Chicken Pita Pockets

Cuisines in every culture and tradition or every country have wonderful recipes to offer. Trying different cuisines around the world just makes you experience how amazing the world of flavor is. In a way, it makes you experience another culture. This recipe has a very middle eastern and Greek flavor. The reason or the inspiration behind trying these amazing Pita pockets was to serve my kids with more veggies.

Honestly, I feel that in today’s time everyone finds it difficult to have their kids finish veggies on their plate or just simply consume the basic portion recommended. Cooking Vegetable curries is a great option but when you have kids like mine, the curries cannot save your day either. Times like these are when this dish is a savior in every good way. The chicken is cooked with very little oil

Eating your way around the world is a fun thing you can do from home. Trying foods from different countries is also a great way to experience another culture. You can start with this chicken in pita pockets. This recipe is filled with loads of flavor plus its healthy too. Lunch or dinner, it’s always filling and nutritious. Greek flavor and will really fill you up. In fact, these serve as a lunch or dinner but could be an entire meal.

A pita pocket is the best sandwich bread you can use. Pita bread can easily be cut open. I usually prefer cutting it in half creating a pocket. Chicken pita pockets are a perfect example of how delicious veggies and chicken be while being healthy. Don’t get scared looking at the recipe or feel looking at the pics that the end product seems too complicated. This dish is easy, not super easy, and not something I would suggest to a beginner, but it’s still not too time-consuming, and if you follow each step as directed, your finished product would be fabulous. this works.

Murgh Malai Tikka

These are most juiciest and softest kebabs I have ever made. Yet they are amazingly flavorful. My story for Murgh Malai Tikka is connected to my older son. My older son, who is a handsome teenager now used to have GERD as a kid. For those of us who have kids suffering from refluxes and unable to keep their food down, we know the pain. For those who have kids who are picky eaters, we know the struggle. Unfortunately, for my son, he was both a picky eater and suffered from a reflux and that continued for the first 2 years of his life. But, as they say there is always a ray of good hope and things started to get better once he turned 2.

Now once he started eating real food, his choices went more towards dishes that were spicy but considerable mild at the same time. That was when during one of our outings he tried Malai Tikka and he was so much in love that we placed another order of the dish, which of course he didn’t touch because we forgot that he was two and as much as we loved to feed our super fussy toddler, his tummy could only take so much. But, this was the time when I decided that I should start making my own Malai tikka kebabs at home.

And of course, like everything else dishes also require experiments and some times way too many. So, with this one my initial experiments weren’t that bad but they weren’t successful. The first try, I made them with Chicken breast. Although with some kebabs Chicken breast comes out dry, but honestly with this recipe make one of the most moist kebabs ever. Chicken breast is a great choice for curries and for dishes that require you to mince the chicken, but this is something tried and tested, while making Murgh Malai tikka, you can pick any Boneless Chicken Thigh and leg meat or Chicken Breast. Your kebabs will be juicy, moist and a taste to die for! The second mistake was to only rub in yogurt which didn’t make them too different from the other ones that I was already making.

Secondly the addition of different spices also was a little adventurous but finally a few experiments later I discovered that the key to a perfect Malai Tikka wasn’t just Yogurt and cream but also cheese. A little bit of shredded cheese might sound weird and you might feel that cheese is the last flavor you want to taste in you desire when you bite into your Malai Tikka, but trust me, no one ever knows. I guess its a pretty well guarded secret…LOLzzz. Well, now you know. The cheese needs to be shredded and you can only add Mozarella which isn’t too strong in taste. Adding anything like Cheddar will definitely ruin the taste.

