What’s a biryani anyway?


Reposting this one as I made lamb curry today and it led to a lot of discussion in the office group chat! Originally posted on


Biryani

The last weekend I cooked mutton biryani – the much-loved dish on the paternal side of my family. Even though my father and uncles are not foodies, any mutton dish is the one food item that is revered. On special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries etc, a typical family get together would most certainly include Mutton Biryani.

Handed down to my grandmother by a patient of my grandfather, this recipe is a special one. My late grandfather was a police surgeon. My grandparents lived in police quarters and from time to time had to change locations as is common to those in the service. When they had settled in their final place of residence at Byculla, my grandfather was in the higher ranks and usually had a couple of constables at his service. They also had many a servants who lived with them in servants quarters. When I now try to imagine their lifestyle, I find it highly interesting and quite aristocratic. But I digress..

Once it so happened that my grandfather treated a poor patient and didn’t take any fees from him. A few days later, to show appreciation for the kind act, the servant brought home a huge handi full Mutton dum biryani. After tasting it, grandma and grandpa were hooked.

After that day, my grandma nagged grandpa to ask the patient to provide her with the recipe. Every time he conveyed the message, they would receive the biryani in the huge vessel. After repetitive incidences, my grandma finally got hold of him personally and asked him.

Next day, an old woman with a bulky frame, piercing eyes and a paan stained red mouth visited my grandma. In her intimidating presence, grandma felt like a small mouse. In the kitchen she sat down with her pouch of tobacco and paan and told my grandma, “start peeling the garlic..” She was the mother of that patient.

Without going into the details of the recipe, the gist is to par boil rice and keep the mutton raw. Layer these in this manner:  mutton at the bottom of a wide based thick vessel, then raw potatoes, tomatoes, dry fruits, finally the par boiled rice with fried onions at the top. The edges of the vessel had to be sealed with wheat dough before putting on the lid. Additionally, another vessel filled with water was kept on top to avoid any steam from getting out. The biryani was cooked on slow heat for about an hour or so.

My grandma swears that this is the authentic biryani recipe as the woman who taught her was a Muslim and this is how they do it. We accepted it and thought this was the only way to do it.

That is until I got married. As with every other food item, the biryani was also an elaborate affair at my in-laws’ home. The major difference between the recipes being, mutton was thoroughly cooked, potatoes, dryfruits and other garnishing items fried or cooked in some manner. The layering then involved only arranging these materials alternately and steaming them in a tight lid vessel.

Now I don’t remember when this thought formed but I simply believe that if you cook the rice and the meat separately and then assemble them,  the dish is not a biryani but is merely a variation of pulao. I mean what is the point in cooking everything separately and then only assembling them together? To get the flavours of the spices and mutton into the rice, the meat has to be raw.

Whatever recipe you choose, these two methods of cooking give out distinctly different flavours to the rice and I for one believe that the flavour of the rice is highlight of any biryani. Some people are astonished from the combination of cooked rice and raw meat but trust me on this, the meat does get cooked and the rice is not over cooked in the process. If you follow the instructions exactly and not try to add you own little ingredients or variations, then you will be able to make authentic dum biryani.

So what kind of biryanis have you tried and which do you think is the most authentic one?

What’s a biryani anyway?


Biryani

The last weekend I cooked mutton biryani – the much-loved dish on the paternal side of my family. Even though my father and uncles are not foodies, any mutton dish is the one food item that is revered. On special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries etc, a typical family get together would most certainly include Mutton Biryani.

Handed down to my grandmother by a patient of my grandfather, this recipe is a special one. My late grandfather was a police surgeon. My grandparents lived in police quarters and from time to time had to change locations as is common to those in the service. When they had settled in their final place of residence at Byculla, my grandfather was in the higher ranks and usually had a couple of constables at his service. They also had many a servants who lived with them in servants quarters. When I now try to imagine their lifestyle, I find it highly interesting and quite aristocratic. But I digress..

Once it so happened that my grandfather treated a poor patient and didn’t take any fees from him. A few days later, to show appreciation for the kind act, the servant brought home a huge handi full Mutton dum biryani. After tasting it, grandma and grandpa were hooked.

After that day, my grandma nagged grandpa to ask the patient to provide her with the recipe. Every time he conveyed the message, they would receive the biryani in the huge vessel. After repetitive incidences, my grandma finally got hold of him personally and asked him.

