Cooking during the summer months is a whole new ball game for me. I’ve never been a big fan of summer, and honestly, having a birthday in a month that sort of inaugurates this season is a bummer. I’m the kind of person who breaks into a sweaty mess even at the slightest glow of the sun, so being outdoors in the heat just simply does not appeal to me.

Recipe for Coconut Shrimp Curry, taken from www.hookedonheat.com

Since the kitchen can often turn into a furnace with the stove running, our everyday meals tend to change up quite a bit. The oven is almost never turned on. Slow simmering soups, stews and curries give way to quick stir-fries, one pot meals and fresh, crisp salads and sandwiches. In short, summer is the time when I spend the least time in my kitchen and a whole lot more time buried in books with the AC cranked up pretty high!

Although gorging on quick and light meals is a welcome respite from the heat and humidity, there are evenings when we do crave a big hearty bowl of some curry drowned rice. And during these times, I will always bring out some of my best creations – a quick curry made with readily available pantry staples. These recipes are tucked away in my back pocket ready to be dished out in times of need. They are simple, quick and delicious, and perfect for a busy weeknight.

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I always get asked by other moms how and when I introduced Baby Dear to spicy food through Indian cooking. The truth is, I never did. It is widely known in our family and friends circle that Baby Dear shies away from spicy food. It is also understood, however, that the kid will eat anything that’s tasty. Anything. Even if does happen to fall on the hotter side.

Pic for Egg Biryani taken from www.hookedonheat.com. Visit site for a detailed recipe.

This kind of erratic behavior of his reminds me of this one particular incident back when I was in college. It was the peak of summer, and although our classes were out, some of us still went in to work on the various projects we had to complete before the school year ended. I, of course, was one of them. On this particular day, I had planned to spend the entire day at the lab and told my mom that I wouldn’t be coming home for lunch. But one thing led to another, and I surprised her at the door with my sweaty, irritated-with-the-sweltering-heat, and absolutely-famished-dying-of-hunger self.

Since Mom wasn’t expecting me to share the meal, she had made it extra spicy – being the chilli fanatic that most true bred Malays are known to be! Needless to say, lunch for me was unbearable. My mouth felt like it was in flames and I filled myself with jugs of water. Even more irritated, and being the spoilt brat that I was, I stomped off into my room and went to nap. My Mom felt so bad, that she woke me up a while later, and handing me some money, asked me to go out and get myself a boat load of chaat from down the street. Now for those that know me personally, can vouch for the fact that I can eat chaat anytime, anywhere, no matter how spicy! And spicy I did eat. One sniff of my plate had my mom reeling in anger. Of course, the chaat was way spicier than the lunch she had cooked. I’m still reminded of this incident every time I question her on how many chillies she’s added to her curry.

Like they often say, the apple doesn’t fall too far away from the tree. It’s the same with Baby Dear and his Biryani. A platter of the spiciest Biryani from the nearby Pakistani joint gets devoured with glasses of water. But heaven forbid he sees a couple of deseeded pieces of chilli floating in my Dal, he runs miles away, never to even attempt to eat it again!

This Biryani recipe is something that Mom and I created together when she was visiting. My Mom makes one of the best Biryanis I’ve ever had, but her method is a tedious and long one. We wanted to come up with something quick and simple that would make it easy to give into Baby Dear’s frequent craving.

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Hubby Dear and me are huge fans of kebabs, the chicken kebab being our favourite. These bite-sized succulent chunks of meat, delicately spiced and dunked into some chutney or even simply ketchup, can make us swoon and forgo a 6-course meal altogether. Hence, it comes as no surprise that while I was pregnant with Baby Dear we ate kebabs quite often. There was a running joke that whenever either one of us would say the word kebab, Baby Dear would do a somersault. Which we kinda believed to be true since the mere mention of the word would invite some movement from the wee one nestled inside me!

Pic for Chicken Kebabs taken from www.hookedonheat.com. Visit site for a detailed recipe.

Because it was the peak of summer, we relied out our BBQ grill a lot. Almost every weekend, we’d have friends over. They’d bring the sides, and we’d serve up a generous platter of kebabs. It was never too much trouble really; I would marinate the meat in a blend of yogurt and a mix of spices in the morning, set it to cool and soak in the flavours in the fridge throughout the day, and slap them on the grill come party time. Our guests were happy, and I hardly spent more than mere minutes prepping the meal. Win-Win for all.

