Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Recipe: Laziza Chicken Biriyani

At the IITF where I was hunting for Shaans Memoni Mutton Biriyani mix, I first saw this other Pakistani stall named Laziza. I had never heard of them before, but being willing to try anything, I bought one packet of Laziza Biryani Masala Mix from them too.

2 chicken legs + thighs (about 1/2 kilo)
1 pack Laziza Biriyani mix
500 gms basmati rice - washed and soaked for 15-30 minutes
3 medium onions sliced
3 medium tomatoes cut into circles
200 gms potatoes cut into big chunks
1/2 cup curd/yoghurt
salt to taste
small bunch mint and corriander leaves chopped fine
2-3 green chillies slit long
1 tsp ghee + oil (since chicken doesn't have much fat like mutton, I do use a little ghee)

Heat the ghee + oil in heavy bottom pan
Fry the onions in it till translucent.
Add the meat, potatoes, curd, chillies and Laziza biriyani masala.
Cook the meat until done and let it have a little liquid in it.

Cook the rice in salted water (you can add a stick of cinnamon and star anise to the water if you like) till 3/4 done. Drain.

Put the meat at the bottom of the dish.
Cover with a layer of tomato rings and the chopped mint and corriander (reserve some for garnish)
Layer the semi cooked rice on top of it. (don't mix)
Garnish with the remaining mint and corriander.
Cook on dum or finish in an oven.

Sprinkle deep fried onions on top before serving and serve by spooning both layers onto a plate.

Optional shortcuts:
The meat can be marinated in the yoghurt and Laziza biriyani mix the night before or even earlier and taken out just when ready to cook.

The method detailed above is slightly more labour intensive. When I'm in a hurry, I just cook it altogether.

Cook the meat till 3/4th doneness in an open pressure cooker.
Layer the tomatoes, corriander and mint.
Add the soaked basmati rice and adjust water levels.
Close the cooker and cook for 3 whistles.
Let the pressure release on its own before opening.

While I do mention Laziza biriyani mix in this recipe, you can use any biriyani masala with this recipe. If your biriyani masala does not have any ginger in it, you may like to add a tsp of ginger paste before adding the meat to the onions.

I sometimes cook the onions and chopped tomatoes together instead of layering the tomatoes

Serve hot with Raita

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rest in Peace: Prema Noronha (nee Fernandes)

 About 15 days ago, I received the shocking news that my friend, Prema had passed away.

Prema's sister was a batchmate of mine in college and Prema was a year younger. A few years later, Prema married a good friend of mine and when my husband and I visited Dubai on a short trip, they generously welcomed us for a meal at their home, even though Prema had been advised complete rest.

We accepted on the principle that Prema would not exert herself and they would order something in and she would not worry about cooking or anything else. We spent a lovely afternoon at their place, laughing about the old days.

The only problem with going home during Xmas vacation is that there are so many family commitments and weddings, that you don't get time to spend with your friends who are also home on vacation during those days. You meet briefly at functions and church, but barely get one-on-one time to relax and reminisce.

So it was wonderful to be able to spend time with both of them at their home. I have heard a lot of praise for Prema's cooking and even have one of her recipes up here on this blog: Prema's Kurlyanche Sukkhe - Crab Fry

I knew she wasn't in the best of health for quite awhile, but to hear the news that she was no more has been quite numbing. For the first week it was difficult for me to cook or enjoy eating, with memories spilling over - and I was just a friend. I cannot imagine what her husband, young child, parents, sisters and the rest of the family are going through.

Prema touched thousands of lives with her beautiful smile and generous, kind, loving spirit. She was a genuine, wonderful person and she will always be missed by anyone who knew her - however briefly.

Rest in Peace Prema. I hope you meet my nana up there, because I know the 2 of you will get on wonderfully together and will keep a good watch on all of us down here who miss you, to keep us safe and strong

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Recipe: Badawi Shai (Bedouin Tea from Egypt)

The Bedouin (desert gypsies -  would be the closest translation) who live in the deserts of Egypt and around have a special blend of herbs that they use to make tea and it does not include tea leaves. The tea is a digestive and very soothing. It has multiple healing properties from its many herbs.
Marmareyya is the main ingredient and is from the mint family. It is an astringent, good for the throat and also extremely good for upset stomachs. Even in Cairo, Egyptians drink plain marmareyya tea for stomach upsets.

