January 31, 2011

Whole Earth Peranakan Thai Vegetarian Restaurant, Singapore

To be fair, Singapore does have its own share of vegetarian food and restaurants. It may not be easily available in regular food courts but there are tons of restaurants that will cater to vegetarians, especially Indian.

Whole earth is one of those out-of-the-box restaurants that serve good, flavourful vegetarian food. Their monkey head mushrooms are most popular although we didn't order it during this trip.

Restaurant Board

I've been to this restaurant near work a bunch of times but thanks to my Project 365, I had my 'good' camera handy last week when we went there for dinner.

Starters

They serve peanuts that are just rightly salted, a sweet-ish pickled fruit/vegetable which I think is pear, and vegetarian sambal with calamansi. The sambal is very strong and spicy. Awesome to munch on while you wait for the food.

Orange Soursop Juice

They have a bunch of healthy drinks to pick from. This is Owen's orange soursop juice. Note: they don't serve soft drinks. How's that for a message?

Olive Brown Rice

Olive brown rice. Wonderfully flavourful and a must-have if you visit this place.


Tom Yam Fried Rice

Tom Yam fried rice. I love this too. Its mildly spicy and has a lovely note of lemongrass in it.

Hong Kong Fried Noodles

Hong Kong fried noodles. Was okay, quite passable.

Mock Fish Curry

Assam Pedas or Mock fish curry. The mock fish in it looks remarkably like fish and the gravy is really unexplainable. It has a pretty strong flavour so all may not like it.

Thai Battered Oyster Mushrooms with Citrus Sauce

Thai Battered Oyster Mushroom - sin on a plate. Its deep fried, its super crisp and the sauce is wonderfully orange-y. I love it!

Eggplant Stinky Beans in Sambal

Eggplant with sataw or stinky beans. The beans are definitely 'stinky' and quite bitter so order this dish if you really like eggplant and sambal and don't mind experimenting.

Fried Yam Ring

Yam ring. This is another deep fried dish that's super crispy outside but the yam is very creamy and yummy. Every table in the restaurant had one order of this so a must-try, definitely.

Mushroom Rendang

Mushroom Rendang curry. I love rendang! It has wonderful notes of Kerala cuisine so I never pass by an opportunity to eat it. This was my favourite dish of them all. The mushroom had a texture very similar to chicken but the flavour definitely won't put off a vegetarian. An absolute must must MUST try!

Whole Earth Peranakan Thai Vegetarian Restaurant
Website
*No added MSG

Average cost per person will be between SGD 25 to SGD 35 depending on what you order. 

January 26, 2011

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

Its not super easy to get fresh basil in Singapore. Its not impossible either but somehow, when I do come across them in the supermarket, I feel they are wilted and cost too much. Why bother when there are a gazillion different types of other greens around, that are more local.

Fresh basil pesto recipe

I did, however, manage to score an entire bag of super fresh basil in Giant supermarket a couple of weeks back. Ooh the flavour was mindblowing. Although I have tried pesto pasta and pesto chicken before in restaurants, making your pesto is way way better! I was a bit skeptical if TH would like it but he actually loved the pesto pasta I made with (recipe coming up next!)

fresh basil pesto recipe

Fresh Basil Pesto 
Makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients:
4 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 to 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

How I Made It:

Dunk all ingredients into a mixer or food processor and grind to an almost smooth paste. Can be served in various ways, most popular being pesto pasta, over toasted bread, in pizza, etc. Can keep refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 3 days.

You can also substitue the pine nuts for walnuts, sunflower seeds (I tried these once and loved it!), or any other nuts you have in hand.

fresh basil pesto recipe

First two pictures in this post taken in the home made light box for food photography.

January 24, 2011

Sangria Recipe

There are a few things very off with this post, I must say. First of all, I hardly ever post recipes for drinks. In fact, among 400 odd recipes in this site, only a handful are drinks recipes.

Sangria Recipe
Photograph taken in natural light
You should know that Sangria is not served in such huge portions. Use wine glasses. I don't have any. In fact, these are the only glasses I have and you may have seen them in may posts before, but ignore that. 

