Biriyani

One of my favourite cookbooks is Indian Cooking by Lalita Ahmed. Every recipe that I have tried from it is excellent and authentic tasting, rivaling anything I’ve had in the best Indian restaurants I’ve been to.

The book was published in the UK only but ended up here in a stack at the wonderful old Coles bookstore that used to be at Yonge and Charles in Toronto. It has been through many editions, which is always an indication of an excellent book. The cover here is for the book that I personally own, but there are different covers on the other editions.

Indian Cooking by Lalita Ahmed
Indian Cooking by Lalita Ahmed

Mine is from Coombe books. Out of print for many years, copies of this book are shown on Amazon for as much as £50, (or $100CAD, more or less).

Lalita Ahmed Bio (from IMDB.com)
Lalita Ahmed (maiden name Chatterjee) was born in Lucknow, India on November 25th 1939. She worked for All India Radio before moving to London in the 1950s, where she joined the Hindi language department of BBC World Service Radio. She worked as a presenter on Asian programs for BBC television and presented Indian cookery on BBC Pebble Mill. She has also written a number of cookery books. As well as her film roles Lalita has appeared in a number of British television shows.

This Biriyani recipe below is one of my very favourites from this book.

Sunflower Seeds ‘Hummus’

Article by Alison Cole, recipe by RawRose, used with permission.

As innocuous as it may seem, the little gray kernel of a beautiful yellow flower actually leads as a super food when it comes to boasting high nutritive values as well as being a convenient and tasty snack. That’s right, the sunflower seed is all that and deserves some attention when considering the addition of health benefits to one’s diet, packing in vitamins, protein, and more.

This gift from the sunflower is one of the first plants to be ever cultivated in the United States, and today the world’s leading suppliers of the sunflower seed include the Russian Federation, Peru, Argentina, Spain, France and China. Sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world, and the seeds themselves are easily available and very affordable.

When examining the nutritional worth of the sunflower seed, it has many benefits to offer. Sunflower seeds provide an excellent source of vitamin E, which is the body’s principle fat soluble antioxidant. The seeds also provide linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), and some amino acids, especially including tryptophan. Tryptophan aids in creating the neurotransmitter serotonin, which transmits nerve impulses to regulate mood, appetite and sleep and to improve memory and learning.

Sunflower seeds are also rich in phytosterols, which lower LDL cholesterol in the body, and several B vitamins. And if that weren’t enough, these powerhouse particles additionally provide an excellent source of fiber, as well as protein, with 7 grams of protein in a small ¼ cup serving. There are many reasons to eat these tasty morsels, nutrition-wise alone!

As with nuts and other seeds, because sunflower seeds are high in fat, they are prone to rancidity, so it is best to store the dehulled seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They can also be stored in the freezer if you prefer. Whole seeds (with the shell) may be stored at room temperature in a container, without the risk of going rancid.

The most simple (and perhaps enjoyable) way to eat sunflower seeds is straight from the package, whether you are dehulling them in your mouth or have purchased the seeds already without shells. You can also garnish your salads and cereals with them, or use them in recipes to make delightful desserts, dips and pâtés.

Try out this yummy hummus recipe by RawRose, which features sunflower seeds as one of its main ingredients. You can also listen to it, if you find that helpful. Voiceover by Lew Williams.

‘Pitmastery’

Article, recipe and main photo by Sean Galt, additional photography, Glen Synoground, voiceover by Lew Williams.

On alternate Fridays I load myself up in the car and begin the anywhere from 2 o 3 ½ hour drive toLondon where my 10 year old daughter lives with her mother.

RibsOne Friday, about 4 years ago the weather was terrible – cold, snowing and windy. On days like that I have a backup plan, which is to stay in London in a hotel where my daughter and I spend the weekend going to movies, eating out, attending concerts or sporting events.

That Saturday, we had dinner out at a mom and pop restaurant downtown. The special that night was BBQ baby back ribs. I ordered those with a salad and a pint of their house draft. My daughter ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. I offered her a rib when the plate arrived. She looked at me with that quizzical expression a child gives you when they know you’re trying to give them medicine but you’re telling them it’s a gummy bear.

