November 12, 2013

Going for Gold: Whining & Dining Part Deux

Whining & Dining was the first rant I ever wrote for Hunger & Haw Hai and, really, the pressure to perform was ridiculous. I was pumped, I was petrified and you have no idea how long I put off pushing that “publish” button. Back then, I never thought my nitpicking would make national news!

Hunger & Haw Hai has had a big year and it came to a close with a big bang when Whining & Dining Part 2 was picked up for publishing by Dawn newspaper.

Last year, my list was limited to the top 10 food scenarios that make my skin crawl. This year, thanks to my incredible editor, the list is bigger and badder than ever before and I’ve collected eleven more absolutely absurd food related faux pas that completely creep me out. 

I’ve also left you a little love-note for later

Now, I’ve said it before that if there's one quirk all food enthusiasts share, it's this: peeves usually come before praise. And I'm no different. In fact, when it comes to the complaints-before compliments policy, I have a complainer gene no man, woman, or wild beast can compete with. The thing is, even though I’m not fussy about my food, I’m easily irked.

So, time for a flashback, my friends! 

By the by, the photos featured in this piece are my personal favorites from the past years posts. 

Whining & Dining Part Deux: Hunger & Haw Hai’s Top 21 Food Peeves

  • Restaurant reviews:  Free food in exchange for writing a review? Sure. Because there’s no pressure to pen praise about an establishment that’s just paid for my meal, right? Take my advice: if you really can’t live without writing reviews, be all Bond about it i.e. operate undercover.

  • Fishy fish: This one is guaranteed to trigger my gag reflex. It should smell of the sea, not stink of it.

  • Waiters who won’t wait: Have you ever been watched like a hawk when you’re trying to chill out and chow down? Sure, waiters are trained to turn tables, but it’s bad manners trying to terrorize me into eating a mile-a-minute meal.

  • Baking: That kind of precision is too authoritarian for my taste. What happened to the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of adapting recipes with reckless abandon?!?

  • Complicated garnish: Save the curling, twirling, and swirling skills for the origami class.

  • Dodgy delicacies: Extreme dining doesn’t do much for me. Care for a mouthful of Casu Marzu? FYI, it’s rotten cheese riddled with a writhing mass of maggots. How about a bowl of bird’s nest soup, made mainly from bird saliva and spit? Insects, anyone? Let’s leave that kind of bravery to Anthony Bourdain.

  • Over-saucing: Say it with me: less is more. Drown my food in a river of sauce and prepare to drown in a flood of my wrath. Seriously, Hell hath no fury...

  • Pretentious menus: So let me get this straight: the harder it is to pronounce the higher the price?

  • Sad sides: Mysterious mounds of curly-fried something or the other, tired trios of boring blanched veggies, retro tomato rosettes, bread so stale it’ll stab you in the mouth before you can swallow it, forgotten-in-the-fryer fries.  We’re all victims here.

  • Limp lettuce and soggy salads: Come on, I think we can all agree that limp anything is rarely attractive. And a soggy salad is just sad.

  • Faux fine dining: White plates can work wonders, but it’s not nearly enough to make a memorable evening. Britney and The Backstreet Boys blaring in the background are a big-time buzz-kill.

  • Atrocious food imagery: Dear Pakistani food channels, I have it on good authority that the appeal of edibles is directly proportional to the awesomeness of its appearance. Translation: humans eat with their eyes. Stop assaulting them with sloppy serving suggestions and appetite-killing close-ups of ancient ingredients.

  • Innards, Offal, Guts and Gizzards: I'm not a vegetarian, but there's something very Hannibal Lecter about gorging on animal guts.

  • Obscure ingredients: No, my local supermarket does not carry salt made from fairy tears or fine cuts of unicorn meat. 

  • Laugh-out-loud lingo: Okay, I’ll admit I secretly enjoy some of these slip-ups, but a) I’m a stickler for spelling and b)I don’t enjoy Da Vinci Code style explanations of what I’m about to eat . “Beef tornadoes”, “profit rolls”, “absolutely adorable yellow, yummy, scrumptious sauce”. What? WHAT?

  • Tiny portions:  If you're going to be a Scrooge about my food, I'll remember to be a Grinch about your tip.

