FROM GODS OWN COUNTRY

Image result for thekkady

We had been to Thekkady Kerala for a holiday in 2004. The drive from Cochin to Thekkady was spectacular. The winding roads through the tea plantations, the cold breeze, I couldn’t believe I was in Gods country itself.

Curling around a misty ridge 2000 feet high in the Periyar vastness, we found “Spice Village” the hotel we were booked in. The hotel was amidst spice plantations with large thatched roof cottages made of elephant grass giving it a total village feel.

The cottage had bare stone floors with coir mats placed at each door. Natural material was used to make the cottage, local woodcraft was placed at different corners of the room. Our room has a huge garden attached to it with benches at a corner.

After we had reached in the afternoon and a lovely simple meal of Kerala parotha and stew we retired to our room for a snooze, tired after the long journey.

In the evening as soon as we woke up a steward knocked at our door. He had come with our tea and biscuits and he had placed the tray carefully on the table in the garden. T

The sun was about to set and the air was cold. Yug was running around the garden having a good time breathing the fresh air to his hearts content.

The hot tea gave us a lot of warmth. There were beautiful flowers blooming all around the periphery of the garden giving out their fragrances. The corner covered densely with tiny white flowers looked like thousands of stars in our garden.  I stood next to them for a very long time in a trance.

After the tea we geared up for the cold and set out for a walk in the old quaint town. The town was woven with tiny streets and small local shops selling spices locally grown. I bought loads of spices, tea and coffee as gifts for everyone back home.

We didn’t realize till how late we were wandering on the streets till Yug complained he was hungry. We were a bit far away from the Hotel and so we decided to eat at a local eatery close by that was recommended by one of the spice vendors.

The eatery was a large room with a cement slurry flooring, white washed walls and a thatched roof. There were benches with tables placed in a line with the owner sitting at the entrance counting his kitty

A huge dark man escorted us to our table. There was a steel jar full of water placed in front of us and as soon as we sat banana leaves were laid for us. He then muttered a list of dishes that were there on the menu like an express train and then left us alone to decide

The food we ordered was ……..uuuum wait ! let me share the recipes itself with you

Image result for chemmeen biriyani

CHEMEEN BIRYANI

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE RICE

5 cups of long grain or basmati rice

5 cups of water

10 cloves

4 pods of green cardamom

1” cinnamon

4 bay leaves

2 large onions finely sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

1 tbsp ghee

FOR THE MARINATION

1 kg prawns, shelled, deveined and washed

2 tbsp chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp coriander seed powder

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

1 tbsp ghee

Oil for frying

FOR THE GRAVY

5 medium onions sliced

10 spicy green chillies

2” ginger

10 pods of garlic

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp coriander seed powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

¼ cup mint leaves chopped

½ cup coriander leaves chopped

4 tbsp ghee

BIRYANI MASALA GROUND TO A FINE POWDER

1” cinnamon

8 pods of green cardamom

2 pods of black cardamom

10 cloves

2 tsp caraway seeds

2 tsp fennel seed

2 bay leaves

2 star anise

½ tsp nutmeg

2 mace

FOR GARNISHING

1 cup fried onions

Handful of coriander leaves finely chopped

Handful of mint leaves finely chopped

10 strands of saffron

¼ cup warm milk

METHOD:

  1. Soak the rice for 30 minutes and drain
  2. Heat the ghee and add the sliced onions and all the spices, sauté for a few minutes and then add the drained rice and sauté till the rice combines well with the spices
  • Heat 10 cups of water and add it to the rice. Add salt lemon juice and cover and cook till the rice is cooked and separate
  1. Remove the excess water
  2. For the prawns combine the ingredients for the marinade and marinate the prawns for 30 minutes in the refrigerator
  3. Make a paste of the ginger, garlic and the green chillies
  • Heat the oil and shallow fry the prawns drain off the excess oil and keep it aside
  • In the same oil fry the onions till they turn slightly golden, then add the ginger garlic and green chilli paste and sauté
  1. Add the chopped coriander and mint leaves and combine well
  2. Add the biryani masala, turmeric powder, chilli powder, salt and sauté till the raw smell goes off
  3. Add the fried prawns and mix well
  • If the gravy is too dry add some water to it
  • Cover and cook on a low flame for 5 minutes till the oil separates
  • Mix the saffron in the warm milk and keep aside
  1. To assemble the biryani put a layer of the prawns, then a layer of rice, sprinkle some biryani masala, mint and coriander leaves and fried onions.
  • Make another layer similarly and then pour the ghee, milk and cover and cook it on a dum on a low flame for 15-20 minutes and serve with a cold salad

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