Showing posts with label biryani. Show all posts
Showing posts with label biryani. Show all posts

Jun 4, 2018

Tips & Tools: How to Make a Mughal-Style Shorba (Stock) in a Pressure Cooker

shorba, chorba, stock, broth, mughal, recipe, method, mutton, chicken, technique, pressure cooker, easy, traditional, authentic, wazwan, indian, pulao, biryani,

A flavorful stock or shorba is the secret ingredient that will take your savory South Asian dishes from ordinary to exceptional! Get your biryanis bangin' and your pulaos poppin' with this easy recipe using a pressure cooker. 

A royal feast for the Uzbeks, Mughal, 18th century, National Museum of India
The cooking of the ancient Mughals was a veritable riot of flavors, fragrance, colors, experiments, protocol, table manners, traditions, techniques, and textures. At least one hundred different and exquisite dishes were served at each meal. Each dish was prepared by one cook fiercely seeking favor with the emperor. With techniques taken from the Persian and Ottoman empires, the finest of ingredients were combined in elaborate dishes. One such technique was the making of the shorba or stock to imbue savory dishes with umami-rich flavor. The word shorba comes from the Persian term شوربا with "shor" meaning salty and "ba" meaning stew. In today's modern vernacular a shorba has come to mean any sort of soup, gravy, or stew. But in the days of the Mughals, a shorba was a savory bone or meat-based broth.

The Waza!
The Mughals were prolific documenters but we have our own living historian of Mughal cuisine: the waza! The supreme chef of the Kashmiri Wazwan or traditional formal banquet is our living historian. When you taste the dishes of the Wazwan you are actually tasting history. For generations of wazas the dishes and methods of the royal Mughal court have been passed down. And this is whom I've learned this recipe for a classic shorba from. After the waza has chosen the animals and overseen their butchering one of the first things he does is make the shorba.

Gushtaba- famed dish of the Wazwan made of pounded mutton meatballs in a delicate yogurt sauce
This is because the shorba or bone-based stock is what gives so many Wazwan dishes their full, rich flavor. Yakhni, Rogan Josh, Gushtaba, Rishta, Aab Gosht, pulao, biryani, - just about all savory dishes benefit from the addition of a well-made shorba. I've rarely seen a waza add water to a dish. Mughal cooking isn't just grease and masala as some Delhi restaurants might lead you to believe.

The Waza begins to make the shorba by frying the bones he has chosen to make the stock. This gives the shorba a richer, slightly caramelized flavor and achieves the same effect that western chefs get when they roast bones for a stock. In the tradition of the Wazwan, every part of the animal is used. I save up the bony bits and joints from mutton and the necks and backs from chicken in a box in the freezer to make my shorba. The waza makes gallons of shorba in a huge deg over a fire for a Wazwan.  I find a pressure cooker more suited to my needs as I usually only make a little over a liter.

The Waza does not use any sort of fresh herbs or root vegetables except for possibly a few cloves of garlic in making the shorba.  No French mirepoix, German Suppengrün, Dutch soepgroente, Italian soffritt, or Polish włoszczyzna is used in the making of stocks, soups, sauces, and stews as in western cuisines. No bouquet garni of fresh herbs tied with string or placed in a cheesecloth bundle is used either.

Rather, the Waza uses sabut garam masala or the whole spices you'd find ground into garam masala to season his shorba. Black peppercorns, green cardamom, cumin, cloves, cassia bark, cassia leaves, fennel, coriander, black cardamoms, - the list can vary according to each waza. Sometimes even saffron is included for an especially lavish touch. Our waza also adds a few cloves of garlic to the mix, not all wazas do that though.

The whole spices or sabut garam masala are then tied into a cheesecloth sachet called a potli. The waza then places the potli full of spices into the deg or huge urn-shaped pot with the fried bones and some water.

The deg and its contents are then allowed to simmer over a woodfire for hours until reduced to the desired amount. The urn-shaped cooking vessels you see in the above photo are what is called a deg in Kashmiri cooking, they are made of beaten copper and are quite heavy. The shape and craftsmanship of the deg goes back before the time of the Mughals. I prefer to use a pressure cooker as woodfires and giant degs aren't very practical in my kitchen.

After the shorba is completely cooked the waza strains the liquid through cheesecloth to remove most of the solids and particulates. The spice-filled potli is then discarded. Above you can see the huge blue tub partially covered by cheesecloth that the waza's helper strained the newly-made shorba into. Now the shorba is ready to be ladled out for use in the many dishes of the Wazwan - 36 courses minimum!

Bibi's jugaadi or 'make-do' do straining method requires only a collander placed over a pot with a spout. Not quite as efficient as cheesecloth over a tub but it works, it is reusable, and it is using equipment I always have on hand in my kitchen!

Here is Bibi's shorba. I only make shorba for special occasions like Ramadan, Eid, or an Urs when I'll be cooking lots of savory dishes. Right now during Ramadan I make a special mutton or chicken dish every day to send to the mosque for iftar. About a month in advance of when I wish to make shorba I'll start saving mutton bones and or chicken necks and backs in the freezer. Then once a week I'll make a fresh batch of both mutton and chicken shorba and keep it in the refrigerator until needed. A shorba is a simple, healthy, and inexpensive way to give your curries, gravies, sauces, sooups, biryanis, and an amazingly authentic taste!

