Aalu Gobi – Spicy Potato and Cauliflower Curry

This one’s for me. I know, I know, that sounds terrible. But it is.

It is so hard to cook like someone else, but for people like me who grew up only eating their mothers cooking so much of our sense of what food ought to taste like comes from mama. The other day I had this sudden craving for this dish, but truth is I had never made it before and I have had several versions of it which I do not like very much. So I took a risk, called my mother and this is the recipe she gave me. And it works. Mama Jafri, bless her heart, isn’t necessarily the most accurate recipe relayer – often times when I would complain about how something didn’t turn out well she would say “oohhh… but if you wanted to make it really good then you should have…”

Aalu Gobi / Spicy Potato and Cauliflower

Like on what planet am I aiming to cook mediocre food?

Anyway, points to Mama J on this one.

The reason I say this one is for me is this: I cannot afford to lose it. And if I scribbled it down  on a piece of paper somewhere then I most certainly would. Seemed best to put it out in the internet-verse where others can have access to it as well.

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Baked Samosas and Eid Party Details!

I’m  backkkkk …. guys isn’t it a little ridiculous how much something as well… common…as the common cold can really get you down? I usually escape these sorts of things, but this time round it got the best of me for a few days – throw teething and the usual sleep deprivation into the mix and well… it hasn’t been pretty round here.

On to happier things – and we have two of them today. One is Eid Eats, the virtual Eid party Asiya at Chocolate & Chillies and I are hosting and the other is a lovely baked samosa recipe that is from Asiya’s blog.

Eid-ul-Fitr has always had a soft spot in my heart – and not just because of the money/’fitri’ we got as kids from all of our relatives 😉  This is the Eid where my family would host an ‘open house’, a way for everyone to get together to celebrate this wonderful occasion. While the traditional sivaiyan and samosas would usually be present at these occasions there would also be some things that I had never made before. This is where I got to experiment and have fun.

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In the spirit of those good times I would like to ask you all to join our virtual Eid party, Eid Eats. Here is how it would work:-

1.) Make any dish of your choosing that you would make for Eid – something new, something old, either goes – write a post and have it ready for the 25th of July 2014.

2.) Link back to both our blogs i.e. Flour & Spice and Chocolate & Chillies and use the button above in all of your posts (pretty cute isn’t it!)

3.) On July 25th, Asiya and I will have our posts up – do remember to add your post to the link up.

4.) Remember to visit and leave comments on participating blogs – who doesn’t like a little bit of love 🙂

Also some of you may recall that Henna at My Ninja Naan was originally supposed to be my co-host, but has had to bow out owing to personal circumstances. Hopefully next year 🙂

Now on to the yumminess at hand.

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A Samosa needs no introduction; this rendition escapes the deep fryer and instead gets a crispy baked exterior with the added flavour punch of ajwain or carom seeds.  I intended to use Asiya’s exact recipe for the filling, but was out of peas and threw in cilantro for some freshness. Folks this one is a keeper. And I am not just saying that because standing over a deep fryer in summer is no fun. The exterior is flaky and flavorful and the spicy filling is simple, but oh-so-good.

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Bhindi ki Sabzi or Spicy Pakistani Style Okra

At the age of 12 I remember telling a family friend that I knew how to cook. When she asked what I could make I rattled off a list of things and when I said “bhindi” (okra) she stopped me and asked how I cook my Okra. I remember being nervous and subsequently relieved that I could ‘remember’ the recipe. My adult self realizes just how funny that was given that this dish has a grand total of 5 ingredients and that’s including the Okra.

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This is one of my favorite ways to eat Okra and it is one of the things I make when I want to eat a dish that reminds me of home. It also cooks pretty quickly which is a huge plus in my book.

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Pakistani Style Spicy Baked Eggs

On my recent trip to Karachi I realized that I have turned into one of those people – you know the kind of person who goes out for brunch and orders the Pakistani Omelette – an eggy creation choc-a-bloc with onions, tomatoes, and green chilies with the occasional cilantro thrown in for good measure.

My younger self would consider me a  little lame, my older self knows that when I go out to eat in Toronto The Pakistani is hardly an egg menu staple. Here I am an Eggs Florentine kinda girl.

Anyway, with Mothers Day and all things brunch around the corner I began to have a hankering for those flavors, but I wanted a cleaner version – i.e less oil and certainly no paratha.

This riff on the classic French baked eggs hit the spot. It is both light and deliciously spicy at the same time. The fresh oregano although optional adds a savory note that rounds out the flavors of this dish. I highly recommend it, use dried oregano if fresh is unavailable.

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Adjust the green/red chilies to your liking, the best part about this dish is that it is infinitely customizable. Continue reading

My Mama’s Red Lentils

Mama Jafri the formidable lady who brought me and my four other siblings into this world is a helluva cook. I don’t know how she does it – really I don’t, but that’s largely because she somehow manages to give me only half the ingredients in a recipe. Apparently if I want the full list then I should say something like “Mama, what should I put in it if I want it to be delicious?” She seems to think the standard assumption is that I am aiming for mediocrity.

Anyway, I digress, back to Mama J and her amazing cooking. She is not one for rules, more of the creative sort and to this day I have no idea when or where she got this particular recipe for daal (lentils) from, but it has become a family favourite and it is what I make on the days when I am feeling homesick. On some of those days it tastes exactly like moms.

