MOM’S LAMB BIRYANI
Makes 8 to 10 hearty portions
PART 1: MARINATE THE LAMB
2 cups thick Greek yogurt, beaten with a spoon
2 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic paste (available in tubes in the produce section of large grocery stores, or in Indian groceries)
2 tablespoons freshly ground ginger or ginger paste (available in tubes in the produce section of large grocery stores, or in Indian groceries)
2 teaspoons salt
Juice of 2 limes
4-5 pound leg of lamb cut into 2-inch pieces
Mix the yogurt, spices and lime juice together in a large glass bowl. Add the lamb pieces and coat with the marinade. Cover with plastic, refrigerate and let the meat marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
PART 2: MAKE THE GRAVY
6 tablespoons ghee or salted butter
4 yellow onions, sliced lengthwise
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 6 pieces each
2 yellow onions, chopped ( yes, another 2 yellow onions)
4 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chopped cilantro
Remove the marinated lamb from the refrigerator and let it reach room temperature, about 2 hours.
Add 2 tablespoons of the ghee to a medium-sized skillet. When the ghee is warm, add the white onions and sauté for about 8 minutes on medium-high heat until they start turning brown; set aside. (You should have about 2 cups.)
Add 2 more tablespoons ghee to the now empty skillet and pan-sear the potatoes on one side on medium high heat about 5 minutes, until they are crispy brown. Turn the potatoes over, cover the pan and let the potatoes steam another 5 minutes; set aside.
In a 3-quart oven-proof pot or Dutch oven, sauté the yellow onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the marinated lamb and cook until it changes color, about 10 minutes. Add 3 cups hot water, the cilantro and the reserved lamb bone. Cover the pot and simmer on low on the stove top until the lamb is tender, approximately 11/2 hours. Resist the urge to peek!
After 11/2 hours, add the reserved pan-seared potatoes and 1 cup of the reserved caramelized onions to the pot to thicken the gravy.
Re-cover the pot and simmer for another 25 minutes.
PART 3: MAKE THE RICE
3 cups basmati rice
3 tablespoons salt
4 (1-inch) cinnamon sticks
15 whole cloves
4 black or 10 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
4 Turkish bay leaves
Red 40, Yellow 5 or Yellow 6 food coloring, a few drops each
1/4 cup milk
Large pinch of saffron
While the lamb is simmering, soak the rice in 3 cups of water for 25 minutes. Run your fingers through the grains to help remove the starch; do this gently so the grains don’t break. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve.
Fill a large pot with 15 cups water and the salt. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cumin and bay leaves.
Bring the spiced water to a roiling boil. Gently add the basmati rice. Boil the rice until it is three-quarters of the way cooked. Keep an eye on it and check a couple of grains after 5 minutes to make sure it is parboiled and not overcooked. The grains of rice should feel a bit starchy or gritty in the middle, as if they could crack in your hand. The rice will finish cooking in the oven with the lamb.
Drain the rice, leaving in the whole spices. Pour the drained rice into the pot with the lamb. Add the food coloring.
Warm the milk, add the saffron and stir gently. Let steep for a couple of minutes at the most.
PART 4: ASSEMBLE THE BIRYANI
2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
Handful of toasted cashews
Chopped cilantroChopped mint
Pre-heat the oven to 335 degrees F.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the remaining caramelized onions over the pot with the lamb and rice. Save the remaining caramelized onions for garnish.
Pour the warm milk mixture onto the lamb and rice in circles. Do not stir. Close the lid and bake the lamb for 35 minutes.
Arrange the lamb biryani on a large platter. Garnish with the last ½ cup of caramelized onions, the eggs, cashews and a sprinkle each of cilantro and mint.
To serve, dig a flat serving spoon into the rice, being sure to go to the bottom so you get meat, rice and potatoes in every portion.
