Recipes from Marche, Italy

For this entry, I made two recipes. Neither of them were especially good, but I don't blame the people who posted the original recipes or any of the traditions they came from, I blame myself and my propensity for Googling things that might kill me.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Brodetto

A seafood stew with mussels and clams, minus the Vibrio.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Filone Casereccio

An Italian bread that will come out much better than mine did if you use fresh brewer's yeast and steam.

Recipes from Malta

This is actually the third time I’ve cooked a meal from Malta. The first time, I cooked the meal and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by.

Recipes from Malta: Imqarrun

Imquarrum (also called Imqarrun il-forn) is descended from a dish served in Sicily, but the Maltese have adopted it as a traditional staple. The key to making this dish is to be patient.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Recipes from Campania, Italy

We were due to stop in another region of Pakistan this week, but it seemed like it was a little too soon after the last Pakistani meal I cooked. Hey, do you think people in Pakistan ever say things like, "Do you feel like Pakistani food tonight?" "Nah, we just had Pakistani food a couple of weeks ago ..."

So anyway I decided now was as good a time as any to go backwards in the alphabet to Italy, which I decided kind of late in the game that I should be tackling in regions instead of as a whole. This week it's going to be the region of Campania, which is in southern Italy, east of the Mediterranean Sea.

Positano, Campania, Italy. Photo by Kevin Rechts.

There are 5.8 million people crammed into this small region of Italy, which is just over 5,000 square miles. You can hardly blame them, though, because Campania is 5,000 square miles of culture, food, architecture, music and sites of great historical significance. Pompeii is in Campania; so is Naples and the island of Capri. This is where I would go if I was to ever visit Italy, which less face it probably ain't gonna happen since $1k for a single plane ticket seems pretty beyond what I could ever afford, let's forget about the other five I would need to buy.

So at least I'm visiting it in the Travel by Stove way, which is almost as good. Not really, but, you know. The food from this part of Italy is pretty classic Italian as we Americans know it--in fact, this is the region where spaghetti was born, and, yes, pizza. Pizza comes from the city of Naples and is the main dish I decided to make this week, because I felt like after all those fish curries and lamb curries and chicken curries I've been doing lately I kind of needed to throw my kids a bone.

And here are the recipes:

Pizza Margherita alla Napoletana
(from Cooking with Nonna)

For the dough:
  • 3 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch pepper
For the topping:
  • 1 medium-sized fresh mozzarella ball, sliced thin
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Oregano

On the side:

Cauliflower, Olive and Caper Salad
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 lbs cauliflower
  • 3/4 cup pitted, oil-cured black olives (I used Kalamata)
  • 1/3 cup capers, rinsed and dried
  • 3/4 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/2 cup vinegar-packed red peppers packed, rinsed and julienned
  • 8 anchovies, drained and chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
For dessert, because who can resist a cheesecake?

Ricotta Cheesecake
(also from Cooking with Nonna)

For the crust:
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 /4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • flour as needed
For the filling:
  • 2 lbs ricotta cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbsp orange zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
OK, first make some pizza dough! I always do bread of any kind in my bread machine, but here's how to do it the old fashioned way:

First dissolve the yeast in warm water and let stand until frothy. Meanwhile, Put the flour in a bowl and make a Vesuvius style hole in the center of it. When the yeast us ready, pour that into the well, then add the rest of the dough ingredients. Knead until you get a nice, smooth, elastic ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for two hours.

Now preheat your oven to 350 degrees and roll the dough out to a 12 to 14 inch circle.

You may have to stretch the dough a bit to get it to the right shape and size--pizza dough can be uncooperative. Now place the dough on a pizza stone (we have one of those wire mesh thingies). Spread the marinara sauce over the dough and top with the mozzarella slices.

 Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with the basil and oregano.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown.

Now for the salad:

Boil some water with a tablespoon of salt. Add the cauliflower and reduce heat to medium. Simmer to 15 minutes, then remove and drain. Your cauliflower should be tender-crisp.

