Friday, December 9, 2011

Doab Fish Fry (What to do with Shan Masala)

I have a lot of recipes that are based on adding my own twist to packaged Shan Masala packets. Their qorma, chappli kabab, Sindhi biriani, and a few others are quite good but all need some adaptation to give one's own signature to a dish. Here is what I do with a box of Shan Lahori Fish Mix. Shan Lahori Fish Mix on its own is quite good but extremely salty. It is so salty that if you don't doctor it up, it is inedible. But it is quite convenient to use in that if you were to make a fish fry mix on your own you would need at least a dozen more ingredients than what I have listed below, so it saves time and effort.

I christened this recipe Doab (doh-aahb) Fish Fry since it is a confluence of Shan fish fry and my ingredients, just like a meeting of rivers in The Land of the Five Rivers, Punjab. :)

Doab Fish Fry:

1 lbs Swai fish filets cut into 2-3 inch chunks or large nuggets (or any other white, mild tasting fish like tilapia or king fish)
3 tbs vinegar
1 tsp turmeric
pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)

1 box Shan Lahori Fish Mix
1/4 cup of besan (chickpea flour) plus 2 tablespoons
4 tbs yellow cornmeal
3 pieces of garlic
1 inch of ginger
2 green chiles
2 tbs fresh cilantro finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp ajwain seeds
pinch of red or orange food coloring powder (optional, I just use it to give a festive look and also so that the end result doesn't seem like I have used Shan Masala stuff from the box or that it is just a fish pakora)
1 tsp lime juice
1 and 1/4 cups water or a little more if the batter looks too thick

oil for shallow frying


  • Wash fish well and cut into large nuggets. In a bowl, mix the vinegar, turmeric, and salt. Add fish to this and allow to marinate for 1 hour or so. The vinegar will have a slight pickling affect on the fish, so when it is battered and deep fried the fish flesh will be extra creamy and tender against the crisp batter. Yum! The vinegar also removes any unpleasant fishiness from the fish. When you are ready to fry, remove fish from vinegar, briefly rinse the fish and pat dry. 
*Tip: You can also freeze your fish nuggets in the marinade and defrost, rinse, and proceed.

  • Grind together the garlic, ginger, and green chiles to create a fine paste. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, add all of the dry ingredients into the  Shan Lahori Fish fry. Mix well. Stir in the water and the wet ingredients including the ginger-garlic-chile paste and cilantro. Add in the fish and allow to marinade for 1/2 an hour to 1 hour. 
  • Heat oil on a medium-high flame and shallow fry fish on one side, then the other.
  • Serve immediately. You may wish to garnish with a dash of chaat masala or a sprinkle of lime juice but I think it tastes amazing on its own. Serve with ketchup or meethi chutney. For my meethi chutney recipe, see here in this post.
*Tip: I wear disposable kitchen gloves when I handle the fish and wet marinade and batter because I like to mix with my hands to ensure even coating, but I hate the stains of turmeric or food coloring.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pastel de Tres Leches or Tres Leches Cake (Halal)

In Spanish, tres means three, leches means milks. Tres leches is a cake moistened with three types of milk.

This is a common party cake in my home state of Texas, especially among Mexican-American families. I read that the origins of this cake are that it is based on traditional Latin American syrup soaked sponge cakes, but the tres leches concept was created by a canned milk company to promote their products during the 1950s. Versions of it exist all over Latin America, and some include coconut milk or alcohol. My recipe is a simple Tex-Mex version, and the tres leches or three types of milks are sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and half-and-half.

To begin, you need to bake a yellow cake from a box mix. I use Betty Crocker's Supermoist Yellow cake. Bake this according to the instructions on the box in a 9 by 13 inch glass baking pan, but add a dash of alcohol free vanilla. I use Frontier brand, and I find that it is very delicious. Allow the cake to cool completely for several hours. Then, using a fork, poke holes all over the cake.

Take note of the holes poked in the cake. Feeling stabby?

