Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!





Wishing you, your dear near & loved ones, a Blessed, Glorious, Prosperous, and
A Happy New Year 2013.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Sahi Murg Biryani (Kacchi)

Biryani forms an integral part of of the menu for any special occasion in this subcontinent. Among Bengalis Pulao also is almost of the same stature but Biryani still takes the cake always. The basic difference between the two is the cooking technique applicable to each. Pulao or Pilaf(also known as pilau and plov) is delicately flavoured rice, saut├ęed in ghee and flavoured with whole spices like cumin, cloves etc and sometimes poultry, meat and shellfish are added as per choice. 



Biryani derived from the Persian word Beryan meaning fried or roasted is made from fragrant par boiled rice, which is then assembled with with variety of meat, seafood or assorted vegetables sealed and put on "dum" (cooking on very low flame, allowing the meats to cook, as much as possible, in their own juices and bone-marrow and the flavours of the spices are infused well) for an hour or so till the meat and rice is cooked to perfection. Biryani can again be categorised as Pakki and Kacchi Biryani. In Pakki Biryani you cook the marinated chicken, layer it with fragrant rice and cook it in dum. Kacchi biryani or Kacchi Yeqni’ is a more enticing form of Biryani in which one puts the marinated chicken at the bottom of the pot,  cover it well with par boiled fragrant rice, layer the masalas on top of it and cook it in dum. Personally I always felt that Kacchi Biryani is more flavourful and succulent than Pakki.

As far as I am concerned, I am NOT a Biryani freak. The only Biryanis I ever liked were the one prepared by my Dida (Grandma) and the one that I tasted in a small hotel whose name I cannot recollect at Shyambazar panch mathar mor. After coming out of Kolkata I never ever tasted a biryani that would make my taste buds happy. I absolutely HATE any trace of mint or coriander in my Biryani hence the typical Hyderabad Biryani where mint is an invincible part, is not for me. Hubby once specially got me some chicken Biryani from one of the most famous shops in HYD, but we both agreed while eating it is that it was too dry and minty for our taste. Also I have seen that Biryanis in other parts of the country , never contained the nice and soft halved Potato  and the boiled egg that we Bengalis are so used to.

I tried Biryani at many places due to persuasion from my Hubby, but got more and more disappointed so much so that I began to detest it. Hubby loves Biryani in any form but since I am so choosy in the taste  I always shied off from preparing it at home thinking I will never be able to make what Dida  used to make. My Ma is also not a connoisseur of Biryani hence I could never learn how to cook it. This weekend while watching a chef prepare Biryani on a food Channel  Hubby got supercharged and decided to wear the chef's hat for making Biryani. Of course Hubby taking 'complete' charge of  cooking any dish means I am the one who will do all the ingredient shopping, , cleaning, cutting, arranging, doing the dishes, supervising the cooking etc etc.

The Biryani they showed on TV had mint (!!!) and no way that was going to be a part of Biryani cooked in my Kitchen.So I customised the Biryani as per my taste, with some pointers from Hubby and we were good to go. Finally after much anticipations and apprehensions that the chicken would remain uncooked when we tasted the Biryani at 11 pm, it tasted like heaven. It was beyond our imagination that the first try would yield such a superlative result, hence couldn't wait to share it with my readers.

We prepared the Kacchi Biryani. The list of ingredients may look as never ending but do not get intimidated by it, believe me each plays a big role into making the perfect-est Biryani. Also precision and patience is the key to get it right. When I say 45 min of dum it means exactly 45 min- not more not less. I used 1:1 ratio of rice and chicken, you can alter the ratio depending on your choice.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Marination Time: 4 hours
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Serves:2

Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients:

