The Cycle of Desi Pasta

It’s not just food, it’s a way of life….literally.

Remember that time when you visited an Italian restaurant that just opened new in town? Did you all of a sudden find yourself to be a ‘connoisseur’ of this very elegant dish, falling in love with every bite, endeavoring to get every bit of creaminess stuffed inside each pasta. The pasta itself cloaked in fresh tomato sauce, and perfectly balanced basil sauce. And that smell, that made you feel like Marco polo himself came to serve you this dish ..… *Sigh*

Only did you know that this dish will make its warm place in the cabinets of every Desi’s kitchen. With 2 table spoons of Desi, one tea spoon of Chatkhara and a whole a lot of Awesomeness, it now has the pleasure to be altered in more ways than ever imagined,
For all the pasta lovers out there, you must have tried these dishes below.


While you looked at the mirror all day long and complained about your recent weight gain, we all know none of that matters anymore when its past twelve. All you need to worry about right now is that if there is any of that left-over curry from dinner that you could use as sauce for your pasta. HEAVENLY! I mean, it’s okay because you promise you’ll start dieting from tomorrow… definitely



You add the first thing that you get your hands on in the collection of your kitchen’s “Masala Cabinet”. You’re really proud to apply things that you overheard on one of the episodes of Master Chef Australia, such as “A hint of acidity in the dish realy brings out the flavor”. To top it off, you’ve sprinked chat masala on top. When you plate up your dish you feel like you just won the Master chef competition 2014.


So some of your friends are over for Dinner, and have they tried your Famous Penne Pasta? Yes, I know its amazing. You’re out of words? Well some would say its like bits of heaven in your mouth.



Specially during Exam times. Everyone knows that the rate of you chewing food is directly propotional to the intake of knowledge, …… of course.



Now lets end this on a ‘Sweet note’, shall we?
A reticunni pasta salad with well cut combination of fruits and a topping of Mayonaisse. Something worth trying!


Appreciating an Idea Whose Time Has Come


I’m an unapologetic foodie and I take great pride in being born a Pakistani because everywhere I go in this country I can always find people to share my passion for food with. When it comes to food I crave variety, which is why trying new things and eating out are regular past times, the only obstacles being the inconvenience of going out at whim and the shrinking finances. So, if you take someone like me and introduce them to virtual festivals by foodpanda it is like an idea that couldn’t have come any sooner.

Credits: foodpanda Facebook
Credits: foodpanda Facebook

These festivals show that things have really moved forward in this digital age. Who would have thought that we’d be having online food festivals offering both good food and good prices? It’s actually an ingenious idea taking foodpanda’s competitive advantage even further. One significant aspect of this festival, and one of the reasons the food outlets have probably jumped at the idea, is that even if someone wasn’t thinking of ordering out, the big discounts worked as a huge motivation to participate, regardless. I don’t believe something like this has been done before in Pakistan. Food festivals had been generally well received when the idea came out a few years back, but naturally going to an actual food festival requires you to put in quite a lot of time and effort to get to the food compared to a participation  from home with your mobile or computer.

My Honest Opinion:

Digital is the way to go in most cases and it shouldn’t come as surprise if competitors looking at the potential of this idea  come up with festivals of their own to outdo these festivals foodpanda have managed to pull off. Like I mentioned above, it’s almost a win-win situation where the discounts have the ability to convince a huge part of your target audience. I as a university student, living in hostel, who hasn’t warmed up to the idea of ordering online, jumped at discovering these offers. These festivals, no doubt  provide companies with publicity and business however, it multiplies chances of customer retention and forming new customer base. Since this concept of food festivals is relatively new there is more we can anticipate in future. For example a burger festival or a desert festival etc.

My recommendation:

  • The only thing I would change would be increasing the emphasis on marketing these festivals. Announce the date for these festivals at least a week in advance and then create a social media campaign. This campaign would consist of content that would go viral getting more and more people interested not only in the campaign but in foodpanda itself sort of like a simultaneous PR campaign. In short, foodpanda can use these festivals to increase consumer numbers.
  • Another addition to these festivals could be short online quizzes and trivia leading up to the festival date offering winners free meals at the festival, this way there is even more building up of interest and hype for these festivals.
Credits: foodpanda Facebook
Credits: foodpanda Facebook

These festivals are a unique idea with a lot of potential. Observing the response and gaining more consumer insight can help foodpanda decide the kind of festivals it wants to conduct and how they can get maximum audience involvement for their benefit. It’s definitely a pretty good deal.

