What I ate: Lasagna

I totally agree with the worldwide opinion that lasagna is at best the classic comfort food out there, and i think we should thank the Italians for that. When i crave lasagna, the drool-worthy image that appears in my head is the traditional pasta layered with a hearty tomato sauce, meat and cheese…all kinds of cheese. Sigh! heavenly. Although as much as i love to cook, there are days when i don’t even want to step into the kitchen or just those days when the kids have nagged me more than usual and I need something comforting to stay sane. Thanks to Facebook, i get to satisfy my food cravings without rummaging through my pantry.

I came across this post in a Facebook group advertising ‘Divine White BBQ Chicken Lasagna’ and i just wanted to try it so bad. I love the fact how social media has given a chance to all these talented cooks out there who are now working from home providing a whole range of delicious food that can be delivered right to our doorstep. It’s especially such a blessing for people like me who cannot go out and about every time a craving hits. I’m honestly ecstatic about these home-based eateries.

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Photo courtesy: Urban Chef

So, yes i ate this White BBQ Chicken Lasagna over the weekend by Urban Chef. It is run by Sherveen Ali, you can checkout her page on Facebook. I had read great reviews about her lasagna which ofcourse had intrigued me more to try it out. Although im the sort of person who likes to try the food myself before believing everyone else’s opinion. Solely because i believe everyone has a unique flavor palate…you may not like something i truly love.

Anyway, lets talk about Urban Chef’s BBQ lasagna. To start with it was neatly and securely packaged, so it reached me in good condition. No spills. yay! It was fresh and still quite warm and i couldn’t wait to dig in (hence the hasty photography that follows. Pardon me). I ordered a 1 litre pack of this yummy lasagna at a very reasonable price i must say. The quantity was good enough to serve 3, but i actually managed to devour it all by myself. It was quite a fulfilling dinner and breakfast the next morning. Well, you know i need the extra calories. I have a toddler in the house!

This lasagna had good four layers of pasta sheets filled with lots & lots of BBQ chicken chunks and a very cheesy sauce. Of course this was the ‘desi/Pakistani’ version of the lasagna so the chicken was quite spicy but the overall balance of flavors were pretty good. I just wish it had more creamy sauce and less cheese. Uh-oh did i just say less cheese?! sounds crazy even to me, but i feel it would have balanced it more perfectly. I also loved the addition of mushrooms and olives, not a bad fusion at all i would say. Even though Im more used to making and eating the classic version of lasagna, i still liked this desi version. Its always interesting to see how different cooks bring different flavors to the same dish.

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So treat your taste buds and try it out for yourself. Happy Eating!

Disclaimer: The personal views and opinion about the food are entirely my own and completely unbiased.

Chicken Teriyaki Noodles

There’s nothing like home-cooked food that’s easy to make and deliciously comforting too. These Teriyaki noodles fit the bill perfectly.

Before you dive into this recipe, you might want to know that the base of this delicious recipe is a Japanese sauce. The Teriyaki Sauce! It’s basically a traditional Japanese cooking sauce that was originally used as a marinade for grilling or broiling fish and other meat. Recently this sauce has picked up popularity all over the world and is used as a flavor that brings magic to so many dishes. This sauce is pretty much made up of salty soya sauce, sugar and ginger, so when cooking with it be careful not to add too much additional salt. Although feel free to spike the spice level if that’s what you like.

teriyaki noodles

INGREDIENTS:

Boneless chicken, julienned/bite size strips – 200 grams, roughly 1 cup

(for the marinade)

Soya sauce – 1/2 tsp

Red chili flakes – 1/2 tsp

Ginger, freshly grated – 1/4 tsp

Egg Noodles – 100 gms (half pack)

Teriyaki sauce – 2 tblsp

Soya sauce – 1 tsp

Brown sugar – 1 tsp

Chicken stock – ½ cup

Crushed black pepper – ½ tsp

Red chili flakes – ½ tsp

Cornflour – 1 tsp

Oil – 4 tblsp

Garlic, finely chopped – 4 cloves

Sesame seeds – 1 tsp

Carrots – 1 medium, julienned

Mushrooms – ¼ cup

Green chillies – 2, slit into 2

Spring onions, chopped 1 inch long  – 2 stalks

Lemon juice – 1-2 tblsp

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Marinate the chicken with soya sauce, red chilli flakes and grated ginger for 30-60 mins.
  2. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan, and cook the chicken until tender. Do not overcook or the chicken will turn out too dry.
  3. Now in a small bowl, mix together Teriyaki sauce, soya sauce, brown sugar, red chili, black pepper and chicken stock (or plain water). Set aside.
  4. Boil the egg noodles in salted water as per the directions on the pack.
  5. Next, heat up a wok. Add 4 tblsp oil and garlic and saute until fragnant.
  6. Add the carrots, mushrooms and sesame seeds and stir fry for a minute.
  7. Add in the green chillies and spring onions. Toss to heat them up.
  8. Now add the prepared sauce mixture and mix to combine with the veggies.
  9. Dissolve cornflour in a little amount of water and slowly add to the sauce mix. Once it starts thickening up, toss in the chicken strips and boiled noodles.
  10. To finish it up add fresh lemon juice for that extra zing. Mix it well and dish up.

