Friday, May 11, 2007

What will we eat tonight?

There is a funny story how I found out about bhoona. I worked at the customer support of a large software company. I helped out an Indian customer, much to the relief of the employee who'd been my contact on the spot. He was so grateful for my services, he wanted to do something for me in return.
I had been striving to learn some Indian cooking by trial and error (attempting to reproduce the menu of Balraj 'kwartiertje' of the Binnenoranjestraat, Amsterdam) so I asked him to give me the recipe for Aloo Ghobi. He couldn't, because he didn't know how to cook, but he promised he'd ask his mother. Then he sent me the recipe as explained to him by his mother. In the recipe she started by explaining, that in her opinion, you couldn't do well in Indian cooking, if you didn't master the Bhoona technique...
"Bhoona is a technique that is essential to Indian cooking. The
bhoona technique means that the mixture is cooked over medium-high
heat, with constant stirring to avoid scorching, until all liquids
are reduced and the spices coat the meat like a paste. About 1/2
cup of water can then be added, the dish covered, and a gravy
created as the dish becomes liquified again."
I have a hard time making bhoona work at medium heat. The spices get scorched in no time, no matter how persistently I stir. For me it works best at the lowest heat.

Pasta in a sauce of pumpkin

800 gr pumpkin, in cubes (remove skin)
1 large carrot sliced
1 sweet potato
750 gr boneless chicken cut in cubes
3 teaspoons crushed fresh ginger
1 big leek finely cut
1 green paprika shredded
1 teaspoon hawhayaj (Yemenite curry) (can be replaced by ground turmeric and cumin)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
0.5 teaspoon dry chillies
two spoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rock salt
5 cloves of garlic squeezed
125 ml whipping cream
1 spoon olive oil
ground nutmeg

Pour oil in a large saucepan and bhoona with the spices. When the oil takes on the color of the spices add the leek. Stir fry on low heat until the leek is shining. Add carrot, potato and pumpkin, make sure the whole gets sufficiently warm. Add chicken, ginger and salt. Cook with the lid closed. As the pumpkin begins to fall apart, add the paprika. Let the sauce boil down, taste from time to time in order to make sure the flavor develops properly. Add soy sauce to the preferred measure. If the sauce gets a bit too liquid, take the lid off the pan.
Eventually, take the sauce off the fire and add cream and nutmeg. Be careful with the nutmeg, make sure the flavor gets the level of domination you like. Allow standing time to let flavor develop. If necessary add more nutmeg.

This sauce goes well with rice as well as pasta.
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