Monday, December 29, 2008

Okra/Lady Finger/Bhindi Fry: A great accompanyment to any meal

This is so easy. All you have to do is wash your okra, let it dry well, and then cut it into little nickel sized slices. Chop chop chop! This is the most time consuming part. Then you fry it on high heat until it is crispy and a little browned. Set the fried bhindi on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Then you have a snack, side dish, or garnish. You can keep these fried okra chips in an air tight container, unrefridgerated, for up to a week. When you are ready to serve them, season with salt, chaat masala, and a dash of lemon juice. The okra becomes a chutney type side dish with any meal. You can also garnish daal with it, or just eat it with a spoon as a snack!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Desi style Daikon Radish Cooked in its own leaves (Mooli ki sabzi)

Daikon Radish is known as mooli in Hindi and Urdu. Mooli is available year round, but its taste is best in the winter when it is less bitter and almost sweet. It is an integral part of the "Punjabi salaad," which is a simply a plate set with an assortment of raw chopped vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, onions, mooli, cucumber, beetroot, romaine lettuce leaves, lemon wedges, and/or whatever else suits your fancy. It can be left plain, or garnished with lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and chaat masala. Mooli is also used in pickle making. But mooli is not just an accompanyment to a meal. It can be a meal itself. Here is a recipe for mooli cooked in its own leaves, mooli ke patte or mooli saag. You know saag paneer? Saag means greens, paneer is cheese. Saag comes in many varieties, paalak (spinach), sarson (mustard), and so forth. You can use the recipe below for any saag, actually. Instead of radish, with paalak you could add potatoes or paneer, or even pre-browned pieces of meat for paalak chicken or gosht. If you decide to use meat, stir in 1 tsp garam masala at the end of preparation of the dish. With a vegetarian dish, you could optionally add yoghurt, milk, or cream to achieve a restaurant style creamy effect. Another variation is to puree the greens in the blender. So many options with such a simple and delicious family of vegetable, leafy greens!

First, you should peel your daikon radish with a potato peeler. Slice it into circles about as thick as two quarters stacked together. If you have a particularly fat radish, you can cut the larger slices into semi-circles. Set these aside. No chop your radish leaves, stems and all, into fine shreds. I prefer to chop, then wash. Wash your leaves really really well, because you don't want to end up with a gritty texture to your dish from leftover dirt and sand. Set your washed radish and leaves aside, but still dripping wet from the wash. This will provide the moisture for steaming them during the cooking process.
one radish and two bunches chopped radish leaves, all prepared as described above
2 tbs oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 small onion finely chopped
1 heaping tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tomato, chopped (skin if you like, but I am not that fussy)
salt to taste
fresh cilantro chopped
fresh green chilies chopped
1 tbs butter
Your pot must have a lid. Heat oil in pot. Add in cumin seeds and onions. Let onions cook until translucent. Add in your ginger/garlic and allow to brown, then stir in powdered spices and allow to sizzle. Quickly add tomatoes and stir until they melt down. Now add in ALL of your greens and radish slices, and cover the pot. Don't worry, the moisture on the greens will prevent the masala from burning. Keep the lid on for a minute, then lift the lid. The greens will have melted down. Mix well with the masala. Now that you can see the amount of finished post-melted greens you have, you can add salt to taste. Add a tiny bit of water if it looks dry. Allow to bubble up on high heat, then cover and turn the heat on low. Cook covered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the greens and radish are done. Turn off the heat. Stir in the butter, cilantro, and fresh chilies. Serve with flat bread or rice!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Baingan Bharta

For this, you need to roast two large sized eggplants. You can do this by putting them in the oven on highest heat wrapped in foil for about 45 minutes. You can also paint them with oil, and roast them over a gas stove flame, turning them as they blacken. Once they seem mushy, allow them to cool, peel them, and set aside the flesh. A little bit of charred skin adds a nice smoky flavor note in this dish, so don't worry if there is some skin mixed with the flesh. Also, save the stems as a garnish, and also to suck on for the lucky people who get them.

Two large eggplants, cooked as instructed above.
2 medium onions, chopped finely
3 tomatoes, chopped into small chunks
1 heaping tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped finely
2-3 green chilies, chopped roughly
3 tbs oil
salt to taste
While your eggplants are cooking, make a Masala Melt (see post below). Start by frying in oil the cumin seeds and chopped onions on high heat, then turn down the heat and cook until they are nicely sauteed and clear. Add in the ginger and garlic, allow to cook through, then turn up the flame and add the red chile powder, ground cumin, and ground coriander. Once the spices sizzle, toss in the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes have melted down and the oil has separated from the masala, you are done. Now mix in the eggplant flesh (stems, too). If by chance when you peeled the eggplant there were some uncooked parts deep inside, you can cook everything for a few minutes in the masala paste to cook them through. I usually add salt once I see how much eggplant flesh I have because you might have more or less depending on whether or not you had a lot of seeds in the eggplant. Some seeds are okay, but if you had a lot of seeds, you should toss that part out. Add salt now, mix well, and then mix in your green masalas (cilantro and chilies), and the garam masala. Stick the eggplant stems on top as a garnish. If you have an eggplant shaped serving dish, even cuter!

Melting the masala

Let’s look at how to make the basic tomato-onion masala that forms the flavor base of a wide range of North Indian/Southern Pakistani dishes, especially Panjabi dishes. I call this making the ‘Masala Melt.’ This is when you take wet aromatic ingredients such as onions, ginger, garlic, green chiles, and tomatoes, and you fry them for a long time until the moisture evaporates from them and the oil separates from the ingredients. Dry masalas such as whole and/or powdered spices are usually added to the Masala Melt. We don’t have anything equivalent to this in American cooking. Cooking onions this way goes far beyond our more common technique of caramelization.  But this technique is integral in producing authentic North Indian dishes. So, how do you make a Masala Melt? Start with finely chopped onions. Depending on the recipe, you may have to fry whole spices (khara or sabut masala) along with your onions. Add these to oil in a deep pot on high heat. When the onions have lost a bit of moisture, turn down the heat and saute them for a while until they are translucent, very soft, and almost falling apart, but not browning. If they are browning, you need to lower the flame. They shouldn’t start to brown too early or your onions will burn before the process is done. When the onions start to turn golden in color, you can add in your ginger, garlic, and chile pastes. Let this cook until the garlic and ginger are golden, too. By now, everything should be crispy looking and your onions should have taken on a reddish brown color. This indicates that all of the moisture has evaporated from them and they are properly fried. Now, turn up the heat and add in any powdered spices required for your recipe. Immediately after tossing in the spices, and before anything starts to burn, add in the tomatoes. The tomatoes should be chopped into fairly small chunks or roughly pureed in a food processor. You may also add salt at this point. Continue to fry the masala on high heat, stirring frequently until the tomatoes have ‘melted’ into a thick paste. The oil should rise to the top of the masala paste, and this masala paste should be slightly sticking to the pan. You now have a Masala Melt. The fried onions should have completely broken down in your Masala Melt and should no longer be visible. With some recipes, such as Rajma, Daal Makhani, Chola Masala, or some other lentil dishes, you will pour the Masala Melt into a pot of pre-cooked lentils. For some dishes, like Baingan Bharta, you will add cooked eggplant to the Masala Melt. You can also add various types of meat and use your Masala Melt as the base of a curry.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tonight we are gonna do it Madras style

Tonite we are doing it Madras style. It is uttapam, sambhar, and coconut chutney. My husband isn't too much into this kind of thing...but too bad for him! I only serve it every once in a while. Since it seems novel, he appreciates it.
The recipe below isn't really helpful unless you have access to ready made dosa/idli/uttapam batter. I am just sharing because it is a favorite meal of mine, plus I feel accomplished for serving it even though I buy a ready-made batter.

For the uttapam: I buy Saravana Bhavan's ready made dosa/idli/uttapam batter from Lulu Hypermarket. Just pour into a hot pan like a pancake and top with chopped onions, chopped green chilies, cilantro, ground coconut, and a few slices of tomatoes. Making dosa batter from scratch would be above my level of cooking skills, though I have been told it is very easy. I have used the boxed Gitz dosa mix before, but I don't recommend it.

For the sambhar: boil toor/arhar ki daal. When it is done, add in a medley of vegetables of your choice, plus some garlic, ginger, and onions chopped. To be true to a sambhar recipe, I recommend tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, drumstick vegetable, pearl onions, green beans, and some type of pumpkin. (I buy a packet of pre-cut up mixed veggies called "sambhar vegetables" from Lulu Hypermarket) and cook them till tender, add in about a cup of tamarind water, add in sambhar masala to taste---about 2 tbs (I use Eastern Brand), salt, and a tempering of mustard seeds and dried red chilies, and curry leaves.

For the coconut chutney: in a blender blitz 1 cup fresh ground coconut flesh, 3 chopped green chilies, 1tsp ginger, and some water, and salt to taste, stir in lemon juice, temper with a few curry leaves, 2-3 dried red chilies, a pinch of mustard seeds, and a pinch of unsoaked uraad daal.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Still so much to learn

Whenever my mother in-law comes to visit, I am always in awe of how much more I have to learn about desi cooking. My MIL came to our house for the birth of my second daughter to snuggle the new baby and also to help out with the cooking and all. This time she made a delicious chicken dopyaaza "istew" twice. I really liked it. She wrote down the recipe for me, but I am going to cook it myself and try it out before I post it.

