Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Baker's Corner: Christmas Fruit Cake and Season's Greetings!

You know what is better than the holiday season? It is when you have family around to spread the cheer 😊 Right now, my sister and her husband are visiting us in Singapore and we sisters are busy painting the town red! In the past few days, we've been all over Singapore and we still have so many more places still to go. With all the fun we are having, it seems like time is whizzing by. I would have almost not done this post save for the fact that I had been diligently monitoring my jar of dry fruits soaked in booze in order to bake my first christmas cake (something that a dear friend inspired me to do). So, even though the relentless sightseeing, cooking and multitude of chores at home have left me hard pressed for time, I have stubbornly made up my mind to do this post no matter what!

I prepared this recipe two weeks ago. I needed a good tried and tested recipe so that my first christmas cake wouldn't end in disaster and scar me for the rest of my life! I knew that I probably might not have the time I need to go grocery shopping for specific ingredients for my cake once my sister and my brother-in-law arrived so once I settled on a recipe, I finished shopping for all the ingredients much in advance. As is a habit with me, I didn't follow a single recipe for this. I read through several recipes on various websites and blogs and having watched more than a dozen Christmas specials on the Food Network, I had a fair idea of what would go into my cake. I was quite certain about what dry fruits I wanted in my cake so I added only the ones that I like. As I mentioned earlier, the fruits were soaking in a jar of rum for about a month prior to the baking process. I didn't want the cake to have too many nuts in it so I went easy on that. I also infused my cake with a variety of fragrant spices like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla with an added perfume from orange zest. It goes without saying that the smell coming from the oven during the baking process was tantalising! The cake turned out sweet, aromatic and moist....just like I wanted it to be. The dry fruits and nuts add a richness to the cake  which made us want to come back for more. So, I can assuredly say that my Christmas fruit cake was a resounding success and this will mark the beginning of a new baking tradition in our household 😇

I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May this Christmas be bright and cheerful and may the New Year begin on a prosperous note!

To spread some festive cheer, here are some pics that I took during my recent outings in Singapore with my sister in tow 👯

Happy holidays!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Recipe of the month: Vegetable Momos

I've been meaning to make momos at home for quite a while now but I had put my plans on the back burner. When my parents were here two weeks ago, we happened to go shopping one evening and I got my hands on a $10 bamboo steamer that reignited the momo-making fire in me and subsequently culminated in this blog post

Momo is a type of dumpling native to Nepal but also popular in the bordering regions of Tibet, Bhutan, and Northeast India. My first rendezvous with momos was probably 4-5 years ago while I was pursuing a Masters degree at University in Singapore. I had a Nepali friend during that time who introduced me to these shiny little dumplings. We used to frequent Nepali restaurants like Shish Mahal and Kantipur where momos would invariably feature in our order. Apart from momos, another dish that I would order without fail was the Nepalese nine-bean soup called Kwati which I love! Momos on the other hand, I like but don't love. But having said that, I've always found them intriguing because they looked kinda cool (with those pleats and all), and not like anything from my native cuisine. Momos are quite versatile - they are usually filled with meat but vegetarian versions are also popular. There are different folding techniques as well such as the half moon or dumpling style. They can also be fried or steamed which of course varies according to personal preference. For the first time in my life I declare that I prefer something steamed over deep-fried!

Since this is the very first time I've attempted making momos, I know they aren't perfect but I'm satisfied with how they turned out. In hindsight, I should have rolled out the dough a little thinner because after steaming, the momos should appear translucent. However, the flavour was good and I did indeed enjoy the results of my debut momo venture. I think now that I've done it once, the next time can only get better. I may even get adventurous and try the more challenging shapes!

So here is the recipe. Please don't be intimidated by these dumplings. They may look slightly complicated but in reality, they are not very difficult to make. It just takes some time and patience and I can assure you that you will feel quite pleased with yourself once you are done making them!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Restaurant review: Wild Honey@Mandarin Gallery, Singapore

Those who know me well, know that I am a sucker for having breakfast for dinner (or Brinner as it is known ). Give me perfectly poached eggs topped with a delicious creamy sauce, fresh bread, rustic potatoes and grilled vegetables and I can make do with that for dinner every single day of the week. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I'm not always up for scarfing down a huge meal early in the morning, plus evenings give me the time I need to relish the comforting flavors that breakfast offers. Several cafes have mushroomed in Singapore in recent years which serve all day breakfast/brunch so people like me never run out of choices

Last month, me and my gal pals were looking for a nice place in the city to chill on a Friday evening and we found ourselves heading towards Wild Honey@ Mandarin Gallery, Orchard road. Wild Honey is a place that serves all day breakfast dishes. We initially called the branch at Scotts Square to make a reservation but unfortunately, there was no seating available. The branch at Mandarin Gallery on the other hand does not accept reservation so you can just waltz in. We reached at exactly 6:30pm and the cafe was pretty crowded but we did manage to get a table. As time passed, the crowd started to thin out so by the time we were getting to leave, the cafe was considerably quieter. 

The decor of Wild Honey is cool, colorful, quirky and cosy. The relaxed ambience makes it an ideal place to unwind with a small group of friends.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth

Before I dive head-first into my book review, please allow me to ramble for a bit. I'm going to be relying on my drafts folder to keep my blog afloat for the next few weeks. We've had a sudden surge of guests recently. We had family visiting from Malaysia last month, family who flew down from the US last weekend, my parents this weekend, one of my dental school buddies the week after that, my sister and her husband immediately after and one of my close friends and her family during the first week of January. I love having guests over and playing hostess so I've been in a perpetually exuberant mood! Needless to say, I won't be able to devote much time to my blog although I will be baking a fruitcake for Christmas (planning to make it a tradition henceforth) and right now I have an assortment of dry fruits soaking in a jar of rum for the past 2 weeks. I'm excited about that because neither have I baked a fruitcake before nor have I ever used alcohol in any of my cooking/baking ventures! So, stay tuned for that

A few weeks ago, a friend loaned me this book with a convincing recommendation. I have to confess that I haven't read that many books penned by authors of Indian origin (with the exception of Kiran Desai & Chetan Bhagat) so I was game to check it out.

From the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake, comes Unaccustomed Earth, a collection of short stories. Having not been familiar with Jhumpa Lahiri's literary works before, this book marked a first for me as a reader. The Namesake was made into a major motion picture by Mira Nair and although I hadn't read the book, I did watch the movie. I found the movie's portrayal of the Bengali culture, immigrant struggles, cultural assimilation, upheaval, identity crisis and fragility of relationships insightful and thought-provoking.

