As the weather becomes nicer I start to really resent making dishes that take hours. I type this after having the last two and a half hours of my life cooking/cleaning. It makes me positively nostalgic for quicker, more flavorful dishes like this Thai Red Curry Beef made with Mae Ploy Curry Paste. Mae Ploy is a Thai brand which sells curry pastes ( on amazon!) that are bigger on flavor than insipid grocery store ones. By the time I am done ‘fixing’ those I often feel that I may as well have made the paste myself! But that runs counter to my whole wanting to spend less time cooking thing. That said, when I first used this paste I found it unpleasantly punchy. However, with some tweaking I have found ratios that work well for me.
Jump to the Pakistani Murgh Palak Recipe
Moment of truth time folks: Pakistani food is hard, sorry Pakistani food can be hard. Not because of the techniques, but because of the time. So much damn time. Now of course there are great short cuts, but for an anxious hovering over her food kinda cook like me it can feel exhausting. That is what makes this hearty Murgh Palak so so perfect, there is no slow cooking of onions, no waiting for flavours to develop. Once the chicken is done you’re done. No garnishing required either. Just pick up your roti, or ladle the Murgh Palak over your rice and eat.
It makes me laugh that for someone who barely ate a chicken curry growing up I am now posting my third incarnation. Where my first relied on jammy tomatoes for robust flavor, the second got it’s distinct flavor from the marriage between caramelized onions and a headier dose of turmeric than usual. This white chicken salan has none of that. It’s mellow clean flavour comes from the chicken itself. Because there is no chilli powder added to the white chicken salan the salan is extremely kid friendly. It is rare that both my girls will enjoy the same thing equally, but in this case they wolfed it down with equal enthusiasm. I, too, was happy to follow suit.
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I think Aalu Gosht is the quintessential Pakistani dish, the kind that doesn’t find it’s way onto many restaurant menus, but is a staple in every home. Be it with Goat meat or Beef, bone in or boneless, every family has their version of aalu gosht and it seems to me that they are all delicious.
My Nanna (maternal grandmother) is the undisputed champion of making aalu gosht. Her salan is light and almost broth like and the flavor is so utterly beautiful that us boneless meat eaters would forgive her those hunks of bones with smallish pieces of meat. I would love to tell you that this is her recipe, but alas it is not. None of her four daughters make this particular salan/curry like she does and I can only hope to crack the code one day. For now I offer you an extremely tasty second: my mothers. Or rather, my version of my mothers, the cooking method is my sister in laws.
I do apologise for the lacklustre photos, this Pakistani version of meat and potatoes isn’t quite ready for it’s close up, but with the cold months upon us it seemed a little selfish not to share the recipe for one of the most comforting dishes of all time.
Aalu gosht aficionados will note that I don’t use whole garam masala i.e. cloves, peppers etc. I find that while the whole spices add a depth to the salan that I don’t really miss them when I go without. If you find you miss it then simply add an inch of cinnamon, 2-3 cloves, 4-6 whole black peppers and a 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds in with the meat mixture. For those of you with chilli-phobic kids like my older one this dish is easy to edit. Just put less red chilli powder in the beginning, then pull out some meat and curries before adding in the green chillies at the end.
That first tear of chapati (flatbread), that first swoop through the curry, that first morsel of glistening fish with a scatter of cilantro as it gets scooped up into your mouth, that is a moment I look forward to every time I make this fish salan. I love the subtle notes of the golden onion, the lone tomato, and the moderate amount of fenugreek. The whole spices are there, but less aggressively so resulting in a curry that seems so perfect for this time of the year.
I didn’t grow up eating a lot of fish, not unless you count fish fingers as fish. It is only in recent years that I have started to cook it for a household that can’t live on chicken breasts alone and discovered how much I truly enjoy it’s delicacy. It is also an added bonus that once you’ve developed the curry part, the actual fish takes only minutes to cook meaning you could make the masala, set it aside and when you’re ready to eat it add the fish and finish the cooking.
My sister in law suggested adding fenugreek earlier in the cooking process and I find it works well, the flavor of the fenugreek seems to permeate the curry and the fish in a way my usual ‘last five minutes’ addition doesn’t. If you really enjoy the flavor of fenugreek you could easily double it here. If you are not a fan then leave it out and this will still be yummy.