That ‘Wicked Hungry’ Feeling.


What would we do without procrastination?…perhaps we would complete the tasks we set ourselves? That can’t possibly be true, come to think of it, procrastination is an underappreciated art form and should be celebrated and perfected. And although I can’t quite say that my methods and means of procrastination are quite ‘perfect’, I know that I’m on the right path. Unfortunately that spells disaster for the tasks which are pending (of which there are many).

Right, let’s move further into this procrastination filled brain purge…

You know, the thought occurred to me the other day, how certain foods seem to not match their first impressions. Do you know what I mean? Like that first bite of that supermarket falafel wrap and you feel almost euphoric, but when picking up the same option after having such a fond memory associated…it seems almost as though the entire composition has been changed. Perhaps that’s true, but what about the countless other foods that have this exact same reaction? Maybe it’s possible that all these foods that made me smile with glee had a sudden change of recipe and no longer elicit the same glorious taste tantilising effect…but I believe otherwise, and I’ll explain.

The key factor in all of these very specific instances is the undeniable hunger I experienced when first tasting these foods. I can’t stress enough how hungry I was…Wicked Hungry, is how I would put it. And now my scientist brain queries…is it possible that substantial hunger results in altered perception of food, specifically the taste of mediocre food, feeling like nectar? Well this is actually something which has been researched and stems from an evolutionary need to feed ourselves, by making us less ‘fussy’ with food. A recent Japanese study by Fu et al. showed that hunger induced neurological changes in the brain which affect perception of taste and appetite through modulated neuronal circuits.

The concept is certainly interesting from both a scientific and foodie perspective, and tells me for sure never to believe the food opinion of anyone who has exceptional hunger, not even your own! The brain is a great trickster, don’t let yourself be fooled! So eat when you aren’t hungry…like I do…all the time…except when I don’t…hmm (now thinks that all ‘favourite foods’ must now be re-tasted).

 

 

 

 

The Foodie Scientist.


I’ve been absent, I get it. My hands are up in surrender. But I’m here now and shouldn’t that count? And as a little bit of an apology, this post is going to be inundated with yours and mine’s favourite, food.

I’ve loved cooking and baking and it goes without saying…experimenting. Mind you, this love affair only began once I realised that cooking wasn’t a chore and onerous task. The first mess up I made, I don’t even remember the dish, my mum simply said start again and don’t worry about the mess. That made me see that the kitchen was much more like my lab. You don’t give up after a single failed experiment, you change parameters, you optimise and you try again. You start off following protocols, but you adapt to make it work for you and your conditions. And that’s exactly like cooking, you start with a recipe and you adjust it to your taste and what you have available. Except please don’t taste your Ringer’s buffer and your SDS-PAGE gel!

I’m really not embellishing when I say ‘inundated’ with food…take a look for yourself! I won’t lie, I’ve found much easier to post my foodie exploits on my Instagram page (I know! Nazra has moved into the 21st Century with social media!) @q.nazra 🙂

 

Khaman Dhokla

Chicken Jalfrezi with rice

Butter chicken with naan

Steak and Chips from Toro’s steakhouse, Manchester

Quarter peri peri chicken from Toro’s steakhouse, Manchester

Refreshing mocktails from Toro’s steakhouse, Manchester

Halal full English breakfast from Millie’s tearoom, Hayfield

The Indian inspired Veggie breakfast from Millie’s tearoom (and B&B), Hayfield

Rose, Lemon and Pistachio drizzle cake

Oven roasted Salmon fillet with herb roasted potatoes and mint salsa verde!

Spinach pesto and chilli pasta

Salt and pepper chicken with veg noodles from Oodles chinese, Coventry (my fav takeout!)

Cake Box (can never say no to cake!)

Fruit scone from Rising cafe, Coventry

Smoked salmon and poached egg breakfast from Cosy club

Veggie breakfast from Cosy club

Garlic mushroom from The Farmhouse, Coventry

Passionfruit Daiquiri (mocktail of course!), The Farmhouse, Coventry

Steak! From The Farmhouse, Coventry

Indian fish and chips from The Farmhouse, Coventry

Cardamom panna cotta with a strawberry coulis

Chana daal with gourd (dudhi/kaddu)

Palak paneer, made with tandoori spiced paneer! It’s soo good!

