Chow Down Some Chicken Chow Mein

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We all love Chinese food and more often than not, rely on restaurants to satisfy our cravings. If I talk about myself, my Chinese experience is never complete without a serving of Chicken Chow Mein; it’s a no-brainer that this is one of the first things I order. This is also one of those things that most restaurants don’t get right.

My wife makes a mean Chow Mein which is universally loved by everyone in our family. If you talk about authenticity, this is a Pakistan-ized version similar to what’s served in restaurants across the country. I often hear people complaining why they are unable to prepare restaurant-style Chow Mein at home; well, here’s her secret. She cooks everything separately and assembles the Chow Mein towards the end; this not only keeps everything from turning into mush, but also gives a distinct flavour profile in every bite.

On those lazy nights when you don’t feel like going out or ordering in, what more could you want than a plate of piping hot stir-fried noodles? So here’s how you can prepare some in the confines of your own kitchen.

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Prep Time: 35 mins

Serves: 3-4 people

Ingredients

  • 300 grams egg noodles (or rice noodles, depending on your preference)
  • 150 grams boneless chicken (cut into 1 cm thin strips)
  • 2 medium-sized carrots (thin 1-inch julienne cut)
  • ½ green bell pepper (julienne cut – if red and yellow bell peppers aren’t available, use 1 green bell pepper)
  • ¼ red bell pepper (julienne cut)
  • ¼ yellow bell pepper (julienne cut)
  • 125 gm cabbage (thinly sliced)
  • 2 spring onions (one inch pieces)
  • 1 medium onion (thickly sliced)
  • 6-7 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 4 tablespoon sesame oil (use vegetable oil if sesame is not available)
  • 6 tablespoon soy sauce with honey-like consistency (if using the watery version, double the quantity)
  • 6-8 tablespoon chili sauce (to taste)
  • 2+1 teaspoon salt (2 teaspoon salt required while boiling noodles)
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon chinese salt (Ajino Moto or MSG – optional)
  • A pinch of sesame seeds (for garnish)

Method

  1. Set aside all ingredients before starting to work on this recipe
  2. Boil noodles as per the instructions on the box; add two teaspoon salt during the process
  3. Drain the water and let the noodles cool
  4. In a wok, stir fry all the bell peppers in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; take it out in a bowl once done
  5. Next, stir fry the cabbage in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; set it aside once done
  6. Stir fry the thickly sliced onion in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; set it aside once done
  7. Stir fry the carrots in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; set it aside once done
  8. In a sauce pan, add all the remaining sesame oil along with soy sauce, chili sauce, black pepper, chinese salt, salt, chili flakes, and half of the garlic; cook for 3 minutes till the consistency is thick
  9. Once all vegetables have been separately stir-fried, add half of the remaining sesame oil and the garlic in a wok
  10. After a minute, add the chicken and cook for 4-5 mins (or till the chicken is tender) with the lid on
  11. Add in the noodles to the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes
  12. Add in the stir fried vegetables one by one and mix well
  13. Add the sauce to the noodles and cook for 2 minutes
  14. Finally, add in the spring onions and turn the heat off
  15. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately!

Ciao (or should I say, Chow?)!

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Juicy Steak with Stir Fried Vegetables and Potato Wedges

I know it’s been quite some time since I wrote something. Life just seems to drag you into its drama and as we grow old, it gets more and more difficult to get out of it; the post-dramatic stress sets in shortly afterwards. Anyways, this post is more about enjoying the finer things and grabbing life by its horns. Get ready to take charge people because this recipe is sure to get you out of your funk.

