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Kay's House of Treats: November 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

It's amazing how the simple potato is so versatile; just with a few techniques and ingredients its transformed from a not so pretty looking vegetable to something utterly delicious and satisfying; from the basic french fries sprinkled with a bit of salt, to the healthier wedges sprinkled with sea salt & herbs, to the packaged potato chips and to mashed potatoes made with cream & butter. Mashed potatoes have always been my go to dish whenever I have decided on the main entree to cook but can't figure out the accompanying side dish. My basic strategy is to just boil potatoes, add either of butter, cream or milk depending on whats available and then add salt and pepper. This time I decided to plan in advance making sure I had all the flavors I wanted before I started cooking. Loved the garlic flavor in the potatoes and probably next time I will bake these with grated cheese & butter on top. Served it with the Chicken & Rice - Halal Food Cart Style for dinner and then had leftovers with tea the next day :). 

4-5 medium sized potatoes
1 teaspoon garlic chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup chicken stock (can be substituted for milk if not available but just for additional flavor)
3 tbsp cream (more can be added)
1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
black pepper - 1 tsp (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp parsley leaves
Note: Butter & Cream can always be increased and the more it is added, the more flavor and creamier it will be; I try to keep a balance between Butter, Cream & Milk to ensure that I have the creaminess along with the flavor; in case cream is increased, then milk should be reduced accordingly.

1. Peel and halve the potatoes; try to make sure the halved potatoes are similar in size cutting them accordingly so that they boil at the same time. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, add a dash of salt, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a rolling boil.

2. Cook until potatoes are soft; I check using a knife inserted in the middle of the potato. Once a knife can easily be inserted, I let it boil for 2-3 more minutes and then I turn off the heat.  Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place them back into the large saucepan over low heat and mash with a potato masher or fork.

3. Heat the butter in a small saucepan. When the butter is melted, add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes till the garlic is light brown. Add milk, chicken stock, cream and 1 tsp salt until simmering. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Add half of the garlic-milk mixture into the mashed potatoes and stir together to combine. Then add the rest of the mixture a little at a time, till its the right consistency that you want. Season the potatoes with oregano along with salt & pepper to taste. I personally prefer mine slightly a bit more soft so I add a bit of milk right at the end. Also, in case you let it rest, and it thickens just add 2-3 tbsp of milk and warm it up so it becomes soft again.

5. Let the potatoes stand for 5 minutes so that mixture thickens, then serve. Garnish with parsley leaves.

Potential Variation:
In order to make mashed potatoes even more delicious, you can pour this mixture into an oven proof glass dish; dot the top of the dish with about 1-2 tbsp of butter (sliced) and grate some cheese on top. Put it in the oven (under the grill would be a good option too) till the butter and cheese melt and it becomes a delicious topping on top.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Kashmiri Chai (or simply Pink Tea)

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It's a sure sign that winter has finally arrived in Karachi when Kashmiri Chai (or simply known as Pink Chai) starts being served at weddings. There's just something about the steaming cup of chai in the prettiest color of pink, flavored with a bit of cardamom, and then garnished with almonds and pistas/pistachios that just spells comfort.  For years, Kashmiri Chai has always been a Shaadi special till one day my friends made it following a recipe they found on the back of this brand of green tea and achieved that elusive pink color. From then on, I have been using the same recipe (which is the basic Kashmiri Chai recipe) but have just made improved the technique with trial and error and tips from my mother.
Kashmiri Chai - The Process
Kashmiri Chai 
(For about 4 mugs/cups and 5-6 tea cups)

Water - 4 cups + 2.5 cups ice cold water
Milk - 2 cups 
Sugar - to taste (1 tbsp per cup)
Cardamom/Elaichi - 1 to 2 pods
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
Green Tea Leaves (1 teaspoon per mug)
The tea used for Kashmiri Chai is easily available in Lahore & Islamabad with the name 'Kashmiri Chai' leaves, with Gul-e-Nasreen also being a popular brand. In Karachi, the best leaves I have personally found are at Empress market. The Gul Bahar (available in a green sachet) brand bay Tapal easily available in supermarkets can also be used.

1. Heat 4 cups of water in a big sauce pan; make sure that the sauce pan is big enough because you need to use a spoon to pour the mixture from the top so its best to have a big sauce pan to begin with. Once it reaches a boil, add 4 tsp of green tea leaves. 