Unaccustomed Earth made number one on the New York Times Book Review list of "100 Best Books of 2008". It also won the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. The book is divided into two parts. Part One has five short stories and Part Two is a novella comprising of three chapters. The common aspects that surge through the book include stories revolving round expatriate Bengalis and their first-generation American born children, cultural conflicts and the exploration of complexities in relationships.

Here is a brief summary on each of the short stories,

Friday, December 6, 2013

An award for my blog

A friend I've made recently in the blogging community, Eli, who blogs at Expatliv awarded me the Liebster award (Liebster is a German term for endearment) a few days ago. This award is presented from one blogger to another as a mark of appreciation. Eli is of Greek-Norwegian descent but now lives with her family in Mumbai. I love getting glimpses of my home country from her perspective and I recommend that you drop by her wonderful blog sometime.

I've never thought much about blog awards really. To be honest, I'm not a very interactive blogger and even taking part in contests is not something I do very often. Personally speaking, my blog readers sending me photos of the dishes they try from my blog or restaurant management dropping kind e-mails thanking me for reviewing their restaurant or the occasional advertizing requests are more than enough to boost my ego! hahaha But then again, appreciation coming from another blogger means a great deal to me because only a fellow blogger can appreciate how much time and effort goes into maintaining a blog. I know that I blog only once a week (much less frequently then most active bloggers) but I do put my heart into every post. Structuring good content, writing, photo editing, formatting & proof-reading takes time, effort and patience for any blogger for that matter so any kind of recognition helps us stay motivated

So, the terms of this award are that you can accept the award, thank the person who nominated you and then pay it forward to your favorite bloggers. It is a nice way to spread appreciation, encourage new bloggers and to make further connections within the blogosphere.

The rules for receiving the Liebster Blog Award are:

1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
2. Answer the questions given to you by the tagger plus create 10 questions for the people you have tagged to answer.
3. Choose 11 more bloggers and pass the award to them.
4. Go to their page and tell them.
5. No Tag backs.

Here are the 10 questions that I were given by Eli and my answers:

1. What do you want your blog-readers to get from reading your blog?
A: I want readers to find my blog either informative, useful or entertaining

2. Have you learned anything as a blogger that surprised you? If yes, what?
A: I learned that I have much more patience than I give myself credit for!

3. What time of the day and where do you usually write?
A: In the train on the commute to work or at home in the evenings after dinner or free time in between chores on weekends 

4. What is your favorite food?
A: French fries, Paneer Tikka & Apple Pie

5. What are your top 3 favorite travel destinations?
A: Among the places I've visited, I've loved Mauritius, Bali and San Francisco

6. Describe one happy memory from your childhood.
A: This happened in my aunt's house in Wolverhampton, England. I was probably 6 years old or younger. Me, my little sis and parents were huddled up in bed reading jokes from a children's joke book and there was this particular joke (that I don't remember clearly....something ridiculous about bending over backwards and picking up something!) and the four of us laughed ourselves silly! We laughed and laughed until our stomachs hurt and my Dad had one of his coughing fits! I can never ever forget that

7. Describe an achievement you are proud of.
A: I was proud when I received a full scholarship which included a monthly stipend to study for a Master's degree at the National University of Singapore.

8. What is the best thing about you? 
A: I think my best qualities are that I am simple, cheerful, affectionate and loyal. You can pick whichever you think is the best! 

9. What makes you laugh out loud?
A: On average, I probably laugh or giggle at least a hundred times a day! While writing this, I watched a scene from Seinfeld and almost fell on the floor laughing. It doesn't take much really!

10. If you were the main character in a movie, which actor/actress would you like to play your role?
A: That would be an easy role with not much acting chops required! But if I had to choose, it would be Natalie Portman just coz she is awesome. Apart from the obvious Indian makeover, she would have to put on a lot more weight to look convincing! hahaha

Here are my picks for passing on the Liebster Blog Award (in no particular order). A few of these people are good friends, some acquaintances and the others I don't know personally but hope to stay connected with in the future. Keep blogging and keep up the good work guys!

1. Sumana - Sum's cuisine
2. Shibi - Eleventeen recipes and counting
3. Vaishnavi - MY SPACE
4. Luke - Hungry Ang Mo
5. Farrukh - Cubes and Juliennes
6. Rekha - Foodolicious Pictured
7. Divya - Tease Your Taste Buds
8. Lakshmi - Glazed Thoughts
9. Sreevalli - Ammaji Recipes
10. Riya - Quaint Murmur
11. Deepak - Travel Magic 

Some of you guys may have been blogging for a long time and have received this award before, maybe even multiple times (I didn't check) so accepting it is purely optional. Please don't feel pressured or obliged! I just wanted to let you know that you are doing a good job. If you choose to accept the award, here are my questions to you:

1. What motivated you to start blogging?
2. Who would you like to be stranded with on a deserted island?
3. Who is your role model?
4. What is your favourite cuisine and why?
5. If you were free the whole day without any work or family commitments, what would you do?
6. Which is your favourite television show?
7. If you were given a 100$ spending money, who would you spend it on?
8. If you could go back in time and change one event in history, what would it be?
9. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
10. What do you think is the most amazing invention that mankind has come up with?

Thank you Eli for your thoughtful gesture. Also, thank you my followers and readers who have always been so nice to me and given me the kind of positive feedback I need to improve my blog and most importantly, stay in the game!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Recipe of the month: Mexican Fried Rice

Put on a sombrero and grab a's Mexican on the menu today!

Mexican cuisine is one among my favourite International cuisines. My first introduction to Mexican food was during my first visit to the US several years ago and that was when I developed an instant liking towards it. On a subsequent visit to the US while on conference, I gorged on Mexican (more of Tex-Mex) morning, noon and night! I think one of the many reasons I like Mexican food is their generous use of beans. While on the subject of beans, my love affair with this legume family has been a long standing one. Chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed beans, broad beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, name it, I love it! If I had my way, I would add beans to everything That being said, Mexican food for me is not just about the beans. The use of vibrant ingredients like corn, chili peppers, tomatoes, avocados, the aromatic spices and fresh herbs makes this cuisine all the more appetizing. 

Have I previously complained about the Mexican food in Singapore? I'm quite certain I have! Among the Mexican restaurants that I've been to, I consider Margarita's to be one of the better ones. At home, we only whip up simple Mexican dishes like salsa, guacamole, burritos and quesadillas. Okay, if I were being completely honest, I shouldn't say 'we' because it is my hubby who is solely responsible for anything Mexican that comes out of our kitchen. When craving anything outside of the aforementioned limited spectrum of dishes, we have no other choice but to head over to a Mexican restaurant. 