Also, this drink is alcoholic! Well, if you grew up in a heavily Catholic-dominated community where every other family you know makes wine at home, you would soon stop looking at it as alcohol and just shut up and drink already!

So anyway, I thought since we have known each other for a while now, I should tell you all that my favourite drink of all times is Sangria. Since leaving Hyderabad, I've hardly ever had it but decided to make it the other day at home. TH hates any kind of alcohol so I got to drink this over the next month ;)

To Make Enough Sangria for 8

500 ml red wine (click here to see what types of wine work best)
2 tbsp brandy (optional)
1 apple, cut into tiny pieces
1/2 an orange, cut into chunks
2-4 tbsp sugar

Mix all the ingredients, refrigerate overnight and serve cold in wine glasses (very important!)

Sangria Recipe
                        Photograph taken in homemade light box for food photography

January 22, 2011

Kathirikai Kariamudhu Recipe / Brinjal Curry / Kathirikai Curry Recipe

Kathirikai recipes or pretty much any curry with kathirikai is popular in my house and we try to cook with brinjal at least once a week. I have tried quite a few variations of kathirikai curry but this particular one from Chandra Padmanabhan was an immediate hit, especially because of the yogurt in the gravy. The spice levels can be adjusted to your taste but serve warm with rice. This particular kathirikai curry tastes best when served fresh.

When it comes to recipes from Chandra Padmanabhan, I mostly follow them blindly, except to suit spice levels to our taste. This very interesting recipe from one of her books had me thinking though, and I adapted it by adding some curd in the end. Very tasty and very South Indian!

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The ingredient list and method may look long but its really a very easy recipe to make


Kathirikkai Kariamudhu | Kathirikai Curry Recipe 
Adapted from Chandra Padmanabhan's Simply South
Serves 4 as a side

Ingredients:
1 small marble-sized ball of tamarind
10-12 baby brinjals, cubed
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp grated coconut
1/4 cup curd / yogurt (optional)
Salt to taste
For Spice Powder:
1.5 tbsp channa dal / husked Bengal gram / kadala paruppu
1.5 tbsp urad dal / husked black gram / ulutham paruppu
2 dry red chillies
3 tbsp coriander seeds (or use 1 tbsp coriander powder)
1/2" stick cinnamon
1 clove
For Tempering:
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp channa dal
1 dry red chillies, torn into half
A few curry leaves

How to make Kathirikai Curry:

1. Soak tamarind in 1/4 cup water for 10 mins. Extract juice and discard pulp.

2. Lightly fry ingredients for spice powder in a dry skillet over low fire. Toss gently till dals are golden brown, take care not to burn them! Cool and grind to a fine powder.

3. Heat oil for tempering and the rest of the ingredients in given order. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the cubed brinjal pieces and saute for 2-3 mins. Then add tamarind juice, turmeric powder, and salt.

4. Sprinkle some water and cook closed over low heat for about 5-7 mins or until the brinjal is tender. Cook open for a minute until all the extra moisture is absorbed. Then add the grated coconut and the spice powder. Stir well to combine, adjust salt, and finally mix in the curd before removing from fire. (For authentic Kathirikkai Kariamudhu recipe, avoid the curd).

5. Serve hot with steamed rice or roti.

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January 19, 2011

Schezwan Vegetables Recipe - Indo Chinese Side Dish for Fried Rice

Understandably, you all loved the Chilli Paneer Recipe I posted last week. Of course, frying up something and mixing it in a delicious spicy sauce should be up everyone's alley, no surprises there.

indo chinese schezwan vegetables recipe

After moving into the new apartment, we had friends over and I decided on an Indo-Chinese menu. I was badly craving some and grabbed the opportunity to cook some up myself. I made the Chilli Paneer, Vegetable Fried Rice and Schezwan Vegetables for some gravy to go with the fried rice.

