Prawn Biryani, Quick & Easy

Prawn Biryani, Quick & Easy

I love all shelled seafood and prawns are my favourite. I have always made prawn biryani but my usual recipe is quite long and complicated. The other day, I wanted to make prawn biryani fast. And I came up with this recipe that can be made in less than an hour.

Ingredients

Prawns 250 g, cleaned, shelled and deveined

For the marinade:

Red chilli powder 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Pepper powder 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste

Onion 1 large, sliced
Oil 3 tbsp
Basmati rice 2 cups, washed and soaked
Ghee 1 tbsp
Green chillies 2, chopped
Tomatoes 2 medium, chopped

Coconut milk 1 carton
Curry leaves

Method

Marinate the prawns and leave for about half an hour.

Heat oil in a wok and add the onions. Saute till the onions turn translucent.

Add the green chillies and curry leaves. Fry for a minute.

Add the marinated prawns and fry for two minutes.

Add the tomatoes and fry for 3-4 minutes.

Add 2 cups of water and cook for 5 minutes.

Drain the soaked basmati rice and add to the wok. Mix well. Add the coconut milk.

Transfer to a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 14 minutes.

Loosen the rice with a fork and add the ghee.

Serve hot.

Ethapazham Pachadi (Kerala Plantain Curry)

Ethapazham Pachadi (Kerala Plantain Curry)

If there is one variety of banana that I absolutely love, it is the Ethapazham or Nendrapazham, or plantain. It is great as a fruit, in curries and in desserts. This particular curry, Ethapazham Pachadi, is easy to make and is a fine balance of sweet and spicy.

Ingredients

Ethapazham or plantain 2, peeled and chopped

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Grated coconut 3 tbsps

Green chillies 2

Cumin seeds 1 tsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp

Red chilli whole 1

Coconut oil 1 tbsp

Yoghurt 2 tbsps

Method

Boil the chopped plantains with red chilli powder, turmeric and salt in 1 cup of water.

Grind the grated coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds.

Mash the cooked banana.

Add the ground coconut mix.

Add the curry leaves and bring to a boil. If it is too thick, add some water.

Take it off the heat and add the whipped yoghurt.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds and whole red chilli.

Garnish the curry and serve hot with rice.

Yam Curry

Yam Curry

Amorphophallus paeoniifolius or elephant foot yam, known as chena in Malayalam and jimikand in Hindi, makes a really tasty curry when cooked with coconut and tamarind. I love the texture of yam and eat this curry with freshly steamed idlis or crispy dosas.

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

Yam 300 g, sliced long

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Coriander powder 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Fresh coconut 1 cup, grated

Green chillies 2

Onion 1 medium, roughly chopped

Tamarind pulp 1 tbsp or soak about half a lemon-sized lump in water for 15 minutes and extract the pulp

Curry leaves

Coconut oil 1 tsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp

Method

Add the yam pieces with the dry spices and salt to a pressure cooker. Add enough water to cover the yam and cook for 10 minutes — 3 whistles on high heat and low heat for about 8 minutes.

Grind the coconut, chopped onion and green chillies in a blender. Add to the cooked yam.

Add the tamarind pulp and curry leaves and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste. Switch off the heat.

Heat the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds. When it stops sputtering, add to the curry.

Serve hot with rice, idlis or dosas.

Kerala Peanut Snack

Kerala Peanut Snack

The best place on earth to enjoy the monsoons is Kerala at the tip of the Indian peninsula. And there’s is no better snack during those rainy days than peanuts roasted with curry leaves and coconut oil. And I make it in the microwave making it an extremely healthy option as I use just 1 teaspoon of oil for a cup of peanuts.

Ingredients

(Serves 3)

Raw peanuts with skin 1 cup

Fresh curry leaves, a few sprigs

Coconut oil 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp

Method

Wash the curry leaves and dry it with a kitchen towel. Transfer to a microwave safe dish.

Add the peanuts to the dish.

Add the oil and mix well.

Microwave for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for another 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 1 minute.

Add the red chilli powder and salt. Mix well. Use your fingers to crush the curry leaves, which will be crisp by now.

Cool and store in an airtight container.

Soy Bean and Tomato Curry

Soy Bean and Tomato Curry

This curry made of soy chunks and puréed tomatoes is not only extremely tasty, it is also a dish increasingly relevant in the current pandemic. One of the food groups that has become more important among the global population is protein. It is what you should have more of if you want to lose weight, of course. It will also help you regain your energy and strength if you have been unfortunate to contract Covid-19. And soy is a huge source of protein. Most important, it is delicious.