A while ago, I wanted to make a Mexican-inspired rice so I began scouring the internet for ideas. I saw more than a dozen recipes but none of them caught my fancy. I decided to make my own version by throwing ingredients that I felt tied in with the Mexican theme. Please don't look for authenticity in this recipe because it took shape inside my non-Mexican head (but let me assure you that it does taste good!). Most of the ingredients for this Mexican fried rice were stashed away in my fridge but I did have to make a trip to the grocery store for some of the not-so-common ones. I've realized that sourcing for fresh jalapeños in Singapore is quite a painful task. The only time we have found them was at Tanglin Market Place and Jason's Market. Since those places are not readily accessible from where I live, I don't get that many opportunities to come back home with fresh jalapeños. For this recipe, I ended up buying canned fire-roasted diced green chillies from the Mexican aisle of my regular grocery store which turned out to be unexpectedly good. Anyway, the rice turned out exactly the way I envisioned it to look and taste like. 

Before I start getting any more chatty, here is the recipe. If you are in a mood for Mexican, go for it! Don't fret if you end up with left-overs. Get out some tortillas, whip up a simple guacamole (or easier, use store-bought), top up with some more beans if desired, throw in a handful of grated cheese, add a dollop of sour cream and you have a delicious burrito ready for supper the next day


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Baker's Corner: Chocolate Brownies

This is my first tryst at baking brownies. That surprises me because baking these American squidgy cake squares had always been hovering at the back of my mind. When it comes to brownies, I prefer the fudgy or chewy kind to the the cake-like brownies. I mean, if I wanted cake-like brownies, I might as well eat cake right?! ☺ Anyway, in the past few weeks, I spotted several brownie recipes on Foodgawker (most of them fit the description of the kind of brownies that I like) and I was struck with a sudden burst of inspiration. After scrutinizing dozens of recipes, I realized that I already had all the ingredients that were required to make a good brownie. The fact that I don't need to go to the grocery store to buy anything for a recipe post puts me in a jubilant mood! I chalked out my own measurements of ingredients based on the texture of brownies that I desired and the quantity required and came up with this recipe. I can't cite a single recipe as a source because this version is a mishmash of various recipes. 

Baking brownies is really easy let me tell you. You only need a handful of ingredients, you don't need a stand mixer (I managed fine with my wooden spoon) and the brownies get done within the hour from start to finish. The best part is that you can bake a batch of brownies and stash them away in an air-tight container till required. For long-term storage, you can individually wrap and stick them in the freezer. This makes brownies an ideal dessert for dinner parties, potlucks, picnics or lunch boxes. Me and hubs polished off a few brownies at home and I took the rest for my colleagues the next day. And even though I had kept them in the fridge overnight, they didn't dry out as I had feared. They were still moist and fudgy the next day (hallelujah!). Warm the brownies slightly if desired and serve with a glass of cold milk or a hot cup of coffee. If you need to jazz them up, just drizzle with chocolate syrup and/or raspberry sauce and serve with vanilla bean ice-cream or even better, transform into an ice-cream sandwich. Brownie makeover possibilities are endless!

The photos in this post have been updated because I was very disappointed with how the first set of pics turned out. These pics still  don't do justice to the finished product but at least you can somewhat appreciate the fudgy-gooey interior of the brownies. This fudgy interior combined with the crusty, crinkly top form a perfect contrast of textures.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Snack Attack: Best Fries Forever, Singapore

Fries just have to be the most loved food on the planet, don't you think? I personally don't know anyone who doesn't like these golden strips of goodness. As for me, fries are something that I could eat every single day without getting fed up. Anytime I pass by KFC, I feel like popping in just to eat their delicious cheese fries. I quite like the fries at Ireland's Potato too. If there is anything better than fries, it is fries that comes along with an assortment of delicious creamy toppings, seasonings and garnishes

The last time we were at the movies, we dropped by Best Fries Forever. We were at Cathay Cineleisure at Orchard which houses one of the three kiosks of this establishment. The huge brightly coloured sign board immediately caught my attention and I thought the name was a pretty clever play on the popular abbreviation BFF.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Movie Recommendation: Rush

You know when you see a good movie and you can't stop raving about it to all and sundry? Well, that is how I feel about Rush. I'm bummed that my review for this movie is coming in at the eleventh-hour. This biographical movie based on real events that took place in the lives of two Formula 1 drivers during the early to mid-70's was released in theaters in September of this year. We managed to catch a screening just as it was getting ready to leave theaters in Singapore and boy! am I chuffed we did :)

I cannot call myself a Formula 1 enthusiast although I do recognize the names of the drivers, teams, circuits and I am roughly aware of the goings on during any particular season. My hubby is one of the biggest fans of the sport I know so thanks to him, I am familiar with most things F1, albeit fairly perfunctory. Having watched the Malaysian and Singapore Grand Prix live at the circuit, I have a fair understanding of what the hysteria is all about! So, it came as absolutely no surprise when I was summoned to go watch a movie that was based on the sport. Sometimes real life events are far more fascinating than fiction and experiencing it through the medium of cinema can be unexpectedly powerful.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Deepavali special: Date and Mixed Nut Laddus

To all my readers celebrating this joyous festival, wish you a very happy Deepavali!

Deepavali or Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important Hindu festivals of the year. It literally translates to "row of lamps". Being South Indian, I use the term Deepavali while referring to this festival. The two main significant events associated with Deepavali are: welcoming the return of Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years of vanvas (exile) and the slaying of the evil demon Narakasura by Krishna. This bright and vibrant festival marks the triumph of good over evil. Now what could be a better reason to celebrate? 

I have a whole treasure trove of Deepavali memories. Growing up in India, every year, me and my family would go to my grandparents sprawling house near Manipal where aunts, uncles and cousins would congregate. On the day of Naraka Chaturdashi, we would wake up early, take a fragrant oil bath and get dressed in opulent new clothes (Deepavali shopping is a whole other story by the way!). We girls would get decked up with shimmering jewellery, sparkling bindis, colorful bangles and get our hair adorned with sweet-smelling jasmine flowers. The day would go by in a flurry of activities with us taking part in prayers and rituals at home with a customary visit to the temple, greeting visitors, receiving gifts from doting grandparents, lighting oil lamps thus making the house look resplendent, bursting firecrackers of all shapes, sizes and varieties and last but never least, savouring an assortment of mouth-watering food and delectable sweets traditionally served on a plantain leaf.

