Tuesday, May 3, 2011

good for non-swordswallowers too

There is a legend about why the cartoon character Popeye becoming physically stronger after consuming spinach. It is claimed that a German scientist misplaced a decimal point in an 1870 measurement of spinach's iron content, leading to an iron value 10 times higher than it should have been and this faulty measurement was not noticed until the 1930s. However, recent study has shown that this is just another long standing myth, and spinach was chosen and promoted in Popeye for its vitamin A content alone.  That is what the wiki has to say.  I love the story and will continue to believe and propagate it.  If you don’t love me, lie to me.  

However, this post is neither about Olive or natural vitamins, nor about the Bengal famine or how the Indian super rich got to be super rich but only after the famine.  It is about the food for the armies of the Nizams and Nawabs of Hyderabad, yes, it is about biryani, that too - spinach biryani.

Spinach Biryani?!?!

That is the reaction most people have had when they heard about our meal plan for May 2011.  Since there weren’t any leftovers that we could ask you to partake in, here is the recipe.

you will need
Basmati Rice (2 cups)
Cardamoms (about 4, can go up to 6 in winter)
Cashew Nuts (1/2 cup)
Cinnamon sticks (2 of the regular kerala ones, more if you are using ceylon cinnamon)
Cloves (about 5-8)
Coconut milk (1 cup of thick first press)
Oil (as little as possible, just enough so that the rice doesn't stick while frying)
Ginger-Garlic paste (a loving spoonful)
Peppercorns (5-50 depending on the guestlist)
salt (as needed)
Spinach 1 cup (destemmed, washed, blanched and blitzed)

Before you start, you will want to wash the rice and let it drain so that it dries a little.  You will also want to blitz the blanched spinach in a blender and throw it on to a cloth over ice in order to stop the oxidization of the beautiful green popeye stuff.  Having the fried onion garnish ready while the rice cooks will also help save time.

1.  Heat oil till smoking, throw all the dry spices in, and once browning to your liking, add the cashews.
2.  Add the rice, and stir till the rice gets a shiny translucent coating.
3.  Add the ginger garlic paste and keep frying till they are cooked through.
4.  Then, add the spinach paste, mix thoroughly and cook through.
5.  Add the cup of coconut milk and three cups of water.
6.  Cover and let simmer till rice is cooked.  We used a pan with a vented glass lid which makes it easier to  see how it is cooking without having to uncover it.
7.  Garnish with browned onion rings.
8.  Serve hot, with chutney and curd as suggested accompaniments.

The biryani will look like the picture above at the end, kind of not pretty, till you mix it gently taking care not to break too many of the long grained rice.  Garnish with onion rings and serve.

As a kid, I hated green things like spinach and broccoli, but this one takes the breath away even for kids with its color and aroma and indescribable taste.  Try it out and let us know how it turned out in the comments.

 You will also want to check out our cheera thoran improvisation, a real yummy spinach fry that perfectly complements both rice and rotis.

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