20-minute Dinners: Shrimp & Greens Curry

Written by Meena Agarwal on April 22nd, 2014 | No Comments


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

I recently had a long chat with a friend who confessed to me that she absolutely dreaded the hour before it was dinnertime. She hates cooking, and the mere thought of “Whats’s for dinner tonight?”  can really drive  her up the wall. What she faces everyday is nothing new to most of us. Me included! I’ve been known to stare into the fridge, almost willing it to pop out a completely tasty, well balanced meal straight onto my dining table.

I’ve never been one to meal plan on weekly basis. I know its advantages and have sincerely tried to follow through many times. But, unless and until I hit the stores and check out the fresh produce they have to offer, I’m not motivated. I love feeling the freshness of the bright coloured fruits and veggies, checking out the cheese display and rummaging through the aisles for new spices and flavours. All this, the dedication and time I put into grocery shopping each week, is what inspires me and helps me creative in the kitchen.

As much as I love to play around with the ingredients I have to create a wonderful meal, there are many nights where all I want is something no-fuss, quick and healthy, and call it a night! It’s for nights like these that I save some of my go-to family favourite recipes that come together in a snap and satisfy our hungry tummies. Most of these recipes are either one-pot meals, or a mish-mash of some protein and veggies that can be easily served with rice/rotis/bread to complete the meal. Add a side salad, and you’re good to go!

Today’s recipe is one that fits the bill. Infact, it’s going to be dinner for Baby Dear and me tonight. Hubby Dear has dinner plans at work and I’m knee deep in house chores, so dinner needs to be quick. I always have a bag of frozen shrimp in my freezer and some form green leafy vegetable in the fridge. Be it bok choy, spinach or kale, they all work well in this recipe.

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B is for… Bhuna Chicken

Written by Meena Agarwal on April 10th, 2014 | No Comments


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

Over six years ago when I first introduced the Intro to Indian Cooking 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 Home Cooking. 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.

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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Sweet Beginnings: Rainbow Cupcakes

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment


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

What can I say. I caved. I didn’t want to. But I did.

Growing up, I remember spending most of my vacation time in the summers pouring over mouth-wateringly tempting photographs of intricately designed cakes, cookies and other baked goodies. My mom had (or must I say, still does) this tendency to pick up wonderfully photographed cookbooks cramped with an even more delicious assortment of recipes. It’s no wonder where I’ve caught the bug from.

One look at the many overstocked shelves throughout my home will give you a slight idea of my fixation to them. Heck, who am I kidding! I have cookbooks peeping out from my pantry shelves, kitchen cabinets, on top of the fridge, and not to mention a few prized possessions that I deem only fit to snuggle on my bedside table. Yes, it’s shameful I know. I’m addicted. Hi, I’m Meena, and I’m a cookbook addict. There, I said it. Now hopefully, we can all get on with our very normal or some not-so-normal lives!

Coming back to my Mom. I must say her favourites to collect included books on baking. And unlike me, who mostly drool over pages and pages of food talk, she actually dons her apron and puts those words into action. It’s no surprise then to point out that she bakes some of the best cakes I know. And not one to let Mr. Opportunity walk past my door without so much as grabbing him with both arms and giving him a tight hug, I decided to learn a few tricks from her while she’s here visiting me.

It’s been good so far. The food comes out from the kitchen faster than I can request them, and I find myself ravishing every spoonful with such passion. But the baking, oh the baking! I always thought of myself as not-a-baker. But she’s adamant on making me one.

What can I say? I caved. And I’m adamant to succeed.

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The Simple Things: Quick & Easy Meat Sauce

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 10th, 2014 | No Comments


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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What to Cook: Quick, Simple Family Dinner

Written by Meena Agarwal on May 3rd, 2013 | 7 Comments


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

I love getting emails from all of you, especially ones that request help with planning a menu. I’m a big advocate of hosting regular family-style dinner parties, and love to see others do the same. Here is an email I received from Dana a few days ago:

Hi Meena,

I have been following your blog for quite some while now and absolutely love it. You delight my foodie heart! :)

I am hosting a family party this weekend (there are around 6-7 of us) and I can’t think of a suitable menu. I’m keen on doing an Indian themed dinner, since we’re all into Indian food big time! I would prefer it to be healthy (with possibly, one “unhealthy” item) and without any naans/parathas/ rotis. I don’t want to sweat it out in the kitchen in this hot weather. If you any suggestions, they are very much welcome. Please help!!

