So it has come to pass that I have gotten over my silly paranoia …. Which of the many you may ask….. since I have gotten over it…as a testimony to it, I shall not talk about it and thankfully still not blog about it………..
Christmas…the last hangover of which I remedied a couple of days ago by finally removing the tree and ornaments … was a bittersweet day…..K took ill so suddenly that he actually nursed some haldi-pepper and milk concoction as a pre dinner drink!! We cancelled our dinner party for 30 and I resolved to make the most of what was left…..namely having chosen not to go to Bangalore to be with my mom and brother and co. and many other commotions that were threatening to take over my head…..we didn’t have any lunch because of a breakfast we’d consumed at lunch time instead….i was worried about K and on the verge of increasing my misery when I decided I would plunge into making dinner for all it was worth…after all, it was Christmas…….
I didn’t want to do anything too elaborate or my poor nerves would give way………(constantly chiding me like somehow it was my fault that K was sick and we were having a miserable festival day) … yet I couldn’t get myself to make the ever popular pulao and riata….cooking always is good for me….so I cheered up and got ambitious somewhere in between…I was already feeling a little better…. I decided to try my luck with making hyderabadi dum biryani……biryani, I have never made….somehow it stuck in my head as too complicated….something similar to the thoughts I’d had of baking a few months ago….anyways, what had I to lose… everything so far had not gone as planned, so I decided I would just trash the biryani and order food if my attempt failed…at this point, at least my mind was made up…..
My brother, who gave me the recipe (he follows the recipe of Mehboob Alam Khan, a celebrated cook of hyderabadi cuisine, connoisseur of food and local celebrity…rated by Upper Crust magazine as the best Moghlai cook of all time…..) is a fabulous biryani maker…. His pet hobby of pottering in the kitchen has ensured he does the totally wowing show off cooking like biryani, roasts and barbecues with the flourish of a chef….. Even making an omelet is like painting a canvas for him…..of course always for an audience….. sibling rivalry apart, he has surprised even the most critical enjoyers of biryani….but he also is a carnivore and can’t fathom how or why I turned vegetarian…. He was most disgusted that I wanted to make vegetable biryani “what a waste” and said “I’ll give you the recipe for the mutton biryani, you do what you want and I have no idea what it’s going to taste like”
Follow the recipe I did…..and let me tell you my pulse raced on as I waited for the damn thing to get done….. B and J, my friends were coming for dinner….I had forgotten to call them and cancel and by the evening, I decided I would feel better with some company….K too who was feeling so guilty for falling sick tried to wash up and receive friends……
The biryani turned out fabulously…it looked, smelled and tasted divine…(my brother scoffed)…..usually vegetable biryanis have less flavor than the meat ones…it was tasty, juicy and fabulously flavourful…..i loved it and so did my friends….for a first attempt, it was super!! Even if I say so myself!! So this one is a keeper…and my skeptical brother to was surprised more than he wanted to admit too because I gave him full credit for this one…..
Hyderabadi vegetable dum biryani (serves 6)
4-5 cups of mixed vegetables, diced into fairly large pieces (2 medium potatoes, 12-14 florets cauliflower, 3 medium carrots, 15 french beans, ½ cup shelled fresh peas etc)
4 onions, sliced fine and deep fried to golden brown, reserve 1/3 for garnish, mix the rest with the veggies. Reserve the oil
2 T ginger garlic paste
1 T chilli powder (less if you want it milder)
1 t turmeric
2-3 T lime juice
½ cup curds
2 tsp salt or to taste
Whole garam masala –
1 inch sticks of cinnamon – 2
Green cardamom – 2
Cloves – 2
Marinate the washed and cut vegetables with all of the above ingredients and set aside for atleast 20 mins
3 cups basmati rice, washed
½ cup milk
Saffron strands or orange food colour (if using saffron, soak the strands in 3 T of warm milk)
2 stick of cinnamon, 2-3 green cardamom, 2-3 cloves, 2 bay leaves
2-3 T ghee or oil
2 t lime juice
1 cup wheat flour and water made into a dough to seal the edges
In a wide mouthed vessel bring about 3 litres of water to a rolling boil. Add the whole garam masala, salt and ½ T oil to the water. Add the washed rice and cook for about 6-7 minutes or till ¾ done. Strain the rice (reserve about 1 cup of the water) and spread on a large plate for a few minutes.
Take a thick bottomed vessel large enough to accommodate the rice and vegetables. Add about 1T of ghee and spread at the bottom and sides. Spread one layer of marinated vegetables, rice and repeat. The amount of ingredients in this recipe will make 4 layers, two each of vegetables and rice. make a mixture of lime juice, ghee/ oil and the rice water. Make holes vertically through the layers (with a knife or the back of a long spoon) and pour this mixture evenly covering the whole vessel. Pour the milk through the holes. Finally add the saffron / food colour through the holes. Spread the reserved golden fried onions on top.
Roll the dough on a flat surface into a really thick rope to go over the diameter of the mouth of the vessel. Fix it on the vessel. Press a lid firmly onto it to seal. Place a heavy weight on the lid (I used a stone mortar). Alternatively seal the mouth of the vessel with aluminium foil and place the lid on the foil. Place a weight on this.
Place a heavy bottomed tava on a flame and the vessel on this. Cook on high heat for 10 minutes and about 25-30 mins on low flame for the veggies to cook through.
Cut through vertically to serve out onto a serving plate so that you get all the layers. Serve hot with riata and mirchi ka saalan or baghare baingan.
Note: The rice is already ¾ cooked and the steam from this and the liquids added should be sufficient for the vegetables to cook. If too much liquid is added, the rice will become a soggy mass.
Adding mint and coriander leaves to the marinating veggies and garnishing the rice with it changes the flavor completely and have been omitted. Use about 2T of each mint and coriander leaves if you would like.
Mirchi ka Saalan
Masala: grind all of the ingredients below to a smooth paste adding the minimum required water
4 medium onions, peeled, cubed and fried in 1T oil till pink
1T whole coriander seeds
3T sesame seeds
1 ½ t poppy seeds
¼ cup groundnuts
1 t red chilli powder
1T ginger garlic paste
¼ t fenugreek seeds
½ t turmeric powder
12-15 saalan chillies / bajjichillies
75 grams tamarind pulp
1 t kalonji seeds
3 T oil
Sprig of curry leaves (optional)
Wash and pat dry the chillies. Do not take off the stalks. Heat the oil and fry the chillies over a slow flame till blisters develop on the skin. Be careful while doing this because the chillies will explode if fried on full heat. Take them out and set aside.
In the remaining oil, heat through and add the kalonji seeds. After it splutters, add the ground masala and cook on low heat stirring periodically till the oil separates. Add the tamarind pulp, salt to taste and simmer for a few minutes till incorporated. If using curry leaves, add now. Check the seasoning and adjust, add a little water depending on the consistency of the gravy desired (it should not be watery) add the fried chillies and simmer a further 6-8 minutes till done.
Serve hot with pulao or biryani.
Note: 8-10 baby brinjals, slit crossward but still on the stalk or 8-10 small desi tomatoes can be substituted instead of the chillies to make baghare baingan or tamatar ka saalan.