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!