Archives for posts with tag: main dish

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I wanted to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year.  It’s still January so it’s not *so* late.  I wanted to post this recipe up around New Year’s because it’s a nice winter dish.  Lentils are also supposed to be a lucky food for the New Year – so eat up!  Well, as far as I can see it’s still winter and spring isn’t going to make its appearance for another month or two.  It’s still freezing cold so this rice will help feel you warm, cozy and satisfied.

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I didn’t post because I got sick.  It wasn’t the flu, just a very bad cold.  It took me about three weeks to fully recover and now I’m back to normal.  This year everyone is getting sick, or at least it seems that way to me.  Nourishing foods are the key.  Even though you don’t exactly feel like scarfing down food when you are sick – foods with chicken stock and healing spices can most certainly lift your spirits.

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I don’t know what to call this dish – I can’t say it’s particularly South Asian or Middle Eastern, but to be honest it doesn’t really matter.  I often make this dish as a side to chicken skewers.  I also made it in the summer for my sister and she loved it.  I love it because I always have every ingredient on hand.  I just marinate some chicken and make a nice salad and a perfect dinner is ready.

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Even in the depths of winter and believe me when I say that this year it feels especially long, we can still enjoy our favorite foods.  As much as I love fresh summery foods, the comforting feeling you get from some cold weather foods can’t be beat.

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Lentil Basmati Rice with Crispy Onions

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

vegetable oil of your choice

2 cups basmati rice soaked for at least 30 minutes and then washed with water a few times until the water runs clear

1 cup lentils of your choice, here I used Puy lentils

2 small to medium-sized onions, sliced

1/2 dried cranberries

4 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 inch piece of ginger, grated

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2-3 dried red chilies

2 cloves

4 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 small cinnamon stick

2 green cardamom pods

7-8 cups cups chicken stock

salt, to taste

1 lemon, zested

parsley and cilantro, or any herbs or your choice

toasted pine nuts

Method

First wash the Puy lentils and place them in a medium-sized stick pot with the chicken stock and cook on medium cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until they are cooked, but still firm, about 85% cooked.  The chicken stock should be almost entirely evaporated.

After the lentils have cooked, in a large pot on medium to medium-high heat, heat about 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil and add in the onions.  Cook until golden.  Take out about half the onions and set aside and reserve for garnishing.  Next, add in the garlic and ginger and let them fry for about a minute.  Add in the cumin, coriander powder, dried red chilies, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, peppercorns, cloves and salt.  Let all the spices toast and add in the lentils and dried cranberries.

Pour in 3 cups of chicken stock and bring to the boil.  Add in the washed and soaked rice and let the stock boil again.  Once the stock boils again turn the heat down to medium-low and cover.  After about 7-10 minutes the water should be evaporated and the rice should be al dente.  Turn the heat to very low and drape a paper towel or kitchen towel over the top of the pan and put the lid on and let the rice steam for 20 minutes.

Open the lid after 20 minutes and garnish with parsley, cilantro, the reserved fried onions, lemon zest, and the toasted pine nuts.  Serve with yogurt, if you like.

This is definitely not a Valentine’s Day dish.  It’s not special and it’s completely and utterly pedestrian, at least in Pakistani households.  Regardless, I wanted to share it with you today because it’s the first dish I ever cooked for my husband.  Way back when, five years ago, in April, I met my husband through my sister.  She met him and put him in touch with me, he was in grad school in Toronto and I was in grad school in Montreal and in my sister’s mind that was enough reason for us to get along.  We started talking and then one day on a whim he decided to visit me in Montreal.  As you can imagine, I was nervous.  In our conversations I told him I enjoyed cooking, though at the time I didn’t do much being a busy grad student.  So when he arrived and when we got over the initial awkwardness we both went grocery shopping together.

It’s not exactly the first date most of us imagine, but that is what happened with us.  The premise of the grocery shopping was that I would cook lunch for us.  I had no clue what to make, we were wandering through the aisles and I said that I would make keema (ground beef).  It was a dish I was comfortable making and my now husband was pretty laid back about the whole thing.  He told me he liked it with green bell peppers, in my mind I thought, “ew,” but I put some green bell peppers into our cart and also picked up some spinach to  make aloo palak, a dish I had never made before.  Back then, I was polite and didn’t say anything about the bell peppers, if it was today, it would be an entirely different story.

We got back to my apartment and I started cooking in my tiny kitchen with very little proper kitchen equipment.  We began talking and pretty soon we were more comfortable and it felt as though we knew each other for ages.  I made the keema, aloo palak (it turned out good), basmati rice, salad, and chutney.  My husband stuck with me after that meal and it’s safe to say he was a fan of my cooking.  After eating lunch we explored Montreal, which in of itself is a very romantic city, and then later had some late night bites at a restaurant, a “proper” date, if you will.

My husband’s favorite Pakistani dish besides channay is keema. I don’t know if he liked it before or if his love for it blossomed after I made it that first time.  He now requests it on a weekly basis.  He was just away for three weeks on medical residency interviews and whenever he would get a few days in the middle to come home, he would ask me to make aloo keema. Luckily for me it’s an easy dish and I also enjoy it.