I was at a loss for words, when I received a message and an email from Nisid Hijari. A member of the Bloomberg editorial board, Nisid was hoping to talk to me for a project Bloomberg Opinion was doing on innovative businesses started during the pandemic. As luck would have it, Nisid was living in Maine during the pandemic and heard about my sauce launch.
For over a year now, I have been so proud to serve on the Maine State Music Theater’s Board of Trustees, Bringing Broadway to Brunswick for over 60 years. On May 7, 2022, Saturday, in partnership with Maine State Music Theater, I hosted a fun and delicious fundraiser , a Mother’s Day Luncheon and Cooking Class at the Maine Tasting Center, Wiscasset. All proceeds went to benefit MSMT.
The luncheon was a culinary celebration of the arts making a stronger come back than ever at MSMT and a celebration of diversity and women entrepreneurship.
Guests enjoyed local Maine wine and cheeses at Maine Tasting Center, Wiscasset, followed by a three-course gourmet Indian luncheon and cooking class, entertainment.
Artistic Director, MSMT Curt Dale Clark and my daughter, Sophia Scott performed live.
Kate McAleer, co-founder of Bixby Chocolates and her mother, co-founder Donna McAleer, shared their founder story during the dessert course.
I had such a blast sharing fun anecdotes about my youth in Mumbai while I cook up a feast in action.
And the best part was we all got to hear about it at Talking Food in Maine. Maine cannot wait to watch you unfold your third act! It’s NEVER too late to let your light shine brightly!
Mumbai to Maine Makhani Simmer Sauce | Whole Roasted SKORDO Tandoori Masala Cauliflower| Green Goddess Chutney Drizzle
Back in India, a Tandoor is an outdoor clay oven used heavily in Punjab. Masala refers to a spice blend. I’ve been hooked on the SKORDO Tandoori Masala blend available online and at their brick and mortar stores in Maine. It hits all the notes for me and saves me a ton of time not having to toast and grind spices from scratch. As a simmer sauce maker, I’m all about max flavor, zero labor when it comes to meals for the family.
Typically this cauliflower would be marinated in the masala ahead of time and then roasted in a tandoor at a high temp. With no access to my mobile HOMDOOR as it was still in storage from the winter, I decided to roast it in my oven and only marinated it for 2 hours while we enjoyed the most beautiful afternoon on the water in Boothbay, Maine.
I marinated this humble “cabbage flower” in the thickest Greek-style yogurt (fat-free believe it or not), SKORDO Tandoori Masala loaded with turmeric, cayenne, cumin, coriander and turmeric. No need to add in Kashmiri chili powder for added color and minimal heat as this blend already has it blended into it. I did however, add in some ginger and garlic paste, a generous squeeze of lime, salt + pepper and whipped it all up like I meant business!
I brushed this tandoori masala marinade all over the cauliflower. A tip, you need to really get in there with a grill brush, into all those cracks and crevices. I drizzled the entire thing with melted ghee. The more fat the better! If you are vegan be sure to use some refined coconut oil, avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil.
Meanwhile, I pre-heated my oven to Bake@ 350 degree F , set the entire cauliflower into my Staub and roasted it off with no cover on for 45 minutes. I chose to keep this beauty intact with stem and base attached. It makes for a conversation piece as soon as you set it table-side, ready to carve and share it with family and friends.
I could not resist drizzled it with my herbaceous, green cilantro-mint chutney. What a huge hit!
Now here’s a tip and idea: if you rather serve it with some rich buttery tomato masala gravy to make it a meal you can carve them into steaks , heat up a jar of Mumbai to Maine’s rich Makhani simmer sauce and pour it right over the steak and serve ( this will no longer be vegan since it has ghee, but still vegetarian). My daughter is now pescatarian, so she loves these cauliflower steaks for dinner with her mom’s Makhani, Basmati Rice, hot green chutney and a big chunk of garlic-buttered naan. Scroll to the bottom to check it out!
Makhani is the Indian word for ‘with Butter’. This small-batch, handcrafted, luscious, buttery-tomato cream sauce is infused with an aromatic and authentic North Indian Mughlai spice blend. Toasted and freshly ground cardamom, cumin, coriander, peppercorns and a touch of heavy cream add just the right touch of added richness.
