Category Archives: Baked Main Meal Dishes

“This is so good!” Chicken Biryani

Time was, I cooked, I wrote recipes here, and all was well with the world.

But that seems like a long time ago. I’m what they call a corporate slave now, I think, which leaves little time to spend time here, a place  I used to so love being in.

So yesterday evening, when Sandhya, a friend from college, asked on our chat group if I still blog about food, and I replied – with a pang of regret – in the negative, it reminded of those years when writing here was one of my chief pleasures.

And so here I am. Fresh from having cooked a very decent chicken biryani (have always felt that biryanis are not my forte, as a cook), and having made a very decent guacamole, which has been a sort of bucket list thing for me for for the longest time,  never having made that dip at home before.

It helps, though, to have a teen at home who is  interested in food!
Indira had already said to me a couple of days ago, “Can you please make guacamole?” and I just happened to have an avocado sitting in the fruit basket this morning. So while the biryani was in the oven, I googled and found a great recipe for guacamole and Voila! There is now a bowl of really zingy, flavorful guacamole in the fridge! The biryani has been a decent success too, with Indira saying “This is so good!” as she ate the first forkful at lunch earlier today.

Biryani is rather a time-consuming dish to make, but as with most such dishes I think the trick is to break up the process in to steps that can be spread over more than one period of time when one is in the kitchen. So here are the parts that I see here (the first three can be done ahead of time) and which help me see this as something that can be handled without feeling overwhelmed! The ingredients are all in blue, to help make a list to gather all the many ingredients this dish requires. But read the recipe through to the end, for the list grows until then !

biryani.jpg

  1. Marinate the chicken (can be done some hours ahead and in fact would make for more tender meat than otherwise)

    Cut 250-300 gms of boneless chicken in to 1″-2″ chunks. Whisk 200-250g yogurt till smooth and then blend in 1/2 tsp of Kashmiri red chilli powder, 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder, 1/2 tablespoon each of chopped fresh green coriander, mint leaves and chopped green chilli (this is optional and skipping it will subtract nothing from the flavor), 1 and 1/2 tsp of salt. Toss the chicken in this marinade and keep in the fridge till you’re ready to cook the meat.

  2. Finely Chop 2 large or 3 medium sized onions, and make tomato puree with 2 large tomatoes after blanching them in hot water to remove the skin.
  3. Make a spice mix by powdering together 1/2 tbsp each of cashew nuts, chironji seeds (there seems to be no ID for this in English, but if not available pine nuts are a decent substitute), poppy seeds, and grated coconut (lightly dry roasted so that it is not wet).
  4. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, soak 1/4 tsp of saffron strands in 1/4 cup of warm milk.
  5. Cook 1 and 1/4 cup of long-grain Basmati rice (wash and then soak the rice for at least 30 minutes before cooking it) in a pot in plenty of water and with a little salt, without covering the pan, till the rice is 3/4ths done. Drain the rice, and leave it aside to cool a little.
  6. Cook the chicken (on medium heat throughout)– In a large cooking pan, heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, add 1 tsp each of ginger paste and garlic paste, and fry for a minute or so. Add the onions, and fry till they are golden brown. Now add the spice mix and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomato puree next, and fry everything together till the oil separates and starts to appear on the sides. Turn the chicken in now with the marinade, along with a 1/2 tbsp of lime juice, and mix well. Cover the pan and cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes or till it is tender. By this point, the yogurt, tomato, onion and spice mix will have cooked down to a creamy-looking sauce with a rich color. Turn the heat off.
  7. In a large enough baking dish, or in a wide, deep pot, layer the rice and chicken as follows – first put 1/3rds of the rice, then spread half of the chicken over it. Layer another third of the rice, then the rest of the chicken, and then the remaining rice. Finish by sprinkling the saffron-infused milk over the top, and 1 tbsp of melted ghee. Cover the pot with a lid (or with silver foil if using a baking dish).
  8. Finish making the biryani by cooking on dum over low heat, or by baking at 180 degrees C for 20-30 minutes.

Leave to rest for 15-30 minutes. Serve. Enjoy 🙂

The usual thing is to eat biryani with yogurt, or a -tomato-onion-cucumber raita.
Perhaps that helps cut the heat of the spices. But this dish deserves to be savored on
its own, I’ve always thought, and needs only glass of wine on the side, really :-).
Plum chutney is another unusual and delicious accompaniment for it,
and adds a lovely dash of color to the plate.

 

 

 

 

 

“Un tres super” pastry recipe !

One more culinary highlight of last week was the excellent – and egg-less ! pastry recipe I discovered  the morning when the girls more or less insisted I make again the fresh strawberry pie I made a couple of times in France.

Making any kind of tart or pie was such a cinch then, because supermarkets there sell very adequate pastry sheets. But never having mastered the art of making pastry at home, I haven’t made any sort of pie since we moved back to India almost four years ago now. Clearly, that’s not an acceptable state of affairs for Noor especially, for she keeps exhorting me to “surely you can at least try to make pastry at home, you know. Come on! You can do it !” (All for the fresh strawberry pie they love).

