Kolkata Style Mutton Biryani
Kolkata style mutton biryani is a flavourful preparation of rice and meat, spiced up with aromatic spices, slow cooked over embers till perfection. Sounds simple, is not it? A basic and primitive preparation of rice and meat but when laboriously cooked with few choicest aromatic spices, lovingly caressed at each and every stages it goes through. Rules that should be followed diligently until that perfection achieved, in flavour and taste. That becomes biryani.
A feast fit for royals and nobles and for the commoner too.
My Homestyle Mutton Biryani –
Biryani is not everyday rice and meat dish for me. It is pure indulgence for me. Its elaborate cooking process is quite intimidating for many, but I found it quite enthralling and stimulating. A good biryani is however a mark of a seasoned chef.
And it took me years to get my biryani perfect. Because a prefect recipe is all we need to accomplish that.
This mutton biryani is very much home style one, sans any frills attached to it. Subtly spiced, rich but flavourful and not greasy. Most of the restaurant’s biryanis are so greasy and dry that I always ended up with digestive supplements to keep my tummy happy. Hence this venture to make biryani at home become necessary.
I had almost every kind of biryanis and more I explore, more it has fascinated me how this simple dish can hold multitude of flavours with clear imprints of its origin.
But at then end of the day, my heart always yearns for the Kolkata style mutton biryani because this is the city which has introduced me to biryani. I fell in love with it, the very first time , then over the years, again and again.
What Is Kolkata Style Mutton Biryani ?
Kolkata’s mughlai cuisine owes its origin to none other than Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow. Who had made Metiabruz , Kolkata his home after being exiled from his princely state Lucknow by the Brits. Kolkata’s mughlai cuisine does not limited itself to only biryanis. Mughlai paratha, mutton chaap, rumali roti, kebabs, quorma, kalia, paaya, pasanda etc all belong to the illustrious Mughlai cuisine, the city boasts of.
Hence, Kolkata style mutton biryani is basically a derivative of Awadhi Biryani with fried buttery potatoes as an added attraction. Now, potatoes are show stopper or an auxiliary actor, that is an individual perspective, but kolkata biryani without potatoes is just un-imaginable.
Kolkata biryani is a one pot complete meal, with juicy succulent pieces of mutton cooked together with fragrant basmati rice, with buttery potatoes that soaks all the aromatic flavours and adds such a nice texture to the dish. With slices of boiled eggs on side. You do not need raita on side to enjoy Kolkata biryani.
You will need however mitha/ meetha attar or sweet attar for making kolkata mutton biryani. There is no substitute for this. And if you omit this, your biryani will lacks the true flavour which very much gives an identity to this biryani.
Simplyfying Mutton Biryani In Easy Steps
Rice – Always go for fine quality par boiled long grain fragrant basmati rice. Making rice perfect for biryani is very crucial. And here is how to do it perfectly –
First, always wash the rice thoroughly till it runs clear water. That is remove all the starch water from the rice grains and this will take around 3-4 round change of water.
Second, I always boil the rice in excess water. For example, boil 2 cups of rice in 8 cups water. Excess water will ensure the free movement of rice grains. For biryani, rice is usually made in yakhni / akhni water for that whole spices are tied up in a cotton cloth and boiled in water. Rice is then cooked in that flavoured water. This is the best way to infuse flavour in your biryani rice.
Hot tip 1– always add a teaspoon of ghee while making rice for biryani. This will ensure that rice grains will not stick together.
Hot tip 2– Cook the rice till it is 80% cooked. Makes sense. Not to an amateurish cook. Putting it in a different way, cook the rice till grains have become big, but still it feels grainy to touch. Switch off the heat at this stage, let it remain uncovered for 4-5 minutes. This step will prevent you from over cooking the rice. Check and see if grains had become soft and fluffed up. If yes, drain the rice immediately. Spread it thin on a wide plate.
Meat – I had made biryanis both with regular large curry cuts of meat and with special biryani cuts too. Biryani cuts (meat from shoulder, legs and chest) makes better biryani. These cuts are juiciest and most succulent of all. Meat needs to be tenderized before cooking. Grated green papaya and hung curd both works fine. I prefer marinating the mutton in papaya, curd and spices overnight in fridge. Long marination time is usually prefers for making biryani.
While cooking the meat for the biryani I do not prefer to add water. Meat should be slow cooked on low flame till completely done and should have enough gravy and fat (oil that floats to the top after the meat is cooked completely).
Restaurants usually adds extra fat while cooking the meat. That makes the birayni quite greasy which I do not prefer.
Spices – The key spices in the biryani that lends the biryani it’s distinctive flavor comes from mace, nutmeg, cinnamon and black cardamom. Other spices includes are the regular ones like cloves, small cardamoms, peppers (both black and white), kebab chini (cubeb peppers) and black cumin or shah jeera. Tempering the oil for cooking the mutton with shah jeera however is very important as it gives the mutton its distinctive flavour. A bunch of bay leaves or at least 4-5 bay leaves infuses beautiful aroma into the biryani rice.
