Pakistani Chicken Korma

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.

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Aloo Gosht

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.

Mulled Wine

mulled-wine

Mulled wine is lovely, warming, and festive. I first made it for a Christmas party my husband and I were having the year we moved in together. None of our friends were familiar so I described it as warm sangria. Feel free to spike it with rum or brandy, and if it’s for a party, I recommend doubling the recipe and floating a clove-studded orange for effect. I didn’t do either this time; I didn’t have any rum, and I made this for a regular old Friday night in December.

Mulled Wine

1 bottle cheap red wine
generous splash of juice (such as apple, apple cider, or orange. I used apricot nectar since I still had some in the fridge)
1 cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom
1 star anise pod
several each of: cardamom pods, allspice berries, cloves, black peppercorns
honey to taste
peel of one orange, tangerine, or clementine

Combine everything in a sauce pan, stirring to dissolve honey, and heat on low (don’t allow to boil!) for an hour and a half to two hours.

Note: if you don’t have all these spices, don’t despair! Use what you have, even a pinch of powdered spices.

Coconutty Chana Dal

chana-dal

I’ve always made lentils fairly frequently, but lately it seems we are never without a pot in the fridge. This is partly out of laziness, because I can make them with my eyes closed with pantry ingredients that don’t require the foresight of a trip to the store, and they make for days of lunches and side dishes. Usually I whip up the split red lentils that cook in a snap – as in my Weeknight Lentils – but since it was the weekend I decided to get a little crazy and make chana dal.

A weekend warning, apart from the longer cooking time: “lentils” may sound like rabbit food, but with creamy coconut milk and a pat of butter, these are pretty decadent.

Chana dal take longer to cook and than red lentils and they hold their shape instead of dissolving into a starchy mush. They have a very nice nutty flavor. I like just a little sweetness in my lentils (I usually put a drop of honey in my French black lentils) which I got here from carrots. It’s just enough sweetness for me without Shan accusing me of adding sugar. Also, I’ve been getting into cooking with coconut oil lately. I already love the nutty note it gives a dish, and though it’s a saturated fat, I’ve been reading more about its health benefits. So multipurpose, I like to oil my hair with it too.

Dinner was a collaborative effort; we had friends over and enjoyed this with basmati rice, a lovely cucumber raita made by our friend, and my husband’s famous Lahori tilapia.

Coconutty Chana Dal

2 tbsp coconut oil

whole spices:
2 cloves
2 cardamom pods (cracked)
1 cinnamon stick

1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, grated

ground spices:
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cayenne
black pepper

2 tbsp tomato paste
zest of 1 lemon
2 carrots, finely chopped in food processor
1 1/2 c chana dal
several cups water
1/2 c coconut milk
1 tbsp butter
salt

Heat oil in a good-sized, heavy-bottomed pot, and add whole spices. When they smell fragrant, add the onion, stirring until it begins to turn translucent, then add garlic, ginger, and whole spices. Cook, stirring, a few minutes, then add tomato paste, lemon, carrots, dal, and water to cover by an inch or so. Reduce heat to a high simmer, and cover. Cook, stirring fairly frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. The dal will begin to absorb the water so add more as necessary. The final consistency should be wet but not watery.

I’m not in the habit of timing things, I just cook them until they’re done. I will say the cooking time is a little lengthy, enough to do the dishes, make the rice, give Zoeya a bath and put her to bed (Shan babysat the pot while I was upstairs so it didn’t burn). Cook until the dal is soft. Stir in coconut milk, butter, and salt to taste.

Pretty when garnished with cilantro, but mine wilted in the thousand degree heat.

Spiced Thyme Chicken and Green Beans with Coconut Rice

thumb_thyme-chicken

Yesterday evening I was puttering around in the kitchen, wondering what to make for dinner, and came up with this little weeknight one-pot meal. Well, two pots if you count the coconut rice, but I had that leftover from the weekend barbecue. I’m a little smug about my invented method of steaming green beans on a bed of Jamaican-inspired chicken. Also a bit smug about using homegrown thyme from my windowsill.

These spices are nice, but if you are not cooking for little ones, I encourage you to turn up the heat.

