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Pakistani Cuisines and Chicken Curry

Much like India, Pakistan too has several kinds of curries hailing from the different parts of the land. There’s Punjabi, Lahori, Sindh, Pashtun, Blochi, Mughlai, Kashmiri, Parsi, Gujarati and Bihari. My family come from Lahore, so naturally the food I will describe in my posts hail from Lahore too, though on some occasion they may be influenced by other regions.

Lahori food is wholesome, full of flavor and have enough spices to put hairs on your chest! One of the major cultural attractions in Lahore is Gualmundi, or in other words ‘Food Street’. When I first went there, I felt like a kid taken to the candy shop!  The street is literally full of Lahori and Pakistani delicacies. There’s Haleem, Nihari, Kheer, Batereh, and let’s not forget Dhey Paleh! This place is definitely worth a visit if you’re a foody looking for adventure.

There’s one dish in particular that I found myself craving a few weeks back and when I heard my family in London were about to tuck into some chicken curry. My mouth immediately began watering and I just knew that I had to make some for myself that weekend. Chicken Curry is a simple yet delicious Pakistani dish. I can’t describe the taste, aroma or pleasure this dish gives, it can only be experienced…

For this dish I recommend using a whole chicken cut into no less than 8 pieces. Bones are essential to add a nice flavor to the sauce – boneless chicken will also be nice however, but not as nice.

Recipe

1 whole chicken cut without skin and into no less than 8 pieces

2 medium – large onions sliced

3 cloves of garlic crushed

1 inch garlic chopped

2 black cardamoms

6 green cardamons

1 cinnamon stick

4-6 bird’s eye green chillies chopped

3-4 tbsp tomato puree

1/4 cup plain yoghurt

Salt to taste

2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp ajwain seeds

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 litre water

3 tbsp oil – I use olive oil in all of my cooking

fresh coriander to garnish

Method:

Marinade the chicken in the yogurt and 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 of the chopped chillies for a few hours if you can.

In a pot, heat some oil and gently fry the black and green cardimoms and cinnamon stick for 1 minute, add the onions and continue to fry on a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until they have softened. Add the crused garlic and ginger and fry for another minute. Add the chopped chillies and about 1/2 a cup of water and cook on a low heat to further soften the onions. Once most of the water has evaporated add the tomato puree and remove from the heat. Blend the mixture to a puree or mash with a potato masher to break down the onions as much as possible.

Add the turmeric, salt, red chilli powder and a drop of water if the sauce is too dry and return to a medium heat. Stir frequently to avoid the sauce from sticking. Once the sauce has reduced and is close to drying out add the chicken with the marinade to the sauce. Fry on a medium to high heat, stirring frequently so that the chicken turns white evenly. If your sauce is too thick at this point add 1/4 cup of water. Fry for no more that 5-7 minutes, then cover securely and simmer for 10-15 minutes. It’s advised to check half way through to stir and ensure the chicken is releasing its juices.

Once the chicken has released its juices turn the heat up and cook without the lid for a further 5 minutes or so or until the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has begun to release some oil. Remove the cardimon pods. At this point bring the heat down to medium and add a tbsp of oil to induce the oil release and the ajwain seeds, cumin and corriander powder and stir frequently. Once the oil has separated from the sauce add the water, allow to boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Check to ensure the chicken is cooked fully and then turn off the heat. Season with salt to taste and spinkle the garam masala and corriander on top.

Serving tip: Serve with plain boiled rice and a side salad. This dish may also be eaten with naan bread or even with regular french stick, if desired.

Starbucks or Starsucks?

I don’t really have a vice of any kind. I don’t drink, smoke, eat too many sweets or chocolates, and when it comes to food I insist on the very best and healthiest of choices. Coffee has also been off my diet for the past several years, until I was introduced to the wonders of the Nespresso machine at work one tiresome afternoon.

