May 31, 2010

Roasted Brinjal / Eggplant in Tomato Ketchup

I don't think I need to talk again about how much we love eggplant or brinjal. I buy it every week and end up adding this vegetable to one thing or the other - sometimes to sambar, or a simple brinjal palya, or a quick Vangi Bhath, or if I have time, Bagara Baingan, which is our favourite.


This recipe, however, doesn't really have a traditional name because.. well, its not traditional! Amma used to make this often and as a kid, it was my favourite because it was not spicy and the sweetness the tomato ketchup gives to the dish is just delicious. 

A must-try if you like brinjal or have kids at home who refuse their vegetables.

Recipe for Roasted Brinjal in Tomato Ketchup 


2 cups brinjal, sliced into slightly thin pieces
1 medium sized onion, sliced long
2 cloves garlic, sliced long
1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
2 tsp coriander powder / malli podi
A pinch of turmeric powder
1 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
Curry leaves (optional)
1 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup
Salt to taste

How I Made It:

1. Slice the brinjal and add the pieces to a bowl of water to prevent browning. Set aside. 
2. Heat oil and add the mustard seeds. Once they pop, add the chopped onion and garlic. Fry until golden brown. 
3. Add the masala - turmeric, coriander, chilly, curry leaves if using - and fry for another minute. 
4. Now add the brinjal pieces, reduce flame to low and mix well. Cook covered for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice in the middle to prevent the vegetable sticking to the pan. 
5. Once the brinjal is cooked almost mushy, add the ketchup or sauce and mix well. Add salt. 

Goes well with rice, roti, dosa, idli, anything! I used to mix this with rice and eat just that as a kid. 

Types of Ovens - How to Choose an Oven

These are the most common question I get, especially after starting this blog, after how to pre-heat an oven.

"What sort of oven should I buy?"

"What's the better option - an OTG, a microwave oven or a conventional oven"

So here are the different options you need to consider. All of them differ in cooking method, price, etc. Consider the space you have in your kitchen, your budget and what sort of use you have for your oven before zeroing in on one.

(a) Conventional ovens

Conventional ovens work on an electric element for cooking or a gas burner. In this type of oven, heat radiates up and pushes cold air down which can lead to uneven cooking or baking. However, this type of oven is very common and usually inbuilt in kitchens or come as part of the kitchen range.

(b) Convection ovens

Convection ovens cook food a bit differently. There's a fan at the back that forces air circulation throughout the oven, cooking food more evenly. This also results in quicker heating and is said to consume less power. The cooking time will differ from that of a conventional oven.

(c) Microwave Ovens

These are the 'ovens' that most of you probably own. They are most popularly used for heating and defrosting and use radio waves for this. There are some microwave-oven-specific recipes that are best for baking in a microwave. If you try a normal recipe in the microwave, it may not work out well so don't make that mistake.

(d) Microwave cum Convection Ovens

These are the rage now! Its a microwave oven that has a convection oven option, which means, when you turn a knob, your microwave turns into a normal oven (convection type) and you can bake your cakes and cookies and anything else, as usual following the usual recipes. Some of these ovens also come with a grilling option and you make use of that feature too. There's a very useful FAQ on DK's blog and you can read more about this here. 

(e) Oven Toaster Grill (OTG) Oven

These use old-fashioned filament coils for heating and cooking (much like a geyser). Although they work fantastic for making toast and even grilling, baking in them doesn't work out as best as in the other ovens. Before I moved to Singapore, I had an OTG in which I used to bake and although the food turned out just fine, sometimes, the crust used to dry out or the cake used to get unevenly cooked. I made these Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies and my first No-Knead Bread in an OTG and although they tasted just fine, I am sure they would have come out much better in a convection oven.

I have a post coming up from Aparna who has a MW Convection oven, who will talk about her experiences.

This post and information on it is based on my research. I claim to be no expert so if you find anything wrong or unclear, do drop a note. 

May 25, 2010

Toblerone Candy Bar Shortbread Recipe

You know sometimes you try something new and you wonder to yourself "why on earth did I never come across this gorgeousness before?"

Well, this is one of those recipes. Its from a brilliant book called A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman. Its uber simple and all you need is 4 ingredients. Yes, that's right! 4 ingredients and you can whip up these bars and I guarantee 'wows' from your friends, family, guests, dog, whoever.

Toblerone Candy Bar Shortbread
Makes about 15 -18 bars


1 cup butter, at room temperature
(I used salted butter. If using unsalted, then add a pinch of salt to the flour)
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
100gm Toblerone chocolate bar, at room temperature
How To Make It:

Preheat oven to 325F / 165 C. Sift flour (and salt if using unsalted butter). This sifting business is optional by the way, I just like to do it so that its easier to fold into the wet part of the dough.

toblerone candy bar shortbread recipe
Cream the butter and sugar until soft. You can use a whisk and do this by hand.

