Lazy Chicken Biryani!

This is my sister-in-law’s recipe and is my go-to recipe for a quick and satisfying meal. This is not the traditional “dum” way of making biryani with meat but it is simple to make and fast too. An authentic biryani takes hours to make but is worth the effort.  Meat is marinated in spices and is cooked in a heavy bottomed pan with half-cooked rice layered on top of the meat.  The whole pan is sealed so steam won’t escape – the meat thus gets cooked both from the heat on the bottom of the pan and the steam on top.  It is very flavorful and as I said is worth the time and effort but for the days that you do not have time but crave biryani this lazy recipe should do the trick.  Serve it with raita (yogurt sauce) and dinner is ready in under an hour.

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Ingredients:

For the biryani:

  • Onion – 1 big sliced
  • Mint leaves – 2 cups loosely packed (optional)
  • Methi leaves – 1 cup loosely packed (optional)
  • Frozen peas – 1/2 cup thawed
  • Ginger garlic paste – 4 asps
  • Whole chicken – 1 cut up in big pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chili powder – 2 tsps
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
  • Garam masala – 1 tsp
  • Coriander leaves – a few sprigs
  • Cashews – broken about 4 tbsp
  • Oil – around 4 tbsp
  • Butter – 1tbsp
  • Basmati rice – 4 cups
  • Whole spices:
    • Bay leaves – 2
    • Cinnamon stick – a 3 inch piece
    • Star Anise – 2
    • Cloves – 6 to 8
    • Whole cardamom – around 5

For the raita:

  • Yogurt – 2 cups
  • Red onion – 1 diced small
  • Green chillies – 1 or 2
  • Carrot – peeled and grated*
  • Cumin powder – a pinch
  • Salt to taste
  • A few grinds of black pepper

Method:

Biryani:

  1. Wash rice and add it to a rice cooker that is big enough to cook up to 8 cups of rice.  Add 6 cups of water to the rice**
  2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil and butter in a wide pan.  Add bay leaves and the rest of the whole spices.  Cook until the spices are aromatic and add cashews; cook until cashews brown and add the spices and oil to the soaked rice and mix well.
  3. Add the rest of the oil to the same pan and when the oil is hot add the sliced onions. Cook until the onions are browned and add ginger-garlic paste.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for a minute; add frozen peas and cook for a minute or two; add both mint and methi leaves and saute until the leaves wilt
  4. Add washed chicken, turmeric powder, salt, chilli powder and coriander powder.  Increase the heat and cook chicken, while stirring, so it is browned on the outside around 5-7 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the chicken cook for another 10 minutes.  Add garam masala and coriander leaves; cook for a couple more minutes on high heat
  6. Add the cooked chicken (there should not be a lot of water in the chicken) to the soaked rice and mix well.  Add a cup of water to the pan, scrape up the browned bits and add to the rice
  7. Mix really well, adjust the salt and turn the rice cooker on
  8. While the rice cooks keep stirring it often so the meat doesn’t settle on top.  You can also add juice of one lime if you wish
  9. When the rice is done you may have to mix it again just so the meat is not all lumped together at the top.
  10. Serve it piping hot with raita and lime wedges!

** Not all rice are created equal 🙂 Some may require more water and some less.  Please adjust water according to your rice.  Usually basmati rice needs about 1 1/2 cup of water to 1 cup of rice.

Raita:

  1. Mix finely chopped onions, slit green chillies, grated carrot, salt, black pepper and cumin powder in a bowl.  Let it rest for a couple minutes while you beat 2 cups of yogurt till it is creamy.  You can add a few tbsp of water to make it smooth
  2. Add yogurt to the onions and carrot and adjust salt
  3. Garnish it with coriander leaves or mint leaves and serve

*Cucumber can be used instead of carrot.  Make sure to deseed the cucumber.  Grate it or dice it thin and add it in place of carrot.  Raita can be made plain without carrot or cucumber but I feel good about adding carrots/cucumber … get some veggies in!

 

 

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Black bean quesadillas!

