What to Cook: Distressed over Dinner

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

Every now and then I emails from readers requesting me for a particular recipe. Some I’m quite familiar with and readily try and post about. Then are those requests of dishes that for the life of me, I had no idea even existed. I especially love these email where I get a chance to learn about something new. And then there are a few mails wherein I’m asked to help plan a party, with a fully designed menu. Now these are mails that I especially enjoy! That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate those lovely thank you notes I get from fabulous readers who’ve tried my recipes and taken the time to send me feedback. You all have a special place in my heart, so keep ‘em coming folks! And just in case you have this silly notion that I don’t value what you have to say since I haven’t responded to your email/comment, then please don’t think that way. All I can say is that it’s hard for me to juggle all the things I tend to do at the same time. Most times I have more on my plate than I can conviniently handle, due to which I have to miss out on responding to your lovely words.Now, getting back to those emails on menu planning, yes, I just love those! Part of the excitement must come from my obessively complusive behaviour to always host the perfect party, and the rest I’m sure derives itself from my need to entertain on a regular basis. Yes, as Hubby Dear has time and again stated, I have a disease. And the only way to live with it is to accept the fact that I need to have frends and family over on a regular basis who I can feed and smother with goodies from my kitchen.

One such request arrived a few days ago from a regular reader of mine. This young lady always has something smart to discuss on food, and I’ve always enjoyed the conversations that we cultivated through our web correspondence. So I was highly surprised to see this frantic email from her sitting in my inbox:

Dear Meena,

Me and my girlfriends get together every month for our Book Club Meeting. Each month, the selected host designs a meal inspired by the book we are currently reading. This month, the task of hosting the dinner has come on me. We have been reading Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss, and I’d really love to serve a simple meal of everyday Indian food that you would serve to family and friends on a regular basis. While I’m used to making the customary party food like Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka, this time I wanted to go for something more wholesome and comforting. I’ve promised the girls a meal they’ll remember forever and now I’m practically kicking myself for doing that. The meeting is in a week’s time, and I have no clue where to begin. HELP!

- Distressed over Dinner

 

Dear Distressed over Dinner,

I know sometimes cooking a simple meal for friends may seem appalling. No matter how hard we try, we always seem to go a bit overboard when entertaining our dearest friends. Maybe it’s the desire to impress them and keep them coming for more. Or maybe it’s our need to show a little flair and style that’s easily missed in our everyday meals. But that surely doesn’t mean that we have to torture ourselves over the stove, cooking a 3-course meal. Sometimes, the simplest food can also be the best and most appreciated. I’ve designed for you a menu which I think would simply floor your guests. Each dish is simple to prepare and a delight to eat. Trust me, lay all this out on the table and watch them lick their fingers. And I promise, the next time you host a party, they’ll surely want to be a part of it.

- Meena

The menu I’ve designed for this Book Club Meeting consists some of the classic favourites of every Indian home. The preparation methods are simple, cooking times are quick, and most if not all of them can easily be done a few days ahead of time. I’d suggest leaving the rice for the very last minute to ensure a wonderful aroma to fill your home, but of course, you could always have it ready before hand and re-heat in the microwave.

There you go DD, hope your friends will love this one! I would definitely go very light on appetizers, maybe just chips and dips, since you’ll want to save enough of space for the main meal. For dessert I’d suggest a tub of traditional Indian ice cream called Kulfi, which can be easily picked up at any Indian grocery store, and from what I recently noticed, many of our regular ones as well.

Anyone else out there need help planning a fabulous Indo-inspired meal? Well then, what are you waiting for, drop me a line!

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Cooking with Bollywood…

Hot & Sour Fish Curry

As I sat through my umpteenth screening of the esteemed love triangle, I felt a sudden pang hit me. No, I could swear it wasn’t butterflies in my stomach as Shahrukh and Kajol romanced around trees. It was something much greater, much more dignified. A quick glance at the clock, and my fears were confirmed. Yes, hunger pangs, that’s what they were! But I was too into the better half of the movie to trot into the kitchen and make myself a bite. Then, like any miracle that never fails to take your breath away, I heard the all-too-famous tune crop up in the background. Yes! The two love birds were about to break into a song-and-dance number. Thank goodness for good ‘ol Bollywood movies where love is not love until the fat lady (or in Bollywood’s case, anyone) sings!