Next day, an old woman with a bulky frame, piercing eyes and a paan stained red mouth visited my grandma. In her intimidating presence, grandma felt like a small mouse. In the kitchen she sat down with her pouch of tobacco and paan and told my grandma, “start peeling the garlic..” She was the mother of that patient.

Without going into the details of the recipe, the gist is to par boil rice and keep the mutton raw. Layer these in this manner:  mutton at the bottom of a wide based thick vessel, then raw potatoes, tomatoes, dry fruits, finally the par boiled rice with fried onions at the top. The edges of the vessel had to be sealed with wheat dough before putting on the lid. Additionally, another vessel filled with water was kept on top to avoid any steam from getting out. The biryani was cooked on slow heat for about an hour or so.

My grandma swears that this is the authentic biryani recipe as the woman who taught her was a Muslim and this is how they do it. We accepted it and thought this was the only way to do it.

That is until I got married. As with every other food item, the biryani was also an elaborate affair at my in-laws’ home. The major difference between the recipes being, mutton was thoroughly cooked, potatoes, dryfruits and other garnishing items fried or cooked in some manner. The layering then involved only arranging these materials alternately and steaming them in a tight lid vessel.

Now I don’t remember when this thought formed but I simply believe that if you cook the rice and the meat separately and then assemble them,  the dish is not a biryani but is merely a variation of pulao. I mean what is the point in cooking everything separately and then only assembling them together? To get the flavours of the spices and mutton into the rice, the meat has to be raw.

Whatever recipe you choose, these two methods of cooking give out distinctly different flavours to the rice and I for one believe that the flavour of the rice is highlight of any biryani. Some people are astonished from the combination of cooked rice and raw meat but trust me on this, the meat does get cooked and the rice is not over cooked in the process. If you follow the instructions exactly and not try to add you own little ingredients or variations, then you will be able to make authentic dum biryani.

So what kind of biryanis have you tried and which do you think is the most authentic one?

PS: Read this to know the origin of biryani.

PPS: As you can see, I have not given up blogging 🙂

Spring is here


Spring is finally here – with longer and warmer days, migrating birds and light showers. I finally feel like moving my butt from the couch and stepping out of the house. And it has its rewards too. Like this last weekend when hubby bought me a jacket, more like an overcoat but very chic. I am discovering the joys of window shopping here. 🙂

Also, developing my cooking skills in a different direction now:

Vanilla Cake – It’s so much better with silicone moulds, you don’t need to dust the base with butter and flour!
Vanilla and Chocolate Marble cake - didn't quite get the marble effect though

For the second cake, I messed up a little. Well not really, but the mould was smaller for the amount of cake I made and it burned a little at the top and so this is the upside down version of it. But tasted like heaven. Hah, talk about boasting! Now then, who needs this awesome recipe??

Have been reading quite a lot lately. All sorts of contemporary fiction that’s free on Kindle. So literature has taken a back seat but will soon get back to that as my TBR list is just growing endlessly.

PS: Happy Women’s Day! We all rock! 🙂

From tandoori chicken to size 8


And you thought I would put on weight with all that hogging. Sheesh! How can you think so? I guess it’s in the genes. No, it’s the jeans. Or maybe it’s the way I cook food. Confused yet?

Okay let me begin at the beginning. After another hogging weekend, what with the Chicken Tandoori and mutton and fish, we went out shopping for clothes last evening. I have never had to go on diet so far but just when I was panicking on which size jeans to try on, I was surprisingly delighted! For me it was always a dreadful thing to go on and buy jeans or trousers or whatever type of pants since a particular size never fits me and it’s always between two sizes that I have to choose, one that is a bit loose and other that’s too tight. So you can imagine my pleasure at finding the right jeans in the right colour in the right size and the right height. I was almost squealing in joy when this time the smaller size fit perfectly. 

Flare Jeans

Back to the tandoori chicken, let’s just say that it’s one of those dishes that I miss most so have been cooking it frequently recently and every time we find a wine that goes well with Indian and tandoori dishes. Here’s a pic:

That’s fresh from the grill

I have been having weird dreams lately – of meeting fellow bloggers and discussing with them their posts I like the most and conversing as if we have been old friends. Note that apart from commenting on their blogs and having them respond to my comments, there’s nothing I know of them personally but what makes you bond with them through their posts? Are we so open and forthright with people in our reals lives as we are on blogs?

I am also experiencing this bizarre thing – right before I fall asleep, I have some brilliant ideas about a blog post, or something really funny that I just have to share and then I fall asleep. I will myself to get up and write down that thought but then at that moment I fall asleep and have no recollection of it when I wake up. Have you been experiencing anything like this?

