Christmas is a big deal for us back home, something i thoroughly miss after we moved to UK. Although we have tried to do something or the other on Christmas day with friends who are around, its never the same without family. Christmas was spent with cousins and aunts and uncles and started pretty early with a church service at the wee hours of the morning. Droopy eyed we'd still go to church without much fuss because we know we'd get to open presents after. After church we'd all go over to my paternal grandparents house where my grand mother would have prepared a breakfast fit for the kings. But before we sat down to breakfast we'd open all our gifts, which of course was the most favourite part. Breakfast would be elaborate with a Kerala special called appam (hoppers as its commonly known here) served with chicken or mutton stew and there would also be loads of sides like boiled eggs, steamed plantains and this and that. I cant ever remember my grand mother entertaining guests with just two or three dishes, she'd go all out, and every one of them delicious.
We'd have relatives or friends dropping by and they would all be given fruit cake (equivalent of the Christmas pudding) and home made sweet sweet wine. Lunch would follow soon after with a biryani and a side of raita, pappadum, cutlets (croquettes), fish fry etc etc. All home made. It would stretch on for a couple of hours, with non stop banter, Christmas carols in the background, and finally end with dessert which would either be a payasam (which is a sweet milk pudding with vermicelli) or caramel custard or something similar. We'd all be stuffed by then and would be calling dibs on which sofa or bed we'd want to plonk on.
Beef biryani is not something that is made on Christmas day- its usually a chicken or a mutton biryani- but i thought I'd give a twist to tradition with a beef version, which is just as good. The recipe may look long and a bit intimidating for first timers, but its actually not that cumbersome, especially if you manage to make the beef curry a day or two in advance. Do read my notes.
Every family has a Christmas tradition, but if you are looking for something different this time around, then check out the Waitrose Christmas page which has a round up of traditions from around the world accompanied by recipes (Mixing Gorgonzola cheese with Prosecco, now that's a combination i thought never existed!).
Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. Its not about nutrients and calories. Its about sharing. Its about honesty, its about identity.' Louise Fresco
Kerala Beef Biryani (Serves 4 to 5 generously, as part of main)
Add the crushed ginger-garlic-chilli paste and continue cooking till the raw smell disappears.
Season with salt, saute for about 2 minutes, and then tip in the marinated beef and all its juices.
Put the weights on once the steam comes and cook the beef on medium heat for about 4 to 5 whistles or till the beef is completely cooked.
Wait for the steam to die on its own and then open the lid.
If you feel the gravy is too loose, then slow cook it till you feel its thick-ish. Alternatively, if you feel there is not enough gravy then add some more water. Remember you need enough water to mix with the rice and make it moist.
Stir in the ground khus khus, check for salt, add more if needed and take the meat off heat.
Once the water starts boiling, time it and cook the rice to an almost al dente form, for about 6 to 8 minutes maximum on a rolling boil.
Keep stirring in between, but make sure the rice doesn't break and get over cooked.
Drain immediately into a colander.
To assemble, smear the bottom of a large heavy bottomed pan with ghee. Use left over ghee from frying the cashew and onions.
Spread a layer of rice and then sprinkle half a tsp each of the chopped coriander leaves, fried onions and cashew over the rice
Top with a layer of the beef curry. Spread it out as gently as possible.
The rice i use got cooked to perfection in exactly 5 minutes, so keep a close watch and make sure you don't over cook it. If you can comfortable with the absorption method with the exact quantity of water used, please do that instead
It is a spicy one, so reduce the green chillies to 2 if you are not a spice fan. I used birds eye chilli
If you can get hold of beef on the bone, nothing like it. I shall do so the next time.
Freeze the remaining biryani in a freezer proof container. To thaw, either transfer it to the top compartment of the fridge and let it thaw over night or take it out and leave on the counter for it to thaw by evening. Tip the contents into an over proof bowl and let it heat in an oven preheated at 200C for about 15 minutes.
If you don't own a pressure cooker, you can slow cook the beef in a heavy bottomed pan till done. Just keep a check on it at intervals, keep stirring in between and add water as required.
Tomato and shallot raita
Green chilli- 1/2 of one, finely chopped
Chaat masala- 1/2 to 1 tsp + enough to garnish
Salt- to taste
Tomato- 1 small, finely chopped
Shallot- 1 small, finely chopped
Coriander leaves- 1 tsp
Add a few table spoons of water to the yoghurt and whisk to make it a bit loose.
Stir in the salt, chaat masala and green chilli
Add the tomato and shallots, give it a good stir and just before serving garnish with coriander leaves and a generous sprinkle of chaat masala.
With thanks to Waitrose online for sending me a Waitrose gift card which I used to purchase my ingredients.