Confession time: Honey-garlic Noodles with Shrimp & Greens

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 26th, 2011 | 28 Comments


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

The second I panic that I’m running out of ideas for a blog post and rattle my brains to think of a quick, funny tale to tell you lovely readers, up pops a story opportunity that’s often quite hard to resist. Take today, for example. I’ve been driving myself up the wall since I woke up (read: woken up by a starving, wailing Baby Dear!) this morning for content for a post. I knew I wanted to update today at any cost and I had the perfect recipe for this dreadful weather to boot; but nothing I came up with sounded even the least bit interesting. That is of course, until I logged on and checked my emails. There it was – a lovely note from one of you!

I’m often asked by readers, friends, and even family, if I ever get embarrassed putting myself and my life “out there” for everyone else to read. Truth be told, I rarely ever think of my life as something other than juicy material for this lovely ‘ol blog! A day hardly goes by without me beaming and declaring that a certain incident would make a wonderful precedent to a recipe I had planned. I honestly believe my mind works this way for TWO main reasons:

  1. I was painfully shy and the biggest introvert I know as a teen, and was easily embarrassed even when I was complimented on anything I had done well. As an adult, I now know who I am as a person and am confident enough to show my true self more often. I am still a bit of an introvert, but trust me when I say this is a huge improvement of what I once was!
  2. Hubby Dear LOVES, and I use that word strongly – hence the caps and bold font, having a post revolve around him. Even the mere mention of him in a post makes him beam! And since he does play a MAJOR part in my life, it’s hard to not have an anecdote without him.

Talking about this has inspired me to share some of my not-so-embarrassing-to-me things that I do often. So here goes:

  • I talk to myself ALL THE TIME! And not just a word here and there – I mean I have real conversations with myself, two sided ones even. Which I why I’m rarely ever bored when alone. I am awesome company, if I may say so myself!
  • Every now and then I imagine myself being a rock star and rock on to my own tunes in the bathroom with a shampoo bottle as my mic!
  • Even though I grew up and spent the first 16 years of my life in Kuwait, I never tasted Hummus till I moved to Canada when Hubby Dear took me out for Lebanese food on one of our initial dates. I decided to give it a try to make him stop looking at me funny when I told him about it and found it delicious! Growing up, Hummus was a once-a-week show at our dinner table, but I always thought it looked gooey and honestly, how could a mash of beans EVER taste good? I kick myself every time I take a spoonful now for having to miss out on all those years of Hummus heaven.
  • When I wake up in the middle of the night and Hubby Dear is snoring away to glory, I always whisper “I love you” into his ear – just so he never forgets!
  • I love to dance. Not at a club or a party like all normal people do – but in all places considered odd; like at the mall, on the street, or in the car. I’m always doing a jig when I’m happy; and I try to be that most of the time.
  • I sometimes lightly kick Hubby Dear when he snores at night, keeping me up because of it. Then when he wakes up with a jerk, I pretend to be asleep. It almost always works and he goes back to sleep without snoring again!
  • Although it’s been over five years since I started this blog, I still get overly excited and gush every time I receive a comment.
  • I must’ve erased at least three more confessions that I wrote before publishing this post. See, I told you I was still a bit introverted!

My, confessions sure make me hungry and I have just the thing for you today. Hubby Dear is away on business, and Baby Dear and his lovely Mama have been cuddled up in front of the fireplace in their jammies all day. One look at the dreary, snowy weather outside, and I knew I needed a big bowl of something warm and comforting! I’ve had a lot of you ask me for this recipe after seeing the pic posted on my header. Try it, and you won’t be sorry!

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A whole new world: Easy Enchilladas

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 14th, 2011 | 20 Comments


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

Oh hi! Happy New Year!!

It’s me. Yes, I know I promised to be back a while ago. Well, what can I say – life happened! I won’t go about making any excuses for my absence ‘coz there’s so much that I’m dying to share with you! And really, who actually cares why I was gone? The important thing is that I’m back – and I’m here to stay!

