Easy Party Nibbles: Chilli and Chive Peanuts

How many times has it happened to you that your friends pay you a visit at a very short notice, or no notice at all? If, yes then it is highly likely that you will be scampering around your kitchen, trying to make a quick bite for them to eat. All you need at that time is some sort of divine intervention. Chilli and chive peanuts will act as your savior for many long years ahead.

One evening I walked into my brother’s house, only to be greeted by the nutty aroma of roasted peanuts. It reminded me of the cold winter nights of London, when the street corners were full of hawkers, roasting peanuts and coating them with caramel. The nutty, sweet smell still lingers on today. This inviting aroma was very different to one on the streets of London, it was more pungent and strong. The fragrance led me to the kitchen, where I saw my sister in law create the most mouth-watering nibblets in under 5 minutes. The bright red chillis and moss green chives were beautifully set against the ochre background of the peanuts.

Cooking in Progress

With each bite I could taste the saltiness of the peanuts, the mild flavor of the chives and then suddenly a sensation ran down my palate; it was the fiery red chillis. Somehow, it did not overpower the rest of the flavors, in fact complemented them. This is not for those people who do not have an appetite for spice, because without the chillis there would be no zing.

Ingredients:

  • Salted peanuts
  • Bird’s eye chillis
  • Chives

Preparation:

  • Heat a frying pan and add the peanuts to it.
  • Roast the peanuts till they become a shade darker (Note: Stir the peanuts around so that the ones at the bottom of the pan do not burn)
  • Chop the chives and add them to the peanuts
  • Thinly slice the chillis and toss them in the pan
  • Stir for 2-3 minutes till the flavors come together (Note: Be careful not to burn the chillis, they should remain bright red in color)
  • Remove from the pan and serve

Chilli and Chive Peanuts

The aroma in the kitchen will be your signal to know that the peanuts are done. It is always best to have them when they are warm, the warmth enhances all the strong flavors.

Just as I am about to finish this blog, I get a message from my sister-in-law, saying she has added a twist to the recipe; chopped kaffir leaves.The tangy flavor of the kaffir leaves, infused with the spiciness of the chillis is making my mouth water.  That’s my cue, I think I need to head over to try it out.

Chilli and Chive Peanuts

Refreshing Summer Desserts:Mango and Vanilla-Honey Pie

Flora and fauna are in full bloom and their bright colors are the backdrop for the summer season. Fruit vendors are sprawled across the roads with their carts resembling an artist’s canvas; splashed with a plethora of colors. Fruits are the essence of summer; cooling you down when the sun is scorching above. The South Asians eager await the onset of summer as it brings the mango season with it.

This fleshy fruit has its roots in South Asia and still remains to be a popular fruit in the region, with its demand now spreading far and wide. I am not a mango fan, but the warm orange and bright yellow shades just enhance the beauty of any dessert or dinner table. You will find most mangoes in countries that have a warm, tropical climate, hence more than a third of the world’s mangoes are cultivated in India, Pakistan is considered the largest exporter of this fleshy fruit and the mango tree is Bangladesh’s national tree.

Mango Pie

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Mangoes
  • I pkt digestive biscuits or any of your choice
  • 1/2 slab of butter
  • 1 pkt whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp vanilla honey (optional)

Preparation:

  • In a food processor, blitz the biscuits till it becomes powdery. (Note: Make sure it is not too fine as it will take longer to set in the fridge)
  • Melt the butter and pour into the food processor till it mixes with the crushed biscuits. (Note: The mixture should be firm and not runny, be careful not to add too much butter)
  • Take a round cake pan and remove the bottom plate and place it on a cake tray. Press the biscuit mixture down onto the base with a spoon.
  • Refrigerate for about 15-20 minutes till the biscuit base is set.
  • While the base is cooling, whip the cream with an electric whisk till soft peaks form. Add some vanilla and vanilla honey to the cream.
  • Pour the cream on top of the biscuit base and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.
  • Cut the mangoes and place them on top of the pie once it is taken out of the fridge.
  • Detach the sides of the cake pan and your pie is ready to be served.

Mango Pie

Desserts made with mangoes are delectable, as their sweetness seeps into your palette and the fruit simply melts in your mouth. Most of the time, there is no need to add extra sugar to your desserts, as mangoes act as a natural sweetener. My mango dessert recipe is simple, yet will have all your family members pining for more.

Cinco De Mayo Fiesta: Celebrate with Spicy Beef Nachos, Enchiladas and Margaritas

Every day should be a celebration of food and drink, but there are some special days in the calendar which call for a revelry of food and drink. Cinco De Mayo is one of those special days when we get an excuse to indulge in and celebrate Mexican food. Falling on the 5th of May (literally translating into Cinco de Mayo), this day is filled with food, parades, fiestas and of course a lot of tequila. Historically, this day marks the Mexican’s army’s win over the French forces in Puebla, but it is considered to be a minor holiday in Mexico. Only in Puebla the essence of this holiday can be felt where there are military parades and festive events.

