November 25, 2015

How To Take Better Food Photos: 5 Simple Secrets

As much as it flatters me when I get emails asking for advice about food photography, I rarely have a good response. I don’t think of myself as a real photographer, I never learned accepted techniques. If you like my photos, you’ll probably agree you can get far without this information, though I suspect you could get further with it.”  Taha Ahmed, Ace Instagrammer 

Do you take pictures of your food? Is it impossible for you to dig into meal without a photo or two? Do you drool over those gorgeous, splashy images that are all over Instagram? Ever wished you could take such mouthwatering shots? 

Me too!

For most of us, our photography skills are a perpetual work in progress and I, for one, am always looking for pointers to up my food photo game. This time, I stalked, ace Instgrammer, Taha Ahmed, and asked him for his top tip and tricks. 

BTW, even though he doesn’t exclusively photograph edibles, Taha’s images are so clean and beautifully composed, it’s easy to fangirl over his feed. In other words, in case you haven’t had a chance to check out his work, do it now!

Taha's Instagram feed is to die for and definitely worth following!
To demonstrate the difference his advice makes, I used my iPhone 6 to take before and after photos using each of his suggestions. The results speak for themselves. 

So, let’s get started!

November 12, 2015

11 Legit Life Lessons From My Mother + Garlic & Herb Marinated Mozzarella Bites

To my mother: Some women are born to shine. Others are born to blind you with their brilliance. I love you. 
Once you have kids, there are a couple of things you realize very quickly. 

Some are rickety cliches, but mostly true. There is no such thing as “alone time”. You’ll be astounded by your own capacity to love. Your children are your greatest strength and your greatest weakness.

Others realities are a little more esoteric. You know. Like that overwhelming impulse to try and instill 7.2 billion nuggets of earth-shattering wisdom into those little sponge-like minds before they venture out into this wild and crazy world because you’re determined to equip your babies with everything they’ll need to know in order to tackle the pain in the ass that is adult life.

The struggle is real, people. 

My mom insists I’m overthinking things. 

Easy for her to say. 

When it comes to imparting the secrets of life, she’s like some sort of Shaolin monk. Totally fierce,totally slick. Her “you move, you die” look is on point and her “doing trumps saying” game is seriously strong. 

In other words, she’s almost never had to verbalize any of these rules. Instead, she’s quietly lived by them, silently allowing us to choose between f*cking up or following suit. 

That’s some mad power, yo! You can read more about her championship-winning child-rearing skills here

Meanwhile, here are 11 of the most life-altering lessons she’s taught me. 

October 28, 2015

Pomegranate Studded Cheese Ball With Crispy Sage & Nuts

I don't know about you guys, but I love the elaborate events…as long as I’m not the one hosting. When in charge of the festivities, though,I prefer the sophistication of simplicity. Six friends, comfy couches, small plates; slam-dunk! But a celebration does call for a bit a bang and a whole lot of indulgence.

This pomegranate-studded cheese-ball hits the mark on all counts and is dressed to totally impress. Plus, it’s a delicious way to be a knock-out host. Tart, sweet, ruby red pearls of pomegranate encase a sublime combination of tangy, creamy cheese, nutty sage-infused butter, and slivers of crunchy toasted almonds. Heaven, I tell you!

So the next time you pull out your cheese platter, remember to think beyond the wedge.

2 tablespoons butter
10 fresh sage leaves (or other herbs of your choice)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
4 ounces mascarpone cheese**, softened
6 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup slivered, toasted almonds (or other nuts of your choice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Crudités, crackers, nuts for serving
** Mascarpone Cheese Substitute: If you can’t find mascarpone cheese, substitute by combining 8 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup cream, and 2 1/2 tablespoons sour cream. 

Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a frying pan and when it starts to sizzle, add the sage leaves, frying until the sage is crispy. It takes about a minute per side and be sure to flip the leaves for even cooking.Remove the sage leaves from the pan and drain on a paper napkin to crisp them up. Reserve the butter.

