Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Restaurant review: Caruso Italian Restaurant and Bar, Singapore

Invited Review
Last week, the good folks at Caruso Italian Restaurant and Bar extended a kind invitation to sample their lunch menu. Italian cuisine is my most favourite International cuisine (aside from my own native cuisine) so it didn't take much persuasion to say yes. And nowadays, any opportunity to get out of the house is welcomed with keen enthusiasm! Since I knew I couldn't do full justice to the menu considering my dietary restrictions, I took along a trusty local friend and fellow foodie (who conveniently lives across the street from me) to evaluate the meat-based dishes.

Bukit Timah offers some of the best dining options in Singapore and being fortunate to live around the area, it has been a familiar haunt for me over the years. Joining the row of shophouses along Bukit Timah road near the junction of sixth avenue, Caruso Restaurant and Bar is an authentic Italian restaurant showcasing the strong flavor of southern Italian cuisine. The chefs at Caruso use the finest ingredients imported from Italy and classic cooking techniques focussing on authenticity and perfection in their culinary creations. Caruso marked its foray into the local Italian dining scene in August 2013 so is still a relatively new restaurant.

The name of the restaurant is inspired by the first legendary Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso, originally from Naples.

The interiors reflects the rich Italian heritage that the restaurant draws inspiration from. It has a rustic elegance yet lends a homely and cozy vibe. The crisp white stone arches amidst tangerine orange hued walls make the space look eye-catching and inviting. The walls are adorned with photographs proudly depicting the food culture in the Puglia region.

I love going to restaurants that have a culinary history. The hallmark of a good restaurant is the pride they take in their culture and food and Caruso scores major points in this area.

The owner, Leonardo Palmisano hails from Locorotondo, a picturesque little town surrounded by the ancient Trulli in the region of Puglia in Southern Italy. Puglia is famous for its healthy & tasty cuisine, focussing on hand-made pasta such as the orecchiette.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

My All-Time Most and Least Favourite Television Characters

The medium of television has given us some gems in the form of tv shows over the years. Many of the modern dramas can easily rival Hollywood's best releases in terms of their immersive and cinematic style. Unlike a movie which is only a few hours long, TV shows run for an extended period of time (some spanning several years) so the connection to the characters is far more deep and personal. TV characters, more than movie characters are tricky to get right. But when they do, they become familiar and never wear out their welcome. On the other hand, if a character is not embraced by fans, it can even sever a long-standing love affair with the show.

I compiled this post just for laughs so if I come across as too intense, it is not because I can't separate reality from fiction! I just happen to be an emotionally involved tv viewer. I can both love and accept a flawed character but not when it gets past my level of tolerance. My picks for most favourite and least favourite characters are from dramas and sitcoms that cater to my interest and obviously from those I have watched till date. There are several acclaimed shows that I haven't watched yet (and hence you may feel certain characters are missing) but this post will be updated when I come across characters that I feel need to be included. I have a lineup of shows that I have yet to watch  - Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Office, House and The Sopranos. By the time I'm done with them, there will be a whole lot more to watch - a never ending cycle of entertainment! 

What makes a character a fan favourite? Most of the time, it is a combination of the actor's talent along with the amount of depth that the show's writers and creators were able to bring to the character consistently over the course of the series. Some characters are so memorable that years after a show has ended, they still play in the hearts and minds of the public. These are the characters that shape the culture that we live in. The best tv characters are the ones who you find fascinating, you want to see more of and/or the ones you want to be friends with (although not necessarily).

These are some of the characters that help me stay hooked on to a television series from start to finish. Note that these are in no particular order of preference.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Baker's Corner: Coffee Fudge Cake

I'm an aunt! Whoop!

I mean, my cousins have kids and all so technically I was already an aunt but it is the first time I have become an aunt from a birth in my immediate family. My little sister delivered a bouncing baby boy yesterday. I am now a 'doddamma' (elder mother) and my little ones have become older sisters.....what fun!