  • Up-sized portions: I'm not a beast. I don’t want to eat like one

  • Self-proclaimed foodies and food snobs: “Foodie” is just hipster for "food nerd." And no, I don’t get the fuss over foie gras, I’m not crazy about caviar and I’ve never eaten eel or emu.

  • Fast food that costs a small fortune: Really, Rs. 800 for a B-grade burger and fries? Close to a thousand rupees for a thin crust pepperoni pizza? All I can say is show me the shawarma!

  • The frozen yogurt frenzy: First, unless you’re fifteen, refrain from referring to it as “fro-yo”, forever. Second, I’d applaud your whole-hearted attempt at making healthy diet decisions if you’d stop acting so smug and superior about it.

  • Going gaga over gluten-free: Up until thirty seconds ago you weren’t even aware of gluten’s existence and suddenly you’re convinced you’re going to die a slow and painful death if you continue to consume it? Quick, name three foods that contain gluten! Yeah, I didn’t think so. 

I told you not to doubt my complainer DNA. Happy eating, food fiends! And remember to read that little love-note

November 11, 2013

Big Birthday Love & Luscious Lemon Panna Cotta Trifle

Wow. Fifty two weeks since we first started this conversation. Wow.

Back in the day when Hunger & Haw Hai was a wee baby I made a mental note that if the blog made it to the one year mark I’d knock your socks off with a Sally-Field’s-at-the-Oscars style speech. My other options were a sappy song or poem that seemed like it’d been slapped together by a pre-schooler. But thirty posts, half a dozen published features, and over twenty five thousand hits later and, seriously, I’m sort of speechless.

All I can say is the whole experience has been incredibly humbling.

Piecing the first post together, one of my deepest, darkest fears was that no one would be interested in reading my ramblings. It’s something that still gives me sleepless nights - really, you never know when you’re going to piss people off, right - but I’ve been ludicrously lucky so far.

Believe me, this blog would’ve been a total bust without an amazingly awesome audience and you all are absolutely unbelievable! Bravo, boys and girls! You are beyond brave and seven kinds of super cool. I salute your senses of humor and I’m proud of your patience! Big bear hugs to each and every one of you for stopping by, sassing it up, luring me into letting go of my lazies and making me feel far less misunderstood.

I’m all over the entire moon and my therapist will be thrilled! Two birds…BOO-YAH!!!

So from the bottom of my babbling heart, I love you much, my lovelies. And as always, nothing great goes down at Hunger & Haw Hai without a helping of my *HAPPY DANCE*!


My Lemon Panna Cotta & Mulled Strawberry Trifle was first featured in HELLO! Pakistan’s anniversary issue and since we’re celebrating it seemed to fit the occasion perfectly. Panna Cotta, which literally translates to “cooked cream”, is a classic Italian custard. On it’s own, it’s an incredibly indulgent dessert, but when silky smooth panna cotta is sandwiched between syrup soaked strawberries and pillows of soft sponge cake, I swear, it’s an other-wordly experience. 

Lemon Panna Cotta & Mulled Strawberry Trifle (6 individual servings)
Adapted from Lemon Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis, by Danny Boome

Ingredients Lemon Panna Cotta & Mulled Strawberry Trifle

Mulled Strawberries

¼ kg strawberries, hulled and sliced

¾ cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Lemon Panna Cotta

4 cups cream

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

2 small lemons, juiced

1 loaf Pound Cake, sliced

TIP: If you’re planning on making a multi-tier trifle just remember that the first layer of the trifle needs to set before the second layer can be assembled so, it’s best to prepare this dessert a day before you plan to serve. Simply prepare the Panna Cotta in two batches by dividing the ingredients in half and only cooking the second batch once the first layer is set.

In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, orange juice, sugar and lemon juice. Cover and chill in the fridge.

In a medium saucepan, over a medium heat, gently heat the cream.

Sprinkle the gelatin and sugar into the cream and stir gently until the sugar and gelatin have dissolved.

Add the lemon juice and grated zest and simmer the cream gently for 10 minutes. This allows the lemon to infuse the cream with a bright citrus flavor.

Once the cream has thickened slightly, remove from the heat.

In a glass tumbler, spoon in an inch of sliced strawberries, pressing down to flatten them slightly. Top with a slice of Pound cake. Finally, pour in 1 inch of the Panna Cotta cream. Place in the fridge for 4-6 hours, until set.

Serve chilled.