I make these tikkas by marinating them in Yogurt, Cream, Ginger garlic paste, Shredded cheese, Black pepper, White pepper, Cumin powder, Red chili powder, Salt, Turmeric Powder, Tandoori Powder and cashew paste. Besides that I also add some fresh chopped Coriander leaves and Green chilies. I believe there is nothing that can enhance the flavor of spices more than fresh herbs. Though I make these kebabs in the oven, but they have been grilled to perfection on our outdoor grill as well by Mr. Parveez and they come out perfectly juicy and delicious. You can always cook them on the pan too. Kebabs are something that cross out all the restrictions and can be made anytime anywhere. I fail to understand recipes that only require an oven. That should never be the case. So, oven, no oven, grill, no grill…as long as you have these kebabs marinated the right way and have fire, these kebabs can be cooked in no time.

I generally do not serve them with the stick unless I make them for a kid’s party. If you are using the wooden skewers, always soak them in water for 20 minutes before adding your kebabs to it. Soaking in water doesn’t let them burn in the pan or oven while cooking.

These kebabs are very appealing and inviting and an instant hit. They melt in the mouth, while the spices give you a light kick, the cream base cools your taste buds down making these irresistible little chunks soft and juicy and delicious enough for you to lose the count of how many you relished.

Rose Kulfi

The wonderful world of cold desserts and the version of ice creams served in India “Kulfi”. The word Kulfi or Qulfi is an Indian word derived from the Persian word “Qufli” which means “covered cup”. The dessert was likely originated during the era of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. The mixture of milk, sugar and nuts. Kulfi is a gifted recipe from the Middle eastern travelers and settlers to India and neighboring countries. Along with so many architectural gifts to India, like the Taj mahal, which even till date makes our country so proud and has millions of visitors travel India only to see Taj Mahal once in their lifetime and so many gorgeous forts, along with Red Fort where the PM addresses the nation every year are all an awesome example of Mughal architectural skill.

Coming back the Kulfi, Indian cuisine were not aware of using Orange blossom, Rose water, saffron or a wide variety of dry fruits in the cuisine. The Mughals while introducing their cuisines and blending them with Indian flavors resulted in wide variety of Biryanis, Kebabs, curries and sweet dishes including Gulab Jamun, Jalebi and Rabri to name a few and of course, Kulfi.

This sweet dish is rich in flavor and can be made in various flavors and is always served cold. It can be served with Basil seeds or sabza that are soaked for an hour, as falooda. It can be flavored while serving as well. I usually like mine to be served with Rose syrup, or the popular Rooh Afza.

This particular recipe has Milk boiled till it thickens and reduces. Added Khoya and cooked further after adding sugar, cardamom powder, saffron, crushed Rose petals, Rose flavoring, a little red food color and Milk powder to thicken the mixture making the Kulfi more dense and creamier. You can always change the flavors in a Kulfi keeping the base the same.

I also use Silver leaf for decoration, but that’s always optional, but something that makes you home kulfi different from the restaurant and trust me, even better.

Kolhapuri Chicken Biryani

Biryani is an absolute classic that needs no introduction. India offers so much on its culinary platter but the one dish Non vegetarian Indians unanimously love indulging in is the mouth-watering biryani. With local and hyperlocal variations having evolved into distinctive styles of biryanis, one is spoilt for options when it comes to experiencing this melting pot of flavors. The delicious complex blend of spices are the reason behind the love this dish gets from people of all generations.So if you are a die-hard fan of this delicious dish, take things up a notch and tease your taste buds a little more with the story of what makes biryani so extraordinary.

Though it may appear to be a dish indigenous to  India, in reality the dish originated quite far away. Biryani is derived from the Persian word Birian, which means ‘fried before cooking’ and  Birinj, the Persian word for rice. While there are multiple theories about how biryani made its way to India, it is generally accepted that its a gift to the Indian cuisine from the Mughals. Along with extraordinary skills of architecture and artillery, they also came along with the beautiful flavors of orange blossom, screw pine water and Rose water mixed with saffron and the skill of using the beautiful spices India offered with other spices from the middle east and create so many non vegetarian dishes that would make Indian/Pakistani cuisines thank them till the end of the world.