The myriad colors, warmth of glowing lamps, pomp and splendor of firecrackers, fragrance of coconut oil, incense, jasmine and the sizzling sounds and aromas emanating from the kitchen sums up Deepavali for me. The merry-making didn’t end with the celebrations on that day. During the couple of days that we were there, we would do some of the things that we often did during the summer holidays - play card and board games, engage in a game of hide and seek around the large estate, listen intently for spooky noises coming from the allegedly haunted hovel behind the house, sneak off to the beach, go visit our grandfather’s farm where we would pluck wild (and potentially poisonous!) berries and drink tender coconut water to our heart's content, roam around Manipal stopping by familiar haunts, visit relatives who lived in the area and go to restaurants in a large group to enjoy a meal together (the restaurant Diana in Udupi being a hot favourite). Those were good times and I get quite nostalgic while recollecting those wonderful years!

This year Deepavali in our household in Singapore is going to be fun because we have family who are arriving shortly from Kuala Lumpur to celebrate with us. The addition of relatives is going to turn the festival into an eventful one. The preparations are currently underway with a shopping trip to Little India, customary house cleaning, mammoth prep work in the kitchen, stringing of aromatic mango leaves into a welcoming thorana (festoon) to adorn the front door, colorful rangoli at the entrance-way, flower decoration for the God's mantap and arranging of lamps around the house. Once the guests arrive, we plan to spend time together, light the lamps, burst some sparklers and feast on a lot of food! So even though the celebration will hardly be on the same scale of what I was used to in India, I'm sure that it will still be lovely 

I made these date and mixed nut laddus for the festival. I decided to make a super simple Indian sweet because I also made chocolate chip cookies and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for my young nephew and niece who are due to arrive. In an earlier post, I have already chronicled my fondness for dates so making these laddus was a no-brainer. And did I mention that it takes only 20 min to come together? Now if that isn't incentive to make it, I don't know what is! 


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fun Taiwan!

Caution: SUPER long holiday post ahead!

A few weeks ago, me and hubby decided it was time for a holiday and began the absorbing process of picking a destination. A public holiday on October 15th meant that taking a day off from work would give us a nice long weekend from 12th to 15th. Since we had only 4 days to spare, we decided to stick to somewhere close by. More often than not, at this time of year, our choice of holiday location is dictated by the unpredictable weather with monsoons and typhoons hitting different parts of Southeast Asia with gusto! After some discussion, we singled out Taiwan which would mark a maiden trip for the both of us.

While chalking out the holiday itinerary, aside from my usual travel beacons - Lonely Planet, Wikitravel and Tripadvisor, I thought of consulting with my local friends too. After asking around, I realized that around 98% of my local Singaporean friends had been to Taiwan, many of them even more than once. I wondered what it was about Taiwan that made it such a popular destination with Singaporeans and the answer was pretty simple - it is a nearby developed country that is culturally similar to Singapore. Not to mention, Taiwan is much larger than Singapore, is relatively safe, has good public transport, is comparatively cheaper and most importantly, renowned for their street food and abundance of dining options which is something Singaporeans share a passion for. My friends gave me plenty of helpful suggestions so my itinerary was ready within no time. For non-Chinese speaking people, I would heavily recommend preparing a detailed itinerary complete with the Chinese names and addresses of the places you intend to visit because I had been forewarned of the language barrier in Taiwan. Me and my husband booked our accommodation through Agoda and tickets on Tiger Air to Taipei only to find out that a typhoon had just struck Taipei bringing down a torrent of rain (lucky us, eh?!). I was anxious if this recent irksome development would ruin our holiday plans and kept my fingers crossed that it would pass by the time we landed there.

In characteristic fashion, I'm drafting this post on the flight back home to Singapore. We just spent 4 wonderful days in Taipei and I wish that we had stayed to longer because there was so much more that I wanted to see and do.

Ah....well! I'd just have to come back now, won't I? :D

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bakers Corner: Margherita Pizza

I'm super excited about this post! The header says it all doesn't it? After close to 3 years of blogging, I've got my hubby to do a guest post on my blog :)

First, I'd like to open this post by briefly introducing him to my readers. For the sake of maintaining anonymity (and a certain air of mystery), let's just call him A. If you have read my 'About' page, you will know that I credit A with pushing me to start my own blog. He has always been incredibly encouraging and supportive of whatever I do and I am thankful for that. He is one the biggest foodies I have ever met with a vast knowledge of world cuisines, ingredients and flavors. He has sharp tastebuds and a sophisticated palate which makes him the chief food taster and critic in our household! He usually takes over the mantle of head chef from me on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The other days of the week, he is my dependable sous chef! He had volunteered to contribute to my blog a long time ago but somehow that never transpired. A few weeks ago, I asked him to do a guest post for October and I was glad to note that he still was enthusiastic about it. He suggested that he would make pizza since it was not featured on my blog before. Generally, he is the pizza maker at home and he has always used store-bought pizza crust. For this post, he wanted to make everything from scratch. Believe me when I say that he is solely responsible for selecting the recipe, buying the required groceries, the entire cooking process, the presentation and the photography. He even went out and bought a pizza stone and peel, since he thought it would improve the browning and texture of the crust. I was touched by his level of commitment and effort :)

The pizza turned out great! The crust was crisp, the top was cheesy, the marinara sauce had great depth of flavour and the pizza was perfumed with lovely basil. I will be requesting demanding for it again soon! 

Okay, so this is where I say goodbye to you. I have absolutely nothing to do with whatever you see below the dotted line :D

Handing over to A now....


Hi readers, this post has been a long time in the coming. I had promised Megha more than an year ago that I would be write up something for her blog, but never got around to doing it. I do have the patience for cooking, not so much for writing. Anyway here I am making my debut and I have to say I'm very happy to be doing this. The way Megha's blog has evolved over the years is quite impressive and makes me proud to be a part of.

Italian food has always been one of our favourite cuisines and we regularly end up having pizza or pasta at least once a week. The idea of making a homely rustic pizza at home has always been on our mind but considering the countless local pizza joints and easy home delivery options we somehow were never were motivated enough to try it. Now that we have, and the way it turned out, I'm pretty sure this could become a regular thing.

When it comes to cooking I'm a stickler for the tried and tested and haven't yet reached a stage where I invent my own recipes. The recipe for the pizza crust I'm presenting here has been adapted from a combination of Alton Brown and Bobby Flay's recipes from Food Network. My pizza sauce has been adapted from Emeril Lagasse's recipe also from Food Network. I'm also a great believer in having the right tools and ingredients for cooking, and generally don't take any shortcuts in techniques or make any compromises with my ingredients. So that's how we ended up going out in search of, and buying a Pizza stone, which I believe is the best surface for baking a pizza. A pizza pan can be a good secondary option but if you can find a stone, that's what you should go for. Pizza stones distribute heat uniformly, and being porous allow moisture to escape from the dough resulting in a much crispier and firm crust. For the toppings you can do your own thing and go all out and have fun with it.

