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3 Recipes for a Muslim-inspired Holiday Meal

Submitted by on December 17, 2012 – 4:30 pmNo Comment

A Muslim-inspired Holiday Meal

 

I love Indian food! So I was very excited when I received a copy of the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles to review recently. This would make a great stocking stuffer or gift for the gourmet chef on your list. I didn’t know this, but apparently Bengalis are one of the most food and culture obsessed people in India. They are commonly compared to the French in that regard, as dining and entertaining are such an integral part of their culture.  What makes Bengali cuisine so unique are the variations and complexities that are a result of practice and delicate subtlety.  In The Bengali Five Spice Chronicle, author Rinku Bhattacharya explains the food and culture of her native homeland in Eastern India and showcases the recipes that are at the heart of Bengali life.

The book gets its title from the five-spice blend Bengalis call panch phoron. This spice blend consists of five whole spices in equal proportions: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, and fennel seeds and is at the heart of Bengali flavors and the individual spices form the basis of the Bengali pantry.

Being new to this cuisine, one of my favorite aspects of the cookbook were the menus for different occasions. I want to share with you today, three recipes from the Muslim-inspired holiday meal. If you are looking to add some new flavors and spice to your holidays, try these recipes for yourself.

My kids love meatballs and these were a big hit. The key to success with Bengali cuisine is to use fresh spices!

SAFFRON RICE WITH MEATBALLS

Moti Churi Biryani

I created this dish for my father. He loved recipes that were authentic in style but had been tweaked by me. I used to buy store-bought ground chicken, but lately I have been grinding my own in a food processor. This allows me to use good-quality free range chicken, which I find more flavorful and healthier too.

Prep Time: 15 minutes (plus 30 minutes for soaking rice)

Cook Time: 50 minutes | Makes: 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

Meatballs

  • 1 small onion
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 green chilies
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (page 17)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin-coriander powder (page 17)

Rice

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter)
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 2-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for about 30 minutes and drained
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt, beaten till smooth
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon saffron strands

Chapter Three: Rice and Breads 45

PREPARATION

Make meatballs:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Process the onion, ginger, garlic, and green chilies in a food processor until finely chopped. Mix this with the ground chicken and add the turmeric, salt, garam masala, and cumin-coriander powder, and mix well (I like to use my hands for this purpose to get this evenly mixed). Grease a baking sheet with oil or cooking spray. Shape the chicken mixture into walnut-size meatballs and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, turning over once. (It is important to cook the meatballs thoroughly, but make sure they do not dry out.)

Make the rice:

Heat the oil and ghee in a saucepan and add the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick, and onion. Stir in the sugar and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the rice, salt, yogurt, peas, and 2 cups water and cook on low heat for 25 minutes. The rice should be fluffy and cooked through at this point. Carefully mix in the saffron and check seasonings. Gently mix the meatballs into the rice, cover, and let simmer for at least 5 to 7 minutes on low heat. Turn off heat and let rice rest for 5 minutes before serving.

LEMON, CHICKPEA AND CUCUMBER SALAD

Soshar Salad

I usually associated raita (a yogurt condiment) with North Indian cuisine, but lately I see it served in a slightly different variation with Bengali meals. Here I created a somewhat Bengali cross between the raita and a cucumber salad.

Prep Time: 45 minutes (including time to drain cucumbers)

Makes: 10 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 Kirby cucumbers
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt, whipped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
  • ½ cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)

 PREPARATION

Peel the cucumbers and grate them coarsely. Place in a colander and sprinkle with the salt and allow to drain for about 30 minutes. Squeeze lemon juice into a bowl and add the yogurt, sugar, and cayenne pepper powder. Gently stir in the chickpeas and drained cucumber. Mix in the cilantro, if using, and serve as a condiment.

VERMICELLI PUDDING WITH ALMONDS AND PISTACHIOS

Simoyer Payesh

This recipe is a classic Muslim payesh popular for the festival of Eid following the month of Ramadan. I have simplified it significantly by using pre-roasted vermicelli and evaporated milk.

Prep Time: 5 minutes (plus 3 hours for chilling pudding)

Cook Time: 30 minutes | Makes: 10 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 package (12 ounces) pre-roasted wheat vermicelli
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) evaporated milk (about 2 cups)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 cardamom pods, lightly bruised
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup chopped almonds
  • ¼ cup chopped pistachios
  • 2 teaspoons rosewater

PREPARATION

Melt the ghee in a skillet and add the broken vermicelli and lightly toss. Set aside. In a heavy pot heat the evaporated milk and sugar. Add the cardamom pods and simmer for about 5 minutes to infuse the flavor into the milk. Mix in the raisins and the vermicelli and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the vermicelli softens. Turn off the heat and stir in the almonds and pistachios. Pour into a bowl and chill the pudding for at least 3 hours. Sprinkle with rosewater before serving.

muslim inspired mealHappy Holidays to you and your family. No matter what traditions you celebrate, food seems to be at the center of all of them. I hope you enjoy gathering with your family around the dinner table this year for a delicious holiday meal.

Click on the cover to learn more or purchase the book on Amazon.com.

 

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