For the leches, mix together:
3 tbs plain sugar
1/8 teaspoon (pinch) cinnamon
few drops of alcohol free vanilla
1 14 oz can of evaporated milk (I use Carnation)
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (I use Eagle)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
(or use 2 cups half and half, which is half cream and half milk)

Ladle this milk mixture over your sponge, ensuring that you moisten all parts of the cake. Cover cake and allow to absorb the milks overnight in the refrigerator.

The whipped cream frosting topping:
2 cups organic* heavy whipping cream
4 tbs powdered sugar
few drops alcohol free vanilla
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3 tbs chopped pecans

Blend ingredients and using an electric beater, beat your whipping cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla until it forms stiff peaks. Spread this on top of your milk-soaked sponge. Garnish with the coconut and nuts. You can experiment with garnishes of fruit, cajeta, caramel, chocolate shavings, or whatever suits you.

I wish I had a picture of the finished product, but on the day I was taking these demo pics, my kids came and smashed the cake with the cake server before I had a chance to snap a picture. Mine is a very home-made, non-fancy look, though. The end result is a sweet, super moist but not soggy, delicious cake!

*I use regular heavy whipping cream in the tres leches mixture but I go for a superior tasting organic heavy whipping cream for the whipped cream frosting to achieve the best taste. Organic cream is more expensive.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mangoes 'n Cream or Aam ka meetha

This is a recipe from my mother in-law. It is not a fancy party recipe, but just something to serve at home after a family meal.

Mangoes are so delicious by themselves when they are in season. But what do you do if you have mangoes that are from towards the end of the season or overripe, or the mangos weren't handled well during transport/export so they will never develop their full sweetness even when ripe? What if you only have frozen or canned mangoes available in your location? This is a super simple recipe that allows you to take advantage of delicious mango flavor even though the mangoes you may have aren't in their prime state of sweetness.

Just cut about 3 mangoes (+/- 2.5 cups or so) into bite sized, mushy chunks. Mush them a bit more with the back of a spoon. Whip 1 cup of regular or double cream (!) with 1/4 cup sugar. Use just a tablespoon or so sugar for canned mangoes as these have been soaking in sugar syrup. Beat well to ensure sugar dissolves. Then stir in the mangos. Transfer to a serving dish. Chill in the fridge for a few hours, then serve. The cream will thicken very slightly and you will have a sweet and creamy mango delight! You can also do this with any other juicy pulpy suitable fruit like peach or apricot.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Roasted Garlic Chile Chutney

This chutney is caustically hot, and has all of the sweet, deep flavor of caramelized, roasted garlic! I was inspired to create this recipe by an imagined amalgamation of North African harissa and Gujarati red garlic chutney. Plus, anything with roasted garlic is just gooood.

A few words on chutney for people less familiar with South Asian cuisine:
I've come to realize that many non-desis are confused bout chutney. For example, we goras (white Euro-origin people) usually think that chutney means some sort of fruit compote. We think instantly of mango chutney when we hear the word mentioned. I suppose that this is one kind of chutney. Many goras who frequent Indo-Pak restaurants know mint chutney and tamarind chutney as the green and red sauces that come with pappadums. Those are also two types of chutney. But how does one explain what chutney actually is? Chutney can be a concoction which is served as a dipping sauce, but it is more than that. It is like Korean kimchi. You can have bites of many types of chutneys on the side of a meal, or mix it into your food to change up the flavor. Chutneys can be cooling, but often they add heat and pungency to a dish. There are wet chutneys and dry chutneys. There are chutneys made with fresh ingredients and chutneys made with cooked ingredients, and combinations of both. There are even chutneys that are powder or grain-like in texture. From Kashmir to Kerala and all in between, there are probably hundreds of thousands of types of chutneys.