The pizza I chose to make is the ever popular Margherita, simply because it's a classic, and has some easy to put together toppings. The combination of basil, cheese and tomato has a simple yet fresh flavour that tastes wonderful.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Navratri special: Sabudana Vada

For Navratri this year, I decided to make Sabudana Vada. This is typically made during the Navratri vrat (fasting) days but it is also a popular snack on rainy days enjoyed with a steaming cup of Masala Chai (spiced tea). I'm not into fasting and stuff but I am a firm believer of savoring hot crispy snacks during the monsoon! This delicious deep-fried snack is made from a spiced mixture of sago pearls and potatoes. The crispy exterior and soft mushy interior with added crunch from the peanuts makes this a delightful snack. I don't usually cook with sago so this was a first for me. Since these vadas turned out pretty good, I will try out more recipes that use sago in the future so watch this space! 

Coming to the significance of this post, Navratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or Dussehra/Dasara. 

Hailing from the city of Mysore, Dasara holds incredibly special memories for me. During Dasara, Mysore is transformed into a shimmering wonderland. The main streets and circles are lit up with colorful lights and the spectacular Mysore palace is illuminated daily which is a sight to behold. Vijayadashami denotes the victory of truth over evil and was the day when the Hindu Goddess Chamundeshwari killed the demon Mahishasura. On Vijayadashami, the traditional Dasara procession (locally known as Jamboo Savari) is held on the streets of Mysore city. I remember one particularly memorable Dasara where me and my cousins rented a room in a lodge that overlooked the main procession street and armed with binoculars, snacks and cool drinks we had a gala time taking in all the marvelous sights! The main attraction of the procession is the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is placed in a golden howdah on the top of a decorated elephant. This idol is worshipped by the royal couple and other invitees before it is taken around in the procession. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, armed forces, folklores, the royal identities, decorated elephants, horses and camels form a part of the procession which starts from the Mysore Palace and culminates at a place called Bannimantap, where the Banni tree (Prosopis spicigera) is worshipped. According to a legend of the Mahabharata, Banni tree was used by the Pandavas to hide their arms during their one-year period of Agnatavasa (living life incognito). Before undertaking any warfare, the kings traditionally worshipped this tree to help them emerge victorious in the war. The Dasara festivities would culminate on the night of Vijayadashami with an event held in the grounds at Bannimantap called as Panjina Kavayithu (torch-light parade).

Another major attraction during Dasara is the Dasara exhibition which is held in the exhibition grounds opposite to the Mysore Palace. This exhibition starts during Dasara and goes on till December. Various stalls which sell items like clothes, jewelry, accessories, kitchenware, cosmetics and eatables are set up and they attract large crowds. A game area containing attractions like Ferris-wheel is also present to provide entertainment to kids and adults alike. Various governmental agencies setup stalls to signify the achievements and projects that they have undertaken. No Mysore Dasara would be complete for me and my siblings without a visit to the exhibition which we would go to every year without fail along with cousins who would visit us during the festive time. Ah! those fun times!

Every year I feel a tinge of sadness that I cannot be in my wonderful hometown to witness all the festivities. Phone calls and Facebook updates of friends and family back home are a constant reminder of what I'm missing! This year I thought I would celebrate it in my own way by treating myself to this wonderful snack. Looking at the bright side, something is better than nothing right? :)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sweet Indulgence: Laurent Bernard Chocolatier, Singapore

Robertson Quay, a mecca for food lovers is located by the Singapore River. The lovely location offers the dual benefit of a tranquil ambience for an intimate dining experience or a hip and happening evening to chill out with friends. The eclectic mix of alfresco dining spots, bars and pubs, cafes, art houses and fancy condominiums, makes Robertson Quay an attractive option for a weekend hangout. It has become one of my latest haunts and in the past year as I've found myself there on numerous occasions either with my hubby or with my girlfriends. That being said, I've just managed to scratch the surface of this buzzing food hub. There are countless hidden gems that I have yet to discover for myself! I have a huge list of restaurants that I have yet to visit and I'm going to start crossing them off my list one by one. 

I heard about Laurent Bernard from my husband. A friend of his could not stop raving to him about the Chocolate tart which he had there. Laurent Bernard is one of the more popular chocolatiers in Singapore. A little bit of background on this chocolate bar: This French patisserie opened at Robertson Quay in 2006. A year later, a cafe-restaurant opened at Portsdown, followed by a retail outlet at the Takashimaya food hall. Me and my hubby thought it would be worth checking it out so on one visit to Robertson Quay, we decided to hop over to Laurent Bernard after dinner to check out their desserts. Since then, I've been there several times. After any outing over at Robertson Quay, you will predictably see a gorgeous Tiffany Blue Laurent Bernard take-away bag sitting prettily on my dining table!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Recipe of the month: Musti Polo

If your wondering about the unusual name of this dosa, then you are not alone! 'Musti' in Konkani means fistful and 'Polo' means dosa. Musti Polo is a thick dosa which uses very little urad dal (just a fistful) and hence the name. These dosas are typically cooked only on one side and are characterized by their distinctive soft and fluffy texture. Call it an Indian pancake if you will! This dosa reminds me very much of the set dosa that I used to enjoy at one my favourite restaurants Nalpak in my hometown of Mysore. Ah! the nostalgia :)

A few weeks ago, I was browsing through Facebook book and happened to notice this recipe for Musti Polo that one of my friends had shared on her wall. It was from a page called Nisha's Culinary. I found the name very intriguing since it sounded nothing like I had ever heard before. The photo that accompanied the recipe appealed to me and the instructions seemed pretty simple, only a slight variation from the rice and lentil dosas that I usually make. I'm always looking for good dosa recipes so I was immediately prompted to try it out which I did the very same weekend. After overnight fermentation, the batter was well aerated so when I poured the first ladle full of batter on a hot pan, I was pleased to see plenty of holes appear within a matter of seconds. With regard to this dosa, the number of holes in it is directly proportional to the degree of awesomeness of the texture and taste! The dosa turned out super soft and fluffy and I was delighted with the outcome. I had made two kinds of chutneys to go along with it - one was a regular coconut coriander chutney and the other was an onion tomato chutney. Both accompaniments paired well with the Musti Polo and alongside a steaming cup of filter coffee on the side, it made for a heavenly breakfast!

