Pakistan: Could cardamon be the true spice of life? A study.
Hello again Kryddhyllan friends! It’s nearing the end of summertime, which probably means that many of you have, or are just coming back from gallivanting around the world on epic adventures (in which case, we hope that you ate all the food in all the places). We spent a lot of our summer exploring dishes both at home in Stockholm and in faraway Georgia, while also trying to beat the inexplicable heat that pervaded Stockholm and made for lots of sweaty, sleepless nights (but also lots and lots of ice cream). Any finally, after a brief summer hiatus, we're back in business; the nights are getting longer, the autumn breezes are blowing in, and we’re here to brighten your day with an all-new blog post!!
This week’s guest hails from the beautiful, diverse, and vibrant country of Pakistan. Apart from being the 6th most populous country in the world, and boasting the world’s highest ATM machine which is located at a whopping 16,007 feet above sea level, Pakistan is also home to an amazing array of distinctly delicious dishes. With everything from more seasoned and spicy dishes in the eastern provinces, to more mild flavors in the western and northern provinces, Pakistani cuisine includes elements from Indian, Central and South Asian, and Middle Eastern traditional cooking (all equally exciting and of course, delicious).
For the dishes we prepared and subsequently devoured, we relied on the sensually (yes, that’s how tasty they were) aromatic flavours of cardamom, cumin, coriander and much more. Drooling yet? Then read on to find out how to make this dinner and dessert delight that is sure to impress you and your guests!
A Pakistani feast for 4-6 people
Listen to: Junaid Jamshed and his sweet tunes. Saba’s personal favourite is Us Rah Par. Find some of his hits here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2DmMcw1UxHSzAEFrMY3r2D?si=0wPLaLK7Tt-fAGNfZ_cP8w
Enjoy with: soft drinks, or for a more traditional experience some black tea with milk, or if you’re as lucky as we were and have access to Pakistani mangoes make a milkshake! (recipe below)
Biryani (chicken stew with spices and rice)
Ground coriander, green chillies and mint (about a fistful of the herbs and one chilli) - add some water to the blender when mixing
2 dl of canola oil
3 large yellow onions, sliced lengthwise (see picture)
3 large tomatoes
2 green chillies
1 dl natural yoghurt
Cloves from a whole garlic
5 cm of fresh ginger
Biryani spice mix (see picture)
A few pieces of star anise (roughly chopped)
2.5 kg of chicken (a whole chicken cut into pieces)
About 5 dl of basmati rice
1.5 dl natural yoghurt
Fresh coriander (for garnish)
Fresh mint (for garnish)
Yellow food coloring (if you want to get that intense biryani colour)
A few tbsp of milk
In a large pot, add the canola oil and turn the heat to high.
Soak the rice in water and let sit for about 15 minutes.
Add the onions and fry until a golden brown colour (about 15-20 minutes).
Add tomatoes, chillies, yoghurt, garlic, ginger in a blender and blend until smooth.
Once the onions are a golden colour add the chicken, spice mix and star anise and stir for a few minutes until the chicken has some colour (1-2 minutes).
Add tomato sauce, herb blend and a few pinches of salt.
Cover the pot and let simmer on medium-high for first few minute and then on low-medium
In a separate large pot, boil water (about half-way up) with some salt and ground cardamom.
Add the rice to the water and let cook for about 10 minutes (stir from now and then). (You want to make sure that the rice isn’t fully cooked because it will cook a bit together with the chicken).
Once the rice is cooked, drain it in a sieve and set aside.
In the now empty rice pot, add half of the chicken stew and add half of the rice on top of the remaining chicken stew.
Add coriander, mint and lemon juice to the rice layer in the pot.
Now take the remaining chicken stew and pour on top of the rice layer, and then finally add the remaining rice as a top layer (you’re kind of making a biryani lasagna!).
Add coriander, mint, lemon juice and food colouring to this rice layer as well. You can add in a bit of milk halfway through in order to keep it moist.
Cover the pot with a towel and put the lid back on in order for the biryani to steam. Set heat to medium-low and let it steam for 10-15 minutes.
Simple raita (yoghurt sauce)
1 tsp dried cumin seeds
2-3 dl natural yoghurt (depends on how much you love yoghurt sauce)
Salt to taste
Fry the cumin seeds in a pan for a few minutes so that they get slightly roasted.
Mix in the seeds in the yoghurt with the salt and voila! Simple as can be!
Serve with salad (we used cucumber and red peppers)
2 Pakistani mangoes (yes, they need to be Pakistani, they have a certain taste and smell that can only be described as magic)
5-6 dl of milk
Peel and cut mangoes into pieces.
Blend mangoes and milk in a blender, and ready to serve! (no sugar needed here!)
Rasmalai (Sweet and cold milk soup)
(about 45 minutes cooking time, a few hours in the fridge)
1.5 L milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 ½ dl milk powder
1 tsp baking powder
2-3 tbsp of canola oil
1 ½ - 2 tbsp flour
5 tbsp sugar (minimum, but let’s at least try to keep it “healthy”)
Ground pistachios, almonds for garnish
In a large pot, pour in the milk and set to high heat.
Add cardamom and stir. Bring the blend to a boil, and lower heat. Keep stirring to prevent the milk from burning in the bottom of the pot.
In a large separate bowl mix the milk powder, baking powder, flour.
Add the oil slowly and blend together with your hands, making sure that the dry all dry ingredients are mixed with the oil.
Add the egg and mix together until it becomes dough-like. According to Saba it needs to be a bit shiny and not stick to your hands (free tips from the pro!). If the dough is too sticky add some more milk powder.
Roll the dough into a few small balls, about 2.5 cm in diameter.
