Prawn pulav

Prawn biryani

Sunday morning, I was deveining prawns in my kitchen. It seemed to take forever. I wondered how many hours in life a person would spend deveining prawns. They must have statistics for that surely, like they have for how many hours in life we spend at traffic signals, how many pads a woman goes through in a lifetime, how many hours people spend on whatsapp debates… Somebody somewhere must have thought of quantifying the time spent on deveining prawns. I made a mental note to google it later when my hands were not yucky. The deveined pile was still small. I felt I was going too slow. I needed to set myself a goal. I decided I’d have to finish deveining the prawns before I picked up Yuvan from his class. I was quite pleased that I finished in half an hour. I was late to his class by 10 minutes though. I reckoned he would have enjoyed the extra time to run around with his buddy. His bud had left and he wasn’t pleased. It also meant I was late to pick up Hasini too. I braced myself for her grumbling. She didn’t notice me. She painted away and let me wait 10 minutes before she packed up. What do you know? It happens all the time when I want to fix a bug or send a particularly verbose mail before I go to the restroom. When I finally finish, the restroom is busy. The reason people spend all that time deveining prawns is because it adds an unbeatable flavour to any dish. I made prawn biryani. Let me tell you this. This Prawn biryani is just about perfect – just spicy enough from the green chillies, fragrant from the whole spices and kissed by the delicate coconut milk goodness. Everyone who ate it loved it. That includes Yuvan, Hasini and my dad. That’s one hard bunch to please. I served it with raita, boiled eggs and tawa fried fish fillets. Let me know if you make this prawn biryani. Print Recipe Prawn biryani Perfectly flavoured Prawn biryani made in a pressure cooker! Course main Cuisine Indian Prep Time 40 minutes Cook Time 20 minutes Servings 5-6 people Ingredients 1/2 kilo Prawn/Shrimp, shelled and deveined400 gm Basmati rice, soaked in water for 20 minutes2 Onions, sliced thin2 Tomatoes, chopped10 Green chillies, sliced lengthwise2 inch ginger8-10 cloves garlic1 tsp Fennel...
Methi biryani

Methi Biryani

Every restaurant, juice shop, or roadside frankie stall I go to, there’s already a couple of Swiggy and Zomato guys ahead of me. I see them at every traffic light. On the road, there’s always one of them behind me who is trying to overtake me from the wrong side. When I step out on the balcony I see one of them zip past my house. What are the odds? But the one I am waiting for always goes to my neighbour’s house instead. I then provide all my id proof details to persuade him that I am the rightful owner of that biryani. We’re not cooking as a people, I conclude. What’s happening?! I find that disturbing. This is one of those small, innocuous little changes that just happen and seem perfectly reasonable but are actually harbingers of a much bigger shift. It can’t seem right that we’re cooking less and less at home. We may well forget how to cook. There’s nothing more tragic. Cooking is a life skill. Jagan believes checking the car’s coolant, changing a punctured tyre and cleaning the AC filter are important life skills too. We agree to disagree. Cooking is zen. Cooking is power. Cooking is freedom.   I know I can make biryani if I was tempted by all the Bhai biryani but I had no muslim friends to give me Biryani. I know I can make Thai green curry if I really wanted it. I need not eat Pongal if everyone else in the family loves it but I hate it. I can make myself a sandwich instead. Note that this is not applicable if you’re in a joint family. You’re screwed. I am eating healthier. I am eating fresher. I am also avoiding all that plastic packaging that comes with home-delivered food. Cooking is work. It has taught me patience and compassion. I am more understanding now when my mother’s vadai is not as fluffy one day, when the hotel’s tiffen sambar is less stunning today than last time, when my own biryani is ear-shattering hot this time. There’s nothing more fulfilling, more soul-satisfying than a sitting down to a favourite home-cooked meal. Yes, it’s a little work but so worth it. I know what you’re thinking in your minds. “Then why do you order on Swiggy and Zomato?” I try my best not to. Sometimes I need to. And...
Double beans biryani

