Lucknowi (or Awadhi) style Kofta Pulao

While I was on holiday in India this year, I purchased a couple of cookbooks to add to my collection. And one of the books I bought was ‘Dastarkhwan – e – Awadh’ by Sangeeta Bhatnagar and R.K.Saxena.

A simple cookbook that celebrates the royal kitchens of Awadh with recipes dating back to that golden era!

Awadhi cuisine is not just famous, but one that’s held in reverence. The food that came out of the Awadh kitchens had a royal elegance, a restraint yet so rich and inviting that made it synonymous with royalty. Of course it was made for the Nawabs but today, this cuisine is still held in such high esteem for the techniques, attention to ingredients and complexity of flavours.

The authors, Dr Sangeeta Bhatnagar and R.K.Saxena are both culinary historians and their passion to document the food of Awadh resulted in this book. Drafted after much research and speaking to a wide range of people including Nawabs, Chefs and yesteryear royal cooks, this book is a true tribute to the cuisine of Awadh.

It’s a simple book in appearance; reminds me of the old textbooks we used to have in India. No highly styled photographs of the food, but plenty of visuals depicting the people from the region, ingredients, street food, and also dishes presented in a natural manner.

There’s a brief introduction to the royal era of Awadh (the present day Lucknow), a historical perspective to the cuisine followed by explanation of terms that’s commonly used in Awadh cuisine. For eg: there are unique techniques employed in cooking Awadh food and these are explained along with reference to ingredients and other procedures that are a must know to understand the cooking style and culinary culture.

Clearly this is a cookbook that I would be cooking a lot from, but for that first recipe, I zeroed in on this lipsmacking Kofta Pulao.

Lucknowi (or Awadhi) style Kofta Pulao - thespiceadventuress.com

Pulao is often considered to be second grade in comparison to a biryani. There’s a general attitude that a pulao is made when one does not want to indulge in the extravagance of a biryani. But that is so wrong and an Awadhi style pulao is a prime example of that.

Making a good pulao requires as much skill as a biryani. And it all starts with cooking the rice perfectly. Always made using aged long grain rice which must be fragrant, aromatic and each grain separate from the other yet cooked perfectly. The flavours are much less complex in a pulao when compared to a biryani; there are far fewer spices and aromatics and it is a subtle play of those few spices that make a pulao so delicious.

Just as the name suggests, this is a kofta pulao, literally translated as meatballs and rice.

Lucknowi (or Awadhi) style Kofta Pulao - thespiceadventuress.com

Lucknowi (or Awadhi) style Kofta Pulao

The meatballs are shaped small in this recipe, unlike the larger ones that we are accustomed to eating in pasta or as snacks. Though mutton would be used traditionally, I have used lamb mince to make koftas, which is flavoured with just cinnamon and cardamom.

Another important ingredient is ghee or clarified butter. In traditional Awadhi cooking, tempered ghee is used but here I have just used plain ghee to keep things simple. Oil can be used but would hardly provide any flavour, and ghee is way healthier anyway.

The rice and koftas are cooked separately and then layered; the cooking process is then finished using the dum technique. For those who aren’t aware, the dum technique is where all the ingredients are placed inside one pot and the edges sealed using dough. Slow charcoal heat is applied on top and also on bottom and the food is allowed to slow cook with minimal heat.

Now most of us would use a modern dum technique in our homes. You could either place all the ingredients in a casserole dish, seal using a foil and finish cooking at low heat in the oven. Or you could follow my technique – since I don’t like to use foil, I place a tea towel over the pot and then place the lid on top so that it’s really tight and no steam escapes. The pot is then placed on a flat tawa or directly on heat but at its lowest setting. Ensure that the edges of the towel hanging out is scrunched up; we don’t want to start a fire!!

Lucknowi (or Awadhi) style Kofta Pulao

So let’s get onto the recipe for this delicious Kofta Pulao;

Ingredients:

  1. 500gms aged basmati (long grained) rice; washed and soaked for atleast 1 hour
  2. 500gms lamb (or mutton) mince
  3. 1 inch ginger
  4. 5 medium garlic cloves
  5. 1 tsp red chilli powder
  6. 10gms roasted gram flour
  7. 1 inch cinnamon stick
  8. 3 whole green cardamom
  9. Salt, to season
  10. Ghee (clarified butter)
  11. 5 medium red onions
  12. 1 ½ tbsp rose water
  13. 1 pinch saffron
  14. 250 ml milk

Method:

