La pizza deliziosa

One of my all time favorite foods is a freshly baked pizza! The sight and smell of a beautiful pizza with melted cheese on it is just way too tempting. From my perspective a plethora of pizza chains have spoiled the fun. When I was a kid, we used to have a pizza maybe once a month. It was considered a delicious Italian specialty which my mother would bake when we needed a treat. The first time when I ever came to know about pizza was perhaps when we watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I remember being enticed into thinking what a delicious thing these turtles were eating. I think when things are made to look special they really look special. Our regular diet consisted of (and still does) flat-pan bread (roti) with stewed vegetables, meat, curries or pulao (rice). Once a month, a slightly different menu brought smiles on our faces. Adding to the international menu was our all time favorite Chinese rice, Pakistani style.

Getting back to my own pizza recipe, I can now claim to make a pizza as good as the ones we find in the famous pizza outlets- well, atleast thats what my husband tells me! 🙂 In reality, any dish should be made as simple and as natural as possible. Using readily available ingredients, pizza making is one of the best ways of utilizing food items that would otherwise end up in the bin. Kids usually don’t like vegetables so this is one way of making them eat vegetables.

Another ingredient that may make my pizza unique is the use of whole wheat flour. I really feel that it is way more healthier and better for kids digestion and overall health. So a whole wheat flour dough, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, vegetables or meat, black olives, mushrooms, pineapples, garnished with Italian herbs, does wonders! Of course, one can adjust the toppings to one’s own choice but most importantly it can be ready within 30 minutes provided the dough is ready and you have all your ingredients. So here’s to a dish which is simple, liked by millions, and easy to prepare.

Published in: on April 7, 2011 at 1:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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The magic of tea

The word tea reminds me of  rich aromas, chilly winter evenings of Islamabad and quality time spent with  family. Heating some water and adding tea leaves every morning and evening is a daily ritual. Such common is tea drinking, that it now involves a lot more than just tea. According to a statistic, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. With tea usually come biscuits, samosas and other snacks. The habit is so pervasive in Pakistan and amongst Pakistani diaspora in other parts of the world that an outsider cannot help noticing it. I was told by a friend about how delicious our tea was. I am sure that tea made in other parts of the world is equally worth enjoying.

Since there isn’t much tea grown in Pakistan, most of it is imported. Pakistanis are fond of the Kenyan blend of tea. Tea can be of so many different types, blends and aromas. I will try to mention the varieties I can remember and have experienced.

Chai – Almost a staple, chai (چاۓ) or tea with milk is widely consumed by millions around the world, especially in the sub-continent. Often cut tea leaves (which are already processed) are added directly into whole milk or are boiled with water first and then milk is added to it. Sometimes cardamom can also be added to give more flavor and aroma.

Qehwa قہوہ  – Often confused with chai, qehwa/kahwa is common especially in north and western parts of Pakistan. Its use is quite prevalent after heavy meals. After dinner, qehwa is commonly served and enjoyed as hot drink. Almost similar to it is the green tea which has various health benefits. Besides having antioxidants, tea may bolster the immune defenses.

Kashmiri chai (کشمیری چاۓ ) – One of the best teas I have ever had is undoubtedly the Kashmiri chai (or Gulabi chai). As is evident from its name it originates from Kashmir. It is a rich blend of  herbs and milk. Pink in color and a little salty, Kashmiri chai is the one I miss the most. Garnished with crushed almonds and pistachios, this tea is hard to resist. Due to its special nature, Kashmiri tea is also commonly served in Pakistani weddings. My Kashmiri friend (whose grandparents had migrated from Srinagar) told me that the best Kashmiri chai is made using a Samovar, a metal container used for heating the water for the tea. Googling may help you find nice recipes for preparing Kashmiri tea, but the real deal is good quality tea leaves and the time spent in its simple preparation.

Tea is more than a drink. In fact, its magic brings friends and families together. As the saying goes, lets meet over a cup of tea. Nothing like a hot cup of tea any day of the week!

Published in: on March 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Delicious Fish Biryani

If you are thinking of eating something a little different and exotic for lunch or dinner, try making a mouth-watering dish called fish biryani.

Main Ingredients:

  • Basmati Rice (2 cups, soak in water for 1 hour)
  • Cod Fish (2 lbs)
  • Shan Masala (spices), Salt
  • Tomato (1) , Onions (1), Ginger & Garlic paste (1 teaspoon)
  • Yogurt (half cup)

Cut the fish into fillets. Marinate them with lemon juice and garlic paste. Shan spices have made life so easy, especially where all the main Pakistani/Indian spices are not easily available. It can save a lot of time and effort by using ready made spices which have the right quantity of all the necessary spices. Shan fish biryani masala is available at Amazon.com. You may also try finding it in a Pakistani/Indian grocery store. (Another wonderful recipe is Sindhi Biryani prepared in a similar way with chicken or mutton).

While the fish gets marinated, take one medium sized onion and slice into small pieces. Stir fry the onions in 4 table spoons of Canola oil.  When the onions turn light brown, add the ginger and garlic paste. Then add finely chopped tomato and Shan fish biryani masala mixed in yogurt. Stir for a few minutes and then add the fish pieces that have been marinated for 30 minutes. Cook on medium heat for a 2-3 minutes and then add 3/4 cup of water and let it steam for another 5 minutes or so until the fish is cooked and the water has evaporated.

Basmati rice has to be cooked in a careful way. Boil five cups of water in a separate pot. Also add cardamom, bay leaves and 1-1/2 tea spoon salt.  Once the water starts boiling, add the soaked basmati rice. Cook the rice until it is just about ready (not fully cooked). In a pot, put a layer of the boiled rice and then a layer of the cooked fish. Repeat the layering process and finally add saffron or food color. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro (coriander).  Cover the pot and leave on low heat for about 12 minutes. Delicious fish biryani is ready!

Published in: on February 3, 2011 at 5:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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