Indian Butter Chicken

 

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Butter chicken – two simple words to describe one of the richest of Indian and most popular dishes where succulent pieces of chicken are cooked and then simmered in a sauce that is utterly a buttery combination of cream, tomatoes and aromatic spices. Known as murgh makhani in Hindi,this dish is a culinary star that tickles palates across the world. While this iconic dish remains a much-loved favorite on menus across the country, few people know about the humble and practical origins of the butter chicken.

The genesis of the original butter chicken is inextricably tied to the evolution of another gastronomical hero, the tandoori chicken. The origins of the latter lie in Gora Bazaar in Peshawar, British India, where nearly 100 years ago, a man named Mokha Singh Lamba started a small restaurant called Moti Sweets.

In the 1920s, in Peshawar in undivided India, a  young boy aged 12, named Kundan Lal Gujral,  started working as a kitchen helper in at  Moti Sweets. Having lost his father at a very young age, he had to start earning early in life. When the eatery’s owner died a few years later, the boy took over the chain, as the owner was very fond of him. He renamed the place Moti Mahal.

Moti Mahal was the first resturant to dig up a tandoor right in the middle of the eatery. and as a young chef, Kundan Lal Gujral decided to experiment by skewering yogurt marinated pieces of chicken and sticking them into the tandoor oven, which was previously used only for breads. Thus, Peshawar cuisine was introduced to the culinary art of tandoori chicken and the incredibly popular, ubiquitous tandoori chicken was born.

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 A view of the tandoor at the earliest Moti Mahal restaurant in 1948 where a cook is seen putting bread inside the tandoor to cook it . Photo Credit:Monish Gujral

Cooked in the radiant heat of the clay tandoor, fragrant and flavored by the smoke rising from the hot coals, the version Gujral made—with crispy skin and a recognizably bright red exterior—became an enormous success until Gujral was forced to flee Pakistan during the 1947 Partition of India.

flash5 (1)    Photo Credit: http://www.motimahalindia.com

The tragedy of partition forced Gujral to flee to Delhi with nothing but his skills as an innovation and creative user of Tandoor, an oven used by the people of North India.

Moti Mahal had already established itself among the British elite in Peshawar but the challenge came with Partition, when Gujral had to move to India and start a new life as a refugee.

Because he came from a more privileged background than most other refugees,  starting afresh was less of a struggle. Gujral  was among the few rich people who flew to India rather than taking the train. He stayed in a refugee camp initially and thought of setting up a dhaba (roadside eatery) to introduce Delhiites to the tandoori chicken.

In his new home in Delhi, Gujral co-founded a new restaurant and also called it, Moti Mahal, in Daryaganj, with Kundan Lal Jaggi and Thakur Dass.  It was one of the first restaurants to introduce the Punjabi cuisine to the rest of the world and many famous dishes include tandoori chicken, butter chicken and dal makhani.The place quickly proved popular and within a year Gujral turned Moti Mahal into  into a 400-seat restaurant.  Gujral also tried to make Moti Mahal a different experience by introducing live “qawwali” (a form of sufi devotional music) and a see-through kitchen.

Because of the lack of refrigeration facilities during this era, necessity led Gujral to having to innovate once again to avoid wastage, especially that of the unsold tandoori tikkas. He cleverly reasoned that a tomato gravy, lushly made with butter and cream, would soften his leftover chicken. He took the leftover pieces of tandoori chicken and cooked them over a low flame and served it as such. The combination proved to be a masterstroke and thus, by an act of genius, the butter chicken was born, a dish that is now a staple of Indian restaurants around the world. And by the same token, the very same gravy recipe was then used to make dal makhani.

709457284Kundal Lal Gujral (Center) with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (Left)
                    Photo Credit:Moti Mahal Delux Resturant

Moti Mahal enjoyed the patronage of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who used to get catering done from here. So fond was he of the Peshawari cuisine that the owners had even set up a tandoor at Teen Murti House to serve piping hot naans and rotis to state guests at this august venue. In a rare gesture, the then Prime Minister had allotted an adjacent area to the owners — Kundan Lal Gujral, Kundan Lal Jaggi and Thakur Dass — to expand their business. The restaurant menu at the time as well as the placard outside used to make it clear that it had no branches anywhere and it was the sole restaurant to ensure that no one would misuse the name to start business elsewhere.

In its 1950s heyday, Gujral’s Moti Mahal resturant was extremely popular with celebrities and world leaders, including former Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and actors Raj Kapur and Nargis were among the famous patrons.

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Dr. Zakir Hussain (Left) and K.L. Gujral (first from the Right).

