Monday, December 27, 2010

Karachi Food Diary Day 18-20 (Minced meat patties, shami kabab)

Bangles in every hue
December 24, 2010 Friday- Day 18
At night was my niece's bismillah; a ceremony which marks the start of the religious education of a child, usually at the age of 4 years. A throwback to the days when generations of a family lived together and used every occasion as a reason to celebrate, feast and mingle, it is now a custom that is slowly fading from our busy, solitary lives. My sister's in-laws, however, keep it alive and celebrate with much gusto. The child is dressed in traditional regalia. If it is a girl, she is dressed in an outfit of bright colors heavily hand-worked in silver and gold. The outfit is completed by the donning of full jewelry including tikka (jeweled head piece that falls like a pendant in the center of the forehead), necklaces and bangles. A little princess. Excitement was building in our house the whole day and my niece was besides herself with excitement. During the day, the meal was simple; khichri, daal and kofta salan (meatball curry). In the evening, we headed to my sister's in-laws' house for the ceremony. The upstairs terrace was completely covered in a red and silver awning; the atmosphere was festive and warm. We settled down for the ceremony. My niece was to repeat some lines after her grandfather who was leading the ceremony. When she got on stage and looked around at the amateur photographers (who isn't these days?) crowding around her, flashbulbs clicking, she froze. No amount of coaxing, cajoling could bring her to repeat the lines. I think I would have done the same! It was intimidating. Anyway, she managed to mumble something towards the end and the ceremony was safely concluded. Now, for the feasting. The food was laid out. The menu was chicken salan, kabab, pulao and naan. It was regular catered food; heavy on oil and spice.
Fareed Ayaz Qawwals
After the food was the qawwali. This was the highlight of the night for the adults. Qawwali is Sufi devotional music that has found it's way out of the shrines and into the homes of devotees. The qawwals were the wildly popular Fareed Ayaz qawwals. The are globally revered for their music. I sat mesmerized and deeply moved by their performance which went on into the wee hours. At about 3 pm, a second feast was laid out. This was much more tempting than the earlier one; Baghare Timatar (Hyderabadi stewed tomatoes), kachori (pastry-like bread filled with a filling of meat) and kababs. Night went on after this with more music, drinks and paan (betel leaf concoctions). Returned home, exhausted and satiated.
Potato Dauphinoise
December 25, 2010 Saturday- Day 19
The day dawned late and lazy. Savored a home-cooked meal of timatar gosht (meat stewed in tomatoes) and saag (sauteed spinach). In the evening, some friends had booked one of the most popular restaurant in Karachi, Cafe Flo for a drinks and dinner fiesta of about 60 people. It was good to see familiar faces and share stories over some wine. Small quantity of the alcohol that comes into this city is legal, i.e., for diplomats, ex-pats, etc. but majority is smuggled in from Dubai by bootleggers and is sold at criminally exorbitant mark-ups. In wine, the choice is limited to whatever is available. Most of the time it comes down to just white or red. Further, alot of the stock is tampered with and unreliable. For the party, there was a crate of sparkling wine that turned out to be completely flat. Even with these problems, wine market is thriving and it is the drink of choice. Dinner, on the other hand, was delicious, if a little rich. Cafe Flo is the best French food in Karachi and the restaurant doesn't disappoint. The menu was fish in a creamy sauce (rich and succulent), lamb with mint chutney, potato dauphinoise and crispy carrot and beans side. It was fresh, creamy but light and delicately seasoned; so refreshing after the days of kababs and meat dishes.
December 26, 2010 Sunday- Day 20
Luncheon of comforting egg and potato curry, shami kabab and raita with piping hot naan. My favorite pickle shaljam ka achaar had been prepared on request and was now ready to eat. It was the perfect accompaniment to the meal.  At night, we ate at my aunt's house. She ordered the quintessential Karachi indulgence; nihari. This time I caved in and had it. It was delicious but sat heavy in the stomach.
Shami Kabab
Soak half cup split peas in water for an hour and drain. Combine with 1lb. finely ground beef and move the mixture to a heavy saucepan. Now add 1 finely chopped large onion, 1 tbsp. minced ginger, 1 tsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. black pepper, 1/2 tsp. ground clove, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander and salt to taste. Add a cup water and mix well. Simmer for 30 minutes on medium heat. Stir frequently to avoid sticking until moisture has more or less evaporated and the mixture is dry. set aside and allow to cool. 
Once at room temperature, add 1 chopped onion, 2 small minced green chillies, chopped mint leaves, chopped coriander leaves, 2 tbsp. chickpea flour. Knead by hand or give a quick whir in the food processor, taking care to not let it become too pasty. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.
Remove from fridge and mix in 1 lightly beaten egg and 1 tbsp. whipped yogurt. Knead well. 
Divide the meat into palm-sized portion, probably around 10-12. Keep a bowl of water handy for moistening hands if mixture gets too dry. Form into balls and then flatten into patties.  Shallow fry these patties in a preheated pan over medium heat, making sure to evenly brown both sides. Serve piping hot.
Note: although cumin, coriander and clove powders are all easily available in the market, it is advisable to ground the whole spices at home. This can be done by using a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. The flavor is more intense and fragrant. 

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