Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mahek of a Lot Better Than the Indian Food I've Been Eating Lately

Okay, when East Indian friends of yours choose a particular Indian restaurant for their wedding dinner reception, you know that things look good for it to be a blog-worthy spot and a very good meal...  

Mahek Restaurant (9470 - 120th St., just before 95th Ave, near the Royal Bank, Surrey, 604-585-3331 or 604-585-3332) did a great job of handling the festive group dinner, with no shortage of fantastic food and geniality. My friend, Curry Chicken Man, had his wedding on a snowy December day, and it was already a good food day with the morning tea offerings and the vegetarian lunch at the temple before and after the ceremony. 

At dinner, we had appetizers of crispy and tasty pakoras, samosas, and a sort of salad like dish of crispy bits, chickpeas, yoghurt and chutney called chatt. We then moved onto an appetizer of cilantro tikka chicken which looks a bit unusual at first because of the bright green colour (I thought it was chunks of avocado at first sight), but it was delicious, served on sizzling platters with onions and peppers. We also had a fantastic lamb curry and butter chicken, rice, naan, and raita. I finished off with a nice cup of their chai.  All of it was fabulous and we stuffed ourselves silly.

The room is warm, and inviting. The staff were fantastic, and even wrapped up the leftovers for the wedding guests (yup, you betcha, Ginger Beer Man and I scored a big bag of leftovers, hee hee). The restaurant is a bit out of my way, but I'd happily make the trek out to eat there again, and I'm sure it will be a much faster drive on roads that aren't snow-covered. Beware though, it's on a road with two other Indian restaurants that also start with the letter M, so look carefully for it. It's a nice enough spot for a special date or a celebration dinner, but seems very homey and family-oriented too, with reasonable prices.  Looks like they are open seven days a week for both lunch and dinner and even the time in between.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gouuuulash Weather

Apologies to my dear Nancylanders - I haven't blogged in ages.  And to be honest, this winter season, I've spent a lot more time cooking at home or eating other people's home cooking than I have going out to new restaurants.  But I pledge to blog more this New Year.  Even if my eating habits have changed, you can be sure that I am still eating, hehehe.

I love the fog that has descended upon mysterious. Though I was happy enough to get out of the fog briefly this past weekend at Salt Spring Island, and I will post about the good eating I did there soon.  For now, here is the recipe for the goulash that I like to make in the winter.  I often say that I make it so that I can say the word goulash more...  It's simply a meat stew (in my case, more of a soup), that can be traced back to nineteenth century Hungary, and was also loved by Austrians, and there are many different versions.  At it's simplest, it was meat and broth, made by farmers, and placed in a bag made of an animal's stomach, and cooked down until all the liquid was gone.  It could be eaten dried or water could be added to turn it back into a stew.  I omit the traditional animal stomach container in my recipe, but I do use both Hungarian paprika and caraway seeds that traditionally season the stew either individually or in combination.  

This recipe is based on the one in The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, with my modifications:

a few tablespoons of flour to lightly coat beef
about 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1.5 cups of chopped onions
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 green pepper, roughly chopped
a cup of roughly chopped mushrooms
1 large garlic clove
6 cups of water (or more, to completely submerge meat and veggies)
2 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (I prefer a chuck roast)
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
3 teaspooons salt
1/4 teaspoon caraway seed (I like more)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I use more)
1 or 2 bay leaves
1.5 pounds of potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch cubes (I don't bother peeling)
1 cup of carrots, chopped (or those pre-cut ones)
1 16-ounce can of whole tomatoes

1.  Coat the beef cubes in a light dusting of flour.  In a large soup pot, preferably not a non-stick one, brown the beef cubes on all sides (in small batches if necessary) by searing on high heat in oil.  Set aside beef.

2.  Cook onions, celery green pepper, and garlic in the same pot until onion is soft on medium low heat (about 10 minutes), stirring up all the little bits of browned meat stuck from browning the beef.

3.  Add water, beef, paprika, salt, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and caraway seed.  Heat to boiling.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 1.5 hours or just until meat is fork-tender.

4.  Add potatoes and carrots, cover and cook 10 minutes longer or until both are tender.

5.  Drain liquid from can of tomatoes and add to soup.  With a small knife, coarsely chop tomatoes and stir into soup just a few minutes before serving soup (keeps its tangy fresh flavour when added at the last minute).

6.  Cook until soup is just heated through.  Makes 10-12  servings.  Takes about 2.5 hours to make.

Serve it with nice chunks of toasted bread, and you have yourself a good hearty meal for a cold winter day.