I was in India recently for a long due vacation. And since this being the first visit home after our wedding, I got to stay most of the time at my inlaws. And was’nt it an eye-opener? There were so many traditions and words that were new to me. Fascinating to learn of course! I also visited a few places of which I had never heard of before!
One of the specialities of Hyderabad is the various biriyanis you get! Each of them taste different based on the spices that go in them but they usually get cooked by something called as the dum method. So this mixture of raw meat and spices and rice gets cooked in steam. It is unlike anything you would have ever tasted before! And the best part – I got to eat the biriyani cooked by my mom in law. And man, what can I say? If she was a man and I was unmarried, I would have asked her to marry me right then and there! It was unbelievably tasty!!!!!!!!!!
In all my travels through Aus, India and now Canada and US, I always try to taste the biriyani at the local restaurants or even made by me. And I make a mean biriyani myself! But the biriyani she made was just awesome!
I made sure I saw how she made it and got the details written down before getting back. So here goes for your pleasure-
2 kg Chicken – In India, you get the whole chicken cut. But here you can use thigh pieces or drumsticks. Breast is usually not recommended for this dish.
2.5 kgs Basmati rice – Any other rice will not make the dish taste good at all!
Water to boil – should be double the quantity of rice. More if required.
3-4 sliced and fried onions (fried in a mixture of oil +ghee)
25 gms garam masala (a ground mix of cardamom, cinnamon, shah jeera, cloves)
1/2 litre yoghurt – slightly sour would be good! If not, use regular
2 lemons juiced
2 bunches coriander leaves sliced
2 bunches mint leaves sliced
6 spicy indian or thai chillies
150 grams ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp MSG or aji-no-moto(optional)
3 tspns chilli powder
5 Bay leaves
salt to taste
5-6 tbsp oil +ghee mixture for frying the onions – More if you want to!
3 tbspns ghee for coating the rice
1-2 pinches saffron colour/saffron mixed with 3-4 tspns of warm milk
Coriander leaves for garnish
Wash the chicken thoroughly and squeeze all the water out. Marinate the chicken with all the above spices, mint, coriander, chillies and yoghurt. Use only half of the garam masala and fried onions. You will need the rest for later. I have found that the wetter the marinade is, the better for the flavour and also more gravy to mix the rice with. So I add a bit more yoghurt and adjust the spices accordingly. Keep it aside.
Note: The amount of spices will seem a lot to you but as this flavours the rice too, you do need to add it. Again, go easy on the chilli powder if you cannot handle the heat. Or you can start adding the spices bit by bit and stop when it is 2 levels higher than what you will normally have. This way you will end up with a dish exactly how you want. And because everything keeps well for a few days, you can save it in the fridge for the next time!
Now we need to cook the rice until it is half done. For this, take a cooking pan and boil water in it. The water should be double the amount of the rice. If you think you need more, go ahead and add it. Add the rest of the garam masala, salt to taste and the bay leaves. Once the water starts to boil, add the just washed rice to it (Do not wash the rice in advance and keep it aside). Add a few drops of oil so that when the rice starts to cook, the flakes do not stick to each other. Stir the rice and water together and let it cook. Keep an eye because it is critical to have the rice half-cooked. Once it is, immediately drain the rice and keep aside. If you have a sieve, drain the rice using it, immediately pour some cold water to ensure that the rice does not cook further.
Now take a wide deep vessel with a close fitting lid. Layer the marinated chicken at the bottom. Pour 3/4th of the oil mixture used for frying the onions on top of the chicken. Layer the half cooked rice on top of the chicken. Pour the remaning oil on top of the rice. Then add the ghee too. Now pour the soaked saffron colour on top of the rice in swirls all over.
Cover the lid with a thick cloth – no cheese cloth here for you need to trap the steam in the cloth helping the meat and rice cook. Now keep the clothed lid on top of the vessel. Make sure that no steam leaks by putting a heavy dish or pan on top of the lid to hold it down.
The next two steps can be done in 2 ways
1. Keep the vessel on the stove and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat slightly and cook for 5 minutes. Again increase the heat to medium again and cook for next 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. By this time, you should start seeing steam trying to escape from the sides of the lid. You can smell the biriyani already but just a little patience – dearies….. Cook for another 5 minutes on low heat. Then open the lid and check if the chicken is cooked through. If not, cook for another 5 minutes on low heat. Check if Chicken is cooked. If not, repeat the steps till chicken is cooked through.
2. I keep the vessel on a flat cooking pan and then cook it using the same procedure detailed above. This prevents the chicken from getting burnt at the bottom of the vessel.
Once the biriyani is ready, let it cool for 10 minutes and shift it to a wide baking tray – easier to mix the rice and chicken together giving an evenly coloured rice. Garnish with coriander and the remaining fried onions.
Now all you need to do is enjoy! And what makes it taste even better is my onion raita!MMM……………. Writing this has made me want to eat biriyani again!!!!!!