Spiced Thyme Chicken and Green Beans with Coconut Rice

For chicken and green beans:
1 lb chicken legs and thighs, skinned
olive oil
4 allspice berries
4 cloves
salt & pepper
paprika
ground thyme
cayenne (optional – I skipped it)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, sliced
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1 lb green beans, trimmed
1 tbsp butter
a few sprigs fresh thyme

Heat olive oil with allspice berries and cloves. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and a generous dusting of paprika, thyme, and cayenne. Brown chicken on both sides and remove to a plate. Saute garlic and shallots for a couple of minutes and add chicken broth, plus a cup of water. Scrape brown bits off the bottom of the pan, add back the chicken pieces. Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Add a splash more water if necessary and toss green beans on top of chicken. Cover and steam until green beans are cooked al dente.

Arrange green beans and chicken on top of rice. Stir up and reduce pan liquid to a quarter cup or less. Stir in pat of butter, and pour over chicken and green beans. Garnish with fresh thyme.

For coconut rice:
1 c basmati rice
1 c coconut milk
1 c water
1 cinnamon stick
salt

Soak and rinse rice. Combine rice, coconut milk, water, cinnamon stick and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a low simmer until rice is cooked, about 15 to 20 min.

Note: I serve this rice with everything. It’s easy and it goes with all kinds of food.

I chose this as my best recipe in July!

Paki Tacos

thumb_paki-taco

I absolutely love Latin culture. I love the language, the food, the music, the dancing. When I met Shan, I was pretty much immersed. I was going salsa dancing every weekend, and I was eating arroz con gandules instead of biryani. After we got married, I started cooking mostly Pakistani and Indian food, but I will never stop cooking Latin food; it’s such a nice reminder of that time in my life and the people that are still dear friends, even though we don’t see each other as much anymore.

Tonight I made a dish that’s a fusion of the foods that Shan and I both love. This dish is my past and my future on one plate.

Instead of pulled pork (we don’t eat pork!) this is made with pulled chicken thighs, with a spicy tomato sauce flavored with both South Asian spices and smoky chipotle pepper, and just a little brown sugar. With gingery basmati rice, a fresh, sweet corn relish, and delicate pickled shallots (I put pickled shallots on everything), this is a delightful mix of flavors and textures.

Shan approved; he ate four and gave them their name – Paki Tacos.

Paki Tacos

For pickled shallots
Combine 2 sliced shallots, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tsp honey, and a couple pinches of salt in a coffee cup and let pickle while you cook the rest.

For chicken + tomato sauce
4 chicken thighs
salt & pepper
olive oil
1/3 c sherry (white wine, chicken broth, or water also fine)
1 tbsp butter
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, garam masala
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large carrot, chopped
2 chipotle peppers (and a tbsp or so of the adobo sauce)
1 tsp brown sugar

Heat olive oil on high while you salt and pepper chicken thighs. Brown chicken thighs on both sides, covered so they start to cook through. Check for doneness, you may need to add a splash of water and cover so they cook through the rest of the way. When they are cooked, let water evaporate and remove chicken to a plate to cool.

Deglaze pan with sherry, reduce by at least half, then add butter, cinnamon, and cloves and reduce heat to just above medium. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent. Add garlic and ground spices and cook, stirring, for several minutes. Add tomatoes, carrots, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and about a cup of water, cover and crank the heat back up. Cook for 10 minutes or so, uncover and reduce if it’s too liquidy (you want it not too dry, but thick), remove from heat, and stir in brown sugar.

While the sauce cools, shred chicken thighs with two forks. Transfer sauce to a food processor, puree, then combine chicken and sauce in the pot and gently warm through.

For corn relish
2 ears white corn
small handful cilantro
1 lime (zest of all, juice of half)
2 tbsp yogurt
salt & pepper

Boil corn in pot of generously salted water. Drain and cool. Finely chop cilantro and combine with lime zest, lime juice and yogurt. Cut the corn off the cob and gently stir with yogurt mixture.

For gingery basmati rice
Rinse and soak 1 c rice (15 min is fine). Boil and salt 2 c water, grating in 1/2 inch ginger. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to low, cooking until done, about 15 to 20 minutes.

For tacos
Assemble all of the above in warm corn tortillas and enjoy.

Masala Chai

It seems to bother some people when Americans say “chai tea.” Chai means tea! It’s redundant! Well whatever you call it, it’s delicious. Here’s how you can make your very own.