Brownies! Recipe inspired by Roojie The Foodie #RTF

Curried cauliflower

Lasagna

Veggie Hot Pizza from Pizza Hut

Rava idli with sambhaar!

Oodles chinese! Kung pao and crispy chicken

Egg fried rice

BBC Good Food recipe – nutty chocolate bread!

Chicken and green bean curry

Chicken 65 – recipe from Fauzia’s Kitchen Fun (FKF)

Mixed veggie curry (aubergine, potato and pigeon peas)

Creme caramel

Cheesy pasta

My famous ‘Flaounas’

Achaari chicken!

Semolina pudding (sooji)

Chicken khao suey

Veggie pasta

Fudgy Oreo brownie cake

Las Iguanas dessert

Mac n cheese @ Las Iguanas

Masoor gosht with rice (brown lentil and lamb curry)

Fish curry – Sea bass

Egg and kebab curry

Creamy Philadelphia tagliatelle

 

The One with All the Questions.


It’s been a few months, I understand it’s been long but sadly my manner of procrastination is becoming increasingly unproductive and more television based…mind numbing and unstimulating, which I suppose in a way, is what procrastination should be.

There have been several questions on my mind, and having experienced the journey of a lifetime, these questions have come circling back.

It’s been a little over 5 months since the wedding and I couldn’t be happier, and although I’ve been more ill than I can ever remember (more on this later) things feel settled and right. I suppose for me this was another thing that was imminent and something I looked forward to. I simply didn’t think about how such a huge milestone in my life would affect those around me. I was blinded by the reality that I was finally getting married to my best friend after years of ‘yes and no’ that I didn’t think about how it would all affect my Nani. I guess that’s not entirely true, I knew this would be a huge change for her too, I knew that, I just didn’t know how she would cope or rather that she wouldn’t.

Since the announcement of the wedding, Nani just took a hit, I understand that the last 18 years of her life were just her and me and this would change it all. She started falling and losing balance and just started getting hurt without even realising. After the wedding she started to keep even more to herself and stopped talking to my mum and us, she would happily spill all to anyone else but refused to talk to us. But when I go to visit she would light up, I knew she missed me and I miss her too. And I truly feel guilty…but should I?

I keep asking her if she wants me to move back, she always says yes, do I actually consider it? Yes…I do, but could I actually do it? Probably not. I feel as though my single decision resulted in her complete mental breakdown. She’s been diagnosed with dementia, she’s had several falls and has been lucky enough to only suffer a hairline fracture. My mum has been a constant source of her care, tending to everything but feeling so frustrated dealing with her own mother who refuses to speak to her. I know I should help more, I should do more…but I feel so far away, I feel so drained all the time and I have medical issues that I can’t even fathom.

I have a lot of questions on my mind, should I leave my job so that I can be there more for my Nani and to help relieve the burden on my mum? Should I move closer to my Nani? Should I make a greater effort to see my Nani daily…this one doesn’t even need to be a question, I know that I need to make more effort. I just wish that my health was in a better condition so that I was able to look after myself and also look after those whom I love. My best friend and husband has been so incredibly supportive, and I could never even dream of giving him up, but I do wonder if none of this had happened…then would my Nani still be her happy bubbly self? If I could turn back time and change things…should I?

It’s all just so overwhelming that I feel like hiding.

This truly is the one with all the questions…thank God that I have cooking and baking to help me get through this all…work, life and the balance of it all.

 

NQ out.

The lazy bird hits the hay.


I seem to be getting more and more terrible at keeping up with my posting, and it’s not for a lack of content, thought or passion. I simply lack the energy. I suppose the only ‘silver lining’ is that it’s not long until I embark on my journey of a lifetime…much needed for me as a person right now, and I know that it will recharge me. I’ve been a lot more ‘ill’ than I can ever remember being and needing trips to the hospital – which is quite frankly unheard of for me. I hope it’s just a bad phase that I’m going through and I hope that my body can recover and isn’t just warning me of something lurking (I can’t even delve there right now…not strong enough).

