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 find it tiresome.
I am linking it to Srivalli’s “Lunch-series” event that I am hosting this month. If you have lunch ideas, please link them on this page or send the recipe to my e-mail (email@example.com). You could win a pretty Tupperware lunch box.
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
Ingredients – Potato Biryani
Seeraga Samba rice or Basmati Rice – 2 cups rinsed and soaked in water for 30 mins
Potatoes – 2 large, peeled and cubed
Onions – 2 medium chopped fine
Tomatoes – 2 medium chopped fine
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Red chilli powder – 1-2 tsp (adjust)
Salt to taste
Oil – 3 tbsp
Ghee – 3 tbsp
Bay Leaf – 1
Cinnamon stick – 1 inch piece
Marathi Moggu – 1
Cloves -2 pieces
Coriander leaves – a handful for garnishing
Ground Masala Paste
Cashews – 5 pieces
Poppy seeds – 1 tsp
Milk – 2 tbsp
Green chillies – 4-5
Ginger – 1 inch piece
Garlic – 5 cloves
Fennel seeds/Sombu/Saunf – 1 tsp
1. Rinse Seeraga Samba rice or basmati rice well and soak in water for 30 mins
2. To a pressure cooker, add ghee and oil together and heat. When hot, drop in the whole spices – bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves and Marathi moggu. Fry for about 1 minute or till they turn fragrant and swell up.
3. Then throw in the chopped onions and sauté till they turn translucent. Then add the tomatoes and sauté till they turn soft. Add the cubed potatoes and the ground masala paste and fry for a couple of minutes scraping the bottom if the masala sticks. Add a splash of water if necessary.
4. Add in the spice powders – turmeric, red chilli powder and salt and mix well.
5. Add the soaked rice reserving the soaking liquid. Mix gently the rice and the potato masala. Pour in the soaking liquid and extra water if necessary to make about 1 inch above the rice. Taste the liquid and adjust seasoning.
6. Close the pressure cooker and cook on high till steam escapes. Then plug in the weight and reduce heat to low. Cook for 12-15 minutes. Then switch off and let the pressure subside. Open and fluff up the rice with a fork. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve hot.
Prep time: 25 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins
Makes: 12 kofta balls
Mixed vegetables – 3 cups roughly chopped (potatoes, carrots,beans,cauliflower,cabbage)
Ginger-Garlic paste – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Garam Masala powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Bread crumbs – 1-1/2 cups
Oil for shallow frying
1. Pressure cook the roughly chopped vegetable with just enough water till they’re tender.
2. Reserve the cooked vegetable stock for soups and isolate the cooked vegetables.
3. Mash the vegetables well. Add in the ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, garam masala and salt and mix well. If the vegetable mixture is a little runny, add in some bread crumbs to stiffen the mixture. You should be able to shape the mixture into balls.
4. Shape the mixture into balls and roll the balls in bread crumbs. Set aside.
5. Heat a pan with oil for shallow frying. When the oil is hot, gently drop in the koftas and cook on medium low till the koftas are golden brown all over. Turn them around so that they cook evenly all over. Remove on to absorbent paper.
6. Serve hot.