Last week I went to the library.
And then I checked out 3 books.
One of them was "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society". Now this book I have been hearing about for a while now. However I never checked it out. "The name sounds intriguing" is as far I went.
I have a difficult time when it comes to choosing a book at the library. Gone is the time when I would pick up any written word and read through it with baited breath. Gone are the days when many a summer afternoon in absence of anything worthy of reading, I would flip through the frail pages of the "Beni Madhab Sheel Ponjika" -- the Bengali almanac, its jacaranda cover fluttering helplessly like the fine petal of Nayantara, and read through muhurtams and lewd advertisements on the back cover without any idea of what they were trying to sell. Those were times when, if the librarian of our small town sent home a word about their newest consignment, I would rush to inhale the fragrance of fresh ink and paper without losing a minute.
Now, not so much so. I just cannot read "any thing" these days. At least not on print. Anyway I read so much of "anything" and "nothing" on the web that when it comes to a book I want something which I can feel happy about later. Like a good biriyani. One that will not make me gulp down pepto-bismols in retrospect.
So when I check out a book from the librray I want it to be something I look forward to going home to. Last month it was "Fried Green Tomatoes at the WhistleStop Cafe". I have not seen the movie and I don't review books but all I can say is I enjoyed reading it immensely. A couple of months before that was "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", again another wonderful book(thanks I for reminding).
Last week it was "The Guernsey...". And it is a book that not only makes me want to rush home, put up my feet and start reading (which does not happen everyday) but it scares me as to what will I do once the numbered pages are over. It is a book I want to go on forever. I don't know if it happens with you but it often happens to me. I panic about a book getting over, I panic hearing about an author slowing down and not writing enough. I still remember the immense sadness I felt when I had finished reading all of what Lila Majumdar had written and published. When the series "Ruku-Shuku" in Anandomela had winded down I had moped around for one whole month. When I closed shut "Gone With The Wind" I did not know what to do.
"The guernsey..." seems to have that kind of an effect on me. I do not want it to get over and when I do finish the last few pages I am going to be a very unhappy soul.
If I think of it deeply, it is a lot like a good biriyani or a heavenly egg roll or a bowl of Tom Yum soup.
Now given that I have spent my free time reading, I did not cook a biriyani. In fact I rarely ever cook a full fledged biriyani. Most of my biriyanis are short cut affairs. The husband man however cooks a mean Biriyani following a friend's recipe and the fact that the friend's recipes is of US fame makes sure that his is pretty good. However once, with a sidelong glance, I happened to see the ghee that he puts in that Biriyani.That made certain that I never dared to try my hand at it.
That Mutton Biriyani we will talk about another day.
This Biriyani today is sent by a dear friend, a friend of long ago whom I lost touch with and then connected again over the blog. Strange Stories. Amazing facts. Now since I am a very nice person(ahem!) and only keep nicer company(amen to that), it was only natural that my friend took time from her busy life to not only cook a Biriyani but also take pictures and send it to me. I mean she sent the recipes and pics, not the biriyani, though the latter would have definitely been much welcomed.
Over to her for the recipe as well as the pictures. I loved it how she split the work between two days and wrote the recipe accordingly, makes planning easy. I have no contribution to this recipe's deliciousness other than "cut and paste". Also she cooked this dish at her home in India so the microwave settings etc. might differ from other region.
- (Friday evening)
Mutton (front leg preferable for tenderness) – 750 g
Plain Curd (prefer Nestle) – 300 gms
Wash mutton pieces carefully with hot water to remove skin and hair. Marinate with half of the curd and keep in refrigerator (not freezer) overnight. Should be taken out well ahead of cooking and be in room temperature while cooking.
- (Saturday morning)
Ghee – 6 tsp
Shah Jeera (Black Cumin) seeds – ½ tsp
Onions – 2 large finely chopped
Red Chili powder – 1 tsp
Garlic paste – 2 tsp (generous)
Ginger paste – 2 tsp (generous)
Coriander seeds – 2 tsp roasted and freshly powdered
Salt – 1 ½ tsp
Curd – ½ of section A beaten with half tsp ready made Shahi Garam masala powder (Shahi garam masala by sunrise is the best)
Heat ghee in a non-sticky wok or pressure pan. Put shah jeera as phoron. Add onion and fry in high heat stirring constantly to nicely golden brown, take care they do not get burnt. Add red chili and garlic. Saute till fragrant. Add ginger and saute. Add coriander powder. (May sprinkle a little water if required). Stir and then add mutton. Saute well till muttons are brown and oil separates (do not overcook as they may dry up – its better to use a lid while kashano). Add the salt towards the end of kashano. Add the curd and saute well. Add sufficient water. Boil and pressure cook for 15-20 mins in low flame. Open the lid when pressure drops and boil to evaporate any residual water (there shouldn’t be any residual water at all or the biriyani will get messy).
- (Sat day afternoon)
Salt – 1 ½ tsp
Bay leaves (1-2 pcs)
Black Cardamon – 1
Green Cardamom - 4
Cinnamon – 2 inch * 2 pc
White pepper corn – 8 pcs
Cloves – 8 pcs
Mace (javitri) – 2-4 pcs (sizewise)
Nutmeg – ¼
Wash the rice very clean and put them in a strainer, for 30 mins.
Boil sufficient water in a deep container with lid. Add salt. Add the spices (can make a bouquet garni if possible, if not, use a slotted spoon while removing) and boil in the water (covered) in low flame till the colour of the water turns light brown. Remove the spices.
Pour washed and strained rice into the boiling water and stir immediately once. Boil for 11-12 mins approx (rice breaks but not fully done when checking) in the open container. Close the lid and drain the water carefully, very fast. Drain till the last drop possible. (Best way is to hold the container with two cotton-gloved hands over the support of the faucet). Shake the container, tuck the lid and spread the rice immediately on flat trays. You may cover the rice with a net and put under a fan to cool. The rice should not bend or break in the whole process and get completely cool.
- (Once the rice cools)
A microwavable earthen / ceramic pot with lid
Indian Saffron – quantity depends on freshness
Full cream milk – 50 ml
Kewra water – 1 tsp
Mughlai scent (edible) – 3-4 drops (this makes the difference)
Whole wheat dough – 1 ball (to seal the lid)
Edible Saffron colour – a few drops
Heat milk in a microwave oven and add saffron. Boil in micro high for 15 sec. Mix with the colour. Sprinkle the milk on the rice unevenly.
Take a sufficient sized ceramic microwavable bowl. Place 1/4 of rice. Arrange 1/4 mutton with gravy. Place next layers the same way. Final layer should be only mutton. Spread the remaining gravy with ghee (from the pan) on all the sides. Mix kewra water and scent. Sprinkle on whole top of the bowl. Close the lid to lock the aroma - seal with flatten wheat dough like a ribbon.
Put the bowl in micro 10% (not more) for 70 mins till the seal becomes hard. Break the seal. Mix up once and serve immediately. Enjoy.