Schezwan Vegetables Recipe
Adapted from Sailus Food
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 large onion, cubed into 1" pieces roughly
1 carrot, cut into small, thin discs
8-10 french beans, cut into 1″ pieces
8 baby corns, each cut into 6 round discs
1 green capsicum, cut into 1" pieces roughly
2 tbsps oil
2 tbsps finely chopped spring onion greens (for garnish, optional)

For The Sauce:
2 dry red chillis, halved
1/4 tsp red chilli pwd
1 tsp crushed garlic (about 6 small flakes)
1.5 tsp soya sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tbsps tomato puree (or 1 tsp tomato paste)
1 tbsp cornflour
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable stock or water (I used vegetable stock)

How to Make Vegetable Schezwan Recipe:

1. Heat oil in a pan and add the onions. Cook until soft and transparent - about 3 mins.

2. Add the remaining vegetables with some salt and saute lightly for 3-4 mins.

3. Mix all the sauce ingredients together and add to the cooking vegetables. Let it simmer for 5 mins or until the vegetables are cooked, yet firm. If the gravy is getting too thick, add more water. Adjust salt and add pepper and spring onion greens - and its ready to serve!

indo chinese schezwan vegetables recipe

Vegetable Schezwan is one of those dishes where the preparation time is higher than the cooking time but the end result is very satisfying and can really help you get rid of your Indo-Chinese craving!

January 12, 2011

How to build a Light box for Food Photography

After many months of thinking about it, I finally did it - A light box for food photography! It really is as easy as they say in many sites and blogs around but before you jump ahead, I would ask you to consider a few things, based on my experience.

- Do you really need one? Although a light box gives you the flexibility to click pictures of your food whenever you'd like, nothing can beat natural light when it comes to food photography. Let me repeat that - nothing. A lot of professional food photographers may go for fancy studio equipment but the beauty of food blogging from our homes and kitchens is, this is what we make for our family meals, we are sharing our recipes and what we cook on a day-to-day basis. I wouldn't compare that to commercial food photography any day.

Another thing to consider is, do you usually plan before you cook for the blog or do you cook something and then decide you want to blog about it. If you find yourself doing more of the latter, then a light box may be a good idea because half the time I think that way, its night time on a week day when I am at work all day.

- Do you have the space for it? You can always dismantle your light box and set it up only when you need it but trust me, that won't happen often. So you will end up building it but hardly ever using it if you don't have a fixed spot for it in your house. We recently moved into a three bedroom apartment and I am using the third bedroom as my studio. The wardrobe is where I keep my photography accessories and the light box sits to one side of the room. I don't intend to move it from there or dismantle it.

So here it is, my very own light box!

lightbox pic

I pretty much followed the instructions on RV's site. The few differences I made are:

- I used a smaller box
- I used tracing paper instead of fabric to cover the slots through which light enters the box
- I used 18W daylight bulbs that give a 100W output

A few initial shots with varying light input - both Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) and edited.

lightbox pic

This is the first picture I took, without bothering with a background sweep or anything. I was super eager to see the results. Remember, this was taken in the night, at around 8:00pm. Taken with one light - SOOC.

lightbox pic

Another macro shot, taken with one light - SOOC.

green mor kozhambu

The first food shot, taken with one overhead lamp - SOOC except for watermark and straightening. I didn't have the other two lights set up when I took this so I had to depend on editing to make it look better.

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Same picture, after editing.

lightbox pic

Enter three lamps - first food picture with all three lamps as shown in the light box picture above. No editing done - SOOC.

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One of my favourite light box pictures to date (I haven't taken that many yet, I always turn to natural light if I can help it). This is a very lightly edited picture taken in the light box, again, in the night.

I have taken a few more and recipes are coming up soon for this dishes. Going forward, I will clearly mark the picture setting when posting pictures because I expect a good mix of both kinds of pictures in future posts.

Other sites you can refer for building your own light box:
Digital Photography School
Jugalbandi

January 10, 2011

Chilli Paneer Recipe | Dry Chilli Paneer Recipe | Step by Step

Chilli Paneer is an amazing Indian paneer starter dish. Just like every other Indian, I love Indo-Chinese food. Deep fried goodness in a creamy sauce or coated in thick, spicy gravy - what's not to like! I even like the calories that come with it, I am very impartial that way! This Chilli Paneer recipe is one that was born of urgency and necessity. I prefer a dry version of chilli paneer than the kind with gravy so chose to go with that. If you want to make chilli paneer with gravy, I have given options to do that, below.

chilli paneer indo chinese recipe

I make Gobi Manchurian quite often but paneer usually gets made into Palak Paneer or Paneer Butter Masala and hardly ever an Indo-Chinese recipe, that too an appetizer. But it happened on the last day in our previous apartment. I was clearing out the fridge and realised I have a few cubes of paneer left which had to be made into something real soon or they'd die. No self-respecting Indian can kill paneer, trust me!

