Launching Lounge bar Sura Vie

Back from a business trip to US and UK in connection with my TV channel. Will settle down today, and tomorrow am shooting with the Master Chef team. Later in the week, will be travelling to Delhi for two purposes: launch of my first Lounge Bar Sura Vie and to shoot Part III of my series with CNN. Part I was done in Mumbai, Part II with Chef Rene at his Noma restaurant at Copenhagen. I intend to visit a farm before the shoot, pick up some fresh produce and cook at Sura Vie.
The weather is changing for the better, read cooler, in Mumbai. I did realize that the morning is pleasant when I landed. Well, it is not that winter is actually upon us, but definitely a pleasant change from last month’s heat. Some offices have already put up their Christmas trees as an early welcome to the festival. We are arranging a Cake Competition just before Christmas where all the chefs in my team are going to fight it out! Looking forward to some really creative cakes, some baked goodies with a difference!
December is also going to give you some chocolate stories that can be written in your kitchen and then presented to your loved ones – cakes, desserts, puddings and what not. All recipes are on www.sanjeevkapoor.com. Also relish some easy to do snacks that do not require much effort or time to prepare. Every body’s new favourite food, pasta, is also being brought you in all its variations this month, so look out!
As the week begins, try some nourishing and comforting recipes for a light dinner.
Till I write again
Sanjeev Kapoor.
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From Denmark to USA

Flew down from Copenhagen to Houston and onto San Francisco to attend the soiree set by Chef Ranjan Dey in this famed New Delhi Restaurant on Ellis street. Recipes from my book How to Cook Indian were served as a part of the dinner menu and the book itself was launched as a fund raising event for the Compassionate Chefs Café (CCC), a no profit organization, founded by Dey in San Francisco. CCC works with the Tenderloin After School Program (TASP) and the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad to provide them with important resources to become members of a global village. New Delhi Restaurant, set up way back in 1988, is impressive. Named one of the finest Indian restaurants in the US by New York Times and it also features on the Galloping Gourmet TV Show. New Delhi has been decorated like a maharaja’s private banquet room and the restaurant serves cuisine made from recipes culled from the royal Indian menus dating back 300 to 400 years using the freshest local ingredients. Ranjan Dey is chef and owner, as also star of PBS show ‘My India’. He creates daily specials with his six gourmet spice blends that are marketed under the name of New World Spices. Dey is the caretaker of Indian culture and cuisine in the west, definitely!

Off to New York for a couple of days and some more events. Then back home.
As the flavour of my trip is to promote Indian cuisine, I will encourage you to get going with some wholesome recipes at home, starting with dinner tonight!

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor.

The world of biryanis

In the world of biryani chicken biryani is probably the one that is cooked more often in most homes. If your rice is of good quality, and your spice rack is well stocked, then there is nothing that can stop you from dishing up a fragrant chicken biryani. Chicken is a good quality protein and when combined with rice, herbs, spices and yogurt, it makes a healthy and filling one dish meal. You could of course serve it with kachumber and raita on the side. Only for thing is essential. For a good biryani, chicken or meat or egg or vegetables, time it in such a way that it is served piping hot, fresh from the stove!
To make a biryani follow these steps:
  • Boil sufficient water in a deep pan, add three green cardamoms, four cloves, one stick of cinnamon, bay leaves and salt to taste. Boil1½ cups soaked Basmati rice in this till three fourth done. Drain and set aside. Chop 2 pieces of one inch ginger and cut 2 pieces of same size into thin strips.
  • Mix 1 cup yogurt, salt, 5 chopped garlic cloves, 1 ½ teaspoons red chilli powder, and half the chopped ginger and marinate 600 grams chicken pieces in this mixture for about an hour preferably in the refrigerator.
  • Heat sufficient oil in a kadai and deep fry 2 large sliced onions till golden. Drain on absorbent paper and set aside.
  • Heat three tablespoons oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add three green cardamoms, 4 cloves and one stick of cinnamon and sauté till fragrant. Add 2 large sliced onions and sauté till light golden. Add the remaining chopped ginger, 5 chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon coriander powder, 2 teaspoons turmeric powder, 1 ½ teaspoons red chilli powder, one teaspoon garam masala powder and 4 chopped tomatoes. Sauté for about five minutes.
  • Add the marinated chicken and cook on high heat for five minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes or till the chicken is tender. Add fresh coriander and mix well.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C. Dissolve a generous pinch of saffron in warm milk.
  • Arrange in alternate layers the cooked chicken and rice. Sprinkle saffron milk, some garam masala powder, ginger strips, fresh mint, fried onions and 3 tablespoons butter in between the layers and on the top. Make sure that you end with the rice layer topped with saffron and spices.
  • Cover and seal with aluminium foil or roti dough. Cook in the preheated oven for ten to twelve minutes. Alternatively you can keep the pan on a hot tawa and cook on low heat for ten to twelve minutes.
  • Serve hot with raita.
In case you are looking for more recipes of biryani, try Biryani with Chutney chicken, kachche Murgh Ki Biryani or something lighter like Egg Biryani.