Today our housekeeper made khatti daal and I made bhuna gosht (recipe here on blog). We are going to have it with white rice and brown Arabic flatbread. We will also have a "Punjabi salaad," which is what the housekeeper calls a plate of sliced salad vegetables such as cucumbers, daikon radish (mooli), carrots, and tomatos. I like to sprinkle this with some lemon juice and a dash of chaat masala, but my husband prefers it plain. Plus I am lazy. So I usually serve it plain. With a daal, I usually put a chutney or two on the table. Tonight it is a Lebanese chili chutney from the local grocery deli, and some Mitchell's brand mango kasaundi. So that is our dinner. Oh, and there is some left over soya ki sabzi, which in this case is dill cooked with potatoes in a dry masala. The housekeeper made it yesterday.

My MIL tells me that people from her region in U.P./Lucknow usually serve one or two dishes, but set the table with a large variety of chutneys to eat with rice or take a nibble of while eating the main dishes. This is a good idea because it makes the table spread seem more abundant even when you have only cooked the bare minimum of dishes. She says that when she moved to Punjab after her marriage, her Punjabi neighbor would tease her by saying that all she served was chutneys and raitas. I happen to like the idea and I copy it myself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do you know what daal is?

My exposure to South Asian food before I become a Muslim was limited to occasional family dinners at the local Star of India Palace type place. I knew NOTHING about South Asian food. I learnt a lot about South Asian cooking after marriage. I think when you are female and in an intermarriage, you get a lot of pressure to learn the cooking of your husband's background. Luckily, my husband eats a lot of different stuff from all over. And luckily I happen to love Pakistani food. So we eat a good variety of international dishes at home. But I have non-Pakistani girl friends married to desi guys who will ONLY eat Pakistani food, even when they go out to restaurants. Anyway, I wanted to learn South Asian cooking because I liked all of the foods I tasted after I accepted Islam and met a lot of desi Muslims, and also after I married a South Asian origin Muslim guy. So I learned to cook desi. Is this a big shock?

Somehow, I seem to have the same conversation with Pakistani Auntie-types. Often the line of questions starts out with "Do you like Pakistani food," or more often "Can you eat spicy food?" "Yes," is my answer. "Can you cook any Pakistani dishes?" "Yes." "What dishes can you cook?" "Hmmm, a lot of them." "Can you make biriani?" "Yes." Actually, I make several types of biriani. Sometimes I get a test question: "How do you make X?" So I have to give a quick recipe for kofta or whatever. I guess I should be more understanding as to why Auntie-types might be incredulous about my cooking skills. I mean, gori cooks desi? Not so common, I guess. I am no star chef, but I am not bad either. Yet it is really hard for them to believe that a gori can cook desi.

Once I was at this dinner party and I had gone through this line of questioning with the hostess. I told her I could cook a lot of desi food. I was using food name terms in Urdu and all. Then, minutes later, she asked me if I knew what daal was. "Do you know what daal is?" She said. After I just told her that I could cook most Pakistani dishes. Sigh. "Jee nahin, daal kya hoti hai?" I mean, "Yes, I know what daal is." She proceeded to tell me that something was wrong with her paalak daal. I asked her what was wrong. "I just don't know, I think I put too much salt." I advised her to add in some lemon juice, and she could perhaps add in some potatoes to suck up the salt, and then remove them before serving the dish. She just thought I was nuts. Later, I tasted her daal. Guess what was wrong with it? She had obviously burned the bottom of the pot, the daal had a strong burnt flavor with an attempt to veil it with a heavy dose of lemon juice. Yuck. How could she not realize that this was the problem? If I were her, I wouldn't have even served that burnt dish. She had lots of other dishes set out anyhow. Anyway, I am no expert, but I just wish people would believe it when I say I can cook a fair bit of Pakistani stuff.

Is it really that hard to believe that a gori can cook desi?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Birishta: Tali hui Pyaaz or reddish brown fried onions

Birishta---browned onions, or bhuni hui pyaaz/tali hui pyaaz, are a key ingredient in a lot of South Asian regional Muslim cooking. Frying them fresh for each dish is time consuming. As a time-saver, I fry a large batch about once per month, store them in the freezer, and use as needed. To do this, I finely slice a whole bunch of onions. I deep fry them on high heat, then lower the heat once they have gone translucent (about 8-10 minutes). They cook on medium-low heat for about 20-25 minutes, needing occasional stirring. After that, and they become crispy fried, reddish-brown squiggles. I strain them and let them cool on some old newspaper. Then I put them in a plastic container in the freezer. When I am ready to use them, I simply pull out a handful for whatever dish. The oil prevents them from being destroyed in the freezer. I usually give them a quick sizzle in hot oil , as if they had been fried up fresh, then continue cooking whatever dish. I also grind them to add to certain types of recipes, like kofta. I don't think it compromises flavor, either. There are bags of fried onions available at desi grocery stores, but they tend to have a bitter under-taste. I use them occasionally, but I prefer my home fried onions. I also keep ginger and garlic paste on hand to use as needed. Taking these shortcuts certainly makes South Asian cooking easier and saves time.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fish in tamarind sauce

I hardly ever cook fish but I like this recipe for when I do. It is a lot of ingredients but it takes 5 minutes to cook once u set out the ingredients. This should be cooked in a large non stick wok (karhai) if you have one:

3 hand sized fish filets, deboned and cut into large chunks. I use Arabic Grouper (hammour) but u can use any firm white fish that won't fall apart when you stir fry it. hmmm, i think striped bass would work for this in the USA.

Pour 1 tbs Shan fish masala on the fish and marinate for 1 hour or so.

For the stir fry:

4 cloves thinly sliced garlic
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp crushed garlic paste
1 tsp crushed ginger paste
mix together 1 tsp each powdered: cumin, coriander, shan fish masala, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp red chili for your spice mix
5 whole dried red chiles (less for less spicy)
3 green chiles chopped (less for less spicy)
5 fresh curry leaves (you can leave this out if you want)
A few leaves of mint chopped
A handful fresh cilantro chopped
1/2 cup tamarind water (soak 1 inch square of pulp in 1 cup hot water to get this, you've gotta squeeze the pulp, then strain it
Sprinkle of salt
Pinch garam masala
1/4 cup oil

Heat oil in wok, when hot add cumin seeds and whole dried red chilis, after few seconds add coriander seeds, curry leaves then thinly sliced garlic. allow to fry for 1 minute while garlic turns golden (don't burn it though), then throw in the salt and spice mix, let sizzle. then toss in the marinated fish. stir fry gently (don't break fish apart) fish will cook very quickly, maybe four minutes. When fish is done, pour in the tamarind water, let it heat up and bubble for a moment, then turn of flame. It is done. Now add the garam masala, chopped fresh cilantro, the chopped green chilis, and the chopped mint leaves. Stir once and serve immediately. Serve with rice or flat bread.

Korean Chicken Stew: Tak Jim

Here is a very simple Korean recipe that I make pretty frequently. I am addicted to Korean food, by the way.

1 tbs sugar
1 tsp Chinese/Korean sesame oil
1/4 cup Korean/Japanese soya sauce
1 tsp Blue Dragon brand Mirin (it is alcohol free)to substitute for rice wine
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 pinch black pepper
1 whole chicken, skinned and cut into medium pieces, bone-in
1 large onion, sliced into medium-thin slices
2 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 carrot halved and cut into large longish chunks
5 Chinese black mushrooms, the dried kind that you have to soak in water to re-hydrate, soaked, de-stemmed, and cut in half. Reserve your soaking liquid.
3 tbs cooking oil
pinch of roasted sesame seeds
1 spring onion with the green part chopped in long strips

In a large bowl mix the first 6 ingredients and put in chicken. No need to marinade for long, just coat chicken well. Heat oil in large non-stick pot, add in chicken and marinade liquid, stir around on high heat until marinade separates from oil so that the chicken braises in the liquid (about 7-10 minutes). Toss in all your veggies, stir around to coat in sauce, then add in 1/4 cup mushroom soaking water. Cover and cook on low heat for about 25-30 minutes until your chicken and potatos are cooked but not falling apart. At first it will look like there is not enough water in the pot, but the chicken will release a lot of water. Also, due to the large amount of soy sauce there is no need to add salt.To serve, garnish with sesame seeds and spring onion. Serve with Korean steamed white rice, plus a selection of kimchee and ban chan (Korean side dishes).

Pasanda: Thin rump steaks stewed in seasoned yoghurt gravy

My mother in-law makes these a lot when she comes to visit because quite frankly they are so easy, and they taste good. My husband likes them a lot, too. These two pasanda recipes are adapted from her original recipes.

Garam Masala Pasanda

1 lb beef rump sliced into 1 cm thick steaks (ask the desi butcher for pasanda)
(I have also made this recipe successfully with pasanda sized slices of chicken breast)
1 cups yoghurt
1 tbs good garam masala
2 heaping tbs coriander powder (pisa hua dhania)
1 tsb red chili powder
1 tsp salt or to taste
2-3 tbs oil

Pound the meat slices, stab them with a fork, beat and abuse to tenderize. Whip the masalas with the yoghurt. Add in the meat and marinate over night, or at least for a few hours so the yoghurt can tenderize the beef. Heat oil, add the meat and marinade. Cook on high heat for about 10 minutes or so until gravy separates from oil. If you are using chicken breasts, lower heat and simmer for 10 more minutes and you're done. For beef, add in about 1/2 cup water, allow to boil briefly, lower heat and simmer for 1 hour or more until beef is nice and tender. You may need to add a little more water if it gets too dry. The gravy should be thick, velvety and separate from the oil at the end.