Flavouring The Biryani – Apart from the spices, the other key flavouring agent in Kolkata mutton biryani is saffron, meetha attar (sweet attar), keora water and rose water. Of all these sweet attar is must have, without which your biryani wont have that characteristic flavour. So do not skip this.
Potatoes – whether you like potatoes in a biryani or not, but kolkata style mutton biryani can not be imagined without the soft buttery potatoes. Many people prefers to use boiled potatoes in the biryani and in my opinion that prevents the potatoes from absorbing the meat and aromatic spice flavours.
I prefer to deep fry the potato till golden brown and then place them between the layers of rice. Which ensures that the potatoes will stay in shape and will evenly get cooked through and will absorb the flavours nicely.
Hot tips – when marinating the potatoes in salt and turmeric powder, always poke the potatoes deeply several times using the fork or steel skewers. This will helps in getting the potatoes cooked through.
Birista / Fried Onions – you can make this ahead and store it in airtight glass bottle. This helps in reducing the work load a bit. For 500 gm mutton I usually makes birista out of three big onions, sliced thinly. While making the birista, use pan and spread the onions thinly. A pinch of salt and sugar makes the caramelizing process faster. Around 20 minutes it takes to caramelize the onions perfectly. And drain the onions on tissue paper, which will make the onions crisp and dry.
Layering The Biryani – before layering the biryani, it is preferable to grease the inside of the pan or pot, preferably with ghee. A bunch of bay leaves are usually spread first on the pan, before layering the meat and rice .
Meat is layered first along with the gravy (you can reserve some for later use also), followed by half of the rice. Remaining gravy you can add now over the rice.
This is followed by half of the birista layer.
Potatoes are added next, nestled between the rice layers.
Remaining rice which has been flavoured with saffron is added next.
Many adds khova in the biryani too. I do not add khova, but adds around 1 cup full cream milk in the biryani, after the last layer of rice is added.
Rose water, meetha attar and keora water is added on top.
Last, generous drizzling of melted ghee over the biryani. You can sprinkle little bit of biryani masala too. And spread the remaining birista over the biryani.
Cooking the biryani – biryani is generally cooks in dekchi, lagan or handi. The biryani pot is sealed tightly with dough and this arrangement is known as dum cooking. And is then cooked over the slow charcoal heat. When the dough cooked up and cracks appears in it, indicates that your biryani is done.
At home, I use my 13 inch wide hard anodized pan which has a heavy glass lid that does not let the steams to escape, thus imitating dum style cooking. This pan holds enough space to cook 500gm mutton and 350gm rice.
For making biryani it is always recommended to use indirect heat. For that I use an iron tawa and heat it very well. On top of the iron tawa, I place my biryani pot / pan.
Around 20 minutes it should take for the potatoes to get cooked through. Check once after 20 minute by inserting a skewer inside the potatoes. If it is done, then close the lid and let it stand till serving time. If not, adjust the timings and cook till done.
Stir the biryani just before serving only.
Kolkata biryani is soft and moist and hence do not requires any gravy and raita to accompany it.
Kolkata Mutton Biryani
- 350 gm Basmati rice (aged, long grained)
- 2 Green cardamom
- 1 Black cardamom
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2-3 Cloves
- ½ inch Cinnamon
- Salt as per taste
- 2 tsp Ghee (melted)
- 8 cups Water or more
For Marinating Mutton
- 500 gm Mutton (biryani cut , 6-7 large piece)
- 1 tbsp Green Papaya grated
- 50 gm Yogurt (hung curd)
- 2 tbsp Ginger paste
- 2 tbsp Garlic paste
- 4 tbsp Fried onion paste
- 1 ½ tsp Biryani Masala
- ½ tsp Red chilli powder
- 2 drops Kewra water
- 1 drop Meetha attar (sweet attar)
- 1 tbsp White oil / ghee
- 4-5 Potato (use starchy ones)
- 1 tsp Salt and turmeric powder
- White Oil for deep frying
- 1 tbsp Ghee, melted
- ¼ tsp Biryani masala
- 3 Onions, large
- Oil as required
- 1 pinch Salt and sugar
- 3 Green Cardamom
- 2 Black Cardamom
- 2 Mace
- 1 pinch Nutmeg, grated
- ½ tsp Shahi jeera
- 1 tsp Kebab chini
- 1 tsp White pepper
- ½ tsp Black pepper
- 3-4 Cloves
- 4-5 Bay leaves (or 1 bunch)
- 200 ml Milk
- 1 pinch Saffron (soak the saffron in 1/4 cup hot water)
- Kewra water
- Sweet Attar / meetha attar
- 3-4 tbsp Ghee, melted
- Rose water
- 1 tsp Sugar
- ½ tsp Shahi jeera
- Thinly slice three big onions.Heat enough oil in a pan or a kadhai and shallow fry the onions till deep brown and crispy.Use a pinch of salt and sugar while frying the onions. This will speed up the browning process.Time take - 20 minHot tips- make it ahead a day before
Making Biryani Masala
- Dry roast all the ingredients listed under biryani masala and grind it into fine powder. Store in an airtight bottle. Make it ahead.