  1. Grind the cinnamon and cardamom to a fine powder.
  2. Grind the garlic and ginger to a paste (add a few drops of water if necessary)
  3. Also grind 2 onions to a coarse paste and keep aside.
  4. Finely slice the remaining 3 onions; fry in ghee till golden brown, drain and keep aside.
  5. Into the mince, add half of the cinnamon-cardamom powder, roasted gram flour, 1 tbsp ghee and salt to season. Knead well to ensure that all the ingredients are mixed well and the mince has a fine consistency.
  6. Take small portions of the mince and roll into small balls (slightly larger than marbles). You will roughly get about 30 -35 balls. Heat ghee in a pan and fry the meatballs; keep aside. (Take care not to overcook or the meatballs taste dry)
  7. To cook the rice, heat 1 ½ litres water. Season with salt and add the remaining cardamom-cinnamon powder. Add the washed rice and parboil; drain and keep aside.
  8. In the same pan that the onions were fried (add more ghee only if necessary), add the onion and ginger garlic paste. Sauté on medium heat till the rawness disappears. Then add chilli powder and sauté till the ghee separates.
  9. Add the fried meatballs to this and add 1 cup (250 ml) water. Cook till most of the water has disappeared. Taste and season with salt if necessary.
  10. Meanwhile soak saffron in warm milk.
  11. To finally assemble the dish, place a large deep bottom vessel on low heat and add half of the cooked rice. Then layer with the cooked koftas/meatballs, add half of the rose water and saffron milk. Then add the remaining rice followed by the remaining rose water and saffron milk.
  12. Seal the edges (read description above for dum techniques) of the vessel and cook covered on low heat for about 20 minutes.
  13. Open just before serving and garnish with fried onions.
  14. Serve with a raita

Lucknowi (or Awadhi) style Kofta Pulao

 

 

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Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne)

Box Hill, as we all know has a populous Asian influence, so in my opinion it also becomes one of the best spots to enjoy Asian cuisine. There are plenty of restaurants offering varying styles of Asian food and a visit to Box Hill Central will offer you a glimpse into this world.

I was invited recently by Box Hill Central to check out one of their most popular food joints, Dragon Hot Pot.

Dragon Hot Pot is situated in the North precinct (food court) of Box Hill Central; it’s in the older part of the complex so if you are new, feel free to ask any of the staff for help like we did. Once you are in the North food court, it’s hard to miss Dragon Hot Pot as it’s a rather famous and one of the older eateries of Central.

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

If you are new to the whole Hot Pot culture, then you might need a bit of help to get started. The staff is friendly and having a chat with them is a great idea if you want assistance or recommendations.

Traditionally, a hot pot is a style of cooking in which a large pot of boiling soup stock is placed in the centre of the table surrounded by different raw ingredients which are then dipped into the broth to be cooked and consumed. It’s fun, interactive and diners get to customize and pick their set of preferred ingredients.

At Dragon Hot Pot, the idea remains same though executed slightly different to suit a food court ambience.

The first thing that you notice as you walk into Dragon Hot Pot is rows and columns (lots of them!) of ingredients lined up that you can choose to customize your hot pot. You will be handed a large metal pot into which you can then add your choice of ingredients. It’s so easy to get carried away guys; I literally wanted each and every ingredient in my pot.

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

But that’s not a very wise decision so make sure you exhibit restraint and weigh your pot periodically so that you don’t go over the top. The base stock comes at no extra cost and the ingredients are priced $3.20 per 100g with minimum spend being $12.80 (i.e. 400g). Plus there are also a variety of condiments that you can add to your final hot pot, totally free of cost again.

There are three main stock bases available at Dragon Hot Pot in Box Hill (some other branches have upto 5). The first one is the signature Ma La Tang; cooked with more than 24 wild herbs from the Mount Emei region in Sichuan, China, this one is a must try here. The other stock bases are Sichuan Hot n’ Sour and Collagen Bone Broth.

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne)

Once you hand over your pot of chosen ingredients to the staff, you can then customize it further with your stock base of choice and also the spice level. Finally your hot pot arrives in a beautiful vibrant yellow bowl with all the ingredients simmering in the hot stock base. Feel free to add the toppings too but even without anything extra, the hot pot is just perfect.

The stock bases we chose were the Signature Ma La Tang and Sichuan Hot n’ Sour.

An assault on the senses, the hotpot broth makes your tastebuds come alive in ways you could never imagine. It was hot and spicy with so many different ingredients of your liking; what can be better than a completely customized bowl of soup.

Yes you will be sweating through all pores by the time you finish and get in there, slurp it all up because that’s the way to enjoy a hot pot.

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

We are definitely going back for more bowls in the future!

Dragon Hot Pot

Upper level North Food Court
Box Hill Central
1 Main Street,
Box Hill, VIC – 3128

Timings:

Mon: 9am – 5.30pm
Tue: 9am – 5.30pm
Wed: 9am – 5.30pm
Thurs: 9am – 7.00pm
Fri: 9am – 9.00pm
Sat: 9am – 5.00pm
Sun: 9am – 5.00pm

Disclaimer – As mentioned, I was invited by Box Hill Central to experience the food at Dragon Hot Pot. All the photographs and musings are entirely mine.

Dragon Hot Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Yogic Kitchen – Jody Vassallo (+ a Recipe for Marinated Chicken with Coconut Lime dressing)

I am a firm believer in the philosophy that ‘Food is Medicine.’

In fact if you talk to me about regular ailments, I am more likely to advise you on dietary and lifestyle changes than go visit a doctor. I am not at all taking away the importance of medical science but I tend to gravitate towards eating right and practicing natural medicine and holistic healing generally.

The Yogic Kitchen by Jody Vassallo (HQ Non Fiction, $39.99) corroborates with this philosophy completely.

Jody is a food writer, stylist, yoga teacher and Ayurvedic health coach. I have personally followed her work for a while and she has published and authored several books for Marie Claire, Hachette Livre etc….

The Yogic Kitchen offers us an insight into understanding our body through the Ayurvedic principles of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Even though I have heard much about these principles, I admit that I didn’t have a proper understanding of it till now.