In a large bowl, add the softened cream cheese, mascarpone, and cheddar and beat with an electric mixer until combined. 

Add the nuts, crispy sage leaves, reserved butter, salt, and pepper, mixing on a low speed until just combined. Over-beating can result in a light, airy mixture that’s too soft to shape into a ball.

Empty the contents of the bowl onto a sheet of cling wrap and slowly begin to pull up the corners of the plastic, gently pushing the mixture into the center to shape it into a ball. Don’t worry if the shape doesn’t look perfect. Stick it in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes to firm the cheese up a little and then reshape for a smoother, rounder ball. 

While you’re waiting, spread the pomegranate seeds in a single layer on a paper napkin to drain the excess juices. Skipping this step is tempting, but it can result in unsightly red liquid dripping and staining the cheese and your platter. 

Remove the cheese-ball from the fridge and retouch the shape if needed. Then roll the ball around in the pomegranate seeds, gently pressing them into the cheese to make sure they stick. Then use the remaining pomegranate to fill in any cracks and crevices. 

Serve with crackers and crudités. 

October 15, 2015

Food Blogging 101: The 13 Dos & Don'ts You Need To Know

With Hunger & Haw Hai's third birthday is coming up next month, it’s been a few years into blogging now, and after poring over stacks of books, researching endlessly for advice, following a legion of food blogs, freelancing for a couple of publications, and keeping Hunger & Haw Hai afloat, I’m still nowhere near tech-ninja status, but I’ve definitely learned a thing or two along the way.

It hasn’t all been useful or practical or easy to decipher — damn you, Javascript. And plenty of it has just been plain redundant and vague — “write great content” — why thank you, Captain Obvious. But there are a couple of pointers that I’ve found indispensable as I fumbled my way through. 

I love these tips for a couple of reasons.

For one, they apply whether you’re a rookie or a food blogging savant. Plus, these guidelines  as just as effective at getting you started as they are at keeping you going. And, finally, because  I find myself referring to them over and over again when I need direction.

I’m not going to bore you with the basics. 

If you’re reading this, you probably already understand the importance of your blog’s visual appeal, and you get that posting regularly keeps readers engaged, and you know the struggle of precisely angling that fork to get the perfect photo. 

Instead, I’m going chalk out what’s worked for me.

September 29, 2015

The Moment of Truth : And The Winners Are...

When I started planning The Outrageous Eid Giveaway, I just thought it’d be a fun way to bounce back from my blogging break. Besides, Eid was around the corner and I’ve had such a warm welcome back that I needed to show you guys some love too. 

Actually, scratch that. 

I wanted to show you some BIG LAHV and, so, what began as an idea for a one single giveaway, with one single sponsor, and one single prize, sort of snowballed, taking on a life of its own.

I was hell-bent on handpicking my sponsors, only wanting to include places and products that I absolutely adore and would personally endorse. Well, thanks to my superior stalking skills, relentless stubbornness, luck, and, of course, the incredible generosity of all my amazing sponsors, what I ended up with was a mix of the hottest hangouts, most exciting eateries, and some of the most gorgeous tableware between Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad. 

Several weeks of burning the midnight oil and running around like a headless chicken —totally worth it.

I knew it’d be exciting, I hoped you’d be enthusiastic, and, God, you all killed it!

With close to 1000 entries flooding Hunger & Haw Hai’s Instagram account and Facebook page over the past two weeks, The Outrageous Eid Giveaway truly was outrageous, and I hope you enjoyed the rollercoaster ride as much as I did. 

Finally, thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my angsty little heart, for being a part of it all. Thank you for all the love. Thank you for tuning in.

And now, the moment of truth…

Drum roll, please.
Congratulations to all the super duper lucky winners of The Outrageous Eid Giveaway! Enjoy those outrageous prizes!

Toodles, kittens.


September 28, 2015

The Poached Pear: Getting Creative In The Kitchen

ADDRESS: Coming Soon (Karachi, By Order Only)
You can also find The Poached Pear on Facebook

Last year, I was lucky enough to swing by the legendary Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo, New York — birthplace of the cronut and home to some of the most modern takes on classic desserts in the world — the experience was magical. But it isn’t just a novelty confection or a fun twist on some oldies that gives this bakery its edge. 