The Badawi Shai blend includes rose petals, cinnamon, chamomille flowers among other ingredients. While the blend bought from the bedouin is clean and pure, it is very difficult to source (not least because the bedouin in the Sinai peninsula are wary of outsiders)

The blend is available in some herbalist/ spice shops in Cairo and Dahab / Sharm el Sheikh. But most of the time it will need ot be cleaned. The sticks/ stems of the Marmareyya turn bitter when boiled but add bulk to packaging. So do remove these sticks before you add to boiling water.

The recipe is fairly simple.

Boil a cup of water. Add a teaspoon of the bedouin tea blend to the boiling water, cover the pot and turn off the heat.

Let the tea steep for 2- 5 minutes. Strain and serve hot.

If you ask for any tea - shai in Egypt, it will be served with "a lot" of sugar. However I like this tea plain or with a spot of honey. Hence the tea looks a lot darker in this picture (from the honey)

Its especially wonderful in the winters and monsoons (Egypt doesn't really have a monsoon season, I mean the monsoons in India).


Friday, March 04, 2011

Recipe: Insalata Caprese (Tomato & Buffalo Mozarella salad)

Insalata Caprese is rumored to have originated on the Isle of Capri, but it could just be attributed to Capri because it became popular after King Farouk of Egypt ate it at this location.

Insalata Caprese is an incredibly simple salad, getting its flavours from its fresh ingredients. While hotels and restaurants fancy it up by slicing it thinly and arranging it decoratively, it can be served as a tossed salad, especially when served with cherry tomatoes.

Its very quick to assemble. 10 minutes tops and yet it tastes hearty and comforting at the same time and its healthy to boot!

1 ball of buffalo mozarella cheese chopped into cubes
20 basil leaves washed and roughly torn
15-20 cherry tomatoes washed and halved
salt to taste
1 sachet Dominoes "pizza seasoning" (optional - I had it handy and the oregano contrasted well with the basil)
drizzle of balsamic vinegar (I like the sweet tangy flavour of balsamic)
drizzle of olive oil (adds a buttery flavour)

Lightly toss the mozarella cubes and halved cherry tomatoes, then add the basil leaves (you can reserve a few for garnishing)
Then add the rest of the ingredients.
You can serve immediately or let it stand for awhile for the mozarella to absorb the flavors of the tomatoes and other ingredients.
Don't let it stand too long or you will have a puddle of liquid collect at the bottom.

You can also serve this on top of a bed of salad leaves

Leftovers can be eaten as pizza topping or sandwich filling

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Recipe: Spring Rolls

My friend Shilme had given me her recipe for spring rolls awhile ago, but I'd been postponing making them myself, as I had the mistaken notion that it would be a lengthy process.

I just made them myself with store bought frozen spring roll wrappers and while it took some time to gather speed and my shapes aren't all even, it was actually quite easy.

These freeze well, so you can make them and fry immediately or freeze and fry when needed.

Ingredients for Stuffing:
250gms chicken mince (can make this at home with boneless breast pulsed in the food processor)
3 cloves garlic - minced
1 large Onion - chopped
1/2 cup carrot - minced
1/2 cup peas
1/2 chopped spring onion
1 tbsp veg oil
Salt, white pepper , a dash of sugar to taste

Other Ingredients for Spring Rolls:
1 packet Spring roll wrappers - about 40 sheets
oil for deep frying

Heat oil till smoking hot.
Add garlic, sweat for a few seconds then add the minced chicken.
Stir fry till the chicken is cooked and looks fairly dry .
Add chopped onion, carrot and peas, stir till the vegetables are half cooked.
Season with salt, pepper and sugar.
Sprinkle the spring onion just before turning off the fire and give a quick stir.
Set aside to cool.

Roll into spring rolls using the following steps:

Then roll in a forward motion to get this cigar shape

Fry immediately or stack in a box for freezing.

