Cooking for Love...And a bit of Celebration
First up, a bit of bragging. This may not be the relevant space to discuss it, but I can hardly restrain myself from sharing the good news with the readers of this blog. I am on my way to becoming a published writer. :P. My debut book, titled Making Out in America, is slated for release in the coming few months. The book happened as a result of my personal experiences with American slang and colloquialisms at an online writing chat room. My publisher, Cavern Press was so nice as to provide me with a website . It’s my joy to share it with you.
So that was the celebration part. As for love, well it’s the singular element that governs the entire universe. Isn’t it love to see a fresh new morning everyday; isn’t it love to see squirrels jumping jolly, scurrying for nuts in the park; isn’t it love to see an infant smile without any apparent reason; isn’t it love to see your cat throwing mock tantrums; isn’t it love to see seasons change so seamlessly, spring after winter, summer after spring, refreshing monsoon showers after the searing summer heat?
Love can also be silly, impulsive, impractical. For it was the love of food that led Cesar and me to start this blog. We had no readers apart from each other back then, but we had no remorse over that either. Because silly is a whole lot of fun! It is also better any day than serious and somber.
So when I saw love to be Meena’s theme for From My Rasoi (FMR) this month, I knew what I had to cook. It had to be something my family members loved to eat; it also had to be something my blog partner would pounce upon, given the opportunity. Of the numerous treats I have shared with Cesar virtually, he voted most spontaneously and vigorously for two things—momos and biryani. The second choice is a family favourite (tell me one non-vegetarian who doesn’t like biryani) and hence it wasn’t tough to decide my entry for this month’s lovable FMR event.
This is the first time I was attempting biryani. Also the first time I was going to make Mirchi ka Salan with it—the uniquely Hyderabadi spicy concoction that is such an integral accompaniment to biryani in the southern region.
I had made preparations (at least mentally) for cooking this combination, days in advance. For this, I fished out the recipe that looked authentic (in terms of the spice blend and the cooking method). I must say the result was excellent. For your perusal, this is the link.
And this is what the salan looked like:
For the biryani, since I am such a greenhorn to the kitchen premises, I looked for an easily manageable recipe. After going through a lot of online ones, I finally settled for one that was in the catalogue of the new pressure cooker we recently bought! It looked pretty doable for my liking, and even though biryani could be daunting even to seasoned practitioners, I was confident of dishing out decent-tasting mutton-rice preparation.
And so I followed to recipe to the hilt. I marinated the mutton with all of these for four hours: Beaten curd, ginger-garlic paste, cumin powder, garam masala, lime juice, chopped tomatoes, caramelized onion, chopped green chillies, and salt.
4 hours later:
Took the mutton out, lightly fried some sliced potatoes, and added to the mutton mix.
Next I put the cooker on heat, boiled water and added whole green cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, a bayleaf and the rice to it. Brought it to full pressure on high heat and removed from fire immediately. Drained it into a colander and cleaned the cooker, wiping it dry. This was the point when my mother warned me that I should not cook the rice on full pressure. I defied her. And suffered. Coming to that later…
It was time for the mutton. I heated oil and ghee in the cooker and put the marinated mutton mix. Stirred it for a while and added a little water. Removed it from heat, placed the ¾ cooked rice even over the meat, added saffron-milk and closed the lid. Now I brought this to full pressure on high heat and cooked it for another 10 minutes on low heat.
Opened cooker and yup, my mother’s heeding glared at me. The rice was overcooked, appearing more like khichri than biryani. My day-long venture in the kitchen had met with a mini disaster. But wait! The taste was brilliant (no credit to me, the spices did the trick) and it was very well received at home.
So does that count as a legitimate entry? I hope so. Even if the rice grains were not well apart as is must for true biryani, the preparation had love. All those hours I spent in the kitchen were so joyful, just because this was going to be a hearty treat—a treat from the heart. And what if the end result wasn’t picture perfect? Ultimately, cooking for love is cooking with love. And in that respect, I did a good job.
With love :)