Marination:
  • Chicken - 300gm
  • Yoghurt - 150 gm
  • Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
  • Coriander powder - 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder - 1tsp
  • Onion - 1 cup deep fried (1 medium onions longitudinally sliced)
  • Ginger Paste - 2tbsp
  • Garlic paste - 2tbsp
  • Nutmeg(Jaifol) - 1/2 tsp grinded coarsely
  • Salt as per taste
Spice Bag:
  • Peppercorns - 10 (enhances the taste)
  • Clove - 5
  • Green Cardamom - 5
  • Cinnamon stick - Two 2" stick
  • Nutmeg(Jaifol) - 1/2 
  • Caraway seeds (Sahjira) - 1/2 tsp
Biryani:
  • Basmati Rice - 300 gm (I used Kohinoor silver range)
  • Potato - 2 medium, halved
  • Onion - 2 cup deep fried (2 medium onions longitudinally sliced)
  • Ginger -  A 2" piece cut into juliennes 
  • Bay Leaf - 2 big
  • Milk  - 1/2 cup
  • Sugar - 2 tsp
  • Rose water - 4 tbsp
  • Fresh Rose Petals - 10 to15
  • Kewra essence - 1 tsp
  • Saffron - 2-3 strands (optional)
  • Cashew - 10
  • Raisin - 10 -15
  • Other dryfruits - according to preference
  • Ghee - 1/2 cup
  • Wheat flour dough to seal - as required
  • Refined oil - as required for deep frying
  • Salt - as per taste
  • Yellow Food colour - 1 tsp
Garnish:
  • Boiled Egg - 1 (Halved)
  • Cucumber - Cut in angular circles
Procedure :

Marination:
1. Wash and cut the chicken and lay them out in a mixing bowl.
2. Beat the yoghurt into a uniform paste and add it to the chicken
3. Take 1/2 a Nutmeg and pound it coarsely.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients mentioned under Marination and the pounded Nutmeg into the mixing bowl. Mix well.
5. Cover the bowl and keep it in the refrigerator for 4 hours or more.
Note: If you don't have that much time to spare even an hour of marination is fine. But I like the chicken to be marinated for longer hours as it soaks up the flavour better.

Barista (Deep fried onion):
1. Slice the onions longitudinally with a sharp knife. Separate all the layers with your finger so that they are not in cluster.
2. Julienne the fresh ginger piece in thin slices. The deep fried onion is usually known as Barista but I have added the ginger to it as well
3. Heat oil in a wok and add the onion slices. Fry it in medium heat and keep stirring it so that all the slices are evenly browned.
4. Once all the onions are even in colour add the ginger juliennes and fry for a while
5. Take out the fried onions and ginger from the oil and spread it on a Tissue paper. The extra oil will be soaked up by the paper and the onions will become crispy as they cool down

Kesar Milk:
1. Take the milk and add the Saffron strands to it. The milk will take on a yellow hue.

Kewra & Rose water( To be done before Assembling the Biryani):
1. Take the Kewra Essence and Rose water in a bowl and mix well.

Readying the Rice and Spices:
1. Wash and dry the Basmati rice. The better dried the rice is the lesser chances are that teh Biryani will turn out to be mushy. So take care to dry the rice.
2. Halve the medium sized potatoes so that you have 4 pieces of halved potatoes.
3. Shallow fry the potatoes for about 3-4 minutes and then keep them aside.
4. Pound the spices mentioned under "Spice Bag" coarsely. Take a muslin cloth of the size of a ladies hankie and place the pounded spices on the cloth and tie it in a pouch.

If you don't have a muslin cloth you can use a normal cotton ladies hankie just like me which shall yield the same result. 

7. Take a deep bottomed wok. The water measurement for cooking the Basmati rice will be given at the back of the packet. I used 600 ml of water. Put the water in the wok and turn on the heat. When the water becomes warm place two medium sized Bay leaves at the bottom.
8. Add the washed and dried Basmati rice to the warm water .
9. Add 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of sugar in the wok and mix well.

The taste of this water will be the taste of the rice. Hence add salt according to the taste you want. I also added sugar to balance the saltiness.

