Thursday, 26 June 2014

Upcycling- discovering more and being inspired

Recently, I did a post on the Upcycle Project, a studio in Mumbai that focuses on upcycling. That post got me thinking about how far we can go with upcycling in terms of design. To me, when someone says the word 'upcycle' I immediately think funky and quirky. But the words elegant and sophisticated are not what usually pops into my head. I know it's a personal prejudice and I felt I needed to get over it. Because, considering the amounts of waste we are generating, both recycling and upcycling are important if we are to grow in a sustainable way. 

So I started doing a little more research, the idea being I wanted to see the implementation of upcycling in contemporary, high end design, just to sort of change my biased mindset I guess. I came across quite a few interesting finds and I'm sharing.  

I really like this contemporary looking cafe which uses old wooden crates as stools as well as lamps and hanging planters. It's such a simple idea, but executed in such an elegant way.

Love this partition which has made use of the scraps and waste from on site carpentry work. The bits and pieces of wood are put together to form an interesting composition that is quite trendy and classy too!

This lamp, by designer Betty Ryland, is made from old motorcycle parts and is incredibly well designed. It has a real sophisticated industrial feel to it. 

And then on a much smaller scale, we can upcycle in our own homes. Here are some interesting ideas that I came across that I've added to my 'ideas for the new home' folder. They would work equally well in a colorful, bohemian styled home or a contemporary home with a more subtle vibe.

Love how these coconut shells have been papered, polished and and drilled with holes to create an awesome hanging basket. I've collected quite a few coconut shells and this is how I plan to put them to use :)

By Miriam Zink. Image courtesy Furniture Site

48 lamp by 101 design made from 48 coat hangers. Image courtesy Design Boom

Never getting rid of any old coat hangers. These lampshades are funky and sophisticated and I love them!

Cool way to uses old boxes, trays and crates to create a cool and interesting wall.

An old barrel that's been painted makes an interesting and quirky bedside table. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A Relaxed Evening Under the Stars @ Outback Bar & Grill, Leisure Inn, Gurgaon

A few weeks ago I got an invite to visit and review Outback, an open air bar and grill at Leisure Inn Gurgaon, close to the Sector 14 market in Gurgaon. I had not heard of this restaurant and was quite curious. We arrived at Outback by around 8.30 pm and made our way to an open air courtyard that sits in the shade of an old Maragosa tree. The open air ambiance was quite nice and made even more so with the tiny yellow lights that wound around the tree trunk and branches. Since it was quite a warm Summer evening, large fans were strategically placed to ensure proper cooling.

The concept of Outback is pairing drinks with freshly made grilled appetizers, all in a relaxed outdoor setting. Simple and casual is the mantra here along with enjoying some really good North Indian appetizers.

Once I had a chance to look through the menu, I was quite excited by what was on offer- some favourites and some things which I have never tried before. Executive chef Abhishek Mathur came over to us and explained the concept behind a few of the dishes and we were looking forward to tasting :)

There was a very balanced selection of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters to go with our drinks. The Dhai Ke Suley was one of the star vegetarian items. It’s Chef Mathur’s own creation and consists of hung yoghurt mixed with some secret spices & wrapped in soaked bread & deep fried. The hubby is a veggie and he loved it! Another two delicious vegetarian starters were the Malai broccoli and the Mushroom Kive. I was quite impressed with the way Chef Mathur managed to infuse so much flavour into the humble broccoli and make it something special. I must also mention that what I liked about the selection of vegetarian starters was the variety. It wasn’t just the usual paneer which although I love, can tend to become a little boring after a while.

Being a die hard meat and fish lover I really enjoyed the malai jhinga and pepper fish satay (sadly don't have images). They were absolutely delicious. Only thing more I could have asked for was a wedge of lime/lemon for my crispy batter fried malai jhinga. I should also mention the Shikampuri kebabs, which I also liked, but were over shadowed by the yumminess of the prawn and the fish starters.

When it came time for the main course, the hands down winner was the imli ki machi. It was a delicious fish curry in a gravy that was subtly flavoured with tamarind- my mouth waters when I think of how good it was. Another winner was the dal Qureshi. It was a rich creamy dal made from green mung lentils. It was something very different and not something I've had anywhere else. The humble mung dal was certainly celebrated in this dish. 

Also on the menu was Murg wajidshai, chicken in a creamy gravy, but no one on our table seemed too impressed with this. Equally disappointing was the Dum ghost biryani, which I was really looking forward too. Another main I was excited about was the beliram meat curry and while the flavours of the gravy were excellent, I wish the meat had been cooked for a little longer so that it had a chance to be a little tenderer, so that it was falling of the bone.

