Biryani night

Last evening was Biryani night and our house was filled with a wholesome, savory aroma that only Indian food can give you. Biryani is a mutton and rice layered dish very popular in India and it has an interesting history too. You might wonder how it’s different from pulav (pilaf). In biryani, the rice and the meat sauce are cooked separately and then layered and cooked again. There is Hyderabadi biryani from south India and Lucknowi biryani from the north, and there are versions with different kinds of meat like chicken, fish, beef, egg or even vegetarian.

It is a complex dish and took us a long time to perfect. My husband and I tried several versions, starting with ready-made biryani mixes. There were times when rice would stick to the bottom of the pot or it would turn out to be too mushy. After all these trials, I think we have nailed it now. Our version has just the right amount of spice, a beautiful flavor that warms you up from the belly. It is not your over-the-top, really hot and spicy fair served in some Indian restaurants which leaves you teary eyed and red-faced! (Yes, I have experienced that too). Feel free to try it out and tailor it your taste. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

This recipe has a long list of ingredients. It is a one-dish meal, sometimes served with raita. Leftovers are great and taste even better!

Ingredients:
Mutton – 2 pounds
Basmati rice (white, uncooked)- 2 cups
Ginger – 1 inch, chopped
Garlic – 4 or 5 clove, chopped
Plain yogurt – 1 cup
Green chillies – 5 to 6
Mint and coriander leaves (chopped)- 3/4 cup
Fried onion – 1/2 cup
Some butter and oil for cooking
Salt to taste

Whole garam masala, as follows:
Green cardamom – 4
Black cardamom – 2
Cinnamon stick – 1.5 inches
Star anise – 2
Bay leaves – 2 or 3
Whole pepper – 9 to 10
Cloves – 5 or 6
Jeera – 1 tsp

Potatoes – 4 or 5 (optional. I used it since my daughter is not a big fan of mutton. But when the potatoes are cooked with mutton, they get all the wonderful flavor and taste delicious)
A few sprigs of safforn (optional)
Iris water, kewda (optional)

Biryani Preparation

Biryani Preparation

Method:
1. Wash and then soak rice in luke warm water and keep it aside while you are doing the other preparation.

2. Take 6 cups of water and add half the quantity of the whole garam masala to it, along with the mutton pieces and some salt. I pressure cook this till the mutton is slightly undercooked. After 3 whistles, I let it simmer on slow for 10 minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, boil it on the stove top. It will take longer. Be careful not to let the mutton cook fully. We are not done with cooking process yet. Take out the mutton pieces and reserve the stock.

3. In a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the fried onions, chopped coriander and mint leaves, green chillies, ginger-garlic and salt. After it’s mixed properly add the mutton to it.

4. In a pan, heat some ghee. Add jeera to it. Then add the remaining whole garam masala and cook for about a minute. Now add the mutton and yogurt mixture to the pan. Cook it till the spices blend nicely and the oil starts to separate. This will take about 15 minutes or so. It should look like a thick and dry masala gravy.

5. In another pot, bring the reserved stock to a boil and add the soaked rice to it. You will have to keep stirring and cook the rice till it is al dente (not completely cooked). A test for this is to squash a grain of rice between your fingers. It should feel soft but not mushy. Once the rice is done, use a slotted spoon or colander to remove the rice from the stock.

6. Now we will layer the rice and mutton. For this, use a pot which can go into your oven. Take about 1/3 of the mutton and layer it at the bottom. Above that layer 1/3 of the rice. Add some safforn, few drops of kewda water, some chopped mint leaves and some fried onion. Now a second layer of the mutton, then the rice and so on. Seal the pot nicely with an aluminium foil and it goes into a 375-400 degrees oven for about 35 minutes.

7. Once done, remove your pot from the oven and treat yourself to beautiful, flavorful, aromatic biryani! It’s well worth the effort 🙂

You could pair it with cool, refreshing cucumber raita, if you please…. Enjoy!

