Friday, 31 July 2020

Vengna nu achar - pickled aubergines/eggplants

Vengna nu Achar
Pickled aubergines or eggplants

It was a ritual to pickle most vegetables in season. Parsi food was no different. An abundance of locally grown vegetable that had the remotest chance of going bad were generally pickled to prolong its life and offer it as a side over the longer harsher winter months. 
This pickle with all the wonderful #parsifood flavours is no different.
A recipe shared by my friend and superb cook Zenia who takes delight in absolute perfection. While I have tweaked it to include the authentic ingredients used centuries ago, I hope you will all enjoy it at leisure. 





This recipe will make just over 1/2 kg or a lb of pickle.

500 gm/ 1.1 lb eggplant 
Grape seed oil
1 tbsp crushed fresh ginger 
1 tbsp crushed fresh garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp whole black mustard seeds
12 curry leaves
1 tsp red chillie powder 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 green chillie slit
3 tbsp fruit vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp crushed jaggery

Wash and dice the eggplant in small equal cubes.
Heat about 3 tbsp oil and add the eggplant, stirring it gently. Lower the heat and allow it to cook for about 15 minutes or until you can see it is soft. It should not turn to mush.
With a slotted spoon remove it from the pot. In the oil add the ginger garlic salt mustard seeds curry leaves, mix well and add the chillie and turmeric powders.
Finally add 3 tbsp fruit vinegar and a piece of jaggery to get the sour and sweetness to this.
Mix the eggplant with the cooked masala mixture. Top with the green chillies. The residue of the heat will cook the chillies and keep them firm.


Tips

You may increase the number of green chillies if you prefer it hot. 
Adding crushed red chillie instead of red chillie powder is an option.
To preserve it for longer, pour a couple of tablespoons of hot grape seed oil after you bottle it. 
Fruit vinegar refers to apple cider vinegar or any other made of fruit.
Jaggery refers to pure cane sugar that is unrefined.
Fresh curry leaves are a must in this pickle.
While picking an eggplant always take the one that feels light and is firm. This helps it being with less sacks of seed.






















Tuesday, 21 April 2020

World Central Kitchen - a fundraiser








Blogging is all about storytelling. Instead of people being the center of attention on my blog food is the star. Recipes unfold the story it holds within each picture. 
We all have a story to share.It just unravels in many different ways. Here is mine.

Today I am using my blogging platform to reach out to share a heartwarming story of the human race, set in the 21st century where people are dying, from an unknown virus. It is relentless, killing the young and the old, the rich and the famous and everyone else in its path. 
Except it is so very real as it is terrifying.

People have always needed people - now more than ever before. So many people are in dire need. Simply in dire need of food to survive. leaving their reasons aside let us focus on the angels who make this possible.

Among many in this world I came across World Central Kitchen - the brainchild of Chef Jose` Andre`. A true citizen of the world who keeps no borders and has no boundaries.
I collaborated with them and have pledged to share 50% of all sales made through amazon of my self published cookbook The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders.

Please may I request you to go ahead and buy a copy to help us help them do what they do best. To tell them we are on their side proud to be a supporter. Each sale is important and will help achieve the goal.

Thank you in advance. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay blessed.
Niloufer Mavalvala. 

Links to what is Parsi food ?
sneak peak to this cookbook
An introduction to the cookbook
Reviews

Caramel Flan


We are currently running a fundraiser to help World Central Kitchen. Please join in if you can.

Caramel Cheese Flan




In a pan combine   
4 ozs of sugar
2 ozs of cold water

dissolve on a low heat, mixing it constantly so it does not boil before every crystal is melted.

Once all the sugar is melted, boil it until it becomes the colour you desire. A golden amber will be sweet while a dark colour will be bitter sweet.
Immediately pour it into a ready 9 inch cake pan.
Set aside.

In a liquidiser mix together
11 ozs milk
10 ozs condensed milk….1 can
7-8 ozs evaporated milk
1-2 ozs sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
 Optionally add a tbsp of rum or cognac
Blend  briefly
With the machine running add
8 ozs of cream cheese in small pieces at room temperature
4 large eggs at room temperature only to combine do not over beat.
Pour into the prepared caramel pan.
Preheat oven to 350 and place it on a tray of hot water. Lower the temperature to 300 degrees after first 5 minutes and let it set for 45 minutes. It should be firm but wobbly. Shut the oven and keep it inside for a good hour to cool down and set properly. Remove, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
Over turn on a platter and serve cold with berries.