Photo Credit: Moti Mahal Delux

In its 1950s heyday, Gujral’s Moti Mahal resturant was extremely popular with celebrities and world leaders, including former Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and actors Raj Kapur and Nargis were among the famous patrons.

It  was also the favorite restaurant of former Soviet and Pakistan Prime Ministers Nikita Khrushchev and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, respectively. So impressed was Bhutto with the culinary skills of the chefs during an earlier visit that Indira Gandhi decided to get food served from here during the famous Simla pact meeting. Khrushchev would get handpicked dishes on the menu flown to Moscow for his official banquets.

Freedom fighter and independent India’s first education minister, Maulana Azad reportedly even told the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, that while in India he must make two visits – to the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Moti Mahal in Delhi. And the Shah followed his advice, adding his name to some of the most renowned patrons of Moti Mahal.

In its more recent times,the resturant now called Moti Mahal Delux with its global chain of restaurants with over 120 franchises in India and around the world, the Dehli location was visited by master chef Gordon Ramsay, who even went behind the counter in the kitchen of this iconic restaurant.

With time, Moti Mahal changed, too. While it retained the signature dishes of dal makhani, butter chicken, tandoori chicken, chicken pakora (fritters), the restaurant reinvented itself to suit the changing palate of the Indian customer. They introduced tandoori dishes made with broccoli, trout and lobster.

In this version of the famous dish, I found that marinating the chicken in yogurt and a seasoned tikka masala curry paste makes the chicken extra tender before finishing it in the oven and adding it to a creamy, rich, fragrant, mildly spiced tomato sauce. Served on the side, there’s ginger-spiced sautéed spinach, rice, and of course, plenty of warm, toasted naan for scooping up the extra sauce.

Definitely a favorite dish that is perfect for adding to your meal rotation.

Enjoy!

Serves 6 to 9

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
½ cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon tikki marsala curry paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

For the Sauce:
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 serrano chile, split lengthwise and seeded
Kosher salt, to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes

For the Spinach:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
10 ounces, baby spinach
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fresh coriander chopped, for garnish
Thinly sliced serrano peppers, for garnish
Fresh cream, for garnish

Directions:
For the Chicken:
Preheat oven to 475°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, curry paste, lemon juice, salt and pepper to combine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, cut into 1-inch pieces, and add to bowl with marinade. Turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate in the refigerator for 1 to 3 hours.

For the Sauce:
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add cinnamon atick and clove, stirring, until slightly darker and fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Add onion and chile season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden and beginning to caramelize, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until very fragrant and ginger starts to turn golden, 2–3 minutes. Add garam masala, fenugreek, paprika, and turmeric and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up into pieces with a spoon, and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until sauce is the consistency of a thick ragù, 40–50 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the sauce to to cool. Discard cinnamon stick and the bay leaf, but allow the whole clove to remain.

Transfer the sauce to a blender and purée until smooth. Cut remaining the 4 tablespoons of butter into pieces. Add butter and cream to blender and purée until creamy; season with salt. Return sauce to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, prepare a wire rack set inside a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

After marinating, remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange the chicken in a single layer on the baking sheet. Broil until chicken starts to brown in spots , 7–8 minutes per side. Add chicken to simmering sauce, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 8–10 minutes.

For the Spinach:
Heat  1 tablespoon butter in a large pan over medium heat. When butter is just melted, add shallot and ginger and cook until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Season with  salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, transfer the chicken and sautéed spinach to serving bowls, spooning over remaining sauce and garnish with cilantro. Tear naan into pieces and serve alongside with rice.

Cook’s Note:
Butter chicken can be made three days ahead of time.

Sources:
Gujral, Monish. (2013).  The Moti Mahal Cookbook. India: Penguin Books , Publisher.

Pal, Sanchari (2016). “The Better India (TBI) Food Secrets: The Humble Origins of the Hugely Popular Butter Chicken”. Retrieved 21 April 2018. https://www.thebetterindia.com/75100/butter-chicken-history-kundan-lal-gujral/

Retrieved 21 April 2018. https://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/12/22/moti-mahal-delhis-gastronomic-pearl/

Vohra, Pankaj (2015).”Partition brought Moti Mahal, a landmark in India’s culinary history, to central Delhi”. The Sunday Guardian.New Dehli. Retrieved 21 April 2018.http://www.sunday-guardian.com/investigation/partition-brought-moti-mahal-a-landmark-in-indias-culinary-history-to-central-delhi