Okay, so where do I start? How about that I finally have my own cookbook? I know, right! I was contacted by The Globe Pequot Press asking if I was interested in writing an Indian cookbook for the Knack series. Was I ever! That was Spring 2009. The rest for the year whizzed by under piles and piles of paper with recipe ideas and actual recipes that made the cut, draft deadlines, edits, edits and even more edits, and of course, the cherry to top it all (especially for Hubby Dear!), each and every recipe tested and re-tested for perfection! I’m not kidding when I say we had food coming out through our noses. The fridge was full, the freezer was full, and the stove was always on high gear! We even had friends come over and take weeks worth of meals for themselves. Needless to say, it was a summer where I was blessed well by friends who could manage to take a few days off cooking thanks to my new project! The book finally came out on the stands early 2010, and although I haven’t been able to update my blog about it since, I do have a few copies up for grabs. But more on that later!

So well, my childhood dream of being an author finally saw the light of day. And as much as I still gush every time Hubby Dear tells an acquaintance about my book, I just can’t get over the fact that we now have something even more sweeter to brag about! Our little munchkin! Yup, we had a cute little chubby boy exactly three months ago. So while I know for a fact that one of the things you enjoy most reading about on my posts are the antics of silly ‘ol Hubby Dear, I’m sure that from now on Baby Dear will have his own fan following! With only three measly months of life under his belt, the little guy has already started to show signs of becoming a foodie soon. Neither me nor Hubby Dear, or for that matter, anyone who eats anything good around him, can get away without him drooling and giving us the evil eye! Show him a bowl of cereal or a banana and he won’t bat an eyelid. But have him look at you enjoy a large platter of nachos and spicy wings, or a plate of Biryani, and he’ll make you want to crawl to a corner and hide!

As much as I’m enjoying exploring this new role as a mom (of a budding food enthusiast, I might add!), I’m also limited to the amount of time I can spend cooking our weeknight dinners. Weekends still have me whipping up a big batch of spicy Chicken Curry and Pulao when both my boys are busy entertaining each other. But weeknights, oh don’t ask! Quick cooking has taken on a whole new meaning! But I’ve learnt to tweek some of our favourite dinner meals to incorporate easy short cuts and substitutions so that we can still enjoy them without having me bawling on the floor while Baby Dear looks on amusedly! This recipe is one of those that’s pretty much assembly only and delicious enough to fall back on any day.

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Warming tones: Make-your-Own Chicken Noodle Soup

Written by Meena Agarwal on December 9th, 2008 | 46 Comments


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

Colder weather means more time indoors. More time indoors for me can only mean ONE thing: Cooking. And lots of it! The last few weeks saw me hover from one ethnic market to another lugging back bagfuls of spices, sauces, condiments and flavourings, amidst baskets of colourful fresh produce. Yes, you could definitely say that the Holidays bring about the creative cook in me. I find myself waking up with my head full of ideas and flavour pairings. Then, a few minutes later, I’m dressed in my warmest layers running off to the store to pick up the items needed for my experiment.

This of course, has got Hubby Dear beaming with pleasure. Our dinners for the past few days have included the exotic flavours of various cuisines, fused together in a style that I deem myself an expert of. Warm velvety curries with hints of hot, sour, salty and sweet tones tease our palate. Vegetables have found new tasty ways to welcome themselves on our table. And soups, oh what can I say about the soups!

As I kid, I always connected soups to the kind of food one has when you’re sick in bed with a pounding headache and a runny nose. Our winter meals, although consisting of richly warm comfort food, somehow failed to include this food group altogether. As a busy working student stuck in the cold Canadian winter devoid of a mother’s culinary touch, I found throwing in a can of beans with some veggies and spices in a pot full of bubbling chicken stock made for a fairly quick, nutritious and decent enough meal. Over the years, my soup repertoire has grown immensely from the sorry state it once was, and now I can’t imagine going a week in the cold months without a bowl or two of soup to comfort me.

This chicken-noodle soup is as simple as it can get. And yet, has the ability to carry flavours as complex as you wish it to. My favourite way to serve this dish is to lay out all the ingredients in individual bowls to enable each of your guests to design their own meal. Add in what you like, as much as you like; and no matter how you do it, there’s no wrong way to enjoy it.

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A never-ending learning process: Fried Egg Sambal

Written by Meena Agarwal on July 23rd, 2008 | 38 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?

FRIED EGG SAMBAL
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

4 large eggs
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp light cooking oil
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat about 1 tsp of oil in a non-stick pan (Use one large enough to cook the entire dish, since it makes it much easier to clean up. Personally I prefer using a wok to get perfectly round fried eggs.), and fry egg one after the other seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, adding in more oil if needed. Set aside.

Add in remaining oil in the pan and saute garlic and onions till soft and lightly browned. Add in spices and fry for a few seconds.

