Since my daughter has been back to school germ factory for three weeks now, the entire family has managed to catch a cold. My cooking game is weak — not only do I prefer making grilled cheese for the kids and flopping on the couch to whipping up a decent dinner, when I actually do attempt to cook I can’t smell anything and everything tastes weird. I’ve made stuff but everything is just meh. I’m like the dad in Eat Drink Man Woman (without all the crazy skill to start with).

In addition to our light sickness blues, my mother-in-law who had been visiting for the last four months left yesterday to go back to Pakistan. We’re all sad. She is sweet and funny, and we loved having her around and now the house feels a little empty.

She did leave us with an enormous multi-pot batch of haleem, the deliciously lacy and muddy mashed up dish of wheat and beef and lentils. The night before she left she had Shan and I standing over the stove furiously stirring our respective sputtering pots, and now we have a fridge and freezer full to remember her by – and should my cooking mojo return, I have the basic recipe from the Dalda cookbook (Pakistan’s go-to) so I can make it again and remember this summer.


From the Dalda Cookbook

  • 1 ½ cup cooking oil or ghee
  • 3 lbs of stew beef
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp red chilli
  • 1 ½ tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb of haleem wheat (which I think is the same as bulgar), crushed and soaked in water for at least an hour, or overnight
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 1 cup of chana dal, soaked and boiled
  • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • limes, cilantro, sliced ginger, chopped green chilis and chaat masala for garnish

Heat oil or ghee on medium heat. Add meat, garlic, ginger, garam masala, red chilli, ground coriander, turmeric, and salt. When the meat is brown, add water and cook on medium heat until very tender (almost falling apart), stirring and adding more water if necessary.

In a separate pot boil wheat grains with lots of salted water. When the grains become tender and mushy add a pinch of baking soda and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Add wheat to the meat and mix well, stirring continuously (we did this for 15 min or so). Grind the lentils in a food processor, adding about 2 cups of water to make a thick paste.

Add the lentil paste into the meat and wheat mixture and stir to mix well (this makes a lot so you will probably need more than one pot – mix as well as you can). Cook on low heat and for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often. End result should be very thick, and when a spoon is pulled out you can see little strands.

Fry the sliced onion in clarified butter until very brown, remove to a paper towel.

Serve haleem with fried onions, limes, cilantro, sliced ginger, and chaat masala.

Ami actually added rice, and also made an onion and chili tarka for this, so I’ll may edit this when I eventually make it. But that’s the basic recipe!

Kashmiri Chai



Everything tastes better in an owl mug :)

What could be more magical than tea that turns pink?

Actually, it’s pretty scientific, the baking soda makes the solution basic so…..ooh, enough, Science, you’re ruining the ambiance!

Ok. So magic tea. I had never heard of Kashmiri chai (also called noon chai or pink chai), but first experienced it in Pakistan several years ago at my brother-in-law’s walima. What is this lovely and strange cup I’m being handed? So pretty! So fragrant and salty sweet! I was immediately enchanted.

The next week I had another cup from a street vendor when we visited the mountain town of Murree. Of course I looked it up when we got home, and found that it is most often served at special occasions such as weddings (check) and in scenic mountain locations (check), so I feel like I unknowingly got a pretty comprehensive Kashmiri chai experience.

But of course you can enjoy this within the comfort of your own non-mountain home to make just a regular day a little special. You can find Kashmiri chai at your local Indian store (which I did), or online, but from my understanding it’s basically the same as green tea so you can use that as well.

Kashmiri Chai

Pretty much from Instructables

  • 2 cups cold water + 1 cup cold water later
  • 1 heaping tbsp Kashmiri chai or green tea
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • good pinch black salt (or regular salt if you don’t have that)
  • 2 cups cold milk

Put 2 cups water, tea, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes.

Add a cup of cold water (to shock the tea leaves? Going to do more research about this). Turn heat to high and stir constantly while you bring it back to a boil.

When it’s boiling, add the milk and stir, then reduce heat back to medium to heat the whole pot through. Be relieved that it’s the color it is supposed to be. Strain and serve. Garnish with almonds or pistachios (which I would have loved to but was fresh out of nuts).

This tea really was a little magical as it brought back memories for my mother-in-law (this is her last month here, sadface) that my husband hadn’t heard, and she recounted how when she was young her mother would make a big pot every afternoon which they enjoyed with fresh bread and bakarkhani.

