Friday, October 31, 2014

What's the secret of cooking perfect rice?

Indian chef Anjum Anand returns to her roots as she searches out the scented secrets of one of India’s most popular dishes

Anjum Anand cuts a regal figure, sashaying through the hectic city streets of Hyderabad, right in the belly button of India. The television chef and creator of the Spice Tailor brand, supplying regional Indian sauce mixes to supermarkets, is serenely unruffled even by the flocks of motor-rickshaws – tiny, yellow, three-wheeled taxis – that hurtle past, barely missing her gold Jimmy Choos. The honk of horns and screech of brakes pulsate through the damp heat, but she remains cool, elegant and focused. Her mission: to get to the heart of Hyderabadi food and the dish it claims as its own, the biryani.Anjum Anand
A biryani, as any Indian food fan knows, is a fluffy concoction of saffron-scented rice, saffron, marinated lamb and crisp onions – which might sound like a pilaf, or pilau, but it isn’t. “Pilau never has the crisp onions,” says Anand. “And the biryani is layered, while a pilau is mixed.” A biryani has special significance for Indians, too. “Whenever we invite people around, it has to be part of the meal. Men always gravitate to it first, eat the meat and rice, and suck on the bones,” says Anand, who was born in London to a Punjabi father and north-west Indian mother, and brought up in London and Switzerland.
In fact, as befits a country whose cuisine is as diverse as the whole of Europe, every region of India has its own take on biryani, most notably Lucknow to the north. But Hyderabad reckons itself to be the king of biryanis. Generally made with mutton or lamb, they are the purist’s favourite, what Melton Mowbray is to pork pies or Naples is to pizza.
The dish is part of the Mughal gastronomy, brought by invading Persians, and characterised by mild spicing, and the use of northern basmati rice rather than the short-grained local variety. The cuisine is mild, creamy and as aristocratic as Anand herself next to the screaming heat of Hyderabad’s competing cuisine, the chilli-heavy Andhra cooking, indigenous to the local Andhra Pradesh region.
At dinner that evening, the local grandee and food expert Mehboob Alam Khan explains that a true Hyderabadi biryani is “kacchi” – made by cooking rice with raw mutton or lamb, rather than “pakki”, which uses precooked meat. And the connoisseur’s favourite is a white biryani, with no saffron or crisp onions, relying on the skill of the chef and the quality of the simple spices, meat, marinade and rice to shine through.
Right on cue, two men carry in a “deg”, the traditional wide-based, narrow-topped copper cooking pot, this one the size of a baby bath. “These things are always better cooked in quantity,” Khan declares. As the seal of dough, or “dum”, around the top is broken, a gush of fragrant steam explodes like a genie out of a bottle. The men use plates to scoop the biryani on to vast serving dishes, and we eat it with the traditional creamy raita and michi ka salan, a dish of chillies in a peanut sauce, marvelling at the subtle, but not bland, flavours.
At a house in a former army barracks near the centre of Hyderabad, another family are making their version, on a more domestic scale, to feed a visiting group of children from a local orphanage. Raeeza Naeem and her sister cook their marinated lamb first in a pressure cooker, as their mother had taught them, before layering up the meat and rice in a pan. “The rice needs to be precooked, three quarters done for pakki biryani, a quarter done for kacchi,” Raeeza tells me, breaking a grain to show me the tiniest pin prick of white remaining in the middle of the otherwise cooked, translucent rice.
A few tablespoonfuls of saffron-scented milk and water go over the top, before Raeeza makes four deep holes in the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon and trickles a teaspoonful of oil in each. The lid goes on, weighed down with a heavy rock – “easier than all that dough business”, says Raeeza. She puts it on a high heat until steam starts to escape, before turning the heat down to a thread. How will you know it is done? “You can hear the tsk-tsk-tsk of the rice in the hot oil when the liquid is absorbed,” she says. Clearly its reputation as a complex dish is overblown. “Oh, yes. Our mother used to say, I can’t be bothered to cook, I’ll make a biryani.”
The rice whispers to us when it is ready, and the children and family sit on the white-sheet-covered floor to eat together. The rice, fragrant with costly saffron, and moist, delicate meat, is exquisite. It’s an important tenet of Islam, says Raeeza’s husband. “When you give, you have to give the best.”
As for me, I couldn’t say which I preferred, the pakki or the kacchi, but I do plan to make both, starting with Anand’s definitive version, which is right here for you.

