Biryani

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I like it when I find dishes that sum up a country in one go – for India, I think it’s Biryani. Every major Indian spice (ok, except Asafoetida, but don’t be difficult) takes center stage in this glorious cacophony of flavors. Bonus: This is a dish that tastes amazing the day you make it and the subsequent days as well.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Rice

  • 1 1/2 cups of rinsed Basmati rice (could sub Jasmine rice in a pinch)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 a bay leaf

Rice Topping

  • a pinch of saffron
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp ghee

Spices

  • 1 tsp shahi jeera (caraway seeds)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken into 2-3 pieces)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 green cardamon, pods and seeds separated
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • salt to taste

Vegetables

  • 3 small onions or 2 medium sized onions, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets (make them small)
  • 1/2 cup of peas
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • optional: 1 package of veggie balls (I usually find this in a German or American store in the vegetarian section near the tofu)

Other ingredients

  • 1 cup of yogurt mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • a bunch of mint leaves, chopped
  • a bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of cashews, chopped and dry roasted

Directions

Rice

  1. Bring the rice and water to a rolling boil in an uncovered pot on the stove.
  2. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to low-medium.
  3. When water fully evaporates, take the pot off the heat and let it sit, covered.

Rice Topping

  1. Warm the milk slightly (30 seconds in the microwave).
  2. Soak the saffron in the warmed milk.
  3. At the end, drizzle the Saffron infused milk on finished rice along with the ghee.
  4. Fluff the rice as you mix.

Preparation

  1. In 2 tbsp of oil, caramelize the sliced onions. They should be a bit brown and crispy.
  2. Set the onions aside in a bowl with the cashews (mixed well).
  3. With another 1 tbsp of oil, lightly fry the bay leaf, cloves, separated cardamom, star anise,  cinnamon stick for about 1 minute.
  4. Add shahi jeera and let it blossom – 10 seconds.
  5. Add minced ginger and garlic and cook till they turn slightly brown (1-2 minutes).
  6. Add the remaining vegetables and veggie balls (if using) and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Fry the turmeric, chili powder, garam masala, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, black pepper with the vegetables for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Pour half the yogurt into the vegetable-spice mixture and stir well.
  9. Cook on low heat until the vegetables are al dente.
  10. Fold the remaining yogurt, mint, and cilantro into the pan.
  11. Cook everything on low heat until the temperature is warm throughout.

Assembly

  1. In a deep dish, evenly spread a layer rice on the bottom.
  2. Add a layer of vegetables and onions/cashew mix over the rice.
  3. Spread another layer of rice on top,  and so on… the top layer should be rice. It’s kind of like making lasagna.
  4. Preheat oven to 150 C.
  5. Cover the dish and bake it for 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle some mint and cilantro on top.
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Homemade oven baked fries

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There’s only a “before” picture because the finished fries were demolished before a picture could be taken.

My eyes have been opened. I once was blind, but now I see. The secret to homemade oven baked fries? Soak the starch out of the potatoes and make sure they’re properly dry before baking. If these fries come out limp, there’s either too much starch in them or they weren’t sufficiently dried before entering the oven. Put on your stretchy pants because this is a belly buster.

Yield: is it 1 serving if I can polish off the whole tray alone?

Ingredients

  • 3 medium potatoes (mix it up! you can use purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, yukon, russet, whatever Speisekartoffeln your heart desires) – don’t bother skinning the potatoes, as most of the nutrients are in the skin anyhow
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • optional: ~1 tsp taco seasoning or curry powder
  • optional: parmesean cheese, truffle oil, rosemary, or parsely as a topping
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Julienne the potatoes. Take this opportunity to polish your knife skills and flex your pipes.
  2. Soak the fries in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Sometimes, I soak the really starchy potatoes for up to 45 minutes.
  3. Rinse the potatoes with fresh water and drain.
  4. Lay the fries out on a few paper towels to dry for 30-45 minutes.
  5. Toss with the olive oil, a dash of salt, and any seasoning (if using).
  6. Heat the oven to 205 C.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes.
  8. Turn up the heat to 220 C and shuffle the fries around.
  9. Bake for another 20 minutes.
  10. Sprinkle the toppings over the golden digits (if using).