2. Lower heat to medium and cook for at least 10 minutes; the mixture will reduce to about half from the initial amount (you can also check from the initial mark made on the side of the pot). Add a cardamom pod for flavor.
Kashmiri Chai - Letting it boil to half the quantity after adding the green tea leaves
3. Add 2-3 pinches of baking soda/meetha soda (approx. 1/2 tsp); this is what creates the pink shade in the Kashmiri Chai but make sure you don't add a lot because that would make the tea bitter. Let it cook for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat again and it basically turns like a dark brown-slight red color then turn off the heat.

4. Take about 2.5 cups of cold water (the colder the better so add a few ice-cubes) and add it slowly while taking a cup and pouring and re-pouring the tea from a height; this known as "paitha lagana" in Urdu and you keep on doing it again and again which creates a slight froth on the top of the tea; this is why its best to take a big sauce pan since it does splatter a bit, and the bigger sauce pan makes sure that theres enough space for you to pour and re-pour tea. Do this for about 4-5 minutes and you will notice that as you keep on doing it, the color will turn more red. 
Kashmiri Chai - Creating the pink color
5. Once the color turns red, then strain the mixture into another sauce pan. Then add milk to taste (I added about 1.5-2 cups but you can add more); but the more milk you add, the color will turn pinker and it will also taste more creamier so its a bit upto your taste, but make sure you taste just so that it doesn't end up being too watery. Add crushed cardamom powder, a pinch of salt, sugar to taste (I added 4 tbsp). Put on heat again, till the Kashmiri Chai reaches a boil and then pour into mugs/tea cups. I like boiling for 2-3 minutes because it creates a bit more forth and cream on top, but just make sure it doesn't boil over. 
Pink Kashmiri Chai
6. Add crushed almonds & pista's for garnish and more sugar based on individual taste; For added taste, you can add fresh cream on top as well. Some people add salt in Kashmiri Chai which I thought was a recipe mistake, but I added it today, and it does make it taste really good.
Note: The real Kashmiri style chai by the Kashmiri's  always has salt in it and never salt. Its actually considered a travesty to add sugar to it. 
Kashmiri Chai garnished with almonds and pistachios 

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chicken & Rice with White Sauce - Halal Food Cart Style

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Anyone who has been to New York would have seen the many street food carts with signs marking them as 'Halal' serving what is known as Chicken/Gyro over Rice; Basically this platter of food consists of either chicken or lamb (also known as gyro) piled on top of a bed of rice alongside some salad & pita bread, and then drizzled with lots of white sauce and based on how much heat you can take, a dash or more of hot sauce; its all served together in a platter which you then combine and eat. 

It's quite interesting to find out that this street food which is like so popular there is linked simultaneously with "Halal Food"; It all started off when this street food vendor (probably middle eastern) opened a cart at the corner of 53rd St. and 6th Ave, basically walking distance from Times Square & Central Park and right in the middle of one of Manhattan's busiest streets. For about $4-$5, the Halal Cart Guy would serve Shredded Chicken and/or Lamb Gyro on a bed of Basmati Rice along with Salad & Pita all smothered in this top secret white sauce, drizzled with fiery red hot sauce and crammed together in this aluminum tray. He started off with catering to the Muslim population, the cabbies and the like but the food was so good that it ended up getting major popularity among the rest of the population from residents to tourists; the original street cart has a line which can lead upto like two blocks, but it has also led to the mushrooming of Halal Food Carts across the city. 

Every vendor has their own style of making this combination of meat, salad & rice, with their own secret recipes for marination & sauces; but the best part about this street food is that its Halal so its convenient for Muslims and then its delicious, affordable and available almost everywhere in the city. Having been craving this for a while, I found a recipe on making this from the website Serious Eats and tried it out yesterday; it had a lot of different components and after mixing it all up it tasted exactly like the ones that I used to have from the vendors; absolutely delicious and again one of this one-dish meals that can be just served  up together; the sauce just needed a bit more work, and I would probably add a bit less vinegar and mayo but still absolutely delicious. 
Chicken & Rice with White Sauce - Halal Food Cart Style (Serves 3-4 people; 3 guys and 4 girls)
For the chicken:
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon red chili pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • salt – ½ tsp in marinade and ½ tsp in chicken; black pepper – ½ tsp in marinade & 1.5 tsp in chicken
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken, chopped in cubes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the rice:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise; though I would suggest using less because the sauce tasted too much of mayo
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (strain it for a few hours in muslin cloth so it becomes more thick)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (I think there was just a bit too much vinegar, next time will add less and then adjust after tasting)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (substituted few pinches dried parsley)
  • 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper – 1.5 tsp
  • Chopped Garlic – 1 clove
To serve:
  • Salad (Make a salad of either of the following vegetables based on personal preference seasoned with a bit of salt & pepper – that’s the way that most street vendors serve it; I used cabbage, carrot & capsicum based on what I had at my place)
    • Lettuce, shredded
    • 1/4th head cabbage – shredded
    •  1 carrot – sliced
    • 1 capsicum – sliced
    • Corn, chickpeas, olives (these are new options being given by street vendors and definitely something that I’d love to add next time I make this)
    • 1-2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • Pita bread, brushed in butter or olive oil, lightly toasted, and cut into 1 × 3-inch strips

