Archives for category: Poultry

Things are hectic lately.  We’re about to move, which is always a stressful time. Yes, finally, I am moving to a big city, Toronto. My husband used to live there, so it won’t be too hard adjusting.  Despite all my complaining about where I live now, I am going to miss it.  My apartment feels so homey, anyone who visits says the same thing.  I’m getting sentimental about leaving.  There are so many things I’m going to miss, which I will post about later.

This was the first city my husband and I lived in together, where we moved past the newlywed stage of marriage and have come into our own.  We have our own routine here, it’s not the most exciting life or in any way cosmopolitan, but we managed.  But there’s always a time to move on, I guess.  I don’t want to sound like a downer, I am very happy we’re moving.  I’m just the type of person who gets attached to places.  I lived in the same house until I was 21.

Anyhow, my main point was that things are hectic around here.  When things are hectic, shami kebabs are a lifesaver, emergency food, if you will. They freeze so well and last for months.  I must admit, the process of making them is somewhat grueling, but it’s not so bad.  I try to always have them on hand because it never hurts to serve an extra dish, especially for a last-minute gathering.

I am smiling right now, thinking about in Pakistan there are always unexpected guests, an occasion where shami kebabs come in very handy.  This concept would not really fly in North America, people showing up unannounced and expecting to be served something substantial to eat. Someone usually has to rush to the local bakery to get samosas, various biscuits, and puff pastry patties.  Then, all the food is placed on a special trolley for guests and then it is rolled out with a teapot covered in a tea cozy and all the bakery goodies.  Meanwhile, shami kebabs are frying up in the kitchen because they are ready in the freezer.

Whether or not you eat shami kebabs as an emergency food, they are delicious and one of my all-time favorites.  Since we’re going to be moving and there will be little time to cook, we’ll be eating a lot of shami kebabs.  All the hard work is worth it, trust me.

Chicken Shami Kebabs

Makes about 25-30 kebabs

Ingredients

for cooking the chicken:

water, as needed

2 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, in large chunks*

1 medium sized red onion, roughly sliced, no need to be precise, just in chunks

half a bulb of garlic, peeled

2 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped

1 cup yellow split pea lentils (chanay ki dal) soaked overnight and washed

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

3 black cardamoms

5 green cardamoms

10-12 dried red chilies, use less for less spicy

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

2 bay leaves

salt, to taste

after cooking the chicken you will need:

1 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chopped mint

2-3 green chilies, chopped

1/2 a red onion, chopped

4 scallions, white and light green parts, chopped

2 eggs

oil for frying

Method

First, cook the yellow lentils in plenty of boiling water until soft, after 30-45 minutes.  Set aside.

In a large pan, add the chicken, a little oil (if necessary), and all of the items listed (including spices) under the “for cooking the chicken” ingredients.   Also, add a little water, about 1/2 a cup.  Cook the chicken on medium heat for 15 minutes and then turn the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 45 more minutes, or until the chicken is very tender and all the water has evaporated.  You may need to add more water to the pot if it evaporates too quickly, just make sure you cook until the chicken is tender and the onion, garlic, and ginger are very soft.  Remove the cinnamon stick, black cardamom, and bay leaves, all the other spices will grind in the food processor.

Once the chicken is cooled, allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes.  After it has cooled slightly, transfer it to a large food processor with the cooked lentils and pulse until they are combined. Transfer the chicken and lentil mixture to a large bowl and add in the chopped cilantro, mint, scallions, green chilies, and red onion.  It’s time to get messy and crack in the 2 eggs and mix it all together with your hands.  Once everything is combined, form the chicken into round kebabs, about 3 inches in diameter.  You should end up with about 25-30 kebabs.

Next, in a frying pan heat some oil on medium heat and fry the kebabs until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.  Cook as many as you want and you can freeze the kebabs that are not fried for up to 3-4 months.

Variation: Instead of adding the egg inside the kebab mixture, before frying you can dip each kebab into beaten egg and fry the kebabs with an egg coating.  Another slight variation, is that you can grind all the spices that you cook with the chicken i.e. before adding them to the pot grind them all in a spice grinder and cook the chicken with the ground spices.  However,  I just grind them in the food processor with the chicken after it has cooked, removing the black cardamom, cinnamon stick, and, bay leaves.  I find that the other spices grind easily, as they have become soft after cooking.  It’s a personal preference.

