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Friday, June 30, 2017

Celebrating #PulaoBiryaniDay with Family

“So who decides that today is Biryani Day?” asked my family.

 I had cooked two pots of Biryanis (one veg and other non-veg) as a special treat. The morning paper had screamed that there are 87 different varieties of Biryanis. I told them that I had an invite to Trident for biryani trail of 12 biryani’s but couldn’t go because I had committed to making one for the family.

“Why suddenly so much fuss over Biryani?” they asked.

Well , why not? Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, a food connoisseur and my food blogger friend had send me a message few days ago, asking me and many other food bloggers to observe June25th as #PuloaBiryaniDay. She felt that there were special observance days around the globe dedicated to food like World Macaron Day, World Nutella Day and more, but though India is home to rich culinary tradition, we had none. Her idea was well received in the food blogger’s community. Some more food bloggers from other parts of India also joined her in this plan of observing this day in their city. The word spread wild through social media, and lo behold! Whole of India did celebrate June25th as Puloa Biryani day.

Facebook, blogs, Instagram, Twitter, all were flooded with biryani pictures and recipes and many people took part and had potluck or feast at home.

I spent the whole morning cooking and enjoyed every moment of it. Actually my cooking drill started a day earlier when I stood in the kitchen to deep fry chopped onions on low flame till they were dark brown and crispy. I had liked the caramalised taste of it. Also I had marinated chicken in curd, garlic, ginger, chilies and spices.

Since I was alone in the kitchen with music  in the background playing latest Bollywood music, I was in good mood and very attentive. I worked deligently, watching each step and was quite pleased with the results. It was raining heavily so I asked my nephew to come and pick me up. I was to take biryani to my sister’s house (where I spend most of my Sundays)

My sister had cooked mutton too (in case there was not enough biryani, but nobody touched it) she had also made raita and had bought potato wafers. I waited as the family sat down to enjoy the meal and was greatly pleased when the family compliments started to pour in. They all loved it and said that it was better than what they order from restaurants. Well, I am glad. But unfortunately, if I am asked to repeat the same taste, I am not sure if I will be able to make the same taste once more. (I am creative, you see)

Cooking for me is an art that cannot be reproduced, so I jot down the recipe to remember what ingredients I used. Both the Biryanis were made side-by-side, so the taste differ  was only because of meat.


2 cups Basmati rice (wash and soak in water for half an hour)
3 large onions chopped lenghtwise (for deep frying)
2 medium onions peeled and burnt on open flame
8-9 Cardamoms
8-9 Cloves
4-5 star shaped Anise
8-9 Bay leaves
4-5 strands of saffron dissolved in 1/2cup warm milk
½ kg chicken randomly chopped
2 medium size potatoes, chopped and deep fried
200gms Cauliflower deep fried
2 medium Carrots chopped and deep fried
2 inch ginger
6cloves of garlic
4 green chilies
1tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp aniseeds
1 cup Curds
4 medium Tomatoes
50 grams chopped walnuts
50grams chopped almonds
50grams chopped pistachio
50grams chopped dates
1 cup milk
1 tsp lime juice
1 cup chopped corainder leaves
2 tbsp Briyani masala
salt to taste


