Crab Biriyani at Heritage Bites

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DC and I took his parents out for Indian. We’d heard about the crab biriyani at Heritage Bites and were very eager to try it out. The restaurant itself has a very understated decor – modern with Indian touches. Its simple layout adds to the spaciousness and helps in getting the attention of the waitstaff. DC started off with a jaljeera, a drink with mint, lime, cumin and chilli. I liked the crispy bits floating at the top, they stayed crispy throughout, which is quite amazing considering it’s soaking in the drink. What I didn’t like was the drink itself. It tasted like watered down green chilli sauce to me. Pass.

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We had some starters to begin the meal, a combination platter of chicken tikka, tandoori chicken, prawn and fish. The morsels were tender and well-marinated, though ultimately not as memorable as the mains.

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For mains, we had the Punjabi mutton dhabewala ($15), which was very tender pieces of goat simmered in a thick tomato-based curry. I didn’t get much of it because DC and his dad slurped most of it up! No great loss to me because I was most enamoured of the palak paneer ($15). It was incredibly smooth and creamy without being heavy, and had a tart tang that made it taste almost like tomato (green tomato?). The paneer (mild yogurt cheese) cubes were just the right consistency of yielding yet chewy to the bite. It was really excellent when wiped up with plain naan ($3), probably the best naan I’ve had in recent memory. It was quite thin and amazingly crisp, yet despite its thinness had a soft, slightly al dente centre. If not for the crab biriyani ($25) that followed, we’d probably have ordered one each. Oh yes, there was another dish with okra – I can’t remember what it was exactly, except that it was decent. Too bad that the other dishes completely stole the show.

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And then the piece de resistance! The crab biriyani is da bomb. It is such a great idea: cleanly shelled crab (no nasty jaw-jarring bits at all!) layered with fragrant basmati rice and cooked to a beautifully spiced finish. Add some curry gravy to moisten the thing and you wouldn’t even miss the raita that they forgot (they later included it in the portion we took home). There was a lot of moist, fresh crab in the biriyani, each spoonful had plenty of crab to feel its texture on the tongue and fully taste the yummy crustaceousness of it. It’s such a great idea for a lighter biriyani. I’m definitely coming back for this.

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We were so stuffed that we had to take back a portion of our crab biriyani. But that didn’t stop us from ordering the jalebies ($8). These little fried dough coils soaked in fragrant syrup were quite special: crisp throughout and not tooth-achingly sweet, the syrup was spiked with some lemon juice to round off our dinner on a yummy sweet-sour note. Be warned that each jalebie is quite small, so it may not be the value you’re looking for.

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Nonetheless, we had a very good deal because the place was running a 40% discount promotion on all orders made between 6-8pm. Get there for your crab biriyani fix!

Heritage Bites
#B1-012 Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6837 0858

Blueberry Pancakes

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Occasionally I like to make a decadent breakfast chockful of expensive ingredients. This time I made blueberry pancakes, putting a good two punnets of the stuff in it. I made the fluffier thick American-style pancakes, which typically uses buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda. I replaced the buttermilk with a mixture of yogurt and milk and it worked out just fine. You can make the batter minus the bicarbonate of soda in advance and stir it in just before cooking. Be sure to sift the bicarb. If you’re lazy like me, you’ll end up with lumps that turn parts of the pancake disappointingly salty-bitter. Top it either with the traditional maple syrup and butter/whipped cream or go healthier like me and dollop with thick yogurt and manuka honey.

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Ingredients:
170g plain flour
1 egg
½ cup yogurt
¾ cup milk
40g sugar
50g melted butter
pinch salt
¾ tsp cream of tartar
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp melted butter, for frying
2 punnets blueberries

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients from flour to bicarbonate of soda in a blender or mixer till smooth. (If making in advance, leave out the bicarbonate of soda: stir it in only when ready to make pancakes.)
  2. Heat a heavy frying pan and coat lightly with melted butter. Pour the batter into the pan in spoonfuls till it runs to the edges of the pan. Turn heat to low and sprinkle blueberries generously over the uncooked and bubbling side.
  3. When the pancake turns almost solid on the uncooked side, loosen gently and flip the pancake. It’s all in the wrist action. (Tip: use a non-stick pan, it helps a great deal!) Cook till brown on the other side, then transfer to a plate and cook the rest of the pancakes.
  4. Serve with butter, thick yogurt and honey.