When the cauliflower is cool, break it into florets, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the olives, capers, red peppers and anchovies.

 Toss gently, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.

 Now for the cheesecake:

First make the crust. With your electric mixer, blend the egg with the milk, butter, sugar and baking powder.

Remove from the mixer and gradually add the flour. Work the dough with your hands until it is stiff, adding flower as necessary.

Now flatten the dough with your hand and then use a rolling pin to make a circle about 15 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, then butter a springform pan and sprinkle with flour. Now transfer the dough to the pan, letting the extra hang over the edge.

Mine isn't really hanging over the edge.

Now go back to your mixer and add all the filling ingredients. Pour into the pan and cut off the excess dough around the rim, leaving about a half inch above the filling. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Do you remember how I said, "Who can resist a cheesecake? Well, me! Apparently. I didn't like the cheesecake. I found the texture way too grainy, which is my experience with pretty much anything that has ricotta cheese in it, though I don't mind it in things like lasagna. Sadly no one really liked it, though we all really wanted to. This is honestly the first time in my life I've ever done anything so blasphemous as throw out perfectly good cheesecake, but I did. Oh well.

The pizza was much better than the cheesecake, but it could have used some more time in the oven. My crust wasn't golden enough, and therefore not really crispy enough either. I also thought it was a bit bland--the crust, that is. More salt would have been a good plan. I did love the simplicity of the recipe, and with good marinara sauce this is definitely a keeper. Makes a great switch from your run of the mill pepperoni that we always eat at my house.

I really liked the cauliflower salad but I was the only one. With those anchovies and olives and pickled peppers it tasted really not very much like the things that most Americans eat, so my kids were not impressed. I think Martin ate a little but being an olive hater was also not impressed. More for me. :)

I'm going to have to remake that pizza I think. Can anyone recommend a great prepared marinara? The one I used was good, but this pizza is really all about the sauce and it needs a mind-blowing one. I know, I should make it from scratch but because of that job thingie I have, blog night has become the sole evening where I do actual, real cooking anymore. Stupid job.

Next week: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, Pakistan

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Recipes from Kenya

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time you already know this one little fact: I'm not that crazy about African food. Ethiopia is one exception (there are a couple of others), because the flavor of Ethiopian food is big and robust and exotic. But most African food, at least the stuff I've had, is simple and, well, bland. It's perfectly edible, but not something I'm likely to make more than once.

So I wasn't that thrilled about Kenya, really, which I figured would be another meh experience. And I was wrong! Kenyan food is good. But before I get to that, let's talk about the nation itself.

Kenya borders Ethiopia, which could at least partially explain why I like the food--maybe a regional thing. It also borders Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Somalia, all countries that are a lot further down on my list, so we'll see. There are 44 million people living within Kenya's 224,000 square miles. The climate ranges from warm and humid to cool, depending on whether you're on the coast or near permanently snow-capped Mount Kenya. There are also deserts and temperate forests in Kenya, which makes it pretty geographically diverse.

Kimana reserve, Kenya. Photo by Francesco Scaglioni.

If you ever go on an African Safari, chances are it will be in Kenya. There are several large and diverse wildlife refuges there, and also some good beaches. So tourism is important to the economy, though agriculture employs more people. There's an illusion of wealth in Kenya, which probably comes from those places where tourism is a big money-maker, but in reality Kenya is a poor nation--38 percent of the population lives in poverty and the nation's human development index is a mere 145 out of 186.

