Monday, 3 December 2012

Matar Pulao - Pea Pulao

While learning how to cook in ammi's kitchen, i was repeatedly told cooking the perfect basmati rice took years of practice as basmati rice happen to have a mind of their own. I was always nervous about cooking pulao rice and biryani. It has taken me nearly 10 years to get my pulao right. Biryani is still far from perfection. But i am trying! 

The fragrance of ammi's pulao would welcome you long before you entered the house. She spent time and energy in getting the stock right which was the prime ingredient in cooking the delectable pulao. I have learnt to do the same which leads to results that almost always exceed expectation. Ammi served this pulao with chicken curry or potato meat curry.

In my house i usually serve it with shami kebab and mint chutney. Here is the recipe.

Rice – 1 cup
Chicken Stock – 1 ½ cup - Homemade
Peas (Matar) – 1 cup (Frozen or Fresh - avoid using sweet peas)
Onion – 1 Medium sized (chopped)
Oil – 2 Tblsp
Salt – 1 heaped tsp
Black Cardamoms – 2 (whole)
Cinnamon sticks – 2
Whole peppercorns - 8-10
Cumin – 1 tsp,
Cloves – 4-5
Bay leaves – 2, (whole).
Green Chili – 1 whole

  1. Wash the rice 3 times with cold water and soak it for 30 mins before cooking.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan (it should have a lid) and add onions to it. Let it color.
  3. Add all dry spices to it and fry till onions are dark brown.
  4. Add the green chili as well.
  5. Now add stock and bring it to boil on medium heat.
  6. Add peas; boil for only a minute more.
  7. Now drain water from the rice and add them to the boiling stock. Wait for it to boil again on medium heat.
  8. In the mean while put on a tava/ griddle or a heat diffuser on medium flame on another stove. This will be used to steam cook the rice.
  9. Once the liquid with rice in it starts boiling, wait for 3/4 of the stock to be evaporated.
  10. Now place a piece of aluminum foil on top of the cooking pot and seal the pan with the lid ensuring the steam does not escape. Put it over the hot tava/heat diffuser and reduce the heat to low.
  11. Let the rice cook for 12-15 mins on lowest heat on the stove over the griddle. Open the pan after 15 mins. The water should be dried up and the rice should be cooked completely. 
  12. Mix the rice with the wooden spoon. Let it sit for 5 mins before serving hot. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Chicken Karahi

The word Karahi mean "Wok" in Urdu. This dish is traditionally cooked in a wok on a high flame hence called Chicken Karahi. 

My recipe for chicken Karahi has evolved after eating Karahi at a truck hotel on Karachi- Hyderabad Indus super highway in Pakistan many years ago.I never forgot the taste. What struck me the most about that particular Chicken Karahi was the simplicity of the technique and minimum spices it used to make such an unforgettable taste.

My reverse engineering of the recipe led to some success in creating a similar taste at home. I have realized too many factors play a part in creating that important taste. Using a fresh (not frozen and thawed) chicken is the most important one. 

Also the choice of oil, butter and ghee(clarified butter) effects the flavor tremendously. The intensity of flame also effects the taste of final product. I never imagined cooking chicken karahi could become such a technical process.So here we go.


Chicken : ½ Kg Boneless 
Tomatoes: 3-4 medium sized (pureed)
Ginger/Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp
Cumin seed – 1 tsp
Vegetable Oil - 3 tbsp (i prefer sunflower oil)
Butter – same amount as oil. (You can use all Butter or all Ghee- clarified butter)
Crushed Red chilies - 1/4 tsp
Green Chilies - 1 large or 2 medium - cut in small pieces
Crushed Black Peppercorns - 1/4 tsp
Ginger – Julienne - 1 inch
Fresh Coriander- For Garnish


  1. Heat a pan (it should have a lid) and add oil and butter to it. Don’t let the butter burn.
  2. Add chicken and sauté it on medium to high heat so it changes color.
  3. Add cumin seeds and Ginger/Garlic paste. Cook them for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the Tomato puree and cook on Medium heat.
  5. Now add salt, Crushed red Chilies, crushed black peppercorns, half of chopped green chilies. Add half of julienne ginger.
  6. Cover the pan & cook on medium heat till the moisture from tomatoes evaporates and chicken is tender. Mix from time to time.
  7. Now reduce the heat to the lowest and allow the oil/Butter to come out from the sides of the chicken. This should take about 5 mins.
  8. Switch off the stove. Dish out in a serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining Julian Ginger, Green Chilies and Coriander.
  9. Serve hot with flat bread or buttered naan with cucumber salad and yogurt raita on the side.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Yakhni - Pakistani Style Chicken soup

As a kid I was not a big fan of Yakhni. My views on Yakhni have changed over last few years as I started preparing it myself with a technique similar to that of French Onion Soup. There was nothing more comforting than a steaming hot bowl of Yakhni served with lemon in the cold nights of Islamabad and London. Not just that, nothing better helps one recharge while recovering from flu and cold as well. During winter nights Yakhni was served at my mother’s house before dinner. I loved having it with a buttered chappati.  Bukhara at Pearl Continental Rawalpindi particularly served Yakhni just the way I loved it.  

