When I saw the rice theme, my first thought was of making a biryani, a favorite. Last week Ms. en Place made Shrimp Biryani, using the recipe I made in May. (It's good!) Shrimp is my favorite biryani, but since that has just been (well)done, I decided instead on my second favorite biryani, one with lamb. A check through my books turned up Lamb and Rice Casserole (Mughlai lamb biryani) in Indian Cooking (p154). A biryani is a festive dish, so dinner became a bit of a feast, with Yoghurt with Eggplant (p164) and Tomato, Onion, and Green Coriander Relish (p172), accompaniments recommended by Jaffrey. When I saw Jaffrey make this relish on TV, she said that mint could be used in place of the coriander or parsley. Since there is no coriander in the shops right now, I used that instead. The eggplant dish was already a favorite; the relish was new to us and a definite keeper.
Making the biryani is quite a long affair, nothing especially difficult but lots of wall clock time passes. You need to allow at least 5 hours from start to finish. It's easy to fit in the side dishes while the biryani progresses. And the last hour in unattended in the oven, so this could be a good company dish.
You start by rinsing, then soaking basmati rice for three hours. Then you prepare some saffron milk which also sits for three hours. You make a paste of chopped onion, garlic, ginger, and almonds. Then there are sliced onions to be crisped up for the garnish, as well as raisins to be plumped and almonds to be toasted. After your lamb chunks are browned and removed to a bowl, you fry the onion-garlic-ginger-almond paste till it starts to brown. You add the lamb chunks back to the skillet, and stir in some yogurt, a tablespoon at a time. When that's done, you add salt and water and let the meat simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
While that's happening, you grind up some cloves, black peppercorns, seeds from coriander pods, cardamom, cumin, and coriander seeds, ginger, and a chunk of a nutmeg. That gets stirred into the meat sauce, along with a dab of cayenne, and the mixture simmers for another 30 minutes. At the end of this time, you might need to simmer the pot uncovered for a few minutes to reduce the sauce. I didn't find this necessary, possibly because I was making a third recipe, so liquid tends to be a bit short. The meat sauce is spread on the bottom of a casserole dish.
Meanwhile, the rice gets drained, stirred into boiling water, and cooked for exactly six minutes. This is drained, then piled into a hill on the meat. You make a hole in center of the rice hill, then pour the saffron milk over the sides and into the well. Bits of butter on the sides, a scattering of browned onions on top, and into a slow oven it goes, well covered, for an hour. At the end, you stir everything together, turn it onto a platter, garnish with the rest of the browned onions, raisins, almonds, and hard-boiled egg, and serve.
Ed said this wasn't quite as good as what's served at our favorite restaurant in Amsterdam, but it was a pretty close second.
Continuing with the rice theme, I made Light Rice Pudding (Phirni) from Climbing the Mango Trees (p262). Scented with cardomom seeds, this was tasty, if a bit too sweet for us.
There's a bit of a problem with this recipe: it calls for 100g or 2oz of sugar to sweeten 2 cups of milk. My scale was set for grams, so I weighed out 100g and marveled at the amount of sugar for this amount of milk. Of course, 100g is 3.5oz of sugar, which would have made it almost inedible, I expect. I used the 2oz (56g), and might cut it back a bit further (50g perhaps), since neither of us cares for really sweet tastes. The recipe is supposed to serve 4, but 2 cups of milk reduces quite a bit and we had only two servings from this. Also, we both thought it would be nice to toast the chopped pistachios a bit next time. But it was very tasty and easy to make, so I expect it will get made again.
This post is shared with this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs.