Friday, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Traditional Pakistani meat stew with potatoes - "Aloo Gosht Salan"

When you think "all-American", its usually quite easy to imagine the traditional meat loving individual. And while I look of Asian descent upon appearance (specifically Pakistani), I love a good juicy beef burger just as much as my fairer skinned Americans. I also enjoy my pizzas topped with the best meat lover's variety (100% beef, halal of course) and I can never turn down a hot dog smothered in mustard and ketchup! So, for the longest time I thought myself to be the average big beef loving American. Because, even at home when my mom cooked Pakistani meals, I always preferred the red meat dishes over the chicken ones. 

Here's where my Pakistani brethren can chime in and agree that Nihari, Haleem and Biryani all taste quite better in their non chicken form (I know many of you do prefer chicken over red meat, I'm choosing to ignore you)! But it wasn't until I actually started cooking on my own that I discovered something of a surprise. 

While I prefer beef in American dishes, when it comes to Pakistani food its GOAT I like! Yes you read that right, BLEH. Goat?! I was so weirded out when I first learned that it was goat meat my mother had been feeding us for years, and even more betrayed because I love the taste of it SO much! 

Some people confuse mutton with goat meat, but mutton is actually from a lamb. I'm not a major fan of lamb as it tends to be greasier with all the added fat. Goat, on the other hand is very tender, flavorful yet light on the fat compared to its beef/mutton red meat counterparts. 

One of my faaaaaavorite Pakistani dish of all time is a classic meat and potato stew translating in Urdu as: Aloo Gosht Salan. 

It is pretty easy to cook too if you have a pressure cooker. I  admit, I was pretty afraid to use a pressure cooker for the first time after having childhood memories of this scary loud whistle that went off every few minutes on the one my mom cooked with when we were kids. Plus, scary stories of them bursting and destroying kitchens did not help. But, thankfully in my own experience of owning one for 5 years I haven't had any problems at all, new cookers have a less horrific sound and it honestly cuts your cooking time in half. As long as you read the manual that comes with it, most of the current models are fairly safe. I bought mine from Macy's and use it for all my meat cooking recipes, especially when I was working it made dinner prep MUCH easier. 

If you want to cook Pakistani food, get used to chopping onions. Nearly all dishes have onions as  a staple.
Brown the onions in a tablespoon (or two) of oil. This is what gives your stew its base flavor.
All the spices you should need: Salt, Pepper, Cumin powder, turmeric, red pepper, coriander powder and oil (I use grapeseed for all my cooking. Love it! No aftertaste and it cooks just like veg or canola oil)
Once onions are browned, add garlic/ginger paste then meat and potatoes + spices+ chopped tomatoes 2 cups water and you're ready to pressurize!
lock that lid on then find an activity to occupy you for the next 15-20 minutes. Come back to Dinner Ready!

boil some white rice (make sure to add salt and some oil) on the side and enjoy your Aloo Gosht!

Ingredients (makes about 4 servings): 
  • 1 lb goat pieces, washed and drained (ask the butcher for hind leg thigh meat, or just say its for stew)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp garlic ginger paste (some people make their own from fresh garlic and ginger, I'm lazy and buy the Shan brand ready made jar, apparently fresh taste better)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup of oil
Spices :
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder (adjust per taste)
  • 1 tsp salt or as preferred
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • ** my secret ingredient: 1 tsp of Shan Korma masala (adds a great aroma and gives the stew a more 'formal' flavor if that makes any sense)
Preparation :
  • Heat up oil in the pressure cooker
  • Add onions and let them get to a golden brown color 
  • Add meat, tomatoes, ginger/garlic paste, and all the spices, stir fry the meat until all ingredients are well combined. Make sure to stir frequently to allow a gravy to form, this in Urdu is called “bhoon-na” which basically means that all the onions, garlic,ginger and tomatoes have been fully combined. Your meat will not be fully tender at this point, it will cook when you pressurize. 
  • Add 2 glasses of water and allow it to come to a boil, add the peeled potatoes then secure on the pressure cooker lid and let it cook. (depending on your cooker directions, meat usually takes 15-20 minutes) You can tell when its done as the meat comes off the bone easily.
  • Add chopped coriander/cilantro leaves and mix well.
  • Serve with chappati or a plate of plain basmati rice.
*Some people do the bhoona step AFTER they cook meat/onions in the pressure cooker with water. I do it first but either way it shouldn't make a difference.

