Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Dum" Biryani, With detailed pictures

Last week I was caught up in the frenzy of many things -- The "Seasonal allergy" frenzy(Must have kick started from the day I stood under the Cherry Blossoms tree in Washington D.C), "Work related frenzy(it was a super busy week)", "Blogging Marathon" Frenzy and lastly the "Mega Million" Frenzy. So did you guys buy the lotto? Me and my hubby bought 10 tickets which led me day-dreaming about things that I would and wouldn't do if I won the $640 million lotto. And I definitely thought to myself that I would do my best not to self-destruct or go bankrupt like some of the lucky winners in the past. That bubble burst yesterday night after the lottery drawing time. He He. Its okay, there is always next time.

Before I go to the main topic of this post, I wanted to recap what I posted for BM#14-
It took me a long time to ready this post..longer than it took for me to cook this dish.LoL..Mostly because of the # of pictures. It is indeed a photo-laden post. Why so many? Well, this dish deserves it. And I won't lie to you, this is not an easy breezy dish to make, mainly due to the "long winded" process. From the pictures you will understand why - a lot of industrious effort and considerable amount of love went into making this aromatic, tongue-tickling dish.

This Indian dish,Biryani, of "Persian origin" brought to India by Iranian merchants/travelers,  is a one pot wonder made with rice, vegetables (or) vegetable + meat/pultry/seafood combo, seasoned with a fragrant blend of spices and eaten along with Raita. Dum Biryani, a slow-cooked biryani with layers of rice and seasoned vegetables(+/- meat/chicken/seafood) is made in a pot that is completely sealed with a ring of wheat dough and cooked over indirect heat for about 30 minutes or so to promote even cooking. The flavor infusion is phenomenal when cooked this way and the end result is sure to hit all the right spots. As most of you know, India is a country well known for its spices and there isn't a dish that celebrates the harmonious blend of spices more than Biryani.

For making this Dum Biryani, you will need a good quality, thick bottomed casserole with lid, like my trusty 4-Qt All-Clad Casserole to prevent charring/burning at the bottom. While there are many dishes where charring is plus(Charred tacos, Charred Vagetables..I know there is a huge fan-following for charred dishes..), this dish is not one of them. Every grain of rice and the other ingredients should be moist, juicy, tender, get the idea?? Please do me a favor and eat this Biryani with hands, just the way it was meant to be relished.

Sending this as a last minute entry to Indian Food Palooza. 