Pakistani Chicken Korma


Korma is one of those rich and delicious Mughlai dishes that I find wickedly irresistible. Usually kormas, especially restaurant-style versions, are swimming in oil and cream, but although I certainly didn’t set out to make a light version (gag) this one turned out to be…not that bad. It’s Pakistani style with yogurt as the creamy factor, and since I used my non stick wok I cut way back on the oil.

This is 90% authentic – I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, and I like browning the chicken good before cooking (It’s called a Maillard reaction, subcontinent! Get on board!). Otherwise it’s the real deal. The only thing I would change for next time is making more of the yummy gravy (so I may come back and tweak this recipe to add more onion and/or yogurt).

Pakistani Chicken Korma

Adapted from Ayesha’s Kitchen

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, divided
  • one chicken cut by butcher into 1 1/2 inch pieces, cleaned and dried – my pieces were too large as butcher did not understand, but that’s ideal
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Whole spices: 1 stick cinnamon, 4 cloves, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • Powdered spices: 1 tbsp red chili powder, t tsp turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sea salt to taste (about a tsp)
  • sprinkle of kewra water
  • cilantro for garnish

In a non-stick wok, heat two tbsp coconut oil on high. Brown chicken on both sides in two batches (lowering heat a little if it gets crazy), and remove to a plate.

Lower heat to medium high, and in the same oil sauté the onions with a sprinkle of salt until very brown. Meanwhile, whip the yogurt and garam masala. Remove the onions to a paper towel, and when they are cool, crush them with your hands and mix them into the yogurt.

Add one more tbsp of coconut oil to the wok, and heat whole spices until fragrant (a minute or so). Add garlic and ginger pastes and cook for a minute or so, then add powdered spices and cook for a minute or so.

Now add the chicken back in, along with the bay leaf, and generous sprinkle of salt, and about a cup of water. Mix well, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken is very well cooked through.

Gradually add the yogurt mixture into the wok, mix, and heat through. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve sprinkled with a little kewra water and chopped cilantro.


Summer Squash Salad with Roasted Tomatillo Vinaigrette


After Ramadan (during which time I did not fast, but did eat pakoras for almost 30 days straight) and my sister’s wedding week (during which time I drank lots of wine and ate delicacies such as burgers and cheese fries – it was a classy wedding, I swear), my body was screaming at me to put something green in it. Anything.

So I made this enormous, gorgeous rainbow salad with sweet summer squash, pretty purple cabbage, crisp radishes, juicy tomatoes, creamy queso fresco, toasty pumpkin seeds, the ubiquitous avocado, and this awesome experiment of a roasted tomatillo vinaigrette that came out even better than I had hoped – nailed it! After weeks of crap this salad is a rainbow in my heart.

Summer Squash Salad with Roasted Tomatillo Vinaigrette

  • 2 small or 1 large summer squash, thinly sliced into half or quarter moons
  • 2 small or 1 large tomatillo, thinly sliced
  • olive oil and sea salt for roasting
  • 1 small head green leaf lettuce, thickly shredded
  • 1/4 head purple cabbage, shredded
  • 3 red radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced into half moons
  • 5 oz queso fresco, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • several sprigs cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp honey
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • sea salt & pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Heat oven to 400° F.

Coat squash and tomatillos with a little olive oil and sea salt. Spread squash on one foil-lined baking sheet and tomatillos on another, making sure they are all in one layer. Roast approximately 15 minutes for the squash (until soft, no or little color) and 20 minutes for the tomatoes (until they are just getting starting to get caramelized).

For the vinaigrette: finely chop the roasted tomatillo and mix with garlic, cilantro, honey, lime juice and zest, and red wine vinegar, and season generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil while stirring.

Toss together lettuce, cabbage, radishes, tomatoes, queso fresco and pumpkin seeds. Slice or scoop in avocado right before you lightly dress the salad with the vinaigrette (you can serve extra on the side).

Aloo Gosht


I always jump the gun for soup and stew season because I love nothing more than a simmering pot, even on a hellish summer day. While I have no qualms about making inappropriate food if that’s what I want, we’ve had enough rainy, chilly days mixed in that aloo gosht has actually been perfect.

I usually make it with stew beef, but this last time made it with bone-in goat meat and it was delicious. This recipe from a Pakistani Cooking blog is solid, it’s now my go-to recipe. Side note, Pakistani cooking blogs written by non-Pakistanis amuse me, not in a bad way.

I am terrified of exploding pressure cookers, so for me this is a better lazy weekend dish where I can let the meat simmer slowly until it’s almost falling apart. The potatoes laced with brothy, spicy tomato gravy are perfect for sopping up with warm roti.