The evening ended with some dessert- pan kulfi and the ghost halwa (mutton halwa). I was very curious about the mutton halwa which is supposed to be a classic, but while I enjoyed the pan kulfi, I must admit that meat in dessert form is a bit too radical for my taste buds. To be fair, I’d have to say that that is more of a reflection of my staid palate than any fault of the chef.

Over all Outback is a nice place to visit for a casual evening out, especially when the weather is a little cooler. A nice, chilled out place in a pleasant setting perfect for a relaxed evening. I’d say it’s a great place to enjoy some delicious starters along with your drinks, all under the stars. I plan to visit again for the prawns and the imli ki macchi, but maybe when the weather is slightly cooler :)

[All images courtesy Outback Bar & Grill]

Outback Bar and Grill, Leisure Inn West Gurgaon
17/6 Old Delhi Gurgaon Road, Sector 14, Gurgaon 122001

Friday, 20 June 2014

Lemon Panna Cotta

I was chatting with a friend recently and she mentioned that I haven’t been posting any recipes on the blog of late. And she’s right! I think the last recipe I posted was my hummus recipe and that was ages ago! Admittedly I’ve been a bit lazy in the kitchen lately, but temperatures hovering around 45 degrees Celsius sort of have that effect I guess :)

But the last few days I suddenly felt myself getting the urge to do some experimenting and I settled on Lemon Panna Cotta. In my opinion, nothing says summer more than lemons. Their yellow zest and tart, citrusy goodness scream Summer and the taste and smell of lemons are so refreshing when temperatures soar. And panna cotta is the perfect desert for summer. This simple dessert looks so very elegant, but requires minimum effort in the kitchen. What more could you ask for in a dessert?

Panna cotta means cooked cream and this dessert originated in Northern Italy. Panna cotta is a creamy, softly set dessert that should melt in your mouth. At its core a panna cotta is just cream and sugar set with just the right amount of gelatin that allows it to keep its form, while maintaining an irresistible wobble. And that is the most challenging part about making a panna cotta. There is nothing worse than a panna cotta that is rubbery because of too much gelatin.

What’s so awesome about a panna cotta you might ask? Well it’s so versatile!
  • It sounds fancy even though it’s pretty uncomplicated to make
  • It’s egg-less and gluten-free
  • It can be made using gelatin substitute like agar agar (china grass)
  • It’s a great dessert for vegans since the milk or cream can be substituted with almond milk or coconut milk

So I started with operation’ Lemon Panna cotta’. First attempt was a disaster... too little gelatin, attempt number two... too much, but I got lucky on the third try- perfect wobbly panna cottas with a lovely silky, creamy texture. Yay!

To serve a panna cotta you can either unmould it or serve it in what it was set. I set mine in a glass tumbler and a clear glass jar. The idea was to make a basic lemon panna cotta that could be served in a number of ways. Option one, was just the panna cotta garnished with a candied lemon peel. Option two was with a mango and mint salsa and it was so good- the perfect dessert for a summer lunch. And if you do want to put in a little extra effort, it would go really well with a dollop of lemon curd.

How to make lemon Panna Cotta

1/2 cup single cream
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup hung curd
1 level tbsp sugar
Zest of 3 lemons (I used Indian lemons which are about an 1.5” in diameter)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp water
3/4 tbsp gelatin
Juice of 1 lemon

In a small bowl, mix water with lemon juice. Sprinkle the gelatin over this and leave for about 5 minutes, until the gelatin has absorbed the liquid and it looks a little like it’s forming.

In the meantime heat the milk, cream and sugar in a pan until the sugar has dissolved and the milk mixture is hot but not boiling. Do Not let it boil. Remove from heat and cool for about a minute. Add the lemon zest and the honey.

Next add the gelatin to the warm milk mixture and stir with a spoon or silicon spatula until the gelatin has dissolved completely. Don’t use a whisk as this will cause the mixture to foam, which is not desirable.

Let the mixture cool down, but not set. Mix the hung curd with a little of the milk-gelatin mixture to smooth and thin it out. Then mix this into the remaining mixture. Strain and pour into moulds or a glass. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours.  

If you are unmoulding, dip moulds in warm water and loosen edges slightly with a sharp knife. Turn over onto a plate and serve.

If you are serving it with the mango and mint salsa simply chop up some fresh mango and a few mint leaves and add a little lemon juice to this. The fresh fruit is lovely with the creamy texture of the panna cotta.

[All images- Shalini Pereira]

Please do not use images without prior written permission

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Monsoon and Beyond- A Luxury Home Textile Label

Finely crafted home textiles with a contemporary edge. This is the core idea behind the Monsoon and Beyond label established by Austrian Vera Fritsch, who now calls India home. 

The idea for the Monsoon and Beyond label evolved from the deep connection that Vera developed with India. Through the various collections of this label Vera hopes to tell visual stories about India, its beauty, history, culture and heritage.