Chicken Steak with Stir-fried Vegetables and Potato Wedges

Ingredients for Marinating

½ kg chicken or beef
5-6 tbsp ginger (finely chopped)
1 tbsp green chilies (finely chopped)
1½ tsp salt (or to taste)

Ingredients for Steak Sauce

1 medium onion (finely chopped)
3-4 tbsp BBQ Sauce
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
1½ tbsp tomato ketchup
½ tsp mustard sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp honey
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
4-5 tbsp water

Ingredients for Stir-fried Vegetabes

1 carrot
50 gms peas
½ cabbage
½ zucchini
½ onion
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Any other vegetable you enjoy eating

Ingredients for Garnish

Thick onion slices
Cabbage
Fried Eggs (sunny side up)
Cheese slices
Bread Croutons (deep-fried cubes of bread – OPTIONAL)
Dried Oregano
Potato Wedges (click here for recipe)

Method for Cooking

  1. If using chicken, marinate the meat using the ginger, chilies and salt for at least ½ an hour; for beef, marinate after hammering the beef for 5 to 6 hours
  2. Once marinated, you can either grill the meat using some oil in a grill pan (for people who hate setting up a grill) or flame-grill it (for a more authentic taste) until tender [NOTE: I prefer a very well-done steak so choose a consistency that suits you most]
  3. For the sauce, take some oil in a saucepan and add in the onion
  4. Once the onion turns transparent, put in the rest of the ingredients, followed by the water, and let it cook for 5 minutes [NOTE: A sauce manufactured by different brands may vary in taste, so you might end up having a steak sauce that’s either less spicy or too sour. So here are the adjustments you might need to make according to your taste – to spice it up, add some chili/tabasco sauce, and to decrease the sourness, add some tomato ketchup]
  5. Take a little oil in a pan and put in all your vegetables (the hard ones first, the soft ones a bit later)
  6. Season the vegetables using some salt and pepper and take them off the flame

Method for Assembling

  1. Heat the sizzle pans; if you don’t have sizzle pans for individual servings, you can use a regular pan and assemble everything in it [NOTE: Be very careful while handling a sizzle pan]
  2. Once hot, put in a dash of oil, some onion slices and some cabbage leaves onto it
  3. Put the cooked steak right in the center of the pan
  4. Generously pour the steak sauce over it
  5. Put some stir-fried vegetables on one side and the potato wedges on the other
  6. Add a cheese slice on top of the steak and sprinkle some oregano
  7. Finish it off with the fried egg (sunny side up)

Enjoy and do remember me when you steal all the credit!

Ciao,
Yousuf

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly!

Try visualizing a decorated pine-tree with presents lying underneath, a fireplace with stockings all over it and a really really old man dressed in red, clanging a big bell and crying out “Ho-ho-ho”. It isn’t too hard to guess that I’m talking about Christmas, the most anticipated and widely celebrated holiday among the Christian community. The big day is just around the corner and even though I don’t celebrate it, I appreciate the values it represents. It’s not just about giving out expensive gifts to your loved ones; it’s about sharing and caring for people who do not have the luxuries some of us have. For those who don’t understand the true spirit of Christmas, it’s just another uneventful day in the calendar.

Having lived outside of Pakistan for quite some time, I have had the chance to witness some really great Christmases. It’s always the same:

  • the adults constantly complaining about being short of cash during the last days of this season and maxing out all their credit cards
  • the children writing their innocent little letters to Santa and praying it won’t be too difficult for the man from the North Pole to give them all what they have requested (ergo, the broke Dad)
  • the malls setting up exciting discounts to clean out all their low-selling items and slightly perking up the prices on their best-sellers

Although I have never really attended a Christmas party, I know that home-cooked food plays a vital role in this celebration. A simple batch of customized sugar cookies is sure to perk up the mood in your household. The Royal icing recipe included in this post is quite simple, stays firm and will let you create elegant, colorful, matt-finish designs on the cookies. So get right into the kitchen with your kids and start baking!

Recipe: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1¾ cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ cup (115 gm) unsalted butter [at room temperature]
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract/essence

Method for Cookies

  1. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside
  2. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar using an electric beater until light and fluffy (for roughly 3 minutes)
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla essence to the butter mix until combined
  4. Now add the flour mix to the butter mix and beat until you have a smooth dough
  5. Put the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until it is hard enough to roll
  6. Pre-heat oven to 180º C and lightly grease two non-stick baking sheets
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to an even thickness of about ¼ inch; keep picking up the rolled dough so that it doesn’t stick on the surface
  8. Cut out the cookies using your favorite shapes and put them on the baking sheet
  9. Put the baking sheets with the cookies in the fridge for about 15 minutes to cool the dough, preventing the cookies to spread out and lose their shape during baking
  10. Bake these for about 10 minutes or until the edges start to turn brown
  11. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool to room temperature on the baking sheet