Ingredients(Serves 6-8):
  • 3 Cups "Aged" Basmati Rice,cleaned and soaked in cold water 30 minutes prior to cooking( I used the brand "India Gate" 1-yr old aged rice)
  • 8 Chicken Thighs, skinned and cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 Medium Red Onion, peeled and vertically slit
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, cut into big chunks
  • 10 Hot Green Chili, pierced at several places
  • 2 Tbsp Ghee "Clarified Butter"
  • 2 Tbsp Coriander Powder
  • 1/2 Bunch Cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Whole Milk
  • 8 Stalk Mint,leaves picked and chopped
  • Whole Spices: 5 Bay Leaf + 1/2 Stick Cinnamon + 1 Star Anise + 4 Cloves + 3 Cardamoms 
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt, as needed
For the Green "Ground Masala":
  • 1 Small Bunch Cilantro, cleaned
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion
  • 2 Hot Green Chili
For the "Ground Spices":
  • 3 Cloves
  • 1 Cardamom
  • Tiny piece of Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/4 Of Star Anise
For the "Chicken Marinade"
  • 3 Tbsp Thick Yogurt
  • 1/2 Tsp Turmeric Powder
  • A few grinds of Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Lemon 
For "Lining the pan" 
  • Wheat Flour
  • Water to make a dough out of the wheat flour
  • Marinate the cut and cleaned chicken with the ingredients under "Chicken Marinade". Marinate it anywhere from 4 hours to over-night.
  • Finely grind the spices under "Ground Spices" using a mortar and pestle. Note: Grinding the spices intensifies the flavor.
  • Cut, Chop the vegetables for the biryani.
  • Clean and ready the ingredients for the "Green Ground Masala".
  • Grind it to a fine puree with very less water.
  • Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes. 
  • Drain the rice completely. Spritz some oil in a non-stick pan and fry the rice "gently". Soaked rice are prone to breaking.
  • In a deep casserole dish, add about half a gallon of water. Don't worry about exact measurements because the rice is getting cooked for 8-10 minutes and getting drained of that water. Add a few drops of oil and little salt to this water and bring to a roiling boil. Add the fried rice and cook with lid for about 8 minutes. Don't go beyond 10 minutes because we want the rice to be "under-cooked" for the time being.
  • After 8-10 minutes of cooking, drain the rice immediately. Spread it on a wide plate and let it cool.At this point the rice is 60-70% cooked.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil and ghee in a wide non-stick pan. Then add the ground spices, whole spices and the small garlic cloves to the pan.
  • Add the mint leaves, onions to the pan. Brown the onions. Please make sure the onions are well and truly browned.  It is very essential for a good biryani.
  • Once the onions are browned, add the slit green chilies.
  • Follow-up with the tomatoes. Lid the pan and let it cook for about 5 minutes on a medium flame.
  • Add the coriander powder and stir the mixture well.
  • In goes the green ground masala. Sprinkle salt as needed.
  • Add the marinated chicken pieces and stir well to coat it with the mixture in the pan.
  • Add the milk. mix and let the chicken cook for about 15 minutes. Check for taste, add chili powder or salt if needed.
  • Add a portion of the chicken mixture to thick-bottomed pan.
  • Top it with the partially cooked rice.
  • Keep alternating between the rice and chicken mixture. When finishing up, rice should be at the top. Garnish with chopped Cilantro and Mint. There are "two" ways to seal the pan: 1. Coat the rim with little oil, make a dough, roll and line around the rim. Lid the pan and seal it shut. 2. Lid the pan, smear with a little oil and seal it by lining the dough from outside. I went with #1.
  • After the pan is sealed shut, add weight on top. Dum Technique:  Cook at low flame in indirect heat. I placed a cast-iron griddle/tava, then place the pan atop the tava. Add weights to the top(Optional). I placed my heavy mortar and pestle on the top. Cook at low flame for 25-30 minutes.
  • Optional but highly desired: While the biryani is cooking on Dum, fry some thinly slit brown onions.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Ragi Dosa With Spicy Onion Chutney

BM#14: Day7: "Last but not the least" post for this month's BM run dears.. So enjoy! It is Friday night and it is movie night. Hubby has gone to read bedtime stories for my little son and put him to bed. So I am quickly typing away for this post so I can go pick a movie to watch.
Ragi Dosa is a simple one to make. And it tastes a little better than mud. One might wonder how I can be so sure..Well, when I was young, I have eaten mud(I was partial to Red soil and Clay soil), brick and then some. It continued till I was in sixth grade. And I was doing it without the knowledge of my parents. 
So I know.  To offset the taste of Ragi, one needs a super spicy chutney. And this is where the "Spicy Onion Chutney" comes to play. 

For the Dosa Batter:
  • 3 Cup Finger Millet/Ragi Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Shelled Whole Black Gram/Urad Dhal, soaked in water for 3-4 hours
  • 2-3 Cups Water for grinding + mixing
  • A pinch of Baking Soda
  • Salt as needed
  • Add the Ragi flour to the wide bowl. Grind the black gram to a fine paste with little water.It gets ground pretty quick and doesn't need much water. Pour it into the bowl.  Make a batter that is neither thick nor runny.Add a pinch of soda(in winter) and little salt. Stir and let it ferment overnight.
  • The fermented batter swells a little bit and has an aroma.  
  • Take a portion and add water. The batter should be runny but thicker than buttermilk. 
  • Grease a tava lightly with oil. Pour a ladle of batter and spread it in a circular motion as you would for the pancake. Spray oil around the edges and over the batter. Cook for a minute on medium flame and flip. 
  • Fold and serve with spicy onion chutney and cooling yogurt.
  • The ratio for Ragi Flour to Black Gram is 4:1. Don't go overboard with the gram, because it makes the batter stick in the tava/griddle.
  • While the batter doesn't have to double in volume like a normal dosa batter post fermentation, it is better to wait until it is properly fermented(with it telltale odor). Else the batter will stick to the tava/griddle.