One legend has it that the Turk-Mongol conqueror, Temur, brought the precursor to the biryani with him when he arrived at the frontiers of India in 1398. Believed to be the war campaign diet of Temur’s army, an earthen pot full of rice, spices and whatever meats were available would be buried in a hot pit, before being eventually dug up and served to the warriors.

The Nizams of Hyderabad and Nawabs of Lucknow were most famous for their appreciation of the subtle nuances of biryani. Their chefs are renowned the world over for their signature dishes. These rulers popularized their versions of the biryani, which by the way, just in Hyderabad is around 20-25 varieties along with mouth watering accompaniments like mirchi ka salan, Dahi ki chutney/ Raita, khatte baingan, Dalcha and baghare baingan. All different regions in India offer different accompaniments with the Biryani that they serve.

The perfect biryani calls for meticulously measured ingredients and a practiced technique. Other than the technique, spices also play a critical role in dishing out a good biryani – some recipes call for a very limited use of spices while others use more than 15 different spices. Meat or chicken is often the main ingredient, though in some coastal varieties, fish, prawns, and crabs are also used. Use of rose water, screw pine water / kewra water in biryani is also common, a practice prevalent since the medieval era. The pot, sealed around the edges with dough, or covered with a cloth with the lid or something heavy is placed on the lid that doesn’t allow the steam to escape and for the meat to tenderize in its own juices while flavoring the rice.

This recipe of Biryani as the name indicates is from the princely state in Southern Maharashtra, Kolhapur, also popular for its footwear. Though the original recipe also has Raisins, but I have not added them as I do not enjoy sweet with spicy in my Biryani. You can always add it if you prefer. This recipe is super spicy, since most Maharashtrian foods are spicy so this one is a little more for the daring ones. But for sure a recipe that’s a must try for any Biryani lover.

Chawal ki Kheer

Chawal ki Kheer is a popular meetha/sweet dish in all Indian/ Pakistani/ Bangaldeshi homes. For every special occasion when Kheer is supposed to be made, of all the different varieties of Kheer, Chawal Ki Kheer is made the most.

My love for Chawal ki Kheer is probably since birth. I have never come across any chef/cook or for that matter any person who can make Chawal ki kheer as good as my mother. Since I could understand things well, I would always look forward to days when she would make Kheer. A spoonful in you mouth was enough for anyone to experience a taste of heaven. The funny part that I never liked the Kheer anyone else made, it was in my view a complete injustice to the dish. I expected people to work harder and make it just like my mom, because since I was a kid, I never realized the amount of effort and hard work she puts into it. When I grew up, and with time started getting ready to explore the world of spices and learn the art of cooking good food is when I saw how many hours it took her to actually make something so deliciously wonderful and delicious and that’s when I understood why I see so many faces of relatives and friends on Eid, that I do not see all year round and requesting for my mother’s special Kheer.

There is no way that I will be able to describe the number of hours she gave into it, but I can definitely give you an idea. So, we are a family that comprises of almost a 150+ members, almost. Please do not get shocked reading this. This includes my grandfather’s children and their families and considering that my grandfather had 9 children, and all kids have large families and most of my aunts had grandchildren while I was still in my teens. So it was this plus distant family and friends. Making Kheer as all these people made my mom look like a “Khansama”. I am sure she felt that at times too. She would get around 40-50 liters of milk, may be more and slow cook that milk till it reduces to almost 2/3 of the original quantity. Now, reducing the milk isn’t as easy as it sounds. That’s actually the first and the most important step. The Milk has to be stirred continuously so its evenly cooked and it shouldn’t get burnt at the bottom either. The way my mom taught me was to stir once in a circular way and second time make the number eight. Honestly, I never realized till I was a grown up that this is the best way to cover the whole base of the pot.

