Tuesday, 21 June 2016

[Food] Iftar At Lals

There is something lovely about Lals. Is it the soft green French windows? Or the enchanting rustic interiors? The minute I step into a Lals outlet, I want to stay and buy. Buying chocolates and desserts are easy decisions to make but choosing Lals as an Iftar destination is not always the first choice that comes to one's mind. By my own choice, or by family and friends' choice, I have been having Iftar at Lals for the last three years. Since last year, they have a introduced a more Middle Eastern-Mediterranean menu. It's light and easy but filling. A little bit of this, a little of that keeps your taste buds buzzing.

The menus at their Shahbaz and Dolmen Mall outlets are different. The DMC one being cheaper than Shahbaz.  My blogger buddy Umair Mirza and I tried the Iftar at Shahbaz. The deal includes an Iftar Platter to share, two main courses, a scoop of gelato and free flowing mint lemonade.

The Iftar Platter includes: Zaatir Croissant, Pita Bread, Spinach Fatayer with Chilli Oil, Falafel with Tahini, Margerita Pizza, Chana Chaat, Fruit Salad and Hummus. The winner in this platter is the pizza. The falafel left me unimpressed.

The main course choices include: Chicken Skewers on Greens, Spicy Mediterranean Chicken and Rice Bowl, Lasagna, Fish and Chips and seven sandwiches to choose from! I picked the Lasagna. When it arrived, I thought woah, this is tiny. But I guess I was just being greedy as I had to take it home. The Lasagna is made with ricotta cheese (as it should be) and a really rich ragu sauce. I did feel it was a bit dry though.

The absolute best thing on the menu was the mango gelato. It is absolutely stellar. I want to buy a tub!

The damage for all of the above is (with two main courses) is Rs 2300 plus tax. I would give the Lals Iftar experience a 4 out of 5 for the thoughtfulness that has gone into planning the menu. It is carefully curated to cater to the local palette while retaining the international flavors that we recognize Lals for.

Go to Lals for a cool, calm and delicious Iftar.

[Beauty] Wake Up For Make Up

One of the easiest ways to kill time in Ramzan (for me) is window shopping - books, clothes, make up, accessories - you name it and I have never been more interested before. Make up is a recent 'interest' of mine and no doubt, being a blogger has fed the beast. Beauty related events are now my favorite events to attend - makeovers, make up to play, girly fun and so much more!

Recently, myself and a few other more experienced (read extraordinary) beauty bloggers visited the Make Up City outlet in Dolmen City Mall. We were treated to make up goods from Sweet Touch and given a brief understanding of the business of make up.

Here's what I got from the Sweet Touch range:

 A set of three nail colors for the price of two. Pretty sweet deal. Love the summer colors.

This lip shine in peanut butter looks delicious but doesn't work for me. I prefer bright lip but I reckon it would work on top of a nice pink for that extra shine.

 I am really digging the middle swatch. That's 731 Matte. The Maroon lip liner also does well. 

However, what you need to remember are the on going promotions. My advice is to stock up on the make up the offer is still on.

SMS 'Make Up City' to 8833 and avail :
- 10% off across the entire range at the store
 - a staggering 50% off on all makeovers
- a loyalty card

Make Up City is expanding across the country - from big cities to small towns. Find them on Facebook to find a store near you.

Friday, 17 June 2016

[Food] Ole Express

The new kid on the delivery block, Ole is out to impress! Ole Express is an incarnate of the restaurant of the same name that was once located on Zamzama. Being mom-less this Ramzan, I have resorted to ordering in rather frequently and I have to admit, this was one of the most seamless and effortless processes ever.

The food was delivered hot and fresh.  And no leaks! Packaging is so crucial to a food delivery business but not enough businesses pay attention to it. The pasta was double wrapped in cling film to avoid any leaks. Call me weird, but that impressed me! But, taste is king of course. Here's what I tasted and loved (or not).

These Chicken Strips turned out to be my favorite thing on the order. The chicken meat was flavorsome (I am guessing it was buttermilk marinated), the coating crisp and the dipping sauce was not over powering. And real French fries. A starter with a side dish - now that's generous!

My sisters picked the Peppery Fried Shrimps as the other starter. I do not eat sea food but they reported that these were possibly the best fried shrimps they had tried. My only issue is the quantity. Priced almost the same as the Chicken Strips and enough for only one person, as opposed to the chicken that could be shared by up to three people.

Pakistan's favorite pasta - Creamy Chicken Pasta - or some such thing. This rendition of the classic dish was rich but dry. I would have preferred a lighter but saucier sauce. Once again, the quantity is good for two.

The Stuffed Chicken with Tarragon Sauce proved to be the main event. Crispy exterior, moist interior and a sensational sauce to go with it. This was a 10 dish on all counts. Priced at Rs 610, this is a steal! Served with a generous side of fries (or mashed potatoes) and vegetables, this is also good for two.

Ole is a delivery service with class. Their menu is standard restaurant fare and can be served with the same finesse on your dining table. Whether you want to treat yourself or want to host a fancy dinner at home, get in touch with Ole. It would be interesting to see Ole venture into the catering side of things as well.

Will I be ordering from Ole again? Most definitely!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

[Food] Ramzan Recipes Made Easy

Ramzan is always a great time for me to restore my passion for cooking. In regular days, I hardly find the time to try new things or frankly, make an effort to cook a meal for the family. Being a huge 'food fan', I follow a bunch of food websites, apps and blogs to discover new kinds of tastes, textures and flavours. More often than not, I find it difficult to follow recipes closely. Mostly, because many ingredients are not locally available (except for Middle Eastern and South East Asian products, which I bulk buy on my travels). But recipe resources are great for finding your inspiration to create new dishes. I was introduced to the National Made Easy recipe website and app last year. And I am happy to report that they have not disappointed me with regards to fresh, creative content.