Pasanda in Ginger Garlic Gravy

1 pound pasanda beef slices
1 cup yoghurt
1 tbs garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tbs crushed browned onion (bhuni hui pyaaz---I fry and freeze in large quantities, you will need to fry some up, say about 1 medium onion, if you don't have them on hand)
1 tsp red chili flakes
2-3 tbs oil

Mix the yoghurt and all the masalas except the browned onion. Add in the meat. Marinate overnight. Heat oil and add in the browned onion for one moment (don't blacken, just sizzle), then pour in the marinade. Braise on high heat for 10 minutes or so, add in 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer for one hour or until meat is tender.

I also like the Shan Masala pasanda recipe. Be careful of your beef slices being too thin because they should be tender but not falling apart, and shouldn't curl. Pasanda gravy should be fairly dry , but if you want more gravy, use 1/2 cup more yoghurt. If you want to make it dryer, use 3/4 cups yoghurt instead of 1 cups and add more water in the recipe, then just dry up the water at the end of cooking. Serve with naan or basmati rice.

Bin Masala Chicken: Chicken cooked without a heavy masala

Here is an extremely easy and delicious chicken "curry" recipe from Lucknow, UP. It was shown to me by my mother in-law. It is called Bin-Masala Chicken which means chicken cooked without spices--- although there are spices in the recipe, it doesn't have the usual garlic/ginger paste or caramelized onions that typify many "curries." You can do this recipe two ways: chicken is cut into pieces and cooked stove-top, or whole skinless chicken is cooked partially stove-top but finished off in the oven (pictured above). Here is what you need:

1 whole chicken, skinned and cut into medium pieces, OR one skinless whole chicken
1.5 cups real yoghurt (buy it from desi or Middle Eastern Market)
2 tbs of a good brand of "garam masala" which can be bought an Indo-Pak grocery store
small pinch each (1/4 tsp each) of nutmeg and mace (this is necessary to make it Lucknawi style)
1/2 tsp of Kashmiri chili powder or paprika if you don't like heat
2-3 tbs oil
salt to taste

Fully Stove-Top with Chicken Pieces: First whip the spices and salt into the yoghurt. Add chicken pieces and marinade at least one hour or up to 24 hours. Heat oil in pot, add chicken with marinade and stir on medium heat until the oil separates from the yoghurt (+/-10 mins). Turn heat down very low and cook until the chicken is fully cooked. (around 30-40 minutes depending on how fast chicken cooks where you live, where I am it is very tender and cooks very fast and will fall apart if cooked for more than 30 minutes) When finished, the gravy should be slightly thick. If it is not, remove chicken pieces from gravy, turn up heat and stir for a few minutes till it thickens, then return the chicken to the gravy and serve immediately. You must remove the chicken or it will break apart--the yoghurt marinade makes it extra tender and sensitive also.

Whole Skinned Chicken: Whip powdered spices, salt and yoghurt together in a large bowl. Add the whole skinless chicken to marinade. Allow to marinade from 1 hour up to 24 hours. Heat oil in pot. Add in chicken and marinade at medium heat and cook, stirring around gently until the yoghurt is cooked and the oil rises to the top of the gravy. Once the oil has risen to the top of the gravy, lay the chicken on one side, breast and thigh piece down, and cook covered at a simmer for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, turn the chicken so that the other breast and leg are at the bottom of the pot and cook covered for another 12 minutes. Stir in a little bit of water if the gravy looks dry. After the 12 minutes is up, turn the chicken so that the breast side is down and cook off for a final 12 minutes, adding a tiny bit of water if necessary. This rotation method insures that the thigh-leg pieces stay in a good shape and don't flail out. Once this 12 minutes is up, transfer chicken and gravy breast side up into a baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes to brown the chicken and make sure that it is cooked through. Baste it with gravy once it is remove from the oven, then allow it to rest for 10 minutes or so. This whole chicken is nice to serve at a small dinner party so that you may cut it up in front of the guests and impress them. :-)

Best with naan or plain basmati rice.

Keema Qeema Queema: Spiced Ground meat

This queema recipe is from North India/Pakistan. It is spiced minced meat (could be beef or mutton) eaten with either plain boiled basmati rice or whole wheat flat bread (you could use whole wheat tortillas or pitas). It can be accompanied with plain yoghurt or raita if you like.

1 lbs ground beef
2 tbs oil
1 large onion chopped
1 heaping tsp finely chopped garlic
1 heaping tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tomato cut into small chunks
1-2 green chilies (optional)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tbs coriander powder
1 tbs. cumin powder
1 heaping tsp garam masala powder
1 heaping tsp whole cumin seeds
½ cup water
Salt to taste
Fresh cilantro for garnish

First sautee onions in oil till transparent. Add in the whole cumin seeds while sautéing. Add in garlic/ginger allow to cook for a few moments (don’t burn). Toss in turmeric and red chili, stir for a moment and add the ground beef. Stir around until all the meat is browned and the juice has come out and dried up. Browning the meat well is a key step to achieve the correct desi flavor. Add salt, coriander powder and cumin powder, tomatoes, and green chilies. Stir a few times. Add ½ cup water and cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and turn up heat, stirring for a few minutes to let it dry out just a bit. Add in the garam masala powder and stir again. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, and if you like it hot, another chopped green chili.

You can vary this by adding in potatoes (cut into large wedges), peas, green bell peppers, or eggplants. Traditionally you would only add one type of veg., not all together. You would add the veg in at the same time as you add the powdered coriander and cumin and before you pour in the water.

Channa daal ka queema:

Another variation is to add in firmly cooked channa daal, and you will have channa daal ka queema. To do this, soak 1/2 cup of channa daal in water for one hour. Boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until daal is fully cooked, but firm and not falling apart. Stir this into your queema during the last 5 minutes of cooking. You will have to add more salt to your recipe to balance out the salt that the daal soaks up so that you don't end up with bland queema.

Aloo Anday: Potato and Hard Boiled Egg Curry #1

Aloo anday or potato and hard boiled egg curry:

3 medium size potatoes- they should be a quick cooking variety as in will be ready in 20 minutes, not a hard variety. Chop into chunks that are the size of hard boiled eggs. you can peel or not peel at your discretion.

5 hard boiled eggs. Peel, and cut in half. Set aside.

1 1/2 tbs finely crushed garlic
1 tbs finely crushed ginger
1/4 tbs ground turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 heaping tsp ground cumin powder
2 heaping tsps ground coriander powder
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
1-2 roughly chopped fresh green chilies
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup water
pinch of salt
3 tbs oil

Heat oil in pan. Add garlic, ginger and whole cumin seeds. Lower heat and cook this stirring frequently on very low heat for 15-20 minutes. Be sure not to burn it. But the garlic and ginger should caramelize like a Cuban mojo. This will cook all the bitter strong garlicky taste out of the garlic and leave you with the base of a delicious sauce. Okay, when you have cooked the garlic paste, turn up the heat and add in the turmeric, the red chili powder, and the cumin and coriander powder. Stir around once quickly. Do not allow to burn. Toss in your potatoes, stir once, then pour in the water. Allow to cook for 20 minutes or so until potatoes are ready and the oil has separated from the gravy. When it looks ready, add in the fresh chopped green chili cover the pan with the heat off for about five minutes just to steam the chilies. Serve immediately. When ready to serve, pour into a casserole type dish and add in the halved hard boiled eggs, spooning a bit of the sauce over them. Be gentle and don't stir the dish because you don't want the egg yolks to break up into the gravy. Garnish with chopped cilantro. The main trick in this dish is cooking the garlic/ginger paste until done perfectly so that the sauce tastes great. If you haven't done it right, it will taste bitter or like raw garlic. If you have done it well, it is heavenly.
Serve with basmati rice or wheat flour flat bread.

For a more traditional alu anday recipe, see here. 

Stuffed Grape Leaves Vine Leaves Waraq Ainab Dolmeh

I recommend trying to find fresh grape leaves or fresh grape leaves that have been vacuum sealed in a jar at a middle eastern grocery rather than using the ones preserved in brine. the taste of the non-brined ones is just far better. If you can get your hands on them, all you need to do is blanch them briefly in boiling water. Take out about half the jar and freeze the rest.
Here is my recipe. It is for the "hot" version, meaning it contains meat so it is served warm, as opposed to the vegetarian one which is eaten cold. You can dip them in yoghurt while you eat them:

For the stuffing mix together:
1 fresh diced tomato
1 handful of flat leaf parsley chopped finely
pinch salt
pinch of all spice
pinch of red chili flakes
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 finely diced onion
1/2 lb ground mutton
1 cup short grain Arabic rice washed but not soaked (ask for Lebanese or "Egyptian" rice at the Mid East grocer---you must use this rice for the authentic version, long grain rice is not the right kind. This rice looks similar to sushi rice or risotto rice)
grape leaves: blanch and set aside

For the broth:
alot of chicken stock, enough to cover your layers of wara' ainab/dolmeh in the pot
about 1-2 tbs lemon juice depending on how much broth you use
3-4 cloves garlic cut into slivers
1/4 cup tomato paste
lots and lots of olive oil.

Line your pot with any torn grape leaves. Put your rolled stuffed grape leaves in the pot, stuff tighly, put slivers of garlic here and there between the grape leaves, cover with the broth, put a sheet of tin foil on top, a plate, and small but heavy jar of water (to weigh the plate down), allow to boil gently once, cover the pot, lower the flame to the lowest heat, and cook for one hour. The rice should be perfectly cooked, not mushy.

