Biryani is the royal dish amongst all the exotic rice dishes of India, and remains the dish to serve on all best and auspicious occasions. Whether one serves it to welcome house guests on their first day, or whether it be the main course of the menu in formal entraining, or a gala festivity, the painstaking care which the housewife will take in the preparations of Biryani will commence when she selects her ingredients. Nothing but the best will do. Although there are numerous variations of Biryani, our carefully compiled recipes are fit to serve Royalty. The pride and care that goes in the making of Biryani is a story itself. We remember nostalgically, the day when grandma used to make Biryani. The frying of the onions just to that particular goldness; the weighing of the saffron with the precision of a goldsmith; the marinating of the meat in the spices and curds; the weighing down of the lid with a brick; the listening in, in order to ascertain whether it is ghee or moisture that is sizzling, plus a lot of other rigmarole. We must confess that in those days the pot of Biryani, when finally opened, announced itself to the whole neighbourhood, and the aroma and fragrance that emanated was sufficient to make the most fastidious smack their lips in anticipation. Whilst we cannot indulge in all these time consuming activities, here is a recipe which even grandmother will be hard to put improve upon.
- 1 ea. (1.5 kg) whole chicken washed and jointed
- 2 cups masoor (whole black lentils)
- 2 cups rice
- 2 pieces cinnamon sticks (tuj)
- 4 elachi (cardamom pods)
- 1 tbsp jeera (cumin)
- 4 green chillies
- 1 cup plain yoghurt
- 2 tbsp fresh grated or pureed tomato
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 springs mint
- ¼ tbsp saffron
- ¼ tbsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp coriander
- 1 1/5 tsp red chillies
- 5 small potatoes
- 3 hard-boiled eggs
- ¼ cup oil
- 2 fair-sized onions
- ½ tsp ginger
- Allow saffron strands to become crisp over very low heat. Crush finely with the back of a spoon. Steep in 1 tablespoon of hot water.
- Fry onions in oil to a pale golden colour. Drain and cool. Leave aside 1 tablespoon of fried onions, and crush the rest coarsely.
- Wash the chicken pieces, and place in large bowl. Rub the saffron, ginger, and garlic over the meat pieces by tossing it around with a spoon.
- Add yogurt, tomatoes, spices, fried onions, whole green chillies, mint, 2 elachi (cardamom) pods, and 1 piece of tuj (cinnamon) to the chicken. Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, boil masoor in salted water until done. Drain off in colander.
- Boil rice with 2 elachi (cardamom) pods and 1 piece tuj (cinnamon) until half done. Drain well.
- Fry potatoes to a light yellow colour the oil used for frying onions. Remove from oil and set aside.
- In a large flat bottomed pot (2–3 litre size), add the oil that was used for frying, plus half of the ghee. Sprinkle a handful of rice and masoor over the bottom.
- Arrange the marinated chicken and spices carefully over bottom of pot. Spread the masoor over the chicken, then add the potatoes, then half of the rice.
- Add the hard-boiled eggs, and spread the rest of the rice on top. Many people prefer to tint a few tablespoons of the white rice with a tinge of saffron, then spread it in streaks over the white rice. This looks very attractive and puts the finishing touch to the biryani.
- Decorate with left-over fried onions, then sprinkle the rest of the ghee and ½ cup of cold water over the top.
- Close and seal lid of pot tightly. Place over high heat for 5 minutes and as soon as it starts sizzling, lower heat and let simmer for 1 hour. By this time, all moisture should have evaporated.
- Serve with fried rice papads, onion kachoomers, spiced dahi.
Notes, tips, and variations Edit
- If mutton is used, then add 1 more teaspoon of ginger/garlic, as well as ½ cup more of yoghurt. The pot should be allowed to steam half an hour or so longer depending on the toughness of meat.
- Remember to crack elachi pods open by pressing between fore-finger and thumb, but take care that seeds do not spill out.