For the chicken: Combine the lemon juice, oregano, coriander, garlic, and olive oil in a blender. Blend until smooth. Season the marinade to taste with salt and black pepper. Place the chicken in a bowl or a zip-lock bag and add half of the marinade & reserve the remaining marinade in the refrigerator. Make sure the marinade is mixed with the chicken properly, and then put it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally to redistribute the marinade.
Remove the chicken from the bag and pat it dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper, going heavy on the pepper. Heat the oil in a stainless steel pan (don’t use non-stick because the chicken might stick) over medium-high heat until it is lightly smoking. Add the chicken pieces and cook without disturbing until they are lightly browned on one side, then flip the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the water from the chicken evaporates and the chicken is cooked through (4-5 minutes). The idea is to slightly crisp up the chicken in the same way that the street food vendors. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Roughly chop the chicken into 1/2- to 1/4-inch chunks. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the remaining marinade, cover loosely with plastic, and refrigerate while you cook the rice and prepare the sauce.
For the rice: Melt the butter over medium heat in a pot. Add the turmeric and cumin and cook until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes without disturbing. Remove from the heat and allow to rest until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Fluff it up a bit and garnish with coriander.
For the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt.
To serve: Return the entire contents of the chicken bowl (chicken, marinade, and all juices) to the skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. 
To serve, divide the rice, salad, tomato, and toasted pita bread evenly among 3-4 plates. Pile the chicken on top of the rice. Top with the white sauce and hot sauce. Serve immediately, passing extra sauce at the table. To eat, mix it all up together.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

I love one dish meals; everything cooked together and bought to the table with no need for sides. Chicken Pot Pie is one such dish which I love the idea of, but have always found to be just a bit bland, so this time when I was making it, I combined a lot of recipes along with my own techniques for spicing chicken up to appeal to my family's personal tastes; also decided to try using store-bought puff pastry because I wanted to have an alternative to when I didn't have time or wasn't in the mood to make pastry from scratch; turned out delicious, but the only issue I had was that the pastry didn't brown properly even though it was cooked when I checked.

Chicken & Mushroom Pot Pie
(Serves 6)
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
250 ml hot chicken stock (Recipe given below - use chicken to make stock)
4 tbsp cream
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, sliced (I didn't use them, but can be added)
1 capsicum - sliced
1 can mushrooms - sliced
400 gm chicken, cubed (Recipe given below)
1/2 cup peas (I didn't use this, but can be used)
salt & black pepper & white pepper - to taste
red chilli flakes - to taste (optional)
beaten egg - to glaze
Puff Pastry - 1/2 kg

For the Chicken & Stock
Marinate chicken with 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp garlic paste or garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp ginger paste & 1/2 tsp vinegar. Let it marinate for 10-15 minutes.
Then heat 2-3 tbsp oil, add 1 garlic cloves, minced, saute for 1 minute then add the chicken, add 1 tsp red chilli flakes, 1/2 tsp of italian seasoning and saute for a few minutes till chicken changes color and some of the water starts evaporating; then add about 2 cups of water and close the lid and cook the chicken till it becomes tender; the stock will be used to make the white sauce and the leftover stock can be drunk as yakhni. The red chilli flakes & Italian herbs are more of a personal flavoring choice, because while I love Chicken Pot Pie, I find it slightly bland so I always add chili flakes.

For Filling:
Preheat oven to 190 C.
Melt half of the butter in a heavy pan. Whisk in the flour and cook until bubbling, whisking constantly. Add the hot stock and whisk over a medium heat until mixture boils. Cook for 2-3 minutes then whisk in the cream. Season to taste (1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of black pepper and 1 tsp of red chilli flakes), and set aside.If white sauce gets very thick, then add a bit of milk and whisk to make it liquid again.