Although this worked out extremely well and produced the most tender, succulent and juicy kebabs I’ve made, I would secretly wish that I’d made a platter of keema kebabs as well, to munch on. Keema kebabs are the bite-sized patties made mainly with ground meat. They really are not that hard to prep for a party, and I do it quite often now. But for a heavily pregnant me, who hated to be on her feet for too long, frying these babies up for a large hungry group seemed like such a daunting task. But not anymore! I tend to buy my meats in bulk for a few weeks at a time, and I always reserve a portion of ground chicken for us to indulge in these.

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The year I turned 15, my Mom decided it was time I learnt the basics of cooking. If nothing else, she figured I could at least make myself breakfast without having to yell for her when I was hungry. Like many Malay moms of her generation, she believed that to equip one’s offspring with the knowledge of how to cook an egg in at least three different ways would enable them to overcome all of life’s challenges. According to her, if you have eggs and a bowl of rice, you’re all set to have a hearty, somewhat nutritious meal even in the hardest of times. Hence, it was the dreaded egg that I was made to master before I could even think of trying my hand out with other ingredients.

Recipe for Indian Masala Omelette taken from www.hookedonheat.com

I kid you not when I say that during that one month, our daily consumption of eggs grew 10-fold. Not because we ate them all. Quite the contrary. Most of them landed on the floor, by my feet or on my clothes. Some however, did manage to make it into the mixing bowl – but not without a ton of crushed shell mixed in. You see, no matter how hard I tried, I could never manage to crack the egg without completely destroying it. In hindsight, I think the actual problem was that I was trying too hard – I literally banged the egg with all my might on the edge of the bowl instead of lightly tapping it. Well, in my defense, my light tap hardly ever caused a crack on the shell, so I tapped harder – which of course, led to disaster. Each. And. Every. Time.

It was a moment of triumph not just for me, but my mom as well, when I finally managed to crack the egg just right and break it open onto a hot pan. The sound of that sizzle meant that she didn’t have to set aside a separate budget for eggs anymore. I still look fondly to that very day when I fried an egg on my own. Since then, there was no stopping me; and although I didn’t actually begin to really start to cook until much, much later, eggs were something I knew I could make a delicious meal out of!

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It’s funny how, when I look back now, it suddenly occurred to me how much Hubby Dear and I bonded over food during the start of our relationship. It took us a few weeks of regularly talking for hours on the phone before we actually had a chance to go out on our first date. There was nothing much we could do really, distance was what kept us apart. We were both studying in different cities, a couple of hours away from each other. When he did finally drive down to officially take me out for the first time, we spent the perfect day at the CNE. It was the first time either of us had been to it, and we’ve made it a ritual to visit every year since – now, with Baby Dear in tow.

Recipe for Chicken & Chickpea Curry taken from www.hookedonheat.com

That first date was a memorable one. Hubby Dear was shocked to learn that I could eat samosas anytime, anywhere and as many times as it was available to me. I too, learned a few things about him that fateful day. One of which, that I figured out the hard way of course, was that the man HATES to share his fries. Just as much as Joey honestly confessed on an episode of Friends that “Joey does NOT share food!“. Yea, fortunately for him, I decided to look past that trait and solely focus on the fact that he was ONE I could easily swindle a few designer bags from each year!

During the months we were dating long distance, Hubby Dear and I would take turns visiting each other every weekend. On the times when he would drive down to see me, we would often make sure to visit some of the countless little ethnic eateries that the GTA is so well known for. Whenever I would take the train into his quaint student town, we would make a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up a few essentials that would enable me to cook a few simple meals that he could eat for the rest of the week. This was undoubtedly after my first eventful cooking experience for him, after which he deemed me absolutely fit and capable of dishing out meals for him for the rest of his life!

To this day, almost 12 years in since we first met, the man still relishes my Chana Masala with as much gusto as he did the first time I made it for him. I however, still today, cannot stand it as much. Although I do love chickpeas in many ways and forms, Chana Masala does not quite top the list. So to keep us both happy and our tummies equally full, I often add in some variation – like the chicken I did today.

I’ve often heard that couples who’ve spent a long time together often change their tastes and habits to suit the other. For us, it was a matter of simply combining the two. It wasn’t hard to fuse my love for all things tasty 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 everything a culinary goddess could only dream of having. For in a home where one finds it hard to understand how the other can own a few dozen handbags, and still find the need for more, the large pot of simmering curry is always something the two will always look forward to.