The Yogic Kitchen – Jody Vassallo (+ a Recipe for Marinated Chicken with Coconut Lime dressing) - thespiceadventuress.com

Based on Ayurvedic principles, the book explores the philosophy of ‘food is medicine’ at a much deeper and scientific level. This is not a regular cookbook filled with just recipes and amazing photographs.

The book starts with an introduction to Ayurveda; a brief history followed by the scientific principles that form the foundation of this ancient science. According to Ayurveda, the five elements of earth, fire, water, air and space exist inside out bodies as much as outside. These exist in varying degrees and in turn make up the three doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. And these doshas are used to represent our unique body constitution.

So the first thing is to identify which is your dosha.

The book provides an extensive classification of the three doshas based on which you can find out which one do you identify with most. Sometimes you could be a mix of two or even all the three doshas. I found out that I am mostly Vata but with a small percentage of Pitta thrown in.

From yoga to Ayurveda, Jody also explains how she embarked on this journey and the positive changes it has bought about to her health and overall life. Often we tend to forget that our mind and bodies are intertwined and the food we eat has the power to affect not just our physical but our mental self too.

The Yogic Kitchen also provides extensive information on how to balance the doshas, food that are compatible for each dosha, foods and habits to avoid that can cause imbalance etc….

The recipes outlined in the book are also divided into three based on the doshas and also based on the seasons as this is an important factor that affects our bodies. Apart from these, there are also recipes that are suitable for all types of doshas and also foods that are best for a detoxification/cleanse diet.

Jody also outlines a variety of herbal teas and medicated milks suitable for the different doshas, spices and herbs that are integral to Ayurvedic cooking. There is also an extensive list of food types that are suitable and not suitable for each dosha provided based on which you can regulate your daily diet.

What I liked best about the recipes outlined in The Yogic Kitchen is the fact that there’s nothing exotic but easy everyday cooking, perhaps with a different mindset. And I also liked the fact that there are options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and desserts.

There’s often a misconception that recipes that focus on Ayurvedic philosophies should be Indian cuisine based but that’s not too true at all. Ayurveda is a science, which can be implemented in all kinds of cooking.

One of the recipes that I tried from this book is the Marinated chicken with Coconut Lime dressing.

The Yogic Kitchen – Jody Vassallo (+ a Recipe for Marinated Chicken with Coconut Lime dressing) - thespiceadventuress.com

The Yogic Kitchen – Jody Vassallo (+ a Recipe for Marinated Chicken with Coconut Lime dressing) - thespiceadventuress.com

The two things that stood out in this recipe are the simplicity and ease of making the dish and the coconut lime dressing. That dressing is just mind-blowing spectacular and some days, I have been making just that for my salads.

It’s a perfect dinner dish for the whole family and one I can prep for ahead of time which means after a work day, dinner is ready with minimal effort and fuss without sacrificing at all on the health or delicious quotient.

I have tweaked the recipe slightly to suit individual preferences, which you should too especially based on the amount of chicken that you would use. While drumsticks are used in this recipe and provides maximum flavour, other cuts of chicken would be good too provided it’s on the bone. And instead of coconut sugar used in the original recipe, I used jaggery since that was available.

So let’s get to the recipe for Marinated Chicken with Coconut Lime dressing.

The Yogic Kitchen – Jody Vassallo (+ a Recipe for Marinated Chicken with Coconut Lime dressing)

Ingredients:

  1. 1 kg chicken drumsticks
  2. 1 tsp turmeric powder
  3. 3 garlic cloves; grated
  4. 170ml coconut yoghurt
  5. 2 tsp sweet paprika
  6. 1 tsp coriander powder
  7. 1 tsp cumin powder
  8. 1 tsp garam masala
  9. Salt, to season
  10. 1 small red onion; grated
  11. Juice of ½ lemon

Coconut lime dressing:

  1. 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut (desiccated may be used too)
  2. Zest and juice of 1 lime
  3. 1 tsp crushed jaggery (or coconut sugar)
  4. 1 small red chilli; finely chopped
  5. 2 tbsp coriander leaves; finely chopped
  6. 3 tbsp coconut oil
  7. 1 tbsp water

Method:

  1. In a bowl, add the coconut yoghurt; grate the garlic, onion and add all the spice powders. Add the lemon juice and season with salt. Mix well and marinate the chicken drumsticks in this; refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight is preferable.
  2. Bring the chicken drumsticks to room temperature at least 30 min before cooking.
  3. Preheat the oven (fan forced) to 200°C
  4. Line an oven proof tray with baking paper; place the drumsticks in the tray. Retain the remaining yoghurt mixture.
  5. Cook the drumsticks for 40-50 minutes or until cooked through. Turning occasionally and rush with the remaining yoghurt mixture everytime the chicken is turned.
  6. Meanwhile combine all the ingredients for the coconut lime dressing in a bowl; taste and adjust seasoning.
  7. Serve the chicken drumsticks warm topped with the coconut lime dressing.

