Murgh Pallau at Darjeeling Express supperclub – Guest blog by Zoe Perrett

Chicken biryani

About Zoe (in her own words)

“I’m Zoe Perrett- also trading under the alias of The Spice Scribe. I’m a food writer, eater and cook specialising in all aspects of Indian cuisine. Based just outside of London, sharing  a tiny cottage with thousands of cookbooks and spice cupboards full to bursting, I’m on a perpetual quest for edible knowledge in the form of chefs, people, restaurants, products and enterprises small and large that challenge the narrow perceptions of such a vastly diverse food culture.”

For more of her thoughts on Indian food, here is Zoe’s excellent blog!

Here is Zoe’s review:

I have been instructed to bring a timer – duly forgotten – and Asha is so stressed about remembering to remove the biryani pot from the heat that she’s started softly singing herself Bollywood lullabies. But when the lids are lifted, clouds of sweetly perfumed steam erupt, heady with zaffran and cardamom; and the heaping platters Asma Khan conveys to her Darjeeling Express supperclub diners carry mountains of rice elegant in their majesty.

As the hungry hubbub of the dining room dulls to the muted happy chatter of the well-fed, I nab myself a kitchen perch and a bowlful of pallau. Like a latter day Jack Horner, I shove my fingers deep into the mound of perfectly separated grains and just like Jack, pull out a plum. Or a gooey, jammy aloo Bukhara, at any rate. It melts into and melds with the grain, the sweet-sharp bursts more than making up for any lack of potato action.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this girl saves her biggest ‘gosh-es’ for gosht. But, if it must be murgh, this is one of the finer ways to go ‘feather not leather’. I have food blogger Kaniska Chakraborty to thank for that wonderful expression of species differentiation, and will pay him full credit for livening up my lexicon in much the same way Asma’s pallau has livened up the humble bird. Succulent and sweet, this is a resolutely non-foul fowl specimen.

To breathe this biryani’s breath is to breathe India – that evocative, provocative scent that seeps clean into your soul. Today Asma has served her pallau with mirch ka salan – the whole green chilli dish bringing a spicy, nutty Hyderabadi bite to the table. Alternating mouthfuls is a little like being alternatively warmly hugged and mischievously pinched. Pain and pleasure administered by pallau -  surely the most acceptable face of delicious self-abuse.

Rice grain separation – 5/5 They would not dare to clump under Asma’s fiercest glare!

Meat/veg harmony –4/5 But I was sampling the ‘kitchen’s cut’, to be fair. For the delighted diners, I believe 5/5 would suffice.

Spice blend perfection – 5/5 Bang. On.

Potatoes – NONE, but aloo bukhara a fine replacement….

Fried Onion Finish – Just right

Wet/Dry Index – Perfect – well done on the timing, Asha!

Overall – 5/5 Says it all.

I wouldn’t have expected anything less. Asma would not serve anything less. This is the beauty of placing emphasis on using only the finest ingredients, of replicating ancestral recipes dating back generations so faithfully, in never, ever cutting the tiniest corner. It’s an admirable ethos sadly lacking in many restaurant chefs. The rise of the supperclub means the opportunity to eat the food of households you may never normally be invited into. Eat well and with relish, as did I!

Here is more information on the supperclubs run by Darjeeling Express.