Biryani recipes – an artist at work

There are always requests for more and more biryani recipes! Rice being the basic ingredient along with chicken or mutton or vegetables, biryani is a versatile one-dish meal. In fact, biryanis demand that long grained rice such as Dehradun Basmati be used. And because this rice is exported in volumes the pricing is found exorbitant by most. The alternative is Basmati from Punjab, it is good quality, but my personal favourite is Basmati from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. There was a time when Indian spices and rice were bartered for precious metals and not without a reason. To a gourmet, the fragrance of the good quality Basmati rice coupled with its long grain is worth much more than any precious metal!

Biryani cooking is a medium of expression for chefs and culinary maestros of yester years. It is a fine blend of rice, spices, herbs and meats or vegetables. The skill of biryani cooking lies in cooking the rice to perfection and retaining the flavour and aroma of spices and herbs used in the process. Biryani is best cooked by dum method that imparts a special flavour and retains all the goodness of spices and herbs and also retains the moisture in the dish.

Steps for a perfect biryani

A good biryani from scratch needs:

Aromatic water: Aromatic water to cook the rice so use nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves, green and black cardamoms, fennel seeds, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. You can choose spices of your choice. It is best to make a potli of the spices so that it can be easily picked out once the rice is done. If you wish to make plain saffron flavoured rice then boil the rice with this aromatic water with added crushed saffron. Always cook the rice till three fourths done.

Food for the layers: This could be vegetables, chicken, or mutton. For this layer, make sure the meats or vegetables are cooked, tender, ready to eat and are almost dry. The chicken is preferred with bone, in bite-sized pieces. Same for mutton.

Garnish layer: This layer needs crisp deep fried onions and fresh mint and coriander.

Saffron in milk: This is an important part in which some saffron is dissolved in milk. This could be given the miss if you are using saffron rice.

Kewra water: This aromatic flavouring gives many biryanis its characteristic rich flavour.

Final layering: The top and bottom layers are always rice. Arrange a layer of rice. Add the food layer, garnish layer, dissolved saffron and kewra water. You can repeat this. After the topmost rice layer has been added, finish it off with a garnish layer.

Sealing the handi: Most chefs prefer to use atta. It is a foolproof seal! It should be a sticky dough. Apply the dough around the rim of the vessel and close the lid. You could also use thick aluminum foil to tightly cover the vessel

Cooking: Preheat oven and place the biryani pot. The time of cooking will depend on the amount you are preparing. At the time of service, break the seal or remove the aluminum foil. Or if you are using the slow cooking method on direct heat, place the sealed vessel on a tawa.

Try out a beautiful Mushroom Dum Biryani and Handi Biryani.

Christmas dinner recipes – how the world celebrates

Here’s a peek into the kitchens of the world during Christmas time!
Australia: It’s a summer Christmas always! So barbeque time – prawns, steak and chicken, on the beaches ending the huge feast with ice creams and sorbets. Have a taste of Barbequed Chicken.

Czech Republic: As a tradition (and an auspicious event) people sit in even numbers for dinner which can be fish soup, salads, eggs and carp.
Finland: It is customary to see casseroles of macaroni, rutabaga, carrots and potatoes, with ham or turkey or a mixed platter of meat and fish.
Germany: The popular poultry is still goose, roasted whole and served with potatoes, cabbage, carrots, parsnip and pickles. However, rural southern Germany still relishes wild boar and venison on Christmas day.
Greenland: The traditional Christmas dinner recipes may include ‘kiviak’: little seabirds named auks that are a bit like penguins, wrapped in sealskin and they are buried whole in this sealskin for several months till they reach an advanced stage of decomposition. Considered a delicacy. Other foods that are enjoyed are soups and stews, barbequed fish, or even raw fish. Baked apples and berried with crisp toppings and Danish pastries form the desserts. You could try out a simple Apple Crumble at home.
Italy: An Italian Christmas lunch is a leisurely seven course feast: antipasto, a small portion of pasta, roast meat, two salads, two sweet puddings followed by cheese, fruit, brandy and chocolates.
Jamaica: The traditional Christmas dinner is rice, peas, chicken, ox tail and curried goat.
Portugal: A special meal includes salted dry cod-fish with boiled potatoes eaten at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Russia: Christmas delicacies include cakes, pies and meat dumplings.
South Africa: It is the hot summer season during Christmas but they traditionally have a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
Sweden: A super buffet for Christmas boasting of varieties of shellfish, pork, cooked and raw herring fish, caviar, cheese and brown beans.
United Kingdom: Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies are top of the list. A Christmas luncheon with family and friends will have turkey, roast vegetables, sausage and bacon. With the two favoured desserts even chocolates are generously passed around.
USA: With its multi cultural population, there is nothing specific as a Christmas feast. However, in small towns and rural America, goose, turkey, a variety of vegetables, squash, and pumpkin pie are traditionally eaten on Christmas day. Families from Western European origins enjoy turkey or ham with cranberry sauce. Families from Eastern European origins have a larger spread with turkey and its trimmings, keilbasi (a Polish sausage), cabbage preparations and some soups. It could be Christmas lasagna for some Italian families! Something like Spinach and Mozzarella Lasagna could interest you!