The Yogic Kitchen – Jody Vassallo (+ a Recipe for Marinated Chicken with Coconut Lime dressing)

 

February Favourites

It’s about 10am and I just sat down at my work desk with a cup of coffee. When I say work desk, it’s actually my dining table with the laptop and half a dozen planners, diaries, recipe books etc……

Blogging is a lonely profession or should I say a deeply internal one. I know there are a few who would disagree but many would agree with me. And lonely does not have to be a bad thing necessarily; I enjoy the calmness of working from home with no one around to disturb me except the occasional doorbell. It gives me the freedom to have a relaxed morning and not stress about getting ready, rushing out the door, daily commute etc… I have the luxury of working in my PJs, having the flexibility of working yet being available for my son when he is back from school.

There are so many advantages to this profession yet I call it lonely. To start with, there is very less human interaction. In traditional jobs you have colleagues and the joy of shared spaces, lunch outings, conversations; but here I am the boss, the secretary and everything in between. And some days, you just don’t want to do it all, you want help and to be able to share your work and responsibilities.

And because there is no clear distinction of roles and responsibilities, most people simply do not get the amount of work that goes into the job. There is often a nonchalant attitude from most people in my life when it comes to my job, simply because they cannot believe it takes so much effort. After all how difficult can it be to make a dish and photograph it! And the fact that people don’t always understand also makes it a bit lonely.

Well I don’t intend to sound like a broken record because in spite of everything, I love this job and wouldn’t have it any other way.

That means we are back to the topic of food!

Tacos are a favourite at our home. We love all variations of it and I find it’s one of the easiest meals to put together. I agree there is a bit of prep work involved especially if you are making everything from scratch but still it’s a meal that can be bulked up easily. And it’s a meal that requires everyone to come together at the table, which is a winner in my opinion.

Some of our favourites are;

  1. Fish Tacos (with Pickled Slaw and Jalapeno Mayo)
  2. Chicken Fajita Tacos with Minty Cucumber Yoghurt
  3. Mexican Prawn Tacos with Mango Salsa
  4. Chicken Tinga Tacos with Roasted Poblano Salsa

Fish Tacos (with Pickled Slaw and Jalapeno Mayo) - thespiceadventuress.com

Moving on to other favourites for the month;

Baking a batch of these delicious almond butterscotch cookies.

Bookmarking this chicken and rice soup for late autumn/winter which is not far behind

Beet salads are always gorgeous, but this version looks even better

Shrimp lettuce wraps. Bring it on!!

This tuna sandwich is a game changer.

A wine I am looking forward to trying out.

This cocktail, when the blood orange season arrives.

Vegan does not necessarily mean boring, and Richa’s blog is ample proof of that.

My favourite Pinterest account for vegetarian grub.

This Scanpan copper set looks amazing; guess it’s time to throw out the old pots and pans.

I love attending interesting events and so every month, I go through a list of events that are taking place in Melbourne and surroundings. Here are the top free events happening this month….

I dream of visiting Lucknow someday, and eat my way through history. If you are visiting, here are some suggestions.

 

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne)

It’s quite refreshing to see new and interesting restaurants open up in the suburbs, than crowding up in and around the city fringes.

QT Kitchen is  one such new venture headed by young chef Kevin, and specializes in modern Vietnamese cuisine. So I was quite excited to check out the food here when I received an invite from AGFG and QT.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Chef Kevin has been in the industry for about 16 years starting first in Vietnam and then moving to Australia about 10 years ago. After working with several reputed restaurant groups including the Mantra group, he opened QT Kitchen 1.5 years ago.

From the time he began helping out his grandmom in her kitchen, Chef Kevin has always dreamt about having a restaurant of his own, where he can showcase his passion and love for cooking. Formally trained in Italian cuisine, at QT, he has combined that technical knowledge with traditional Vietnamese flavours using local Australian produce.

And his efforts have not gone unnoticed; QT Kitchen was quick to gain popularity as a friendly neighbourhood restaurant where you can go with your family and friends for excellent food, friendly atmosphere and genuine customer service. Perhaps why the restaurant won the 2019 AGFG Reader’s Choice Award!

The restaurant does have a very friendly vibe and that’s one of the first things you notice when you walk in. The staff are super friendly and genuine in their interactions. We were welcomed with colourful balloons imprinted with my blog’s name (I was totally blown away!) and since it was around Christmas time when we visited, there were party crackers for us to have fun with before the food and drinks arrived.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

And this service was not just extended to me; I noticed that the staff were friendly to all customers and went out of their way to make you feel special if you were celebrating or having a get together etc…

The ambience matches the cuisine at QT; contemporary vibes with accents of traditional Vietnamese/Asian décor pieces. Warm and inviting yet modern; Chef Kevin wanted to move away from the image that Vietnamese food is always street hawker style; it can be more and that’s what he has tried to showcase through his food and space.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Now let’s get to the drinks….

(All the details of each dish will be outlined below each image)

The drinks menu is a decent sized one with plenty of Australian wines and standard medley of liquors and cocktails.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

It was a warm day and I opted for the Strawberry Margarita. And just as you would expect, it’s a refreshing light cocktail; perfect for those looking for something sweet and fresh, not necessarily a heady rush.)

