Thursday, April 14, 2016


Spring is here!  And with Spring, comes nice weather.  With nice weather, comes spending more time outside.  And with spending more time outside, comes that unmistakable scent in the air that you can smell coming from backyards and balconies of apartment buildings.  The scent of barbecue season!

Ingredients for Chef Nairby's Cheesy Vegetable Medley

That smell, of course, comes from the meats being fired on the grill.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, steaks, chicken, pork, ribs and so on.  But one mainstay of the typical barbecue that is often overlooked when we think of that time of the year are the salads.

When I was growing up, every barbecue had three 'default' salads: coleslaw, macaroni salad and potato salad.  Almost always bought from a grocery store.  But sometimes you would have someone who would also make a great big batch of something homemade.  Usually a tuna and macaroni salad.

Cheese Sauce!

While I liked and grabbed a portion of the grocery store default salads, I would always favor the homemade batch.  Homemade salads for the barbecue have always had their own unique flavor to them, and because there was always a lot more available compared to the store-bought salads, I would always eat more of the homemade stuff.  But as good as the homemade salad tasted, it never seemed to measure up in flavor when compared to the salads from the grocery store.  And the reason is simple.

For lack of a better term, people half-assed their homemade salad.  In the case of the barbecues I always went to, the homemade salad was always tuna macaroni.  And it was always the same.  A bunch of eggshell macaroni mixed with tuna, mayonnaise and onions.

Love the colors!

I can't help but think that the reason people did the minimum with their homemade salads was because they figured that they were more of a garnish for the protein than anything else.  Like the parsley on a plate that is only added to give a dish some color.

Cheese sauce added.  One more step to go before oven-ing!
Top with more cheese!  Who doesn't love cheese!

Out of the oven!!!

I say screw that!  If you are going to make a homemade salad to bring to a barbecue, why not give the protein some competition?  When you think about it, the flavor of the protein at a barbecue depends on what it is marinated with, and because of that, a lot of the proteins taste the same every time and every year.  If you really want to make a memory, try having everybody at the barbecue wondering who made the salad, wanting the recipe and excited for the next Spring and Summer get together because maybe your memorable homemade salad will be there!  And making a great and memorable salad for a barbecue is not hard to do.  You just need to think outside the eggshell macaroni, tuna, onions and mayonnaise box.

Chef Nairby's Cheesy Vegetable Medley!


This vegetable medley is packed with flavor, creamy cheese and awesomeness!


-4 Avocados, separated (3 for the cheese sauce, 1 chopped for the medley.  (Soft, but not too soft.  We’re going to mash the ones for the cheese sauce up nicely!)
-1 TBSP butter
-300g Goat cheese, separated (3/4 for cheese sauce, the rest for topping and baking)
-1 cup milk
-2 TBSP plain yogurt
-4 Zucchini, chopped into bite sized pieces
-2 cups sliced mushrooms
-1 pint (about 2 cups) grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
-450g grated cheddar, separated (half for the cheese sauce, half for topping and baking)
-1 19oz (540ml) can of dark red kidney beans, drained
-1-2 TBSP fresh chopped dill
-Salt and ground black pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Using an electric hand mixer or food processor, mash up the avocado until fluffy like mashed potatoes.

3. On low to medium heat, melt butter in a medium-to-large sized pot or sauce pan.  Add milk when melted.  Stir until combined.

4. Raise heat to medium.  Add ¾ of the goat cheese.  Stir gently until combined and creamy.

5. Add half of the grated cheddar cheese.  Continue stirring until combined.

6. Add the mashed avocado, yogurt and chopped dill.  Continue stirring until combined.

7. In a large bowl, toss zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, chopped avocado, kidney beans, salt and pepper until nicely mixed.  Add the cheese sauce and stir gently until all nicely combined.  Empty into a deep baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

8. Top with other half of grated cheddar and remaining ¼ of goat cheese, broken up into chunks and scattered.

9. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven, empty into a large pot or bowl, mix and serve.  Can be served warm or cold!

