Vegetarian Biryani with spicy paneer

(la traduction en français arrive sous peu…)
My quest for the perfect biryani recipe has started a few years ago. After tasting the best biryani ever in a restaurant in Dubai, I wanted to be able to eat in my own home the delicate and delicious taste of the spices, and the perfect texture of the rice… I tried many recipes, even bought some ready made spices-mix (a total heresy for me!) but it seems I never managed to get it right… Eventually, I gave up, I even gave up eating biryani in restaurants here in Geneva, as they usually turned out even worse than my attempts…
However, when my dear Heavenly Housewife challenged us to prepare a biryani, I decided it was time to try once more… And I did well!
The result was beyond my expectations! Of course, it is far from the perfection of the biryani I ate in Dubai, but seriously, it is pretty close to it…
The list of ingredients is quite long, and the preparation might seem lenghty, but fear not, it can be done in… let’s say about 2 hours (not counting the cooking time in the oven) and the preparation can be spread on two days (pls see my note at the bottom of the post)
By the way, what is a biryani?

The name “biryani” come from the Persian word beryān/biryan which means “fried” or “roasted“. There are many kinds of biryanis and it is a festive dish both in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines. The origin of biryani in India comes from the Moghol dynasty (originally from Persia) who brought many delicate and eleborated dishes to the already rich Indian cuisine.  Biryani is made from a mixture of spices, basmati rice, meat or vegetables and yogurt.  Unlike pulao in which all ingredients are cooked together, the main components of biryani are cooked separately, then layered and finally slowly cooked in the oven.

And before sharing the recipe, I can only advise you to visit these talented bloggers for more biryani-love:

Vegetarian Biryani with spicy paneer

Recipe adapted from IndiaCurry (here)
ingredients for 4-5 servings:
  • Spiced water
8dl water
2 cm fresh ginger, chopped
6 black cardamom pods, crushed
10 black peppercorn
4 cm cinnamon stick, broken in half
4 whole cloves
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 Bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Spiced milk

2 dl milk
2 cardamom pods, crushed
a pinch of Saffron strands
1 teaspoon rose water

  • Rice

150g (1cup) Basmati rice
2 cups spiced water
a few saffron strands
1/2 teaspon salt

  • Vegetable Layer

1 tablespoon Ghee (or neutral oil, such as sunflower)
1 medium onions,chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
½ cup green peas
salt to taste
¼ cup yogurt
½ cup spiced water

  • Paneer Layer

200g paneer, cubed
1 tablespoon Ghee (or neutral oil, such as sunflower)
1 medium onion,chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1cm ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder

  • Garnish layer

1 tablespoon ghee (or neutral oil, such as sunflower)
2 medium onions, chopped
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
3 tablespoons cashews
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped fresh peppermint leaves

  • Chapatti dough to seal the pot

2 cups wholemeal flour
Water to knead the dough (about 1/3 cup)

Method:

1. Prepare the spiced water: put the water and the spices indicated under “spiced water” in a pot and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat. Drain and keep aside.

2. Prepare the spiced milk: put the milk, cardamom pods and saffron in a pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Let it cool, remove the cardamom pods and add the rosewater.

3.Prepare the paneer:Heat the ghee in a pan, add the onion. Fry for 2-3 minutes, add the spices. Fry for 2-3 more minutes. Add the paneer. Stir well to coat it with the spice and fry for a few minutes. Keep aside.

4. Prepare the vegetable: Put the ghee in a pan, add the onion. Fry for 2-3 minutes, add the spices. Fry for 2-3 more minutes. Add the vegetable, season with salt and pepper and stir well. Reduce heat to medium, add 1/2 cup of spiced water and the yogurt. Simmer until the vegetable are nearly cooked (about 10-15 minutes).

5. Prepare the garnish layer: Heat the ghee in a pan, add the onions and fry them until golden brown. Add the cashew and almonds. Fry for 2 more minutes. Keep aside and add the chopped herbs.

6. Prepare the rice: Rinse the rice until the water is clear. Put in a pot and add 2 cups of spiced water and 1/2 a teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil Reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let is stand for 10 more minutes.If there is water that has not been absorbed, drain it.