For roasted garlic chile chutney:
It is meant to be eaten spooned on the side of a plate of rice and daal or rice and vegetables, or with flat bread (chapati or roti). You can have a bite of it, or in a plain home style daal, mix morsels of rice mashed with daal with a bit of this chutney while you eat. Scrumptious! Brave souls who like desi-fusion will enjoy this chutney as a spread on sandwiches.

How to roast garlic:
For this you need to roast whole peeled cloves of garlic to cook out their rawness and bring out their sweetness. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss 2 cups of garlic cloves (3-4 peeled heads) in a flavorless oil (like Sunflower or Canola) and a dash of salt. Lay some aluminum foil on a baking sheet, put the oiled garlic on this foil, and now roll up the foil to seal the garlic inside of it, making a rough pouch. Put this on the baking sheet into the oven for about 50 minutes. The garlic will come out browned and mushy. You can make this in advance and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to make the chutney.

About 2 cups roasted garlic cloves (your original 2 cups may shrink a bit upon roasting, that's ok)
10 dried red Indian chiles or Mexican árbol chiles
1/2 heaping cup Indian red chile powder (no joke!)
1/2 cup cumin powder
3 tbs coriander powder
1/4 or so cup mustard oil
2-3 tbs flavorless oil like sunflower or canola
3 tbs sugar, or to taste
1.5 to 2 tbs salt, or to taste (you should have a slightly overly salted result)
1/2 cup or so fresh squeezed lime juice (may need more or less depending on how sour your limes are)

Heat mustard oil in a pan. When it smokes, toss in your dried whole red chiles. Very shortly, when they color and puff up, remove them quickly from the oil (with tongs or slotted spoon) and set them aside on a paper towel to drain. In the same hot oil, add in the roasted garlic. Turn off the flame and immediately toss in the dried red chile powder, cumin, and coriander. Stir to fry it in the oil. The flame is off so as to not burn the spice powder. Allow this to cool so that you can transfer it to a blender.

When cool, scrape this into a blender. Add in your lime juice, salt, sugar, and 2-3 tbs of flavorless oil. Blend well to a thick creamy paste, pushing down what rises to the sides of the blender. Taste for salt. It should be a bit overly salted since it is not meant to be eaten on its own but with a meal containing rice or flatbread. Adjust with a bit more salt, sugar, and lime juice if necessary. Now, stir in the fried whole chiles which you have kept aside. Pulse the blender, pushing the chiles down a few times to get them to be roughly chopped into large pieces in your chutney. The large chile chunks look pretty in the paste, and taste smokey if you happen to get one in your mouth. You may have to add a dash more of your flavorless oil to help things along in the blender.

This recipe yields about 2-2.5 cups of chutney which will keep in the fridge for 4-6 weeks.

The oil, sugar, salt, and lime juice are natural preservatives for this roasted garlic and chile chutney. Transfer into a clean, dry container with a lid, and keep in the fridge to serve this hot stuff with daily meals.

This stuff is pungent, extremely piquant, and or course lip smackingly garlicky. I highly advise against kissing anyone immediately after consumption unless your co-kisser has also eaten some of this roasted garlic chile chutney, too!

Are you a chutney addict?
For a delicious Hyderbadi style tomato chutney, see here.
For a Gujarati style coriander-peanut chutney, see here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Landi Kotal Shinwari Style Karhai Chicken