Behind the counters of the tiny open-kitchen, a team of intensely involved and creatively talented bakers and pastry chefs are constantly pushing boundaries to create delectable new knock-outs to keep customers coming back. 

That’s the real secret to Dominique Ansel’s success.

Sorry, Magnolia, you’ve been banking on those cupcakes for 15 years. Change it up.

The Poached Pear launched it’s experimental kitchen in Karachi last year and, since then, there’s been no looking back for Masala TV star and owner, Chef Yasha Siddiqi.  Relying heavily on customer feedback, the team at The Poached Pear is well-known for endlessly tweaking and refining recipes, creating a careful selection of sumptuous, mouth-watering desserts that fly off the shelves. 

The Fresh Fruit Pavlova, clouds of perfectly soft, chewy meringue, generous dollops of whipped cream, crowned with gorgeous seasonal fruit, is their best-seller, the rich Belgian chocolate and salted caramel tart is to die for, and their recently introduced brownies with mint white chocolate sound totally tempting. 

In fact, The Poached Pear has been such a hit that what was Initially launched as an order-based service is now expanding into their first full-service brick-and-mortar bakery location, slated to open soon.

Looks like someone’s killing it with their dessert-game.

For your chance to WIN a decadent signature Banoffee Pavlova from The Poached Pear*, don’t forget to enter The Outrageous Eid Giveaway, happening on Facebook. Giveaway closes Friday, 25 September 2015 at 11:59 pm (PST). Open to residents of Karachi only.

*Prize generously sponsored by The Poached Pear.

ADDRESS: Coming Soon (Karachi, By Order Only)
You can also find The Poached Pear on Facebook

September 26, 2015

The Lahore Social: To Indulgent Evenings

ADDRESS: 37 A-2 Gulberg III, Mian Mehmood Kasuri Road, Lahore
PHONE: 042-35773142
You can also find The Lahore Social on Facebook

Fine dining. I’m not a fan of that term. It makes me nervous with its implications of dated rules and stiff decorum and six types of forks at my table setting. Also, thanks to restaurant industry egos, the phrase has been thrown around fast and loose, becoming more synonymous with price points and pretentious venues than any kind of actual dining experience.

Forget the fireworks, I say.

An attentive wait-staff, an interesting menu prepped using quality ingredients, and the kind of thoughtful, comfortable ambiance that makes me want to stick around long after dessert — that’s what modern fine dining should be about. 

The Lahore Social quietly opened it’s doors to Lahoris last year and, since then, it’s become the hangout du jour for anyone who wants to see and be seen, but it’s not just the eye-candy that keeps people coming back.

Maybe it’s the sweet, pillowy brioche, baked fresh every day, served still warm from the oven. Or it might have something to do with that beautiful caramelized peach salad studded with salty-sweet candied walnuts or the delicate hand-made crab ravioli. Personally, I’m convinced it’s the deep, rich, criminally decadent chocolate nemesis cake, made with Valrhona chocolate, served with vanilla flecked creme anglaise. 

I guess I’ll have to keep going back if I want to figure it out. 

Besides,  a table full of fantastic food I didn’t have to prepare, a couple of close friends, and a lazy, lingering meal — that’s an evening well spent.

For your chance to WIN THE MOST INDULGENT COFFEE & DESSERT FOR TWO AT THE LAHORE SOCIAL*, don’t forget to enter The Outrageous Eid Giveaway, happening on Facebook. Giveaway closes Friday, 25 September 2015 at 11:59 pm (PST). Only open to residents of Lahore. 

*Prize generously sponsored by The Lahore Social. 

