Saturday, 25 January 2014

chicken pulao and biryani friday's

chicken pulao with cucumber raita
when he was a boy, my brother m designated friday lunch to be biryani. we were living in our f-7/2 house at that point and our cook-cum-driver siraj was in charge of cooking. he was sindhi and had a fiery temperament that was reflected in the spicing of the biryani. in addition, his shoddy kitchen habits caused mama much discomfort. fortunately we had a lean-to kitchen annexed to the house where siraj was encouraged to cook. it often resembled a battlefield when he was done.

every once in a while mama, baba and i would encourage m to alter the friday menu and on days like these he would concede to chicken pulao. i must confess that i much preferred the chicken pulao. i often think of it as a distant relation of biryani. it is true that it lacks the chilli spiciness of biryani and its base is pared down in comparison. but made well, it shares the complexity of flavours and like biryani is a one-pot meal. 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

baba's tomato chutney with hard boiled eggs

baba's tamatar ki chutney with ublay huay unday
baba would make his tamartar ki chutney on lazy sunday afternoons. it would often appear at a time that was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, upsetting the balance of the day’s meals. but it did not matter because it is a firm yusuf family favourite. the tomato chutney has an element of umami with bright sparks of heat lent by thin rounds of fresh green chilli and coarse black pepper. the protein in the hard-boiled along with the velvet yolk is a soothing counterpoint to the sharper flavours of the chutney.

baba would cook this in a karahi that has been in my parent’s kitchen since the past decade. its bottom is black with consistent use over a naked gas burner, and its insides are well seasoned like that of a much used skillet. he would boil eggs simultaneously and since he prefers them very well done, the yolk would always be rimmed with a blue-black halo. this is my only point of departure from his recipe because i like firm whites and yolks that are velvet like. a hard long boil makes the white rubbery and the yolk dry. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

brownies for sk and the best of friendship

alice medrich's best cocoa brownies
sk, do you remember your bedroom in the f-7 house, the one with the lilac walls? you always emphasised that it was lilac and not purple. we spent long summer afternoons there when the sun blazed relentlessly. my dadi used to say one should stay indoors in the summer because the lu (hot air) could give one heatstroke. i remember that the concrete on the front porch would get so hot that when water was thrown on it, the heat would rise from the ground and the water would evaporate almost instantly. your air-conditioned bedroom was a sanctuary of cool.

Friday, 10 January 2014

making truffles and remembering childhood confectionery

chambord truffles
i love making truffles. the process starts with the slow, sensual surrender of chocolate to hot cream (or sometimes wine) after which comes the addition of flavours – a hint of spice, the familiar comfort of vanilla or something savoury like salt to amplify sweetness. a box of handmade truffles has become a december custom usually dispatched with some family member or friend en route to pakistan. baba says they should be consumed in moderation and would prefer to stretch their existence; mama is an inveterate chocoholic and finds it hard to resist them. my brother m will exercise restraint for a while and then consume several in one sitting. and a (my sister-in-law) covets the boxes and jars they are packaged in. this year i tried my hand at paul young’s truffles that include muscovado sugar. i love muscovado for its treacle tone and bitter sweetness. 

the yusuf family has a strong affection for confections and morsel sized sweet things. i can map my childhood in relation to these with some recollection of my parents and sibling's favourites. when i was little mama would sometimes tuck a packet of choco-chums into our school lunches as a treat. i loved these oval shaped biscuits whose hollows had a smidgen of chocolate. my brother loved candyland jellies. these came in an assortment of cola bottles, bears, abc’s and rounds coated in crystallised sugar. mama would buy a pack that was intended to be shared between us. but according to her m would work through them greedily so that by the time i was retrieved from school there would be little or none left for me.

Friday, 3 January 2014

babcia's pea soup with some additions

pea soup
when i was growing up we had a maali to tend to the garden. in springtime he would assemble a trellis made from thick cotton thread to support our sweet pea plant. its fragile flowers smelt so intensely of sweetness and had filigree-like tendrils. sometimes i would pick the flowers and place them in the porcelain bowl on our lounge coffee table. they wilted fast but left traces of their fragrance in the air even after their petals closed and shrivelled.

during the winter, peas were bought by the kilo from the sabzi wallah and my dadi would sit in the shade of the veranda with a plastic basket shelling them. baba and i had to be kept at bay because we would eat them faster than they were shelled.

one of my favourite meals was a fragrant pea pulao made with basmati rice and accompanied by a cooling cucumber raita. a variation of this was aloo matar ka salaan (pea and potato curry) on a mound of steamed basmati. and on the weekend a brunch of keema matar (beef mince with peas) scooped with flaky parathas and minted yoghurt was the definition of satisfaction.