Hi guys I know that I promised to have a tagine recipe for my next blog post but during the week I was invited by Restaurateur and Head Chef Anthony Graham, (in a surprise of all humbling surprises) to teach him how to make a Seafood Biryani using traditional Indian spices and techniques. Anthony grew up in Britain and told me that he loved the Indian influences in the British culinary scene when he was growing up as a young lad. When Anthony was just 19 years old he left Britain for Italy leaving behind not just his parents but his love for Indian food. Since living and working in the food service industry in Italy for 24 years Anthony is currently the proud and successful owner of Ristorante Gargantua in the beautiful Italian countryside here in the North. Anthony specialises specifically in Italian cuisine but wants to add a new twist to his menu by introducing an Indian Dish to his Friday Fish Evening. That’s where I came in, Anthony who read my blog on the Ras el Hanout spice blend said he himself was inspired to be taken back to the smell of home that he dearly missed and invited me to show him one of my favourite Indian dishes, the Seafood Biryani. I love this dish so much that I decided to share the recipe on my blog thus postponing the tagine recipe which will be on here next week so please stay posted for that. I would like to say a huge thank You to Chef for giving me an opportunity to work with him, it was such a delight to work in a professional kitchen and needless to say, wonderful fun.
Today however I am completely dedicated to giving you the full and fantastic recipe on how to make a very special Seafood Biryani. Biryani is a classic that needs very little introduction but for my friends who don’t know and haven’t had the pleasure the only way I know how to describe it is to say that it’s aromatic, hearty and a beloved delicacy amongst Indians and Arabs alike. For those of you who will attempt a Biryani for the first time it can look like a lot of work but trust me, it is worth every effort. I’ve used a traditional Indian spice blend for this recipe best known as Garam Masala because Biryani is destitute without its spices. I’ve included the Garam Masala recipe to give you an understanding of what’s in it and hopefully prompt you to make the authentic kind at home. It’s been said that Garam Masala is worthy of nobility, a delicate blend with a collection of spices, roasted and ground to produce flavours that are simply genius. Traditionally it is added at the end of the dish with a sprinkle on Indian curries and rice dishes for a full, perfumed finish. I however tend to add the masala to the braise as shown in this recipe for a deeper colour and depth of flavour but that can vary with different recipes. Biryani is typically served from a big oven proof dish or pot that it’s usually cooked in and that is the way I choose to serve it, Chef Anthony however wanted to take it to the next level and plate it with layers of rice, lentils, seafood and potatoes topped with half an egg as seen in the picture above. For home cooking though Briyani is just perfect served hot and steaming out of the oven.
FOR THE GARAM MASALA
- 100g coriander seeds
- 50g cumin seeds
- 25g black peppercorns
- 25g cardamom seeds dehusked
- 2 tsp whole cloves
- 5 tsp cinnamon powder/3 cinnamon quills
- 10 dried bay leaves
- 6 whole star anise
- Dry roast all the whole spices in a heavy pan on medium heat until aromatic.
- When all the spices have been roasted, grind them together to a fine powder in a coffee grinder.
- Put the ground masala in an airtight glass jar, and keep it in a cool place.
- A Note – if you have curry leaf on hand you can add them to the masala at this point to preserve them. It will infuse its flavours into the blend and dry up. Curry leaf adds an amazing fragrance to curries and I worship this little leaf (like my grandmother did) and now I understand perfectly why she just could not make a curry dish without them.
FOR THE RICE
- 500g long grain rice
- 200g brown lentils
- 1 tsp saffron powder
- 3 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 1/2 lt water
- Bring 1 lt of water to bowl in a medium pot with 2tsp of salt.
- In a smaller pot bring water to the boil with 1tsp of salt.
- To the larger pot add rice and cinnamon stick when the water has come to a full boil and cook rapidly for 25 minutes
- To the smaller pot add the lentils and boil rapidly for 25 minutes.
- Drain rice and lentils in a colander separately and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
- Set aside.
FOR THE CHUTNEY
- 3tbs sunflower oil/olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 850g chopped tomatoes (2 cans)
- 1 tbs ginger & garlic paste
- 2 tbs garam masala
- 1 tbs of curry powder (mild/medium/hot)
- 2 green chillies *deseeded (optional)
- 200ml whole milk
- 1tsp kosher salt
- 50g freshly chopped mint
- 50g freshly chopped coriander
- Clean and finely chop onions.
- In a large pan add oil over medium heat.
- Add onions and chilli and lower the heat and cover with a lid allowing the onions to *sweat for about 10 minutes.
- When the onions have become translucent add the garam masala and curry powder.
- Mix well and cover with the lid giving the masala about two minutes to infuse well with the oil.
- Add salt, tomatoes and ginger and garlic paste and mix well.
- Cover with the lid and allow the paste to *reduce until it has slightly thickened.
- When most of the water has evaporated from the tomatoes resulting in a deeper flavour, add the milk.
- Let the chutney simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes before adding the fresh herbs.
- Turn off the heat, mix well and set aside.
FOR THE SEAFOOD
Ingredients (serves 6)
- 600g cod fish fillets
- 300g tiger prawns/shrimp deveined & shelled
- 750 ml sunflower oil (deep frying)
- 1 cup plain flour (coating)
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 1 tsp of paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- Heat oil in a deep pan on medium heat for 12/15 minutes.