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Sam got a glass of the Hollick “The Bard” Cab Sauv 2016, Coonawarra SA. Rich with flavours of wild berries and blackberry, this red is perfect for those who like bold flavours and pairs excellent with the meaty dishes on the menu.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Chef Kevin wanted me to try out one of their signature cocktails, Bonjour Vietnam (Bacardi rum, vodka, Pina colada, blue curacao & pineapple juice). It tasted good but I am not a big fan of Pina colada or blue curacao so not the best choice for me. But if you enjoy tropical flavours, then it’s a cocktail you must try.

And now onto the food…

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Grilled Wagyu Beef in Wild Betel Leaves, with house pickles, peanuts and Sriracha mayo, served on crispy crackers. And absolute cracker of a dish…it delivers everything; presentation, taste, texture. A very traditional dish from Vietnam, it’s one of my favourites and I loved this modern interpretation too. A must try from the small bites menu.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

One of the most interesting dishes on the menu! Bushman Lamb Shank herbs crusted, Victorian beetroot, chestnut, pancetta crisps. I have never tasted a dish like these before; really unique flavours for me. The herb crusting gives it a crunchy exterior though the meat was cooked well but could be a tad bit tender. The combination of beets, chestnuts and pancetta takes the dish to another whole level. Not to mention that roasted garlic; make sure you squeeze it out for that smoky sweetness.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Crispy line caught whole Baby Snapper with citrus salsa and hot tamarind caramel – a signature QT Kitchen dish that is so reminiscent of Vietnamese flavours. Another traditional dish that has been reinvented at QT, the snapper was beautifully cooked, crunchy on the outside but flaky inside. The citrus salsa was brilliant and I loved the caramel but the sourness could have been better balanced. But having said that, I would totally order this one again.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Homemade red curry, aromatic coconut broth, seasonal veggies and lychee with barramundi fillet. The presentation was amazing with an earthen pot of rice on the side. The curry was so flavourful and loved the addition of lychee. It was not spicy enough for me but I guess that’s my taste buds. But another must try at QT.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

And a side that I always buy if it’s available on the menu – marinated cucumbers. A perfect accompaniment to any kind of dish that you order. If you haven’t tried it, you most definitely should.

To summarize, QT Kitchen is a great spot to enjoy a modern take on Vietnamese cuisine. The food is great, the service excellent and I can’t wait to go back.

QT Kitchen

Shop 2/10-12 High Street,
Glen Iris,
Melbourne

Phone no: 03 9885 2009

Website: https://qtkitchen.com.au/

Timings:
 
Mon: Closed
Tue: 5pm – 10pm
Wed: 5pm – 10pm
Thurs: 12pm – 10pm
Fri: 12pm – 10pm
Sat: 12pm – 10pm
Sun: 12pm – 10pm

QT Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – I dined as a guest of AGFG and QT Kitchen; but all the opinions expressed are entirely mine and unbiased. 

Singapore Changi Airport – a Photo Essay

Consistently rated as one of the best airports in the world, Singapore Changi airport has become a travel destination in itself for tourists and locals alike. Whether are you are visiting Singapore or just transiting through, there’s much to do and see within the airport itself.

Singapore Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Singapore changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Singapore is often our preferred choice of transit especially when we are travelling to India. We love travelling with Singapore airlines, not just for its service but also the flight timings are always the best suited for us. Usually we opt for flights with the shortest transit time but this holiday, we decided to take the 5.5 hours transit flight which enabled us to experience the airport at leisure.

There are different options that you can choose from while in transit at Changi airport depending on the time you have on hand. The best option is a free Singapore tour if your transit period is 5.5-8 hours (definitely doing that next time). Do check out the visa formalities if you don’t have a valid one; quite an easy process.

Since we didn’t have that amount of time, we decided to enjoy the vast expanse of the airport and the facilities and attractions within the airport itself.

Singapore changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

But first coffee! I absolutely detest the coffee served on a plane so desperately needed one before doing anything else. There are so many food outlets/courts etc… located at various terminals inside the airport. We stopped at ‘The Kitchen’ by Wolfgang Puck for a cappuccino and also a plate of dumplings from the small bites menu. Both were delicious, a good start to the trip…

Location: Terminal 3; Level 2, Departure Lounge (Central), Transit area

'The Kitchen’ by Wolfgang Puck, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

'The Kitchen’ by Wolfgang Puck, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

The boys decided to relax with a game of while I relaxed in one of the many comfortable sofas around. There are massage chairs too if you need some help with the relaxation…

Singapore changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

After a short break, we decided to visit the Butterfly Garden, but not before checking out the Koi Pond on our way to the garden. And if it’s feeding time, you can even feed the fishes!

Location: Terminal 3

Koi Pond, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

At the Butterfly Garden; this is definitely a must visit attraction at Changi. A tropical habitat with lush greenery, unique flowering plants and about 40 different species of butterflies. My son loved this garden, especially as he got to read and learn a lot about the different butterflies.

Location: Terminal 3; Departure Transit Hall, Level 2 & 3

Butterfly garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Butterfly garden, Changi airport

Butterfly garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Butterfly garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Butterfly garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Butterfly garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Christmas decorations were still on since we travelled early Jan, so beautifully decked up trees and ornaments across terminals for that festive vibe.

Singapore Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

There are also plenty of areas/attractions specifically designed for kids like installations, lego workbench, art play, free movies etc….