Double beans biryani

Here’s a rambling update of things here in Chennai. It’s the season when the morning is hot and usual but a sudden burst of afternoon rain springs a cheery surprise on us. The dusty leaves on the trees get a nice washing and look greener. The tar roads look glossy. Kids return from school, their shoes wet and muddy. Suddenly autos go into hiding. Ola rides get pricier. There’s no time for tea and bajji. Mid-terms are around the corner. Dosai it is. Yuvan’s been missing his tamil text book for more than 2 months now. We didn’t miss it. I calculate to the end of the school year. I wonder if I can continue without it for the remaining time. I decide to decide later. People assembled before the TV last Friday awaiting big news, live TV drama and maybe a holiday or two. Nothing happened. They continued to check over the weekend hoping to ride over the Monday with that single piece of news. It wasn’t to be. They got back to work and looked up the next public holiday. That was Aug 15th, Wednesday two weeks away. Dejected, people strayed to facebook and whatsapp and wasted more time. The Neelam mangoes have arrived on store shelves ushering in the last of the mango season. I hoard like a mad woman and my kattai pai (dowel bag) breaks at the checkout counter and my mangoes tumble out. I take it as a sign that I’ve crossed my limit. I continue to come up with shortcut recipes out of sheer laziness and waking up late. One such recipe is this double beans biryani recipe. This is a no-chop biryani. You won’t be doing any chopping whatsoever. Raita doesn’t count of course. The onions, garlic and ginger are being ground into a punchy fragrant masala. There are no veggies or meat either to chop since this is a double beans biryani. This is truly a lazy person’s biryani. My style. But hey, this biryani can give any veggie biryani a run for its money. This biryani is deliciously fragrant and unbelievably yummy. The double beans are a great substitute for meat or potatoes. I am really happy to share with you one more Somberi recipe. I hope it helps you maintain your somber lifestyle. Serve with raita and chips for a complete meal. Enjoy! Print Recipe Double beans biryani This...
Hyderbadi biryani

Hyderabadi Biryani

Yesterday I took the lift in my office. I thought “I’ve exercised today, I deserve a reward”. Today I took the lift. I thought “I didn’t exercise today. A break day has to be a total break.” I am not sure if secretly, deep inside I want to be fat. On the surface I don’t want to be. I also know that I should not say no to Biryani and Lasagna and molaga bajji. Saying no to biryani because I want to fit into an old pair of jeans seems quite shallow. After about two weeks of sincere exercise and painful diet control, I see that I weigh the same. Instead of breaking the weighing scale, I rebel. I don’t exercise for 3 days after that. I add a heaped spoon of sugar to my coffee instead of sugar-free. I make deep fried sweet corn cutlets. I make a rich, decadent, ghee laden Hyderabad biryani. I eat it for lunch and dinner. There, take that. I usually shy away from making the Hyderabadi style biryani because it is too much work. It involves lots of different components and takes the whole morning. But this time, I compressed and downsized the process to my lazy comfort level. There are just 3 components to my version – Marinated & cooked chicken, partially cooked rice with whole spices and fried onions. Just layer these three components and you’re done. Critical to a good hyderabadi biryani is the point to which you cook the rice initially. I would recommend not cooking the rice for more than 4-5 minutes. The partially cooked rice should be firm, not soft. Also important is the amount of liquid in the chicken masala before you do the layering. The chicken masala should be thickish, not runny. If your masala is runny, cook down the masala till it is nice and thick. This Hyderabadi biryani pairs beautifully with a simple raita and boiled eggs. Make a salan if you wish. But this Hyderabadi biryani is magnificent on its own. Rice in lovely ombre shades of yellow and orange dotted with succulent flavour packed chicken make this biryani a great dish to make for parties. This is the kind of biryani that stays in the mind long after you’ve scraped the last ladle from the handi. You can adapt this recipe to make a vegetable hyderabadi biryani or mutton hyderabadi biryani...