“I don’t think I’ll like those,” she said, taking a bite of her sandwich.

“Try one,” I said, “You won’t know till you taste it.”

“But just one. If I give it back, will that be ok?”

She took one bite and her eyes opened like she had tasted the food of the gods.

She ate the rack of ribs. I got the grilled cheese sandwich.

“Daddy, can you make those?” I honestly had no idea. Up to that point I was not a big fan of ribs, but for $9.99 with a salad, it was a good deal. I blame my mother. Her idea was to cut the racks into single pieces and boil them for at least 3 hours before covering them in spaghetti sauce and cooking them in the oven for another hour. I’m sure there was flavour there somewhere.

So when my daughter asked if I could do something, as a good dad, I took up the challenge, if only to see what I could do for my little girl and if i could cook more than burgers and chicken for her.

RibPasteGiven my past experiences with ribs, namely boiling and baking, it seemed to make sense to add flavour right to the meat and cook it into the flesh. Checking the grocery store, there were a variety of pre-made rib rubs and sauces, all seemed to have the same ingredients, and I thought about making my own rubs and marinades and testing what flavours complimented the meats well.

Some worked: curry/pineapple/apple was a hit; some didn’t: lemon/honey mustard. But it was fun every two weeks to drop two racks of ribs at dinner and ask, “Which is better, a or b?”

Usually we could tell by which rack was done first, but sometimes the runner up was deemed more creative and original. Then at the end of that summer, we went to the Oshawa Ribfest and we were introduced to a whole new beast: the smoked rib.

Flavors, layers, textures; I tried my best to decode everything I was tasting, only to ponder, “How on earth can I do this at home?”

I managed to catch the ear of a Pitmaster to compliment him on his product. When I asked him how I could do this, he said the four words I’ve since lived my life by when it comes to the BBQ:

Smoke.

Water.

Low.

Slow.

OnGrillI began pricing various BBQ’s and realized I didn’t have the money in the budget to purchase one of those gigantic smokers the Pitmaster used; nor did we have the space on the deck for one of those giant oil drum smokers. For a while we experimented with the gas grill, they were cooked. But gas vs wood is kind of like water vs wine. Sure, it’ll hydrate you, but the end result is just not the same.

Then one day my (then) partner said, “I think I found a smoker for you.” We headed over the next day. It was small, maybe room for 5 trimmed racks of ribs, or 3 whole chickens. It didn’t have an offset smoker box, so it meant only being able to utilize half the cooking space. But it would do the job. We plunked down the $150 and brought it You know that expression ‘you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette’? I had my own. ‘You gotta ruin some ribs to make a masterpiece.’

Rack after rack came off the grill dried out and flavorless. Shreds of pork peeled away like strips of jerkey. Everyone was polite. But I didn’t like them. Then one Saturday, I found the right combination of spices, water, smoke and temperature, and I discovered the secret ingredient.

Forget they’re there.

The problem was that I kept looking at them every few minutes, asking myself, “Is there enough smoke? Is there enough water? Are the coals burning in the right direction?” Every time I opened the lid, all that magic was being undone. Imagine biking up a hill, and you stop peddling every 20 seconds or so. remember how hard it was to get the bike going again. It was the same with the BBQ. The process had to start all over again.

So now I close the lid, go play with the kid, read a book, watch a movie, take the dog for a walk. Do anything but check on the food. It’s doing just fine on its own. That night at dinner, we had a hit.

Now that I had winner smoked ribs, it was time to fine tune the recipe. We’ve cooked dozens of ribs and countless other meals on this little smoker over the last three years. My daughter is more an active part of cooking now. We’ll go to the bulk store and she will pick out spices and mix them to see what the best flavour combinations will be.

Daddy/daughter time used to be in a movie theatre or restaurant. Now, it’s in our restaurant. And I think we’re ok with that.

The recipe is here.

Ribs in foil
Ribs in foil