Friday, April 20, 2012

Haleem - Represents Pakistan's culture (Gluten free :))

Haleem: Threads of beef, a bite of lentils and oats and melody of spices with delicious garnishes. Haleem is a true representation of the subcontinent/Mughal heritage. It is a very well known dish in Lahore, Karachi (Pakistan) and Hyderabad (India).  It has a beautiful golden, dull yellow color, its consistency is very similar to creamy dish of risotto. It’s made with aromatic and hot spices. It is served with crispy fried onions for texture, ginger, lemon juice to cut through the spiced creaminess.

An original recipe of haleem requires 16-20 hours of cook time and if you have had that haleem you are one of the lucky ones. My mum used to start cooking it at night so we can have for lunch for the next day. She would brown the meats with garlic ginger and haleem spices like cloves, cardamom, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Then she would add soaked lentils and wheat and lots of water in the big pot. She would put the heat on very low temperature, cover the pot and would stick wet dough (flour and water) around the edges so no moisture left the pot. Then it would cook all night. I remember once my mum opened the pot in front of me, the meat was off the bones and almost shredded. There used be a light layer of oil and lentils were just melted together. Then my mum would cook it more and add fried onions to the pot.  Imagine waking up to the smell of celebration, the expectation of company, love and happiness. Haleem was made at my parent’s home for Eid, Weddings and Birthdays. My mum always served it with Naan, however I loved eating it on its own. I want to add that my mum is the best cook in the world. I mean it.

I make haleem every month because it makes my husband and me very happyJ. Now my version of haleem cooks in 4 hours. Yes it is still a long time but so worth the work. It is a hearty meal with lots of nutrients and calories (Just go for a walk after). I do use tools like the pressure cooker, hand mixture/chopper and a spice mix etc.
The process of making haleem is very soothing, creative and fulfilling. You begin with a packet of beef, lentils, oats and spices and end up with this beautiful dish which makes everyone very surprised and happyJ.
  •        500 gms beef cubes
  •       1 cup of yellow split chana *
  •          1/2 cup of salmon colored masoor daal*
  •         1/3 cup of Red Mill’s Hot Cereal 
  •          1 tbsp of garlic paste
  •          1 tbsp ginger
  •          2 tbsp of yogurt
  •          A packet of Shan’s Haleem Spice Mix* 
  •          1 ½ cup of sliced onions (2 tbsp for garnish after fried)
  •          2 tbsp julienne ginger (garnish)
  •          2 tbsp chopped cilantro(garnish)
  •          3-4 green chopped chillies(garnish)
  •          2 small limes(garnish)
  •      1 cup of canola/corn oil

  •    Soak the lentils together for at least 2 hours (not the oats)
  •    Boil and cook the lentils in 7 cups of water for an hour on a medium heat.
  •   In a pressure cooker add ½ cup of oil, Sautee the beef with garlic and ginger paste, add ½ pack of spices, sautee for 30 seconds, keep stirring and then add the yogurt.
  •    Stir for 3 min and then add 6 cups of water, let it boil and then close the lid.
  •    Cook it for 15 minutes after the whistle of the pressure cooker sounds.
  •     You don’t need to have pressure cooker, follow the same instruction until adding the water. Your cooking time will increase from 15-30 minutes to 45-60 minutes. Until the meat is cooked.
  •     Add the meat mixture to the cooking lentils. If you think there is too much water, don’t worry that will change with time of cooking.
  •   Get 6 pieces of beef cubes out of pot in a separate bowl. Once they are cooled, shred them with your hands like thin threads.
  •          Let the meat and lentils cook together for half an hour on low medium heat, so it is simmering. Stir occasionally. Let it cool afterwards and mix it with a hand mixture like a soup. You can also use the chopper. Once everything is emulsified, add the shredded meat and simmer  the mixture for another 45 minutes.
  •  Fry onions in the remaining oil on medium heat until they are golden brown. Save 2 tbsp for garnish add the rest of the onions in the simmering pot. You will see the color changing from pale yellow to golden yellow.
  •  In the same oil, heat the rest of the spice packet for 30-45 seconds and add that to the haleem as well.
  •   From here the consistency of the haleem will change from soup-like to creamy thick sauce. Add the oats and cook it for another hour on very low heat.
  •  Now the more you cook, the better it’s going to taste. So if thickens before time, I always add a cup of water and cook it again on low heat. Once you start to the see oil spots while it bubbles, it is ready.
  •  Serve it with, gluten free bread (recipe link), and the garnish of fried onions, green chillies, julienne ginger, chopped cilantro and small limes.

