Biryani, but really, raita

I made biryani for my friend Annette this past weekend. I think even the Royal Indian Mounted Police would have approved (grudgingly)—it was his recipe anyway—I did make some minor adjustments but don’t mention that to him. But my raita is what really made the meal.

We barely had room for the chocolate cake. The favorite dessert of the Maharani of Jaipur.

Chicken and paneer biryani

I am not an Indian cook. I like Indian food a lot but when it comes to making it I am at a loss. And Indian cook book recipes are strangely complicated and obscure. Filled with unusual directions like “remove to a plate” and “put the pot at gas mark 4” and while I can pretty much understand where they are headed with this stuff, it is nonetheless complicating a relatively easy process.

Biryani has 3 procedures that result in 3 layers in a pot that then cook. These are supposedly the colors of the Indian flag but you never actually see this since in the end it is all mushed up together before you serve it. the first layer is vegetables, the second is rice, the third is meat (if you’re eating meat) and/or paneer.

The ingredient list is gigantical but the process, once you understand it is pretty straightforward. And when finally after you have everything ready, it is layered and set on the stove (I don’t know what gas mark) for an hour and then it is done.

It was really good. And no this is not on my Month of Pain diet. But I only ate a little.

Indian meal, part 2

Biryani is the specialty of Ashish’s hometown, Hyderabad. I have made it many times and I really love it. But Ashish, while he eats it, and says that it’s good, has a way of letting me know it’s not at all the way an Indian would make it. Nonetheless, I try. This time I think it was right at least it seemed right and without him here to sneer at it, I’m going with perfect. This was vegetable and paneer biryani. Potatoes, paneer, carrots, onions, tomatoes and peas were marinated in a spice mix with yogurt. That vegetable mix then goes into an oiled pot (that has a tight lid – I have the feeling that in India tight lids do not exist since most recipes suggest many various forms of making sure the lid is secure, including using towels and aluminum foil.) and then on top of the vegetables, a mixture of rice with caramelized onions and spices is layered with raisins, almonds and cashews. This cooks on medium low for an hour. When it is done you mix it all up and serve it with raita. 

My niece who just came back from a semester in India said it was the best raita she’d ever had.

Indian meal, part 1

For my sister Mary Kay’s 60th birthday she asked me to make an Indian meal for her. I don’t know if I realized what that might mean or how it would call come about but I said sure. As it happened her birthday was on last Sunday and she/we invited her family and our mom, siblings, their kids, and my aunt and uncle, my uncle is her godfather (not that this makes any difference, we’d have invited any aunts or uncles if they were alive), to our cottages.

I planned on making biryani, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, a citrus and watermelon salad (salads in general are not Indian), raita and grilled vegetables. I also made a pink lemonade cake (really not Indian) since they are delicious and I have a boatload of pink lemonade powder. And I really cannot get behind any Indian desserts. Ugh. 

Making food in my cottage is hard since I do not have much in the way of counter space. OK, like 2 square feet. And the stove is an apartment sized stove. I don’t use it much since it makes the place hot. It’s a small, old cottage and grilling works well anyway. 

What I did though, was A LOT of prep. I had all my spice mixes ready, measured, and labeled in jars. All my produce and rice measured out. I took the extra bowls (totally not enough), zesters, graters, juicers, and had recipes queued up on my iPad as well as print outs of the recipes in case I couldn’t connect to the internet. Here are my spice mixes, there are 2 for each dish. One for the marinade and another for the sauce, essentially. It was nightmare.

Indian spices

My niece, Bridget, brought me a lifetime’s worth of spices from India when she returned from her semester abroad. Cardamom pods (green), cumin, turmeric, coriander and cayenne. I am a little daunted by Indian food since I have the highly critical Ashish watching my every move when I make it. I make an awesome biryani that I love but he finds inauthentic. His comments are usually something along the lines of “it’s good, but it’s not Indian.”