Chicken Nihari

Nihari is hot, spicy, and very earthy. usually made with Mutton and even Beef, but tastes equally amazing with Chicken too. Nihari is one amazing and luxury dish served for breakfast. I still remember traveling to Delhi since I was a kid and I would always look forward to having Nihari. My father always preferred Chicken Nihari since we don’t consume Beef, he found it hard to believe small restaurants selling Beef Nihari as Mutton Nihari. Back in those days, almost 25-30 years ago, it was hard since the restaurants in “Purani Dilli” or the “Jama Masjid” area, restaurants weren’t as hip as what they are now and definitely not too comfortable for people to go with families. My father would always send in a servant who would travel with us to get some Mughlai Breakfast. Paaya, Kheema, Bheja and Nihari.

Nihari is always topped with some Barista, julienne ginger, green chilies, coriander leaves, and Lemon. When I was a teenager, my mom started making Nihari at home. She would make it with Mutton as well as Chicken. Even though I had the dish so many times, I never had the urge to try making it myself. Initially, my mom depended on the masala powder that used to be sold in Delhi. But as she kept cooking, she figured out how to make it by herself. The packet had the list of ingredients and my mother with a few experiments, got the knack of how much of each ingredient should be to make the perfect Nihari masala.

I had this dish so many times and honestly, it’s one of my most favorite ones too but I never felt the urge to attempt it. And then after trying different recipes for Chicken curries, I thought of giving Chicken Nihari a try. I asked my mother for the proportion of the spices and the recipe and gave it a try.

My mother always cooked the Nihari using Ghee, but during a trip to Jama Masjid, New Delhi with Mr. Parveez and I went to a restaurant and while talking to the chefs and people working there we found out that the traditional Delhi Nihari was cooked using Mustard Oil. I know that sounds weird but it’s true. Though I made my Nihari using Mustard Oil, I couldn’t just use all Mustard Oil since it’s pretty strong and I prefer mixing it with little Olive Oil. I also used Ghee for tempering.

Nihari is basically a traditional Muslim dish that was introduced by the Mughal kitchen. Nihari has a slightly different version in every region it’s made because with time every region develops and blends its flavors with the original recipe. Nihari comes from the Persian word “Nahar” which means “ early morning”. Nihari is basically a morning dish and is eaten for breakfast. I believe the way the spices blend in and the way it’s cooked, eating it for any other meal would be too heavy. Nihari always comes out more flavorful if it’s slow-cooked. Back in the day, the chefs would cook it overnight. Of course, that ain’t possible but, I still feel that cooking it on low flame slowly, makes it more flavorful. Using a heavy bottom pan is always better too.

The spice mix makes Nihari earthy and aromatic. It’s spicy but not too hot that would make you cry. The barista and thin slices of Ginger with chopped onions and green chilies are what make it more delicious. Therefore, don’t skip it if you want to get complete satisfaction. fried onion and julienned ginger at the end can be skipped but I would recommend you to definitely use it. The mild sweetness of the Barista balances the spice. Nihari has a lot of history and though the dish is simple, it does require a lot of time and a little effort, but in the end, it’s all worth the effort.

Laal Maas

Laal Maas is a dish from my home town, Jodhpur. The dish mainly originated from the Rajput Royal families who’d proudly cook the animals they have hunted or cook for their families at leisure hours and this used to be their specialty.

Laal Maas is still very popular and from the royal homes has reached various Jodhpur restaurants who make this dish in amazing ways, adding their own flavors while keeping the recipe close to the original one. This is my version of what I gathered from the flavors I had tasted at different places. A lot of times, people from other regions feel that Laal Maas is a local cuisine cooked in every household that enjoys nonvegetarian food, like the Muslim community. Sadly, that ain’t true. The fact is that this dish is barely made in any Muslim home and is solely a recipe from the Royal Cuisine of Jodhpur, Rajasthan.