7. Prepare the chapatti dough: slowly add a little water to the flour until combined. Knead for 2 minutes. Keep aside.
8. Layering the biryani: Preheat the oven to 210°C. Spread one layer of rice in a pot. Sprinkle about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice.
Add the vegetables, spreading them evenly. Cover with one thin layer of rice, sprinkling about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice.
Add the paneer, spreading it evenly. Add a thin layer of rice, sprinkling about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice.

Add the garnish ingredients and finally, top it with a final layer of rice. Sprinkle with about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice

Take 1/3 of the dough and roll it in a 1 cm diameter log. Place it around the edge of the pot. Roll the rest of the dough in a circle, a bit bigger than the diameter of your pot. Cover the pot with it, pressing the edges on the log, so that it is well sealed.


Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.Then, reduce heat to 180°C and cook for 20 more minutes.


When serving, cut off the bread lid and stir the biryani with a spoon to combine all the flavours.

notes: 

1. If you are short of time, you can prepare steps 1 to 5 the day before and keep all the items in the refrigerator.

2. It is not necessary to seal with a chapatti. You can seal the pot with a tight lid or with foil, tightly wrapped around the pot.

3. You can add cauliflower and/or other veggies. Similarly, paneer can be omitted or replaced by boiled eggs.

Punjabi Mango Pickles for the Indian Cooking Challenge – Pickles de mangue verte

(en français, plus bas)

This is my fourth Indian Cooking Challenge, and the second year anniversary of this event, and – oh Boy – this one was really very challenging! Srivalli asked us to prepare Punjabi Mango pickles, based on Simran’s ( Bombay foodie  ) Mum.

I love the idea of cooking nearly everything myself:  bread and  paneer are my most regular items and I have great ambitions of trying to prepare mustard and butter in a near future… However, when it came to pickles, I hesitated for a few days before deciding to go for it.

The main difficulty in preparing pickles is that  they are supposed to mature for a few days in the sun… Not a problem when one lives in a warm country, but it can be really challenging when living in … Switzerland! We normally have warm summers but this year, the sun has a tendency to play hide-and-seek with the rain..

Anyway, after some adjustments to the weather and minor changes to the recipe (olive oil instead of mustard oil),  the outcome is very satisfying and the pickles taste very good. They are not very hot because there is no chilli in the recipe, but nevertheless, they are full of flavours and bring a salty-spicy touch to any meal!

note: the original recipe calls for whole spices, but if I would prepare it once more, I would rather coarsely grind the spices, (a good advise given by my MIL). 

Ingredients:

500g raw mangoes

50 ml olive oil
35g salt
10g fenugreek seeds
5g nigella seeds
10g fennel seeds
10g turmeric powder
5g Whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar


Method:

Wash the unpeeled and uncut mangoes. Dry them completely.

Cut the mangoes into 2.5 x 2.5cm cubes.

Put them on a plate and place the plate in the sun for a few hours until they have dried a little (under the Swiss sun, I left them for  a whole afternoon, until sunset!)

Clean and sterilize your glass jars ( please see below)

Combine all the spices and salt in a large bowl.

Add the mango cubes. Mix well, taking care that the mango cubes are well coated with spices.

Add the oil and mix once more.

Fill in your jars with the mango and close with the lid.

Put the jars in the sun and keep them in the sun for about 15 days, turning the jars every day.

As we had quite a few consecutive rainy day, my MIL advised me to put the open jars of pickles for a few hours in the oven, on a very low temperature (60°C) to replace the warmth of the sun.

***

How to sterilize your jars?

I usually put them in a large pot and bring water to a boil, then keep them in the boiling water for 10 minutes. Place some kitchen paper or towels on your working plan and carefully remove the jars from the pot (I use two  wooden spoons to do so), placing them upside down on the paper. Let them dry completely. Repeat the same operation for the lids.

Pickles de mangue verte, style punjabi

Pour le Indian Cooking Challenge du mois de juin, Srivalli nous a demandé de préparer des pickles de mangue verte en suivant la recette de la mère de Simran du blog Bombay Foodie.