Shinwari Karhai Chicken

In Pakistan and India there are endless recipes for varieties of karhai dishes. This particular recipe is a prototypical specimen of the karhai chicken of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, the 'original' karhai chicken. You will find this sort of karhai chicken or karhai gosht in Peshawar's Namak Mandi, and it is named along with meat tikka and kabaab as one of the famous dishes of the Pashtoon tribes of the entire Frontier region. This recipe in particular is based on the Landi Kotal style karhai of the Shinwari tribe of Pashtoons. It is known in Pakistan for being highly delicious while containing no ground dried spices besides black pepper. Green chiles and juicy ripe tomatoes give this dish its unique and clean flavor. It makes its appearance on Pakistani restaurant menus and in wedding catering as Shinwari karhai. I had this style of karhai in North West Pakistan, as well as at an open air Pashtoon restaurant in Karachi, and I have always been intrigued by its delicious simplicity. Recently, I had this style of karhai chicken at the DC Metro area's notoriously tasty Ravi Kabob restaurant. Though Ravi Kabob is owned by Punjabis and the cooks are all from Mexico and Central America, the taste of their karhai chicken is exactly like what I remember eating in the Frontier restaurants. It's probably the best and most authentically Frontier style karhai chicken I have eaten outside of Pakistan. I felt inspired to do some deep research in attempt to replicate what I had eaten there and in Pakistan. Here is what I have come up with. My husband says it tastes spot on like Frontier style karhai, and he insists that it is even better than Ravi Kabob's famous karhai chicken.

1 chicken, skinless, bone-in cut into 2 inch pieces (ask for karhai cut from halal desi butcher)
5-6 whole green chiles, slit
1 tbs ginger-garlic paste
2-3 tomatoes roughly pureed
2 tomatoes cut into medium chunks
1 tsp salt or to taste-should be nicely salted
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbs lime juice
1 tbs ginger cut into long thin slivers ( finely julienned)
1/2 cup cilantro chopped
1/2 cup or so oil (traditionally this dish is made very rich with an excessive amount of oil)

In a karhai or deep cooking pot heat oil. Add slit green chiles and stir until they begin to color. Remove chiles from oil with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add in ginger-garlic paste. When this turns golden, add in chicken pieces. Stir on high heat, allowing chicken to brown a bit. When the chicken has got some color, add in the tomato puree. Add in the salt. Stir around for about five minutes, allowing the tomatoes to break down a bit and release their water, but not long enough for the water to dry up. Add in the tomato chunks, stir, and cover with a lid. Lower heat and allow chicken to cook for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the chicken is cooked, turn up heat and stir for a few moments more, adding in the black pepper. Turn off the heat. You should have a semi-dry gravy laden with tomato chunks, with quite a bit of oil floating on top. The trick is to cook the chicken through while still leaving some rawness in the tomatoes so that they remain wet and red. They should not fully break down in the gravy and darken as in a typical 'curry.' Now, stir in your lime juice, half of your ginger shards, half of your cilantro, and all of your chiles. Garnish the top with the remaining ginger and cilantro.

*A lighter alternative: Although bone in meat is traditional for karhai chicken, for health purposes, this recipe can be adapted to use with chicken breasts cut into large cubes. (Say, 2 inch cubes, or to your preference.) The cooking time of the chicken will be significantly reduced, as it is important not to overcook boneless breast meat. This will affect the time allowed for the tomatoes to break down and dry up. To adapt, brown chicken breasts in the oil after adding ginger-garlic paste as described above. Next, stir in roughly pureed tomatoes and salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or so until your cubed chicken breast is fully cooked through. Using tongs, remove chicken breast cubes from the gravy and set aside. Now, allow the tomato gravy to cook down and dry out a bit more, about 10 minutes on medium heat with occasional stirring. You may need to use a splatter screen. When the gravy has dried up a bit but is still a bit wet and red, add in the tomato chunks. Allow this to cook for 5 minutes more, mashing the chunks down a little bit. When the gravy is of the correct consistency, turn up the heat and stir the chicken cubes back into the gravy. Add in the black pepper and proceed with the above recipe instructions, adding in the finishing touches on the dish.

Shinwari Karhai Chicken made with chicken breast

Serve with fresh hot naan.

Krazy for karhai?
For a Southern Pakistani interpretation of Frontier style karhai, see here.
For black peppercorn karhai, see here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Roghan Josh

Roghan Josh, also spelled Rogan josh, is a well known Kashmiri dish.  From Persian, "roghan" means ghee/oil/butter/fat and "josh" means like bubbling hot with it is like "hot bubbling fat." What a fatilicious name!