Heat the remaining butter in a large, non-stick frying pan and cook the onion and carrots over low heat for 5 minutes. Add capsicum & mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add cooked chicken & peas and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken & vegetable mixture to the hot cream mixture and stir to mix. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and stir well.
The pie can either be made in a oval baking dish (2.5 litre/4 pint/2 1/2 quart) or a square baking dish (8 inch or 9 inch) which is what I used. Spoon the filling mixture into the baking dish that you have. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3 mm. Make sure that the pastry will cover the dish properly. Lay the pastry over the filling and gently press around the edge of the dish to seal, and trim off any excess pastry. Press a fork on the edges of the pastry to create a design. If there's any leftover pastry, then you can cut shapes and stick them onto the pastry lid for decorative purposes. Otherwise, just glaze the pastry lid with beaten egg and cut several slits into the pastry to allow steam to escape.
Bake the pie for about 30 minutes or till the pastry has browned. Serve the pie hot.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Chai Master - Real Desi Breakfast

Arabic Paratha & Plain Paratha
The first time I saw an advert of Chai Master on Facebook, I was like oh no, don't we have enough coffee shops that now a gourmet tea shop is also opening up; I was expecting somewhat pretentious tea served in China cups, but when it opened up and I got a chance to go there I just loved their concept - it was just so "Dhaba-Chic". 

Doodh Patti & Lachaydaar Paratha at an "affordable" price in a "decent" setting where you can sit with friends and family and not be stared at by random people; on paper, thats such a simple concept but so far, I haven't seen it in anywhere in Defence at least; I am also not a big fan of Halwa Puri's but I love Chai Paratha so I was just really excited. We got there at 9:30 am on Sunday and opted to sit inside; there were a lot of cyclists outside from "The Critical Mass Society - Karachi" and it was just obvious that they were really enjoying the breakfast and the atmosphere.

Arabic Paratha - With Chicken
We ordered the "Disco Chai", plain lachay daar paratha, malai paratha & two Arabic Paratha's with Chicken; I liked the fact that they told in the beginning that the Arabic Paratha's would take 5-10 minutes to make which isn't a lot of time but it was nice that they did. They also had basic eggs (fried & scrambled) along with Fateera (baked pie with various stuffings).

Disco Chai
 Moving onto the food; absolutely absolutely loved it; the Disco Chai was like so good; it was real Doodh Patti and the smell was just heavenly; the Malai Paratha was crispy and hot & the Malai was the real deal; I absolutely hate having Desi breakfast with Tea Bag wali Tea or Tetra Pack ki cream and paying exorbitantly on top of it; I mean, chai needs to be steeped otherwise there's no skill to it, its just hot water and flavor from a bag; the Arabic Paratha's were also great, and was basically chicken mince stuffed between two square paratha's, cut into rectangles and served with ketchup. The food itself was pretty affordable, with the desi & simple food costing less (Rs. 25 for doodh patti & Rs. 30 for paratha) to the Beef Fateera costing Rs. 350 but which serves 2-3 people so all in all, it would fit within everyone's budget based on how much they want to spend.  

At the end, the owner came upto us and asked us for our opinion on the food which we were quite pleased to share and also to share the news that they will be soon be introducing more items in their menu and that is something that I am quite excited about. 

Malai Paratha

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Ginsoy: Desi-fied Chinese at its best

Have been hearing a lot about Ginsoy ever since it opened but have not been able to go there; just a few weeks I finally managed to make a plan to go there but unfortunately wasn't able to get a table :(. However, the considerable wait time along with the number of people patiently waiting only made me want to find out what the big deal is, so I thought of just ordering it at home. It was a bit difficult to order since we were just 3 people and we wanted to order at least 2-3 things; also, even though Ginsoy is both single & full serving, the single serving is quite expensive (average 400/serving) & the difference between the single and full serving is about Rs.200 which isn't really a major difference. I finally decided to order the following, and this time we wanted to order something different from the typical Manchurian & Schewzan & Chopsuey. 

1. Tom Kam Gai Soup - Single
2. Tom Kam Goong Soup - Single
3. Crispy Beijing Chicken - Single 
4. Hot & Spicy Chicken - Single 

The food came within about 30-40 minutes and it was piping hot and I just loved the Chinese take-out style boxes that it came in; made me wish they had fortune cookies as well, that would have just added to the authentic take-out style food .. 
Absolutely loved the food; it was definitely Desi-fied in terms of the spice level, but still had that authentic Chinese/Thai taste; the Thai soup had lots of lemon grass, galangal and enough of a spice kick to totally clear up my sore throat; for me, an authentic Thai soup is one which is spicy but yet has that balance of flavors which makes you forget about the spiciness; and oh yes, they also gave complimentary fish crackers along with the typical condiments;
The Crispy Beijing Chicken- Loved the texture; very addictive and similar to having pop-corn; stayed crispy when warmed up the next day, and it actually tastes pretty great cold as well. The only issue with ordering this is that its a pretty dry dish so for people who like gravy, they would need to order something else.
Hot & Spicy Chicken -Woahhh, this was so spicy and I would have loved just a bit more gravy so that I can mix it with the rice properly, but this was really good; it was more masala-ish (in terms of texture) but didn't have that ketchupy cornflour taste that makes all Chinese entrees taste similar.