For the love of food…

With so much talent in Pakistan, it’s no wonder so many new businesses are springing up every day. From fashion to computer science, to food – it seems that every industry has got a budding new name to boast, with motivated youths giving it their all to make it in the business world. I’ll be talking about some of these businesses and how I think they’re enabling the youth to step up and take charge in changing Pakistan. One of these up-and-comers that I personally enjoy is foodpanda, an-order-food-right-from-your-smartphone app. I’m not going to elaborate on how awesome that is, because it’s pretty obvious. Here’s a fun survey of what people are eating in Pakistan.

Other fun facts to keep in mind are that foodpanda has already received over 15,000 food orders in the first quarter of this year, and that they’re playing a huge part in the ‘Mobile First’ business trend that’s emerging in the developing world.

How do you think innovative business upstarts affect the economy and the daily lives of citizens, either in Pakistan or other countries? Have you heard of a new business that you’d like to share?

5 #Eid ul Adha Treats, with a #recipe! (#Muslim #food #love #happiness)

Eid ul Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, is an annual holiday that Muslims celebrate. It teaches us not only of the joy of giving, but of the strength required for sacrifice, and makes us aware of how much we have to be truly grateful for in this world. When you start to think of how hard it would be for you to sacrifice the things you love, you realize just how much you have been blessed with.

In the spirit of this lovely holiday, I have compiled a list of five of the most popular Eid ul Adha dishes in my house. Keep in mind that this list is not vegetarian-friendly. (Sorry, folks, but since this Eid has a lot to do with giving away meat to your friends, family and the needy, veggies don’t rate high on the menu!)

For more information on Eid ul Adha, please read this and this and to understand how Eid teaches all of us to reinvent ourselves and grow in the face of all challenges, please read this.

And without further ado, here we go!

1. Mutton Biryani

mutton biryani

2. Bihari Kabab


3. Grilled Chops


4. Pepper Steak

Grilled Pepper Steak

5. Steak Quesadilla 



½ lb sirloin steak 
1 green pepper (diced) 
1 onion (chopped) 
1 garlic clove (minced) 
1 tablespoon cilantro (minced) 
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary(crushed) 
4 (6 inch) flour tortillas 
1 tomato (diced) 
¼ cup fresh slIced mushrooms
1 ½ cups Mozzarella cheese 
Oil (for cooking)

Step 1: Put steak on the grill and cook until the steak is well cooked. Remember, you don’t want any pink left in there! Remove from grill and allow the steak to cool a little. Slice steak into thin strips. 

Step 2: Add a tiny bit of oil to a large pan. Sauté the peppers, onion, garlic and mushrooms until tender. Sprinkle top of the vegetables with cilantro and rosemary. 

Step 3: Place 1 tortilla onto the bottom of the pan. Lay out a layer of cheese a layer of cheese (about ¼ cup), then about half of the sliced steak. Then with a slotted spoon add a layer of the pepper mixture. Top with tomatoes and another layer of cheese. Add another tortilla on top. When the bottom tortilla is lightly browned and cheese has started to melt, flip and cook on the opposite side. Cut into wedges and serve.

Which of these dishes are your favorite? What foods do you most enjoy eating on special occasions?

Wishing you all the very best Eid,


How to Impress the Aunties

I was born into one of those blessed homes where the lady of the house (a.k.a. my mommy) is a power-machine, cooking, cleaning, sewing, painting, and all those other lovely things a perfect woman is supposed to do. Now the down side of growing up a-midst bundles of delicious food, custom-made Eid clothes,  and an active, bustling family, is that everyone expects you to be a product of that household. Which may be reasonable, but it’s a little difficult when you’ve got a standard to live up to that’s as high as the clouds.

So when the aunties come over – the family friends, the friends of friends, the neighbors, the aging socialites of yesteryear – they ask in that coy little tone, “What has Zaynab baiti made for us today?” Don’t let the smiles fool you. They’re not being friendly.

You see, inside each auntie is a 20x zoom lens, better than any Canon has every made. The reason your lovely auntie wears foundation is to cover all her cyber-machinery and the lipsticked lips always smile at you so the camera can zoom straight at you. And it X-rays you, and then the dining table/tea trolley, before zooming back to you. And God forbid you have not cooked anything! You can see their optical zoom click-clicking as the words come out of her mouth, “Achaaa, you only set the table!” You fake a smile, trying to look cute, maybe even a little innocent.

