Posts Tagged ‘Indian Food’

Amaretti BiscuitsEvery year during Christmas season, I prepare homemade edible hampers for friends and every year, I try to bake different biscuits to include in the package. This year I had a special challenge while preparing this for a friend who went on a ‘gluten and sugar free’ diet. I started searching for recipes but sometimes these healthy snacks are something of an acquired taste because of the alternative ingredients used in them. But eventually, I found a recipe that is utterly delicious, extremely easy to prepare and still very healthy. 

I’ve had a book of Italian recipes for 12 years and always wanted to try the recipe for Amaretti Biscuits in it but never got around to actually doing it. The recipe calls for mere 4 ingredients Eggs, almonds, sugar & vanilla extract. So this is ‘gluten free’ but not exactly ‘sugar free’! A trip to a local health shop solved the other problem when I found ‘Xylitol’ a natural sugar substitute. Diabetes is in my family for last two generations so these days I’m keen on educating myself about the possible sugar substitutes. From what I know so far, Xylitol is completely natural and doesn’t seem to have any adverse side effects if consumed in small portions.

The biscuits were such a huge success, that I’m totally addicted to baking them now. When I bake them I use sugar but it’s nice to know that I can bake them using Xylitol for my diabetic mother.


  • Ground almonds 200 gms.
  • Caster sugar OR sugar substitute 225 gms
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps Amaretto liquor (optional)
  • Butter for greasing
  1. Preheat oven at160 C. Place a baking sheet on a baking tray and grease it lightly with some butter. Mix half of the sugar in the ground almonds and reserve. Beat egg whites till they form soft peaks.
  2. Now slowly add the remaining sugar, a little at a time in the mixture and continue beating until all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Now fold in the almond mixture into the egg mixture until well incorporated. Mix in vanilla extract and Amaretto liquor if using. Fill the mixture into a piping bag and pipe-in small dollar size shapes on the baking sheet. Keep them spread apart as the cookies will expand while baking.
  4. Bake for 15-18 mins or until they are pink in colour. After taking them out of the oven, let the cookies cool for 2-3 mins on the tray. Then place them on a cooling rack till they cool down completely. When the biscuits are completely cold, place them in an airtight container before storing. 

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Lamb BiryaniThe Nawabi Khana is a serious business. This is royal cooking; elaborate, complex and refined. There are no shortcuts here; it takes time and patience to cook this…. but boy is it worth it! If you have ever dug into the layers of perfectly cooked meat, rice and tons aromatic spices in an authentic ‘Hyderabadi Biryani’ you’ll know what I mean. Cooking rice with meat is always a tricky business. Rice cooks quickly and the meat takes a long time to cook. Naturally, to make a perfect Biryani where both meat and rice are cooked to perfection is a cook’s ultimate challenge. Goli Biryani is a slightly easy version where meatballs in gravy are used instead of raw marinated meat. Goli means a small round shape as in a meat ball here.

Last week when I had some marinated lamb mince sitting in my fridge, I hadn’t planned to cook anything elaborate with it. I was really busy that day but the mince needed to be used up quickly so I just made a few meatballs, shallow-fried them in some oil and when they cooled just stuck them back into the frige to use later. The next day I made Goli Biryani with them which was a huge success in the household so I decided to cook it again today for an ‘Indian Night’  at an office charity get together.

There are three stages:

  1. Preparation stage where you make ginger-garlic paste, onion paste, marinate the meat, prepare spice powders (if not using shop bought), wash & soak the rice, soak the saffron in milk etc. Preparing crispy fried onion, chopping herbs is also done at this stage.
  2. Actual cooking stage where you shape and sear the meatballs, prepare a gravy and dip the meatballs in them and pre-cook rice till half done.
  3. Assembly stage where you create multiple layers of rice and meat with herbs and spices. The biryani is sealed and cooked further on Dum (on steam) till done at this stage.

Since there are large number of ingredients and processess, I’ve broken them down as per the stages:

Ingredients for Ginger-Garlic paste

  • Garlic 25 gm (about 1 large bulb)
  • Ginger 25 gm (3-4 inch piece)
  • 2 chillies

Grind together all  the ingredients above to make a smooth paste.