**potatoes tend to cook faster than meat, so if you let them cook for just as long as the meat they may overcook and turn mushy but in my experience large baking potatoes take very long so use those!  Another trick that helps is to cut large pieces, so they'll take longer to cook. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Recap

As the final days of 2013 approach I wanted to take a moment to recap just HOW much we did this year, it was packed with laughter tears and lots of love.

January- a month filled with lots of birthdays! This year Ali was old enough to enjoy them all!
Enjoying his friend Umer's first birthday party

Ayaan's adorable Choo Choo turning 2 party!

many faces of Ali in January
February: Lots went on this month
failed attempt at toilet training, at least he looks cute

Ali's first time playing in snow

My Stud of a date

I got super cheesy with Valentine plans this year, read about it here
 it up with his buddies, we call them Rugrats!

Wajih and Ali's first trip to Philly! Saw Constitution hall and the Liberty Bell. Finished off with authentic cheesesteaks

We took a trip of a lifetime to Istanbul, Turkey read about it
March: Enjoying the drastic weather changes of living in the northeast, snow one day, sunshine and 65F another

Still March but weather finally warms up
Celebrated my parent's 35th anniversary, details here

April: Ali and I did an impromptu photo shoot with matching attire, he will grow up and think I'm SO weird for this

May: Got this amazing 21st birthday cake for my baby sister, she'll always be the chubby wubby cutie in the family

June: Family time while Wajih headed out to Tampa

 Celebrated father's day with my dad and dada

Ali's toddler class graduation

visited Sesame Place with Ali's cousins, he loved it so much he still asks to go back

Wajih came back to NJ to visit and we went to our favorite brunch spot, Rat's

July: Wrapping up summer and time with family
watched local fireworks, Ali's first time so up close

my baby sister making my birthday super special
Surprise birthday party just for me!

Forced my family in the heat of July to Central park
being silly with my kiddies
Ali making summer memories

wrapped up our life

Ali did not want to say goodbye to his first home
the very first place Wajih and I called home

one last look at my office, where I started my career as an intern in college

my amazing friends threw me a farewell party
Ali spent some time with his great grandfather, who knows how many more chances we have to capture those moments.

my final goodbye to Nani

At a memorial for Nani my entire family got together, another goodbye

Last shot of all us cousins before I headed out of town

August - I adjusted to life in a new place 
September - Set up a new home, had adventures with Ali and made a mini trip to Miami and Key Largo 

October: Tried to find Autumn in Florida's heat, read more about it here

 November: A very busy month jam packed with activities
Ali's Nana Abu came to visit us in Tampa

Made a 16 hr road trip for Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' place

All of Ali's cousins
Couldn't stay away from the food table

reunited with all his old daycare buddies, it was adorable seeing them all squeal with excitement!

 December - We spent most of the start of the month being sick with upper respiratory infections brought back from NJ's cold weather, finally when all the illness went away we got into the holiday festivities and took Ali to a Christmas light show at the mall, he loved it and we loved seeing fake snow in 70 degrees.

Now I'm headed back to the tundra again, I'll be visiting home for the next month so my blogging will be even more slacking than it has been lately. 2013 was an emotional year to say the least. I said many goodbyes, but I also made some new discoveries about friendships, family, me, about my strength and about my capacity to love. Right now, in this very moment I would not change a single aspect of my life, I love every part of it to bits. I couldn't be more thankful for what I have and the memories I've been given over the past year.

I didn't speak much of it earlier as my grandmother had passed away literally the day before our anniversary, but this year was my husband and my 5th wedding anniversary. That's a big one. We spent a good chunk of the year apart, more than we ever had before. We also embarked on a big change together. All around me I've seen many people face tough moments regarding marriage or lack thereof this year and sometimes after you've been married so long you begin to get comfortable and stop appreciating what you've got. I got married fairly young, lots of other girls at the time even dubbed my type of girls 'the ones who settled' because we gave into the typical Pakistani mentality of marrying young and to whom our parents wanted. I honestly didn't love my husband when I married him, I hardly knew him. So I can't truly say if I "settled". The only thing I knew about him was that no one else I would meet would ever love my parents and family so sincerely. No one else could be a better fit for my own self. And five years later I can now wholeheartedly say I was absolutely right. Every day he pushes me to be a better but at the same time he loves me deeply for who I am so spending my life with someone like that, if it was settling, is the best decision I ever made.