Biryani Collection

I am surprised I haven’t posted a biryani compilation before. I really am. Not that I have tried all of the biryanis out there. I still have a long biryani bucket list that I am yet to explore. But it is just one of those things you thought you would have done and long back. It is like realizing that I don’t have a little black dress (called LBD, I learnt when I read the magazine at the parlour). But I don’t. It is like when someone asked me incredulously “You haven’t watched Sound of music?”  I haven’t. But I’ve watched “Thillana Mohanambal”. Have you? So it is with biryani. After all it is how we identify ourselves – biryani lovers. I haven’t met a biryani I didn’t want to try. Jagan will compulsorily order biryani everywhere he goes. At Hard Rock Cafe he’d leaf through the menu a few extra times as if looking for something. We may miss a relative’s wedding but never a Muslim friend’s. My kids took to biryani long before they tried rice. Like adventure seekers, storm chasers, I, a true biryani lover have set myself the lofty goal of eating through and cooking up all the different biryanis in the world. Should I go crowd fund myself? If you have a spectacular biryani recipe, will you please share it with me? Here are mine: Thalapakatti biryani: It tastes much like Thalapakatti’s signature biryani – spicy, heady, aromatic, ghee laden seeraga samba rice biryani. No tomatoes in this biryani. The magic is in the ground spice paste. Ambur Biryani: Reminiscent of the fiery hot Ambur biryani, this one will blow your pants off. Flavour bursting, heady and super hot. Chettinad style Chicken Biryani: Freshly roasted and ground whole spices lend this biryani a wonderful punch. Biryani cooked in coconut milk – My mother’s version, this is a delightfully mellow biryani. Simple home-style biryani – My mamiyaar’s version, this one is loaded with ginger and whole spices but isn’t too hot. Super quick and easy. Keep watching this space for more lip-smacking biryani recipes.

Thalapakatti style biryani

You know you’ve reached the steady state when you make an online money transfer to your husband for his birthday present and he in turn checks out your Amazon cart for your birthday present. Win-win. No more guessing if the shirt will fit, no more aspirational “for your good, for us” gifts he never unwraps, no surprise awkward spa experience that makes him blush. Who would think of getting a Quad copter drone for a 33 year old’s birthday present? I wouldn’t. He wanted just that. We are now seasoned enough to appreciate that we don’t know each other’s areas of interest, that it is not necessary or easy to know and it is best to ask. I was the surprise junkie, going for the surprise factor, for difference, extrapolating from my head to his. Not anymore. Now, we discuss, I put forth my ideas, he rejects them all, I agree to buy what he decides, find that it doesn’t fit in my mental make-up (flying toy for $50!) and agree to transfer money instead to avoid the hassle. Cool! I still bake his birthday cake and I decide what to make. I cannot be making a sponge cake or chocolate cake. I have a blog to write for. I cannot be making reruns. I have my bucket list of cakes I want to make in life. Sorry! But there is one thing that we both agree on, one thing we both love, that we’re both passionate about – biryani. I had to make one of his favourite biryanis for his birthday. After all it is his birthday. So Thalapakatti style biryani it was. It tastes much like Thalapakatti’s signature biryani – spicy, heady, aromatic, ghee laden seeraga samba rice biryani. No tomatoes in this biryani. The magic is in the ground spice paste. I went with 12 green chillies. It is hot but we like it that way. Feel free to reduce it to your taste. I marinated the chicken the previous night and ground up the masala too the previous night. I was making it on a weekday morning before school. I needed to pre-make as much as I could. That is all there is to it actually. This Thalapakatti style biryani is among the easiest I have made in recent times and I am going to be making it many more times. One more biryani crossed out...

