Prawns Biryani- Need I say more!

Being a South Indian, it would be criminal if I don’t put a post on rice anytime soon; and what better rice dish than the emperor of all dishes “The Biryani”.

The Biryani and the Taj Mahal are the two best things left behind by the Mughal rulers. We will cover the Taj in another post on Mughlai food; this time we’ll cover the all- time favorite “Biryani”. Having a biryani means you don’t need anything else since it is a complete meal in itself.  Layered with fats, carbs and proteins it is not one of the healthier options but come on, who ever heard of a diet biryani or a low calorie biryani hmm….  Indulgence has its own pleasures right? J

Not much is written about the history of this dish, but legend has it that the Persian soldiers (when going on longer journeys) carried with them a dish that was meat gravy topped with a layer of rice. Although there are many varieties of the biryani available world over, in India almost trace their roots to the kitchens of the Nawabs in Hyderabad and Lucknow. It is said that a particular Nawab boasted of 49 varieties in his kitchen. Essentially, biryanis are of two types, “Kachchi (raw) Biryani” as the marinated rice and meat are cooked together & the “Pakki (cooked) Biryani” this is where the rice and meat are cooked separately and then layered.

Preparing a biryani is a long drawn, elaborate and tedious task. But believe me; it will be worth the effort. I guess with some planning and preparation, the task will be simpler and less strenuous.

I had initially planned doing a either a chicken or mutton one; but there were some large prawns in the fridge & my mum felt that the best way to use them was in a biryani. You could replace the prawns with either mutton or chicken. Purists believe that the ratio of rice to meat should be 1:1 that is 1 kg rice for 1 kg of meat. However, I tried 1:0.7 that is 1 kg rice and 700 grams meat and it came out decent. A good biryani is only as good as the quality of rice used. So, make sure to use good quality and long grained rice. Needless to say, no being miserly on the use of ghee and spices.

Well, get set for the grind of making the yummy Prawns Biryani. My suggestion is make a little extra, the aroma will draw all your neighbours and I’m sure they will not leave till they’ve had some.

Prawns Biryani.

Main Ingredients

  • Long grained Basmati rice                                                       800 grams
  • Prawns (approx)*                                                                        550 grams
  • Large Onions                                                                                 3
  • Lime                                                                                                  1
  • Desi Ghee                                                                                        4 Tablespoons
  • Milk                                                                                                    ¼ cup
  • Salt                                                                                                    To taste
  • Oil                                                                                                      for frying the onions

For the Marinade

  • Thick curd                                                                                   350 grams
  • Ginger Paste                                                                                1 ½ tablespoon
  • Garlic Paste                                                                                  1 ½ tablespoon
  • Green Chillies (finely chopped)                                          3
  • Kashmiri Chilli Powder*                                                        2 tablespoons
  • Turmeric Powder                                                                      1 ½ tablespoon
  • Garam Masala Powder                                                            1 tablespoon
  • Jeera (Cummin) Powder                                                        1 tablespoon

Whole Masala’s

  • Cinnamon Stick                                                                      1
  • Green Cardamom                                                                  4-5
  • Cummin Seeds                                                                       1 teaspoon
  • Bay Leaf                                                                                    1 Large
  • Star Aniseed                                                                           1

Procedure:

We shall begin by making the marinade:

  • Clean, De-shell and de-vein the prawns.
  • Heat oil in a deep frying pan
  • Slice the onions finely. Fry them in the oil till they turn golden brown; be careful since if they burn they will taste bitter. Once done place them on an absorbent paper to drain the excess oil. Let them rest for a while and allow them to get crisp.
  • Beat the curd well add in prawns and coat them well with the curd. To this add a little salt, ginger garlic pastes and all the other masalas mentioned under the marinade heading.
  • Crush the onions and add to the curd mixture. Remember to keep some aside for garnishing.
  • Add the juice of half a lime to it, finely chopped coriander and tear in a few mint leaves.
  • Mix well (take care not to damage the prawns) and keep aside for at least 2 hours.

