Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Chicken Biryani - A Novel Feast

Every Indian Non-Vegetarian loves a good Chicken Biryani. If there's one that doesn't like it, then I'd say he hasn't tasted real Biryani yet. Chicken Biryani, a delightful dish with rice simmered in a spicy chicken gravy, is everybody's favourite dish. You can call it a spicy Indian casserole. Just like there are a zillion recipes for meatballs, there are a zillion recipes to make Biryani too. Because of its heat and spiciness, it is a wonderful winter food. I am participating in Meenakshi's 'From my Rasoi' carnival and I couldnt think of a better winter food than Chicken Biryani.

When I think of Biryani, the aroma and taste of the Muslim Biryani made by our friendly neighbors who share it with us during the Ramzaan, comes to my mind. Nothing, no great chef's biryani can beat that taste. You got to eat it to believe it. On the big day of Ramzaan, My siblings and me will be eagerly waiting for Asha-amma to bring the Biryani for us. Too bad, Ramzaan comes once a year! Someday I'll sit down next to Asha-amma and write down her original recipe.

Till then, there are other recipes. Well, I never follow a recipe to the core. I can't. I live by the principle - 'A good cook is one who adds her/his signature touch to any dish that she/he makes'. That's what happened to Biryani too. It was a mix and match of many different biryani recipes. And it came out real good! Boy, I was pleased and so was DH. The main thing about a biryani is to marinate the meat overnight, in the refrigerator, along with a few spices. This helps to tenderize the meat and allow the flavors to get absorbed in the meat.

Thick Yogurt - 2 cups (Made of whole milk) - standard cupsize - 8 oz
Chilli powder - 1 heaping tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp Pepper - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
Chicken - 3 pounds (Cut into big pieces and pierce with a fork or knife to allow the marinade to steep in)

Beat the 2 cups of yogurt using an egg beater (wire whisk), add the other ingredients (except chicken) and beat well till well mixed. Add the chicken now and stir carefully using a wooden spatula. Make sure all the chicken pieces are well coated in the marinade. Cover this with a saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Making of the Biryani:

Onions - 3 sliced lengthwise
Tomatoes - 4-5 (chopped finely)
Mint/Pudina leaves - a bunch - use only the leaves
Ginger-Garlic Paste - 4-5 Tbsp
Cardamom - 4 (Crush using a pestle and mortar into a coarse powder)
Cinnamon - 4
Clove - 4
Bay leaves - 4
Peppercorns - 1/4 tsp
Fennel seeds - 1/4 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tbsp & 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp (heaped teaspoonful)
Basmati Rice - 3 mugs (washed) I use a coffee mug - about 11 oz
Oil - 1/4 cup
Ghee/clarified butter - 1/4 cup
A few strands of saffron soaked in 1/4 cup of warm milk and kept aside
Whole Biryani masala - a fistful (This comprised of Star anise/annasi poo/badalphool - 2, Lichen/kalpaasi/dagadphool - about 2 tbsp, marattimokku/dried immature capers - 2, Dried Rose petals - 2 tbsp. It also had bay leaves, but I removed those that came in this masala since the bayleaves were broken. see note *)

1.. Mix the oil and ghee together and heat it in a thick bottomed pan. When the oil and ghee warms up, it gives a very nice aroma. Now, is the time to add the fennel seeds, 2 cinnamon, 2 cloves, half of the crushed cardamom, whole biryani masala, peppercorns and half of bayleaves. In low heat, saute well till they are roasted. Add the onions and saute them till they are slightly brown. Add the ginger garlic paste and saute till the raw smell disappears. (I prefer to roast the garlic and ginger in a little oil in a small cast iron pan before grinding it. Note: You can also add a paste of green chillies ground with a bit of salt, if you like it very spicy.) Add the tomatoes and saute them as well. Now add the mint leaves and saute them till they are well done. Add the 1 tbsp garam masala powder, turmeric powder and the chilli powder and allow them to get slightly roasted in the oil before the chicken pieces are added. Now, add the chicken pieces along with the yogurt marinade and stir slightly. Add a cup of water and cover this sauce pan and continue till the chicken is half cooked. Remember, all this is done at a very low heat to bring out the best flavor in the biryani. If you think the half-cooked chicken curry has a lot of gravy, don't be surprised. You'll see it's use in step 3.