I usually boil the meat chunks before I start cooking the curry. I feel that reduces the cooking time for mutton and also helps the spices soak in more easily, making the mutton juicier and spicier.

This curry is made using Ghee, oodles of ghee. Rajasthani love using Ghee for all their lavishly cooked food and we take a lot of pride in that, but I mixed up little oil with Ghee because these days it’s tough to cook and digest pure ghee, but if you are daring enough you can always choose to cook using only ghee and similarly if you are a health freak like Mr. Parveez, you can cook using only oil and just add a teaspoon of Ghee for the fragrance.

This recipe is pretty easy and can be easily made by beginners and the flavors are super delicious.

Murgh Hyderabadi Biryani

Hyderabad has numerous varieties specially when it comes to Biryanis. I have tried making a wide range of different styles of Hyderabadi Biryanis. Each one has its own distinct flavor and ingredients. I always love how beautifully the heritage of Nizams is displayed in Hyderabadi food.

The dishes are not just rich in ingredients but also the recipes show how rich the food culture has been with the Nizams. We always hear stories of how generous the Nizams were when it came to entertaining and welcoming their guests. How lavish their Dastarkhaan or tables were. The curries, Haleem, so many varieties of sweet dishes that are served with oodles of dry fruits and cooked in clarified Butter are an evidence how much effort the Nizams made their Khansamas/chefs put into food.

The Nizams had a very influential. The history showcases the rich taste not just in Gems and Jewelry, but also in food. Use of Milk solids, Ghee, Dry fruits of different kinds is pretty common in most dishes. This dish has a paste of poppy seeds, cashews and coconut. Though the spice level isn’t too high, but the Biryani uses a paste of green chilies and you can always increase the green chilies if you wish to make it more spicy. Using Kewra with food color makes the Biryani smell rich and inviting as well. Besides that the Biryani is pretty easy to make. This dish is great for Beginners too. Enjoy!!!

Mutton Ghee Roast

With the wide variety of Kebabs that we make, we love kebabs made from meat the most. I love the way meat Kebabs are always so juicy and tender and absorb all the flavors so naturally. The texture of meat and the spices blend in so well together. I am sure if you look into details of cooking that when it comes to Kebabs, meat Kebabs definitely make to the top of the list. I have heard a lot of people liking Beef too, but since I have never cooked or consumed beef, I don’t really have an idea. But I do think that since Beef has a lot of fat, cooking with its own fat must be adding more flavor to it.

Coming back to Ghee Roast. I came across some cuisine where they mentioned the dish and showed how the meat is boiled till it’s cooked. after roasting the whole masalas, they are ground to a powder, and then the meat is cooked in ghee with spice powder, onions, curry leaves, and green chilies. This dish is pretty easy to make and makes it to my top ten list of easy and flavorful kebabs.

The best thing about these kebabs is that they can be partly premade a few days in advance as well. You can boil the mutton a few days in advance and refrigerate or freeze it, depending on how many days you want to use it. Similarly, you can always dry roast the whole masala and grind them and store them in a dry and airtight container. These kebabs are juicy, moist, flavorful, and go really well as a side dish or by itself. If you are a fan of meat kebabs, you will love the scrumptious chunks of flavorful meat. Enjoy!!!

Tellichery Biryani

This recipe also happens to be from Kerala and is the second Biryani from this state that I tried out. Kerala is a state of distinct flavor. I know every state has their own flavors that are distinct and are easily distinguishable from the use of their local grown spices with methods of cooking different cuisines and also availability of local vegetation. Not forgetting their natural climate. Isn’t it amazing how every place has different things popular during different seasons and few things that are good to eat during all seasons. Hats off to generations before us who tried, tested and made so many different varieties of food that we just need to follow. And though, it all seems walk in the park, we still do not follow those age old recipes because we find them too time consuming in our busy lives today.

