Sunday, December 23, 2012

Masoor Ki Daal

People often request this extremely simple recipe of lentils, Masoor Ki Daal (Lentils).  It was the first Pakistani recipe that I made by myself and one that continues to be a favorite.  If I haven't gone grocery shopping and I don't know what to make, I can always make this inexpensive, filling, quick and delicious recipe.

My husband first introduced me to this recipe by telling me it was "humble food."  Lentils and rice are the staple diet in Pakistan.  Not something that people would typicaly serve at a davvat and not something that most Pakistanis would consider amazing.  However, for him, it was amazing.  It reminded him of home and memories that had long passed.  He loves the beautiful simplicity of the dish and to this day finds it to be absolutely perfect.
We joke a bit because while this isn't something I would make for an invitation with other Pakistanis, it is almost always on the menu for westerners.  It's mild, it's simple, it's fast, and I've yet to meet a westerner that didn't like it.  

 Start by washing 2 cups of Masoor Daal (red lentils) until the water runs clear in a medium sized pot.

Add 4 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric powder, 1 teaspoon of red chili powder, and about a tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil.

Almost cover.  By almost cover, I mean, put the lid on, but don't seal it (pictured above) so some of the water can evaporate.  Reduce to a simmer for approximately 20 minutes.

Lentils should be soft and mushy and most of the water will have evaporated (pictured above).

Let the lentils stay on simmer while you make the...(do you know what this is yet???)  BAGHAAR!!!  Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, and about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to a small pan.

Cook on medium/high heat until golden brown.

Pour over your lentils while yelling, "BAGHAR!!!  BAGHAR!!!"  By yelling, it will enhance the flavors.

Stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and turn off the stove.

Pour into a bowl and serve over plain white, basmati rice.

You can also serve it with half of a sliced onion soaked in lemon juice.  Frankly, I won't eat Masoor Ki Daal without it...!!

This same recipe can be used with a different type of masoor lentils that are darker, but you have to cook them for about an hour instead of 20 minutes.

The darker lentils have a more solid texture than the mushy red lentils, but both taste great over rice.  

What a blessing to be able to eat simple, delicious, healthy, and inexpensive food!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hyderabadi Baigan

This is a recipe that I have been making quite often (almost once a week, my husband loves it).  Hyderabadi Baigan ("Eggplant from Hyderabad, India") is an excellent side dish for any davvat and is sure to impress your Pakistani native guests.  Soft, melt-in-your-mouth eggplant in a saucy, savory mix.  It has a medium difficulty level and requires several steps to complete, however, if you are reading this blog, you will be well-equipped!  ;)  I learned this recipe while watching my mother-in-law make it and it is one of our family favorites.

I'll never forget when it was made for some family members from the Hyderabad area and they exclaimed that it tasted just like home.  This is indeed, the real deal.

To start, slice a medium onion and put it in enough vegetable/canola oil to cover the base of a large pot (about 1/2 cup).  Cook on medium/high heat until limp and slightly browned on the edges.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked onions and put them in a food processor with about a three-quarter cup of water.  Puree the onions and water into a paste and leave them there for now...

Take 6 LARGE Indian eggplants (the largest ones you can find-- size of a fist or larger!  If you can only find smaller ones, use 7 or 8) and slice a plus sign in them all the way to the stem without going through the stem.

Like this.

Then gently put the eggplants in the oil and cook on medium/high heat, rotating them on each side until they look flat/soft.  The above picture is what they look like when finished.  Remove them from the oil and set aside.

Next take a separate small pan and add 3 Tablespoons of coconut powder, 3 Tablespoons of sesame seeds, 7 fenugreek seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin seeds, 8 whole peanuts, and 8 whole almonds (I didn't have peanuts, so I just used about 12 almonds instead) and roast on medium/high heat.

Using a spatula or wooden spatula, roast the seed mix until everything is golden brown.  It will start snapping and when it looks like the above picture, you can remove the heat.

Next, put your seed mixture into a coffee grinder and grind into a fine powder (it's okay if there are some almond or peanut chunks, but try to get it as small and fine as possible).

It will look something like the above picture.

 Add your seed mixture to the onion paste in the food processor and puree (this will also chop up the peanuts or almonds better if needed).

Pour the mixture into the large pot with the oil (that was used earlier for the onions and eggplant) and add 5 curry leaves, 1 teaspoon of ginger/garlic paste, 1 teaspoon of red chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric powder.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, boil about 2 tablespoons of wet tamarind in about a cup of water.  If you are an achi bivi and can handle it, you can do this step while you're frying the onions or frying the eggplant to save time.  Once the seeds have loosened from the tamarind, you can mush them out with your hand.

Almost forgot to take a picture of all the garbage you should take out of your tamarind...  I know, it looks like guts up there, but I thought you'd want to know.  There's all kinds of weird things in tamarind that you want to get out.  My mother-in-law JUST told me, by the way, that I can use a tamarind paste that is already made...  That I didn't have to buy this thick stuff and mush out all the guts...  ...  So...  You can try that too ;).

In any case, add the good parts of your tamarind to the large pot, add about a tablespoon of salt, and cook covered for 10 minutes on medium heat.  Do a taste test at this point.  The sauce should taste spicy, salty, and like your seed mixture.  You should be able to taste all three of those things evenly.  If you can't, add a little bit of what's missing until you do.  Most of the time, with the recipe I've provided, I don't have to add anything.

 Next add your fried eggplant back into the large pot and cook covered for another 10 minutes.

Chop up some green chillis (2) and ~1/2 cup of fresh cilantro for garnish and serve with naan or paratha!

