Lamb with prunes

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Lamb with Prunes

3-5 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 lbs lamb
2 onions thinly sliced
1-2 bunches of cilantro
3 1/2 + cups water or chicken broth to cover meat*
cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 large pinches saffron
1/2 to 1 teaspoon each ginger and turmeric
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups pitted prunes
Honey and orange flower water to taste (optional… I never use honey. Sometimes I put a splash of orange flower water)
Toasted almonds and sesame seeds to garnish if desired

Place the lamb meat in a tagine or heavy dutch oven, add oil, onions, all the spices except the ground cinnamon and brown 2-3 minutes, or until the meat is coated and browned slightly- do not overcook because the spices will turn bitter.

Cover with broth or water and simmer covered tightly until meat is very tender at least 1 hour. When meat is done put it on a serving plate in a 200 degrees oven to keep warmed.

Add prunes, ground cinnamon- remove cinnamon stick, add honey and orange flower water if using and reduce sauce to desired consistency- season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Pour sauce over meat and garnish with toasted almond and sesame seeds if desired.

*If using chicken bullion instead of homemade broth, make sure to taste for salt because bouillons usually have a lot of salt and some contain wheat and MSG.

This recipe was submitted by Tina OConnor.

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Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon

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Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon

Splash or two of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Large pinch of saffron threads
1 whole chicken, cleaned
3 cups chicken broth or water**
Two or more handfuls of green or pink-brown olives, rinsed*
1-2 preserved lemons rinsed (you must use preserved lemons to get the proper taste)
Large bunch each of cilantro and parsley finely chopped

Heat the oil add onion and fry gently, stirring until softened and golden in a dutch oven or tagine

Add garlic, pinch of salt, pepper, ginger, saffron, and cinnamon. Stir into onions until fragrant.

Add chicken, and broth or water, bring to a simmer reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cover tightly and cook 1 1/2 hours at least or until soft. Check frequently and pour juices over top of chicken to keep breast moist.

Remove chicken and broil until golden ( you may add salt to top the skin for taste or Greek cavanders low sodium the regular has MSG so get the blue bottle)

Add olives, lemons and herbs to pan and cook down the sauce until thickened and pour over the chicken.

*You can replace the olives with artichoke hearts for this recipe too and it is so good!

**If using chicken bullion instead of homemade broth, make sure to taste for salt because bouillons usually have a lot of salt and some contain wheat and MSG.

This recipe was submitted by Tina OConnor. One day, she will create her own profile so she can post directly. She has some very yummy North African dishes to share! 🙂

Ready Made Curry Pastes

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Ready made curry pastes

Thanks to the popularity of South Asian cuisine in The US, UK, and Canada (particularly in the UK, though), many mainstream grocery stores now carry ready made “curry pastes.” In my opinion, the quality of such pastes is generally subpar in comparison to masala powders (either premixed, or mixed from scratch). The only value that curry pastes have in in teaching the uninitiated how to cook a particular dish, without having to do much of the grunt work (like chopping, slicing, or dicing). One can also learn how a particular dish smells while cooking (I do a lot of cooking by smell, which comes in very handy during Ramadhan, when I am cooking while fasting!).

Other than that, in my opinion, I think that these things should be avoided at all costs. When cooking with pre-made curry pastes, you do not have the ability to adjust spices according to flavor, and you may end up with a dish that is simply not to your liking. There is also the issue with authenticity, with many of these pastes being Anglicized creations of traditional dishes. So, unless you want to make a “curry” that tastes exactly like pub fare, I do not recommend using curry pastes.

So, while it may be tempting to simply pick up a bottle of “Tikka Masala” paste, try to resist the temptation, and keep on walking.

(by the way, you will note in the photo above that there is a row of yellow boxes under the curry paste bottles. These are the “Shan masalas” that I refer to so often in my recipes. Using these will give you an authentic taste.)

What is “Garlic Paste?”

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I’ve been thinking that some of my readers may be wondering, “what is garlic paste, and where can I get it?” Well, garlic paste is basically nothing more than crushed garlic. The photo above shows on the left, a (very small) jar of “crushed garlic” that was purchased at a regular grocery store, and on the right, a small jar of “garlic paste” that was purchased at a local Indian grocery. They are almost identically the same (the one on the left had citric acid added as a preservative).

