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Who’s cooking: Noreen Salimi, Westbury

Nora Salimi of Westbury presents a platter of

Nora Salimi of Westbury presents a platter of Chicken Pilau. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Noreen (Nora) Salimi, a hairstylist, lives in Westbury with her two daughters.

Who inspired your love of cooking?

Growing up in Pakistan, we were seven siblings in my household, and my mom always cooked. She makes everything from scratch and goes to the nearby farmers market every day to buy fresh vegetables. I remember going with her and she’d break a stem of broccoli rabe. If it made a crunchy noise, she said, it was fresh. I always observed how she cooked. She explained about cumin seed, cinnamon, garlic and how to chop onion in different ways to get different tastes.

How does cooking figure in your life?

I find that cooking relieves my stress. When I’m stressed I find something to cook that’s a little difficult and time-consuming like fried lentils mixed with meat or freshly made bread.

What do your children think of your cooking?

They love it. My son, who is 27, was having his American friends over and asked me how to make something delicious with chicken and spices. I guided him step by step on FaceTime and we made chicken karahi [a Pakistani chicken-tomato dish].

Do you have any cooking tips?

Don’t ever be afraid to cook anything or that it’ll taste bad. Try it two or three times and watch closely and compare. Fresh is always best because sometimes if you use canned like tomato purée or cubes and garlic from the jar, the taste is different.

What’s the difference between chicken pilau and biryani?

With chicken pilau, you make the broth separately and then mix the rice with the broth. With a biryani, you boil the rice in plain water.


This two-step recipe calls for cooking the rice in chicken broth, which infuses it with flavor.

3 cups basmati rice

8 large, boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3-inch pieces.

1 small onion, whole, peeled

5 cloves garlic, whole, peeled

2 tablespoons Shan Pilau Biryani mix (available at Pakistani and Indian grocery stores)

1 small piece fresh ginger, peeled, about 2 inches, whole

2 medium onions, sliced finely

3/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon low-fat plain yogurt

Fresh cilantro for garnish

1. In a large bowl, soak rice in enough lukewarm water to cover it, about 2-3 inches, for about 25 minutes.

2. Make the chicken broth: In a large pot, combine 6 cups of water, the chicken, small onion (whole), garlic cloves, biryani mix and ginger (whole) and cook on high to boil for five minutes. Then bring it to a simmer on medium with lid cracked, covered for 20-25 minutes or until liquid is reduced by one cup. Remove the chicken and garlic cloves from the broth and set aside on a dish. Strain the rest of the contents from the pot and discard. Return the broth to the pot.

3. In a separate large pot, heat the oil and cook the sliced onions over medium heat until golden. Add the chicken and garlic (reserved from the broth), and the yogurt, stirring for 4 minutes. Add 5 cups of the broth. Cover pot and bring to a boil.

4. Strain the soaking rice and add to the broth, stirring once. Cover and cook on high for 10 minutes.

5. Lower heat to a simmer for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover.

6. Check to see that rice is soft and turn off heat. If rice is a little hard, leave lid on with heat off for another 6-7 minutes.

7. Serve with a garnish of cilantro leaves. Can be served as is or with yogurt cucumber raita. Makes 4 servings.

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