This is a gluten-free recipe and it is also vegan-friendly recipe provided you use oil instead of ghee for roasting the dosa. The recipe below serves 4-5 people but since I was cooking only for two, I halved all the ingredients. On the same note, if you are cooking for a large number of people, this recipe easily doubles. I highly recommend that you try this dosa. It has become a recent favourite of mine and I've already made it thrice since coming across the recipe! It is that good, trust me :)


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Baker's Corner: Lemon Syrup Cake

I had put the brakes on my baking exploits for a while since I'd been adamant to drop a few pounds. Now that I've accomplished that, look what I'm back to doing! *guffaws* I've returned from my baking hiatus with this delightful Lemon Syrup Cake. 

I am an avid follower of MasterChef. I even own a MasterChef white apron which makes me feel like even though I can never win the title of MasterChef, I can surely feel like one in the comfort of my own home! I watch the UK, US and Australia versions of the show religiously. MasterChef Australia is my favorite among the three because I find it the most interesting without being overtly melodramatic or gimmicky (so far so good!). My hubby watches along with me so we usually have some food related discussions or comments after the show ends. We are currently lagging behind just having watched the 4th series of MasterChef that premiered in 2012 and in one particular telecast, the runner-up Julia Taylor, made this Lemon Syrup Cake. It looked simple, moist and delicious and most importantly, it was something that screamed "make me" "make me" :D I was happy to find Julia's original recipe on the internet and after going through the ingredients, even happier to note that I had all of them except for the required number of lemons. After a quick dash to the grocery store with a handful of lemons, I got cracking on this dessert. The interesting feature of this cake is that it has to be completely cooked and firm at the edges whereas at the sides, it needs to be slightly sticky and gooey. When the cake is baked this way, the addition of the hot lemon vanilla syrup over the top of the cake, causes a depression in the middle of the cake. Even though from the photos, you do see a depression in the middle of my cake, I did encounter a few problems during and after the baking process. The cake was cracked at the top when it came out of the oven which was probably the result of over beating the batter. I baked the cake for exactly 40 min which I thought would be just right to maintain the two different consistencies across the edge and center but I figured I could have baked it for an additional 2-5 min more. The centre was a bit more gooey than I expected it to be. I also did an incredibly clumsy job of transferring the cake to the cake stand. The cake ripped at one end which I felt like kicking myself for! But having said all that, the cake was lovely in flavor and texture. It was soft, moist, sweet and tangy. The lemon zest beautifully perfumed the cake and it was totally worth making.

The weather in Singapore has been nothing short of miserable lately with looming black clouds and rain threatening to lash out at any given opportunity. I constantly find myself bitterly complaining about the weather especially when I happen to cook for my blog! I had my fingers crossed that by the time I was done with my cake, the weather would co-operate with me long enough to get some decent shots that I could use as evidence of my hard work. It turned out to be wishful thinking because the rain that started in the morning incessantly pelted against the windows for the whole day. Despite that I still managed to get these two shots.....something is better than nothing I guess!

The recipe that I've provided here has been taken from Julia taylor's website. Do try this yummy won't regret it!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Restaurant review: Capri Trattoria & Pizzeria, Singapore

Capri Trattoria and Pizzeria is named after the island of Capri in Southern Italy. This small and cozy restaurant situated at Binjai Park in Singapore features a menu of freshly made pasta, seafood, grilled meat and pizza made in a brick oven.

A few months ago, me and eight of my girlfriends decided to hop over to Capri one Friday evening for dinner. One of our colleagues was leaving and it being her last day at work, we wanted to throw her a small farewell. The Bukit Timah area in Singapore has a lot of good food establishments and one of the restaurants that popped up during our animated discussion of the venue was Capri. And who doesn't like Italian food?! The best thing about it is its simplicity, flavor and character. Moreover, we were eager to go to a restaurant that served authentic fresh Italian cuisine and not the generic, mass-produced pastas/pizzas that is served in most places. So with the unanimous vote for Capri, having made a reservation in advance, we made our way to Binjai Park.

We reached by car and unfortunately at that hour, finding a parking space in the area was a bit of a nightmare. The restaurant did have complimentary valet parking which we probably should have gone for but in the end we did manage to find a spot. So, if you are driving down especially on a weekend, don't fret - it is valet parking to the rescue!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Solutions for Sustainable Living

Recently, one of my cousin's mentioned to me about starting a website that was dedicated to sustainable living. Sustainable living, simply put is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the earth's natural resources and personal resources. This mainly entails altering the methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet. A few days after our conversation, I received the link to the  afore-mentioned website and was asked to contribute an article if I was interested. I thought to myself that this could not have come at a better time. It had always been on my mind to make changes to my lifestyle in order to reduce my carbon footprint. The motivation to finally do something about it rather than be a passive onlooker came about after a recent holiday in Bali where I stayed at an Eco-friendly resort. From my stay at this resort, I gained a finer appreciation for utilizing as minimum resources as possible, reducing waste and being more respectful towards maintaining the ecological balance of nature.

Thanks to globalization, we are so wrapped up in consumerism that we find it difficult to foresee how the choices we make today, impacts the future. Given everything we are shown in the media regarding status-symbols and elitism, it is expected that we develop the tendency to lean towards instant gratification. This makes us unrelenting to the prospect of an alternate lifestyle and cultivates a cavalier attitude towards it. I understand and agree that it may not be possible to live our life in a way that fulfills every requirement of sustainable living but there are certainly small changes that we can adopt on a daily basis that could make a difference for the generations to come. Although, a significant change can happen only if these changes are implemented on a much larger scale, we can make informed decisions regarding what is in our control and set a good example to those around us.

If you have given the concept of sustainable living some thought but are unsure of what you can do about it then this post is perfect for you. This post is a list of 20 tips aimed at sustainable living that I thought would be easy to integrate into our daily lives with minimum hassle. It can be challenging at first no doubt but I reckon these tips are simple and easy to follow 

The photos in this post are from my home/workplace with the exception of the title photo and two logos which were obtained from the internet

So without further ado, here we go!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Recipe of the month: Rajma Cheese Paratha

I must have already professed my love for aloo parathas in an earlier recipe post but there is another paratha that catches my fancy in a similar way. This is the not-so-common and unusual sounding 'Rajma Cheese Paratha'. This paratha has a filling which is a combination of kidney beans, cheese and spring onions which makes for a surprisingly delightful combination. 

