Sunday, April 13, 2014

Restaurant review: Bar Bar Black Sheep, Cluny Court @ Bukit Timah

This was my third visit to Bar Bar Black Sheep. All three times, I've been to the outlet at Cluny Court in Bukit Timah. The other three outlets are at Robertson Quay, Tanjong Katong and Cherry avenue. This cafe/bar/restaurant (I don't really know how to categorize it!) is a good place to unwind with friends for drinks and a vast selection of food. It is seemingly quite popular with the expatriates living in Singapore. BBBS offers Thai, Western and North Indian dishes off three separate menus, so it caters to people who wish to sample dishes from these three diverse cuisines.

Since we were a large group of 15 friends and it was a friday evening, we made a reservation in advance. The Cluny Court outlet is located right outside the exit of the Botanic gardens MRT on the circle line, so it is very easily accessible.

The interior is eye-catching with an interesting layout, color scheme, good lighting, colorful chalkboards, mirrors, a brick wall and knick knacks. 

Since I went with a large group of friends, we ended up ordering a LOT of food. I didn't see a lot of the dishes that were at the far end of the table so I just passed my camera around and my friends did the clicking for me! Despite that, I think we missed a few dishes. Sorry for not providing the detailed description and price of each specific dish.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Recipe of the month: Rava Idli

I dedicate this post to my beloved paternal grandmother who passed away last month. She was the warmest, kindest, liveliest and most hospitable woman I have ever known and I consider it a privilege to be her granddaughter. When I was born, she flew all the way to England along with my maternal grandmother (those two got along famously) so she was one of the first among my extended family who welcomed me into this world. I will forever remember her as someone who loved chatting with people, sharing family stories, gardening, drinking filter coffee, reading kannada novels, watching daily soaps on tv (she could often be heard openly chastising the antagonist for his/her villainous deeds) but most of all, as someone who was devoted to her family. She epitomized generosity, wisdom, patience, sacrifice and hard work. During her lifetime, she showed nothing but kindness and a genuine affection towards my mother which made me respect her even more.  I loved her with all my heart and I am going to miss her dearly. The gentle soul that she is, I'm sure she is even making heaven a better place  ❤️

Rava idli or steamed semolina cakes is a popular South-Indian breakfast dish. To be completely honest, rava idli is one of those dishes that I have struggled with over the years. It started off with me not acknowledging it's existence altogether to buying instant rava idli mixes and then to a few disastrous attempts at making it myself from scratch. It's weird because I make the regular kind of idlis all the time and they turn out fine. Unlike the regular idli, rava idli does not require any soaking, grinding, fermentation (basically any cumbersome procedure) and can be prepared in a jiffy so you would think that it should be a cinch right? For me at least, no such luck (boo!). It took me a few trials to figure out the right kind of rava, the consistency of the batter and the life-altering realization that it was so much better to use fruit salt instead of cooking soda. Anyway, better late than never so here I am with a rava idli post which should be an indication that I have finally laid my rava idli demons to rest....haha!

Rava idli has quite an interesting history. This dish which originates from my home state of Karnataka is said to be the brainchild of the popular restaurant chain Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) of Bangalore. It is said to have been invented during World War II when rice (which was the staple ingredient used to make idli) was in short supply. In order to overcome this impediment, MTR apparently experimented with rava to make idlis and lo behold, the humble rava idli was born. Since then, it has been a staple on the menus of restaurants that serve Udupi cuisine and eventually it spread to feature on breakfast menus of restaurants serving South-Indian food in general. 

My mum makes rava idlis very frequently at home and she consistently prepares two side dishes to go along with it - coconut chutney (on demand) and a potato bhaji (courtesy my demanding brother). Since rava idli is already flavoured with an array of tempering ingredients, curry leaves, ginger, green chillies and coriander, I don't really need much to go along with it. All I need is my favourite chutney pudi and I am all set to tuck in. But then again, despite my best efforts to keep it simple, nostalgia kicks in at the very last minute and I end up going the same route as my mum and prepare both the coconut chutney and the potato bhaji

The last two or three occasions I made rava idlis at home, they turned out well enough for me to consider the recipe blogworthy. I know of many people who are not familiar with rava idli. This is an easy to make dish which is nutritious, delicious and vegan-friendly (i.e. if you replace the ghee with oil). Here is my version which results in soft and spongy idlis. This recipe works for me and I hope it works for you too!