Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Achari Bhindi - Okra

Okra/Lady Finger - Bhindi is a seasonal vegetable in Pakistan. Its available during the peak summer season and is regularly cooked for lunch in Pakistani household. While posted in various cities around Pakistan, my mother's  home garden would regularly feature okra. As much as i love eating Okra, plucking it from the plants is no fun for a kid. The plant grows pretty tall for a kid to deal with. It also has small spikes all over its stem which can prick your hand. I was never happy to lend a hand in that activity. Ammi likes to use the bhindi that is same size as the index finger. She always insisted that this length ensured that the bhindi was tender and tasted better. 

I confess my favorite way to cook and eat okra is with minced meat or with goat meat. I will share those versions in future. Acharai bhindi/Okra is a delightful way of cooking and enjoying an all vegetarian meal. I am using fresh Okra but frozen okra can be used as well. It just takes a bit longer to cook. 

Achari Bhindi is served with home made chappati - flat bread and salty lassi drink in peak summers.

Okra/Bhindi – ½ kg (cut in small pieces). 
Vegetable Oil – 5 Tbsp
Tomatoes – 2 large (Sliced)
Onions – 1 Large (Sliced)
Lemon – 1 Large
Ginger/Garlic Paste – 1 Tbsp
Cumin/Zeera – 1 tsp
Mustard seed/ Rai – 1 tsp
Nigella Seed/ Kalonji – 1 tsp
Fenugreek Seeds(Methi Dana) - 1 tsp
  1. Heat a pan and add oil.
  2. Add Okra/Bhindi to it and saute on high heat till the stickiness goes away and the okra becomes lightly brown. It will take around 10-15 mins. Fresh Okra will take less time, Frozen one takes longer to get rid of slimy stickiness.
  3. Once the okra is brown, add ginger Garlic Paste and cook it.
  4. Now add sliced tomatoes along with all the spices.
  5.  After 3 minutes add sliced onions and let it cook for 2 more minutes.
  6. Add a half cup of water and mix. Cover the pan and let it simmer for 8-10 mins over low heat. The aim is to soften the tomatoes and onions.
  7. Once the tomatoes and onions are well done, increase the heat to reduce down the extra water  completely. The dish is done once the oil comes out on the sides.
  8. Switch off the stove and add juice of one large lemon. Garnish with fresh green chilies and serve with roti.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Whole Masoor Daal / Kali Daal

Whole masoor daal somehow always reminds me of scorching summer of Pakistan. In ammi's house, it was especially cooked in peak summer season. Coming home from school and finding out our favorite daal was for lunch being served with boiled aromatic basmati rice made the siblings very happy. The daal and rice are usually served with a mango pickle and mint & yogurt chutney. 

I am sharing this recipe for my favorite lentil while remembering my school days in Pakistan, unending summers, 40 degrees centigrade and an afternoon nap.

I have used a pressure cooker to cook this lentil as it reduces cooking time considerably. This lentil can be cooked without a pressure cooker as well which will take around 60 mins if pre-soaked. 

Water – 3 cups (750 ml)
Oil – 3 tbsp
Whole Masoor Lentil – 1 cup
Ginger/Garlic paste – 1 Tbsp
Cumin – 1 Tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Red Chili powder – ½ tsp
Cumin powder – ½ tsp
Dry Mango powder / Amchoor powder – 1 tbsp (optional)

For Tarka : Oil Tempering 
Oil – 3 Tbsp
Garlic – 4-5 cloves
Cumin – ½ tsp
Rai seeds/Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Dry Red chilies – 3 Whole
Green chili – 1-2 chopped
Curry leave – 6-7 fresh (optional)
Coriander leaves – Handful chopped for garnish