So, once the milk is reduced, you add cashew powder to it. The cashew powder does not just add some thickness and texture to it but also gives out a little sweetness and nutty flavor that is super amazing. Besides that adding chopped almonds are a delicious add on as well. After that, add khoya/maawa or Khoya powder, but that’s completely optional. I prefer using small grained Rice for the kheer because they are easier to mash and the texture is perfect for Kheer after being mashed. You can use Kani ke chawal or Kaima Rice or any other small grained Rice. My mother always added condensed milk to her Kheer and some people thought that was the secret ingredient, but honestly, its just the magic of her hands and the all the hard work. Only ingredients never make a dish great, its mainly the effort put in by the person cooking.

This is a wonderful way of making Kheer. I am still not as good as my mom when it comes to making it but it still comes out delicious and each spoonful makes you crave for more.

Murgh Sabz Korma

This Chicken curry recipe is from Mr. Parveez’s family. I was given the recipe by my Mother in law. The dish uses a variety of veggies, which honestly at times makes it difficult to make because if you miss out on one, it changes the whole taste. From the stories I hear of Mr. Parveez’s childhood, this dish was cooked almost every Friday and he would always look forward to his mom making it. I believe even today when he eats this Korma, it makes his mind go down the memory lane and remember the awesome dishes his mom made.

Now Bangalore is the garden city of India. The city with loads of greenery and always has an availability of fresh flowers and vegetables, therefore most dishes that you look at comprises of fresh vegetables and other ingredients. those dishes necessarily do not have to be under the category of “vegetarian food”, even the non vegetarian dishes, cooked in most almost all Muslim families use a lot of vegetables with their meat/chicken as well. Initially I wasn’t too big of a fan to be very honest. Coming from Rajasthan, I wasn’t used to mixing up vegetables and meat. We, in Rajasthan prefer keeping them separate, but with time I started enjoying the flavors of the veggies more and understood that this is one of the best ways to incorporate more vegetables in your diet as well.

I got the recipe of this dish from my Sister in law after I became the member of the new family. In fact most of the recipes that I learnt from Mr. Parveez’s family were given to me by my third sister in law. This dish can be made with meat or chicken so feel free to switch the chicken with Lamb/Goat meat. You will have to cook longer though and also make sure that you add the vegetables only after the meat is properly cooked. Chicken takes less time, so adding the veggies quickly is fine.

The chicken is cooked with Potatoes, Bell Peppers, Fenugreek/ Methi leaves, Lima beans and dill leaves. You can always substitute Lima beans with peas if you want. While coming across Turkish, mainly Middle Eastern Cuisine I did learn that most meat/ chicken curries are cooked with a variety of vegetables. That makes me think that this dish is also influenced from the Mughal Era, not something they learnt from the Indian soil, but something that they taught Indian cuisine. Because, coming to think of it, if you analyze most Non vegetarian Indian/ Pakistani dishes, you will know that they exclude vegetables. I would love to cook this Korma in one of the Turkish Earthen pots some day.

Usually this Korma is served alongside Rice dish called Khushka, which is Rice cooked with Mint leaves. You can also serve this Korma with Parantha, Naan or Sheermal.

Tava Kaleji Buns

One of the most important holidays that we have, as Muslims is Eid-ul-adha’a. The concept of sacrificing in the name of Allah, for Allah is divine, holy and extremely purifying. The meat is divided into 3 parts, one for the less privileged, friends and relatives and the last part for us. Sharing what you have with people makes us more humble and makes us care more for the community.

The day also brings in huge varieties of dishes. We, as Muslims are always on a lookout for new meat dishes and the more we go exploring, the more better and more creative we need to be. It always has to get better from the past year. With all that in mind, we are now in time and age where the kids aren’t satisfied with just kebabs and curries. The fusions have become so popular that not trying them at home makes you feel left out. Also, the fact that our generation is more adventurous in trying new ways of consuming foods and new cooking styles are always welcome.

