Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mutton (Goat) Sindhi Biryani

All my life, I have been eating rice, different varieties, in different ways and forms.  For me to say that I love rice is an understatement since it is intrinsic to my being.

Different types and varieties of rice in my pantry
I was weaned from milk foods to am, the traditional first food for Filipino babies, prepared by adding an extra cup of water to the amount called to cook rice, then skimming about ½ cup of the thickened fluid just before you simmer the rice for the final cooking stage.

As a child, one of the folk songs (the equivalent of nursery rhyme in the states) I learned is about planting rice called "Magtanim ay ‘Di Biro".  Although rice was never mentioned in the song, the farmer talks about the physical hardship that comes with rice planting in the rice paddies and the peace of mind when he rise to the new dawn knowing that there will be food for his family.  Unconsciously at that early age,  the song helped me appreciate and respect the farmers that tended and grew my food.  I found an English translation of the song on YouTube, and well, rice was actually in the translated lyrics.
Perfect for making Laotian Sticky Rice
As a young woman, I remember my grandmother and my mom sizing up the caliber of the housemaid or any young woman of the house by the quality of their steamed rice; and yes, at a young age, I was taught and was expected to make good steamed rice-- apparently, my “future mother in-law “would appreciate my ability to prepare fluffy, fragrant, perfectly cooked rice for her son.  Can you believe a life of cooking rice to please your husband?  I think that’s horseshit!  Lucky me, I didn’t have to live up to that kind of expectation.  Sadly, this is still true in some parts of the Philippines and in other cultures as well.
Also called Venere or Emperor's Rice
What with studies showing processed white rice posing a diabetes threat because it causes steep rise in blood sugar, healthier types of rice are gaining popularity.  Brown rice appears to have the opposite effect, cutting the risk of type 2 diabetes.  Red, purple and black variety contain anthocyanin antioxidant, the same found in blueberries and blackberries.  Even wild rice, although technically not rice but a close botanical cousin, offers protein, fiber, B vitamins, manganese, zinc and magnesium.   I don’t suggest that you totally eradicate white rice in your diet, because I won’t.  Just be mindful of your portions.

Good for making Risotto
Sindhi Biryani is my favorite rice dish. I was first introduced to it while living in Austin, TX by my friend Shreya Shah, one of the most beautiful woman I will ever meet in this life.  She taught me how to make a proper chai tea and a bad ass Lobia Keema (Black-eye Peas Curry) as well.  I like this mutton version, but you can substitute it with chicken, lamb, beef, egg (shelled boiled eggs) or make it vegetarian by using carrots, cauliflower and peas. 

Mutton (Goat) Sindhi Biryani

Aged basmati when cooked expand greatly
For the rice:
3 cups basmati rice
4 cups of cold water
1 bay leaf
1 t cumin seeds
3 t salt
2 T ghee or clarified butter

For the mutton:
1 ½ cups ghee or clarified butter
3 medium onions, sliced
3 lbs mutton (goat meat)
1 lb potato, peeled and cut in half
10 cloves
10 black pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
3 t salt
2 t ground cumin
2 t turmeric powder
2 t ginger, minced
6 jalapenos, sliced
1 cup yogurt
2 cup water
1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 pinch saffron, soaked in 4 T hot milk

For the garnish:
Ghee or unsalted butter
1/3 cup cashew nuts
1/3 cup sultanas (golden raisin)

Wash the rice in several changes of cold water.  Using a microwave safe bowl, soak the rice in cold water with the cardamom pods, bay leaf, cinnamon, cumin seeds and salt for at least 30 minutes.  Set aside.
In a heavy bottom pan, fry the onions in ghee on medium heat until golden.  Add meat, garlic, potatoes. Stir and fry for 10 minutes.  Add the green and black cardamom pods, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, pruned, red chili powder, cumin, ginger, minced, jalapenos and yogurt.  Stir and fry for 5 minutes.  Add water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the meat tender, adding water as needed.  There should be about two cups of gravy when meat is done.  A pressure cooker will help hasten this process.   If you find yourself cooking with mutton or inexpensive cuts of meat more often than not, I recommend investing on a pressure cooker. 

Spread tomatoes, cilantro and mint leaves over the meat.  Do not mix meat and the green masala.  Cover and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the ghee to the rice and cook in microwave on high for 10 minutes, stirring it halfway through the process.  This will cook the basmati rice halfway.  Drain remaining water thoroughly.  Spread the rice evenly over the meat.  Do not mix the rice and the meat.

Make random holes through the rice with the handle of a spoon and pour into each a little saffron milk.  Cover and cook on low heat until rice is tender.

While the biryani is cooking, make the garnish.  Heat a little ghee or butter and fry the cashew nuts and sultanas until they swell.  Drain and set aside.

Mix before serving.  Garnish with cashew nuts and sultanas.

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