So they turned into a lovely plate of chilli paneer that gave some well-needed energy to TH and me to resume last-minute packing in full vigor.

January 5, 2011

New Year Morning Waffles Recipe (Basic Waffles Recipe)

Basic Waffles Recipe

Most of you may already know this if you are in my Facebook list but here's the formal announcement - I bought a KitchenAid! It may not be a big deal to some but I had been wanting one for ages now and kept pushing back because of lack of counter space in my previous apartment kitchen and, its pretty expensive here in Singapore. Anyway, things worked out, we moved, and now I own one!

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I wanted to use it the first day of the year (don't ask me why!) and decided to make waffle batter in it. Waffles are one of my favourite foods of all time and I have owned a waffle iron for a while but don't make it as often as I'd like.

I should though. In fact, I should make waffles for dinner, that's what I should do.

Basic Easy Waffles Recipe
Adapted from 3 Many Cooks
Makes 6

INGREDIENTS:
1 egg, separated
1 cup buttermilk (I used 1/2 cup homemade yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup water)
1 cup plain flour
2 tbsp sugar (adjust to taste or omit completely)
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cooking oil (I used olive oil)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. You don't need a stand mixer for this but if you do, just dunk in the following ingredients and mix it up on speed 2 for 1-2 mins. If you don't, just do the same with your hand whisk in a bowl. First add the flour and sugar..

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2. Followed by the buttermilk..

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3. Egg yolk..

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4. Baking powder and baking soda..

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5. Salt..

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6. And oil..

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7. Mix mix mix for about 2 mins or so on low speed. Then set aside.

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8. Now you need to beat the egg whites until stiff. I used my hand-held whisk for this.

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9. Whip well until soft peaks form on the top of the beaten egg whites.

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10. Add to the batter you've prepared and fold in gently without over-mixing.

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11. Heat your waffle iron until smoking hot.

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12. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup batter to the iron depending on the size of your iron. Remove when golden brown all over - mine took about 3 mins.

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I know there are 12 steps up there for a simple waffle recipe but its because I took very detailed pictures to show the steps. Its really a very easy and yummy breakfast to make so go ahead, buy that waffle iron if you don't have one already (Huge thanks to Darsh for lugging mine all the way from the US) Even if you use it only once or twice a month like I do, its still worth it.

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It was too early in the morning so I slightly burnt my waffles. But you still think I'm a decent cook right? Thanks! I knew confessing to you all would be totally safe :) Serve with a dusting of icing sugar or maple syrup to camouflage the burnt parts ;)

January 3, 2011

The Best Banana Cake Recipe Ever! (With Cream Cheese Frosting)

I tasted this banana cake for the first time when I was in Sydney. I have a colleague there who loves baking almost as much as I do and she bakes cakes for people in her team very often. She brought this banana cake and a flourless chocolate cake the day I landed. They were both divine.

Australians love their banana bread. Its a staple in all coffee shops - thick slabs of banana bread often served toasted with butter. Ah, bliss.

Belinda Jeffery Mix and Bake Banana Cake Recipe

The moment I had my first taste of this cake, I decided I not only want the recipe, but I want the book it came in as well. I asked her to bring it in the next day and ordered it online the same day. It reached home to Singapore before I did.

Belinda Jeffery Mix and Bake Banana Cake Recipe

I made it exactly the same way mentioned in the book the first time. It tasted wonderful - quite dense, sweet, deliciously banana-ey. The cream cheese frosting was the perfect indulgence along with the humble banana backing. The beauty of this cake is, it can be entirely made in a food processor, if you have one. I have an immersion hand blender that has a processor/chopper which worked perfectly. If not, you can just use your hand-help whisk or electric beater to bring the batter together. If I had a blender, I would have tried mixing this cake in it.