This daal is characterized by an over the top tanginess which is a result of the double whammy of tomato paste and lemon. The garlic in it also adds a wonderful rich note. The best part is that it actually keeps very well, if anything it gets tastier.

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Achari Bhindi or Okra in Pickling Spices

Let’s talk about achar – it is that very subcontinental of condiments that includes a range of spices that give the achar it’s depth and fiery heat. You can make an achar out of many things but I suppose the most common ones are mango (the unripe kind), carrots, green chillies, lemon, and garlic. Me? I am not such a fan of the stuff. My husband? He probably secretly fantasizes about a day when we have no food in the house and he can just eat achar and roti (bread) – or achar and rice. I used to think of his fondness for achar as a cute quirk until Daddy Jafri pointed out that ‘that says a lot about what he thinks of your cooking’. Pfft.

So anyway, I have learnt to adapt and have added things like this dish to my repertoire. My favorite part? Thanks to the existence of frozen chopped Okra I just toss a bunch of stuff together and then let it cook. Eassssyyyy Peassssyyyyy.

As a disclaimer there is a family of ingredients that will give you that ‘achari’ taste and if you are missing some then you probably will not get the same flavour but it will still be quite delicious. The one element of this recipe that I skip quite frequently is the ‘kachri’ powder which I believe has the unique capability to hide when I need it.

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Fish Biryani

Do you guys ever think about food? As in ‘Id like to eat/make something with ____ that tastes ____’. Well I do, not very often mind you; I am usually a follow the recipe kinda girl. But I have been thinking about fish biryani lately. Now, we eat a lot of biryani in this house and historically my fish biryani recipe has been a variant of this one here. Since I usually buy whatever firm white fish is on sale (Basa this time around) I started to feel that my traditional masalas were too strong for a delicate fish. Plus it’s summer you know, time to lighten up – at least flavor wise. Far be it from me to suggest that white rice is diet food 🙂

On a serious note, it is easier on the oil than most biryanis  or curries and that actually contributes to the lightness and freshness of the flavors. Also, dill and fish equals yumminess. Trust me – or even better, try it for yourself and see!

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Aalu Shorba or Potato Curry

Guys it turns out that Google is not quite as reliable as I thought. When you google ‘Pakistani food blogs’ it seems like there are hardly any out there. However, thanks to the awesomely named My Ninja Naan I have discovered a whole slew of Pakistani food blogs. She was nice enough to pop by and when I checked her blog out (my way of saying read almost every entry) I discovered many others as well. I have bookmarked many of her recipes to try, but today’s potato curry comes from Ambreen at Simply Sweet ‘n Savory. When I saw this recipe it reminded me of something I had eaten at a relative’s place and really liked and so I thought I would try my hand at it. SO glad I did! It is yummy!!! My usual potato dish is very different from this one – a lot more tomato, curry leaves, etc but this will definitely come into regular rotation. I made some very minor changes to it, but have stayed true to it for the most of it.

By the way you know something has turned out well when half way into your write up about it you find yourself getting hungry and take a break to eat some more!

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Dahi Baray – Lentil Dumplings in a Spicy Tangy Yogurt

You know how you just take some things for granted and don’t think about them very much?

Well, for me Dahi Baras are one of those things. They have been there at every ‘tea’ that I have been to for just about my entire life and my mother makes a variation (Dahi Phulki/Dahi Boondi) but I never thought about how to make them or what goes in and not because I don’t like them. I can certainly polish off an immense amount of dahi baray, especially the savoury and spicy kind. So much so that I am now grateful that I am pregnant and don’t have to justify how much I eat. I just never thought about how to make them because someone else always did.

This summer I decided to be brave and make them for a potluck lunch and playdate a friend was hosting. Is it brave or foolish to try something a little tricky for the first time for a crowd? Let’s just pretend it is brave since that is the kind of thing I do with some regularity.

The good news is that all is well that ends well and to ensure that it was not some kind of fluke I made them again today for a friend who was visiting from out of town. The very empty dish speaks for itself 🙂

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Tomato Cut – a perfectly tangy side dish

I think I really like tomatoes. As in really. Yesterday I slow roasted a pint of cherry tomatoes with salt, pepper and thyme at 330 for about 40 minutes and then ate them like candy. The intent was to make a ‘tart’ with puff pastry, goat cheese and oven roasted tomatoes, but then my love for tomatoes clearly got in the way. There is a lesson to be learnt here folks – next time, I will roast two pints of cherry tomatoes.

One of my husband’s close friends is currently in town and when Ali asked him what he would like to eat all he asked for was Pakistani food because he has not had any since he was here back in November. With a free rein and my tomato obsession in mind I decided to make a simple pea pilaf ( cumin seeds, whole red chillies sautéed in minimal oil, equal amounts of peas and rice, half a chicken stock cube for every cup of rice) and with it my favourite Pakistani tomato dish, the oddly named Tomato Cut. This is my mother’s recipe and although I have tried several variations on it, I love it best as is. By which I mean I have made only minor changes. Sometimes that Mama Jafri is not so accurate in how she writes recipes down. Additionally, for the blog I try and keep the recipes in measuring spoon measurements and when my mother says a teaspoon she means the kind you would stir sugar into your tea with. Very different you see.

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Tomato Cut is a Hyderabadi dish and since I am pretty sure neither my mother nor her mother are from Hyderabad I cannot make any claims as to the authenticity of the dish. All I can say is this: it is tangily satisfying, equally good warm or cold (great do-ahead), and one of those dishes which somehow never makes it way to the realm of leftovers.

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