The order came out to be 450/head which is actually a lot but we had leftovers for the next day. I think I would prefer going to Ginsoy rather than ordering; if I do order, I'll make sure there are sufficient people and probably order something other than the typical Manchurian & Chicken Chilli; for that, I'd much rather be ordering from Golden Dragon which has brilliant deals for 3-5 people; but overall its a good addition to the restaurant scene in Karachi. 
I did have one major issue with the order taking, as I had specifically made sure both soups were with chicken and should not have any seafood due to my brother having allergies, however, the Tom Kam Goong soup had prawns; this obviously resulted in me getting pretty upset because I am so careful about it; called them up, lodged a complaint on the phone and online; in response they sent a replacement soup with chicken and also got a message from their customer service department that this matter will be looked into. So really appreciated that. 

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Thursday, November 22, 2012


 I absolutely love the Mezze platter served in middle eastern restaurants; a bit of this and a bit of that all combined together with toasted pita bread that can be had either as an appetizer or as a complete meal. The first time I had Falafel was in this middle eastern cafe in New York and it was in the form of a sandwich with hot crispy Falafel topped with a salad and drizzled with tzatizki sauce; its a delicious vegetarian meal and while I enjoy the platter, but to date, my favorite way of eating Falafel is still in the form of a sandwich with everything mixed together.

By definition, Mezze is not exactly a specific recipe or recipes but a style of eating with a bunch of small dishes served all at once. It can be served as appetizers before a meal, or as the main meal depending on the combination of dishes. Serving Mezze is actually great for a party or for a close family get together because the dishes can be made in advance and the best way to eat it is mixing it all up together as per your taste.

A Mezze meal usually includes Hummus (Chickpea Dip), Baba Ganoush (Eggplant Dip), Falafel, Olives, some sort of salad/yoghurt along with Pita bread, but can also include Dolma (Stuffed Grape Leaves), Fatayer (Stuffed Spinach Parcels), Kebabs, Feta Cheese and the list goes on.

I usually make Hummus & Pita Chips separately for parties as an appetizer, but when I make Falafel then I always make the accompaniments because it tastes best that way; that includes Hummus, Baba Ganoush, a basic Raita and serve it with store bought Olives & Pita Bread.

Hummus is one of those really simple dishes that don't require a lot of exact ratios and I always add more or less according to taste; furthermore the taste can easily be changed by adding different ingredients like roasted garlic, chilli pepper, coriander; pesto sauce etc.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute canned chickpeas (drained) which you don't need to cook) (10 ounces)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Paprika/Red Chilli Pepper - 1 tsp
Black & Green Olives - Garnish
1) Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid. Keep a few chick peas to garnish on top.
2) Puree the beans in a blender or a food processor adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3) Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
4) Make an indentation in the center and drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with red pepper.
5) Garnish with black and green olives & leftover chickpeas
6) Refrigerate for at least

Baba Ganoush (Dip made with Eggplant) 
Eggplant - 1 (Large) or 2 Medium;  Try to make sure it has less seeds
Yoghurt - 1/4 - 1/2 cup
Tahini Paste - 2 tbsp
Lemon Juice - 1.5 - 2 tbsp
Salt - To taste (1/2 tsp)
Garlic - 2 cloves (minced)
Olive Oil - Garnish
Cilantro - Garnish
Roast the eggplant; this can be done on the stove or on the oven; the best way that I have found of doing this is washing the eggplant, and then pricking it with a fork then wrapping it in aluminium foil and putting it on the stove directly. Turn the eggplant every 5-10 minutes and it should cook in about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant. They should be soft but charred from the outside and give off a smokey flavor; As an alternative you can also roast them in the oven, but that takes more time so I prefer this method.
Once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out all the flesh and put it in a bowl. If the eggplants were roasted correctly, the flesh should be easily scoopable. If you want to make the baba ganoush smooth, then add all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. However, I prefer a chunkier texture, so I add half the flesh and process it in a blender and then mash the rest of the flesh into the processed paste so it becomes more chunky. Alternatively, you can just mash it all up with a fork. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
Garnish with olive oil and chopped cilantro.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.comPrep Time: Overnight for dry beans and 1 hour to make Falafels
Chickpeas - 1 cup/7 ounces
Dried or Canned – if using dried, they must be soaked overnight and then drained. If using canned, they must be drained.
Onion - 1 large
Fresh parsley - 2 Tablespoons (Chopped) Can use dried, just a few pinches.
Cilantro - 2 Tablespoons (Chopped) Can use dried, just a few pinches.
Salt - 1 teaspoon
Red pepper - 1 teaspoon
Garlic cloves - 4 (Peeled & Chopped)
Cumin - 1 teaspoon
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
All Purpose Flour -  4 Tablespoons
May need more flour
Oil for frying

