Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Restaurant review: Woodstok - Bangalore, India

It is the first time I'm reviewing a restaurant outside Singapore so it feels a bit odd!  Like I said in one of my previous posts, I'm currently in Bangalore and having quite a marvellous time :) That being said, I can't help but feel slightly out of place in this city. I am not familiar with the geography of Bangalore and the traffic here just drives me nuts so I prefer being at home, venturing out to nearby places only. There is no dearth of fabulous restaurants here but I hardly ever get to try them out mostly due to lack of time or the preconceived notion of weariness resulting from the aforementioned traffic. 

This holiday we had some catching up to do with a new acquaintance and having some free time, we decided to go out for dinner. We settled on Woodstok in Indiranagar after checking out their expansive menu. What sets this restaurant apart from other restaurants is the fact that this is a huge bungalow that has been transformed into an eatery. The layout of the restaurant with its separate distinctive dining rooms, dual floors, winding staircase and open balcony, gives it a warm and homely vibe. The ambience is casual and relaxed and it reflects the greatest musical extravaganza of our times.

The menu offers a wide range of vegetarian and meat-based dishes from different parts of the globe. It features hot favourites from Italy, France, Mexico, Middle East, North America and the Orient. 


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Recipe of the month: Rice Shavige/Semige

The vibrant hues that greet your eyes on the streets, the accustomed sights and smells that bombard your every sense, loud blaring music that seems to come from nowhere, the incessant honking of bikes, cars and vividly decorated trucks, the happy-go-lucky stray dogs, cats and farm animals loitering the streets, simmering pots of curries and stews, the affectionate greetings and hugs from familiar faces, joyous bursts of festivals and rituals, unparalleled hospitality that never fails to fill your heart with warmth and the unmistakable element of organized chaos.....I am in INDIA!

I've been in Bangalore, enjoying the glorious weather, taking long naps, flipping through a mountain of stacked Filmfare magazines, meeting friends, eating at restaurants at every given opportunity (but also enjoying home cooked food) and indulging in a spot of retail therapy every now and then. Usually our trips to India have a jam-packed schedule with us hopping from city to city, house to house and function to function until we desperately yearn for the comfort of home and the luxury of doing absolutely nothing (for a change). Fortunately, this time is quite unlike the rest and we have plenty of time to relax and unwind. The fact that I have found time to structure this post is testament to how jobless I am at the moment! :)

Before I get any undue credit for this post, let me be upfront and say that this is my atthe's (MIL's) contribution to my blog. Two days ago, I broached the subject of posting one of her recipes on my blog which she willingly agreed. Asking her or my mum to cook something for my blog is the easiest thing in the world because whatever they make ends up tasting great so I don't have to think twice. However, I was hoping for it to be a dish that I don't prepare myself. At that particular moment, I couldn't think of anything aside from Rice Shavige/Semige, also known as Sevai or Santhakai in Tamil; Idiappam or Noolappam in Malayalam and also as String Hoppers. The reason I have never attempted this breakfast dish before is not out of laziness but out of pure intimidation. Traditionally, the device used to make it, called a shavige press looks like an ancient contraption right out of Indus Valley civilization or something :P You need two people to operate it efficiently, with one person rotating the sturdy handle to squeeze the steamed rice mixture through the sieve at the end of the mould and the other person to collect the long strands of shavige that drops below onto a plate. It can also be made using a chakli press but despite owning one, I never even tried making it. This South-Indian take on noodles is served with a variety of savoury or sweet accompaniments. The most popular savoury combinations in our household being tender mango pickle and coconut oil, coconut chutney, majjige huli (a coconut-based vegetable gravy) or sweet combinations like mango or banana rasayana (coconut milk sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with cardamom). It can be also made into a shavige chitranna (lemon rice like preparation) as well as a shavige oggarane (shavige mixed with tempering and ground coconut, mustard seeds and dry red chillies). I love shavige and I devour platefuls of it during the rare occasions it is made at home. I don't depend on a variety of sides to go along with it. Instead, I march into the kitchen, open the cabinet, get a bottle of tantalizing appemidi pickle and coconut oil, generously pour it over the shavige, give it a good mix until the contents on my plate turns a crimson shade of red and begin wolfing it down at breakneck speed!

