Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori is a meat dish cooked in a large clay pot called the tandoor. The tandoor is heated by charcoal fire giving it a distinctive smokey flavor. When I was visiting Bangalore my first stop at the Mantri Mall would be at the Tandoori Chicken stall at the food court. The chicken was soft and succulent and was spiced perfectly right.
My earliest memories of eating tandoori as a child are at Alpha Cafe located in Andheri West(Mumbai). I also loved the corn soup they served there. Later I was introduced to the yummy chicken delicacies when we moved to Bhopal. The chicken tikka's sold by a hawker near my home would just melt in the mouth. Then I graduated to the Pune's Blue Nile biryani's and the George's chicken dishes. Lately, my fondest memories of street food are from my my vacation when I went out with my mom or my sister on pretense of a evening walk or getting groceries to eat gobi manchurian, chicken kabab's, tikka's lolipops, chaats, bhel and the latest fad- momos.
Earlier this month we were barbecuing with friends and I had taken marinated tandoori chicken. But I forgot to take the photos. Last week I made tandoori again while having lunch with my friend E and here is my recipe.

Ingredients
1 pound chicken pieces (preferably leg pieces skinned and trimmed of all the fat)
2 tablespoon tandoori masala (available at any Indian store)
2 tablespoon thick curd
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon red food color (optional)
1 teaspoon red chili powder
salt for taste

Method

Wash and clean the chicken well and pat it dry. Make small slits with a knife for the marinate to penetrate well inside the chicken. Mix the rest of the ingredients and apply well to the chicken and inside the slits. Marinate for 8-10 hours. Grill the chicken on a charcoal grill or in the oven till well done on all sides. Serve with raita, onion rings and lemon.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Baigan ka Achar / Brinjal Pickle / Pickled Eggplant


Last few days have been busy with things flying out of the blue at me. Things have left me exhausted and me being a kind of a perfectionist makes life harder for me :) When I was in India I saved all the photos of all the delicacies and my travels in the computer at my home. And I forgot to copy my photo folder from my computer back at my home in India to my laptop while I was returning back to US. Being quite a big folder, the transfer failed quite a few times and I am planning other ways to transfer it. That's another thing on my mind. On my vacation I joined a month of yoga and meditation class. It has made me realize the importance of living in the present and not worrying excessively about things which have not been done or which cannot be done. Yoga has been a wonderful addition to my daily schedule and helps me relax through things which life throws at me. As my friend E says "Start with the baby steps first and things will be fine".

Well, coming back to this interesting pickle made with eggplant. I had two eggplants on hand which I bought from the farmer's market last week. I had made eggplant fritters and sabzi last week so instead of repeating the same sabzi's I thought about this pickle. I got to taste this pickle at a friend's home in India and was instantly hooked to it. It tastes good even if chili powder is not added and it is an excellent choice for kids who do not like spicy pickles. It is also a healthier version as it does not use much salt like the other pickles. I usually eyeball the ingredients so the ingredients listed are not in exact proportion. They can be adjusted as per ones individual taste. A great option to spread on bread instead of jam! Instead of eggplant, combination of cauliflower, carrot, zucchini, turnips (shalgum), green chilies, carrot can be used individually or in a combination. I am not sure how pickling raw banana will taste..but its a sure thing to try! Apricots and prunes can be used to made chunda or murabba kind of spicy bread/roti spread.

Ingredients

2 medium sized eggplant
1 1/2 tablespoon crushed yellow mustard seeds (this can be obtained at any Indian store or black mustard seeds can be coarsely powdered)
1 1/2 tablespoon kalonji or onion seeds
1/4 teaspoon methi or fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon saunf or fennel seeds
2 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoon salt or as per taste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
2 teaspoon red chili powder roasted for 1-2 minutes (use more if you want it spicy)
15 tablespoon oil (preferably mustard oil)

Method

Wash the eggplant and pat it dry completely. Cut the eggplant into 1 inch cubes. Put oil in a pan and add turmeric powder. Add the eggplant pieces and cook on high flames stirring constantly and gently. Cook for around 8 -10 minutes. Mix in salt, sugar, tamarind paste and vinegar. Keep aside. Roast the fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds and mustard seeds for 4-5 minutes or till crisp. Pound it very coarsely using a spice grinder mortar and pestle. If using a electric grinder give a pulse for 2-3 seconds. We don't want to powder it but to just bruise the spices so that they will immediately infuse the flavor when added to the oil. Add the spices to the pickle and mix well. Keep the pickle in the sun for 2-3 days and later store it in the refrigerator. This pickle keeps good for around 10-15.



Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kachi Hyderabadi Chicken / Mutton Biryani

I am back from a long long blogging break and a great vacation. With all the unpacking and cleaning to do after returning back from my vacation I was a little tired and a little lazy to start blogging again. Last week I had lunch with my friend E and I had made Hyderabad chicken biryani and tandoori. She insisted that I start blogging again with these recipes to start with. Thanks E for the encouragement! This recipe also goes to the event Iftar Moments Hijri 1431 hosted by Umm and Joys from Fasting to Feasting  by Lubna.