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, and then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
Falafel made with soaked chickpeas is more coarse & more crunchy but that requires planning in advance; If canned chickpeas are used, they are much more softer, but at the same time, care needs to be taken while processing since it can become quite smooth and the batter will be too soft.
2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. If you don’t have a food processor, then mash this up as smooth as possible by hand. If mashing by hand, then chop the vegetables finely otherwise they won't mix together well.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.
5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375ºF (190ºC) in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Cucumber Raita
2 cups yoghurt
1 cucumber (chopped)
1 tomato (chopped)
1/2 onion - chopped
Corriander - 1/4 cup (chopped)
Salt - To taste
Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
Garlic cloves - 1 (minced)
Mix all the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning to taste; it should not be spicy like traditional raita, but its more like an accompaniment to the Falafels. Garnish with red chilli pepper on top.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ginger Wrapped Chicken with Rice

The final dish - with spring onions garnished on top
So the next item that I made on Sunday was Ginger Wrapped Chicken with Rice; sounds interesting, no? The first time I had heard this dish was about like 6 years back in university and I was at a friend's place for a project or a get-together and she mentioned that she made this dish; now this friend of mine (who might just be surprised that I remember this conversation till date) makes really awesome food and back when I was just discovering my interest in food, I used to love having food at her place because it was so delicious and innovative. So that dish just remained in the back of my mind and while browsing online, I came across this recipe and I was just like oh, this must be that same recipe.

Tried it and it was just delicious; the recipe serves enough for like 8 people, so I halved it and with the chowmein that I had made with it, there was so much food leftover that it was enough for lunch and dinner the next day. I loved how like the Singaporean Rice this was one meal in itself. It had that oriental Chinese touch but there was no need to make rice and gravy separately because it all mixed together in this beautiful fusion of flavors.
Mixing it all together

Ginger Wrapped Chicken with Rice (Serves 8) 
Adapted from Shireen Anwer 

The recipe serves eight people easily, so I halved it since I was making for less people 
Boneless chicken (cut into strips)    ½ kg
Rice boiled ½ kg
Spring onion       1 handful
Carrots thinly sliced         1
Capsicum thinly sliced    1
Green chilies sliced 3-4
Stocks 3 cups
I just used 1 chicken cube dissolved in about 1.5 cups of water, however, I would recommend adding the stock carefully, because I added all of it together and it got too watery, and then I needed to boil the water off
Water   ¼ cup
White pepper ½ tsp heaped
Corn flour 2 tbsp
Ginger sliced 2 tbsp
Soya sauce 3 tbsp
Chili sauce 3 tbsp
Ketchup 4 tbsp
Chili oil 6 tbsp
To make chilli oil, take 1 cup of oil and heat till it smokes; let it cool to room temperature then add 2 tbsp of red pepper flakes and 1 tbsp of red chilli powder; let it infuse for 4-6 hours and then strain it through a fine muslin cloth.
Unveiling the Surprise Filling Inside

Dissolve 2 tbsp corn flour in ¼ cup water. Heat 4 tbsp chili oil, add 2 tbsp sliced ginger, ½ kg chicken strips and salt to taste, sauté for few minutes. Now add 1 thinly sliced carrots, 1 thinly sliced capsicum, 3-4 sliced green chilies. Add 3 cups stocks, ½ tsp heaped white pepper, 3 tbsp soya sauce, 3 tbsp chili sauce and 4 tbsp ketchup. Thicken with corn flour paste but gradually add the corn flour so that it doesn't get too thicky. The consistency should be saucy instead of very thick or too watery. Add spring onion right at the end so its maintains its color. As an alternative, I garnished the dish with spring onion because I forgot to add it earlier and I think that gives a beautiful look too. 
Take a big piece of foil and layer it in a dish. Put half of boiled rice, then spread chicken mixture, top with remaining rice. Put 2 tbsp chili oil on top, wrap and bake in a medium oven for 20 minutes.Unwrap at the table and mix it all up. Garnish with spring onions.