To reheat frozen shami kebabs: leave frozen kebabs out at room temperature for 30 minutes and fry as usual.

You can serve the shami kebabs as a snack or a side dish with green chutney /chili garlic sauce or with dal and basmati rice.  I also like to eat them with parathas.  A popular street food in Pakistan is bun kebab, which is also made with shami kebabs.

*I usually use beef stewing meat, which you can use, just cook the yellow lentils with the beef rather than separately and adjust the cooking time and water according to the meat you use.  Beef will take longer.  I used chicken thighs here because I had some in my freezer.  I imagine you could also use chicken breast as well.  Some people also cook the meat and lentils in a pressure cooker, but I don’t have one so I can’t give instructions on that method.

Shami Kebab recipes on other sites:

Chachi’s Kitchen

Passionate About Baking

Journey Kitchen

Fauzia’s Pakistani Recipes

Epicurious

The crisp fall breeze has arrived and with it yields the vibrant hues of Fall.  These colors and flavors are different than summer and allow us to cozy up with our favorite blanket and herald in the coming of Fall.  If you ask me, Autumn is far too short.  In these months, I often make roast chicken.  Roast chicken is simple enough and not very controversial.  However, for me, it reminds me of childhood and being Pakistani in a sea of non-Pakistanis.  Eating roast chicken would make me fit in.  This time of year meant a new year at school, new friends, and new teachers.

I don’t know if when you were children, if kids would ask each other what they had for dinner.  In my circle of friends, we did.  I don’t know what the case was: early foodies or a lack of conversation topics.  You would think I would want to discuss Jordan Knight of The New Kids on the Block and my stonewashed denim jacket covered with huge and gaudy pins pictured with him or those other things I obsessed about like bubble necklaces or snap bracelets.

As a child, I was on the radar about food.  There were times I would feel embarrassed and tell people I had a roast chicken for dinner, I didn’t want to be different.  I didn’t want to explain what chicken salan was or that we ate flatbreads with our meal or that I ate goat meat.  “Oh, the horror,” I thought.  I looked at other children’s chicken salad sandwiches on pumpernickel and made my mom duplicate those lunches for me.

I was the diversity in my school, I lived in a small town in Rhode Island.  I can’t say that anyone was particularly mean to me, despite my bushy eyebrows and my obvious difference in culture.  I can’t even convey to you how relieved I was when my mother let me get my eyebrows threaded.

I wasn’t embarrassed for long, I found the kids I went to school with thought these differences were actually cool.  We would wear my shalwar kameez and play Aladdin (how Orientalist of us, I know).  I could tell them what I actually had for dinner and they would love to try all the spicy and different dishes my parents would make when they came over.  There was no more pretending that we ate Kraft macaroni and cheese every night for dinner.

Through all this, roast chicken, Pakistani or not (it can most certainly be made Pakistani) is a comforting dish for me.  It is a reminder of a happy childhood and that although Pakistani food is something that is part of me, this roast chicken also brings out warm memories.

Autumn Roast Chicken

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

1- 3-4 pound free-range organic chicken

2 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter (if you are in Ontario, try Stirling Creamery butter)

2-3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 cup parsley leaves

15 sprigs of chives

2 tablespoons of thyme leaves

1 bulb of garlic, peeled

2 medium-sized onions, roughly sliced

3 lemons, 2 sliced and 1 juiced

1 cup dry white wine

plenty of kosher salt and black pepper

extra green herbs for the cavity of the chicken

Method

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Make sure your chicken is clean and patted dry, season it generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Tie the legs together and tuck the wings under the body.  Make the herb spread for the chicken by combining the butter, olive oil, half the garlic cloves, lemon juice, parsley, chives, thyme, salt and pepper into a food processor and pulse the ingredients into a paste.

Place the chicken into a large oven proof baking dish.  Rub and massage the paste into the chicken and carefully lift up the skin and rub it under the skin.  Make sure you have rubbed it in well.

Place half the lemon slices and under the skin and fill the cavity with 1 onion, the lemon slices, half of the remaining garlic, and leftover green herbs.    Scatter the other onion, garlic, and herbs around the chicken in the baking dish.  Pour the white wine around the chicken.

Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.   After 20 minutes reduce the heat to 400 degrees and bake for an additional hour. Every 15 minutes or so, baste the chicken with the wine and pan juices.

