Saturday, December 26, 2009

It was a Merry and Slightly Overworked Christmas

And I want to write about it now while I'm still in the same year! Well, my family were invited over for dinner. Cradle babe and Water man (that's her man) were the guests of honour. We all agreed to a dress code - red and white. We added green as an option at the last minute to represent mistletoe and also because Sushi has no reds or whites in his wardrobe that's suitable for an evening of merry making. I decided to go with red and white both in honour of Santa Claus and my increasing girth.

Prawns in malai curry were on offer and so was Popeye Chicken. I baked my (trying to be) moist chocolate cake and whipped up some Egg Nog in keeping with the spirit of the season. That explains, why it was a slightly overworked Christmas for us.

The Egg Nog? OOoooohhh yeeeaahhhh! I discovered this last year, but the blog wasn't born then, which it is now. So without further ado, let me explain just how I whip up the egg nog.

Well, in a cup of milk, I add some cloves and nutmeg and vanilla essence, until the milk gets fairly aromatic without having come to a boil. Then, I add 2 egg yolks to half a cup of sugar and blend until the egg yolks go from being yellow to being lemon (as in the colour not the taste).

Now begins the tricky part. The milk mixture needs to be added to the lemony yolks mixture and the whole should be heated at very low heat until it starts to resemble custard. It is at this point that no matter how hard I stir, I start to get little omeletlets. Then, I hurriedly take it off the gas and try to mash out as best as I can, the omelet tendencies.

Next, I take out my seasonal jug from its place in the back of the cupboard and pour the above, sort of custardy mixture into it. The refrigerator does its thing for the next hour or two. As a last step, pour in 1 cup of cream (sinfulllll), blend gently, add a further pinch of nutmeg and refrigerate until your guests are in sight. Then, you serve them the egg nog in little glasses and observe reactions...

Hope you had a merry christmas too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tiger Prawns Prowling in Malai Curry

This one was discovered while roaming the streets in Kolkatta at a little known (by me at least) restaurant near the junction that lead to Baligunj from someplace - in Kolkatta. (I didn't spend too many days in the town). The point is that this little known restaurant near the junction that lead to Baligunj from someplace in Kokatta served a dish that has me smiling wistfully at the memory as I type this nearly a month later.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you - "Tiger Prawn Malai Curry". It comprises of succulent jumbo prawns in a pristine white curry that gives you no inkling as to the delicacy and depth of its flavour. That you discover only when you shovel in the first mouthful along with rice. Then you start drooling all over the table and desperately demanding of the maitre'd - "Coconut Milk! It is coconut milk isn't it?". Alarmed, the maitre'd asks you to get a grip on yourself - "Calm down, calm down lady. Yes, it is coconut milk. It's anything you want it to be" .

With that as my first clue, I started researching the net for ways to recreate the experience at home. Sure enough, most recipes started out with coconut milk, but the photos showed not one trace of the pristine white colour, quite the opposite in fact. So, I do the only logical thing I can think of - leave out all ingredients that would add more than a slight suspicion of colour to the curry or substitute with neutral hued alternatives. Red chili, for example, makes way for single whole green chili. The onions are not browned, they are made into a paste. Turmeric powder is a strict no no. Garam masala powder is allowed because it disappears into the depths of the curry, adding flavour, but leaving no trace of colour. The other ingredients would be garlic paste, fresh garlic paste if you please, salt and the biggest prawns that you can get hold of.

Malai? Interesting that you should ask that, I was wondering along the same lines too and the explanation is simple really. Around 2 centuries ago (or is it 3 now), the British landed on our shores. The East India company was not their only import. They also brought along with them "Prawn Malay curry" from Malaysia. (I'm not perfectly sure what they were doing in Malaysia in the first place. Perhaps they made a pit stop on their way over to India.) Well then, in India, the "Malay" became "Malai" and that basically explains the utter lack of any actual malai in the curry.