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Here is an email I received over the weekend from a long time reader:

Hi Meena,

I was wondering if you could help me. My husband and I LOVE north Indian food and I’ve cooked many recipes of yours that have been huge hits with us. Now, I want to start introducing my two girls to the flavours we both so love. The thing is, they’ll eat almost anything with ground meat in it, and so I thought that starting them off with a dish of ground meat cooked in the Indian way might give me a positive response from them. Any chance you have a kid-friendly recipe that I could try out for them? We love chicken as a family, but ground beef and lamb would work for us too.

Karen

Recipe for Keema Alu Matar taken from www.hookedonheat.com

Well Karen, first off let me start by saying how pleased I am that you and your husband are enjoying my recipes cooked at home. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that someone stepped into their kitchen and cooked an Indian meal. Also, hats off to you for trying to introduce your kids to new flavours by bringing in something that they already enjoy. That’s a wonderful way to open them up to something different, yet similar.

Keema Alu Matar is wonderfully simple, yet comforting dish that you can definitely try out with your girls. It’s quite mild in taste, yet has a deliciously well-rounded robust flavor that is often expected from Indian food. It’s reminiscent of Chili or Sloppy Joe, and you can surely serve it alongside some bread to avoid diverting from familiarity all together. The addition of peas and potatoes should also go well with kids. I hope you give this recipe a try and I’d love to hear back on how the girls liked it.

Here are a few other recipes that might help in introducing kids to Indian flavours:

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A very happy new year to all my fabulous readers! Here’s wishing that 2015 brings you and me tons of love, luck and joy!!

So, it’s January. A brand spanking new year. A wonderful new beginning. A chance to start fresh on clean slate. 2014 was a great comeback year for me. I felt motivated after attending my first ever blogging conference the previous summer. Baby was growing older, starting pre-school and that gave me the time to reconnect with my readers and dish out new recipes. 2015 promises to be better, brighter and much, much bigger for this blog of mine, so watch out for many fun, informative and interesting things coming up.

Recipe for Chicken Fried Rice taken from www.hookedonheat.com

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog and sharing my recipes with you all for the past 9 years. HoH will turn 10 (double digits… OMG!!!) in September of this year, and I promise you that this year will be THE best ever. So if you have any tips, suggestions, feedback or just want to say hello, please leave a comment and let’s get the conversation started. I love to hear from you and am always looking for ways on how I can help anyone get into the kitchen and start cooking!

I thought I’d begin the new year with a very simple, versatile and absolutely tasty recipe that’s perfect for a busy weeknight. Fried rice is something that I can make in my sleep with one hand tied behind my back. There are literally thousands of ways you can make fried rice and there’s no end to the creativity you can add to this humble home cooking staple.

Today’s recipe is a quick and simple Chicken Fried Rice that I like to make the day after I cook a Roast Chicken dinner. It’s a wonderful way to use up the little bits of leftover chicken. If you don’t have any leftover chicken, then feel free to use one that’s store bought or simple roast one chicken breast in the oven that’s been lightly seasoned with some salt, pepper and garlic powder. If you’re not a meat eater, then by all means leave it out – the dish will still be finger lickin’ good!

Leftover rice, cold from the fridge works best. If don’t have any on hand, then make sure you cook the rice and let it cool completely. What you want to avoid is warm rice that will clump up in the pan and become a soggy mess. So give this a try and let me know how you liked it. Personally, I like to serve this with some green beans sautéed with some garlic and a bit of Soy sauce.

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I recently received an email from a mom who wanted a few well balanced meal ideas that would cook in 30 minutes or less. When it comes to prepping and planning our weeknight dinners, here’s the guide I follow – pick a veggie, a protein and a carb. Then follow tried and tested family favourite recipes, that you can cook with one hand tied behind your back and you will never fail at putting a delicious meal on the table.

Recipe for Shrimp Sambal taken from www.hookedonheat.com.

Our weeknight dinners are for the most part, simple, quick meals. For our protein I generally opt for a quick curry style wherein I know that after the initial 8-10 minutes of chopping, sautéing and seasoning, I can then leave it to simmer and trust that the dish will come together with no more baby-sitting on my part. Veggies are great roasted or as a quick stir-fry, or just chopped and thrown into a salad. Top this with some rice, bread or any other grain of choice and you’re done! Here are few meal combinations that I often fall back on, that come together with minimal effort and time:

Meal Option A:
Dahiwali Chicken Curry
Alu Palak
– Rice

Meal Option B:
Roast Veggie Pesto Pasta
– Salad
– Garlic Bread

Meal Option C:
– Egg Curry
Mushroom & Peas Pulao
– Salad / Raita

Meal Option D:
Tadka Dal
Matar Paneer
– Rotis / Rice

Meal Option E:
Chana Masala
Jeera Pulao
– Salad

Meal Option F:
Chilli Tofu
Nasi Goreng

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram (and if you’re not, then what are you waiting for?), you’ll know that I often post pics of what we eat for dinner. You’ll also notice that at least once every 7-10 days, our dinner includes some form of Sambal (mostly egg or shrimp), a stir-fried veggie and rice. And the sole reason for this is because it is one of Baby Dear’s favourite meals. What can I can say, the kid loves robust flavours.

