Sri Lankan Chicken Biryani with Mint Sambol

Posted on

Once a year, I try my hand at making biryani. It’s typically a disaster: mushy or undercooked rice — nothing like the fluffy, fragrant grains infused with spice that I’m aiming for.

But this year is different! I finally stumbled upon a method, fool-proof for a biryani novice even like me. Success! Delicious, ghee-laden success. Accompanied with a cooling mint sambol, this chicken biryani is the real thing.

Sri Lankan chicken biryani with mint sambol

Ingredients:

For the chicken:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs but any cuts will do just fine)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon roasted curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons chopped cashews
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
1 cardamom pod
1 clove
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
1 serrano chili, chopped

For the rice:
1 pound (about 3 cups) basmati rice
3 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 2-inch stick cinnamon stick
A pinch of ground saffron
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

For the mint sambol:
3 cups mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 serrano chili
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste

1. Wash and dry chicken. Season with salt, pepper, curry powder, and cayenne pepper.

2. In a food processor, blend yogurt, tomato puree, cashews, and coconut.

3. Combine yogurt mixture, cardamom pods, clove, and bay leaves with chicken and marinade at least 2 hours to overnight.

4. When ready to assemble and cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Heat ghee in a medium pan on the stovetop. Fry the onion and chili until onions are lightly browned.

5. Remove chicken from marinade (reserving marinade), add to pan, and saute for about 10 minutes. Add a little water to the reserved marinade and pour over chicken. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and place chicken in a deep oven-proof baking dish.

6. Prepare the rice: Wash and drain the rice. Heat the ghee in a medium pan. Fry onion until lightly browned. Add cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick.

7. Add rice and fry for a few minutes until rice starts to turn lightly golden. Add saffron and mix well.

8. Pour in stock and simmer until rice is partially cooked (about 15 minutes). Add salt.

9. Place rice on top of chicken in baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in heated oven until moisture evaporates, about 45 minutes.

10. In the meantime, make the sambol: Blend all of the sambol ingredients together in a food processor to make a thick green paste. Serve with yogurt alongside biryani.

Crispy Okra Salad

Posted on

Say hello to your new favorite summertime salad. I love okra, but I know a lot of folks don’t appreciate the, uh, texture. Because of how the okra is prepared here, there isn’t any of that viscosity usually associated with okra. Instead, you have perfectly crispy, salty, seasoned spears of okra. Kind of like the glorious spears of okra fries I enjoyed in London’s Dishoom last year.

Tossed with a bright, citrusy dressing and fresh vegetables, this is delicious on its own or paired with a heartier dish like chicken tikka masala.

Crispy okra salad

Ingredients:

1 1/4 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon amchoor powder
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 pound okra, halved lengthwise and cut into long, thin strips
Salt
1 small shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1 tomato, sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. In a small bowl, mix the garam masala with the amchoor powder.

2. In a large skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the okra strips, stirring a few times, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried okra to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with some of the spice mixture and salt.

3. In a bowl, toss the fried okra with the shallot, tomato, cilantro and lemon juice. Season the salad with more of the spice mixture and salt and serve.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Posted on

My chicken tikka masala isn’t traditional. You see, growing up with all manner of khoreshs, one of my favorite things to do was to pour the khoresh on top of tahdig, the golden crispy bottom-of-the-pot part of Iranian-style rice.

As an adult, I do the same thing not only with khoresh, but with curries too. So what’s better than tikka masala? Tikka masala on top of tahdig, of course! And with a side of torshi and fresh sabzi, even. Iran and India share so much in common that these dishes pair together perfectly.

Chicken tikka masala

Ingredients:

For the marinade:
1 cup plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and pepper

For the chicken:
2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup almonds
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
One 30-ounce can chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
1 cup heavy cream

1. For the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Using a knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade; scrape the marinade. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and transfer to a cutting board and cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces.

4. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-low. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.

5. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes longer. Stir in the chicken; simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with basmati rice, tahdig, torshi, and fresh sabzi khordan.

Chickpea and Kale Frittata

Posted on

I love frittatas because they’re basically an entire meal in one skillet. I grew up with frittatas (or kuku, as they’re called in Farsi): herb frittata (kuku sabzi), potato frittata (kuku zibzamini) — you get the picture. But chickpeas? That’s something new. It works beautifully here, along with a healthy serving of kale.

Chickpea and kale frittata

Ingredients:

12 eggs
1 1/2 cups chopped parsley (basil works well here too)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons curry powder (I used a mix of Madras and Jaffna curry powders here)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Whisk eggs, parsley, sour cream, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl until no streaks remain.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add chickpeas and curry powder and season with salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium, add onion, garlic, and remaining teaspoon oil to chickpeas in skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and starting to brown, about 7 minutes.

4. Add a handful of greens and tablespoons. water and cook until slightly wilted. Continue adding greens a handful at a time, letting them wilt slightly before adding more, until all greens are wilted, about 5 minutes total; season with salt. Let cool slightly.

5. Return pan to medium-low, pour in egg mixture, and cook, stirring eggs and swirling pan often, until edges are just set (texture should be like a very soft scramble), about 5 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake frittata until puffed slightly and center is just set, about 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes and serve.

Curry Puffs

Posted on

I was sort of obsessed with eating all the things when I visited Singapore a few years ago. I mean, it’s the best food city on earth (don’t @ me). When it was time to leave, I realized I hadn’t yet tried one of the most Singaporean of snacks, curry puffs! Think curried chicken and potatoes in a deep-fried pastry shell. Yeah. I hurriedly bought one at Changi Airport right as we were boarding and savored the carby, meaty, buttery goodness right before saying goodbye.

I can’t find curry puffs in the Bay Area, but I can make them with relative ease at home. I take a shortcut with puff pastry and I oven bake them so they’re a bit healthier, but they’re just as delicious.

Curry puffs

Ingredients:

1 small potato, boiled, peeled, and cut into cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/2 onion, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder (I used a blend of Madras curry powder and homemade Jaffna curry powder)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, then add ginger, onion, and green onions, and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until onion begins to brown. Add chicken and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Stir in potato, curry powder, and soy sauce. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and lightly mash with a potato ricer.

2. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. In the meantime, on a floured board, roll out puff pastry to a thickness of about 1/4 inch; cut into 4-inch circles. Place 1 tablespoon filling on each circle. Brush edges with egg wash, fold dough to make half-moons, and press edges to seal.

3. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush tops with remaining egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.