Chawal is an integral part of festive cuisine
By DEBBIE FERNS
Spring in Australia heralds the advent of the festive season in India. Janmashtami, Onam, Ganesh Chaturti, Navaratri and Diwali follow in succession and its time to start planning feasts to compliment these occasions. Rice, a staple food in India, can be transformed into signature dishes that will enhance your culinary offerings and bring a touch of royalty to your table.
325gms basmati rice, pre-soaked for 1 hour
½ kg mutton or lamb, cut into medium sized pieces
3 medium onions, sliced fine
½ tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp garam masala
3 small red chillies
1 medium stick cinnamon
½ cup beaten curd
2 cardamom pods
½ tsp shahijeera
½ tsp turmeric powder
¼ cup milk
1 pinch saffron
½ cup fresh coriander/mint chopped fine
5 dried apricots
½ cup mixed dried fruit – raisins, sultanas, cashewnuts, almonds
½ cup ghee (use oil for a healthier version)
Salt to taste
Heat a small portion of the ghee in a heavy based pan and fry the dried fruit and apricots for a few minutes until the ghee is flavoured. Keep aside. Add the sliced onions to the ghee and fry until soft. Remove and grind along with red chillies to make a fine paste. Marinate the mutton in a mix of curd, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, onion/chilli paste and salt to taste. Keep aside for 2 hours.
In a separate thick bottomed vessel, heat ghee, add the marinated mutton and cook till the meat is well done and moist, with a little gravy. Keep aside.
In another pan, heat the ghee and fry spices for a minute, adding washed and drained rice, and fry for a minute. Add salt and lukewarm water and cook till done. Keep aside.
Warm the milk and dissolve the saffron in it, to form a yellowish orange mix.
For the final presentation, coat the base of a heavy large saucepan with ghee and spread a layer of rice over this. Sprinkle the rice with some of the saffron milk, then cover this base with the cooked mutton and sprinkle with garma masala. Gently cover with another layer of rice and sprinkle with the rest of the saffron milk. Sprinkle the fried nuts over the top of the mix, cover tightly and cook over a slow fire or in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the flavours blend. Serve hot, garnished with freshly chopped coriander and mint, and a raita as accompaniment.