You have not celebrated a festivity if you have not celebrated the Indian way! I shall be so bold and state the fact. Indians love grandeur and splendor, especially us Punjabis, and being a big hearted folk we splash out on celebrations and festivities whenever the occasion allows us to. However, Indian weddings are the most extravagant and lavish festivity one can ever experience.
It’s been a long time since I’ve attended an Indian wedding but my memory is filled with rich vivid pictures; a kaleidoscope of colors with such unique and glamorous flair. I have memories of sitting on a white horse with my uncle, who dressed in pure white and a silk pink turban, seemed slightly nervous as we set off to pick up his bride. Along the entire route we were accompanied by the lively baraat, who danced, sang and reveled on this joyous occasion. The procession seemed to grow with every turn we took, picking up merry revelers along the way. Soon, it seemed to me, sitting up on the horse, that we were floating in a single mass of a brilliantly colored sea. Splashes of glorious gold, opulent orange and ravishing red to my right, while on my left a burst of marvelous mauve, brilliant blue and gorgeous green radiated exhilaration and liveliness.
Indian marriage ceremonies are very ritualistic, often beginning days before the actual wedding. These so called pre-wedding ceremonies are a lot of fun and really the perfect excuse for more partying. Punjabi weddings, in particular, are vibrant and celebrated like a carnival, exhibiting splendid elegance. We love music, singing and dancing, so it is no surprise that each ceremony is accompanied by a lot of bhangra, giddas and sangeet.
There are quite a few pre-wedding ceremonies, but my favorite one is the ceremony of Mehndi or henna. For the bride it is one of the most important rituals before the wedding where the mehndi is brought to her house by a member of the groom’s family (sister). It is then applied to the bride’s hands and feet in beautiful intricate motifs. Usually, hidden within the mehndi pattern is the name or the initials of the groom. The ritual is, of course, also accompanied by festivities, with the dancing and singing of traditional songs.
The actual wedding day itself also includes several rituals, which are performed throughout the day at both the bride’s and groom’s respective homes. Finally as both arrive at the location of the ceremony the marriage begins with the Varmala. This is the actual beginning of marriage rituals, which involves the bride and groom exchanging garlands, studded with white, red and mustard colored flowers. The Granthi or priest chooses an auspicious time or muhurat of the wedding ceremony and begins with reciting the Lavan paath or prayers from our holy book the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. While the groom recites the first few mantras, the bride’s sisters steal his shoes. This is an amusing tradition, in which the girls will charge the groom a fee for agreeing to return his shoes.
When all the rituals have been carefully carried out at the end of the long day it is finally time to indulge in mouth-watering food. Indian weddings offers opulent and lavish food preparations and guests are treated to a magnificent variety of dishes.
Upon arrival at the venue of the function, finger food and other snacks along with drinks, soups, juices, mocktails, are served to the guests. After the marriage ceremony is completed, guests continue the feast with the main course followed by dessert. One will find a rich and extravagant array of dishes, which most probably will include popular North Indian dishes like, Dal Makhani, Mutter Paneer, Butter Chicken and sweet rice pudding called Kheer. Another dish sure to be on the menu is a biryani, usually a chicken biryani but often one will find the Queen of biryanis – the Hyderabadi Biryani adorning the buffets.
An iconic dish, the Hyderabadi biryani combines the Mughlai and Andhra cuisines into one flavorful dish. There are two methods of preparing the Hyderabadi biryani – in the Katchi (raw) biryani, raw meat marinated in yogurt and spices is sandwiched between layers of aromatic rice. The vessel is then sealed and steamed for hours over hot coals. The Pakki biryani is made of meat that is cooked before it is layered with the rice and then placed for a shorter amount of time on the hot coals.
In this version I use the Katchi biryani method, but tuning it down so that it is simpler to cook at home. The result is a simple yet incredible oven baked biryani, full of aromatic flavor. The rice and meat are baked until the lamb is succulent and falls apart at the touch of a fork. Irresistibly good!
Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani
Printable version of recipe here
For the lamb
500g boneless leg of lamb, cut into small cubes
250g Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons ginger, crushed
1 tablespoon garlic, crushed
2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Handful each of mint and coriander leaves, finely chopped
For the rice
300g Basmati rice
2 tablespoon ghee or butter oil
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds
2 black cardamom pods
2-3 cinnamon sticks
2 red onions, cut in half then thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1-2 tablespoons warm water for about 15-20 minutes
2 tablespoon Ghee or butter oil
Handful mint leaves chopped
- To marinate the lamb, combine lamb cubes with all the spices, herbs and ginger, garlic and yogurt. Toss well to coat the meat pieces. Refrigerate, covered overnight so that the flavors blend with each other.
- Wash and rub the rice well until the water runs clear. Place rice in a bowl and fill with water about halfway up the bowl, set aside for about an hour until the rice soften. Drain well.
- In a medium sized saucepan heat the ghee or butter oil, then add the cumin seeds cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Cook the spices until they begin to sizzle and take on a golden color – about 15 seconds. Add the onion slices and stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes until they are fragrant and turn light brown.
- Stir in the saffron and water and allow to gently simmer for 3-4 seconds, then add rice. Toss to coat the rice with the saffron and onions.
- Pour about 230 ml water, season with salt. Stir the rice to incorporate the ingredients, then bring to a boil. Cook for approx. 5 minutes until the water had been soaked up. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
- Heat the oven to 170 degrees C. Prepare a large casserole dish by lightly brushing the inside with some ghee or butter oil.
- Spread the lamb, together with the marinade over the bottom of the casserole dish. Drizzle the remaining ghee over the meat, then add the rice, spreading it evenly over the lamb. Cover casserole and bake for an hour or until the rice is cooked and the lamb is succulent and tender.
- Serve in the casserole topped with chopped mint leaves.
A exquisite celebratory dish filled with fragrant spiced flair. This biryani suits all occasions and festivities and will be the star of your dinner table. It’s also the perfect dish for me to celebrate a blog birthday with all my readers. It’s hard to believe this but this week (on Friday) What’s For Lunch, Honey? turns five. I guess I can say I am here to stay. An interesting statistic I picked up from Blogger: 18176 comments have been made on the various posts over the past five years. Thank you to each and every one of you – I know there are a few who have been with with following this space since Day 1.
What’s For Lunch, Honey? has opened so many doors for me – doors I would never have thought I would ever walk through. But here I am on the other side and feeling rather good about how this blog has evolved and how it has helped me hone my creative skills focusing on something I do with a passion – photography!
Which brings me to something else I wanted to celebrate with you. As of this week I am represented by the fantastic Wonderful Machine and you can find me in their Germany section and in their Food/Drink section. They liked my portfolio and took me on! Wonderful Machine represent great photography talents from around the world and I am in good company, especially with her!
Shoot for the moon. If you miss at least you’ll land amongst the stars!
Hope you all have a lovely week and weekend. I’ll be back next week with something sweet! Be safe.
More Bollywood Cooking from WFLH:
|Creamy Butter Chicken||Gajar Ka Halwa - Carrot Halwa||Aachari Alu - Potatoes in Mango Chutney Sauce|
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2011 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First