My dads infamous Biryani.

Posted on July 26, 2011


My parents came to visit from Mauritius this month, which was cause for celebration and eating. My dad brought both my sister and I a traditional Biryani pot, which came with a cooking class at my sister’s house to pass on his infamous Biryani recipe. We enjoyed a day cooking and eating together, which brought back memories of my dad in the kitchen, the enticing smell of spice in the kitchen growing up and day long wait to eat this celebratory dish. Growing up, my friends complained that my house always stunk of spice. Looking back I was embarrassed but thought that their houses smelt lifeless and bland.  A memory so simple, but comforting when the aroma of dads cooking, crept like fog underneath the kitchen door filling the house with the scent of Biryani.

Cooking with my dad made me think about the loss of traditional cooking techniques and skills. Some which have gone back centuries. Like fine artwork or heritage listed buildings, these cooking techniques must be revived, passed on between generations and protected as part of history. It is sad when I speak to people of my generation that cannot cook and have no desire to learn. Food is the lifeblood of culture, it brings people together and creates a sense of community and identity. Sharing recipes and discussing food was a frequent occurance growing up. I think this is where I developed critique and food standards. It was a part of our family to sit at the dinner table discussing the meal present, what was missing, how it could be improved, and why it failed. This act of discussion encouraged recipes and cooking techniques to be distributed orally amongst the family.

I wanted to share my photos of the day, but not the recipe. I plan to cook with it, and perfect it till it’s my own, then I will post it here. Till then I will keep my dads recipe till I am happy to pass it on to friends and family, the same way he passed it on to my sister and I. Food has the wonderful ability to induce memories and emotions. Each time I make this dish I will feel closer to my parents, without having to cross the Indian Ocean.

Mauritian Biryani is influenced from India, it is a one pot meat and rice dish, similar to a pilaf. The most recognised Biryani is the Hyderabadi Biryani from India. Most countries have an adapted version of this dish. As the Biryani pot is sealed before cooking with dough, the meat and rice cook in their own juices, infusing the spices and making the meat and potato incredibly tender. They say the true test of a real Biryani is to drop it on the floor and if the rice sticks together in clumps it is not right. I didn’t try out this method for good reason, but I could feel with each bite that the outcome had been a success. Lightly spiced, subtle flavours and moist without being heavy. It was just the type of homely food I was yearning for. I cant wait to brush up my Biryani skills for my trip to Mauritius later in the year…..

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