For the rice:

  • Soak the rice for atleast 20-25 minutes in water before you begin working with it.
  • In a large pan heat water equivalent to double the quantity of rice. When the water starts boiling, add in the rice.
  • Add some ghee to the rice. This will ensure that the grains don’t stick to each other. Add in the all the ingredients mentioned under the whole masalas heading and some salt.
  • You will need to make sure that you constantly keep watch on the rice to make sure that it doesn’t get over cooked.
  • When the rice is about ¾ done, drain it on a colander and let it cool for a while.
  • Take out a large spoonful of the rice and keep aside.
  • Add ½ teaspoon of the turmeric powder to the milk and stir well. Pour this milk on the rice that has been kept aside. This will give the rice a nice yellow colour. Personally, I don’t like using artificial colouring.

For the assembling:

  • Line a heavy bottomed vessel with ghee.
  • Add in the prawn marinade and spread well. Top this with a few mint leaves and half the coloured rice.
  • Top this with some of the fried onion
  • Now layer this with the white rice. Cover it with the remainder of the coloured rice and top it with the remaining fried onions and the mint.
  • Seal the vessel tightly and cook for about 30* minutes on medium flame and for another 10 minutes on a low flame.
  • Once done take out from the heat and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve with refreshing raita.

Notes:

  • The Prawns I used were of the large variety. So approximately I used about 12 prawns.
  • Kashmir Chilies are not spicy. But the powder gives a nice, bright red colour.
  • I used prawns so I have mentioned 30 minutes. Chicken or mutton should take about 45 minutes.

Phew!!!! That was long… I’m rushing to enjoy the biryani…

 

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Mad about Muffins!!

There cannot be a better time in the year. The festive atmosphere, cooler temperatures and a long vacation (due to Diwali) to enjoy these. Wow!! Could it get any better?

On the food front,I am a big follower of the 6 meal theory. So, for me, a holiday at home would mean experimenting with a new dish or simply enjoying one. Talking of 6 meals, we usually take a careful look at breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, it is what we eat with the  the afternoon cuppa that usually sends the whole meal plan for a toss. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a sermon on the “don’ts” of healthy eating. Rather, I’ll cook (probably bake) you something nice and light.

Since children’s day just went by, I thought I should make something that would appeal to the little ones as well. This time, its the turn of the Banana and Raisin Muffin with Green Cardamom. I adapted the bananas and raisins from a recipe that I seen on the internet. I am not a keen baker to be honest and my attempts at baking are few and far between. The original recipe was chocolate and walnut. But what’s the point if your not trying something new? I particularly like the strong cardamom blast against the sweetness of the bananas and raisins. So with no further ado, here is recipe that will yield about 10-12 muffins.

Banana and Raisins Muffins (with Green Cardamoms)

All-purpose flour ( Maida)                      200 grams

Powdered Sugar                                   150 grams

Baking Powder                                      1 tablespoon

Raisins                                                  50 grams

Bananas                                                2 (The riper, the better)

Egg whites                                            2

Green Cardamoms                               8-10

Buttermilk                                              125 ml

Olive Oil                                                3 ½ tablespoons

Butter for lining the muffin tray

Method:

  • Line the muffin tray with butter and keep aside. In a bowl add flour, baking soda and sugar and mix well. Make a well in the center of this bowl.
  • For the liquid mix, in another bowl mash bananas till smooth. Add in the buttermilk, egg whites & oil and cardamoms. Stir with a wooden spoon till evenly combined.
  • Add the liquid mixture in the well of the first bowl and stir quickly. This mixture may look lumpy and may have some flour, but DO NOT be tempted to over mix. Add in the raisins and stir just once more.
  • Divide the mixture into the muffin tray and bake at a 150 C for 25 mins. They should rise to a golden brown top. You could test if they are done using the tooth pick test. Let the muffins rest for a while before demouding them.

Although, these were made keeping kids in mind, even adults will enjoy it as much; food always tastes better when shared.

What happened to the muffins I made? Well, they got polished off with a hot cup of coffee.

Mangloreche Ruchik Jovan!

As I began to write in my next post, there was a huge argument in my mind between the two “M’s” that I love the most “Mangalore” and “Meat”.  “Include me” said Mangalore, “Include me” insisted meat; I decide to play fair and include them both and write about Mangalorean cuisine with meat as the hero.

Mangalore is a sleepy little town on the coast of Karnataka, India. Uniquely surrounded by the sea on one end and the western ghats on the other end, it forms an important part of the country’s spice belt.  Manglorean Curry, is generally coconut based and flavored with ginger, garlic and chili. A lot of curries are also made using “Roce” (coconut milk). No wonder then, that spices are hugely dominant in the food; what is essential to note is that while the flavor’s are hot, the food itself isn’t spicy. As a kid, I remembered being welcomed home from school to an aromatic golden-orangish gravy fish gravy combined with a starkly contrasting snow white rice and accompanied by a vegetable preparation.