  •    My mum in-law gave me a tip; to fry the onions on medium heat and add salt, so the water of the onions gets evaporates, leaving the onions extra crispy.
  •  *You can get these products from any South Asian, Indian/Pakistani Stores.
  •    You can use the store fried onions in packets, however they may have flour/wheat in them.
  •    It is a spicy dish, so eat with caution.
  •    You can use home spice mix for the haleem for the same measurement of meat and lentils.
        •  1 tbsp cayenne pepper
        •   1 tsp turmeric
        •    3 tbsp Garam Masala
        •    1/4 tsp black pepper
        •    1 grinded bay leaf
        • 2 grinded curry leaf
        • 1/2 tsp grinded mustard seeds
        • salt for taste (1-2 levelled table spoons of salt
If you have a different recipe for haleem or try this at home, let me know how it turns out.


Once the spices are sauteed for 30 seconds, add yoghurt.

Seperate few pieces of meat for shredded texture that is added later.
Dont worry about haleem being too soup-like. It needs this water to emulsify everything.

Stir if your pan is too wine, to brown everything equally.

when it bubbles by the end there should be small pools of oil , that means your haleem is ready to be eaten.

Garnish-Adds an extra dimension of taste to your delicious haleem

My version of Garam Masala

2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp corriander
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 black cardemom
1 tsp green cardomem
1/2 tsp cinammon
1 tsp cloves

Heat all the whole spices on a pan on medium heat until you start smelling it. Grind everything in a coffee grinder. I have one for just spices. You could increase the amounts mentioned above and store it in an air tight jar.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A snack from Damascus.