Dunk in the flour

Gently mix with fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs

Pat firmly on to a brownie tray or the flattest baking pan you have. Make sure that this layer is not more than 1 to 1.5 inches high. Press with the back of a spoon to layer it firmly.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-30 mins or until the top turns a light golden brown.

Meanwhile, bring out your Toblerone bar. Make sure its at room temperature. Due to the heat in Singapore, mine was squishy - and that's perfect!

Once the base is baked, while its still hot from the oven, chop the Toblerone bar and sprinkle over the base.

With an icing spatula or a flat spoon, spread the chocolate evenly over the baked base.

Cool completely. Using a knife, mark squares so that its easier later to cut them along these marks, when the bars are set.

We are done! Transfer to the refrigerator to set. Once set, cut along the pre-marked lines into square bars and serve. Store in refrigerator so that the chocolate doesn't get runny. I kept mine in the fridge for a week.

The reason why Toblerone works perfect for these bars is beacause of the nougat and cashew pieces in the choclate bars. It gives a surprise element when you bite into the bars! But I am definitely going to experiment with other chocolates too.

Drop me a line if you do try this! Would love to hear from you :)

May 19, 2010

Sweet Mango Pickle - Amma's Recipe

This sweet mango pickle takes me places. It takes me to places that I lived as a 12-year old, in a house that had a huge kitchen, the time that we had the hottest summers in Kottayam and the baths we used to take under the backyard tap in the dusky evening light. The hot dosas for dinner and this sweet and slightly sour pickle that complemented the dosas like not even coconut chutney could. The bottle was brought out when there were chapatis and parathas on the table too.

Easily, the best part of this recipe is that fact that amma came up with it just like that one hot, sweaty Kerala summer day. She was slicing onions, oh so fine like she normally does, and then randomly took a couple of raw mangoes from the counter-top and starting putting together this condiment that would later be made again and again and filled in many many bottles, devoured by her youngest daughter with practically anything, and sent to relatives and friends who were near and far.

The sesame oil and the near-burnt fengreek seeds create a symphony with the chopped onions and mangoes that's hard to describe. It gels with anything you spread it on, making the meal magically taste better. Just like mothers spread their love and support on everything and magically make your life better. This is my soul-food, my comfort, amma's love. Also check out her instant mango pickle recipe here. It's a spicy version and a popular addition to Kerala Onam sadya or meals. 

Amma's Sweet Mango Pickle Recipe
Makes one small bottle


Raw mangoes - 3 nos (orange sized ones, approx)
Onions - 3 big
Jaggery / raw sugar (or brown sugar) - 1/2 cup, grated or melted
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Chilly powder - 6 tsp
Gingelly / Indian sesame oil - 1/2 cup
Fenugreek seeds / uluva / menthayam - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida / hing / kaayam - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds / kaduku - 1/2tsp
A few curry leaves
Salt to taste


1. Slice the mangoes and onions into thin pieces.

2. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they pop, add the fenugreek seeds. When they turn a nice brown, add the onions. Take care not to burn the seeds otherwise they turn very bitter. Let the onions brown well.

3. Now add the chilly powder, turmeric powder, hing and curry leaves. Stir around for a minute and then add the sliced mangoes and salt. Add 1/2 cup water to this and cook covered on a low flame (on sim, preferably).

4. After about 10 mins, add the jaggery, mix well and let the mixture come to a boil. Remove, cool and store in air-tight bottles. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to a month.

May 17, 2010

Aval / Poha / Flattened Rice Vadai - Quick Vadai Recipe - Step by Step

Aval vadai or poha vadai recipe - when my family visited in February, amma brought me a huge sack of aval (poha or flattened rice). Well maybe not a huge sack but for someone who cooks for two, it definitely seemed that way. We didn't have any when they were here so I was stuck with a whole lot of aval and a guy who doesn't like aval nanachathu. So what's a girl to do except resort to snack-making and deep frying? 

So here's how you can make a quick aval vadai. Since there's not much soaking and no grinding involved, this is a quick snack that will keep people guessing as to what went into their vadai. If you want more vadai or snacks recipes, check out this list of quick and easy evening snacks recipes

Let's start with 1 cup aval / poha

        Soak it in about 1/2 cup water until soft - about 10 mins. 

Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients - 1 small chopped onion, 2 green chillies (adjust to taste), 1/2 tsp jeera, 1 tsp grated ginger, 1-2 tbsp besan / chickpea flour and 1-2 tbsp of rice flour

Mix these into the soaked aval along with salt (also add curry leaves and fresh coriander leaves if you have any handy - I only had curry leaves)

Flatten into small discs that are not too thick. While shaping, if the mixture is too thick, dip fingers into a bowl of water and try to shape. If the mixture is watery, add some besan or rice flour. 

         Deep fry until golden brown. Serve hot with chutney.

       Or dunk them into some tomato rasam like we did! 

Aval Vada Recipe
Makes 7-8 vada

1 cup aval / poha
1 small onion, chopped
2 green chillies
1/2 tsp jeera
1tsp grated ginger
1-2 tbsp besan (use as required to shape vada)
1-2 tbsp rice flour 
Curry leaves or coriander leaves, chopped
Salt to taste
Oil to deep fry


1.Soak aval in about 1/2 cup water for 10 mins, until soft. 

2. Add the rest of the ingredients to this and mix well. 

3. Shape into roughly 1/4" thick discs. While shaping, if the mixture is too thick, dip fingers into a bowl of water and try to shape. If the mixture is watery, add some besan or rice flour. 

4. Deep fry until golden brown and serve with chutney or dunk them into some tomato rasam. 

The texture is more smoother and spongier than lentil vadai. We loved it, especially as rasam vadai. The added bonus is, its so quick to make (although I didn't tell TH that or else he would ask for this every weekend!). 

May 12, 2010

Irvin's Seafood Cze Char, River Valley Road, Singapore

Another restaurant review post - this time its Irvin's Irvin's Seafood Cze Char, River Valley Road, Singapore. This was a farewell for a colleague and a colleague's boyfriend, both of whom were moving back to their home countries. Seems to happen quite a bit since Singapore is a popular interim place to move to, chill out, gain some Asian work experience and then head back.

Anyway, Irvin's is a down to earth, family style restaurant. 

The menu was pretty extensive.

This is their specialty though - Sri Lankan crabs in salted egg sauce. The salted egg base is not common so that makes the dish special and at SGD 18 a plate, its considered a steal.

I am not a huge fan of crab but I did try the sauce and it was pretty creamy and.. salty. In a nice way.

As most restaurants in Singapore do, they offer fresh coconut water. Its delicious, especially after a hard day's work. Anyway, the weather in Singapore always qualifies for chilled coconut water.

This here is sliced fish, served in a spicy sauce with tons and tons of curry leaves. Its delicious. It reminds me of all the good things about Indian food, although it doesn't really taste Indian. Thumbs up.

Fried yam ring. This yam is different from our elephant yam. Its more pasty and this particular dish is quite tasty if you don't mind mushy food. The surrounding vadaam like things are nice with rice although not as salty as vadaam

Hong Kong style steamed ginger fish. Looks bland but the gingery flavour is quite strong. I generally feel a bit off if the fish is whole so I barely tasted this.

Sesame chicken. Deliciousness under 1/2 kg seasoning of roasted sesame. Enough said.

The batter fried squid appetizer. I don't like the texture of squid. Pass.

Claypot Tofu. This is all TH got to eat. With rice of course. It was very good though and the snap peas were fresh and cooked just right.

Sambal kang kong to balance the meat and fish. The sambal was oily but it was pass-able. 

Overall, the  meal was very good. If you want to taste some good local food and want to throw in some crab in the meal, then Irvin's Seafood Cze Char is a good choice. 
Irvin's Seafood Cze Char
397 Rivery Valley Road
Ph: +65 6836 5020
Open from 11am - 1am
Avg cost per person - SGD 20
**All pics taken with my Nexus One so please excuse the quality.  

May 10, 2010

Bread Paneer Rolls | Indian Paneer Recipe | Step by Step

Bread Paneer Rolls are probably the easiest and quickest snack you can make with some bread slices and paneer filling. I make this often with different variations of paneer filling recipe to make a nice snack for tea time. The bunch of you who wrote to me asking 'post recipes that we can cook with kids' or kid-friendly recipes, etc etc, I am looking right at you. I don't have kids so I have never really tried this with them but I have a very good feeling about this, trust me you. 

Funky paneer recipes totally float my boat, especially if they are easy to prepare. I saw this recipe in a Nita Mehta book in the library. I didn't borrow the book and didn't have anything to quickly note down ingredients and details AND I made this a whole 2 months later. So this is pretty much my own recipe, coming to think of it. What that also means is, you can make it your own by simply adapting, adding, subtracting and testing out your own variations to the paneer mix used in this recipe. 