And a big hello to the lurkers! Please please introduce yourselves. I know you are here, some regular lurkers and some new ones. How are you doing this week?

One hell of a weekend


So much has happened over the weekend. The mind is exhausted and me needs some serious sleep though I have slept through the night for 10, no 11 hours straight. Anyway, in my last post, when I was typing away to glory and patting my back in between sentences, I forgot to mention that hubby had informed me that the guest won’t be having dinner on Friday since he would come late at night and would have had food on the way.

Wrong! so so wrong! Late Friday evening, hubby announced that the guest would be having a full meal. The next 10 minutes were spent in arguing of course. Hubby was adamant that he had said so specifically last night and I was sure he hadn’t mentioned it. As I rushed to the kitchen and started banging opening shelves to check if there’s any leftover food that I can cook, hubby sheepishly admitted that he had forgotten this small little detail. Now I know why MIL asks him the same questions 101 times to make sure his answers are the same. Anyway, hubby was pinned down with angry sideways glances the whole time I cooked. Luckily, for me, when the guest arrived, he was quite famished and gulped down whatever I had cooked.

On Saturday, they both went out – boys day out I guess to roam the all of Edinburgh and feel the autumn. Another day for me with Shantanu, laptop and the toys. And it was sunny for most part of the day! Yay! Funny how seeing the sun shine brings a smile on my face. Anyhow, all was well and me had lots of time to cook and clean.

Wonder how you do some things instinctively? Or is it the sixth sense. I prepared some huge quantities of food all that I cooked, most certain that it wont be consumed in one meal.

Sunday started with a very cranky Shantanu. He usually isn’t cranky except when he is hungry or sleepy. That’s it. He had his morning feed quite reluctantly, which is surprising. And then for the next hour he kept crying and crying and crying. He just won’t stop. This was very weird and the last time he did this was when he was four months old and had his vaccination. He didn’t cry much during the later vaccinations. After crying for this long, he got exhausted I think and went to sleep for another couple of hours, which is again weird. Then when he woke up, he refused to have his feed. Very Very weird. And then the fever got him. Before rushing him to the doctor, sometime in between, I prepared breakfast from the left over food last night. Remember, the sixth instinct?

Till the time we made an appointment with the doc, both hubby and I were on the phone, almost all the time. He with the hospital doc and me with the ghar ka doc. Not that I really needed any moral support, it’s just that in situations like these, common sense takes off and you don’t think of simple things. Aunt, grandma and mom suggested a couple of things, and yes, I need to call all three and when they suggested the same things and gave the same advice I decided to follow it.

The doc assured us that it was only viral and we shouldn’t be worried, just had to keep him on paracetamol and let them know if the fever doesn’t subside. He slept till evening and wouldn’t take any feeds. Only at night when he felt a bit better did he have some food. He slept through the night without any temperature and is back to his normal self since morning now.

Did I not ask you god, not to jinx it since I mentioned what a wonderful child he is? Anyway, we shall deal with that later. As Shantanu slept for most of the day yesterday, the drawers in the kitchen stayed shut, the toys weren’t punched, the wires and switches lay still, the papers were not torn to pieces and the house was quiet, very quiet. It was then that the dullness of it all hit us with force.

I keep wishing that Shantanu grows up fast so that all this mess would stop. Not anymore. All this mess is what my life is all about now. And from today morning, the order in the chaos is restored.

The other woman


I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time now and this Ganpati festival gives me the perfect opportunity. Yes dear readers, I am one of those who have to deal with the other woman in their lives. Now before you go berserk, let me tell you that by the other woman, I mean my mother-in-law (MIL). There comes a time when a wife realises that she’s not the only woman in her husband’s life, he also has a mother.

What makes me think of her, you ask. Well just about everything. To start with, hubby has been in love with her since he was born and she is the focal point around which our household revolves. So what’s new? Isn’t that the case with every other family? But she is different.

If you look at her, you might notice only a thin person with a frail body who is perhaps subjected to malnutrition and arduous work. That’s true but with a twist. Her physical persona might give you the impression that she is fragile and weak but on the inside she is just as strong. It amazes me to see the amount of work that she can put into a single day. Not only does she cook a variety of dishes a day (in the morning as well as evening) but she also cooks them to perfection. She is a perfectionist. I have developed a taste to many a dishes all due to her delicious cooking. She has told me many a times that she doesn’t like to cook but that doesn’t stop her from going to the kitchen every morning. I guess I mimic most of her cooking methods and processes.