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Brodetto

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This fisherman stew was inspired  by the local cuisine found along the coastal city of Ancona, Italy. This rustic dish simmers the seafood in a garlicky tomato sauce and  is served with a crusty bread. Many Italian coastal towns have their own version of this dish, which often features the catch of day. Brodetta was original conceived by fisherman to use up the smaller fish that they did not sell at the market that day.  While brodetto is similar to the  classic French  fish  stew, bouillabaisse, traditional  Italian recipes call for 13 fish as in recognizing Jesus and his 12 apostles in attendance of the Last Supper. The stew can be made with any type of fish, shellfish, including mussels and clams and either with octopus or calamari (squid). The key to making this particular recipe is to cook the shellfish and fish in stages. If you are shopping at your local markets and cannot find the listed seafood in this recipe, always choose sustainable varieties that are in season.

Serve 6

Ingredients:
6 (1-inch-thick) ciabatta slices
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing and drizzling
5 garlic cloves, divided
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
One 32-ounces jar tomato sauce
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 pound mussels, scrubbed
12 littleneck clams, scrubbed
12 ounces cod fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
12 ounces skin-on snapper fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
10 ounces raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 ounces cleaned squid, bodies cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions:
Preheat broiler to high with oven rack 4 inches from heat. Brush bread with olive oil, and place on a baking sheet. Broil until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes, flipping halfway through. Rub toast with 1 garlic clove and keep warm.

Thinly slice remaining 4 garlic cloves. Heat 1/4 cup oil over moderately high heat in a large Dutch oven. Add onion and sliced garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce and vinegar; bring to a simmer. Add mussels and clams; cover and cook until mussels open, about 5 minutes. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. (Discard any that do not open.) Cover pot and cook until clams open, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove clams with a slotted spoon and place in bowl with mussels.

Season cod, snapper, and shrimp with salt. Add to pot, cover, and reduce heat to moderate; simmer 6 minutes. Add squid, cover, and cook until fish are just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Stir in parsley, mussels, and clams. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand until shellfish are heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve in shallow bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and garlic toast.

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Hello Friends!

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Creole Herb Crusted Lamb

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This rack of lamb recipe is simply delicious. Beautifully coated with a flavourful herb crust and cooked to perfection, serve it at your next dinner party and impress your guests. When purchasing lamb, ask for lamb that has been grass-fed from birth to market. It is healthiest for you and delicious!

Serves 4 

INGREDIENTS
For the Lamb:
2 racks of lamb, cut in half with 3 bones per serving
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil(for browning)
4 to 5 garlic cloves
1 bouquet of thyme
2 tablespoons Creole  mustard*

For the Herb Crust:
3 cups Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cup  fresh parsley, stems included
1 cup baby spinach
1/3 cup of mint (optional)
4 sprigs thyme (leaves only)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black, pepper to taste
1/4 cup  Parmesan cheese, grated
Splash of  olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
Heat oven to 400°F.

Select a cast iron skillet.

Remove the fat cap if present. Cut each rack into 3-4 bones each (approximately one serving).  NOTE: Do not cut all the way to the meat. Season on all sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the skillet to very hot, add olive oil until it is shimmering.  Add a bouquet of thyme, cloves of garlic. Place the lamb in skillet and sear on all sides of meat  and using tongs sear the ends, to give it a nice dark color.

Once browned, place the racks skin-side-down in the skillet, and into the oven for 12 minutes.

Preparing the Crust: Place the panko  breadcrumbs, herbs, spinach and Parmesan cheese into a blender or a  food processor and pulse several times until you have a very fine  green crumb. Add a splash of the olive oil and continue pulsing for a few more seconds. NOTE: It will still look like dry crumbs, but when you pinch it, it should stick together well. Pour onto a plate.

When lamb has been in for 12 minutes, remove from oven and brush all sides with  mustard. Then press each rack into the crumb mixture, coating on all sides and pressing it to get an nice even coating. Shake off any excess. Dip several times to ensure an even coating. Allow meat to rest for a bit.

Place the racks (this time skin-side-up) in a baking dish.  Place back into the oven for another 8-10 minutes (longer if you want well-done), Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of each rack. NOTE: The chops may be cooked to 145 °F (medium rare),160 °F (medium), or 170 °F (well done).

Serve the lamb with potatoes boulangère and courgettes provençal, but you can serve with anything you find fitting to your taste.

Cook’s Notes:
You can substitute Dijon mustard for the Creole mustard, if desired.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Corned Beef with Cabbage and Colcannon

Simple comfort food….The brisket simmered in Guinness with cloves and finished in the oven with a mustard, honey brown sugar glaze. Probably will make hash in the morning with the left overs for breakfast, and Reuben Sandwiches on Russian Rye for lunch.