5-7 raw mutton bones or 5-7 raw chicken necks and/or backs
5 liter or larger pressure cooker
2 TBS ghee or cooking oil of choice
2 tsp salt (optional but will help preserve the stock/shorba)
5 C water
1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
1 tsp fennel seeds/saunf
3 green cardamoms/elaichi
2-inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini or cinnamon stick
2 cassia leaves/tej patta
5 cloves/laung
4 black cardamoms/kali elaichi, bruised in a mortar and pestle
10 black peppercorns/kali mirch
3 cloves garlic/lahsun (optional)

Here's what to do:
1) In a 5-liter pressure cooker heat ghee or cooking oil with salt over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add mutton bones or chicken pieces and fry for about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

2) Add 5 cups of water and whole spices to browned bones.

3) Seal pressure cooker and heat for 15 minutes or one whistle. Turn off heat but leave pressure cooker sealed on the burner for 10 minutes.

4) Unseal pressure-cooker you should have a nice, rich, brown stock/shorba! Allow to cool to slightly warmer than room temperature.

5) Strain or sieve finished stock/shorba to remove bones and spices.

6) Place the shorba in a sealed airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use. You will see the shorba separate with a layer of fat rising to the top. Keep stock/shorba in the refrigerator in a sealed, airtight container for up to two weeks if you leave the layer of fat or up to one week if fat is removed. (You can use the fat scooped off the top just as you would ghee or clarified butter- I use it to fry onions with.)

Ramadan Kareem!

Bibi ;)

Mar 22, 2016

Tips & Tools: Getting Handy with a Handi

Introducing the magnificent pot of Mughal fame: the handi!

Originally made of clay the handi is a round pot with no handles, a narrow neck, curved sides, and is usually thicker on the bottom to distribute heat evenly. The handi is the piece of cookware essential to the "dum" or "dumpukht" style of cooking so beloved by the Mughals. "Dum" means steam or breath and "puhkt" means to choke. In dumpukht cooking food would be partially cooked then placed in the handi with it's lid sealed airtight with a paste of flour and water. The sealed handi would then be placed on the dying embers of the cooking fire to slowly simmer overnight. Steam would form inside the handi which would then condense and drip down the curved sides. Thus the food contained within would basted in it's own juices. Dumpuhkt is the culinary method used in making such famed Mughal style dishes such as biryanis, tahari, and Mutton Lazeez. One of the most popular dishes of Kashmir called "Dum Aloo" consists of baby potatoes slow cooked dumpukht style with a spicy sauce.

This is a decorative clay handi available for sale at a tourist site in Agra. You can see the saucer-like lid on the narrow necked round pot that is typical of early handis.

Here is a modern day replication of dumpukht style cooking.  A biryani is being cooked in a clay handi atop a gas burner. The saucer-like lid has been sealed with a paste of water and flour to keep steam from escaping. As this sealed handi is not upon dying embers but rather a direct gas flame a metal tawa or plate has been placed under it to disperse the heat.

Nowadays you can even buy decorative handis to serve your meal in like this piece of gorgeous tableware. A small handi is called a "handiya."

You can also get pressure cookers in the shape of a handi. I doubt whether a pressure cooker could truly replicate slow cooking in an earthenware pot over coals, but there you go.

Now let's stroll on over to Delhi near the Jama Masjid mosque to see the handi in action. This is Karim's restaurant, it lies on one of the winding, narrow, and dimly lit paths in the souk-like markets around the Jama Masjid mosque. Karim's is quite famous and has been in business for over 100 years. Karim's owners are direct descendants of chefs of the Mughal court. The original Mughal cooking techniques and recipes have been passed down through the family here. At some point handis ceased being made in clay and nickel plated beaten copper became the preferred material of choice for manufacture.

This is how a Mughal chef would cook, sitting cross legged upon a flat platform surrounded by braziers topped with handis. The handis can be tilted to keep steam in and allow easy access to  the seated chef or servers. Typically foods would be first partially cooked like this in the handis, the lid would be then sealed with a flour and water paste, and the handi would be placed over low heat to simmer for hours.

Here you can see the delicious contents of the handis. There's a biryani on the right and some sort of mutton dish in the left. See how tilting the handis keeps allows the steam to condense and roll back down the side rather than just escaping.

Your meal at Karim's will be simply served on 1950's looking stoneware in a charmingly unpretentious manner. A complimentary relish plate of sliced raw onions, limes, and sliced raw daikon radish will always accompany your dining experience. A choice of different naan or rice areon offer too, in this case we've chosen those gorgeous fluffy naans. It's quite inexpensive and geared toward the working class despite the royal cuisine being served. I like that, the food is what the focus is on here. Surprisingly to me, the Mughal food served at the little restaurants owned by descendants of Mughal chefs isn't that highly spiced. The emphasis is on the meat- be it mutton cooked in it's own juices or a biryani cooked with meat stock. One dish we ordered once was quite unusual, I believe it was called "Shahi Tamur" which means "Royal Dates." It consisted of dates stewed in a creamy white savory sauce with a lot of ground coriander, a bit of cumin, and green chilis. Mixing sweet with savory would be typical of the early Mughal era.

Here is a gentleman in typical Islamic attire enjoying the view of the Jama Masjid mosque from a nearby restaurant. The mosque was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan of rosy red sandstone with carved white marble inlays and was completed in 1656. It can accommodate 25,000 worshippers, has two 130 foot high minarets, and three white marble domes. The inside is even more spectacularly ornamented with more inlaid marble and carved semi precious stones throughout.

I think the closest thing to a handi that would be practical for modern cooks would be an electric slow cooker or crock pot. You could certainly seal the lid with a flour and water paste to get the same dumpukht effect. If I lived someplace where I had twenty four hour electricity I'd certainly have one. I've never seen a slow cooker or crock pot in India or Nepal, but then twenty four electricity is a rarity in Nepal and India also.

That concludes my discussion of the handi and dumpukht cooking.
Calmly currying on,

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