never taken much of a liking to the other versions of it! Anyway, here is the step-by-step preparation for the shallow-fried version of patrode.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Restaurant review: Whole Earth, Singapore

One of my very close friend cum colleague is of Peranakan Chinese descent. For the uninitiated, Peranakans are descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Indonesia and Singapore, inter-marrying with local Malays. The old Malay word "nonya" (also spelled nyonya), a term of respect and affection for women of prominent social standing, has come to refer to the cuisine of the Perakanans. Nonya cuisine, combines Chinese, Malay and other influences into a unique blend. Since my friend and I share a common love for food, it is one of the topics that invariably comes up during our daily lunch/coffee breaks. Considering she has an impressive understanding and appreciation for Indian cuisine (she was recently explaining to me how she likes her jalebis!), I have always wanted to be more aware of and experience the cuisine that is an integral part of her culture and identity. 

Nonya cooking is the result of blending Chinese ingredients and wok cooking techniques with spices used by the Malay/Indonesian community. The food is tangy, aromatic, spicy and herbal. Key ingredients include coconut milk, galangal, candlenuts as both a flavoring and thickening agent, laksa leaf, pandan leaves, belachan, tamarind juice, lemongrass, torch ginger bud, jicama, fragrant kaffir lime leaf, rice or egg noodles and cincaluk.

I recently heard about Whole Earth, a Thai-Peranakan Vegetarian restaurant on Peck Seah street in Singapore. I was surprised to hear that it served only vegetarian food (vegan to be precise). Somehow, I wasn't really expecting that! Whole Earth is where the rich Peranakan fare is creatively fused together with authentic Thai fare for fresh and flavourful Southeast-Asian cuisine. After some discussion and last minute coordinating of schedules, me and my colleagues decided to go there for lunch. I had heard that the place can get crowded so I made a lunch reservation in advance.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Baker's Corner: Pavlova

Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. It is made by beating egg whites to a very stiff consistency before folding in caster sugar, white vinegar, cornflour, vanilla essence and slow-baking the mixture (similar to a meringue). It is served with fresh cream and fruits. This dessert has a crisp crust and a soft, light interior. It is believed to have been created in honor of Anna either during or after one of her early tours to Australia and New Zealand. I've read that the nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but formal research indicates New Zealand as the source. 

The first time I saw someone make pavlova was on one of the earliest episodes of the British television show - Come Dine with Me. It seemed easy to make and it looked pretty interesting. Ever since I watched the show, I've always wanted to make it but never got around to it. Recently, I made up my mind to try it out for the first time after being put to shame by the talented kids of Junior Masterchef Australia who were effortlessly churning up the delectable dessert in a pavlova challenge. It turned out fantastic but it wasn't all smooth sailing as you will soon discover!

I must share with you some experiences of my pavlova (mis)adventure. I made two cardinal errors during my first attempt due to which I had to throw the whole batch away (boo...hoo!). I didn't separate the eggs carefully enough which resulted in a little egg yolk getting incorporated into the whites. And also, there was a teeny-tiny piece of eggshell in the egg white mixture that I overlooked and noticed only as the whisking process was going on. At the time, I didn't think that it was a big deal but 8-10 minutes into whisking, I realized that I wasn't going to see white peaks anytime soon in the future! The egg whites stubbornly remained a disappointingly bubbly mixture. I immediately rushed to my culinary agony aunt 'Google' to find out  what had gone wrong and then realized my folly. Well, what do you do? *Sighs* You make mistakes and then learn from them, right? So, I discarded the old batch, cleaned the whisking bowl and beaters thoroughly, dried them with paper towels, separated the eggs very carefully using an egg separator ensuring that no yolk or shell fragments fell in and let the egg whites stand for 20 min at room temperature before whisking. Thankfully, my patience paid off and the second batch turned out perfect! Within 5 mins, I saw the egg whites turn into glossy-stiff peaks. I was one happy baker! 

This is not exactly what I would call a perfect or dainty dessert. It will most likely have cracks in it (adds to the rustic charm!) and while slicing, it may fall apart a little and the fruits may go tumbling down. Don't worry about it. Just serve it in its messy state....the taste will more than compensate for it!