Tips

This can also be made in a 10" pan.

A little jiggle in the center when cooking time is over ensures the flan will not be overbaked. 

To read about an ancient cuisine you can purchase my cookbooks called The World of Parsi Cooking; Food Across Borders and The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine.  

Photo courtesy Sheriar Hirjikaka

Plum Jam

Plum Jam

Karachi has some of the most wonderful fruit available fresh all year long. We learnt to eat seasonally and looked forward to the variety from month to month. Summer was hot and humid, the heat often unbearable but the array of delicious fruit one could look forward to made it all well worth it. 
Plums were delicious. Packed with flavour and just right. Like with all other fruit the abundance of it left some over ripe which made us cook it and make jam for the months ahead. It was a favourite. 


The beauty of this jam lies in the fact that its so simple to make.
The garnet colour is delightful.


The beautiful garnet colour of dark fresh plums makes this jam worth the effort.



Makes 1 1/2 kg or 3 lb of jam

1.2 kg- 2.5lb fresh plums
550 gm - 1.1/4 lb sugar
juice of one lemon or lime
1/4 tsp salt

Wash the plums well.
Place the plums in a pot and fill it with fresh cold water - halfway to the plums. Bring it to a boil, cover and allow it to cook on a medium flame for about 45 minutes. Turn off the stove, wait for ten minutes and add the sugar. Mix it properly until all the sugar melts making sure every crystal of sugar has melted. The heat will be good enough to melt it without the help of the stove. Add the lemon juice and salt. Mix it well and bring it to a running boil. Cook this uncovered until the right consistency is desired. It generally takes 30 to 40 minutes.
Fill in sterilised jars and cool completely.
Refrigerate up to 1 year.

Tips
Keep the plums whole with the skin. The boiling process cooks and softens it enough to break with the back of a spoon. you can remove the stones at the end of the process or leave them all in one of the bottles.

My family used to add 2 tablespoons of good salted butter to add to the flavours. But it will make it cloudy! 

I often add 1/4 cup of a Japanese plum wine available locally. 

To read about an ancient cuisine you can purchase my cookbooks called The World of Parsi Cooking; Food Across Borders and The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine.

Photo credit Niloufer Mavalvala.

Fish Basket

We are currently fundraising World Central Kitchen. Please join us if you can.


Fish Baskets

Making it baked fish style in a flat dish or prepping it as fish basket this is a typical #parsidish many of us growing up in Karachi enjoyed. A delightful must have dinner party platter where great fish was found in abundance and always enjoyed by the community.  My aunt Hilla was so fond of this and made it ever so often that we all secretly waited to eat at her place rather then make it for ourselves. A generous lady with a heart of gold who simply never denied us anything.
The basket recipes shared here are a combination of recipes from aunts Villie and Zarin  put together.
Now for those of us living away from home the ''basket'' is messy to make - so its easier to get alternates. Not the same flaky light crunchy taste but adopt and adapt is the order of the day.  I share the recipe in detail for the adventurous among us. 



These fish baskets are made in store prepared baskets made from filo.
The texture and flavour of the original home-made beer battered basket is tastier. 


For a 13 x 9 dish to bake or 24 to 36 baskets to fill 
In a stock pot boil together until fish is half cooked
3 cups water
1 ½ kg fish in medium pieces
1 1/2 tsp salt
A mixture of finely chopped vegetables……preferably in a food processor if not sieving the fish stock
2 medium onions
1 cup fresh coriander
4 medium tomatoes
6-10 green chillies

Remove fish with a slotted spoon and place in 2 shallow gratin dishes. With a fork break the fish while still warm into smaller chunks.
Keep on boiling the vegetables of the fish soup until the liquid is reduced to half.
Make a light white sauce with
4 ozs butter
6 tbsps flour
Add the fish stock and bring to a boil. You can sieve it to keep the sauce 'clear' or use the vegetables in it. Keep the consistency light.
Add as needed 1 to 2 cups of milk
Check for seasoning and put the fish back into the ready sauce. Spoon into the ready baskets. Garnish with tiny bits of beetroot.
Serve immediately.