  1. Wash & soak Lentil overnight. It will become more than double in size.
  2. Heat oil in pressure cooker and add ginger garlic paste. Let it brown.
  3. Now add cumin seeds, cumin powder, salt and chili powder. Cook for 30 sec.
  4. Drain the lentil and put it in the pressure cooker. Add 3 cups of water. Put cooker’s lid on for pressure.
  5. Overnight soaked lentil will take 10 mins. Ensure heat is medium.
  6. After 10 mins of pressure cooking open the pressure cooker (I do that by putting the pressure cooker under cold water. it condenses the steam in the cooker quickly). The Lentils might require around 3/4th of a cup of more water after pressure cooking. Mix and boil further for 5 mins.
  7. Add the dry mango powder and mix.
  8. Now prepare the Tarka by heating the oil in a frying pan.
  9. Brown the garlic, add cumin, mustard seeds, green chilies, dry red chilies. Pour over the Lentil.
  10. Garnish with Fresh coriander.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Channa Daal & GT Road

Whoever has traveled on GT Road in Pakistan knows what a driver hotel or a Manji hotel is. Four words: Truck drivers, plenty of Manjis(Punjabi word for beds), karak doodh patti and affordably epic desi food. That’s where all the long haul trucks make stops to eat, drink and rest before heading to another stretch of their tiring trucking journeys. The GT Road or The Grand Truck road is South Asia’s oldest and the longest road originally built to link eastern & western regions of sub-continent. The road was rebuilt by Sher Shah Suri in 16th Century. This road is still an integral part of road network in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. 

Before Islamabad – Lahore Motorway was built in 1997; GT Road was the only way to get in to Rawalpindi from any other part of Punjab. My only living grand parents lived in Rawalpindi and regardless of where we were posted in Pakistan due to my father’s job, summer holidays were spent with my grandparents in Rawalpindi meaning traveling on GT Road was a must. At Lala Musa on GT Road (half way between Lahore and Rawalpindi) there was (and still is) a truck restaurant named Mianjee restaurant. The place is known for its Channa Daal(Chickpea Lentil) and parathay. I have never forgotten the taste of that daal/Lentil. It has taken me many attempts in kitchen and a lot of effort to come up with a taste for Channa daal close enough to Mianjee’s daal. 

Here is the recipe. This version of daal is served with home made chappati - flat bread or Tandoori Roti.

Channa Daal (Chickpeas Lentil) – 1 cup (washed and soaked in water overnight)
Onions – 2 finely chopped
Tomatoes – 3 medium sized (Pureed with 2 green chilies)
Ginger/Garlic Paste – 1 Tbsp
Cumin (zeera) – 1 tsp (Partially crushed in pastel mortar)
Cinnamon – 2-3 sticks
Black Cardamom – 2
Dried Red Chilies – 2 (whole)
Curry Leaves – 6-8 fresh or 4-5 dried
Red chili Powder – ½ Tsp
Turmeric – ¼ Tsp
Salt – ¾ Tsp (Adjust more as per taste)
Dried Kasuri Methi – ½ tsp
Oil – 3 Tbsp
Water – 500 ml
For Tarka – Butter, Onions, Cumin, mustard seeds, green chilies, curry leaves, Coriander.

Soak 1 cup of Chickpea Lentil in water over night. It will swell up and become more than 2 ½ cups. Drain the water before cooking.
  1. In a pan heat oil. Add onions and let them brown.
  2. Now add ginger garlic paste, Cumin, Dried whole chilies, Cinnamon and cardamoms.
  3. Fry till ginger garlic paste becomes golden.
  4.  Now add tomato puree and cook for 3 – 4 mins.
  5. Then add salt, chili powder and turmeric and cook for another 2 mins.
  6. Add chickpea Lentil and mix.
  7. Now add 500 ml of water and half of curry leaves and let the lentils boil on high heat. 
  8. As soon as it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cover the pan for 30-35 mins.
  9. Mix from time to time and check the amount of water as well as the tenderness of the Lentil.
  10.  This lentil takes a long time to cook and soaking it overnight considerably reduces the cooking time.  If the lentil still has a bite after 30 mins of cooking then add 200 ml of water. Let it simmer on low flame till it is completely cooked and Lentil is soft.
  11. Leave some liquid as the gravy. The Lentil will soak it up later as it cools down.
  12. Now sprinkle Dried Kasuri Methi and mix the daal.
  13. Dish the daal/Lentil in to a bowl.
  14. Do a tarka on daal with the ingredients mentioned earlier. Butter is the magic ingredient here.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Karri Pakora