An Update: Since this post, I have made pavlova umpteen number of times and it has always been a smashing success. In the 'method' section, I have mentioned the different combinations of fruit that you can try

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Recipe of the month: Mysore Masala Dosa

Ah! Masala dosa....the thought itself sends my taste buds into a tizzy! Whenever I eat these dosas, I'm transported to a world of nostalgia. Masala dosa, for me, sums up all the good things about my home land - vibrant, warm, humble, comforting, satisfying and familiar. The golden-brown, crispy shell of the dosa, the fiery kick of the red chutney, the soft and creamy texture of the mildly spiced potato filling and the earthy warmth of the coconut chutney all form a harmonious symphony of textures and flavors. It is no wonder that this dish has made it to the list of '10 foods to try before you die' compiled by the Huffington post! My mom makes these dosas all the time and it is one among the many varieties of South-Indian 'thindi' (breakfast) that I look forward to eagerly. You always know when it is Masala dosa day at home because the preparation for it starts the previous day itself. My maternal uncle is renowned for his Masala dosas and my whole family would (and still do) frequently congregate at my granny's home for a generous weekend dose of his dosas. And I cannot forget to mention the mouth-watering Masala dosas that we used to enjoy on Sundays at Nalpak in Mysore. I always make it a point to go there whenever I'm on holiday in Mysore and sink my teeth into those delicious dosas. So, as you can see, me and Masala dosa have quite a bit of history!

When I moved to Singapore, one of the first items that I was very anxious to learn to make was dosa. At the time, I thought I was attempting something akin to climbing Mount Everest! It makes me laugh thinking about it now because it is actually quite simple and I do it all the time. There have been several instances where I've been almost half asleep, grinding the batter at 11 pm in order to prepare dosas for breakfast that morning. The reason I can get away with such midnight dosa ventures is because I have the weather on my side....the only time I'm grateful for the hot and humid weather in Singapore is when I make idlies and dosa! It aids the fermentation process greatly. Anyways, getting back to the point - back home, bulky stone grinders are used to grind the rice and dal together. I didn't have that when I came here (and I still don't). My mom told me that I could grind the rice and dal using a regular blender but she did have some concerns about how long the blender would last once I started doing that. True to her concerns, I am on my 4th or 5th blender now! I've always thought of buying a grinder but the lack of counter space combined with the fact that the dosas I make turn out pretty good anyway has gotten me to procrastinate.

Here is my mom's recipe to make Masala dosa. In the past, I've experimented with other dosa recipes but I always come back to this one because it works the best for me. The recipe for the red chutney (the addition of which elevates it to 'Mysore Masala dosa') is adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's website.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Movie recommendation: Vicky Donor (Hindi)

Image source: wikipedia.org

Vicky Donor is a 2012 Hindi movie directed by Shoojit Sircar and produced by John Abraham. I wanted to go to the movies on my birthday (with no particular movie in mind) and this is what I ended up watching . I must admit - it injected a whole lot more fun into my day!

There are movies that come with huge expectations and end up sorely disappointing the audience and then there are movies that come from nowhere and go on to become tremendous successes. How much can you expect from a move that is based on the concept of sperm donation and infertility? Not much if you ask me. But that is where Vicky Donor steps in to prove that even a small budget movie with no star cast, no foreign locales and an unconventional plot, can strike gold if it is given the right kind of treatment. This is one surprise packet that no one saw coming. Vicky Donor is fresh, daringly different, light-hearted and a laugh riot but yet manages to bring to your attention an issue that is seldom talked about and if so, in hushed tones. This is progressive cinema without the preaching and moral policing (now isn't that a relief!).

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another year older…

Image source: www.best-birthdaycakes.com

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” 
                                                          ~Mark Twain

At certain times, don’t you just wish that time stood still? It may be while gazing at a rosy sunset, taking a stroll down a desolate beach, watching the starry night sky with a loved one, glimpsing a beautiful rainbow in the monsoon, admiring the gorgeous colors of autumn or standing atop a mountain with the breeze in your hair, looking at the wispy clouds below. These are the moments that take your breath away. Unfortunately for me right now, there is one more that decidedly makes the list - celebrating a birthday (the moment which is literally taking my breath away!). As sad as that sounds, it is regrettably true. After you reach a certain stage in your life, you just start dreading birthdays. Not that I ever had dreams of immortality or anything but with so much to see and experience in one lifetime, time just seems to be whizzing by at breakneck pace. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Movie Review: Hugo

Image source: wikipedia.org

I never imagined that a day would come when I would be wearing 3D glasses and watching a movie in the comfort of my own home but here I am writing this review after doing just that. Technology I tell you....what will they think of next!  

