“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.”
W.C. Fields

Basque Lamb Stew Hello November. Here already? ALREADY?? With winter almost here, the Basque Lamb Stew is a good way to warm up … robust, hearty, full of flavour. It’s the time of the year when comfort food tops the list. Apple crumbles, mushroom soup, lamb and chicken curries, warm chocolate puddings, risottos, brownies, creamy cheesy pasta, ratatouille,  fresh bread, stew …

Basque Lamb Stew The lamb was meant for an Indian Lamb Stew or Gosht do Piaza, a hearty traditional Indian main. Yet some sour dough meant a loaf of fresh baked bread. The lamb thus headed for a continental makeover. Two recently gifted  bottles of wine from Four Seasons had me wanting to further my culinary skills. Google took me to Simply Recipes which had an interesting lamb stew recipe.

Basque Lamb Stew My knowledge of wine is pretty limited. A wine tasting session with a wine connoisseur some time back was enlightening. I  would like to cook with wine but am an under-confident ‘wine’ cook! I do however find wine glasses and goblets romantic, pretty too! 

Basque Lamb Stew Basque Lamb Stew was in the oven soon. Experimental cooking is always fun, and has been on the mind even more after our recent Ozzie MasterChef meeting. That rejuvenated us to think differently, creatively, out of the box, locally, internationally, responsibly … every virtual thought led to food!

Basque Lamb Stew Sangeeta’s Dark Chocolate Mousse, Parul’s Merluza en Salsa de Pinones, Ruchira’s Thai Eggplant Salad and Rekha’s Fresh Waterchestnuts, Arugula and Peach Salad reminded me of the lamb stew that was waiting in the wings! All these have the wine in common.

Basque Lamb StewThe Basque Lamb Stew was a huge step for someone like me who has always cooked traditional Indian lamb dishes. Making this dish, I thought often about the very talented Basque ex-pat Aran Goyoaga who writes on Basque country and her childhood. I heard of this beautiful region while reading her posts.

Basque Lamb StewThe stew was delicious, hearty, and an enticing red. There was something inspiring about it. Despite being cooked in a completely different manner, it still had slight undertones of my Indian stew or ‘ishtoo‘ as it is often called! Amazing! The wines gave very gentle flavour to the dish, while the roasted red peppers added most of the brilliant colour! {The sour dough bread is a tomato basil  one the recipe scraps of which I sadly misplaced!}

What keeps you warm in winter, dear reader? What is your favourite comfort food?

[print_this]Recipe: Basque Lamb Stew
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Summary: With winter almost here, this Basque Lamb Stew seems like a good way to warm up … robust, hearty, full of flavour. It’s the time of the year when comfort food tops the list. Adapted minimally from Simple Recipes. Serves 4-6.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours {plus marinating}

  • 750gm lamb shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces {I used on the bone pieces}
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 1 tbs dried rosemary {or sprig fresh rosemary}
  • 1/2 cup white wine {Four Seasons Pinot}
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • Salt
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 3 roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry, full-bodied red wine {Four Seasons Barouque Reserve}
  • 1 cup vegetable stock 
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine the lamb, half of the garlic cloves, rosemary, and white wine in a medium bowl. I marinated this overnight though Elise calles for 2-3 hours.
  2. Drain the meat, discard the marinade, and pat dry with paper towels. {I reduced the remaining marinade while basting the second batch}
  3. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan with lid, over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Salt the meat as it browns. Remove the meat from the pan and add the onions to the pan. 
  4. Cook, scraping browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until the onions are light brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  5. Return the meat to the pan with the onions and garlic. Stir in red chili flakes, roasted peppers, tomatoes, coriander, bay leaf, and red wine. 
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, allowing the liquids to reduce a bit. Then add the vegetable stock. {Either bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours}.
  7. OR transfer to an oven safe deep dish, cover tightly with foil and bake at 150C for 1 1/2 hours. 
  8. Add freshly ground black pepper and more salt to taste.
  9. Serve with rustic bread. 
  10. If you want, try garnishing with fresh mint leaves {as Elise says, “though I have no idea how “Basque” that is, it just tastes good.”


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“Biryani is often called India’s signature dish”
Pratibha Karan

Katchi BiryaniThis was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss. It took a little organising. Mr PAB had to come in early from work to get the kids off the school bus. I had to bake like a mad hatter all morning for the next day was an early  soccer match {read 7.30am reporting time…brrrr}, yet I HAD to be attend the event. It was a demo workshop for Pratibha Karans delicious Indian cookbook, simply called – BIRYANI!biryaniI remember twisting my younger sisters arm almost a decade ago to buy me Pratibha Karans earlier book Hyderabadi cuisine – A Princely Legacy, which at the time cost a princely sum. It is entirely worth owning. Every picture in that cookbook is royal, the commentary steeped in history and culture. Pretty as can be crockery and tableware, with ancient bric-a-brac, used in the photographs, A Princely Legacy is worth every page. I have cooked  from it often, had many questions for the ‘biryani expert’ … which is why I HAD to get to this biryani workshop.Pratibha Karan, BiryaniWith such delicious thoughts in my muddled head, I hopped into a cab and was driven 25 miles in horrid traffic to get to the demo. The event was organised by Perfect Relations & Random House, hosted at  Godrej Nature’s Basket in Defence Colony, South Delhi.

