The Indian Cuisine of Kebabs and Kings.
Indian food has been shaped by millennia of foreign influences, including migrant bringing their traditional recipes, conquerors imposing new palace cooking policies, techniques, and ingredients, and new religions imposing dietary laws.
South Asian cooks assimilated all of these ideas, interpreted them in their unique way, created new ways, dishes and even suitable shapes of pots and pans that can be found in the sub-continent.
An Indian banquet of 20 centuries ago would offer rice, chickpeas (channa), kidney beans, lentils, a variety of local vegetables (squash, bitter gourds, peas, sweet potatoes and lotus stems), all spiced with turmeric, pepper, mustard seeds, cumin, fenugreek, asafoetida, lemon, coriander and ginger. Garlic and onion were frowned upon. Sesame seed oil, or ghee (clarified butter) was used for frying, but only for special occasions.
Chicken, goat and venison constituted the main protein portion of such meals.
Wise Indian men recommended frying to be limited in daily use.
Potatoes and tomatoes were absent as the Americas were not discovered yet.
Sweets were also served, [prepared using rice or barley sweetened with honey.
The arrival of Muslims influenced Indian cuisine differently in the north and south. Arab traders were frequent visitors involved in the spice trade. Some married and settled there, introducing their way of cooking.
In northern India, Muslim culinary influence was much more profound as Afghans, Persians, and other nations came as conquerors. The biggest influence came from Mughals, mainly Babur, who brought in Persian chefs creating a “fusion cuisine” by introducing marinating of meat in yoghurt, cooking with fruits, mainly dried apricots, raisins, and almonds.
Kebabs and kormas were the mainstay of Mughal banquets. Muslim chefs used onion and garlic liberally, introduced the use of saffron (world’s most expensive flavouring agent currently retailing for $ 4.00 per gram).
Mughals also introduced halwa made using grated vegetables or semolina cooked in milk and sugar. Burfi and jelebis are also of Persian and Arabic origin.
The Portuguese who settled in Goa in 1510 and remained there for 450 years influenced Goan cuisine introducing the use of pork, vindaloo, and the leavened bread.
Portuguese also imported vegetables and fruits, which were hitherto not known in Goa, i.e potatoes, tomatoes, and chillies. All spread throughout India, and today is widely used y all housewives and cooks. Biryani is a rich Arab dish with Kerala “flavours”. Today biryani is offered by thousands of restaurants in India, Sri Lanka, and Indian restaurants in western countries.
The English ruled India directly from London for 150 years, but had no culinary influence, as their food has nothing special about it. The English made curry, and very highly spiced curry, popular at home in England.
Indian curry is never “hot” but mostly subtle and mild.
Gourmets consider the French haute cuisine, practised in the courts of kings, the best of all, followed by Italian, Chinese and Japanese. It is fair to include Indian cuisine in this group, albeit preentati0on and vividly appealing coloured Indian dishes are rare, but from a taste perspective they can compete with the best anywhere.
Walnut-sized piece of tamarind
½ cup water
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1.4 cm ginger, halved
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
½ coriander leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
40 fresh curry leaves, divided
2 green chilies
6 canned whole plum tomatoes, lightly drained or fresh ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp yoghurt, Middle Eastern style
½ cayenne pepper
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground fennel seeds
salt to taste
½ cup coconut cream
10 boneless skinless chicken this, quartered
2 tbsp vegetable or extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
20 raw cashews
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cups Basmati rice
6 cups of water
salt to taste
2 tbsp of oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Cook tamarind in water for 3 –4 minutes. Mash and let it rest. Squeeze and reserve the juice.
Mince garlic, ginger, onion, coriander, mint and 20 curry leaves and chilies. Mix well, and cover chicken with marinade. Rest for 2 – 4 hours.
Heat ghee on medium heat, add mustard seeds, fenugreek, cashews, remaining curry leaves, and bay leaf.
Sauté for half a minute. Add chicken and marinade. Stir well, cover and boil.
Reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Uncover, turn up heat to medium and cook to thicken sauce.
Boil rice. Drain and spread on tray.
For garnish sauté onions, cut each egg into four pieces
To assemble, preheat oven to175 F. In a large ovenproof dish spread half of the rice; lift chicken pieces and place over rice layer. Cover with remaining rice. Spread fried onions and eggs. Drizzle sauce over, garnish with coriander leaves, dot with butter. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Let biryani rest for 10 minutes before service.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
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