Biryani, the storied Indian dish of fragrant layered rice, spices, and (usually) meat, if made well, is one of my favorite things. A good biryani is richly aromatic; indeed, a magnificently flowery aroma is an essential part of the dish. Biryanis are made throughout India, and preparation differs depending on the region. Some biryanis are made with coconut, some with ghee, yogurt, or buttermilk; spices may include cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, fennel, or mace, among many others. The intoxicating aroma usually comes from saffron, sometimes with a touch of rosewater or kewra (pandan syrup). The word biryani is said to be of Persian origin, a corruption of the word beriyan, which in Farsi means to fry before cooking, or birinj, which means rice. Biryanis are thought to have been brought to India by the Mughals in the 16th century, although some culinary historians believe the dish pre-dated the empire. Regardless of origin, the dish has proliferated—in Hyderabad alone, there are said to be over forty distinct versions.
Almost exactly a year ago, I ate at El Suadero, the Monday night Mexican pop-up at Sitka and Spruce in Seattle, which is where I had the unforgettable eponymous milk-braised veal brisket that inspired this dish. Sometime after I returned to London, I set about finding boneless rolled veal brisket, which is what I decided that I needed to recreate it. Starting from the premise that I would only buy free-raised veal, I bought two rolled veal briskets from the lovely people at the Wild Beef Company, which sometimes trades at the Borough Market, and excitedly told my father what I planned to make. My father, who is not a religious man but can have a cruel streak, intoned ominously, “Thou shalt not seethe the calf in its mother’s milk.” Continue reading
Bread-baking is the antidote to everything that people find frustrating about pastry. Measurements are imprecise and dependent on variables such as ambient humidity and elevation. You can be messy and aggressive; bread dough responds to abuse rather like a particularly eager masochist. Bread dough likes being slapped and pounded, and “rustic” is an aspirational term, rather than a euphemism.
I first started baking bread when I was about 11. A snarky, competitive, and somewhat fatalistic child, I decided to become a bread baker because it was the only type of kitchen craft that my mother did not execute impeccably; I didn’t want to cook things that she would always do better. Continue reading
June has been a busy month over at Susan Eats London, or perhaps it’s just that I have been busy. I have been doing lots of running around (a whirlwind trip to New York in the middle of the month, and then I’m going back again at the end of the week), and I’ve had a month of wonderful eating – generally thanks to the benevolent interventions of others. There was the gut-busting Indian luncheon prepared by the phenomenally talented Asma Khan, to which I scored an invitation after serendipitously meeting friend Nayan at the Marylebone Summer Fayre. There was the oh-so-British celebration of English asparagus courtesy of Friends Jess and Will, featuring asparagus three ways (although I ended up making the asparagus risotto and the roasted asparagus). And then there was beef. Correction: there is beef. A lot of beef. Continue reading
Last week a new friend of mine, Nicola (a brilliant cook and blogger in her own right), crowed on Twitter about a recent discovery: she’d found loads of wild garlic at a Secret Location. I immediately demanded to be taken to the spot. She agreed, but not before exacting a “wild garlic tax” (some of my orange-blossom-saffron-vanilla macarons). It was an easy trade. I adore wild garlic. Wild garlic, also known as ramps, wild leek, and wood leek, grows in cool damp woody areas. Its colour is strikingly chlorophyll green and it’s got a sharp allium flavour and intense aroma. It’s gorgeous stuff. Monday, the appointed day, was cool and very wet. Nicola picked me up from an Overground station, her sweet and excitable dog, Toro, in the back of the car, and drove us to the Secret Location, a lovely wooded path Somewhere In London. Continue reading
On Tuesday I finally had a long-planned lunch date with the lovely Sabrina Ghayour in Brixton Village. Initially conceived as an outing for an Honest Burger (really good burgers are hard to come by in London), it morphed into a four-hour movable feast (hashtag: #Brixtonfoodcrawl). After a tasty lamb samosa at Elephant and a burger so blessedly rare it was practically mooing, somewhere in between sourdough donuts at Wild Caper and mussels at Etta’s Seafood Kitchen (a chilled out Caribbean café a far cry from the Tom Douglas eatery of the same name in Seattle), what did I do? I shopped of course. For food, naturally. Continue reading
The great revelation for me when I moved to London was the availability of affordable game. In the United States, unless you hunt or know someone who does, it is very difficult to find anything more exotic than duck without paying through the nose for it. (Even duck is prohibitively expensive.) This is particularly true in New York City, where I grew up. Wild game? Forget about it. So it was with great excitement (seriously) that I realized in London, not only could I find game, I could actually afford it and get really good at cooking it. Continue reading
To those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that before writing this post I spent a considerable amount of time pondering whether I could call this soup a velouté. In classical French cooking, a velouté sauce is a combination of a blond roux (equal parts butter and flour) and a white stock (i.e., a stock made from bones that have not been roasted), and finished with cream. A velouté soup, at least back when the French were doctrinaire about such things Continue reading