Makhani pairs perfectly with chicken (especially for a spicy Butter Chicken) but it also makes for a slam-dunk spicy Chickpea Masala, Paneer Masala, or my husband’s favorite, melt-in-your-mouth boneless lamb over steaming hot Basmati Rice and ghee-slathered garlic naans.
But for now, try it on the cauliflower, for a meatless Monday.
I’ve been known to go to great lengths to prepare a magnificent meal and source the rarest of ingredients for someone I love. My mother did the same for us growing up and apparently I’ve inherited her penchant for pleasing. My parents made sure our birthdays were an opportunity to bring our friends and family together to celebrate and feast over my mother’s legendary Lamb Biryani.
Back in Mumbai, where I grew up, everyone in our apartment building knew my talented mother, Regina, was cooking up an Indian feast when she started roasting cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and Kashmiri chiles spices on her tava (cast iron skillet). We lived on the first floor so by the time she was done, her aromatic garam masala would carry through the entire building. She cooked for at least 40 guests and then sent me to every neighbor with left overs the following day.
Cooking Indian food is no easy feat. Sometimes it takes a day or two to prepare one dish. Roasting and grinding the spices; preparing the marinade to tenderize the lamb overnight; chopping pounds of onions for what seems like days; slowly caramelizing them in ghee, and then adding in all those freshly ground spices to the onions so they can bloom and release all that incredible flavor making for a rich, thick and memorable lamb korma. But that is the beauty of slow cooking and the results are outstanding and memorable.
But then, a simple but exquisite dish like Champagne Lobster came into my life and it was a game changer! And, the best part about this dish is since I now live in Maine, the lobster capital of the world, I can source lobster – steamed, shucked and ready to go with one phone call. But please don’t let this hinder you. You can now do the same thing by ordering your lobster here.
This decadent dish has only 4 ingredients: champagne, lobster, butter and heavy cream. Yes, I repeat, four ingredients. I could not get over how incredibly simple it was to throw together. Imagine the sweet and succulent lobster meat sautéed in rich melted unsalted butter picking up the floral and bubbly notes of champagne added in and the decadence of heavy cream bringing all the sweet, savory flavors together in under 5 minutes for a delicate and silky, smooth finish.
I can hear my husband’s voice saying, “For heaven’s sake, just share the recipe already!!!”
I’m all for sharing a story AND the back story. So stay with me, I promise, once you are done here, you’ll add Champagne Lobster to your repertoire forever!
Years ago, I worked at the Boothbay Harbor Chamber of Commerce and kept hearing rave reviews about Champagne Lobster from the local community. So one year my husband, Guy, and I tried it for the first time on our anniversary. Get this, it was our anniversary and we barely said a word to each other while we ate this in dead silence . Then Guy looked up, his blue eyes piercing into my brown ones and said, “You NEED to get this recipe from Phil!”
Phil Koskela, a local from Southport Island, Maine, put this legendary dish on the map here in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Phil was the General Manager at the famous and beloved Rocktide Inn (no longer in operation) for 39 years. In that time he probably served thousands of Champagne Lobster orders and built up an iconic following for this exquisite dish. Phil always served it along side Rocktide Inn’s legendary popovers. ( I’ll save them for another post. )
So years later, I reached out to Phil and begged him for the recipe, promising never to share it. I told him I just wanted to surprise Guy for our anniversary. Phil being as kind and gracious as he is known to be, started rattling it off. I didn’t even have a pen ready, so I literally memorized it over the phone.