Karri is loved in almost every household in Pakistan. But the cooking procedure can intimidate even the seasoned and skilled cooks. I learnt it while watching my mother cook it in her kitchen. But my love for Karri goes back to my barri ammi’s (Maternal Grandmother) cooking skill and generosity. In her house the rule was simple. Karri was never cooked in medium or moderate quantity. It was always cooked as if 30 people are coming over for dinner. Bari Ammi would send a bowl each to all her friends and relatives living close by. Hence her Karri was not just loved because it was delicious but because she would remember everyone around her while making karri. It is strange how such insignificant observations shape a young mind. What it did to me was that till date I have never cooked karri for myself alone. My Karri always has share for my friends. So cooking Karri is more like a religious ritual to me than cooking a slightly procedure intensive food. 

This recipe was a challenge for me to compile as I am used to of cooking Karri in larger quantities. It took a bit of work to scale it down. Karri is a very simple dish to make. It has two layers of cooking procedure. The trick is to finish making gravy first and add the pakoras later. But the cooking preparation should be done before hand so there is not a long gap between cooking the gravy and adding pakoras to it. The reason: The curry gets thicker as it cools down; you need to ensure Pakoras are added before the gravy cools down and thickens.

 So here we go.

Ingredients- For Gravy:

Chickpea flour (Baisan) – 1 cup
Yogurt – 500 gram
Oil – ½ cup
Onion – 3 medium (chopped)
Tomatoes – 3-4 medium sized (puree them in a blender)
Ginger/Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Cumin (zeera) – ½ tsp
Dry red chilies – 2-3
Green Chilies – 1-2
Curry Leaves – 4-6 Fresh or 3-4 dry
Salt – 1 tsp (adjust it according to your taste)
Chilli powder – 1 tbsp
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Water – 3 cups

Procedure – For Gravy:
  1. In a blender/liquidizer pour 500 grams of yogurt, 500 ml(2 cups) of water and 1 cup of chickpea flour/baisan. Blend it. This is the mixture which will make the gravy.
  2. Heat oil in a cooking pot. Now add onions and let them brown.
  3. As the onions color add ginger garlic paste, cumin(zeera), dried red chilies.
  4. As soon as the ginger/garlic becomes golden, add tomato puree, salt, red chili powder and turmeric.
  5. Now cook till tomatoes are well done and the oil separates on the sides.
  6. Now add the yogurt/chickpea flour/water mixture to the cooking pot.
  7. Pay attention to the smell. You will smell raw chickpea flour for around 10 mins. Keep stirring all the time (this requires effort or it can burn at the bottom). The gravy needs to boil for atleast 30 mins on medium flame before the raw smell disappears.
  8. Add more water to it as it boils (an extra cup of water or more). The gravy’s consistency will change in to that of hot custard. It should cover the back of the spoon with a thin film.
  9. Now leave the gravy on the lowest flame on your stove and cover with a lid. It should stay hot and not boil or the water will disappear.
  10. Time to make pakoras.

