This past weekend will go down in my history books as one of the best meals I have prepared in my life! But I honestly could not have done it without the support of my sous chef and all the other culinary experts I have consulted with throughout my passionate gastronomical journey.
The meal consisted of 6 plentiful courses, all of which were flawlessly executed! The first course was Petite Wagyu Beef Kababs with a Sweet and Spicy Green Chutney garnished with a grilled red chilli. The Wagyu Beef was marinated with traditional spices, yogurt, and chillies, then grilled to perfection on a Weber (it makes a difference). The Green Chutney Recipe was courtesy of my Grandmother (Dadijan), but slightly modified to appeal to a wider demographic. Dadijan has a great sense of taste, but her tolerance for spicy food is like nobody I've met before. She could bite into a whole chili as a condiment to her meal, and not even break a sweat, where as everyone else would be breathing fire....
Next up were the Karahi Chicken Croquettes with a Chili Mango Lassi Dipping sauce. Karahi Chicken was the first dish my mom taught me to make. Although this isn't the exact replica if her dish, it is inspired by it!
The chicken was milk poached with loads of aromatics and spices, then shredded and mixed with a dry potato mash and a sauteed ginger and chili combination then topped with fresh coriander. Mashed, mixed, seasoned, spiced and formed into logs, panko crusted and deep fried to a golden brown perfection. The Chilli Mango Lassi dipping sauce was equal parts Alphonso Mango and Yogurt, 1 green chilli and a pinch of salt. The sweet and spicy flavors of the dipping sauce balanced well and cooled off the hot and crunchy croquettes.
Course three was my personal favorite, This recipe was a rendition of cholay (chic pea dish) my mom would make traditionally for Iftar during Ramadan. I refined the recipe by combing finely diced tomatoes, sweet yellow peppers, red onions, and a gorgeous tamarind chutney (recipe by my Dadijan). Topped off with Olive Oil, light spices and seasoning. There is NO way one couldn't like this dish. The addition of the Grilled Tiger Prawn also refines this dish by adding a sweet and succulent protein that compliments the savory deliciousness of the chic pea salad. This recipe can also be found in the April edition of BBC Good Food ME!
Course Four has a funny story behind it. A couple years back, when I was looking to explore media options in the Middle East I created a pilot cooking demo. I sent it over to some networks in Dubai and landed a job presenting and cooking on Dubai One for Ask One, then Studio One. The dish below is a version of that dish, with spicy stewed red lentils (Masoor Daal, Mom's recipe) seared Cod (a little reminder of my home town Boston, Massachusetts) and a pickled carrot and lime garnish. The flavors work very nicely together and the pickled carrot provides some texture to this soft and savory dish.
Course Five was hands down the winner though. I cooked this dish back in November 2011 for a photo shoot I did with Ahlan! Gourmet magazine on entertaining at home. The recipes are available under the recipe section of www.sabawahid.com
It's difficult to say where the inspiration for this dish comes from. All I know is that I love sweet potatoes, and lamb is one of those proteins that pairs well with this vegetable. I also found that often times, lamb is not cooked properly in this part of the world. It's often overcooked which gives it that gamey smell and tough texture. When lamb is cooked correctly (I prefer the pink color at a medium temperature as served below) the natural juices and flavors are tantalizing. The lamb was cooked with a honey spiced glaze then topped with a crust of nigella seeds, sesame seeds, and toasted almonds. Nigella seeds are commonly used as a pickling agent or to season breads and stews. It's not commonly found in this form and is highly underestimated. Served with the Tamarind Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus, this dish knocked it out of the park!
And the Grand Finale.....Gajar Ka Halwa!!!! This traditional carrot dessert is simple to make and oh so tasty! They say you need to use Pakistani carrots to keep this dishes authenticity accurate. I didn't have Pakistani carrots available unfortunately, so I made do with local ones. How I refined this dish was by infusing Vanilla Bean/Pod into the carrots along with raisins, almonds and pistachios. I then topped it with cardamom yogurt ice cream and garnished with candied orange and pistachio brittle. It was a heavenly combination that received the Pakistani stamp of approval!
The final offering at a Pakistani dinner is the candied fennel seeds, It is most commonly used as a mouth freshener/palette cleanser after a meal, this just took it up a notch. Using a traditional brittle recipe I mixed the fennel seeds in and allowed it to cool down into this interesting and colorful treat! It was a nice touch and an unusual use of a common Pakistani food item.
The meal was a success, and I look forward to more of the same. Recipes like this plus much more in the Modern Pakistani Cuisine cook book (COMING SOON!!!)