Make sure the chicken is cooked through.  Serve on a nice large platter with some lemon wedges and chopped parsley.  I like to throw in some potatoes and carrots about 30 minutes before the chicken is done.  Allow the chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.  Don’t be shy about soaking up some bread with the pan juices.  Yum.

*There are thousands of roast chicken recipes out there, I’m sure there are several similar recipes out there.

Lately my routine has not allowed me to update my blog as frequently as I would have liked to.  I have come up with a bout of forgetfulness.  Not to say I forgot about my blog, but I have been misplaced from my apartment and have had a very ill-regimented schedule.  I really missed cooking but now I’m ready to forge ahead with full force!  I was staying at my in-law’s house in Toronto and my sister-in-law is a great cook on her own, so I was not really needed in the kitchen.  Not that I’m complaining, this was easy for me. Not to say that my sister-in-law’s purpose is to cook for me.  She is very sweet and I am lucky to have her as a sister-in-law. But, my time off from the kitchen had something to do with my absolute absent-mindedness.  With no responsibilities, I became somewhat aloof.

My husband and I were going to drive back to Kingston to drop off some stuff I had accumulated on my US trip.  After sitting in two hours of traffic I suddenly realized I forgot the apartment keys at home.  As you can guess my husband was not amused.  That’s was when I got the lecture about, “my irresponsibility.”  I became a little paranoid, was I showing early signs of dementia?  When I mentioned this you should have seen the glare my husband gave me.  He was already angry with me forgetting the keys, and my ridiculousness put him over the edge.  Thankfully, my husband is a calm person and got over it quickly.  Mistakes happen!

I also forgot my camera at my in-law’s.  I am quite upset about this, because though I was going through a cooking drought I did manage to make one Spring version of a potato salad.  Me being myself, did not upload the pictures beforehand and cannot post the recipe until I get my camera back.  These are the two major things I have forgotten recently, but there are countless other things I will not bore you with.

Had enough of my rambling yet?  Let’s get on to the chicken, to be honest, I started writing the post for the chicken skewers in green marinade more than a month ago and forgot about it.  Then as I was looking through my posts I saw this and wondered why I never finished the post.  I guess things always come around to full circle.  I really wanted to get back into my blog and thankfully, I had some uploaded pictures on my computer.  So here I am now bringing this to you.

This chicken dish is a staple of mine.  One thing I never forget to do is to use herbs.  My dishes are naked without them.  This exemplifies my use of some of my favorite herbs: cilantro and mint.  The flavors meld into one.  I really think someone should make a hybrid of mint and cilantro.  Maybe I should get going on that idea.  :)  The marination process really allows the chicken to moisten.  This also has something to do with the addition of cream into the marinade, indulgent, yes, but well worth it.  It also is also a variant from the traditional Pakistani food I cook most of the time.  I love using similar and familiar flavors but with a twist.  This keeps cooking and eating fun.

Chicken Skewers in a Green Marinade

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless chicken in chunks (breast or thigh)

4 cloves of garlic made into a paste

1/2 cup packed mint leaves, finely chopped

1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 long green chili, finely chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon  crushed red chilis, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder

1/4 cup heavy cream

Method

Combine all ingredients except the chicken in a blender or food processor.  Place the chicken in a bowl and pour the marinade over it.  Allow it to marinate for 3-4 hours.  After 3-4 hours place the chicken on skewers and bake on a  lightly oiled baking tray in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.  Now that the weather is getting better, this would be great on a charcoal grill.  Serve with lime wedges and garnish with mint and cilantro.  Accompany with rice or naan.

Chicken tikka is ubiquitous with South Asian cuisine.  It is a popular takeout item, but is just as easily prepared at home.  Making this dish in a tandoori oven would be ideal but my apartment kitchen could not handle such advanced apparatus.  I actually prefer my homemade version to *some* restaurant versions because in many restaurants I have been to, the chicken is practically dyed an ungodly red color.  That food coloring or whatever it is that they use, really turned me off chicken tikka for a while.  To me, this look is as unappealing as an over peroxidized bleached blond.  (I do not have anything against bleached blondes, just a comparison in dying methods ;). )

Another issue I had with chicken tikka was that I became dependent on Shan Masalas in order to prepare it.  If you do not know of Shan masalas (there are many other brands that produce similar spice mixes) are prepared spice mixes for any Pakistani dish you could dream of.  When I say any, I MEAN any.  They are 99 cent wonders for some.  Throw in some onions, ginger, and garlic and your xyz Pakistani dish is made.  Though, there is a convenience factor to these masalas, there is the inevitable fact that everyone’s food started tasting the same.  The authenticity of the cuisine was gone.  For a while I couldn’t tell you what went into Biryani, it was all in the Shan Masala for me, why would I need to know?  Now, I steer clear of  these prepared masalas as much possible.