This is basic Kaleji recipe that is served with buns. At my mother’s place, everyone was always excited about consuming Kaleji/ Liver. It was made with overload of Onions, green chilies and spices. Its dry, with little juice or separated Oil that its cooked with. On the other hand, Mr. Parveez’s family prefers consuming Kaleji in the form of a curry. This recipe though cooks Kaleji with curry masala and its cooked in a way till it gets dry. After that the cooked Kaleji is placed between the lightly toasted buns with cheese.

This dish is great for kids play date and tea parties too and are an excellent choice for brunch as well.

Shikari Chicken Rice

This is an invention by only hearing about the dish…Yeah I know I can go nuts when it comes down to trying to make a new dish. This happens to be one that I really planned out well and craved to make it.

Like I always say, every dish has a story. This one has one too. While speaking to a close friend about different Biryanis that we get at famous and not so famous eateries in India, I was told that a popular restaurant served something that was close to Biryani, but not Biryani. That really got my interest. Giving me further details, that its mildly flavored bed of Rice served under these awesomely juicy grilled chicken. I mean who wouldn’t want to act on this description and try and make it. It’s actually not just the details of the dish, but the way it was described and the fact that it topped the list of Chicken and Rice. I had not even seen the dish, yet I was head over heels in love with the dish and felt challenged to make it.

When you are aware of a dish, you tend to study it by searching about different chefs who have made it or by trying the dish out at different restaurants or even making the dish a couple of times to achieve the desired flavor or result. But when its a dish, you have never heard of until now, tried, seen or tasted, and you crave to cook it, you are definitely a crazy chef…LOLzzz. I think I fit the bill.

So, I am not aware of the Chicken served is with bones or without, but going according to my Biryani basics, I picked Chicken with Bones and marinated the chicken with spices and Yogurt for around 2-3 hours. Though my chicken came out delicious, I still recommend that a chicken is more flavorful if marinated overnight or for at least 6-8 hours, though in today’s time and age, things happen unplanned and we have a little time before we decide what we need to cook. For all those times, marinate, cover, and place the chicken in the refrigerator. Refrigeration helps blend the flavors faster and better. Once I was ready to cook them, I took them out of the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 400F or 180C. I placed them on the grill with a tray underneath to catch the dripping. The cooking time was around 25-30 minutes, with an extra 5 minutes of high heat grill, since I wanted them to look well done. If you want, you can cook them in the oven and do the latter process in a pan, or on naked fire. Any which way will give you great outcomes.

I made a gravy as well to spike up the layers of Rice. The gravy was made very similar to Biryani Yakhni shorba. For initial whole spices, I added fennel seeds along with cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, and cumin seeds. I further fried the onions, taking half of it out for garnishing and using them while layering the Rice. That was followed by Ginger garlic paste and spice powders. Further adding tomatoes and Yogurt, combined with green chilies, mint leaves, and coriander leaves. I also added the marination left behind after the chicken is taken out, so it gets a little flavor from the chicken as well since we aren’t cooking the chicken in the gravy.

This is a lovely recipe for a weekend Brunch or to display your cooking skills to those uninvited guests, when you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. It’s a pretty quick fix to traditional Biryani and modern-day Chicken over Rice. One of my self invented and the best recipes ever…Enjoy!!!

Basbousa Cake

This is a sweet dish made from Semolina, a dish from Egypt. Honestly, its made all around middle east and known by different names. In Egypt, its Basbousa and in Palestine, its known as Harissa or Hareeseh. In Egypt, its called Al-Basbousa. The dish even goes by the name of Nammoura. They all are the same with probably a little variation of picking the kind of essence they use while cooking. This is basically a traditional Middle Eastern sweet cake that is made using Semolina which is blended in with margarine/butter and further with yogurt. In the end the semolina batter is sweetened with orange flower water or rose water simple syrup. It was originally made by Ottomans in the middle east.