Singapore Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Next it was time to visit the Water Lily garden. Beautifully designed as a natural aquatic environment, this garden has several varieties of the water lilies and the weeping tea-tree. The lilies in bloom are a colourful sight to behold and the garden is a great spot to relax, perhaps with a book in hand away from the airport crowds.

Location: Terminal 1; Departure Hall, Level 2, Transit Hall

Water lily garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Water lily garden, Changi airport

The hunger pangs struck again and we stopped at Tip Top as we wanted to sample something local. Seeing the board that they specialized in curry puffs, we decided to try out two – beef rendang and chicken curry. Loved the chicken curry but not the rendang as it felt slightly sweet. But totally recommend the chicken one!

Location: Terminal 1; Level 2, Departure Lounge (Near C Gates), Transit Area

Chicken curry puffs, Tip Top, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Time for some retail therapy!

The Changi airport DFS is well known for its designer brands and I have heard that the prices are quite competitive too. And the new LV store is just eye candy.

LV store, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Or you could purchase local products that are unique to Singapore. We really wanted to purchase the pandan chiffon cake but had too much luggage so decided against it. But I would definitely want to purchase it sometime; it was delicious. (unfortunately couldn’t take any photographs.)

DFS, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

I am not much of an airport shopper but both me and Sam love to browse in the alcohol/drinks section for special releases, unique packaging, offers etc….

If you enjoy cocktails, then definitely pick up a bottle of the Singapore Sling.

Or if you have the moolah, something rare and unique like this one.

DFS, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Changi duty free has an extensive collection of whiskeys and also a Wine Reserve for some great finds.

We would have loved to visit The Whiskey House which is one of the biggest collection of whiskeys inside an airport duty free. With more than 350 varieties, complimentary tastings and expert advice, it’s the place to be if you are a whiskey lover. Unfortunately we were at Changi early in the morning and hence decided to skip this. But next time for sure…..

Location: Terminal 2 DFS

DFS, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

The Whiskey House, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Our next stop was the Cactus Garden. A spacious roof garden filled with more than 100 varieties of cacti from around the globe. It’s an open air space so if you want a breath of fresh air, then this is the place to be. With a bar on the premises, it’s an ideal spot to grab a cold drink and watch the planes take off.

Location: Terminal 1; Departure Transit Hall, Level 3

Cactus Garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Cactus Garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

Cactus Garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

The Enchanted Garden is definitely another green spot that is not to be missed. From a giant display of flowers to motion sensors that trigger the sounds of nature as you walk through, this garden is my favourite. Get plenty of selfies for sure, but do spend a few minutes in silence and simply listen to the calming sound of nature.

Location: Terminal 2: Departure Transit Hall, Level 2

The Enchanted Garden, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress

The Enchanted Garden, Changi airport

While there was plenty more to explore inside the airport, it was time for us to catch our next plane, so a quick stop at the Social Tree as we walked towards our terminal.

The Social Tree is an interactive installation and at 9 metres tall, it’s hard to miss this one. Around the tree there are touch screen photo booths using which you can attach your photos and videos which are displayed on the animated crown. The photos can be shared to your social media profiles and also retrieved the next time you pass through Changi.

Location: Terminal 1; Central Piazza, right after immigration counters, Transit Area

The Social Tree, Changi airport - thespiceadventuress.com

As I mentioned, there is so much more to explore inside the airport depending on your interests and the time you have on hand. We are definitely bound to transit again through Singapore Changi airport so more next time.

And if you have explored the airport before, do let me know your suggestions and top picks for me to check out next time.

 

Cherry Gin Spritzer

It feels so nice to finally get back into a routine.

The holidays were fun and memorable, but the ‘flu-on-arrival’ not so much. And our bodies felt so drained and deprived that it was begging for nourishing home cooked food, rest and the monotony of everyday routine. As boring as it sounds, it’s the routine of our everyday life that keeps us sane.

While we missed a large slice of summer this year, glad that the days are still warm and long for us to laze around in the backyard, sip on a drink or two and relax. The days ahead look promising for a backyard party too…

Late last year I had the opportunity to visit the magnificent Yarra Valley Cherry Orchard. They had kindly gifted all of us with a box of the most delicious fresh cherries of the season which I admit pretty much were gobbled up on its own. But I did try out a couple of recipes and this Cherry Gin Spritzer was one of them.

Cherry Gin Spritzer - thespiceadventuress.com

Cherry Gin Spritzer - thespiceadventuress.com

I know cherries are slowly going out of season but this recipe is a keeper, one that you can return to next summer. Or you could take the general idea and replace the cherries with whichever fruit is in season at the moment.

This cocktail is all about refreshment at the end of a long day or on a really warm afternoon. Perfect for parties too; just assemble on the ingredients on a tray with different kinds of fruits and people can make their own drink.

The cherries are muddled with sugar syrup, mixed up with lime juice, gin and topped with soda…that’s it. Just omit the gin if you prefer a non alcoholic version which tastes great too especially if you have children around.

Cherry Gin Spritzer - thespiceadventuress.com

And if you get around to making this Cherry Gin Spritzer, do tag me (#thespiceadventuress) so that I get to see it too.

