A few days ago I was speaking to an Australian friend about Indian food and something that she said made me stop and think about how Indian food is perceived in other countries. The words that she used to describe Indian food was “Indian food is not very subtle but has very loud flavours”. And it got me wondering, if this is how people thought Indian food was.
Growing up in a North Indian household we do eat very loud food if I may call it that. The food we eat is laden with generous helping of Ghee, Cream and Masalas to give it the robustness that we have come to identify North Indian food and even the people with. And there are other regions in India who share our love for rich food and flavours.
But to completely generalise all of Indian food in the same vein isn’t right, hell it doesn’t even makes sense. Because Indian food can be as subtle as we want it to be. From the soft and mellow Khichdi which is Rice cooked with a variety of Lentils or Vegetables or to the smooth as silk Kadhi’s which are yogurt based gravies adapted in different ways by different regions are such integral parts of our diet.
Not everything we cook is smothered with masalas and Oil and looks red in colour, which is the colour of the Indian food that I see in most Indian takes away joints. Hence it is not a wonder that people who are not familiar with the authentic Indian cuisine would assume it is loud, hot and over the top.
So in order to debunk this thinking I made this very subtle “Lamb Pulao” for the friend. The Pulao has all the Indian flavours that one would associate Indian food with but it is also smooth and soft on the palate, without overwhelming the senses with too many species. Moreover the addition of the Cloves and Cardamom in the Pulao leave your taste buds feeling fresh, as people usually assume that Indian curries leave a very strong after taste.
The friend was surprised when she tasted the Pulao and to my delight told me that it was amazing had changed her original thinking about Indian food. I personally feel that this is a great dish to have in your kitty to introduce your friends to the much quieter versions of Indian dishes.
Here is the recipe (Cooking time 60 minutes, serves 4 generous portions)
1 ½ Coffee cup Long grained Rice or Basmati Rice
3 medium sized Onion finely sliced
2 large tomatoes finely chopped
500 gms Lamb chops (cut into pieces, try and get some Lamb with a little fat on it)
3 medium sized Potatoes chopped into 4 pieces each
½ cup plain Yoghurt
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
½ inch Cinnamon stick
1 Star Anise
1 tsp Red Chilli powder (I use around 1 ½ tsp)
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1 ½ tsp Garam Masala powder (easily available in any food store)
½ Cup Raisins (Optional)
1 tsp Shah Jeera (Caraway seeds)
1 tsp Fresh Ginger paste
1 tsp Fresh Garlic paste
Salt to taste
Wash the lamb and Indra all water and add the Yoghurt to it, leave it to marinade while you get the masala ready.
Wash the Rice and let in soak in 2 cups of water.
In a large pan or a pressure cooker heat the Oil. Add the Caraway seeds, Cardamom, Star Anise, Cinnamon and Cloves and let them splutter.
Add the Ginger, Garlic paste and Onions and Sauté till the Onions are almost brown. It is very important to ensure they don’t burn but are lightly brown. Now add the marinated Lamb, mix well and let the lamb cook with the Onions for atleast 15 minutes stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn.
After 15 minutes you will see that the Lamb has almost become Brown in colour. Now add the Tomatoes, Potatoes, Red Chili powder, Turmeric powder, Garam masala, Salt and mix well. Letting it cook for another 10 minutes on a medium flame till the Potatoes and Lamb are coated well in the gravy (keep checking so it doesn’t burn).
Drain the rice of all the water and add the Rice to the Lamb and Potatoes mixture. Mix everything together and leave it for 2 -3 minutes before adding 3 cups of Water (double the amount of Rice) and let the Rice cook. If you are using a pressure cooker, turn the cooker off after 3 whistles.
Serve with Raisins and some Raita.
PS: Typically this Pulao is cooked in the Lamb Stock. While the Lamb is cooking with the Onions 3 cups of water is added to the Lamb and the Lamb is cooked for 15 minutes or so. The water is then removed and used as a Stock instead of the plain water that I have added here. Nevertheless it tastes great either ways.