Thalassery town of Northern Kerala has a unique blend Arabian, Persian, Indian and European styles of cooking as a result as its long history as Maritime Trading Post. Tellichery is an anglicized name for Thalassery. The original name of Thalassery has been restored post Independence. Although both refer to the same place, the Tellichery Biryani is different from the Thalassery Biryani. This one is a little simpler version.

This Biryani does not use the Jeerakshala/Kaima Rice like the Thalassery Biryani and should be cooked with Long grain Basmati Rice. This recipe also displays the influence of Mughals in its flavors but seems to be slightly revised. Going through the ingredients, I do not find any ingredient that would distinguish this dish as a dish from Kerela. The recipe makes me feel that its made by some settlers who still did not adapt to the flavors of Kerela cuisine and were still new to incorporating the spice or certain ingredients to the dish. In all, this dish is great for all Biryani lovers, specially for Beginners. Therefore, if you happen to be someone new at making Biryani, this is for you. An easy, delicious and simple way of making a delicious Biryani.

Goat Paaya

Goat Paaya or Goat Trotters is a widely loved dish in the Muslim community. It’s made in several different ways around the world, but no matter how its made, I have always seen people enjoying it with every bite. Mostly served for breakfast, Paaya is usually served with Bheja and Naan/ Roomali Roti. Paaya will be in the favorite list in any hardcore non vegetarian.

It is a dish that can be made any time of the year but during festival of Eid ul Adha, It is a must for Breakfast on the second day. It takes pretty long to cook, so in times of today when everything is made in a rush, use of pressure cooker is a must. Long before the pressure cooker, Paaya was a dish made with slow cooking and was made over coal fire and usually took around 12-15 hours to cook. A lot of people like my Late Father used to love consuming it as soup. It makes a pretty healthy and flavorful Shorba / curry.

I believe the fashion of cooking Goat Trotters must be from the Muslim rulers who travelled from other countries. A lot of dishes from the Middle east have resemblance to dishes cooked in India/Pakistan/Bangladesh. Not just Non vegetarian but even sweet dishes like Jalebi and Gulab Jamun or for any sweet dish that uses Orange blossom/ Kewra water/ Rose water are also a gift from the Middle east to us, along with Biryani. The fact is that they always traveled with a huge army and therefore made sure that every part of the animal slaughtered should be used. Goat trotters are pretty high in Cholesterol, so they aren’t a great breakfast choice for anyone in today’s date and time since our lifestyle is very sedentary, but back in days for people who did so much of physical labor and most distance were traveled on foot, this dish was not just delicious, but also nutritious and filling.

Like I always say, every dish has a story, so let me share my memories with “Paaya”. As a kid I always saw my Mom make Paaya for breakfast and the whole family, except me relish it. For some reason I am not a big fan of liking the flavor of Bone Marrow in my food. Nevertheless, to make my father happy I would slide a few bites down my throat, until one day he realized that it was tough for me and he let me slide. Paaya is specially cooked for breakfast at all Muslim restaurants that are popular for authentic Muslim food. Most of these restaurants are located in highly populated Muslim areas, like Jama Masjid in Delhi, Frazer town in Bengaluru and Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai. I am sure there are these areas in almost all cities, I am mentioning these because these are places I have been to and relished all the awesome delicacies. My breakfast has always been bheja fry and Nahari though the family had their love for Paaya. My faher would always order what we liked and those times were a lot of fun. After marriage, I learnt that Mr. Parveez likes Paaya too and since we do not have similar arrangements of eating and enjoying authentic Muslim breakfast therefore, I started making it at home.