Easy Indian Food Recipes – a trip to Punjab

One thing about delving into the exquisite world of easy Indian food recipes remains the same…that it is an exciting adventure of unbeatable flavours, some bequeathed by the connoisseurs of food, some distinctly evolved by the local settlers, all in all, a roller coaster ride of sugar ‘n spice!
A trip to the northern region of the country has one taking the states of Punjab, Haryana, Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh as a rich tapestry of cuisines of the food lovers of yore, the Mughals. Delhi, the capital of India, is a little world on its own. With the ticking of time, each area has developed its characteristic styles and as the multicultural inhabitants enjoy both non-vegetarian and vegetarian fare, the food vies for attention in a constructive manner.
Punjab is placed strategically on the Indian border with Pakistan. Spread over around 50,362 square kilometers, most of it is gently sloping plains, with well watered and highly fertile alluvial soils.
The name of the state of Punjab is derived from the words ‘punj’ meaning five and ‘ab’ meaning water since the land is a confluence of five rivers. The five rivers that run through Punjab, having their origins in various small lakes in Himalayas, are Ravi, Chenab, Sutlej, Jhelum and Beas. Beas and Sutlej join forces and flow on to meet the Indus, the tributaries of which crisscross the state making it the most fertile land.
Punjab is called the “Bread basket of the nation” because it gives India the maximum agricultural output regardless the total amount of area it covers. Around 85% of the area is under cultivation. It produces wheat that can feed the whole of India and contributes around 2% of the world’s wheat produce.
From the bylanes of Punjab comes the piquant flavour of mustard oil and mustard greens, called sarson-da-saag. More help to make the farmers robust, comes from the quarters of diary farms as milk is abundant in this Land of Five Rivers. We move on with a variation of the famous yogurt based drink of Punjab called lassi, an easy Indian food recipe. The thick sweet beverage, it is said, justifies the need for a siesta! Have a taste of a popular stuffed layered bread called aloo parantha. Stuffed with seasoned potatoes and covered with wheat flour dough, it is fun to eat with a bowl of chilled curds and a selection of pickles, even for breakfast. This platter will give you a head start for the day!

India cuisine – Top of the world!

India is a geographically rich country. The world’s most recently formed and still rising mountains, the Himalayas are the crowning glory with the world’s most ancient rocks in the Peninsula adding wealth to the southern part of the country. We also have the world’s wettest place at Chirapunji and the hottest desert in Thar.

Interestingly, the tapestry of Indian culture also weaves in some colourful threads of variety of cuisines. It cannot be gainsaid that in India if you begin to taste a new dish everyday it will take quite a few years before you will have exhausted the entire repertoire of Indian food! That’s India cuisine for you!

Indian food has been synonymous with curries and sweetmeats. In the subsequent articles you will get a chance to savour the hot, tart, sweet and tangy notes that make up the melodious symphony of India cuisine. It will also be a sincere attempt to present easy to cook recipes so that the myth that Indian food is elaborate to cook can be put to rest.

Creativity has surely built a home in India. Given the availability of limited basic ingredients, the diversity of preparations is a surprise. The northern and western parts of the country have wheat as the staple cereal. Mustard oil is a popular cooking medium in the north and east and groundnut oil in the west. The people of southern and eastern parts relish rice. Most of the cuisine in the southern parts makes good use of sesame and coconut oil. A range of spices in a variety of combinations put a distinct stamp of flavour to the regional recipes.

India cuisine is more popular for its wide variety of vegetarian dishes, which depend on the seasonal availability. Dal is a must almost all over the country. Fish, mutton or chicken are the more popular non-vegetarian dishes of which too there is a considerable variety. A meal is generally accompanied with curds, either in the form of raita or eaten plain. This is mostly to combat the other spicy dishes plus aid in digestion. Another integral part of an Indian meal is the stupendous variety of pickles – both hot and sweet.

As we leave you with these mouth watering notes, let us get back following week with more highlights of India cuisine.