In Indian culture, sweets are distributed to family and friends on happy and festive occasions. Since I consider my readers as my extended family, I decided I would share something sweet with you all today. This post is dedicated to my adorable nephew.  Little dude....I promise that I'll try to be a cool aunt to you

It's been a few months since I've featured a sweet bake on the blog. Not that I haven't been donning my oven mitts but my last few sweet bakes needed more fine tuning before meeting my stamp of approval to appear on the blog. Whenever I feel like my brain is stagnating with the mundaneness of routine life, I turn to baking for a welcome respite. It works like a charm every time!

I was thinking of getting cozy with my kitchenaid and mixing bowls a few weeks ago and it turned out to be perfect timing. I was expecting some friends home, the time frame of which coincided with the husband returning from a business trip to China. It goes without saying that baking a cake would make a lot of people happy. In times of dire baking need, the only person I turn to for a recipe is the Queen of Cakes, Mary Berry. I have tried several of her recipes and they have never failed me to date.

There’s nothing overly fussy or complicated about this recipe.  It comes together easily and bakes up beautifully, making it a great addition to your go-to baking line up. Most cake recipes instruct you to cream the butter and the sugar so thoroughly that it becomes almost white. This vigorous process helps to get air into the mixture and yields a lighter result. Other recipes by contrast, use the all-in-one method which is to dump all the ingredients in one bowl and beat it. This recipe belongs to the latter category so it is easy and requires lesser effort. Note that you need to use self-raising flour and additional baking powder for adequate leavening to occur. I have stopped buying self-raising flour from the store because the raising effect deteriorates over time and in the past, I have had a bag sitting in my pantry for way too long. I prepare self-raising flour at home (refer notes) so that I am sure that the desired effect is achieved. Just make sure that the baking powder you are using is fresh.

Walnuts and coffee are a match made in heaven. The bitterness of the coffee contrasts the intense sweetness of the butter icing remarkably. Keep in mind though that the icing (fudge topping) on this cake is pretty sweet so if that is not your cup of tea, you may just stick to baking the cake and skip the icing all together. Personally speaking, I love icing so I don't mind it at all. The addition of salt and coffee essence does help to counter the sweetness but not by too much. Methinks as long as each generous bite of cake has a little bit of icing along with it, it isn't too much to handle.

This recipe is a keeper and I'm sure I will be making this cake again. Now off you go and make it for yourself and your loved ones!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Recipe of the month: Bread Pakoda

My in-laws were in town for about 3 weeks last month. They had a wonderful time with the kids while I caught a much needed break. We couldn't venture out as much as we would have liked to (courtesy the 'haze') save for another trip to Madame Tussaud's and a get together at a friend's place but it was a refreshing change nonetheless. On the bright side....one of the things you can do when you are stuck at home is cook up a storm so that is exactly what we did!

My MIL makes this bread pakoda quite frequently when she is entertaining guests, on festive occasions or during her customary new year parties. Usually when you hear of bread pakodas, you expect deep-fried batter coated bread filled with a potato or a mixed vegetable filling. But my MIL's version is far less cumbersome, less heavy and I daresay equally delicious. Trust me when I say that it totally satisfies your fried food cravings.

A few guidelines while making this dish - use either white or wholemeal bread (I'm not sure multigrain will work as well), make sure it is the salted variety and not the sweet kind, try to get the largest loaf available, preferably use bread that has been refrigerated at least a day in advance and use fresh oil for deep-frying. The consistency of the dipping mixture is important too but you will get a hang of that by experience. My MIL typically uses finely chopped onions, garlic, green chillies and fresh coriander to flavour the dipping mixture but you could add in some fresh ginger and/or curry leaves if you like. Since the dipping mixture has plenty of bright fresh flavours incorporated into it, you really don't need any accompaniment to these pakodas. Just pick up a hot crispy pakoda and begin munching!

My trusty Canon DSLR conked off just as I was gearing up to prepare this post. As a result, I was forced to use my Sony cybershot to take the photos (which made me very grumpy indeed). I really wanted to feature this snack on my blog and I wasn't sure if I would be making it in the near future (with my upcoming India trip and all) so I decided to compromise. Bleh.

So, the next time you feel like indulging in the pleasures of the deep-fried variety, why not consider these yummy bread pakodas? It can be prepared in a jiffy, is something different from your usual run-of-the-mill Indian snacks and tastes pretty darn good!