10. Immerse the Spice Bag into the water in the wok. Cover the lid and boil it on high flame for about 7-7 minutes.
11. Par cook the rice (3/4 cooked). Avoid overboiling.
12. Drain the water and remove the "Spice Bag"
13. Take out all the spices from the Spice Bag and keep it aside in a bowl.
14. Take 1 tsp of ghee in a skillet and when the ghee is hot add all the dry fruits along with cashew and raisins. Fry for a couple of minutes and keep it aside.


Assembling the Kacchi Biryani:
1. Take a deep bottomed wok with a lid, preferably those glass lids from which you can see what's going on inside the wok.
2. Spread 2 tsp of ghee on the bottom of the wok.
3. Place the chicken marinade as a uniform layer over it.
4. Sprinkle half of the fried dry fruits over it.
5. Arrange the Partially fried Potato halves on it.
6. Sprinkle the punded Spice from The Spice Bag that you had kept aside.
7. Layer the parboiled basmati rice on top of it.
8. Sprinkle rest of the dry fruits and Barista over it
9. Pour the Kesar milk and Kewra-Rose water evenly covering the entire area
10. Take 1 tsp of yellow food colouring and spread it with a spoon in one particular area of the rice (1/5 rice)
11.Pour the ghee on top of all the layers generously and evenly.
12. Repeat the layers if you are left with chicken marinade and rice. For me only two layers were sufficient as I was cooking only 600gm of Biryani.
13. Roll the dough into a long strip. Cover the lid and seal the rim of the lid with the dough strip half on the lid and half on the wok . If you are using a glass lid it will also have a opening on top. Cover it with dough as well. Do not be a miser with the dough sealing as if you use less dough it may come off once the dough starts to get hard from the steam.

An alternate to the dough strip sealing : Cover the wok with a silver foil and place the lid on top. Though the dough strip sealing is more full proof.

14. Cook on high flame for 5 minutes and then lower the flame to minimum.
15. Place a tawa under the wok and cook the biryani for 45 minutes.

It's bad news if during the 45 minutes of cooking at any point you happen to get the awesome aroma of the Biryani. It simply means that your sealing has given away and it's time for damage control. Quickly prepare some more dough, let it be slightly watery, and stick it over the portion you see steam coming out. Since the wok would already be too hot hence the dough will immediately stick and become hard.

Serving:
Cut open the dough along the rim and you will be greeted with an aroma to die for!
Carefully mix all the layers so as to not break the chicken pieces. It will be a nice combination of yellow and white rice.
Arrange the piping hot biryani on a plate and garnish it with 3-4 slices of cucumber and top it off with the halved boiled agg.
The Biryani is a bit moist due to the presence of a generous amount of ghee and can be eaten alone. But if you want you can serve it with raita.


Vegetarians can also relish this Biryani. Substitute the meat or chicken with vegetables like cauliflowers, carrots, peas,potatoes or paneer. Just adjust the "Dum" time accordingly keeping the rest of the procedure same.

This Biryani is unique because it has the goodness of two cuisines : the perfect Bengali blend of sweet and spicy flavours and traditional Hyderabadi cooking technique. Try if and I bet you wont be disappointed.

This post is an entry for the "Awesome Cuisine's 2012 Favorite Recipe Contest" event.

End of the Year Favorite Recipe Contest




Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Stir Fried Boiled Egg


The Pune weather has really undergone a lot of changes in the past couple of years. I remember 4 years ago when I was staying in Navi Mumbai, I had visited Pune along with my mother around the starting of November and God it was some cold. The moment we had come out of the temperature controlled comforts of the Volvo we were greeted by bone freezing chilly air. Hardly prepared for such a cold whether when in Mumbai it was still warm and toasty, we almost spent the entire weekend shivering.