When you want to use them, take them out of the freezer 5-10 minutes before and deep fry. If you still have pieces leftover - pop them back in the freezer. I used my batch for over a month. It tastes best when fresh but the frozen ones are good too.
Serve hot with readymade sauces or the sauces given below.

*These will yield about 20-25 pcs of spring rolls, depending how generous you like the stuffing in your rolls.
* You can just make the vegetarian ones by omitting the chicken and doubling the vegetables.

Red Chilli Sauce:
5 Fresh red chillies
3 cloves garlic
salt, sugar, vinegar to taste

Whiz in blender with some water till smooth, heat in a pan till it reaches your desired consistency.

Alternative Red Chilli Sauce:
Same process as above but I use dried chillies instead, cut them into a few pieces to remove the seeds, and saute in hot smoking oil for about a minute. Don't cook for too long it will get bitter and lose all the taste. Blend with other ingredients and heat in a pan till it reaches your desired consistency.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Recipe: Mini Chicken Pitas (with Vegetarian options)

This is another easy to assemble dish. If you do not have access to mini pitas, it can also be served as a sandwich filling. Kids love this.

In a mini pita, it can be served as a snack or appetiser. In a large pita it can be an entire meal.

2 chicken breasts
1 head of Chinese lettuce finely chopped
1 onion thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
15-20 mini pita breads
1-2 tbsp of mayonnaise or any creamy salad dressing (I like garlic mayonnaise)

Saute the onion in a pan and when it starts to caramelise, add half a cup of water salt and pepper to taste
When the water is boiling, add the chicken breasts and cook till done. (optionally add a squeeze of lemon juice)
Remove the breasts from the water and let them cool.
Shred the chicken once cold. 
Mix with the chopped Chinese lettuce.
(size of the chicken and lettuce shreds should be proportionally smaller than the bread you are stuffing it into.
Slowly fold in the salad dressing. You want just enough dressing to bind the ingredients together, the dressing is not the main ingredient.
If you want your filling spicy - add some freshly cracked black pepper to this mix.
This filling can be refrigerated for upto 2 days.

To serve:
Split half the pita bread in half across its cross section (see picture above)
Stuff about a teaspoon of (chilled or room temperature) filling in each.
You can toast the pita breads before stuffing if you like.
Serve as soon as you stuff, else the bread will turn soggy and mushy.

Use 4 boiled eggs instead of chicken, if you don't eat meat. 
Mash the yolk with the dressing and chop the egg and use instead of cooked chicken.

For a pure vegetarian version use vegetarian mayonnaise or sour cream or strained curd instead of salad dressing.
Substitute cooked chicken with 4 grated carrots

Leftover filling can be used in sandwiches.
The stock in which the chicken breasts are cooked, can be served as a soup by straining it and tempering with half a sliced onion. Add a teaspoon of shredded chicken to the soup if you like.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Recipe: Manglorean minced meat with potatoes and peas

Minced meat cooks much faster than regular meat chunks and mum always cooked mince for us when she was in a hurry. Mince is comfort food for me in a strange way. The younger of my 2 brothers LOVES mince and will eat it in any form at any time of the day or night.

When growing up, minced meat usually meant beef. These were the days when Hindu political parties in India were more concerned with social development and had not yet started dictating what food products could and could not be eaten in the country. Beef was much cheaper than mutton and the cheapest option during the monsoons when fishing was just not done (ecological and climate cycles and all).

Now in most states in India, the sale of beef has been banned and buffalo meat is just too tough to bother cooking with,  so its just easier to cook with mutton. So this recipe was originally designed for beef mince, but can be cooked with mutton mince. Beef has a stronger flavour and you may want to use a bit more spices and tomatoes when cooking.