But nonetheless, I have been cooking where possible (and when I am able to stand without screaming in pain) to distract myself of the pain of a having a job that I have no passion for, a body who is clearly aging in number and function (and I’m still only late twenties! Oh dear!) and the sudden change that is married life. Don’t get me wrong, I love being married, I get to be with my best friend always and live in our home together…but I miss depending on my mum and dad and them knowing how to take care of me when I’m sick. I know they’re not that far away…but sometimes being alone in the house feels just like that…alone. I don’t deal well with the quiet and I need distractions, perhaps a reason why I enjoy cooking so much.

I’ve contemplated leaving my job and just taking a breath…but it’s a not financially feasible option, I wish it were different. I miss being a student, I miss the opportunities of learning and honestly, if my current job was what the role is ‘supposed’ to be, I would’ve been learning and perhaps not been so miserable. Science is beautiful, and I miss actually being in the lab, holding that pipette and using it as precisely as possible, I miss experiments and figuring out why you have a response, I miss articulating my thoughts through literature and observation and above all else I truly miss feeling like I have something to leap out of bed in the morning for. I hate being stuck at a computer (blogging in no way counts!) and with my right eye acting up (scaring me incredibly and also causing the need to go to eye casualty) it’s not very comfortable doing ‘computer’ work. If I had wanted to be sat in front of a PC all day, I would’ve gotten an office job. I hope that a research position that offers the chance of learning but using my skills and passion is out there somewhere…part of me is scared to search with all the rejections I’ve faced. But you won’t know until you try, right?

Anyway, here’s some more food that I’ve been busy making, I haven’t baked anything sweet in a while, perhaps I’l do some of that today!

NQ out.

Pizza pinwheels made for Eid

Chicken karahi with rice

My favourite, Daal gosht with rice!

Who doesn’t love a good cream tea!

Chicken and vegetable pie

Kidney bean curry…purely vegan

I love runny yolks for breakfast!

Kebab and potatoes with roti!

Gujarati staple…Kadhi, bhaji and rice

Bhaji (spinach) with potatoes…also vegan

Lamb karahi with rice

First time making Dhoodh kurma (also known as Seviyaan) without a recipe and just going by taste and memory! Did very well!

Grilled mint chicken, paprika roasted potatoes and cheesy garlic bread (bought from Basement Browns!)

My Eid platter! Pinwheels, sakkar para, chicken wings, gajar halwa and chocolate covered strawberries

 

 

 

 

PS. Super weird that a former colleague who was always a bit jealous (no idea why!) of me wished me a Happy Birthday…before my friends!!! So weird!

So what’s it going to be, Nazra?


If it’s not already obvious, I absolutely love the month of Ramadhan. So much clarity and reflection, it’s an opportunity not to be missed. And I for one, certainly like to make the most of my time, which is why I find that this month organises my priorities, my goals and what it is that I truly want to achieve…even if it is only short term. And now that Ramadhan has departed once more, I long for it even more, but this time the clarity hasn’t been jaded.

There are few decisions which I make impulsively and often I have never regretted these decisions. It’s only when I have tried putting these off that I know for certain that my impulse was correct. I’m back at that juncture once again. It’s difficult to be a scientist when being confined to a chair and table (for the record, I’m typing on the sofa and the laptop on my…lap), I miss the lab, I miss my calculations (sample size calculation does NOT count), and most of all I miss putting on my lab coat and opening my carefully planned out lab book. I yearn to get back into that routine and to have a sense of purpose. I’m so glad to have a job which is somewhat close to my field (cardiovascular…but God, is it a stretch to what I want to do), but I didn’t expect or think this would be anything more than just getting me through my write up and viva. And now that I am through with all of that, I want to finally be more than just ‘Dr’ in title, I want to use the last few years and actually be able to say it was all worth it.

Nazra needs a change. Nazra needs a new job. I’m trying to write 3 project proposals all at the same time and I hate it. I have zero motivation (hence my procrastination…which helps me with my blog!) and I would much rather just quit my job, but I’m an adult and I need to make tactical decisions and until I find something else I have to stick it out. Ramadhan is my clarity, it makes me hone into what I truly want and need. I can’t ever take the most amazing month of the year for granted.

 

Peace out. NQ.

The Farmhouse: Fish&Steaks


Visited The Farmhouse in Coventry after hearing plenty of good things. What swayed us in our going, was the decision of the restaurant to make the venue alcohol free! The hospitality was fantastic and so was the food, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the mocktails (the Pina Colada at Las ignuanas is the one to beat!) but it was pretty much faultless execution from start to finish.

If anyone is around in Coventry, do be sure to give it a go, you’ll be glad you did!

Twin Shadows

For those that were paying attention

Ramadan Mubarak! The post comes a bit late but ever since Ramadan started I feel like time has been flying faster than I can even process!

Anyway, on to business. Just before Ramadan, me and the wife decided to go for our first “fancy” meal. And I can honestly say we hit the jackpot! The chosen place? The Farmhouse, in Coventry.

Now I consider myself a steak lover, as well as a wannabe connoisseur. While I can eat normal meat, steaks have a pedestal of their own. For those of you who may not be familiar with steaks, I will break them down into my personal list:

  1. Sirloin (Top, but I don’t shy away from other types)
  2. Ribeye
  3. Tenderloin AKA Fillet Mignon
  4. Strip Steak AKA New York Strip
  5. Porterhouse Steak

I won’t keep going because I could talk about steak for days! Anyway, NQ…

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Ramadhan Mubarak!


I know, I know! I’m almost an entire week late to the game, but it won’t stop me from exuberating the month I love most in the whole year. Ramadhan. Hearing the name of the month alone makes me feel so gleeful, it’s a month to trim back everything and look at the details, at the small things, at the minute changes that we undergo, the spiritual and mental reconnection that we owe ourselves. The month of Blessings has always held a special place in my heart, not just because of how it makes me feel (like a solar panel consistently receiving rays) but also because I feel the most like myself this time of year. Fasting, contrary to popular belief, allows me to fine tune and focus on intricacies, I am more energised (again, contrary to popular belief) than ever before, and now is even more proof of that, with managing full time work, cooking (which I love beyond doubt), household chores (not so fond of) and of course reciting and praying as much as I can possibly challenge myself too. And yes, whilst I may have felt sleepy towards the end of the day…I blame the melatonin, I am still charged and ready to go, and for that I am thankful to my Lord.

So you’re probably wondering…where’s all the food then? Well, I’ll get there! Patience is a sweet reward…or in my case a savoury one, since sweets aren’t my most favoured! But I will say one thing, Air fryer (two words, but one thing!). I am the most excited with this gadget! I won’t lie, a few years ago when these were ridiculously expensively, I had dismissed these as a fad, but boy am I glad to have gotten this present from my brothers! It’s the best timing too with Ramadhan and the mutual love of samosas that my husband (still weird saying that!) and I share!! Only a little bit of fiddling around to find the ideal setting and voila…perfectly crisp and golden samosas with minimal oil (only some sprayed on sunflower oil)!

I’ll post a picture of the some of the food I’ve tried so far in another post, but trust me on this one, a healthy way to eat the foods you love is the best present! And I will be using my Tower air fryer all year round! Quick and easy in every way possible, samosas won’t stand around for too long hahahahaha

 

NQ out. Blessed fasting everyone! And be healthy!

 

PS. Having said that…I’m waiting for my ‘The Cake Campaign‘ cake to arrive tomorrow and my Palestinian dates too! Can’t wait! Best thing is, it’s all for charity and you get a slice of the cake too…literally!

Twin Shadows. The beginning.