Oh no, I made them sound like the most evil thing on earth didn’t I?  They’re not that bad (though they are laden with sodium, but that’s another issue.) At least, they encourage people who wouldn’t normally cook, to actually go into the kitchen.  Also, I must admit, I do add just a bit of the prepared chicken tikka mix because of the nice color it adds.  (Not the unnatural mutated red color as previously mentioned.)

Chicken tikka is so easy to prepare and yields delicious results.  I freshly grind all my spices to produce even more flavor, but if you don’t have a spice grinder, powdered ones will work great.  Also, I have noticed that South Asian spices in regular markets can be exorbitantly expensive.  Do check out Indian/Pakistani groceries where the same spices will be of better quality and at lower prices.  South Asians have reached all corners of the globe, so I’m sure there will be an Indian/Pakistani grocer somewhere near you.  I’m originally from Rhode Island aka the smallest state, and we have at least 3 South Asian grocers there.  Enjoy this dish, it’s definitely a crowd pleaser and great for large gatherings!

Chicken Tikka

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

4 chicken leg quarters skin removed and separated into leg and thigh portions, and using your knife make 3 slits on each piece of chicken so that the marinade can penetrate into the meat, (if you get your chicken directly from a butcher ask him or her to remove the kidneys as well)

7-8 cloves of garlic mashed in a mortar and pestle with 1/4 cup of water

1/2 inch piece of ginger mashed on a mortar and pestle (mixed with the garlic)

juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons laal mirch powder, I believe this is similar to cayenne pepper but in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores it is called red chili powder.  I do not like to say chili powder because some may get confused with Tex-Mex Chili.  I prefer using Mehran brand red chili powder.

1 tablespoon cumin powder

1 tablespoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 pinch of ajwain (carom) seeds

1 teaspoon Shan Chicken Tikka Masala

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaping tablespoon of yogurt

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

sliced onions, limes, green chilies, and tomatoes, cilantro, for garnish

Method

Put the chicken into a large bowl.  Mix all the spices together and add the lime juice, ginger/garlic paste made in the mortar and pestle, oil, and, yogurt (I forgot to add my yogurt until the end that is why you can see it separately in my pictures, but it really does not make a difference.)  Combine these ingredients until they form a paste.  Slather this paste over the chicken and rub it into the slits.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, if you are pressed for time, at least 1 hour.  After marination place the chicken on an oiled baking tray and bake at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the chicken in cooked through.  Then, turn the oven to broil and allow to broil for about 5 minutes or until the chicken gets a little charred.  Serve with hot naan and the garnishes.

*This chicken is also wonderful on the grill in the summertime!

IMG_7821I love Mexican Food.  It has to be on my list of favorite cuisines!  I could live on guacamole and chips.  The food is half the reason I wanted to go to Mexico for my honeymoon.  If it wasn’t for my hypochondriac fear of the flu, I would go there on my next vacation.  Hehe…Lame I know.  My husband and I had such great food experiences in Mexico.  We lucked out!  We weren’t fed touristy refried beans and burritos but fresh and authentic versions of local cuisine.  (Probably due to my psychotic research on restaurants).  :)

Where I live now, we don’t have the same Latin population, thus a severe lack of Latin produce and products.  This fact is a major disappointment to me.  I love fresh salsas, avocados, moles, chiles rellenos (anyone who has ever spoken to me knows about my love for this dish), fresh corn tortillas and so on.

These quesadillas are an easy weeknight dinner option for me.  Quick and yum!  I always have staples on hand for these.  They aren’t the same as they would be if I had a good Latin ingredients close by.

Chicken and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, in chunks

oil

4 large tortillas

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper or serrano pepper, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

juice of 1 lime

2 onions, sliced

grated cheese, amount to your liking (approx. 1/4 cup per quesadilla)  I used Monterey jack but if you can get a hold of Chihuahua or Cojita, they would be authentic.  Actually, even goat cheese would work quite well!