Anjum Anand’s proper Hyderabad biryani recipe

Oil to fry
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1lb 2oz/500g pieces of lamb, lean pieces of leg with bone is ideal
16 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
2 x 2in/5cm cinnamon sticks
Handful chopped coriander
Handful chopped mint leaves
7oz/200g chapati flour or half wholemeal, half bread flour
1lb 2oz/500g good-quality basmati rice
1 small lemon
Large pinch saffron strands
4 tbsp whole milk
4 tbsp ghee or butter
4 fl oz/110g plain yogurt
5 large cloves garlic, made into a paste
½oz/10g ginger, made into a paste
1¼-1½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded tsp garam masala (good quality really helps)
½ tbsp green papaya paste (grated skin and flesh from a raw green papaya – optional but helps tenderise the meat)
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chilli powder or to taste
¾ tsp black cumin seeds (shahi jeera)
2 tbsp lemon juice
Heat 1½in deep oil in a medium-size saucepan and deep fry the onions slowly until just brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen roll. Reserve the oil.
Wash the lamb/mutton. Prick all over with the point of a knife and put in a bowl with all the marinade ingredients. Add 8 of the cardamom pods, 3 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick, half the coriander and mint, 2 tbsp of the onion oil and two-thirds of the onions, squidged in your hands (if the onions are still soft in places, don’t worry about it). Mix well. Leave to marinate, covered, overnight in the fridge or for a few hours.
When ready to cook, place the meat in the base of a heavy-bottomed pan and allow to come back to room temperature. Make a firm dough with the chapati flour and 150ml water, kneading until stretchy. Roll into a sausage as long as the diameter of the pan. Press it into the top edge of the pan where the lid will go.
Wash the rice in several changes of water and soak for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place a large pot (about 5in) of water to boil with the remaining spices and herbs, onions and 2 tsp lemon juice. Season well; it should taste salty.
Heat the saffron in a dry pan until crisp and add the milk, bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 mins. Take off the heat and add the ghee/butter.
Add the soaked rice to the water and bring back to a boil. Start timing it once it comes back to a boil. Meanwhile, place a bowl in the sink to catch some of the draining rice water. After two minutes, taking a spoon with holes in it, quickly take out 2-3 spoons of rice, allowing the excess water to drip out, and scatter straight over the meat. There needs to be just enough rice to cover the meat. Once the remaining rice has cooked for another minute (three minutes in total), drain it into the bowl in the sink. Scatter this rice over the rest.
Add 100ml of the rice water to the saffron pan, and evenly spoon over the rice. Press the lid down and place over moderate heat. After 7-8 minutes, some steam will escape. Let it steam for one minute, then turn the heat right down (level 2 on electric hob; on gas, use heat diffuser or cast-iron flat pan). After two minutes, squidge the dough back so no more steam escapes. Cook for 50 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Serve with cucumber raita.

source with thanks:Riceplus Magazine

Amira Expands Distribution in the UK with Asda

Fri Oct 31, 2014 7:30am EDT
* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.
Amira Expands Distribution in the UK with Asda
Amira Extends Agreement for In-Store and Online Distribution with Asda, a UK-Based Subsidiary of Wal-Mart
Amira Nature Foods Ltd (the “Company”) (NYSE:ANFI), a leading global provider of packaged Indian specialty rice, today announced that it has reached an agreement with Asda, a wholly owned division of Wal-Mart, to offer Amira’s branded products through its e-commerce platform, extending the previously announced partnership to sell Amira branded products in 256 Asda stores. Combined with its existing agreements with Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose, Amira’s branded products now reach British consumers wherever they choose to shop, whether it’s in-store or online.
Asda is one of Britain’s largest supermarkets and operates as a multi-channel retailer through its physical stores and growing e-commerce platform. Asda reported in its most recent earnings results that its online market share has increased to 18.4% and that its Click and Collect program continues to drive e-commerce growth, attracting more than 20,000 customers per week. Click and Collect allows shoppers to purchase their items online and pick up their orders in their local Asda stores.
Commenting on the agreement, Karan A. Chanana, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Amira Group, said: “We are very excited to secure this partnership with Asda, which allows us to serve British consumers wherever and however they choose to shop. We will continue to focus on growing our distribution and are confident that the superior flavor of Amira’s premium basmati rice will become a staple for households across the U.K.”
Amira first entered the U.K. market with its branded rice products in June 2013 and has since secured agreements with major retailers Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose and Asda. Today, the company’s assortment of premium basmati rice products reach a majority of British shoppers, providing luxurious gourmet products at an affordable price.
About Amira Nature Foods
Founded in 1915, Amira has evolved into a leading global provider of branded packaged Indian specialty rice, with sales in over 60 countries. The Company sells Basmati rice, which is a premium long-grain rice grown only in certain regions of the Indian sub-continent, under its flagship Amira brand as well as under other third party brands. Amira sells its products through a broad distribution network in both the developed and emerging markets. The Company’s global headquarters are in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and it also has offices in India, Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Amira Nature Foods Ltd is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the ticker symbol “ANFI.” For more information please visit