Sunday, February 10, 2008

Yogurt Curry Cauliflower with Biryani Rice

This recipe is based primarily on what I had around and what I sort of made up as I went along, but I think it turned out well enough to be worth keeping around. Chicken is either really expensive these days, or the places I went by today were adding a stiff foreigner tax, so I decided to go vegetarian. This recipe is very off the cuff, and I'm sure it could be improved in a lot of ways - I look forward to hearing how everyone else adds to it.

Yogurt Curry Cauliflower

2 small heads cauliflower
Several onions(depending on size)
A couple carrots
A very small amount of fresh minced cilantro(equivalent to 1tsp or slightly more)
A small amount of green bell pepper might be good as well
A rather lot of yogurt(maybe total 1c?) - I think the more, the better. Use plain yogurt, obviously.

Spice mix(measurements super imprecise):
2tsp if not more whole cumin, roasted and then lightly ground in mortar and pestle. This should be one of the primary flavors.
3 cloves garlic
2tsp curry powder
1tsp turmeric
1tsp hot pepper(to taste)
1tsp coriander
Salt to taste

Cut the onions so they're thin circles (i.e. along the vertical axis of the onion). The more onions, I noticed, the better the end result. Cut carrots according to personal preference, then take the cauliflower to pieces. Combine all the spice mix by mashing the ingredients together in the mortar and pestle, or with a fork.

Sautee the onions until translucent, then add the carrots and cook for a bit. Then add cauliflower and spice mix. Cook for a bit, maybe add some water and cover, then add yogurt(I was originally planning to get rid of my extra yogurt with this recipe, then ran out and had to use lebaneh, which is just yogurt without the water, but it works really well for this kind of recipe), then cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is soft. Near the end of cooking time, add some cilantro - it brings out the flavor of the cumin seeds very nicely. Serve on biryani rice(below) with yet more yogurt, since yogurt is delicious.

Biryani Rice (Alex style)

This recipe is literally based primarily on my experience eating biryani rice at mostly Yemeni restaurants in Jordan, and the occasional Indian restaurant. I guessed the spices based on what I've had stuck in my teeth while eating it. You really need to use long grained rice(i.e. basmati), or else it creates a sticky, though quite tasty mass. I'd say you could look for proper recipes for biryani rice online, but I think the version I was trying for differs somewhat from the proper Indian version.

This is also a great thing to serve lamb or chicken dishes on top of - "Yemeni" food here means roasted chicken with some sort of special spices served on top of a HUGE plate of biryani rice. One could presumably adapt Alton Brown's butterflied roast chicken recipe by putting a more Indian rub beneath the skin and then serving it on this rice.

Cinnamon Sticks - the stuff you see here is a bit less powerful than the western version. It is less curly, and a darker color - it looks very much like little planks of bark. You should be able to find this kind at an Arab grocery store. Don't use too much of this.
A fairly small number of cloves
Turmeric, to turn the whole thing yellow more than anything else
Saffron (I personally used "Local saffron" which refers to a reddish yellowish sawdust-like substance that if used in sufficient quantity tastes kinda like saffron)
Cumin seeds(not too many, but it adds a good flavor)
Whole black pepper (this is really important to the flavor, so don't be afraid to add a lot)

Add everything together, cook the rice as per usual. If you want, you could add green peas at the end.

I look forward to other peoples' suggestions ,but I have to say this turned out to be quite tasty.

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