Potato Biryani and Vegetable Kofta – Kid’s Lunch Series

This month’s lunch box series is really close to my heart. I love packing lunches and I take it very seriously. Whenever I pack Jagan’s lunch I make sure to not repeat, to not pack wet food (that sounds like dog food but I actually meant – sambar rice, kuzhambu rice and the likes), to not include exotic non-veg food (to not hurt the noses and sensibilities of his vegetarian friends), to include a dessert or a drink and to pack them tightly. There was still the one time when his Lassi spilled all over his lunch bag and he reeked of yogurt. But mostly I am careful. With so many donts to packed lunches, it is a daunting task planning lunch every day. And to think that come June (Hasini would start carrying lunch to school), I’d have to get everything cooked, packed and ready to go by 7:00 am (that’s when I wake up, nowadays it is even worse), I’d have to be super-efficient and extraordinarily prepared. If I do manage it pull it off, it will be a new chapter in my life – The chapter where I finally wake up early, where I am on time for things. My kids enjoy biryanis and potatoes. They’re children of this “mass biryani everywhere for everything” generation. They’re disappointed if a banquet doesn’t include biryani. At weddings, birthdays, Hasini asks the waiter why biryani is not there. I made a potato biryani a couple of weeks back but used Seeraga Samba rice for a change instead of the regular Basmati rice. Seeraga Samba is short grained, thin and aromatic and is used in the popular Thalappakattu Biryanis. I made vegetable koftas to go with the potato biryani. Vegetable koftas are not the kind of things you’d want to do on a weekday morning. Just prepare ahead. I like to boil, mash vegetables, season them, shape into balls and roll them in bread crumbs and then refrigerate them the night before. Meaning I just don’t fry them but ready them to that stage. The next morning I just shallow fry them and they’re done. I tried to get creative, sticking in a couple of cloves for eyes and making ketchup smiles for the kofta balls to make them look like little chickens sitting on a bed of coriander leaves. They found it  amusing. I will stop when Hasini or Yuvi...

Ambur Biryani

On your way to Bangalore (from Chennai), there’s one stop you need to make and that is in Ambur. Make sure you’re there in Ambur by lunch time or dinner time because Ambur Biryani is world famous. It’s one biryani that should feature on every biryani lover’s bucket list. Ambur biryani is fiery hot, headily aromatic and absolutely lip-smacking. It is usually made with Seeraga Samba rice (but I’ve used Basmati Rice in the recipe). Whenever we’re returning to Chennai, we stop at Ambur for dinner and buy parcels for those at home. The biryani is so intoxicatingly fragrant, Mahindra Scorpio suddenly feels like a huge biryani Deksa. The secret to the Ambur biryani is the whole dry red chillies that are soaked in hot water and ground to a paste before being added to the biryani. No chilli powder in this biryani. The biryani gets its heat from this chilli paste. Freshly ground cinnamon powder is the other magic ingredient. Together the chilli paste and cinnamon powder fashion a masterful biryani. I marinated the chicken in the masala before cooking it and the chicken turned out unbelievably soft, juicy and most importantly was as wonderfully flavoured as the biryani. Usually the meat in biryanis is a stranger to the biryani it sits in, it doesn’t soak up the masala and it usually tastes bland. But not this one. So people, please marinate the meat. Always do. Follow these steps and you have my word, you will have wonderful Ambur Biryani in your own house. Your house will smell heavenly, i.e. like a Biryani kadai type of heaven, be prepared for it. Here’s a handy list of other biryani recipes:Chettinad Chicken BiryaniHome-style Chicken BiryaniChicken biryani cooked in coconut milk Prep time: 30 minsCooking time: 30 minsServes: 5-6   Ingredients Chicken – 750 gmBasmati Rice – 4 cups rinsed and soaked for a minimum of 1 hourOnions – 3 large chopped fineTomatoes – 3 large chopped fineGreen chillies – 2 kept whole Yogurt – 100 gmCloves – 4Cinnamon stick – 2 inch pieceMarathi Moggu – 2Bay Leaf – 2Mace – 2 piecesCinnamon sticks – 2 powdered (makes about 1 heaped tbsp.)Turmeric powder – 1 tspCoriander leaves – 1/2 cup choppedWater as necessarySalt to tasteGhee – 4 tbspOil – 4 tbsp Masala paste Ginger – 5 tbsp choppedGarlic – 1 entire head peeledWhole Dry Red chillies – 15-18 (I used the long...

