Beach Days, December 2013

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! Wishing everyone a prosperous and exciting 2014! 🙂

Here are some shots I took last month while my family from the East Coast was visiting with us. We spent the day at Treasure Island in Laguna Beach — it was our first time exploring this beach and it was just excellent! So serene and beautiful. Will definitely be making a trip back there soon. 🙂






Backyard Silhouette, Spring 2012

My friend Liyna’s dad in the backyard as the sun was about to set — taken last April. I really want to practice taking more silhouette photos – I love the vibe.


Sabz at the M&M’s World in Las Vegas, Summer 2012

Hi everyone! Needless to say, it’s been almost a year (!) since I’ve last updated my blog, and I’m probably more sad about this than anyone. Life has been so crazy busy since I started law school in August and I haven’t had the opportunity to take as many photos as I’ve wanted. However, in efforts to spice up my blog once more, I’m going to post a couple throwback photos from 2012. Hopefully this summer I’ll go photo-crazy and have new interesting photos to post… Fingers crossed!

This photo is of my younger cousin Hussain Ali (nicknamed “Sabz”) at the M&M store in Vegas. We took a spontaneous trip to Vegas this past summer as neither my London fam nor my Massachusetts fam had ever been.

I took this photo with my iPhone, used the Camera+ app to make a couple quick edits, and I think it turned out pretty sweet! Love the movement.


Alessandra: My Beautiful Italian Friend

I had the pleasure of getting to know Alessandra, an exchange student from Italy, over the last few months as we diligently worked on her comparative article on American and Italian copyright law for the Law Forum Alumni Journal. I knew before going into this process that I would be in for a wonderful learning experience, and not only was I right, but I made an amazing friend along the way. Alessandra, it’s been an AWESOME (and fast!) last few months working together, and I’ve loved getting to know you for the warm, friendly, and radiant person that you are. I miss you already, but I know that you will make your way back to sunny California before we know it!! 🙂

Below are some photos from an afternoon we spent together in the Social Sciences area of UCI’s campus.

Big Feast: Hyderabadi Biryani Recipe

Hi everyone!

To those of you coming here from our Big Feast feature on, welcome! 🙂 As promised, the following is the recipe for the Hyderabadi Biryani, courtesy of Liyna. Enjoy!

Hyderabadi Biryani

1 whole chicken, cut up into 16 parts, no skin

6 cups basmati rice, rinsed

2 tablespoons garlic ginger paste

2 cinnamon sticks + 1 more for seasoning the boiling water

½ tsp caraway seeds + another ½ tsp for seasoning the boiling water

5 cardamom pods

about 5 cloves

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp turmeric

½ cup crushed up dark fried onions (fried onions are made by placing very thinly sliced onions in hot vegetable or canola oil and letting it cook down past the stage of caramelization – you cook until the strands are dark brown! The end result should have a deep sweet onion flavor. To get ½ cup of these fried onions, use 1 large onion.)

1 tsp salt + ¾ tsp more for boiling water

½ tsp of saffron

1 cup plain yogurt (you can also add some sour cream)

a few bunches of cilantro, should come out to about ½ cup chopped + a few more tablespoons

1 lemon

5 tablespoons ghee

*Please read the whole recipe before you start because I suggested some additional ingredients throughout the instructions 🙂

Rub the chicken with the ginger garlic paste. Let this marinate for as long as you can (at least ½ hour, the more the better).

(That dark pile on the plate on the right is the fried onions. That is about the color you are looking for. Also, don’t use the picture for gauging how much to use…we just put a pile of each spice on a plate so it would show up in the photo.)

Grind the cinnamon, caraway seeds, seeds from the cardamom pods, and cloves together. Add all these spices to the chicken. Then add the chili powder, turmeric, crushed fried onions, salt, and saffron (you can also crush the saffron in a mortar and pestle if you want to). Also, sometimes you can add a few spoons of your favorite biryani spice mix. Don’t feel like you’re going the “unauthentic” way by doing this! They usually are just a bunch of other spices and can help round out the flavor, no shame! At my house, sometimes my mom puts a little in, sometimes she doesn’t…depends on her mood. As long as you are doing everything else by scratch, a little prepared spice mix doesn’t hurt. The Shaan brand is good (try the Chicken Biryani flavor). Stay away from biryani spice pastes though…usually they are filled with a bunch of other weird ingredients.

Add the chopped cilantro. Add the yogurt.

Mix all of this completely and transfer into a small roasting pan (the kind you see in the picture. Make sure it has a lid). You can let this marinate for a while too (as long as you can) but if you’re in a rush you can skip it.

This mixture goes into the 350 degree (Fahrenheit) oven, uncovered, for just a little bit (about 15 minutes). Don’t cook it all the way, just until it’s a little brown…it should still be pretty raw.

While this is cooking, it’s time to make the rice. In Hyderabadi biryani, the rice needs to be par-boiled before you add it on top of the roasting pan. Place a pot of water over high heat. Add the cinnamon stick, caraway seeds, and ¾ tsp salt to season the water. When the water begins to boil, slowly add the rice.

Cook for about 9-10 minutes. This part is tricky and really practice makes perfect, there’s no exact time. Because this rice will also be cooking in the oven too, you need to make sure the rice isn’t par-boiled too much or too little. After it is done (the rice should still be a little hard), drain it. If you haven’t taken the chicken out of the oven, do that now. Add the par-boiled rice on top of this chicken.

Smooth the rice over the chicken. Add more chopped cilantro, the juice of one lemon, and the ghee. If you want you can also take some more saffron, heat it with about ¼ cup of milk and pour this over the top too.

Wrap the entire casserole dish with foil and then place the lid on top of it. Make sure it is tightly sealed. That extra tight seal is what really locks the flavors in and allows all the components to mingle and become one cohesive unit.

Place in the oven at 450 degrees (Fahrenheit) for about 30 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 300 degrees and cook for another 30 minutes.

After you take it out of the oven, let it sit for about half hour. Then mix the rice up and down gently to combine the chicken mixture from the bottom with the rice on top.

The Hyderabadi biryani is done! Serve with raita (also known as dahi ki chutney), which is a sauce made from yogurt. (This is really easy to make. Start with about ¾ cup of yogurt. Add water until it becomes a runny consistency…like the consistency of buttermilk. Then add chopped onions, cilantro, cucumber, salt, and pepper to taste. That’s a basic recipe. But you can add chopped radishes, chopped green chilies, etc.)

Yumm! 🙂 Hope you enjoy it! Serves about 10. Takes 2 ½ to 3 hours total to prepare.

Happy Birthday, Mamijun!

Mamijun is the name my cousins and I lovingly call my aunt, and today was her birthday! I wish I could have been there to celebrate with her, but she’s all the way in London, and I’m here in SoCal. Ah well, I definitely was with her in spirit, sending all my love and best wishes for the new year. 🙂 This is a candid shot I took of her during my family’s visit to London last summer — we were on the grounds of the London Eye, and I snapped this without her knowing. I’m a fan of everything about this photo, especially the colors and the character the sunglasses bring to the shot!

Springtime Adventures in West LA

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve actually been yearning to get back behind the camera for ages, but an opportunity never arose… Until last week! My friends Rani, Liyna, Aisha, and I had some fun exploring different parts of West LA. Though I didn’t get to take as many shots as I wanted, I definitely think the ones from the Venice Canals and LACMA turned out pretty well. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and will probably continue to repeat it, honestly): I am blessed with beautiful friends, inside and out. Here are some shots from the day!