Guy was in shock when I surprised him with it at our anniversary dinner. It was definitely a nostalgic blast from the past. But this time around Guy convinced me to go back to Phil and ask him for permission to blog about the dish and even do a fun video in homage to the dish and the man behind it! As soon as I got Phil’s blessing I reached out to another Maine culinary icon, Rod Browne Mitchell, the national authority on caviar and owner of Browne Trading Co, located on Commercial Street in Portland, Maine. I shared the good news that I had scored the recipe to this prized dish and went on to describe it. I added that I would love to collaborate with him on producing this piece which I now consider a gift from Phil — one that had to be shared with scores of lobster lovers out there.
Rod was all in! He and his fabulous team at Browne Trading Market, set aside one of the finest bottles of champagne, an 1851 Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, a pound of the freshest shucked Maine lobster and 2 beautiful lobster tails for pickup.
So, here’s how I set the mood: I set the table first, chill the Champagne while I get my mise en place (prep for the dish) together. Then I turn off my kitchen lights, light a candle, pour myself a glass of bubbly, channel some Stacey Kent and get in the CL zone.
Check out the recipe below. A couple of notes:
I added some Italian angel hair pasta to it because you need something light to soak up every last drop of that sauce.
Phil said you don’t need the most expensive champagne to make this dish. In fact Phil admitted that he used Cook’s Champagne for years because he was making hundreds of Champagne Lobsters a week. But it’s not everyday you splurge on lobster and champagne, so if you can afford to, just do it right and go all the way!
Special thanks to Rod Browne Mitchell, Browne Trading Company, for sponsoring the lobster and champagne for this post.
A huge thanks to Phil Koskela, for sharing the recipe. I’ve posted his iconic dish with his blessing and permission.
- 2 lobsters – claws, knuckle and tails – shucked and pre-cooked
- 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup of Champagne
- 3/4 heavy cream
- 8 oz De Cecco Angel Hair no.9 Pasta, cooked al dente
- In a heavy-bottomed skillet, on medium heat add the butter .
- Once it melts, add the cooked lobster and sautee for about 1 minutes on low heat.
- Now, take out the lobster, set aside.
- Add in the Champagne and bring it to a boil, until it cooks off.
- After a minute, lower the heat and add the heavy cream.
- Give it a good stir.
- Now add the lobster back to the pan and let it cook for another minute on simmer.
- The sauce will start taking on a pinkish hue from the lobster.
- Now, toss in that al dente angel hair cooked pasta and stir well.
- Add a few scallions for color and serve warm immediately but with a chilled glass of Champagne.
There’s something wonderful about being the first to introduce something unique and special to the world. But I feel like it also comes with tremendous responsibility. I consider myself a culinary ambassador for my homeland, Mumbai and my Goan heritage, here in this beautiful state of Maine.
Let me tell you a bit about how and why these simmer sauces came to be.
At 16 years old, I left Mumbai and moved to Canada with my family, our lives packed in 12 suitcases. Fast forward, I am fortunate to call Maine my home now for over a decade.
So this idea for simmer sauces, started a couple of years ago when I had just lost my mom and found myself having this intense and nostalgic craving for my all-time favorite dish, her signature Caldine: a creamy, spicy, luscious coconut gravy with juicy shrimp. I knew I wouldn’t find mom’s Caldine on a shelf at the food store, as a frozen entrée or even at a restaurant.
CRAVING COMFORT FOOD
In fact, I couldn’t find any comforting home-style Indian food at the grocery story that matched my expectations here in Maine. Everything tasted overly processed to me and one thing was for sure: it definitely did NOT taste like my mother’s home-style cooking.
So, I went back into my kitchen, dug out my mom’s heritage recipes and mastered each one. I was thrilled with the results and thought to myself, there have to be others who probably have never experienced authentic home-style Indian flavors. I was determined to find a way to make these unique mouth-watering Indian recipes accessible to anyone.
After spending countless hours in my kitchen crafting batch after batch, I am excited to introduce you to Mumbai to Maine’s shelf-stable Indian Simmer Sauce collection: Saag, Makhani and Caldine.
These savory simmer sauces are authentic, true to the specific region of India that they originate from and absolutely DELICIOUS!
- Based on my family’s heritage recipes
- Crafted with authentic, freshly ground spice blends.
