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From the land of biryanis comes another classic….!!

. . .and it is called qabooli, derived from the word qabool meaning ‘to accept’!

This is how it is made.

As most of you will remember, we made the vegetable stock last week and this week we’re using it in this wonderful biryani. There were 3 litres of vegetable stock (ganga jal) made.

So, now that we’ve got our vegetable stock ready, let’s get cracking with making the dish.

Ingredients:

1. 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2.  2 medium-sized red (Spanish) onions, finely chopped
3.  2 tablespoons salt
4.  1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
5.  1 1/2 tablespoons ground garlic
6.  1 teaspoon ground turmeric
7.  1 1/2 tablespoons ground dried red chillies
8.  2 cups yoghurt
9. garam masala for biryani
10. saffron threads soaked in warm milk 

ingredients, from left to right: vegetable oil, salt, ground ginger, ground garlic, turmeric, ground chillies, garam masala, saffron threads and chopped onions & yoghurt (centre)

11.  1 bunch coriander leaves, chopped
12.  1  bunch fresh mint, chopped
13.  4-5 fresh green chillies, sliced
14.  1 medium-sized red onion, sliced and caramelised

ingredients, from left to right: caramelised onions, chopped coriander, sliced green chillies & chopped mint

15.  1 cup chana dal, or chick pea lentils, soaked in half the vegetable stock.
16.  3 cups Basmati rice soaked in 12 cups of water

ingredients: Basmati rice & chana dal

Method:

1.  Soak the rice in cold water till the rice touches the surface of the water (approx. 15 minutes).
2.  Soak the chick pea lentils in half the vegetable stock for about 15 minutes. Then cook on high heat till the lentils are soft but not mashed. Drain and set aside. Set the strained liquid aside.

chick pea lentils soaked in vegetable stock

bring to a boil & cook on high heat

cook till the lentils are soft but not mashed

strain the lentils & reserve the ‘pot liquor’

strained lentils

3.  Heat oil in a pot till it smokes, add the chopped onions and reduce the heat to moderate.

heat oil

add the chopped onions

4. Add 1 tablespoon salt and fold the onions. Cook till onions are almost caramelised.

add salt

caramelise the onions

5. Add the ground ginger and fold. Cook till the ginger is caramelised.

add the ginger

cook till the ginger caramelises

6.  Add the ground garlic and cook till caramelised.

add the garlic

cook for a couple of minutes

7.  Add the turmeric, followed by the chilli and gradually fold till the oil leaves the sides of the pot.

add the turmeric

and the chilli

cook till the oil leaves the sides of the pot

8.  Add the yoghurt and cook till the yoghurt has completely cooked and the oil appears on the sides of the pot.

add the yoghurt

cook till the oil leaves the sides of the pot

9.  Add the cooked and strained chana dal, fold and cook till oil leaves the sides of the pot.

add the chana dal

cook till the oil leaves the sides of the pot

10.  Sprinkle the garam masala on top.

sprinkle the garam masala on top

fold into the dal

11.  Add the chopped mint, chopped coriander and the sliced chillies to the lentils. cover and keep aside.

add the chopped mint

and the chopped coriander

followed by the chillies

cover & keep aside

12.  In a pot bring the remaining stock and the drained liquid (kept aside after cooking the lentils) to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt.

boil the stock & drained liquid from cooked chana dal in a separate pot

add salt

13.  Add the drained rice to the boiling stock and cook till the rice is al dente, strain and add to the cooked lentils.

drain the rice

ensure stock is boiling

add drained rice to boiling stock

cook till the rice is al dente

strain the cooked rice

layer over the fresh herbs on the chana dal

14.  Sprinkle the soaked saffron threads on top of the rice. Cover rice with a moist cloth/ tea towel and place the pot in a pre-heated, fan forced oven, temp. 150 C, for about 20 mins.

sprinkle the saffron threads soaked in milk

layered biryani ready for the oven

cover with a wet tea towel

place the lid on top

place in the oven

15. Remove qabooli (biryani) from oven, top with caramelised onions and fresh herbs and serve with bhoorani and roasted pappads!!

remove qabooli from the oven & remove the wet tea towel

the layers of the qabooli

qabooli hot from the oven

top with caramelised onions

and fresh herbs

serve with roasted pappads & bhoorani

This is a superb vegetarian dish and I hope you enjoy making it. It’s often the simplest, and most straightforward things, that can often be the best.

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava

Three different classes over three days, but one common question. . .

Posted on

about ajoy

i’ve been a chef for over three decades now! i trained in chennai and started off with the taj hotel group. i’ve owned nilgiri’s indian restaurant in sydney for over 15 years. i’m on a mission to dispel the myth that indian food is no more than a ‘curry in a hurry’! come with me as i try and educate. indian food is my passion (alongside cricket!) and i’m enjoying exploring the new social media to fulfil this passion! i’ve also published cookery books, been on tv, the radio, won awards! now i’m also moving into making cookery videos. these are simple and easy to follow and don’t go on for hours like some Bollywood movies!

Last week was a bit hectic and challenging as I had to change my ‘gears’ quickly to go from a fast paced class for about 60 students at the Sydney Seafood School [SSS] on Thursday, to an easy paced corporate team building cooking class for about 12 participants at the restaurant the next day.

nilgiri’s corporate team building cooking class

Those two classes were followed by our highly rated regular class on Saturday for 12 students, as per usual.

The difference between the three classes is great fun for me because all of them are about cooking Indian food. Furthermore, all of them let me showcase my cuisine through my words and my actions!! I just love it like that!!!

But the one question that all the students had in common was this: “If you were to use only one spice and no more in your cooking, which one would it be, and why?”

