Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mutton- Biryani - A home-cook's version

We are into full blown summer days in the northern hemisphere, and with that, parks are all gearing up for summer family day outs here, well I can’t say that about India though. But, as it seems, evenings are cooler over there, and with evening breeze, it tends to lower down the temperature as well. Although, it was a traumatic experience for them past month, with the recent earthquakes, that rattled the northern parts of country, Delhi and Kolkata were not untouched either. My heart goes out to those living outside their homes in Nepal, living under that constant threat and a future, where everything is blurred. Even with all these new generation gizmo and gadgets, when it comes to Mother Nature, we still haven’t got what it takes to take full control of her, or maybe we won’t be able to do so in hundred years. We are way behind, the right approach for this matter would be to start a much synchronised disaster management. Peace and prayers for all of them.

I haven’t updated the blog, so thought of shedding some hibernation fat, and updating the blog with a delicious recipe post. As the recipe post says, “Mutton biryani”, I do feel it doesn’t matter, how it is made, every time it tastes delicious. Now I won’t be going in to the details of various types of biryanis, their method and minor culinary inputs, for a home-cook like me, I really don’t get into the business of all the nuisances of those fine- prints. Give me any day, light fluffy biryanis with delicate flavours and am a happy soul, and even so, my family members.

 Now to the preparation part

Mutton Biryani
Recipe Requirements
(Serves – 3-4 )
700 Gms of lamb /Goat Mutton
1 large onion
4-5 fat cloves garlic
½ inch ginger root
 1 tsp of lemon juice
 2-3 medium size potatoes (optional)
For seasonings
1 tsp of red pepper powder
 ½ tsp of freshly crushed black pepper
1 tsp of freshly grounded coriander powder
¼ tsp of cumin powder
½ tsp of nutmeg powder
½ tsp of cinnamon powder
½ tsp of cardamom powder
1 tsp of garlic powder
½ tsp of ginger powder

 Half cup of thick yogurt
1 tsp of salt or as per taste+ ¼ tsp of salt for cooking rice
Whole spices
 3-4 cloves
4-5 cardamoms
2 black cardamom
 2, ¼ inch cinnamon sticks
 two pinches of nutmeg

Three- four generous pinches of saffron soaked in quarter cup of lukewarm milk
 1tsp of kewda essence
 2 cups of high quality basmati rice
 ¼ cup of cooking oil for mutton preparation+ 5 tsp of cooking oil required in other stages of cooking.

Mix all the dry seasonings to make a dry masala powder to make biryani. This forms the "base masala" for our biryani.

Now add in yogurt, gently mixing it with a spoon. Adjust salt and add in lemon juice.A wet marinade is ready for the mutton pieces. 
I have used diced and boneless lamb pieces, a cut from leg side for this biryani. You can use any portions and also with bones. Goat mutton is what I use, when we are in India.

Now marinate lamb pieces with the spiced yogurt mixture. Keep aside for 1 hr, or better if you have time then marinate for 3-4 hrs, keeping it refrigerated.
 Cooking the rice for biryani

Now wash rice in running water. And soak them for about 15-20 mints.
Heat up a big pot/pan, we use “dekchi” to make mutton biryani back in home- India. Old fashioned- aluminium “handi” also works best. How, ever any heavy bottomed pan, big enough to hold the entire lamb and rice mixture works well also.
And since we will be doing a quick oven-bake, a big oven –proof casserole works fine as well.
Cook rice, till it’s partially cooked- to be precise- ¾ cooked rice grains, turns nice fluffy in biryani. Bring a large pot with water to boil, add in 1 tsp of cooking oil and few pinches of salt, same as like we do cooking for pasta. This way rice grains won’t stick with each other much.
We do not need nice-puffed up, thoroughly cooked rice grains. Don’t worry these will be cooked through well, at the time of assembling or layering up the biryani. So, drain out rice-starch. Now add in about 2 tsp of cooking oil, gently toss the rice grains and take out in a large plate. Allow rice grains to cool.
Now we will make a small cloth bag of whole spices- crushed cloves, cardamoms, black cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Tie this with thread tightly.

Cooking the mutton/lamb for biryani
 In a blender, make a smooth paste of onion/ginger/garlic with 2 tsp of cooking oil.
Take a big fry pan, add in cooking oil.
Now add in onion/ginger /garlic paste. Let it stir/fry for about 8-10 mints. Add in salt.
Now add in the marinated lamb pieces. Keep on stir/fry for 20-25 mints, splashing water as required.
Add in half cup of warm water, cover the lid and let it cook for about 30 mints further. Since, we have used boneless lamb pieces, it will require less time as compared to lamb pieces with the bones. And also use potato cubes now, but this is purely optional, one can skip it, if doesn’t want to include potatoes, (this is a Bengali way of making biryani, adding potatoes)

Layering/assembling the biryani
In an oven-proof casserole, first spread a layer of rice, then layer the cooked mutton pieces, use the gravy as well. The gravy will tend to be semi-dry, so that rice incorporates well the flavour, without turning soggy further.
Now sprinkle kewda essence, or saffron –milk water. Place the small, whole –masala bag- “masala-potli” over the rice-layer .Repeat the layering of rice with cooked lamb pieces, until the whole of the rice is used up. Top this with any left-over rice. Sprinkle saffron-milk water. You may also add in fried onions in between the layers.