1.     Marinate chicken with one inch ginger, 3pods of garlic, 1cup of curds, salt, 1tsp turmeric power and keep it over night.
2.     Deep fry onions on low flame till they are dark brown and crispy.
3.     Boil rice till it is half done, strain and spread in a large plate
4.     Add cloves, bay leaves, star anis, cardamons, ghee, and saffron dissolved in hot milk to the cooked rice. Mix and keep it aside.
5.     Start to prepare vegetables for veg briyani..deep fry chopped potatoes, chopped carrots, and cauliflower.
6.     In a separate pan, heat 1tbsp oil. Add cumin seeds, aniseeds, chopped onions. Add mushroom and corn. Add fried potatoes, fried cauliflower and fried carrots. Add the mixture of curd and tomatoes. Add salt and briyani masala. Mix and cook for 2 minutes. Keep the cooked vegetables aside.
7.     In a pressure cooker pan, heat 1tbp oil. Add cunin seed, aniseeds, chopped onions. Add the marinated chicken (as mentioned above in method one). Add mixture of curds and tomatoes. Add salt and briyani masala. Mix and cook till oil floats on the top. Add 1/2cup water and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
8.     Take a deep pan for vegetable briyani. Coat it with ghee. Spread deep fried onions.(as mentioned above in method 2) add 1 cup cooked spice rice (as mentioned in above method 4) add the cooked vegetables (as mentioned in method 6) cover it with ½ cup spiced rice (as mentioned in method4). Garnish with deep fried onions, chopped almonds, pistachio, walnuts, dates. Sprinkle ½ milk over it. Squeeze ½ lemon juice. Add chopped coriander leaves. cover the pot tightly and seal it with wheat dough and steam it on low flame for 45 minutes.
9.     Take a deep pan for chicken briyani. Coat it with ghee. Spread deep fried onions.(as mentioned above in method 2) add 1 cup cooked spice rice (as mentioned in above method 4) add the cooked chicken (as mentioned in method 7) cover it with ½ cup spiced rice (as mentioned in method4). Garnish with deep fried onions, chopped almonds, pistachio, walnuts, dates. Sprinkle ½ milk over it. Squeeze ½ lemon juice. Add chopped coriander leaves. cover the pot tightly and seal it with wheat dough and steam it on low flame for 45 minutes.

10.  Serve with onion raita and potato chips

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Restaurant Review: Hopscotch Bar & Brasserie

It was my sister’s 40th wedding anniversary and my nephew was all excited about this new place ‘Hopscotch-Bar and Brasserie’ that has been launched in the month of May on S.V.Road, Bandra. His enthusiasm had aroused my curiosity and I was equally eager to visit it.

The entrance to this restaurant is interesting, as the name suggest Hopscotch, the floor game takes you back to your childhood memories when you would spend hours in building compound, hopping on one foot, picking up a coin or a tile. You enter the restaurant and you are tempted to hop, only the game rules change here, you may be blindfolded with a drink on your head, gyrate over the numbered squares, taking a dance step over the latest raps till you hop on number four-five or seven-eight where you land on two feet and twist. The idea is to have pure fun.

The mood is already set with the foot tapping music as you look for a place to sit. On the wall, LEGO blocks stare back at you, while another wall  exhibits Tic Tac Toe with wooden Xs and Os planted on it.

For selfie lovers, there are emoji cushions all over the place, that bring a smile and comfort.

Two room (inner and outer rooms) are separated by a bar. While my family enjoyed a private party in the inner room, the other side of the bar was bustling with vibrant  youngsters. Late evenings, lot of drama happens at the bar with drinks jugglers and liquor shots drained down the throat in seconds (I missed that but the family had enjoyed it)

The menu was carefully chosen by my nephew before the party. Endless cocktails and mock-tails, four vegetarian and four non-vegetarian finger foods and one veg and one non-veg for the mains.

Of the selected Malaysian Paneer, Mushroom Tacos, Dilwali Nacho dal Makhani and Pesto slider, the Dilwali Nacho dal makhani was very innovate and tastes better than its traditional Mexican cousin of baked beans, the lone disadvantage being that nachos tend to get soggy under the weight of dal, so should be consumed as soon as they arrive. (not a good idea to serve at a party where people come to eat only during their breaks in dancing, when the music pauses.)

On non-vegetarian front, Chipotle Prawns was the winner, the melt-in-the mouth delight, I simply loved it, although Galouti kabab lamb, Serani Fish and Korean Chicken are equally good too.

The Thai vegetarian curry in the mains tasted very good and I would love to visit this place just to have this meal the second time.