If you travel to Kenya you won't find a lot of restaurants serving Kenyan food. I guess Kenyans themselves don't have a very high opinion of their cuisine, but I think I disagree. Their recipes share some similarities with other African nations--for example, a staple called "ugali" appears to be very much like my arch nemesis, fufu. But like India they also do samosas and chapati and they cook with garam masala, so there are a lot of familiar flavors in Kenyan cuisine. Here's what I made:

Mtuzi wa Samaki (fish in coconut milk curry)
(from Kenya Advisor

  • 3 pounds fish filets
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk 
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste or lemon juice
  • 3 tsp garam masala or curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
On the side:

Watermelon Salad with Celery-Nut Dressing
(this recipe comes from the Samburu Tribe and was also posted on Kenya Advisor)
  • 3 cups watermelon balls, chilled
  • 1 1/3 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz softened cream cheese
  • Fresh lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews, chopped
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
For dessert:

Coupe Mount Kenya
(from Kenya Travel Ideas)
  • 4 to 5 ripe mangos, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon peel, julienned
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
So I got told off once for serving a summery salad with a wintery main course, and I'm thinking that this is sort of the same situation. Watermelon salad is, obviously, quite summery and I really couldn't say if the curry dish is something they would eat year round. So if I got it terribly, terribly wrong I apologize. It was still good though so I can't say I really have any regrets.

I was gong to make chapati, too, by the way ... but I ran out of time.

Let's start by making the curry. Al these recipes are actually pretty easy, so here we go:

Heat the oil over medium-high heat and place the fish filets into the pot. Sear on both sides and transfer to paper towels.

Now reduce the heat to medium and add the pepper and onion. Cook until the onion is translucent, then add the garlic. Stir for an additional two minutes and add the tomatoes. Turn the heat back up and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Season with salt and pepper and add the fish. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the fish filets are cooked through.

While this fish is cooking, make the salad:

Put the mayo and cream cheese in your mixer and beat until fluffy. Now whip the cream until you get stiff peaks. Fold the cream into the cream cheese mixture and add the celery.

Now line a bowl with the lettuce and put the watermelon balls on top. Finally, spread the dressing over and top with the cashews.

And finally, the dessert:

Mash the mangoes (I put mine in a blender) and transfer to a large bowl. Mix with the lemon peel, condensed milk and salt.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream with the sugar until you get stiff peaks. Fold into the mango mixture.
Pour the mixture into a six-cup mold and freeze overnight. Feel a deep sense of joy when your kids declare that they don't like this.

So yes, the curry was really good. Now, I've made stuff like this before, and I'm pretty sure I've made something really similar for another country, but this definitely had its own unique flavor. The tamarind and coconut milk combined with the garam masala sort of made it seem like a dish suspended somewhere between Thailand and India. The watermelon salad was really unusual, a bit too heavy on the celery for my tastes (I do like raw celery in some salads, but I think it needs to be in small doses). The dressing and cashews combined with the melon made for a really different dish, definitely not like anything else I've ever made. Kind of potlucky, if you're a risk taker. Not all potluck goers are going to love it, but you'll definitely give everyone something to talk about.

Now for my favorite part: the Coupe Mount Kenya. This was really a mango sorbet, and it was delicious. It had that great tangy bite that you get from mangoes (they're never completely ripe when you buy them in California) but you could taste all that wonderful cream and condensed milk, too. I loved that my kids hated this dessert because that meant I got to eat all their leftovers. Yum! I love fruity desserts and if you do too, I'm pretty sure you're going to love this one. Maybe another one for my end of year list, 'cause I'd have to find a really mind-blowingly delicious dessert to top it.

Next week: Campania, Italy

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Recipes from Kazakhstan

Are we halfway through summer already? I don't think I like that, because we haven't done enough. Some swimming, a weekend at the beach, more swimming, some barbecuing. Fun, but low key.

We did have a big Fourth of July with two barbecues in one day, which was really crazy stupid because no one needs to eat that much food. We did a smoked tritip, seasoned grilled corn on the cob, barbecued sausage and grilled salmon. Oh and my famous jalapeƱo poppers with dill and Dijon potato salad. And strawberry lemonade. Oh and a cake decorated like an American flag. And homemade baked beans. Did I forget anything? What did you have?

So after all that American fare I'm switching gears--waaaay switching gears to Kazakhstan, which is halfway across the world and doesn't really do baked beans or American flag cakes, at least not as far as I know.

