Easy-peasy lentil curry – Dhansak – a Spicy Parsi favourite

 

Brown rice with meat balls eaten with Dhansak Daal
                                                                                                     Dhansak rice with meat balls

A newly married nephew was bringing his wife home for an informal meal;  I asked myself what do I cook ? The couple  had just spent the last fortnight dining at the most exclusive restaurants and had sampled all the delights of various cuisines. I was stumped. Suddenly I came up with brainwave. Why not give them dhansak – a spicy lentil curry? 

Dhansak is the hearty mixed daal (lentil)and vegetable curry that is typically Parsi. Most Parsis I know have this every Sunday afternoon after which they have a long,lazy siesta. Each family has its own closely guarded recipe but Parsis being the generous community that they are, gladly share it with the world.

My own recipe is an adaptation of the original, tweaking not only the ingredients but also the texture. Unlike the Paris dhansak which is passed through a blender to get a smooth, velvety consistency, I prefer to churn it with a wooden cream churner instead. This brings the mixture together while retaining the rough texture of a hearty daal. 

So here’s what you will need to make dhansak daal : 

  • 250 g meat cut into cubes or chicken legs cut into two
  •  1/3 cup each of Toor dal, Masoor daal and moong daal
  • 100 g Doodhi cut
  • a handful  of Methi leaves
  •  2 large Tomato chopped
  •  1 small Brinjal cut into pieces
  • 2 medium Onions chopped
  • 1 tspn Garlic ginger paste
  • 1 tspn Turmeric powder
  • 1 tspnRed chilli powder
  • 2 tspns Coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 tspnCumin powder
  • 1 tspn Garam masala
  • 2 tspns Dhansak masala ( if you have this, omit the coriander powder and cumin powder)
  • 1/2 tspn Methi seeds
  • 3 tbspns Ghee

What to do :

  1. Heat the oil/ghee in a pressure cooker and brown the onion. Then add the garlic ginger paste, masala powders and cook till the aroma is released.
  2. Then add the tomato and cook further.
  3. Add the daals along with the vegetables and just enough water so that the daal can cook.
  4. When the daal is done, mash together with a cream churner or run it through the blender.
  5. Add the cooked meat/chicken and bring to a boil.
  6. Before serving , garnish with chopped coriander and crisp fried onion.

Since half my family is vegetarian and the other half is not, I prefer to cook the meat separately from the daal. So to cook the meat, I wash and put the meat/chicken in a pressure cooker with 1/2 chopped onion, a clove of garlic, 2 peppercorns , 2 cloves and a 1/2 ” stick of cinnamon. Adding just a pinch of salt and some water, I allow the meat/chicken to cook for 5-6 whistles so that it really cooks well. After the dhansak daal is done, I add the pieces of meat to the daal and bring to the boil once again.

The authentic dhansak daal is also sweetened with Sugar that rounds off the rough edges. However, I omit sugar in my cooking to accommodate my diabetic husband.

Dhansak daal is served with brown rice and kebabs.

To make the rice you will need

  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 1 onion finely sliced
  • 2 tspns sugar
  • 1  2′ piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 2 tbspns ghee.

What to do

  1. Wash the rice and let it soak for 1/2 an hour.
  2. Heat the ghee in a pan and brown the onion. Add the sugar and when it caramelises add 1 1/2 cups water and  spices.
  3. Add the rice and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the flame and continue cooking till the water is absorbed and rice is cooked.
  4. Sprinkle some fried onion on rice and meat kebabs before serving

 

Rule Britannia – The iconic Irani Cafe

Britania irani cafe, Mumbai
Britania irani cafe, Mumbai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Old time Mumbaikars who used to go to work in Ballard Estate will remember with great fondness Britannia Cafe, the now iconic Irani restaurant famous for its Berry Pullao. So famous is this restaurant that today my family that is coming all the way from Pune has requested me to order from Cafe Britannia. So naturally I had to oblige .

Britannia Cafe is situated in the still leafy entrance to one of the broad lanes off Ballard Estate. It is dusty and almost dilapidated because, as last heard, the owners are threatening to shut it down. And if the shabby appearance is not a deterrent enough, the high rates are equally inhibiting but all that notwithstanding, diehard Parsi food lovers will still make the annual trek to this restaurant and you will always find lines chairs of people waiting to get a seat in – to savour the ambiance of a bye gone era, to experience the authentic taste of Parsi food and get a sip of the almost instinct pink raspberry drink that the owner serves only to Parsis ( I’m kidding but that’s what grandpa threatened the last time I visited the place) .

So after going through Just Dial, I found out the telephone number and placed my order with Diana (one of the family) who efficiently took my order for Chicken Berry Pulao and mutton salli boti our family favourites. The Berry pullao is actually a chicken rice dish made distinctive by the tiny red berries got specially from Iran. The Salli Boti is a sweetish gravy made with apricots, onion and tomato, spiced with ginger, garlic, and special spices in which is cooked either mutton or chicken and now according to Diana,  king sized prawn! This gorgeous thick gravy is garnished with fine potato crisps that give the dish an interesting crunch.