Throw in chopped tomatoes, season with salt and fry for a few minutes. Add in tomato paste and continue to fry, breaking up tomatoes till it starts to dry out and give out oil from the sides.

Slowly slide in the fried eggs, and carefully mix them with the tomato mixture to coat, without breaking the egg. Allow to heat through for a few minutes and serve warm.



Simply summer: Mediterranean Kebabs

Written by Meena Agarwal on July 11th, 2008 | 24 Comments


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

What is with people who graciously accept your dinner invitation, arrive two hours late without so much as an apology or look of regret on their face, eat merely two bites of the delicious spread you took hours to lay out and declare that they’re just not that hungry! Huh? Wha…?

A few years ago, when I was a newbie in town, I had decided to invite a few people over for a nice dinner so that we could all mingle and get to know each other over mounds of spiked jello shots. The list of invited guests included a few of my colleagues, neighbours, the friendly dude from my dance class and a close friend on mine I’ve known since we were barely in our teens. A weird bunch to bring together no doubt, but I figured that if I ever intended on having a close knit circle of friends to run to over the weekends, then they should at the very least meet each other in person.

I had decided on serving Mexican food. Mainly, because they were such a diverse bunch and I figured that bringing them together over a Taco/Fajita bar laden with fixin’s and over-flowing pitchers of Sangria would definitely lighten everyone’s spirits. And also of course, who doesn’t like Mexican food? I mean, seriously, isn’t it illegal to frown upon it in some parts of the world? Mexico included?

The table was set, plates, glasses and cutlery laid out, and a Mariachi band was serenading away on my second-hand stereo. Slowly, the crowd started to pour in. The music continued to play, folks laughed at each other’s jokes and I couldn’t empty out tortilla chips into the bowls fast enough! It was all going well, until this person made his entrance. He seemed to be in a real bad mood, which made me wonder why he didn’t just call me up and say that he wasn’t able to make it. He sulked in a remote corner all night, nibbling on a handful of chips dipped in about a teaspoon of salsa. Did I mention I actually roasted tomatoes for the first time to make that delicious batch? Needless to say, he hardly even kept a conversation with me – summarizing his answers to my questions in monosyllables. And you’d think he would call me up the next day to apologize, but I’m yet to hear his reasons for his insane behaviour – and it’s been almost seven years now. Not that we’re still in touch though. I somehow find it very hard to maintain my cool with people who show no consideration for others. Which is why I hardly ever cook dinner for them more than once.

When it comes to having friends over, and I mean those people who you really love to spend your time with and not those that you hope to spend some time with – I almost, always, cook whatever they enjoy most. I recently had a close friend over for lunch who is simply smitten by anything Mediterranean! Her love for this eclectic cuisine knows no bounds, and she’s not one to let a good meal pass her by. Since it’s that time of year when I love throw anything on the grill and enjoy a nice lunch outdoors - I wanted to create a cool, calm and simple summer menu, the highlight of which were these deliciously lovely kebabs.

MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN KEBABS
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Makes: 8-10 medium-sized kebabs

Ingredients:

1 lb lean ground chicken
1 medium onion, finely chopped
a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 egg, beaten
2-3 tbsp bread crumbs
salt, to taste

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl to incorporate well. Form into kebabs and grill till done on both sides.

RECIPE NOTES: To grill in an indoor oven, heat oven to 375 degrees and grill for 20-25 minutes till done, turning once in between.



To market, to market: Tamarind Fish

Written by Meena Agarwal on June 17th, 2008 | 19 Comments


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

You know how sometimes, no matter what you do, you get the feeling as if your life is running on repeat mode? Day in and day out, things seem to take on a ridiculously standard routine – you read similar topics in the paper every morning, you watch reruns of the same TV show each day, you drive to same store to shop for the same produce each time, and the worst of all, you eat the same thing for your meals every other day! For the past couple of days, this has been exactly the feeling I find myself going through. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed like my meals were boringly repetitive. The inspiration had disappeared to a remote corner of my creative mind somewhere, and all attempts to revive it had been failing tremendously. That is until Hubby Dear (the sweet caring soul that he is!) decided to whisk me away on a foodie adventure.

