After a while, you’ll notice that most the recipes use very similar ingredients. I try to keep it as simple as possible and you will learn to pick up these items on your own every once in a while. I like to keep a little bit of everything handy around the kitchen. This allows me to cook whatever I’m craving whenever I like.
- Basmati Rice – depending on where you live and where you shop, you will come across a wide variety of brands. To be honest the best way to find out which is best is by trial and air. Buy a small bag, use it until it’s done. If you like it buy the same one next time, if you didn’t like it , try another brand. I’ve gone through all sorts of rice and at the moment my rice of choice is Saleem Caravan (when I can find it). I find the grains of rice to be nice and long and the smell and flavor is very powerful. Just the way I like my rice.
- Tomato paste – Again there are many brands. It’s just tomato paste, so don’t stress yourself. However it does seem like the foreign brands have more flavor. By foreign I mean, if you are buying it from the Middle Eastern store, there is more variety. I like my tomato paste sour, dark and thick. Again you may have to try a couple before you find the one you like.
- Lemon Juice – Just that; lemon juice. Again, I definitely find that the foreign brands have more flavor and less weird chemicals in the ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
- Turmeric – Bright yellow spice. The brand does not matter.
- Salt – Whatever you’ve got at home is fine.
- Pepper- regular ground pepper you’ve got at home is great.
- Lime powder – Look in the spice section. The regular grocery store may not carry it, but the Middle Eastern store will.
- Cooking onions – medium size. You should try to keep a few ready to go in the fridge.
- Ghee – Vegetable oil. It’s cooking oil paste and it’s a must. The smell and taste adds so much to anything you’re cooking. I use the Aseel brand and it’s in a yellow can. Because it’s very concentrated, you only use a little at a time and so it will last you a long time.
If you have a decent size freezer and you are able to keep one or two packs of stewing beef or chicken available, I would recommend that you do. It’s nice to open your freezer and find a pack of chicken when you are craving it. You can always pick up a pack to replenish at your next grocery visit.
MEATS: The quality and origin of your meat is really up to you. Whether you want organic, grain fed, Halal or locally grown. You can purchase your meat at any grocery store, Middle Eastern store, meat shop or farm. Read the labels, and ask questions if need to be to know what your buying. When it comes to meat, don’t guess...lol.
- Ground beef – I prefer lean or extra lean. The leaner the beef, the less greasy it is. You can find this at your local grocery store. A pack of approximately 500gr is a good size for a serving of 3 to 4 people. Or you can make the same serving for 2 people and have the left over for lunch or dinner the next day. Or even better yet, make the same serving and freeze it and enjoy later on your own.
- Stewing beef – Depending on where it’s purchased, or how it’s packaged, sometimes I find the stewing pieces really big. Again, it’s a personal preference. Just keep in mind how this will look in your stew. If you like it big and chunky, you can be consistent with the rest of your ingredients to be big and junky. I like the stewing beef to be no bigger than 1 to 2 inches, so if I need to, I will cut the meat to the size I like. Same as the ground beef, a pack of approximately 500gr (1lb) is a good size for a serving of 3 to 4 people. Or you can make the same serving for 2 people and have the left over for lunch or dinner the next day. Or even better yet, make the same serving and freeze it and enjoy later on your own.
- Chicken – I prefer dark meat, especially for stews. I find that dark meat absorbs the stew juice and flavors more that white meat. However this is a personal choice. I recommend skinless as it tends to be less fatty. You can buy it with skin to save money and skin it yourself, but it does take time and you might have to miss Shahs of Sunset. You can use thighs, legs or breast in a stew. A pack of approximately 500gr (1lb) is a good size for a serving of 3 to 4 people.