Channa Daal Tarka

For the daal

1 cup channa daal, pick out stones, wash, soak for one hour
3 cups water
1 inch chunk of ginger crushed
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
1 chopped tomato

Boil daal, skim off scum, lower heat, add in raw ginger and turmeric, and cook partially covered until daal is nicely tender and slightly mashed but not obliterated. This will take about 40 minutes. About 10 minutes before the daal is done, add in the chopped tomato. Adding the tomato at the end will cook it but prevent it from completely breaking up. I like to get a bite of chopped tomato in my daal.

For the tarka:
1 finely sliced onion
1 tsp cumin seeds
3-4 whole dried red chilies
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 to 1 tsp dried red chili powder
garlic cut into slivers
2-3 tbs to 1/4 cup oil

In the oil "bhuna" or brown the onion. This means put sliced onions in oil on high heat and then cook until they turn translucent, then lower heat and allow to caramelize, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes or so. When they are reddish and skinny, they are "bhuna hua." When the onions are almost fully bhuna-ed, they will be mostly brown, but still have a little bit of translucence, at this point, put the heat up to medium and add in the whole chilies, the garlic, and the cumin seeds. Allow to cook until the garlic is golden and crispy. If you time it right, the garlic and onion will finish at the same time. At the last minute, turn up the heat to high, put in the cumin and red chili powders, then quickly, before they burn, dump the whole tarka into the daal. Stir once to evenly distribute the onions and all, but leave some of the oil and onions on top, then garnish with cilantro.

Aloo Gobhi

Here is my recipe for aloo gobhi, or cauliflower and potato stir fry. The trick is not to add any water. It is a dry veg, not a wet one. This is easisest to cook in a non-stick wok shaped pot with a lid, but any deep non-stick pot with a lid will do.

1 small head phool gobhi--cauliflower, chopped into florets and washed

3 quick cooking potatoes, (they must be the kind that cook in 20 minutes, not the baking kind that take an hour) cut into small cubes and soaking in water

1 small onion sliced

4 garlic cloves cut into slivers

1 tsp crushed fresh ginger

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2-1 tsp red chili powder

1 heaping tsp ground cumin

1 stick cinnamon

3-4 cardamon pods

2 bayleaves

5 black pepper corns

5 cloves

(all of these whole spices come together in a packet of whole garam masala in small quantities to make it easy for you so you don't have to buy separate packets of each)

2-3 whole red dried chilies

2 fresh green chilies cut in bite sized chunks (de-seed if u like)

2 table spoons of roughly chopped fresh cilantro

1/2-1 tsp garam masala powder

2 tables spoons oil

salt to taste

Heat oil in wok until very hot. Add in the whole red chilies, the cumin seeds, the bay leaves, cloves, pepper corns, cardamon, cinnamon stick, and fry around for about 1 minute. Then add in the onions, garlic, ginger. Fry until onions look translucent and garlic looks crispy. Then add in the turmeric, red chili powder, and cumin powder. Let this sizzle for one moment, then add in the potato cubes. They must still be wet from soaking in water...this creates steam to help them cook. Stir around well for a few minutes, getting the masala color on them. Then lower heat to medium and cover. Leave for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to prevent bottom sticking. Then turn up the heat and add in the gobhi---it helps if you gobhi is a tad wet from being washed as well. Stir again coating in the masala oil. You should add your salt now, too. Then lower heat to medium again and cover for about 10-15 more minutes, stirring occasionally. By now the potato and cauliflower are both cooked, and it is done. They should be fully cooked, but slightly crisp. Definately not mushy and falling apart. Now add the pinch of ground garam masala and the chopped green chilies. With the heat off, cover again and allow the green chilies to steam a bit for a few minutes. Then uncover, add in the chopped cilantro garnish, and serve.

Paalak Chicken

Here is a recipe for paalak murghi. The end result will be the spinach makes a wet gravy clinging to the chicken pieces, not a curry drowning the chicken in spinach. Don't add water to this recipe because both the spinach and the chicken will throw off water into the gravy:

3 tbs oil
1 skinless, bone-in chicken cut into 12 pieces
2 tomatoes chopped
1 onion finely chopped
5 cloves garlic crushed into a paste
1 inch piece ginger crushed into a paste
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3-4 dried red chilies whole
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 heaping tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 packet frozen chopped spinach (it will be 2.5 cups or so)
1 tsp salt or more to taste
1 tbs qasoori methi
pinch of garam masala
1 pat of butter

chopped green chiles, fresh cilantro

Heat oil, brown chicken pieces on high heat and remove from oil. Set aside. Heat oil again, add in the whole cumin and dried red chilies, then after about 30 seconds, the onions and saute, stirring frequently on high heat until they start to brown a bit and get soft (8 minutes or so). Add in garlic and ginger, stir for minute till garlic looks cooked, then toss in all the rest of the powdered spices except the garam masala, then after 30 seconds, add in the tomatoes and salt. Keep stirring on high heat for about 5 minutes and allow the tomatoes to melt down a bit. Then add the spinach in and when it is no longer in frozen chunks, add the chicken back in. Allow to bubble up once, then lower heat and cover. Keep covered for about 25 minutes on very low flame (or longer, my local chicken cooks very fast and will fall apart if I cook for longer), stirring occasionally. It is done when the chicken is cooked and the oil separates from the gravy. At this point add in the qasoori methi, garam masala, and butter. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro. Serve with basmati rice or some type of flat bread, plus plain Greek yoghurt on the side.

I love karela: Karela aloo

Karela is an acquired taste. It is supposedly good for diabetes and also removes toxins from the blood according to ayurvedic principles. Don't know if I believe that, but that's what they say. When you select your karela, you choose small, dark green, firm ones. Don't choose yellow ones (or with a lot of yellow spotting) or large sized ones. Here is karela aloo or bitter gourds with potato:

3 bitter gourds, slice into centimetre thin circles, poke out any hard yellow seeds from the circles, no need to remove the soft yellow seeds because they will soften, add 1 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp salt to a bowl of water, soak for 30 minutes, then drain and set aside
3 small quick cooking (not for baking) potatoes, slice into medium thin circles
1 heaping tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2-3 whole dried red Indian chilies (omit if you don't like heat)
1 stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 inch chunk of tamarind pulp, seeds are okay---pick them out if you like or just pick them out when you eat your serving along with the bay leaf and cinnamon, break it up with your fingers into bits, do not soak, you will use it whole
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 to 1 tsp Indian red chili powder or cayanne
1 heaping tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
(if all of these powdered spices are too much trouble in terms of availability, you can just use 2 tbs of your preferred "curry powder" instead)
salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
2 tbs chopped cilantro
2 fresh green chilies cut into thin 1 inch strips, deseed if you want
2-3 tbs oil

You need a deep nonstick pot or wok with a lid for this.
Heat oil in wok or deep non-stick pot, when hot toss in cumin seeds, garlic, ginger, dried red chilies, cinnamon, bay leaf, and the bits of tamarind pulp. Stir around for a few moments to allow to sizzle, then stir in the turmeric and red chili powder. Quickly add in your potato and bitter gourd circles. Stir and coat with the spices, stir continously and add in the cumin and coriander powder. Lower heat and cover for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender and bitter gourd is cooked. Turn up the heat and toss for a few moments more at the end. The veggies should be lightly golden and crisp, not soggy. The spice paste should lightly cling to the veg. Do not add water during the cooking, or you will get a soggy result. Garnish with cilantro and green chilies. Serve with whole wheat flat bread and plain Greek style yoghurt on the side.
You will get a nice bitter, slightly sour from the tamarind, salty and spicy dish.

How to cook basmati rice

I cook and eat basmati rice almost everyday. Soaking time depends on the brand and the cooking method. For high quality aged brands, you must rinse and soak for about 30 minutes. For pre-parboiled varieties, ten minutes is fine. Then add to boiling water, cover, lower heat, and cook for 17-20 minutes. Soaking will ensure that the basmati grains become long and fluffy and beautiful. My daily rice is India Gate brand, which requires 10 minute soaking, then I do it in the rice cooker. Either way, for baasmati, double the water amount to the rice amount. A trick is that when it is finished, allow the rice to "rest" for 10 minutes before fluffing it. This will prevent the grains from breaking apart and result in a fluffier pot of rice. I also might add butter/ghee at this point. I feel the ghee perfume comes stronger if you add it at the end rather than boiling it with the rice.

For biryanis or "party" rice dishes, I do a par-boiling method which is like cooking pasta. This is actually the most refined way to do it because you will get beautiful, long, separated grains of rice. I am just lazy to do this everyday and I save the technique for weekend biryanis or parties. For this method, you MUST soak the rice, for Indian Gate, it would be 30 minutes or even up to an hour. While the rice is soaking, put a huge pot of water to boil. Add whole garam masala ingredients such as a couple of bay leaves, a cinnamon stick, some black pepper corns, some cloves, some black and green cardamom, whatever takes your fancy. Allow this to come to a rolling boil. Also, heavily salt this water, about double the salt you would use in a plain boiled method, because the rice will not absorb enough salt and will come out bland if you don't. If I don't want the whole garam masala in the rice afterwards, I sometimes strain the water and discard the whole spices, then return the water to a boil. This way the water has garam masala perfume without the spices that people hate to accidentally bite into. Anyway, add in the pre-soaked rice. When the water reaches a boil again, set your timer for 3-4 minutes, and allow it to boil. Have a colander set aside in your sink. When your timer goes off, strain the rice, allow the water to go down the drain. In the meanwhile, you will have painted a stove top pot or a baking casserole with butter or ghee. (If you want a tah-daig crust at the bottom, use lots of ghee or butter) Quickly put the rice in either the pot or casserole. If you are doing stove top, (you would add your biryani gravy or whatever at this point) you cover with a slim kitchen towel under the lid, put the flame on high for 1 minute to get things going, then lower the heat and leave covered for 20 minutes. Turn off heat allow to rest for 10 minutes, then fluff or transfer to the serving dish. For the casserole, add in rice, cover well, then cook at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the rice is cooked. This method results in a firmer grain, but it shouldn't be so firm as to seem undercooked.

