The mad rush of the days of Durga puja and Diwali finally settle down to a sudden quiet.
I can almost hear a sigh of relief in the air.
The days are sedate now. No more rushing about, meeting deadlines, following rituals.
No more staying on our toes; keeping an ear out for the doorbell ... anticipating another batch of friends or guests. No more checking if the jars and the fridge are full ... or at least half full ... to be able to offer something to guests.
The afternoons are lazy. The sun has already shifted and the South facing windows and rooms are flooded with sunlight; making the spots delightful to sit down with a book or for a snooze with a light quilt around you. Which I eventually do these days. Both.
Catch up with my much needed rest.
A book ... a few pages through ... and I am asleep.
The evenings are quiet too. I get up to a cup of tea and my book again.
Sometimes I cook something other than the daily dal, roti, sabzis.
It might be a quick pizza in the oven ... a store bought base with loads of chopped veggies and some cheese and pizza sauce, a few minutes in the oven and done!
We take out slices from the oven and leave the rest there to stay warm ... as we munch on our slices and watch the Big B's voice resonate through the room. I love watching KBC.
On other days I make a quick stir fried noodles ... again with loads of veggies ... but cut differently.
A quick toss and done!
Now that winter is here, most nights will see hot Aloo parathas, Mooli parathas or Methi parathas off the tawa onto the plates ... with some spicy pickle on the side.
These days, I try to keep everything short and quick. Of course I have always loved to cook light and quick meals. But these days it is more out of necessity. I am not supposed to strain my hand and shoulders too much.Which I follow.
I am not going to throw care to the winds and get banished from my beloved kitchen for months together ... not any more.
But this time I did not have any left over rice ... so made it from scratch.
I did not boil rice in a vessel and drain it ... the usual way that I cook rice. Instead I cooked it in a kadahi till half done and added to the vegetables later.
If you are looking an authentic version of cooking biryani, this is definitely not it.
But it works.
Super quick and time saving. And not too much of compromise with the flavours.
Basmati rice - 1 and ½ cup, washed well
Whole garam masalas - clove + cinnamon + black cardamom (broken ) + bay leaves/tej patta + dry red chillies
Ginger paste - 1 tbsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Tomato paste / puree - 4 tbsp
Curd - 6 tbsp , beaten till smooth
Onion - 3 medium sized
Turmeric / Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Biryani masala - 1 tbsp ( I use Everest )
Fresh coriander leaves
Kasuri methi - 1 tbsp, crushed well
Cooking oil - 6 tbsp
Ghee - 3 tbsp
Kishmish / Raisins - soaked in water
Cashew nuts / Kaju
Vegetables of your choice - chopped into small cubes
( I had beans, baby corn, cauliflower, green peas + potatoes + paneer cubes )
Water for the rice - 1 and ½ cups ( use the same cup that you have measured the rice with )
Water for gravy - as needed
How to :
The rice :
Heat 2 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp ghee in a heavy bottomed kadahi.
Add the whole garam masalas.
When they start to splutter, add the cashew nuts and fry a little.
Remove the nuts and add the washed rice.
Fry well on low heat for a while. Do not brown.
Add a little salt ... around two pinches.
Heat the water and add to the rice.
Cover and cook on low heat till all water is soaked up.
The rice should be half done.
Remove cover, fluff it up a little and keep aside.
The fried onions or Beresta :
Take two of the onions and slice them up thinly.
Heat 3 tbsp oil in another kadahi or pan.
Let in the onions and fry till golden brown, on low heat.
This will take time ... so let it sit on one burner and start prepping for the vegetable curry.
Do not raise heat to brown them.
You can deep fry them too ... I did not.
The vegetables :
Heat the rest of the oil and 1 tbsp ghee in another heavy bottomed kadahi or pan.
Preferably a flat open pan ... and the base has to be thick as you will be arranging the biryani in it. We don't want our biryani to burn before it is cooked well.
Add the potatoes and the paneer and fry on high heat to brown the sides.
No need to wait for them to cook .... they will, once they are dunked into the gravy.
Remove and keep aside.
Chop up the third onion and add to the same oil.
When slightly brown, add the ginger + garlic pastes and fry well.
Add the haldi and red chilli quickly for it to stop spluttering too much.
Add some water if needed and fry well till cooked and dryish.
Now add the curd keep stirring on low heat.
When it has mixed well, add the tomato puree.
Cook till dry.
Now add the vegetables, the paneer, salt, sugar and a little water.
Cover and cook till the vegetables are done.
Remove cover and add the kasuri methi, the biryani masala, the cashew nuts and raisins.
Add water if needed.
We need a thickish gravy like so.
Sprinkle the ghee and the coriander leaves and the mint leaves.
Spread the fried onions all over.
Give one single stir to bring up some of the gravy to the top and then spread the rest of the rice on it.
Spread the rest of the onions.
Top it with the rest of the ghee.
Let it sit on low heat, on the biggest sized burner of your stove, for 10 to 15 minutes , depending on the amount of gravy you have.
Switch off heat and let it sit for a few more minutes.
Once cover is removed, serve immediately.
Here is a closer look.
To make the raita, all you need to do is beat fresh curd till smooth, add salt, roasted jeera powder and some red chilli powder.
It is the perfect match to the light spice of the biryani. The caramelised onions give a slight sweet touch to every bite.
Or as dinner on a lazy night.
Also perfect to whip up when you have sudden guests who you want to stay over for lunch.
Cheerio all !!