Makes 8 pancakes.

Apricot Upside Down Cake

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Last thing to top off the festive season. Here’s an apricot upside down cake from a recipe I found online. It was incredibly yummy, so I made it again for the family Christmas party, this time with nectarines. Practically any kind of vaguely soft fruit will do. I’d like to try it with pineapple or pisang rajah (local banana) next. It’s easy, it’s pretty spectacular, it’s very tasty, what’s there not to like?

I needed a pan that can go from stove to oven, so my all-metal WMF pan worked very well for this. I’d almost junked it because normal cooking just kept sticking to the pan. With the buttery caramel topping, there’s no fear at all of anything sticking here.

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Ingredients:

Caramel topping
50g butter
170g brown sugar
10 small apricots or nectarines, stoned and halved

Cake
2 tbsp yogurt
½ cup milk
200g flour
¾ tsp cream of tartar
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
100g butter
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 drops almond extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Make the caramel topping by melting the butter in the pan. When the butter has melted fully, reduce to low heat and sprinkle the brown sugar over evenly. Cook undisturbed for a few minutes. The sugar will start to melt and turn a bit darker. When most has turned darker, take it off the heat. At this point, there’d still be plenty of sugar crystals still visible. Carefully place the apricot halves cut side down onto the caramel. Be very careful because it’s very hot and can spit at you if too hot. Cut the fruit into slices and slide in between if there’s too much fruit. Leave aside and make the cake batter.
  3. Stir the yogurt and milk together and set aside.
  4. Stir the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and salt together and set aside.
  5. Beat together the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one, followed by the extracts. Beat till creamy and doubled in volume.
  6. Fold in flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with yogurt/milk mixture starting and ending with the flour.
  7. Pour batter over the apricots and spread evenly.
  8. Bake till golden brown and a satay stick inserted in the middle comes out fairly clean, about 45 minutes. Cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly.
  9. When the cake is ready, wear oven mitts. Remove from oven and put a large flat plate over it, pressing plate and pan firmly together. Quickly invert cake onto plate and carefully lift off the pan. Quickly scrape off any caramel from the pan and drizzle onto cake.
  10. Best served warm, though really excellent cold too.

Makes 12 slices.

Seoul Quick Eats: Red Mango

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I know Red Mango’s already in Singapore but the first time I tried it was in its hometown of Seoul. We had it after a food court dinner at COEX mall.  One of our colleagues treated us: I had a little portion of blueberry yogurt while Shinta was persuaded to have a massive fruit topped dessert. The frozen yogurt was smooth and creamy, very good stuff. Plus the fruit toppings were generous and fresh. My blueberry dessert was pretty good too. The blueberry tasted like it came from fresh berries and not from processed blueberry sauce. Good stuff!

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An Unorthodox Carbonara

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I had some orange zest and two egg yolks left over from my orange clove cake and knew that I had to take this rare opportunity to make pasta carbonara without having to contend with egg whites glaring malevolently at me every time I opened the fridge door. There was also some chorizo Mum brought back from (of all places) London, so the orange and smoked sausage turned the pasta into something decidedly un-Italian.

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To make things slightly less sinful, I seared thick slices of zucchini on the grill and dressed it with a simple vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was something Mum took back from London (yes mums can be slightly eccentric too). If not, I’d just sprinkle a touch of balsamic or wine vinegar over and top with some crumbled sea salt and ground pepper.

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Ingredients:
5 slices of skinny chorizo, cut into thin strips
linguine
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp + extra parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp yogurt
zest of ½ orange
1 tbsp orange juice

Method:

  1. Fry the chorizo in a dry pan over low heat till fat is rendered and chorizo is crisp. Set aside. Also set oily pan aside.
  2. Boil the linguine in salted water till al dente.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, cheese, yogurt and orange zest. Stir in the orange juice.
  4. When the pasta is just about ready, warm the rendered chorizo oil. Drain the noodles and toss them in the hot oil. Immediately transfer to the eggy mixture and stir, stir, stir till the cheese melts and the sauce thickens and clings to the noodles.
  5. Sprinkle over the chorizo bits and extra grated parmesan cheese.
  6. Eat immediately.