Top Tip: Your most important utensil in the kitchen is a spoon. Always taste while you cook at every step so you can adjust the taste perfectly as per your liking.

Begin Again

Believe

Hey, don’t get the wrong idea! Im not quitting. Not even close. Neither is this a starting over point. This for me is just the moment where i stop, close my eyes and take a deep breath and reevaluate. Lately, a lot has been happening behind the scenes here at my end. My brain is crammed with ideas and the adrenaline rush is ever so high.

Focusing on the blog today let me tell you whats going on. Over the past year, with my freelance design job and entrepreneurial adventures, the blog usually took a back seat. That is just not what i had in mind when i initially started blogging. But i also didn’t want to take it as a burden, like something i have to do. After the first post i actually kinda fell in love with this blogging world and writing is of course my favorite part. So, why did i start blogging exactly? Yup, its already that time.. The time to really think about why i started and where do i wanna go. The good news is i think i do know. And knowing that…knowing what i want is truly motivating. Everything seems to fall into place when you know where you’re headed, even though the future is always uncertain.

I created ‘Coffee & Zest’ in 2013 with a whole lot of passion and excitement and the intention was to share my love for food with the world. This blog was my space to express, share and speak out. I started off by sharing tried and tested recipes which has been quite fulfilling so far, but i want more. I want to do more. Express more. I know i can do that best through writing, and if you ever meet me in person you would totally agree with that too. so now i want this digital space of mine to truly reflect who i am and where I’m going. I will still be sharing the much loved recipes along with a bit more of my life and make you see the world through my eyes or rather my food. Hopefully from now on if you happen to drop by my blog you will notice more interesting posts that i would love to get some feedback on :)

At the end of the day its all about the balance. I desperately need this balance in my life right now while focusing on doing what i love most. I love creating, designing, baking and writing. I need this ALL in my life but i know, i know…i have to set my priorities straight. C’est la Vie.

Besides the changes in my blogging journey, I am also making some changes in my professional life. As a freelance communication/graphic designer, I have decide to re-establish myself. Going forward i want to be more focused as a designer too and i believe i have found just the right design niche for myself. You can get to know more about that part of me here.

So Im all excited. I know what I’m doing or at least i think i do. *fingers crossed*

My motto for life: Do What You Love!

See ya around!

COOK WITH US: A recipe and heaps of inspiration

I love watching Masterchef Australia. It’s intense, it’s entertaining and the best part is that you get to learn so much from it. For me it’s a lot more than just a cooking competition show. Honestly, when its airing I am completely hooked to it and this is where i get most of my inspiration from. It enhances and takes my love of food to the next level. I can go on and on, all praises for this mouthwatering fascinating show, but lets get to the point quickly. I recently found George and Gary’s cookbook “Cook With Us” in a local bookstore and instantly grabbed it of course. (FYI, this is their second cookbook together) I simple adore these guys, so you can well imagine my excitement. The three hosts, George, Gary and Matt seem like the most wonderful people on-screen, who know exactly what they are doing. And ain’t George just hilarious?! So, being an avid MasterChef Australia fan, while i was reading the introduction of their cookbook, I could actually hear their voices in my head (and no, trust me not creepy at all) just simply heart warming. It’s like having a good conversation with them. And that surely is a treat. I’ve been indulging into their cookbook obsessively over the past week, and I thought i should share this love for food and flavors with all the other cooking enthusiasts out there. There’s tons of good cooking advice in here, which is just what any novice cook needs. What i love and appreciate most is that the recipes are true to them – If you have been following the show all seasons you get to know these people well, so even by just reading the recipe I can tell whose it is. That i believe is the most amazing thing about cooking and food; It reflects your personality and who you are. cb8   cb1 cb4 Oh and the photos in this cookbook are equally enticing with a simplistic theme. No clutter, no extra props, just simple, delicious looking food. Definitely makes you go WOW! There are a few recipes in here that I’m particularly excited to try. But today I’m going to share the very first recipe i’ve tried from their book. It’s simple yet delicious and doesn’t require laborious hours in the kitchen. It’s Gary’s Tahini & Yoghurt Dressing. It can be served with fish, chicken or as a salad dressing (or just about anything you may like).

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TAHINI AND YOGHURT DRESSING

[Makes about 250ml]

INGREDIENTS:

– 200g Greek yoghurt

– 1/4 cup tahini

– finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

– 1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped

salt, to taste

– 1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

1. Drain yoghurt in a fine mesh sieve lined with muslin cloth. leaveto drain over a bowl for about 4 hours in the fridge. (I used regular yoghurt that we get here and drained it in a muslin until it stopped dripping – about 30-45 mins). Set the liquid (whey) aside in case you want to thin the dressing later.

2. place this thick yoghurt in a bowl, mix in the tahini, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and olive oil. mix all together until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if required.

3. It’s ready to serve. You can store leftover dressing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. I served this with grilled chicken skewers…more like a dip than a dressing. mc1 Cooking Tip: Recipes aren’t set in stone, they’re only guidelines. – George Calombaris

Gimme a break!

