Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Ruminations

Not really ruminations but isn't that a wistful title? I knew that would get your attention and I was right eh? :-) My Hcousin sent me this catchy picture of eggs they decorated in the most innovative way. Loved it and had to put it up. Hope she will not be unhappy that I have it here. She used natural leaves and natural food colors like turmeric following some suggestions from the net. She is a very creative kid. Now, how did we celebrate Easter? Like all good christians we invited some friends over, cooked a nice spread that included ribs, appam, stew, biriyani, raita and semiya payasam in that order. What? Did we go to church? Oh yes. We somehow managed to find some time to fit that in even though we were very busy with all these other activities, you know:-) At least this time we managed! This most important part gets pushed back a lot of the times if we are inviting people over since it is precious cooking time...  No food pictures could be taken as we barely managed to finish things before the guests arrived. End Result : Happy guests and happy hosts.

Work is getting busier and busier as usual with projects mingled with some heavy politics and I was really happy to take this time out to relax. 'Cos if Relax won't come to me I go to Relax:-) Ok I could be a little too relaxed because kids are off all this week and so there is no last minute race against time to cover the measly 5 minutes between home and school. 

In case you haven't noticed, the biriyani recipe link in the first paragraph is not from cheenachatti. It is from a blog that I admire much. Malabar Spices was closed for a while and I was happy to find it open again. Every single recipe I have tried from there has come out well. The flavors are always great and so was this malabar chicken biriyani . Thanks malluspice! I am reproducing it here with slight changes so I won't lose it again. Hope malluspice will approve.

In The Mix
chicken - 5 lbs (I got drumsticks, thighs and breast packages to make up the chicken since we love more meat in the biriyani)

onion – 6 medium sized
tomato - 3 medium sized 

fennel seeds - 2 tsp
poppy seeds  - 2 tsp
grated coconut - 1 tsp
cashew nuts - 4 to 5
small hot green chilies – 25 diced once
ginger - 4 inch piece peeled and diced
garlic pods – 15 large cloves peeled and diced
pepper Powder – 2 tsp
turmeric Powder - 1 tsp

plain yogurt- 1 cup
lemon juice-  juice of 1 lemon (not lime)
salt - as needed

mint leaves - 1 cup chopped
cilantro leaves - 1 cup chopped
curry leaves- a handful

garam masala- 5 heaped tsp. I add a lot of this as we like how it adds richness to the meat 

clarified butter (ghee) -  1/2 cup 
coconut oil - 1/2 cup
cashew nuts – as needed
raisins-  as needed

for the rice:
basmati rice - 4 1/2 cups
cinnamon - 1 stick of 3 inch
cloves  - 4 
cardamom  - 4 
bay leaf - 1
lemon juice- juice of 1/2 lemon
coconut oil - 1 1/2 tbsp
salt to taste

garam masala:
I didn't have the recipe ingredients. So I turned to my trusty garam masala mix as always.
Take equal parts of cardamom powder, cloves powder and cinnamon powders and mix together. Add 1/4 tsp of nutmeg powder if you have it. My HMom sends these in freshly powdered packs and I appreciate the taste it adds to all my curries.

How To Do

Clean the chicken and cut into medium sized pieces. Wash and drain well. 

Soak the fennel seeds and poppy seeds in a bowl with water for an hour at least. 

Dice the tomatoes and slice the onions. One onion should be sliced extra fine. This one is for the garnish.

Add grated coconut and cashew nuts to the soaked seeds and grind it with an immersion blender for a few minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and green chilies to this and grind all to a very coarse paste.
Marinate the chicken with the ground mixture, pepper powder, turmeric, yogurt, lemon juice and salt.

If you have to marinate overnight, omit the salt, lemon juice and yogurt and add that 1 hour before cooking. This is a very important tip from malluspice. Seems to keep chicken tender and in the right texture when heated up.

Heat 1/2 the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the garnish portion of the sliced onions and fry, till they turn golden brown and crisp. Add a sprinkling of sugar to speed up the process. This should take about 10 minutes on medium low heat. This was the least fun part I think. Remove the onions and stir fry the cashew nuts on medium heat till it turns brown on all sides. Drain and remove. Add the raisins now and stir till they plump up. Remove all  garnish onto paper towels and set aside.

Heat up the remaining  ghee and half the oil and saute the rest of the sliced onions till it becomes translucent. Add the diced tomatoes and saute till tomato almost blends in. Add the rest of the marinade and the biryani masala and the coriander, mint and curry leaves and mix thoroughly.

Take a flat bottomed pan and heat the remaining oil. Add just the marinated chicken, and gently fry it on all sides for 3-4 minutes on high heat.  Lift out of the oil and add this to the sautéed mix and combine well. Cook uncovered on medium high heat for 6-8 minutes.  Then keep it covered and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Add water only if there is no liquid for the chicken to cook.  Check frequently to prevent burning and wait till the oil starts to separate. There should be some gravy left and the chicken should be almost cooked, not-coming-apart cooked. Check taste and add more salt or lime, pepper etc as needed.

 Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. 

 Clean and soak rice for 10 minutes. Keep aside. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp of oil and add the whole spices- cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves. Sauté for a second and add the drained rice. Stir fry the rice till it turns opaque and add 6 cups water. When the water-rice mix comes to a boil, cover and cook on slow heat till all the water is absorbed. This would take about 6-8 minutes. Add salt to taste and mix gently. 

In an oven proof dish, spread half of the chicken masala and place half of rice over it. Sprinkle some lemon juice to prevent the rice from sticking. Spread the remaining masala and top it with rice followed by lemon juice. 

Close it with a layer of aluminum foil , crimp it along the sides and put it in the oven for 20 -25 minutes. Cooking time can be less than this if chicken or rice got cooked more than intended. Remove and let rest for another 5-10 minutes before opening. 

Since kids don't like the onion,nuts, raisin garnish I add/sprinkle them while serving.

Serve with Raita and Papadam. I thought I had posted a raita recipe earlier but I cannot find it. Will be posting one soon. H makes a mean one and everyone loves it. The biriyani came out so well that I couldn't stop eating it!