It had literally been a month since I began my 1-coffee-a-week regime when I arrived in the land of Starbucks. And I asked myself, “where has Starbucks been all my life?!” It being 28 odd degrees in New York City at the time I opted for a tall, skinny, coffee frappucino. (That’s a small, low-fat iced-coffee drink to those not familiar with the local lingo.) I had one everyday, and since my return to Amsterdam I have been in pursuit of finding the next best thing, sadly nothing even comes close.

This past week I did make a trip back to my own hometown in London, and was pleasatly surprised to find a Starbucks at Amsterdam’s Schippol Airport, and not only that, London has its own fairshare of the coffee chain. Now back on Dutch turf or water, I am obsessed in finding a Starbucks closer to home, and thanks to a quick search online, there appears to be one at Amsterdam Central Station!

But having revealed my new obsession to my partner in crime, he was quick to send me this shocking (and dear I say tear jerking) link today: Ten of the Worst Artery Cloggers in America. Ten guesses what was at the top of the list? Yup, FRAPPUCINOS.

Well, I always ordered the tall skinny ones, but according to this article that’s a no-no as well. Well, all I can say is, it was good while it lasted 🙂

You Can’t Visit NYC and Not Have a Burger…

It’s confession time. Though I love all kinds of food, I am also a health addict at heart. It took me a whole 5 days, and even a shocking hour before my ride came to drop me off at JFK airport, to eat my first New York burger. And if that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t settle for just any old burger, it had to be the best!

And boy was it tasty…. I stepped into the Rare Bar & Grill on Lexington Avenue and coyly revealed my story to the waiter. “I want the best burger that you have,” I declared.  A while later he returned with my order: KOBE TERIYAKI (topped with their Teriyaki sauce and sauteed scallions.)

Rare Bar Grill's Kobe Teriyaki Burger

Rare Bar Grill's Kobe Teriyaki Burger

It wasn’t exactly the kind of burger I expected to eat on my trip, but it certainly was tasty, excellent quality beef with very little fat dripping on my plate – which is always good in my opinion. It would have been a nice treat to have had some fries on the side but my neither my stomach nor my conscious would let me…

I am also very proud to report that NYC’s infamous Hot Dog’s never made it to my belly. I saw a documentary in my hotel room about how they are made – and it didn’t exactly make me crave one, if you know what I mean. But if junk food is what you’re into, don’t let me stop you… According to the same documentary, New Yorker’s eat an average of 60 Hot Dogs a year! And here’s me who couldn’t eat even one…

New York Bagel with Lox Spread

Still buzzing from my first New York City adventure, I wanted to share with you one of my morning delights on my week-long escapade: the infamous New York Bagel. Available almost everywhere, these donut shaped treats are served with a variety of toppings, most common of which is cream cheese. 

As a soul searching for absolute gastronomic satisfaction I embarked with my partner in all things hot and spicy to H&H Bagels where we indulged in what became a morning breakfast tradition. As a native English speaker I thought I knew it all, until I was confronted by ‘lox’ which stared back at me from the menu. Searching through my travel guide book like a confused tourist in a foreign land I became educated on one of New York City’s colloquial terms. Lox = Smoked Salmon. 

H&H Bagel: Cream Cheese with Lox Spread

 

Lox is usually served in two ways: either chopped and mixed with cream cheese (Bagel with Lox Spread,) or as thin slivers sitting on top of a cream cheese bagel (Bagel with Cream Cheese and Lox.) My choice can be seen in the image above.

I highly recommend these bagels. though I also tried other local bagel stores and they were equally pleasing. Whatever you do on your next or first trip to New York, don’t forget to try out this New York tradition, and if you can’t wait, try out my recipe here.

Till next time, eet smakelijk!

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Last post on Rome…for a while…I promise

I’m sure you’re all busting for me to move on to the next hot topic, but I seriously need to get a few last things off my chest about Rome (sorry Hugo!)

