Handi or Haandi (pot), Kadhai (Indian wok) and Tawa (griddle) are three most commonly used utensils in Indian cooking and most of the Indian delicacies can be cooked in one of these vessels. Many recipes just got their name from these utensils like Kadhai Paneer etc. We thought that doing a series of recipes in each of the utensils will be fun and innovative for our blog.
So readers, welcome to our Haandi cooking series where we will try to cook and post one to two haandi recipes every week for next few weeks.
A Haandi is a deep heavy bottomed and narrow mouthed pot traditionally made with brass or copper. After lots of searching online stores and numerous trips to various Indian stores in New Jersey and New York, we could not find a proper Haandi to our liking for cooking.
So eventually, we decided to buy a deep 6 quart (approx 6 litre) dutch oven because it gave us the feel of a haandi when we picked it up in the store. The dutch oven is so much similar to the Indian haandi. It has thick walls, heavy bottom, it is deep and has a lid that is perfectly safe to put in oven.
Two important aspects of haandi cooking are Bhunao and Dum. Bhunao is a combination of stir frying and sauteeing on medium to high heat with slowly adding small quantity of water or yogurt to avoid the ingredients and spices from sticking to the pan till the oil or fat separates indicating that the spices and ingredients (onion, ginger, garlic etc) are cooked and its time to proceed to the next phase of cooking (which is mostly adding the main ingredient). Dum which literally means steam is a method of slow cooking where the haandi is sealed with dough to prevent any steam to escape. In olden days, the whole sealed haandi will be put in smouldering coal covering it from top to bottom for even heating. Today, the electric oven is used for providing the function of even heating. In Dum cooking, the main ingredient is cooked partially and then at the time of sealing the lid with dough some additional accompaniments are added for flavor and aroma and then slow cooked in oven. The food continues to cook in its own steam which condenses back into the food retaining the aroma and flavors of all ingredients in the delicacy.
Our first Haandi recipe is “Kale Moti Biryani” for which the direct translation that comes to mind would be “Black Pearl Rice Pilaf“. In this recipe black chickpeas (kala chana or bengal gram) simmered in gravy and basmati rice, layer upon layer, make for a royal treat.
This was the best tasting biryani we cooked till now. This vegetarian biryani beat all the mutton (goat meat) and chicken biryani we have cooked in our lifetime. The aroma of saffron and the spices were intrinsically blended with the biryani and the chickpeas were soft. We did not even realize that we finished our biryani as is without even touching the raita on the side.
On the other hand, preparing this delicacy was a little time-consuming though. The list of ingredients is long but then that’s the secret of getting all the exotic flavors and aroma. We were so busy keeping track of things in order that we forgot to switch on the main powerful light in the kitchen that we installed for the purpose of video recording. As a result, the video has poor lighting. If it would have been any other recipe, we would have done it again for the sake of video quality but doing this recipe once again was too overwhelming. So please watch the video for the recipe and pardon the dark video quality.
Serves 4; Preparation time: 45 minutes; Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
For the rice: Basmati Rice – 2 and 1/4 cup (250 gm); Milk – 3 and 1/3 cup (800 ml); Whole Garam Masala [Green Cardamom - 5; Black Cardamom - 1; Cloves - 5; Cinnamon - 1 inch; Bay Leaf - 1; Mace; 1 Pinch]; Salt – 1 tsp;
For the chickpeas (black pearls): Black Chickpeas (Kala Chana) - 1 and 1/4 cup (250 gm); Salt – 1 tsp; Ghee (clarified butter) – 1/2 cup (100 gm); Ginger - 1 tbsp (15 gm); Garlic – 5 cloves; Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp; Turmeric Powder – 1/2 tsp; Yogurt – 3/4 cup (200 gm); Tomato – 1 and 1/2; Potato – 3; Green Chili – 3;
For the garnish: Cilantro or Coriander leaves – 1/2 cup; Fresh Mint Leaves – 1/4 cup; Ginger – 2 thin slices; Green Chili – 7; Tomato – 1 big; Onion – 3 (small); Yogurt – 1/2 cup; Garam Masala – 1 tsp; Green Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp; Saffron – 2 tsp (1 gm); Milk – 1/4 cup (60 ml)