There are a lot of roghan josh recipes on the internet. Most are faux Mughlai/Punjabi restaurant style recipes and contain cream and tomatoes, neither of which are found in Kashmiri Pandit or Waza Roghan Josh recipes. It is actually pretty hard to google up an authentic recipe without some digging and research. For some basic info on Kashmiri Pandit and Wazwan cuisines, see here.

I wanted to share two recipes for Roghan Josh that I acquired after a lot of hunting online. I have tried them both multiple times, and they are both good. One is a Pandit recipe, and the other a Muslim recipe.

The Pandit style recipe I found at the another subcontinent forums from poster Suman. (post #1) (The Another Subcontinent forums has a wealth of anecdotal South Asia food information, tips and recipes. Every once in a while I just sit there and read food threads for a hour.) 

Rogan Josh.

(somehow blogger is not letting me link above anymore so I linked the source here)

1 llb lamb, cut into small pieces
couple tblsp mustard oil or substitute.

4 cloves/laung
1" dalchini/cinnamon
2 black cardamom
couple small bay leaves

1/4 tsp hing
2 tsp saunf/fennel
1/2 tsp sonth/dry ginger powder
salt, chilly powder

4 powdered green cardamon
1/4 cup yogurt, beaten till smooth.

Saffron optional.

In the hot oil put in the whole spices(cloves, cinammon, cardamom, bay leaves) and stir for a few seconds till fragrant. Add the lamb and the hing and fry on fairly high heat until speckled with brown. This should take between 5 to eight minutes. Add the saunf, saunth, chilly powder, and salt and fry for a minute or so. It should be pretty fragrant by now.

Reduce the heat, add the beaten yogurt and powdered green cardamom and keep stirring till it comes to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook till done. In LA the lamb takes about 30 minutes to cook, so adjust cooking time and the quantity of water.

Saffron can be added when done and simmered for a couple minutes more.

The resulting gravy should have body, should not be watery and is served with rice.

A green vege, stir fried with a tadka of a pinch each of hing and clove powder plus a whack of chilly goes very well with this.

I pretty much followed Suman's recipe to a T, but I used bone-in mutton and cooked for 1 and a half hours till tender, not 30 mins, I used sunflower oil (I don't like the taste of mustard oil), I powdered the saunf/fennel seeds and beat it in with the powdered cardamom, and I did not use saffron. It came out very nicely.

The second recipe was posted here by a Ms Princess W in the India Mike food section (post #55) by a US origin lady married to a Kashmiri Muslim and living in Indian Kashmir. At the time she posted, she was learning Kashmiri Muslim style cooking from her in-laws. I also recommend that you read through that entire thread as she and other posters share more information on Roghan Josh and Kashmiri cuisine.

Roghan Josh

(once again fickle blogger is ignoring my instructions to hyperlink above, so source is linked here)

1 kg lamb, bone in

1/2 to 1 cup Mustard Oil

3 Onions, sliced thin

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon minced ginger

1 1/2 cup plain curd, beaten to a liquid consistency

3 black cardamom pods

4 whole cloves

1" stick cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp red chili powder (if you want the red colour & more spice)

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 green chilis, minced

1 Tablespoon dried mint leaves

2 teaspoons fennel, ground (can use whole seeds if you prefer)

fresh coriander leaves, chopped

First, boil the lamb in a kettle of water seasoned with salt and one of the black cardamoms. Boil about 10 minutes and remove. Reserve water.

In pressure cooker, fry onions in oil until golden brown and somewhat crisp. Remove and grind the onions with the garlic and ginger to form a paste. Add cloves and minced chilis to the hot oil and fry about 30 seconds. Add lamb to the oil and brown just a little, then add the rest of the seasonings and about 2 cups of the reserved lamb broth. Place the cover on the pressure cooker and let it come to full pressure. After 3 or 4 "whistles", reduce heat and continue to cook for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cooker cool naturally before opening.