It may surprise you to hear that Kazakhstan is actually a big country--the ninth largest in the world--because it's not one of those places that we regularly hear a whole lot about. It's a transcontinental nation, which means it is mostly situated in Central Asia but has a small part west of the Ural river in Europe. There are 17 million people in Kazakhstan, which seems like a lot but actually equates to fewer than six people per square mile.

Kazakhstan is one of the nations Genghis Khan occupied in the 13th century, and it wasn't until the 16th century that the Kazakhs themselves emerged as a distinct group. Sadly, they didn't have control over their homeland for very long--by the 18th century the Russians started moving in, and then by the 19th century Kazakhstan was officially a part of the Russian empire, and later of course the Soviet Union. It must have gotten used to its identity being wrapped up with the Russians because it was the last of the Soviet Republics to declare independence in 1991.

Almaty Lake, Kazakhstan. Photo by Mariusz Kluzniak.
Kazakh dinners, as it turns out, are generally way more elaborate than the one I did. Typically, they will do a bunch of appetizers, followed by a soup, then one--sometimes two--main courses. And though I'm not philosophically opposed to spending all day in the kitchen once in a while, I just spent all day in the kitchen in the Fourth of July and really am not up for doing it multiple times in such a short space of time. So I limited myself to three dishes, and here they are:

Kazakh Lemon Chicken
(from Chef Boris Nurdamanbye, Hotel Otrar, Almaty, Kazakhstan)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 whole chickens, 3 lbs each
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp saffron
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup green olives (without pimientos), chopped
  • 4 tbsp lemon rinds, minced
And some rice on the side:

Kazakh rice
(from Chef Pyotr Numurdaleshev, Kazakh Aul Restraunt, Almaty, Kazakhstan)
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup pitted prunes, chopped
  • 3 dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup ground lamb, precooked
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
And some bread:

Baursak (Kazakh puffy bread)
  • 3 cups white bread flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 2 tbsp margarine
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt
Now first a disclaimer: I don't usually choose chef recipes, because they tend to not be as traditional. Chefs like to add their own personal flare to their recipes, so while delicious, most natives wouldn't really recognize them. I made an exception this week, though. Because despite Kazakhstan being a large place, it doesn't have a whole lot of recipe resources online. At least not that I could find in the limited amount of time I actually have to do research these days. And these dishes are both served at restaurants in Kazakhstan so I figure they are technically still "from Kazakhstan."

Here's how to do the chicken: first preheat your oven to 400 degrees. On your stovetop, heat the oil in a Dutch oven and then add the chickens, breast side down (I used leg quarters for this so my process was a bit different). While the chicken is browning, mix the seasonings in a bowl.

Now rub the seasoning into the chickens (using the back of a spoon, because you don't want to burn yourself). Add enough water so the chickens are about half submerged, then turn up heat and bring to a boil.

I don't have a Dutch oven, so I just transferred mine to a casserole.

Next, move the Dutch oven to your actual oven and bake uncovered for 30 minutes, then turn the chickens over and cook for another 25, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 175 degrees.

Transfer the chickens to a platter and then move your Dutch oven back to the stove. Bring the broth to a boil and add the olives and lemon rind. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Now for the rice: first mix the cooked lamb with everything except the rice, water and oil.

Meanwhile, place the rice and water in a pot, then bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes. Pour the oil over. The rice should be not-quite cooked--don't drain! Add the lamb, fruit and nut mixture and cover the pot again.

Let cook for another five minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Finally the bread:

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl (or your bread machine) and knead for five minutes or until you get a nice, elastic ball. Cover and let rise in a warm place for four hours.

Divide the dough into eight balls and roll them out to about a quarter inch thick and four inches wide, then cut each piece into three equal-sized rectangles.

OK not exactly equal sized, but you can do better than I did.

