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.
In London we have had one of the coldest, wettest springs on record. This morning when I went to the Marylebone Farmer’s Market people were heroically sitting in the nearby park wearing wool hats and scarves. I was wearing a winter jacket, and I was still chilly. Nevertheless, my circadian clock tells me summer is coming, or at least I think that’s why I have stopped craving big dark wintry stews and instead hanker after light fresh-tasting salads. This bulghur salad is a request from my sister. (I LOVE getting requests for recipes.) She apparently has a lot of bulghur in her pantry, and as it happens so do I: last week I crankily picked up a sack of coarse bulghur for 70 p from one of the innumerable Middle Eastern groceries that dot northwest London so I could meet the £5 minimum to use my credit card. But how fortuitous! I love this salad. 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