Some days are so out of control, you just feel like you are drowning and this is it, the worst in you is here to stay and survival seems doubtful. That’s when I’m absolutely convinced that i need therapy. But you know what, besides baking I think retail therapy would do just fine. Although I’m convinced that I pretty much qualify as a bakeaholic, but I’m not really a shopaholic. But once in a while bingeing is totally fine with me. That’s what momma’s do to stay healthy and sane – trust me, it works.

Here’s my top 5 purchases from the year 2014:

1. These little mini tart pans were love at first sight. They are my favorite pans to use when I’m taste testing pie crusts and cakes.

mini tart pans

2. These 6 double sided cookie cutters are the most versatile & helpful in the kitchen. I use these cutters for cookies, fondant, mini cakes and donuts.

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3. This Oven Thermometer is my MOST used tool in the kitchen. I’m a little obsessed with precision, so just cant do without this.

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4. Lately I had been experimenting with different bread dough and when i saw this baguette pan, I just had to buy it. Just looking at it makes me want to bake bread and of course also looks more professional.

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5. Last but not the least this Wilton Rolling Pin is definitely my top 5. Besides rolling fondant, i use it for pie crusts, puff pastry and cookies all the time. Psst..I’m not much of a fondant person, but if that’s what the kids want, then that’s what the kids get. Sucha good momma, right!

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What’s your most favorite and useful tool in the kitchen? would love to know :)

The madness of motherhood…and cake!

In the past 5 years since being a momma, I’ve faced many types of “ME” – there are faces of me that i didn’t even know existed. I think a lot of mothers would nod their heads in agreement with me saying that my kids bring out the best and worst in me. I guess that comes with the package. Can’t believe that over JUST 5 years, we have added smiles, tears, laughter and loads of memories ( and millions more to come) to my treasure. Well i will take that as my reward for all the sleepless nights and stressful days. Now, why not celebrate his 5th birthday and me surviving these 5 years of mommy-hood – a fun, scary, sweet and unpredictable roller coaster ride. Birthdays are of course just the right reason to celebrate and bake some cake.

That’s when i go into planning mode and trust me I go into planning mode a lot. As a mother at times it feels like I’m not doing enough, I’m not the best momma…of course I have my low moments often but honestly, as mothers we do a lot for our kids every single day, we take every chance we can to cheer them up…but I’m thinking i want to do something a little more that would light up his face on his day. What more could a mother want, right?!

So onto the birthday cake. I baked him one in hopes that he will love and remember it. These days he’s into super heroes, mimicking them and being them. So, it was a mini superhero themed birthday and the fun in it for me was baking the cake and doing the decorations myself. A lot of work but oh so satisfying and totally worth all the effort. My boy was ecstatic. He loved it all…well, except actually eating the cake. Sadly these kids no nothing about good food…hmph. Imagine, my boy doesn’t eat CAKE! Shocking.

birthday collage

Voila! It was my first attempt at fondant, which turned out pretty well. My boy totally digged the superhero theme. The cake was a moist chocolate cake with a layer of chocolate butter cream enveloping it. Plus the absolutely yum vanilla cupcakes with slightly coffee flavored vanilla frosting topped with OREO crumbs. Ahh, satisfying.

Pinterest Recipe Challenge #10

HOMEMADE DIGESTIVE BISCUITS

Yes, digestive biscuits! The humble, not-so-fancy biscuits. They are one of my must have ingredients for this no-bake cheesecake i absolutely love. Also its something mom likes to have with her tea every morning. We always have digestive biscuits in our grocery list. So wanting to impress mom i wanted to make our own homemade version of these biscuits. Luckily I found this recipe for digestive biscuits on a very interesting blog called the little loaf. Here is the pin from my board in case you wanna save it.

Followed the recipe exactly and it came out just amazing. Normally i wouldn’t use a word like amazing to describe some digestive biscuits, but this homemade version really surprised me. They were easy to make and fail proof. They are light, crisp and flavorful. Everyone loved them. Really!

homemade digestive biscuis

Makes 16 biscuits

INGREDIENTS:

100g oats

100g wholemeal/wholewheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g soft brown sugar

a pinch of salt

100g butter, cubed & slightly softened

1 – 1 1/2 tbsp milk

a handful of chopped almonds (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Blitz the oats to a fine powder in a food processor then mix in a large bowl with the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt.

2. Add the butter and mix until crumbly. Add the milk and mix to form a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and pop in fridge to firm up for about 15-20 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to around 3mm thickness. It can get crumbly so you’ll need to be very careful when rolling*. Cut out circles of about 6cm diameter – or whatever size you prefer. Decorate with a pattern of your choice if desired. Bake in the middle of your oven for about 12-15 minutes.

4. When lightly golden but not too brown, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

*rolling tip: it’s a whole lot easier to roll out the dough between 2 sheets of baking/wax paper and then transfer to baking sheet. 

My Verdict:

These are surely a winner. The subtle sweetness and buttery, nutty flavors makes them a treat to enjoy with a hot cuppa coffee.

homemade digestive biscuis