Biryani – even the word sounds so delicious and exotic, smells aromatic and promises a royal treat of highly fragrant basmati rice and richly spiced succulent meat, dish that is fit for kings and nobles. Though the word “biryani” which is derived from the word “biryan” has its root in Persia, the dish is known to origin in India during Mughal dyansty rules. As the saying goes that “necessity is the mother of all inventions” so does the biryani which is invented to feed the huge Mughal armies during the war times. And as the Emperors and their Kingsmen shifted, conquering regions as they go, the flavour of Biryani began to transform, incorporating the local flavours and and now we are blessed with so many regional versions of biryanis in India, each one with different taste profile. No matter from where or how it has originated, Biryani is one such dish that has able to unified our country in some sense and with its brimming aromatic flavours has touched the soul of every Indian.
This recipe of Awadhi biryani is from the treasure trove of my snippets that I had collected over the years as paper clippings from various newspapers and magazines. Those were the years when for the first time I discovered my love and passion for cooking and my baby steps into my mom’s kitchen began with cakes, pulaos and biryanis. The rich variation of spices and complexities has always intrigued me and I love to try them first before learning how to roll circular rotis perfectly. More so, these are the dishes that gives you ample opportunities to play with the flavours and no two biryanis are made same even with same set of ingredients.
To cook a good biryani needs patience, good understanding of spices, and the finer details of techniques involved in it. This is one such dish that can not be prepared in a hurry. It takes time and patience. Both rice and meat needs to blend gradually into each other, flavours need to intermingle. Meat should absorb the flavour of sweet smelling basmati rice and rice should have the fragrance of meat and the spices. I don’t have many recipes up my sleeve, but only one that I have perfected over the years. To start with, choose meat that is right for biryanis, and if that means going to butcher shop, then please go. Ask specifically for biryani boti. The boneless meat does not add up that much flavour as the meat with bones. Except keema biryani. Because good quality meat is equally important as good quality of basmati rice in the dish. Always go for long grain basmati rice, with good flavour that can hold its shape.
It takes time to prepare biryani masala but I wont advice you to prepare it ten days ahead. Because the spices looses its aroma if stored for few days. Nothing beats the freshness of hand-pounded spices. And do not make the mistake of dry roasting all the spices together. Dry roast the spices INDIVIDUALLY. Roasted spices has more deeper and earthier flavour and at the same time they lose their essential oils too. So best way is to heat a griddle at very high temperature and then switch it off. Spread the spices, leave it there for couple of minute, keep stirring and once the right note of aroma hits your nose, you will know the spices are ready to be ground.
Only make-ahead in the biryani recipe is the caramelized onions. You can do it before hand and can save some time. It takes around 20 minute to perfectly caramelize a large onion. You need to do that in low flame, else it will get burnt.
Awadhi biryani follows the yakhni method of preparing the meat and the stock. It takes time around one hour to cook a pot of yakhni. I usually follow that method, but there are times when I was too pressed for time, for such situation this recipe is shortcut method. If you want to go yakhni way, here is the link to know- how to prepare yakhni.
- Basmati Rice : 2 cup
- Mutton: 500 gm
- Onion : two large cut into thin slices
- Ginger-garlic paste : 1 tbsp
- Kashmiri / degi chili powder : ½ tsp +
- Yogurt : 2 tbsp
- Biryani masala - dry roast ¼ tsp each of shahjeera and saunf (fennel seeds) + one mace + one star anise + one inch cinnamon + 5 cloves + 4 green cardamom + 5-6 black peppercorn + 5-6 kebab chini (long tailed pepper) = grind it all together
- Turmeric powder : ½ tsp
- Cumin powder : 1 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Sugar : 1½ tsp
- Bay leaves : 4 small size
- Big / black cardamom : 4
- Saffron : a large pinch
- Milk : ½ cup
- Water : 2 cups
- Ghee (solid state / not melted) : 3 tbsp
- Keora water / rose water : ½ tsp ; 1 tsp
- Nutmeg powder : a large pinch
- First soak the basmati rice after three-four wash. Soak it for 30 minutes.
- You can make ahead this. Thinly sliced a large onion. After cutting the onion, open the slices with your hand. This will ease the caramelization process.
- Heat one tablespoon of ghee in a wide bottom pan. Add the onions, spread it out thinly. Add a pinch of salt and sugar in it to speed up the process.
- Stir in between and cook it in low flame. It will take around 15 -20 minute to get a nice caramelized color. Once done keep aside.
- While the onions are getting caramelized, prepare the biryani masala and the mutton.
- Wash the mutton thoroughly and squeeze out extra water. Rub salt and turmeric powder and keep aside for 15 minute. After that drain the excess water if any.
- In a heavy bottom pan, heat one tablespoon ghee, add more if you want. Add one thinly sliced onion and fry it till it gets brown color. Add the mutton pieces one by one.
- Fry the mutton on high heat till the rawness disappear. Switch off the heat.
- In a separate bowl mix the yogurt with ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, cumin powder, biryani masala.
- Add this to the mutton.
- Switch on the heat, and braise the mutton in high heat to medium heat till the fat separates.
- Add two cups of water. Cover and cook on low heat till ¾th cooked. Depending upon the quality of the meat, time taken will vary. It should be half cooked in 40 minute.
- You can use pressure cooker to speed up the process. I am from old school, so I cook it in dekchi.
- In a dekchi or big tumbler, bring ten cups of salted water to boil.
- Throw in the big / black cardamoms , one bay leaf and add the soaked basmati rice in the boiling water.
- Cook till half done. Grains will remain hard. It should take 5 minutes at max.
- Switch off the gas. Do not cover it.
- Drain the rice after 3-4 minute.
- Separate the rice into two part. And spread them thinly in a wide plate.
- Drizzle some melted ghee over it .
- Time the rice preparation perfectly with mutton. Because as soon as the rice is prepared, mutton should be ready too. So that, steam from the rice can be used up to cook the biryani. It will add the moisture to the biryani.
- Meanwhile soak the saffron in warm milk.
- In your biryani pot / handi / pan (I use pan with close fitted lid that do not let the steam escapes from it) place the bay leaves at the bottom.
- Add half the rice. Sprinkle it with saffron-milk.
- Layer it up with mutton and potatoes with the pan juices. Do not stir.
- Cover it up with layer of remaining rice.
- Sprinkle nutmeg powder over the rice.
- Layer it up with half of the caramelized onions.
- Sprinkle keora water / rose water. You can also use dried rose petals instead of rose water. They gives more deeper flavour,
- Cover the lid. (lid should be heavy and should be able to trap the steam. Biryani will get cooked in its own steam).
- Cook on low heat for another 30 more minute or till done. Keep a close watch on the steam and drying out sign. Else your biryani may get burnt at the bottom.
- Serve warm. Garnish with remaining caramelized onions.
- This biryani should be moist and subtly spiced. Like Awadhi biryanis are known for.
Will be back with Monsoon fest, stay tuned