We drove down a short distance to the nearby town of Hamilton to visit one of its indoor farmer markets. The ride there was surely scenic, but what took my breath away was the array of fresh, vibrant vegetables! Being the ardent carnivore that I usually am, it was almost surreal to feel my excitement at the sight of rich green broccoli. And I don’t even eat broccoli, no matter how delicious it may look! I was smitten, to say the very least, and within a couple of minutes found myself buzzing around from vendor to vendor picking up a colourful assortment of plump, juicy, fresh produce. Eggplants of different colours, tomatoes of various shapes and sizes, robust bunches of radiant greens, bread, fruits and spices – you name it and I bought it. Bagfuls of it. But the highlight of my shopping would have to be the huge bunch of baby Bok Choy that I picked up for a ridiculously nominal price of a couple of cents. Yes, cents!

Once the veggies were washed, prepped and duly packed in the fridge, I couldn’t wait to plan my week’s menu. Inspiration came flooding back and my mind whizzed with fantastic new recipes waiting to be created and played with. Although I mentally created new flavour combos for all the veggies I had in store, I knew exactly how I wanted to savour the Bok Choy. I went with my classic favourite – simple, quick and satisfying. But I had to pair it up with something that could lift its humble spirit to new heights, and this is what I came up with.

TAMARIND FISH
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 2

Ingredients:

2 large fillets of any white, flaky fish (I used Tilapia), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1 medium green pepper, thinly sliced
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp tamarind concetrate
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt, to taste
2 tbsp light cooking oil

Directions:

Saute mustard seeds and sliced onions in hot oil till soft and lightly browned.

Add in turmeric, chilli powder, salt, chopped tomatoes, garlic and tamarind, and cook until tomatoes pulp and spices have blended in well.

Stir in fish and green peppers, and stir fry on meduim heat till fish is cooked through, making sure not to break fish too much.

Serve warm.



Meal Time Madness: Mango Chicken with Red Peppers

Written by Meena Agarwal on March 10th, 2008 | 38 Comments


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

I am a firm believer of meal planning. So much so, that every weekend I take a few hours to carefully plan our meals for the coming week. I grab a handful of cookbooks from my ever increasing library, a couple of sticky page tabs, my favourite pen and meal planning notebook (yes, I keep a notebook!), and get down to work.

First, I skim through the pages of various cookbooks for inspiration and ideas. Then I make a list of what I think we’d like to eat that week. I then go about designating a theme for each day of the week. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, I’m not one to cook a 4-course dinner everyday! Usually my themes would look something like this:

Monday: Chicken
Tuesday: Pasta Night
Wednesday: Dal, Roti, Sabzi
Thursday: Soup & Sandwich
Friday: Movie & Munchie Night

Having set themes for each night of the week makes it easier for me to decide and plan a meal, ensuring I maintain a good balance between protein, carbs and vegetables. I usually leave weekends free which allows us play it by ear. After all, it’s good to some amount of spontaneity thrown in!

Once my meals have been decided upon (after due consulting with Hubby Dear on whether he promises to eat the Bok choy I have planned for one day), I create my grocery list. Now, as much as this may make me seem a very organized person, I assure you that it’s not always the case. There are often days when I don’t feel like keeping with the plan, when I absolutely refuse to have a cous cous salad for dinner, or days when all we want is some take-out pizza. It’s especially when days like those happen, that my so-called organization gets thrown out the window.

Today was one such particular day. I had a lovely looking mango sitting lonely in my fridge since I had a mango salsa planned sometime during last week. Well, that didn’t quite work out, so the darned fruit was shoved into this week’s menu. As I sat to plan my meals for this week, I realized I felt a little adventurous and wanted to take a new recipe for a test drive. And thus this Mango Chicken was born. All I have to say about it though, is that if Hubby Dear comes home even a tad bit late tonight, I can’t promise he’ll have any left for him. I’m starving already, and the dish bubbling away seems to be calling my name. Oh how will I ever resist!

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Eating Lunch with Rachael Ray: Curry Noodle Bowl

Written by Meena Agarwal on March 4th, 2008 | 29 Comments


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

It had come to my notice a few days ago that I was spending a lot more time cooking than actually eating. This is not to say that I have been burdening myself with tedious and slow-cooking meals. In fact, it was quite the contrary. While my meals have been loaded with quick and simple salads, soups and the occasional sandwich, it seemed strange to me that I was eating in less than half the time I took to prepare the meal at hand.

I have recently begun to have lunch at my desk, if only to try and get as much work done as I possibly could cram into my day. With my food sitting on my right and my laptop on the left, it’s almost impossible for me to sit back and actually take a moment to even look at my plate, let alone enjoy it. And this, my dear friends has been bugging me since the time I started doing it.