The biryani is India’s most beloved dish — one that has spread to all the four corners of the country and assumed many forms. It originated in the Mughal courts, flowering in the jagirs of Awadh, and it is in Lucknow, Delhi and the small Muslim principalities of north India that one finds the classic versions, subtle, refined, and delicately flavoured. Pratibha Karan gives us not just the definitive recipes from these regions but unearths rare and old dishes such as a biryani made with oranges, Rose Biryani and Kebab Biryani. In the south, the biryani has an equally distinguished lineage, if not more so. There are the blueblooded biryanis of Hyderabad which include gems such as the Doodh ki Biryani, Keeme ki biryani and Bater ki biryani. Away from the royal courts, the biryani has adapted itself into a spicy local delicacy in Tamil Nadu, with many towns like Salem, Aambur, Dindigul boasting of their own signature version of the dish.

Katchi BiryaniPratibha Karan shared lesser known tips of biryani making with patrons of Godrej Nature’s Basket, and took them through the evolution of this mouth watering delight. She offered a blend of culinary, cultural and historical insights of this much loved dish, and shared her ‘Qabooli’ recipe {a vegetarian biryani} with special tips thrown in. The only disappointment was that there was no live cooking demo, which most patrons who attended the workshop expected. Else, it was a pleasure to hear her talk, to feel her passion for biryani and food culture, her eyes glistening with joy. She took questions from curious and enthusiastic foodies, guided them towards making the perfect biryani, sharing her expertise large heartedly. Armed with a copy of her book that Random House generously gave me, I left the workshop feeling uber-confident, ready to win the battle of biryani. {For those who are vegetarians, the book offers a number of delectable vegetarian biryani recipes too}.

Katchi BiryaniIt was just a matter of time and I got myself geared for the challenge. A challenge because I have had some miserable biryani failures of late, and have been cooling my heels on this particular front! I read the book cover to cover, wanted to try so many, and then finally settled for the Katchi Biryani, katchi meaning raw. In the authors words, “This is perhaps Hyderabad’s most renowned biryani. Both the rice and the meat are layered in an almost raw form in the pan. Therein lies it’s unbelievable magic. Many claim Katchi Biryani is th ultimate biryani dish”.Pratibha Karan, BiryaniI was sold, and just had to try my hand at the magic. I reduced the papaya marginally as I marinated the lamb overnight. I planned to ‘throw‘ together my biryani with minimal fuss the next afternoon, after returning from soccer, which is exactly how it went. Good planning {pat myself on the back}, it was a fuss free experience, and we waited with baited breath to see the outcome. Katchi BiryaniIt didn’t disappoint at all. My word, the aroma was great, each grain of rice was separate … I was walking on clouds. Mr PAB exclaimed it was the best ever; he had waited for this for 20 years! Wait no longer. Give this a go. After I made it and got it right, I did read a review on the web to say this was a fiddly biryani to get right. Maybe I’m plain lucky, or maybe I’ve ‘arrived’ on the biryani scene. Whichever way, this was a meal in itself, full of flavour, each grain of rice separate {test of a good biryani}, and tasted even better the next day!

Katchi BiryaniKatchi Biryani
FromBiryani’ by Pratibha Karan, pg 76
This is perhaps Hyderabad’s most renowned biryani. Both the rice and the meat are layered in an almost raw form in the pan. Therein lies it’s unbelievable magic. Many claim Katchi Biryani is th ultimate biryani dish.
Preparation: 25-30 minutes
Marination Time: 5-6 hours
Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves 8-10
1kg mutton, mix of medium pieces from shoulder, and chops
1tbsp ginger paste
1 1/2 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp raw papaya paste {skin & pulp ground fine together}
4 onions, finely sliced {about 300gms}
15 green chillies, ground {I used 3 chopped, and 2 whole}
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp garam masala
500gm yogurt, whisked
Juice of 3 limes
650gm long grain rice {I used basmati}
A liberal pinch of saffron soaked in 1/2 cup warm milk
2 tbsp ghee
150ml refined oil
Salt to taste
Katchi BiryaniMethod:
Wash the mutton, and drain well. Add ginger, garlic and papaya paste to the mutton, and rub in well. Set aside.
Heat 150ml oil, and fry the sliced onions in this until golden brown. remove from oil, cool a little, and then crush by hand.
Add the crushed fried onions, remaining oil that the onions were fried in, and the remaining ingredients of ‘A’ to the meat. Add salt to taste, mix well and leave to marinate for 5-6 hours. {I reduced the papaya paste by a 1/4 tbsp, and left my meat to marinate in the fridge overnight}
Wash the rice well. Soak for 20minutes. bring 3 1/2 ltrs of water with salt and 1 tsp oil to a boil. Once the water bbegins boiling, add the rice and cook for about 3 minutes, until 20% done. Drain immediately, and transfer rice to a flat pan.
Assemble & serve:
Transfer the marinated meat to a heavy bottomed large pan, and place over high heat. Stir until it comes to a boil, then cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add a cup of water, and when it comes to a boil again, lower the heat and spread the partially cooked rice over the meat in a uniform layer. Cover with a tight fitting lid, and place a heavy weight/ stone over it to prevent the steam from escaping. Cook on ‘dum‘ for about half an hour. {I cooked mine for 25 minutes}.
Open lid, sprinkle the saffron milk over the rice, dot with the ghee, and cover once again with a tight fitting lid. Cook on very low heat for about 15 minutes, until the rice and meat are done and steaming hot. {I did the second 15 minutes of ‘dum’ cooking with a griddle under the pan. }
To serve, take out the biryani in large chunks from the sides without mixing to retain it’s multi-hued glory. Serve steaming hot.
Note: I grind a small green papaya, skin included, and freeze it in an ice tray. I keep the frozen cubes in a zipbag, and use 1 cube for 1 tbsp when required.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥
Katchi Biryani

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