Chickpea Pilaf or Chanon Wale Chawal

People, let’s talk about Ginger. See how I capitalized it just there? That’s because I have recently discovered a love for it thanks to this pilaf. You see garlic and I – we are tight – in my mind it goes with everything – well, almost everything. I went to this restaurant in San Francisco once called the Stinking Rose where each dish has garlic in it. Even the desserts. That I was not such a fan of. Anyway, back to Ginger with a capital G. I realize that it has a purpose and therefore I use it quite frequently in my food, but I do the same with cloves and would never eat one of those babies.

What I think makes the ginger flavor so beautiful in this dish is that you thinly slice your peeled ginger and then stir fry it in a little oil until it has delicate golden brown edges and a gentler perfume than I typically associate with this potent root. The ginger then becomes part of the base for the ‘broth’ that the rice gets cooked in and just gives the dish a very light, but unusual note that is so addictive that I actually wolfed down two sizable portions in a row and then realized I literally could not move from the couch. Really. The TV remote was far from me too (a whole 5 feet), thankfully my phone was nearby *phew*

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Murghi ka Salan/ Chicken Curry Version 2 – Kalya

Spring is a tease. Every now and then you get a nice, sunny, warm, bring out the water table and sand box kinda day (can you tell I am a mom??) and then you get a whole bunch of cold-wet-cold-wet-overcast-humid-wet-cold. Pfft.

Don’t worry, I did resist the urge to drown my sorrows in sugar and butter. Not just because I was out of butter. So here is another dish, with considerable less fat and sugar, which I find pretty comforting. It is a version of chicken curry called kalia (kul-ya) that I had not had until I got married. It is very different from traditional chicken curries in that there is no yogurt or tomatoes and of the ‘garam masala’ quartet (cloves, whole black pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon) this one only features one. This makes for a light very clean tasting curry which we all enjoy and trust me pleasing a household of adults and a toddler with the same dish is no easy task!

Chicken Curry or Kalya/Kulya

As a quick note I only use boneless chicken breast meat in most of my chicken dishes because my FIL has a heart condition and should eat minimally fatty foods. This curry still turns out pretty well, but would be far more delicious if you used half a skinless chicken cut into pieces.

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Gratitude

I often wax lyrical about food, but the reality of it is that cooking can be a thankless labor of love. Especially if you don’t inherently enjoy it. A big part of why I chose to blog in the first place was to make it more fun. What I did not expect – and am so incredibly grateful for – is the joy I feel when someone tries a recipe and is happy with how it turns out. Suddenly, all of it seems like less labor and more love. I just want to say a big thank you to my wonderful friends for their support especially Saima, Laleh and Aalya. You guys make me happy 🙂

 

Scones

Sometimes I really let my kid down. Like this morning when she requested scones and I quite foolishly asked her what shape. Turns out I don’t quite know how to make a train shaped scone.  It really is something when a two year old looks disappointed in you. Anyway, turns out that by the time I made them she was quite over them. Probably because they weren’t train shaped.

These scones were easy peasy and quick. I made a pretty basic version, but I imagine you can make all sorts of variations on them. Next on my agenda? Lime zest and toasted coconut flakes, orange zest and white chocolate chips and lemon with crystallized ginger. I suppose there is a bit of a citrus theme here, but after a long fall/water of earthier flavors I am ready for a little more brightness.

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Deliciously Easy Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes. Pasta. Balsamic Vinegar. Ten minutes. One Meal. Sold yet?

Okay so when I say ten minutes I am not factoring in the time it takes my pasta water to boil, but really ten minutes of active cooking time for one meal is pretty amazing as far as I am concerned. This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution book, also known as, the start of my love affair with J.O. I am not a fan of the ‘cheffy’ dishes as he calls them, I do not grow pea shoots in my back yard, I am not entirely sure I want to make a dish that requires many lengthy steps (lasagna is a notable exception), and at the end of it I want my food to be homey and flavorful so for the longest time J.O. and I did not see eye to eye. This book/show changed things. I have tried many recipes from the book and they have been mostly home runs.

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I once made the mistake of using suspiciously watery grocery store brand balsamic vinegar in this dish and it did not work at all. Currently we have some really good balsamic vinegar that we bought at a specialty store in the Distillery District in Toronto. It has a very deep flavor and as such I only used about a tablespoon and a half and found it to be perfect as is. I also make this with whatever pasta I have on hand. Check out how fun the shape I used today is – it is like the edge of a lasagna noodle!

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Breakfast – Aalu, Chana, and Poori/Bhatura

So I don’t know about you guys, but we have seen a whole lot of rain in these parts. It has been either overcast or pouring for the better part of the last few days which is enough to make me wonder why on earth I was looking forward to spring! Anyway, on a day like today I thought a nice traditional breakfast is in order.

Halwa poori is the quintessential Pakistani breakfast, the kind that no one makes at home, but will pick up from the nearest ‘restaurant’ if you can call it that. Although it is called halwa poori it breaks down something like this. You get one large serving of aalu chana (potatoes and chickpea curry), several pooris (soft, thin fried bread), and a smaller portion of halwa (essentially dessert). Halwa shmalwa I say, it is all about the pooris and the aalu chana.

My friends and I were talking about it just the other day and I thought I would give it a shot at home. Brace yourself – this has been a three recipes kinda morning. For two of them I give credit to my friend Vaish whose blog you can find  here. She calls it chana bhatura. I used regular chickpeas instead of the black kind because that is all I had and am not entirely sure what amchur powder is so I skipped that. Below is my (slightly) modified recipe, for the concise version please check out her blog, I have included a little more detail in mine for those who, like me, are a little bit more challenged in the kitchen. Also traditionally Pakistani pooris do not have yogurt, but Vaish’ bhatura did and I wanted to try it as written. I am so glad I did because as a result the pooris stayed soft even when they cooled down a little.

