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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hairy Goat Biryani

Unlike your average Calcuttan, I'm not really big on biryani. And emphatically not enough to make a Sunday (or even month's-first-Sunday) ritual of it.

Yes, I'll admit the seared-steamed-roasted potato unique to biryani from this city, anathema to all others, is quite a golden nugget of fluffy fun-in-a-spud. But that's just the thing — a rice-and-meat steamed dish admittedly demanding of technique is one thing; the pursuit of the perfect potato is quite another.

And it's technique that lets down most biryanis. Oh, you can have each grain separate and the meat falling off the bones from many a roadside degh — but it's no good if it's so greasy as to stick together into a lardy lump the moment it cools to a tongue-friendly temperature. There's no joy in the delicacy of good degh technique when the spices crust the meat and dot the rice with coarse speckles; furring the palate with an excess of mace and screwpine. And the rubbery boiled eggs, so prized of some, I can do without the sulphurous stink of, though I admit they add much-needed colour to a monochrome meat-and-rice-(and-potato-perhaps) dish.

The other kinds of colour in your average box of biryani, now plastic-lined paper (to the convenience of your coat and the detriment of your health), are more worrying than winsome: traditional cochineal from a ground-up insect; turmeric that overwhelms flavour and fragrance, or worse, dishonestly dangerous metanil yellow, a carcinogen often sold under the guise of 'safe' tartrazine, itself an azo dye substituting the expensive saffron...

Hair-raising enough to put you off your lunch, isn't it? So why am I even thinking of dishing up any?

The recipe made me do it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A lick and a promise

It's been a sweet beginning to 2011. It should have been a sweet restart to this blog as well. But what can I say? It was a sunny, smoggy day, and the strawberries turned out to be soporific.

No cooking was involved in breakfast. Just splitting of flaky croissants, slathering of Nutella, slicing of strawberries — and sandwiching to sit beside a tall, dark and hot espresso.

But not for long. The last chocolate-sticky flakes and fragrant, bleeding-red berry bits were gone in under 20 seconds, and the nap was irresistible — until it was time to turn out lunch (which is the tale on another post).

However, the milestone of that first meal of the year, the decade (and the revived blog) will be remembered — and, I hope, repeated — for long beyond strawberry season. It's my newfound favourite no-cook breakfast. Sure, nothing beats a fresh-laid egg freshly and simply poached — as friends wishing me a 'sunny side up' year well know; or a superior scramble alongside crisp rashers and smoky maple syrup; and I dare anyone to turn up their noses at the fragrance of blueberry-banana muffins just popping out of the oven. But there's a luxury about the lack of effort involved in these strawberry-chocolate croissants.

There's a lot else to love.