Now before a certain lady in Mira Road starts raising her eyebrows, let me assure you that you are my hallmark for cooking and almost all other things but my MIL comes so close to it that I cannot help but appreciate. Observing the MIL’s cooking is like watching Sachin Tendulkar bat. It appears to be very easy but when you actually try it yourself, it’s very difficult specially the puranpolis and kanavale. You got to see it to believe it. I haven’t seen her complain about cooking, well maybe just this time. 🙂

She has been a stay at home mom, a home-maker from the time hubby was a small child but her problem solving skills are amazing. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She is shrewd but wise. She has a solution to your every problem. She has a remarkably adroit memory and can so easily remember where things are kept around the house. She is quick as a wink, fast as a hurricane in the kitchen, serene and calm while performing her daily pooja. She may appear to be flustered and excitable when presented with a problem but underneath she is unperturbed. She believes in god with a passion but doesn’t compel others to follow suit. Her infectious laughter and approachable nature make her a very pleasing personality.

So why am I thinking so much about her today? It’s festive time in India and that too Ganpati. Here, so far away from the family I am missing the festive mood. The house looks like a bachelor’s pad – everything scattered. Back home, I know the house would be clean, the plants watered, the gods adorned with flowers and ornaments – all the MIL’s doing. Her idiosyncrasies about cleanliness and the poise that she exhibits during such times has a celestial charm to it.

That is what I am missing.

Mutton, ice cream and the nose :)


The weekend started on a good note. The overcast skies set the mood for the weekend. 🙂 After a nice bright Friday, it had to be murky on Saturday. So instead of going out, we cleared all the household chores. Though I usually cook the meal only once a day that too in the morning and have it in the evening as well. Okay, before you raise your eyebrows, my time is spent entertaining my kiddo. So I was quite relaxed this saturday evening, with the food on the table and anticipating the kiddo to fall asleep early. Hubby had taken him out for a stroll and I was browsing the net to glory. I was in for a surprise shock when he returned at 8 pm with a bag in hand and a broad smile on his face, claiming enthusiastically that he got something for me. My heart skipped a beat when he gave me the vine bottle and it stopped beating completely (for a minute at least) when he handed me the small packet of lamb and asked to cook it right then.

Now those who have cooked lamb know how long it takes to cook it thoroughly. There I was wishing for a quiet evening and looking at the lamb. Obviously I cooked it. Surprisingly it tasted well. It was a mini accomplishment to have cooked it well with no assistance no phone calls to my MIL. It lasted us throughout Sunday and boy were we delighted to have mutton after a month.

Earlier that day, we were having ice cream after lunch. Kiddo, as usual, wanted to taste it. I fed him a spoonful of it, thinking he wouldn’t like the dark bitter chocolate taste of it. It was priceless to watch his face, to watch all those emotions cross across. First irritation at the stuff being too cold, followed by pure delight of the ice cream melting and then the happiness. He wanted more but I gulped it down before he could lay his hands on the bowl.

The weather on Sunday was much better and we decided to venture out bravely. We went to this place called Ocean Terminal which is a huge mall and offers the finest of bars, restaurants and big brand shops. Though it took us an hour to get there by bus, what was more interesting was the journey. The Scottish are friendly. Very friendly towards children and babies. Every time we travel, it is a fun ride in the bus. People stop and smile at the kiddo before taking their seats. Shantanu also has his mute conversations with them during the journey. There is this typical baby language that we all have and it is the same across cultures.

A pair of old ladies embarked upon our bus and were cooing and smiling at the kiddo. When they got down at their stop, Shantanu couldn’t stop waving across to them. They both stopped walking, waved to him until the bus started and then went on.

An old man entered the bus, while returning, he stopped and looked into the pram. Shantanu was fast asleep then. He observed for a minute approximately, then nodded his head and said, “Fast asleep.” I nodded back.

He observed some more, then said, “Got your nose huh!” I nodded back again. He then blessed us and left.

I have got this the-kiddo-looks-like-you comment many times. He does look like me. But there’s always this thing about his nose. He has a pretty nose, I do too. But even the doctor performing the sonography when I was 11 weeks pregnant pointed out the nose then, “Nose haan, long nose!” 

Don’t get me wrong, I love comments about our noses and resemblances, but at 11 weeks???

Did I mention that my relatives called me Indira Gandhi when I was small coz of the nose?