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A few weekends ago, I found myself alone at home with Baby Dear and a potluck invitation waiting for a response. Hubby Dear was away on a longer than usual business trip, and I was at my wits end trying to entertain an energizer-bunny of a toddler. I’ve always considered myself an introvert and going to a party without my better half to meet new people is not really my cup of tea. But I was desperate. And so was Baby Dear. We each needed to get out and about – and interacting with someone other than each other seemed like a welcome option. So I immediately texted a YES to the invite and started to prep my contribution to the party.

Recipe for Chicken Croissants taken from www.hookedonheat.com.

When given an option, I always like to volunteer bringing an appetizer. Its the perfect chance to get creative and think out of the box. Bite-sized finger foods are usually my preferred way to enjoy a meal and I love experimenting with different flavours and textures. I was short of time and needed to come up with something quick and easy. One long stare at the contents of my fridge and I knew just what I was ready to get to work on. I had half a rotisserie chicken from the previous night to work with. Armed with a can of store-bought croissant dough and some veggies and spices, this came together in a breeze. Its delicious fresh out of the oven or eaten at room temperature. I suggest taking this idea and running with it! Experiment with the filling. Change it up to what you and your family enjoy eating. It works great any which way.

As I was working on this recipe, it suddenly occurred to me that this would be perfect for a kids lunchbox. With September right around the corner and schools all set to open up their doors to eager parents and kids after a long summer, back to school sales and lunchbox recipes are hard to look past. My tiny tot is all excited to begin a new phase in life and can’t stop talking about going to a big boys school! Aside from picking out a new school bag, lunch box, clothes and shoes imprinted with his current favourite cartoon character, I’ve been keeping myself busy working on lunchbox recipes for him. Baby Dear has never been a fussy eater and cooking for him is always a pleasure. If the food is tasty, he’ll relish it. If it has chicken, he’ll dive right in. And if it has tons of garlic, then in his own esteemed words – its a party in his tummy!

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Chicken Curry to me is one of those no-fail comfort foods that never cease to please. They can be made in a million ways, each tasting dramatically different from the other, yet instill that familiar warmth and coziness that only comes with eating food that’s been cooked with love. It doesn’t matter how many times I cook my chicken in the curry form – it rarely ever tastes the same. This itself, to me adds that extra oomph.

Recipe for Homestyle Chicken Curry taken from www.hookedonheat.com

A few weekends ago, we met up with some close friends of ours after what seemed like ages. After a hearty meal at one of our favourite restaurants, we cajoled them over to our home for coffee and cake. Don’t you just love it when friends feel like family and you never know how time goes by with them around? Well, before we knew it, the coffee mugs were loaded into the dishwasher, the cake crumbs swept cleaned, and Hubby Dear cracked open a bottle of wine. I laid out a platter of assorted crackers and some cheese (call me insane, but I always seem to have atleast 4 different varieties of cheese in my fridge!) and began slicing and dicing for a quick dinner.

Dinner. On a whim. For guests. NO. BIG. DEAL.

Of all things I’m OCD about, I pride myself in always having a full fridge and pantry – full enough to whip up a meal for at least 10 people at the drop of a hat. Yes, I’m that person! We once invited a big group of friends over for a BBQ dinner after a day at the beach. We had enough meat, veggies and sides for a hearty meal that was enjoyed by all. All they needed to pick up on the way over was a tub of ice cream for dessert. I refrain from stocking up desserts since I seldom can control myself from eating it all!

Coming back to that weekend I was telling you about, I decided to make this quick home-style rustic Chicken Curry alongside some Pulao and a huge salad. The meal came together quickly and perfectly. This recipe is perfect for times when you want a quick, no-fuss hearty dish. The ingredients are chopped, thrown in the pan one after the other, and the end result comes out lip-smacking good. What can I say, when in doubt – always make a curry!

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