Food writer and TV chef, Anjum Anand walks us through the top five mistakes we make.
If you feel ready to step up to the challenge and cook a curry like the best of 'em, Anjum has a biryani recipe for you...
Malabar Prawn Biriyani | Serves 4-5 (can be doubled)
500g large prawns, shelled and deveined and washed
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
For the sauce:
2 tbs. vegetable oil plus 2 rounded tbs. ghee or butter
3 small onions, finely chopped
2 small-medium tomatoes, chopped
8 large cloves garlic, grated into a paste (around 2 tbs.)
30g ginger, peeled and grated into a paste
3⁄4-1 tsp. powdered fennel seeds
11/2 tsp. garam masala
1⁄2 tsp. red chilli powder or to taste
1 tsp. turmeric powder
12 fresh curry leaves (add a few extra if dried) plus another 8 for the rice
Handful of fresh chopped coriander plus 2 tbs. chopped for assembly
2 tbs. chopped mint leaves
For the rice:
1 tbs. vegetable oil
2 tbs. ghee or butter
2 small onions, very finely sliced
400g Basmati rice, well washed
1” cinnamon stick
10 black peppercorns
6 green cardamom pods
Marinate the prawns in 1⁄2 tsp. turmeric powder, good pinch of salt, the black pepper and half the chilli powder. Set aside.
To cook the rice:
1) Wash the rice really well in several changes of water or until the water runs clear. Leave to soak.
2) Heat the oil and ghee in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan which has a lid. Add the whole spices and cook for 30 seconds or until aromatic.
3) Add the onions and 1⁄2 tsp. salt and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, then turn the heat up and cook until golden. Meanwhile, drain the rice and add it into the golden onions.
4) Stir well over a high heat to dry off any excess water and coat the rice in the oil for about 2-3 minutes.
5) Add your water to the pan, taste and season well. The water should taste a little salty or the rice will be a bit flavourless.
6) Add 1 tsp. of the lemon and extra curry leaves, slightly torn.
7) Bring to a boil then cover and turn the heat right down. Cook undisturbed for 7-8 minutes then test a grain. If it is done, take off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes then spoon the rice out onto some open plates to prevent them overcooking. You can use this pot for the final assembly.
To cook the prawns:
1) Heat 1 tbs. oil in a medium-sized non-stick saucepan. Add the prawns in and sauté for 1 minute. Spoon out and set aside.
2) Add the remaining oil and ghee and heat before adding the onions, cook really well until very soft and then golden.
3) Add the curry leaves, ginger and garlic and sauté over a gentle flame until garlic is cooked through, around 1 minute.
4) Add in your spices and tomatoes and seasoning and sauté for a few minutes.
5) Add a splash of hot water (I put the kettle to boil as I start to cook) and continue to cook until the tomatoes have collapsed, darkened and the paste releases some oil, around 8-10 minutes.
6) Taste, it should be harmonious, if not cook a little longer, adding some water if you are worried about it being too dry but then cook down to a paste before the next stage.
7) Add your prawns back in along with the herbs, 2 tsp. lemon juice (or to taste) and a good splash of water (from the kettle) and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the prawns are cooked through.
8) Taste, it should be delicious, adjust salt and chilli powder at this stage. The sauce should not coat the prawns but also not be a big curry. Take off the heat.
Place little bits of half the butter on the base of the rice pot. Layer over half the rice, sprinkle over the extra 1⁄2 tsp. garam masala and herbs. Then spoon over all the prawns mixture and finally topping with the remaining rice and remaining butter, made into little bits.
Cover with a tea towel and lid, make sure the tea towel edges are on the lid and not hanging near the fire. When you are ready to cook, place over a really low heat for 20-30 minutes or until when you take the lid off, it steams.
Leave for 10-20 minutes, off the heat, before serving. I spoon the whole thing out onto a platter, slightly rippling all the bits but not mixing properly.
Serve with a tomato and red onion raita.