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Chronicles of Sam Q

By Sam Q

Dearest Diary,
At the moment I am not a happy camper. Make what you will from my previous comment, but...a happy camper I am not.

But, then again, the frisson of excitement, a sense of achievement, the aura of complacent serenity is something I would not trade for anything in the world for this time of the year.

I know Diary, I am sounding weird and difficult to comprehend, but this is all that you are getting out of me today. If you can figure me out by reading between the lines...well, kudos. If not, tough!

Diary, I am bored. And when I am bored, I cook with a vengeance. As Eid is quite around the corner, I thought; why not try out some new recipes for a trial run? So here are some of my culinary victories which turned out ooh-la-la!

Before I start writing them, let me explain something Diary. These are not the usual, traditional Eid recipes you would expect. I simply cannot bring myself to cook the usual 'pulao' and 'korma'. Food is, after all, just food. It is up to the cook to give it a unique flavour and appealing presentation, so whatever is served should not be judged by whether it is Eid food or Christmas food. It simply should be...GOOD FOOD.

Spicy Moroccan chickpeas
¼ cup olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups thinly sliced red onions
½ cup dried dates, sliced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1(3 inch) cinnamon stick
½ cup water
1½ tsp grated lemon rind
1½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cans of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 large tomatoes, chopped and drained
1 cup fresh coriander leaves
½ cup mint leaves
½ cup roasted almonds, coarsely chopped.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Swirl to coat. Add garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Remove garlic from pan. Reserve for later use.

Add onion and next six ingredients. Saute for some time or until onion turns light brown. Add half cup water, rind, juice, water, chickpeas and tomatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat, and let it simmer for 7 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Now add coriander and mint leaves and lastly almonds. Serve hot.

Wok fried prawns with chilli and lemon grass
For the sauce:
50ml oil
2 small shallots, sliced
2 whole dried chillies, soaked in warm water
1 whole fresh red chilli
1 stick lemongrass, sliced (white part only)
2 thumbs ginger, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp palm sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp tomato paste
For the garnish:
20ml oil
16 raw prawns, peeled
30g beans, cut in 1 inch size
1 red onion sliced
2 spring onions sliced lengthways
Pinch of salt
Handful coriander leaves

To make the sauce, heat oil. Add the shallots and stir for 3 minutes. Add the dried and red chillies. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the lemongrass, ginger, garlic and tomato paste. Cook for five minutes. Add salt and palm sugar. Take off from heat.

For the prawn garnish, heat oil in a pan, add the prawns, stir fry for 30 seconds. Add red onion and beans. Cook for 2 minutes. Add two tablespoons of the sauce and little water. Cook until prawns are ready. Turn off heat and add spring onions and coriander. Serve with steamed rice.

Honey glazed lamb
1 pomegranate
2tbsp clear honey
3tbsp vinegar
1tsp garam masala
½ tsp black pepper crushed
pinch of salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped
rind of one orange(only the top part)
800g boneless lamb cubed

Firstly take out the pomegranate seeds. Grind the seeds roughly in a blender or pestle and mortar. Add the honey, vinegar, garam masala, pepper, salt, garlic and orange rind. Mix well. Add the lamb cubes. Marinate overnight. Lastly add three tablespoons of oil to the meat, mix and put in a roasting pan in medium heat till soft and done.

Kung pao chicken
2tbsp sesame oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced
1 pound boneless chicken, cubed
¾ cup water
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp brown sugar
½ tsp minced ginger
1 to 1½ tsp crushed red pepper

1 cup thinly sliced bell pepper
2 tbsp chopped dry roasted peanuts

Heat sesame oil preferably in a wok. Add onion, soften for 3 minutes. Add garlic. Saute 30 seconds. Add chicken and sauté till light brown.

Combine ¾ cup water and the next 5 ingredients, stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Add bell pepper and stir for 2 minutes till sauce thickens. Turn off heat and sprinkle with nuts. Serve hot.

Now that I am done with my cooking, I am thinking about the decoration and entertainment for the pre Eid party. I have some random ideas which I am going to shoot off my head. See whether it works for you or not.

#1. A mehendi night for friends and family. The decoration can spill over into Eid day.
#2. Sparkling fairy lights
#3. Glitzy table cloth (a mute gold or ivory colour preferred)
#4. If dinner is served buffet style, a separate dessert table is a good idea. An Eid cake is a must.
#5. Islamic music in the background. Remember the iconic song...romjaner oi rojar sheshe elo khushir Eid...
#6. Wrapped presents if you are exchanging gifts in a separate area, piled in an eye-catching way.
#7. Presents can be wrapped in simple brown paper or old newspapers with green ribbons. Why green? Because green is the chosen colour of Islam.

Dining table decoration
One of the easiest way to liven up your party is to decorate the dining table. A solid colour table cloth, contrasting table mats and runners, along with table acccessories will definitely set your mood for any occasion. It is then up to you and your personal style and taste to make the dining area attractive.

I prefer to keep my serving plates and bowls mostly white and glasses in clear crystals. It helps the colour of the table cloth and mats to show up to their true potentials. I also like bold patterns on my crockery. Then I sober down on my fabrics. It always has to complement each other. We cannot have multi-coloured dishes sitting on riotous colours of Hawaiian flowers. Or at the same time, white plates on ivory table cloth. It would be so...blah.

Centre pieces are the fun part. I love playing around with different ideas for the centre of attraction. Of course, flowers and candles are the most obvious choices and they work the best, but there are other choices too. I love fancy fruit decorations. Adding marbles, blingy baubles, faux petals, diamonte and smooth pebbles are all great choices to enhance the centre part of the table.

My centrepieces also depend on the theme or the menu.

If I am serving tea, my decor is mainly flowery and feminine. I have some chipped English bone china mugs which I refuse to throw away. Instead I have planted some spider plants in them and display them as centre pieces along with candles burning brightly in their midst.

I often use my cake plates to create a high and low effect for the centre decor. Maybe on the cake plate which is on a pedestal, I will put a flower vase with fresh flowers and on the cake plate which is low I will put some assorted candles. Then on another third cake plate of a slightly different height I might put just a healthy green plant. Then I will move it around and maybe add some clip-on butterflies or decorative birds to give it greater effect. Just play around with your aesthetic sense. Most probably you will surprise yourself.

I often pick up table accessories while I am travelling. Even in Dhaka, in an Archie's gift shop I picked up 12 green apples which are actually candles. Already racking my brains how and when to use it.

So guys have a fun Eid, we deserve it.
I know I will.
Have a good day the Sam Q way!

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


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