Zesty Orange Chicken

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Oranges taste great on their own; I hardly know anyone who doesn’t like them. They are a mind-blowing combination with chocolate, second only to mint, and are used extensively in desserts. But never in a million years had I expected to fall head-over-heals in love with oranges in an entrée. I’ve been obsessed with Orange Chicken ever since I tried it some four odd years ago at a Chinese Restaurant.

Like all recipes I’m obsessed with, I tried recreating this sweet and sour concoction with a hint (subjective) of spice last weekend. After some experimentation, I got the flavor profile I was looking for; in retrospect, I should have left out a few ingredients that gave the dish some outlandish undertones, a clashing after-taste, if you may. The recipe below doesn’t include those ingredients so you should be able to enjoy a mouth-watering Orange Chicken. I strongly recommend serving this gravy with Chinese Fried Rice (leave me a comment if you want me to post a recipe).

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Ingredients:

  • ½ kg chicken (cut into one-inch cubes)
  • ½ cup + ½ cup fresh orange juice (I used navel oranges)
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh orange zest
  • 5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1” cube of ginger (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • I tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp white pepper powder
  • ½ tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • ½ tsp black pepper powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp chicken powder
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 5-7 dried red chilies (optional – I used African bird’s eye chili)
  • 1 tbsp peanuts (salted and roasted)
  • 2-3 spring onion stalks (one-inch pieces)
  • ½ green bell pepper (medium sized – cut into cubes)
  • 1 onion (medium sized – cut into cubes)
  • ¼ tsp MSG (a.k.a. ajino moto)
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 tsp honey (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix chicken, black pepper and corn flour and set it aside
  2. Heat sesame oil in a pan and add in garlic and ginger
  3. After a minute or so, add chicken to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes
  4. Mix in chili flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, MSG, and white pepper and let it sit for a minute
  5. Add in ½ cup orange juice and lemon juice and let it cook for 2 minutes
  6. Add soy sauce, chili sauce and vinegar to the chicken and cook on high flame
  7. Once the sauces have dried out a bit, add in peanuts, dried chilies and the remaining ½ cup orange juice to it
  8. When the juice evaporates again, add in Worcestershire sauce, chicken powder, green peppers, onions and the spring onion
  9. At this point, taste the chicken and see if you need salt (as the sauces used are already salty) or honey (if you feel the chicken is a bit on the sour side – mainly because of the oranges used)
  10. Give the chicken a good mix and turn off the flame
  11. Take out in a serving bowl and garnish with some fresh orange zest

Serve without waiting another second – make sure you have the Fried Rice ready beforehand. Any comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Enjoy!

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A Lemony Twist On Fresa Colada

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What a typical Londoner might call a bright sunny day, we, the residents of Dubai, call a well-deserved break from the blistering summer sun that beats (mercilessly) down upon us for a good six months each year (five-and-a-half if we’re lucky). I personally love the Dubai winter, especially because it brings with it, a plethora of fresh seasonal fruits from the Middle eastern region, the most noteworthy of which are the strawberries flown in daily from Egypt.

I couldn’t resist myself from buying a kilogram of these tantalizing berries when I last went grocery shopping. Needless to say, we got tired of eating all these strawberries pretty soon, so I thought of making a refreshing drink out of it. I added some coconut water and lemon syrup to compliment the sweet and sour berries and the drink turned out better than expected.

Here’s the recipe if you want to replicate it at home. It serves two people.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh coconut water (I use yellow Srilankan coconuts as they are a bit on the sweet side)
  • 6-8 medium strawberries
  • 2 tablespoon lemon syrup (alternately, you can use 1 tsp lemon juice and 2 tsp honey)
  • For garnish:
    • 2 medium strawberries (coarsely chopped)
    • 3-4 mint leaves
    • 5-6 ice cubes

Method

  1. Wash the strawberries and remove the leafy part; add them to a blender
  2. Add coconut water and lemon syrup the blender and mix well
  3. Pour the juice into mason jars and add in some ice
  4. Top the jars with chopped strawberries and mint
  5. Serve immediately

Hope you enjoy this drink as much as I did making it. I’d appreciate your comments if you do try this at home!

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Coolers To Beat The Intense Summer Heat

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It’s that dreaded time of the year again. We are on the verge of summer and we all know what that means; the scorching sun mercilessly beating down upon us. The Pakistani summer is characterized by an exponential increase in the sale of all things cool and refreshing, like ice-cream, kulfi (a frozen milk-based treat with nuts and saffron) and juices. The number of juice-walas (read, roadside juice stalls) propping up all across the country is directly proportional to the ever-soaring temperatures. These juice-walas serve all kinds of tempting (albeit unhygienic) concoctions using popular ingredients like watermelons, lemons and rooh-afza (a Pakistani drink concentrate).

Commuting to work during summers is a chore most people detest, and there’s nothing more enticing than the call of the juice-wala screaming ‘Thanda Thanda Limo Pani. Sirf Panch Rupay, Panch Rupay, Panch Rupay!’ (Cool, cool lemonade for just five rupees). Please do not pay heed to the juice-wala, no matter how thirsty you may be. The contents of the juice are questionable at best and you never know when, if ever, the glass was last washed. Instead, pick up some fresh produce on your way home and make one of these five lip-smacking coolers to satisfy your summer craving.

Watermelon-Strawberry Cooler

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Ingredients:

  • 300 grams watermelon (just the red fleshy part)
  • 1½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4-5 strawberries (use frozen if fresh are not available)

Kiwi-Lemon Chiller

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Ingredients:

  • 3 kiwis (slightly ripe)
  • 1½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon honey
  • ½ cup water

Pina Colada

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Ingredients:

  • ½ pineapple (use 4-5 slices of canned pineapple if fresh isn’t available)
  • ½ cup of coconut water

Lime-Mint Mojito

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Ingredients:

  • ½ tablespoon lime juice
  • 4-5 mint leaves
  • ½ tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup water

Apple-Pomegranate Cocktail

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Ingredients:

  • 2 apples
  • 1 pomegranate

For all the recipes listed above, use the method listed below:

  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix well; if you have a juicer/extractor or a hand-blender, those would work too
  2. Use a fine-mesh sieve to remove the pulp from the juice; press on the pulp using a spoon to get all the juice out
  3. Keep the juice in the freezer for at least 1 hour
  4. Add a handful of crushed ice before serving

These drinks are an absolute hit at dinner parties, so why not be the juice-wala your guests desperately need you to be? Remember: with great power (read, recipes), comes great responsibility!

Enjoy!

p.s. Each of the recipes listed above takes a maximum of 5 minutes to prepare and yields approx. 250 to 300 ml sufficient for one large or two small servings, depending on how thirsty you are.