It is not just the world that is my playground; ’tis my kitchen and my friend’s kitchen, too.

Mixed Berry Cream Scones.

Rosemary Foccacia, made on one of those cold and lingering (and lingering) winter days Vienna couldn’t shake in early April.

One day my Kazakhstani friend graciously opened her kitchen for a lesson in how to prepare Pelmini, the luscious Russian dumpling; and Manti, the more classic Central Asian preparation.

Quite possibly the Pelmini came to Russia from the Chinese Wonton, but of course one may never know the exact origin. It being Pelmini are a cousin to the Polish pierogi I was able to form these little “ear breads” stuffed with seasoned beef and lamb without too much problem. The Manti, however, were altogether a different story. Though I have prepared Armenian Mantu in the past with a slightly different shape, perfecting the Kazakhstan Manti shape was beyond my ability, even while under the careful tutelage of my friend. Whereas Pelmini are boiled, Manti are steamed in manti-kaskan, large layered steamers like the retro cool Soviet cooker my friend has from her family. My elementary effort at Pelmini was met with cheers at the dinner table.

Of course Tony was all in for grilled beef shoulder outside in February if it meant Rotisserie Beef Shoulder Tacos with Grilled Onions.

No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.” Julia Child, I hear you. This disaster was supposed to be a “Savory Babka.” Instead, it turned out to be a cross between garlic-flavored Play-dough and scallion-infused chalk.

How better to spend a cold winter Sunday than by experimenting in my kitchen? The dish looks like an ordinary stew, I know, but that is because the Internet lacks “aroma” and “taste” settings.

This dish was anything but ordinary. Mirchi Qorma, Kashmiri Lamb in Chile Sauce, dates to the 16th century and was often prepared in the Mughal court kitchens, and even served at the Taj Mahal.

The humble lamb shoulder is slow roasted, covered with a paste of dry roasted chiles, cardamom, and black peppercorns; and in a stock that includes cinnamon sticks. The magic happens in the final hour, when a sauce of tamarind, garlic, and toasted cumin seeds is added to the roast.  Fiery but not overbearing, with a simple pilau on the side. Definitely a keeper.

My Asian holiday only fanned the flames of my love affair with the cuisines. No surprise there. This is Gochujong Grilled Chicken in Lettuce; the Gochujong being a spicy Korean paste. It is okay if you’re drooling.

My most ambitious Asian recipe to date, the “simple” Bak Chor Mee that we enjoyed at least three times while in Singapore.

Nods of approval from the Omas at Merkur for having pork fat and pork bones in my basket. Heh. If they only knew.

My Assistants. The kind owner at my favorite Asian grocer even helped me find a couple of the more obscure items.

I even prepared the black vinegar and garlic sauce from scratch!

Steamed Fish Balls and Fried Shrimp Wontons were prepared along with the minced pork and cracklings; added atop the noodles; and then the dish was dressed with the black vinegar and chili paste sauce. The only item missing that is keeping this from being a true preparation is the slivers of milk-braised liver. Because liver is gross.

Three hours of prep later, the verdict? We could not stop raving.

Not my creation, I am simply sharing this final snap for its presentation. The most creative Hiking and Schnitzeling lunch so far: Backhendl in a Basket.