My answer is very simple and has not changed over all the years I’ve been cooking.

“Give me the king of spices and I can cook you a dish, or a meal, without you ever knowing what the added spice was.”

Well almost. You might just guess.

However, it is not about my cooking that makes it hard to guess what the spice is as much as it is about the versatility of this spice.

Can you guess what it is?

And no, it’s not the ones you’re thinking of, I guarantee.

What did you guess?

Coriander seeds?

Cumin seeds?

(And no, please, not the dreaded ‘curry powder’ that someone suggested. I don’t think they’ll make that suggestion again!)

You still don’t know?

Okay.

It’s black peppercorns or kali mirch!!

There is plenty of information that one can get on what pepper is, and how to get it, and what the botanical name is and blah, blah, blah. . . but I am not going there. You’re welcome to go there in your own time, please be my guest!

But what I am going to do is tell you about the food we cooked in the three classes.

Each class was so different but in each one the common spice used was pepper.

So, adding pepper at different stages during cooking gets completely different results, and all of them are b….y good!! [Now, before I go any further, I must confess to the excessive use of the word ‘bl…y’ in my blogs. I have been asked by my best well-wisher, Aai, my mother, to tone it down. So, as of now the word is to be read ‘b….y’ for BEAUTY!!]  Happy Aai?

So, let’s start at the fish markets where I was invited to give a class.

Basically, the cooking class at the SSS is a 2 hour hands-on class which means the students get to cook two dishes from start to finish.

The first is an entrée and the second a main course served with steamed Basmati rice.

I love doing classes at the SSS because it’s such fun but also because it’s like performing on stage.

You get 1 hour to perform and show how the dishes are cooked and then the students move to a state-of-the-art kitchen to recreate the dishes.

So, I showed them how to make crab chettinad using blue swimmer crabs and karwari prawns, using fresh prawns.

The recipe for crab chettinad uses cinnamon, cardamom and cloves as part of a ‘whole garam masala’ followed by the ubiquitous ginger and garlic and peppercorns.

The crushed peppercorns are added right at the end of cooking the dish so that the pepper flavour is fresh and pungent.

At the team building class the next day we made, besides a few other dishes, yerra varuval (pan-fried marinated prawns). Here, the prawns were marinated right at the beginning with crushed peppercorns and other spices. This method creates a superb pepper crust on the prawns when they are tossed in a wok.

We also made a rasam using lentils and tomatoes which was then tempered with black mustard seeds, cumin and whole peppercorns.

The following day, in our scheduled class on Kerala cuisine, we made a moplah style biryani using chicken, rather than goat, and added ground garam masala, which includes pepper, after the chicken was seared and before the partially cooked rice was added to the chicken.

So, to summarise the versatility of this wonderful spice here is my altered recipe for crab chettinad that uses only black peppercorns as a spice throughout the recipe. Yes, that’s right!

There are no whole spices and no ground chillies. Just pepper all the way!!

At the first stage, whole peppercorns are added to the hot oil to create an infusion. Adding the peppercorns to the hot oil ensures that the peppercorn flavour will permeate through the onions and the rest of the ingredients, including the crab.

At the second stage, crushed peppercorns are added to give the dish some ‘bite’.

And finally, as I mentioned before, at the third stage, the freshly ground pepper is added right at the end to add that extra ‘oomph’ to the dish; just like we add ground pepper to our soups!!

STEP 1

Here is my recipe for Crab Chettinad using only pepper!:

apply 1/2 tsp turmeric to cleaned and cut crab. This recipe uses about 2 kgs mud crabs. [Turmeric is an excellent antioxidant and reduces any bacteria that might be in the crabs.]

Put cleaned crabs in the fridge whilst preparing the sauce.

STEP 2

To make the sauce:

heat oil until it just starts smoking, then add 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns; let peppercorns crackle [heating peppercorns this way creates an infusion].

STEP 3

add 3 chopped onions and salt to pepper-infused oil [salt prevents the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pan]. Reduce heat to medium and let onions caramelise.

STEP 4

when onions are almost golden, add 2 sprigs fresh kari leaves and let crackle.

STEP 5

add 1 tbsp crushed garlic to onions, fold until garlic is caramelised.

STEP 6

then add 1 tbsp crushed ginger and fold until mixture is golden.

STEP 7

add 1 tbsp crushed peppercorns, to give the sauce ‘bite’, and fold.

STEP 8

add 3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped and cook well.

STEP 9

cook till tomatoes are soft and oil leaves the side of the pan.

STEP 10

It’s now time to remove the crab pieces from the fridge.

add crabs and fold gently.

STEP 11

cover pan and cook until crabs become red [approx. 15-20 minutes].

STEP 12

the crabs are now cooking, yum!!

STEP 13

remove crabs from pot and then finish preparing the sauce.

STEP 14

set crabs aside whilst preparing sauce.

STEP 15

add 1 tbsp crushed peppercorns and kari leaves to sauce for that extra ‘oomph’!

STEP 16

add juice of 1/4 lemon and season to taste.

STEP 17

add crabs to finished sauce, replace lid and cook for a few minutes.

STEP 18

to plate, remove crabs and arrange on serving dish.

STEP 19

pour sauce on top of crabs.

STEP 20

add a few fresh coriander leaves, to serve.

STEP 21

ready, set, go, attack!

STEP 22

voilà! the easiest and best crab chettinad!!

So, all we need to go along with this dish is some soft steamed Basmati rice. (Click Basmati rice to see how to prepare this delicious accompaniment.)

And there you have it. A most versatile spice used in three different ways in the same recipe.

If you’d like to try another classic version of this dish, please click crab chettinand recipe.

Anah daata sukhi bhaava!!

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