For the basket - Dependant on the size it should make 24 baskets.

In a bowl mix together 
1 cup flour + 1/2 tsp salt
Add 2 lightly beaten eggs and mix it with a whisk until smooth. Slowly add in a cup of chilled beer folding it in with the whisk. This will make it light and airy much like a tempura batter. Dip a HOT metal spoon in to see if it coats well. 

As an alternate to beer use chilled soda or chilled perrier water.  

In a small wok or karhai, heat safflo oil. The level of the oil must be higher than the gadget you use to prepare the baskets.
Dip the metal ladle ( a hot ladle helps the baskets to fall of easily) into the batter and straight into the oil. It will sizzle and take a minute to cook. Remove from the oil and tap it off. Keep each basket individually on a tray that can go into the oven.
Once ready to eat,fill them with the fish mixture and place it in a preheated hot oven to reheat for 5 minutes.


fish basket ladle
fish basket ladle with a long handle to prevent burns. 

Tips

The fish mixture can be baked as 'baked fish' keeping the vegetables in the fish stock. You can also add two beaten eggs to it folding it in before you bake it in the oven at 325 F/150C until a lovely golden crust forms on top. Generally baked fish is placed into a 13 x 9 rectangle glass dish to bake. 



My baked fish with all the vegetables finely chopped etc. 



If you are using this recipe to fill the baskets it is my opinion to definitely 'sieve' the fish stock and remove all the vegetables. You can then rough chop the vegetables by hand as they will be discarded. 
Using the fish bones and skin develops the full flavour and any bones will be sieved out.

You will need a ladle that is long and the handle is not disruptive to the basket.
The ladle  on the top will work to make perfect round baskets while the brown wooden handle has screws on it which will break the edge of the baskets. 



To read about an ancient cuisine you can purchase my cookbooks called The World of Parsi Cooking; Food Across Borders and The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine.  

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Assamese Mustard Fish Curry




Fish Curry with Mustard


Traditionally thin, tangy and just a bit spicy this Assamese fish curry is an adaptation of my cousin Pria's family recipe. Recalling one of the most delightful dinners we shared a decade ago I felt the need to prepare it and relive the delectable flavours. This fish curry is simple to prepare and served with boiled white rice. 
Sharing food with family is perhaps the greatest asset that mankind has to offer. Embrace it with love and affection. The simplest of joys brings the greatest of pleasure. 


A fish curry with layers of flavour

A thicker gravy if you prefer!

 Serves 6

4 tsp mustard seeds or 2 tsp Indian mustard powder - dalaili Rai      
1 lb/ 500 gm fish fillets  - preferably white fish Tilapia pomfret, haddock, cod loins
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
4 green chillies split
3 tsp oil
1 finely chopped onion
half-inch cube ginger peeled and chopped fine
1 finely chopped medium sized tomato
1 cup water
optional 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh corriander/ cilantro 

Prepare mustard paste by soaking mustard seeds in a small bowl with enough water to cover completely for 2 hours. Drain water and grind it into a paste in a blender adding water as necessary. It should be a fine, foamy and very thin liquid paste.

Prepare the fish by cutting them into desired size. Coat them with the turmeric and salt. Leave aside until at room temperature. In a skillet shallow fry the fish to a golden brown. Remove the fish and keep aside. 
         Continue in the same skillet to saute the onions until soft. Let it cool for a few minutes. Grind the ginger, tomato and the saute`d  onions. Tip it back into the skillet and add a cup of water and the green chillies. Cook until the mixture is cooked through and to your desired consistency. Place the fish in.  Slowly pour the mustard paste . Use a strainer if its not smooth. Simmer for a few minutes. Taste for salt and add the corriander leaves if desired. Squeeze the juice of half a fresh lemon. Serve it hot with boiled white rice.

Tips

You can cook the fish in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for 20 minutes. Turn it over to ensure a golden brown crust on both sides. Using a parchment paper and do not overlap the pieces of fish.