So, me and DH received two free 3D movies  along with the accessories when we bought our new Sony Bravia 3D TV set and one of the movies was Hugo. Having not watched a movie in several weeks thanks to a packed schedule, I thought it was high time to soak up some movie magic (and what better than a Martin Scorsese movie in 3D to do that?!).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Baker's Corner - Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

As with my previous recipe post, this one is also baking-related. I'm making up on lost time to bake as many sweet treats as possible! Chocolate chip cookies have always been on my baking agenda. I'm not a fan of the crunchy-crumbly kind of cookies....I prefer the soft-chewy kind. So, as always, I began hunting for a recipe for Chocolate chip cookies. I came across this recipe called 'Award winning soft chocolate chip cookies' on all recipes.com. The title indeed caught my attention! I thought it looked pretty good and decided to give it a go. 

Before I move on to the recipe, I'd like to share some baking facts with you. I've always been quite perplexed as to when to use baking powder and when to use baking soda while preparing baked goodies. A light background reading brought me to the understanding that both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents, which means they are added to baked goods before cooking to produce carbon dioxide and cause them to 'rise'. Baking powder contains baking soda, but the two substances are used under different conditions. Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda is combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (like yogurt, chocolate, buttermilk, honey), the resulting chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to rise. The reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients, so you need to bake recipes which call for baking soda immediately, or else they will fall flat! On the other hand, baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, but it includes the acidifying agent already (cream of tartar), and also a drying agent (usually starch). Baking powder is available as single-acting baking powder and as double-acting baking powder. Single-acting powders are activated by moisture, so you must bake recipes which include this product immediately after mixing. Double-acting powders react in two phases and can stand for a while before baking. With double-acting powder, some gas is released at room temperature when the powder is added to dough, but the majority of the gas is released after the temperature of the dough increases in the oven. 

Some recipes call for baking soda, while others call for baking powder. Which ingredient is used depends on the other ingredients in the recipe. The ultimate goal is to produce a tasty product with a pleasing texture. Baking soda is basic and will yield a bitter taste unless countered by the acidity of another ingredient, such as buttermilk. You'll find baking soda in cookie recipes. Baking powder contains both an acid and a base and has an overall neutral effect in terms of taste. Recipes that use baking powder often call for other neutral-tasting ingredients, such as milk. Baking powder is a common ingredient in cakes and biscuits. You can substitute baking powder in place of baking soda (you'll need more baking powder and it may affect the taste), but not the other way around. 

The original recipe of these Chocolate Chip Cookies called for baking soda alone but I decided to use a combination of baking soda and powder as you will see below. The results were great. The cookies turned a lovely brown, they were soft and chewy on the inside but still crisp on the outside and there was absolutely no aftertaste of the baking soda. My cookie jar was empty within hours!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Restaurant review: Bombay Cafe, Singapore

When I'm in the mood for some savoury and spicy Indian snacks, the one and only place that comes to my mind is Bombay Cafe. This 'Bollywood' themed authentic Indian vegetarian restaurant offers a wide array of chaats (Indian street food), snacks, South-Indian, North-Indian and Indian-Chinese dishes. When it comes to the quality of food, variety and value for money, it may be considered one of the better Indian vegetarian restaurants in Singapore. 

The color palette of the interior of the restaurant is primarily a combination of bright pink and black with posters from Indian blockbuster movies adorning the walls and ceiling. This restaurant has its own distinctive style. In keeping with the flamboyant Bollywood theme, there are wall mounted television sets showcasing the latest Hindi songs. I often wonder how someone unfamiliar with Indian cinema perceives the whole song and dance routine! They must find it all quite amusing. I often catch the non-Indians glancing at the tv screens with bemused expressions on their faces! Jokes apart, the ambiance of the restaurant is relaxed and it is a different sort of dining experience to what you would be used to.