Thanks so  much!

- Dana

Well Dana, what can I say. You spoke to my heart! Whenever I plan a meal for my closest friends or family, I always go for recipes that are simple, wholesome and delicious. Comfort food is definitely a crowd-pleaser, and not to mention pretty easy on the cook too, in most cases. 6 is a nice intimate number for a dinner party, and here is what I suggest:

For appetizers, you can never go wrong by laying out a platter of bite-sized treats. I would pick an assortment of Alu Dahi Puri, Corn Chaat, and Potato Parcels. If you’d like to keep it really simple however, then a tray full of piping hot Samosas served with Chutney will definitely please your guests. Most of these recipes are fairly easy to prepare and the Potato Parcels and Samosas can even be prepped a few days ahead, frozen, and fried fresh to serve. Just remember to thaw them out in the refrigerator overnight though.

For the main course, lay out a buffet to served family-style. My go-to combination always consists of one main curry like, Coconut-Lime Chicken Curry (recipe follows), or Lamb & Potato Curry, or Hot & Sour Fish Curry. Again, all these dishes are a breeze to cook and taste even better a day later. So they are all perfect candidates for cooking a day in advance!

You can then pick any dried vegetarian dish like, PaneerTak-a-Tak, Baingan Patiala, Masala Mushrooms, or Alu Palak; a lentil/bean dish like, Chana Dal Masala or Chana Masala; and top that off with a side of rice like, Mushroom & Peas Pulao.

Dessert can always be plain good ‘ol ice cream, or something fancier like, Gajar Halwa.

Hope this helps you Dana. I’d love to hear details on your party planning process. Happy cooking!

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The Working Cook: Masala Macaroni

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 29th, 2013 | 6 Comments


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

If I told you that I whip up amazingly gourmet meals at the drop of a hat for my everyday dinners, I’d have to be lying. Quite the contrary, I seldom ever cook something that would have me whisking away for hours on end. Except of course, when I have company coming! Now that’s a whole different story altogether. Even then, I’m not spending all those hours on one single dish, but instead, I’m actually going nuts fussing over a minimum of five main courses. Yes, I get like that while entertaining and unfortunately for Hubby  and Baby Dear it has only worsened over the years. But the diligent licking of everyone’s fingertips and perplexed weight-watching souls worrying over whether to go in for seconds (thirds, actually) more than makes up for all the effort.

When it comes to feeding my family, I like to go more easy on myself. It’s not that I don’t enjoy feeding loved ones with rich palate pleasing favourites, but I’d rather spend my time with them enjoying simple, yet equally delightful food made in minutes. A recent email from one of my readers posed a question I have been subjected to many a times. This compelled me to come all out talk about my regular at-home meals. She writes,

All your recipes appear as if they leaped out of glossy magazines. While many them are quite easy to follow, it’s hard to imagine myself cooking lavish meals every night. Do you really cook all these wonderful looking food on a daily basis, especially now that you have a baby at home?

Well, dear reader, all I can say is yes. Well, almost. You see, most of my recipes, no matter how elegantly sounding, are actually very simple and wholesome; and ones that I turn to on a weekly basis. While it may seem daunting to someone not so in tune with Indian cuisine, it’s not at all that hard. Most dishes can be made in a matter of minutes, whereas others, that seem to call for bucketfuls of spices, may just take a tad bit more time. But yes, sometimes even an adventurous cook like myself, wants to take a break and reach out to the nearest pack of instant noodles. And it’s often in times like these that I faithfully turn to my repertoire of quick fixes. And these, I assure you dear reader, can be whipped up real quick. Literally in minutes!

This recipe will prove my point exactly. It’s a definite crowd pleaser – appealing to adults and toddlers alike! I like to add in a huge salad and maybe some buttery garlic bread for a more rounded out meal. Try it, I’m sure it’ll end up in your book of favourites!

