Yesterday, I found a very helpful Wikipedia page about Pakistani cuisine. I googled this page after trying fruitlessly to hunt down a Pakistani Aaloo Palak recipe that was different than an Indian Aaloo Palak recipe. Turns out, eastern Pakistan and northern India share much of the same foods, just as western Pakistan and Afghanistan share much of the same foods. This turns Pakistan into a rich tapestry of culinary fabulousness, and I want in.
I also found out that Pakistan consumes three times as much meat as India (as you may know, India has a very large vegetarian population). Therefore, finding a vegetarian-anything in Pakistani cuisine is a bit difficult. It was easier for me here to use a technically Indian recipe and just call it Pakistani.
However, Chapatis are extremely common in Pakistani. They are the most common bread in a Pakistani household. So, I don't entirely feel like I'm cheating when I say this dish counts for my 50 Countries challenge as Pakistan. :)
*Note: I changed this recipe slightly from the way it was originally written. The version I'm giving here is what I made, not the original.
Aaloo Palak (from bellaonline.com)
-16 ounce bag of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
-6 medium red potatoes
-1 large onion, finely diced
-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
-1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
-3 dried Japones chiles (red chiles), sliced in half diagonally
-1 3/4 teaspoons cumin
-3/4 tsp turmeric (haldi)
-1/2 tsp ground coriander powder
-3/4 tsp garam masala
-¼ tsp crushed red pepper
-1 teaspoon salt (may need a bit more)
-1/4 teaspoon black pepper
-1 teaspoon lime juice
-1-2 tbsp oil, vegetable of canola
-1 cup water
-freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, boil the potatoes until fork tender. Remove, drain well in a colander and run under cold water. This will stop the cooking process and cool them quickly. When the potatoes have cooled, either halve or quarter them depending on their size. Of course, peeling them is completely optional. Set aside until needed.
2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add about 1 tbsp of the oil. When hot, add the dried red chilies. Stir and add the onions, cook until they are translucent (around 5-6 minutes). Now add the ginger and garlic. Stir fry for a few more minutes and add all the spices (turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, red chili powder, salt and pepper). If you need a little more oil, add it as needed. Let the spices cook for a few more minutes and then add the potatoes. Carefully toss the potatoes with the spices so that they are evenly coated. Now add the spinach and gently mix until the spinach has wilted. Finish with the lime juice.
3. This is a dry dish (meaning, it ain't saucy like most Indian dishes), so while you're making or cooking your chapatis, it helps to add up to 1 cup of water. It is because the water was added that I upped the spice amounts given in the original recipe. Mix well to combine all of the ingredients, reduce the heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.
4. Garnish and serve with fresh chapatis and fragrant Basmati rice.
-Makes 4 entree-sized servings.
Garlic Chapatis (modified slightly from Allrecipes.com)
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon salt
-1-2 teaspoons garlic, minced very finely (depending on your taste)
-2 tablespoons olive oil (**Or, if you're not vegan, you can use Ghee. I did, and it was delicious!)
-3/4 cup hot water or as needed
1. In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the garlic, olive oil and enough water to make a soft dough that is elastic but not sticky. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth. Divide into 10 parts, or less if you want bigger breads (**NOTE: I wanted mine large enough to fit in the bottom of a 12" skillet. To get that size, divide the dough into 6 parts, not 10). Roll each piece into a ball. Let rest for a few minutes, or cover and let rest until you're ready to use them.
2. Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot, and grease lightly. On a lightly floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll out the balls of dough until very thin like a tortilla. When the pan starts smoking, put a chapati on it. Cook until the underside has brown spots, about 30 seconds, then flip and cook on the other side. Continue with remaining dough.
Verdict: Greg said this is "very high on the list of contenders" for the best of the 50 countries. I have to agree. Though there are parts of this recipe that make it time-consuming (like boiling potatoes), everything is so incredibly simple to make. And honestly, it was the least time consuming and least complicated Indian recipe I've made to date. Let's just stop a minute and ask: Heather, why in the world haven't you made Chapatis before?? They are like an uncomplicated naan. Hell, they are even easier and more delicious than making your own tortillas. Let's do that more often, okay?