Fiery Onion Chutney: 
  • 2 Medium Yellow Onion, Finely chopped
  • 1 Stalk Curry Leaf
  • 6-8 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp Mustard seeds
  • Water as needed
  • Salt as needed

For the Masala:
  • 7 Dry Red Chili
  • 6-7 Small Garlic Cloves (Refer the picture. If using big cloves, use 3)
  • 1 Very Ripe Medium Tomato
  • 1 Stalk Curry Leaf
  • 2 Grated Coconut Balls/ 4 Tbsp Grated Coconut
  • 1/2" Ginger
  • 1-1/2 Tsp Coriander Seeds
  • 1" Tamarind, seed removed
  • Add all the ingredients under the Masala section into a blender.
  • Grind it to a gritty mixture(90% ground).
  • In a pan, heat the oil and add mustard seeds. When they start sputtering, add the chopped onions and curry leaves. Saute till browned.
  • Add the ground masala paste to the pan and stir well.
  • Add the water and salt as needed. Lid the pan and let it cook on a low-medium flame. Stir periodically.
  • About 15-20 minutes later, the mixture starts coming together and a thin coat of oil separates from the  mixture. 
  • The chutney is ready. Serve with warm Ragi Dosa.

Other Ragi Specialities from my kitchen: Ragi Hoppers:
Savory Ragi Noodles:


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mom's Adai (With Avial) "Rice N Lentil Dosa"

BM#14: Day6: This is a yet another favorite recipe of my childhood days. Mom used to make a large batch and keep the thick batter in the fridge for up-to a week so she could make it as often as me and my sister wanted it. This tastes best with Avial (Parboiled Vegetables in spiced Yogurt Gravy).  As with all the dosa making process, you will need a heavy-duty blender or an Indian Wet Grinder. The batter doesn't need resting time. The minute it is out of the grinder, it is good to go. After getting seasoned of-course!

Mom has sojourned to India. Just a week before she left I went to see her, begged her to make this for me just like old times. She was in the midst of finishing up some errands and getting ready for her trip but she made time to make this for me. The pictures are coming straight from her kitchen to you. Love you, Mom. You always put others needs and wants before yours. You are indeed a very special woman with a generous spirit. 

Ingredients(Makes a large batch, for ~60 crepes):
For Grinding:
  • 3 Cups Idli Rice, soaked overnight or at-least for 6 hours
  • 1 Cup Long Grain Rice (like Jasmine Rice) , soaked overnight or at-least for 6 hours
  • 1 Cup Tuvar Dhal + Split Chickpeas(Bengal gram) + Split and hulled Black Gram (Urad dhal) + Split and hulled Green Gram (Moong Dhal) , soaked overnight or at-least for 6 hours
  • 1 Tsp Fenugreek seeds, soaked along with the lentils and rice
  • 4 or 5 Dry Red Chilies, broken
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, peeled and grated
  • 1" Ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/3 Cup Grated Coconut
  • 1/4 Tsp Turmeric Powder
Additions to the Batter:
  • 1/4 Cup Packed Chopped Cilantro
  • 1 Stalk Curry Leaves, roughly chopped
Seasonings for the Batter:
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 Tsp Split Black Gram
  • A pinch of Asafoetida
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • Soak the lentils and rice together for at-least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Drain the rice-lentil mixture. Add it to the wet grinder. Add the broken Red Chhilies, Turmeric powder
  • And the grated Garlic, Ginger, Coconut.Sprinkle about a Tsp of Salt. Add water periodically,as needed.
  • When the mixture is 90% ground then it is ready. The batter should not be smooth like a paste. Add the chopped Cilantro and Curry Leaves.
  • In a pan, add the 2 Tbsp Oil and add the mustard seeds and split black gram. When the mustard seeds sputter and the gram is browned, add the chopped onions. Brown it as well. Cool it a bit and add to the batter.
  • Stir the batter to incorporate. Check for salt and add more if needed.
  • Grease a tava/griddle lightly and pour a ladle-ful of batter in the middle. Spread it. Spray oil around the edges and over the dosa. Cook for about 1-1/2 minutes on one side on a medium flame. Flip and cook the other side. If the batter is too thick and difficult to spread, add a little water.
  • Move it to a plate. Repeat.  The leftover batter can be stored up-to a week.
  • Serve "warm/hot" Adai with Avial. Yes, Adai tastes best when hot off the pan. 

Version2 of Adai: MIL Style - MIL mentioned that the very same batter used for making this ball pancakes/paniyaaram can be used for making Adai. Click here for recipe.
My Other Childhood Tiffin Favorites:
String Hoppers:

Rice Hoppers With Coconut Milk and Tomato Chutney: