The Dum Pukht Biryani: How to Achieve Spiritual Awakening through Food?

Dum Pukht Biryani

Dum Pukht Biryani

It is the most gratifying aroma, and also the most painful craving that comes with the scent of a steaming-hot Dum Biryani. That aroma of basmati rice & robust spices flirting with my nose is divine, so comforting in the midst of a winter evening just setting in.

As the waiter sets it onto the next table, I can’t help but look lustfully at the golden yellow grains of long, unbroken basmati rice studded with the large chunks of moist, browned meat. I must look like a hungry tigress I thought, almost ready to jump shamelessly to the next table and attack that gorgeous biryani. But as I saw the proud glare on the face of the woman who was just about to eat it all by herself I quickly turned my head and shied away, as though I had been caught.

Although I hadn’t completely ditched the thought of attacking her biryani, I was now stealing a glance or two, pretending like I was searching for the waiter at Dum Pukht. There are few things in the world that can make you feel as good and satisfied as a Dum Pukht Biryani. After all, it is hardly ever that I feel envious and make eyes at another woman’s dinner!

It was a sticky situation but as I waited for my own Dum Pukht Biryani I managed to steal a few glances at that rich, regal-looking dish and my heart was pounding, as she was about to slice into that chunk of meat. The moment she touched the meat with her fork, the meat just slipped off the bone. “Ah!” I said, as the lady closed her eyes and enjoyed that first bite of her Dum Pukht biryani. Lovely.

As I looked eagerly at her face, searching for an expression of indulgence and gratification, she slowly opened her eyes and looked at me, almost dizzily in love. There it was an instant love-for-food connection, and we both burst into a chuckle. “I’m sorry I can’t share this Biryani”, she said with a funny face. “Neither can I”, I said as my Dum Pukht Biryani arrived at the table.

Suddenly, I felt like a five year old child, my eyes twinkling as I was being handed the lollypop. I had been good this year and my reward was finally here. Sometimes in life, it is best to enjoy a meal all by yourself, just drown in the dream, close your eyes, inhale the aromas, slice it softly, chew slowly and just let every sense of your being enjoy that bite of biryani, as if it were your last. That’s what I did.

As I slowly worked my way through every bite, each one was a medley of flavours & textures, and each awoke a separate sense of my being, I don’t mock spirituality, but for me this was like enlightenment. This meal, suddenly made me feel alive. I was there, in that moment with every bite that I ate. Call me crazy but I think that food like this is answer to real spiritual awakening, Haaahaa..

In the end, I felt sad that it was over but I was enchanted by the experience, and perhaps addicted to the biryani. As the lady from the next table left, we exchanged a pleasant, “I know how you feel” look. It is amazing how people and how many people connect over food.

There was something about this Dum Pukht Biryani that kept making me want to come back. Frankly, I could not afford to come every now and then for this special treat, and certainly could not afford to bring a dozen of my loved ones here to try it out, so I took the other road. The other road being, learning how to make this brilliant, regal-looking Dum Pukht Biryani from the man himself, Chef Mohammed Shareef the Dum Pukht Masterchef at ITC Maratha Mumbai.

It was a pleasant evening, we shared a laugh over food talk and he gave me so many little tips about making this biryani right. Apparently, there are some people in the world who still take their art very seriously, and it is not just about the recipe, it is everything from the perfect quality of Basmati rice, cut of meat to the choicest of spices and the order in which they should be added!

With the Chef’s guidance, I successfully recorded the step-by-step recipe of “How to Make the perfect Dum Biryani?”

Here’s the video of the Dum Pukht Biryani recipe for you.

This is the authentic recipe of the Avadhi aka Lucknowi Pakki Biryani as seen or eaten at Dum Pukht, ITC Hotels. Do try this recipe and whichever part of the world you come from, do tell me how it turned out because I am really curious to know. .

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Cheating Eating #1 Soup Dinners;Lean and Clear Chicken Soup (Tom Yam Chicken)

Can’t stop eating and always craving for something yummy? Then you and me are just the same. I came up with ‘Trick’ Eating, so I can have something yummy without having to land a double chin soon. Soup Dinners or Liquid food, can be full of flavour and without having to compromise on meal portions or starving yourself, you can have some great meals, with minimum carbohydrates in the evening. (We all know that evening carbs are not good for us!) You can try out my Tom Yam Kai recipe. It has the flavour of ginger, lemongrass, chilli in a flavourful stock with mushrooms and chicken or tofu if you are vegetarian. It is just like drinking water, yet so flavourful, lean with pieces of chicken and veggies for the nutrition bit. You can also have dal or vegetable curry as soup without the rice or roti in the evening.


Lean and Clear Chicken Soup (My Version of Tom Yam Kai)
A lean and clear soup made of chicken and mushrooms, flavored with ginger and lemongrass.
Serves 2
Ingredients
Chicken Wings 2 pieces
Chicken bones 4-5 pieces (leftover carcass or neck pieces)
Ginger1 ½ inch piece, peeled and finely chopped
Lemongrass, stalks only 4-5, chopped
Mushrooms, button 8-9, halved
Dried Red Chili 2-3, chopped
Soya Sauce 2 tablespoons
Salt to taste
Blackpepper, crushed a pinch
Method:
Clean and wash the chicken wings and bones under cold running water.
In a heavy bottom saucepan, add in the bones and fill the pan with cold water, an inch above the chicken pieces. Cook on high heat and bring the water to a boil and then strain out the impurities on top of the cooking liquid through a muslin cloth.
Add in the chicken pieces back into the strained stock in a saucepan. Return the saucepan to low heat.
Add in mushrooms, ginger, lemon grass and salt. Allow the soup cooking liquid to simmer for 30 minutes.
Add red chili, soya sauce and black pepper to the soup. Check for seasoning and simmer for 10 more minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces. De-skin the wings and shred the chicken to be used as garnish.
Serve Hot and Garnish with shredded chicken.

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu Chicken Stew

Imran Khan loves green chillies and rice. What better accompaniment with stew than rice or rice Appams! I found out during an interview that like every other Indian man, for Imran, dal-chaaval is the best meal. He even loves biting into green chillies while having his meals. His mom’s side of the family eats very spicy food and that’s where his love for chillies comes from. I know it is hard to believe but Imran loves spicy food.
So, on the occasion of the release of his new movie with Kareena Kapoor Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, I have made this spicy chicken Stew flavoured with lots of green chillies. I decided to make chicken stew with the coconut milk flavor since Imran has spent a large part of his young years in South India. This stew is also so called so because it is made of two main ingredients, Chicken and potato!


Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu Chicken Stew
This is a chicken stew made with chicken and potatoes flvaoured with mint, green chillies and coconut cream.
Ingredients
Mint Leaves 1 cup
Green Chilli 4-5
Coconut cream (freshly scraped) 1 cup
Chicken, boneless, cut into cubes  2 cups
Ghee 1 tablespoon
Rai 1 tspn.
Curry Leaves a few
Chana Dal 2 tspns.
Urad Dal 2 tspns.
Onion, chopped ¼ cup
Potato, cut into cubes 1 cup
Turmeric a pinch
Salt to taste
Chicken Stock (Optional) ½ cup
Method:
Grind mint leaves, green chillies, salt and coconut cream into a smooth paste.
Marinate the chicken with 4 tablespoons of this mixture.
Heat ghee in pan, add in rai, urad dal, chanadal, curry leaves allow it to splatter in the pan. Add in the chopped onions, once they are golden brown add in the potato and a pinch of turmeric. Cover with a fitted lid and cook the potatoes on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
Add in the chicken and the remaining mint and coconut paste. Add in half cup of chicken stock or water. Simmer the chicken stew for 5-7 minutes.
Serve hot with appams, rice or bread. 

Get Me Through This Day! Chicken

It is only Tuesday! My boss is driving me crazy and I feel like punching my fist into a wall. I need some comfort food to get me through this day. For an awesome conclusion to a long day at work, I made this dish. I look forward to my dinner, sometimes it cheers me up and on other days it makes me sing!
Serves 2
Ingredients
Chicken Breasts 2
Mushroom, sliced 1 cup
Butter 2 tablespoons
Salt to taste
Pepper a pinch
Oregano 1 tspn.
Milk ¼ cup
Cheese Slice 1
Spring Onion Greens ¼ cup
Method:
Slice the chicken along the side parallel to the surface to open it out into a heart shape. Hammer the thick portions with a round spoon to thin them out.  Season with salt and pepper. Cook it slightly n both sides.
Saute the mushrooms and a little spring onion in butter with salt and oregano.  Stuff the cooked mushroom in the centre of the chicken.
Heat milk in a pan and add in a slice of cheese in it. Add spring onion greens.
Pour the sauce and serve with bread.
Enjoy comfort food on a weekday. Treat yourself!