The best way to get from Rome Fiumicino Airport to the city center is to take the Leonardo Express Train, which runs every half-hour and takes about the same time to reach Termini. Now, beware that a taxi from the station to the River Tiber should cost you no more than 10 euro on the meter. Anyone trying to charge you 25 euro is clearly ripping you off.  From Termini to Piazza Venezia for example, a taxi should cost about 6 euro.

Some of the coolest things to do in Rome (depending on the weather of course) is just to find a nice spot and chill. We spent many relaxed afternoons lazing on the sidewalk of Piazza Navona, in Villa Borghese, and let’s not forget Rome’s hidden treasure, Island Tiberina; Rome’s ‘island’ on the River Tiber.

A few last tips: In Villa Borghese – one of Rome’s parks, it’s nice to rent a bicycle and make a trip around the park, which also makes a nice break from all the walking one does in Rome.

Other places on the MUST visit list: Fontana di Trevi, Pantheon; Piazza Navona, Campo Dei Fiori, Colosseum, Palatine Hill/Roman Forum, and Piazza Venezia.

Finally, when in Rome do take the effort to walk around and find hidden treasures of your own. Don’t settle for what’s on your hotel doorstep, and do not make the mistake of asking your hotel to recommend a place either… It’s most likely going to be a neighboring place with whom they have a ‘convenient’ partnership. Albeit that they might have good food, it’s your holiday, so create your own adventure!

Oh, and do drop back. I would love to hear about your great Roman finds!

Roman Delights

The spring is fast upon us (and with any luck the summer will be too) and there’s no better time to visit Rome, than right now. Rome is one of my favorite European cities, it has so much character, history and great food packed in. It was – as I promised myself some 11 years ago – the first official holiday I took alone (excluding my visit to Amsterdam of course!)

So you’ve got a few days spare, or maybe you just fancy a weekend city break, whatever your excuse, if you plan to visit Rome DO NOT miss some of these great highlights!

And in true Eat, Live, Breathe tradition, I begin with the absolute essential: food.

Across the River Tiber is Trastevere, which is without a doubt the BEST place to eat in Rome. The cobbled, small streets make a nice little romantic wander, and the restaurants are filled with locals tucking into their primi’s and wine. Almost any restaurant here will be top-notch, but up there with the best of them is Enzo a Trastevere (Via dei Vascellari 29), a quiet little eatery with quality food, service and atmosphere. 

Another place to visit is Felice a Testaccio (Via Mastro Giorgio 29), which was highly recommended to me by an Italian colleague of mine. Only drawback with this place is that it’s so popular amongst the locals that you will have to reserve a table at least a day or two in advance. So be warned. 

But wherever you decide to settle down to eat, don’t feel obliged to order a primi, secondi and dolce, because though they may appear to be a starter and main course, individually they’re more than enough to fill any hungry tummy. Must-try local delicacies include Pasta Arrabiata (spicy), Pollo alla Romana, Cacio e Pepe, and on Thursday only, Gnocci. 

And when in Rome, you feel like doing what the Romans do, then stop by Giolitti (Via degli Uffici del Vicaro 40) a few steps from the Pantheon, for some Ice cream between 4-5pm. 

Drop back soon for some more tips!

Rome Uncensored

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of swapping a wet and miserable Amsterdam for some much needed sun in Rome. It was in fact my second visit in three years – it’s actually just settling in that I’ve been there twice now! It was the one destination I vowed myself to visit when I was just 16. I have to admit my romance with the city stemmed from E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View, which awoke in me a passion for life, plus I saw something of myself in Lucy… It is afterall a story that reveals the repressed culture of Edwardian England…not that far off from the Pakistani culture in which I was raised.

So I was in Rome less than three weeks ago, with my partner in travel to keep me company. I had the whole trip planned out, complete with daily itineraries, places to visit, eat, drink and chill. The first time I went, I walked everywhere and sadly didn’t have much luck with food, mostly because I didn’t stop in the right places, neighborhood or choose the right dishes. But this time I made sure to do my homework well in advance. Read the rest of this entry »