Ingredients for Royal Icing

  • 2¾ cups icing/confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2tsp lemon juice
  • Food colors

Method for Royal Icing

  1. Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined
  2. Sift the sugar to remove lumps and add to the  egg mix
  3. Beat on low setting using an electric beater until nice and smooth
  4. Put in separate bowls and add food colors to them. NOTE: this icing starts hardening very quickly so keep it in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap when not in use
  5. Fill a piping bag with the icing and make your desired designs on the cookies

Burgers with crispy Potato Wedges

A heartfelt thank you goes out to Mr. Anonymous, the first person to actually think of putting a meat patty and a compendium of assortments (cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onions being the most common) between a bun (Genius!). Little did he know that what he had just created, would end up being a global fast-food phenomenon. Beef or Vegetarian, Tofu or Chicken, the options are endless. Here’s a time-tested recipe that will make you forget all about the famous Big burger you get at McRonalds (yes, the spelling mistake is deliberate).Unlike the aforementioned Big burger, this patty has a rich flavor and the tartar sauce gives your sandwich the extra kick.

Ingredients for Patty

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 kg beef, chicken or mutton
  • 3-4 bread (soaked and drained)
  • 3-4 tbsp BBQ sauce
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp mustard sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Ingredients for Tartar Sauce

  • 2 tbsp pickle relish or pickled cucumber (chopped)
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp mustard sauce
  • salt to taste
  • lemon or vinegar 1 tbsp

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the patty and divide the mix into 2-inch balls
  2. Pat each ball into a circular disc abut 4 inches in diameter
  3. Fry these patties in a pan (you can also choose to grill them) until they are cooked to your desired consistency
  4. Place each patty in a bun and make sure you apply the tartar sauce on both sides
  5. You can additionally garnish it with cheese, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, mustard, and BBQ sauce

Yikes! I almost forgot about the crispy wedges. So here’s how you make these:

Ingredients for Wedges

  • 3-4 medium potatoes (parboiled)
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 1/4 tsp paprika powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
  • salt to taste

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch wedges
  2. Mix the rest of the dry ingredients into a powder and sprinkle it evenly over the potatoes, making sure you coat all the sides properly
  3. Deep-fry in oil (you could try baking them but I’m not sure whether it will work or not)
  4. Serve without delay

Hope you like this!

Mocha Java Cake

Hello Friends!

Chocolate and coffee are two flavors that blend together very nicely. Both are bitter, dark and have a mysterious aura surrounding them. People say not to have too much of both but hey, who are they to talk? At least we aren’t smoking.

Here’s a great Mocha Java recipe that you can make easily. The real beauty of this recipe is that if you are a fan of either Mocha or Java, you can double the quantities in the respective layer and skip the other (although it’s a bit hard picturing someone who hates chocolate).

Ingredients for Sponge Cake

  • 3 Eggs
  • ¼ tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 6 tbsp Castor Sugar
  • 6 tbsp or 3 oz Flour (slightly heaped)
  • 1 tbsp or 3 oz Cocoa Powder (heaped)
  • Coffee Sauce (mix ½ tsp coffee and 1½ tbsp castor sugar in ¼ cup warm water)

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180º C.
  2. Mix eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat until peaks form (light and fluffy).
  3. Add in vanilla essence, flour and cocoa powder, and fold using a rubber spatula.
  4. Pour the mixture in a 9″ inch greased Springform pan and bake for 18 to 22 minutes.
  5. Once baked, cut horizontally about ½ to 1 inch from the base; this will form the base of your cake.
  6. Place the base back in the Springform pan.
  7. Pour the coffee sauce evenly on the sponge base.