2. As soon as you cover the chicken curry to let it half-cook, in step 1, you have to start preparing the rice. In the rice cooker, measure in 4 cups of water, add the rice, the remaining cloves and cinnamon, pour in the saffron milk mixture, 1 tsp salt, 2 bay leaves, 1/4 tsp garam masala powder and stir using a wooden spoon. Switch on the rice cooker. This will automatically come to warm mode, once the water is absorbed and the rice is half cooked. By this time, the chicken would be half-cooked on the stove top.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease the baking dish or line it with foil and then grease it using ghee. Spread a layer of half-cooked rice and then spread a layer of half-cooked chicken from the curry. Repeat these layers till the rice and chicken are completely used in the layers. Now pour the gravy over these layers. It should look well drenched. Cover with another aluminium foil and make sure the ends are tightly sealed. This can be done by pressing your finger against the rim of the baking dish.

4. Bake at 400 F for 30 mins. Switch the oven off and leave it in the oven for another 20 mins. It's crucial not to open the oven door once the baking time of 30 mins is over.

5. Serve piping hot with Raita. For Raita: Mix together - one cup of beaten yogurt with an onion - thinly sliced, a few cilantro leaves, chopped green chillies, 1 tbsp lemon juice and salt.

Note* : I got this masala from India. Just ask 'Biryani masala or biryani saamaan' in any Indian grocery store and they seem to know what this is. If you do not have this, don't fret. You can use just star anise too. While writing this recipe down after I made the biryani, I had forgotten that I used "Whole Biryani masala" in it. Sorry about that. I just added that to the above recipe.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

An All-Weather Feathered friend

This is the first friend who visited me welcoming me to this neighbohood, when we first moved into this apartment. I was so happy to see him. I think it's a he. I call him Mr.Red Bird. He visits me on all weathers - Rain or Shine. I've seen Mr.Red Bird sitting by the balcony on sunniest days, rainiest days and coldest days. I want to welcome him into my house but lo! He flies away at the first sound of the door opening for him... Sometimes he brings his Mrs. too. She looks a lot like him, but with more greys and less of this bright red color. Mr and Mrs. Red Birds are the most wonderful couple I've met so far. They keep teasing one another or chasing one another and it is such a delight to watch them together. Sometimes, they sit side by side, very quietly, soaking in the silence around them. Reminds me of the quote 'True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable'. These two are a very camera shy pair. They somehow, always seem to know that a camera is lurking somewhere nearby, ready to click their picture and fly right one second before the camera goes 'click'. Maybe someday, I'll be able to take a picture of them together. Until then, these are the two pictures that will remind of these wonderful birds that visit me often.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Pilates to go!

I love working out. It gives me such a high and makes me feel good. Scientists say that it must be all the endophins released. But I don't really care. I feel happy at the end of a work out. And I become more healthier, stronger and more confident. And I look good. Do I need anymore reasons?

But I've been slacking for past few months... Call it laziness with a big L! Once in a while, I get all motivated and bring out one of my fitness DVDs and do it for an hour.. and then forget about it the very next day... Ever since I started writing in this blog, since this journal is all about making tomorrow better, healthier, wealthier, wiser and more peaceful, I've been thinking about getting back on my exercise routine too. For past two weeks, I've been doing Pilates at home, by following a DVD.. So far, 4 days of exercise per week has been the norm. From the coming week onwards, I'm gearing towards 5 workouts every week. Since I seem to be on a Pilates phase, these are two DVDs I've been working out. - Jennifer Kries Pilates Perfect Mix - Great for toning all over. I am becoming aware of muscles I never thought I had. I like the second workout metabolic booster. I like to workout for a solid 40 mins, so I do the Metabolic Booster routine twice. Shelly Mcdonald's Caribean Workout - Pilates is almost a beginner or an Advanced beginner's Pilates workout. but I find it wonderful for toning abs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Chole or Garbanzo Beans Curry

Garbanzo beans are yummy when cooked in any way, be it, Mediterranean Falafal or Morrocan style or North Indian Chole (Garbanzo beans curry or Channa masala as it is called in some places) or South Indian Kadalai curry or even raw, as sprouts. While I love Chole, I don't seem to be able to make it as delicious as I like it. ;) I've been reading Indira's blog for a while now and when she posted her 'Aloo Chole' (Garbanzo beans curry with Potatoes), I obviously wanted to try it. I ran out of potatoes, So, I made 'Chole' instead of 'Aloo Chole'.

While her recipe needs 3 cups of dried Garbanzo beans, I made the curry with 1 cup of dried garbanzo beans. No more tweaks and the recipe turned out delicious as I had envisioned. Thanks Indira! Usually I don't use premade masala powders from stores because of the preservatives and additives. I make them myself so that I'll have the freshest stuff. But I haven't' learnt to make Channa masala powder so far. I happen to use the same brand of Channa masala as Indira uses. It is Badshah brand, one that you can find in all the Indian stores.

