Try These International Recipes for Weeknight Dinners

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Try these international recipes for weeknight dinners for healthy, inexpensive meals.

The author shares international recipes for weeknight dinners from her cookbook The Thursday Night Feast and Good Plain Meals Cookbook.

Low-Cost International Recipes

Spicy Baked Chicken With Stuffing Recipe
Shrimp Curry Recipe

International Recipes for Weeknight Dinners

If Sigrid Shepard’s Great-aunt Myra hadn’t gone to China as
a missionary, Sigrid might never have written The Thursday
Night Feast and Good Plain Meals Cookbook
. And if that had
happened, the English-speaking world would have been
deprived of an exceptionally good culinary book.

Feast (as Sigrid refers to it) is a hefty
natural foods how-to manual that features the cuisines of
China, Japan, Indonesia, India, and the Middle East. And
not just “features” those cuisines . . . but tells you how to
use common or easy-to-obtain ingredients to produce over
800 of the most mouthwatering dishes imaginable (none of
which you could call plain, by the way).

But — to get back to Aunt Myra — it was she who
first brought the Orient to young Sigrid’s attention with
the intriguing gifts she sent home from the other side of
the world. In later years, Sigrid expanded on her Aunt
Myra — inspired early fascination for the East by
becoming expert in first Chinese, then Japanese cuisines
. . . and she didn’t stop till she’d mastered many of the
best kitchen techniques of the whole Eastern Hemisphere!

In her introduction to the book, Sigrid explains how and
why Feast came to be: “Like many people at
the beginning of the 70’s, I became interested in natural
foods, and I found that Eastern dishes were a “natural” for
this type of food preparation . . . the cardinal rule for
both being not to cook out the vitality.

“Eastern food is a feast for the eye, the palate, and the
body. The short cooking time and inexpensive ingredients
make it a quick, economical cuisine for busy people who
don’t want to live on denatured, prepackaged,
additive-soaked food.

Feast resulted from the urging of friends
and neighbors who kept asking for recipes and finally
talked me into teaching them for a year of Thursday nights.
The class came to be called the Thursday Night Feast
because we prepared 15 to 20 dishes each meeting and then
feasted on them. Thanks to Margaret Putman’s illustrations,
each technique that was demonstrated in class is shown step
by step in the book.

“Recipes have been tested repeatedly, so they’re easy to
follow and will produce a uniform result . . . no matter what
the experience of the cook. Every step — how to saute onions,
how to soak mushrooms, how to deep-fry — is fully
explained each time it’s used. All terms are translated or
explained as they occur . . . no referring to page 370 when
you’re on page 216. The same goes for variations: They’re
always directly opposite the main recipe on a two-page

Feast, however, is not a culinary
dictator. Many different substitutes are suggested, so that
when you’re out of this or low on that there are always
alternate ingredients easy to find in North America.
Elaborate kitchens and equipment are not a must for
preparing Eastern dishes, either. Old-fashioned cast-iron
pots and frying pans and improvised steamers work as well
as woks, karhais, and bamboo steamers, and many of the
feasts have been prepared over Yukon campfires as well as
in fancy urban kitchens.

“For both philosophical and economic reasons, the peoples
of the countries covered in this book have subsisted on
low-meat and vegetarian diets for centuries. Beans, bean
curd, sprouts, lentils, nuts, and seeds are used as a
protein source in place of — or to enhance the limited
use of — expensive meat. So Feast is
designed for both vegetarians and meat-eaters. It’s low on
the use of eggs and dairy products, and calls for no
monosodium glutamate (MSG).

“The major substitutions (to make it a natural foods
cookbook) are honey for sugar, brown rice and whole wheat
for white processed varieties, cold-pressed unsaturated
vegetable oils for animal fat, and sea salt for processed
salt. Cooking methods haven’t been changed, because these
cultures are already into a healthful way of cooking.

“The recipes feature many herbs and spices — as well as
beans, grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts — but
prepackaged and prepared foods are never used in this
economical, nutritious cuisine. Most of the dishes can be
served hot or cold the next day for lunch or dinner, so
nothing is wasted. In fact, one of the beauties of Eastern
food is that a leftover dinner — with just one or two
dishes added — can turn into a feast.

“Sauteing, steaming, stir-frying, deep-frying, and grilling
are the main methods of cooking. Low fuel use and small
stoves with no ovens have dictated these methods,
which — translated to Western kitchens — make for low energy
use. Much time is spent in preparation: grating, slicing,
julienning, chopping, and marinating . . . all steps where
others can lend a hand to make the process go faster.
Although many dishes in Feast are long on
preparation time, there are also many quick meals that can
be put together in 20 to 30 minutes.

“Here in North America, we have one of the richest harvests
the world has ever enjoyed, yet we turn that harvest into a
tasteless nutritional wasteland. Feast was
put together to help you discover the simple methods and
fine foods which millions of people for thousands of years
have used to provide themselves with a delicious and
nourishing diet. Whether you eat to live or live to eat,
make it a feast!”

Sounds good, and it is! Here, to give you just a
tantalizing sample of the kind of fare Sigrid’s kitchen
manual has to offer, are two recipes selected from the
Indian section of her book. (See recipes at the top of this article.)

Reprinted by permission from The Thursday Night Feast
and Good Plain Meals Cookbook, a $9.95 paperback
by Sigrid M. Shepard, copyright© 1976 by the
author. Distributed to bookstores in the U.S. by Bookpeople,
Berkeley, California and in Canada by J.J. Douglas Ltd.,
Vancouver, B.C., and available from MOTHER’s