Chef Nairby

Monday, April 4, 2016


I have been a lover of Indian food for several years now.  But for as long as I have loved to eat it, actually making it was something I avoided for most of those years.  I would do like a lot of people do and look for the pre-made sauces in a jar, add a protein and call it Indian food.  I was content.  But as my love for cooking entered a more serious level in 2015 and I quickly ditched the pre-made ingredients wherever I could, I knew in the back of my head that I would eventually enter the world of cooking my favorite cuisine the proper way.  I kept avoiding it, though.  I knew enough to know that Indian food is not like making your own pasta sauce from scratch, and it was important for me to go into it with a decent amount of experience of proper cooking.

As luck would have it, my mother works for an Indian restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland, and the owner is not your typical businessman with a love for the restaurant business, but an actual Chef.

Chef Monir Mohammed, owner of Mother India restaurant in Glasgow, had just recently released his recipe book, "Mother India at Home".  My mom suggested to me that perhaps I would be interested in a copy.  I said yes and Chef Mohammed was kind enough to send me a signed copy, via my mother, of his book.

Chef Monir's Butter Chicken fresh out of the oven!

I received the book in short time and quickly discovered that this was not the typical kind of cookbook that I was used to, simply filled with recipes and pictures of the dishes.  This book is also a biography with pictures, not only of the dishes, but of family, friends and kitchen brigade.  As someone who has had a love for cooking ever since cooking classes in 7th grade, this cookbook was a welcome experience compared to the few others I had in my possession.

An inspiring story of growing up in a small 4 bedroom flat with 9 people, eventually being forced out because of dangers of literally falling into a hole in the ground because of the age of the structure, Chef Monir's is a tale of struggling through tough times, fighting adversity and going from peeling a bag of onions at his brother's restaurant one day to owning 5 restaurants of his own.

Chef Mohammed started at the bottom with peeling onions and worked his way up, from doing dishes and cleaning, to making salads.  His experience in all levels of the restaurant business is something that a lot of restaurant owners lack and why a lot of them end up going under.

Serve with Basmati rice, Naan bread or eat as is!

Chef Monir was not particularly a fan of Indian cooking growing up until he traveled and spent some time living in the Punjab which changed the way he looked at one of the best cuisines out there (THE best, in my opinion).  He took his new found love for South Asian cuisine, added his own special touches and brought it back to Glasgow, Scotland where he transformed it into a successful restaurant business and an excellent biography/cookbook.

I have gotten so much use out of my copy of Chef Mohammed's "Mother India at Home" biography and recipe book that it has suffered a bit of wear and tear.  As a result, Chef Monir was kind enough to send me another copy with my mother when she came to visit me for my 40th birthday in 2014, along with an authentic Chef's jacket courtesy of Chef Mohammed and his wife, Smeena, who also has a recipe or two of her own in this excellent book.

I made Chef Mohammed's outstanding Butter Chicken for my mom when she visited and she loved it.  This book is packed with excellent recipes, pictures and stories.  It is an excellent read and a great guide for those who love Indian food but are apprehensive.  I can confirm that once you try just one dish in this book, you will go back for more!

Chef Monir Mohammed's, Mother India at Home:

Checkout my latest tutorial video on how to make Chef Monir's Butter Chicken!


30g Ghee (Clarified Butter)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 green chillies, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 knob of fresh ginger, chopped
6 cloves
5 green cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds, crushed
1/2 x 400g tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
4 chicken supremes (chicken breasts with the wing portion still attached)
300ml double cream, plus a little extra to finish
20 whole almonds, shell off
salt and black pepper

1.  Heat ghee in a pan large enough for the chicken to fit into and add the onion.  Cook gently for 5 minutes.
2.  Add green chillies, garlic and ginger.  Cook on low-to-medium heat for 5 minutes.
3.  Add cloves, cardamom pods and cumin.  Stir thoroughly and cook for 5 minutes.
4.  Add tomatoes and tomato puree.  Cook for 5 minutes.
5.  Add salt, chilli powder, tumeric and yogurt.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, adding a little water if the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
6.  Preheat the oven at 190 degree celcius or 375F.
7.  Heat a non-stick frying pan and add the oil.  Once it's hot, add the chicken and sear on both sides until the outside is golden brown, then season with salt and black pepper.
8.  Add chicken to the pan of sauce and cook for 10 minutes, then stir in the cream and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
9.  Decant everything into a roasting try or oven-proof dish and scatter with the almonds.  Place in the oven and roast for 12 minutes, or until the juices from the chicken run clear.
10.  Serve with plain Basmati rice, with a splash of double cream over the almonds.

Chef Nairby