 Viola!  A lot of steps, but once you make it a regular part of your achi bivi life, it is a LOT easier.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Up until today I have been posting mostly simple recipes (hey! it takes time to write these out!).  Karhi is not necessarily a difficult dish, but it can quickly turn from perfect to plumpy if not monitored or executed correctly.  If you aren't used to Pakistani food, you may want to delay making this dish because it has a unique, almost acquired taste.  If, however, you are a seasoned achi bivi, you might try bringing a taste of Pakistan that is sure to remind your spouse that even though you are not Pakistani, you still know how to make him feel at home.  :)

We start by making the saucy base for the karhi.  Add about 2 cups of thick, plain yogurt (or 1 pound), 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 cup of gram flour, 1 tablespoon of ginger/garlic paste, 1 tablespoon of red chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric and mix together in a large mixing bowl.

Add 5 cups of water and mix well with a spoon by hand.

Pour mixture through a sieve/strainer into a new, medium sized bowl.  This will filter out all of the junk from the gram flour.

 Brush the top of a large pot with vegetable oil (so it doesn't boil over) and pour the mixture into the pot.  Add a finely chopped onion and 6 curry leaves (fresh is best, but I didn't have any fresh, so I used dried).

Cook on high heat and stir continuously (if you don't do this, your karhi will have lumps in it!) until it starts to boil.  Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to simmer, add about a tablespoon of salt, and let it cook for 15 minutes uncovered.  Then turn off the stove.

Meanwhile, you can begin to make your pakoras (or phulkian, or basically fried-doughy-onion-balls).  Mix 1 cup of gram flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of red chili powder, and a finely chopped onion.

Start adding water until you have a thick paste (like the above mixture).  It's about 1/4 cup of water.

In another pot, you should heat up enough vegetable/canola oil so that your pakoray can float (like maybe 2 inches of oil) on medium/high heat.  (Pro-Tip:  Flick a speck of water from your hand off into the oil to see if it is hot -- if it sizzles, it's hot!)  Take a heaping tablespoon of the pakoray mix and quickly let the mix fall off the spoon into the hot oil.  Cook about 2-4 at a time.

They will look like this when they are ready to come out.  They should be golden brown.  If you think they're ready, give them another minute or two instead of taking them out.  ;)  Put the finished ones on a plate with a paper towel so some of the oil will soak off.

After you've finished cooking your pakoray, add them to your saucy bass (karhi).

Lastly, you will make your baghaar!  By now, you should know this is my favorite part of any dish...  In a small frying pan, add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 6 fenugreek seeds, 4 cloves of chopped garlic, 6 whole red chilis (round are better than what I used above, but I didn't have round), 4 curry leaves, and a half cup of oil.  You can use the oil you cooked the pakoray in if you like.

Cook on medium heat until everything is a nice golden brown.  Flip your chilis so that they are cooked evenly.  When it looks like the above, cook it another 20 seconds or so and pour it over your saucy, karhi mix yelling, "Baghaar!  Baghaar!!!"

Give it one nice stir and pour it into your serving bowl.  Enjoy with white, basmati rice.  It should be thick, yet pour easily over the rice.  This dish is sure to please and impress.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sarson ka Saag

Alright, so...  like most Pakistani food, Sarson ka Saag is not very appealing to westerners.  We're all about presentation in the west and Sarson ka Saag is probably one of the most lacking in presentation of all the Pakistani dishes I've made.  That being said, it's just plain amazing to taste.  Possibly one of the most delicious, most simple, and healthiest foods you'll ever eat as an achi bivi.

Funny story behind why I made this...  bumped into a Pakistani grandmother with her daughter and grand-daughter at the grocery store (I LOVE talking to Pakistanis when I come across them because I have so few friends that are Pakistani...and by so few I mean none...).  The grandmother thoroughly enjoyed when I started speaking Urdu (even though I sound like a toddler when I speak "AP KEHSI HAIN!?!??") and proceeded to tell me all kinds of things I didn't understand.  We all talked for awhile as I followed them around the grocery store like a puppy.  "What are you making tonight?!?" I said.  To which she replied, "Sarson ka saag!"  I'd never heard of it and she showed me to the mustard greens.

All that to say, I had to ask my mother-in-law for a recipe.  "What kind of achi bivi doesn't know how to make Sarson ka Saag!!??"  is what that grandmother at the grocery store taught me.  And sure enough, I now know the secret recipe.  ...  Enjoy! :)

First chop up 2 pounds (about 2 bunches) of mustard greens and 1/2 pound (about a small bag) of spinach and wash the leaves.  Then put them in a large pot.

Next, finely dice one onion, one inch piece of ginger, HALF a garlic bulb (not clove, half a BULB - lots of garlic in this one), and 3 green chilis (you can always add more if you're some kind of super bivi...).

Add it to your pot and cook for 2 1/2 HOURS covered on the LOWEST heat possible.

After you've finished watching your Pakistani soap operas (like all achi gori bivis do...), put all the ingredients from the pot into a blender and blend it until smooth.


Pour it back into your pot and add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of corn meal, NOT CORN STARCH!  I know you want to do corn starch, but don't do it!!!!  It's different.  Add about a tablespoon of salt and cook for about 5 minutes.

And finally, make your BAGHAR!   (And as you make your baghar, you must yell "Baghar! Baghar!")  I don't fully understand what Baghar means yet, but I love how it sounds.

To make your baghar, finely chop up another onion, another inch of ginger, and another half a bulb of garlic and fry in about a 1/2 cup of vegetable/canola oil.  Once everything is softened, pour it all on top of your saag in the pot.

Serve with naan or paratha (but really naan because paratha has a lot of oil in it already).  Mama says you can add some butter, but I didn't want a heart attack so I left it out.  <3