It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally all real and all settled in. No, I’m not yet in the research job of my dreams, but Dr NQ has just added to her life, my very own live in bestie. Also known as a ‘husband’. That’s right! Nazra got married! Wahay! Almost encroaching a month now and things have settled despite families to please, setting up the house and of course working in between.

I would describe the events in detail…but they truly are 4 days of just blurs. Great blurs. I actually enjoyed everything, which is almost like saying that Pluto IS a planet. It was amazing fun and having my friends share the experience with me was the most I could ever ask for, everyone was happy (which for a wedding…is incredibly rare!), the food was great and I got to do the important things my way. Make up free for my entire wedding. Wearing white. No henna and no jewellery. Just the way I like it. We planned a million things, I had bought so many extras…and none of that manifested, but what happened was spontaneous and so much better. I loved my wedding day. An incredibly strange feeling for a non-girly ‘girl’ (I feel like being in my twenties means I can still get away with ‘girl’) who has never enjoyed weddings, not even the thought of them. I surprise myself far often than not. I surprise myself with the strength and belief I have in myself, with how much I have been through, all the heartache and tears…but they all made me the stronger person that can proudly be assertive, authoritative and all the way remain realistic and grounded.

But enough about me, let’s talk about the important stuff! Food! The last 3.5 weeks has been cooking, eating out, exploring and getting used to the idea of my own home. Awesomeness.

Here’s some of the food I’ve devoured. More to come. Yuminess infinitely…well, at least according to the husband.

Lasagna – first ever meal!

Set mung daal prep (my sister’s fav)

Dry fish curry – Seabass

Chicken stir fried egg noodles

Twin shadows – The beginning of forever

BBQ day with the in-laws

Deadly fruit salad (kiwi!) and mocktail!

Chicken Karahi!

Label maker obsession

Masoor lentils

Lamb curry with potatoes

Breakfast with homemade wedges

Cauliflower, cabbage and pigeon pea curry

Tonight’s dinner…Butter chicken.

 

The next post hopefully won’t take as long to come up! Expect some reviews on food and hopefully more food pics, just in time before the best month ever descends…Ramadhan! Can’t wait!

 

Dr/Mrs NQ out.

Our ‘Darkest Days’.


I’ve been preoccupied, procrastinating away from my usual redundancies and feeling like a jelly removed too quickly from it’s mould…but I have found myself compelled to write my feelings away.

No matter what I do to try and make sense of what it is that I hear, I can never truly feel content until I have somehow purged myself of the words that haunt my brain. More often than not, those words are best found in my Ramblings.

Christchurch. That noun alone is enough to trigger a feeling I cannot even describe, aided by struggling emotional defences, I find this incident having affected me far more than any other in the recent past. We are not safe from hatred. No matter how much I try to believe that love can conquer all…hatred has far too many tools in its chest. No one is looking for peace, it seems. Each person, each political representation only wants to make the lives of its own better. No one cares about being human anymore, it’s all about however many divisions we can get. But we must never let them win, we need to stand hand-in-hand together with each other and show that we are one. We are one world. One race. We are human. We are built for love and care and we must show each other that in any and every way we are capable of doing so. We are all destined to die, no one amongst us is immortal, why spend your life in hatred? Why spend your days in fear of others when all it takes is a gesture of kindness to mend bridges burnt through history, through war, through fascist agendas propagated by the politicians we elected to make our world better.

I have found myself wound in a cycle of tears and hurt, everything I read, every solemn face I see, every painful expression I feel, causes more and more tears. Whether we are affected by our personal calamities or we stand together with those affected by terrorism, we are a sea of uncontrollable emotions, emotions which are thought to be our weakness. This is our harsh reality, the world we are in is changing towards an attitude that fosters only hatred towards the different, and expressions of emotion are thought as weak. There is no one speaking for peace. No one able to step away from their high horse and use their voice for the good of all. We are merely ripples in a vast ocean, but if our single words of solidarity with anyone and everyone affected by calamities of our own doing…then we can be that positivity. We can be the force of good to take back our world from those intent on its destruction. The small acts of kindness I have seen from people towards their Muslim neighbours and friends has been a spark of hope in the darkness that has fallen on us. Let’s work together to make the world a better place.