If you do not have access to South Asian stores, you should be able to easily find crushed garlic at your regular grocery store (in the spice aisle).

I’m still looking for an equivalent for ginger paste.

Seveyan (Sweet Vermicelli Dessert)

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Seveyan (Sweet vermicelli Dessert) is a popular South Asian sweet served on the two Muslim days of celebration, known as Eid (Eid ul Fitr, at the end of Ramadhan, and Eid ul Adha, during the pilgrimage to Makkah, known as Hajj). This dish is so easy to prepare, so I am often left wondering why people do not make it more often. The beauty of making sweets from scratch is that you can control how much sugar goes into it. Since I use sweetened condensed milk, I put less sugar than many recipes call for.

The following recipe is one that I have worked out, based on a few recipes that I have found across the Internet, my personal taste, and ingredients that allow for shortcuts (toasted vermicelli, for example). It should be noted that the vermicelli in this recipe is not the same as the kind that is used in Italian recipes. Toasted vermicelli can be found at most South Asian stores and halal markets. 

Ingredients:

1 c Fine Vermicelli, broken into pieces no longer than 3″ long (there is a brand that is already broken up. Look for it!)

6 c Milk

1/4 to 1 c Sugar* (see note regarding sugar below)

1/2 c Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 c dates, pits removed, and coarsely chopped

1 TBSP Raisins (white or red)

1 c sliced almonds, toasted

4 or 5 strands of saffron (optional, but highly recommended)

1/4 to 1/2 tsp cardamom powder (to taste)

Technique:

Heat the milk in a heavy bottomed, large stock pot to a boil. Add sugar*, raisins, dates, saffron, cardamom powder, and almonds. Lower heat to medium, and stir till sugar is dissolved. Let simmer till the milk is reduced by 1/4 (you usually end up with a line on the side of the pot from the first boil to use as reference), stirring often to keep the milk from burning. Add the condensed milk and vermicelli, stir. Lower the heat to low to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (again to keep it from burning).

Optional: Once the seveyan has been poured into the serving bowl, you may garnish it with almonds, cashews, coconut slivers, etc.  (I sometimes like to sprinkle on a bit more cardamom powder, since I am fond of the flavor!)

Enjoy!

*A note about sugar: The amount necessary varies, depending on your other ingredients being used. If using sweetened condensed milk, AND Medjool Dates (these are the big, pretty dates, sold in America by the Bard Valley Date Growers, in red packages), 1/4 c sugar is sufficient. Medjools are pretty sweet on their own, so if you do not cut back the amount of sugar, the end results will be sickeningly sweet! If using unsweetened milk and Medjool dates, 1/2 c sugar should be enough. If using the small (and to my opinion, tasteless) dates that are generally sold in the baking aisle of the grocery store, with unsweetened condensed milk, again 1/2 c sugar should do the trick. Using the small dates with sweetened condensed milk would require about 1/2 c sugar. Always err on the side of caution with the sugar added to this dish. It gets sweet really quickly!

Bhindi (Okra)

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Bhindi

Bhindi means “okra” in Urdu. This is one of the (very) few green vegetables that is cooked and consumed in my house. Bhindi is one of my husband’s favorite dishes, but due to the fact that I am not a fan of okra, I rarely make it (trying to work on that, actually, since he does enjoy it so much!).

This is a very simple dish to prepare, with prep-time mostly taken up chopping the ingredients. The end results should not be slimy (that is, the okra should not be cooked in the typical American fashion, where it is beyond recognition!), and the okra should still be a little firm (there should be some shape to it!).

Bhindi can be served as either a main dish or a side dish.

Ingredients:

1/3 to 1/2 c cooking oil

1 lb okra, with ends cut off, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces

1 small onion, finely diced

1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped

1 tsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp Shan Chaat Masala

1 tsp coriander powder

1/4 tsp salt (optional)

1/4 tsp black pepper (optional)

1/4 tsp Shan Garam Masala

1/2 c water

Technique:

In a medium stock pot, heat oil on medium heat. Saute onions, garlic and ginger pastes. Add cumin, salt, pepper, chaat masala, and coriander. When onions are translucent, add tomatoes. Saute till tomatoes are soft, and starting to separate from skins. Add okra and water. Lower heat and cover. Let simmer till okra are cooked, stirring occasionally.

Enjoy!