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!