Quesadillas are so simple to make and so satisfying.  They are one of my comfort foods…also my go to option when I am lazy or need to get food on the table in under 10 minutes.  If I am in a hurry I make them with plain cheese and chopped bottled jalapeno or canned black beans mixed with cheese and salsa.  Mostly I make them with filling made from black beans and red bell peppers.  This takes a bit more time but you can sneak vegetables in and also add a lot more flavor. I also prefer using lavash roll up bread instead of tortillas.

blackbeanquesadilla

Ingredients:

  • 13.4 oz canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 2 green chillies diced (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin pwd
  • 1/4 tsp coriander pwd
  • A couple sprigs of coriander leaves
  • 1 – 2 tbsp oil
  • 4 lavash roll ups or 4 tortillas
  • Shredded cheese (mexican blend) – about 2 cups
  • Bottled jalapeno – finely chopped about a tbsp

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a pan and add onions and green chillies; saute for a few mins until onions become translucent
  2. Add bell pepper and cook until peppers become soft but still have a bite to them
  3. Add the beans and mix well
  4. Add salt to taste, cumin and coriander powder and cook on low flame for a couple minutes; add coriander leaves, mix well and turn off the heat
  5. Heat a wide frying pan; spread about a tsp of butter on one side of the tortilla or bread and place buttered side down on the pan; turn down the heat to medium low
  6. Spread about 1/2 cup black bean filling and 1/2 cup of cheese on half of the tortilla and fold the other half over
  7. Cook on one side for about a minute; flip and cook on the other side for about a minute.  The tortilla should be crisp and the cheese just melting
  8. Transfer to warm plate or serve immediately with sour cream and salsa

Rainbow Trout!

I met a dear friend for dinner at Seasons 52 over the weekend and we ordered wood-grilled rainbow trout with golden beets salad.  The fish was so succulent and delicate I had to try it at home…pan seared instead of grilled. I thought fried trout and salad would make a nice dinner but when I went to the grocery store to pick up fish I couldn’t resist baby purple potatoes and rainbow carrots.  So dinner ended up to be pan seared trout with roasted purple potatoes and rainbow carrots!

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Recipes are from Food Network and Food.com and can be found here: Pan seared trout, roasted purple potatoes and roasted rainbow carrots!

Shrimp Curry!

This is a very basic and simple shrimp curry that you can whip up in under 30 minutes.  Perfect for those busy weekday nights.  I usually keep a bag of easy peel shrimp in my freezer.  Costco raw shrimp is deveined and peeled with just the tail on…so it is even easier to use.  You can use cooked shrimp too for this recipe but I personally prefer to use raw shrimp – I find cooked shrimp a bit hard.  The key to cooking shrimp is not to overcook it.  I usually prepare shrimp separately and add it to the curries or pasta sauce in the last couple minutes.  This is like shrimp fry – another variation of shrimp – with  tomatoes and yogurt added so it’s a bit tangy.

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Ingredients:

  • Raw or cooked shrimp – 2 pounds
  • Onions – 2 medium diced
  • Tomatoes – 2 medium diced
  • Green chillies – 2 slit
  • Frozen peas – 1/2 cup
  • Ginger Garlic paste – 2 tbsp
  • Yogurt – 2 tbsp beaten
  • Oil – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Turmeric powder – a pinch
  • Chili powder – 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam masala – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander leaves – a few sprigs

Method:

  1. Thaw and peel shrimp per instructions.  Add a pinch of turmeric powder, a sprinkle of salt and a tbsp of water and cook on low heat until the shrimp turns pink.  Turn off heat when the shrimp turns pink
  2. Heat oil in a pan and add onions and green chillies.  Saute until onions brown and add a pinch of turmeric powder
  3. Add ginger garlic paste and saute until the raw smell goes away – around 30 seconds
  4. Add peas and cook for a couple minutes
  5. Add tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes become soft; add salt (remember that a pinch of salt is already added to shrimp), chilli powder and coriander powder and cook until the oil separates from the tomatoes; add beaten yogurt, mix well, cover the pan and cook for a few minutes on low heat
  6. Add shrimp – I usually discard any water that comes from cooking the shrimp – and mix well
  7. Cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes
  8. Add garam masala, coriander leaves and cook uncovered for a minute more
  9. Serve hot with rice

 

Beerakaya Gutthi Koora

Beerakaya – ridge gourd – is very commonly used in Andhra cooking.  It is one of my favorite vegetables but I don’t enjoy it much in US since I am never able to recreate the taste of my childhood.  Most vegetables that I grew up enjoying fail to impress me – I am not sure if nostalgia makes me think that they tasted different and better or if it is just the quality of vegetables – all organic, local and picked at the best time – that made them taste better.

Beerakaya can be made in many ways and its skin is used to make pachadi (a chutney).  I normally make it with milk but wanted to do something different and tried the stuffed ridge gourd recipe that I found in a magazine.  It is time consuming but worth the effort.  No…the vegetable didn’t still taste like it did in India but it was good.