My only contribution to this post is this lengthy monologue and typing out the detailed instructions that my atthe gave me. I share the photo credits with her because she spent considerable time searching through cupboards and drawers, looking for props that we could use to make the photo look appealing. In the process we found so many interesting plates, pots and utensils tucked away in different corners of the house, most of them long forgotten. I must say, that whole process was quite fun! Whatever props you see in the photos here has been sourced by my atthe so in addition to cooking one of my all-time favourite dishes for my blog, she has helped me get these photos looking as colorful as they do :) So, a big thank you atthe! 

The recipe quantities given in the recipe below serves 2-3 people but the quantities that you see in the step-by-step photos yields much more because when atthe made it at home, she made it for more people and to last a couple of days. So don't go by the quantity shown in the pics....they are solely for illustrative purposes.

This recipe hails from my native place and is very close to my heart so although it is elaborate and not very easy, please dont be a scaredy cat like me and shy away from it. If you are up for a kitchen challenge, this is the perfect dish for you! I hope you give it and go and discover the joy in the simplicity of this wonderful dish. Since I've already made a couple of cooking resolutions for this year, I'm going to go on a limb and add one more to it. I am going to make shavige at home in Singapore using my chakli press so that I won't ever regret not even attempting it. Whether or not I'm successful at it....well....lets just say, I'll keep you posted!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Baker's Corner: Cheesy Mushroom Quiche

Guess what I've been doing the past few days? I've been running around like a headless chicken trying to make sure I get everything I'm supposed to do, done before we leave for our three week holiday to India tomorrow! Usually I get started on packing at least a week (if not more) in advance but this time, I've just been swamped with so many other things that I just got my suitcase down from the storeroom yesterday night. For me, that is as last minute as it can get! I'm almost certain that I'll leave something behind and that gets me overwrought. I'm quite an obsessive packer so I usually have a game plan, a couple of lists, reminders and what not to help me along the way. I even put a lot of thought into picking what books I carry along to read during the holiday. For this! But I'm done with completing all the pending tasks at work, getting the house in order, shopping for loved ones and I even managed to bake something special to take with me so its not all bad

Anyway, moving past my dreary packing woes, this year, one of my resolutions is to try and experiment with different cuisines and dishes that are outside of my comfort zone. Another one is to hone my baking skills. Since I began baking at the start of 2012, I've mostly baked simple cakes, puddings and a few varieties of bread. I did try a more complex layered cake, the scary souffle and the intimidating molten chocolate cake but nothing more. Baking is a creative outlet for me. I love the magical transformation of ingredients, the moment of surprise when you pull something out of the oven, the heavenly scent that fills the kitchen and the moment of accomplishment when you slice into your creation and discover it to be just perfect (okay that doesn't happen all the time!). This year and next, I hope to feature cheesecake, macaroons, eclairs, tarts, pies and more savoury bakes on my blog. 

Pies have been on my baking radar right from the beginning of my baking journey but I never got around to making any. Whenever I think of a pie, I invariably think of the sweet kind and not savoury. Ever since I discovered what a quiche is, I've wanted to make it at home. A crispy pastry crust layered with sautéed vegetables, topped off with an egg and cheese mixture and baked till golden....hell yeah! That is totally my kind of thing I had forgotten all about quiches until I saw one in a blog that I follow. The recipe looked really simple and I already had all the ingredients with me so there was no reason not to march straight into the kitchen and get cracking on it. The best thing about making a quiche is that it can be customised and doesn't require much precision. 

