Tag Archives: BurpAndBelch

Biryani – man’s best recipe yet!

Recipe elevated to befit kings
Recipe raised to befit kings

Biryani – a name that conjures up a picture perhaps more luscious than any other stereotype possible. Stay with me on this word – BIRYANI – and you can almost smell the multi-hued, aromatic rice, feel the soft and tender meat, and see a subtle riot of historical gastronomy on the plate. See what biryani does to you!

Biryani is a global connector
Biryani is a global connector

I think biryani is a global cultural connector. You get biryani’s everywhere. You do not go wrong with a biryani party. Everybody has an idea of what a biryani should taste like. Much before the Ray Krocs of the world took over with breads and processed chicken, the world was already annexed by this simple rice and meat dish.

Chef Ankur Chakraborty
Chef Ankur Chakraborty

Talking about biryani is like discussing history and current affairs in one go. So I decided to take the help of my chef-friend and culinary consultant to a huge local group Ankur Chakraborty. We met to discuss this over books and hand-written notes. We decided to keep away from the real thing lest we go astray.

Historically speaking, this dish travelled from Iran to the sub-continent, picking up many things on the way and adding to its list of fabled taste. There is a lot to thank the Mughals for, including biryani. Associating biryanis to royal kitchens happened later. Biryani started as a poor man’s dish – think of it – it was an all-in-one pot dish; replete with the right amounts of carbs and proteins. It rose to the ranks of culinary royalty when premium ingredients started being used namely spices like saffron, cardamom and the best cuts of meat. Quality of rice makes a huge difference. Often garnishes consisting of gold or silver leafing added to the stature of this dish. And so biryanis became synonymous for royal dining and feasting, so much so that it tastes ‘different’ if served lackadaisically. Like wine, a biryani needs to be presented in the cradle of opulent tableware; nothing else would do.

Then there is the debate between a biryani and a pulao. Are they the same? Or do they battle for a higher rank depending on geographical region? Ankur explains the 2 as what pulao is to sedan, biryani is to sports car. To translate that, remember what we were taught in school – a rectangle is a square but a square is not a rectangle? OK, wiping the grin off, I would say what makes a biryani is the quintessential layering of rice and meats. The first and last layer in the pot needs to be rice.

India, alone, boasts of the largest kinds of biryani that can be found on earth. This is by no means the complete biryani works. Just scratching the bottom of the earthen pot.  Ok, so, let’s wag off the ones that we know:

The Hyderabadi biryani, believed by purists to be the only biryani by culinary DNA, is pretty high on aromatics.

The Awadhi (or the Lucknowi) biryani is richer because of saffron, dry fruits and meat caramelisation. This biryani is ‘assembled’ – the rice and meat is cooked separately and then layered together for a ‘dum’ (steam-cooking).

The Nawabs of Lucknow took shelter in Bengal when displaced and that gave birth to the Calcutta biryani. At first fans will swear by a butter-soft potato and a whole boiled egg that is there in the biryani, the other difference being in the rice used, called Sella.

Then there are biryanis that are very native to cultures, communities and agricultural practices. The Thalessari Kerala biryani made of Khaima rice that is grown in the region.

The Tamil Muslims of Vellore cook up the Vaniyambari biryani that is ‘meatier’ than the usual ratio of meat in a biryani.

The Sindhi biryani is usually higher on the tangy side as they use more tomatoes.

Their community neighbours, the Memoni biryani goes easy on the tomatoes and food colour.

The Kannada Muslims swear by the Beary biryani, that is lighter but the process of cooking is similar to the Lucknowi biryani.

Then you have a Bohri biryani, Kashmiri’s have their version called the Yakhni biryani, the tribal North East parts of India has their version of biryani using mustard leaves and ‘bur’ or rice wine.