Ideally you can steep the ground spices in the tea as it’s boiling, but my husband prefers his tea plain (boring!) so I just let mine steep a few minutes in my steaming cup.

Masala Chai

Use about 1/2 tsp of the spice mixture per cup of tea – save the rest for a rainy day!

10 green cardamoms
3 cloves
3 black peppercorns
1” stick cinnamon
generous pinch fennel seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
4 teabags black tea
4 cups water
1 cup milk

Toast the cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon and fennel in a dry skillet until they smell divine. Grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle (you will need to break the cinnamon stick up; if it’s too strong to snap, hacking at it with a knife works fine). Remove to a little bowl and stir in the ground ginger.

Bring water, teabags, and 1-2 tsp of the spice mixture to a boil. Add milk and steep. Serve hot with sugar or honey.

There are no rules, you can play around with the spices as you like, or just boil the tea with whole spices and strain them out. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Muffins on the Patio

Pumpkins (or as little Z says, “punkins,”) represent all my favorite things – fall, Halloween, and Zoeya who is my little pumpkin head. We’ve even been working on Daddy to let us get a little orange kitty named Pumpkin. As soon as October hit I brought home my first sugar pumpkin and I was happy to try these pumpkin muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance. They really are “The Best Pumpkin Muffins.” I baked one batch last week, and we gobbled them up. I made another batch this beautiful, sunny morning and Zoeya and I enjoyed ours out on the patio.

The Best Pumpkin Muffins

These are delicious, with lots of spices and molasses. Since this recipe is not mine, I will link to the recipe here where it was reprinted with the author’s permission. :)

If you’ve not cooked with fresh pumpkin before, let me tell you that if you do it the right way it could not be easier. Years ago when I did it the first time (baking pumpkin pies with Gloria!) we cut the pumpkins up into pieces and boiled them. This is a huge pain, they are difficult to cut and you have to use two or three big pots of water. I have found that it’s much, much easier to roast the pumpkin. This time I was super lazy and didn’t even bother to gut it like a jack-o-lantern. I just wrapped the whole thing in aluminum foil and baked it at 350° for a couple of hours until it was soft. After it cooled it was nice and easy to slice. I spooned off the seeds and stringy part (you can dry the seeds, toss them with oil and salt, and roast) then scooped out the flesh. You’ll get 3 cups or so, so you can do a few things with one pumpkin.



Kofte (Pakistani Meatballs)

So I seem to be featuring quite a few Pakistani recipes. I’m proud to be learning to cook this cuisine as it represents my new family, and it feels like an accomplishment. At the beginning I put my dishes together with uncertainty – I thought they tasted good, but did they taste like Amma used to make? – and waited with trepidation as they were sampled by a tableful of Pakistanis. However, after a few positive responses (and believe me, Shan is not one to be polite – if he doesn’t like it, he’s not going to choke it down for my sake) my confidence is growing, and I feel good enough to put my own spin on dishes.

But I’m an American girl. I can’t hear the name of this dish without thinking about The Metamorphosis, and to tell the truth, although I think Pakistani food is delicious, it’s often just too heavy, especially during these hot summer days. However, I find sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by the fresh elements in an otherwise heavy dish, and these flavors save it from being completely overpowering. I remember when we were in Pakistan, and took a day trip to Murree, a beautiful mountain town. I was feeling ill from days of heavy food and from the winding mountain roads, and when we went to eat at a local restaurant, I dreaded the chicken karahi that was brought to our table. It looked like another oily, stewy dish, but when I tasted it I was thrilled to discover how lemony and light-tasting it was. I try to remember this and recreate that feeling when I’m cooking Pakistani food, and so for these meatballs I make sure to include lots of fresh flavor – ginger, cilantro, parsley – to help counter the deeper flavors of the beef, cinnamon, and other spices.

My meatballs, which I’ve talked about before, are kind of a hybrid between Huma Siddiqi’s recipe in Jasmine in Her Hair and Alton Brown’s Swedish meatballs from the meatball episode of Good Eats. Kind of like Huma’s flavor profiles with Alton’s technique. I add quite a few ingredients to Huma’s recipe, and brown the meatballs for some nice carmelization before adding the sauce.