Ingredients for Java (coffee) Mousse

  • 1 tbsp Instant Coffee (use ½ tbsp more for a stronger taste)
  • 6-7 tbsp Icing Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Gelatin Powder
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 12 oz Whipped Cream (chilled)
  • ⅓ cup Milk

Method

  1. Heat water and dissolve the gelatin till it melts.
  2. Add milk, sugar and coffee to it; keep stirring on a very low flame to form a smooth mixture.
  3. Let this mixture cool at room temperature.
  4. Fold the mixture into the whipped cream with a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour this on top of the sponge base in the Springfoam pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.
  6. Keep in the freezer for 1 hour

Ingredients for Mocha (Chocolate) Mousse

  • 1 tbsp Instant Coffee (OPTIONAL – add only if you enjoy its flavor)
  • 4 oz Dark chocolate (use less for a milder taste)
  • 8 tbsp Icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp Gelatin Powder
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 12 oz Whipped Cream (chilled)
  • ½ cup Milk

Method

  1. Heat water and dissolve the gelatin till it melts.
  2. Add milk, sugar, coffee and chocolate to it; keep stirring on a very low flame till the chocolate melts, resulting in a smooth mixture.
  3. Let this mixture cool at room temperature.
  4. Fold the mixture into the whipped cream with a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour this over the Java mousse layer in the pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.
  6. Keep in the freezer for 1 hour

Ingredients for Hot Fudge

  • 2 oz Dark or Semi-sweet Chocolate (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • ½ can Condensed Milk
  • ½ a pinch of Salt
  • 2 to 3 drops Vanilla essence

Method

  1. Put the chocolate and the butter in a glass bowl and heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds
  2. Mix thoroughly and heat in the microwave at 10-second intervals (repeat if required) till it’s nice and smooth – NOTE: chocolate burns very easily so keep it in the microwave for very short intervals, and as soon as you remove from the microwave, mix vigorously with a spoon to stop the heating process
  3. Now add the condensed milk and salt to the mixture and put it in the microwave for 15-second intervals till it’s smooth
  4. Add the vanilla essence and let it cool
  5. Pour on top of the cake and put it in the freezer for another ½ hour before serving

NOTE: The fudge recipe presented at the end is really tempting and can be used as a topping for ice creams and other desserts.

Bakestacy – Cumin-flavoured (Zeera) Biscuits

Food is something that I love (to cook as well as eat), but what I love more about food is the fact that it brings people closer; food has the power to make everything better. (un)Fortunately for me, my mom and my wife are much more seasoned chefs than I am, so I seldom set foot into the kitchen to cook; it’s been almost two months since I cooked something (microwaving instant noodles or popping corn doesn’t count).

Weekends are always fun – there’s never a dull moment, lots of leisure time and plenty of catching up on the past week’s lost sleep. Any special family activities that I can think of (be it an outing or doing something together), I save them for the weekend. After not being able to contain the urge to caress some utensils, I stormed into the kitchen with gusto to try out two tempting cookie recipes.

The first one of these two amazing recipes include Cumin seeds. Cumin seeds (or Zeera – as they are called in Urdu) are an integral part of Pakistani cooking; not only do they give a magnificent aroma to your food, they also help cure indigestion and acidity.

Here is a time-tested recipe (courtesy: Mrs. Yousuf Bawany). Again, it would be selfish of me to take all the credit; not my recipe, not my execution but I did help make them.

Ingredients

  • Flour – 4 oz
  • Castor sugar – 1 oz
  • Egg – 1/2
  • Baking Powder – 3/4 tsp
  • Cumin Seeds (crushed) – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Butter – 2 oz

Method

  1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt
  2. Beat butter and sugar till light and creamy
  3. Beat the egg lightly and add to the butter mixture; continue to beat
  4. Add the cumin seeds to the butter mixture
  5. Once the butter mixture is light and fluffy, fold in the flour mixture using a rubber spatula
  6. This mixture will turn into a soft dough
  7. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch thick sheet and using a cookie cutter, cut out the biscuits into your favorite shape(s); alternately, you can make little dough balls about 1 inch in diameter and flatten them with your hands to make these biscuits
  8. Spread these molded biscuits out onto a lightly greased baking sheet
  9. Preheat oven on gas mark 4 (180° C) and put them in for about 20 minutes
  10. After taking them out, let them cool down before serving

A batch of these delightful biscuits can make your tea-time extra special. These can last for quite some time if you put them in an air-tight container, so why not head into your kitchen and enjoy some right now?