Thursday, September 30, 2010

Recipe: Bihari Chicken Biryani

I just picked up Pratibha Karan's Biryani a few weeks ago and I've been itching to cook from it. I will be cooking a few Biryani's from this book, before I review the cookbook on this blog.

Personally, I like to minimise the use of ghee and oil in my biryanis. (A concept that seems alien to the restaurants in Delhi) This way I don't feel like I'm clogging my arteries with every bite!

For my first attempt from this book, I chose the Bihari Chicken Biryani (pg 137). It is low on spices, not too many ingredients, quite fast and can be cooked in one pot,  so not much washing and rather easy to assemble.

I halved the quantities in the book, adjusted some others and minimised the ghee/oil. I also decreased the green chilli paste quantity as BB was recovering from food poisoning. I would use much more chilli than recommended, the next time I cook this dish, just to give it a bit of bite.
This is a very mildly flavored biryani, more like a pulao, so its not what you would traditionally expect of a biriyani. It did remind me of my Egg Pulao
1/2 kilo chicken (whatever you prefer, I used drumsticks, but I think boneless chunks would be best)
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1/6 cup green chilli paste (I would use more than this, next time)
2-3 medium onions ground to paste
1/6 cup poppy seeds (khus khus) finely ground (you could substitute cashewnuts for the creamy texture and nutty flavour that these seeds provide - they are easier to grind and not banned in Middle East countries :) )
1/2 cup yoghurt whisked smooth
1/2 tsp pepper powder
250 gms long grain rice
2 green cardamom
1" cinnamon
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cumin seed (jeera)
1 tbsp ghee
a little oil
salt to taste

Mix together the ginger paste, garlic paste, chilli paste, onion paste, khus khus paste, yoghurt and pepper powder with salt to taste. (I ground the khus khus first and then added the ginger, garlic and onions in the mixi)

Marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least one hour.
Wash and soak the rice for about 20 minutes, drain and set aside.
Heat 1/2 tsp ghee and some oil in the pan (I used a pressure cooker)
Put the whole spices in - Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and cumin seeds.

Stir fry the spices and then add the chicken and the marinade.

Cook till the oil rises to the surface (this is essential, otherwise the onion paste will not be cooked and that doesn't taste good at all - if you feel your chicken is getting overcooked but the masala is not yet cooked, take out the chicken for awhile and keep frying the masala) and the chicken turns golden brown.
Add the rice and fry for 2-3 minutes.
Then add water upto an inch above the rice and chicken.
Bring to a boil.
Add a little more ghee
Lower the flame.
Cook covered for 15-20 minutes till done (3 whistles in a Hawkins pressure cooker)

Serve hot with chilled raita

Equipment Used:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recipe: Bacon, Onion and Cheddar Biscuits

I've been following the Brown Eyed Baker (Michelle) since quite awhile. But with the moving and the power outages, I haven't baked for quite awhile. (I bake in my microwave)
Today being a Sunday, the chance of a power outage was much lower and I thought it would be great to make these Bacon, Onion and Cheddar Biscuits as a snack/ light dinner, for the husband who was watching the cricket 20-20 finals. Michelle's Bacon, Onion and Cheddar Biscuits are adapted from the Pioneer Woman's Bacon, Onion and Cheddar Biscuits. But I followed Michelle's Recipe
It was pretty quick to assemble (Didn't need to bring out the mixer) and the smell of baking cheese has left the house smelling heavenly. The cat was wandering around head tilted upwards, sniffing all over the place.
For my first lot, I just loosely placed the dough in the muffin pan.
For the second lot, I shaped the biscuits into smoother shapes and these looked much better as a finished product.

While I did use my hands to mix the first few ingredients, I think its essential to use a plastic/rubber/silicone spatula once you add the cheese. Otherwise the heat of your hands could melt the cheese into indistinguishability.
Although the Brown Eyed Baker recommends 20-22 minutes at 375F (190C), I found that I needed to bake my biscuits for 35 minutes at 200C. The good thing with baking in a micro is that you can see the colours of the baked goodies, without opening the oven and letting cold air in.

What would I change?
I diced the onion quite fine this time, but I would chop it a little larger next time. The sweet onion was a nice contrast to the salty bacon and salty cheese and I would have liked to taste more of it.
I'd like to experiment with different herbs in the mix. Some thyme or oregano might go well.
Freshly cracked pepper  might be awesome.
I think this recipe would also taste good with flavoured cheeses. I have some Moroccan spicy cheese in the fridge, I might try that next.

The husband found them a little dry after the 2nd one and wanted ketchup on the side. Any ideas on how to decrease the dry feeling in the throat (compounded by the saltiness of the cheese and bacon)?

Any ideas on what to serve this with?

I was thinking olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip.
Something light, without strong flavours, just to add a bit of moistness while eating.

Equipment needed:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Recipe: Mutton Liver Fry

In recognition of Eid, I felt like cooking mutton liver. A dish that a friends mother had cooked for me a couple of years ago when we were invited to iftaar (the evening meal that breaks the days fast).

Its been a really really low key Eid this year. The last 4 years we have celebrated Eid in Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Dubai. So it feels weird to be in Delhi this year where Ramdan and Eid celebrations are restricted to a few quarters of the city, rather than the whole country celebrating and observing what could be considered the most important event in the Muslim calendar.

We didn't visit the old city during Ramadan this year. The rains, the CWG mess and B's tryst with food poisoning a couple of weeks ago, made eating roadside food too risky given his weakened digestive system.

So just to feel a bit festive and to mark this occassion, I decided to cook this mutton liver dish at home and served it with hot phulkas.

