Ah. Biryani. That mouth-watering melting pot of flavors and spices. Who doesn’t like biryani? Shockingly, me. I have never been a fan and always wondered at the euphoric reaction it elicited among everyone, including my husband. But, during this quarantine period, I decided to conquer some of my misconceptions and biases (one reason for my dislike for biryani is its name) for certain foods. And, biryani tops the list. Others are kadalai curry, vadakari, korma (i really like the aroma, just not a fan of the actual dish, go figure that), aappam (again, I love the looks, the concept, just not crazy about actually eating it). Anyway, I started with searching for a good recipe for biryani and watched a youtube episode of Revathy Shanmugam’s Kavignar Veetu Samayal and decided to give it a try. Jackpot! Not only did I actually love it and not because I was super hungry, but I even ate it as a leftover. Finally, my search for a biryani I could love is over! This will be, for sure, my go to recpe for biryani. I made the side dish she made as well, and loved it also. Have provided the link in the notes section – for those who can follow Thamizh. Now, on to the recipe.
Having always wanted to make naan at home, the social distancing restrictions provided the perfect opportunity since we cut way down on eating out from maybe once a week to zero, to try it. I browsed several recipes: some that didn’t use a conventional oven needed the tawa to be inverted over the stove. I use a heavy cast iron tawa. That was out. Some used the traditional tandoor. Out. By elimination, I settled on recipes that used an oven. Of these, Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe seemed like a good fit. And that’s what I settled on. He isn’t very clear on how long to bake, so I had to guess. The result: the naans were a bit chewy. I followed his instructions to keep the dough very moist and I think that made a huge difference in the texture. I’m sure I’ll try this again, and maybe will hit the perfect temp and the cooking time. For this recipe, I preheated my oven to 500, which was the max my oven would go. And cooked the naan for approximately 5 minutes.
A traditional rich recipe made out of almond paste (soaked almonds ground into a paste with/without milk), sugar, and clarified butter. Those are the basic ingredients. Saffron and cardomom powder are optionally added for flavor and color. Something similar in the western culture would be marzipan, a candy made out of almond paste, sugar, and sometimes eggs. Yeah. Not really similar. Just kidding.
This is one of the easiest lunch/rice recipes. Perfect for summer afternoons, paired with a cucumber or onion raita and a cruncy papad. Fresh mint flavors this rice, I don’t add cilantro as I want the flavor of mint to be the dominant one.
Ah! What can I say about puliyodarai that hasn’t been said. It’s a kind of mixed rice, what we call “kalanda sadam” in thamizh. The gravy that it’s mixed with is made up of tamarind extract and a spice mix that has chana dal, red chilies, coriander seeds, a little bit of black pepper, and most importantly, sesame seeds. These spices are toasted in a bit of oil, preferably sesame, and made into a powder. The tamarind juice is boiled with a bit of oil, hing, chana dal, red chilies, and curry leaves and made into a thick paste – this is called pulikachal. It’s then mixed with rice, a bit of the spice powder, and tempered with more hing, curry leaves, and roasted peanuts. Heaven! It’s a very popular prasad in many temples, travels really well, and is part of the meal on one of the pongal days along with coconut rice, and yogurt rice, and fried papads, vathals. The most important thing to note about puliyodarai is that it needs sesame oil, and sesame oil only. None other will do if you want authentic puliyodarai.
This specific version is the Iyengar version as I’ve learned. The Iyer version stops with making the puli gravy with chilies, curry leaves, methi powder and hing. At that stage, it can be mixed with rice and eaten. The Iyengar version goes one step further and adds this beautiful spice powder, the dominant flavor there being sesame seeds.
To summarize, there are 3 steps in making puliyodarai:
1. Make the pulikachal paste (this will stay in the refrigerator for a couple of months, so make a good quantity)
2. Make the spice powder
3. Make the rice, and mix, add tempering