Cinco De Mayo Feast

However, its popularity has soared across the US and other nations when people come out in full force to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. Most Mexican areas are filled with revelers moving to the tunes of mariachi music, feasting on Mexican staples, beating the heat with chilled Margaritas and emulating Mexican folk dances. For the rest of us, it is a day to remove our chef’s hat, don a sombrero and enter the kitchen to cook up a Mexican storm, of course with a jug of Margarita in tow. Here are 3 of my Mexican favorites:

 

Spicy Beef and Cheese Nachos

Spicy beef topped with melted cheese and jalepenos is the ultimate Mexican snack. They are perfect to serve at Cinco de Mayo parties. The only downside, you will not be able to stop yourself from eating these fiery bites, and pretty soon you will just give in to temptation and lose count.

Spicy Beef and Cheese Nachos

Simply heat oil in a pan and cook the minced beef till it has turned brown. Add salt, red chillies, cumin powder, paprika and minced garlic and cook for 10 minutes. Once the meat is cooked, let it cool down. Layer the nachos in a baking tray, top with minced beef, chopped tomatoes, chopped jalepenos and finally with a generous dose of Monterey Jack cheese. Heat it in the oven just for a few minutes till the cheese melts. Serve immediately with salsa and sour cream or just simply have them on their own.

Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas

Enchiladas have been a staple in Mexican households since the Mayan times, when fresh fish caught from the lakes would be rolled up in corn tortillas. The essence of enchiladas is still the same but the recipes have evolved over time. Its aromatic yet subtle flavors make it a must have at any Mexican restaurant or even at home.

Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas

Lightly toast the corn tortillas in an oiled pan till they turn brown. Set aside till ready to use. Marinate slices of chicken in olive oil, chipotle powder (if unavailable use cayenne pepper and paprika) and salt for 20 minutes and then cook on a grill. Meanwhile, in a saucepan brown some chopped onions and garlic, then add salsa, red chilli flakes and chopped tomatoes. Cook till a chunky sauce is formed. Oil the base of a large casserole. Take each tortilla, fill it with shredded Monterey Jack cheese and chicken strips, roll them up and place in the casserole. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Once the casserole is filled, pour the tomato sauce all over the tortillas, completely submerging them. Cover with more shredded cheese and bake till the cheese melts. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, cilantro and iceberg lettuce.

Key Lime Margaritas

No Mexican celebration or dinner can be complete without tequila, which also is the name of the city that gave this distilled beverage from a blue agave plant its identity. In Mexico, tequila is had straight up, no lime no salt. But to keep our head in tact, Margarita would be a better option. For an authentic Margarita, it is best to use key limes as they have a more pungent and tart flavor, which goes perfectly well with a strong shot of tequila.

Key Lime Margarita

For a key lime margarita, all you need is 1.5 ounce tequila, dash of triple sec and juice of 1/2 a key lime. Mix it together and pour over crushed ice in a Margarita glass. Before pouring it in the glass make sure to rub the rim of the glass with lime and spin it in salt to cover the rim. A cold glass of margarita is sure to put you into the mood to some Mexican dancing on Mariachi music.

Happy Cinco De Mayo

This year Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday; an even better excuse to celebrate it in true Mexican style. Spice up your weekend with some fiery Mexican cuisine, tequila and a whole load of Mexican fun.

Middle-Eastern Tapas: Hummus and Black Olive Tartines with Fresh Arugula

How many times has it happened when guests ring your doorbell unexpectedly or your spouse calls you at 7pm saying he has invited people over for cocktails at 8pm? If you are one of those that this happens to regularly, then you will definitely enjoy this recipe. Its quick, easy and has an exotic flair to it too. I have found myself in dire straits quite a few times when entertaining at short notices. Firstly, you are short on time and as a result your mind somehow stops working. You just cannot think of what to make and buying from stores or bakeries just seems impersonal. Just like writers block, I sometimes go into what could be described as a “cook’s block’, where I cant even remember the recipes i have cooked the most too. And honestly, it is the worst position to be in, especially when you can hear the clock ticking in the background.

Middle-Eastern Tapas:Hummus and Black Olive Tartines with Fresh Arugula

When having guests over for cocktails or hi-tea, it is usually better to make bite sized tapas or hors d’ouevres that can be eaten by hand or in a small plate. And to make life simpler for yourself, its always better to serve something that can be prepped either in advance or at the last minute without getting your clothes dirty. This recipe is one of my favorites, it gets made in no time and tastes great. Essentially, tartines are French open faced sandwiches with a rich spread. Hence following the same concept, I used a nutty Mediterranean bread with olives and sundried tomatoes and topped it with Middle Eastern ingredients. Drizzled with a splash of chili oil, this makes an explosive dish to serve at your party.

Middle-Eastern Tapas:Hummus and Black Olive Tartines with Fresh Arugula

[yumprint-recipe id='1'] If the hummus is prepared in advance, leave it out for a while so that it is room temperature when served. Just prepare all the ingredients in advance and prep ten minutes or so before your guests arrive. This will prevent the bread from getting soggy. The crunch of the toasted bread and the fresh arugula heightens the bold flavors of this small appetizer. The earthiness of the hummus fuses well with the piquant chili oil and the strong black olives. It embodies the taste of the Levant in a few small bites.

Middle-Eastern Tapas:Hummus and Black Olive Tartines with Fresh Arugula