ADDRESS: 37 A-2 Gulberg III, Mian Mehmood Kasuri Road, Lahore
PHONE: 042-35773142
You can also find The Lahore Social on Facebook

September 21, 2015

The Warehouse by Burning Brownie: Simple Food Done Right

ADDRESS: Shop No. 3, Block 13, Jinnah Super, Main Bhittai Road, F-7, Islamabad
You can also find The Warehouse on Facebook

Compared to the constant bustle of Lahore, Islamabad can come off as a sleepy little city, but if you haven’t visited in a while, you should know it’s definitely not what it was 20 years ago — the land of Jinnah Super and Pappasallis. 

In fact, over the years I’ve found plenty of reasons to fall in love with the Capital. Tree-lined boulevards, cozy neighborhood markets, beautiful weather, all set against the majestic backdrop of the Margalla Hills. Unlike it’s crazier cosmopolitan cousins, Karachi and Lahore, though, where food is at the forefront, Islamabad rarely generates culinary buzz and, so far, the vast majority of my dining experiences in Isloo have been underwhelming. 

But every city’s got its secret spots, right?

Burning Brownie unassumingly categorizes itself as a coffee shop/ bakery, but let’s call a spade, a spade.  With zero compromise on ingredients — hello, Valrhona and custom-roasted coffee beans — a technically talented team, and young-gun owner Ammar Mumtaz’s endless enthusiasm, it’s actually become one of Islamabad’s hottest destinations for delectable desserts and customized confections. 

With an impressive selection of coffees, their copious use of intensely rich, top quality chocolate, and a range of killer cakes, brownies, pastries, and sweet nibbles, it’s no surprise. 

More recently, The Warehouse, a Burning Brownie offshoot with a savory slant, opened its doors to Islooites. The concept? Simple food done right, a highly neglected niche I wish more restaurants would explore. 

Simple food might sound like an easy A, but a small menu leaves little wiggle room for errors, and like Burning Brownie, the quest for perfection at The Warehouse is relentless.

Burgers cooked sous vide to a juicy medium, topped with garlic aioli, served with crispy thick-cut fries. Perfectly toasted roast beef paninis with red pesto. Bold, rich rasmalai cheesecake drizzled with cardamon-infused caramel. 


A big, fat burger and a slice of criminally indulgent cake makes everyone a happy camper.

For your chance to WIN A DELICIOUS MEAL AT THE WAREHOUSE (OR) A RICH SIGNATURE CAKE FROM BURNING BROWNIE*, don’t forget to enter The Outrageous Eid Giveaway, happening on Facebook and Instagram. Giveaway closes Thursday, 24 September 2015 at 11:59 pm (PST).

*Prize generously sponsored by Burning Brownie & The Warehouse

ADDRESS: Shop No. 3, Block 13, Jinnah Super, Main Bhittai Road, F-7, Islamabad
You can also find The Warehouse on Facebook

ADDRESS: #66 Beverly Centre, Nazimuddin Road, F/6-1, Islamabad 
PHONE: 0301-5568918
You can also find Burning Brownie on Facebook and Instagram.

September 18, 2015

MÄKAAN HOME DÉCOR: Understated Elegance Is The Next Big Thing

ADDRESS: Islamabad (By Appointment Only)
PHONE: 0300-8443284
You can also find MÄKAAN HOME DÉCOR on Facebook and Instagram.

I like to keep things simple — wardrobe, relationships, parenting style — but it’s especially important in the kitchen and on the table. Don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate the both the intricacy of delicate hand-painted crockery and the starkness of glaring white serve-ware, but what really gets me giddy is that sophisticated, timeless middle-ground between the two — beautiful basics. 

Clean lines, careful craftsmanship, natural materials left as close to their natural state as possible? Elegance that isn’t intimidating or overstated? 

Take my money! Seriously, take all of it!

All of MÄKAAN HOME DÉCOR’s ultra-chic home accessories are either personally designed or painstakingly sourced from all over the world, with gorgeous one-of-a-kind urns, stunning hurricane lamps, and sleek candle stands serving as the cornerstones of their carefully curated selection. 

