Tag Archives: Biryani

Vermicelli Biryani

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I am sucker for sweets, especially North Indian sweets. So when my stock of pedas ran out in August, one that my long suffering wife had replenished on a trip to India in July, I was looking for my sweet fix. With the Eid season here, I started thinking back to my childhood and the dry Sevian (Vermicelli) dessert that some of our family friends used to make around Eid. So I decided to try my hand at making some.

Before I got there though, the wife called and reminded me that I had dinner duties that night. Since I was already at the Indian store and had procured the aforementioned Vermicelli, I decided to repurpose it to making a Biryani. Armed with a handful of vegetables, I got to work. I looked to the great sage Sanjeev Kapoor’s and Vahrevah chef’s websites for guidance and put a dish together. The verdict was that the dish was – Meh! It filled but didn’t satisfy. I did try it again a couple of days later and ate it with some Egg Curry and it tasted a lot better. So, in my opinion, it works very well as an accompanying rice-substitute dish but not so well as a main dish.

INGREDIENTS (for 4)

2 Tbsp Oil (I used EVOO)

1 Tbsp Black Mustard Seeds

12-14 Curry Leaves

1/2 Medium Onion – diced

1 medium Carrot – peeled and cut into bite sized chunks

3 small round eggplants chopped into bite sized pieces

1 cup frozen Green Peas

1 cup Soy chunks (Nutrela) – cooked according to instructions

1.5 Tbsp Coriander Powder

1 Tbsp Turmeric

Salt to taste

1 cup dry roasted Vermicelli

2 cups water

STEPS

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  2. Add the mustard seeds till they start to sputter
  3. Add the curry leaves
  4. Add the onion till they are transparent
  5. Add all the veggies and soy chunks, coriander powder, turmeric and salt
  6. Saute till the eggplants just start to darken
  7. Add the vermicelli and mix well
  8. Add two cups of water and increase the heat
  9. Evaporate the water off while constantly agitating the mixture
  10. Voila! you are done

 

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Vegetable Dum Biryani – exploring “Dum Pukht” cooking

Vegetable Dum Biryani

By the time I heard of “Dum Pukht” cooking, I was already a vegetarian. So I went and banged my head against the wall a few times in frustration. “Dum Pukht” – which is Farsi for “Choked Breath” is a technique used to slow cook mostly meat dishes, literally in their own steam (hence the name). The vessel in which the cooking is happening is sealed and as the meat slow cooks, it releases its juices and aroma and infuses everything else in the container with it. Dum dishes are typically not heavily spiced but rely on fresh herbs for their fragrance. Part of the “Wow” factor with these dishes happens when the dish is served. The vessel is brought out and the seal broken just before serving. The aromas that waft out have to be experienced to be believed.

This technique, characteristic of Lucknow (or Avadh) in North India, was made popular about 200 years ago. It is said that when the Burra Imambara (Big Mosque) was being built, cooks would prepare large quantities of meat and rice for the workers. They would typically seal these containers and bury them in heaps of charcoal so that when the workers took a break, their hot lunch was slow-cooked and ready. While it started out in Avadh, this technique has shown up in other Indian cuisines including Punjabi and Hyderabadi as well.

Sealed vessel ready for the oven

Anyway, back to my story – for a while I thought I would not have a chance to experience Dum cooking but then I chanced upon the excellent cookbook put together by J Inder Singh Kalra – “Prashad”. In it there was a recipe for a vegetarian Dum Biryani (Rice dish) that was apparently very popular with the Nawabs (rulers) of Hyderabad when they wanted something light. It is an excellent recipe. Over the years I have played with it and modified it to make it more healthy (i.e. use less fat). While it may look intimidating, it really is not a difficult dish to make – just one that has complex flavors.

The easiest way to make this dish is to break it down into four components, prepare each one and then assemble the dish. Before you begin, you may want to preheat the oven to 375F.

THE RECIPE BELOW IS ENOUGH FOR 4 ADULTS

COMPONENT 1 – THE RICE

1 Cup Basmati Rice – picked and washed

2 Green Cardamom

1 Black Cardamom (great if you have it, or add an additional green one if you don’t)

2 Cloves

1 inch stick of Cinnamon

1 Bay Leaf

3 Cups water

STEPS

1. Add the rice and the whole Garam Masala to about 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

2. Cook rice till it is almost cooked (but still a little raw) and drain the water.

3. Set aside.

COMPONENT 2 – THE VEGETABLES

1 1/2 Tbsp Cooking Oil

2 Green Cardamom

1 Black Cardamom (great if you have it, or add an additional green one if you don’t)

2 cloves

1 inch stick of Cinnamon

1 Bay Leaf

1/4 Onion – diced

1 Medium Potato – peeled, diced

1 Large Carrot – peeled and diced

1 Green Chili – deseeded and thinly sliced

1 /2 inch piece of Ginger – peeled and julienned

1 tsp minced Garlic

1/2 tsp Turmeric powder

1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder

1/4 cup Yogurt – whisked

8-10 Almonds – sliced

2 Tbsp Raisins

Salt

STEPS

NOTE: Ideally you would want to cook the vegetables in the same vessel that you will assemble in. A “Handi” (round metallic vessel) is ideal. However, you can cook the veggies in a saucepan and transfer to an ovenproof dish for assembly.

1. Heat the oil and add the Whole Garam Masala (Green Cardamom, Black Cardamom, Cloves, Cinnamon and Bay Leaf).

2. Add onion when the masala starts to sputter.

3. Cook till the onions are just starting to brown and add turmeric and chili powder.

4. Add the vegetables, yogurt and a little bit of water (about 1/3 cup).

5. Bring to a boil and then simmer till the veggies are cooked. There should not be much liquid left over.

6. Add dry fruits and salt to taste.

COMPONENT 3 – THE SAFFRON/MILK/YOGURT CONCOCTION

1/2 tsp Saffron strands

1 Tbsp Milk

1/4 cup yogurt – whisked

STEPS

1. Dissolve the saffron in warm milk.

2. Add the yogurt and mix well.

COMPONENT 4 – THE DOUGH

1/2 cup flour (any kind will do)

Water

STEPS

1. Add water and knead the flour to make a fine, smooth, soft dough.

2. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside.

THE ASSEMBLY

1/3 cup of fresh mint and cilantro (equal proportions) – washed and chopped

STEPS

1. In the vessel you will be putting in the oven – handi or Corningware, start by putting the cooked vegetables at the bottom.

2. Sprinkle half the yogurt-saffron mix and mint coriander on top.

3. Cover with half the rice.

4. Sprinkle the other half of the yogurt-saffron mix and mint coriander on top.

5. Cover with the rest of the rice.

6. Cut a piece of foil (or a piece of cotton cloth, soaked with water and wrung) to cover the dish.

7. Put a lid on top and seal the vessel with the dough.

8. Stick it in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

SERVING

Break the dough and open the lid. Using a spatula move the vegetables from the bottom to mix with the rice. Serve with plain yogurt, daal or a curry of your choice.

Mixing up the rice with the veggies

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