Biryani

Biryani

Aromatic biryani

Aromatic biryani

Daikon radish raita

The other day my hubby picked up some daikon radish from the Chinese market. It makes a good salad, he said, which made me think that I could use it in a raita. “Raita” is an Indian side dish used as an accompaniment to the main course, usually paired with pulav, biryani or sabzi-naan. It is a yogurt based salad which could be made from onions, tomatoes, carrots or cucumber. My experiment turned out to be delicious.

Here’s what I did. I whisked some yogurt (about a cup) in a bowl and thinned it with water for the right consistency. Then I added grated ginger, some chopped green chilies and coriander leaves to it. I spiced this up with cumin powder and some pepper. To balance the flavors I added some sugar and seasoned it with salt. Then I grated the daikon radish, about 3/4 cup, and added it to the yogurt mixture. To brighten things up, in went a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds. Doesn’t this sound mouth-watering? Crispy, crunchy, fresh and cool. It went perfectly well with our dinner last night of vegetable stew and brown rice.

Raita is really versatile. You can use finely chopped cucumber with roasted and crushed peanuts, or chopped onions and tomatoes and even boiled and mashed pumpkin. I always make raita with different vegetables depending on which ones are in my refrigerator and my family just loves it 🙂 Let me know if you try it.

Chicken Kofta

My husband had the day off on Friday and he decided to cook his special chicken koftas. Koftas are Indian-style meatballs in a curry sauce. In India, vegetarian koftas are also popular such as lauki kofta (made using bottle gourd and chick-pea flour) or malai kofta (potato and cheese balls). Chicken meatballs are fast to cook and tasty too. Here’s the recipe for these delicious meatballs in yogurt sauce.

Ingredients

For meatballs:

Minced chicken – 1 pound
Mayonnaise – 1 1/2 tbsp
Finely chopped onions – 1/4 cup
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 1/2 tbsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp
Bread crumbs – 1/2 cup
Egg – 1
Green chilies, chopped finely – 2 or 3
Coriander leaves and mint leaves (chopped) – 1/4 cup
Salt to taste

For the sauce:

Plain Greek yogurt – 1 cup (or regular yogurt, but finish with some cream in the end)
Fennel seed powder (saunf) – 1 tsp
Dried ginger powder (saunth) – 1 tsp
Sugar – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

Vegetable oil (or ghee)
Jeera – 1 tsp
Chopped coriander leaves (for garnish)

Method

– Mix all the ingredients for the chicken meat balls in a bowl. Now wet your palms and roll the mixture in balls and set aside.

– Whisk all the ingredients for the yogurt sauce and set aside.

– In a pan, heat some oil and add jeera to it.

– Once the jeera crackles, add the yogurt sauce to it and let this cook for about 10 mins. Keep stirring. You might see that the yogurt curdles a little bit. That is fine. It will come together as it cooks through.

– Now add the chicken balls to this curry one at a time. Let them simmer for about 10-15 mins till the meatballs are cooked. You could add some water if the curry becomes too thick.

– Check the seasoning. Add freshly chopped coriander leaves and a pinch of garam masala to garnish.

– Serve hot with steamed rice or rotis.

Avocado parathas

A friend of mine pointed me to this interesting recipe – avocado parathas. Paratha is an Indian flat bread, rolled, then baked on a pan and usually topped with butter or oil. It could be plain or stuffed with potatoes, cauliflower, onions, spinach or paneer. I am always looking for ways to make it more interesting. I tried this recipe and the parathas turned out very tasty and my family loved it…. yummy delight 🙂 They are nutritious, fairly easy to make and a good way to have avocados in your meal. Try it and let me know how you like them. “Show Me the Curry” never disappoints!

Here’s the recipe.