What truly makes my lust-list, though, is MAKAAN’s striking Simply Slated collection, a line of minimalist platters, trays, and coasters carved from natural slate. Impeccably beveled edges cleverly showcase tell-tale layers of the intense grey stone, accented, at most, with gleaming polished metal handles. 

Moody, contemporary, versatile. Check, check, and check. 

It’s everything you should be looking for when shopping for serve-ware and table toppers.

For your chance to WIN AN ULTRA CHIC SLATE CHEESE PLATTER FROM MÄKAAN HOME DÉCOR’S “SIMPLY SLATED” COLLECTION*, don’t forget to enter The Outrageous Eid Giveaway, happening on Facebook and Instagram. Giveaway closes Monday, 21 September 2015 at 11:59 pm (PST).

*Prize generously sponsored by MÄKAAN HOME DÉCOR 

ADDRESS: Islamabad (By Appointment Only)
PHONE: 0300-8443284
You can also find MÄKAAN HOME DÉCOR on Facebook and Instagram.

September 16, 2015

Fatso's The Mini Caterer: Big On Flavor

ADDRESS: Karachi (By Order Only)
PHONE: 0345-3059691
You can also find Fatso’s The Mini Caterer on Facebook

As much as I love to cook for friends and family, shuttling back and forth between them and the kitchen can suck the fun out of my night pretty fast — I so need an open plan setup, dammit —sometimes, all I want to do is kick back, relax, and take the evening off. You know, just unwind and really settle into the couch and cozy conversations. 

Catering, of course, is the obvious answer. 

Here’s the thing, though. I’m over prawn tempura. I’m too old to still consider sad, tooth-pick-impaled cubes of cheese and hot dog chunks kosher party food. And I'm slightly averse to the idea of hiring a cook to bang out a boring Thai cashew nut chicken, nargisi koftay, and a mystery dessert made from some canned blueberry pie filling, which, shocker, tastes nothing blueberries. 

Fatso’s The Mini Caterer, a total pro at custom designed menus, catered lunches and dinners, and some seriously knock-out desserts, flips all those catering nightmares on their head, and is crazy popular in Karachi food circles. 

Take a look at their menu and quite obvious why. 

Savory french toast with buttered spinach, smoked sea salt, and parmesan custard. Seared sirloin salad with barley and grapes. Burgers with blue cheese infused butter and caramelized onion relish. Gingerbread orange cake with cream cheese frosting. Yaaaaaassssss!!!

Fatso’s also supplies sumptuous desserts to some of Karachi’s hottest hangouts, including Xander’s, Cosmopolitan, and Rowtisserie. And for the health-conscious, Fatso’s offshoot, Fitso’s, offers beautiful waistline-friendly fare like their protein plate, packed with slow roasted beef tenderloin with wasabi Mayo, spicy kidney beans, and boiled egg with chimichurri, and comes complete with a calorie count and nutritional information.  

With Fatso’s, the options are endless and unreal. Go on, entertain like a boss!

Open 7 days a week. Please allow 1 days notice for baked goodies, and 3 days for catered dinners and lunches. 

For your chance to WIN A SIGNATURE DARK CHOCOLATE GATEAU WITH SALTED CARAMEL FROM FATSO’S THE MINI CATERER*, don’t forget to enter The Outrageous Eid Giveaway, on Facebook. Giveaway closes Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 11:59 pm (PST).

*Prize generously sponsored by Fatso’s The Mini Caterer

ADDRESS: Karachi (By Order Only)
PHONE: 0345-3059691
You can also find Fatso’s The Mini Caterer on Facebook.

September 14, 2015

The Lounge by Nyla: Personal Spaces That Pop

ADDRESS: Shop no: 17, Lower Ground Floor, Fortress Square Shopping Mall, Fortress Stadium, Lahore
PHONE(042) 37341722
You can also find The Lounge by Nyla on Facebook and Instagram

When it comes to color, I’m a fan of neutrals. Ivory, oatmeal, slate, coffee, navy, black; these are the colors of my rainbow, particularly when it comes to furnishing my home. It might sound vanilla, but here’s the secret; starting with a basic muted palette gives me the freedom to add bright pops of color with reckless abandon without stressing over a “color scheme”. 