Check the tenderess of the meat. If it comes off the bone easily, it is ready. Add the beaten curd to the pot and stir well. Let the Roghan Josh simmer on very low about 1/2 hour to blend the flavors, then let stand about 1 to 2 hours, or better yet, refrigerate, then heat n serve the next day, topped with the coriander leaves.

Here is my picture of the rendition of Ms Princess W's recipe.

 I used chaampen or mutton chops rather than botees as that is what I had on hand that day. Nice hot fat floating on the top, eh? And check out the red color! I did not pressure cook the lamb but cooked it stove top. Ms Princess W doesn't mention cockscomb here, but I also added paprika instead of more red chile powder to imitate the color of Kashmiri cockscomb flower, which obviously is hard to procure outside of Kashmir. Paprika is a good option instead of extra red chile powder since obviously the heat factor would be uncharacteristically amplified by extra chile. I also omitted the dried mint because I didn't have any. And just like with Suman's recipe, I forwent the traditional mustard oil simply because I am not a huge fan of the taste. It was a nice dish, and with the Kashmiri waza method of adding seasonings to a yakhni/broth and perfuming a dish with fennel, this dish was very distinct from my typical daily tamaatar-pyaaz Pakistani saalans.

I often create my own recipes by adapting and combining recipes from friends, in-laws, books and online, and altering methods and ingredients slightly to suit my taste and cooking style. Here you have two simple and authentic recipes that you can do the same with.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Where Do You Store Your Masalas?

I have been eyeballing this pricy Tablefare SpiceCare Interlocking spice storage system for a while, but haven't found any in depth unaffiliated reviews of the product. I asked about it on my favorite foodie website, Chowhound, but no one responded to my query. It looks great, though. I am afraid it will cause fumbling and I will have to unlock a lot of stuff all at once to get out a few spices. The SpiceCare thingy was recommended by Chef Bosco Pereira on twitter (@Chef_Bosco), so that's how I found out about it, and I trust what Chef Bosco says a lot. (His tweet soliloquies on South and South East Asian food are awesome. His food-knowledge is as vast as the Seven Seas!) But I'd still like to read some feedback on the product before investing in it.

In my daily cooking, I usually cook the typical dishes of my husband's particular community. For those dishes, I keep the fast moving standard every-dish spices in a masala dabba.  Spices I use less frequently are in clear plastic jars with lids (the little jars are about 16 oz in size, I'd say). They are just all stuffed in the cupboard. There are some I keep at the front of the cupboard, but I step up on a step-stool to dig around for others. I have a friend who keeps all of her spices in a clear plastic jars but keeps the jars in clear plastic stackable storage drawers so the spices are easy to see and take out. Awesome idea! But never got around to doing that. I should really do that, I suppose.
The spices I purchase usually come in large plastic baggies. Here is what I do with the plastic spice baggies: If it is a fast moving spice for me like red chile powder or cumin, I pour some in a plastic jar, some in the masala dabba cup, and then use the tiny bit left over in the baggie first. If it is a very slow moving spice, I pour it into the plastic container, and I toss out the few tablespoons which are left over at the bottom because I know it will go stale before I use it all. It is a waste, I know, but I buy the spices cheaply at the Indian market, so no worries. Before I started tossing them out, I kept the left over amount in its baggie closed with a rubber band, but it would just sit in my cupboard for ages and I would end up throwing it away anyway. For Shan masalas, I mostly use only a couple of teaspoons at a time, so I keep them in the boxes in which they come. For rice and chapati ata, I have them in giant clear plastic locking storage boxes, and for daals, I have them in one drawer in medium sized lockable clear plastic bins.
What about you? If you are a spicy home cook, how do you store your masalas? Any recommendations?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fried Cassava Wedges or Yuca Frita Desi Style

