A Hearty Feast: Goat Curry

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

I have a love-hate relationship with my pressure cooker. While most Indian home cooks swear by it to dish out family dinners every night, I often shy away from mine. I haven’t much gotten the hang of using one for my everyday cooking. The problem for me is trying to keep track and remember how much time or how many whistles is needed to cook a certain thing. I either simmer the food for too long and turn it to mush, or release the pressure too soon and have to start over again to let it completely cook through.

A couple of weeks ago, Hubby Dear was away on a 12-day business trip leaving me and Baby Dear at the mercy of each other. He left early Sunday morning and by the time Friday rolled around, I was ready to wave my white flag. We’d both had it with the week’s routine, missed our team mate terribly and were in a dire need of some strong comfort. As we dragged our feet into the house after I picked him up from preschool, something clicked. There’s nothing that a good home cooked meal can’t cure, and I’d decided that Baby Dear and I were going to spend our Friday night with a good movie and some amazing food.

I had just picked up some fresh cut meat from the butchers’ earlier that day and figured it was as perfect a time as any to turn it into something lip-smacking. Goat curry is something I always, always have to order when we eat out at an Indian restaurant. It’s my absolute favourite curry dish and something I don’t normally cook at home simply because it can take quite a while to soften the meat so that it just melts in your mouth. As I took a peek at the clock across my kitchen, it occurred to me that it was either the pressure cook way or no way that I was going to get dinner on the table before Baby Dear would turn into Baby-Zilla out of hunger!

So I busted out the beast and got to work. When it came time to lock the lid and place the whistle on it, I said a little prayer and crossed my fingers. And whaddaya know! 30 minutes later, we were laughing over the antics of those silly Minions and digging into our luscious and super delicious dinner.
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Indian Food: C is for… Chatpati Bharwaan Bhindi

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

Over six years ago when I first introduced the Intro to Indian Food series of this very blog, I had no idea I was about to start a cult following. What started as a simple desire to help a few of my friends and readers learn the basics of Indian cooking, enabling them to enjoy good food cooked in the comforts of home using fresh, readily available, and healthy ingredients, turned out to be one of THE best decisions I ever made in my writing/blogging career. The series was soon picked up by The Mississauga News as a monthly feature in their food section. Over the years, I’ve received a ton of emails and comments on those posts from folks eager to learn more, much more, about Indian food. And it has been a true pleasure for me responding to each and every one of those queries.

I’ve been reading through a lot of feedback from you guys on the kind of content you’d like me to showcase more of on HoH. Let me just say that I have a couple of fun features/ideas that should take off soon that I’m sure you’ll enjoy very much. One of them that makes me giddy with excitement is a spin off from my Indian 101 series. I know that a lot of you have asked me to bring that back, but I think I can offer you something a step further. Join me, as I cook my way from A to Z of Indian Food. Each post in this series will showcase a recipe of a dish that begins with a letter from the alphabet. I’ll try my best to pick a variety of vegetarian, non-vegetarian and vegan recipes – both restaurant favourites, and simple home cook secrets.

MORE POSTS ON INDIAN FOOD: A-Z

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Bhindi, or Okra as we all know it, is quite a tricky vegetable when it comes to cooking. Although it certainly is one of the most popular vegetables in an Indian vegetarian menu, there are a huge chunk of us who wring our noses on its slimy characteristics. Hubby Dear loves this dainty vegetable to death and can eat it at any meal, but serve it up even with the slightest of moisture in it and he’s off! I’m the same way. For me, the okra must always be cooked absolutely dry, with lots of spices added in. A quick way to cook bhindi is by stir-frying the chopped pieces with lots of onions and some spices. My tried and tested trick to get rid of any trace of slime while cooking is to add in a hefty pinch of amchoor powder.

Today’s recipe is another way to jazz up this humble vegetable and create a dish that’s perfect for entertaining. Chatpati simply means tangy and in this recipe, the addition of amchoor powder also known as dried mango, takes kicks it up a notch. In my book, this recipe is an absolute win since it’s simple to prep, easy to cook and a definite crowd pleaser. Because this is a pretty dry vegetable side dish, I would suggest pairing it up with a side of Curry or Dal served alongside some Rice and Rotis.

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Quick Dinner Ideas: Thai Basil Chicken

Recipe for Thai Basil Chicken taken from www.hookedonheat.com

I remember the very first time I was introduced to Thai food. I was about 13 and on our family vacation in Bangkok. I have fond memories of those five days; most of which revolve around the culture and shopping in Thailand and none, unfortunately of its cuisine. You see, my Dad is not in the least adventurous when it comes to his food. The man wants his Dal-Roti-Sabzi no matter where he is, and will stop at nothing to find it! So needless to say, while in Thailand we religiously avoided all the street food and ate a lot of meals of our meals at Mrs. Balbir’s. The food there, from what I remember was absolutely delicious. Authentic north Indian cuisine in the heart of Bangkok.