Ingredients to marinate the mince:

Lamb Mince 500 gm

  • Ginger-Garlic-Chili paste 2 tsp
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayene pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • Salt t0 taste

Mix all the ingredients above together, cover with a cling film & refrigerate.Fried Onions

Crispy fried Onion

  • 2 large onions

Thinly slice 1 large onion and deep fry it till brown & crisp. Please be mindful that it takes a little while for the onions to become pinkinsh brown but from that point onwards, the onions can become dark brown in seconds. You’ll need to watch them carefully & take them out at the right time, to avoid burning them.

Saffron Milksaffron

  • Saffron 1 pinch
  • Milk 1/2 cup

Take warm milt &  soak the saffron in it.

For Rice

  • 2 cups (225 gm) Basmati Rice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 2 inch piece if cinnamon
  • 3 cloves

Wash and soak the rice for 30 mins then drain. In a large pot cook the rice with the spices above in 4 cups of water till it’s half done. Drain, discard the spices & reserve the rice for later.

Make marble sized balls of the marinated lamb mince & sear them in a frying pan in a little oil. Drain the meatballs on a kitchen towel. Lamb mince will release some fat in the pan, reserve this fat for the gravy.

For Gravy

  • 4 tbsp oil / fat released from the meatballsMeatballs
  • 1 large onion (Minced)
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala OR Biryani masala powder
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (whisked till smooth)

Heat the oil in a pan & add minced onion and ginger-garlic paste to it and keep stiring on a medium-low heat. After a few mins add turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder & cumin powder. Fry a little, taking care not to burn the spices. Now add the tomatoes and cook while stirring until the tomatoes are cooked and the mixture starts releasing some oil. Now add 1/2 cup of water &  yogurt to the gravy and stir. Add the meatballs in the gravy and mix them together. Cover the pot and let it simmer on a very low heat for 5-7 mins. Take the pot off the heat.

Ingredients for assembly

  • One tomato sliced in circles
  • Ghee (clarified butter) 2-3 tbsp
  • Rice prepared in advance
  • Meatballs in gravy prepared in advance
  • Fried onions prepared in advance
  • Saffron soaked in milk prepared in advance
  • Chopped coriander leaves 1/2 cup
  • Chopped mint leaves 1/2 cup
  • Garam Masala /Biryani Masala 2 tsp
  • Rosewater 2-3 tsp
  • Kewra essense (optional) 2-3 tsp

In a large casserole heat some ghee, place the tomato circles at the bottom. Add first layer of meat followed by a layer of rice. Sprinkle some chopped herbs, fried onions, 1 tsp ghee, a few drops of rosewater & a few drops of kewra essense. Sprinkle some Biryani masala and drizzle a little saffron milk on top. Repeat the layer of meat & rice in the same fashion & finish with a layer of rice on top. On top add all the herbs, extracts and spices as before. Cover the casserole, seal the edges with a dough made from flour. Keep a griddle on a very low heat & keep the casserole on top of it. Let the Biryani cook on steam trapped inside the casserol for 10-15 mins. Granish with rose petals and boiled egg if you like and serve it with some raita or plain yogurt.

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Biryani Masala is essentially a variation of Garam Masala.  The difference between the two is in the proportion of spices. The recipe for Garam Masala itself changes from one household to another and it is really hard to come up with a standard recipe for any of the dry masala powders used across India. As per the recipes that I follow, I can say that generally Biryani Masala has more of ‘sweet’ spices than ‘hot’ spices. What I consider sweet spices are green cardamom, nutmeg, mace, star anise & cinnamon. These spices do not have much heat in them but they are extremely fragrant and that’s why they are used in desserts as well. What I consider ‘hot’ spices are cloves, black pepper & black cardamom. Some recipes do not call for cumin & coriander in Biryani Masala but others do. Here’s the recipe I follow:

  • 10 green cardamoms
  • 1 small nutmeg
  • 2-3 blades of mace
  • 2 star anise
  •  3″ piece cinnamon
  •  1 black cardamom
  • 3 cloves
  • 2-3 dry bay leaves
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 10-15 peppercorns

Dry roast all the spices separately on a low heat until they are fragrant. After they cool down, grind them to a fine powder using a spice grinder. Store in airtight container. If you do not have a spice grinder, a coffee grinder works just as well.

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