Cover with a foil, and transfer this to the pre-heated oven. Bake it for 10-15 mints at 180 deg C. Alternately one can also, cook it up on stove-top as well. Seal the dekchi / handi or pan with flour dough and cook it at low flame for 15-20 mints.
Take it off, from the cooking, and let sit for 2-3 hrs, before you open out the dough seal.” Dum –style “cooking is required for a light fluffy biryanis.

Since I prefer, oven baking method, now about oven- bake method.
To finish off biryani –making, after you have taken it out from the oven, cover the entire casserole with a cotton towel, so that the heat doesn’t escape much, this will cook the rest of the partially cooked rice. Allow at least 2-3 hrs for the aromas to blend in well.
At the time of serving, just pop it in microwave, preferably covered, to reheat or put them in oven for about 10 mints. Serve and enjoy with a raita preparation and some salad.

Happy Cooking Friends

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hummus - Recipe with white sesame seeds

With spring season upon us, we really feel blessed to notice spring blossoms scattered here and there. Every season has its own way of making its presence felt. If there is strong and cold winter, then there is spring, which comes as a balm to sored souls. Summer, has own way of making its presence felt, being sweltering and hot. And autumn, well, what do I need to add, autumn whenever spelt, it itself creates vague and beautiful pictures, enticing our senses with colorful disposition.

Now come back from that whirlwind trip of seasons, step aside and park yourself in your kitchen, it’s time to cook. Eating with season has become part of our food plans. And it’s not that something, I pre-plan, but then it has become a routine. For that matter, I have never seen my Ma or Ma-in-law making out such plans about eating with season, to them it was all about, what was really available easily in their respective local vegetable markets, and which obviously used to be flooded with all the local produce and in accordance with seasonal fruits and vegetables (I have started a label “Eating with season” keeping in mind the changes, that are good to include for our day-today grocery plans and eating habits. I will try to update that label from time to time.)
It was going like that, until came those leading globe explorer, who with their each expeditions opened up a new world to each one of us. They due to their curiosity, meticulously started exploring new ingredients, new recipes and new cuisines. And with that, came new discoveries about methods, ingredients and exploring other world cuisine.

Hummus a great Mediterranean dip, can be relished throughout a year.Although, served as part of Turkish-style meze platter. You don’t have to wait for a particular season to relish this mouth tingling dip. All you need is cooked and boiled chick peas, and I am sure every Indian home keeps dried chick peas in their pantry. And for those of you, who are always on a tight schedule, you do have pre-cooked chick- pea cans.

But to get that store-bought quality, one has to make it with toasted sesame seeds or better if you can get “Tahini paste”. Now Tahini paste is easily available in middle-eastern stores here in abroad. But in case you can't get Tahini paste easily, you can use toasted white sesame seeds/ “till” as in Hindi. And olive oil can also be replaced with normal sunflower oil, although olive oil is the primary oil used in hummus preparation
Now to the recipe

Hummus – A Mediterranean dip
Recipe requirements
  •  2 cups of cooked chick peas or use 1 pre-cooked chick peas can
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4-5 tbs of olive oil
  • ¼ tsp of grounded pepper /cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup of Tahini paste or use ½ cup of toasted white sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp of black pepper powder
  • Salt as per taste
  •  2 -3 tsps of lemon juice
  • Some more olive oil for garnishing

If you are using dried chick peas. Soak those overnight in water, and next day cook it as usual in a pressure cooker for two whistles. You can even use canned chick –peas as well.
If you can get Tahini Paste easily, go ahead with it. However, if you are getting difficulty in finding one, then, use white sesame seeds. Take white sesame seeds and dry roast them for about 6-8 mints at medium flame or till they turn out slightly golden. Keep an eye on them while roasting them.
In a blender or mixer, add all the ingredients- cooked chick peas, Tahini paste or ( toasted sesame seeds)  lemon juice, grounded pepper , garlic , olive oil, black pepper powder and salt. Blend all, if needed add very little water, just to rotate the mixer blades.

Take out in a bowl, garnish with more olive oil and crushed red chilly flakes. A smooth and delicious dip is ready as a side to many appetizers or roasted vegetables or a typical Turkish style meze. You can garnish with finely chopped parsley as well.

Happy Cooking Friends