J’aime beaucoup l’idée de presque tout préparer moi-même: le pain et le paneer (fromage indien) sont ce que je prépare le plus fréquemment et j’ai même de grandes ambitions d’essayer de préparer de la moutarde et du beurre dans un futur proche … Cependant, en ce qui concerne les home-made pickles, j’ai hésité pendant quelques jours avant de décider de me lancer.

La principale difficulté dans la préparation des pickles, c’est qu’il faut les laisser pendant quelques jours au soleil, ce qui n’est pas un problème quand on vit dans un pays chaud, mais peut en devenir un quand on vit en Suisse! Le plus souvent, les étés sont agréablement chauds, mais cette année, le soleil semble être un peu capricieux…

Cela dit, après quelques modifications mineures apportées à la recette, le résultat est très satisfaisant et les pickles de mangue ont très bon goût. Ils n’ont pas de piments donc ne sont pas piquant, ils sont pleins de saveurs et apportent une touche épicée aux repas indiens.

Remarque: la recette originale utilise les épices entières, comme nous ne sommes pas autorisé à modifié la recette, c’est ce que j’ai fait, toutefois, si je devais la préparer une autre fois, je pense qu’il vaut mieux moudre grossièrement les épices, (conseil qui m’a d’ailleurs été donnée par ma belle-mère, qui a des années d’expérience avec les pickles!!).
Ingrédients:

500g de mangues vertes
50 ml d’huile d’olive
35g de sel
10g de graines de fenugrec
5g graines de nigelle
10g de graines de fenouil
10g de curcuma en poudre
5g de poivre noir en grains
1 / 2 cuillère à café de poudre de piment rouge
1 / 2 cuillère à café de sucre

Préparation:

Laver les mangues non pelées et non coupées. Bien les essuyer.

Couper les mangues en cubes de 2,5 x 2,5 cm.

Déposer les mangues sur une assiette et la mettre au soleil pendant quelques heures jusqu’à ce que les mangues aient séché un peu (sous le soleil suisse, je les ai laissées tout l’après-midi, jusqu’au coucher du soleil!)

Nettoyer et stériliser vos pots en verre (voir ci-dessous)

Mélanger toutes les épices, le sucre et le sel dans un grand bol.

Ajouter les cubes de mangue. Bien mélanger, en s’assurant que les cubes de mangue soient bien enrobés d’épices.

Ajouter l’huile et mélanger à nouveau.

Remplir les pots et les fermer avec leur couvercle.

Mettre les pots au soleil et les laisser au soleil pendant environ 15 jours, en retournant les pots tous les jours.

Comme il y a eu plusieurs jours consécutifs de pluie, ma belle-mère m’a judicieusement conseillé de mettre les pots (ouverts) pendant quelques heures dans le four, à une très basse température (60 ° C).

***

Comment stériliser vos pots en verre?

Il y a plusieurs manières, pour moi, la plus simple consiste à les mettre dans une grande casserole et à chauffer l’eau à ébullition, puis  de les faire bouillir pendant 10 minutes. Poser du papier absorbant ou des serviettes propres sur votre plan de travail et retirer soigneusement les bocaux de la casserole (j’utilise deux cuillères en bois pour le faire), et les placer à l’envers sur le papier. Laissez-les sécher complètement. Répéterla même opération pour les couvercles.

Sweet Potato & Feta salad – Salade de patate douce et feta

(en français, plus bas)

It is summer time in Switzerland and one of the thing I enjoy most during summer is having picnics!

And what about you, dear readers, do you like picnics? Is there any picnic food/tips/stories you would like to share?

When I think of a picnic, many happy, colourful things come to my mind:

The pleasure of sitting in the grass or on the beach , a bright summer tablecloth, lots of laughters, chilled rosé wine, the loving atmosphere of food sharing and, of course, the excitement of preparing the food! Even a simple piece of cheese and bread become suddenly so festive!

It was during a recent picnic that my dear friend H. brought this bright and tasty sweet potato salad!

The taste of feta cheese blends very well with the sweetness of potatoes and the pumpkin seeds add a crunchy touch to the soft texture of the main ingredients. It is quick to prepare and I am totally in love with its orange colour! Careful, though,  one gets very addicted to it and you might be asked to bring it to all the upcoming picnics you are invited to!