(Adapted from this website)

Ingredients:

(Makes 1 drink)

  1. 5 fresh cherries; pitted
  2. ½ ounce sugar syrup
  3. ½ ounce lime juice
  4. 2 ounces gin
  5. Soda/sparkling water
  6. Crushed ice
  7. Lime slice and whole cherries, for garnish

Method:

  1. In a tall glass, muddle the cherries with sugar syrup and lime juice.
  2. Add the crushed ice, gin and mix. Top with soda water.
  3. Garnish with fresh cherries and lime slice.
  4. Enjoy responsibly

Cherry Gin Spritzer - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

January Favourites

What a memorable month it has been!

Those who follow me on Instagram would be aware that I was away on a family holiday to India last month to attend my little brother’s wedding. Well, not so little in the eyes of the world, but for me, he’s always going to be the little bro as there’s a good ten year age gap between us. So for me, it was not a sisterly affection but rather a maternal instinct that has always been the predominant emotion at the base of my relationship with him.

I remember being totally besotted with him when he was born, spending hours staring at his innocent face. He was such a happy baby and according to me, the most beautiful one I have laid eyes on. So to have that boy all grown up and getting ready to embark on the next chapter of his life has been quite a bit of an emotional one.

Emotions ofcourse ride high but a wedding also means lotsa shopping which is very enjoyable though hard on the pocket. So I did splurge a bit……after all, have to play the eldest sis role to perfection.

For the engagement, I chose to go Western in a full length couture gown from Jadore Australia, purchased from Demile boutique based in Brunswick. I had to research and spend a lot of time getting this outfit simply because I didn’t know where exactly to look.

For the initial part, I kept looking in shopping centres; while there were plenty of choices for wedding guest outfits, there weren’t many options for full length couture gowns. But after much searching, I realised that I was looking in all the wrong places. One of the best places to go wedding shopping in Melbourne is Sydney Road, Brunswick which has so many boutiques with all kinds of price points. Whether you are a bride, bridesmaid or a guest, there are so many options here. I particularly liked my experience at Demile, because of the customer service and the staff went out of their way to get me the size and colour I needed even when I had very little time.

Jadore gown - thespiceadventuress.com

The best thing about Jadore was the designs were beautiful, plenty to choose from and reasonable priced. If you are looking out for formal wear, then check out their website for designs and then find a stockist that’s nearest to your location as the brand does not sell directly to public.

For the wedding, I decided to go traditional and wore a saree after such a long long time. And also a shot with my boys in too….

It was the first time after so many years that my whole family came together for a holiday. Usually it’s difficult for my siblings and their families to take a holiday at the same time as us since we live in different countries and the vacations never match. But this time owing to the wedding, all of us were there with our kids in tow which made it one of the most memorable holidays ever.

Getting back to life here, I was down with a really bad bout of flu after reaching back which meant that my best laid work plans all went haywire. Finally after a hiatus of about 1.5 months, got back into the kitchen for the first proper homecooked meal of 2019. And I wanted to indulge in a comforting Indian meal

Indian meal - thespiceadventuress.com

Also on the menu for the week ahead is Baid Mutajjan – a Middle Eastern style of fried hard boiled eggs coated with sumac and sesame seeds. It’s a simple dish but works brilliantly as a side to most meals and also as an after school snack for Adi.

Baid Mutajjan - thespiceadventuress.com

2019 is for experimenting and learning more about ancient grains. Starting with this Bajra Khichdi.

Kaima idli….breakfast, snack, lunch box or even a party starter!

A vegan one pot taco spaghetti….sounds unique and delicious.

Korean egg rolls; this is the humble omelette gone gourmet.

A veggie loaded butter chicken curry. Interesting!

I love couscous and forever looking for interesting ways to make it; this recipe definitely on my list.

Have you ever tried the Bohri style Dal Gosht (mutton with lentils)…it’s simply heavenly!

If you have a sweet tooth, then you must definitely check out my Pinterest board for loads of delicious inspiration and recipes.

Continuing on the sweet note, this raspberry pistachio chocolate is to die for….

Eco-friendly steel art for your home! I can’t wait to splurge on some of Lisa’s designs; do check out her IG account.

Time to go knitwear shopping!

 

 

Mirka & Georges – A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan (+ a recipe for Oysters roasted with Almonds and Butter)

Food, art, culture…intertwined in a way that is both enjoyable and informative. One of the best culinary themed books I have read in 2018.

Mirka & Georges – A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan explores the extraordinary lives of Mirka and Georges Mora, their invaluable contributions to the art and culinary scene of Melbourne.

Mirka & Georges – A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan (+ a recipe for Oysters roasted with Almonds and Butter) - thespiceadventuress.com

Lesley and Kendrah are senior curators at the Heide Museum of Modern Art (Heidelberg, Melbourne) who have previously co-authored the books, ‘Sunday’s Kitchen: Food & Living at Heide’, ‘Sunday’s Garden: Growing Heide’ and ‘Modern Love: The Lives of John and Sunday Reed’.

I have always been a fan of Heide Museum, visiting whenever time allowed me. It all started when I first took Adi for a holiday program at the museum but it would be fair to say that I fell in love with the space. It’s more than art at Heide; the beautiful expanse of greenery around, the vegetable gardens, the café serving absolutely vibrant delicious food, all of it inspires me to keep returning to the Museum.