Global warming, pulling down mountain after mountain to make place for 'chic planned cities', increasing vehicles and pollution, population burst have all contributed to the decline of Pune weather which was once as good as Bangalore weather. The outskirts of the city still enjoy the remnants of what once used to be hills, but sadly enough the hills are now dotted only with brick and mortar skyscapers rather than wild flora and fauna. We stay in Anandnagar which was once considered a remote part of Pune but very soon would be consumed by the tentacles of the rapidly growing city limits. Whenever we get some time in the evening we go to the terrace. The billowing lights all around does make it look as if Diwali never ceases to exist in Pune, but also makes us see the reality that even the remotest hilltop is not saved from human intervention. "Valley view" housing societies make sure they grab the best location in town so as to grab the elitest of clientele.

Year by year as the seasons are forgetting their original characteristics. Summer merrily eats away the monsoon seasons, the rains hardly make their presence felt and the the famous "gulabi thandi" of Pune- a season when your cheeks turn a shade of rosey pink have all gotten lost in transition somewhere. With December creeping in and the need to still put the fans on is quite a surprising thing. All over India, apart from the northern limits, winter seems to have fortgotten its way. We spent the last weekend in Panchgani to celebrate our first year of togetherness, but even at the hill station the temperature was like normal Pune temperature. Yesterday the papers had claimed that it was the effect of some easterly winds that was responsibile for the high temperature and from today onwards Pune would see a drop in the mercury. Considering the heat level yesterday I had hadly pinned any hopes. But when we woke up today morning at 7 am, the entire neighbourhood was wrapped in a soft blanket of fog. I could barely make out the shops below. As I nudged through the window to really believe what I was seeing, I felt a wraft of chilly air brush through my face. I recoiled as an instant reaction, my breath made a small circle of fog on the cold window. As I closed the window shut, I was smiling. Finally the time of cuddling inside a warm blanket with a cup of steaming coffee while watching a nice suspense movie has arrived. Today is also the much hyped doomsday 12-12-12. if I am lucky enough to survive the predictions of the Mayan Calender, I would look forward to enjoy each and every day of this lovely winter weather as long as it lasts.

Egg keeps your body warm, so winter is the time to try and experiment with a lot of egg preparations. Hubby really loves egg, so I decided to improvise on boiled eggs. Once again something really quick , easy and tasty. This recipe takes the best of both worlds North and South, maybe a dash of East and West as well.


Preparation Time: 5 minutes 
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Serves:2

Cuisine: Fusion

Ingredients: 
  • Boiled Eggs - 4
  • Curry Leaves - 1 twig
  • Green Chillies - 2 slitted ( you may increase the number depending on your spice tolerance level)
  • Onion - 1 (medium sized)
  • Ginger Paste / freshly grated ginger - 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric Powder -  1 pinch
  • Methi  Seeds - 1/4 tsp
  • Kasuri Methi -  1/2 tsp
  • Red chilli  powder - 1 pinch
  • Cumin Powder - 1 pinch
  • Coriander powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Fresh coriander leaves - 1/4 cup (garnishing purpose)
  • Garam masala powder - 1 pinch
  • Sugar to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Refined oil - 1 tsp

Procedure:
 
1. Shell the eggs and cut them into longitudinal quarters.

2. Slice the onions and grate the ginger.

3. Heat oil in a wok. When the oil is heated toss in the slitted chillies, methi seeds, onion, grated ginger, curry leaves, Fry for a few minutes till the onion is softened.

4. Add the turmeric, red chilli, cumin powder, coriander powder,garam masala, salt and sugar. Add the Kasuri Methi and cook for 5 minutes.

5. When the mixture is fragrant add the quartered eggs. Mix them carefully with the mixture, so that the egg doesn't break or the yolk comes out. Cook for 5 more minutes. The eggs should be well coated with the mixture so as to absorb the flavours nicely.


6. Turn off the heat. Garnish it with chopped fresh coriander leaves. If you have coconut available at hand you can chop a handful of coconut and sprinkle on the stir fried eggs to add nuttiness to the preparation. You can serve it with Rice or Rotis (Indian Flatbread). Since this is a dry dish its recommended that you serve it along with Daal (lentil soup) as well.