It was on one such visit that my Mom decided she wanted to try something representative of the country we were visiting and opted for a bowl of Tom Yum Soup while the rest of us dug into our Chicken Curry and Dal Makhani. Now, for those of you who’ve followed my blog since the very beginning, know that my Mom is a Malaysian. And Malaysians are nothing if not known for their lip-smacking spicy food – for the most part at least. So my Mom, like a true-bred Malay took and big slurp of the piping hot soup and almost cried in pain! I couldn’t resist and HAD to see what the hoopla was all about. But I wanted to be careful, so only took about a third of the spoon. Boy, were my ears on fire! It was probably the spiciest thing I’ve eaten my entire life!! But that was years ago in Thailand. Thai food in other countries is much more tamed in spice level but just as authentic and delicious in flavour.

Hubby Dear and I have always been huge fans of Thai food and love to try out any new establishment that opens near to where we are. Over the years, we’ve settled on our favourites and are now quite critical on how the dishes we prefer taste. Baby Dear, being the budding food connoisseur that he is, is a die-hard fan of Pad Thai – the tangier, the better. I love my Green Curry with tons of gravy and veggies, and Hubby Dear often shuttles between Pad Thai loaded with peanuts (at times even more nuts than noodles!) or a spicy Cashew Chicken. But one dish that we MUST always order for the table is Basil Chicken. That is, of course, until I tried my hand at making it this week. I can now honestly say that we can cross out Basil Chicken from our future orders and substitute it with an extra plate of Papaya Salad.

This recipe is also a perfect candidate for a quick week-night meal served with some plain rice and sliced fresh cucumbers on the side.
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Spare the Spice: Nasi Goreng

Recipe for Nasi Goreng taken from www.hookedonheat.com

I remember the first time I introduced Hubby Dear to Malaysian food. It was during our initial dating days and I’d read about this family-run Malaysian restaurant in Toronto which seemed to have great reviews. Now, the only Malaysian food I’ve ever been exposed to are the dishes that either came out of my Mom’s kitchen or that of her family’s back in Malaysia as well as the road side stalls over there. Needless to say, up until then, I’d only had the good fortune of eating authentic, homemade Malaysian cuisine. So like Hubby Dear, I was equally excited and intrigued to eat at this particular joint.

The menu looked promising – all the popular favourites that I had briefed Hubby Dear about were available, and I started to order us a scrumptious sounding meal. Then came the dreaded question from our server: “What spice level did we prefer?”

For those not in the know, typical Malay food tends to be on the spicier side – even more than the average Indian heat level. Most of the time it really depends on the dish itself, but if you’re a first timer to this delicious cuisine, I’d suggest going a milder route. I had already mentioned this to Hubby Dear prior that if in any case they were serving authentic versions of the dishes then it would be quite spicy. But he was to have none of it! As an Indian, he prided himself on the number of chillies he could muster in a meal. With a broad smile on his face, he proceeded to ask the server to make our food “spicy”.

The rest as they say, is history! The food was absolutely delicious, no doubt, and thanks to Hubby Dear we managed to put out the fire on our tongues after every spoonful with a glass of water. It was a lot of water we had that evening, but the flavours triggered a new found love for him like no other. Malay food is a favourite in our house – even Baby Dear is a fan, and the go-to cuisine whenever we go out to celebrate. So it’s only fitting that I tried and replicate a classic dish on the event of our 9th marriage anniversary. It’s by no means claimed as authentic, but it does come pretty close in flavour to real thang.

So here’s to you Hubby Dear – for 9 years, over a million laughs and countless acts of love. And also to many more to come. May the spice level never die down!

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Indian Food: B is for… Bhuna Chicken

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

Over six years ago when I first introduced the Intro to Indian Food series of this very blog, I had no idea I was about to start a cult following. What started as a simple desire to help a few of my friends and readers learn the basics of Indian cooking, enabling them to enjoy good food cooked in the comforts of home using fresh, readily available, and healthy ingredients, turned out to be one of THE best decisions I ever made in my writing/blogging career. The series was soon picked up by The Mississauga News as a monthly feature in their food section. Over the years, I’ve received  a ton of emails and comments on those posts from folks eager to learn more, much more, about Indian food. And it has been a true pleasure for me responding to each and every one of those queries.