Gujarati Style Hari Chutney (Green Chutney)

I have been using this green chutney for a while, it is a Gujarati style hari chutney, hence the sugar and peanuts. You could also add 1-2 tbs dried ground unsweetened coconut or fresh shredded coconut to this recipe. It is great with pakoras and of course dhoklas:

large bunch of cilantro, washed well, stems and all (like 2 cups)
1/2 bunch of fresh mint leaves (like 1 cup)
1/2 green bell pepper
1-3 green chilies or jalapenos
1-2 tbs of lemon juice
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp or so salt to taste
1/4 cup skinless peanuts

Pulverize in your blender. You may need to add a splash of water if it doesn't mix easily.
I keep portions of this frozen and defrost as needed with samosas or whatever.

A plain green chutney is just cilantro, lemon juice, salt, and green chili with a touch of water, perhaps some mint mixed in. But I think you will like the recipe above cuz of the peanuts.

Bhuna Gosht

Bhuna is fried, brown fried to a crisp sort of. For bhuna gosht, the gravy should be very well fried and dried up, or bhunofied in Hinglish.

Yet another goat meat Pakistani family favorite. The end result should be a rather dry and thick velvety gravy paste.

2-3 tbs oil
2 finely sliced onions, fried until reddish brown (bhuni hui pyaaz)
1 pound bone in goat meat in stew sized chunks
2 tbs yoghurt
1 tomato roughly pureed
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 heaping tsp good garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander powder
1 tsp or so salt or to taste
1/2 to 1 cup water for the "dam"
chopped cilantro and green chilies for garnish

*TIP*I fry up large quantities of browned onions and freeze for use about once per month. It is a huge time saver to not need to caramelize onions for every dish that requires them, since they are so widely used in Pakistani cooking. For this dish, I use pre-browned onions. Be sure when you add them in to the hot oil, you do it shortly before you add in a wet ingredient to prevent them from burning.

Brown the meat very well, add in the fried onions, garlic, ginger, and fry some more. Add in the tomatoes, garam masala, dried coriander powder, and salt, and continue to stir on high heat for a while until oil rises from the gravy. Add in the yoghurt and stir until the yoghurt separates from the oil. Add in the water, the goat should be about 1/2 covered in water. Allow to boil, cover the pot, and simmer on very low heat for 1 hour and 15 minutes or so until the goat is nicely tender. When the meat is tender, turn up the heat to high again and stir around for a few moments to thicken the gravy a bit more, until you have a dark brown paste. I often remove the goat from the gravy and stir the gravy to thicken on high heat to get a very thick paste. Then I add the goat in again. The results should be a brown, very well bhunofied gravy that is fairly dry and clinging to the meat. This is what is "bhuna" about it and why it is different from a saalan. Garnish with the "green masala" or cilantro and green chilies.

Mutton Curry

Here is my recipe for mutton curry. I use Shan Masala Curry Powder. Another Pakistani home favorite.

2-3 tbs oil
1 kg bone in goat in stew sized chunks
1 onion chopped finely(the big yellow American onions 1, but if you use desi purple onions, use 2-3)
1 tbs garlic crushed
1 tsp ginger crushed
1 stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
5 black peppercorns
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
3 whole dried red chili pods
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 heaping tsps Shan Curry Powder
1/2 cup yoghurt
2-3 tomatoes chopped
2 cups water
2 tbs Qasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt or to taste
chopped cilantro and green chilies for garnish

First brown meat for a few moments and then remove from oil and set aside. On high heat, add in this sequence cumin seeds, whole dried red chilies, cinnamon, bay leaf, peppercorns, onions, stir around till onions become translucent and lose a lot of may need to turn down the heat if they start to brown. They should just be sauteed, not browned in this dish. In the mean while, add in the ginger garlic. When the onions are sauteed and the ginger and garlic is cooked, add in this sequence the turmeric, red chili powder, cumin powder, and coriander powder. Allow to sizzle for one moment, then add in the tomatoes, stir to melt down for a few minutes, then add in the yoghurt and for a few moments, add your salt and Shan Curry Powder now. Then, add in the browned goat. Pour in the 2 cups water and then allow to boil briefly, then cover and simmer on very low heat for 1 hour and 15 minutes or so until the goat is very tender. Now turn up the heat, (if the curry looks dry for your taste, add up to 1/2 cup water) and add in the dry Qasoori methi, stir around for a moment. Add in the lemon juice, stir, turn off heat, and garnish with green chilies and cilantro. Serve with chapattis or basmati rice.

Alu Gosht

Alu gosht is meat and potatoes. It is a Pakistani home cooked standard.

You will need:
2-3 tbs oil
1 onion sliced finely
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 tbs crushed garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder (or use less for less heat)
1 tsp coriander powder
2 large tomatoes chopped
1 kg bone in goat meat cut into 2 inch chunks
3-4 potatoes cut into large wedges or even just halved
salt to taste, like about 1 heaping tsp
1/2 tsp ready made garam masala spice mix
chopped cilantro and chopped green chilies for garnish

First you have to brown the onions. Fry them in oil on very high heat, when they have lost a lot of moisture, turn down the heat and allow them to turn reddish brown, stirring occasionally. This will take maybe 1/2 cup of oil, so you can strain them from the oil, take out your oil for the rest of the dish, and set aside the remainder of the now onion flavored oil for something else.

Now, brown the meat well on high heat, when it looks nice and browned, add in the garlic, browned onions, ginger, garlic, turmeric, red chili powder, and coriander powder, stir around for a few moments just to sizzle and cook the garlic/ginger through. This should be a very quick step, do not burn the spices or the browned onions at this stage or your dish is ruined. Once you have given it a good sizzle, quickly add in your tomatoes, the moisture of the tomatoes will prevent anything from burning. Just stir as the tomatoes melt down---you can add your salt now, too. Keep stirring until everything is melted into a dark brown paste clinging to the meat, as for bhuna gosht. After a few minutes, add about 1 1/2 cup of water. Allow this to come to a boil, then turn down the heat to very low and simmer covered for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally to prevent the bottom from sticking. When an hour has passed, add in your potatoes. You may need to add a tiny bit more water, like 1/4 cup. Allow this to boil for a quick moment, then lower heat again and cook for about 20-30 mins more until potatoes are done. The goat should be very tender by now and you should have a wet 'shorba' (soupy) gravy. Turn off the heat and stir in the garam masala. Garnish with the chopped chilies and cilantro. Serve with some type of brown flatbread or basmati rice, and plain live yoghurt on the side.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Karhai chicken I

I love the combo of hot and sour. Luckily there are a lot of Pakistani dishes that hit the spot for me when it comes to chili hot and lemon sour layers of flavor. A karhai is a wok like pot with two handles on either side. You can use an authentic karhai, but it isn't absolutely necessary. I make karhai chicken in a deep non-stick pot, which I use for most of my "curry" type dishes. Karhai chicken is a very typical PK household standard. Originating from the Frontier region, it is made in many interpretations across Pakistan and also in India. You should serve this particular version with chapati (whole wheat flatbread), or naan. This is an adaptation of my mother-in-law's home recipe.

1 whole chicken skinned and cut into medium to small pieces (about 12 pieces), bone-in
1 tbs crushed ginger
2 inches worth of ginger chopped into match-stick sized slivers
1 tbs crushed garlic
3 large tomatoes chopped
1 tsp red chile powder
1 heaping tablespoon Shan brand Curry Powder
1/2 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)
2 green chilies finely chopped
2 green chilies roughly chopped (large chunks)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp or so lime juice
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
2-3 tbs oil

Heat oil in pan. Add in crushed garlic and crushed ginger and stir on high heat until golden. Toss in tomatoes, Shan Curry Powder, red chile powder, finely chopped green chilies, and salt. Stir on high heat for about 10 minutes until the tomatoes melt down and you are left with a thick gravy paste. Toss in the chicken pieces and braise on high heat for a few minutes until all the chicken turns color. Add in the water---you may need more or less depending on how much water your locally available chicken releases when cooking. Allow to boil once, cover, and lower heat to the lowest setting to cook until chicken is done, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from sticking/burning. The chicken available to me here in Dubai takes about 30 minutes. *TIP*: Karhai chicken should have a fairly thick and dry gravy. When you are ready to serve, add in the aamchoor, lemon juice and mix it well into the gravy. The aamchoor and the lime juice both add sourness, but have very different flavor notes, and will add something special to the dish while achieving tartness in the gravy. Garnish with the roughly chopped green chilies, cilantro, and match stick sized ginger slices.

So simple, tangy, hot and delicious. You're gonna luv it!

