There are foods that I think of as seriously desi (south asian) in their flavors, the kind of foods I wouldn’t make for someone who was just trying out Pakistani food. Kharay Masalay ka Gosht is one of them. With it’s heady aromatic spices – the name Khara Masala literally means whole spices – this unassuming dish packs a punch! As those of you who cook regularly from the blog (thank you!) know, I am not a fan of the “garam masala” taste. I love using it in powder form as an accent, but usually keep the whole spices moderate. However, for kharay masalay ka gosht I am willing to make an exception! This aromatic dish goes best with some simple bread, although a little sheermal never hurt anyone 🙂
There are few things in life that are as soul satisfying as a masala-licious biryani. You know what I am talking about – the kind of biryani where you can see the gravy clinging to delicate long strands of rice, wrapping themselves around flavorful spuds and permeating the meat. At the end of long Ramadan fasts all I want is for someone to make it and for me to eat it. With lots of raita, of course. This beauty over here, right down below, is extra delicious. Want to know why (Hint: read the title). Because it is made with Canadian Turkey meat which cooks to tender delicious perfection in this gravy. This Turkey Biryani made its first appearance at our Ramadan table this year, but Turkey Biryani, my new friend, it shall not be your last.
I have biryani-ed here a few times before and I am pumped about it each and every time. When the opportunity to be part of this exciting campaign to discuss the benefits of Canadian Turkey came up I knew exactly what kind of biryani I wanted this to be. My usual biryanis rely on tomatoes for flavor, but this time I wanted to marinate the turkey in a yogurt mix and let caramelized onions bring their rich brothy flavor to the Turkey Biryani. I wound up adding a tomato, but should you not have one feel free to skip it. Rest assured that this Turkey Biryani will still turn out yummy.
There are certain Urdu words that I really enjoy saying, those that sound exactly like what they mean. Kurkuri, that delightful word for crunchy and crispy is one of them. The first time my daughter had this Kurkuri Bhindi she was 3 years old and we were visiting my parents in Karachi. Her Nano had made this bhindi and Zara upon trying them said “these sticks are yummy!” It then occurred to me that my daughter had never had Okra except for its cornmeal battered deep fried incarnation. As yummy as the Deep Fried Okra was that way it was far too much work (and oil) for my liking.
I once read that the essence of a culture is in the words that cannot be translated. Explained yes, but not directly translated. The example given by the author was of Urdu word “takalluf”. “Takalluf” is that polite first and often second time refusal of an offer that stems from good manners. Someone asks for tea and you politely refuse the first time, perhaps even the second even as your eyes are practically glued shut from exhaustion.”Khasta” is another such word for me – the perfect “Meethi Tikiyaan” (sweet fritters) should be “khasta”. The way to best explain it seems to be that the exterior of the tiki should have the sturdy flakiness of a sweet pie dough while it’s centre should have the lavish butteriness of a rich cake.
I often think about what it means to blog about food, about Pakistani food specifically. A part of me feels that I should keep recipes alive, carrying them forth in their unaltered state, preserving them for generations to come. The reality is that I cannot do that even if I wanted to. My culinary journey is very much shaped by my mother who if you ever meet her you would know is an immensely practical person. I cannot recall her ever saying she would spend hours slaving over a stove to get the onions browned just the way her grandmother did or that any recipe was sacrosanct because of who gave it to her. Adapt, make it easy, and make it work. That seems to be her approach to cooking and it is that philosophy that makes up my culinary DNA.
You know how you feel when you keep meaning to call someone back, someone you really want to see/speak to, but somehow it doesn’t happen and then you run into them somewhere and are awkward and embarrassed? Well that’s how I feel right about now! I have been around though – there is this fun craft the girls I did this winter and my equally fun chat with Devina of My Little Pudding. At least I come bearing gifts – there is this delicious quick Chicken Karahi Qeema, and for those of you who don’t know her, an introduction to the talented Pakistani blogger Fatima from Fatima Cooks. I have been an admirer of hers for quite some time and was browsing her blog for dinner inspiration when I saw her Chicken Karahi Qeema recipe and I was sold. Frankly she had me at the no chopping onions bit. FYI when in my forgetful state I have thrown in a little onion it hasn’t been as good. Just sayin’
There are these moments you have when you move to a new country; the little slips that embarrass you, that shatter your sense of confident cool. It is hunting for Coriander leaves only to be pointed to the powder or looking for Capsicum only to finally locate them next to the “Green Peppers” sign. Over time you retrain yourself to look for Cilantro and to put Green Peppers on your shopping list. In my head though I still call them Capsicum or think of them as ‘Shimla Mirch’. The word Mirch means chilli or in this case pepper, and the Shimla is a reference to where this imported vegetable first began to grow in India under the British. Since then Capsicum or Shimla Mirch or Green Peppers grow all over Pakistan and India, but the name has stuck.
Kaali or Sabut Masoor ki Daal is made from brown lentils and is one of my favourites despite its misnomer of a name. You see kaali means black, but this daal is decidedly brown. Black or brown I love it’s bold heartiness, it’s comforting warmth and it certainly does not hurt that it is so nutritious.
The flavour of kaali daal alone isn’t what makes it one of my favourites. It is also the associated memories. It is that first meal back from a year away at college and the simple meal that I associate with the breaking of the fast on the tenth of Muharram. We are Shia Muslims and for us the Battle of Karbala is a defining moment in the history of Islam. I have made several attempts to write about what that means to us, but find that words fail me. Tamania of Super Urdu Mom and one of my favourite bloggers does a far better job and you can read her piece over here.
It is always biryani o’ clock somewhere. I wish that was my line, but alas it is not although it did ring true when I found myself sitting on my front steps at 10 am a bowl of biryani in my hand. Biryani for breakfast? Why not. I have a go to biryani, one that is my aunts recipe and it is pretty damn delicious so I will be honest and say that I never anticipated posting another. When I saw this recipe on Ainy Cooks, a website that has an impressive collection of Pakistani recipes, I decided it was a must try since it was pretty simple and seemed like a richer flavoured version of my own. I was not disappointed and have made it at least three times since then.
I made some changes to suit our palate and my convenience (lol), but my favourite addition is the “koylay ka dum” or charcoal smoke. It is a game changer and simple enough to do. In fact my FIL was the one who taught me how.
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.