There are piles of emails flagged for responses, a ton of article ideas bookmarked for research, a growing tower of books (which I now use as a side table to hold my morning cup of coffee) for review, and the odd request or two for help with a menu plan, that are all screaming for my undivided attention. Well, what can I say but that it’s hard trying to balance your work and hobby at the same time. Even harder when they both are interlinked, like in my case. That was until I found Rachael Ray.

I was first introduced to the great RR a few years ago with her show 30-Minute Meals. Like many, I thought she was too perky to be sane. I thought it was crazy of her to bang pots and pans to flatten meat, and create acronyms like EVOO and GB (which I must add is a wonderful trick I learnt from her!). But what I did admire was her penchant to get real creative in the kitchen and make everyday food seem exotic and exciting.

A few days ago, as I got ready to take my lunch into my home office, I had the sudden urge to stop and see what was on TV. A quick scan and I found myself taking a seat with The Rachael Ray Show. She was just as I remembered her: quirky, overly excited and bubbly. But even then, I found myself grinning at her silly jokes. She passed around the ‘snack of the day’ to her audience as I took the first bite of my lunch. By the end of the episode, I had polished my plate, relishing every bite and enjoying what I ate. I tried doing the same the next day. And the day after. And the day after that.

It’s been more than a week since, and my lunches, though take hardly any time to cook, seem to take a whole hour to be eaten. And not to mention, enjoyed. All thanks to the Queen of Quick!

CURRY NOODLE BOWL
Prep time: 15 min | Cooking time: 15 min | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb noodles of choice
1 cup boneless cubed chicken/cubed tofu
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped bok choy
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp curry paste (red or yellow)
1 stalk lemon grass, bruised and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup coconut milk 
3 cups chicken/vegetable stock
1 tbsp light cooking oil
salt & pepper, to taste
fresh coriander leaves, chopped chillies and lemon wedges, for garnish

Directions:

Heat oil in a deep pan, and saute garlic and curry paste till fragrant. Add in onions and chicken/tofu, and saute till lightly brown.

Add in coconut milk, stock and lemon grass, and let it come to a boil on low heat. Add in musrooms and noodles, and cook covered till noodles are tender and done. Stir in bok choy, and cover cook for 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, add garnish with coriander leaves, chillies and a dash of lemon juice. Ladle in large bowls and serve piping hot.



Winter Warmer: Black Pepper Lamb

Written by Meena Agarwal on February 21st, 2008 | 26 Comments


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

Okay. I know. It’s been long. Oh so long!

I won’t bore you with the details of my long disappearance, except to say that we were on a wonderfully long vacation, and then back to the dreadful weather here which kind of took me off guard and made me sick to my core. And while the recovery has been slow, I kept my bored self busy by coming up with some creative ideas for HoH. I hope to share some fantastic news with you soon, so stay tuned!

The past few weeks have been, to put it straight, simply dreadful! The snow just keeps accumulating and I shudder to think of what one more snow fall would bring. We’ve tried to keep ourselves warm by cranking up the heat inside, and not to mention, eating lots of warm soothing comfort food. Aah food. There’s always a good time for food.

It’s funny to note that I may have made more soups and stews over the past two weeks than I would’ve made all of last year. And yet, when I think back, none of them seemed extraordinary enough to pass on to you. Most of my soups are made with whatever I have in the fridge, and so it’s very rare that I’m able to replicate the flavours exactly the next time I attempt to. And maybe that’s just how I like it to be. Nothing beats throwing a bunch of things into a big pot and watching it simmer into a bowl full of delicious goodness.

One dish I did most enjoy recently, was this spicy lamb creation. It started out like most of my dinner rush meals. I open up the fridge, stare into it for a long couple of minutes, and then start mixing and matching flavours into a pot. I would suggest saving this for a sunny winter Sunday afternoon, when all you want to do is cuddle up with a good book while your stove slowly hums the sweet music of lunch in the making. Or maybe save it for that special dinner by the fireplace with a soft serenade in the background. No matter how and when you decide to try it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. But may I insist you tackle it when the temperatures are low into its negatives. ‘Coz that maybe the only way I can defend it’s heat level.