Several years ago, I bought a cookbook by Tarla Dalal which was dedicated to parathas. I still have that book with me and it is stashed along with my other cookbooks on a kitchen shelf. I will admit that I haven't tried too many of the recipes from this book but one of the first ones that I did try and absolutely loved was this rajma cheese paratha. I have been making this paratha for a really long time and it is one of my go-to recipes when I'm in the mood for parathas. This dish is not only delicious but nutritious as well. Incorporating kidney beans and cheese into a whole wheat paratha, fortifies the dish with protein, carbs and fat. If you are worried about the cheese being in there, just go for a low-fat option. The addition of cheese imparts a creamy texture to the paratha so I wouldn't recommend skipping it.

I make this paratha in two ways depending on my frame of mind and how much time I have on hand. Sometimes to make a paratha, I make two small chapatis, place the filling on top of one, smear the edges with a little water, place the second chapati over the top, seal the edges and roll until the desired size is reached. Other times, I make just 1 chapati, place the filling in the centre, gather the edges to enclose the filling, pat down slightly and roll it into the desired size. The former technique is much easier but more time consuming so if you don't have too much experience in paratha making, I would suggest that method. But if you are particularly adept at making parathas, then you can follow the method shown in the recipe. 

I already had a draft ready for this recipe but I delayed posting it because I was unhappy with how the photos turned out. It was just one of those days when the weather decided to screw me over! I have too many other recipes on my cooking radar so I didn't foresee a time when I'll be making these parathas again any time soon. That's my excuse for you being stuck with the original crappy photos! I may update the photos in this post at a later stage.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Restaurant review: Graze @ Rochester Park, Singapore

When you hear the word 'Graze', you would probably imagine a bunch of cows leisurely chowing down grass amidst lush green surroundings. Well, replace cows with humans and grass with grub and viola! you might as well be sitting at this restaurant  

Graze is located in a pre-war, colonial-style black and white house in Rochester Park, near Holland Village and offers a new concept in contemporary dining where people can hang out for an extended periods of time, experiencing modern Australian cuisine in a friendly and relaxed environment. The grassy lawns of Graze’s gardens and the fresh, airy ambiance of the colonial-style house adds to the allure of this restaurant. 

It was my first time in Rochester Park even though it is a stone's throw away from my workplace. I have been to the popular food enclaves in this part of the city like Holland Village and Dempsey Hill plenty of times but never to Rochester Park. My first thoughts as I entered the narrow, quiet, picturesque street leading up to the series of charming white colonial-style restaurants were - "why haven't I been here's so lovely!" I was supposed to be meeting three of my girlfriends for brunch on a Saturday morning (very Carrie Bradshaw-esque, minus the alcohol!) and we were scheduled to reach there by 11:30am. Since I was the first one to reach the venue, I had plenty of photo ops as you can see


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Baker's Corner: Cheese Soufflé

The oh-so-fancy soufflé makes its debut appearance on my blog!

A soufflé is a French inspired dish that is a lightly baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or a sweet dessert. The word soufflé is derived from French and means "to blow up" or more loosely "puff up" which is an apt description of what happens to this combination of custard and egg whites in this dish.

It is no secret that the soufflĂ© has a bad reputation. It is notorious for making even the most accomplished cooks break into a cold sweat. Whenever I see a soufflĂ© being made on television, I always hear the ominous predictions of all that could go wrong. Temperamental people are my least favorite kind of people so it is no surprise that fussy dishes make me weary. That being said, I think it is good to accept cooking challenges and attempt dishes that are considered difficult. In the past, I have tried out the Chocolate Fondant which is another popular kitchen nightmare and although it didn't turn out perfect, I'm glad that I at least attempted it 

To be very honest, I'm not a huge fan of a savory soufflĂ©. I consider it to be a fancy replacement to a simple plain omelette! I prefer the sweet variety any day. Making a soufflĂ© has always been on my cooking radar. The reason I attempted the savory soufflĂ© first is because I wanted to limit it to an audience of just me and hubby so I could comfortably learn all the basic tips and tricks for making a good soufflĂ© before I attempted the sweet kind for future dinner parties. Now that I have overcome my initial fear of soufflĂ©s, you can expect to see a chocolate soufflĂ© soon on my blog!

This recipe is from Alton Brown, one of the people I admire the most on Food Network. I thought who better to follow for a recipe that is challenging than a person who delves so deeply into food science. This recipe has a few ingredients and is relatively simple. I made sure I followed the instructions very precisely. If you plan to make this dish I would advise you to keep all the ingredients ready, familiarize yourself with the recipe beforehand and have a plan in your mind as to how you are going to proceed. Scrambling around the kitchen like a headless chicken is not something you want to be doing especially with a fiddly dish like this!

Anyway, coming to the outcome of my soufflé experiment, the resultant soufflé was light and airy with the subtle flavor of cheese coming through. It was a little bland though and next time I might consider adding in some cayenne pepper. I was anxious whether the soufflé would rise or not so I was glancing at it nervously every few minutes as it was baking in the oven. Much to my delight, the soufflé rose a very impressive 3-4 inches above the edge of the ramekin. Unfortunately, it didn't stay that way and slowly started to collapse after a few minutes. I just managed to take some pictures as it began to sink!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: Lord of the Flies

You know what I consider to be a really good weekend? One in which I have time to curl up with a good book undisturbed and be able to finish the book by the time the weekend bids adieu. It doesn't happen very often but when it does, it leaves me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Well, that is exactly what I was able to do last weekend (yay!). My bookcase at home is crammed with so many books that I "was supposed" to read but never got around to doing. My pick this time round was Lord of the Flies, a book I'm embarrassed to admit that I'd never even heard of until a few years ago. 

The Lord of the Flies is a 1954 allegorical novel written by Nobel prize winning English author William Golding. It is classic literature which has long since made its foray into reading material for schools, colleges and English literature courses for its thought-provoking take on human nature. It is also somewhat controversial for its dark and disturbing subject matter. My copy had the preface penned by Stephen King. I enjoyed reading his account of the circumstances leading up to his reading Lord of the Flies for the very first time, a book which profoundly resonated with him as a young boy and has evidently influenced him as a writer to this day.   

Before I proceed further, let me warn you that this review is ridden with spoilers so if you have been meaning to read this book then scoot!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Restaurant review: MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms), Singapore

This is one restaurant that I have been eagerly waiting to review. Hearing about the opening of this restaurant in Singapore was music to my ears! Before I proceed with my review, here is some history about MTR. 