Weaving traditional magic into contemporary forms... that is the defining idea behind this label. It draws inspiration from India's rich traditional textile traditions and creates contemporary designs that appeal to both an Indian an a global market.  

Every piece is handcrafted by expert artisans using only the finest fabrics to create unique designs.

Like what you see? Currently Monsoon and Beyond retails exclusively out of Second Floor Studio, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi and you can shop online for their products here.

[All images courtesy Monsoon and Beyond]

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Singapore in 3 Days- Day 3

Day 3...
Once again we made a late start to the day. Why? Well, because we spent the previous evening doing something that you simply have to do if you visit Singapore- and that's enjoy some drinks on Read Bridge at Clarke Quay. An interesting fact about Singapore is that you can drink out in the open, and you don't have to cover your drinks with a brown paper bag. You can basically walk around sipping from a bottle of beer or JD! So on Friday and Saturday nights locals, expats and visitors alike, buy drinks from the now famous 7 eleven nearby and spend the evening drinking, chatting, mingling- in short having a good time, out in the open, under the stars, at Read Bridge. 

It was quite an experience, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. There is a very happy atmosphere around, you get a chance to talk to the locals and everyone is quite friendly and not in a creepy way. Such a pleasant change from NCR. To be able to speak with random strangers and not worry about your friendliness being interpreted as an invitation for something else. There was this one guy celebrating his bachelors night by taking pictures with as many single women as he could, a girl celebrating her hen night, handing out chocolates to everyone, and others mixing up some pretty heavy duty cocktails, all out in public! It was crazy and wonderful and I loved it! 

So with all that 'happiness' of the previous evening it's no wonder we made a late start :) We finally did manage to get out and we headed straight to the Gardens by the Bay. (we again took the downtown extension line) 

The Gardens span 101 hectares of reclaimed land and are home to the famous Supertrees. These spectacular 9-16 storey structures are vertical gardens and also collect rain water, generate solar power and act as venting ducts for the park's conservatories. I had seen them from the top of the Spypark Observation deck the previous day, but from up close it felt like a scene out of the movie Avatar! The cooled conservatory complex, within the gardens is worth a visit. It won the World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival 2012 and is home to a huge variety of plant species. We were on a tight budget and a tight schedule so we gave this a skip. 

By the time we were through, it was lunch time and we headed to the Chinatown Food Street. After a great lunch there we took the metro to Clarke Quay for some more exploring, by day this time :) We walked down Eu  Tong Sen Street, Hill Street, past the Armenian Church and took in some lovely sights. 

By around 4 pm we were exhausted and I was feeling the after effects of two consecutive nights out on the town. Plus we still had to meet some friends that night. So we headed home for a rest.  On the way back home I reflected on our trip and the fact that there were so many things we didn't see like Holland Village & Dempsey Hill among a few. But we did manage to cover quite a lot in the short time we were there. In hindsight, if we had spent a little less time in a few of the places and used a taxi a little more, we may have been able to cover some more ground. But then there is a certain charm of exploring a city on foot and there would have probably been so many places we would have missed out on if we were zooming around in a cab all the time :)
In case you missed it, here's my account of Day 1 and Day 2 in Singapore.

[All images- Shalini Pereira]

Please do not use without prior written permission

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Singapore in 3 Days- Day 2

Day 2

After a night of exploring Clarke Quay with family, we got a bit of a late start to our second day in the city. First on our list was a visit to the Skypark at the Marina Bay Sands. We took the MRT to Bugis, changed onto the black line (downtown extension) and got off at Bayfront. From Bayfront you can visit the Casino and the Skypark observation deck as well as the Gardens by the Bay. Entry to the Casino is free excluding Singaporeans. A ticket for the observation deck is SD 23 per adult.

The Skypark observation deck offers an amazing view of the city and in my opinion it's worth the ticket, although the hubby disagreed :) We decided to visit the Gardens by the Bay the next day since a visit to the gardens would take up quite a bit of time and we were meeting friends for lunch at Bugis Junction Mall. 

After a nice catching up session with our friends we did a little retail therapy at  Bugis Street:) This street is covered and packed with shops that sell everything from clothes to food to souvenirs. It's a bit like Linking Road or Hill Road in Bandra, however there is no traffic and its under a roof. Unfortunately you can't bargain the way you can in India :( 

The hubby ensured that shopping didn't go on for too long. He kept saying that we were losing the best light for taking pictures :) So once we were done, we made our way to on foot along Victoria Street towards Arab Street and Haji Lane. It's about a 20 minute walk, but we were OK with that. 

A few of the things we saw on our way to Arab Street.

The Sultan Mosque is a must see and we were lucky to see a beautiful Malay bride outside the mosque. The were waiting for things to get started and I took the opportunity to take a few pictures. 

