Thursday, March 29, 2012

Asafjahi Korma

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The erstwhile Royals of India were known for their fondness for all the good things in life. Of these, music and food were the most patronized, and often used to showcase their superiority over one another. I think, it would be really good, even today to settle so many issues between nations or states over a culinary battle or a song duel. Only if it were this simple. Going back, the culinary secrets were often guarded closely, not even written down for fear of landing in the enemy hands, and many gastronomical gems have in the due course been lost, as they were not documented.
The Asafjahi's were a dynasty that ruled the state of Hyderabad (now in the state of Andhra Pradesh,India) since 1719 till India's independence. They were appointed the Nizams of Hyderabad (Nizam was a shortened form for Nizam-Ul-Mulk meaning Administrator of the Realm or Country) on behalf of the Mughal empire, and when the Mughal empire crumbled post Aurangzeb's(Mughal Emperor)  death, the Nizam's declared Independence and formed their own kingdom. The Asafjahi's were extremely fond of their cuisine and it is no wonder that Hyderabad even today is known for it's food. 
Though the Kulcha (Indian Bread) was the official emblem of the dynasty, it has got more to do with the legend that while on a hunting trip, the first Nizam was offered a Kulcha by a holy man. The Nizam could eat seven of those Kulchas, and thus it was prophesized by the holy man that seven generations of his family would rule the state.
Even though I stayed in Hyderabad for 2 years, I never ever came across the Asafjahi Korma, even once. Infact, there was a lot of the Asafjahi Cuisine that I did not sample, except of course the popular ones, whose cheap imitations are even available in Delhi. I'm sure the Asaf Jah's were keenly watching over me from their tombs, and wanted me to sample the real fare and do something with it. So, here I was, lazing around in Delhi, going through the newspaper, and I come across this recipe for Asafjahi Korma. One look at the photo and a quick read of the recipe, with all the richness bursting through the print had my taste buds on an overdrive. Though, it was from a book written by an erstwhile ruler on Indian Princely Cuisine, I also found the recipe on a few Pakistani sites (word by word similar). My version is a wee bit different in how I assembled it in the end and some more cooking. I liked it and hope you do too.

Asafjahi Korma

Mutton/Lamb, boneless, cut into 1" cubes - 500 gm.
Yogurt, lightly hung (for about 2 hours) and whisked  - 250 gm
Onion's, chopped - 60 gm
Green Chillies, deseeded and finely chopped - 25 gm.
Red Chili Powder - 1 Tsp.
Black Peppercorns - 1/2 Tsp
Garam Masala Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Sugar - 6 gm
Ghee - 110 gm.
Ginger Paste - 12 gm
Garlic Paste - 12 gm
Almonds, blanched and sliced - 12 gm
Raisins - 12 gm
Coriander Leaves, washed and finely chopped - 1 Tblsp
Saffron, soaked in 2 tblsp warm water - A Pinch
Salt - To Taste

1. Heat half of the ghee in a pan. Fry the almonds and Raisins separately, one after another, till a golden brown color. Drain and keep aside.
2. In the same ghee, now add the chopped onions and fry them to a golden brown color. Add in red chili powder, garam masala powder, black peppercorns, sugar and green chilies. Add in 2 tblsp water and cook till water dries up.Take off the flame and allow to cool.
3. After the mixture has cooled down, put it through a food processor to make a paste. Keep aside.
4. Heat the other half of the ghee in the pan. Add in the ginger and garlic pastes and fry till they start to turn golden.
5. Add in the meat and salt. Bhunao the meat and add little water to cook the meat. Cook till meat turns tender and the water dries up.
6. Add in the onion-chili and masala paste. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes.
7. Add in the whisked yogurt and mix well. Cook till the oil starts to appear on the surface.
8. Add in the almonds, raisins, saffron and chopped coriander. Stir well. Simmer for another 5 minutes on low heat.
9. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup

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This post comes a little late as winters are almost over and the best part of winters must be sitting at home in the evenings and having hot soup. Since I have discovered the joys of sweet potato this season, it was but natural to have a sweet potato soup. It is hearty and comforting for a cold wintery evening and you must try it out either immediately before the summers have set in totally or for the next time winters set in. 

Sweet Potato Soup
(Makes 4 Portions)

Sweet Potatoes, - 3-4
Onion, chopped - 1
Leek, chopped - 1/2 Cup
Carrots, peeled and chopped - 1
Celery, chopped - 1/2 Cup
Garlic, chopped - 2 cloves
Red Wine - 1 Cup
Chicken Stock - 2 Cup
Black Pepper, freshly ground - 2 Tsp
Olive Oil - 2 Tblsp
Cream - 1/2 Cup

1. Prepare the Sweet Potatoes - Put the sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add 2 Tsp of salt and put on flame. Bring to a boil and simmer till they are soft. Take off flame and drain the water. Allow to cool. Once they are cool, peel them and cut them into quarters.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add onions, celery, leek, garlic and carrots. Cook them till they are cooked.
3. Add in the red wine and cook till the wine evaporates. Scrape any brown bits stuck to the pan.
4.  Add in the sweet potatoes to the pot and then the stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low flame for another 20 minutes.
5. Take off flame and allow to cool. Put into a processor and Puree until smooth. Pass through a strainer.
6. Return the pureed soup back to the flame. Add in the cream and seasoning.
7. Serve hot garnished with sweet potato chips or straws.

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