- Handcrafted right here in Maine.
- For an authentic meal within minutes simply pour, add your choice of protein, simmer and serve.
- These 16 oz, ultra-premium simmer sauces will sit pretty in recyclable glass jars on your pantry shelf for up to a year. I can assure you they will not last that long, once you give them a try. 🙂
SIMMER SAUCE LINE
Let me introduce you to the star line up!
Caldine is a Goan inspired sauce from the West Coast of India, a creamy coconut gravy with an infusion of toasted coriander, cumin, Tellicherry peppercorns, Kashmiri chiles and the finest turmeric. You can read more about this hallmark Goan dish and why it holds the most special place in my heart here. You can see below, all I added was some fresh steamed Maine lobsters to my Caldine sauce and within minutes we had dinner on the table this past Mother’s Day!
Makhani is the Indian word for ‘with Butter’. How could that get any better, you ask? Well, this ghee-tomato based cream sauce is infused with the finest Indian spice blends like toasted and freshly ground cardamom, cumin, coriander, peppercorns and a touch of heavy cream — because this dish is meant for royalty. Makhani pairs perfectly with chicken of course (are you a Butter Chicken fans, if so check this post out ???) but it also makes for a slam-dunk spicy Chickpea Masala, Paneer Masala, or my husband’s favorite, melt-in-your-mouth boneless lamb over steaming hot Basmati Rice and ghee-slathered garlic naans.
Saag is the Indian word for leafy greens. Hailing from the North Indian state of Punjab, this hearty, vegetarian sauce is loaded with spinach, broccoli, aromatic and healing spices like Fenugreek and Garam Masala with a touch of cream . It’s often the go-to dish for the farmer because its packed with nutrients to sustain them for a long and hard day’s work in the fields. A home made aloo-fenugreek paratha would go so well with this dish. My mouth is watering already! You can put a vegetarian spin on this with cauliflower, chickpeas, sweet potatoes and paneer( Indian cheese) or add tender morsels of marinated lamb to elevate this thick gravy to another level of de-lish! We’ve been eating so much of this Saag in 2020 to stay healthy but also up our spice game in the kitchen on busy school and work days!
There is no arguing, Indian food and its cultural influence are trending like never before. With restaurants not being as accessible as much during the pandemic, people are cooking more at home now than ever! AND, they are looking for different ways to be creative in the kitchen and up their spice game by tinkering with ethnic cuisines that are bursting with bold and spicy flavors.
It is my hope you have fun with these sauces and leave my blog feeling inspired to add more flavor and spice into your everyday cooking! If you are ever craving a home-style Indian meal or feeling too exhausted after your marathon zoom work calls to cook up an authentic Indian meal, or like me you just miss your mother’s amazing home-cooking, simply reach for a jar in your pantry and within minutes you will be transported back to your childhood and to India with a single bite of my mouth-watering, rich and luscious Makhani, Caldine and Saag sauces.
At the end of the day, food has this power to bring people together and it also has the influence to transport you to your childhood or a special place you love.
Since 2015, I have shared my Mumbai to Maine story through my blog, podcast, social media channels and teaching Indian cuisine at Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School. I’ve done this with intention and passion, because it has kept me connected and rooted to my childhood in Mumbai and my Goan (Portuguese-Indian) heritage.
I am so excited to share this labor of love, my debut simmer sauce collection, with you right in time for the 2020 Holidays. It’s an homage to my talented mother, who was and will always be the best cook I know and a heartfelt love letter to my Mumbai.
I would love for you to be a part of my story going forward.
So please go ahead and send me a message via my blog, ask me a question about Indian food, order a simmer sauce or two or three. I would love to see what you cook up with them in your kitchen.
I encourage you to get creative and share your creations with me on Facebook @mumbaitomaine, IG @mumbai2maine.
Thank you with all my heart for joining me in my Mumbai to Maine journey in a jar. It’s going to be quite a ride, and I am so glad I get to share it with you.