I used mutton liver in this recipe, but it can be easily replaced with chicken liver. Chicken liver cooks much faster, so make sure the masala is completely cooked before adding the liver.
1/4 kilo mutton liver - clean, wash rinse and cubed
2 medium onions - chopped
2 medium tomatoes - chopped
2-3 green chillies (optional) - sliced or slit (depends on how you like it, sliced will be more spicy while eating)
corriander leaves to garnish  - chopped
juice of half a lime
1 tbsp fresh grated coconut (optional - don't use dessicated)
1 sprig curry leaves
2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsps of your favorite meat masala (biryani masala or kitchen king masala or rajma masala can be substituted - if you don't have any of these, just add 1/2-1 tsp garam masala)
salt to taste

Pour some oil in a hot pan. (I used just 1 tsp, but it really tastes best if you use 2-3 tbsps)
Drop the curry leaves into the hot oil and give a quick swirl so the curry leaf taste infuses the oil.
When leaves crispen, add the chopped onion.
When it turns pinkish, add the chopped tomatoes, green chillies, ginger garlic paste and coconut if using.
Fry well until cooked and the oil seperates from the mix.
Add the chilli, turmeric and meat masala powders and mix well.
Then add the liver and fry/saute on low flame till its done about 10-15 minutes
The liver should be light pink on the inside, if its too red then its undercooked. If it gets overcooked, it will be dry and crumbly
Squeeze the juice of half a lime. Liver is high in iron and sprinkling lemon juice aids the absorption capacity of the body
Take off the flame when done, garnish with corriander leaves and serve hot with rotis or rice and dhal.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Recipe: Bengali inspired Mustard fish in Banana Leaves

When I picked up fish from INA market the other day, I thought I would try my luck to check if the veggie guys stocked banana leaves (I'm still considering a traditional banana leaf plated dinner for our harvest festival on the 8th of September). They produced some leaves from their inner chamber and I decided to buy one and try steaming fish in banana leaves for the first time.

I did slip up a bit, but this recipe contains the corrections and pointers on what to watch out for.

I did not follow any recipe, just went with what I felt like I wanted in there, but it did taste quite good.

1-2 Banana Leaves
1 kilo of boneless fish fillets - cut into equal sizes
(the fish has to be cut into equal pieces so that they cook at a uniform rate, my slightly thinner pieces dried out a bit)
Couple of tablespoons kasundi - (Bengali mustard paste available readymade in some markets)
Finely chopped or ground green chillies to taste
1-2 tbsp mustard oil 
salt to taste
I used some pinches of sumac to increase sourness of the marinade, you can add aamchoor or vinegar if you like, but dont make the marinade too watery.

Mix all ingredients for the marinade and form an emulsion.
Leave the fish in the marinade for at least half an hour.
Prep the Banana Leaves
Then wrap fish pieces individually in strips of banana leaves and form little parcels.
Steam the parcels for 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish fillets.
You can also microwave them for 7-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish fillets.
If microwaving them, use more marinade as the microwave tends to dehydrate the fish while cooking.
Serve hot with rice and dhal. Husband loved it with rotis and dhal.

I also had a few pieces of fish left over, once the plaintain leaves were used up. I just sauteed them on a medium flame and this too, tasted awesome.

A quick primer on the use and prepping of a Banana Leaf

Historically banana leaves were commonly used as plates at meal times in parts of Southern India.

While the advent of stainless steel and melamine plates, the banana leaf is no longer used as a plate in households where it was commonly used, until a couple of decades ago.

In Southern India, most temples still serve meals on banana leaves. You will also get to see the banana leaf being used as a plate at traditional South Indian brahmin weddings. In some cases, you no longer will be seated cross legged on the floor, you may be seated at canteen style tables, but will still be served on a leaf.

Eating off a banana leaf involves a practiced technique to keep all the liquid items like sambhar, rasam, dhali tove (lentils), vegetable curries and payasams (kheer) from running (flowing) off the leaf and onto the floor. This normally involves forming a sturdy well in the center of your rice and instructing the servers to pour your curry of choice into the center. The technique also extends into how you mix your rice and curry in little portions without destroying the structural stability of that well.

For people who are not familiar or comfortable with this technique, most South Indian restaurants that strive to be authentic(in the North of India and abroad)  have come up with 2 innovations. The first is to provide a set of katoris (small bowls) placed on the leaf, for the gravy items. The second is to cut the banana leaf to fit inside a plate with high rims. Both techniques serve to save the unaccustomed diner the embarassment of having curry flow off their leaves and onto their laps.

Etiquette pointers when eating off a Banana Leaf:
A meal eaten on a banana leaf is traditionally eaten with ones right hand without implements while the left hand rests on your lap.
Before you are served any food, you will be provided with some water in a glass, sprinkle a few drops of water with your right hand onto the leaf and brush it off with the lower edge of your palm away from your body. (the leaves would be clean, this is more symbolic than an actual cleansing process)
When you are finished eating, fold the leaf along the spine away from you, never towards you.

Prepping the Banana Leaf
If you are planning to serve food on a banana leaf or cook in it. Wash the leaf with plain water and wipe dry with a clean cloth.
Sometimes, you may find a white fluff on the underside of the leaf. This too can be wiped off with a damp cloth.

Banana leaves are an excellent material to wrap fish and chicken in - for steaming. It traps all the moisture inside without destroying the taste of the dish.

If you want to cook/steam in the leaf:
Fold the leaf in half along its spine.
Using a sharp knife, cut off the spine in one smooth motion.
Make sure none of the tough spine remains, it will make folding the leaf difficult  and the leaves will tear.
Then cut the halves into whatever size and shape you require.
A kitchen scissors will work as well as a knife


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