This post was the very first one I did for Gawal Mandi Blog but I never got a chance to actually photograph the process. In the past two weeks, I and the better half have been sick from a pretty vicious flu virus.  Yakhni saved us as we recovered from the fatigue and exhaustion. I have made some changes to my original recipe with two more ingredients which add a gentle balance to the earthy flavor of chicken and onions. 


Chicken (with bones - no skin) – 12 pieces
Onions – 2 medium - sliced
Garlic – 1 whole head 
Ginger – 1 inch long – 1 cm thick
Carrot - 2 Medium - diced
Tomato - 1 Medium - Chopped (I did not use tomato in this batch)
Bay leaves – 3 
Cloves – 7-8
Peppercorns – 1 tsp 
Cinnamon stick – 1 inch long – 2 pieces
Cumin – 1 tsp
Whole dried Coriander - 2 tsps.
Salt – 1 tsp (adjust to taste )
Oil – 3 tbsp
Water – 6 cups

  1. In a stock pot heat the oil, add all the vegetables together and cook till gently brown. 
  2. Add the dry spices and cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Now add the chicken piece and brown them till evenly colored.
  4. Now add salt and 6 cups of water. 
  5. Let it boil over high heat. Once it starts boiling lower the heat and let the liquid simmer for 50 mins with the lid on. You should have about 5 cups of Yakhni. Once done, take it off the stove and let it rest for 20 mins. Check for salt, add more if needed.
  6. Use a strainer to strain the liquid in to a bowl and take out the chicken and shred it in a serving bowl. Set aside.
  7. Let the broth cool down till a layer of fat appears on the top of the bowl. Take a spoon and slowly skim it off. Once done heat it before serving.
  8. Add the hot broth to the bowl containing the shredded chicken pieces. 
  9. Serve it with a squeeze of Lemon Juice.    

  You can freeze it for later use, it tastes better with time. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Thought behind Gawal Mandi

Gawal Mandi quite literally means Milkman's Market. It is a historic and much celebrated food street in the heart of the ancient walled city of Lahore - Pakistan.

To start off with there are plenty of desi food blogs available all over the internet. So why i want to write more about food? The idea came after countless interactions with people while working in London.  I found out that  South Asian curry was the most loved food in Britain. Then i observed that the most loved desi food restaurants belonged to Pakistanis but the food sold there was termed as Indian. Essentially everything which had some hint of spice in it was labeled as Indian food. The food itself had no resemblance to the actual Pakistani  cuisine. I also realized that the "The Indian Food" also had very less resemblance to the original Indian food. The food served there was being customized to a level that bore no resemblance to the original recipes anymore.

That led my thought process in another direction. Food clearly is an extension of a nation's culture. And as i traveled more i realized how Pakistani cuisine is slowly getting absorbed in to a modified version of Indian cuisine even though the two cuisines have their own individual identities. 

Then another thought hit me. The Shan Masalas(Most popular brand name for ready-to-use boxed spices mix from Pakistan sold around the world) have clearly made my generation more comfortable in the kitchen but that has led to the demise of the individuality of the each household's cuisine. Food tastes the same because everyone uses the same standard spices straight out of box. Do you remember the time when your ammi's (mom) food tasted different from your khala's(maternal aunt) food? Both used nani's (maternal grandmother) recipe but used their own proportions of spices which would result in kick-ass food in both households with two delightfully varying tastes. That was the magic of individual's own andazaa and proportions with the spices. This blog by no means is aimed at undermining the admirable service Shan Masalas have provided to my generation ( the brand name here is being used only as an example of discussing any/every standardized boxed spices) but i aim to emphasize the importance of originality and simplicity of our cuisine and understand why it must be preserved in its original form.

The idea is simple. I want to compile and share recipes which represent the depth, simplicity, originality and authenticity of Pakistani cuisine. In my mind it is a way of preserving our heritage and handing it down to   the next generation. I am part of the expatriate Pakistanis clan who live and work away from Pakistan most of their productive adult life. Our kids will never get the chance to experience Pakistan the way we did. Pakistan indeed was a different place back then as well. This is an attempt to document and share a part of our heritage and hand it down. My Google and Amazon research on books about Pakistani Cuisine brought out Madhur Jaffery repeatedly. Do i need to say more as why this should be done?   

I promise that this blog will slowly evolve and improve and cover more things than i am aiming to do at this point in time. I am excited to be finally able to do i have been contemplating this for a while now. I am glad i overcame the inertia.