Mangloreans (especially the women folk) are adept at using a huge array of permutations and combinations for different core ingredients viz, meat, fish. Research will tell you that recipes vary from household to household, carefully passed by mother to daughter every generation. Another secret ingredient in Manglorean food is “Bafat Masala” or “Bafad Masala” however you call it. This secret ingredient is a hot, tangy powder and is a must have in every Christian home in Mangalore.  Just adding a huge tablespoon of it can enhance the value of any simple preparation many times over, especially the “Dookramaas”( Spicy Pork meat) that is piece-de-resistance at weddings and family feastsThis powder is versatile and can be stored in an air tight container for over a year. Although, it can be replaced using its local cousin like the red chili powder and the homemade garam masala; for us Mangloreans, Bafat pito (powder) is sacrosanct. Make sure to call for some in case you have someone coming over from Mangalore.

I could go on and on speaking about the cuisine I love, but I will leave that dope for another time and move on today’s recipe. Today, I prepared “Narlache Mutton Sukkhe” (Mutton with a Semi- dry Coconut Gravy). This is the original recipe and is simple and quick to prepare. What is love about the dish is the thick gravy and the spices that linger on the palate for quite a while even after the meal. Remember, I said I would partial to the meat, well it tastes equally good with prawns or even chicken.

Image

Narlache Mutton Sukkhe (Mutton with a Semi- dry Coconut Gravy)

You need

  • Lamb (cleaned, cut and par-boiled)  –                       800 gms
  • Coconut (Grated)                                                   1
  • Onions (Medium sized)                                           2
  • Garlic Pods                                                           8-10
  • Ginger                                                                   1”
  • Bay Leafs                                                              2
  • Whole Red Chilles                                                  4-6
  • Cumin Seeds                                                         1 teaspoon
  • Pepper corns (crushed)                                           10-15
  • Green Cardamom                                                    2-3
  • Curry Leaves                                                           1 Sprig
  • Bafat Powder                                                           2 tablespoons
  • Turmeric Powder                                                      ½ tablespoon
  • Oil (Preferably edible coconut oil)                              2 ½ tablespoons
  • Coriander                                                                for garnishing
  • Salt                                                                         to taste

Method

  • Firstly, clean, cut wash and par-boil the lamb and keep aside. Remember, we will be cooking it later as well; so you wouldn’t want to over cook it and make it rubbery.
  • Now,  grind together the coconut, onions, garlic, ginger, red chilies to a coarse paste. The texture has to be coarse but make sure the onions, garlic, ginger, chillies have integrated well with the coconut. Add a little water if required.
  • In a thick bottomed pan, heat the oil. To this add the curry leaves and let them change color. Add the cumin seeds and let them crackle. Add the cardamom and bay leaves and cook for a while.
  • Add the coconut paste and stir well. You may need to add some water at this point so that the paste doesn’t stick to the base of the pan. I used the stock I had from the mutton.
  • When the oil begins to leave the sides add the bafat & turmeric powders and stir well.  Keep a watch that the paste is not getting to dry and judiciously add water.
  • Once the masala’s are mixed well add the mutton and salt.
  • Cover and cook over a medium flame. Should be done in about 15-20 minutes.
  • Once done garnish with coriander sprigs and serve with neer dosa.

Tip: This dish tastes best when it is prepared spicy.

Well that’s all from our Mangalore trip for the moment. I look forward to your feedback on how the Mutton tasted.

Keep smiling and happy cooking!

Cooking for your loved one’s.

A well cooked meal is a joy in itself.

When we look at it from another point of view; cooking for your loved one’s can be an awesome experience. Not all of us can cook well; but that’s fine. The meal need not be an elaborate buffet, a simple plain meal would be enough. What is more important is the thought and effort  that you put in.

There are many ways to begin. You could probably ask mom to take a day off from the kitchen and cook up her favorite food/s; Or do the same to your wife. Take cues from what they like ordering at restaurant dinners. It will take some effort but believe me it, will be worth it.