Paaya isn’t a difficult dish to make. It’s a heavy stew created from trotters/ feet of goat or lamb. The bones of the Goat leg are rich in gelatin marrow and are barely covered with meat once cleaned, they are just rich in bone marrow which secretes once cooked. Most people/families have their own variation of cooking Paaya, and knowing that India is so culturally varied, every other place has their own cooking style and recipes based on the local ingredients and flavors they are used to. In North India, paaya is served as a breakfast with Tandoori Roti / Roomali Roti. Is believed to be nourishing and is served to patients when sick and is kind of mandatory for new mothers, specially during the early days when her body is going through the recovery process. I usually use a pressure cooker to cook them, but you are more than welcome to cook it in a traditional way. Though time consuming, but its extremely flavorful. I do try the slow cooking method as well when I have more time in hand. Either way, its delicious, so don’t think that you are missing out on flavors if using the pressure cooker.

If you are thinking of making an authentic Muslim breakfast or cooking a non vegetarian breakfast that’s a little different, Paaya is what you need. Serve it with brain fry/ Bheja Fry and people will be praising your breakfast spread for years and looking forward to more. The recipe is in complete detail and if you follow the steps correctly, you will make a perfect dish. Again, spices make a dish flavorful, but cooking with love is what makes it delicious. Enjoy!!!

Moradabadi Chicken Biryani

Though synonymous with Indian cuisine and a part of specialty, the biryani is regarded as an import from West Asia, more specifically, Persia. The word biryani is thought to originate from the Persian word “birian” which means ‘fried before cooking’ or “birinj” meaning ‘rice’. The rice is washed and soaked and is cooked in ghee with whole spices and then cooked in boiling water. This imparts a mild nutty flavor to the rice and also helps rice retain their shape after being boiled.

The recipe of a good biryani has been simple, rice and meat that is cooked in spices and other ingredients set in layers. Traditionally, long grain white rice is preferred option with biryani. In south India, local varieties like kaima or jeeraka shala  provide their own distinct flavor and texture to the dish. The meats vary from goat, sheep, poultry, beef, eggs to seafood as well. Fragrance heightens its appeal, you can add Kewra water, saffron or Rose water . The cooking technique can be Kacchi Biryani, where the meat is layered with raw rice or Pakki Biryani, where cooked rice and meat are layered together.

Legend has it that Timur the Lame, the Turkic conqueror and founder of the Timurid Empire, was responsible for the entry of biryani to India. His armies would consume a hearty diet of pots of rice, spices and meats that were slow cooked in hot buried pits which were dug out at meal time. While biryani may very well have been part of a war diet, there was always a certain romance associated with it.

Stories also claim that Mumtaz Mahal, the inspiration behind India’s most celebrated monument and symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, had something to do with it. It is believed that Mumtaz Mahal once visited the Mughal army’s barracks in Moradabad and was dismayed by the dire conditions and poor nutrition endured by the soldiers. She ordered the cook to prepare a wholesome meal that blended meat and rice. And thus, they say, the biryani was born. As the history speaks, Moradabad, was founded in 1625 and named after Murad Baksh, son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Therefore, we can kind of believe that this recipe is close to the original recipe of Queen Mumtaz Mahal. The Moradabadi is typically low on spices and high on flavor.

Whether it was the Nawabs of Oudh (Awadh) in Lucknow or the Nizams of Hyderabad, the biryani blossomed into regional variations wherever it went. This Biryani comes with its own unique flavor. Enjoy!!!

Lahori Murgh Chhole Curry

Lahori Murgh chhole curry is an authentic and traditional pakistani dish. Since it originated from Lahore, its kind of a significant part of Pakistan’s Punjabi cuisine. Its amazing that I always connected Lahore with Murgh chhole curry, yet I have a few wonderful and close friends from Lahore, who I have known for a few years now have never made Murgh chhole. I think they find it a part of their everyday cuisine and do not realize how fancy it could be for people like me. This is basically a breakfast dish, and goes great with Tandoori roti or Kulche, just like Nahari. But unlike Nahari, you can serve this dish with Rice and Phulkas too. 