I have said this before and I will say it again and again, it only takes one small step of kindness to make us better people. Better humans, better neighbours, better members of civilised society.

 

PS. My heart is with all those affected by the atrocities in Christchurch, I pray for the bereaved and pray that we can all come together and never let those who choose to show hatred instead of love, ever succeed.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?…no, I’m just procrastinating.


I wanted to write this post weeks ago…but now it feels as though I’ve put it off much much longer. In my defense, I’ve been busy being roped into wedding things (boring!), interviews (8!!!!) and of course working (again, boring). I started Veganuary but after two weeks I had to give up, not because I was craving non-vegan food (although I did miss it) but actually because of health complications (I’ll explain later).

Nonetheless, this is what I enjoyed as part of my brief stint of veganism (soon to be revisited…I hope!). So I decided to make myself some biscuits, of only oil, flour, brown cane sugar, toasted oats and almonds. Whilst the concept was pretty good (who doesn’t love toasted oats and almonds?), the oil overpowered the taste (rapeseed) and well…basically I only ate 3/6. I really love the Wicked Kitchen range (Tesco) which is fully vegan, whilst I’m a little over the ‘curries’ (all end up tasting smoky and sweet which defeats the purpose), the pizzas are incredible! And this falafel sandwich was very very tasty! Far more than the smoked carrot on rye…which I personally didn’t enjoy, mainly because I’m not a fan of rye bread. But the best of the bunch were the Wicked cookies I had (Hmm, I’m beginning to think that anything that is branded ‘Wicked‘ is actually incredible) a few days ago. I’ve heard a lot about these homemade cookies and whilst on my way back from an interview in Oxford, I decided to get what was left of the variety of cookies they had. I picked up their fudge and raisins, macadamia and white chocolate and their vegan chocolate orange. They were amazing! Truly amazing and I find myself wanting to go to the train station just to get cookies!!! The vegan cookie was honestly the best and I would eat that every. single. day!

Now you may ask, what made me give up my veganuary pledge? Well, first of all it was nerves…that right. I had a ‘meet the parents’ encounter and the sheer nerve of the event meant I grabbed a snack and wasn’t until I started chewing that I realised that it was a chicken spring roll (knock down one). Then I started experiencing very very severe stomach pains and couldn’t explain why, I couldn’t quite figure out why (knock down two). And the final straw was going out shopping and feeling like a pain being so fussy and gave in. The food was well worth it! Absolutely yum!

IMAG0348 - Copy

Well, it turns out the my intense stomach pains, which led to sick days and the inability to sleep was actually a H. pylori  infection. A week long intense course of antibiotics later and I’m absolutely fine (thankfully!), and can actually have dairy without feeling any intestinal discomfort (it seems I’m miraculously cured from my perceived lactose sensitivity)…I can’t stop thinking about those Wicked cookies! I want some more, they’re too gooood!

Well of course, this leaves me with the many interviews I attended, and I whilst I didn’t find any of the interviews fruitful, there’s a lot I’ve gained from them. The truth is that as a girl/woman (I never feel like either depict me well enough!) you’re always told (subconsciously and then not so subconsciously) that you’re not good enough. In fact, this resonates amongst Asian girls a heck of a lot, particularly those who grew up in the UK. So we grow up thinking we are nothing, we mean nothing and we can do nothing. And breaking past all those stops put on you is hard, but doable. I’ve spent decades fighting everyone from my parents to my ‘friends’ who thought I couldn’t do it, or that I shouldn’t. But now it feels like there’s more to me than I’ve ever given myself credit. From where do such words arise, you may ask? Well, after being interviewed by Cambridge, Oxford, King’s and Manchester, the leading UK universities, I can wholeheartedly say that I have achieved something. I have represented myself, my gender, my culture, my religion and that is a lot, a heck of a lot. And importantly, I will never underestimate myself or what I can push for. I will always try no matter how hard I must push against the current.