Here's another *TIP*: You can easily turn this dish into karhai methi chicken. Methi is fenugreek. You need a box of Qasoori methi, which is dried fenugreek. Follow all of the steps and ingredients, but omit the match stick ginger garnish. When the chicken is cooked and the gravy looks good, stir in 2 table spoons of Qasoori methi. Cover the pot and allow the methi to mingle with the chicken for about 5 minutes. Then stir in the aamchoor, lime juice, and garnish with the roughly chopped chilies and cilantro.

Krazy for karhai?
For black peppercorn karhai see here.
For Landi Kotal Shinwari style karhai, see here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mah-e-Ramazaan ka pakwaan at Chez Gori

I try to produce healthy and hearty meals during Ramazan. We break our fast with 3-4 dried dates, milk, and water. Often, we have a cup of wholesome soup. We pray, then shortly after, we have a normal meal. I make sure that this meal is well balanced, including a veggie, meat, and carb. We then have a snack of fruit at around 10 pm, before we sleep. I occasionally go on a mad gulab jamun consumption spree and pack back 6 or more of the little suckers. Ramazan blood sugar fluctuations throw my self control out of the window. But I usually attempt to limit the sweets. For breakfast, I have cereal and a banana. My husband has cereal, but occasionally he makes himself a fried egg and eats this with toast or a roghni roti or paratha. He dines on this breakfast more often during the end of Ramazan.

This is the healthy way. This is the way to eat during Ramazan when you want to maintain your stamina and focus on ibaadat and not on the food.

But culturally, Ramazan IS all about the food in many ways.

Ramazan is a time for a breakfast or sehri that is as big as a dinner. Sehri might be parathas and eggs, and also include sweets. Doodh jalebi is a special one in my husband's house. Iftaar starts with a date washed down with rose syrup milk---Rooh Afzah is the syrup of choice to lift the Rooh, or the spirit! Then come the Unidentified Frying Objects: UFOs. Typical UFOs are samosas, pakoras, and kachoris...there might be some dahi bhalle or chaat, too. All these things all together all at once is okay. Why not? Eat as much as you can, then go pray on a stomach filled with greasy fried carbs. Try not to pass wind as you bend into sujood now!

The real meal will be later. Perhaps 9 or 10 pm, maybe later than that. Only crazy goras eat at 6 or 7 pm. Dinner could even be midnight. The closer to bedtime, the better. If you eat very late, you might get to skip sehri and just wake up for fajr namaz. This meal will be heavy and will be topped off with a sweet. Muzzafar, kheer, sevaiyan, shahi tukray...or any number of sweets...YUM! Since you have eaten so much fried stuff just a few hours before in the blood sugar spike fest called iftaar, you won't have too much room for the dinner, so be sure not to eat too much or you won't have space for the sweet.

All of this is fun, but it involves a lot of negatives: it is stressful on the person who has to cook it all at odd hours, it causes heart burn, gas, and smelly burps, and in terms of keeping you pumped up for ibaadat, you are running on the steam of fat and processed carbs, so you aren't getting a balanced diet even if there are some veggies hidden within that coat of pakora batter.

I know, I am such a killjoy!

What I do to honor my husband's Ramazan cultural traditions and foods is this: we have a UFO night at least twice during Ramazan. Our dinner is just pakoras and one other UFO, perhaps samosay or dahi bhallay. That way it is something special, something to relish. The rest of the time, we eat relatively healthfully. Our own family tradition is the Ramazan soup. Okay, soup isn't as fun as a pakora, I know. I know. Like I said, I am a killjoy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Karhi Pakora: Can you dig it?

Everyone likes kababs. Naans are pretty internationally palatable. But there are some Indo-Pak dishes that may fit into the category of "acquired taste" for foreigners like gori wives. How 'bout some maghaz curry? That would be brain---they say eating it will build brain power. Or some pungent mixed pickle to scrape up with your delicious paratha? Hot, oily, sour, red, filled with unrecognizable preserved slivers of curious vegetables, desi achaars are not for every gora. I happen to like much of the "weirder" being weird is subjective of course. I just mean stuff that might seem weird to the goras when they first have it. One dish which I think could be a challenge is also one of my favorites. Karhi pakora. It is SOOOO easy to make. But it is hot and sour and should ideally contain fresh curry leaves. These features make it fall into the "weird stuff" category. Anyway, here is my recipe:

The wet part:
1 cup older live yoghurt (the older it is, the more sour it will be)
5 cups water (add more later if it looks too thick for your taste once it boils)
1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)

Mix these together with a whisk. If for some reason the besan goes lumpy, give the whole thing a whiz in the blender. You could alternatively pour the mixture through a strainer. Whatever works for you. The purpose of the besan is to prevent to yoghurt from curdling when cooked, which would be a distaster.

The seasonings:
2-3 tbs oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
3-4 whole red chilies
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
10 fenugreek seeds (methi daane)
1 heaping tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1 heaping tsp dried mango powder (amchoor)
10 fresh curry leaves
1 onion chopped, small but not fine
pinch garam masala

fresh cilantro and chopped green chillies for garnish
lots of salt

The pakore:
You can use any recipe. I cheated this time and used the National Pakora mix doctored up with an extra splash of salt, some green onions, green chilies, and cilantro added in. Your recipe should yield a heavier pakora. If your pakore come out too light and airy, they will break apart in the karhi gravy. For the Nat'l Pakora Mix, I used 1 cup of water, not 1 and a half. One and a half cups of water would be good for the light tempura style veg pakoras, but will cause pakora break up in karhi gravy.

What to do: Have your yoghurt mix ready. Heat oil in deep pot. Add in whole cumin, whole dried red chilies, curry leaves, and fenugreek seeds, and let sizzle for a moment. Stir in your cumin and chili powder. Before this starts to burn, pour in your yoghurt mix. Now add in the rest of the seasonings and mix well (except the garnish). Allow to boil, then turn on low, cook until the onions are done and the gravy has thickened. It should be soupy but not runny. Taste for salt. For some reason, the besan flour sucks up all of the salt, so I always find that I have to add salt to achieve the correct saltiness. In the meanwhile, fry up your pakoras and set them aside. You could also use stale leftover from the night before is a good way to use up leftover plain pakoras. I usually make the pakoras for karhi a little large in size, though. Anyhow, about 10-15 minutes before serving, stick the pakoras in the karhi gravy and let them settle in and soften. At serving time, garnish with cilantro and chopped green chilies. Eat this dish with plain white rice, chappatis, or just eat it by itself. It is up to you. This stuff is highly addictive. It is heavy, so I would serve it with a veg dish or a small lentil made into a very thin daal, or possibly with fish. It kind of functions as a meat dish since it is so heavy, actually.

If you google this dish, you will find lots of recipes. Some recipes call for buttermilk instead of yoghurt, which I hear is the preferred dairy base for kadhi in the villages of Punjab. In Gujarat, it is made thin and has added sugar or jaggery. In Hyderbad, the gravy contains tomatoes, so the end result is pinkish curry. Some people don't add curry leaves, some must have mustard seeds (rai), some recipes instruct you to add the seasonings (tarka/baghaar) to the cooked curry at the end, etc., etc.  So this is yet another dish which you might have to tweak to get a certain style that will suit yourself or your family. I happen to like my own hot and extra sour recipe. Happy cooking!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Desi Chinese

Goris may be surprised to discover the desi penchant for Chinese food. These days, many non-Chinese origin Americans are aware that the food in American Chinese restaurants varies in degree of authenticity. Those restaurants that serve inauthentic Chinese food are dishing out Chinese as well as locally available ingredients, and Chinese dishes which have been adapted for the American palate and. Some American Chinese dishes do not even have any roots in original Chinese dishes. They were totally created for the American palate. Since most US Chinese immigrants were from Southern China, the Americanized Chinese has a Southern Chinese (especially Cantonese) backbone. Well, waddya know, the desi sub-continent also has small pockets of Chinese immigrants. Just like there are a lot of Chinese Americans, there are also Chinese desis, people of Chinese origin but born and raised in the des, perhaps second or third generation. They are mostly Southern Chinese, just like in the US. And due to this...there is a genre of Chinese cuisine that is served in Chinese-Indo/Pak restaurants that is inauthentic in terms of being traditional Chinese food, but has been adapted to suit the desi palate and uses ingredients available in the des. It is totally different than Americanized Chinese food in many ways. For one thing, it is spicy-hot. Generally speaking, desis like chile heat, hai na? Desis like rice mixed with gravy dishes, so desi Chinese food is also pretty heavy on the gravy, though there are dry dishes as well. The gravy is often heavily cornstarch laden. A lot of desi Chinese food is also made with ketchup based gravy. Garlic-chile sauce is another common addition to desi-Chinese stir fry sauces. Stock cubes are added to stir fry gravies as well. Stock cubes give depth in flavor. In Hindi and Urdu, the way to say MSG is "Chinese namak" or Chinese salt, and it seems that no desi Chinese dish is complete without a heavy dash of the stuff. I am not an anti-MSG person, and I think that MSG has gotten a bad rap in the USA. It is actually a very excellent flavor enhancer. But beware, if you have any sensitivity to MSG, desi Chinese food tends to have a good pinch of it in each dish. There are also many types of noodle dishes in desi Chinese cuisine, and it seems that there must be a noodle dish eaten with every desi Chinese meal. Egg noodles are a favorite. In the desi type Chinese restaurants I have been to, the food is served with Indian long grain variety rice rather than Chinese rice. This affects the flavor of the entire meal as well, since the dishes are meant to be eaten with rice. The vegetarian branch of desi Chinese food is filled with very creative dishes. "Velveting" meat is an authentic Chinese cooking technique. In Desi Vegetarian Chinese dishes, vegetables like cauliflower are velveted (often simply dusted in dry cornstarch rather than a traditional wet cornstarch marinade) and fried. Cauliflower Manchurian and Singapore Cauliflower are two popular examples of this. Manchurian Balls (follow link for nice looking sample recipe) is another unique desi Vegetarian Chinese dish.  Desi home-cooks (meaning wives and aunties) pride themselves on having a few desi Chinese dishes in their battery of recipes. As a gori, you may or may not like desi Chinese food, as it tastes neither like authentic Chinese food, nor like the American Chinese food you grew up with. Bear in mind that a lot of desis ONLY enjoy desi Chinese food. They find American Chinese food to be "pheeka" or bland, and authentic Chinese food to be too foreign and exotic. With an open mind, you may join the desis and develop a strong penchant for it. I have come to enjoy desi Chinese food as a cuisine in its own right. For example, I love chicken corn soup (what Americans call eggdrop soup) seasoned the desi way now, with a splash of green chilies in vinegar and maybe a dash of hot sauce.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Arvi Curry: Taro root cooked in a desi style