Meticulously color-coordinated interiors had their moment, but the eighties are over.

Modern home decor, thankfully, is a lot more fluid and forgiving

The Lounge by Nyla is nailing this contemporary furnishing philosophy, creating bright, modern, and beautifully minimalistic furniture and home accessories that effortlessly combine form and function, transforming any room from frumpy to fabulous, pronto. 

Locally manufactured, using natural, high-quality materials, the gorgeous signature items at The Lounge, particularly their pop-art inspired rosewood trays, whimsical color-crazy cushions, and a line of bold bamboo tableware, are just the kind of eye-candy needed to create a cozy, interesting space that speaks of your personal style.

Bonus: it’s all surprisingly easy on the wallet. 
Say goodbye to the blah, the bland, and the stuffiness of obsessive color coding forever.

For your chance to WIN A BEAUTIFUL LACQUERED POPART TRAY OR A SET OF 3 BRIGHT BAMBOO BOWLS FROM THE LOUNGE BY NYLA*, don’t forget to enter The Outrageous Eid Giveaway on Facebook and Instagram. Giveaway closes Friday, 18 September 2015 at 11:59 pm (PST).

* Prize generously sponsored by The Lounge by Nyla

ADDRESS: Shop no: 17, Lower Ground Floor, Fortress Square Shopping Mall, 
Fortress Stadium, Lahore
PHONE: (042) 37341722
You can also find The Lounge by Nyla on Facebook and Instagram

September 13, 2015

The Delicatessen by Cosa Nostra: Fresh, Simple, Delicious!

ADDRESS: Shop 11, Mall 1, Gaba Road, Off The Main Blvd., Lahore
PHONE: 042-35790081
You can also find The Delicatessen by Cosa Nostra on Facebook

Until recently, I had a long-standing gripe with the local dining scene; it was next to impossible finding a decent salad in Lahore. The kind that’s light, not limp. Dressed, not drowning. Fresh, not forgotten in the fridge. Iceberg was the It-Girl of greens and the mighty Caesar ruled. 

Locating a fast, casual afternoon bite that didn’t bring on the lazies was even taller order. 

The Delicatessen by Cosa Nostra is out to change all that. 

A family-owned offshoot of upscale Italian eatery, Cosa Nostra, The Deli, as it’s fondly referred to, has quickly become Lahore’s hottest lunch spot thanks to quick, healthy, simple food made using the freshest ingredients, and prepared daily in their own kitchen. 

The results are deeply delicious.

Around lunchtime, the line at The Deli easily snakes well past the self-service counter, with customers queuing to order favorites like the delicate mushroom crepes, gourmet sandwiches, and gorgeous mixed fruit tarts. 

And nothing gets regulars raving like The Deli’s signature rotisserie chicken. Over-roasted until it’s fall-off-the-bone melt-in-your-mouth tender, served with your choice of sautéed veggies or garlic mashed potatoes, and a flavor-packed gravy, it’s so popular, they’re often sold out. Tip: your best shot at catering to your cravings is grabbing an early lunch.

The Deli’s real win, though, is their salads. Smart, sexy, and so satisfying. Sweet roasted pumpkin with hearty greens, feta, and pine nuts. Grilled slices of zucchini tossed in a beautiful balsamic glaze. Smoky sweet potato with red onions, nuts, and tangy sweet dressing.  

Yes, please! To all of it.

For your chance to WIN A FREE LUNCH FOR TWO AT THE DELICATESSEN BY COSA NOSTRA*, don’t forget to enter The Outrageous Eid Giveaway on Facebook and Instagram. Giveaway closes Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 11:59 pm (PST).

* Prize generously sponsored by The Delicatessen by Cosa Nostra

The Delicatessen by Cosa Nostra
ADDRESS: Shop 11, Mall 1, Gaba Road, Off The Main Blvd., Lahore
PHONE: 042-35790081
You can also find The Delicatessen by Cosa Nostra on Facebook