This is the story of a Pakistani family living in London. They try to fly under the radar because their father was a terrorist, even though they never really knew him because he was not a part of their lives. When their mother died, the eldest daughter, Isma, put her education on hold to support her two younger siblings by working at a dry-cleaner’s shop. The book begins with Isma, detained for questioning at Heathrow and consequently missing her flight to Boston, where she would then travel west to Amherst to begin a PhD program, now that the twins were grown and going off to pursue their own careers. In Amherst, Isma met Eamonn, son of Karamat Lone, a Muslim MP recently elevated to Home Secretary. Isma concealed the fact that their lives were loosely connected until just before Eamonn returned to London, where their lives became inextricably connected. One of the themes of the book is “like father, like son,” relating to both Eamonn and his father, and Isma’s younger brother, Parvaiz and their father. Aneeka, Isma’s younger sister and Parvaiz’s twin, completes the cast of main characters. The more I think about this book, the more I love it. This one is so different from Burnt Shadows, the other book I read by this author, but equally as compelling. This was Shamsie’s retelling of Antigone. I wondered how she was going to incorporate the “enemy’s” refusal to return the body of a brother for burial in a modern retelling, and was not disappointed by her device.
The last sentence of the book was stunning, evoking the image below.
An ancient banyan tree in the dappled sunlight.
When Parvaiz texted Aneeka that he was coming home, he wrote, “I’m going to the consulate now. Will be home soon- biryani when I get there? Page 131 of the recipe book.” I understood why this is what he wanted when we had it for dinner the other night. Oh my, my, it’s good.
Chicken Biryani – Instant Pot
Servings: 6 -8
2 tsp garam masala (add 3 tsp for spicier Biryani)
1 T ginger grated
1 T garlic minced
1 T red chili powder
½ tsp turmeric
¼ C of chopped cilantro
2 T lemon juice
¾ C plain yogurt
2 tsp salt
2 lb whole bone in chicken skinless cut into 12 pieces (If using chicken breasts cut into 2 inch pieces)
1 C Basmati rice
3 T ghee divided
2 large onions thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
6 boiled and shelled eggs (optional)
1 jalapeno sliced into 8 wedges optional for extra spicy **
Make the marinade by mixing garam masala, ginger paste, garlic paste, red chili powder, turmeric, half of the chopped cilantro, lemon juice, yogurt and salt. Add chicken and coat evenly with the marinade. Keep in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
While the chicken is marinating, wash and soak the basmati rice in water. Keep aside for 20 mins.
Turn IP to Saute (Hi). After the ‘hot’ sign displays, add 2 tbsp of ghee and thinly sliced onions. Cook, stirring frequently for 15 mins or until the onions are golden brown and caramelized. Take out half of the onions and keep aside for garnishing the biryani.
Add 1 tbsp of ghee to the IP with half of the caramelized onions already in the pot. For extra spicy Biryani add sliced jalapeno. Add bay leaves and marinated chicken. Mix well, deglazing the pot with a spatula to take out any browning of the pot from sautéing the onions.
a) For Chicken on bone – Close IP and turn pressure valve to sealing. Set IP to Manual mode for 4 mins. Follow with Quick release. Give the chicken a quick stir. or
b) For Chicken Breasts – Mix well and cook on Saute mode 3 minutes.
Drain the rice and gently pour over the chicken. Add 1 tsp of salt. Add one cup of water or chicken broth. Close IP and turn pressure valve to sealing. Set IP to Manual mode for 6 mins. Follow with Quick Release.
Gently fluff and mix the rice with the chicken on the bottom of the pan.
Garnish with the remaining caramelized onions and cilantro.
Serve with Raita, hard boiled egg and lemon wedges.
** This recipe makes medium spicy Biryani. For extra spicy add jalapeno. OR add another tsp of garam masala to the chicken.
TRADITIONAL INDIAN RAITA
YIELD: Makes 1 cup
½ C plain yogurt
½ C chopped seeded English hothouse cucumber
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp chopped green onions
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cumin
salt to taste
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt. Chill raita, covered, until ready to serve.