Internationally, am sure, you would have tasted or seen the ‘rice and meat’ dish albeit with different names like ‘Kabsa’ or ‘Mandi’ in the Middle East, The ‘Dan Pauk’ from Burma, the ‘Khao Mak’ from Thailand and ‘Zereshk Pulao’ from Iran. It would be ticklish to know that the Mediterranean dish ‘Paella’ also finds place in the biryani clan.

So, to close, biryani is not just a simple rice and meat dish. It is much more than that. The key to it all is the savour the flavour.

I am listing out a few good places for biryani. Feel free to add on your choices in the comments section. Here are my top 5 casual dining restaurants for biryani in Dubai:

  1. Gazebo – multiple locations, multiple biryani options. They do not usually go wrong with their biryanis.
  2. Appa Kadai – I love their Chettinad and Hyderabadi versions.
  3. Pak Liyari (Naif, Deira) – for what it was worth braving the traffic and finding a table to eat, the tasty biryani soothed all troubles away
  4. Student Biryani – tasty but very oily
  5. Biryani Pot at Dubai Mall – hate biryanis served in food courts. This one stood out!

 

This is Ankur’s top 5 fine-dine biryani destinations in Dubai:

  1. Rang Mahal by Atul Kochar – for Hyderabadi Gosht ki Biryani
  2. Ashiana by Vineet Bhatia (Sheraton Creek Deira) – Kolambi Bhat: it’s a seafood and scallops with coconut rice preparation in a biryani style
  3. Ushna’s Abu Dhabi (Qaryat Al Beri) – Jumbo prawn biryani
  4. Qureshi’s at Country Club Dubai – dum gosht biryani!
  5. Indigo (Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi) – tandoori prawns biryani
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Yum In The Tum Mushroom Sauce

Soul gravy. Enough said.
The gravy of anything keeps the soul of the dish. This dictum passed

Sai Talwalkar - chef-at-home
Sai Talwalkar – chef-at-home

the litmus, when our happy as a canary, crazy-cook friend Sai called me and wifey over for dinner. While all else on the dining table were flavourful, but my memory is fresh with the mushroom sauce that dripped my grilled chicken.

This is Sai’s Mushroom Gravy Recipe.
1. Mushrooms – white button mushrooms will do. The Italian brown ones taste better. Use both for a richer taste. 10-12 will be enough for 2 people.
2. Shallots – 3 tablespoons
3. Garlic – 2-3 cloves
3. All purpose flour –  2 teaspoons
4. Stock (veg or chicken) – 1 cup
5. Worcestershire sauce – 1/2 teaspoon
6. Seasoning – salt and pepper
7. Cream – 2 tablespoons
8. Mixed dry herbs
Slice up the mushrooms. Finely chop shallots.
Heat a healthy glug of olive oil and spoon in 1 teaspoon of butter. Add the shallots, saute till pink, add the garlic, add the mushrooms. Sai takes a bigg-ish pan to do this. Mushrooms will not brown well if crowded. Saute till cooked; meaning you get to eat a sliver from the pan! Season them with salt and pepper.
Now add the flour, basically to thicken the sauce. One needs to be careful here, as you do not want the sauce to be floury (does that term exist or we just made that up).  Let it coat the mushrooms well.
Mushroom GravyNow add the stock, it should be a little more than the final measure of sauce you need. Let it simmer till you reach the correct consistency then add the Worcestershire sauce and the herbs.
Add the cream. Switch off gas. Check seasoning. Keep warm or eat immediately.
Goes very well with steak / grilled chicken or salmon.
Truth be told, gravy is the soul of any dish. Try it.
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published on Masala Online on 25 Feb 2015: http://www.masala.com/recipe-of-the-week-mushroom-gravy-190082.html

Grilled Chicken with Rosemary and Zaatar

Dinner under 15 minutes
Dinner under 15 minutes

Quick and easy dinner that got ready under 15 minutes and impressed the better half on V-Day eve too!