 

Tasty Indian sauce recipe

There are days, especially Thursdays, when I wish there was some ready-made food in the refrigerator. But usually I try not to buy frozen food and serve something fresh to my family everyday. I have some tricks to make my life simple. I make two or three sauces and keep them bottled in the fridge and also chop all the vegetables over the weekend. My go-to meals are usually Indian curries served with rice or bread. Here’s a recipe that I have for a very tasty sauce for an Indian curry. I make this over the weekend and I use it in a vegetable, chicken, egg or shrimp curry during the week.

Ingredients:
Onions – 2
Tomatoes – 4
Garlic – 4 or 5 cloves
Ginger – 1 inch
Vegetable oil

Roughly chop all the ingredients. Don’t worry about chopping them finely since we are going to puree them in a food processor.

Method:
– Heat some oil in a pan.
– Add onions and saute till light brown.
– Add ginger and garlic and saute for half a minute.
– Add tomatoes and cook for about 2-3 mins.
– Add this to the food processor and grind everything. Your sauce is ready!

You could add coriander leaves to this sauce before it goes into the food processor. But I usually use chopped coriander leaves for garnishing my dish at the end.

When you use this sauce to make a curry, heat a pan with very little oil and add the sauce to it. Let it cook for about 10 mins. Add turmeric powder, red chili powder (to taste), garam masala, salt and sugar. Let this cook for another 2-3 mins. Add boiled eggs or chicken to it to make a tasty curry.

Curry up now….

Today was a gorgeous day in San Francisco….. perfect for an afternoon walk. As I was thinking about lunch options, I spotted “Curry Up Now”…. awesome! Their food is good, delicious and just the right amount of spicy. But there is always a long line of customers waiting. That is a good sign in my opinion. When in doubt, always look at the line outside a restaurant or food truck for that matter. If people have lined up, chances are that the food is really good.

What did I eat? I tried the “chicken kathi roll”. It’s delicious. I think everything they serve is good. Go for it. Here’s where you can find them http://www.curryupnow.com/

 

Indian food truck.... yummy :)

Bengali fish in mustard sauce

Last night’s dinner was fish in mustard sauce and steamed white rice. My family loves it, it’s hearty and fairly easy to cook. It is a simple yet traditional Indian meal. The mustard sauce can be prepped in advance. It stays in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Fish cooked in mustard sauce is a traditional fish curry from Bengal, a state in Eastern India. Bengalis are crazy about this and everyone probably has their own version. This is my husband’s recipe which he has perfected with memories from his mom’s cooking and adding his own twist. You have to be a mustard lover to relish this as it can be quiet pungent. So here you go…

Ingredients:

Fish (preferably steak cut) – 4-5 pieces

Black mustard seeds (small) – 3 tbsp.

Tumeric powder- 2 tsp

Red chilly powder – 1/2 tsp

Grated coconut – 1/2 cup

Green chillies – 2-3

Diced onion – 1/2 cup

Plain yogurt – 2 tbsp

Mustard oil (substitute with vegetable oil)

Sugar – 1 tbsp

Juice from one lemon

Chopped coriander leaves to garnish

Salt to taste

Preparation:

Soak the mustard seeds in water for 30 minutes or so. Coat the fish pieces with some salt, tumeric powder, red chilly powder and half of the lemon juice and set aside.

Sauce:

For preparing the sauce, grind the following in a food processor- the soaked mustard seeds, diced onion, coconut, green chilies, yogurt and sugar. You could add some water if the mixture is too thick.

Cooking:

– Saute the fish lightly in vegetable oil and set aside. You could skip this step if you want cut down the oil in the recipe.

– If you are using mustard oil, heat it in a pan till it starts smoking. Turn off the heat and let it cool for a while. Then heat it again and add the mustard sauce to it. Let this sauce cook for about 10 mins. Add some water if it thickens too much and keep stirring. Add salt for seasoning.

– Now add the fish to the sauce and let it cook for another 10 mins.

– Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and remaining lemon juice. Serve with steamed white rice.

Hope you like this…. and let me know if you try it. Enjoy, and stay “khush”!!

The smell of mustard is in the air...