The first time I came across the name, Mirka, was also at Heide. There was an exhibition featuring her art works and also copies of this book at the store inside the museum. But I initially dismissed it thinking the book is going to be all about art, not even paying attention to the word ‘culinary’ in the title. Little did I know that ‘A Culinary Affair’ is not just a glorious illustration of Mirka’s works and their life story but also contains lots of classic French recipes that are absolutely brilliant.

A beautiful sky blue hard bound book filled with the most beautiful drawings and illustrations, mostly by Mirka along with many personal photographs adorns the pages. The narrative begins with a brief introduction to Mirka’s childhood in France, growing up during the period of the Second World War, the perils and tragedies faced during the Holocaust, meeting Georges and finally moving to Melbourne in 1951.

‘Bohemian’ is perhaps the best word to describe Mirka’s and Georges’s way of life. Both of them led a very colourful, enterprising, creative, free-spirited lifestyle peppered with sophisticated food, sexual intrigue and artistic endeavours.

Their contributions to the culinary landscape of Melbourne are immense with the Mirka café, Balzac Restaurant and Tolarno French Bistro. The book tells us about their journey into opening each eatery, how it became the hub for rich and famous including the likes of Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck etc…. to name a few.

Mirka and Georges also contributed immensely to the artistic scene of post war Melbourne. Their apartment was often the den for artists and artistic discussions. Today, the name Mora is much revered amongst the culinary and art circle of Melbourne and imprints of it can be seen at Heide Museum, MoMA etc…

The authors have done an excellent job in giving us a glimpse into the culturally rich and vibrant life of the Moras. For a relatively new migrant like me, the book is a peep into the stories of some of the people who have shaped Melbourne as we know today. And the Moras led such an exciting life than parts of it almost feels like fiction to me. I now understand that the post war Melbourne was anything but boring; it was grand, exciting and full of adventures. The only thing similarity that I can draw to the modern times is that this beautiful city that I now call home was welcoming to people from all walks of life from all over the world, just as it is today.

Coming to the recipes outlined in this book, I intend to try out each and every one. But the one that caught my attention was a recipe for Huitres Grillees Aux Amandes or Grilled Oysters with Almonds and Butter.

Mirka & Georges – A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan (+ a recipe for Oysters roasted with Almonds and Butter) - thespiceadventuress.com

Mirka & Georges – A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan (+ a recipe for Oysters roasted with Almonds and Butter) - thespiceadventuress.com

Mirka & Georges – A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan (+ a recipe for Oysters roasted with Almonds and Butter) - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 12 fresh oysters
  2. ¼ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  3. ¼ cup almond meal (or ground almonds)
  4. 1 ½ tsp Grand Marnier (optional or replace with brandy as in original recipe)
  5. 1 small garlic clove; grated
  6. Cayenne pepper
  7. Lemon wedges, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan forced)
  2. Cream the butter and almond meal; grate in the garlic and add the Grand Marnier. Also add a pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix well to combine.
  3. Pour off the extra liquid from the oysters and cover each with a tsp of the almond mixture.
  4. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately garnished with a pinch of cayenne pepper

Mirka & Georges – A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan (+ a recipe for Oysters roasted with Almonds and Butter)

Mirka & Georges – A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan (+ a recipe for Oysters roasted with Almonds and Butter) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

Tanqueray Gin & Tonic (with Rosemary)

I have never been a huge fan of Gin & Tonics. But in the last year, I had the opportunity to experience some well crafted gins that opened up the world of delicious G&Ts too.

And one such gin was the Tanqueray Rangpur. Crafted using the rare Rangpur limes, this gin has a distinct flavour with the zesty freshness of the limes and the sweetness from the mandarins. Makes it an excellent choice for a G&T.

Tanqueray Gin & Tonic (with Rosemary) - thespiceadventuress.com

Most of the time, I enjoy the Tanqueray Rangpur simply poured over ice, but it works brilliantly as a G&T and in cocktails too.

Recently at a Food and Wine event, I had a G&T infused with rosemary. It was delicious; I loved the combination of the herby flavour of the rosemary with the citrusy zing of the lemon. Plus the addition of rosemary only intensifies the herbaceous undertones of the gin. The Tanqueray Rangpur also has that distinct lime flavour, so I decided to try a G&T infused with rosemary this time.

A premium tonic water is best suited to a G&T like this as it has a subtle flavour that lets the gin shine unlike the standard ones that are unnecessarily sweet. Since this gin has a distinct lime flavour, no extra lime is necessary except as a garnish.

Tanqueray Gin & Tonic (with Rosemary) - thespiceadventuress.com

Tanqueray Gin & Tonic (with Rosemary) - thespiceadventuress.com

Especially refreshing on a warm summer day…….

Ingredients:

(Serves 1)

  1. 40ml Tanqueray Rangpur Gin
  2. 2 sprigs rosemary
  3. Lemon slices
  4. Premium tonic water
  5. Ice cubes

Method:

(Best served in a Collins glass or Stemless wine glass)

  1. Pour the gin and one sprig rosemary to the glass. Crush lightly using a muddler to infuse the flavour of the rosemary. Remove the rosemary sprig after muddling.
  2. Add a few ice cubes and fill the glass with the tonic water.
  3. Garnish and serve with a sprig of rosemary and lemon slice.

Tanqueray Gin & Tonic (with Rosemary) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

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