Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Past Week In Pictures

It's been a busy month and I had to go away again this past week. A rite of passage necessitated us going on a short trip, which is the fodder for this post.

Until I see you again, Season's Greetings and a Happy New Year!

The Gangireddu, one of the heralds of the harvest festival Sankranti, came home just as we were preparing to leave. This bullock is trained to do a variety of things: nod its head (affirming its master's praises of the people whose homes it visits), kneel, bow and dance to the tune of the nadaswaram. Money, old clothes and rice are donated.

Everyone started clicking, and his master expected as many contributions, not convinced when we told him it was all the same family, so many cameras and so many people springing up from all corners of the house!

Amaravathi, once a Buddhist centre, is on the banks of the Krishna in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. This huge Buddha was begun to be built for the Kalachakra some time ago. Remember the 'snakes' photo I put up a while ago? That was taken by Dad during Kalachakra. Amaravathi also houses a famous and ancient Siva temple which I have visited several times. It's the stuff of many school excursions (read close, convenient, inexpensive).

In the complex that houses the giant Buddha, this sight of a profusion of Buddhas greeted us at the rear, almost as if they had sprung up from the soil.

As we went down the steps to the bathing ghat, we saw this image lying in solitary splendour. Though broken, it seems to be worshipped regularly.

The Krishna river at Amaravathi.

Disembarking from a boat. The boats are also called launches. This is one of the less popular forms of transport nowadays - people use them to cross the river to get to villages on the other side of the Krishna.

Flowers at home. We often see these flowers growing wild or used to border large plots of land. Does anyone know what they are called?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Biriyani Turns Over A New Leaf

Every year, when Id comes around, a friend of the family sends over biriyani and other festive delights for us to consume. He usually calls to tell us not to cook anything for the day as the amounts he sends are huge. One year, the call hadn't come yet, and Dad, who was eagerly looking forward to it, got antsy.

This friend is my grandfather's friend. My grandfather's name ended in Rao. "How about we give our friend a reminder?" Dad suggested. "We call him, chant 'Pulao, pulao, X X Rao, Pulao pulao X X Rao' and hang up?" Naturally, that led to a lot of giggles, but happily, the friend called soon after and we had ourselves a feast as usual.

That was a very involved biriyani which spared no effort, I'm sure, but this biriyani/pulao that I made the other day was chosen for its no-fuss method. The inspiration came from another recipe which I will post and acknowledge as soon as I make it, but the tweaking I did with the herbs and spices is all mine.

Chicken: 500 gm (Vegetarian can subsitute chicken with potatoes, peas and carrots)
Basmati Rice: 550 gm (note the volume)

Curry leaves: A handful (Read more about curry leaves here)
Crushed peppercorns: 1.5 tbsp
Thick coconut milk: 200 ml
Water: 1/2 cup + twice the volume of the rice
Coriander powder: 1.5 tbsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
Powdered cinnamon and cloves: 1/2 tsp each

Cinnamon sticks: 3
Cloves: 4
Marathi moggu, crushed a bit: 3
Whole pepper: 1.5 tsp
Ghee/Oil/Mix of both: 75 ml/4 tbsp
Salt to taste

Soak the rice for 10 minutes and strain.

Wash the chicken and set aside.

In a heavy bottomed pan or pressure cooker, heat the fat and fry the cinnamon, cloves, Marathi moggu and pepper.

Add powdered cinnamon and cloves.

Add coriander and turmeric powders and fry again for a couple of seconds.

Add the curry leaves and the chicken pieces, sauté well. When the chicken changes colour, add salt and crushed peppercorns.

Add the coconut milk plus the 1/2 cup of water and cook the chicken for a couple of minutes.

Now add enough water (If the rice came to 3 cups, add 6 cups of water)and allow it to boil.

Add rice. Cook till done after sealing the lid. In a pressure cooker, let it cook for 5 minutes on simmer after two or three whistles.

One eater said it was alright, but that it didn't taste of anything in particular.

Another liked it, but that the whole pepper interfered with the eating. I liked it for that very reason. And the fragrance imparted by the spices boiling in the coconut milk - that was Joy of Discovery.

Yet another, bless his kind soul, said it was tasty, and served himself twice.

I made a raita to go with it but it wasn't really necessary - I've never really felt the need for any accompaniment to biriyani, though that's not to say I don't like them. I even believe it robs the biriyani of its taste. Have any of you felt this way?

As I believe curry leaves in biriyani are unusual, and this would make a great main dish for Christmas or any other festival/event where biriyani or pulao could be the main attraction, I am sending this off to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, organised and hosted by Haalo.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Green Goddess

I hate to 'simply plop'a recipe without attempting some story or humour as I usually do, but there isn't any this time. And I don't seem to have the energy to contrive something, either. There are quite a few pictures of what I've made and cooked over the past couple of weeks but the way I feel now, they will all take a while seeing the light of day.

Various events over the past couple of weeks have kept me away from the blogs and I'm not too sure this is a definitive, regular return. However, it's been too long for me and I want to take small steps towards coming back before lethargy consumes me and a good hobby goes to pot for want of nothing. So here goes ...

As usual, this was born out of slowly wrinkling leftovers from my fridge. Someone who ate it said it was unusual, and I thought it was, too, till I ran a search, and of course, found several results for this combination.

Well, I will call it my Green Goddess and hope you enjoy it as much too!

Green Capsicum/Green bell pepper: 3, chopped small
Cabbage: 1-1/2 cups, shredded
Mustard seed: 1 tsp
Green chilli: 3, chopped
Cumin seed: 1/2 tsp
Urad dal/Black gram: 2 tsp
Salt: to taste
Oil: 1-2 tsp
Water: to sprinkle

In a frying pan, heat the oil and temper with the mustard, cumin and black gram.

Lower heat to minimum, add the capsicum, saute a minute.

Then add the cabbage, mix well, saute some more.

Add the salt, mix.

If you like, sprinkle some water and cover immediately. Simmer till it softens.

Make sure it doesn't brown or burn.