Here's a break down of my cooking spree so far:

Chicken Qorma
This was an ambitious project for me, so I actually did not experiment much here. I followed the recipe on the box to the tee and used the video on the website as a rough guide. One thing that did help me was the home made fried onions I had stocked up on. It makes for a quick Qorma.

Chicken Tikka Wrap
Wraps and rolls are great for Ramzan. They are filling and easy to make - and appropriate for any time of the day. I make my on tortillas at home with some added mixed herbs or zaatir for an extra layer of flavour. The chicken is marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, salt and a spoon of National Tandoori Masala. I pan fried the chicken after marinated for a couple of hours. Scrape out the sticky bits out of the pan to make a spicy mayo. Add some pickled onions (just soaked in vinegar for a couple of hours) and spicy mayo. Viola! Chicken Tikka Wraps to go!

Chicken Qeema
I went a little nuts with this Chicken Qeema that I have not yet named. I continued with the National Tandoori but went a step ahead by adding my home-made Mexican chilli paste (yup, I made it). And added a desi touch by smoking it with coal. The result was a spicy, steaming Chicken Qeema that is great to wake up those taste buds at Iftar, Not recommended for Sehri.

Chicken Haleem
What is great for Sehri is Haleem! An excellent healthy mix of carbs and proteins. I love haleem and so does my family and therefore, I did not want to go beyond my abilities and completely fudge up the dish so I stuck to the recipe on the box. I just added a little bit of extra wheat as we like our haleem chewy. Turned out pretty well.

Sundus' Special Fried Noodles
Noodles are my super power. If there is one thing I learned living in Malaysia, it is a taste for noodles. I get my Asian condiments on my annual trip to Malaysia and I urge you to buy good quality Asian sauces and spice mixes if you like cooking Asian food. It makes a world of difference! The chicken is marinated in National Chicken Jalfrexi mix, light and dark soy sauce and garlic for a couple of hours. Pan fry the chicken until almost done and add your favorite vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, green beans, mushrooms). Add noodles and toss everything in some more soy sauce. I make own my own chilli sauce too but I am not giving away that recipe! Buahahah!

Here's to more fasting and feasting!

Note: Thanks to National Foods for suppling the spice mixes my cooking adventures.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

[Music] The Summer Setlist

My coping mechanism for most of life's curveballs is music. Currently, we (especially those of us in Karachi) are experiencing one of the hottest summers to date (they say that every year). Here's what I am listening to this summer to stay energized during the exhausting summer.

1. Don Omar ft Lucenzo - Danza Kuduro

Every summer needs a Latin beat featuring many different artists whose names you may or may not be able to pronounce correctly. Who cares. Just bounce along.

2. A-Ha ft. Kygo - Take On Me

A fresh new perspective on the 80s hit. Norden meets the Carribean in this summer anthem. And it's  totally legit! They even performed at the Nobel Prize Ceremony last year.

3. Justin Timberlake - Can't Stop The Feeling

Every summer needs an all-American, blonde, blue eyed Justin Timberlake. This one makes me fall in love with small town America all over again.

4. Grupo Fantasma - Cayuco

I am biased towards Latin music, particularly in the summer. This summer, I urge you to discover the music, Grupo Fantasma - a Latin funk-fusion band based in Austin, Texas. I saw them perform in Karachi earlier this year and it was electric! Oh also, they played a few after-parties for Prince.

5. In Grid - Tu Ma Promis

Blast from the past that is still relevant for every summer romance gone wrong. 

What's on your summer setlist? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 6 June 2016

[Food] How To Survive This Summer In The Kitchen

Karachi is hot. And not in a sexy way. It is hot, humid, sweaty and sometimes smelly. So here's a pro tip about how to survive this summer in the average Karachi kitchen... Just don't. That's right, avoid cooking altogether. Well, as much as possible. My mother is away all summer and feeding the family is on my to-do-list. Here's a few basic tips on how to avoid cooking this sumer:

1. Freeze: Make your own kababs. Shami kababs are hard work. I opted for mince based burger style kababs instead. Get creative - add your own concoction of herbs and spices, something to bind it all together and just grill. Cook them fully - about 2 minutes each side for chicken. Then just cool and freeze.

Add carbs to your creation if needed

2. Greens: Being lazier has been never healthier. Get a head of ice berg lettuce every couple of days to make your own salad mix. I usually grill a spiced chicken breast and keep it in the fridge to add to my salad.

My  Citrus Sumac Salad

3. Order In: No really. Just order in. But when ordering for the whole family, it can get a bit pricey and you have to think of preferences. And children. I found the FoodPanda app to be quite helpful in this regard. I usually order in when I am craving something specific like pizza or Chinese. FoodPanda actually turned out to be a great tool for budgeting and planning meals. I gave myself a budget of Rs 1000 for dinner per day to feed the four of us and then spent quite a bit of time scrolling through the menus and prices on the app. Not only was I able to feed the family on a budget but we also got to try lots of new restaurants that we would not usually visit. I was also able to order much earlier on for the food to be delivered at a specific time. So even if I forgot my responsibilities, Panda did not,


What did I order and how did it taste? Watch this space for indiviual reviews coming up.