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...


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 once I get started, I will 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