The dish assembles really fast once you are done prepping your ingredients. First add a green chili, slit down the middle, to oil in a kadhai on fire. That adds a little zing and starts things rolling. Next goes in the onion paste and garlic paste. A dash of garam masala, saute a bit, some salt, and pour in two small tetra packs of coconut milk for 250gm of prawn. Speaking of prawns, I like to fry them a bit, just a little bit, beforehand with lemon and salt mixed in. This is to get rid of any odour that might later bother you. That pretty much wraps up the dish. Add the prawns to the curry, let it simmer a bit and you are good to go.

I do believe, I'm close to recreating the Kol curry. So far Sushi and me and Mrs DP have sampled it and given it a thumbs up. I'd say it's pretty safe to try if you are not one of those unfortunate people who are allergic to sea food.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Realisation of The Hyderabadi Biryani

Cradle babe got wed last week and I am a little disoriented since then. I'm happy for her, but you see, to me she's still the babe in the cradle, which is why, I must now talk about how the Hyderabadi Biryani was realised in my kitchen. For there is nothing quite like talk of good food to set your bearings straight!

So, the story goes back about 29 years. Ever since (and perhaps even before) I sprouted my first set of teeth, I have had dad cooking and feeding me what he calls "Hyderabadi Biryani". Legend also says that the first official sentence I lisped was, "First you must brown the onions". Intention here is not to brag, but to emphasize how deeply rooted in my upbringing the biryani always has been and hence was only a matter of time before I'd introduce it in my own kitchen.

I'm glad to report that this has been by far the most resounding success of the Sushi-Sashimi kitchen. When he first tasted it, Sushi, he was moved enough to...oh never mind, let's cut to the chase shall we.
First you must locate a goat with a hind leg, then have the butcher chop it(the hind leg) into medium sized pieces. You then get your prize home, wash the pieces thoroughly and tuck them away in the refrigerator. Next, we grab some glossy, green, firm, green chili - about 18 whole chillies for 1 kg of mutton. You need to then divide them in 3 groups and slice them three different ways. The first group simply has the heads chopped off, the 2nd is slit down the middle, the 3rd is slit down the middle too and de-seeded. Please excuse the brutality, but it really was necessary to the story. I'll even rate this offering PG.

We then mix some g-g paste in curd, add half of each kind of chili groups, salt, garam masala and half a cup of lemon juice. Then we go find the mutton tucked away in the refrigerator, add it to the above mixture. Let it sit nice and quiet for the next 3 hours.

In the mean time, any guesses? Well, as even a 4 year old would be able to tell - brown the onions! Set them aside. We progress now, to my favourite and the most aromatic and exotic part of the entire preparation - in a big pateela, set a large volume of water to boil. Drop in the remainder of the chilies, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, and general things of that genre along with salt. When the water is boiling, in goes rice. It comes out in the next 10 minutes flat, because we don't want the rice to be more than 2/3rds cooked at this point. The way to check for 2/3rd cooked-ness is to bite through a grain of rice to make sure that your teeth sink in only up to 2/3rds of the thickness of the grain. It's a bit tricky at first, but when you get the knack for it, you wouldn't even need a ruler to test.

The last step is to assemble everything together. First the mental calorie calculator needs to be switched off. Then pour in ghee or oil to a depth of about 1 cm at the bottom of the pateela. Next the mutton pieces are arranged at the bottom. The remaining curd from the marinade is poured on top, rice (2/3rd cooked) goes next. Plenty of chopped coriander leaves are sprinkled on top of the rice for garnish (Cradle babe hates coriander). Your pateela would need to be sealed off with its lid. I even use dough to make sure the lid stays stuck in place.

The rice-ghee-mutton-coriander assembly should now be put on fire. Dad always uses real charcoal fire, but all that mess daunts me, so I go for the trusty gas stove. 10 minutes on high, the next 10 minutes on medium, and 10 minutes after that on indirect heating - you are now all set to tuck in!

You're welcome, it's totally been my pleasure.