Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Tandoori Chicken Biryani

Hello, all. Welcome to biryani recipe 240349304 on the interwebs. You might be wondering, well Abida, what makes your biryani recipe so different from all the other ones out there?? Well, I'll tell you exactly what, discerning readers. It's the fact that I have struggled to get to this point of a publishable biryani recipe that I can confidently share with other people. It has been a year long journey for me of trials, tribulation and hyperventilation. I should add a side note here that being Bangladeshi, biryanis are not really a traditional food as it is in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. It is usually more common for us to prepare a pilau or yakhni dish. And yep that is my very legitimate excuse that I am using before sharing my embarassing biryani making woes...

The first attempt came a year ago where I attempted to make the biryani from scratch with no boxed spice mixes. It was a sorry tale from the get go. I somehow managed to burn the onions when I was making the chicken masala, lending a rather unpleasant acrid taste throughout the whole dish. Furthermore, I was so fixated on not having soft, mushy rice, that I ended up with the total opposite and I had to spend aaaages letting it cook on the stove in a desperate attempt to get it to soften. The second biryani attempt came a few months later, when I managed to muster the courage to try again. This time, I thought to ease myself back into the process by using a ready prepared biryani spice mix. I ended up regretting the decision as I found the flavour too strong and decidedly flowery in taste. On top of that, the second time around, I was fixated on not having hard rice and subsequently I ended up with rice that was way too soft. 

The struggles, guys. It's real. 

But a couple of days ago, I decided to conquer my fears head on, armed with my new range of culinary skills and a bag load of tips that I'd preened from anyone who fed me biryani. And just like in the tale of Golidocks and the Three Bears, the third time was just right. And there was no box spice mix to be found in sight, huzzah! All of the spices were ones that we had in the cupboards anyway, and I tried to use whole spices in moderation so as not to overwhelm the dish. I decided to go for a tandoori chicken flavour as it is one that we all enjoy in our family so it was a safe option. I used chicken on the bone as I feel that it is more tender, but you can use boneless chicken, and make tikka style pieces. 

There are three different parts to this recipe, the preparation of the tandoori chicken and then the gravy/sauce to go with it, the precooking of the rice, and the assembly process. It might seem a bit intimidating, but if you are lazy like me, you could prepare the chicken masala the night before and then do all of the rice and assembly the next day. And if you're looking for even more shortcuts, you could skip baking the chicken in the oven and just cook it on the stove straight off. I couldn't be bothered to use dough to seal the pot as in the traditional dum method to steam the biryani and instead used foil. Alternatively, you could wrap the lid in a damp tea towel and place it on top. A colleague gave me the tip of placing a flat tawa under the pot whilst the biryani steams and I found that it helps in distributing the heat.

You could add lots of food colouring to the rice or the chicken, but I decided to keep things simple and natural, and used a little bit of saffron. Like with most curry dishes, as good as the biryani tastes fresh, it tastes better the next day when the flavours have had time to mature and deepen.  So give it a go, guys. I really mean it when I say that if I can do it, anyone can do it. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Vintage Eid Tea Party

During the weekend of Eid, we threw a vintage style tea party on a surprisingly sunny Sunday afternoon. It was the first grown up party that I had taken part in hosting and I thought I'd share a few pictures from the day. It took a few days to plan and prepare, and whilst there were a few stressful moments, it was a very fun and enjoyable day.

It was a real DIY party, as most things were either homemade, like the cakes and cookies or bought from the pound shop/eBay like the disposable tablecloth and vintage style paper straws and washi tape. We placed the flowers in an old glass bottle and a jam jar decorated with paper doilies from the pound shop. Whilst I love those vintage looking glass milk bottles, we had no space to store a set after the party, so instead I bought readymade milkshakes from the supermarket which came in similar shaped plastic bottles, and then I replaced the plastic label with a paper doily. My sister in law prepared the lovely Victoria sponge cake which we decorated with a washi tape cake topper. But our cake stand was nothing more than a plate and bowl taped together! I also had some fun making some tissue paper Pom pom flowers. It's pretty cool what you can produce with a little creative thinking and lots of Pinterest tutorials! 

Monday, 27 July 2015

My Ramadan Meals in Pictures

Hello and as salamu alaikum dear readers! I can't believe it's been just over a week since the end of Ramadan. It feels as though it was just the other day, and years ago all at the same time. Does that even make sense?

 I am feeling very nostalgic about Ramadan at the moment, and the tranquility and spirituality that comes along with the month, so thought I would share a post today with some of my iftar meals from the month. I was overall quite pleased with how I ate during Ramadan, it was probably my healthiest one to date. I must confess however, I have been indulging in junk decadent foods quite a bit since Eid, but this is something I hope to rectify soon!