If you are looking for more easy snacks, check out my easy snacks recipes list and some other popular paneer recipes in the site like Paneer Butter Masala, Palak Paneer, and Paneer Paratha

May 5, 2010

Food Photography - Learn From Yourselves

I had this thought when I was in the shower. Or maybe it was when I was watering my lone curry leaf plant. Anyway, that's not important. What's important is, how can we all take better food pictures, right?

I am constantly looking at others' pictures and wondering how I can emulate the nice stuff in my clicks. How do I get that dark background that Sunita has achieved in the first 'wrap' picture in this post? Or how can I dream up lovely set ups like Meeta does? How do I make every day food look so gorgeous like Sala does? Or how do I take step by step pictures for every recipe of mine, like DK so patiently manages?

While its great that we always look and learn from others, probably the best place to start is from our own pictures. Sounds silly? Think again!

Here's one of the very first food pictures I took.
Looking at this now, I am thinking.. I really like that picture. Its true that the lighting could be better and I can find a better place now to click it without that part of the stove showing up on the right side and maybe, I should choose a fresher looking green chilly but really, I am too lazy now to actually do a set-up for any of my pictures.

But I like that I made the effort to cut up a lemon wedge, find a curly long green chilly, add a blob of butter (just behind the blog of kothamalli chutney). The colours are nice, they balance well and I would want to bite into that sandwich if I was hungry. Right?

Now, my pictures look like this. 

Or this. 

I am getting tired of the white background already! While the picture quality has definitely improved, its like I have lost my creativity in the process.

Each of us has a 'style'.  A technique that makes us stand out from the gazillion other food bloggers out there. Looking back, I feel like I have only worked on the quality of the pictures and never really nurtured the creative side. Its true, I may never do elaborate set ups or buy those studio lights any time soon but I can still take my pictures to the next level by going back, taking a look at what I was capable of and then building on it from there.

So dig into your archives, its similar to going back to looking at your college pics, getting amazed at how thin you were and then going on a crash diet. Only, for this exercise with your food pictures, you can still eat whatever you want :)

This is the post I had started typing on Monday and posted accidentally. Forgive the glitch!

May 3, 2010

Ocean Curry Fish Head, Telok Ayer Street

Curry fish head is a Singaporean specialty. During my initial days here, I used to wonder "a curry with fish head? But isn't the head the part we usually discard?". Well, apparently not. Pictures like the one below are pretty common as are restaurants offering curry fish head.

Ocean Curry Fish Head is one of our favourite haunts from work. Its a 10-min walk from work and any time we have a new joinee in the team (roughly once a month or so), there will be a calendar invite from someone saying "Curry Fish Head with ----".

Well, it kinda looks like this in real life! There's a fish head in there somewhere. Its huge and its got meaty parts too. The thing is, when a claypot that's bigger than my head comes bubbling to the table, the smart thing to do is stay a bit away and click carefully.

The curry is very hard to describe. It definitely doesn't taste anything like any Indian curry but it has coconut and all the spices and vegetables that we normally use. And its pretty darn good.

This place also has a whole range of other food we can pick, to go with the steamed rice and curry fish head. We have some regulars..

Like the tofu salad with raw mango slices. The sauce is tangy and spicy and light.

Then, of course, the stir fried bean sprouts.

This is a favourite for quite a few people at work. Fried anchovies (ikan bilis) with peanuts. Its slightly sweet but definitely tasty. I suspect if they add honey to this.

One of my faves. Fish Otah (aka otak-otak). Its mashed, spiced and steamed fish in banana leaves. It looks like raw fish marinated in masala, I know. But you have to taste this to see how awesome fish can taste. Really! Ocean Curry Fish Head place has one of the best otahs I have tried.

Some kang kong to balance out all that fish!

This is something we don't usually order but someone was feeling experimental that day. Which ended up being a good thing because this was super good. Jumbo prawns in a hot and sweet sauce with pineapple chunks, chillies and spring onions. I usually don't like pineapple in my food (yes, not even in Biriyani) but for this dish, I could just ignore that.

In case you thought we are eating too much fish, think again. This pepper chicken is just the right kind of spicy and tasty as they come. A crowd favourite, although this place is better known for their seafood, and of course, Curry Fish Head.

What you've seen here is probably just 1/3rd of what they have to offer. We usually go in a group of 6-8 people and order a bunch of stuff like this. You can also dao bao (take away) your lunch.

The queue around noon is extremely long so be prepared!

**All pics taken with my Nexus One with a very hungry group of people around so excuse the picture quality :)
Ocean Curry Fish Head
181 Telok Ayer Street S(068529)
Tel: 6324 9226

Closest MRT: Tanjong Pagar

Avg cost per person: 12-14 SGD