Aloo Gosht

Adjusted just slightly from Pakistani Cooking

  • One pound stew beef or goat or two pounds bone-in beef or goat
  • Several tbsp’s cooking oil, divided
  • 3 medium onions, finely sliced
  • whole spices: 1 stick cinnamon, 10 black peppercorns, 1 large cardamom pod, 8 cloves
  • 5 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1.5 inch ginger, grated
  • 5 roma tomatoes, diced
  • powdered spices: 1 tbsp red chili, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp coriander powder, salt to taste (about 1 tbsp)
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 6 medium red potatoes, peeling optional, cut into large chunks just before cooking
  • 8 green chilies cut into one inch pieces
  • a good amount cilantro for garnish, roughly chopped

Heat a couple tbsp’s cooking oil. Brown meat (in batches if necessary) on both sides and remove to a plate. Add a couple more tbsp oil and the onions, cooking for a few minutes until translucent. Add whole spices and cook, stirring, until very golden, lowering heat if necessary to avoid burning.

Add garlic and ginger and fry for a few minutes, then the tomatoes and powdered spices. Cook, stirring, until the oil separates.

Add the ghee, and the meat back into the pot and just cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, covered, until meat is very tender (may be an hour and a half to two hours), stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary.

Add the potatoes (and a little more water if needed, and cook, covered, until very soft but not falling apart. You can dry up some of the water if you like it more stewy than brothy. Add the green chilles and cook for just a few more minutes, then garnish with cilantro and serve with basmati rice, roti, or naan.

Cornmeal Cake with Blackberry Glaze


I saw Nigella, kitchen goddess, make this elegant and unfussy polenta cake on her show. The blackberry glaze idea came from the photo of these donuts – gorgeous!

Note: although purple and lovely, my cake was a little dry since my blackberry glaze just sits on top, so next time I will try half her lemon glaze and let that seep into the cake, then top with the blackberry glaze.

Cornmeal Cake with Blackberry Glaze

Variation on Nigella’s Lemon Polenta Cake

  • 200 grams ground almonds
  • 100 grams cornmeal
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • blackberries and powdered sugar for glazing

Heat oven to 350° F and grease a 9 inch spring form pan.

Whisk together almonds, cornmeal and baking powder. Cream together butter and sugar, then add eggs one by one and combine. Stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined, then spread into springform pan. Bake for 40 minutes.

Glaze with a mixture of mashed and strained blackberries and powdered sugar (start with just a few tbsps of juice, add more if needed). Garnish with blackberries.

Sweet Corn and Blackberry Salad with Basil Vinaigrette


This hardly needs a recipe, other than the directive: throw yummy things in a bowl. This does check all the summer salad boxes though: something fruity, something crunchy, homemade dressing (the only kind), ubiquitous pickled shallot.

Sweet Corn and Blackberry Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

For the dressing

  • 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp finely chopped basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, maple syrup, basil, salt and pepper. Thinly slice shallot and stir into vinegar mixture and allow to pickle for half an hour minimum, ideally more. Right before serving, add olive oil in a stream while stirring.

For the salad

  • 2 ears sweet corn
  • Several handfuls baby greens
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • dressing (above)
  • sliced almonds

Boil corn in salted water for 2 minutes (turning), drain, cool, and cut off the cob. Toss together with greens and blackberries, and lightly dress with the liquid from the dressing. Spoon shallots on top and sprinkle with almonds.

Chilled Blackberry Soup with Sweet Corn, Mozzerella and Ricotta


I wanted some ideas for blackberry soup, so I Googled and found several, but they were all sweet! The one savory one I found was a Russian version (Makvlis Supi) which combines blackberries with herbs and cucumbers for a chilled summer soup. “I am intrigued,” I said to myself, so I used it as inspiration for my soup. I am also intrigued by this burrata thing I keep seeing popping up, which I mean to try soon but in the meantime whipped up a mixture of mozzarella and ricotta which I imagine is similar.

Chilled Blackberry Soup with Sweet Corn, Mozzerella and Ricotta

  • 1 lb blackberries
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 large cucumber
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 packed tbsp basil
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sweet corn
  • 1/4 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella

Combine blackberries, garlic, cucumber, thyme, basil, maple syrup, salt and pepper in blender and blend until smooth. Blend on a lower setting and drizzle olive oil. Chill for at least an hour.

In food processor, combine corn, ricotta and mozzarella with a pinch of salt and pepper.