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Thank you so much!

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Cuban Chicken Soup with Plantain Dumplings

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Recipe adapted from the cookbook
Cuba! Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen
by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn and Jody Eddy
2016

The winter doldrums continue and there is nothing more perfect than a comforting bowl of chicken soup to warm your soul.

But wait!

This is not your grandmother’s chicken soup and dumpling recipe, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a Cuban grandmother. With its long simmering time and the addition of calabaza, a tiny orange-and-white squash, this is a wonderful way to warm up on a chilly day. The additional of Bijol, a traditional Cuban blend of ground achiote, cumin and corn flour, infuses the soup with a pleasant yellow color, but if you don’t have a Latin specialty market in the neighborhood, a pinch of turmeric makes a good substitute. The plantain dumplings are a lovely combination of sweet and savory, but they do not hold well. If you have leftover soup, the dumplings will completely disintegrate overnight. If you are not planning to eat all the soup in one dinner serving, add only enough dumplings to suit your hunger pangs, then freeze the soup without dumplings and whip them up whenever you are ready to dive into the leftovers.

And like every recipe, this soup has many variations throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. In Ecuador it is known as Caldo de Bolas and in Columbia, it is called  Sopa de Pollo y Platano Verde. Where as in Puerto Rico it takes on the name  Sopa De Pollo con Mofongo which is considered the Puerto Rican version of Matzah Ball Soup. Imagine that!

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
For the Soup:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
1 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups calabaza squash, cut into 1-inch dice
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Bijol (optional)*
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the plantain dumplings:
2 ripe plantains, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup rice flour

Directions:
In a large pot over high heat, combine the chicken, onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.

Using tongs, remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool slightly. Using 2 fork, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Return the chicken to the pot and add the squash, tomatoes, cumin cinnamon and Bijol. Simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, make the dumplings: Place the plantains in a microwave-safe bowl with 2 teaspoons water and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave until very soft, about 2 minutes. (If you don’t have a microwave, place the plantains in a fry pan with 1/3 cup  water, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium heat until the plantains are soft, 12 to 15 minutes. NOTE: Do not use any more water than this or  the plantain’s sweetness will leach out into the water. Sprinkle the plantains with the salt and pepper and mash them with a fork until smooth. Add  egg, cornmeal and rice flour to the plantain mixture until a combined. Roll the mashed plantain into smooth balls about 1 inch in diameter.

Drop the plantain dumplings into the soup and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

*Cook’s Notes:
Six to seven bone-in chicken thighs can be substituted for the chicken breast if you like more flavor to the soup.

If Bijol or tumeric are not readily available, Goya Sazon Culantro y Achiote® seasoning is available in most major supermarkets and grocery stores. With its combination of garlic, cumin, coriander seed, it can be the perfect seasoning for this soup, also giving a vibrant red orange color that is visually appealing.

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Thank you so much!

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Pan Fried Quail with Bacon and Country Ham

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Quail are elegant and delightful little game birds that you never have to worry about being tough if you able to buy them fresh. And it is getting easier to find them in supermarkets and local butcher shops these days, although many are sold frozen. For the most part, quail are good to make for guests because they can “hold” in a pan for 15 to 20 minutes without drying out.

For this dish, white grape juice is used, which adds a tart flavor to the sauce and as an acid, it easily cuts through the fat of the ham and the bacon.

It is the perfect dish to serve with brunch with a side of grits.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leave
8 quail, spatchcocked
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 pound Virginia ham, cut into 1/4-inch julienne
4 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup white grape juice*
Fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Combine salt, pepper, and thyme in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the birds with seasonings.

Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until it is foaming, barely browning. Add the quail skin side down. Sprinkle with ham and cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until skin is golden brown. Turn the birds over and continue to cook until the juices run clear, another 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and let the quail rest, covered for about 10 minutes.Arrange the quail on a serving platter and sprinkle with ham and bacon.

Pour the fat from the skillet, reserving two tablespoons. Add the grape juice and bring to the skillet to a boil. Cook for about 1 minute, scraping the brown bits from the bottom, to deglaze the skillet. Pour the sauce over the quail and garnish with  parsley if desired and serve.

Cook’s Note:
This dish calls for country ham which is salt cured, so be be VERY cautious with any additional that you add to the dish, while cooking.

*White cranberry juice, white wine or water are suitable substituted for  the white grape juice in this recipe.

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Thank you so much!