Once the milk has boiled for about 20 minutes change pots in order for it not to burn the bottom.
Add sugar to the milk and blend. Keep it on medium heat and let simmer.
Start adding the balls into the milk. (roll them an extra time right before putting them in).
Using a spoon, carefully roll the balls lightly in the milk so that they keep turning. They will start to grow, and it’s important to keep them moving in order to have them not break.
Once the balls have grown in size, let boil for about 30 seconds. Total cooking time for the balls should be 5-8 minutes.
Pour the soup QUICKLY (in order for the balls not to break) into a serving dish.
Sprinkle the pistachios and ground condiments of your choice onto the balls.
Set aside and let cool. Once cold put the soup in the fridge for at least 2 hours (preferably at least 4 hours).
Kryddhyllan: What is your favorite food from home?
Saba: It’s not one food I would say, it’s a lot of stuff. But the most famous and my favorite would be biryani and for desert it’s rasmalai.
Kryddhyllan: Why would you say it’s your favorite food?
Saba: For rasmalai it would be that you can adjust the sweetness, and even if it’s not as sweet as it “should be”, you don’t notice and it still tastes good. So that’s the reason I like it, and it’s quite quick.
Kryddhyllan: True, if you know how to master the turning and not breaking it
Saba: Exactly. And if you stick to the advanced recipe and not the real recipe *laughs.
Kryddhyllan: We like that shortcut. So what brought you to Sweden?
Saba: My husband was already studying here, he did his masters at Stockholm University, and he really loved Sweden, so that’s the main reason I came here.
Kryddhyllan: How long ago was that?
Saba: It was four years ago.
Kryddhyllan: Nice. And since you moved to Sweden, do you have any new favorite dishes?
Saba: Uhhh, of the Swedish ones?
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, or any new ones.
Saba: Well Swedish food is my all-time favorite, because of its convenience. You just need potato in any kind of form, and then meat or fish or vegetables, grilled, panfried… in the weekdays I normally only cook Swedish food.
Kryddhyllan: It’s true, it is quite separated. Like “make this”, then make the potatoes and so on.
Saba: Yes, and I love princesstårta. And Semla. But only during the real season for semla. It’s freshly baked and you know it’s not stored somewhere.
Kryddhyllan: Did you know anything about Swedish food before moving here, if anything?
Saba: Nope, nothing. We never talked about Swedish food. Obviously when my husband was a student and we were skyping, he would make quick things, like pasta and macaroni. He never talked about Swedish food.
Kryddhyllan: And since moving here, what have you found to be the best and worst thing about Swedish food?
Saba: I think that it’s one answer to both questions. The best thing is that it’s so easy, there’s potato with everything, and you don’t have to think a lot. And the worst thing is that you don’t get much variety. I mean I am a potato lover, so I can have it with everything, but my husband doesn’t really prefer it so he’d want to look for other options.
Kryddhyllan: I think that’s what a lot of people say. That they love how simple Swedish cooking is, but that’s also what they don’t like about it. That’s it’s not exactly the most flavorful.
Saba: I’m glad others share that opinion *laughs.
Kryddhyllan: You are not alone! And if you had to pick one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Saba: I would say…. Hmmm one food… For the rest of your life?
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, I mean you don’t have to go too healthy. A lot of people try to think smart, but think of a food you absolutely love that you could see yourself eating for the rest of your life.
Saba: No, you will obviously end up hating it if you eat it forever *laughs. But I would say that the most convenient and nutritious food would be bread. It’s easy and you can eat it to fulfill your needs. I also like the Swedish knäckebröd. Not the usual one, but I bake one that has lots of sesame. I add cornflour, it’s super healthy and I bake it quite a lot. It’s not that common, but I actually tried it for the first time when I went on a conference trip, when we had a formal dinner there.
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, it’s quite trendy nowadays. Will have to bake it sometime! And if you could only pick one spice to flavor your food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Saba: Salt definitely. We have discussed it a lot.
Kryddhyllan: The passion for the salt is real.
Saba: I don’t know if it’s so much passion and more that nothing really tastes good without salt. You don’t feel the actual taste of a dish without salt. It’s pretty strange maybe, but it’s a fact.
Kryddhyllan: No arguing there. What’s the best meal you ever had?
Saba: Oh…. I’ve had so many. But obviously I picked this seed bread that I had at that conference, and during that meal I even had this really good fish with mashed potato that I still remember.
Kryddhyllan: Where was the conference?
Saba: It was in Gothenburg. It was three years ago. So if I still remember it and I still use that bread recipe then, it was pretty memorable.
Kryddhyllan: Must have been spectacular. What the place called?
Saba: I don’t remember, but it was outside the city.
Kryddhyllan: We’ll have to track it down sometime. Ok, last question! What is your favorite restaurant at the moment?
Saba: In Sweden?
Kryddhyllan: Anywhere! Stockholm, or anywhere on earth.
Saba: I have one at home, which is at the top of the mountain, where you’re able to see the whole of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Kryddhyllan: Oh wow! Really high up?
Saba: Yeah, really high up. You notice that it gets a lot cold, so you need something warm. It’s not only the location, but they also have the best food. I would recommend everyone to go there. It’s traditional Pakistani food and grill and BBQ and stuff like that.
Kryddhyllan: Mmmm, getting hungry just thinking about it. Is there anywhere in Stockholm that you really like?
Saba: Hmm… Yeah, I mean in Stockholm I think all the places are more or less the same for me. I think it’s because I usually prefer vegetarian when I’m out, or fish. So that’s probably why I can’t really see the differences.
Kryddhyllan: Thank you Saba, we definitely have to visit Pakistan and go to this restaurant in the mountains!