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“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey.”
Eli Brown

Bhune Murgh ki Biryani  … fragrant, rich, flavoursome yet very homey. This one pot layered biryani was indeed a surprise, a biryani that cooked up quiet well for once. I have a love/hate relationship with making biryanis, often ending up in a puddle of tears. They never come out the way I’d like them to look and taste, and I had all but given up. This one recipe has given me immense confidence!It’s thanks to this cookbook from Notion Press, A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani, that I tasted success. Yet I want to talk about Notion Press first as they offer the novel concept of self publishing in India. It is startups like these that are changing the way books are created. Notion Press is a publishing platform for authors from India that helps create, publish, and distribute print and eBooks. In an attempt to make publishing as easy as possible, they offer a variety of customized publishing solutions. I’m already tempted to say the least, but now, back to the cookbook on hand.I love the feel of a good cookbook and the cover image and design had me immediately interested. Don’t judge a book by the cover they might say, but that’s exactly what I did. It’s a warm , yet beautifully styled cover which tells the story to perfection, spices and all. I couldn’t find credits for the image {maybe I missed it}, but I sorely missed more images within. A single image is not enough to whet my visual appetite…The paper feels good. Quality is important and it’s been taken care of well. The biryani cookbook offers over 100 ‘tantalizing’ recipes, and I have to agree since what I cooked was very promising indeed. Co-authored by Tanuj Singh and Varuna Mathur, it has a good narrative. The foreword is a great read, followed by notes to the readers; light-hearted warm, very homely, very interactive. It leads you to the kitchen and gets you playing with pots and pans almost immediately!
I bookmarked a few recipes, and have to say that the book is not error free. I  think perhaps with self publishing, the onus lies on the content writer, not the publisher. The book would improve with better editing and grammar checks. A couple of recipes skipped the meat altogether. The ingredients are not uniform across the book; sometimes in weight, sometimes a measures, other times a number. Also some capitals, some not is a bit of a distraction. Most importantly, the number of servings are missing across the book. The new cook will certainly be at sea as he/she attempts to guess how many mouths the recipe caters to. And of course, more pictures please. That said, the book is still a keeper!
Finally zeroed down to the Bhune Murgh ki Biryani, trying to play it safe, well aware of my past biryani disasters. The introduction had me smiling. “If ingredients could make a dish, this is one of the top variants in the list. With rice being cooked in cardamom, and chicken in whole spices, cashew and khus khus paste provide that richness and a crunchy edge to the dish thereby rendering it as a pretty common home-style“.For me it turned out to be pretty uncommon and quite a lot of fun. As they say in the notes, the book is “about perceiving cooking as an emerging process with no guidelines, no limitations but loads of creativity and fun.” That was so me, and just what I did. I took shortcuts to the steps, for eg, added whole cardamom to the water to cook rice in. I ground the onion and cashew together with the poppy seeds. I browned the onions first and then cooked the chicken in the same wok and remaining fat to simplify things. I finally baked the biryani layered in a ‘lagan‘ or Indian copper pot in a low oven for about 45 minutes. It still worked well.I am proud to say I have salvaged my reputation quite a bit with this Bhune Murgh ki Biryani from the book. Needless to say, I am already itching to try another one. I find biryanis most comforting, a one pot meal that hold eternal charm, hold nostalgic memories, and are ever so satisfying. The book also includes a few biryani recipes from around the globe which are interestingly unique in their own ways – Durban Biryani, Irani Biryani, Nasi Biryani, Swahili Biryani to name  few. It’s a good book to have on hand. Cuts out the work for weekend lunches! Oh and it offers a variety of pilafs, vegetarian biryanis  and accompaniments too.
My next biryani might be the Kashmiri Biryani or the Matka Murgh Biryani. Perhaps the Sri Lankan Muttom Biryani or Kolkata Biryani. Gosh, the book actually spoils you for choice! You can find it here – A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani

Bhune Murgh ki Biryani {roasted chicken biryani}
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The Bhune Murgh ki Biryani is a one pot comfort meal, rich, flavourful and homely. The flavours tease the palette and the chicken is beautifully spiced. It turned out to be deliciously good, and quite a keeper from the biryani cookbook. Be light on the spices if you are cooking for the first time, or like mild food. {Minimally adapted from 'A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani'}
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Bhune Murgh ki Biryani {roasted chicken biryani}
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
Yum
Print Recipe
The Bhune Murgh ki Biryani is a one pot comfort meal, rich, flavourful and homely. The flavours tease the palette and the chicken is beautifully spiced. It turned out to be deliciously good, and quite a keeper from the biryani cookbook. Be light on the spices if you are cooking for the first time, or like mild food. {Minimally adapted from 'A Culinary Journey for the Love of Biryani'}
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Ingredients
Rice
Bhuna Chicken
For frying onions
For layering dum
Servings: people
Instructions
Rice
  1. Wash and soak rice for an hour. Meanwhile, boil some water in a vessel and add salt and green cardamom to it. {I used whole cardamoms}. Once the rice is 3/4th cooked, drain it and keep aside.
Fried onions
  1. Heat ghee in a deep wok and fry the sliced onions until golden brown. Drain and reserve. Use remaining ghee for cooking chicken, adding more if required. {This is what I did. The instructions are missing from the recipe}
Bhuna Chicken
  1. Heat ghee in a deep kadhai/wok and add grated ginger, garlic, whole red peppers and carom seeds. As the garlic gets brown, add the onion paste and fry. Mix in the cashews and khus khus paste and continue to fry. Sprinkle garam masala powder and Kashmiri red pepper powder and mix it well. Cook until the fat starts showing at the surface, adding water occasionally as required.
  2. Add the chicken pieces and let them cook over high flame till the chicken is cooked. Stir as needed. {I cooked over high heat for 5 minutes, then covered and simmered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until done}.
Layer the dum {slow cooking}
  1. Once the chicken is cooked, add the rice to cover the chicken masala. Sprinkle the saffron and milk mixture on it along with some ghee and fried onions. Cover the lid and cook on 'dum' for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Notes
  1. I layered the chicken masala and rice for final 'dum' {slow cooking} in a heavy bottom metal 'lagan' / pot, dotted it with ghee, sprinkled over the soaked saffron and milk, topped it with fried onions, and sealed the mouth with heavy duty aluminium foil. Baked it at 150C for an hour.
  2. I reserved some fried onions for garnishing, and served the biryani with a garlic raita/spiced garlic yogurt.
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 Chicken Jalfrezi“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”
Dorothy Day

Chicken Jalfrezi is a fiery as you like it, and a very popular stir fry curry in the UK, a recipe thought to have originated during the British Raj to use up left over meats. As time went by, there was a shift from mild curries to spicy hot ones on the continent, and the jalfrezi gained popularity. We visited the UK often in the late 1990’s. Next to the chicken tikka masala, this Indo Chinese dish was possibly the most popular.

Chicken Jalfrezi SpicesYou can basically ‘build it as you like’, throwing in left over meats to stir fry or do it from scratch. Either which ways, it’s a really quick stir fry to get going, one that comes together in under 30 minutes. Having the meat/chicken marinated ahead  is great if you have time. Marinate with a little ginger-garlic paste, maybe a dash of lime juice and salt. As with any good dish, use good quality ingredients and you know you have a winner.

Chicken Jalfrezi Wet Masala Spices

coconut & graterMy version of Chicken Jalfrezi has a slight southern or rather coastal touch with some coconut milk added to offset the fiery hot chilies. Like any good curry, this one too is entirely customisable to taste. I used star anise in the first tempering, a spice I have increasingly grown to love while shooting spices for the Masala Dabba. Post the trip it into the heart of South India to Karaikudi, the love for simple spices like these just became stronger.

Karaikudi, Chettinad, South IndiaI love a curry where tomato meets coconut milk, and with the ease of Dabur Hommade Tomato Puree, Dabur Hommade Ginger Garlic Paste and Dabur Hommade Coconut Milk in my pantry, this recipe was a breeze. Most Indian curries see the use of onions, tomato {puree or fresh chopped}, ginger garlic paste and a smattering of spices, both ground and whole. As you travel along the coastal areas of the Indian peninsula, an increased use of coconut milk in curries teases the palette, a taste that has grown on me. Dabur Hommade is one of the first brands in India to introduce expediency in cooking in Indian kitchens. What makes Dabur even more special is that it is a science based  Ayurveda company. Chicken JalfreziPlay with spices as you like, give the vegetables just  a quick stir fry so they don’t lose their crunch. This Chicken Jalfrezi made essentially with peppers, green chilies, onions and tomatoes gets a twist of taste with coconut milk. And yes I sneaked in some Greek yogurt to add to the creaminess. If you like a thick hearty curry which is a quick and easy stir fry, gives you a dose of vegetables, then look no further. This just might be what you were looking for!

Some favourite recipes where I use coconut milk
Kokum Coconut Milk Panna Cotta 
Tropical Coconut Milk Rice Pudding
Quick Tomato Coconut Soup

Chicken Jalfrezi
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
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This Chicken Jalfrezi made essentially with peppers, green chilies, onions and tomatoes gets a delicious twist of taste with coconut milk. If you like a thick hearty curry which is a quick and easy stir fry, gives you a dose of vegetables, then look no further. This just might be what you were looking for!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Chicken Jalfrezi
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
Yum
Print Recipe
This Chicken Jalfrezi made essentially with peppers, green chilies, onions and tomatoes gets a delicious twist of taste with coconut milk. If you like a thick hearty curry which is a quick and easy stir fry, gives you a dose of vegetables, then look no further. This just might be what you were looking for!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Heat clarified butter/ghee in a heavy bottom large pan/wok.
  2. Add the red chilies and star anise and sauté briefly until fragrant.
  3. Add chicken pieces in one flat lot, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown over high heat, turn and repeat.
  4. Remove chicken pieces from pan, and keep warm in a covered bowl.
  5. Add a teaspoon of clarified butter if required. Add the diced onions and ginger garlic paste. Sauté until fragrant.
  6. Add turmeric powder/haldi, coriander powder/dhania and red chili powder if desired. Sauté for 30 seconds.
  7. Now add the bell peppers and capsicum. Sauté again for 3-4 minutes, then add the reserved chicken. Mix briefly, then add the tomato puree and coconut milk.
  8. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the green chilies and fresh coriander, then simmer further for 5 minutes Serve hot with rice or naan.
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 Kurkure Lays, plant visit Pepsico India‘Comfort food is the food that makes us feel good, satisfied, calm, cared for and carefree. It’s food that fills us up emotionally and physically.
Finding comfort in food is a basic human experience.’
Ellie Krieger