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

scallions for garnish

1 avocado, chopped

1/2 cup sour cream, whisked or crema

limes sliced for garnish

salsa fresca, for garnish

Marinate chicken with cumin, lime, salt, black pepper, chilies, and garlic for about an hour.  Meanwhile caramelize onions in oil on low heat.  You can add salt to them so they caramelize quicker due to water extraction.  The caramelization process should take 15-20 minutes.   Next, chop cilantro, scallions, limes, and avocado.  Grill the chicken until done, about 15 minutes.  Assemble the quesadillas by putting the chicken, caramelized onions, and cheese in between in tortillas.  I use a grill pan with a little oil on it (a regular pan works well too) and toast both sides on medium heat.  When the cheese is melted remove from heat and cut into wedges.  Garnish with cilantro, scallions, avocados, sour cream, and salsa.  Serve.

To make the salsa is very simple.  I use my mini food processor and put in 1 tomato, 1/2 a red onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 jalapeno pepper, handful of cilantro, the juice of 1/2 a lime, and salt to taste.  Pulse until desired consistency.  I like mine smooth.  You can make the same salsa by chopping everything, but I take the easy way out!  :D

Some food photographs from my honeymoon:

These were the best fish tacos I have ever eaten!!!!

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A gracious server making a queso dip for us:

n13611005_37910180_7156

“Real” Salsa in Mexico:

n13611005_37910178_6493

IMG_8105

My husband goes on and off his P90-X kick.  If you all are not aware, P90-x is my arch-nemesis.  It is a workout and diet regime that simply put, I loathe.  Well more than the the workouts I detest the diet.  My husband is all or nothing, he’s a glutton one week or a poster child for anorexic eating habits another week.  So, when he’s on p90-X, he’s REALLY ON P90-X. This diet regimen consists of eating 8 egg-white omelets with fat-free cheese for breakfast, just the thought makes me shudder.  For lunch, you are allowed half a pound of sodium/fat-free chicken or turkey breast on top of a romaine salad.  Dinner is comprised of a flavorless half pound piece of protein and some steamed vegetables and only if you are lucky, a side of vegetable soup.  Yeah, it’s a low-carb, zero taste program and when my husbands belly starts reappearing his need to go back to Phase 1 of this diet resurfaces to my utter dismay.

My outlook is workout daily if you can and eat a balanced and healthy diet and indulge once in a while.  If I was on this p90-X diet, I would become an absolute beast.  I would be in a bad mood all the time, because when I’m hungry I AM irritable!  Back to his diet, as you have become aware you need to eat a lot of protein on this regimen.  So, of course my husband bought 30 bone-in chicken breasts for his diet.  They took up half my freezer and as you can guess he stuck on the diet for about 4 days!

Therefore, I am left with chicken breasts galore.  Today, I decided to utilize them for something.  What something?  I had no idea.  Only can that chick (no pun intended) from that Food network show I dislike can find a recipe for chicken breast 5 days a week.  The idea of lemon popped into my head…lemon chicken.  IMG_8074Okay, I had a starting point but how could I make the chicken exciting and yummy?  I opened my spice cabinet for inspiration and saw cardamom pods, cloves, and saffron.  Then it struck me!  I should go Persian on my chicken.  Thus, I came up with today’s dinner Chicken Kabab with Afghani rice (or my take on those dishes atleast).  I ground the spices together the aroma filled my kitchen and can you believe it, I felt thankful to p90-X in some strange sort of way.

Persian Chicken Kebab

Serves 3

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, in chunks (I cut the chicken up into pieces after I had marinated it, but I should have done it first)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot waterIMG_8100

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1-2 cardamom pod, 2-3 cloves, 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon all ground together in a spice mill

1 teaspoon kosher salt

black pepper to taste

lemon wedges, for garnish

cilantro leaves, for garnish

Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl and allow to marinate for 4 hours.  Then, grill on outdoor grill or grill pan (I used a grill pan because it was far to cold for me to use our building’s roof top grill ;) ).  Cook on one side for about 5-7 minutes and then flip for 5-7 more.  Check to make sure it is fully cooked.  Garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro leaves.  Serve with Afghani Rice* and Kachumbar (Chopped vegetable) salad,* or Naan.

IMG_8117

*Note:  Recipes to follow :).

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