So, you might wonder what inspired me to cook Murgh chhole curry. it was actually an Indian chef that inspires so many like me. I happened to watch one of his shows where he mentioned that during his college days in Boston, he travelled to NYC and visited a small restaurant owned by Pakistani Guy. The chef mentioned that he was in love with the dish after the first bite and asked the owner for the recipe, which he gladly wrote down roughly on a napkin in Urdu and the chef still holds on to that napkin with the recipe. I just loved the story and since I believe that the flavor of every dish has a story, so does this. Well, it doesn’t always have to be my experience, but its definitely something that I will always remember each time I cook or eat or read about Murgh chhole curry and so will you.

Though, this recipe is not from my favorite chef and its created by the inspiration I got by watching some shows that display different cultures and cuisines and also show how certain dishes that are popular in certain regions are made. I followed most things that were shown, but since they never discuss the ingredients and their quantity in detail, we do have to manage few things on our own and honestly, the fun of playing with spices and flavors gives me immense fun.

I made the curry using Ghee, but you can always use any Oil of your choice if you desire. Initially I tempered the Ghee with small dry Red chillies, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick, green cardamom and Bay leaf. I added finely chopped onions and curry leaves and cooked till they turn pinkish brown and added Ginger garlic paste. Further, I added Red chili powder, Turmeric Powder, Black pepper powder, Coriander powder and little salt, foolowed by chicken and boiled chhole [chickpeas]. Add a few chopped tomatoes, green chilies and yogurt. Garnish with some jalapenos and thinly sliced Ginger.

This makes a fabulous dish and if you haven’t tried it yet, Please do so now. This goes great with Roti, Parantha, Tandoori Roti or Boiled Rice. Enjoy!!!

Dumm Aaloo

Potatoes, whether they are made in anyway or style, boiled, mashed, baked, fried or roasted, are one of the most loved and easily consumed vegetable around the world. Potatoes are believed to have been domesticated around 7,000 -10,000 years ago near modern day Peru, South America. Today, nearly a third of the world’s production is harvested in India.

So how did the Potato reach India? The Portuguese introduced potatoes to india in the early 17th century and cultivated it around the western coast. The name Batata is actually Portuguese. By the end of 18th century, it was being grown around the northern hilly areas of India. This amazing vegetable was born in India and dishes made of potatoes spread to each and every corner of the country.

One such dish is the Dum Aaloo. This dish has numerous variations in our country. It is prepared differently in different states and regions, depending on the taste, spices available, cooking styles of the regions. This is one of the most fancy ways of cooking Potato curry.

Its usually made with baby potatoes, but I just preferred cutting my big potatoes to pieces. You can always use whatever you prefer using. My logic was to get more sauce on my potatoes and making them a little more flavorful and spicy. But you can always pick baby potatoes if you prefer the sweetness of potatoes with a little spice. This curry goes well with parantha and Roti or as a side dish. Enjoy!!!

Salem Biryani

 The word Biryani is derived from the Persian word Birian, which means ‘fried before cooking’ and Birinj, the Persian word for rice. There are various theories related to the origin of this scrumptious dish. Biryani originated from Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals.

I love reading about the Mughal Era and its food in the history. Its amazing to read about so much variety of food flavors that they added to the Indian cuisine…. Gulab Jamuns, Jalebis, Imartis, and so many other rich desserts and numerous curries and the most amazing out of all are Biryanis…so many varieties, so fragrant, so delicious and so different from one another. The best part was that they always incorporated local spices with their Biryani recipes coming up with distinguishably different flavors each time. Each region has a completely different way of making Biryani from another.

The state of Tamil Nadu has some really celebrated Biryanis, most of which have evolved in the state’s smaller towns. A beautiful example is Ambur Biryani. As the folklore says, Salem Biryani actually developed in a particular small hotel, a military hotel to be precise. Its funny but most of the restaurants serving Non vegetarian Biryani in Tamil Nadu are referred to as “Military Hotel”.

The best thing I like about these South Indian Biryani is that the ingredients are always pretty simple, nothing fancy, nothing that requires you to urgently run to a store and despite the simplicity, the outcome is always so deliciously fancy.