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A never-ending learning process: Fried Egg Sambal

Written by Meena Agarwal on April 25th, 2012 | 28 Comments


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

A few days ago I had a wonderful lunch meeting with an editor of a local magazine. Over a slew of emails deciding on what time and day would best suit the both of us, she suggested we meet for Thai food. That’s when I knew I was going to really like her. And the moment she asked for her Tom Yum soup to be extra-spicy, I knew we were going to be best friends! Lunch was delightful, and the conversation we shared over fresh salad rolls, Pad Thai and Fried Bananas with ice cream was simply exceptional. Being the food editor of the magazine, she undoubtedly shared my obsession with all things culinary. We bonded over our favourite childhood snacks (who knew that ketchup on toast with a dash of pepper was not something that only weird ‘ol me enjoyed! I know, I know, it sounds like a hideous combination; but in my defence, I was 14, breaking out in pimples and was going through a phase where anything out of the ordinary was thought to be “in”…), how we usually plan our vacations based on places that are mostly know for their food more than anything else, and our dislike for broccoli! It was going great until she asked me the dreaded question – when and how did I learn to cook?

I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve been faced with that very question. If only I had a penny for each time I was asked, well, I guess I’d have a lot of pennies by now! As far as I can remember, I actually started cooking when I moved out of home for college; the food there sucked, and since I had an inbuilt kitchen in my room, I figured I could at least try and salvage my hunger and save some money in the process. But I wouldn’t be lying if I said that wasn’t really when I learned to cook. My mom didn’t think much of having me and sister learn to cook the real way. Sure, she’d often have us help her at dinner time by setting the table, making the salad, frying puris while she rolled them out splendidly, and of course, doing the dreaded dishes once everyone was fed. There were days during holidays and weekends, when I would spend time talking to her in the kitchen while she prepped meals. In the process I often took note of how she added one ingredient after the other, roasted spices in dry heat to bring out their aroma, and took special care to avoid any extra gravy while layering Biryani. Little did I know that these special sessions we shared would one day be the basis of my career.

Truth be told, I can’t really point an exact time frame in my life when I actually learned to cook. It kind of just happened, maybe it was always there somewhere. In fact, I’m on a constant learning curve. Each day I educate myself with something new – be it how to make the perfect hard-boiled egg without having the shells stick to it, or that soft, delicious naans could actually be made at home in a flash. Without a tandoor. Who knew! What I can tell you honestly though is that the one thing I actually learned to cook was fried egg. My mom decided to teach me so that I could make my own breakfast without her having to leave the laundry halfway to feed me. It wasn’t a fun experience at all. I must’ve had thrown away a couple dozen before I could manage to crack them just right without thrusting my thumb in and breaking the yolk. But it was all for a good cause. How else could I have made myself this delicious Egg Sambal had it not been for that fateful day.

So, now I ask you – when did you learn to cook?

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Quick Retreat: Fish Masala

Written by Meena Agarwal on March 12th, 2012 | 6 Comments


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

It’s been a crazy and not to mention very trying past few days. Baby Dear caught one bug after another; and not the kinds you find out in the backyard! The poor ‘lil thing has been having on and off fever, equipped with a side of runny nose and cough for the last three weeks. First it was one virus, and now another. Sigh! The perils of daycare! And with him, I’ve not been spared either. A stuffy nose and an itchy throat are what I’ve been waking upto lately.

The book writing is moving along on high steam! The fridge and freezer is overflowing with food – raw ingredients to cook with as well as storage containers filled with the testing results. I’ve also given out a cry of desperation for anyone wanting good home-cooked desi khana to come and pick some up, in exchange for good dark chocolate and fine wine, of course!

With all this mayhem in the HoH household, I needed to take some time out and just sit. Breathe. Relax. Unwind. Although, being a mom of a toddler has taught me to pick my battles. So I patiently wait for Baby Dear’s nap-time to roll in, and like clock-work, he’s down for two hours after downing a warm bottle. As I rush to my office downstairs and quickly shoot off emails that have been flagged and waiting for replies, a quick glance at the clock tells me it’s almost lunch time. Perfect, I say to myself. Time to rustle up something quick, comforting and delicious! And this recipe hits all notes.

The fish defrosted over-night in the fridge, so I just let it hang out in the marinade while I set the rice to cook, and prepped the ingredients for the sauce and a quick salad. Twenty minutes later, I was on the couch – feet up on the ottoman, plate on lap, fork in hand and The Rachael Ray Show on TV. Bliss, finally. Until of course the munchkin wakes up and then it’s back to the grind!