I tried to keep it balanced for iftar this year, and tried to find the middle path between traditional and luxury foods and lighter, healthier foods. It wouldn't really be a Bengali iftar without the occasional appearance of kichuri, piyazi (lentil and onion fritters) or chana biran (curried chickpeas).... So we mixed it up with soups and salads as well as some deep fried savoury snacks!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Aafiyah Ramadan Competition

Hello, all! I have recently been working with the good people at Aafiyah and have created some tasty and simple recipes using their convenient frozen poultry range. Aafiyah are currently running a competition during Ramadan where there is a great hamper of goodies up for grabs. 

All you have to do is try out one of the recipes on the website and upload an image of your creation. You could try out my tandoori chicken recipe, or chicken and sausage bake or some quick spicy wings. Not only are they quick and easy dishes for iftar, but by entering the competition you have a chance to win some free goodies. Win win situation all around I say. It would be great for one of my readers to win the competition, so do give it a go guys!

Sumac Lamb Chops

Greetings readers! I hope you have all been enjoying the weekend, and that Ramadan is going well for all who are observing it. I can't believe we are already a third of a way through. The weather has been hot with a capital H recently in London, but alhamdulillah fasting has been going well so far. The day does move a lot faster though when I am kept busy with teaching. Just this Sunday afternoon for instance, I actually out of my own free will decided to do some cleaning as I felt I had a little too much time on my hands. And as those who know me personally would agree, it takes a lot for me to be enthusiastic about cleaning...

If you have been keeping up with my instagram feed, I have been posting daily pictures of my iftar meals with my family. I have been endevaouring this Ramadan to try and eat as best as I can and not gorge on traditional fried foods like samosas and pakoras. So far I think I have been doing pretty well and have been incorporating lots of veggies, leafy greens and fruits. I also like to go for simple, minimal fuss recipes where I can just leave something to simmer away slowly on the stove or bake in the oven without me being stuck in the kitchen for ages. These sumac lamb chops would be an ideal type of dish for iftar, as you can just leave it to cook away in the oven whilst you attend to other duties. As they are baked rather than fried, they are a lot easier on the stomach, and if you have some meat-loving males in your families, this is sure to satiate their appetite after a long day of fasting!

I loooove sumac, as you might have already surmised from my Sumac roast chicken post, and this dried Middle Eastern herb gives a subtle tang to the lamb chops. Also, in combination with the yoghurt, the marinade turns a pretty cute pink colour, although it is a little reminiscent of tubby custard...

As you marinade the chops the night before, all you have to do on the day is whack it in the oven. Afterwards, you can choose to finish off the chops either in the grill or on a griddle pan for some slight charring. The longer you marinade the chops, the deeper the flavour will be, however if you are running short on time you can always just marinade it on the morning of cooking. Serve the chops with salad and roasted veggies for a light meal, or some quinoa or rice for a bit more substance.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

North African Style Chicken Stew

I've been on a bit of a Middle Eastern/North African mood with my cooking recently. After my mujadarra recipe, I have got a North African style chicken stew for you guys today. The ingredients used are inspired by the Berber tagines dishes that you might find in Morocco, however I don't own a tagine so I'm not sure how authentically Moroccan this recipe really is. 

I decided to add in some vegetables I had in my fridge like broccoli, and instead of the traditional couscous, I decided to make the dish a bit lighter and serve the stew over quinoa instead. However, you could just as easily serve it with some bread or rice if you prefer.

I used chicken thighs from Aafiyah's frozen range for this recipe. I braised the chicken thighs separately first before adding it to the pot with all of the vegetables. You can pretty much adapt it with whatever vegetables you have on hand at home, so it's a great simple dish that you can quickly whip up for dinner or iftar. 

Mujaddara (Rice with lentils)

Belated Ramadan Mubarak, readers! I can't believe we're already into the 3rd day already considering the period of fasting is quite long this year. I've got my interpretation of the Middle Eastern dish, mjddara/mujaddara to share with you today which would make a lovely addition to the dinner table for iftar.

Made with lentils and rice, this is apparently known as a peasant dish, as it is a cheap and filling dish with no meat. However, you really don't miss the meat and I could easily eat plates of this rice all on its own.

Being typically Bengali, I think my version of mujddara is quite similar to how we make pilau, minus all of the complicated spices. This dish only has cumin and black pepper but it surprisingly has a robust earthy and wholesome taste.

I adapted this recipe from This Muslim Girl Bakes and Arabic Zeal. From the latter, I took the idea of adding carrot which adds nice bites of sweetness to the rice. From the former, I got the idea of adding butter to the dish. The reasoning behind this was that apparently butter makes everything taste better, and my giddy aunt, the butter makes such a huge difference to an otherwise humble dish. I usually use ghee when I make traditional pilaus, however after the success of this dish, I may just switch to using butter now!

As I was writing out the recipe and instructions, I think I might have ended up making this sound more complicated than it really is. If you omit the caramelised onions, it is just an easy one pot dish. Measuring the rice and water using a coffee cup pretty much guarantees stress free perfectly cooked rice. In typical lazy Red Lychee fashion, I used canned green lentils, which cut down cooking time greatly. One day I might get around to soaking and boiling dried legumes, but today is not that day my friends!