Saturday, 1 December 2012

Kach Kolar Khosha Bata ( Raw Plantain Peel Paste)

Gosh it's been really long since I looked back at my poor blog, let alone write something. It's really feeling neglected. The past two months seems to have passed in a jiffy. Too many things happening at the same time - Durga Puja, Diwali, Bhai Dooj, both sides of the moms visiting us, a sojourn to Matheran, local sightseeing, lot's of shopping with both moms, movies, eat outs...phew!! It all seems like whirlwind now. Moreover planning for two upcoming big events (1st anniversary and Hubby's birthday) had hardly left me with anytime to sit and think. Both the moms had taken care of the cooking hence I got some time to make the anniversary scrapbook and birthday preparations. Now both moms left for Kolkata so I am back to the chopping board. Today is my Hubby's birthday; I had planned to surprise him with a small twosome surprise party last night, which I had been planning meticulously over the past two months. Heart shaped balloons  fragrant candles, rich chocolate truffle cake, a huge birthday card , a fasttrack watch and a bottle of Indage Red wine - the celebration was short and sweet. Hubby was quite overpowered with emotions seeing my small arrangement (especially after I had to literally drag him out of the bedroom while he kept yelling and cursing me for interrupting his deep slumber). Seems like he had forgotten about the birthday thing but when he saw the cakes and all at once the irritation on his face was replaced by a surprised look. The efforts was worth it. Though we couldn't finish the cake, but we did gulp down some wine and slept like a log.

Since I have planned a lavish dinner spread for today, yesterday I wanted us to have something healthy and light on the stomach for dinner. Raw banana or plantain makes nutritional and  tasty dishes. It one of the most versatile vegetables available. I decided to make a simple plantain fish curry for dinner. Most of the time when we prepare plantain dishes we tend to forget totally about the utility of the peels and mostly they are thrown away. But just like plantain, the peels also are very rich in iron and fiber. It so happened that  hubby saw me cooking plantain and came up with the idea of preparing a dish from the plantain peels that I was about to throw away. There are days when hubby suddenly feels he wants to cook up a storm in the kitchen. Yesterday was one such day. Had it been any other day i would have shooed him away from kitchen for interrupting my cooking. But I didnt want to exactly do that on his birthday eve. So like a good wife I boiled and gave him the plantain peels. Here is his recipe of Kach Kolar Kosha Bata.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves:2

Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients:
  • Plantain Peel of 2 big green banana
  • Poppy Seed Paste (Poshto bata) - 2 tsp [1 tsp is also fine]
  • Five spice mix ( panch foron) - 1/2 tsp
  • Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Green chilli - as per spice tolerance
  • Sugar - 1/2 tsp 
  • Turmeric powder - a small pinch
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil

Procedure:

1. Boil the plantain peel in the pressure cooker for a single whistle. Drain the water and chop the peels into small pieces.


2. Soak the poppy seeds for sometime 



3. In a mixer grinder grind the chopped peels, soaked poppy seeds, grated coconut and green chilli to a uniform paste. The Bengalis tend to make this paste with the "shil noda" instead of a grinder. But doing it in a mixer also doesnt alter the taste



4. Heat oil in a wok and add the five spice mix. The spices will crackle in sometime



5. Add the plantain peel paste to the seasoning. 



6. Add a pinch of turmeric



7. Adjust the salt and sugar and fry the mixture till the smell of raw poppy seeds go away and water dries from the mixture



 The main trick of the dish is to dry off the water. It's all about getting the right consistency and not burning the paste in the process. Mold the mixture into any shape you like.  This preparation can be served as a side dish with steamed rice and any kind of a dal. A yummy preparation to suit the chilly weather setting in Pune.



I knew about this recipe but never tried it for the fear of how it will turn out. But after this I know what to do with the plantain peels.



 I hope to be more regular on my blog from now. Finger crossed!




 
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