Arvi is taro root. Since I have been doing South Asian cooking, I have eaten many vegetables that are very exotic for me. These vegetables have been very exciting to discover and add to my repertoire of things I cook and eat. Arvi is one of them. Arvi is similar to a potato in taste and texture, but still different. Like potatoes, arvi soaks up gravy flavors very well. You can find the furry little guys at your local desi or East Asian grocer. Choose small, evenly round firm ones. To prepare:
3-4 arvi, peeled and split in half
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 dried red chilies
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1tsp Shan Curry Powder
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tsp or so salt to taste
2-3 tbs oil
1 tbs cilantro chopped
1-2 fresh green chilies chopped
Heat oil in wok (wok must have a cover) or deep pot (that has a lid), when the oil is very hot, add in cumin seeds and red chilies. Allow to sizzle, toss in garlic and ginger. Cook until golden, a bit less than one minute. Do not burn. When garlic/ginger start to color, toss in turmeric and chili powder, stir and allow to sizzle. Then add in tomatoes, stir and let tomatoes "melt" by stirring on high heat to allow the water to evaporate from them. Add salt at this point. After about 5 minutes, add in the arvi halves, stir to coat with the gravy. Add in the water and Shan Curry Powder. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat. Cook until arvi are tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Garnish with chopped cilantro and fresh green chilies and serve with chappatis or plain basmati rice.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Homemade Butter

I read on (see sidebar Links) about how to make homemade butter. I told our housekeeper A. about it and she said, "Oh yes, it is sooo easy!" She helped me figure out the odds and ends of removing the buttermilk and storing. Basically, you just have to buy some good cream. Get the cream cold in the fridge. Then, you put it in the food processor and blitz away, pausing intermittently. When the butter starts to form, you stick in a few icecubes, blitz some more, and then the butter and the buttermilk separate. Then comes the fun. You stick your hands in and form the butter into clumps, squeezing out all of the buttermilk. You might need to add a few more ice cubes to keep the butter solid. You must squeeze out as much buttermilk as possible to prevent the butter from going rancid later on due to the residual buttermilk. You can was it in cold water as well. Then you just stick the clumps in a tupperware container and use as usual. Cream is expensive, so this is just for fun, something to do with your kids or whatever. You can also cook the butter on a low flame for a while and strain out the milk solids once they appear if you want to make pure ghee. That will keep for a really long time as well, and you can spoon it over your rice or chappatis.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Good cookbooks for beginner gori wives and other faux desi-chefs

So gori marries Pakistani ... there are a lot of online resources for her to use for recipes. But she doesn't have the desi cooking basics down to execute the online recipes because the sites are generally meant for people who grew up with desi cooking and typically know how to achieve a perfect pot of basmati rice, have an idea of where to begin with caramelizing onions, and understand what garam masala is.

What do you do if you don't know all of this stuff? Where do you even start? I learned from a few cookbooks that I highly recommend:

1. Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking

This book will teach you all of the basics. Sahni tells you the secrets of achieving separated kernals of fluffy, aromatic basmati rice. She explains how to properly caramelize onions, an essential technique in North Indian-Pakistani cooking. She tells you the ins and outs of South Asian vegetables, and offers good substitutions and tips for preparing these in the North American context. She also lets you know which recipes freeze well. This book will arm you with great basic recipes. However, for those looking to cook authentic North Indian Muslim / Pakistani dishes, Sahni does not offer useful recipes. Sahni's "Mughlai" recipes (recipes brought to India by the Muslim invasions and refined in India) are what would be served at Punjabi / Mughlai restaurants ... you've had this cuisine at your local Star of India or India Palace. The recipes are tasty. But these dishes with cream and almonds and so forth are not what your desi Muslim in-laws eat at home. Once you have mastered the basics, know how to "bhuna the pyaaz," how to get tamarind water from the dried clumps in the package, know how to make a "baghaar" or "tarka" from Sahni's book, you can get your authentic Indian Muslim / Pakistani recipes online or from a Pakistani cookbook. See some of the sites in my side bar. However, the veg, daal and snack dishes eaten by North Indians like Sahni and eaten by Pakistanis from a Hindustani or Punjabi background will be similar, so you can use all of those recipes to impress.

2. Madhur Jaffrey's An Invitation to Indian Cooking

This book is a classic must-have. Madhur Jaffrey moved to the US not knowing where to begin with the replication of the foods of her childhood home. She documents the knowledge she gained on her home cookery learning journey in this book. Though Jaffrey is from an Indian Hindu Delhi family, the recipes in this book are basically the exact cuisine that my husband, a Pakistani "Urdu speaking" origin guy grew up with. Jaffrey's tips for the North American cooking environment are useful, and the recipes are punctuated pre-emptive "dos and don'ts" to assist you in avoiding screw ups. Actually, I love all of Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks, and her A Taste of India (see below) and the classic Far Eastern Cookery (not South Asian so I didn't review it here, but great for East Asian food lovers) are both practically falling apart since I have used them so much.

3. Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India

In the blog post Gori Cooks Desi: My Notes for the Gori , I describe the importance of understanding that desi food is very regional. In this book, you get a real sense of the regionality of Indian cooking. You come to understand which region is famous for certain vegetables, which region's cooks are heavier handed with specific seasonings, and so forth. The book has a U.P. as well was Punjab / Dehli section, which has recipes that cross over to Pakistani cooking. There are also Hyderbadi Muslim recipes in the Hyderbad / Andhra section. I emphasize knowing your husband's family background and the foods associated with that background. At the same time, I love a lot of different South Asian foods, and this book helped me get to know them.

4. Vicky Bhogal's Cooking Like Mummyji

Vicky Bhogal is a British Indian who learned to cook the Sikh Panjabi food of her dear old mummyji. She shares mummyji's recipes and tips in this excellent, easy book. The food of the Punjabi Sikhs is basically the same as general Pakistani fare, plus the constraints of cooking desi in the British context parallel those of the North American context, so you get a lot of useful short cuts and tips as well. The desi names of foods have some "Indianisms" so you may wonder why Bhogal calls sabzi "sabji" ... don't worry about all of that. The recipes are the same as what your typical diasporic Pakistanis are using, even though the pronunciation of certain terms is different.

My own tips for the gori:

Once you have the basics down, you can use and adapt the recipes you see on Pakistani websites online, as well as Shan Masala recipes. None of the books I mention contain beef nehari or haleem recipes, or other specialties of North Indian Muslims or Pakistanis, or Pakistani regional specialties like chappli kebab, Lahori fish fry, Lahori chargha, etc. But you will get all of the bare bone basics, from chappati making to making and storing your own garlic-ginger paste, from the books above. Then haleem and nehari making and all the rest will seem like a cinch.

Fried Rice

I love fried rice. Fried rice is easy to make, but also easy to screw up. There are a few things that I do to ensure that my fried rice comes out well everytime. Firstly, I always use leftover refridgerated plain boiled rice---I mean last night's rice. That way, the rice kernals are easy to handle, and don't break up when you stir fry. Secondly, I prepare an omelet and set it aside. I never break an egg into the wok with the rice. It just comes out more beautiful and less "eggy" tasting that way. In the above pic, I prepared a thin plain omelet, rolled into a tube shape, and cut it into chunky pieces to achieve a decorative swirly look. For the rice itself, I use 2 tbs of oil or so and fry the aromatics (in this case, crushed ginger and garlic, sliced onions, and roughly chopped dried red chilies), then I add the protein, here prawns, cook for a moment and add soy sauce---about 1tbs per cup of cold rice. For chicken or beef, I sometimes pre-cook then stir in the chicken/beef strips at the end. That is a good tip for all home stir-fries. That seals in the meat juices and prevents the meat from getting boiled in its own juice. Our home cooking ranges don't get as hot as restaurant ranges, so it is a good idea to stir fry protein in small amounts and add it to the rest of your stir fry later on to prevent the boiled meat affect. Anyhow, after the prawns and soy sauce, I add in the rice, stir well until all the rice is coated well and colored by the soy sauce. Quickly, I toss in dried prawns (you can fry these in the oil with the aromatics earlier, but it gives an underlying savoury yet slightly fishy taste to the dish, which not everyone likes ), roughly chopped green chilies, and pre-cooked peas (I just blanch them till tender to maintain that electric green decorative color), and stir on high heat for a few moments. Add in cracked black pepper if desired. If you have used enough soy sauce, you shouldn't need to add salt. Then, turn off the heat and toss in your pre-cooked eggs. Oila.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Gori cooks desi: My notes for the gori

It is hard to learn to cook a cuisine that you didn't grow up with. I am a foodie at heart and I love trying new things. Enjoying desi food took away some of the difficulty in actually learning to prepare desi dishes. I think as a gori, if you are open to desi flavors, you can become a successful desi cook.

