With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.
– Jalal-al-Din-Muhammad Rumi [Persian mystic, circa 13th century]
The Taj Mahal is a timeless beauty and a living example of eternal love. It has survived 350 years and remains one of the most memorable love stories of all time. This extraordinary heritage site in Agra, India is a memorial of Emperor Shah Jahan’s love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal and has always been my favorite story of romance.
As we come closer to yet another Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but feel the sweet sense of romance in the air. As always, I hope the sense of soaring spirits and anticipation will extend past February 14th. How I wish one could capture these all-consuming feelings and embody them in a physical being, just like Shah Jahan did for his wife. Well, until this is possible, let’s make the most of the special day this year.
It should come as no surprise that history is riddled with legends and stories regarding the use of aphrodisiacs to help love along. And what better time than now to allow your inner gourmand to take over and add that special burst of flavor this Valentine’s Day! After all, chocolates and roses are so last year! How about using spices known for mood enhancing properties to cast a spell over your love? Spice promises flavorful, sensual encounters, and can really put you in the mood.
To me, nothing expresses love more eloquently than food. Cooking for someone special is absolutely astonishing – and that makes me wonder how Mumtaz Mahal would have combined the delicious art of cooking and seduction to create that sense of romantic anticipation. And also what culinary gems did the Empress use to entice the Emperor? And what delicacies Mumtaz Mahal would create to tease her Emperor’s palate in 2017?
Whether you’re planning a three-course meal to slowly serenade your partner or a creative array of snacks to tease the appetite, there are dozens of delicious recipes that can transform your Valentine’s Day meal into a seduction of sight, taste, smell, and touch. So this Valentine’s Day let’s create a royal fare that will arouse and excite your partner and make them completely surrender to your charm.
ROYAL CHICKEN KORMA (Chicken cooked in a smooth, luscious sauce of almond, pistachios, and cashew nut)
Simmered in the flavors of aromatic condiments and culinary aphrodisiacs – peppercorns, green cardamom, cinnamon, and chilies, as well as freshly ground nut pastes.
- 500 grams boneless chicken, cubed
- 20 grams almonds
- 20 grams cashew nuts
- 20 grams pistachios
- 200 grams onion
- 150 grams yoghurt
- 200 grams cream
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 2 green chilies
- 6 green cardamom
- 12 peppercorns
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 2 tsp oil
- 2 tbsp. ghee/butter
- Almond slivers
- Pistachio slivers
- Rose petals
- Combine all the nuts – almonds, pistachios, cashew nuts in a jar. Add a cup of water and puree the nuts into a smooth creamy texture.
- Roughly chop onions and run it in a blender to make a fine puree.
- Make ginger-garlic-green chili paste using ¼ cup water.
- Heat oil in a pan, then sauté the cardamom, cinnamon, and peppercorns on medium flame for 2 minutes.
- Add the onion paste to the spice-flavored oil and cook on medium flame until they become translucent.
- Put in ginger-garlic-green chili paste, then fry 2 minutes until translucent.
- Add in cubed chicken, beaten yoghurt, and salt. Cook on medium flame for 10 minutes till the chicken is tender.
- Add in the almond-pistachio-cashew nut paste, and cook for 5 minutes. Keep stirring gently to avoid sticking at the bottom.
- Lastly, add the cream and gently cook on low flame for 10 minutes till you have a smooth, creamy sauce ready.
- Taste for flavor. When done serve in a dish garnished with dry rose petals & slivers of almonds and pistachios.
SAFFRON RICE PILAF WITH PINE NUTS
Eternal love also longs for a dash of spice. That’s why each morsel has been delicately infused with subtle passion.
- 1 cup basmati rice (250 grams)
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbsp. ghee/butter
- 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 8 green cardamom pods, open shells and pound in mortar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- Wash rice till completely clean. Soak it in a medium bowl submerged in water for 1 hour. Drain and put aside.
- Take a medium-sized pot. Heat ghee/butter over medium flame and add the cardamom pods then cook for 1- 2 minutes. Stir in the drained rice and sautée for 2 minutes until it becomes translucent.
- Add the 2 cups water, salt, and saffron and then bring the rice to a boil for 10-12 minutes. Gently stir twice to avoid sticking.
- Turn down heat and let it cook with lid covered for 5 minutes on a very low flame till all liquid is absorbed.
- Remove from heat. Place clean dish towel over pot and cover the lid. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Gently fluff rice with fork.
- Serve hot garnished with pine nuts and a few strands of crushed saffron.
SPICY MANGO CHUTNEY
How can there not be a chutney in my Valentine’s Day menu? Hot and fiery mango chutney will get the blood pumping and add chilies to get the pulse racing.
- 500 grams green mango (pitted, peeled, and cut in small cubes)
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tbsp. cumin powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
- 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 10 fresh hot red chilies, finely chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp oil
- Mix the chopped mangoes with salt and set aside for 1 hour.
- Heat oil in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and let it splutter for 1- 2 minutes. Add the fennel seeds and cook till light brown, 1 minute. Put in chopped ginger and garlic sauté till raw smell disappears.
- Combine in the saucepan – mango, water, chopped fresh red chilies, red chili powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, and sugar. Simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes, stirring constantly until mango is tender, liquid reduced, and chutney thickened.
- Spoon into sterilized jars. Cool and refrigerate. This will last 1–2 weeks in the fridge.
Reshma Khan‘s cooking classes, held at The Hutong, teach you to decipher a myriad of Indian culinary delights. Pick her jar of exotic blends of chutneys, curry pastes, tea blends sold under her flagship PARWAAZ brand at the Farm to Neighbors Market, the Riviera Food and Health Market in Shunyi, and at various events held in the city. For class schedules, check www.thehutong.com and for catering requests, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go to Qi Yuan Indian Grocery, beside Sanlitun Police Station, 100m north of Yashow Market in Chaoyang District朝阳区三里屯骓秀大厦往北100米 (Contact: 6415 0392)