Sherbanoo Aziz Shows and Tells
Her Cooking Secrets



The menu for the wedding feast and a few of Sherbanoo's favorite recipes.
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Indian Wedding Feast

Chicken Pulav
(rice with chicken and spices)

Shatni Kabab
(ground meat balls)

Yogurt and Onion Salad

Coconut Chutney

(yogurt and cucumber)

(ground meat, spices and onions)

(a dessert of milk and flour balls floating in sugar syrup)

(like a potato chip)


Cumumber Ralta
(cucumber with yogurt)

1 cucumber peeled and minced (cut into tiny pieces with seeds removed)

1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon/lime juice
Mix the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a dash of garlic salt. Chill. Serve with pulav. Serves 10

(rice pudding)

1/2 cup rice boiled over medium beat in 3 cups of water
1/2 cup sugar
1 pint milk or half and half
6 oz. evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of nutmeg powder
1/4 cup slivered almonds sud raisins
1 teaspoon khas khas (poppy seeds)

3 strands of saffron soaked in one tablespoon of water Boil rice over medium heat for 45 minutes until water is almost gone, mix with beater, scraping out the rice stuck at the bottom of saucepan. Add milk and sugar and cook over medium heat for 1/2 hour, stirring all the time to prevent rice from sticking to the pan.

Add half the almonds, raisins, nutmeg and all the salt. Cook for a minute. Pour into. serving bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Garnish with slivered almonds, raisins, nutmeg, khu khas and sprinkle with a mixture of the saffron strands and water. Decorate with silver sheet (an edible silver decoration of the consistency of tissue paper) if available. Chill. Serves 10.

Coconut Chalasy

1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut soaked in 1/2 cup water for 1/2 hour or 1/4 cup frozen coconut
5 fresh green chillies (hot)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground garlic
1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup fresh green coriander leaves
2 teaspoons salt
Grind up ingredients in blender. Add water if needed. Serve with Bhajias (little dumplings)

By Marjorie Messiter - The Bank's World/ March 1985

Photo by Giuseppe Franchini

Her tortoiseshell glasses slip off the bridge of her nose to a precarious perch. Sherbanoo Aziz ignores the inconvenience, peering over the rims as she watches two students ladeling a pot of kheer (rice pudding). Over at a kitchen table strewn with wax paper, bread boards, rolling pins and mixing bowls, others are intent on rolling out perfectly shaped puries (an Indian bread deep-fried in fat).
For several years now, Sherbanoo, a Personnel Assistant in PMD for Eastern and Southern Africa Region, has been introducing the fiery delights of North and South Indian cuisine to her students at the Gunston Recreation Center in Arlington, Virginia.
The series has, however, become a casualty of its own popularity. Students would invariably ask for additional sessions which couldn't be arranged within the Center's fixed schedule. So this year Sherbanoo is going out on her own. She has bookings for demonstrations at Kitchen Bazaar stores in the area to commemorate the India Festival Year and will be teaching groups in private homes. To reflect Indian hospitality, Sherbanoo's course features a different menu each week over a six-week period. The finale is an Indian wedding feast.

An Indian wedding is a grand affair. To finance a proper celebration, poor families and those with modest incomes will incur a debt to an employer or wealthy neighbor who they can never repay. "Fifty guests is nothing," she says. "Two hundred is more usual.

"Our culture is very food oriented," she explains. "In Western countries you can often just offer your guest something to drink, but in India, it's rude to send someone who comes to your home away without food, and normally it is a whole meal."

To get everyone into the spirit of the feast, Sherbanoo invites those who are interested to come in traditional dress which she provides-saris for women, and kurtas (dress shirts) for men. If the group requests it, she also brings along Indian music to add to the ambience.

Two of the most popular dishes in her repertoire are puries and samosas (an hors d'oeuvre made of ground meat, spices and onions). "I drive the class to make puries perfectly round. We have a lot of fun shaping and rolling the dough, but it is difficult because we don't use cookie cutters," she says. Many of her students are already excellent cooks who want to learn about Indian food. Class sizes vary from five to 14, with men usually making up about half of the class. "For some men, like the young Australian from the Bank who didn't like to cook for himself, it was the only home cooked meal he had during the week," she says.
"Men are shy at first," she continues, "especially those who have not cooked before, but by the end of the series they nearly always ask for extra sessions."