Now heat some sunflower oil (canola will work too) in a frying pan. The recipe says to use about an inch, but I used a lot less than that and mine were perfect. Just make sure your pan is deep enough that there's no danger you'll spill any hot oil. The oil is ready when bubbles rise around the non-stirring end of a wooden spoon.

Now drop the dough pieces into the oil and fry on one side until golden. Then flip and fry on the other side. Drain on paper towels and repeat until all the pieces are done.

I gotta say, this meal is going to make my list of favorite recipes from 2014. The chicken was really good. Now, I liked it more than everyone else because I love olives. My husband, on the other hand, does not love olives. So although he liked all the other flavors I think it was a bit overly olivey for him. The rice was really good too, it was mild but paired with the much stronger-flavored chicken I think it was a good match. And the bread, oh the bread. It was soft and warm and delicious. I don't know how much of it had to do with the sunflower oil I fried it in, but oh yum. My kids wanted some of the leftovers the next day, and they did not get any because I ate it all.

Yay another blog post on time! I'm on a roll. Next week: Kenya.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Recipes from Kashmir, Pakistan

We're not going very far this week, in fact we're actually staying in the same region that we were in last week. What's more, the region has the exact same name as the one we were in last week, except instead of India it's Pakistan.

Now, to Pakistan, Kashmir is pretty much all Pakistani. They refer to Indian Kashmir as "Indian Occupied Kashmir," and India refers to Pakistani Kashmir as "Pakistani Occupied Kashmir," so that gives you some indication about the general neighborliness of the two areas. The two nations have actually fought three wars over Kashmir--one in 1947, one in 1965 and one in 1999--and they still don't seem to have settled the matter.

 Ramkot Fort, Mangla, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. Photo by
Pakistani Kashmir is known as "Azad Kashmir," which means "Free Kashmir." It was established in 1947 after the first war, and though it is protected by and economically linked to Pakistan, it has its own government and is not considered a province. In size it is roughly 650 square miles, which is just a little bit larger than Oklahoma City. So it's not a huge area and it has a lot of similarities with its Indian cousin--in particular its preference for mutton, which I couldn't really avoid this week.

Yes, it seemed like every recipe I found for Pakistani Kashmir was mutton based, or contained mutton. Now, of course you can't get mutton here in the US, or at least not in the standard supermarkets found in Grass Valley. I'm betting you can get it at the Indian markets in Sacramento, where I bought goat meat last year--but I'm going to pretend like you can't and just say that lamb is a perfectly acceptable substitute. It's the same animal, after all, just a younger version. So I did choose one mutton-based recipe and yes, I used lamb instead. I'm happy to say, though, that the main course actually called for lamb. Here's my menu:

Rogan Josh
  • 1 tbsp whole fennel seeds, freshly ground
  • 3 1/4 cups plain yogurt
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch asafetida
  • 3 lb lamb, cubed
  • 4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 3 2/3 cups water or beef broth
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
Qeema Pilao
(also from
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 lb mutton, minced
  • 1/2 cup dahl
  • 2 inch piece ginger, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp paprika 
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 cups rice, soaked for 20 minutes
  • 1 tsp saffron, soaked in 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup pine nuts, toasted
Kashmiri Naan
(from Evernew Recipes)

For the dough:
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • Oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
For the filling:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1 cup maraschino cherries, drained
OK let's do the lamb rogan josh first. Start by heating the oil over a high flame, then add the cinnamon and cloves, followed by the asafetida. Stir for a few seconds, then add the meat and the salt. Cook for five minutes, then add the paprika and cayenne pepper.

Stir, and slowly add the yogurt, stirring continuously.
Continue to cook over high heat until the sauce boils down and the meat is brown. Add the fennel and the ginger and stir to combine. Add the water or broth and cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar. Cook over a medium flame for 30 minutes, then cover the pot completely and cook for an additional 45 (stirring occasionally), or until the meat is tender.

