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My Dad has always cribbed about our long-distance phone bills. The main cause of which  was the exchange of recipes between Mom and me. Ever since I left home, Mom and I have had many a conversations around food. There would be times when the sole purpose of my call would be to find the ingredients to go into one of my favourite dishes.

Even though I’ve mastered my own art of cooking, I would take Mom’s home-cooked meals any day. With the “10 things I miss most about Mom’s cooking” meme doing the rounds, how was I to stay away from it. In no particular order, a few things I miss most about Mom’s cooking.

  1. Her nonchalant way of adding spices to flavour a dish – no measurements, just instinct that never goes wrong.
  2. Her “Hurry Mom, I’m starving!!” specials – a few things into a pan and a couple of minutes later, lip-smacking goodness!
  3. Shortcuts/Solutions – she always has a solution to troubleshoot any culinary disaster, even for custard that would not firm up after a whole day in the fridge! (made by yours truly, ofcourse!)
  4. Biryani – no doubt whatsoever, this is the BEST you can get!
  5. Her baked goods – I’ve never been into baking, but loved watching Mom make her special cakes. And to top it off, she would always leave a little extra batter for me to lick afterwards.
  6. Hot cures for cold days – Mom has a knack of making delicious soup out of annything available in the kitchen. No matter what she added, it would drive away all the sniffles.
  7. Fish – I’d eat any kind of fish that Mom makes, any kind at all. And that’s the only way I’ll eat fish – if she cooks it!
  8. The way she effortlessly cooks for and entertains over 50 people.
  9. The crisp evening snacks I would devour over fresh coffee.
  10. Her spic and span and highly organized kitchen!

After this lovely walk down memory lane, I’d like to leave you with a little something. One of the fastest and fulfilling meals my Mom would make for us was Fried Rice. Whenever we get together nowadays, we spend hours on end talking. The hours would wheez by and late into the night, we would get hungry. Fried rice is something we always come back to during times like these. It’s simple, splendid and hard to resist!
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I had planned on taking a Culinary Journey throughout the Indian sub-continent in alphebetical order. But I’m sure, with my modd swings and many food cravings, I will be bouncing about the country from end to end. Nonetheless, I will begin my journey in Andhra Pradesh, or most importantly Hyderabad.

When one talks of Hyderabad, the first image that comes to mind for most is the Nawabi culture and its influence on the city’s architecture. But talk to a foodie like me, and all we can picture is the succelent Biryani that Hyderabad is so famous for.

Paneer Biryani

Biryani is a one pot meal of rice, traditionally cooked with either Chicken, Lamb or a mix of vegetables blended and marinated in an array of various spices. The distinct aroma of the dish is set by the sprinkle of Saffron in the cooking process. While Biryani is cooked in as many ways as possible, the best flavour is derived from the authentic slow-cooking process.

Today, on our first stop in this deliciously mouth-watering adventure, I bring to you this finger-lickin’ dish. But let me warn you, once tried, this will remain a favourite in your recipe files.

Paneer Biryani


  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 500 gms of Paneer (cottage cheese), cut into 1-inch cubes and fried till lightly brown on all sides
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chopped green chillies
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
    • salt, to taste
    • a pinch of saffron, mixed in 2 tbsp warm water
    • 7-8 black peppercorns
    • 7-8 cloves
    • 2-3 bay leaves
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • Fresh coriander leaves for garnish
    • Sliced hard-boiled eggs for garnish (optional)


    1. Par-boil rice and set aside. (You can use about 2-3 cups of water to cook 2 cups of rice. Just make sure the rice is not fully cooked through, or else the Biryani will turn out mushy.)
    2. Heat oil and add cumin seeds. Add onions, garlic, ginger and green chillies, and fry on medium-low heat till they start to brown a bit. Add cinnamon, bay leaves, pepper corns and cloves, and cook for about 2 minutes.
    3. Add tomatoes, salt, chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and cumin powder. Continue to cook on medium heat till it begins to dry up and starts to give out oil. Add paneer pieces and cook for 5-6 minutes till it forms a thick, rich and dry gravy base.
    4. In a non-stick deep pan, put a layer of the paneer gravy, without the paneer. Now add a layer of rice, topped with a layer of paneer. Alternate layers of gravy, rice and paneer till everything is used up. Make sure that the top most layer is rice.
    5. Crush a pinch of saffron into 2 tablespoons of water and mix with your finger till the water catches colour. Pour the saffron water over the top layer of rice.
    6. Cover cook for 15 minutes on a low flame, without stirring. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and hard-boiled eggs (optional).

    Serve warm with Raita and Mint-Coriander Chutney.

    This is my contribution to Paz’s FMR, “For the Love of Rice”.