Paneer Biryani – Family approved One-pot Meal

Paneer Biryani it was for last weekend’s lunch and it was a great full family-approved dish. There are very few dishes that my entire family unanimously likes and this is one of those few along with idli, idiyappam and chicken anything. This biryani is everything a good biryani should be – fragrant, flavour packed, nice, long and fluffy rice with tender vegetables and paneer. You can cook for vegetarians. You can cook for non-vegetarians too. But cooking for a combination of vegetarians and non-vegetarians is a pain. Our already chock full fridge is even more stuffed now with a vegetarian version of everything. My Maamiyaar has turned vegetarian recently for the 3rd time in 1 year and our fridge is bearing the brunt of the change. Everybody thankfully likes paneer and Paneer is vegetarian though not vegan. So I made this Paneer biryani for Saturday lunch and it went down really well with the entire family. Even the kids liked it. Serve this alongside cucumber or onion raita and a crispy vegetable for a complete meal. I wanted the fragrance of the wedding biryanis, so I tried adding a dash of biryani essence this time. The biryani was aromatic but I don’t know how much the essence added on top of the already fragrant whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon, Kalpaasi). This Paneer biryani is an easy one-pot meal that is ready from cutting board to dining table in about 40 minutes if you exclude the soaking time of the rice and is fitting enough for a dinner party with friends. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 6 Ingredients Basmati Rice/Long grain rice – 3 cups soaked in water for 1 hourPaneer – 200 gm cut into cubesCauliflower – 1 cup cut into small floretsCarrot – 2 chopped fineGreen beans – 1/2 cup chopped fineOnions – 2 large chopped fineTomatoes – 2 large chopped fineFresh Yogurt – ½ cupRed chilli powder – 2 tbspTurmeric powder – ½ tspSalt to tasteKalpaasi/seaweed – ½ tspCinnamon – 1 inch stickCloves – 3Cardamom – 1Bay leaf – 1Biryani Essence – 1 tsp (optional)Oil – 3 tbspGhee – 2 tbsp Masala Paste Ingredients Ginger – 2 inch piece peeled and chopped roughlyGarlic – 7 cloves peeledGreen chillies – 2Cardamom – 1Cinnamon – 1 inch pieceFennel seeds/Sombu/Saunf – 1/2 tsp Method 1.     Rinse rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak in water for...

Chettinad style Chicken Biryani

This chettinad style chicken biryani comes close to the Thalapakatti style biryani in terms of flavour and taste. The freshly roasted and ground masala powder adds wonderful aroma and beautiful flavour to the biryani. The core of this biryani is this masala powder. It is a heady masala combination which just cannot fail – hot, aromatic and lip-smacking. Red chillies, whole black peppercorns, fennel, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon – you could try using this masala powder for your chicken gravies and kormas and I’ll tell you it is absolutely fantastic. Serve this biryani with chilled raita and boiled eggs for a perfect weekend meal. My husband a very picky eater gave the thumbs up to this biryani and my dad, a very conservative eater (he hates experimentation) finished off the biryani in no time, which all means it really is good. I was worried I had made too much biryani and that I’d have to do the refrigerate-reheat-refrigerate routine the next day but guess what, there was no biryani left over. If every family had to have a family dish (like a family song), biryani would be our family dish. Dosai would also be a strong competitor though. Biryani defines our family – grandiose, masala rich and extra large. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 30 minsServes: 6-7 Ingredients Chicken – 1 kiloBasmati rice – 3 – 1/2 cupsCurd/Yogurt – 1 cupOnions – 2 large chopped fineTomatoes -2 large chopped fineGreen chillies – 2 slit lengthwiseRed chilli powder – 1 tbspTurmeric powder – 1 tspFennel seeds/Saunf/Sombu – 1 tbspSeaweed/Kalpaasi – 1/2 tspMarathi moggu – 1Cinnamon – 2 inch pieceCloves – 3Ghee – 3 tbspOil – 4 tbspSalt to taste Dry masala powder Whole dry red chillies (long variety) – 5Whole black pepper corns – 1-1/2 tspFennel seeds/Saunf/Sombu – 1 tspCoriander seeds/Dhania – 2 tspCumin – 1/2 tspGreen Cardamom – 2Cloves -2Cinnamon – 1 inch piece Paste Ginger – 4 inch piece peeledGarlic – 10 clovesCoriander leaves – a handful Marinade Ginger-garlic-coriander paste – 1 tbsp (from above)Curd – 2 tbspTurmeric powder – 1/2 tspRed chilli powder – 1 heaped tbsp.Salt to taste Method 1.      Wash and clean the chicken and cut into fairly large pieces. Marinate the chicken pieces with the ingredients called for under marinade for 20 minutes or more. 2.      Rinse Basmati rice/long grain rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak basmati rice in...