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

Soy chunks 1 cup

Tomatoes 3 large, puréed

Onion 1 large, sliced

Ginger 1” piece

Garlic 4 cloves

Yoghurt 1 cup, whipped lightly with a fork

Cream 2 tbsps

Coriander powder 1/2 tsp

Red chilli powder 2 tsps

Cumin powder 1/2 tsp

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Biryani masala 1/2 tsp

Vegetable oil 1 tbsp

Salt to taste

Method

Soak the soy chunks in boiling water for 5 minutes and drain.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed wok and fry the onions till they become translucent.

Crush the ginger and garlic in a pestle and add to the wok.

Fry till the raw smell of garlic disappears. It will take about 2 minutes.

Add the puréed tomatoes to the wok. Fry till oil leaves the sides of the wok.

Add the spice powders and salt. Add the yoghurt.

Add the soy chunks.

Add 1 cup of water and cook till the gravy thickens. Cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat.

Serve with rice, chapatti, or naan.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

I love this Indian dish that has its origins outside India. Having conquered the UK palate and overtaking fish and chips as the quintessential British dish, it is now increasingly available in restaurants in India and around the world. I still love the version available in London, which is where I first encountered it. I have tried to replicate that taste from memory as the pandemic has made travel well nigh impossible. The dish I made yesterday is my eureka moment. I have cracked the trick to making delicious, mouthwatering Chicken Tikka Masala.

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

Boneless chicken breast 250 g

For marinade:

Turmeric 1/2 tsp

Red chilli powder 2 tsps

Yoghurt 1/2 cup

Vinegar 1 tbsp

Salt to taste

For the curry:

Tomatoes 4 large

Onion 1 large, sliced thin

Ginger 1” piece

Garlic 5 cloves

Fresh cream 2 tsps

Turmeric 1/2 tsp

Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp

Coriander powder 1/2 tsp

Cumin powder 1/2 tsp

Biryani Masala 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Vegetable oil 3 tbsps

Butter 1 tsp

Method

Cut the chicken into cubes. Wash, drain and marinate in the ingredients given above.

Leave in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. I leave it overnight as I feel it makes the chicken more succulent and allows the spices to permeate through the meat.

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed wok and fry the chicken pieces for about 3-4 minutes till they are lightly browned. Keep it aside.

Add the butter to the oil and fry the onion slices till they are translucent.

Pound the ginger and garlic together in a pestle. Add to the pan. Sauté till the raw smell of the garlic disappears.

Purée the tomatoes in a blender. Add to the wok.

Cook till the water evaporates. Add the cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder and biryani masala. I prefer the biryani masala instead of garam masala as it gives the gravy a tangy flavour.

Add 1 cup of water and add salt to taste. When the gravy comes to a boil, add the fried chicken cubes. Cook for 5-6 minutes till the gravy thickens.

Garnish with the cream and serve hot with basmati rice or naan or bread.

Tomato Garlic Rice

Tomato Garlic Rice

This is an adaptation of my friend’s recipe that I first tasted when I was in my 20s. She served it with fried chicken. I sometimes serve it with potato wedges or baked chicken tenders.

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

Basmati rice 2 cups

Tomatoes 6 medium

Garlic 7 cloves, crushed

Coconut oil 2 tbsps

Salt to taste

Method

Soak the rice for 10 minutes. Drain.

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water, skin them and purée in a blender.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the crushed garlic. Fry but don’t let the garlic burn.

Add the drained rice and fry for 2 minutes.

Add the tomato purée and mix well.

Add 2 cups of water and salt to taste.

Cover and cook on low heat till the water is totally absorbed and the rice is cooked.

Serve hot.

Aloo Parantha (Potato Pancakes)

Aloo Parantha (Potato Pancakes)

Aloo paranthas or wheat pancakes stuffed with potatoes are a favourite with most people. I have found that my friends all enjoy hot potato paranthas, irrespective of race, nationality or gender.

This aloo parantha can be made even if you don’t have the traditional implements — chakla or marble rolling tile, belan or rolling pin, and tawa or concave griddle. The potato stuffing is mixed into a batter of whole wheat flour and water and then made into pancakes.

Ingredients

Potato 1 large, boiled, peeled and grated

Onion 1 medium, finely chopped

Green chilli 2, finely chopped

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves, a bunch, chopped

Atta or whole wheat flour 1 cup

Water for batter

Oil 1 tbsp

Method

Mix the boiled potato with the onions, green chillies, salt, coriander leaves and red chilli powder and mix well. Add the oil and mash it all together.

