A lazy Sunday, chilled beer and biryani escapades. What a perfect combination!
Biryani is most definitely a gateway to a blissful weekend. It has also been the gateway to heaven after many a night of drunken revelries.
Biryani is reminiscent with a big degchi, the traditional dum and of course the aromas that travel right to the neighbours! It is one of the most relished dishes in all of the Indian sub-continent.
In my household, chicken is the preferred meat. You can substitute it with Mutton (Lamb) or Fish, or only veggies.
Biryani is certainly one of the most time consuming preparations to whip up. So start early, stock some beer and play some good music!
The recipe we follow is as below. It will serve 3-4 adults
- Chicken – 1 Kg with bone
- Rice – about 1kg
- Onion – 10 large onions
- 5 medium potatoes chopped into four quarters each
- 4 large Tomatoes finely chopped
- A bunch of Mint leaves (Pudina)
- A bunch of coriander / cilantro (Dhania)
- 200 gms of Curd (plain unflavored Yoghurt)
- Coriander powder – 2 tea spoons
- Red Chilly power – as per taste
- Cumin Powder – 1 tea spoon
- Turmeric Powder – 3/4th tea spoon
- Whole Green Chillies – 5/7pcs
- Whole Dried Red Chillies-4
- Cinnamon (Dalchini) – 1 stick
- Cloves (Laung) – 4
- Star anise – 1
- Masala Elaichi – 2
- Mace -4-5 strands
- Green Cardamom Powder – use around 6-7 cardamoms for this
- Ginger – Garlic Paste
- Bay leaves – 4-5
- Cooking Oil
- A few strands of Saffron for the intoxicating aroma and color
- Lots of Patience and some beer to down as you cook!
- Right. So there is no easy way to do this. No short cuts. Unless you order in that is. Biryani takes easily 3 -4 hours of cooking time, and full attention during the whole while. So attend to all your calls, meetings and open a beer.
- First marinate the chicken. As the chicken will need to be marinated for about 3-4 hours, best to do this first thing in the day, even before chopping the onions. I usually marinate the chicken in Curd, Coriander powder, Turmeric, a pinch of red chilly powder, ginger garlic paste, mint, fresh coriander leaves and salt. Mix the spices, curd and chicken very well. Also, take a tooth pick, and poke the chicken pieces in places to ensure the ‘masala’ reaches the insides for that flavor explosion later on.
- Finely chop 8 onions lengthwise, and keep then under a fan to dehydrate. This will ensure that the onions remain crisp in the rice when the whole thing cooks.
- Saute the onions until they become brown. Dark brown just one step before seeming burnt. Then keep aside. Save the oil for later use. The barista as these fried onions are called is the star of the dish, so don’t rush this up!
- Saute the chopped potatoes in the same oil till they are nice and brown.
- Cook the rice till it is 65% done. Pop in the bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, masala elaichi, star anise and the mace while the rice is cooking. It is important that the rice does not get cooked fully at this stage as it will be further cooked post assembly.
Note : We usually cook the rice with plenty of water and set the flame high, and keep checking on the grains until they are about 65% done and then drain all the water. We then spread the rice on a large flat platter for it to cool and strew the cardamom powder on top. So what we get at the end of it are separate beautiful aromatic grains of rice. We don’t want a lumpy khichdi like biryani in the end. This part, well yes it does needs loads of attention. You mess the rice and your biryani goes for a toss.
- In the onion fried oil, add the whole red chillies. Keep the heat low or else your chillies will burn.
- Add the remaining onions,that are finely chopped. Fry them till they turn a beautiful golden brown (not dark brown – we are done with the barista). Pop in the tomatoes next and saute till they are all gooey and paste like or till the oil starts leaving the sides of the pan.
- Add the marinated chicken to this and then add some cumin powder and chilly powder. The chicken should be cooked just right. The chicken will cook through one more time ,when the whole biryani is assembled, so be careful not to overcook the chicken at this stage, or else you will have dry rubbery chicken on your plate.
- Now for the assembly. Take a heavy bottomed vessel. Something like a Pressure Cooker works perfectly. A degchi will work too, if you have one that is!
- Grease the vessel with ghee (clarified oil) and a light hand. And then make a bed of rice about one inch thick.
- Assemble all the meat masala right on the bed of rice – A valuable tip given by food blogger, food lover, caterer, archaeologist, professor and dear friend Kurush Dalal.
- Now the way we assemble is – have a layer of rice, then a layer of the onions, potatoes and the coriander and then a layer of rice again. Keep doing this till your container is full. The top most layer should be a generous helping of onions and loads of coriander. Add another layer of rice, then another layer of the fried onions and potatoes and so on till the container is full, or you are out of rice, onions and potatoes!
- Once the assembly is done, make 3-4 little holes in the biryani with a knife. Into these little wells pour some hot melted ghee. Cover these wells up. Take the saffron add in a few spoons of lukewarm milk and let the saffron dissolve. You could do this right in the beginning when you are in the midst of your barista making process, so the saffron leaves its colour in the milk for long! Take the potion and sprinkle literally over the assembly so that it seeps through the assembly. This will give color and fragrance to the rice.
- Seal the vessel with dough. This will ensure that the steam cooks the rice and meat inside the vessel and all the spice aromas remain.
- A useful tip: Keep a Tava right below your cooking vessel, so your meat at the bottom doesn’t burn.
- Cook for 45 minutes on medium heat.
- Serve hot with Raita / Yoghurt and of course all the left over beer! Enjoy.