So last week, when I bought a big lot of strawberries from my local fruit shop – the girls reminded me once again that I’ve been promising to attempt making pastry  for some time now. I guess I was in a generous mood because I was on holiday, so decided to spend some time searching for a recipe online, especially one without egg (because Indira’s mildly allergic to egg and so I try not to cook with eggs too often).

And that is how I found this particular one, which Chef David Lebovitz shares in a quite humorous post here on his blog. It’s French origin; that it needs no eggs; that I found it on the blog of a well-known chef I’ve heard of previously; and that it sounded so incredibly easy to make; it all encouraged me to think I should take it on and I’m so glad I did ! For it really is so simple to make, and produces great results too.

As it turned out, I misjudged the amount I needed to make for the size of the only pastry dish I have in my kitchen just now, as well as the amount of strawberries to use for the pie. So the end-result – the fresh strawberry pie – was not quite worthy of a photograph (too much fruit on not a large-enough base), which is why no picture this time. But now that I’m sure about the pastry dough recipe, I’m surely going to make this dessert again before the strawberry season is over, and hope to be able to make a picture-worthy pie then !

Merci beaucoup, Chef !

French Pastry Dough 
(will make one 9 inch shell)

  • 90 g (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 150 g (5oz, or 1 slightly-rounded cup) flour

Preheat the oven to 410º F (210º C).

1. In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as a Pyrex bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.

2. Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges.

3. When done, remove the bowl from oven (and be careful, since the bowl will be hot and the mixture might sputter a bit), dump in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

4. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch (23 cm) tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula.

5. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your and, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks.

6. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

7. Let the shell cool before filling.

Be careful with the hot bowl of butter, advises Chef Lebovitz. Not only will the butter spatter a bit when you add the flour, he points out, but it’s uncommon to have a very hot bowl on the counter and easy to simply give in the urge to grab it with your bare hands.

Kuzhi Paniyaram

So pleased to have begun the new year with this new dish in my breakfast and  lunch-box repertoire !

For brunch today I made paniyaram (more correctly, Kuzhi Paniyaram, which is the formal name of this dish in Tamilnadu), a sort of idli but one that is  different to the latter in three or four  chief ways. The former are much smaller in size; are cooked by stove-top baking instead of by steaming -as idlis are; and they have a lot more flavor because of the addition of a variety of things – grated ginger, a tempering with mustard seeds and curry leaves, and sautéed onions – to regular idli batter. Of course, the shapes are quite different too. Paniarams look quite like muffins, unlike the distinctive, flying saucer-like shape of idlis.

paniyaram2

I re-discovered paniyaram at breakfast one day during our recent trip to Nasik,  and was glad to see that Noor and Shri seemed to like them quite a bit. In fact both the girls said they knew these from their friends’ lunch boxes. So I wasted no time in picking up a paniyaram pan on my first trip to Dorabjee after we got back, so pleased was I to find another possibility for a healthy  snack!

Paniyarams are so simple to make too. Here’s how I made them this morning, after browsing through some recipes I found online –

Masala Kuzhi Paniaram
(makes about 18)

14-16 tablespoons of idli batter (of a cake-batter-like consistency, and to which enough salt has been added already)
3/4 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
2 quite small onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of skinless urad daal
1 tablespoon of finely chopped coriander leaves
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil, for tempering
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
a few finely chopped curry leaves
1 or 2 finely chopped green chillies (optional but will add a great zing)
some oil to coat the holes in the paniaram pan

In a small pan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When these begin to splutter, add the daal and as its grains start to turn pink, add the onion and sauté till the daal is a golden brown and the onions are soft. Add this mixture, the ginger and the coriander  to the batter and mix everything well.

Heat the paniyaram pan over medium heat, after drizzling just a little oil (2-3 drops will do) in to each indentation so that it’s sides are coated. Now add a tablespoon (and perhaps a little more, depending on the size of the indentations) of batter to each slot in the pan and then cover the pan to allow the batter to cook. Each paniyaram will rise like a cupcake as it happens. When the sides start to look done (this will take just a few minutes) – tip out one or two of these little beauties to check for a slightly crispy, golden color all over the sides at this point – flip over each one to cook the other side till it is a very light golden color too.

Et voila. In just a few, un-messy minutes- for I LOVE how easily these close cousins to the idli come out of the cooking pan – you have the makings of a great breakfast. Some piping hot sambhaar and a tangy coconut chutney – and it’s good to go !

Interesting trivia that I gathered on this one from googling for the recipe – the pan used for these little idlis is of the exact same kind that they use in Denmark for a particular kind of pancake. Because these pancakes were traditionally made with bits of apple, the pan is called an “ebleskiver” (Danish for apple slices) pan. So basically you could make paniyarams anywhere in the world, as long as you’ve bought yourself an ebeleskiver pan ! Really neat, I thought, this serendipitous sameness of cooking forms/gizmos in two parts of the world so distant and different from each other.