To serve, pour soup in bowls and top with a dollop of the corn/ricotta/mozzarella mixture and a sprinkle of basil.

Green Masala Chicken Biryani


I will be making this again this weekend…can almost taste it!

Eid is almost here, and I asked my mother-in-law what I should make. She had two words: chicken biryani.

Of course. I don’t even know why I asked.

Quick biryani lesson: the dish came by way of Persia (thanks Wikipedia) and is basically a rice dish where the rice is partially cooked, then layered with the other ingredients to steam the rest of the way (as opposed to cooking everything together as in a pulao). There are countless variations, which on one hand means there is room for innovation and creativity but on the other hand means everyone says everyone else is doing it wrong.

Pukka Paki’s My Tamarind Kitchen’s Green Masala Chicken Biryani is my favorite recipe that I’ve tried, because it is fresh and bright thanks to the handfuls of fresh herbs, and the whole garam masalas lightly spice the dish without weighing it down.

I’ve made it several times and have made just a few small adjustments – first, the masala is awesome as is, but it doesn’t hurt to throw in a couple extra Thai chilies. Second, this makes a LOT of curry – which is normally a good thing because you don’t want to be stingy on the curry, but where she lists 2.5 cups of rice I have gradually upped this to 3.5, and 4 would probably be ok. Last, before baking she says to stick lemon wedges here and there, but I forgo this because the first time I made it, it was overpoweringly lemony. I guess I could just stick less/thinner wedges, but I err on the side of caution and just serve with lemon wedges for a fresh spritz before eating.

A few helpful tips and musings:

  • The list of ingredients and steps is dauntingly long, but if you break it down into components its seems more manageable (Onions + yogurt, chicken + spices, tomatoes + green masala, mix mix finish and layer with rice).
  • I don’t have a good heavy-bottomed pot, but have found a nonstick wok is fantastic – you can crank up the heat and not worry too much about it sticking, so it works well for the onion and curry components.
  • Once you get your onions started, you will have plenty of time to prep your other ingredients (I’m usually a  “furiously multitask” type, not a “serenely mise” type, but I can be the latter in this situation because I am doing something productive on the side).
  • You may be scandalized by the amount of oil/ghee used. Just breathe into a bag for a minute or perhaps take a long walk or soothing bubble bath and then get on with it.
  • Lots of Pakistani recipes give you the instruction to “cook until the oil rises to the top” – including this recipe, several times. What does that even mean? I used to stare wistfully into my pot, wondering if I’d know the moment it happened. Now I realize that this is not that ambiguous. If you don’t see it, keep cooking. You’ll know.
  • I rarely have saffron on hand but I always have safflowers (from the Arabic market. Just as yellow, way less expensive), so I use these instead. You are going for several colors running through the rice, and this will achieve the pretty yellow part of that. The flavor is different, but as this is not a delicately-spiced bouillabaisse I don’t think it matters much. Some people actually use food coloring (bleh no thanks).
  • Lots of recipes have you finish the dish on the stove, but I like the oven versions such as this because you don’t have to worry about stuff burning to the bottom – plus although she has you put it in a serving dish, I think that’s unnecessary because the baking dish presentation is lovely.

Green Masala Chicken Biryani

Recipe from My Tamarind Kitchen

For the onion yogurt mixture

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup ghee
  • 4-6 medium red onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cups yogurt

Heat oil and ghee in a wok or heavy-bottomed pot and deep-fry onions until very brown (this will take awhile so in the meantime you can prep the rest of the ingredients). Stir occasionally and be careful not to burn. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Whip yogurt, then add onions and mix.

For the half done rice

  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 green cardamom pods (bruised)
  • salt
  • 3 1/2 cups basmati rice

Rinse rice thoroughly and soak for 30 minutes before cooking. Boil a large pot of lightly salted water with the cinnamon and green cardamom pods. Add rice, rapidly boil until al dente (approximately 4 minutes). Drain and set aside.

For the green masala

  • 2 inch piece of ginger
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 cup mint, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups cilantro, chopped
  • 3-4 Thai chilies (a couple extra if you like more spice)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder

Grind all to a paste.

