Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

May the odds ever be in your favour

-The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is a 2008 science fiction novel by the American writer Suzanne Collins. The novel is the first in The Hunger Games trilogy, followed by Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010). I CANNOT fathom why it took me so long to read this book. The reason I say that is because I am currently wholly consumed by it! I had heard of the books and the motion pictures based on the books but that was about it. A few weeks ago, I happened to watch the first part of the movie i.e. The Hunger Games. I had no idea what it was about so I didn't know what to expect. A few minutes into the movie and I became aware of the whole dystopian sensibility going on and that made me a bit weary. I have watched movies based on a similar concept like Children of Men, V for Vendetta and Cloud Atlas to name a few and although I consider these movies to be good, it frankly, isn't my cup of tea. Well, I ended up having to eat my words. I found the concept, storyline and characters in the movie so unique and intriguing that I immediately rushed to my bookshelf and fished out the book. I felt like an idiot knowing that this ground-breaking trilogy was idly sitting there all along. I don't know how I will feel about the but for now atleast I am thrilled with how the story has unfolded. I wish someone had yelled at me for being so clueless, given me a good shake, thrust this book into my hands and ordered me to read it much earlier!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Baker's Corner: Vegetable Pot Pie

So I've been MIA for a few days now haven't I? It wasn't intentional really. I have so many recipe drafts ready which can keep my blog going without having me breaking into a cold sweat. But I discovered that it was time to feature my Baker's Corner segment and none of the recipe posts that I had on hold were baking-related. Off late, I've been baking a lot of desserts and the last few recipes on my blog have been traditional regional Indian cuisine. I was thinking of a savoury bake, something on the lines of lasagne or cannelloni but I couldn't quite make up my mind. I asked my husband what dish I should bake next and he said 'pot pie' before I had even finished asking the question! For a food blogger who often gets stumped with what to cook next, it helps to have someone at home who has such specific food cravings doesn't it?!

A pot pie is a mixture of meat and/or vegetables made in a pot, hence the name "pot pie”. Although there are crustless varieties, I went for the type of pot pie which is baked in a casserole dish lined with a crust. I've had pot pies before and I like them. I'd never tried making them myself though. While browsing recipe websites a few months ago, I saw an interesting variation of a vegetable pocket pie which had a vegetable pot pie filling encased in a short-crust pocket and baked till golden. That image stayed with me for a while and I thought of re-creating the recipe exactly as I had seen it. But fast forward to the present where I've received a request for a pot pie. I thought to myself - "Okay....let's try this dish the traditional way then".

I buy puff pastry and filo pastry from the frozen section of the grocery store. Having no experience with short-crust pastry before, I thought I shouldn't take any risks and just buy the store-bought variety. Unfortunately I didn't find it in the grocery store (to be completely honest, I didn't look very hard!). A conversation with a gastronomically gifted friend brought me to the realization that making short-crust pastry at home is really easy and it can be done within 15 min. I watched a youtube video of Gordon Ramsay making short-crust pastry and I was relieved that this was something I could handle. But if you want to get the ready made stuff, please go ahead and do so. I would be the last person to judge you! For the filling, I improvised on the vegetable pocket pie filling that I mentioned earlier hoping that it would turn out the way I had in mind.

A friend had gifted me a lovely square Corelle casserole set during my housewarming ceremony and I thought the two smaller (5x5 inch) casseroles would be perfect to assemble the pot pie in. So, short-crust pastry and filling done, the only thing left to do was put together the pies and pop them in the oven. I was anxiously watching the pies in the oven since they seemed to be taking a long time to brown. But  in the end, brown they did and they came out looking good. They were scalding hot so we were forced to wait before digging our spoons in. The only thing I can say is that it was worth the wait! The crust was flaky and cooked perfectly and the filling was creamy and delicious. Hubby gave his stamp of approval and I was so glad I attempted this dish. There is no doubt in my mind that it is going to feature regularly on our weekend brunch menu

This recipe might look elaborate but trust me, it is quite easy. And since this dish can be served as main course, you don't need anything else to go alongside it.

Okay, that's quite enough of my jibber-jabber for now....won't you be a dear and check out the recipe?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Recipe of the month: Karnataka Speciality - Avarekalu Usli

This is a follow-up to the Ukkarisida Akki Rotti/Bili Rotti (rice-based pancake) post that you saw on my blog last month. Both the dishes you see in this post and earlier one are specialities from my home state of Karnataka in India. These are dishes that I have grown up eating and hence very close to my heart. My mum made soft fluffy rottis with a yummy avarekalu usli for me the last time I was in India and since this side dish is such a favourite of mine, I decided to feature it on my blog. I published the ukkarisida akki rotti recipe on my blog as a contribution from my mum but I kept the avarekalu usli all for myself to cook it at home in Singapore and then post for you

I have already chronicled my love of avarekalu in previous posts on my blog. The english names for avarekalu is hyacinth beans, lablab beans or field beans. They are also known as surti papadi in hindi. These chartreuse green beans are seasonal and can be used (either whole or deskinned) in a variety of dishes like salads, dry side dishes, curries, rice dishes, upma and akki rotti. In my humble opinion, they make every dish that they are added to taste more awesome!

If you are not familiar with these beans, this is what they look like....

I brought back a whole lot of avarekalu back to Singapore and based on my mum's directions, I made the usli along with the ukkarisida akki rotti on one leisurely weekend. Both turned out great and I was full of beans for the remainder of the day (no pun intended!). I prepared the usli in my rickety old pressure cooker because not only does it save time but the dishes cooked in a pressure cooker generally have a better flavour profile. 

Here is the recipe. This protein packed side dish is vegan-friendly and gluten-free and it pairs well with chapati/roti or akki rotti. If you get your hands on these wonder beans, do try this recipe. You will be glad you did!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Restaurant review: Medzs@Orchard Central, Singapore

During the first week of Feb, it was time to celebrate a close friend's birthday so me and seven other friends (including the birthday girl), began discussing the venue for our next gathering. We girls have this never-ending list of restaurants to visit on our so-called bucket list so each time it is time to go out, we just pick one among them. At this point in time, we have our gluttonous escapades worked out until May! We settled on Medzs, a restaurant that one of the girls recommended. Being the only non-local in my group of friends (and also the only Indian), I get wind of good restaurants in Singapore from them which, left to my own devices, I would probably not be aware of....lucky me!

Medzs is a Mediterranean restaurant that showcases gourmet delights of seven international cuisines namely Spanish, Moroccan, Tunisian, French, Turkish, Greek and Italian. There are two outlets of this restaurant in Singapore, one at Orchard Central and the other one at Millenia Walk. We chose the outlet at Orchard Central and I proceeded to make a reservation for a table of eight on a weekday evening which was handled efficiently by the restaurant staff.

The restaurant has a very Mediterranean aesthetic to it which is apparent right from the entrance. There are crisp white walls interspersed with hues of the sea inspired from Greece such as deep blues and vibrant aquas with pops of red stemming from a Spanish and Moroccan influence. Other elements of the decor that catch your eye are the wrought iron accents, stone walls, patterned tiles, framed mirrors, wood elements and arabian lanterns. The restaurant is seemingly regular-sized from the outside but as you keep walking in, it just stretches to reveal cavernous depths. The layout of the restaurant is clever with designated seating areas distributed around the food stations in a way that it feels spacious and private.