Growing up in England, we ate mainly my mum’s cooking and it was, 80% of the time, Indian food. My mum tried new cuisines and new recipes, but we always pretty much had the same food in rotation. Outside of my home, I learnt to love British food (yes, there is such a thing), Italian and Arabic. My comfort food, or soul food always stems from one of these cuisines; biryani from India, treacle pudding from England, a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce or some kebabs.
My father spent a lot of time in Italy and as a result, he loves Italian food and we ate a lot of it growing up. He had my mum recreating all kinds of pastas and meat dishes he had tried in Italy. He truly thinks of Italy as his second home and so, I believe there is some Italian in me 😉
I digress. What I wanted to say was that, as well travelled as my father was, he was and is, a very picky eater. He likes good food, well made, well flavoured and traditional; be it Italian, Indian or any other cuisine. At home, I mentioned we ate the same foods quite often, and I believe it was because of his selective taste. My mum knew what he liked and what he’d eat, so she didn’t venture out too far afield.
Since my childhood, and now in my own kitchen, I have discovered so many traditional Indian dishes that I didn’t try as a child. I believe now, it was because my father didn’t like them and so my mum never bothered making them; like this meat pullao.
I only ever remember eating biryani and khichri, both rice dishes, one layered with meat and the other with lentils. We didn’t eat pullaos, which are usually rice dishes cooked in vegetable or meat stock. Whether she started cooking pullaos after I married and moved away, I don’t know, but I do know that I had never tried this yakhni pullao until I was married and had my own family. My mum passed away 15 years ago this March, so it’s been hard to get family recipes and her little twists on food. I really feel robbed of her expertise and experience. I wish we had had more time together.
So, most of my Indian cookery has come from just recreating from memory, or using cookbooks but changing a lot of it to the way hers used to taste, and learning a little bit from my aunts who are amazing cooks too. I’ve eaten this pullao from restaurants and my aunts make it occasionally. It’s fairly simple and has all the standard Indian spices, nothing too difficult to find.
Traditonally, this is made with bone in lamb or goat meat. The stock from the bones flavours the rice that is cooked in it. It is a great one pot rice dinner with a lot of flavour and a nice spicy kick. I made it with boneless beef because as you know by now, I don’t like lamb. If I had goat meat, I would’ve used that but my husband has issues with goat meat bones and he finds them a tad bit fiddly. I had beef, so I used it. It came out really well even with no bones with the spices really rounding off the flavour.
If you have meat with bone, I would use that to make this, but if you only have a boneless, make it anyway. It’s still tasty and convenient for that sudden Indian food craving. Take it to the next level by adding nuts and sultanas, which I omitted, but they can really elevate the dish.
Serving size: 8-10
- 2lbs/907g boneless meat (3 lbs with bone)
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ginger, minced
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cinnamon sticks
- 5 cloves
- 6 cups water
- 3 cups rice, soak for 20 minutes
- 5 cups meat stock
- 1 teaspoon black cumin (shah zeera)
- 2 black cardamom
- 6 green cardamom
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 onions, finely chopped or sliced
- 3 tablespoons oil, more if needed
- salt and pepper
- cilantro, handful
- mint, optional
- nuts: almonds, cashews, optional
- raisins/sultanas, optional
- Put the meat, water, garlic, ginger and the stock spices in a big pot and bring to boil.
- Lower heat and cook until meat is tender, 40 to 60 minutes.
- You can also use the pressure cooker.
- Takes about 20-30 minutes to tenderise meat in a pressure cooker.
- Check your pressure cooker manual for details.
- After meat is cooked, strain the broth and keep for the rice.
- Fry the onion in the oil till brown and crisp. Need to get a nice brown colour on them.
- Pull out the onions and put aside.
- Add more oil if needed, need to have a two tablespoons in the pot.
- Add the spices and let splutter a little.
- Brown the meat a little to get some colour.
- Add in the drained rice and coat with the oil and spices.
- Then add 5 cups of the reserved meat stock.
- If you need to, add a bit of water to make up to 5 cups.
- There should be an inch of stock above the rice.
- Add ¾ of the fried onions.
- Let the rice come to boil and then place on a steady simmer, uncovered until most of the water has been absorbed and holes are beginning to form on the rice surface.
- Make sure the rice looks halfway cooked, and not totally raw.
- Add more water if rice is too crunchy. If you soaked it, there should be no problem.
- Once the rice has absorbed most of the stock, cover the pot, turn heat to low and cook on low for 10 minutes. Put on a timer.
- At the end of the 10 minutes, pull of the heat and keep pot covered for another 10 minutes. Put on a timer.
- At the end of 10 minutes, remove the lid.
- The rice should be cooked. Fluff up with a fork and garnish with the rest of the onions and chopped cilantro.
- Serve on a big platter.
- Garnish with dried fruit and nuts if using.
What are some things you never tried as a child and have learnt to love now? I think we are lot more adventurous with our food then our parents ever were in their time and our childhood. have you managed to convert your parents to your food likes?