Serves 1 or 2.

Orange Clove Cake

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It was a good thing sis-in-law borrowed my usual baking book. I had to dig out my folder of recipes printed off the net, most untried and some 10 years old even. This one came off epicurious.com and I’ve done the usual modification to my own taste. The cake turned out surprisingly good. Somehow the clove brought out the freshness of the orange zest and lifted the flavour very well. This is a great recipe also because it uses up egg whites, the bane of kitchen leftovers.

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I served it with yogurt, honey and orange slices for breakfast and it made for a faintly indulgent yet not too sinful start to the day.

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Ingredients:

240g plain flour
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cream of tartar
½tsp salt
¼tsp ground cloves
170g butter
200g sugar
zest from 1½ oranges
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 egg whites
½cup milk

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Line and butter a loaf pan.
  2. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar, salt and ground cloves.
  3. Beat butter, sugar and orange zest till creamy. Add in the eggs one by one, beating in between each addition, followed by the egg whites and vanilla extract. Beat till light and creamy.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture and milk alternately till you get a thick batter.
  5. Smooth into loaf pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a satay stick comes out clean. Let cool in pan and slice when cold.

Makes 1 large loaf, approx 12 thick slices.

Homemade Yogurt Breakfast

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I had a teeny bit of time one Saturday morning, so I made this healthy yet very satisfying breakfast. There was mango and pear in the fridge, and some greek yoghurt too. I wasn’t quite content with just fruit and yogurt, so I rummaged in the freezer for some rolled oats, toasted it and then drizzled over some Manuka honey. I think the combination of nutty toasted oats and herby honey really lifted the yogurt to a higher level. Not to mention, the mango was nice and fragrant, making it something yummy to look forward to again soon.

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There’s no real need for a recipe, but here goes if you must.

Ingredients:

1 small mango, skinned, seeded and cubed
1 pear, cored and cubed
1 cup thick greek yogurt
1 handful rolled oats
1 tbsp Manuka honey

Method:

  1. Prepare the fruit, lay in a shallow dish and spoon over the yogurt.
  2. Spread the oats in a thin layer in a toaster oven and toast for about 2 minutes or till just brown.
  3. Scatter the oats over the fruit and yogurt, then drizzle over the honey.
  4. Stir and enjoy.

Serves 1.

Banana Milkshake Breakfast

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Sometimes I have time on weekend mornings but am way too lazy to make a proper breakfast, so I end up with breakfast in a glass. My cop-out breakfast has banana, milk and whatever else I find in the fridge that could go with it. I’ve added stuff ranging from passionfruit to yogurt to Yakult. One of these days I’ll probably try stirring in a spoonful of rolled oats for some bite and see how that flies.

I’m not going to provide a recipe here because it’s literally peel the banana, stick in blender cup, top with milk and add whatever else you fancy, then blend and drink up. Try all sorts of soft fruit, various milk products and their variations, and some untoasted cereal.

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Heavenly and Incredibly Easy Poached Pears in Red Wine

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Pear poached in red wine is one of those chi-chi restaurant desserts that’s actually quite a no-brainer to make at home. It’s so much easier yet somehow more impressive than baking a cake. I made some the other night and it was such a revelation!

Here’s where all the leftover red wine stashed in the freezer comes in useful. Or you could just use any cheap not-too-sweet red. Use as many or as few of the spices as you like. I think the poaching liquid ends up like mulled wine with all the spices!

For dessert, I reduced some poaching liquid to make a sauce.  I left the pears soaking in the rest of the poaching liquid overnight. The next morning the pears deepened to the darkest purple ever. This time, I didn’t bother with a reduction and just had them cold as a fancy fruit compote with my thick yogurt. Both were very yummy.