Now I will add here that I don't think you should use beef broth. I did, and my rogan josh was waay too salty. I attribute this to the fact that I used a beef bouillon instead of a broth, so if I'd used the broth I might not have had the same problem. But that 2 1/2 tsp of salt is plenty, in fact it may even be a little too much all by itself. Probably a good idea to err on the side of conservative salt use.

Now on to the rice. First cook that lamb, I mean mutton, over a medium heat until just starting to brown.

Add the garam masala, coriander, salt, ginger and paprika and give it a good stir. Now add the dahl and keep cooking until the meat is brown.

Add the rice and stir until coated with oil, then pour in the milk and water.

Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.

Stir in the pine nuts and transfer the rice to a casserole dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until done.

Finally, the naan. Now, this is a sweet naan and I admit that I don't know how it is usually served in Pakistan. For what it's worth, I served it as a dessert. Here's how to make it:

Mix all the dough ingredients together with your hands. Add one to two tablespoons of water and keep mixing until you get a smooth, stretchy dough. Cover and let sit in a warm place for two or three hours.

Meanwhile, put all the filling ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you get a paste.

Divide the dough into 14 equal-sized balls. Roll each one to make a thin circle. Place some of the filling in the center.

Now fold the edges of the dough over, pinching to seal. Now reshape the dough into a circle. Note--I made mine half-moon shaped, like calzones. The reshaping thing wasn't working for me and I figured they weren't going to taste any different, even though they might like sort of Italian.

Turn on your broiler and place the naan breads under it. Let cook for five or six minutes, checking frequently (they'll go from almost there to burnt in no time if you don't keep your eye on them). When the naans are a golden brown, they're done.

It was a shame about the rogan josh. I could tell it had great flavor, but it was overwhelmed by all that salt. I definitely want to try making it again because I feel like I didn't do the recipe justice.
The rice I loved, of course. Have you ever heard me say, "I did not like that rice?" No. It never happens. I always like the rice.

The naan was really tasty. I love these new takes on my old favorites and I'm definitely going to make this again. It was really sweet and fruity/nutty, not anything like I'd expect to find in that part of the world, where rice pudding seems to be the favorite dessert (though a good rice pudding is pretty yum). This recipe made for a great change and wasn't at all difficult, plus the results were unique and interesting. Two of my favorite things!

Yay I got the blog up on Thursday! Patting myself on the back. Let's see if I can manage two weeks in a row.

Next week: Kazakhstan

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Recipes from Kashmir, India

This week I'm not even going to comment on how long it took me to get a blog post up. I will say that I really don't think my schedule is going to be so messed up once school starts again in August. But until then, well, I don't know.

At last we are back in England, I mean India. Ah! I'm sure I just made someone angry. Let the hate mail begin.

No, really, England is big on Indian food. In fact it wasn't until I met my British husband that I was really introduced to Indian food--before that I think I knew how to make dahl and some sort of potato aloo, but that's about it. Back then we lived in the Bay Area, which is full of really wonderful Indian restaurants, and being a childless couple we were eating out a few times a week so I learned to adore a good curry and some naan bread.

Now that we're in the foothills, most of the Indian food we eat is the stuff I make at home. We do have a good Indian restaurant here, but we can't afford to take all six of us there. So it's homemade tikka masala and butter chicken for us--and occasional blog nights, of course.

This isn't the first time I've done Indian food for Travel by Stove, and it's probably about the millionth time I've done Indian food of any kind. It is fun to see all the regional differences, though, since I usually just cook restaurant favorites on non-blog nights, which may or may not even be authentically Indian.

This week we're doing food from Kashmir, which is in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. The region of Kashmir is actually divided between India, Pakistan and China, but for this post we're sticking strictly with the Indian part.

Present day Kashmir was once a lake--its name actually comes from the term Kaashmir, which means "a land desiccated from water." The economy of this region is agriculturally-based--rice is grown there, along with wheat, barely and many different types of fruits and vegetables. There's some tourism, too, and many of the locals make a living selling handicrafts to visitors. Politically, Kashmir has been merged with another region to form the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. Here's an interesting factoid for you: the region actually has two capitals: Jammu in the winter and Srinagar in the summer. If only we could do that in California: San Diego in the winter, Crescent City in the summer. Sacramento is too hot to be the capital in the summer and too boring to be the capital in the winter. Ah! More hate mail.