1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water and boiled till tender
(canned stuff is okay too)
A fistful of cooked chickpeas made into smooth paste
1 large onion - finely chopped
1 pound tomatoes - finely chopped
1 tablespoon of chana masala powder
1 tbsp of roasted garlic-ginger-cilantro paste
1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp and salt to taste
oil - 2 tbsp
finely chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute well. Add the ginger-garlic-cilantro paste and tomatoes and saute well. Add the remaining ingredients (chickpea paste, channa masala powder, red chilli powder, salt, turmeric powder). Stir in the chickpeas and add two cups of water. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer until the curry thickens. Garnish with finely chopped fresh cilantro and serve hot with roti (Indian flatbread) or steamed rice.

Egg curry!

Egg curry is so easy to prepare and still, manages to make a meal special, without being very heavy. It was from my roommate R that I got a liking for egg curry. Nupur had made Egg Rassa (Egg curry-Marathi) and reading that reminded me of my roommate. So, I decided to try it.

The recipe was pretty similar to mine except for the addition of tomatoes, but the amount of spices used was very high. I was sceptic about the amount of cloves and cinnamon used, but then decided to give it a try. I tweaked the recipe a bit without affecting the originality of the recipe. I turned down the heat (reduce the number of red chillies) and reduced the amount of coconut used. That's it. No more changes. I have a habit of saute-ing the ginger and garlic in a cast iron pan before grinding them to a paste. This avoids the raw smell of garlic and ginger in the curry and also speedens the cooking time. Since the recipe suggest roasting the masala ingredients, I was more than happy.

4 eggs, hard-boiled
2 large onion, very finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, very finely chopped
3-4 tbps grated coconut
1 inch ginger - chopped
4 cloves garlic - chopped
6 whole cloves
8 whole peppercorns
3 dry red chillies
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp turmeric & salt to taste

Preparing the masala: In a cast iron pan (any pan can used), heat the oil. Add the spices (cloves, peppercorns, red chillies, poppy seeds and fennel seeds) and saute well till the spices are aromatic and sizzling. Now add the onion, ginger, garlic and saute them till browned. Add the coconut and saute till well-roasted. Add the tomatoes and continue saute-ing for another 3-4 minutes. Allow this mixture to cool down and then grind it into a fine paste, adding some water when needed.

The Curry: Transfer the paste back to a saucepan, add salt and turmeric and enough water to make the desired consistency; bring to a boil and simmer for 10 mins. Peel the boiled eggs, halve them and add them to the curry. Simmer for another 3-4 mins. Garnish with cilantro.

Nupur suggests to serve this dish with the traditional Jeera rice. It, sure, is a great combination. But, I was not in mood for more oil or ghee(clarified butter). So, I made flavored rice to go with this. Boil rice with a few bay leaves, two cloves and two cinnamon, and Voila! Flavoured rice! :) I'm glad I tried the recipe without changing its originality. The Egg curry with flavoured rice was well received at home and I'll be making it very often from now on. Thanks Nupur!

Monday, November 28, 2005

On the Menu

Here is the list of all the recipes that is 'On the Menu' at Kay's Kitchen. This page will be continuously updated as Kay keeps trying new dishes at her stovetop. Feel free to try these recipes and you are welcome to post your comments. Please do not steal the pictures.

Healthy Cooking Tips
Breakfast Time


Side dishes


International cooking

Non Vegetarian Cooking


Kongu Cuisine

Thursday, November 24, 2005

No-fry Karela Crispies

I am not a big fan of Karela aka Bitter Melon. Bitter melons are an acquired taste. Some love it and many hate it. I hate it too. Before I got married, I always managed to escape the horror of eating bitter melon that my mother lovingly cooked for us. My mother used to tell me how good this vegetable was, for our health, but it fell to deaf ears. I even went to the extreme of avoiding being in the same room when she cut bitter melons for her curry. I hated the smell that emanated when raw bitter melons were cut. So, obviously, it came as a big shock to me when my husband expressed his love for this infamous vegetable.

Luckily, he understood my predicament and never asked me to cook this vegetable for him. But that turned out to be a good thing. I felt sorry for him and started looking for bittermelons in Indian grocery stores and Asian markets. Dear husband loves bittermelon curries where the bitterness is at its best whereas I could hardly eat a spoonful of that stuff. I preferred the taste of the bittermelon slices fried crisp, in oil. But the problem with that recipe was that it took long time to fry the slices and I'm not really into deep frying stuff in oil. I think the oil, somehow, takes away the real taste of the vegetables and gives just an oily taste. After a few trials and errors, I settled down on this recipe. It needs just 2-3 tbsp oil and tastes even better than deep fried bittermelon slices. Without much ado, Here's my 'No-fry Karela Crispies'.