I tweaked the original recipe a little to make it more interesting and after I was done making it, I noted certain aspects that could be done to make it even better. I’ve incorporated the changes into the final version of the recipe that you see here. From this recipe, I made one large 12-inch quiche but you can also do two 6-inch quiches or a 9-inch quiche and four mini-quiches. I wasn't very sure if the quiche would come out in one piece and I had brutal visions of the crust collapsing or crumbling or something but as you can see from the picture, nothing of that sort happened!

This quiche is an extremely simple one with only a handful of ingredients which makes it great for beginners, but keep in mind that as I said before, this dish is wonderfully versatile. You can add other veggies and greens into your quiche like spinach, leeks, zucchini, bell peppers, sweet corn and tomatoes. You can play around with the ingredients that you think will add an interesting element of texture and flavour. Also, you can add parmesan or gruyere cheese along with the cheddar for added flavour. Serve it for breakfast, lunch or dinner....this is a sure fire crowd-pleaser in any situation! I will be trying different versions of this quiche in the future and the ones that top this one will make it to the blog in due course of time 

I might be missing in action for a while. But then again, I might find sudden inspiration from somewhere and blog during my holiday as never know! Whether or not I keep my space running during the next three weeks, I have some exciting recipes coming up so stay tuned 

So without further ado, here is the recipe. I hope you try it (and like it!).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Restaurant review: Lunch buffet @CafeBiz (Trader's Hotel), Singapore

I miss December already! For me, December is the month that all other months aspire to be It is probably the only month where even going to work feels like fun! Me and my colleagues (aka BFFs) usually plan a special outing in December but this year, most of us were out of town on different occasions so getting everyone together was a colossal challenge (we eventually ended up going to the prosaic Thai Express for a New Year's lunch). We also usually have an office Christmas party but this year that didn't materialise either in the wake of a massive-scale renovation and moving at the workplace. But to compensate for what we missed out on, we managed to sneak in a lunch outing at the start of the month before people started jetting off all across the globe for the holidays. So, as part of our christmas celebrations at the office, my boss took me and my colleagues out to lunch at CafeBiz, Traders hotel. 

A few of my friends had been to the restaurant at Trader's hotel before and they spoke highly of the dining experience. The restaurant had a 1-for-1 lunch buffet promotion for UOB/OCBC/DBS card holders (which is an awesome deal by the way). We were 16 people so it made sense for us to avail the promotion. To be on the safe side, I made a reservation a 3 days in advance. The restaurant management called me the previous day to confirm the reservation so the seating was well taken care of. 

Trader's hotel is located behind Tanglin mall. It isn't very accessible from the MRT station so we shared four cabs to reach our destination. There was a giant Christmas tree in the main lobby which imparted a cheery, festive feel to the ambience as soon as we entered the hotel. The restaurant is spacious, well maintained and has brilliant lighting.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goodbye 2013 and Welcome 2014!

I'd like to wish all my wonderful readers a very Happy New Year!

After an extremely eventful holiday season, I've finally found myself in a place where I don't have a whole lot of things to do or a hundred thoughts racing through my mind. I'm done with spring cleaning, entertaining guests, holiday baking, christmas shopping and the numerous outings with friends and family that were scheduled over the past two months. But having said that, this quiet time won't last very long because I'll be flying off to India in about two and a half weeks for my annual home visit. Whoopee! 

Since I've had time to allocate some much-needed TLC to my blog, I was wondering what my first post of the New Year would be. I didn't want it to be something routine like a recipe or a review. After pondering over it the past few days, I thought I would do a photo montage of sorts highlighting the significant and/or memorable events of my life in the year gone by. I thought that would be a fitting farewell to 2013

Aside from the public holiday on New year's Day, it so happened that New Year's eve had also been declared a holiday at my University (something that I was unaware of until the last moment). Gotta love unexpected holidays! So here I am - home alone, sprawled over the sofa, blogging away to my heart's content! This is a photo-heavy post, many of which have already been featured on my blog since the start of the year so pardon me for the redundancy. This feature is a tribute to 2013 with a compilation of a select few nostalgia-evoking pics.

Let's begin the photo journey. Here we go!