We walked down Arab Street and Haji Lane. Haji Lane is a tiny lane that is buzzing with activity. It has been revitalized by designers and young entrepreneurs who have set up shop here. Their quaint boutiques, restaurants and bars give the area a bohemian vibe. There are some lovely vintage stores that sell garments, accessories as well has home decor items. 

If you love fabrics then you must visit Arab Street. It's not has hip as Haji Lane, it has a different, old world sort of charm. I was amazed at the lace, silk, organza and cotton fabric I saw in the shops, and thought how much my momsy would have loved this place!

Considering the walking we did, we were exhausted by around 5 pm and we made our way home to recover before another evening out on the town :)My one regret was that we missed out seeing Bussorah Street and Muscat Street. Maybe if I ever make another visit :) 

If you missed it, our day one & three adventures can be seen here & here.

[All images- Shalini Pereira]

Please do not use without prior written permission

Singapore in 3 Days- Day 1

Singapore is a small country that has something for everyone. Last week the hubby and I spent a few days there and I fell in love with this tiny little country. It's so small that you could probably cover all the sights in two days, if you really pack things in. But we had a more relaxed holiday, spread over three days, that involved a lot of exploring of the city on foot and of course the MRT. I had, of course, already planned out the entire itinerary, and the hubby had to figure out the most efficient routes :) We ended up being a pretty good team (even if I do say so myself). 

We did a few typically touristy things, but there were no zoo visits, no crazy shopping and mall crawling. I really wanted to get a real taste of this city that is also a country. I wanted to walk the narrow lanes, gaze in awe at the modern skyscrapers contrasting so starkly with the colonial architecture of the city, admire its incredible infrastructure, enjoy its food and basically get a feel for this multicultural and vibrant city.   

Day 1
We landed in Singapore and made our way to my cousin's place (they had very graciously put us up during our time in Singapore). After freshening up and a quick breakfast, we headed out with our MRT passes and maps. (The Singapore Visitor Map was picked up at the airport and were really helpful in figuring out the most efficient routes, and MRT passes were my cousin's, but you can get them made at the MRT stations quite easily)

First stop... Little India and we got there on foot since we were based quite close by. Our aim was to just walk around and explore. We came across across so many lovely old buildings that have been looked after quite lovingly. This one on Petain Road was one of my favorites, a real gem.

From Little India we hopped onto the MRT and took the North East line (purple line) to Chinatown. Although Bugis was close by, we were only using the MRT and didn't want to cab it to Bugis (we were on a tight budget). Bugis is on the green line and going there from Little Indian via the MRT made no sense. 

You literally step out of the station (Pagoda Street exit) and step into Chinatown. It's bustling with tourists and it's so colorful. We walked down  Pagoda Street towards South Bridge Road. At the corner of the two is the Sri Mariamman Temple. 

Further on we came across the famous Chinatown Food Street. here the entire street has been covered by a high ceiling glass canopy that offers protection from the elements. Here you can find different kinds of Chinese foods under one roof! From Satays to Dimsum, CFS has it all! We didn't stop to eat at CFS, but we did another day.

Walk down South Bridge Road and a little further you will come across the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. It's a Chinese Buddhist temple and from what I've read, it's built along the Tang Dynasty architectural style.

By now it was almost two and we were hungry. I had read a lot that in Singapore you get some of the best local food at food centres, which is where the locals eat. The quite famous Maxwell Road Food Centre is opposite the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and we made our way there. The food was good and I'll cover that in a later post :)

After a nice lunch and something to drink, we did some more exploring of some areas around Chinatown. I quickly fell in love with the colonial architecture, colorful building with their shuttered windows and the interesting store fronts.

We covered Tanjong Pagar Road, Duxton Hill, Neil Road and then finally made our way to Otram Park MRT from where we took the green line to City Hall. Had a quick coffee at the Starbucks in The City Link Mall and then headed out to the iconic Raffles Hotel which is a colonial style hotel named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder modern Singapore. Some famous names in literature such as Somerset Maugham, Herman Hesse and Rudyard Kipling have stayed here. The famous Singapore Sling cocktail was originally concocted by a bartender at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel. 

Another must visit is Chijmes, which is quite close by. Chijmes stands for the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. This beautiful Gothic style structure used to be an orphanage and chapel, but now houses some interesting boutiques, restaurants and bars.  

Our next stop was Merlion Park. So from Chijmes, we made our way back to City Hall and took the MRT to Raffles Place. We walked walked along Boat Quay, past Fullerton Hotel and finally Merlion Park where we ended our long day. Adventures of our second & third day here & here.

Some interesting sculptures and art installations we saw along Boat Quay.

And yes, that's me, doing what tourists are supposed to do at Merlion Park :)

[All Images- Shalini Pereira]

Please do not use without prior written permission 

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