BLACK PEPPER LAMB
Prep time: 15 min | Cooking time: 45 min | Serves: 2

Ingredients:

1 lb lean boneless lamb, cubed
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
5-6 curry leaves
1 tbsp garlic, finely crushed
1 tbsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup plain yoghurt, beaten
1 tbsp light cooking oil
salt, to taste
fresh coriander leaves and lemon wedges, for garnish
water, as needed

Directions:

Marinate lamb in yogurt and garlic for atleast two hours.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan, and add cumin, coriander and fennel seeds along with curry leaves, allowing them to sizzle. Add in onions and saute till brown. Add in black pepper and marinated lamb along with any remaining marinade. Cook covered on low heat for 45 minutes or till lamb is tender and cooked through, stirring occasionally and adding little water if it begins to stick to bottom of the pan.

Season with salt, add in green peppers and cook covered for another 5-10 minutes.

Garnish with coriander leaves and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Serve warm with fresh pitas.



A perfect bite: spicy honey garlic spring rolls

Written by Meena Agarwal on December 10th, 2007 | 12 Comments


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

As a child, I remember giving out handmade gifts often. Be it friends or family, I almost always had something made out of my own creativity to hand out to them on their special day. I especially remember making gigantic heart-shaped cardboard cut-out greeting card smothered with glitter and little silver star stickers, to give to my teacher when I was in the 3rd grade. I could swear her face lit up with joy, or maybe it was from the sheer pleasure of seeing one of her favourite students suck up to her. That moment stayed with me in my memories and I began making a point to always create something to gift as often as I could.

Even after all these years I still try and continue to keep up with the practice I started eons ago. A few weeks ago, I had a gang of girls over from our book club meet. I always look forward to these all-girl meetings, especially when it’s my turn to host. I get to experiment with fun menus and love the fact that we girls can totally agree on chocolate cake as a filling dinner option.

For the past few months I’ve been toying with the idea of throwing an appetizer sampler party. According to me, it’s probably the best party you could get invited to, second of course only to a chocolate themed night. This book meet was the perfect setting for what I had in mind. We were meeting to discuss the book, ‘Cooking for Mr. Latte’, and though I enjoyed the read, I knew that planning the party was going to be even more fun.

It was obvious that I was going to serve tiny bites and mini morsels of divine finger food, in all shapes, sizes and forms. My centerpiece comprised of a huge platter flavoured oven-roasted pita chips and deep bowl overflowing with cool creamy hummus. It was to be the decoy for those health conscious skinny ones. Neatly arranged around that were the actual sinners. Melt-in-your mouth Tandoori wings, my simply-to-die-for Ginger-Chilli Shrimp, and to mention petite little squares of a rich dark chocolate almond fudge cake that I had baked for the first time in my life, among many other delicious treats.

The cake was delicious, to say the very least, and if I were locked alone in a room with it, you’d probably find me digging into it with my bare hands and stuffing large chunks of it into my face. I also made sure I catered to every palate by dishing out a variety of sweet and savoury treats, including, mini quiches, spiced potato wedges, and spiked hot chocolate in mini espresso cups for that something extra after dinner. But the highlight of my evening had to be the warm crisp rolls that simply had me wishing I were in the Orient somewhere, digging into a bowl full of slurpy noodles to go with it – tiny little spring rolls.

HONEY GARLIC CHICKEN SPRING ROLLS
Prep time: 15 min | Cooking time: 15 min | Makes: 24 mini spring rolls

Ingredients:

24 small spring rolls wrappers
1 chicken breast, finely chopped into tiny pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 tbsp garlic, finely crushed
1 tsp black pepper powder
1/2 tsp white pepper powder
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp honey-garlic sauce
1 tbsp light cooking oil
salt, to taste
oil, for deep frying
water, as needed

Directions:

Marinate chicken, onions, green pepper and crushed garlic with honey-garlic sauce and pepper powder for at least an hour.

Heat sesame oil and a tbsp of cooking oil in a non-stick wok and stir-fry marinated ingredients with any leftover marinade over high heat till chicken is cooked through. Remember to stir and mix continuously, so as not to let it burn. Season with salt, and set aside to cool.

Once the filling is cooled, begin rolling out the spring rolls. Start with placing a spring roll wrapper on a cool flat working surface. Place about 2-3 tbsp of the filling to one corner of the wrapper. Fold over that corner and roll up half way, tucking in the open side corners. Seal edges with a bit of water and set the spring roll aside on a cool plate. Continue to roll out remaining cigars, making sure to cover them with a slightly damp towel so that they don’t dry out.

Deep fry in hot oil till golden and crisp.