Ingredients - For Pakoras

Chickpea flour/Baisan – 1 cup
Baking powder – 1 tsp
Cumin seed/zeera – 1 tsp(crushed in pestle mortar)
Dry coriander seeds – 1 tbp (crushed in pestle mortar)
Onion – 1 small – chopped
Salt – 1 tsp
Crushed red chilies – ½ tsp (adjust if you want pakoras to be spicy)
Fresh Coriander – chopped (a hand full)
Fresh Mint – Chopped (a hand full)
Green chilies – 1 tsp (finely chopped)
Water – half cup
Oil for deep frying the pakoras

Procedure – For Pakoras

All of us have made pakoras in our kitchens a million times. This is no different. The tricky part of the Karri is already done.
  1. Put a wok/frying pan on stove with plenty of oil for deep frying. The oil must be hot before the batter hits it.
  2. Put Chickpea flour/baisan in a bowl, add baking powder, salt, crushed red chilies, cumin (zeera) and crushed coriander seeds.
  3. Now slowly add water and whisk the batter. It should be thick. Be careful with the water. Put less water as the fresh onion will also make the batter liquidy.
  4. Once it is mixed, now add onions, green chilies, coriander, mint. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Make the pakoras as soon as the batter is mixed. Keep the oil really hot. If the batter is left to sit, it will become liquidy and the pakoras will become flat.
  6. Spoon the mixture in hot oil one by one and make them golden brown on both sides.
  7. Remove from oil and drain them on a kitchen paper. Now put them in the hot gravy immediately.
  8. Mix and cover.
  9. Fry the next batch of pakoras and add to the gravy.
  10. Usually I find myself making a 2nd round of batter for pakoras as the company around me eats half the pakoras before i can be put them in the gravy. If you find your self in a similar situation just make another batch of chickpea flour batter and fry some more pakoras.
  11. Leave the pakoras in the gravy for 15-20 mins before dishing karri out. The pakoras will absorb the liquid from the gravy and will become soft.  Dish it in a large bowl and do a tarka with onions, zeera and oil. Add fresh green chilies, mint and coriander to garnish. I love eating it with Boiled Basmati rice.

I must confess I love eating karri and rice with my hands! Enjoy the Karri!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Allo Methi & Islamabad winters

Methi or Fenugreek grows in sub-continent in abundance and hence is part of daily diet during winter season. It is dried and used year around in cooking. It is sold in the super markets under the name “Kasuri Methi” and usually one will find a box of this in every kitchen in Pakistan. 

My love for Potato Fenugreek Masala - Allo Methi did not start while growing up in Pakistan. I don’t remember eating it in my parent’s house. My mother never cooked it. The only time she used Fresh Methi was while making traditional spinach. Methi was used as an additional ingredient to extenuate the flavor of spinach. My stay in London introduced me to this very delightful Allo Methi…and oh boy this love just continues to grow.

On my recent winter trip to Islamabad- Pakistan my mother in law showed me her method of making it. Her technique led to a better tasting final product. I am sharing her recipe. This can be eaten with Fresh Chappati - Flat bread or a Paratha - Buttered flat bread.


Fresh Methi – 1 kg (Use green leaves. Only use stalks if they are very tender)
Potatoes – 1 kg Diced in medium size
Tomatoes – 2-3 medium sized (chopped)
Onions – 2 medium sized (chopped)
Ginger – 1 tsp. (cut in small pieces)
Garlic – 5-6 cloves (cut in small pieces)
Coriander – half cup (optional)
Oil – 5 tbsp.
Salt – to taste
Turmeric – ½ tsp.
Red chilli powder – ¾ tsp (adjust if you want it spicy)


  1. To prepare Methi , take the leaves off the stalks. Only use stalks if they are very tender. Cut the leaves and the stalks in small size.
  2. Boil the methi is 3-4 cups of water. Methi has a slightly bitter taste. Boiling it eradicates its bitterness. Boil is for 10-12 mins and then stain it. Drain the liquid.
  3. In a pan add onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, salt, chili powder and turmeric. Add 2 glasses of water and let this cook and simmer over medium heat till everything becomes mashed. The liquid should reduce to less than half.
  4. Now add the Methi and diced potatoes. Mix it. Also add Oil and now cook it on medium to low heat till the potatoes are cooked and the liquid dries completely. You will be able to see oil at the corners of the pan.