To stay socially correct, the auntie must now supply an excuse. Thus the excuses start, and if she’s clever, she’ll roll it into a conversation with your mother, thus sidelining you completely. All this while simultaneously filing away your failure in her head. “Aaj kal to you know, the children are so busy with all their studies. My little one, he’s always running around. Mama I have to do this, I have to do that. I just say okay, okay. I let them do what they want.” [insert the emphatic accent here] “It’s alright beta, there’ll be plenty of time in the kitchen after you get married.” Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle.

And thus, I am here! To teach you how to whip up a fun little dessert that’ll blow their minds, excuse my French. Let the fun begin!

Banana Cream Bites


  • 8 slices of your favorite sponge cake. I would recommend one that’s vanilla flavored. Pound cake works too.
  • 3 bananas
  • 1.5 packets of cream
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar (brown sugar tastes lovely!)


  1. Slice up the bananas into medium-thin slices. Keep in mind that you want them to look nice. You’ll be stacking them up against each other, so easy with the knife. You want them to be firm and stackable, not mushy. I messed up, and so mine are mushy in the pictures above.
  2. Toss the sliced bananas in a pot with all the cream and put it on medium heat. You want the cream to slowly melt. Try to stir as little as possible.
  3. Start pouring in the sugar, and start stirring while you do this, being careful not to break the banana slices. See why I was telling you to keep em nice and firm?
  4. When the cream thickens, take the pot off heat, and put it to the side.
  5. Slide up the sponge cake. Place all the slices in an over dish.
  6. Carefully layer the banana-cream mix onto each slice. Seee, this is why the bananas should be pretty!
  7. Sprinkle a little sugar over the top, about 2-3 pinches, and pop em into the oven at 220 degrees for 12 minutes. MAKE SURE YOU PRE-HEAT THE OVEN! I always forget to do that.

You’re done! Serve the bites with a dollop of your favorite ice cream on the side. I love vanilla ice cream, and you might too!

Ratatouille Rumble

It had been month’s since I had promised one of our closest family friends a full Zainab-cooked meal. Somehow or the other, I always had exams coming up. What could I do? The semester system was what it was. So as soon as I got a few days away from my books, my mother coerced me into preparing the afore-mentioned meal. Among the dishes I prepared, the one I always have the most fun making, and the one I always look forward to eating, was the ratatouille. Now, the way I make it is probably different from the way most people would. In fact, I think that many an Frenchman may even object to it being called ratatouille. Nevertheless, whatever you make like to call it, it is delicious, vegetarian, and easy to whip up.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 large onion, chopped into tiny tiny bits
10 cloves garlic, sliced/diced – I know this may seem like a lot, but believe me, it is worth it!
1 large or 2 medium eggplants, diced
3 medium tomatoes, chopped into relatively large chunks
2 medium zucchini, diced into large chunks
1 tsp of each of the following: oregano, terragon, cilantro and parsley (dried, of course)
1 tsp each of salt and pepper
1 can of corn (the usual can you get at the superstore – Malee, American Garden, whatever)
optional: boneless chicken chunks
1 1/2 pack egg noodles

Here’s what you do:

1) First off, if you’re going to be adding the boneless chicken chunks (for those of you who don’t want to go veggie) then you need to fry them separately in some vegetable oil for a few minutes, until they are a nice golden-brown color and set them aside.

2) Prepare the egg noodles. It’s very simple – nothing fancy. Take a big pot, fill it with water, sprinkle in 1 tsp of salt, and heat it until the water boils. (Scientific fact: salt lowers the boiling point of water) Then, when the water is boiling, add the noodles, and voila! They will soften almost instantly. Cook for 5/10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Then drain the noodles, and rinse them with cold water. (They are meant to be chilled.) Then run a little olive oil through them. 2 tbsp should be more than enough.

3) Now we come to the fun part. Heat up some oil in a large, deep and flat pot, toss in the chopped onions, and all the garlic (after you’ve peeled those pesky little papery shells off). Saute until tender.

4) Add the eggplants and tomatoes, and cover the pot for 15 minutes, allowing everything inside to get a nice cooking. What I like o do it put in the tomatoes first, and kind of layer the eggplant slices over, as if they’re shingles. This allows the tomatoes to get a nice, toasty taste, and let’s the heat slowly seep up to the eggplant, without burning anything.

5) Add the zucchini. At this point, you want to stir a little, just to bring the tomatoes up from the bottom of the pot. Close the pot again and let it sit on heat for another 15 minutes.