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Begging for Mercy: Lamb & Potato Curry

Written by Meena Agarwal on August 4th, 2011 | 16 Comments


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

Let me start by saying that I love receiving your comments and emails. And although I try to respond to them as frequently as I can, many do manage to slip through the cracks – and for that, I apologize. However, although I may not reply to some of your comments, requests or suggestions, you can be assured that I do take each and every one of them into consideration. Well, almost all of them.

Of all the legitimate requests I get for recipes, Lamb & Potato Curry has to be one that most frequently occurs. But not just any lamb curry, many of you want to know how to make this rich and creamy restaurant classic a tad bit healthier, simpler and quick enough for a regular weeknight meal. Well, my friends, I hear ya! This may come as a surprise, but I’m not a fan of restaurant lamb curries myself. I find most restaurant versions too bland and not to mention, oily for my taste. So when a craving of something rich and sinful hits me, I head to my kitchen instead of the Punjabi take-out next door. I created this recipe on one such day when I was desperate to find something that feed my need. I wouldn’t call this a classic Lamb and Potato Curry recipe, but it does come fairly close to feeling rich and creamy, without the added dose of extra fat. On days when I’m feeling extra healthy, I also throw in a bunch of chopped spinach for some added green. Blasphemy yes, delicious – you bet!

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Savouring Summer: Mediterranean Chicken Burgers

Written by Meena Agarwal on July 20th, 2011 | 15 Comments


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

Hooked on Heat has always been more than just a hobby for me. Since the fall of 2005, when I wrote my first post, this blog has been my outlet to voice my creativity. What started out on a whim one lazy day, gave me the opportunity and freedom to finally realize my dream that I had been nursing since I can even remember. As it grew in readership, I grew along with it; breathing in every slice of good fortune that it brought my way. The icing on the cake of course, was my first cookbook published in the spring of last year.

Then, life took it’s toll. I was creatively burnt out for a while after creating over a 100 new recipes for the book. Then we got busy planning for Baby Dear’s arrival. And once the darling ‘lil monster was here, well, let’s just say that I now consider a 5 minute shower every morning to be a luxury! I’ll be honest here, life has been a crazy roller coaster the last few months. And it’s only just getting started. We recently found out that Baby Dear is severely allergic to wheat. We have yet to test his tolerance to gluten on the whole, but wheat and it’s by-products for now are absolutely off limits! We’ve been told that most kids grow out of these kinds of allergies in a few years, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. This has dramatically changed the way Hubby Dear and I look at food now. So where does this leave the blog, you ask?

Well, for starters, a huge change in on the menu. Hooked on Heat, like our home, will officially be GLUTEN-FREE from this day forth. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy scouring speciality food stores and trying many new gluten-free products. If you haven’t already realized, most of my recipes are naturally gluten-free; save for any bread and baking related ones. I’ve also been busy coming up with creative dinners that would create a wholesome, balanced meal. I’m not a fan of eating rice with every meal, and since we have completely eliminated Indian breads (or ANY bread, for that matter!) from our dinner plates, it’s been a fun challenge to come up with comforting, satisfying results.

Although I have so far taken a positive outlook to this one drawback in Baby Dear’s diet plan, I find myself sometimes saddened by all the delicious goodness he would miss that I enjoyed as child. Crispy puris dunked in a rich potato curry, piping hot samosas and stuffed parathas; all the delicacies he won’t be able to savour. To this, all Hubby Dear says is that everything happens for a reason. And he truly believes that’s the reason I do what I do, so that Baby Dear won’t be deprived of any flavour in life. Because his mama will create all that and more for him. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Ever since Hubby Dear invested on a great BBQ grill last fall, we have been basking in its glory. I can’t even begin to count how many times we’ve gotten outside and enjoyed our dinners fresh off the grill. While most times we love having friends and family over for deliciously grilled dinners, we also love to indulge ourselves with some quality together-time, just the three of us, by the fire. We’ve had some yummy taco/fajita nites, evenings filled with kababs and spicy tikkas, and even the not-so-usual-but-surprisingly-delicious grilled corn on the cob! But one of our personal favourites just has to be our big burger nights. Deliciously thick and juicy burgers, sandwiched between toasted buns and topped with your choice of veggies. Sounds good? Then what are you waiting for? Hop on and let’s get grillin’!!

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