The brainchild of first-time restauranteurs Roshan Sachdeva, wife Neha and her brother Gaurav Khetwani, with Suved Lohia as its managing partner, the prospects of this place looks good. With many Bars and Brasseries mushrooming all over Mumbai, the restaurant has tough competition and if it maintains its same standard of providing good music and good service, its popularity is sure to rise to higher decibels.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Authentic Garam Masala Used in Sindhi Kitchen

The fragrance that you get from woman’s sari is the aroma of the spices that clings to her while she cooks……..

Strangely Sindhi Garam masala is not used in Sindhi Curry, nor is it used in that famous Saibhaji, nor in popular DhalPakwan too.  Garam masala is mainly used in meat dishes

The very first cooking class that I had attended (way back) in my teens, the instructor had said “Don’t think that if you use too much of Garam masala, the food is going to taste beautiful, on the contarary, you will spoil the taste, always use garam masala moderately” this piece of advise has stuck on to me till today and whenever I used garam masala, I use it carefully.

My mom was the greatest cook ever, I don’t remember her churning out a bad dish, whatever she cooked, it always tasted good. I had asked her once as to where did she learn cooking. She had told me that she has been cooking from age nine. Her mother (My granny) cooked only lunch and then spend rest of her days visiting families (either attending condolence meetings, or was on social call, or some private gatherings) and my mom (being the eldest) cooked dinner for the family everyday. If I have to trace my roots, I can go only as far as 1947. Pre-partition stories have been blocked out from my family completely and are rarely discussed (such pain they brought) Sindhis decided to move on (because feeding their family was their priority) and being penniless after partition, men went back to trading, while women cooked together in community kitchens churning out tasty dishes.

Nobody can deny that Sindhis are very hospitable and will never let you go hungry. If you were to create a stereotype Sindhi, then you must agree that they are kind and welcoming, fun-loving, adaptable and extremely close-knit.

I did a little research and this is what I stumbled upon:

It is said that "between the eighth and 10th century the Abbasid Caliphs of Baghbad were at the height of their power and spent lavish amounts of money on their kitchens. The expenditure on food was matched by their gluttony, and cooks from all over the Muslim world, namely Turkey, Arabia, Egypt, gathered at Baghdad and incorporated their own local dishes into the courtly culinary repertoire."Even Indian cooks arrived from Sindh (the southern part of what is now Pakistan), which had been conquered by the Arabs in the year 713. The cooks hailing from Sindh were known for their trustworthiness, ingenuity, and extremely spicy dishes,"
as quoted in the chapter titled Biryani in the book, Curry: A tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham.
During my growing up days, I watched mom roast the spices and then pound them in mortar and pestle mill till they acquired the rough powdery consistency. The pounding of the spices gave me headaches but the aroma that filled my rooms was heady. Eventually I learnt to make Garam Masala from my mom and helped her in the kitchen.

Here I am sharing the recipe of Garam Masala that my mom used to make.

To make Sindhi Garam Masala


100 grams cumin seeds
50grams aniseed
50grams Caraway seeds
25-30 cardamoms
8-10 cloves
50 grams Cinamons
12-13 Bay leaves


Dry roast together all the spices on hot plate on low heat, stirring continuously till you get the sweet aroma of spices.

Take them off the heat and set it aside to cool

Grind when cool and store in air-tight glass bottles.

If you have my book on Sindhi Cuisine, you can find this recipe on page 52

I normally use Sindhi Garam Masala in gravy made of burnt onions, and in meat recipes, but otherwise, most of the vegetarian dishes that I cook, I normally sprinkle crushed mixture of cardamom and Shahi Jeera.

In many Sindhi dishes, a mixture of Caraway-Cardamom powder is added at the end of cooking instead of Garam Masala. This enhances the flavours and aroma of the dish and is beneficial for its cooling effects, as compared to the more heavier garam masala, which is primarily used in meat dishes.

To make one teaspoon of caraway-cardamom powder, grind togather one teaspoon of caraway seeds and 2-3 peeled green cardamom.

This post has been written to mark the tradition (of drying and grinding spices in the month of May) by celebrating 20th May as International #MasalaDay

May the flavours of Masala enhance your cooking.....hope you are celebrating too.

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