 Mahagunas top, peak of the Amarnath Yatra, Kashmir, India.
Photo by sandeepachetan.

Kashmiri food is heavily meat-based. Or, more accurately, heavily mutton-based. Did you know that there are 30 different varieties of mutton in Kashmiri cuisine? I'm not even sure how that's possible. Is it like, grass-fed mutton and corn-fed mutton and old mutton and castrated mutton or what?

I did not pick a mutton recipe, at least not this week. Here's what I did pick:

Murgh Masala
(this recipe comes from Indian Khana)
  • 1 lb chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 1/2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, pureed
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 tap red chili powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 Indian bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup  water
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 15 cashew nuts, roasted
  • 12 almonds, roasted
  • 1 tbsp raisins
Saunf Aloo
(this one is from Sanjeev Kapoor)
  • 15 to 20 baby potatoes, boiled and halved with skin
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/4 tsp asafetida
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Kashmiri Pulao
(this one is from
  • 2 1/3 cups basmati rice
  • 1 medium onion, sliced vertically
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tsp cloves, ground
  • a pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp saffron*
  • 2 tsp milk
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cashews, chopped
  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • salt to taste
* I used a lot less saffron. A whole tablespoon would cost a fortune, and to be honest I don't think I'd like that much saffron in anything. I prefer the flavor to be subtle.

Alright let's start with the chicken. Start by roasting the almonds and cashews in a dry pan, stirring continuously until lightly browned. Let cool, then mix them with the raisins and transfer to a food processor. Process until the nuts are a fine powder.

Now heat 2 tsp of the ghee and fry the roughly chopped onion until golden. Let cool, then place in a food processor and pulse until you get a paste.

Put the rest of the ghee in the pan and add the bay leaves. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the rest of the onion. When the onion is a light brown, add the ginger-garlic paste and the onion paste. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the onion is translucent and no longer smells raw. Add the chili powder, coriander and turmeric. Stir for one minute, mixing well.
Now add the chicken and stir until covered with the onion mixture. Cover the pan and let cook for 10 minutes over a medium flame.

Add the tomato puree and stir, then cover again and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the yogurt and water and let simmer, uncovered, for two minutes or so. Now add the nut and raisin mixture and stir.

Finally, season with the salt and garam masala and let simmer for five minutes. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Now for the potatoes, which are really easy:

Heat the oil and add the asafetida and turmeric. Drop in the potatoes and stir for two or three minutes.

Now season with the salt, coriander powder, chili powder and fennel. Add the yogurt and cook for two more minutes. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Finally the rice:

Wash the rice and soak for 20 minutes, then drain. Meanwhile fry the onions in the oil until golden brown. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, fry the spices and turmeric powder for a minute or two. Add the rice, stirring until coated with oil and seasonings.

Boil the water. Meanwhile, warm the milk, then use it to dissolve the saffron. Add to the rice, then add the hot water and stir well. Let simmer, covered, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff the rice and garnish with the onions, walnuts and cashews.

This was a delicious meal, but you know, all Indian food is delicious as far as I'm concerned. I loved the potatoes especially--they were creamy and had a really great unique flavor--I think it was the asafetida that really made them. That stuff smells pungent and weird, but in small quantities it does wonders for flavor. I liked the chicken, too, it had great flavor and was really tender.

Oh and we liked the rice a lot too, basmati rice is good even when it's plain but I always love these simple recipes to spice it up a little.

So no surprises there, I knew I was going to enjoy Kashmiri food and I did. Martin did, too, though the kids were predictably lukewarm about the whole meal. Oh well, their opinion has never stopped me from adding stuff to the family cookbook, 'cause I am just mean that way.

Next week: Kashmir, Pakistan

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