Cassava goes by many names. In the US, it is widely known in English by its Spanish name, yuca.  (Sometimes spelled yucca, but not to be confused with the spiky perennial decorative plant yucca, so I will spell it yuca here.) Yuca is a delicious, starchy, potato-like tuber with its own distinct taste. In terms of subcontinental cooking, yuca is more of a South Indian ingredient. In the North, it is only widely known through its by-product, sabudana, or tapioca pearls, which are used in a variety of preparations.  Note that sabudana and sago/sagudana are not the same thing, though many people mistakenly think that they are. They are actually made from different sources. Barring a few Gujarati origin East African friends who I have observed grew up eating cassava as mogo (from Kiswahili mhogo), I am not familiar with it being used much in the North of the subcontinent. Please let me know if I am mistaken about this, because I am always interested in new regional culinary information and recipes. Yuca is eaten in South India in a variety of forms. In some parts of South India, yuca is cut into wedges and cooked in wet gravy preparations (aka 'curry'). Cassava pops up in many cuisines from the Americas to Africa to Asia, but in terms of subcontinental flavor, there are also a lot of diasporic desi recipes for cassava, from Trinidad to Fiji. It is well worth looking into recipes to expand your repertoire with this simple yet delicious tuber. Cassava leaves are also delectable, and can be cooked like any saag.

I enjoy fried yuca, and I wanted to share with you how I make it at home.

Ingredients: yuca, chaat masala (I use Shan brand), roasted red chile powder, roasted cumin powder, and salt. I am not specifying the quantity of powdered spice, but I'd say it is a pinch of each spice per yuca that you use. (I seem to love to deep fry things and sprinkle them with chaat masala. I love chaat masala!)

Put some water in a deep pot and bring it to a boil. Take your yuca and cut off both ends of it. Cut it in half latitudinally. Then use your knife to peel off the skin. (The skin contains toxins that you don't want to eat.) Once the two halves of yuca are peeled, cut them down the middle length wise, and remove the long inner fiber if there is one. Don't worry if your yuca has any purple coloring. That is normal. Submerge your yuca in water and strain it a few times, rinsing away the excess starch.

Once your water is boiling, put the yuca pieces in it. Allow the yuca to boil for about 25 minutes. The yuca should be cooked completely, and you should be able to break it apart into starchy shards if you press it down. There will be visible ridges in your cooked yuca, and these will create a delicious mouth texture when crisp fried, plus the seasoning will sink into the crevices. Yum! I digress.

You have removed your yuca from the boiling water. Set it on a paper towel to dry. Allow it to cool completely and air dry very well. I sometimes allow it to cool, refrigerate it, then bring it to room temperature and fry it the next day. That is also an option if you don't have time to complete the process all at once.

Once your yuca is air dried and at room temperature, cut it into wedges. You can make them larger or smaller depending on your own preference, since the inside of the yuca is already cooking and your goal is simply to crisp fry the exterior rather than to cook through the tuber. Heat some oil in a pan, and fry it till lightly golden in color and crispy. You may shallow fry or deep fry at your discretion. Take care not to over-fry it, as it will dry out and become dense. Ideally, each yuca wedge should have a very crispy exterior and a soft, moist interior.

Set your yuca fries on a paper towel for a few moments to remove some of the oil.

Now here is a trick: Take a brown paper sack. (Do not use a plastic bag as steam will be trapped inside and your yuca will lose crispness.) Pour in a dash each of all of the dried masalas and salt. Use more or less masala depending on how much yuca you have and how spicy you want your fries to be. Put the yuca fries in the paper sack, roll it closed, then shake shake shake your bag to evenly distribute the salt and masala.

Oila, yuca in hot and tangy chaat masala!

Serve alone, with tamarind chutney, or ketchup. This can be a snack, or a side dish with a meal. My kids love spicy yuca fries, too.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Qorma Biryani of Lucknow

My husband's mother's family is from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. This city was a seat of North Indian Muslim culture and the Urdu language, and this is a great source of pride to my mother-in-law. Qorma biriani is the preferred type of biriani in their family home. Qorma biriani is not particularly spicy. Its virtue comes from the richness of the ingredients, the warmth of the garam masalas, and the savory red-brown fried onions. The toasted ground white poppy seed, or *khashkhaash (khaskhas in Hindi), and the mace and nutmeg are also characteristic seasonings of Lucknavi cuisine.