Add water to the atta and make a smooth better. Add half a teaspoon of salt.

Add the potato mix to the batter and whisk well. Add more water if needed.

Heat a nonstick griddle and pour a ladle full of batter. Spread to make a thick pancake. Cook for a minute and flip it over. Apply some ghee and cook.

Transfer to a plate. Make similar pancakes with the rest of the batter.

Serve hot with a salad and plain yoghurt.

Bal Mithai (fudgy milk sweet)

Bal Mithai (fudgy milk sweet)

This fudgy milk sweet with a deep chocolate colour is a delicacy from the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. It’s origins are lost in the mists of time. While some ascribe it to a local halwai in Almora, others say it came from Nepal in the 7th century A.D. and was modified by halwai Joga Lal Shah, who used milk from a particular village to make the khoya, the basis for the sweet.

This sweet needs constant attention during cooking. Prepare yourself before you start. Have a drink of water and keep your phone on silent. You can’t step away for even a second once you start cooking. Khoya burns easily and the dish will be completely spoilt.

Ingredients

Khoya 200 g

Sugar 3 tbsps

Sugar 1/2 cup

Water 1 1/2 cups

Ghee 1 tbsp

Sugar balls 2 cups

Method

Dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1 1/2 cups water and boil for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat, but keep the sugar syrup bubbling.

In a heavy bottomed nonstick pan, take 1 tablespoon of ghee. Add the grated khoya and start stirring. Cook the khoya on low heat. The pictures show the way the khoya will change colour. Do not stop stirring and do not increase the heat.

When the khoya is a deep reddish brown and starts to leave oil, add 3 tablespoons of fine sugar. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes.

Add some of the bubbling sugar syrup.

The khoya will turn a deep chocolate colour as you continue to cook.

Keep adding the sugar syrup a little bit at a time till only about 1/4 cup remains.

When all the water is absorbed and the mixture begins to leave the sides of the pan, transfer to a greased dish. To test if the sweet is ready, put some on a plate. If you are able to roll it off easily, it is ready.

When it is cool, cut into squares. Dip each square in the sugar syrup and roll it in the sugar balls to coat all sides.

The sweet can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Mutton Rogan Josh (healthier option)

Mutton Rogan Josh (healthier option)

Traditionally Mutton Rogan Josh, a delicacy from Kashmir, is made by cooking lamb in clarified butter or ghee. Of Persian origin, rogan means oil and josh means passion, just as it does in Hindi. The intense red colour of the curry comes from a herb called ratan jot or alkanet. I don’t use it in my recipe, however. Also, I have used a mix of vegetable oil and ghee instead of just ghee, which I find too rich. I use mutton or goat meat instead of lamb. This is leaner, has more minerals and less cholesterol. I use whole fennel seeds instead of the powder as I love the taste better. I also use a pinch of turmeric, something I use for all meat dishes because of its antiseptic quality.

Ingredients

Mutton (goat meat) 1/2 kg

Onion 1 large, sliced

Ginger 1” piece

Garlic 5 cloves

Bay leaf 1

Garam masala 2 tsps

Red chilli powder 3 tsps

Fennel seeds 1 tbsp

Ginger powder 1 tbsp

Turmeric 1/4 tsp

Yoghurt 1/2 cup, whisked

Saffron a few strands

Vegetable oil 1 tbsp

Ghee 1 tbsp

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves for garnish

Method

Add the oil and ghee to the pressure cooker and add the onions. Cook on low heat till the onions turn golden brown and caramelise. This will take 10-15 minutes. Do not hurry this process. Stir often.

Make a paste of the red chilli powder, fennel seeds and ginger powder with a little water.

Crush the ginger and garlic in a pestle to make a rough paste.

When the onions are done, increase the heat and add the ginger-garlic paste as well as the bay leaf. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Add the mutton pieces and fry for a few minutes. Add the chilli paste and mix well. Add the turmeric powder.

Add the saffron to the whisked yoghurt and add to the mutton. Add salt and mix well.

Cook till the oil begins to leave the sides of the pressure cooker.

Add 1 tsp of garam masala powder. You can either make it yourself from the whole spices or buy it from any Indian store.

Add about 1/2 cup water and close the lid. Cook on high heat for six whistles. Reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Switch off the heat and let the steam release gradually.

Open the pressure cooker, add 1 tsp of garam masala and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.

By now the mutton should be tender and almost falling off the bone. Test with a fork and if needed, cook a few minutes longer.

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice or roti or naan.