Friday, February 26, 2016


A lot of us avoid cooking certain cuisines because a lot of them have many excellent classic dishes that require a rather large number of ingredients.  As a result of this reluctancy, many go with the option of buying premade sauces to add to a protein or vegetables.

One cuisine that seems to strike fear in a lot of hearts, as it did with me for many years, is Indian cuisine.  I LOVE Indian food!  I have been around it for just over 20 years.  When I was a kid, I would not go anywhere near even tasting it.

Every now and then when I was a little Nairby, my mom would order Chinese takeout, and one of the things she would order for herself was a chicken curry.  My brother and I would want nothing to to with it.  We were fine with the typical fried rice, chicken balls and egg rolls, thank you very much.  It wasn't until I was 16 years old when I finally gave curry a shot as my mother insisted it tasted great.  And it did.  And it was simply a premade frozen chicken curry but I loved it and wanted it more and more.

Gift arrived in the mail for Chef Nairby!

Fast forward many moons and I started working for a South Asian television company.  The sight and smells of Indian food was everywhere, and I loved it!  The co-owner of the company would always bring me Indian food that she made at home.  I thought the premade frozen stuff was great, but Indian food cooked the proper way?  No comparison!

But as much as I loved and still love Indian food, I was always hesitant to make it outside of maybe buying a jar or premade Butter Chicken sauce and dumping it on top of some cooked chicken breasts.  I was content, but nowhere near satisfied after experiencing the real thing.  But I knew enough to know that the world of REAL Indian cuisine was not for anyone who liked cooking simply as a hobby.  The amount of spices alone that go into a classic Indian dish like Butter Chicken is enough to make most anyone settle for what they can buy in a jar at their local grocery store.

Ingredients for Chef Monir's Butter Chicken

After I had finally spent a good amount of time improving my culinary skills, I decided it was time to upgrade and enter the danger zone.  My mother works for a well known Indian Chef in Glasgow, Scotland.  Chef Monir Mohammed.

Chef Monir had released his own cookbook filled with life stories and recipes.  "Mother India At Home".  My mother talked to Chef Monir and he was kind enough to send me a copy of his book last year.  There was no turning back now.  A free copy of his life story and amazing dishes, and signed to boot.  The first thing I looked for was Butter Chicken.  I saw the list of ingredients that went into Chef Monir's dish and I was not deterred.  It was time to step my game up!

The journey is worth the destination!

I followed the instructions word for word.  I quickly got into a groove as I measured out the proper amount of each spice I needed and put them into their own separate little muffin cups.  When all spices were measured, all veggies were chopped and all pots and pans were ready to go, it began.

Slowly, my house started smelling freaking amazing!  Once again, it became just as much about the journey as it was about the destination.  I waited with excitement as 5 minutes passed and it was time to add the next spice!  I stirred as required and waited.  Ten minutes later and it was time to add the tomatoes!  The aroma in my house was intoxicating!  Everything was coming along beautifully.  It was like watching the birth of something amazing from beginning to end.

Premade has nothing on the real thing!

Chef Monir's Butter Chicken did not turn me off of exploring Indian cuisine, it turned me on!  As a wannabe Chef, there is nothing like creating a dish the way it was meant to be made.  Sure it is more time consuming than going with the premade stuff in a jar, but if you just give it a chance, you may realize that you have more time to create than you thought you did.

I have since used Chef Monir's "Mother India At Home" cookbook so much that it is not as pretty looking as it once was, but I was fortunate enough to have him send me a second copy!

Creating great food trumps missing out on the next episode of your favorite TV show any day.  Don't be afraid to try new things because you are intimidated by the amount of work involved or because you think you don't have time.  Time is best used being productive.  Being productive with your time creates memories.  More than spending hours watching television or playing video games will ever create.  Use your time to invest in the unknown.  There is nothing to fear.

You can't get this from a jar!

Happy cooking, and have no fear!

Chef Nairby

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