An age old saying goes, “the family that eats together, stays together”. What better bond then food. I suggest try finding time and cooking for your family. It will make them feel cared for, loved and wanted. Better still, involve them, especially the kids. May be you could even learn a few tips and tricks.

Here is a recipe I had tried. You could probably use it to begin.

Murgh Hara Masala

Chicken (cleaned and cut into medium pieces) – 1 kg

Onion (finely chopped) –      1

Curd (beaten well)  –   350 grams

Oil – 4 tablespoons

Jeera- ½ tblspoon

Small elaichi- 3-4

Turmeric(Haldi) –  1/2 tblspoon

Red chilli Powder- 1 tblspoon

Almonds (Soaked in water)- 15-20

Garlic Paste-           1 tblspoon

Ginger Paste-          1 tblspoon

Salt – As per taste

For the Green Paste

Coriander, Pudinha, Curry leaves, Green chillies. Garlic & ginger and a fistful of  grated coconut

Method:

1.    Clean and wash the chicken and keep aside.

2.    Soak the almonds in warm water for 1/2 an hour and remove the skin. Grind to a fine paste and keep aside.

3.    Put together all the ingredients mentioned for the green masala  and grind to a fine paste. Marinate the chicken in this paste and keep aside for an hour atleast.

4.    In a pan heat oil, and add the jeera and elaichi till they start to crackle. Add the onion and let it cook to a golden brown colour. Add Ginger and Garlic pastes and let it cook.

5.    Add in the turmeric & red chilli powder and let it cook well with the oil. Once the masala starts leaving the oil, add the beaten curd and stir well till the masalas are mixed well with the curd. Let it cook for a while. Add in the ground almond paste and salt.

6.    Now add in the marinated chicken mixture. Add in a little water in case you want to.

7.    Cover and cook for 8- 10 mins.

Please try and send in your comments on how it turned out.

Keep Smiling and Happy cooking!

My top 10 tips for cooking!

Cooking, they say, is an art. Thankfully, with a little bit of practice and some application; it is one of the easier arts to master.

Here are some of my tips to help you cook a great meal

  1. The mis-en-place– Literally means “putting everything in its place”. It is very essential to prepare everything before you begin cooking. Get the marinades ready, sharpen the knives etc beforehand. This will help avoiding last minute rushes and help you move quickly
  2. Unless the recipe demands, cook  on a slow flame. Will help economize fuel consumption.
  3. Go slow on the salt and seasoning as well.  Add less at the beginning; you could always make up for it at the later stages.
  4. Keep tasting the recipe as you go. It will help you perfect the end product, if you are unable to get the correct taste, call in someone who can tell you.
  5. Use all ingredients at room temperature. Needless to say, the fresher the ingredients, the better.
  6. Hygiene is of utmost importance. Clean the work area as you go. Dispose of the peels, skin and seeds etc beforehand if possible.
  7. The age old one. If you require to use the oven, remember to pre-heat it for about 10-15 minutes.
  8. Add a small piece of tamarind to the oil if the hot oil starts foaming and rising in the pan. This will prevent foaming and spill over.
  9.  Using a flat bottomed pan equalizes the distribution of heat.
  10. Lastly, whatever you cook, cook with your heart and all your love. It will not fail.

Keep smiling and happy cooking!

Biryani for the Brain!

Food. One of mans basic needs. Food could mean different things to different people. For some, its all about living to eat. For some, its a stress buster. For some, it could just mean a basic need.

For me, it is the love of my life. But more than just eating; what is more interesting (and may be, the difficult part) is cooking. So then, what is cooking? Is it a process or a theory? We will never know. You need to love it to understand it. That’s  why the simplest of mums dish would win by a mile against an elaborate restaurant buffet.

Although I am not a professional chef or cook, I absolutelThis cooking of the biryani for the brain will include exploring cuisines, styles of cooking and various styles of cooking and recipes along with some food for the soul.

Before I end, I couldn’t help without a few thank yous. Firstly, my mum for introducing me to the kitchen, and for the wonderful food she’s fed me right through. My weight is testimony to that. My mum (yet again) and my sister for encouraging my cooking and being my gentle critics. My cousin Manoj Baretto who unfailingly congratulates me on every dish.. even if he has only seen the picture..  And of course, all of you my readers.Needless to say, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and suggestions on the articles or what you would want included in the blog.

Bon appetite!!!!