I know this isn’t a gorgeous Valentine’s dessert of gooey chocolate, but it is one of “our” dishes.  Since my husband and I consider food a big part of what we have in common, it doesn’t matter if it’s simple Pakistani home cooking or some form of haute cuisine, we always enjoy it in each other’s company.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Aloo Keema

serves 3 as a main, 4 if served with a side dish

Ingredients

Canola oil, or any neutral vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef (chicken, lamb, goat) It’s also up to you if you want to use lean or not.  I like to wash and drain it in a colander.

1 red onion, thinly sliced into half moons

2 heaping tablespoons ginger-garlic paste (2 inch piece of ginger and 5-6 cloves of garlic blended together with a little water)

1 potato, peeled and cut into large chunks (you can also use peas, peppers, cauliflower, or any vegetable you choose, just adjust cooking times)

2 tomatoes, puréed (canned are alright, if they are out of season)

1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon red chili powder/cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

3-4 whole black peppercorns

2 cloves

2-3 green chilies, julienned, seeds removed if you like

nice handful of cilantro, chopped

3 scallions, chopped, optional

garam masala, optional

limes, for garnish, optional

Method

Heat a large saucepan on medium heat and add in some oil, to your taste.  Let the oil heat up and add the onions and fry them for a few minutes until they start to almost turn light golden brown.

Add in the meat and ginger-garlic paste and keep stirring it until the ground beef is all broken up and in very small pieces.  Once the meat is slightly browned add in all the spices except the garam masala and keep mixing until everything is combined and the rawness is cooked out the spices.

Next, add in the tomato purée and mix it into the meat.  I also add in half a cup of water at this point.  Lower the heat to medium low and cover the pan and allow it to cook for 15 minutes or so.

After fifteen minutes, check the meat and mix it.  Cover and let it cook for fifteen more minutes.  After fifteen minutes, add in the potatoes and mix everything together a few times.  You should no longer see individual pieces of onion (it should have melted into the “masala,” and the oil should start to separate from the meat.  If necessary, add a little water (1/4 cup) to help the potatoes cook.

Once the potatoes are cooked, add in the green chilies, cilantro, scallions, and a sprinkling of garam masala and cook for another few minutes.  Serve with rice, chapati/roti, or naan and green chutney, limes, spicy pickles (achaar), and salad.

*Leftovers taste even better!

Sometimes they are recipes that you want to try and you just don’t for whatever reason.  This is one of those for me.  I first saw this recipe about a year ago in Food and Wine magazine and deemed it as an easy weeknight meal.  But the recipe used roasted eggplant instead of the fennel I used here.  I have been obsessed with fennel this winter.  I have been making a fennel and mushroom soup weekly.  When my husband asks what I made for dinner and I reply, “fennel mushroom soup,”  I get a grunt, a big one.  If my husband wants this to change he can step into the kitchen and make it happen.  Until then, or until I tire of this combination, either of which doesn’t look like anytime soon, I will keep making it.

But back to the recipe at hand, the eggplant and lentils fennel and lentils.  Well, it was really going to be eggplant and lentils.  I even bought an eggplant for this purpose and went as far as roasting it.  Then at the last-minute I opened the fridge for some herbs and there I saw my fennel.  Looking at it with longing eyes, I cheated on the eggplant with fennel.  The roasted eggplant is still in my fridge, oops.  Don’t worry, I will use it.  I’ll make baba ghanoush or eggplant bharta or something, who really cares, I’m talking about fennel right now!

Fennel and lentils, I can’t say I’ve heard of this combination before, but it works.  I gobbled down two platefuls.  Another thing that works brilliantly with fennel is smoked paprika.  I didn’t cook with it much before a few months ago, and now I quite enjoy it.  Initially, I was turned off by the overly smoky smell, but that’s not the case any longer.
Another plus to this dish is that I enjoyed it even more because my husband was out-of-town, well not for that exact reason, but  I didn’t have to deal with any grunts or disgusted faces because he is not a fan of French lentils (or at least the way I make them.)  Notice a pattern here.

Anyhow, I never got around to making the original recipe, maybe another day.

Fennel and Lentil Salad

inspired and adapted by Food and Wine (Eggplant-Lentil Salad) February 2010

Serves 2, as a main

Ingredients

2 cups sliced fennel, fronds reserved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

kosher salt, to taste

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 shallots, finely minced

1 cup French Lentils (du Puy), washed

2 1/2 cups water

zest of 1 lemon and its juice as well

1 jalapeño pepper, minced finely, seeds removed, if you like

5-7 mint leaves, chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

some fennel fronds, chopped, optional

plain yogurt, for serving

Method

In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add half of the smoked paprika to the oil and let it infuse the oil for a minute.  Next, add in the fennel and the rest of the smoked paprika.  Season with salt and allow the fennel to caramelize and soften for about 15 minutes.  Once it is ready set aside.

Heat a saucepan on medium heat with the remaining olive oil.  Add in the cumin seeds and crushed red chili flakes.  Allow the cumin seeds to crackle a bit and then add in the shallots and allow them to soften.  Once soft, add in the garlic and allow the garlic to get to the point where it is beginning it brown, but do not burn it.  Next, add in the lentils, water, and salt.  Cover and allow to come to a boil.  When the water starts to boil, remove the lid and and turn the heat to medium low and allow the lentils to simmer for about 40 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated and the lentils mash when you press them between your fingers.

Toss in the fennel, herbs, jalapeño, lemon juice, and zest.   Serve warm or at room temperature. The Food and Wine recipe suggests topping this with yogurt, which I did and serving it with naan, which I did not.