 

Britannia & Company Restaurant

 

Never Fail Simply Mutton Biryani

Biryani , a delicious rice and meat dish has arab origins but in my home it was one of our staple Sunday lunches. Coming from a houseful of foodies, my mother tried many variations of this dish so I’ve had every kind of biryani there is to be had – the original Arab recipe which we got from Uncle Aziz , an Arab gentleman whom we never saw but whose Biryani we ate for many an Eid, the Hyderabadi Biryani, Mrs. Balbir Singh’s Biryani, the Delhi Durbar Biryani, our own cook Banoo’s biryani.  Sometimes it was made with chicken, sometimes with meat; sometimes the biryani was made with raw meat, other times it was made with cooked. But every time it was simply delicious!

However, as I began cooking, I found that my Biryanis were hit and miss- sometimes the meat remained raw or sometimes the rice remained raw or sometimes it was just one big soggy mess. Of course the biryani was perfect when I was making it only for home – it was the moment that a guest was at my table that the biryani became a mess.

There had to be a better way of making this I thought and came upon this method purely by chance.

To make the Biryani you will need

  • 500g boneless mutton or 1 kg meat with bones
  • 1/2 cup curd
  • 1 tbspn garlic ginger paste
  • 1/4 tspn turmeric
  • 1/2 tspn red chilli powder
  • 1 tspn garam masala
  • 2-3 pepper corns
  • 2-3 green cardamoms
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 2-3 strands of saffron
  • salt to taste

Wash the mutton and pat dry and add the above ingredients and allow to marinade for at least half an hour

  • 3 medium onions finely sliced and fried
  • 5-6 almonds blanched and fried
  • 2 tomatoes cut lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped coriander
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2-3 potatoes skinned, quartered and fried
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups rice
  • 1/2 cup of milk

Method :

1. Wash the rice well and keep aside for 10 minutes

2. Boil water in a pot to which you add 1 bay leaf, 2 pepper corns and 2 cloves and some salt. When the water comes to the boil add the washed rice and allow to cook till half done. Drain off the water and divide the rice into two, colouring one half with either some orange food colouring or with saffron water.

3. Add some fried onion and oil to the marinating mutton and mix well and keep aside.

4. In a deep aluminium/steel or glass pot put some oil and add the raw mutton pieces. Sprinkle some of the chopped coriander and mint on top. Layer with bits of potato and tomato, some fried almonds. Add a layer of rice, half white and half orange.

5. Add another layer of fried onions, potato and tomato , fried almonds and top again with a layer of rice.

6. Add the remaining coriander and mint, fried onion  and make six deep holes on the top. Pour oil into the these holes.

7. Sprinkle the milk and cover with a double layer of aluminium foil.

8. Put the sealed pot in an oven set at 180 degrees C

9. Allow to cook for at least 45 minutes to an hour.

Leave the pot in the oven till it is time to serve. The biryani will remain hot and the best way of making Biryani is that IT WILL NEVER BURN.

You could also use this method to make chicken biryani .

This is quite honestly a never fail recipe of the yummiest biryani ever.

This easily feeds 6 people and I always serve it with Dahi Raita and fried papad.

Fresh and juicy beef burger patties

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Food memories are indelible and I can never forget the juicy beefburger patties sold at McRonnell’s in Bandra. Those of you who’ve grown up in this beautiful Bombay suburb in the ’60’s will remember this bakery that was an institution of sorts on Hill Road. Every burger I’ve had since has had to measure up to this burger and for many years I tried to replicate it. Finally, I think my dinner yesterday was the closest I’ve got to it so far.

I’m not a die hard meat eater but the 4th March ban of  slaughter of cows in my home State raised my hackles. Surely democracy includes the freedom to eat what a person wants and not what the State deems right? Luckily things were clarified and beef is now easily available at all licenced butchers and meat vendors and since then, I’ve been trying to have beef as often as I can ( once a month may be) .

I was happy to find that Mr. M had ground beef and even though I’d asked for just 250 g, he gave me twice the amount so I had to make extra large patties. I would much rather make smaller and flatter ones with half the quantity of meat.

 

To make around 6 really  large patties you will need :

500 g beef mince

1 tspn oregano

1 finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely grated Amul cheese

1 tspn dried parsley (you could use fresh coriander or fresh parsley but I didn’t have any)

1 tspn soya sauce

salt to taste

1 lightly beaten egg

Here’s what I did:

I washed the mince and let the water drain out well. Then I mixed together all the igredients and allowed it to sit in fridge for a while. About half an hour before cooking I divided the mixture into patties, flattened them and let them sit in the fridge for another 10 minutes. Just before cooking, I heated some olive oil to smoking  in a deep  frying pan and gently let in the patties and allowed them to cook on one side before turning them over. I removed the nicely browned patties and allowed the excess oil to drain off before serving them up with a slice of cut tomato sitting on a generous helping of mayonnaise slathered on top of each burger.

I served this with steamed beans and carrots and parsleyed potato.

You could of course use these as regular burger patties and have the best burgers ever but I prefered to eat them like cutlets .

Needless to say they were yum!

 

I am participating in the ‘Ready For Rewards’ activity for Rewardme in association with BlogAdda.

 

 

 

Fresh fish at Grant Road Market

Every now and then the Municipality threatens to bring down the old Municipal market at Grant Road to replace it with a swanky mall selling what other malls do – nothing really of use to the ordinary consumer. When I look into all the malls, all that they sell are durable consumer goods but can you really eat books and electronic items? And even if there is a small section devoted to fresh produce, there’s nothing quite like visiting a wet market and buying the food yourself.