I’ve been reading through a lot of feedback from you guys on the kind of content you’d like me to showcase more of on HoH. Let me just say that I have a couple of fun features/ideas that should take off soon that I’m sure you’ll enjoy very much. One of them that makes me giddy with excitement is a spin off from my Indian 101 series. I know that a lot of you have asked me to bring that back,  but I think I can offer you something a step further. Join me, as I cook my way from A to Z of Indian Food. Each post in this series will showcase a recipe of a dish that begins with a letter from the alphabet. I’ll try my best to pick a variety of vegetarian, non-vegetarian and vegan recipes – both restaurant favourites, and simple home cook secrets.

MORE POSTS ON INDIAN FOOD: A-Z

POSTS ON INTRO TO INDIAN COOKING

Okay, so I’m back with the next episode in this series and today we’re on to the letter B. B for Bhuna Chicken. Bhuna is technique of cooking, which simply means to fry the flavour base or masala really well till it starts to caramelize and give out oil along the sides. This method of cooking ensures a robust burst of flavour in the dish and the end result is always a warm, comforting bite. It does take a bit of extra time and a watchful eye to make sure that the masala is cooking well without getting burnt. The secret to this, I believe, is low and slow. Keep the heat low and stir slowly every now and then.

This recipe is perfect for a weekend meal when you have the time and mood to putter about  in the kitchen with nothing much else to tug at your attention. It also tastes even better the next day since the spices and flavour and enough time to penetrate and mingle through. Because of this, I love to serve this dish at dinner parties when I know I can cook it either the previous night or early that morning. Other than the little bit of extra time it takes to bhuno the masala, this recipe is fairly simple and a treat to eat.

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Go Green: Palak Paneer

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

Being born and bred in the Arabian Gulf, everyone simply assumes I am the Guru when it comes to Mid-Eastern fare. But, in fact, I’ve only tasted hummus (and can now gulp down bowls of it!) a mere 10 years ago. In Canada. Yes, strange I know, but also true! You see, when we were growing up, hummus was almost a weekly guest at our table. My parents and siblings loved it, and relished every mouthful. I, on the other hand, thought it to be gooey (my husband would scorn with gooey not being a word!), and hence, never dared to give it a try.

But since being with Hubby Dear, the adventurous soul that he is, I’ve begun to mellow down a lot. It was with him that I took my first scoop of hummus, and decided, that though being gooey, I quite liked it. In fact, now it very easily makes it’s way into my kitchen every week!

Ever since I’ve started this blog, I’ve begun cooking things that I normally wouldn’t. I now see my weekly grocery trips as a chance for me to explore and learn. I pick up veggies that I would run away from and try and create new ways of enjoying it.

When we were growing up, spinach was one such vegetable that I would often hide from. I would cry and cry until my Mom got tired enough to allow me to leave it aside. Then I moved to India and was introduced to a dish I can now swear by. Till today, it’s one of the few ways I will eat spinach without a gun on my head.

So today, as I was scanning my fridge and freezer, thinking of what to make for dinner, my eyes set upon the block of frozen spinach lying there, bought only a few days ago. And what do you know, the rest as they say, is history!

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Not so Rich Anymore: Paneer Makhani

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

Whoever invented the ever-so-rich-finger-licking-melt-in-your-mouth delicious Butter Chicken, truly did not take my whims and fancies into consideration! Let me explain…

I’ve never enjoyed eating Butter Chicken. Yes, you heard me right, and no, I’m not kidding! Whenever I refuse to order this age-old dish at any restaurant, people dining at my table often look at me like I’m from out of space. But it’s true, I don’t quite care much for this dish that is considered to be the epitome of the Indian cuisine. Though Hubby Dear has been seen wiping his plate clean of this dish whenever he gets the (good) fortune to dig into it, being the sweetheart that he is, he has not once asked me to cook it at home. You see, I hate cooking with cream and/or milk. There’s something about adding cream/milk to my food that makes me look at it with such torment. While I happily add dollops of cream to make my own chocolate desserts, adding it to my actual meal gives me the jitters. So clearly, Butter Chicken, which is as rich as the amount of cream and/or milk added to it, steered clear from my palate.

But then now, I also have Baby Dear’s whims and fancies to cater to. This roly-poly little person is infamous for watching The Food Network (I only have myself to blame of course!!), pointing to anything that looks even remotely delicious on the screen,and request that I serve him that for dinner. Need I add, his way of requesting something to be cooked sounds much like this, “I WANT THIS DINNER!!!!”. Yes, the letters in caps are there to make a point. Just the other day, I was catching up on one of my favourite Indian cooking shows by Sanjeev Kapoor and he just happened to be making Butter Chicken. Being an ardent fan of chicken, Baby Dear almost fell off his 2-foot car. I just had to oblige.

