Month of May: “Together: Our Community Cookbook Recipe: Munira Mahmud’s Spiced Lamb Pilao and Aysha Bora’s Indian Shortbread

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind however small. And in return, life – and travel, leave marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though they hurt.” Anthony Bourdain

These words resonate with my own life experience. These words and this recipe resonate with my life changing memories of India. In 2006 I flew 20 hours in one direction away from my homeland. I spent three weeks in the monsoon season of May in Calcutta assisting the nuns of Mother Teresa’s missionary caring for the sick and dying. Intense is an understatement to the poverty, the pollution, the heat, the suffering I witnessed there. Yet, strangely and utterly surprising, among the discomfort and pain I also found profound kindnesses and love unimaginable. A paradox, an ambiguity. Just like this grief journey.

Ingredients: 4 tablespoons ghee, 2 large onions finely chopped, 2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder cut into bitesize chunks, 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 2 tablespoons cumin seed, 8 crushed cardamom pods, 6 cloves, 4 cinnamon sticks, water, 1 and 3/4 cup of basmati rice, salt, 2/3 cup plain yogurt and mint leaves

  1. Heat oil in heavy pan over medium heat and cook onions until soft and golden. Remove onions and add lamb in batches until browned. Return onions to all lamb and add spices with seasoning. Mix well. Add 1 and 2/3 cup of water and bring to boil first and then simmer with a lid on low heat for 3 hours.
  2. Once lamb is tender add rice and 2/3 cup of water and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Do not lift lid if you can. Remove from heat and let sit for another 15 minutes. Combine mint leaves with yogurt to serve on side. Remove lid and fluff with fork. Taste and adjust for more salt and pepper.

Ingredients: 1/2 cup ghee, 1 cup confectioners sugar, 2 tablespoons plain yogurt, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, 5 tablespoons chickpea flour, ground cardamom from 4 pods, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons of ground pistachios

  1. Put ghee and sugar in food processor for about 10 seconds. Add yogurt and blitz for a second or two. Add sifted flours, cardamom and powder and pulse until combined.
  2. Using your hands make about 35 balls (mine made less) about 1/2 ounce each and place on lined baking sheets. Chill for 20 minutes and bake at 350F for about 13-15 minutes. Check halfway through. Remove from oven and sprinkle with ground pistachios.

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