Cooking Without Rules and Restrictions; Imagination Momos

This is a dish out of my whims. Isn’t it fun sometimes, to follow your imagination rather than cooking with rules and restrictions? I didn’t want to follow a particular cuisine, neither did I have a recipe in mind, but I was craving something yummy, something like may be pasta or momos, or shawarma. I was confused for an hour and all I knew was that I have some chicken leftover and a lot of tomatoes. Twisting and turning, playing between ingredients and dishes, I finally came up with these Imagination Momos. They do not follow the exact momo recipe, but I worked with what I had in mind and it turned out, well, spicy and yummy! I feel like a street vendor today, imagination wise, this is surely not fine dining stuff, but definitely something you will enjoy!

Ingredients

For the Stuffing

Chicken 1 large breast piece (You can use roasted chicken leftovers)
Cocktail Sausages, Pork 6
Black Pepper, freshly ground ½ teaspoon
Coriander Leaves a handful
Salt to taste

For the Dough

Refined Flour 1 cup
Egg 1
Salt a pinch

For the Sauce

Onion, peeled 1 small
Red Pepper, with the seeds removed 1 small
Garlic, peeled 6 cloves
Ginger, peeled 1 inch
Tomatoes 3, medium
Sesame Oil 1 tablespoon (You can use olive oil, vegetable oil in its place)

Method:

For the Stuffing

In a deep pan, fill in inch deep water. Add in the chicken breast and cook for five minutes on medium heat until the chicken is completely cooked. When you cut it in the thick part, it should be white inside, not pink. Remove the chicken and keep it aside.
Refill 1 cup water in the pan along with the leftover cooking liquor from the chicken. Add in the cocktail sausages and boil them for five to seven minutes. Save the cooking liquor, keep it aside.
In a grinder, add in the cooked chicken and the boiled pork sausages with black pepper, coriander leaves and some salt if necessary. Taste the cocktail sausages for salt, if they have some salt, do not add more salt to the mixture. You may cut chicken and the sausages into smaller pieces for easy grinding. Mince the mixture, the flavours should blend together. Let the mixture be coarse, for the meat texture to entertain your palate.
NOTE: Lime Oil is a fantastic addition to this mixture. On this occasion lime oil was unavailable to me, but you can add it in if you have it.

To Make the Dough

On a flat surface, take the refined flour and salt. Make a well in the centre and add one egg in it.
Mix in the egg with the dough with the help of your fingers. Bring the flour together and make a dough.
Knead the dough well. Cover it and keep it aside.
Do not prepare the dough before hand, the egg tends to dry out and makes the dough hard if rested out in the open.

To Make the Sauce

Make a cross incision at the base of the tomatoes, remove the eye and pop them in boiling water until there skins come out. Remove the skins, grind them into a fresh puree and keep them aside. OR USE CANNED PUREE, 200ml should be enough.
In a grinder, add in the peeled onion, the red pepper, garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt. Grind this mixture into a fine paste.
In a pan, heat oil and add in this mixture. Stir and cook on medium heat for three to four minutes. Add in the tomato puree and cook the mixture on medium heat for five to seven minutes, until it becomes a thick paste. Keep it aside.

To Make Imagination Momos

Divide the Dough into 24 equal pieces. Divide the stuffing into 24 equal portions.
Roll out each piece of the dough into a thin circle. It should be about 2 inches in diameter or half the size of your hand.
Place the stuffing in the centre of the dough. Fold the sides of the dough into the centre until all the sides are sealed together. Press it firmly together. Make twenty four pieces.
Heat the cooking liquor saved from the chicken and pork in a pan. Make batches and cook each batch in the simmering liquid for three to four minutes. Make sure there enough space in the pan for cooking each batch. The pieces tend to swell up and increase in size when cooked.
Remove the cooked pieces and keep them aside. Squeeze some lime juice on top of the imagination momos if you haven’t added lime oil in the stuffing.
These can be served alongside with the red sauce we made earlier or mixed up with the sauce and then served warm.

To Make a Soup with the Leftovers

Take some leftover stuffing and sauté it in a pan, add in some of the red sauce and stir. Now, add in one cup water along with the leftover cooking liquor. Mix a tablespoon of corn starch in two tablespoons of water and this in to the soup. Bring it to a boil and turn off the heat. Squeeze some lemon juice in it and add chopped coriander leaves on top. Serve hot.