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Quail in Rose Petal Sauce

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In   Laura Esquivel’s Novel,  Like Water for Chocolate, the reader is introduced to this recipe in Chapter 3, where the love sick character Tita, who is a cook, prepared an elaborate dish with a rose, a token of love, given to her secretly by her lover Pedro. She calls the dish “quail in rose petal sauce”. At the dinner table, the meal receives an ecstatic response from Tita’s family members, especially Pedro, who always compliments Tita’s cooking. However, a more curious affect is observed in Gertrudis, her younger sister, not long after eating the dish, who begins “to feel an intense heat pulsing through her limbs.” It appears that the meal serves as a powerful aphrodisiac for Gertrudis, arousing in her an insatiable desire. This turbulent emotion pulses through Gertrudis and on to Pedro. Tita herself goes through a sort of out-of-body experience. Throughout the dinner, Tita and Pedro stare at each other, entranced.

Dripping with rose-scented sweat, Gertrudis goes to the wooden shower stall in the backyard to cool off. Her body gives off so much heat that the wooden walls of the shower stall burst into flames—and so do her clothes.Running outside, the naked Gertudis is suddenly swooped up by one of Pancho Villa’s men, who charges into her backyard on horseback.

“Without slowing his gallop, so as not to waste a moment, he leaned over, put his arm around her waist, and lifted her onto the horse in front of him, face to face, and carried her away.”

The escape of Gertrudis serves as a foil to Tita’s stifled passion. The intensity of the former’s reaction to the meal serves to communicate the potency of the passion that the latter possesses but is unable to express directly. With her primary form of expression limited to food, Tita takes the illicit token of love from Pedro and returns the gift, transforming it into a meal filled with lust. The manner in which Gertrudis is affected by the food and later swept away on a galloping horse is clearly fantastical, and the vivid imagery like the the pink sweat and powerful aroma only exemplifies the novel’s magical realism.

To  be carried away so gallantly,  in a moment of passion………..is magic!

And with that being said, this would be the perfect dish to make for someone you love, especially for a romantic dinner for Valentine’s Day.

Enjoy!

Updated February 2, 2018

 

Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 quail (or 6 doves or 2 Cornish Hens)
3 Tablespoons butter
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup dry sherry
6 peeled chestnuts (boiled, roasted, or canned)
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup red prickly pear fruit puree
(or substitute raspberries, red plums or pink dragonfruit)
1 Tablespoon honey
¼ cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
14 teaspoons rosewater
Petals of 6 fresh, organic red roses, for garnish
Pepita seeds, for garnish

Directions:
Heat the serving platter in an oven set to low. Rinse the quail and pat dry. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and lightly brown the birds on all sides. Add sherry and salt and pepper to the quail. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Turn the quail, cover, and cook another 10 minutes. Remove the quail when done to your liking and place on a heated platter.

Combine the remaining ingredients with pan juices, transfer to a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour the sauce into a small pan and simmer 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper, and/or honey. Pour the sauce over the quail on the heated platter.  Sprinkle with the rose petals and pepitas, for garnish, and serve hot.

Cook’s Notes:
The original recipe for this dish calls for rose petals, but you don’t want to use petals from conventional flower shop roses—those are treated with fungicides. Still, if you have some organically grown roses in your backyard, or know where to buy them, feel free to use them to garnish the finished dish.

If you cannot find any rose petals, 3 bags of  Tazo Passion Hibiscus Tea is a great alternative to use as well.

You can find rosewater at local Middle Eastern stores.

The original recipe calls for cactus. In this version red prickly pear fruit puree or juice is used and can be found at most health food stores—or substitute frozen raspberries or even use 2 large red plums that have been pitted and skinned, for the red prickly pear.

Another  substitution for the prickly pear would be  dragon fruit , which is closer in terms of the flavor given that both are cactus fruits.While you may not initially equate “cactus” with “edible,” the dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is indeed borne on a cactus. When the fruit is cut open, the flesh is revealed to be either snow-white or magenta pink and peppered with tiny, edible black seeds throughout — quite a contrast to the exterior.The flesh is mildly sweet, some say comparable to a melon. A source of calcium, fiber and vitamin C, the dragon fruit is widely cultivated throughout much of the tropics, particularly in Asia. Its popularity in tropical Asia combined with the dragon reference may lead us to believe it originated in Asia, but the fact is no one seems to agree on where it came from. We do however know it is in the cactus family (Cactaceae), and therefore almost sure to be of New World origin.

If you have a dove hunter in the family, try this with dove instead of quail. In fact, doves may be an even more romantic choice, if you don’t mind picking a little birdshot from your teeth. Cornish hens also work well, as a substitute for the protein in this dish.

 

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Thank you so much!

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