Sauce and Meatballs

Pureed sauce and meatballs cooking

Kofte

For sauce:
One thinly sliced onion
Three or four cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
Small knob of ginger, peeled and grated
whole spices: 3 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 small cardamoms crushed, 1 large cardamom, and 2 bay leaves
Salt, pepper, and some cayenne (starting with a tsp, you can add more to taste)
a can of diced tomatoes (you can use fresh, but I’m really picky and they have to be very red and tomatoey, so usually I end up using canned)
a nice spoonful of tomato paste
1 peeled, chopped carrot
2 cups of water

For meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
Salt (plenty) and pepper
A tsp each of tumeric and cayenne
a good size knob of ginger, peeled and grated
handful of chopped parsley
a couple big spoonfuls of diced garlic*
a couple big spoonfuls of coriander chutney**
a couple big spoonfuls of yogurt
2 eggs
Breadcrumbs. About a half cup, and add a little more at a time until your meatballs reach the right consistency

* On the diced garlic that comes in a jar – I would normally never buy this crap, but Shan likes to cook with it, and I must confess it’s convenient for things like this
** I make a good homemade cilantro chutney, but since it doesn’t last long I don’t usually have it on hand. You can get it store-bought at an Indian market. Swad brand is delicious and I could eat it with a spoon, but I accidentally bought Laxmi brand one time and discovered it to be poisonously disgusting.

Saute the onion, garlic, ginger, whole spices, salt, pepper and cayenne in olive oil. After the onion softens, add tomatoes, tomato paste, carrot, and water. Cover and simmer until the carrot softens. In the meatime, prepare your meatballs!

I’ve mixed the meatballs in the food processor before, but really it’s fine to just mix them to death with your hands, not to mention less cleanup. They’ll still come out nice and tender, with kind of a pleasantly spongy texture. Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Miraculously, this time I came up with 24 evenly-sized, evenly-spaced balls. Brilliant.

So now, put the baking sheet with the meatballs in the freezer (this helps them not fall apart when you start to cook them) while you finish your sauce. Fish out the whole spices, and carefully pour it into a blender and puree. You could leave it chunky if you like, but I like the sauce velvety and smooth, plus how else am I going to hide the carrots from my husband? Return to the pot and keep warm.

Now you can brown your meatballs. Do half the meatballs, in a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil. Let them brown for a minute or two (when they are ready, they won’t stick to the bottom), then use 2 spoons to roll them over to brown the other side. Remove the first batch to a plate, and brown the second batch.

When the second batch is browned, add the first batch back to the pot. Adjust the seasoning to your sauce and add a spoonful of yogurt and a spoonful of the cilantro chutney, stir it up, and pour it over your meatballs. Cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked. Transfer to a serving platter, and sprinkle with some chopped cilantro.

Kofta

Serve with warm naan for a Pakistani feast!

Aloo Keema

This is a very quick and easy weeknight meal; assuming I have ground beef in the freezer this isn’t going to require a trip to the store either, because onions, potatoes, canned tomatoes, and all kinds of spices are part of my pantry staples.

Aloo Keema (Pakistani Style Potatoes and Ground Beef)

4 cloves
2 small cardamoms
1 large cardamom
1 stick cinnamon
2-3 red chillis, seeded and sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 lb ground beef
salt, pepper
3-4 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp grated ginger
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 red potatoes (or 2 white), peeled and diced
water

Saute whole spices (cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon), chillis and onion in olive oil over medium high heat until the onion softens and starts to turn golden. Turn heat up to high and add beef, salt and pepper. Brown beef then add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for a minute or so. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and potatoes.

Cook potatoes for a minute or two in the water from the beef and tomatoes, then add a cup of water and cover. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. The beef and tomatoes should be thick, but still a little liquidy. Stir occasionally and add more water if you need to, as well as adjusting seasoning at the end.

Serve with naan or, as I did, over basmati rice (the way I cook mine is a coffee cup of rice in two coffee cups of salted water, a little oil, and a couple slices of ginger. Bring to a boil, then put on low heat, covered, for 20 minutes or so. At the end you can toss in a handful of frozen peas.) No fruit/vegetable you say? My husband is annoyingly unconcerned with things like that, but don’t worry, there was honeydew for dessert.

I did not take any pictures until the next day when somebody was enjoying the leftovers…

Zoeya eating keema

I usually have her in mind when I cook – I make the food mild and let Shan add the hot sauce. This is not very spicy but some people have very sensitive little tongues. We are pushing hers, next year she’ll be eating the habañeros.