What I loved about this breakfast was that although the flavors of the dishes were different they went so well together. The back of the mouth heat of the chanas along with the tangy sour flavor of the potatoes was so delicious. And the bhaturas? Those slightly crispy, but soft and fried, but not greasy things? Sigh. Love.

On a practical note this breakfast easily serves 4.

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My Kind of Idiot Cake

My eldest brother, Haider, is a pretty cool guy. Am I biased because he is my brother? Of course not, don’t be silly. Pfft. He also makes my love of chocolate seem like an occasional indulgence. Let’s just say cereal and granola are not really his idea of a good breakfast. Once upon a time I made him a batch of brownies that drove me NUTS. It would not bake and after an hour in the oven I gave up. I ended up pulling the gooey mass out of the oven and was strongly considering tossing it, but the logistics of throwing hot brownies away seemed a little daunting. Turns out that the gooey mess with its crackly top was according to him the most delicious thing I had ever made. Its deep chocolate flavour seemed to get better with every decadent mouthful and the wafer thin subtly crunchy layer on top made it pure magic. No matter what I did I could never make it again. Clearly I did something very wrong/right that day and could never figure it out. When I started making David Lebovitzs flourless ‘idiot’ cake (original post here) I did not think I would be taken back to my teenage self beaming from the praise of an adored older brother, but folks, we have a winner. The paper thin crackly layer, the luscious chocolate rolling in my mouth, this truly is a dessert my brother would love. The good news is that now I can actually make it again.. and again.. and again. Oh and the really good news? That it is SO easy. I think it took me 15 minutes, and that accounts for time I may have spent ‘cleaning’ the spatula with the chocolate on it. It literally is melt chocolate and butter, whisk eggs and sugar, combine. Bake. Let this be our little secret okay? Next time I make it I am going to doll it up with berries and crème fraiche and pretend like I spent the entire day making it. Psst.. I do apologize for the sub par pictures, I made this at night not expecting to want to blog about it, but then I thought how selfish of me to keep this to my self, what if David Lebovitz had done that etc etc 🙂 Continue reading

Nutella Pound Cake

This is probably not entirely normal behavior – by which I mean I know I am about to sound a little wacko – but, I sometimes hide treats from myself. That is why I can’t actually find the more than half jar of Nutella that I know is somewhere in my compact kitchen. I really looked, but apparently I was much more motivated when I was hiding it than looking for it. Perhaps this is one of those acts of divine mercy or something because if I were to find that jar it would not be half full for very long.

I recently made this Nutella pound cake for the dozenth time to take to a friends house except this time I reduced the sugar by a quarter cup and more than halved the Nutella. I definitely would not reduce the sugar again as it impacted the texture of the cake. This previous attempt I used less Nutella, but I can’t say I have ever been able to use an entire jar. My happy spot is somewhere between half and three quarter. The cake is definitely a little on the sweet side which is why you should not have it for breakfast like I did yesterday. Learn from my mistakes people!

The cake tastes best when I remove it from the pan, wrap it thoroughly in foil and let it be for a few hours. If you plan to serve it to guests then make sure it is stored out of reach of your husband and two year old both of whom are equally capable to tearing off random chunks. I take it as a compliment 🙂

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Chana Daal or Gram Lentils

There is something about daal roti that gives me immense satisfaction. Not daal chawal (rice), but daal roti. Since I am not motivated enough to make fresh roti/bread I frequently buy the kind that comes in a pack of ten and then just heat it over an open flame on a gas stove. As you can see from the picture, I like it a little charred. Does it taste exactly like home? Nope. But it sure is a whole lot easier!

This recipe is one of those that I started making not that long ago. I find it is at its most delicious when I use fresh ginger – hence the grating. It is about a minute more of work – 10 seconds to grate, 50 to wash – but so worth it for the depth that it provides to this daal.

Also please note the super cute grown up measuring cup in the first shot, my friend Aalya gave that to me for my birthday last year, makes even daal seem fancy!

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Anday Aalu ka Salan or Egg Curry

Confession: I have been so so homesick for the last few weeks. By homesick I mean homesick for Karachi. I miss my family, I miss the noise, I even miss the smell – and let me tell you Karachi does not smell particularly pretty. I also really miss the food. A lot of how I cook is shaped by how my husband and in laws eat, so there are only a few things that I make with any regularity that bring back memories of lunches and dinners at home. Lunches and dinners that involved extending our table so that we can could seat what was then our family of 7. Lunches and dinners that began with us waiting for my father to come to the table so that we could start eating while we surreptitiously picked at roti or naan. We always ate together; I don’t think I knew there was any other way.

Anday Aalu ka Salan or Egg Curry is one of those dishes that tastes like home. Ironically this recipe is actually not from my mother, but Shanji, my aunt/the big sister I never had. She is the cook behind the biryani recipe here. Shanji has mastered the art of making food from home taste like food from home even when none of the ingredients here taste like they do in Pakistan. I tell you that lady is a genius.

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Before we get started, I think it is pretty evident that many of the foods we have made so far are oil heavy. That unfortunately is the nature of the beast. I do recommend, as always, that you drain excess oil off the top when you are done cooking. As your dish cools it will rise to the top and then you can gently tip it out or blot it with paper towels. The frying of the boiled egg – as funny as that sounds – makes this dish a little extra special, but feel free to skip it if you want.

Also I am currently cooking for 5 adults plus my tot so I doubled this recipe which is why it will look like I have a whole lot more masala than you will. However, the amounts of onion, potatoes and tomatoes are representative of this recipe.

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