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. 

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