Monday, May 30, 2016

Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani
Biryani is a delicious and wholesome combination of rice, layered with meat or vegetables and potatoes, cooked with aromatic spices and garnished with deep fried onions. Making a traditional biryani is a long and complicated process which was beyond my comprehension until my brother who is a wonderful cook, allowed me to watch him produce outstanding results using a very simple process. I came back home after that weekend in Toronto and tried it without the same success.

Chicken Biryani Plated
My brother cooks the chicken on the stovetop, cooks the rice in a rice cooker and pours the chicken and all its juices over the rice and sets the biryani aside until dinnertime. His biryani tastes simply awesome, but I was not able to replicate it. 

My way is to cook chicken and potatoes in a big saucepan, cover the top with Greek yogurt, top it with rice that has been soaked and strained well, add chicken broth in proportion to the rice, bring it to a boil and then cover and simmer it over low heat for 25 minutes. It sounds complicated, but is really easy to do.

Varieties of Ready-Made Birista

Birista or deep fried onions are an essential garnish for both pulaos and biryanis. They're easy to make but is a tedious and long process. Much easier to pick up a bottle or package of birista at the oriental markets.
Shan Pilau Biryani Mix

Recipe on back of package
The recipe that follows was inspired by the recipe on the back of the spice mix with a few modifications which were made to simplify the process. 

Simple Salad
Serve this biryani with a simple salad of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green chilies, salt and lime juice. Or accompany the biryani with one of the following raitas.

Fuji Apple Raita
Tzatziki or Cucumber Raita

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tzatziki Meatloaf Rollup

We  recently had gyros-in-a-kit which came with a serving of tzatziki. Just take a look at the nutrition facts for tzatziki...there isn't a better and more delicious condiment for those of us who are watching our carb intake! By making it at home, I was able to cut down the calories per serving to 18 calories, sodium to 20 mg., cholesterol to 2 mg., total carbs to 1.5 g and sugars to 0 g. This I did by using fat-free Chobani Greek yogurt.
Chobani Greek Yogurt

But what is tzatziki, you ask? It's a staple in Turkish, Greek and other Mediterranean cuisine, made simply by combining yogurt with garlic and cucumber, along with a few other seasonings. In Indian cuisine, it's called cucumber raita. The rich and creamy texture of tzatziki is perfect for dipping raw vegetables, to serve alongside biryani or pulao, grilled meats like kebabs or to use as a sandwich spread. 

Clockwise from top left:
Tortilla layered with lettuce & tzatziki
Slice of meatloaf
Tzatziki Meatloaf Rollup
For lunch today we had meatloaf sandwiches for which flour tortillas were lined with lettuce, slathered with tzatziki and topped with a slice of meatloaf. It's the best sandwich I've had in a long, long time.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Burmese Stewed Eggplant - Khayan Thee Hin

A form of sipyan, this eggplant dish is so much easier to prepare because everything is combined in a skillet and left to cook on its own.  Out of sheer habit, I scraped the bottom of the pan to make sure it wasn't sticking, but that was not necessary at all. Once the tomatoes cooked down, the cooking liquids covered the eggplant pieces which then stewed in the resulting juices. The bulk of the flavour and umami was imparted by a combination of peanuts, shrimp paste and dried shrimp powder.

Here are several options for vegans. To achieve umami flavour without using fish-/seafood-based sauces, would be to use mushroom sauce and dried shiitake mushrooms. Mushroom sauce is used by vegans to replace oyster sauce and the soaking liquid from dried shiitake mushrooms both impart strong umami flavour. More difficult to come by is dried konbu or kelp (seaweed) which is used to make konbu dashi. A third option would be to use Ajinomoto or MSG.

Serve this as a side over a mound of steamed rice, preferably coconut rice or Ohn Htamin.