Tell us about yourself and what you would say is your food philosophy?
I am a Pakistani-Afghan with Irani ancestry. I was born in Lahore, Pakistan and grew up in Pakistan, the US, Nigeria, Kenya, Bangladesh and the UK. I lived and worked in Rome, Italy for several years after which my husband and I, true to our nomadic expat lifestyle, made Toronto, Canada our new home.
My cookery style is reminiscent of the comfort food I grew up eating in my home- clove and cumin fragranced basmati pilafs; slow-braised spicy mutton stews, laced with ginger and garlic; and cardamom-infused milky rice puddings. The dishes I prepare are a reflection of my heritage; the food prepared by the women in my family.
What led you to start a food blog?
I had just moved to Toronto from Rome and wanted to recreate those dishes which reminded me of my childhood in an attempt to feel rooted in a place I felt lost. Since recipes are passed down through an oral tradition in my part of the world, I decided to put pencil to paper and document the recipes created by the women in my family – from my Afghan, Irani and Pakistani heritage.
What would you say “The Spice Spoon” is all about and please share a recipe that best describes your blog?
My blog, based on heritage cookery, reads like a food memoir. I relate each recipe to a memory- often from my childhood- of loved ones and of the places I have lived in. When I write a vignette, I want my readers to feel that they can relate to it on a nostalgic level. I want it to remind them of the place and time they tasted a dish their mother prepared for them as a child.
Through my stories, I also want people to see my part of the world- Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran through a different optic- with a more human face, rather than in a negative light, as is often depicted in the media.
The recipe I am sharing with you today, Chicken Sliders in the Pakistani Manner with Mint Aïoli, is based on my Ami’s (mother) love for green chilies, ginger and fresh, verdant cilantro. Ami and I often have these kebabs with our afternoon tea, as most Pakistanis like to enjoy something savory during tea time. We dip them in a mint-yoghurt sauce, which inspired me to create a mint aïoli for the sliders.
Chicken Sliders with Mint Aïoli
You will need 8-10 slider rolls
*1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted
*1 pound minced chicken (my butcher uses chicken breast)
* ½ a small onion, sliced very thinly
*1 small thumb ginger, julienned
*2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, stems and leaves
*2-3 Thai bird chilies, sliced straight into the mixture with kitchen shears
*2 tsp salt
*Any neutral oil (grape seed, for e.g.) for shallow frying
*Large frying pan
*Toast sliced bread till crisp. Allow to cool, then pulverize in a blender or food processor till it transforms into crumbs. Place in large mixing bowl.
*Add minced chicken, onion, ginger, cilantro, chilies, egg, salt and mix to combine. Use a spatula or gloves as the chilies can burn your fingers.
*For a salt-taste test, place frying pan on medium-high heat and add 1 teaspoon oil
*Take ½ a teaspoon of the mixture and drop into the hot oil. Flip on other side till done. Taste for salt. Add more salt to chicken mixture if necessary.
*Apply oil to your hands (or use gloves) and form meat into 2-inch round flat patties, about ½ -inch thick. Set aside on parchment / wax paper.
*Heat ¼ inch of oil in a pan over medium heat. Working in batches, add patties to oil and fry for 60-90 seconds per side or until golden brown and cooked through, adding more oil as needed (you may need to change the oil as it darkens)
*Transfer to a newspaper or paper towels to absorb excess oil
*2 fresh egg yolks (or pasteurized yolks)
*1 teaspoon minced garlic
* ½ cup fresh mint
*1½ cups olive oil
*1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
*Sea salt to taste
*In a blender, blitz yolks. garlic and mint till well incorporated
*While the blender is running, add oil in very slowly, in a thin stream
*Add lemon juice
*Add sea salt to taste
You will need olive oil
Slice the slider rolls in half, and brush the insides with olive oil. Place under your broiler till golden. Sandwich chicken kebab between slider roll after you slather it with mint aïoli. Serve with an arugula and cherry tomato salad, dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Enjoy with family and friends on a lovely spring afternoon. And if you so please, pop open a bottle of a chilled Italian Falanghina.