Even without making drastic changes to the revered essence of Iftar, one can do a lot by simply experimenting and innovating with the classic. Gourmet caterer, Shweta Menon Kanuga, from Pllatterati, Andheri, tells us how:
Main course: Baked handi biryani casserole
Ingredients: 250 gm basmati rice (boiled), 2 chicken breasts (cubed), 3 large onions (finely chopped), 4 large tomatoes (finely chopped), 1 green chilli (slit), 1 Stick cinnamon, 2-3 cardamom pods, 2 cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 4-5 garlic cloves (chopped), 1 inch ginger (chopped), 1 tbsp ghee, 3 tbsp butter
For marinade: 2 tsp chilli powder, 1 and a 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/2 cup yoghurt, salt to taste
For white sauce: 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp flour, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1 tsp oregano, 2 garlic pods (grated), handful of mushrooms (chopped), 1 tsp pink cayenne pepper, 250 gm parmesan cheese (grated), 250 cheddar cheese (grated)
Method: Make a marinade by mixing the ingredients. Apply this on chicken pieces and let it rest for 2 hours. Heat ghee and sauté onions until brown. Add whole spices — garlic, ginger and green chillies — and continue to stir for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and let the mix simmer until the ghee separates. Remove pan from the fire and grind sauce into a puree. Add marinated chicken, salt and butter. Cook until the meat softens and allow to rest. For white sauce, melt butter, add flour and sauté for a few seconds. Gradually add milk and stir to thicken. Use chicken stock to gain a fluid consistency. Add oregano, garlic, pepper, mushrooms and salt, and keep white sauce aside. To assemble, grease a casserole with butter and line it with a thin layer of rice. On top, spread one-third of chicken mixture and one tablespoon parmesan. Continue to layer by alternating between rice, chicken and cheese. Finish with a sprinkling of cheddar and bake at 180 degree Celsius for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot with mint and raita.
“My Iftar spread has traditional favourites served with a touch of western influences. For appetisers, I’ve picked chana-batata, a popular street-side Iftar dish that has been spiked with a dash of lemon juice and avocados. The baked biryani with white sauce is my take on the classic, with hints of Greek moussaka. For dessert, I’ve made shahi tukda. Since I find traditional rabri too sweet, I’ve used crème anglaise as frosting,” says Shweta Menon Kanuga.
Appetiser: Chana batata pockets in avocado, lime and mint dressing
Ingredients: 2 medium-sized potatoes (cubed and fried), 1/2 cup black chana (soaked overnight and boiled), 1 onion (finely chopped), 1/2 avocado (chopped), 3 tbsp pomegranate, 1 tbsp roasted pine nuts and 1 iceberg lettuce (separated)
For the dressing: 1 and a 1/2 tbsp lime juice and zest of 1/2 lime. Finely chop 2 chillies, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp coriander leaves and 1 and a 1/2 tbsp mint. Salt to taste, a pinch of sugar
Method: Make salad dressing by mixing everything, except the herbs. Add chopped coriander and mint leaves and stir until frothy. In another bowl, mix black chana with onions and pomegranate seeds. Pour salad dressing on top and toss the salad. On a plate, place a curled lettuce leaf and spoon salad onto it. Garnish with avocado, fried potato cubes and pine nuts.
Dessert: Shahi tukra a’la verre
Ingredients: 4 slices bread, 1/2 cup ghee, 2 cups milk, 3/4 cup sugar syrup (made using equal quantities of sugar and water), orange food colouring, a few drops of rose essence, chopped nuts for garnish
For dressing: 1 and 1/4 cup milk, extract of 1/2 vanilla pod, 5 tbsp sugar, 4 egg yolks, chopped nuts for garnish
Method: Warm milk, add colour and rose essence. Mix and keep aside. Heat ghee and fry bread until crispy. Pour milk and sugar syrup on it. Cook slices until sugar seeps into bread. To make crème anglaise, mix 2 1/2 tbsp sugar and egg yolks until fluffy. In a pan, heat milk and add vanilla extract and sugar. Remove pan from fire and mix. Return pan to stove. To avoid curdling, ensure that you stir continuously. Once thick, remove anglaise from fire. To assemble, fill a shot glass with a spoonful of bread mixture and frost it with crème anglaise. Garnish with nuts and set in the fridge for 1-2 hours before serving.