For you to score under 15 minutes or exact, get the marination ready. For 2 chicken breasts, you will need:

  • 3-4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons of Lebanese zaa’tar
  • 1 shot of orange juice (add this discreetly, as if it were a secret ingredient that others aren’t supposed to know)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning

Cut the breasts in half; so you will have 4 pieces in total. Coat the chicken pieces  with the dry rub. Place them in a container. Add the shot of orange juice and let it soak in for 4 hours.

For the salad, take fresh greens and tear them up roughly by hand. Add a small part of chopped walnuts. For the dressing, use balsamic with olive oil. Pour the dressing and toss the salad well. IMG-20150214-WA003

Heat your griddle pan, throw in a couple of glugs of olive oil and grill in your marinated chicken pieces. Once done, let them rest for a couple of minutes.

Plate in the greens, slide up the chicken pieces beside them.

Bon apetit!

Bengali Warewolf in Dubai

I am a bit of an honorary Bengali. Don’t feel much Bengali, save 5 days out of 365; and that is during Durga Puja! And I am just about feeling the first winds of change in me. Like a handsome man turns into a werewolf – the ears elongate, the sinews stand out, canines turn to fangs, hair grows all around – I was feeling a similar change reside in me.

I have been excited about the sweets my wife got me from Delhi! I am listening to the audio CD of Sukumar Ray‘s ‘Abol Tabol‘ – Bengali limericks he wrote for ‘Sondesh’. Remember a few, still! Yes, I don’t believe myself, right now!!

Despite the disguise, I secretly feel very proud when people say that Bengalis can hold on to a tune and that they know their music. I was proudly nodding my head as one of my non-Bong students was appreciating Bengali hospitality and also reminiscing the lusciousness of her first ‘rosho-golla’. It was happening to me for sure.

And tonight we went to a brand new Bengali (not Bangladeshi) restaurant in Sharjah. Wifey found about Calcutta Fast Food near Al Tawuun Mall. Not the best creative name one would expect from a Bong, but then the real test is only in the taste. I called the restaurant and was greeted by the most warm and elderly voice of a typical Bengali ‘Bhadralok‘ who gave me directions like my garrulous uncle would have. I was grinning as I indulged him!

courtesy Calcutta Fast Food
courtesy Calcutta Fast Food

When there, that slice of a restaurant appealed to me. I really must be ill! What riveted my attention was a wall of classy black and white photographs. Uttam-Suchitra from ‘Shoptopodi’ bang in the centre! There – can you hear Hemanta Mukherjee faintly? “Ayi poth jodi na shesh hoye, tobey kemon hoto, tumi bolo toi?” Tumiyi bolo!

Howrah Bridge, Vidyasagar SetuVictoria Memorial, dhoti-clad babu hanging from a tram like an orang-utan in a zoo and oh! They have egg role! You can’t beat the taste of that one. I ordered one and it didn’t disappoint me a bit. Mmmm! Perfect!

What followed next was a tastefully made Chicken Chaap in a thick, consistent gravy with a distinct aroma of saffron. A healthy piece of chicken breast was well wrapped in the saffron gravy. Gastro-erotica!!! Crispy porotha on the side. Meshomoshai (the Bong Uncle I spoke to) suggested we try that! It was fab! My wife was in raptures, going back to her ‘Bedouin days’ in Calcutta!

I loved watching the father-son duo running the joint. Son took the delivery orders. Dad handled the restaurant floor orders. They opened the restaurant end August. He is the only son. Was in banking earlier. Dad keeps visiting them from Kolkata. Gathering so much information was just not my style. What was wrong with me?

I was surrounding myself with everything Bengali. Oh! And the crispy, crumbly fish fry was ‘darun’. I suggest that the Bengali expression ‘darun’ be included into the English lexicon. And I could arrange a ‘michhil’ to prove my point as well!

I was worried with my new self. I looked at my wife, for she has answers when I don’t. I asked her as to what was wrong with me?

She took a bite of her fish fry and nonchalantly said,”With Pujo ’round the corner, you are just PMS-ing.”