Aloo Kulchas

During our stay in Jamshedpur recently- we were there for three weeks till we got to Mumbai this last weekend – I had the most amazing aloo kulchas at Gunchu Didi’s home, which she’d bought from the canteen in her school where they make these to order. In fact I liked them so much that when she and Usha Masi and Vijay Bhaiya cam home for dinner, I asked her to buy some for that evening too.

I can’t remember the last time an Indian bread made such an impression on me; not, I think, since the delicious, wonderfully soft and thin Maharashtrian polis that Vasanti made for us when we visited her in Pune once.

So this is going to be one of the first new recipes I am going to try my hand at once I get back to my kitchen in France.

Jenny's Spinach Pie

I ate this once last summer at Jenny’s and it was really quite nice.

So earlier today evening, when I happened to be in her kitchen as she made it for guests that she will have at lunch tomorrow, I noted down the quantities of the ingredients as she cooked.

It looked quite simple to put together, so I am going to try and make it some time soon.

Spinach Pie

2 rolls of store-bought pie crust

a kilo of frozen,very very finely chopped spinach

3-4 tablespoons of creme fraiche

a 210 gm bag of Gruyere cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 egg, lightly whisked

De-frost the spinach and squeeze out all the water.

In a pan, heat a little oil and fry the onion for a while.

In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach, the onion, the seasoning, the cheese and the creme fraiche.

Place one of the pie crusts at the bottom of a pie dish. Fill with the spinach mixture and spread it evenly. Cover with the second pie crust.

Brush the top with the egg and bake at 175degreesC till done.

Mint- and Coriander-flavored Grilled Chicken

This is another recipe adapted from “Tikkas & Kebabs”, one of the “Chef’s Special” series published by Lustre Press in India.

I have wanted to try this one since a long time because of the very clear memory I have of the delicious mint-flavored chicken tikkas I ate once  in a restaurant in Delhi.

The girls loved this dish, when I cooked it for lunch last Wednesday.  When I told the boulanger about it – I wasn’t able to take any for him to taste because the girls and I polished it all off – he seemed to like the idea of it and has agreed to try it one Tuesday soon, instead of the usual tandoori chicken.

10-12 chicken drumsticks

100 grams of yogurt

2 tablespoons of lime juice

1 tablespoon of garlic paste

3-4 teaspoons of ginger paste

1 teaspoon of cummin powder

1 teaspoon of coriander powder

1 teaspoon of garam masala

4 tablespoons of oil

1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint leaves

4-5 tablespoons of melted butter, for basting the chicken

salt to taste ( two teaspoons or a little less, for this quantity of chicken, works for us)

Mix the ginger and garlic pastes with the salt and lemon juice.

Skin the chicken, make 3-4 incisions on each piece, toss the pieces thoroughly in the lemon juice mixture and  leave them in this marinade for 30 minutes in a large bowl.

In the meanwhile, strain the water in the yogurt by leaving it in a fine sieve for 15-20 minutes.

Mix the rest of the ingredients – except the butter – in the yogurt. Add this mixture to the chicken pieces and coat them well in it. Leave the chicken in this marinade for at least 8-1o hours, turning over the pieces once during this time.

Heat the grill to about 240 degrees Celsius, then place the chicken on a wire rack and grill till done (this takes about 40 minutes in my oven), turning the pieces over a couple of times during this time to make sure they are evenly cooked and basting with butter each time.

I love the mild but distinctive flavor of herbs here.

Tandoori Chicken

Though what this is , actually, is oven-grilled chicken.

The girls  have always called it “red” chicken after the color of the excellent chicken that Jitender and Neelam always make at their barbeque parties and which Indira so looks forward to eating when we are invited !

The marinade – and therefore the taste of the chicken – I prepare is different from theirs though and is adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe in his  “Khazana of Indian Recipes”.

Tandoori Chicken

800 gms of chicken drumsticks

1 or 2 teaspoons of kashmiri chilli powder

4 tablespoons of lime juice

200 gms of yogurt

4-5 teaspoons each of ginger and garlic pastes

3/4 teaspoon of garam masala powder

salt to taste

about 100 ml of melted butter

2-3 limes, cut in to wedges

Skin and wash the chicken, then make cuts in several places on each piece.

In a flat bowl, mix half the lime juice and Kashmiri chilli powder and toss the chicken pieces in this mixture. Keep aside for 30 minutes.

In the meanwhile, leave the yogurt in a very fine sieve – to drain the whey – for 15-20 minutes.

Then mix the yogurt with the rest of the ingredients (except the butter),  toss the chicien pieces in this marinade to coat them well and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.

Pre-heat the grill to 240 degrees C, then place the chicken pieces at the top of the oven and cook till they are done, turning them over a couple of times so that all the sides are cooked evenly. Apply butter lightly with a brush each time on the surface just below the grill.

This dish is best eaten hot from the oven and lime wedges are a must-have accompaniment, for the juice to be squeezed on to each piece as it’s eaten.