A Simply Lazy Sunday Roast And Another One; The Greedy Sunday Roast

Sunday is a great day, to catch up with some friends, grab a couple of chilled beers and chat up over lunch. Yet, who wants to cook an extravagant meal, when you just want to sit back, eat and be lazy? For those lazy days and many more, when you want to eat good, home cooked food with minimum effort. Simply roast a chicken like I did this weekend. Prepare the chicken on Saturday night right before you go to bed. The prep won’t take you more than five minutes, so prep the chicken and keep it overnight for the flavours to soak in.  Blow of some steam, sit back and have a delicious homemade roast on Sunday.
Simply Lazy Sunday Roast – Serves 4


Ingredients

Chicken, Whole with the Skin 1 to 1.5 kg Chicken (Use a Small Chicken)             
Salt 3 times the regular amount of salt you use. I used a little over 3 teaspoon for 1kg Chicken
Carom Seeds (Ajwain) 2 teaspoons (Use Thyme if Carom Seeds are unavailable)
Garlic, peeled 5 to 6 cloves, crushed and minced
Black Pepper, freshly ground 3 teaspoons (to form a crust)
Olive Oil 3 tablespoons
Butter 4 tablespoons (It’s a Sunday Treat after all)
Potato 2 large, halved
Peas  ½ cup
Carrot 1, halved
Method:

Preheat the oven at 180 degree Celsius.
Wash and clean the chicken. Leave the skin on.
Rub lots of salt on the skin.
 If you are letting it stand for less than three hours make gashes on the drumstick, thigh and breast with the tip of a sharp knife. This helps the flavours soak in better. Baste more frequently to prevent the juices from drying out.
Rub in the Caroms seeds, minced garlic on the roast.
Rub the freshly ground black pepper on the skin to form like a crust on top.
Tip: Do not use Black Pepper powder packs from the store, these are fine and tend to char easily over the roast.
Sprinkle a little olive oil and top it by spreading a tablespoon of butter.
Place the Roast in a baking or oven-proof dish. I did not have a roasting dish, so I used a round aluminium cake tin to place my chicken to reserve the dripping and juices from the chicken to baste it later on. The chicken should fit in the dish to hold it in shape.
Let it stand for three hours or just rub the herbs on Saturday night and just it stand overnight like I do.
Pop the chicken to roast in the oven at 180 degree Celsius for 35 for 40 minutes.
Baste it once by brushing it with its drippings after about twenty minutes of popping it into the oven.
At the same time, pop in the potato, carrot and peas on the side, to roast with the chicken.
Pull the chicken out after forty minutes, Cut up the joints and serve them with the potatoes, carrot, peas and the juices on the side.
A Greedy Sunday Roast – Serves 4


Ingredients

Chicken, Whole with the Skin 1 to 1.5 kg Chicken (Use a Small Chicken)             
Salt 3 times the regular amount of salt you use. I used a little over 3 teaspoon for 1kg Chicken
Red Chilli Flakes 1 teaspoon
Ginger, peeled and grated  3 teaspoons (fresh)
Honey 4 tablespoons
Olive Oil 3 tablespoons
Lemon, juice 1
Potato 2 large, halved
Peas  ½ cup
Carrot 1, halved
Method:

Preheat the oven at 180 degree Celsius.
Wash and clean the chicken. Leave the skin on.
Rub lots of salt on the skin.
 If you are letting it stand for less than three hours make gashes on the drumstick, thigh and breast with the tip of a sharp knife. This helps the flavours soak in better. Baste more frequently to prevent the juices from drying out.
Rub in the red chilli flakes and grated ginger on the roast.
Rub the honey on the skin.
Sprinkle a little olive oil.
Place the Roast in a baking or oven-proof dish. I did not have a roasting dish, so I used a round aluminium cake tin to place my chicken to reserve the dripping and juices from the chicken to baste it later on. The chicken should fit in the dish to hold it in shape.
Let it stand for three hours or just rub the herbs on Saturday night and just it stand overnight like I do.
Pop the chicken to roast in the oven at 180 degree Celsius for 35 for 40 minutes.
Baste it once by brushing it with its drippings after about twenty minutes of popping it into the oven.
At the same time, pop in the potato, carrot and peas on the side, to roast with the chicken.
Pull the chicken out after forty minutes and squeeze lemon juice on top of it.
 Cut up the joints and serve them with the potatoes, carrot, peas and the juices on the side.

My Big Fat Chicken Burger; Eight Layers of Satisfaction

Lettuce and Toamto + Cheese + Chicken Pattie + Barbecue Sauce + Sunny Side Up (Fried Egg) + Onion Rings + Pickled Cucumber + Barbeque sauce and Cabbage in a Toasted Sesame Bun = Eight Fold Satisfaction

How did I get to this? A combination of the Burger Episode in ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and a two week long craving for the Best burger in the World.
How did I achieve this large, gorgeous reward?