Early Excursions
Although today she will tell you she loves to cook, her early excursions into the kitchen were motivated by sheer necessity as she coped with the problems faced by most single working mothers without household help.
Arriving in the United States from India in 1973 with three young sons to support, she first found a job at the Bank as a secretary. For a while, finances were so tight that when one son lost his overcoat at school, the family had to rotate coats for a couple of weeks until she could scratch together the money to replace it. Time was no more plentiful.
"I used to get up at 4 a.m. to start cooking for the day. I was slow because I was so inexperienced," Sherbanoo says. Besides, she had a two-hour commute to work. The meal she prepared in the morning was, however, gone before dinner. "My sons were not used to eating American sandwiches. They would fill up on sweets at school and then eat what I had prepared for dinner when they got home. Eventually, I caught on and began cooking double quantities."
It was a vastly different life from what she had known growing up in Bombay and later as a wife and mother in Madras. "In India I had help in the kitchen. They cut and cleaned the meat and vegetables-we purchased everything fresh. They prepared the chapati dough (an Indian bread cooked on a hot griddle), and ground the spices between stones. Then I would put it all together.
"I learned from helping my mother as a little girl and later from my exmother-in-law. So, I had some idea of what to do."

Creativity from Necessity
Somewhere along the way necessity turned into creativity, and when her sons were grown and out on their own, she was at loose ends. "I had got used to having no time to myself; and, since I'm by nature an active person, I started looking around for something to do after work."
One day, as she was browsing through a copy of a magazine containing articles about people who started businesses using the skills they had, the idea of teaching jelled. "People take courses to learn just about anything," she reasoned, "even how to use a food processor or microwave oven when they can get that information by reading the instructions with the equipment."
Her instinct proved correct, and now, even though she doesn't have children to feed, she has her classes to plan and cook for.
Her philosophy is to take life in hand and get on with it. "One of the things I want to do with my classes," she says, "is to show women that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to."


Chicken Akni Pulav
1 whole chicken approximately 2 lbs.
1 lb. thinly sliced onions
1 l/2 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into four
1 cup plain yogurt
3 cups long grain rice
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
2-1/2 cups water
1 cup shortening or ghee (purified butter)
1 cup milk
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
1 2"cinnamon stick broken
20 cloves
1 teaspoon whole cumin
4 pods cardamon slit
10 fresh green hot peppers slit
1 teaspoon freshly ground garlic
I teaspoon freshly ground ginger
3 teaspoons salt

(if available)

4 to 6 stems green coriander leaves, cut and washed
3 to 4 strands of saffron
Cut chicken into approximately 12 pieces.

In a large saucepan, heat the shortening on the high setting. Add potatoes and fry for 5 minutes and remove.

Reduce heat to medium and add in the green peppers, cloves, cumincardamon, and bay leaves. As these sputter, throw in the onions, ginger and garlic. Fry for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and salt. Mix well, Cook for 5 minutes.

Add yogurt, lime juice and water. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Add rice and make sure it continues to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Soak saffron in the cup of milk. Preheat oves so 450 degrees. Add potatoes to the pulav and mix gently so that the rice, chicken and potatoes are thoroughly mixed. Pour the saffron milk slowly around the mixture. Spread coriander leaves on rice. Cover. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Serve piping hot with raita. Serves 10.

Kheema Mats
(ground meat with peas)

1 lb. ground meat
1 medium.sized onion, finely sliced
6 oz. tomato paste
5 oz. frozen or fresh peas
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon each ground garlic, ground ginger, red chilli powder, cumin powder, garam masala (a mixture of five spices)

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add onions. Fry over medium heat until light brown (about 3 or 4 minutes), Add spices. Cook for a minute. Add ground meat. Cook for 3 minutes. Add pessand mix. Add tomato paste. Add 6 oz. water to the tomato paste and mix. Stir in green coriander leaves if available. Lower heat and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. Serve with naan (pita bread). Serves 10.


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