Gooey Marzipan Müsli Chocolate Bars

I’m pleased – it’s a good sign you’re getting more comfortable with your city when you can mix up local ingredients (marzipan & müsli) with a classic recipe (cookie bars). Toss in some ghee and you’ve got yourself a funky, unexpected drool-inducer.

Yield: one 9×13 pan

Ingredients

Crust

  • 200g marzipan
  • 230g flour (1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 65g sugar (1/3 cup)
  • 125g butter (keep it cold and slice into chunks) – I prefer Sauerrahmbutter, but I guess regular butter could do (in a pinch)

Topping

  • 105g müsli (1 1/3 cup) – could sub rolled oats
  • 125g butter – see the note on Sauerrahmbutter above (I said we were tossing in ghee right?)
  • 100g sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1-2 vanilla pods)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut
  • 200g chocolate chips
  • a handful of chopped dried fruits, e.g. figs, dates, or apricots
  • powdered sugar, to finish

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 175 C.
  2. Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper.
  3. Combine the crust ingredients in a bowl and knead it well. The dough will be very crumbly at first, but keep at it, and it’ll come together promptly. You don’t have to make it extremely smooth – the butter chunks should not be too well incorporated in the dough (channel your pie crust making skills).
  4. Press the crust evenly into the pan with your fingers, and let it come up the sides by about 1/4 inch.
  5. Bake the crust for 20-30 minutes, or until it’s lightly golden.
  6. Meanwhile in a saucepan on the stove, melt the butter over medium heat. Do not be tempted to turn this to high heat because it will burn quickly. Pay attention to the water escaping as it’s heated (bubbly noises). Once the bubbly noises taper off, some of the milk solids in the butter will start to brown. Only let it brown a little – take it off the heat.
  7. Stir in the sugar and salt. Let this cool for 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the eggs and vanilla to the butter mix.
  9. Combine the gooey filling with the müsli, chocolate, coconut, and dried fruit (if using).
  10. Evenly spread the filling over the parbaked crust.
  11. Bake for another 15-20 minutes.
  12. Once cool, you can cut the bars and dust with the powdered sugar.

Hummus

I normally make Hummus with canned chickpeas, but lately I’ve been preferring the dried chickpeas you can find at the Turkish groceries. They feel so nice when you run your fingers through them, and make delightful clink-clink noises as you pour them from one container into another. I’ve found there’s an extra step to making Hummus when you use canned vs dried chickpeas – if you don’t boil the dried chickpeas beforehand, they end up tasting grassy instead of creamy.

Ingredients

  • a 16 oz can of chickpeas or 1 cup of dried chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini (or more, to taste)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp water (usually I reserve some chickpea liquid from the can or from soaking the dried chickpeas)
  • salt to taste
  • optional: sun dried tomatoes, habanero peppers, smoked serrano chili peppers, dried mint, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, or parsley, etc. either as a topping or blended with the chickpeas

Directions

  1. If using the dried chickpeas, make sure you soak them for 4-6 hours in advance. Then, boil them for about an hour. If using the canned chickpeas, skip this step.
  2. Blend all the ingredients into a smooth and fluffy paste. Add more water if it’s too thick.
  3. Serve with a swirl of olive oil on top.

Fig Biscotti

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A fantastic recipe adapted from my new favorite cookbook – Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Every Day. If you’ve never had fresh biscotti, you’re about to be ruined. Say goodbye to that dry, packaged biscotti desert and enter the warm, chewy goodness of Homemade Treat Land. You can see other biscotti recipes on her site: smittenkitchen

Yield: 33 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of flour (130 g)
  • 1.5 cups and 2 tbsp rolled oats (130 g)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 90 g butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean) – will try with almond extract next time
  • 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds (45 g)
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (40 g)
  • 1 cup diced dried figs (150 g) – will try apricots next time
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil and a brush

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 165 C
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, almonds, coconut
  3. Separately mix the eggs, butter, sugar, and vanilla
  4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet bowl by thirds
  5. Fold in the dried fruit
  6. Divide the dough into thirds
  7. Roll each third into a log on a floured counter
  8. Place each log on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  9. Brush each log with olive oil
  10. Bake for 20 minutes, or until they are lightly golden and are forming cracks
  11. Let the logs cool almost completely (1 hr at room temperature or 30 minutes outside if it’s cold)
  12. Cut the logs on the bias in 3 cm thick slices
  13. Bake the logs again for another 10-15 minutes