6) Remove from heat, and stir in the herbs. Save a tiny bit to sprinkle over the noodles.

7) Arrange it all in a plate so that it looks nice. Sprinkle corn over it all, and stir some into the noodles.

It should look something like this:


Running the Kitchen – Day 2 (Zucchini Corn Pancakes!)

So with mom gone for Umrah to Saudi Arabia, Dad expecting dinner ready at aftaar time, my brother hungry after a hard day at work, and a bunch of friends coming over, I had little time to relax and even less time to cook! I needed something simple, easy, and delicious. It had to filling enough to be the main course, and ‘cool’ enough so that my friends would attempt eating it. Here’s what I came up with.

Okay so this recipe makes about 15-20 pancakes, if you make them about 4-inches wide. If you want humongous pancakes, that’s up to you, but you will have to double the recipe.


4 large eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
3 cups grated zucchini (one large zucchini, usually)
1 cup sweet corn (my favorite is the one from Malee)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour


1) Get a bowl. Make sure it’s clean. Combine the eggs, oil, salt, pepper and dried herbs, and whisk. That means, take a fork and make circular motions in the mixture until your arm goes numb, or use one of those amazing blender machine thingies.

2) Add the zucchini, corn, and cheddar and flour, and a huge spoon and start mixing like there’s no tomorrow. The goal here is make it all one big gloopy mix, with no dry pockets of flour hiding here or there. If you’re lazy like me, you’ll just use the spinny blender thing again.

3) Heat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle to medium heat, adding a very small amount of oil to it. In desi language, this means a tawa with a little ghee. Using a scoop-type spoon, or an ince-cream scooper (I used a little measuring cup), or anything that can “scoop”, start taking some batter and pouring it onto the skillet. Like I said earlier, pour in quantities that make about a 4-inch wide pancake. You can flatten it out with the back of a spoon if it looks too round-ish.

4) Cook on each side about 3-4 minutes, until its nice and light brownish, and remove from the skillet. Serve warm, with whatever topping you’d like.

You can add meat to this recipe if you’d like, but it would have to be pre-cooked.

Running the Kitchen – Day 1 (Feisty Summer Pasta)

A few weeks ago, my mother decided to take a trip outside the country, for two weeks, and leave me in charge. I don’t have any younger siblings, so “in charge” might not mean what you’re thinking. Let’s be more specific – she left me in charge of the kitchen. In almost every Pakistani household, the men are served their food, and have little or no interest/input in how it magically appears before them. And so I faced my greatest challenge to date: preparing (good) food, everyday, on time, for 15 days.Now

Now I’m not one of those girls who struggles with frying a simple egg, or making boiled rice – but in no way am I a chef extraordinaire. Still, I decided to face my task head-on, and document it for my blog :)

Summer Pasta

I decided to get creative in the kitchen one day, and put together a feisty summery pasta.


1 lb. sausages
1 lb. pasta, cut into short strips
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 can mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp basil, dry
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp white pepper
28 oz. tomatoes, chopped
fresh parsley, chopped
grated Parmesan cheese
bread crumbs
red chilli powder


Cook pasta as directed on package. Usually this just means adding it to boiling water, with a pinch of salt, and stirring every now and then, so it doesn’t clump together.

Take each sausage and cut it into diagonal strips, and then pretend you’re dissecting each strip, and cut a straight line right through the entire length, stopping just before it separates into two pieces.  The point in to be able to stuff something into the little sausage piece. It should look like a hot dog bun – still in one piece, but with a slit in the middle.

Heat some veggie oil in a frying pan and toss in the onions, green pepper, and mushrooms. When the onions are all nice and golden-y looking (keep them soft – not crunchy and brown), add all the spices (oregano, basil, etc.) and wait until all of this comes to a boil.

Drain the water from the pasta, which should be cooked by now, and run cold water through it (using a large pasta strainer, or something similar) so that it cools down, and doesn’t clump.

Now mix 1 tbsp red chilli powder with 2 tsp cornflour, a tiny amount of water and stir it quickly, until it becomes a goopy orange paste. Spoon this paste into the slits you made in the sausages earlier. When all your little sausage pieces are chilli-ed up, fry them in piping hot oil, until they’re a delicious reddish-brown.

Now combine everything. Sausages + onion/mushroom/spice mixture + pasta. Toss it all around into a large bowl, or in individual servings, and top with a sprinkling of basil, Parmesan, and bread crumbs, to make it look pretty.

 Bon appetit! 
P.s. what would you make if you were left in charge of the kitchen?