We had Christmas, next a germ-infested mini Basu and then my beloved grandfather passed away. In the meantime, UK's Channel 4 gave us Indian Winter. A classic example of how the Western media stereotypes India with one clean sweep. We are all slumdogs. Naturally. The posters were enough to send shudders down my spine. A celebrity chef, most famous for the excessive use of the F-word squatting on a railway platform amidst turbans, saris and drums. Shame they forgot magic carpets, snake charmers and a couple of Maharajahs. Then I saw the line up. There's a Hindi movie or two. A building design TV presenter to tell us why slums are wonderful. And the chef will learn about the, hold your breath, staggering diversity of Indian food. Why invite an Indian to help the creative process? I could go on, but I couldn't put it better than this or indeed this. Perhaps someone should inform Channel 4 that there's more to India than slums and samosas. Like this subtle and yet so flavourful Yakhni Pulao. Mother's Afghani ancestor's brought it with them to Delhi generations ago, and it then arrived in our Kolkata home where I literally grew up on it. Yakhni means stock and it's literally pulao cooked in stock. Meat in bone is best. But I have to admit I cheat mid-week with boneless meat, when I don't have a moment to make it to the butcher. Soft and comforting, this Yakhni Pulao is anything but a bitter pill to swallow.
Finely chop or puree the ginger and garlic with the yoghurt in a hand blender. In a bowl, mix together the diced lamb, yoghurt, turmeric, chilli and ginger garlic. Wash the rice well, and leave to soak covered in water.
While the meat and rice sit, slice the onion. Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan to high with two tablespoon of oil. When it’s hot, add the whole spices and as soon as they start sizzling fry three quarters of the onion for 10 minutes. You can sprinkle a pinch of salt to aid cooking.
When they are golden and sizzling, mix in the meat and marinade, the coriander and cumin. Toss in the pan for five minutes to brown the meat. If the masala mixture starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, just add a little hot water and scrape to release.
Next add eight cups of hot water, cover and leave the meat to cook uncovered on the high heat for 50 minutes.
While the meat is bubbling away, bring another pan to heat with the ghee. Saute the remaining onions until golden and set aside with a slotted spoon. Then drain and gently stir the rice in the remaining ghee. As it turns translucent, mix the rice into the meat and its stock – the “yakhni”.
Bring the rice to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until the rice is cooked. You should have a lovely, caramelised crust at the bottom of the pan too. Decorate with the golden fried onions and serve with nothing but a pot of stirred yoghurt.