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Ingredients:

  • Ridge gourd – 1 lb
  • Peanuts – 2 tbsp
  • Sesame seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Dry coconut powder – 1 tbsp
  • Chana dal – 1 tbsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tbsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/8 tsp
  • Red chili – 1
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – a few
  • Turmeric powder – a pinch
  • Chili powder – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – 3 tbsp
  • Coriander leaves – a few sprigs

Method:

  1. Dry roast peanuts, sesame seeds, chana dal, urad dal, cumin and coriander separately and grind them into a coarse powder along with salt, coconut and chili powder.
  2. Peel the ridge gourd and cut them into 2 to 3 inch pieces.  Cross hatch the pieces by cutting a deep X but still keeping it intact
  3. Stuff the ridge gourd pieces with the ground powder
  4. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds and red chili; when mustard seeds splatter add the stuffed ridge gourd pieces, curry leaves and any left over powder
  5. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on medium heat.  Keep checking the pan and gently shake the pan so the vegetable cooks evenly.  Add a few tbsp of water if it looks too dry
  6. When the ridge gourd is cooked completely add coriander leaves and serve with rice or rotis

Note: I like a lot of gravy in my stuffed vegetable curries so I usually use a little more nuts than the recipe calls for.  For this recipe, I used about 6 tbsp of peanuts and 2 tbsp of sesame seeds along with 2 tbsp of coconut

Kakarakaya fry!

Kakarakaya or karela or bitter gourd is one of my favorite vegetables…not many people like it because it is bitter but the more bitter it is the more I like it.  It is my dad’s favorite too…more than the regular bitter gourd we get he used to love adavi kakarakaya which literally translates to forest bitter gourd – grown in the wild not commonly cultivated.  He used to work in villages surrounding our town – he was a headmaster at public schools – and every once in a while he used to find these wild bitter gourds sold in the villages and he would bring them home for my mom to cook and those times there would be pure joy on his face…he would even sit with my mom to clean the vegetables.  Lucky for him my mom was a great cook – he would have been a very unhappy man if that were not the case.  I cannot make bitter gourd and not think of my dad.  As is the case with any vegetable you can cook this vegetable several different ways but the easiest is a simply fry.  My favorite dish of this vegetable is stuffed with spices and cooked as whole…I need to make that some time.

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Ingredients:

  • Bitter gourd – 4
  • Oil – 4 tbsp*
  • Mustard seeds – 1/8 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1/8 tsp
  • Chana dal – 1/2 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
  • Red chillies – 1
  • Garlic – 1 clove
  • Curry leaves – a few
  • Dry coconut powder – 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Turmeric – 1/8 tsp
  • Red chilli powder – 1 to 2 tsps
  • Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp

Method:

  1. Wash and peel bitter gourds; slice them into thin circles**.  If the seeds are too hard discard them (I like the crunch of the seeds)
  2. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds; when mustard seeds splatter add cumin, chana dal, urad dal and red chilli; cook until the seasoning browns
  3. Add bitter gourd and curry leaves; add turmeric, salt and mix well.  Reduce the flame to medium and cook until bitter gourd becomes soft.  Keep stirring so it won’t burn; meanwhile grind coconut powder, red chilli powder, garlic and a pinch of cumin to a coarse powder
  4. When it is almost cooked add the ground coconut powder, coriander powder and mix well; cook for a few more minutes.

*This takes quite a bit of oil.  This is usually served as a condiment to eat with rice and sambar or dal and hence is more like chips.  My mom sometimes deep fries the gourd pieces and sprinkles them with salt and chilli powder

**Another way of making this is dicing the gourd into 1/2 inch pieces.  I prefer to cut them into circles.

Black Bean Brownies!

The concept of hiding vegetables in plain sight by mixing pureed vegetables into kids’ favorite dishes is not new but I haven’t tried it much.  When I saw a recipe for black bean brownies in a Parade magazine I was curious enough to try it.  We bake brownies quite regularly and I usually stock up on brownie mix from Costco so I was all set with the ingredients.  This recipe from Joy Bauer’s “From Junk Food to Joy Food” is pretty simple and the kids were fooled.  They do think it tastes different but the black beans went unnoticed.  The brownies were less sweet because of the addition of beans but otherwise texture and appearance was the same.  Not bad at all for all the extra protein and fiber you get.

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Recipe from Parade magazine:

Ingredients:

  • Brownie mix – 1 18 oz box
  • Black beans – 1 15 oz can
  • Eggs – 1 large beaten (optional)

Method:

  1. After draining and rinsing, return beans to can, adding enough water to cover. Place beans and water in a blender; puree
  2. Combine bean puree and brownie mix in a mixing bowl
  3. Add egg if you want a softer, spongier consistency
  4. Mix thoroughly and bake according to box directions

Notes: I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix.  I also added egg to black beans and pureed it all together.  Baking is an exact science and beating the egg vs putting it in a blender might make a difference – Alton Brown would know and elaborate – but blending it was more convenient 🙂