Want to know why I made burgers with eight layers of goodness? We all get hungry after watching movies and TV shows with those gorgeous pictures of food. I am talking about a particular episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ in which they described the best burger in the world. With the sesame toasted bun, the sweetness of the sauce and the pounded meat. That episode really makes me want to dig into ‘The Best Burger in the World’ as soon as I watch it. I was craving for burger but I didn’t want to rush to McDonalds, I wanted that burger, the exact same thing. If that craving was not already killing me, to top it my brother, Abhishek told me about a Big Burger at this little place in Pune called Burger Barn Café or Big Burger Barn, I don’t really remember the name. All I got from that was I want to eat a Big Burger, one that I have imagined. So, here is the translation of my imagination.

For One Burger

Layer One
Processed Cheese Slices (Cheddar),  2 slices
Put the cheese slices on the halves of the Sesame Bun before toasting them.

Layer Two
Iceberg Lettuce, shredded 1 cup
Tomato, slices  2
Put the lettuce over the cheese on the buns. Put a tomato slice on each both halves of the buns.

Layer Three
Chicken Patty
Cooked Chicken leftovers or minced chicken, cooked ½ cup
Spring Onion Greens, chopped 3 tablespoons
Garlic, peeled 3 cloves
Processed Cheese, grated   2 tablespoons
Salt to taste
Black Pepper Powder   to taste
Refined Flour (seasoned with salt)   ¼  cup
Egg 1
Breadcrumbs   ½ cup
Vegetable Oil for frying
Method:
Grind and blend together cooked chicken, spring onion greens and garlic with salt and pepper.
Mash them together and mix well.
Add in the grated cheese, mash and mix properly into the chicken mixture.
If the mixture is too sticky add in a little refined flour.
Smear oil in your palm and round up the mixture, and then flatten it with your palm. The size of the patty should be exactly equal to the size of the halved bun in diameter. Refrigerate for fifteen minutes to let the shape set.
Dust the patty in refined flour.
Dip the patty in the egg and then roll it in breadcrumbs.
In a deep pan, heat the oil for frying. Once the oil is hot, add in the patty to the hot oil. Deep fry the patty until golden brown.
Remove the patty and keep it on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil. Place it over the lettuce with some Spicy Burger Sauce.

Layer Four
Sunny Side Up
Egg 1
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Vegetable Oil 1 teaspoon
Method:
Heat oil in a pan, break the egg with the yolk facing upwards. Cook it on one side. Season it with salt and pepper.
Place it over the chicken patty.

Layer Five
Spicy Burger Sauce
Tomato Ketchup 3 tablespoon
Mustard Sauce 1 tablespoon
Garlic powder / garlic, minced 1 teaspoon
Onion dehydrated/ White onion, minced 2 teaspoons
Vinegar 2 teaspoons
Red Chilli Flakes or Cayenne Pepper ½ teaspoon
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Olive Oil 1 teaspoon
Method:
In a bowl, mix in the ketchup, mustard, garlic, onion, vinegar, red chilli flakes and sugar. The spicy burger sauce is ready.
Put a tablespoon full of the spicy burger sauce on top of the patty and spread it evenly.

Layer Six
Coleslaw
Cabbage, shredded ½ cup
Spicy Burger Sauce 1 tablespoon
Method:
Squeeze out the excess water from the cabbage. Mix the shredded cabbage and spicy burger sauce in a bowl.
Place the coleslaw on the patty.

Layer Seven
Caramelised Onion Rings
Onion, peeled 1, large (Do not half the onion)
Salt to taste
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Vegetable oil 1 teaspoon
Method:
Cut onion slices in the form of thin rings. Separate the rings.
Sprinkle salt and sugar over the onion and let it stand for five minutes.
Heat oil in a pan and add the onion rings. Toss the onion rings and allow them to turn caramel brown.
Add the onion rings on top of the coleslaw.

Layer Eight
Gherkins or Pickled Cucumber 4 slices
Method:
If gherkins slices are unavailable. Use pickled cucumber.
For pickled cucumber, peel cucumber and remove the marrow.
Cut 1 ½ inch lengthwise slices of the cucumber. Soak them in Vinegar salt and sugar for athree to four hours.
Add these on top of the onion rings
To finish, keep the other half of the toasted sesame bun with cheese on top of the eight layers of the burger.
Secure with the kelp of a wooden satay stick or a long toothpick and serve with chips.