On to New Ventures: The HoH Kitchen

Ever since I started this blog on a whim one morning over 9 years ago, I’ve been amazed at the support and encouragement that I’ve received from all you wonderful readers of mine. You were right there holding my hand as I nervously worked on my first cookbook. When news of the second one came around, you were there again cheering me on. Over the years, you’ve come to see me in my many avatars as a writer, cooking instructor, home-cooking advocate and above all, a food blogger.

As I sit here today marveling at how wonderfully enriching this journey has been so far, I can’t help curb the excitement for what’s yet to come. And it is with that same excitement that I invite you all to step into my kitchen and cook along with me. Many of you have requested time and again, that I include videos to my recipes. It’s been a long time coming but it’s finally here!

Today, I finally bit the bullet and let the camera run. As you can tell, I am a novice at this – but I do believe that I can only get better with time. Could I request you all to please like, subscribe and share my YouTube cooking channel? So don’t forget to watch my videos and join me on my Facebook page for many more recipes, tips and generally keeping in touch. And yeah, a new recipe video will up each week starting next Wednesday!

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Eggs in a Row: Indian Masala Omelette

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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Turning up the Heat: Baingan Bharta

If I told you that I whip up amazingly gourmet meals at the drop of a hat for my everyday dinners, that I’d have to be lying. Truth be told, 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. 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.

Recipe for Baingan Bharta taken from www.hookedonheat.com

When it comes to feeding 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?

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 buckets full 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!

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For the love of Curry: Chicken & Chickpea Curry

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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Ask Meena: Keema Alu Matar

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.


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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Let’s Begin: Chicken Fried Rice

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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Dinner Diary: Nov ’14

For the last few months, I’ve been keeping a tab on what we’ve been having for dinner every night. The idea very much caught on from this wonderful blog that has inspired me, and I’m sure many of you as well, to cook and serve wholesome, delicious dinners as often as I can. I’ve been making weekly menu plans for over the past 10 years, and although I try my best to stick to it, most often than not, life happens! Which is why, I’ve started to work on a new strategy and so far it has been working out great for us.

Nov '14

Now, instead of shopping with a fixed meal plan in place, I head to the produce section with an open mind. I look for what’s on sale, what’s in season, and most importantly what we’re in the mood for, and shop accordingly. I always make sure to have a well stocked fridge, freezer and pantry, so coming up with a healthy meal ideas based on the fresh veggies and fruits is no big deal. I buy my meats and fish at the beginning of the month, and ration them out over the next four weeks. Shopping and cooking this way, for me, has helped me come up with more inspired meals and caused less wastage.

I always get asked what I cook and cook on a daily basis, so I thought sharing my dinner diary with you would help those looking for some dinner-time inspiration. If you’d like to pics of the food I cook and feed my family, join me on Instagram and Facebook, where I often post my daily meals.

Here’s what we ate in the month of November. I’ve tried to link as many recipes as I could think of; however, if you see something you’d like a recipe for, please don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments.

Nov 1: OUT

Nov 2: Chicken Curry, Rotis, Salad

Nov 3: Paneer & Green Onion Parathas, Sukhe Alu

Nov 4: Tomato Soup, Veggie & Pesto Grilled Cheese

Nov 5: Palak Paneer, Rotis

Nov 6: Bun-Omelette


Nov 8: Wine & Cheese, Bread & Dips {Movie night with Hubby Dear}

Nov 9: Chicken Curry, Jeera Pulao, Salad

Nov 10: Egg Sambal (made with boiled eggs), Rice, Salad

Nov 11: Rajma, Rice, Salad

Nov 12: Paneer Burji, Rotis

Nov 13: Chicken & Rice Soup, loaded with veggies

Nov 14: Homemade Burgers & Fries

Nov 15: OUT

Nov 16: Masala Puris, Chana Masala, Sukhe Alu

Nov 17: Coconut Chicken Curry with Carrots, Potatoes & Green Beans, Rice

Nov 18: Revamped Ramen

Nov 19: Kadhi, Bhindi, Rice

Nov 20: Chili, Quesadillas

Nov 21: Omelette Sandwiches

Nov 22: Fajitas, Nachos

Nov 23: TAKE-OUT

Nov 24: Fish Curry, Stir-fried Green Beans, Rice

Nov 25: Minestrone Soup

Nov 26: Egg Curry, Veggie Pulao

Nov 27: Spaghetti, Salad

Nov 28: Pizza

Nov 29: TAKE-OUT

Nov 30: Quick Chicken Biryani, Raita, Salad

Dinner Diary: No-Fuss Chili

Dinner Diary is a series of posts I write that include quick, simple, everyday recipes that I whip up on most days for my family. In most cases, they can hardly be called recipes since I just go with the flow and dump things into a hot pan. Through this series I’ve tried to show you that no matter what your level of expertise is in the kitchen, making a good healthy meal for yourself and your family is actually quite simple. All it takes, is a whole lot of love and a bit of practice.

Dear Dinner Diary,

You know those kinda days when you wake up with a smile, birds chirping outside, and the slight nip in the air makes you want to snuggle under the covers even more? When your day begins with a ton of inspiration and you realize that it’s actually Friday, so you start to plan a fabulous Tex-Mex inspired feast for dinner that will be enjoyed while watching that latest movie you’ve been so looking forward to? Well, today was NOTHING like that!

I woke up with Baby Dear whining of a tummy ache and bad cough – so school’s out for the day! I managed to calm him down after what seemed like an eternity, and stumbled into the kitchen for that much needed cup of coffee – only to find two measly drops of milk left in the carton. I knew skipping grocery day yesterday would come to bite me. Now I have a sick baby, and not much food!

Once breakfasts were done, we somehow shuffled into the car and rushed to the store for a quick grocery trip. Baby Dear was a riot and insisted on buying bananas, even though we have a few of them already rotting on the kitchen counter. Shopping seemed to take ages, I found out that I forgot my coupons and sales flyers on the dining table, and the cashier couldn’t seem to scan any item without breaking down the machine.

The day miraculously passed us by with a much needed nap included in between. Baby Dear was finally back to his cheerful self. Hubby Dear called to say he would be home early, so that we could do a family dinner and movie night on the couch. And when I looked at the clock, it said 6PM. Dinner was no where in sight and I was done for the day. I felt a slight cough catching on – I may have caught Baby Dear’s bug. But I wanted a warm comforting meal. I needed a warm, comforting meal. So I did my favourite thing – dumped things into a pot and called it a day. The chili was delicious and oh so welcoming!

Hubby Dear decided we needed some chips along with it and whipped up a big batch of his special Nachos. He stuck it into the oven just as I started to ladle out the chili into our bowls. Warm, gooey, cheesy nachos were ready by the time I laid our bowls on the table. All in all, dinner was a breeze to prepare and totally worth it. Which just goes to show, that good food doesn’t have to take much effort. Remind me that, the next time I start to whine at having no set plans for dinner time. Good bye for now Dear Diary, my movie awaits!

Recipe for No-Fuss Chili taken from www.hookedonheat.com

No-Fuss-Dump-It-All-In Chili:

Sauté 1 large finely chopped onion and 3 cloves of minced garlic in some cooking oil. Add in 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp oregano powder, 1 tsp paprika powder and 2 tbsp tomato paste. Fry the spices for a few seconds, and then mix in 1/2 lb minced chicken to coat with the spices. Dump in 1 large (28 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, 2 cups cooked/canned black beans, and 1 cup frozen corn. Season with salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir, and let it simmer for 15-20 mins. Check for seasoning, and serve warm with your choice of toppings.

Something Sweet: Low-fat Raspberry Yogurt Muffins

Diwali came and went in a blur this year. We had just moved a few weeks earlier, and were deep in the midst of settling down in our new neighbourhood. In the midst of unpacking, getting Baby Dear adjusted into his new school, Hubby Dear’s new work schedule and all, a lavish celebration was the last thing on our minds. All we wanted to do was take the time to be thankful for everything that we had. A nice quiet meal, family time together, and lots of love and laughter were all we needed to bring in the festival of lights. And sweets of course. Loads and loads of sweets. After all, what is Diwali if not for the sweets?

Recipe for Raspberry Yogurt Muffins taken from www.hookedonheat.com

While traditionally, people tend to make the classic Indian desserts loaded with ghee, milk and dried fruits, I for one, never cared for them. I find them cloyingly sweet for my taste and often just give them a pass after a bite or two. This year, however, I wanted to try something different. So I decided to make do with something unconventional. What can I say, fusion is definitely my thing and love what a mix of cultures can bring to the table. I got started on the baking, and by the time I was done, I had managed to pack neat little baskets filled with an assortment of Brownies, Muffins and Chocolate Cake that I could then share with our new neighbours and friends.

This muffin recipe is a simple and delicious one. What makes it a definite keeper in my book it surely the fact that it contains hardly any fat or sugar, and makes a sizeable batch for our family of three! Since I first tried it, I’ve made it a few times already, each time changing up the berries; and they’ve all been equally good. I now make sure I have a batch in the freezer, ready to warm up in the microwave and serve with a cup of steaming coffee on cold, lazy Staurday mornings. Try it, I promise you won’t regret it!

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A Hearty Start: Sukhe Kaale Chane

Hubby Dear and me have always believed that sleeping is a sport, and ever since we got married, we have tried to outdo the other on how long we can sleep in over the weekends. Well, that was, of course, until Baby Dear was born. What can I say, the kid HATES to sleep – always did, and continues to do so. So while our entire neighbourhood wakes up leisurely on a Saturday morning and slowly begins their day pouring a glass of cold orange juice from the fridge, the three of us would be in the midst of planning out our lunch.

Recipe for Sukhe Kaale Chane, taken from www.hookedonheat.com

Baby Dear wakes up beady eyed at the crack of dawn, jumps out of his bed and sprints to our room yelling, ‘Weekend’s here!’. And then THUD! He plops himself comfortably under our covers, rubs his tummy and asks the dreaded question, ‘What’s for breakfast guys?’

Breakfast has never been my thing. I wake up each morning with the desire of only a freshly brewed warm cup of coffee, and I’m roaring to go. Weekends, on the other hand, are slightly different. The three of us love starting our Saturdays with a big breakfast. Almost every other week, we find ourselves at some quaint little café digging into buttered toasts and eggs or warm maple syrup poured over pancakes, with copious amounts of coffee for us and milk or fresh juice for Baby Dear. Treating ourselves to breakfast out is definitely something we look forward to and cherish.

But on days like this past weekend, where the slow pitter-patter of raindrops splashed on our window and the gloomy weather made us want to put on warm fuzzy socks and snuggle on the couch, I love digging into my repertoire of special hot Indian breakfasts. Breakfast in India is always a big deal – be it any day of the week, and there is no dearth of options when it comes to a plate of piping hot healthy meals to start the day with. One of our family favourites  is this spicy stir-fry of tiny brown chickpeas, quite different in taste and texture from their larger white counterpart.

This is a perfect dish to make ahead and keeps well in the fridge for about a week or the freezer for a month. When ready to eat, simply heat it up and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Add your favourite hot beverage of choice, surround yourself with your favourite people, and you have a wonderful start to the perfect weekend!

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