Okay then, so I had myself five minutes to fix me up a meal or worse yet, work through one, considering how long it would take the two to declare their love through sweet melody. With only a few minutes to spare, I had to pace myself well. Whatever I was going to do had to be fast, and with the use of as limited ingredients as possible. A quick peek into my fridge and I knew just what I wanted! It was perfect. I was sure I could wing it. I would do the chopping as the fish sat in a quick marinade. Then I would let it rest and do it’s own thing until the next song, which as per my calculation, should come up in the next ten minutes. Perfect. Just perfect.

Speaking of perfection, this Malay-inspired fish curry is definitely one of my favourites. So much so, that it was sure to be on the menu when ever I would come home for the holidays during my days in college. With just a few ingredients, and even lesser of an effort, it’s amazing how wonderfully delicious this dish is. Trust me, you’ll want to make extra since no one, and I mean NO ONE, can resist asking for seconds!

Coming back to the meal at stake, just as expected, I was about to sprint back into the kitchen after 10 minutes and continue with the cooking process. Another movie break while it simmered, and by the time Shahrukh broke into another jig, I served myself a big bowl. Now, who ever said multi-tasking was hard to achieve, definitely never tried it my way!

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For the love of Food: Edible Cigars

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a muncher. You know, the kinds who can nosh through meal times over little bites of delicious finger food. Growing up in a home where tea-time was treated with the greatest pleasure must have had something to do with it, I’m sure. I clearly remember warm summer afternoons, or even cold winter ones for that matter, where we would often substitute our dinner for a platter of the most guilt-ridden snacks. Lovely fritters deep fried till crisp and drowned in a tangy chutney, smokey char-grilled tikkas and kebabs, scrumptious sandwiches with the most amazing toppings, and of course, my personal favourites of deliciously spiced street foods.As I grew older, my love for noshing grew wider, incorporating in it varied flavours, from every cuisine I ever had a go at. Friday nights for me meant junk night – wherein, strictly avoiding a proper 3-course meal for dinner, I would instead opt for a plateful of wings, fries, or on many occasions, samosas. It was the only way I knew how to have a Friday night meal. Anything else seemed totally hideous.

When I first met Hubby Dear, my excitement knew no bounds to find that like me, he too grew up in a household where good food, and especially noshing was of high priority. I’ve heard of many stories from friends on how marriage makes one change ones habits and adapt to the other’s way of life. For me, it was a matter of simply combining the two. It wasn’t hard for me to fuse my love for all things spicy with Hubby Dear’s undying addiction to all things edible. Truly, matches are made in Heaven, but I’d like to believe that ours was cooked up in a 5-star kitchen filled with all things a culinary goddess could only dream of having.

And while our friends and family could happily attest to how different we are from each other, our Friday nights would easily prove otherwise. For in a home where one finds it hard to understand how the other can own a few dozen purses, and still find the need for more, the large platter filled with bite-size crispy treats is always something the two will always look forward to.

On the very note of food, I’m glad to announce that for those living in the GTA area, you will now be able to get my Indian 101 series right at your doorstep. Yes, as crazy and wonderful as it sounds, I now have my own column in the Mississauga News’ monthly food supplement, Nosh. Unfortunately, for those of you eagerly waiting for my next installment on the series, I apologise for the delay. While I already have the next part fully planned out, I will have to restrict myself from putting it up here until it gets published in my column. But fear not, just a few more weeks, and I’ll be back with the next part. I sincerely thank all of you wonderful readers without whose support and encouragement, my work would not have gotten the recognition it has. And for those of you far away and not able to subscribe to the paper, don’t feel left out. The series will surely continue on this site as well. Thank you all again, and happy eating!

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