Many mothers teach their children to cook. Shiza Shahid’s mom taught her not to. The idea was that Shahid, who grew up in Islamabad, Pakistan, was destined for greatness and would be too busy to spend her life huddling over a hot stove. And to some extent, this prophecy came true. Four years before Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban in 2012, a teenage Shahid brought the 11-year-old future Nobel laureate and two dozen of her classmates to a summer camp she’d organised for girls’ education. Later, after graduating from Stanford University, Shahid spent her early 20s heading the Malala Fund, an organization she co-founded with Yousafzai. Once she’d established that and launched an investment fund for mission-driven start-ups, Shahid, now 30, steered her career into an unlikely place: the kitchen.
Late last year, she and two other co-founders launched Our Place, a line of cookware designed to fit the needs of the modern, multiethnic American kitchen. “It’s modern in that we are living in small spaces — we don’t want 16 pieces of cookware,” she says, “and multiethnic because that’s just how we eat, right? It’s sushi on Mondays, tacos on Tuesdays.” The brand has done a series of collaborations to celebrate international culinary traditions (a Nochebuena capsule included mezcal glasses and tortilla warmers for Christmas, and a Lunar New Year set, with a Chinese cleaver and bamboo chopsticks, arrives this month), but its bedrock is an Essentials line of practical pieces made with thoughtful design treatments. The best-selling 10-inch Always Pan, for instance, comes with a built-in spatula rest, a pouring lip and ridges that catch condensation — so water won’t shower your food when you remove the lid.
Shadid’s completed chicken karahi. Feel free to double the peppers if you need more heat. You could also opt to serve the dish with basmati rice, though she says, “usually with bread it’s a lot better.”
Shahid uses it to cook the Pakistani staple chicken karahi, which she describes as “a fragrant, slightly gingery but deeply tomato-y dry chicken stew.” It’s a crowd pleaser — spicy, but not too spicy — and easy to make, which is important for her as a late-blooming cook. “I still have days when I’m lazy, when I just want to order in,” she says. “But a couple of times a month, it’s important to me to take the time to make something of cultural significance.”
Shiza’s Chicken Karahi
This table runner and molcajete come from the brand’s Nochebuena capsule — a collection inspired by Mexican cooking, but versatile enough to handle Pakistani food.
1. Over medium-high heat, warm ghee in a pan that has a flat base and 2 inches or more of height. Add ginger and garlic for a minute to brown. Add chopped chicken and fry for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until brown on all sides.
2. Add the halved tomatoes, arranged on top of the chicken so their peels face upward. Close the lid for 4 minutes, allowing steam to rise and soften the tomatoes. Open the lid and, using tongs, gently lift off and discard the tomato peels.
3. Add cumin, cayenne powder, salt, coriander and green pepper. Stir thoroughly to mix. Cover the chicken and cook on medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have become saucy.
4. Remove the lid and continue to cook until excess water evaporates (you’re looking for a jammy consistency). If you’re using yoghurt, add it now and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and top with fresh cilantro. Serve with buttered naan or other flatbread.
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