How the breyani came together

Being a very traditional dish, I decided to make the breyani for Eid lunch. I needed my mom’s help as it would be the first time I made it and I was not confident to make it on my own, especially since I would be tackling my grandmother’s famous recipe. My mother and I sharing a kitchen were going to be epic. We are very close, but the one place we do not get along, is in the kitchen. So I revved myself up for an epic day in the kitchen with my mom.

We started in the afternoon the day before Eid. Mom hovered over me as I marinated the meat, giving me orders as if I were a cadet. I then prepared the potatoes by peeling and washing them. The meat had to be left to marinate for at least two hours.

With the meat marinating in the fridge, I made some sofficini dough. Sofficini is now a huge hit in my house, and I still had sauce left over from the last batch. So I prepared the sofficini and fried them off.

Then I started on a dessert I had seen on Nigella Lawson’s website, Glitzy chocolate pudding. I absolutely love baking and making this was a real treat. I followed the recipe exactly, which really did not take a lot of time. I popped them in the oven with my newly bought ramekins to let them bake. While in the oven, I prepared the chocolate sauce topping, which is meant to be put on the puddings as soon as they are out the oven. Once the puddings were done, I topped them with the sauce and set them to cool.

My mom then joined me to start cooking the meat. Under her ever watchful eye, I fried the onions till golden brown then added the meat. I let the marinated meat braise with the onions until it was completely brown, then added some water for sauce. While setting the meat on medium heat, I deep fried my potatoes until golden brown and let them drain on a paper towel. I also fried some extra onions and kept it aside for the layering process. With the meat almost ready, I added the potatoes and let the meat and potatoes cook on very low heat until the potatoes were almost cooked through. This took a while, but simmering the mixture slowly allowed the sauce to thicken and the curry to cook through. I then switched off the plate and left the meat mixture for the layering the next day.

My dad spent some part of the evening in the kitchen watching my mom and I try to work together. He made a joke about our kitchen being inefficient, since I was supposed to be the main chef, but was being overpowered by a dictator, and that he wanted to call Gordan Ramsey to help us. We had a real laugh about it, but I think that cemented the fact that my mom and I cannot cook at the same time!

In between that all, I washed 4 cups of rice and put it on the stove for 15 min with the spices. This turned out to be a little too long, and we decided that next time, we would leave the rice on the stove for only 10min. Reason being because the rice continues to steam in the pot during the layering and if overcooked will turn soggy.

The next day, I finished off the breyani an hour before serving. I peeled and cut raw potatoes into rings, and put some saffron in water. I removed the potatoes and then the meat with the sauce separately from the pot and placed the raw potatoes to cover the bottom of the pot. I placed a layer of rice to cover the potatoes, then a layer of meat and some sauce, then sprinkled lentils and fried onions, and continued layering until the final layer was of rice. I then poured over the saffron, closed the pot, and let everything steam through on very low heat for about an hour. While the food steamed, I prepared the dhai and let it chill in the fridge in the meantime.

The food was perfectly heated through by the time lunch came around. I took a large spoon and mixed through the layers before dishing it up in a serving dish. Everyone really enjoyed the meal, which was relieving as it had taken me such a long time to prepare it. In the old traditional way, we ate it with our fingers, mixing it with some dhai or pickled onion and tomato salad. My dad, who is very picky with food, gave me the nicest compliment, saying that it definitely did not taste like it was made by someone for the first time. Happy diners make for a happy cook!


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