It was already too late to defrost the chicken, so I used paneer instead and created my low-fat version of this crowd pleaser. Paneer Makhani is the vegetarian version of Butter Chicken and the sauce for both dishes can be used interchangeably. Try this recipe once, and I promise you that you’ll come back asking for more. Just remember to leave all that butter and cream at the door!

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The Simple Things: Quick & Easy Meat Sauce

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

As I sat down to write this post today, I was suddenly lost for words. No matter how hard I tried to concentrate, I simply could not find the perfect sentence to begin with. My mind wandered, and I found myself sifting through the archives of my blog. I began to read the posts one after another, and found myself smiling. Through all my years of blogging, I’ve hardly ever sat down to read a previous post once it’s been published. It was nice to see how I’ve evolved as a writer and blogger, but most importantly, how my voice has still remained the same.

When I started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. No goals to reach, no plan in mind. I just dove in and got started. Slowly, with time, things happened – I found a path I wanted to take, I set goals to reach and I challenged myself with ne ideas and inspiration. And with all that, I was able to share with you creative recipes – recipes that I, my family and friends enjoy. But, scrolling down each post also made me realize what I haven’t shared with you enough – the simple, truly simple recipes that is the backbone of my repertoire. These are the recipes that I eat when I’m by myself. They are the ones I fall back on when pressed for time with a hungry baby and hubby in tow. They are the dishes I can whip up on auto-pilot, with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back. These are also the recipes I relied on as a college student, first time away from home with a tiny studio kitchen and a single burner stove.

If there’s anything I look back most fondly on during my college years, then it’s definitely cooking in that mouse hole of a kitchen. Armed with a deep skillet and two hungry bellies to feed besides myself, I created some pretty delicious meals. My friends H & M were my constant dinner companions and were always quick to praise anything I set on their plates. Now that I think back, had it not been for that single burner, I may never have found my niche and love for cooking.

This recipe I have for you today, is one from those olden times. Although I’ve used meat in it now, back then due to a limited budget, I always made it vegetarian. And trust me when I say it was equally delicious, if not better sans meat! It was my go to recipe (still is!), and never failed to please us three. Afterall, what’s better on a Friday night than three girls who are best friends, a bowl of pasta each and a stack full of trashy magazines!

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The Fast and the Famished: Jeera Pulao

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

When it comes to cooking a fulfilling dinner on weeknights, my keyword, or should I say keywords, are QUICK and SIMPLE! I have many a times blogged on how much I love easy recipes that hardly take any of my time and effort and yet seem to please our over-demanding palates. Truly, coming home in the evening after a long and tiring day doesn’t leave me even in the slightest mood to cook anything. But eat we must and that’s where I make use of my instincts. A little bit of this, a splash of that, and dinner is on the table!

I always wonder why people look at cooking Indian food with such disdain. According to so many non-Indians I’ve come accross, they all have the same thing to say – it takes a lot of time and many more ingredients to cook a traditional Indian meal! Well, all I can say yet again is that you, my dear are mistaken! Now, if you are one of those who thinks that the traditional Indian meal comprises of exotic dishes such as, Briyani, Butter Chicken, Dal Makhani and Naans, then, well, I think you need to invite yourself to an Indian home for a simple dinner.

When it comes to food, we Indians know how to make a gala of the mere act of eating. But at the same time, we have our home-grown secrets of making a simple “Dal-Chawal” meal seem fit for a King, or Queen of course! One look at my long list of recipes and you can easily see that many of them are simple to the touch. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook. Infact, I am known to spend an entire day in the kitchen cooking for parties a day in advance. But sometimes, I just want to take it easy. After all, even the greatest rulers of all-time needed to take a break!

This recipe for a simple Cumin-scented Pulao will do just that! Pair it with a side of Dal and some spiced Jeera Alu, maybe a salad, and you’ll have a delicious well balanced, nutritious meal. At times when I’m in a real crunch, I’ll quickly whip up a mixed veggie Raita and call it day – no other sides needed! Try this for your next dinner party and watch your guests swoon over the aroma and flavor.

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Dip, Spread, Scoop: Paneer Burji

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, smoky 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 your 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.

With Baby Dear in tow now, our Friday nights are not much different from a few years ago. There’s no denying the kid is a foodie, and good, tasty food is just what gets him going! With the celebratory season upon us, I wanted to indulge in something that wouldn’t leave me feel guilt ridden. Also, it had to be something that fill the little growing tummy of my Bumble Bee and be nutritious and not to mention, easy for him to eat. Paneer Burji sounded perfect. Use it as a filling for sandwiches, scoop it up with tortilla or pita chips, or serve it as a side with rotis or naan.

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