If you are unable to get mustard seeds use the mustard powder - dalaili rai. Mix it vigorously with warm water and leave it to intensify in flavour. 
Don't get deterred by searching for the right mustard, give it a shot with prepared dijon mustard if you must. 




To read about an ancient cuisine you can purchase my cookbooks called The World of Parsi Cooking; Food Across Borders and The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine.


Photo Credit : NIloufer Mavalvala

Citrus Marmalade


Marmalade

There are plenty of methods to make jams. Marmalades from the jam family, is different because it is made up wit the whole fruit and generally only used for citrus fruits. 
Originating from the Portuguese word marmelada it is currently associated with a typical British breakfast. Here is my family recipe made with a grapefruit, several variety of oranges like clementine, mandarin and navel oranges which gives it a wonderful bold flavour.






Bitter Marmalade
Makes 4 kg of Marmalade

3 kg mixed citrus fruits - oranges, mandarins, clementine, grapefruit, sweet lemon
1 1/2 kg sugar
1/4 tsp salt
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup of whisky, vodka or gin 

Wash the fruit  and boil the whole fruit for 40 minutes. 
Remove the fruit - discard the water. Slice each fruit horizontally, remove the seeds.
In a food processor either pulse the cooked fruit or push it through your slicer blade.
Keeping it as thick or thin cut as desired.

In a deep thick pot pour the sugar, top it with the warm cut fruit. Add the salt and lemon juice.  Mix it well. On a low flame mix the jam until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Keep brushing the sides with cold water to clear the sugar crystals. Bring it all to a rolling boil, keep uncovered and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. The mixture will be sticky. If you like a tight jam, boil it further.

Optionally, add the whisky, gin or vodka.
Bring to a boil for 5 minutes and remove from the fire. Place in a sterilised jar. Store in a cool place.

Tips

This marmalade  recipe is for slightly bItter flavours.
For a medium marmalade add 2 kgs of sugar. 
For a sweet marmalade add 3 kgs of sugar. The addition of more sugar will take longer to melt and longer to cook it to a required thickness.

Thin skinned fruit makes the best marmalade.

To read about an ancient cuisine you can purchase my cookbooks called The World of Parsi Cooking; Food Across Borders and The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine.

Photo courtesy Niloufer Mavalvala

Brown Butter

 Brown Butter


The significance of using brown butter can never be overestimated. It adds to the colour, texture and enhances the flavour of the food. The process of preparing the brown butter creates a nutty caramelisation transforming the solids to perfect bites of salty droplets of goodness.

Parsi food has included this method of butter in its delicacies for centuries, as have other regions of the old world like Syria, Iraq, Iran etc.
Daar ni pori, the badam pak and mava nu cake are the common ones that use brown butter in their recipes.
Ghee is often replaced with brown butter as an alternate.

It is tried and tested to use as a simple "sauce" over ravioli, white fish, bread and butter pudding, banana bread, fry steak and eggs in or prepare a vegetarian rice palau. Topping it as a tarka on dal/lentils is commonplace. 
Beurre noisette (literal translation being hazelnut butter) is the French way of including brown butter in their pastry and cakes. They are often known to use it as a savoury sauce over omelettes, chicken, fish, pasta and winter vegetables.

It can be safely stored in the refrigerator for a month. 

Kofta Curry

Kofta Curry

The word Kofta arises from the Persian word Koftan meaning to pound-ground as one does to make the meatball from ground meat. The word "rissole'' can be the English reference to what one is preparing.  

While there are a variety of Koftas, from plain meatballs, to ones that are filled over a boiled egg or half of an egg to keep it smaller - called Nargisi Kofta. The Kashmiri Kofta is often sausage shaped and pan fried in oil infused with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves to add flavour.  Koftas are served with yogurt, raita and naan. 

Yet the Kofta curry is very different. These koftas are often cooked in the curry itself allowing them to be soft and supple, as they should be, melt in the mouth and silky cream like to taste. Delicately flavoured they are  an absolute foodie delight. 
Growing up I only ever remember having the perfect kofta curry in my neighbours home in London. An elderly aunt, Roshan aunty was a friend of the family, an exceptional cook with a heart of gold. I may have been just 18 but can literally recall the flavours. When I asked her she said, its always the ingredients. The meat and the malai- cream makes it special. 
While I am unsure if she will find my recipe exacting, its the closest to hers I have been able to capture. 