          I have had an amazing childhood. My dad was in the air force of Pakistan and because of that we moved to different cities and different countries a lot. My worldly experiences were amazing and always revolved around good food and beautiful people. This story is very dear to my heart. We moved to Damascus, Syria in 97’ from Pakistan. As a child growing up, I always heard stories from cousins who lived abroad, about how different Pakistan was from where they lived. The visuals in my head were grandeur and full of Magic. This probably also has to do with all the children movies we used to see i.e. Matilda, Aladdin, Baby Genius etc.
       My first thought when we landed at the Airport in Syria, my first thought was “that’s it”. Where are all the malls that people talk about in movies? Where are all the toy stores? I remember reading signs in Arabic, few in English. It was sunny and everything looked very desert like. It had the same street stores like Pakistan, same farmer’s markets. The cars were similar, the road signs were similar. There were hotels, roundabouts, and then we reached our Inn. That was green, there were tall building and children were playing outside. We got cleaned up and got ready for lunch. Have you ever been so hungry that you start to play eating with the utensilsJ? I was that hungry. Now remember I am from a place where spices of all kinds are a must in main dishes, salads are cut and mixed together. The curries are colorful and are cooked in a lot of oil for flavour with cilantro, green Chile and ginger.
          The food came as it always comes in Middle Eastern countries, Hummus, Muta’abal, Whole salad veggies, pickled purple green vegetables (Turnips, cucumbers, olives).  At that time, my face resembled someone who wanted lasagna but was served boiled vegetables instead. In my little head, all I saw were vegetables and different kinds of Pasty things.  My mum took the lead and cut the cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes and tried hummus with a carrot. She smiled and said nothing. My dad tried and talked it up. Then he started eating hummus with khubaz (bread). I tried hummus and didn’t like it. I felt it was bland and reminded me of mushy moist bread. I did like muta’abil though; the grilled eggplant with fresh parsley, tahini and garlic was a perfect salad dish for me. My initial disappointment was overcome with happiness when the server brought a beautiful grilled chicken on a bed of rice and some kind of nuts. My mum broke a piece, gave me some rice and nuts, I took a bite of the chicken, again bland and I could taste chicken ( which was weird for me as I liked taste of spices more than just plain chicken)………I had to eat so I took another bite, this time with rice and pine nuts. I think that was the first time I realised how important texture and natural taste of food is. It was grilled sticky chicken with skin with lightly browned rice and crunchy earthy nutty fried pine nuts. After this experience, I tried everything I could in Damascus and eventually started liking humus. However I still pick muta’abil or babganoush over hummus.
                We had been living in Damascus for six months when my parents decided to move from Mezza to Mezza Jabel. Mezza was an area for foreigners with western inspired restaurants and grocery stores. And mezza jabel was in the heart of Damascus, very close to a bazaar, authentic and local. I am glad we moved because that is when we met beautiful people of Syria, learned to speak Arabic, had my grandfather over and enjoyed delicious food.  During our move, my dad asked me to go with him to the market just to look around. My mum and my brother were at home I think. Anyways, we took a walk down the bazaar, there were fresh food markets, barber shops, clothing shops, electronics and right by the end was a shop that were making manakesh. They are mini pizzas where dough is hand tossed; topped with local ingredients like spinach, lamb eggplant or just plain za’atar (roasted oregano and sesame spice).  They were small and in shape of a palm, with corners twisted around. I remember looking at dad skeptically, before I took a bite of the spinach and pomegranate seed manakesh. It was hot, the bread was flaky and the topping was tangy and earthy at the same time. It was delicious. 
      We had so many different kinds of these delicious snacks when we lived in Syria and then again in Alain, where my parents live now. I think my favourite has to be Za’atar with olive oil topping. The flaky bread is a perfect canvas for roasted sesame and oregano spice with olive oil. When I went gluten free, I used to miss all the wheat products that I once loved eating.  I finally was able to make the dough for manakesh. In memory of my Damascus manakesh, I give you the gluten free version. This came out to be flaky, soft and stretchy. Perfect for pizza doughs as well.


2 tbsp Tapioca Flour
2 tbsp rice flour
2 tbsp yellow corn flour
1 tsp yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp xanthum gum
1/4 cup of egg white (beaten)

  • Soak the yeast in 1/5 cup of water
  • Mix all the dry ingredients
  • Then add yeast, oil, and egg white(beaten) and beat until it gets to a cake batter consistency.
  • Then let it rest for at least an hour.
  • It will double in size, mix the batter with a spoon and let it rest again for half hour.
  • Grease a pan and spread a spoonful of batter on the pan. Spread it as wide as you want, it needs to be half an inch in thickness. 
  • Add the topping of za'atar and olive oil (1 tsp and 1 tbsp of olive oil)
  • Spread it over the dough.
  • Bake it at 350 F for 15 mins.

  • You can get Za'atar spice from any Middle Eastern market  or make it at home with equal parts dried orgenao and sesame seed grinded together with salt to tasted.
  • You can add an egg wash to brown your manakesh when it bakes.
  • I keep it like batter consistency to achieve flakiness and moist manakesh bread.
  • This recipe makes 4 snack size servings
  • Each serving has 130 calories

All the flours and xanthum gum

beaten egg whites

Dry and then wet ingredients

Beat it until a cake batter consistency

Let it rest, and double in size for an hour

15 mins in the oven and its ready.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ginger beef Stirfry -chowmein

Celiacs means no wheat, no wheat means nothing containing wheat. This means no food at a regular Chinese restaurant. No spicy vermicelli with crunchy vegetables and salty broth and no ramen noodles with that dark secret sauce. It is so hard especially if you love Asian cuisine, or are an Asian who loves Asian cuisine. I am a chow mien enthusiast. Its a complete meal for me as a pizza would be for some ;) Here is a recipe that will make you forget the best of the best chow mien that you had.