I learned by sheer trial and error. I made a lot of mistakes. I questioned the aunties. I tried to learn the names of all of the foods and find out how to make them. Authentic South Asian foods are very different from what is served in the average American Star of India restaurant with its creamy dishes like the ubiquitous saag paneer and so forth. It was in peoples' homes that I got exposure to "real" South Asian food. I read a lot of Indian cookbooks. Unfortunately, there simply aren't very many Pakistani cookbooks. There were certainly none available to me when I was learning. Luckily, North Indian cuisine overlaps a lot with Pakistani cuisine due to the obvious shared geography and history and all. Now we have so much more on the web. But nothing beats a good, detailed cookbook.

So, a gori marries a desi. She tries new desi foods and wants to replicate those foods at home. She wants her husband to say that she is a good cook. Not in a "surrendered wife" way. Just cuz it's nice when someone likes your food, especially if that someone is a loved one. Where should said gori start? First of all, from our typical knowledge base goris only know the desi nations, maybe not much more than that. We do not know about the never ending diversity of people in South Asia. I know a gori-wife friend who wanted to surprise her husband by learning to cook Pakistani foods. She took an cookbook of Indian curry recipes from the library---700 Yummy Curries or some such title. Her husband is from a place near to Peshawar. She surprised him with a chicken in coconut milk dish filled with mustard seeds and curry leaves. It didn't go over well. Why not? Typical Pathan cooking doesn't contain coconut milk, curry leaves, or mustard seeds. The food was just as alien to my friend's husband as it was to her. He was actually grossed out by the curry leaves. She was crushed. Where did it go wrong? Well, you may be asking, what the heck is a Pathan? Her husband was one and she didn't know that. In South Asia, communities are divided into regional ethnic groups, castes, and so forth. These identities are paramount to people. Each group has its own unique customs, often its own regional language, and most importantly for the gori wife: its own distinct foods.

If two Pakistanis intermarry, say the husband is Punjabi, and the wife is from an Indian Gujarati origin family, if the family follows a traditional structure, then the wife will have to learn the ins and outs of her husband's family cooking. She may cook some of her Gujarati dishes sometimes, but she must pick up the recipes of her husband's community. That is just the way it is. So, if you are a gori wife and you want to impress your dear husband with your cooking skills, you must know what community your husband is from. You must know the standard recipes of that community, and if possible, the specifics of his family's recipes.

My own husband is pretty broad minded and likes a lot of different foods. I cook a lot of New American, Italian, Cantonese, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Korean, South Indian, whatever at home. He eats it all, and has international favorites. He loves Korean barbecue, he savors a good steak. But he loves recipes from his particular community, and also from his family. So I have learned those as well.

So, the first step a gori should take is to learn what her husband's family background is, and what repercussions that has on the style of desi cooking she will learn.

My husband's family is what in Pakistan is known as "Urdu speaking," "Hindustani," or "muhajir." Both of his parents were born in India and emigrated to Pakistan when they were young. If you know your husband is "Urdu speaking," don't leave it at that. Where in India are his family's roots? That is an important question that will affect the cooking you aim to learn. His family could be from Bhopal, Hyderabad, Delhi, or any of a million places...each with special recipes. My husband's family's roots are from the general U.P. area, specifically Dehli, Dehra Doon, and Lucknow. This has huge implications on the way his family cooks and eats. His family settled in Punjab in Pakistan. Punjabi cuisine is all seems the same at first to us goray---but it is distinct. For example, some Pakistani favorites of my husband's family are made with a yoghurt based gravy instead of a Punjabi style tomato gravy. There are foods that my husband's family prefers to eat with rice, whereas people from the Punjab would have these foods with whole wheat flat bread---though my husband's family usually has both rice and flat bread at every meal. I could go on an on. Anyhow, if you were raised knowing all of this stuff, great. But it is mind boggling for a neophyte gori wife. Give yourself time to research. Don't be afraid to ask people for recipes and request that they specify their community. It is normal for desis to know each others' communities when they interact. In terms of what is available to you, most North Indian style cookbooks are suitable for both U.P. and Punjabi recipes. Most online Pakistani recipe sources also cater to the U.P. emigrant or Punjabi style---what is thought of as "standard Pakistani food" are the foods of these two communities. Shan Masala caters to that generic style as well. But if your husband's community is from Hyderabad, India, or he is a Pathan, or a Memon, or whatever, you will have to find out the culinary nuances of his particular community and may have a more difficult time with recipe sources. Don't worry, there is so much out there on the net these days.

I personally don't appreciate a picky man---hopefully your guy is satisfied with whatever you put forth on the table, even better for you if he gets in the kitchen himself. But come on goris, you know you want to learn to cook desi and get stuff right. So here I am presenting my humble advice on how to learn to cook in a way that honors your husband's family tradition.

Kofta: Meatballs in sauce the desi way

I posted this recipe for Kofta at one of my favorite foodie websites, Chowhound. This is originally my mother in law's recipe. I have used it many times and it yields excellent results.
Yes, that really is a centimeter or so of oil floating on top of the gravy. Welcome to authentic Indo-Pak cooking. You can pour off the fat at the end if it really bothers you, but you won't get the same results without it in the initial stages of cooking.
This is really aloo kofta or potato and meatballs in the pic. I added the potatoes peeled, quartered potatoes at Step 11 of my chowhound recipe post.
A trick I discovered for really tender, silky textured koftay is to use 1/2 of a white hamburger or hot dog bun, the cheapie kind that kids like to eat as your white bread in the kofta mixture.

If you do not regularly cook desi (subcontinental) food and don’t have typical desi ingredients in the home, you will have to go for a trip to your Indo-Pak grocer to pick up a few things. Namely ground poppy seed powder (khash khaash powder), which is an optional ingredient, a good quality garam masala, a box of Shan brand Qorma masala (it is an authentic and widely used Pakistani spice mix, highly reputable, and far from the yellow curry powders), and a packet of chickpea flour a.k.a gram flour (besan). If you like heat, I would also recommend that you invest in a desi type of chili powder. Lastly, you should only use real yoghurt (Greek type), which you can also get at the desi grocery.

The recipe’s ingredients are broken into two parts: koftay (meatballs) and saalan (wet gravy).


KOFTA Ingredients

2 tbs. chickpea flour (besan)
2 onions
1 lb ground beef or mutton
1 tsp crushed fresh ginger
1 tsp crushed fresh garlic
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground red chili powder
1/2 tsp poppy seed powder (khash khaahs powder)—-optional, just gives that extra umph
1-2 fresh green chilies
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt or salt to taste
1 tbs butter
1 slice white bread soaked in milk and then squeezed

SAALAN (Gravy) Ingredients

1 cup real yoghurt whipped
1 onion
1 tsp crushed fresh ginger
1 tsp crushed fresh garlic
2 heaping tbs Shan Qorma Masala
salt to taste (about 1 heaping tsp)
1/4 cup oil
2-3 cups water
1 tbs fresh chopped cilantro for garnish


In a dry hot pan, roast the chickpea flour for a few minutes until it browns a little bit and you can smell the toasty aroma. Set aside.

Finely slice two of the onions, then caramelize them in oil until they are crispy brown: deep fry on high heat for about 7-10 minutes, then lower the heat and allow to brown. this takes about 20 more minutes—-this is a typical step in South Asian cooking and you should know how to do this if you would like to cook authentically from this region) Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and set aside.

In a food processor, grind the raw onion, half of the browned onions, and green chilies

Place the ground meat in a largish mixing bowl: add the ground onion/chili mixture, the squeezed milk-soaked bread, and all of the other KOFTA ingredients. Knead very well with your hands, mixing, mashing, breaking down the fibers of the meat to achieve maximum tenderness. You should mix and mash for about 10 minutes.

With wet hands, roll out the ground meat mixture into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball. You should get around 12 meatballs or so. Set these aside.

Heat on high 1/4 cup oil in a deep pot. Add in the other half of the browned onions, the garlic, and ginger and stir for around 30 seconds until the garlic and ginger cook. Do this quickly and do NOT blacken the onions or your gravy is ruined.

Stir in whipped yoghurt (when you add this it will prevent the browned onions from blackening.

Add the salt and the Shan Qorma Masala, and about 1/2 cup of water. Mix well.

Cover, lower heat, and allow to cook for 20 minutes until oil separates from gravy. Stir occasionally to prevent gravy from sticking to pan.

Next, add meatballs in pan a single layer. Add 1/2 cup more water if necessary. Meatballs should be about half way covered in gravy. Turn up heat, allow the gravy to boil, then cover and lower heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, turning the meatballs by shaking the pan gently.

Lastly, add 2 cups of water to the pot, allow to boil, then lower heat and cover. Allow to cook for 1/2 hour.

When done, you should have a lot of gravy. It should be liquidy, but velvety.

Garnish with cilantro.