Traditionally beef is used but she used lamb and so have I. The curry one finds is a tomato based yogurt infused. But I have followed my dream of getting it like hers. 


A malai kofta curry with saffron rice


1/2 kg or 1 lb lamb or beef ground meat
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp cumin powder
8 tbsp milk powder or thick cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red chillie powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masalo


Curry

Grind together 

3/4 cup sweet cashews
1 cup of tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes
2 green chillies
1 cup fried onion
6 full stalks of corriander 
1 stalk fresh mint
1/2 tsp garam masalo
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
2 dry large red chillies or 1 tsp red chilli powder

Cook this in a pan for 10 minutes until the oils separate. 

Add 2 cups of coconut water, mix well and bring it to a boil. 

Serve hot with white boiled rice, coconut rice, saffron rice or lemon rice. 

Tips

Using milk powder helps it bind easily and yet once soaked into the curry the kofta remains soft and succulent.  

Once the kofta is browned all over, cover the pan to allow it to steam cook. This allows it to cook and keep soft at the same time.

If you prefer a non nut based dish, use crushed sunflower seeds. Chestnut flour is also an alternate. 



To read about an ancient cuisine you can purchase my cookbooks called The World of Parsi Cooking; Food Across Borders and The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine.

Photo Credit : Niloufer Mavalvala






Spiced Lamb with Orange Rice


Spiced Lamb Curry
served with
Rice cooked in chicken broth and orange juice


Childhood memories are often made up of food. We relate events and occasions, both happy and sad ones, to what we ate. I am no different and associate certain moments with the aromas of our buzzing kitchen. Cheese cakes were for dinner parties, brownies for weekend treats. Rice was a must for lunch - we ate a full lunch as a family every day of the week.
This particular curry is very mild on the spice and bursts with subtle flavour. Nothing close to a Parsi food dish nor even an Indian one. The rice compliments the gentle yet asserting flavours. Like ours Its perfect for the family that has members who love eating a mild curry but love bold flavours. The green chillies are for the other members who need to have their meal spicier. It works well. This is my mother's recipe which she still considers a favourite  and  my youngest loves it too. 



Lamb potatoes cooked in yogurt served with orange rice


Flavourful rice cooked in broth and fresh orange juice



Serves 6

Spiced Lamb Curry

2 tbsp butter or oil
1 1/2 lb  / 750 gm pieces of lamb/mutton/goat with bone
2 tbsp butter or oil
1 cup of fried crushed onions
1  1/2 tsp garlic 
 1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp corriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
6 whole green cardamom pods, broken
1/2 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne
2 tsp paprika
2 large green chillies 

1 cup thick yogurt + 1/ cup water + pinch of sugar+ pinch of salt

3 tsp lemon juice
1/2 lb /250 gm potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into chunks
3 large skinned tomatoes in quarters


In a large pot heat the oil and brown the pieces of meat all over. Add the fried onions and the garlic, ginger salt, corriander, cumin, cayene, paprika powders. Then throw in the cracked cardamom and slit green chillies. 

Add in the yogurt mix. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. 
Add the lemon juice, potatoes and tomatoes. Cook for another 40 minutes until everything is tender.
Serve immediately with the orange rice.


Rice cooked in chicken broth and orange juice.


Serves 4 to 6


Orange Rice

1 1/4 cup rice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp butter or oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup orange juice
4 finely sliced green onions all the way down to the greens
zest of one orange and one lemon

Wash the rice, Add it to a pot. Add all the other ingredients, bring it to a boil until you can see the layer of rice. Cover, lower the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes, Cooking the rice until tender and flaky.
Garnish it with orange segments, almonds and fresh mint or corriander. 

Tips

You may wish to buy freshly squeezed orange juice instead of prepackaged stuff.
Adding adobe chillies if you don't have paprika works.
Adjust the salt if your chicken stock is salty. 



To read about an ancient cuisine you can purchase my cookbooks called The World of Parsi Cooking; Food Across Borders and The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine.



Photo courtesy Niloufer Mavalvala