I never used to marinate protein for the stir-fry but it makes a lot of difference. I pounded the beef strips to help them get tender. I also cooked them for total 2 minutes. Green onions, garlic and soya sauce are three ingredients that would make any dish Asian inspired.

300 grams Beef strips
4 tbsp soya sauce
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/4 black pepper
2 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp sugar (caramelises the beef quicker)

3 handfulls. I read that rice pasta needs to soak in hot water rather then be cooked in it. I let them soak in hot water for 10 minutes. Leave them a little al Dante. Have this ready before you start your stir-fry.

2 green onions
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp julienne ginger
1/2 crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 five spice
1/4 cup gf soya sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp cornflour mixed in cold water
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup green pepper
1/2 cup red pepper
1/2 cup water
2 green chiles
1/4 cup oil

Marinade the beef in everything for at least an hour. In a wok, 1 tbsp of  oil and cook the beef on high heat for 20 seconds on each side. Get the beef out of the wok on a plate. Place the wok on a different burner so you do not burn anything you add. Add tbsp of oil, garlic, green onions, crushed red pepper and sautee on medium heat for a minute, add fresh ginger and then add the soya sauce and water. Let it cook for a minute add the vegetables, let them cook for three minutes and then add corn flour mix. Add Noodles and rest of the oil, stir-fry with a flat utensil. If the noodles brown that is  good. Add the beef strips right at the end. Cook for 30 seconds and serve right away, as the beef and vegetables will get over cooked if it stays on the stove for extra 10 mins.

Beef strips marinated in soya sauce, garlic, ginger, black pepper, crushed red pepper and sugar
Rice noodles-Soaked in Hot water

few of the sauce spices
Fresh vegetables
I love this part of stir fry, you feel like a chef
spicy, ginger beef with loads of vegetables

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kay's Deli Review-Portobello Mushroom Sandwhich

This is my second restaurant/cafe review for the gluten free eating. I know I should do more of these but i don't eat out that much. Kay's Deli is one my favourite places to eat because i can have gluten free deli sandwhiches. It is on William St. in the midst of a lot of Asian/Vietnamese/Chinease restaurants. It's known for its healthy food, fresh juices and smoothies. I LIKE them for gluten free options like soup of the day with gf bread, Quiche, salads, deli sandwiches with gluten free bread. The atmosphere is very comfortable and and warm. The sun shines in during lunch hour whenever its sunny out :). They have wifi for people who want to work, while they eat. They aslo take orders on the phone and get it ready for you to pick up.

Portobello Mushroom Sandwhich is one delicious sandwhich. It is vegetarian with a slice of provolone, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, grilled portobello, and sundried tomato relish. The sandwhich comes toasted with a pickle and carrots. It is tangy, hearty and filling. Yum :)
Here is

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vietnamese Marinated Chicken

1 chicken breast
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 tbsp Bragg's All purpose seasoning (GF soya sauce)
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp five spice
1/2 tsp black spice
1 tbsp scallions
A pinch of chile flakes

Cut the chicken in three long pieces.
Marinade the chicken in everything except chile flakes for at least an hour in the fridge, in a covered container.
Put 1 tbsp in a frying pan and slide all the chicken pieces through oil on the surface of the pan on medium high heat. Once the the sides start to get cooked, flip the pieces of chicken. Throw in chile flakes on top of the chicken, cover it and low the heat medium so the chicken cooks through. It should take 10 mins. Brown it more if you like.

Now add it to your spring rolls, salad or eat it with white rice and siracha!!