Sunday, June 12, 2011

Scrumptious Baklava

Baklava has got to be my absolute favorite dessert. And until I tried to make it on my own I thought it was some labor intensive mystery. But it is actually really easy! And way more cost effective to make yourself :). You'll need:

  • 1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough

  • 1 pound chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, walnut or pistachio or a combination!)

  • 1 cup butter

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup honey (I personally prefer orange blossom)

  • 1 tablespoon rose water (totally optional, I do not use this)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut appropriately to fit in pan.

    Now there are two ways you can layer this:
    1. (A more Greek baklava) Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.
    2. (More Middle Eastern Style): Layer half the sheets alternating with butter and mix some butter with the nuts to press all of them into a thick layer. Layer the remaining sheets alternating with butter.
    I typically use the Greek way.

    Using a sharp knife cut into diamond, square, or triangular shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make cuts of your choice. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
    Make sauce before baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey (and rose water if you so choose). Simmer for about 20 minutes. Let cool completely. You can do this step before everything else if you wish because the secret to a crisp baklava is either completely cooled baklava and hot sauce or cool sauce and hot baklava (I choose the latter, it just seems more time efficient).
    Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool and enjoy!

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Seekh Kabobs

    Kabobs are one thing you will almost always find in my freezer, I usually make them from 3-4 pounds of meat at a time and freeze them and keep them in ziploc bags for when I don't feel like cooking. Ideally they are grilled but you can also throw them in the pan and give them a sear while covering them so they don't dry out. Seekh kabob is traditionally made from ground beef or lamb but I've tried them with chicken as well. You can increase or decrease all these quantities according to personal preference but I find these to work for us (at least my 2 year old doesn't complain :D). You'll need:

    2 lb ground beef (for seekh I do ask the butcher to run it through the machine twice)
    1.5 onion
    3 green chilies
    1/4 bunch cilantro
    2 tbsp ginger
    2 tbsp garlic
    5 tbsp melted butter
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1 tbsp red chili powder
    2 tsp garam masala (see last post)

    I usually throw the onion, green chilies and cilantro in a food processor and blend until smooth (I like a seekh kabob with a fairly uniform texture but this is personal preference and you can certainly finely chop all of these instead). Combine all the ingredients and mix really well. I do keep in the fridge overnight I think it gives the all the flavors a little time to incorporate well into the meat and it is easier to form into kabobs (seekh kabob are usually formed in a cylindrical shape rather than round patties). These freeze well, or you can throw them on a grill or pan sear them. Enjoy with preserved thinly sliced onions (just onion in vinegar) and you may also garnish them with freshly chopped cilantro. Serve with naan and yogurt (raita) or basmati rice.

    Garam Masala

    So I know most people just buy premade garam masala from an indian store (at least I used to) but ever since I've become a bit of a spice junkie I really just like to make it myself. So here is what you need:

    1/2 cup whole cumin
    2 tbsp whole coriander
    1.5'' cinnamon
    7-8 green cardamom
    2-3 black cardamom
    2 tsp cloves
    1/8 nutmeg (I typically leave this out or use a few pinches preground nutmeg)
    2 blades mace
    1 tbsp black peppercorns
    2 star anise
    4 bay leaves
    1 tsp fennel seeds

    Roast spices on the stove until fragrant but not burnt. Cool completely and grind everything to a powder. Store in an airtight container. You can use this in most anything from a chicken curry to kabobs as it is a very versatile mix but because the spices are freshly roasted and ground it is very potent and a good idea to start out with a little, taste and gradually add more to your cooking.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Summery Pakoray (Fritters)

    So, like a true desi I love pakorey! For any non-Pakistani/Indian readers, a pakora is a fritter, just like little fried dumplings. Pakorey are mostly rainy day or winter comfort food items (with the exception of Ramadan) but these pakorey are a bit different as they are not traditional in any way. They are also the only pakorey that I've had that taste good cold and so you don't have to serve them right away.

    Oil for deep frying
    2 cups all purpose flour
    1 cup cornstarch
    1.5 tsp baking powder
    half a head of cabbage shredded
    shredded carrots (equivalent to the amount of cabbage)
    one bunch green onions, chopped
    black pepper (use liberally)
    1.5 tsp ground mustard
    2 eggs
    Heat oil. Combine your dry ingredients well. Add cabbage, carrots and green onions. Gradually add water to make a thick batter. Drop into oil using either an ice cream scoop or heaped tablespoons (it really depends on whether you like your pakorey to be large or small). Fry to a golden brown (this will take longer than traditional pakoray mostly because it is made with flour/cornstarch rather than gram flour). Enjoy!
    These are the perfect summer pakorey and if you want kind of a preview in terms of taste profile, my husband said it best when he described it as a "spring roll in pakora form".

    A Super Simple Burger Recipe!

    Okay, so by popular demand I am going to put up a burger recipe. It is by no means a fusion burger just a simple burger that a friend from Chile used to make and is perfect on the grill. I actually do not measure the ingredients and kind of just add them according to the amount of meat (I know, I know, this used to drive me crazy all those times that I'd ask Ami for recipes and she's say add some of this and some of that and I'd have no idea how much some was :D). But anyway, combine according to personal preference:

    ground beef
    garlic (liberally)
    ground cumin
    ketchup and spicy brown mustard (yep directly into the meat :D)
    fresh chopped italian parsley
    fresh thyme, finely chopped
    olive oil

    Mix well and usually my husband shapes 4 patties per pound of beef about 1/2'' to 3/4'' in thickness. Grill to perfection and enjoy with all the trimmings (my friend would also prepare a nice chopped mushroom and onion mixture to go on the burgers, essentially just mushroom, onion, garlic, salt and pepper). Bon Appetit!

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Good Food (I think) and Random Musings

    So my husband has been after me for the better part of last year to start a food blog with recipes. I think I finally am ready (or at least bored enough :P). I may or may not include semi-coherent ramblings about kind of important stuff. But we'll see :). Also I would like to give a special thanks to my sister Rabia who helped me get started, please give her a visit at :)