Now the funny thing is that in USA, we usually find this sweet in stores that sell a variety of Middle eastern grocery and sweets, but for some it comes under the section where we buy the Greek food. I remember from the time I came to USA that Mr. Parveez loved buying this cake and we always believed it was Greek. Until, a few days back I discovered that the actual name of this sweet dish is Basbousa and its middle eastern.

I have made cakes with all-purpose flour all the time, so this time I decided to try something new. While looking for something new, I came across Basbousa. The dish has Semolina as the main ingredient and unlike the traditional ways of making cake, this takes in its sweetness from sugar syrup after its baked. The addition of sugar syrup with Rose essence induces softness and sweetness to the cake. This recipe also includes almonds which add a little nutty crunch to the cake besides making it look nice. I was excited with the idea of making a cake with semolina, or sooji as it is known in India, as it sounded healthy and different. I have to say this was one of my favorite and satisfying baking escapades.

The concept of using sugar syrup is just like its used in Kanafeh, another middle eastern sweet or Baklava, so I was aware of how to go about it, except I wasn’t too certain if the cake will be able to soak it in or be watery. Well, not only the sugar syrup was soaked in, the addition of rose essence in the syrup gives out a beautiful aroma and definitely enhances the flavor of the cake. The result, a perfectly moist cake with a distinct taste, flavor and texture.

Basbousa or Harissa or Nammoura or Semolina Cake as I’d call it, is a perfect traditional dessert and we really enjoyed its light and spongy texture. I’ll surely be making this again. Enjoy!!!

Kaleji Fry

Kaleji/ Liver of Lamb is a pretty popular dish in India, mostly served in Indian Muslim restaurants. Kaleji, Bheja, Paaya, Haleem, Nahari and a few others, are all staple Muslim non vegetarian dishes. With Muslim specialty dishes I mean that you will never find any high class Non vegetarian restaurant serving these. I mean forget high class, you won’t find any non vegetarian restaurant except for that belonging to a Muslim serving authentic Muslim dishes. Now, I never understood the reason behind it. I feel if you can make Biryani, curries, Kebabs then why not Kaleji, but with time I realized that these dishes have to be made a certain way and if you miss the trick, you lose the taste. So, I believe because our community sees our moms and grandmothers cooking them at home, we have the knack to cook it. Besides that, most people would not be very found of trying authentic dishes.

I always tell Mr. Parveez that I enjoy Chinese food more in India than USA. His reply is that Chinese or for that matter even Italian food served in any country beside China or Italy is nowhere close to authentic, which is very true. The indianised Chinese food is so good that I feel if a Chinese tries it someday will definitely settle down in India. Or if the Italians ever tried our wonderful Paneer tikka Pizza or the Tandoori chicken Pizza…LOLzzz.

Coming back to my Kaleji Fry, if you are a Muslim, you know it and if you aren’t and you happen to have Muslim friends, you would know this too. Kaleji Fry is one of the most awaited dishes in our homes, specially on Eid. I mean I can have it all year round except the high cholesterol part scares me and I pretty happy having it 4-5 times every year.

Kaleji/ Liver is served in the west too with some restaurants serving it in sandwiches. I have never tried those so I don’t really have an idea of how good they are but I believe if they are not cooked with spice, I might not be able to enjoy them much. The texture and the flavor would enhance with spice and without it, the Liver itself has a very strong flavor which will overcome all other things you put along with it.

Kaleji fry made on Eid brings me happy memories of back home, sharing food with my cousins and looking forward to getting money on Eid and then making plans on how to spend it. Kaleji was one dish that we all looked forward to and no matter where we were, would always be present to be on the table at lunch because our favorite Kaleji would be served.

The dish is pretty easy and makes an excellent Suhoor or Iftaar dish for Ramadan as well. And of course, it has to be one of the side dishes for Eid, thats mandatory. The Kaleji should be not overcooked so it doesn’t become rubbery, just a few minutes after it changes color, you kind of know its cooked. Always try and get fresh kaleji from the meat store if you are buying it. It goes great with Pita bread or phulkas.