First thoughts that swept through my head as we entered the Pepsico factory in Dhulagarh near Kolkata, a much anticipated trip into a promising kitchen. Hello Kurkure, have I missed you! It’s been a few years since I dived into a bag. One crunchy bite later, nostalgia flooded my soul, that old familiar taste that had serenaded me for several years. I was back! With an eclectic group of about a dozen ‘foodies’ flown  specially into Kolkata, we warmed up to each other over the hours drive to the factory. That drive was anything but mundane, action packed, but that’s a story for another day…Pepsico plant visit, KolkataA friend recently said to me that his entire family was addicted to Kurkure for 8 long years, and that’s quite a similar story across households in India. Kurkure, in hindi means crisp, now PepsiCos most most loved voted snacking brand in the Indian market, is a favourite with Indians across the globe. For me, a once in a blue moon guilty step off my routine.  There I was to discover that there’s so much more to the brand than just the snack. A brand that is constantly reinventing itself, attempting also to constantly improve nutritionally. It also makes great breakfast oats, one of my most favourite pantry ingredients.

Pepsico plant visit, KolkataThey’ve got the spice mix and product bang on! With 30 snacking options, Kurkure forms an iconic part of Indian food culture, a deep connect & nostalgia since being introduced in 1999. This entirely indigenous brand, made with trusted kitchen ingredients like rice, oil, corn, gram & spices, Kurkure has constantly re-invented itself to sustain its relevance to Indian culture and the Indian ethos. Yet the story is more than the plant producing snacks. It’s the larger picture of social responsibility that appealed to me, and that made the visit so worthwhile.pepsico-plant-visit-kolkata-2With the popularity of Kurkure, came many myths about the ingredients, about how good it might or might not be! One trip to the fully automated snack plant in Dhulbari proved otherwise. Prepared most hygienically in a state of art plant, it hits the spot for comfort food with the right spice blends and flavours. All ingredients in the Kitchen of lays are carefully sourced, efficiently managed and well stocked. It has now entered the traditional namkeens area which is proving to be equally popular!Pepsico plant visit, Kolkata

Pepsico plant visit, KolkataAnd then there is the Kitchen of Lays. Another heartening story right from the potato being germinated up to the chips that get sealed into bags, it’s a fascinating adventure. Overcoming challenges like a not a well developed supply chain, small land holdings, marginal farmers, loads of wastage etc, the company offers community support especially to farmers right from word go offering careful handling and the right variety of seeds. India is the only country outside of the US, where potato germ plasma and mini tuber are grown in greenhouses in Punjab. To help farmers minimize losses due to vagaries of nature, the company offers weather forecasts in collaborative farming to 24K farmers in the country. The partnership offers a 360 degree of engagement with best agronomy practices, soft loans, crop insurance, high quality seeds for better yields etc.Pepsico plant visit, KolkataTo think that much and more goes into the making of a mere pack of chips is a somewhat enlightening experience. Following the journey of the humble potato from a germ plasma to the fryer was fascinating. It makes the picture real, a story that comes alive with community collaborative farming, sustenance, social responsibility, good practices, the right potato and an efficient system. An automated system that works with precision, infra red sensors that pick out the slightest anomaly, dedicated happy workforce … and of course happy customers.Pepsico plant visit, KolkataSustainable growth, community development and minimizing the impact on the environment is worthy of praise! We were fortunate to experience the facility first hand. Right from very passionate hands on managers, spirited workers, an efficient management system, the fully automated plant operates impressively. What amazes is that PepsiCo’s growth in India has been guided by a philosophy of “Performance with Purpose”, the goal to deliver top-tier financial performance while creating sustainable growth. 06-1In practice, Performance with Purpose means providing a wide range of foods and beverages from treats to healthy eats; finding innovative ways to minimize their impact on the environment, providing a safe and inclusive workplace for employees globally; and respecting, supporting and investing in the local communities where they operate. For instance, in 2009, PepsiCo India achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first business to achieve ‘Positive Water Balance’ in the beverage world, a fact verified by Deloitte Touché Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd. The company has been Water Positive since then.
Pepsico plant visit, Kolkata
The Kaizen quality and productivity initiative where everyone is empowered, motivated and encouraged to add value contributes to safety, quality and productivity. With initiatives like that and three planks of renewable energy systems in place, for eg rice husk that generates steam to heat oil, or then frying that gives flash steam than runs a system to generate electricity, it’s hard to look at the packet of Lays or Kurkure the same way again. They just mean so much more now!

Photo courtesy Karan BhujbalThank you for opening your home and hearts to us Pepsico India!
{Photo courtesy Karan Bhujbal}

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