For the biryani

  • 1/2 cup oil (divided)
  • 5 tbsp ghee (divided)
  • 1 medium whole skinless chicken cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces by butcher
  • Whole garam masala: 10 cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, 6 green cardamom pods (bruised), 15 peppercorns, 2 star anise
  • 3-4 medium chopped tomatoes
  • salt
  • green masala (above)
  • yogurt mixture (above)
  • half done rice (above)
  • 2 pinches of safflower or saffron (crumbled and soaked in hot milk for 15 minutes minimum to release color/fragrance)
  • 1 tbsp rosewater
  • lemon wedges, coriander leaves, yogurt or cucumber raita for serving

For the curry, heat 1/2 cup oil and 2 tbsp ghee in a large saucepan or wok. Brown chicken and remove. Add another 1/2 cup oil and 2 tbsp ghee, along with the whole garam masala, and heat until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and a good sprinkle of salt, and cook, stirring, until the oil rises to the top. Add the green masala, cook until the oil rises to the top, then add the browned chicken and the onion-yogurt mix, cook until the oil rises to the top.

Heat the oven to 320° F. In a large baking dish, spread the curry on the bottom and layer the half cooked rice on the top. Sprinkle the safflower milk, a tbsp of ghee, and the rosewater over the top. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes to an hour (this has always taken me an hour) until the rice is perfectly cooked through.

To serve, stir the rice and curry gently to mix, being careful not to break the rice. Serve with lemon wedges, chopped cilantro, and yogurt or cucumber raita.

It was a full month after my mother-in-law came before I made it for her because I was so nervous, but when I finally made this for her she ate plateful after plateful, and all but licked plate.


Flour and Spice and Chocolate and Chilis, two gorgeous cooking blogs I’ve been perusing lately for more recipes to try, are hosting a virtual Eid party, so of course I want to play :) Here’s my contribution to the potluck, looking forward to seeing what the other participates are cooking up!

Dahi Baray


We are smack in the middle of Ramadan, and dahi barays – I know, I know, grammatically incorrect – are one of our favorite iftaari dishes. They are basically fried dumplings made out of besan (chickpea/gram flour) in a thin yogurt sauce. You can also make them with lentils but Shan has made it clear he doesn’t like those, and although I haven’t tried them they sound too heavy whereas these puff up into light, fluffy clouds.

A few little tricks

  • After frying and draining, dunk the barays in water for about a minute then gently squeeze them out before transferring to the yogurt mixture. Some people skip this step but it makes sure they are nice and soft. From what I’ve gathered, the Pakistani food circuit is brutal; you don’t want people gossiping about your crunchy barays.
  • Also, thin the yogurt with almost more water than you are comfortable with – the barays will soak up quite a bit so you need to overcompensate so it doesn’t dry up.
  • Make sure the oil is hot enough before you start dropping the batter. These are not hard to make, and they have come out perfectly for me every time except once. I had just gotten off an angry phone call and was storming around the kitchen, flailing and ranting while I threw this together, and distractedly dropped them too early in the still-heating oil. We ended up with sad little lumps in watery yogurt. And sad little lumps is what happens when I cook angry, so I have since resolved to take a few cleansing breathes and calm the eff down instead of messing up my food.
  • I usually just sprinkle these with chaat masala, but I’ve seen them drizzled with imli (tamarind) chutney too, which looks so pretty. I’m going to do that for our upcoming iftaar party, because presentation is everything.

Dahi Baray

Adapted from Dahi Baray by Chef Zakir

For the yogurt mixture

  • One heaping cup yogurt
  • 2 tsp (or to taste) red chili
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp chaat masala (more for garnish)
  • Salt to taste
  • tamarind chutney (optional)

For the barays

  • 1/2 cups besan
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Salt and red chili to taste (about a tsp of each)
  • Oil for frying (an inch in a pan is fine)

In a large bowl, whip yogurt together with red chili, sugar, chaat masala and salt. Add water to make a very thin sauce. If you aren’t trying to impress anyone you can serve from this bowl, or you can pour two thirds into a large shallow dish and set the rest aside to pour over at the end.

Combine besan, baking soda, salt and red chili, stirring well so there are no lumps. Add enough water to make a thick batter. Have a paper towel-lined plate and a large bowl of water ready.

Heat oil. Fry in batches by dropping spoons of batter into the oil – they should immediately puff up. They only take a minute or so on each side to fry, so once you finish dropping the first round of batter you can go back around and flip them (I use two spoons or a spoon and a fork to flip). Remove to the paper towel-lined plate for a minute or so, dunk in water for a minute, then gently squeeze them out and transfer to the yogurt mixture (either in the bowl or the shallow dish).

Continue frying in batches until all the batter is used up. To serve, pour the rest of the yogurt on top (if applicable), sprinkle with chaat masala and drizzle with tamarind chutney.