What summer picnic is complete without a light and refreshing bean salad? These light and refreshing salads complement roast meats and vegetables wonderfully and are easy to prepare and are extremely nutritious as well! What’s not to love? My favorite bean salad is also a Silk Road favorite from Pakistan. Read all about the bean salad, the silk road and Pakistani cuisine HERE!
I am honored once again to have Sasha Martin adapt recipes from The Silk Road Gourmet for her explorations of global cuisines at Global Table Adventure. This past week she has cooked three recipes from Pakistan from Volume One of my book: Rice with Pine Nuts and Garlic, Mixed Bean Salad and Sweet Coffee with Cinnamon and Cardamom. The dishes have never looked more beautiful treated with Sasha’s great food styling expertise.
The rice dish is a family favorite and the mixed bean salad is both delicious AND a summer picnic crowd pleaser. My mother swears by the Mixed Bean Salad and makes it for many of their gatherings, and the coffee is a delicious way to end a meal! Check out Sasha’s adaptations and also the recipes in the book. They are easy to make and fantastic additions to your table. (Words in stub by Laura Kelley. Photos of Pakistani Dishes by Sasha Martin and Global Table Adventure).
Many chefs and cookbook authors spend their careers touting the unique aspects of the cuisines they cook and write about. I’m different from most. I look around and see nothing but commonalities and connections between the major Asian cuisines and spice mixtures. In The Silk Road Gourmet Cookbook, I write a lot about how ingredients and dishes swirl in patterns across Asia and tell us a lot about relationships between countries whether through trade, diplomatic relations, cultural or religious connections.
One of these patterns in ingredients is found in the makeup of the major spice powders. Whether used as a pickling spice, an advieh, a masala, a curry powder, a spice paste or a five-spice powder, the same spices, with some variations in amount, preparation, use, or local addition of ingredients swirl across the continent from Armenia to Indonesia.
Take for example a relatively familiar Northern Indian garam masala: 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, 2 teaspoons cloves, 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 2 2-inch cinnamon sticks, ½ nutmeg corm, grated, 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds. Moving west of India, the first three ingredients are also found in most Pakistani garam masalas, which tend to omit cinnamon and nutmeg, and substitute black cardamom for the green cardamom found in the Indian masala. The same ingredients as those in the Indian masala can be found in an Afghani char masala – minus the nutmeg and also replacing the cardamom with black cardamom as in Pakistan; and in Iranian advieh – this time with the addition of coriander seeds and Persian lime powder. A commonly used modern Armenian pickling spice share four ingredients with the Iranian advieh but adds bay leave and the New World allspice to the mix.
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East of India, many Nepalese masalas have the same ingredients as the Indian masala mentioned here – only they tend to add black cardamom to the mix. One important difference between Indian and Nepali masalas is that Nepali masalas are often roasted, whereas this is an option in Indian cuisine. Sri Lankan curry powder has the same ingredients as the Indian garam masala except that it adds coriander and fennel seeds and omits nutmeg. Several additional spices and herbs (pandanus) are also added that are not related to the five or six spice base in most of the other mixes. Like Northern Indian spice preps, the spices in the Sri Lankan curry powders are sometimes roasted and sometimes not.
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Tibet’s masala adds coriander seed and bay leaves to the Northern Indian base and Khirgistan’s five-spice mix omits black peppercorns from the Indian recipe all together. Sichuan peppercorns replace black peppercorns along with the addition of star anise and fennel in varying degrees in Mongolia, China and Vietnam. Like Sri Lanka, Indonesia’s curry paste uses many ingredients not related to other spice mixes around Asia (candlenuts, laos etc), but still it shares the core of spices (black peppercorns, cloves, nutmeg and coriander seeds) with several of the other powders mentioned.
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A teaspoon here, a tablespoon there and the proportions of the spice mixtures change – but the ingredients remain the same – to some degree across the entire continent. Likewise, we may be different ethnicities or different religions, but to some extent, the foods we eat are part of the cultures we share – all of which have been shaped by the Silk Road (Words and pattern analysis by Laura Kelley).
We had a wonderful dinner party on Saturday night with a selection of Indian subcontinental food. The dinner was to celebrate the announcement of the secret marriage of a couple of friends and to give a former Londoner some of the curry that he so sorely misses. The meal was also a rewarding end to a couple of days of cooking by yours truly. In truth, I’ve been working this dinner for a couple of months. I made the mango pickle a couple of months ago, the vindaloo paste two weeks ago and the chutneys several days ago. Despite all the work, I simply love hearing that the shrimp in spicy tamarind-tomato sauce with hints of mustard and fennel is, “amazing” to one of our guests. Our menu included:
Spicy Cucumber Wedges
Pakistani Bean Salad
Pakistani Riata (Yogurt and Cucumber Dip)
Cashews with Black Pepper
Bread, Condiments and Rice
Papad (cumin seed and chili)
Rice with Garlic and Pine Roasted Nuts
Spiced Saffron Rice
Bangladeshi Chicken and Pineapple
Shrimp in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Sweet and Sour Okra
Butternut Squash in Coconut Cream
Cardamom and Rose Lassi
The Pakistani Bean Salad is an all-time winner with its grapeseed oil sweetness blending with chili peppers and white vinegar for a sweet and sour treat, and for the cucumber wedges, I used a garam masala to flavor them instead of ground cumin for a sweet but spicy surprise. The spicy Pakistani Riata, the chutneys and the pickle were also enjoyed with the selection of breads while we waited for the mains to heat up. My favorite of the three is the cucumber chutney with malt vinegar and ginger bringing a great zing to the natual cool of the the cucumbers.
The main dishes were served with two contrasting rices. The mild Pakistani rice with loads of garlic and roasted pinenuts brought a gentle flavor that origninated in the Arab world and traveled to Pakistan along with goods, beliefs and ideals, and the spiced saffron was flavored with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves was well as saffron and sweet butter. For our London friend, I made a proper lamb vindaloo that made him sweat after a few mouthfuls. For his new American wife, who has less of a taste for spice, I made a sweeter Bangladeshi curry of chicken and pineapples. For myself, I prepared one of my favorites: a curry of shrimp in a tamarind tomato sauce with dashes of mustard and licorice-like fennel. The vegetables on the omnivore table were a lovely butternut squash with mustard seeds in sweet coconut cream and a sweet and sour okra served a sides – but they could easily have been enjoyed as part of a series of main dishes on a vegetarian spread.
Our guests were serious Whovians, the desserts – two subcontinental sweets in syrup were an afterthought – eaten in near silence while watching the second “Weeping Angels” episode of the Matt Smith Dr. Who series. We also had good chardonnay and Williamsburg mulled and plain ciders flowing all night
A lovely evening with some happy people. Good food, good friends, a shared interest – a wonderful evening which I am happy for, but still tired from as I look forward to another week of work. Still, these are the moments that sustain us. Leftovers, however, will also sustain both families for some time to come as well! (All recipes from the Silk Road Gourmet Volume 1; Words by Laura Kelley; Photo of Chicken and Pineapple Curry borrowed from Google Images).