MTR has served world class Karnataka cuisine since 1924. Don't you love food establishments which have such a long and rich history? I most certainly do! The founders of MTR originally hail from Dakshina Kannada (just like yours truly) so understandably, I have a soft spot for anything associated with the brand. For me, MTR is a brand that is synonymous with good quality food and culinary products. My pantry is filled with their range of spice powders, instant mixes and snacks. It is something my kitchen just can't do without. I cannot remember if I've been to the MTR restaurant in Bangalore or not but my hubby has and he was reminiscing about how much he had enjoyed the food there. 

I should tell you the events surrounding my first visit to MTR in Singapore. I was beginning to think that I was going to be the last among the Kannadigas in Singapore to check out this restaurant since I had been frequently seeing MTR-related Facebook updates from family and friends living here. Naturally, I had been yammering about the same for a while. It so happened that a few weeks ago, my hubby had a charity marathon at the lovely Gardens by the Bay on a Saturday morning at 7:30 am and he had been nudging me to tag along for company. Not being one to be deprived of my beauty sleep over the weekend, I of course said a firm NO at first. But then he said the one thing to completely change my mind - a promise of breakfast at MTR after the marathon (a little bit of bribery goes a long way now doesn't it?!). I wanted to review the restaurant as well so I was looking forward to going there very much. One of my husband's friends was also running the marathon so we asked him to join us.

That's the heading over to MTR

Monday, July 15, 2013

Baker's Corner: Savoury Whole Wheat Buns

I've been on a health-binge lately. I get afflicted by this rare phenomenon once in a blue moon! I've been wanting to shift a few pounds for a while but never got around to doing it (or rather, wasn't all that serious about). A few weeks ago, I decided that procrastination wasn't doing me any favors so I headed straight to my fridge and to my pantry afterwards and started chucking out all the things I thought I shouldn't be eating, mostly the white stuff and processed food. I even emptied out my snack drawer at work so that I wouldn't be tempted to indulge in my stash of coffee-break goodies. This was swiftly followed by a trip to the grocery store where I piled my trolley with a multitude of whole grains, a variety of leafy greens, herbs, veggies and fruit, and last but not least, chalked out a weekly exercise regimen. Needless to say, I embarked on this new path to skinnyville, fervently hoping that I would stick to it! far so good  

One of the biggest challenges I face apart from the occasional fast food and fried food cravings is the snack cravings that roughly hit me between 4 to 5pm. Feeling peckish is the driving force for me to go down to the canteen and grab a spring roll, curry puff or a packet of chips or cookies to go along with my evening coffee. To avoid this, I made up my mind to make my own healthy snack at home. I knew that I had to make it a point to eat only that whenever the snack cravings reared their ugly head. 

I've been baking buns and rolls for quite a while now and I have always used refined flour for the same. This time, I decided to try my same recipe with 100% whole wheat flour. I thought I would do a savory herbed whole wheat bun. This recipe for the bun is modified from my previous potato bun and pizza bun recipe. Instead of doing a stuffed bun, I incorporated extra flavor into the dough in the form of caramelized onions, garlic, fresh herbs, red chilli flakes and some low-fat Parmesan cheese.  I also used olive oil instead of melted butter in the recipe. I was almost certain that the buns would not be as soft and fluffy as the ones I make from refined flour but surprise....surprise, they were just as soft and tasted pretty awesome! I was delighted with the results. I made a small batch over the weekend and froze the rest of the dough to bake later in the middle of the week. One small bun per day was enough to satisfy my evening snack cravings which made the whole endeavor worth while. 

Here is the recipe for the savoury whole wheat buns. You can switch it up any way you like by using any combination of fresh herbs, experimenting with different seasonings and making creative shapes with the dough.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Recipe of the month: Vegetarian Nasi Goreng

I haven't cooked anything blog-worthy in about a month. A recent influx of guests, a family holiday, a deluge of pending chores at home, a poster presentation at a local conference and a backlog of work at the office has contributed to my lack of motivation in the kitchen. I was solely relying on previously drafted recipe posts to keep my blog afloat but now I'm on top of things again so I decided to get back to doing what I love to do! 

While holidaying in Bali recently, I signed up for a traditional Balinese cooking class at the resort that I was staying. I've always been intrigued by the Southeast Asian style of stir-fried rice and noodles because I am miserable at making it so I informed the instructor that I would like to learn how to make vegetarian Nasi goreng (which literally means "fried rice" in Indonesian). Nasi goreng can refer simply to fried pre-cooked rice, a meal including stir-fried rice in small amount of cooking oil or margarine, typically spiced with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), shallot, garlic, tamarind and chilli and accompanied with other ingredients, such as egg or meat.

For the cooking class, I had my sister-in-law for company so in the evening, we left our room for the kitchen. The first thing that struck us was the vast array of fresh and colorful vegetables and ingredients that were arranged neatly on the table. There were several ingredients to the Nasi goreng but the procedure was fairly simple. We were taught to use leftover cooked red rice for the dish which I was happy about since I don't normally eat red rice. I loved using a mortar and pestle to pound the chillies and garlic instead of using an electrical appliance. I think that makes any dish taste better! I grossly under use my mortar and pestle in my own kitchen, bringing it out occasionally to crush things like Indian spices and nuts. Anyway, coming back to our Nasi Goreng adventure, the finished dish was a colorful and flavorful vegetarian fried rice, garnished with fried shallots and cashew nuts and served with rice crackers and a side salad. As we were to serve this dish to my mother-in-law (who doesn't eat egg) for dinner, we took away the fried egg before serving. Fortunately for us, she really enjoyed it! Feeling significantly less intimidated by making fried rice, I made up my mind to try it out in my own kitchen when I got back to Singapore :)

This is the picture of the Nasi Goreng that I made in Bali. What do you think? Does my home-made  attempt look similar?

Here is the adapted recipe for the Nasi goreng. This recipe is from Mini, a lovely local woman and chef at Bali Eco Stay, the resort where I learned to make it. I have slightly modified her recipe in that I've changed the type of oil to peanut oil (she used coconut oil), reduced the amount of oil used,  increased the amount of spice, slightly reduced the amount of sweetness, used a touch more seasoning of salt than what was originally suggested and incorporated the spring onion into the garnish. I wanted to make this dish as healthy as possible so I used brown rice and I skipped the fried garnishes. If you like it any different, you can always make the required tweaks.

This is a healthy, hearty, vibrant, vegetarian, vegan-friendly and gluten-free dish. I won't lie to you, it requires a considerable amount of time and patience to make but it is well worth the effort. I think if you are new to the Southeast Asian style of cooking and cuisine, then the ubiquitous Nasi Goreng would be a great start!