As an alternative this can also be made in a big pot, and layered similar to the way biryani is in case someone does not have an oven at home. 

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chicken Chowmein

So making full use of my parents being away for the weekend, I decided to do some more experimenting this  Sunday. Spent about all of Saturday evening thinking about what to make and finally settled on Spicy Chowmein & Ginger Wrapped Chicken in Rice (to be discussed in the next blog post). I am not a huge pasta fan (please don't hate me for that) because I think its just a bit too heavy but I absolutely love noodles; egg noodles, chowmein, rice noodles, pad thai, fusion desi noodles of sorts. The noodles turned out really good; loved the style of making the chicken since it cooked really quickly and had that slight crispness which makes it taste non home-madeish (I'm sure this is a made-up word, but I hope it conveys the meaning). However, I would have added a bit of black pepper as I think they just needed a slight kick. 
Hot & Spicy Chowmein

Chicken boneless -  1 cup (thinly sliced)
Salt 1 tsp (For Marinade) + ½ tsp (For Noodles)
Sugar ½ tsp (For Marinade) + ½ tsp (For Noodles)
Corn flour 1 tbsp 

Beaten Egg Half
White pepper ¼ tsp
Cabbage thinly sliced 2 cups
Capsicum 1 sliced
Egg noodles 1 packet (400-450 g) (I don't use the branded egg noodles; i always prefer the Chinese brand egg noodles since they taste better and they also cook much more faster)
Chili sauce 2 tbsp
Soya sauce 2 tbsp
Vinegar 1 tbsp
Crushed garlic 1 tsp
Onion 1 sliced
Carrot 1 thinly sliced
Spring onion leaves 2 inch long strips 1 cup
Oil ¼ cup
Ketchup ¼ cup

Marinate chicken with salt, white pepper, sugar, soya sauce, corn flour 1 tbsp, half beaten egg for 15 minutes.
 Heat ¼ cup oil. Fry crushed garlic till light golden. Add marinated chicken and saute for a few minutes (I personally like to cook chicken longer but 2-3 minutes should be enough). Once the water from the chicken has evaporated, add sliced onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the rest of the vegetables then add chili sauce, soya sauce, ketchup, vinegar,  salt and sugar. Mix well then add boiled noodles. Toss well then taste. In case something is lacking, adjust accordingly. Lastly add spring onion leaves and remove.

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Saffron - New Menu Tasting

Just a few days ago, I was invited to a tasting of Saffron's new menu at lunch. This was actually the first time that I went to Saffron and what struck me the moment I entered was the beautiful ambiance; the outside seating/reception area is done in a traditional style and reminded me of like this Mughlai setting with the fountain at the entrance; lush green plants, wooden tiles on the walls, the jhoola & twisting staircase in the background and the carved wooden doors leading into the restaurant. The interior of the restaurant was done in the same traditional notes with lots of carved wood accents on the walls, antique furniture and other unique pieces tastefully placed around the restaurant.
The theme behind the tasting was that Saffron is introducing Hyderabadi cuisine from Nano's Hangout and their new menu will be a mix of both continental as well as traditional Desi cuisine. The flow of the tasting was similarly choreographed with one traditional dish being served along with a similar yet contrasting continental dish. For example, in the appetizer round, there were Chilli Prawns from Saffron's menu with Bhagarey Jhingey (Tempered Prawns|) from Nano's Hangout. I found the Chilli Prawns to taste better as they carried more of a punch and contrasted with the crunch of the pastry shell in which they were served; however, loved the presentation of the Bhagharay Jhingay served with saffron rice and green chutney.

The idea of introducing Hyderabadi cuisine courtesy Nano's Hangout seems to be a good move for Saffron leading them to diversify their menu thus catering to different taste, but it should ensure that they retain the focus on their core menu. I just feel that when a restaurant tries to offer multiple cuisines on their menu, then it becomes a hodgepodge a flavors because there is too much going on, so this collaboration should benefit both places as Nano's Hangout is already considered an expert in Hyderabadi cuisine.

What surprised me the most about the menu was how much I enjoyed the sea food in the menu, especially the two types of fish followed by the prawns. In terms of personal preference, I am very much a chicken person, and almost always prefer chicken to seafood dishes. But here the Jalapeno Chicken paled in comparison to the Snapper in Lemon Butter Sauce which was absolutely delicious; definitely an item that would make me reconsider my confirmed habit of ordering chicken at restaurants. Other than these two items, they also served Chicken Pasanday which tasted exactly like my mother makes at home and Hyderabadi fish, which was good but the snapper was just amazing.