The onions give a lot of flavor, but be light handed with them in layering with the biryani rice. You don't want an overpowering fried onion flavor hiding the delicious yet delicate qorma flavor. Traditionally, only the highest quality Dehra Doon basmati rice would be used, so you must use the best basmati rice you can find. I like Tilda as well as India Gate brand.

*If you are not familiar with white poppy seed, here is how to use it. Purchase it at your local Indo-Pak market. Black poppy seed is NOT an acceptable substitute. Heat a pan to medium-high, pour in white poppy seeds and toast until they become a darker color and you can smell their roasted nutty fragrance. Once toasted, set on a plate and allow to cool. When cool, grind to a smooth paste (it will be very slightly gritty) in your spice grinder. Store in the freezer, as it goes rancid like nuts. I grind in small amounts and keep mine in a ziplock baggy in the freezer.

The Qorma

¼ cup oil
1.5 lbs bone-in mutton pieces in 1-2 inch chunks, ribs and shin meat best
2 medium onions finely sliced, brown fried, and crush half of them, keep the other half uncrushed
6 green cardamoms, husk popped open by pressing with knife
2 black cardamoms (bari elaichi)
2 bay leaves (tez patta)
1 piece of cinnamon bark, about 2 inches long
1 tsp garlic paste
1 cup yoghurt with ½ tsp garam masala , 1 tsp red chile powder, and 1 tbs ginger paste whipped in
12 skinless raw almonds  soaking in warm water to just cover
1 tbs toasted ground white poppy seed
1 cup water
¼ tsp mace powder (jaavitri)
¼ tsp nutmeg powder (jaiphal)
1/4 tsp freshly ground green cardamom powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp salt or to taste

The Rice
½ tsp kewra jal (pandanus flower water)
¼ tsp  orange food coloring powder (biriani rangi) soaked in ½ cup milk 
3 cups raw rice parboiled with a few green cardamoms (see here for method)
3 tbs butter or ghee

Garnish: mint leaves, some extra fried onions


Have crushed, fried onions on hand.  Grind soaking almonds with their water to make a paste.

Heat oil and add in whole spices for a minute. Add in meat and brown well, add in garlic paste and allow to turn golden, lower flame add in yoghurt mixture, stir to mix well on low heat (to avoid curdling yoghurt) when oil rises above yoghurt, turn up heat and stir in white poppy seed and, mix well. Stir in one cup water and salt. Bring to boil, lower heat , and cook for 1.5 hours until mutton is tender  and falling off bone. Stir occasionally. Add a tiny bit of water if necessary, but you want a fairly dry clinging gravy at the end, so don’t add too much water. If you have too much liquid at the end of cooking, turn up the heat for a few minutes to boil out any excess water. Finally, stir in the crushed brown fried onions, and all of the additional powdered spices, and ground almond paste. Keep covered on a very low flame for five more minutes. Set aside.

Have the uncrushed fried onions on-hand for layering.

To see a more detailed explanation of how to layer biryani, look here at my Sindhi biryani recipe.

Have your parboiled rice ready. In a deep pot, put in some ghee/butter and then a layer of biriani gravy. Add a layer of parboiled rice, then top with a sprinkle of fried onions and ghee/butter, another layer of qorma, another layer of rice, ghee, and fried onions. On the final layer of rice, pour your orange milk in one small spot on the rice. Sprinkle with kewra jal. Put the pot on a high flame, covered for 3 minutes to get the steam going. Then lower heat and cook 20 minutes until rice is done. Allow to rest, then mix and serve on a platter garnished with mint leaves and a bit more fried onion.

Serve with lime wedges and plain yoghurt, not a raita.