(in this picture it has been served with puris)

1/2 kilo minced meat - washed and drained

2 medium onions finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
1" ginger + 4-5 cloves garlic finely chopped or 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 large potatoes chopped in cubes
1- 1.5 cup green peas
1 tsp or more Stew Powder/pepper powder
salt to taste
1/2 tsp oil for tempering
chopped corriander leaves to garnish

In a pan, heat the oil and add the onions, ginger and garlic (or paste).
Saute till onions turn translucent and then add the tomatoes and cook till it all turns mushy.
Add the potatoes and let them brown slightly, then add the mince, salt and stew powder.
Cook till almost done.
Then add the peas and gently let them steam till cooked.
Garnish with chopped corriander leaves (you can also garnish with a chopped boiled egg to make it look fancier when you have guests over)
Serve hot with puris or rice and dhal


Its so easy to use leftover mince. There are so many things you can do with it.
Stuff it into samosas
Bake mince puffs
As a topping for home made pizzas
Sloppy joes
Sandwich fillings.
You can smash the potatoes fine and add a little more boiled potatoes if needed and turn them into cutlets.

Note: My friend May who is also Manglorean has a similar recipe for Minced Meat with Vegetables Its almost identical to my mums recipe. So you can compare the two and see how Manglorean cooks have subtle differences while cooking theoretically the same dish.

Recipe: Manglorean Stew Powder

Stew Powder is a Manglorean staple. Not only is it used in making the famous Manglorean mutton stew, it is often used in multiple other recipes. It is often used as a substitute for pepper powder in recipes, as its main component is black pepper.

This is another powder that mum grinds fresh at home almost every month, except during the monsoons.

4 heaped tbsp cumin seeds
250gm black peppercorns
5 inches turmeric (I substitute with a tbsp of turmeric powder as it is difficult to grind whole turmeric in my powdering attachment in the food processor)
10 cloves
10" cinnamon

Dry all the ingredients in the sun for 1-2 days (since we aren't pre-roasting the spices, they need to be properly dried so that your powder will last longer on your spice shelf.

Powder and use when required.

The powder keeps for upto a year or more. I normally have a large bottle in a cool spot in my spice cupboard and take out as much as I need for the month in a smaller bottle.

If powdering freshly at home doesn't work for you, prepare a fresh spice mix each time you need it.

Easy Version:
Mix together
4 tsps pepper powder
1/2 tsp cumin/jeera powder
a pinch of turmeric powder
a pinch of powdered cloves
2 pinches of powdered cinnamon
4 tsps

Recipe: Puris/Lucchis - deep fried puffed Indian Bread

Puris are a dish eaten across India. In Mangalore, it is eaten for breakfast with a dry potato bhaji similar to the filling of a masala dosa. It is eaten at lunch or dinner with a dry spicy mince dish.My uncle has a unique combination - where he eats puris with sheera
 In the North, puris for breakfast are served with a watery potato curry or halwa. In Maharashtra, puris are paired with Shrikhand (thickened, sweetened, sometimes flavoured yoghurt) for a special treat. In the North puris are often consumed at meal times as an alternate to rotis. My grandmother-in-law insists that on festive occassions, rotis/phulkas will not be consumed at home - it has to be puris!

While puris are made with wheat flour, in Bengal they make them with maida and call them lucchis. The recipe is the same with just this one substitution.

Making puris used to be a pain, when I had to use the traditional chakla & belan. Indian Chapati or Bread Maker Chakla in Wood If one is making puris alone, its a tricky matter of timing of rolling them out and frying them before the puris get burnt or the rolled dough drying out. It is so much easier with my roti maker. Saachi Tortilla Bread Roti Maker w/Temperature control Also with the roti maker, there are no extra bits of dry wheat flour sticking to the dough - which tend to burn at the bottom of the deep frying pan.

2 cups wheat flour (or maida for lucchis)
salt to taste
water to adjust

Make a dough with all the ingredients by slowly adding water and mixing to form a ball.
The dough is done if - when pressing it, it gets depressed and then slowly springs back into shape. Leave the dough to rest for at least half an hour in summer and one hour in winter. (I refrigerate leftover dough and it can be used for rotis or puris for upto 3-4 days)

Roll out into little rounds and deep fry.

With the roti maker, I  rolled them all out into circles and stacked them and then fried them one after another. Without fail, each and everyone of the puris fluffed up completely.

I served the puris with hari dhaniya ki aloo (fried potatoes in a green corriander chutney) and a Manglorean dry dish of mince, potatoes and peas.


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