Marinating The Mutton
- Wash and clean the mutton well.Pat the mutton pieces dry.In a big bowl, mix all the ingredients needed for marination. Add the mutton pieces, rub it very well each and every pieces with the marinade.Cover and keep it in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight.
Fry The Potatoes
- Peel and wash the potatoes.Rub salt and turmeric all over the potato very well. Leave aside for 15 minutes.Drain the water and pat it dry.
- Poke several holes in the potato using a skewer or fork. This will ensure that the potatoes absorb the flavours well and get cooked through.
- In a kadhai, heat the oil. Add the ghee. Fry the potatoes till they are golden brown from all sides.Sprinkle a pinch of biryani masala while frying the potatoes.Drain the potatoes from the oil and keep aside.
Soaking The Rice
- Wash the rice thoroughly with few changes of water till the water runs clear.Soak the rice in clear water for 20 min.
Cooking The Mutton
- In a kadhai or any deep bottom pan, add 1 teaspoon ghee. Add 1/2 tsp shahi jeera and let it crackle.
- Add the mutton pieces along with the marinade. If you want add sugar, just 1 tsp. You can skip it too.Do not add water.Tightly cover the pot or kadhai with heavy lid.Let it cook on slowest heat till mutton is completely done.This will take around 45 to 60 minute.If requires add 1/2 cup hot water, only if the mutton gets dry quickly. Generally water is not added.
- When mutton is done, it will leave enough gravy and fat (that floats to the top after mutton is cooked).Separate the mutton pieces and the gravy-fat mixture. Keep aside.
Cooking The Rice
- Drain the soaked rice in clean net colander. Bring 8 cups water in a wide open saucepan to rolling boil.Add all the spices required for making akhni. You can also tie the spices in a white cotton cloth and put it in the water too.Let the water boils till the water turns lightly brown.
- Add salt and ghee to the water.Add the rice and let it cook on medium high heat till grains are double in size but still feel grainy to the touch.This will take around 5 minute or little more.
- Switch off the heat. Keep it uncovered.
- Check after 5 minutes if rice grains have become fluffy and cooked through.If done, immediately drain the rice and take it out in a wide open plate. Spread it thinly.
- By this time, mutton should be done. So time it accordingly.
Assembling The Biryani
- In a biryani dekchi / lagan / or pan (I use 13 inch wide hard anodized pan to make biryani), grease the inside of the pan very well with the ghee.
- Set the pan on low heat.OrSet an iron tawa on high heat. Once the tawa is hot enough, place the biryani pot /pan over the hot tawa and lower the heat.
- Lay the bay leaves in single layer on the bottom of the pan.
- Place the mutton pieces so as to cover the base of the pan nicely.
- Next add the gravy and fat mixture.
- Divide the rice into two equal halves. Add half of the rice, spread it in a single layer.Add half of the birista and spread it over the rice.
- Next, place the potatoes and drizzle 1 tsp melted ghee over it.
- Spread the remaining rice over the potatoes. Take care potatoes should not poke through the rice. It should be well covered with rice.
- Spread the remaining birista over the rice.If you want you can sprinkle 1 teaspoon biryani masala over the rice too.
- Add the warm milk now.
- Next add 2-3 drops of kewra water, 1 teaspoon rose water.3-4 drops of sweet attar / meetha attar
- Lastly add the saffron water. Make three or four samll holes in the rice layer and distribute the saffron water Do not pour all the saffron water at one place.
- Drizzle enough melted ghee over the biryani.
Cooking The Biryani In Dum
- I use a pan which has heavy tight lid, which does not allow any steam to escape.If you are using handi or pot, use dough to seal the lid of the pot/ handi.You can also use aluminum foil for the same purpose.
- Set the biryani on dum for 20 minute straight.After 20 minute, open the lid and quickly check if potatoes are done using a skewer. If done, then close the lid and let it stand till the serving time.
- If potatoes are not done, cook it further till done. But not more than 5 minute. By this time potatoes should be well cooked.
- But do not cook the biryani more than it is required. Your biryani will turn very dry.
- Stir the biryani carefully only before serving. Take care not to smash the potatoes.
Recipe Inspiration – This is very home style mutton biryani and I found two recipes in Calcutta Cook Book , which has many curated heirloom family recipes. In one recipe, there was mention of using aloo bukhara or dried sour plums. And in other there was no mention of potatoes in biryani. Both were family heirloom recipe and I have followed the recipe to the letters.
Hot tips – Timing should be perfect . That means by the time the mutton gets cooked, the rice should be ready too. That way rice will be soft and moist and not dry. If your biryani rice is very dry after it is cooked, use this tip.
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