- Divide fish into 6 (100g) portions.
- Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients to make a dry coating for the fish.
- Test the oil for correct deep-frying temperature by dropping a small bit of the dry coating into the oil. If the oil starts to bubble it is ready for frying. If there is no reaction when the flour hits the oil, wait a couple of minutes more.
- *Coat the fish in the flour mixture until all sides are completely covered and add 3 pieces at a time into the oil. Do not add all the fish into the oil at the same time. This will cause the temperature of the oil to drop. If the temperature of the oil drops drastically the batter will take longer to brown.
- Fry the fish 8/10 minutes till for a light golden brown crisp batter.
- Remove from the oil using a perforated flat spoon, drain off the excess oil and place onto a plate covered with paper towel, which will also absorb any excess oil.
- Fry the next batch of coated fish in the same way.
- Coat prawns with flour mixture and fry for 5 minutes.
- Set aside deep-fried fish and prawns.
FOR THE TOPPING
- 1 large onion sliced
- 50g butter
- 3 medium potatoes
- 3 large eggs
- 10g coriander leaves
- water to boil potatoes and eggs
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Bring salt and water to a boil.
- Clean and halve potatoes to make 6 portions and boil for 15 minutes.
- Drain potatoes and allow to steam dry for 5 minutes before deep-frying in hot oil for a further 10 minutes until golden. Remove and place on a plate over a paper towel.
- Boil eggs for 15 minutes and shell.
- In a pan over medium heat add butter and pan fry boiled eggs for five minutes.
- Remove eggs and set aside.
- In the same pan add onions and pan fry until golden.
- Turn off the heat and cover.
- Preheat oven to 160 degrees convectional/180 conventional.
- Grease a large oven proof dish with 1tbs of melted butter.
- Spread half of the rice into the dish evenly.
- Dissolve the saffron powder into 3/4 cups of water and spoon half of it over the rice.
- Spread over half of the lentils.
- Cover the lentils with half of the chutney.
- Scatter the top of the chutney with a little more rice to make a dry bed for the seafood.
- Place all the seafood over the rice bed setting it in adequate portions of fish and prawns.
- Spoon over left over chutney.
- On top of that add remaining lentils.
- Cover with remaining rice.
- Drizzle over saffron water.
- Set the potatoes over the rice.
- Slice each egg in half and set over the rice as well
- Sprinkle butter fried onions over the whole dish.
- Add 4 tbs of milk over the dish for extra moisture.
- Cover tightly with tin foil and place in the oven for 25/30 minutes.
- Remove foil and garnish with coriander leaves.
Maestros Need to Know *To reduce is the process of thickening by simmering or boiling. By reducing any mixture you are lowering the water content and increasing the depth of flavour. * Coating is to season with flour before frying. *Sweating onions allows the moisture from the onion to be released until it is soft and translucent. *When buying fish always ensure that you get the freshest by following a few simple guidelines. Fish must have a slight scent of the sea and but without an unpleasant odour. The appearance should be glistening and moist, with an ever so slight viscous exterior. Fresh fish is always firm, a good way to tell if fish is not fresh is when it starts to fall apart. The eyes are another clear indication of freshness, they should be clear, bright and shiny. Opaque or cloudy eyes are a give-away that the fish is stale. It is a well known fact that the gills are the simplest and most effective in telling when fish is fresh. Remember that the gills are located at the base of the head and they indicate freshness when they are pink and moist. If the gills are slimy or not brightly coloured then don't waste your money. *Like me you may want to ask your fishmonger to fillet the fish for you and in front of you after you have chosen your fish. With regards to fillets, they way to tell freshness is to look for a common pearly white colour with traces of pink going down the backbone. *If you know you are going shopping for fish it is advisable to carry with you an insulated cooler bag to keep fish fresher for longer. A good fish monger will rinse and wrap the fish for you but if not you can do this at home and place in the refrigerator. Fish must not stay longer than 3 days in the fridge. *Tiger prawns/shrimp can be identified by the grey colour and dark stripes down the back. * There are many ways to devein prawns/shrimp as well as shell them, but that varies from recipe to recipe. To clean and devein prawns for this recipe you must first break off the head to reveal the gut. But be careful because the head has a very sharp and pointy tip that must be considered otherwise you can poke yourself. You will recognise the gut as a thin and black string protruding from the centre of the flesh. Using your fingertips pull the gut out gently so that it comes off cleanly without breaking inside the flesh. You may then gently remove the shell covering the body by pulling from the underside of the prawn. Do this gently without breaking the flesh. *You may freeze all heads and shells in a plastic bag until you have enough to make a flavoursome fish stock. *Chillies can be quite strong and spicy so sometimes, depending on your preference and that of your guests, you would need to deseed your chillies as the seeds and ribs contain most of the heat. To lessen the burn you may deseed chillies by slitting them with the tip of your knife and still with the tip flat down open the chilli and push the seeds and ribs out in one direction. Let the tip of your knife do most of the work, because traces of chilli on your fingers is a common kitchen hazard. To effectively eliminate chilli burn from fingers you should rub the palms of your hand with olive oil.