Ingredients for 4 servings:

4 medium sized sweet potatoes (about 500g)

2 tablespoons oil (olive oil for me)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 large onion, chopped

200g feta cheese, diced

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Put the unpeeled sweet potatoes in a large pot. Cover with water. Put on the stove and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until a knife can be inserted easily in the potatoes.

Drain the potatoes and keep aside to cool down.

When they have cooled enough to be held in your hand, peel them. Then you can dice or slice them. I made little balls, using a “cuillère parisienne” (click on the word).

Heat the oil in a pan.

Add the turmeric, garlic and onion. Strirring frequently, fry until the onion start to become a little golden.

Add the potato balls and fry briefly, for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. The idea is that the potatoes are coated with turmeric, garlic and onion. Keep aside.

Dice the feta cheese and put it in a bowl. Add the sweet potato balls. Season with freshly ground pepper and a little salt (the feta cheese is already pretty salty).

Add the parsley and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

You can serve it immediately, with potato ball still warm or cold.

I am sending this salad to Anamika of the blog Taste Junction, for the “Salad Spread” event she is organising (until 30th July)

Salade de Patate Douce et feta

Ici, en Suisse, c’est l’été et une de mes activités préférées pendant l’été c’est d’organiser des pique-niques!

Et vous, chers lecteurs, aimez-vous les pique-niques? Voulez-vous partager vos anecdotes, conseils, recettes de pique-niques?

Quand je pense à  “pique-nique”, il y a plein d’idée colorées et joyeuses qui me viennent à l’esprit:

Le plaisir d’être assis dans l’herbe ou sur la plage, une nappe aux couleurs gaies, beaucoup de rires, un vin rosé bien frais, l’atmosphère  pleine d’amour du partage de la nourriture et, bien sûr, l’excitation de la préparation d’un repas festif et fameux!

C’est lors d’un pique-nique récent en sa companie que ma chère amie H. a apporté cette savoureuse salade de patates douces.

Le goût de la feta se marie très bien avec la douceur des patates et les graines de courge ajoutent une touche croquante à la texture plutôt moelleuse des principaux ingrédients. Elle est préparée en un éclair et je suis totalement sous le charme de sa couleur orange! Il faut cependant faire attention, car on y devient vite accro et on pourrait bien vous demander d’en apporter à tous les futurs pique-niques auxquels vous serez invités!

Ingrédients pour 4 personnes:

4 patates douces de taille moyenne (environ 500g)

2 cuillères à soupe d’huile (huile d’olive pour moi)

1 / 2 cuillère à café de curcuma

2 gousses d’ail hachées

1 gros oignon, coupé finement

200g de feta , coupée en dés

2 cuillères à soupe de persil ciselé finement

2 cuillères à soupe de graines de courge

sel et poivre pour assaisonner

Préparation:

Mettre les patates douces non pelées dans une grande casserole. Les recouvrir avec de l’eau. Mettre sur le feu et porter à ébullition. Réduire à feu moyen et cuire jusqu’à ce qu’un couteau puisse être inséré facilement dans les patates.

Égoutter les patates et les laisser refroidir un peu.

Dès qu’elles ont  suffisamment refroidi pour être tenues dans dans la main sans se brûler, pelez-les. Ensuite, on les coupe en dés ou en tranches.  J’ai fait des petites boules, en utilisant une cuillère parisienne (cliquer sur le mot).

Chauffer l’huile dans une poêle.

Ajouter le curcuma, l’ail et l’oignon. Tout en remuant fréquemment, faire frire jusqu’à ce que l’oignon commence à dorer.

Ajouter les boules de patate douce et faire revenir brièvement, pendant 2-3 minutes, en remuant constamment. L’idée est que les patates soient recouvertes avec le curcuma, l’ail et l’oignon. Mettre de côté.

Couper la feta en dés et la mettre dans un bol. Ajouter les boules de patates douces. Assaisonner avec du poivre fraîchement moulu et un petit peu de sel (la feta est déjà salée).

Ajouter le persil et saupoudrer de graines de courge.

Cette salade se sert froide ou on peut la servir immédiatement, avec les boules de patate douce encore tièdes.