When I was in India I was visiting my dear friend R in Bangalore his wife M made Hyderabad mutton biryani for lunch. I was awed to see her cook the biryani so delicately from start to finish. She used the dum method of cooking where the layered biryani is put in a pot whose lid is sealed with wheat flour dough to avoid the steam from escaping the vessel. She then keeps the pot on the tava or cast iron griddle and cooks on very low flame for 1 1/2 hours. This method retains most of the flavor and juices of the meat and makes it very tender. We have coil instead of gas in US so another option would be cook the biryani in a pressure cooker (with the weight/whistle on) on 2 or 3 range out of 9 (highest) range. I have tried this and it works great.

There is a lot of difference between the Hyderabadi biryani and the Lucknow biryani style of cooking. The Lucknow style advises that the meat and rice be half cooked before the layering process. My mom cooks the Lucknow version and formerly I also followed the same method. The Hyderabadi style of cooking leaves the meat more juicy and softer than the Lucknow style. It also reduces the cooking time I love that too :). Hyderabadi biryani is called kuchi (raw) biryani and Lucknow biryani is called pukki (cooked biryani). The spices used also vary a bit. Tamarind is used instead of tomato to impart sourness. Ground raw papaya can also added while marination to make the meat softer.

Biryani is a layered dish and fried onions, rice and marinated meat are used to create layers for the biryani. Traditionally ghee is added to make the biryani and oil while marinating the meat but I use as less oil as possible to make the biryani. Also check my Vegetable Biryani Recipe.


Marination:
2 pound chicken or mutton cut into pieces (If you have frozen meat then de-freeze it before marinating)
2 tablespoon of ginger-garlic paste
1 medium onion chopped finely
1 teaspoon salt
2-4 slit green chillies
1 teaspoon red chili powder or as per taste
2 tablespoon paste of green papaya (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoon garam masala powder or as per taste (check recipe here)
1 handful of chopped fresh mint leaves (approx 1 cup) I also use 1 cup of dried mint leaves if I don't have fresh ones on hand
1 handful/cup chopped cilantro or coriander leaves
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup milk cream (If you increase the richness of the biryani; I usually avoid it :))
1/2 teaspoon concentrated tamarind paste or as per taste
1 1/2 teaspoon salt or as per taste

Wash the chicken well and make slits if the pieces are large. Mix the rest of the ingredients for the marinate. Add the chicken pieces and coat the chicken well with the marinate. Keep it aside for 2 hours or leave it overnight in the refrigerator.

For the Onions:

Slice 4-6 red onions finely and fry them in 2 tablespoon oil till they are caramelized or light brown in color.


For the Rice:

2 cups basmati rice (washed well an hour before using it)
3 cardamoms
1 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
2 star anise
2-3 pieces of mace
1 teaspoon jeera or cumin
2 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Boil the water in a large pan with all the ingredients except rice and lemon juice/vinegar. When the water comes to a boil, add the rice and the lemon juice/vinegar. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then stir it well. Drain the water in a colander.



Method
to layer the biryani:
Wheat dough prepared from 1 1/2 cup wheat flour
marinated meat
prepared rice
fried onions
1 cup milk (i use fat free milk)
6-8 strands of saffron
2-3 chopped green chillies (optional/as per taste)
3 tablespoon oil (optional)
fried cashew nuts and raisins (optional)
chopped coriander leaves for garnishing
2 tablespoon lemon juice

1) Warm the milk and add the saffron strands. Keep aside for 15 minutes. Line the pressure cooker or the vessel with a thin layer of oil.
2) Add 8-10 strands of fried onions at the bottom. Usually rice is added first but I find that the onions impart more flavor if added first.
3) Add half of the rice.
4) Add the marinated meat. If you are creating more number of layers add the larger meat pieces at the bottom layer.
5) Add half of the fried onions.
6) Add the rest of the rice.
7) Add the other half of the fried onions and green chillies.
8) Pour milk, oil and lemon juice evenly over the top layer.

Seal the vessel or pressure cooker or the vessel with wheat dough. If a stainless steel or aluminum vessel is being used then keep it over a tava or cast iron griddle. If the biryani is made in a pressure cooker, put the weight (or the whistle as it is called in India ) on the cooker. Cook on a very low flame for 1 hour to 90 minutes or till the meat is well cooked. Garnish with coriander leaves, cashew nuts and raisins. Serve with curd raita.

Garam Masala Powder

I usually make my own garam masala powder. I eyeball the ingredients most of the times and don't use standard weights to weigh the ingredients. Here is my recipe to the garam masala powder.

Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 teaspoon black pepper seeds
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon flennel seeds (badishep/sauf)
good sized pinch of mace powder or a small piece of mace approximate to a pinch (Javatri)
good sized pinch of nutmeg powder or grated nutmeg
good sized pinch of sahi jeera
1 1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 inch stick of cinnamon or 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
2 (2-inch approx) bay leaf


Method
Roast the above ingredients on low flame and grind into a fine powder.