No-fry Karela Crispies

Bittermelon - 2
Oil - 2-3 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tbsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp

Wash the bittermelon and slice them using a mandolin slicer into thin round slices. Mix with salt, turmeric and chilli powder and marinate for about 1/2 an hour. Preheat the oven to about 375F. Spread foil on a baking tray and grease it with about a tbsp oil. Toss the bittermelon slices with 2 tbsp oil and spread them on the baking tray. OR you can skip this step and spray some oil on top. Bake for about 5 mins and then broil it for 7 mins. Depending on the type of your oven, the broiling might be a few mins more or less. When I broil it, I watch it like a hawk. Crispy Karela... without the deep frying!

The first bittermelon picture is from this site.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Moving towards Organic Food

I was always interested in eating better. I've never liked oily or greasy or fried foods (very few exceptions). I don't crave for sweets. I'm lucky that my husband is also pretty good with his eating habits. We don't buy much of the processed stuff. I can do without the chemical preservatives and massive amount of salt hidden behind those labels. Anything that can't be pronounced, anything that says white flour or refined or bleached or enriched with added nutrients, stay out of our grocery list.

If wishes were horses, I'd be eating only organic stuff.

Six Reasons to go Organic:
  1. Because I don't want all the chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, harmones, antibiotics, soil fumigants that go into the conventional foods, which would eventually find their way into our bodies.
  2. I don't want to eat genetically modified (GMO) food.
  3. Organic fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of phytochemicals responsible for the health benefits of plants.
  4. It is good for the planet; Improves the soil texture and quality and soil fertility.
  5. It doesn't slow-poison the farmers as conventional farming methods do.
  6. They taste real good! You got to try it to believe me.

But buying organic stuff can put me so much behind my budget. Since the demand for organic food does not meet the supply and Organic farming is more expensive than conventional methods and the money spent in organic farming is also directed towards improving the soil condition (which has been originally toxicated with all those nasty chemicals so far), the price of the organic foods is higher than conventional foods. We slowly started moving towards organic foods, by deciding to buy 'organic' how much ever is feasible. Buying everything organic is impossible at this timeperiod of our life, but we sure can buy whatever we can, Can't we?

Then I came across a website that had the most and the least concentrations of pesticides covered conventional vegetables. Here's a picture from the article from Grinning Planet. The article also has a printable wallet size picture.

Image hosted by

My goodness! Many of my favourite foods were in the high pesticide list. And I thought I was doing great by eating those vegetables. So we started buying the vegetables and fruits mentioned in the high persticide list, from organic markets.

Since the organic stuff is so darn expensive, we limit our organic splurges to certain stuff; Stuff if grown on conventional methods have plenty of everything that we want to avoid. (See reason. no.1). We buy Organic milk, cheese, eggs, carrots, spinach, apples, potatoes, oatmeal, cereal, sugar etc. The chicken we buy is not necessarily organic, but always cage free, harmone free and always grown on natural diet.

Many of the Natural Foods stores have their own cereals. They don't come in fancy packaging and yes, I'd have to pack my own stuff. But I have more control over how much I want to buy and they are pretty cheaper than what I'd pay on cereals with fancy packaging. And I got to say that the organic cereal taste so wonderful, even with the miniscule amount of sugar in it.

And have you tasted organic milk? If not, then you might want to try it? It yummmm.... like real milk. I can go on and on about the yogurt made out of organic milk. Just divine! Somebody I know, said it must be all those happy cows, that the milk is so tasty. True!

Sure, the grocery bills are huge, sometimes a bit, scary. But we never regret taking this step. We can always save elsewhere and direct that money into what goes into our body. We've cut down our other expenses to support this need. I guess, we feel so good about it because we are helping ourselves and also the earth in a teeny weeny bit, by supporting organic farmers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Towards a Better Tomorrow!

I started this blog to help me move towards a better life. To make my tomorrow better than yesterday. I will be working on making my life better on all angles for a

  • Healthy Life by eating right
  • Strong body by exercising more
  • Financially Secure Tomorrow
  • Enriching my life in many other ways

I've already been working on this idea and have picked up a few tips on the way. I'll be sharing those and hope to learn a lot more in this journey.