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Ingredients:
½ bottle red wine
4 black peppercorns
4 green cardamom pods
½ stick cinnamon
1 star anise
4 cloves
lemon peel from ½ lemon
½ cup sugar
2 pears

Method:

  1. Combine wine with spices, lemon peel and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer on low heat.
  2. Get on with peeling and coring the pears. Cut each pear into eight.
  3. By now the poaching liquid should be at least warm. Lower pears into poaching liquid and keep on a low simmer for 20 minutes or till pears are soft.
  4. For serving immediately, fish out the pears and boil the poaching liquid till the resulting syrup coats the back of a spoon. Drizzle the sauce over the pears and serve with Greek yogurt, crème fraîche or ice cream.
  5. Alternatively, leave the pears in the poaching liquid overnight to steep. Eat with yogurt for a decadent breakfast.

Serves 2-4.

Yogurt and Cheese

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I’m sick of buying all the yogurt crap passed off as wholesome at the supermarkets. They trumpet how yogurt has live culture and no artificial sweeteners nor colouring and how it’s got lots of calcium, but if you think about it, shouldn’t yogurt indeed have live culture in it? What’s yogurt if not for milk with live bacteria in it? Of course it shouldn’t have artificial sweeteners or colouring. For that matter, it shouldn’t have artificial flavour either, but they play it down on the packaging. Most yogurts have added stabilisers and gelling agents to set them so they don’t get too runny with the handling. And milk products are supposed to have calcium in them. Anyway, I’m not going to pay more for you to put crushed oyster shells inside. I can control my own intake of calcium with calcium tablets, which are  of course also made of crushed oyster shells, but cost much less than the calcium-fortified crap in the market. Plus, lots of them have so much sugar in them they’ve probably negated their health benefits. Think twice the next time you grab a carton of yogurt for a “healthy” snack. (That said, it’s still probably better than a pack of salty greasy crisps.)

Rant over, I try to eat real wholesome food by making my own. The trick is to start off with a small pot of store-bought yogurt. I don’t think you want to leave milk out to catch “natural” bacteria in the air. Like is like a box of chocolates, you never know what kind of tummy ailment you could get from rogue natural bacteria. Get a pot of plain natural yogurt instead. Read the label to check that it only has milk and live culture, perhaps some cream too. If you’re unlucky, you’ll probably get something with milk solids and stabilisers, but that should be about all you should tolerate.

Now let’s get to the milk bit. If you’re not worried about your weight, go for full fat milk. That’s about 4% fat. It’ll make for a thicker yogurt. If not, use low-fat milk (2%) which makes it runnier. Don’t worry if you want it thicker, you’ll just have to strain it. (That bit will come later.) Let’s get on with the recipe.

Ingredients:

600 ml milk
1 small pot yogurt

Method:

  1. Heat the milk gently in a saucepan. Turn off the when bubbles just start to form at the surface. Leave to cool.
  2. Transfer the yogurt to a container with lid and when the milk is still warm to the touch, stir it slowly into the yogurt.
  3. Cover and leave in a warm part of the kitchen out of the sun till set. About two hours for full-fat milk, up to half a day for low-fat milk.

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After the yogurt is done, you can eat it as is or strain it for a thicker set towards the Greek yogurt style or even drain it completely to get something the cook books call yogurt cheese. It’s actually a lot like cream cheese. If you use low fat milk I imagine it wouldn’t be too high in fat, though remember that after draining away all the whey, you’re retaining most of the fat in the solids, so it’ll be more like 20% (vague approximation, I’m not geek enough to calculate exactly) or so fat now.

Yogurt separates out into curds and whey if you leave it standing for a while, so the liquid layer is the whey and the white creamy stuff is the curd. Drain for an hour in the cheesecloth to get Greek-style yogurt and three hours to overnight in the fridge to get yogurt cheese. Here’s my setup for draining the yogurt.

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Try spreading the yogurt cheese on bread. It tastes great either on its own or with jam. Or you could stir some jam into the Greek-style yogurt. Mmm-licious!

A note on the whey: not for the lactose intolerant. Whey is super high in lactose. Use it to make bread (recipe coming up) or try drinking it if you can deal with the lactose.