As far as the Hyderabadi dishes from Nano's Hangout were considered, the Bhagaray Baingan (Eggplants stuffed with a paste consisting of nuts & spices served with a rich & creamy gravy) were absolutely delicious especially with the saffron rice that was served as an accompaniment. I am still not a person who would go to a fine dining establishment just to have Desi food, however, this is a good option for taking parents or elders who would like having traditional food whereas we can order our continental food items.
The last course was the dessert which was the Saffron Special Cake along with the Khubani ka Meetha and here I have to say that cake was just delicious; it was just a beautiful white cake with just the right amount of sweetness from the cream and lots of crunch to add texture; loved every bite of it and I just wish there was more.
All in all, a great event which started promptly on time (resulting in me missing out on tasting some of the appetizers since I was running a bit late) with delicious food and excellent hospitality shown by the hosts.

1. Please note that this was an invitation event, hence can only be considered as a description of the food and the event and cannot be considered as a true review of the restaurant food and service.
2. Please also note that all the pictures are courtesy Xenith Digital (as mentioned on the photos);

For reference, a list of all the items served at the tasting is as follows:
1. Apple Carrot Juice
2. Mezze Platter & Shami Kebab
3. Seafood Chowder with Daal (Lentil) Soup
4. Chilli Prawns with Bhagarey Jhingey
5. Jalapeno Chicken with Chicken Pasandey
6. Snapper in Lemon Butter Sauce with Hyderabadi Fish
7. Nargisi Koftay (Boiled Eggs stuffed inside a shell of ground lamb mixed with spices) & Bhagaray Baighan
8. Saffron Rice with Mashed Potatoes
9. Batata Wada (Potato Fritters)
10. Saffron Special Cake with Khubani ka Meetha (Traditional Dessert made with Apricots)


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Twister Chicken

Buoyed by the success of the Zinger Fried Chicken the other day, I decided to make a variation of the Zinger twister. My parents are away for the weekend which basically gave me free reign in the kitchen to be able to try out something new and different. There were a few adaptions that I made regarding the roll itself and the filling due to ingredients that I didn't have at home, such as using frozen paratha's instead of making tortilla's from scratch and omitting the lettuce. But otherwise, the meal was just fantastic. The chicken was really easy to make, it was flavorful and the first batch still remained crispy even after dinner had ended. I had leftovers the next day, and it still tasted great. 

Twister (Adapted from Shireen Anwer)

For Chicken + Marinade
Chicken breast (boneless) 4 - Used about 1/2 kg of boneless chicken cut into cubes 
Salt 1 tsp
Pepper ½ tsp
Paprika powder 1 tsp - Used Chilli Powder
Chili sauce 2 tbsp
Chili garlic sauce 1 tbsp
Corn crumbs 2 cups 
Self raising flour ½ cup
Ice berg lettuce sliced ½ cup
Tomato (cut into cubes)  1
For Sauce

Hot sauce 2 tbsp
Mayonnaise 2 tbsp
White vinegar 2 tbsp
Ingredients for batter
Flour 2 tbsp
Baking powder ½ tsp
Salt ½ tsp
White pepper ½ tsp
Paprika ½ tsp
Chili sauce 1 tbsp
Water to make batter
Ingredients for tortillas - Used Frozen Paratha's
Flour 2 cup
Salt ½ tsp
Baking powder ½ tsp
Oil 2 tbsp
Luke warm water as required

Method to make tortillas
1.In a bowl knead 2cups of flour, 1/2tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 2 tbsp oil with water to form a medium dough
2.Leave covered for 30 minutes, then make chapattis of a dinner size plate and cook both the sides on a griddle, cover and keep warm.
Method for batter
1.In a bowl mix together 2tbsp of flour,1/2 tsp of baking powder,1/2tsp salt, 1/2tsp white pepper,1/2 tsp paprika,1 tbsp chili sauce and water . Mix all the ingredients well until a batter of medium consistency is formed
Method for chicken
2. Combine corn crumbs and self raising flour. Cut boneless chicken fillet into 3 inch long strips, and marinate with salt, pepper, paprika, chili sauce, chili garlic sauce for 30 minutes, dip in batter roll in combined corn crumbs and self raising flour mixture, fry till crisp and golden.
To serve twister
3.Roll out the tortillas, top with fried chicken strips, tomato cubes, sliced lettuce, mayonnaise sauce and hot sauce.
4.Serve rolled in butter paper.

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