Wednesday 13 January 2010

Patak's Oven Bake Biryani

Indian cuisine seems to have undergone a bit of an image change over the past few years. When I was a student, the phrase "Anyone fancy a curry ?" would have us all grabbing our coats and heading off to the nearest curryhouse or picking up the phone to order a takeaway. These days, wherever you look on TV, you can see chefs making curries from scratch, grinding the whole spices with a morter and pestle and heating them in a dry frying pan to release the flavours, then concocting complicated combinations of ingredients to get a truly authentic Indian dish. Gone are the days when "chips with curry sauce" from the local chippie or adding a couple of teaspoons of musty orange powder from a tub labelled "medium curry powder" to a bog-standard chicken casserole could be counted as making a curry. Well, that's great ... but sometimes we just don't have the time to start from scratch, even if we know exactly what to do to knock up some first-rate grub. As a working mum with three kids, I often don't have the time or the energy to cook from scratch in the evenings - but I also don't want to feed junk to the family.

Cook-in sauces offer a great compromise. You still add fresh ingredients (usually meat and vegetables) so you are eating healthily but you don't have to worry about seasoning and exotic ingredients. The even better thing about these new Oven Bake Biryani sauces is that it's a one-dish meal. The uncooked rice is added to the sauce so you don't have to waste time and make more washing up by cooking a side dish separately.

The instructions couldn't be easier. Preheat the oven, fry some chicken in a pan, put it in an ovenproof dish, pour over the sauce, add 150g uncooked rice and a little water, pop on a lid and stick it in the oven for 35 minutes. Put your feet up for half an hour (or, more likely, get the kids bathtime out of the way, unload the dishwasher, reboot the laundry and wash up the frying pan you've just used !) and you have a complete, tasty, wholesome meal awaiting you. Ta-da !

If you want to make this into a real credit-crunching meal, it's a great way of using up leftovers. I replaced the chicken breasts with left-over roast chicken plus all the leftover cooked potatoes and veggies from Sunday dinner, adding in some fried mushrooms to make it go a bit further (and keep Juliette happy because she loves mushrooms!). The jar says you could use it with prawns, mixed vegetables, lamb or beef so you could basically use it to resurrect leftovers whatever you've eaten the day before !

I don't actually possess an oven proof dish with a lid, let alone the tight-fitting lid they advise on the jar, so I just put a sheet of foil over the top and squished it around the edges. As long as it gets a bit of steam building up to help cook the rice, it'll be fine. If you can, pull it out of the oven for a quick stir a couple of times (but if you really are bathing baby, don't panic - it'll survive without you !) You might want to add a little extra water too towards the end, if it's drying out too much, but biryani is supposed to be drier than curries that have the rice separate so don't panic if the sauce is all soaked up. As they say on the website, "Unlike your usual saucy curry, a Biryani is a dry, spiced rice dish with meat or veggies, and is a classic Indian restaurant favourite. Our new range of Biryani sauces allow you to create this the traditional way - in your oven, and honestly it couldn't be easier. Our Medium & Aromatic Biryani sauce combines authentic spices with ginger, coriander, paprika & lemon - so all you need is some chicken, some rice... and an oven."

However hot you like your curry, you can adapt this to suit your tastes. It comes in three varieties - Mild & Fruity, Medium & Aromatic or Hot & Spicy. And you can always take the spiciness up or down a notch with a bit of extra chilli powder or cream. We tried the medium & aromatic sauce and, although it smelt really fiery while cooking, it was - as the name suggests (and unlike numerous other supposedly mild sauces we've tried in the past !) - quite tame.

The best thing is, especially if you're using leftovers so you don't even have to cook the meat, it's a quick dish that you can prepare in advance with a minimal amount of effort (and washing up !).

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.59

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