I have been trying since last year to learn one delicacy at a time and attempting to make them in the most authentic form possible. I started by making Puran Polis for Holi (another version of which will be made this year) then Modaks – I couldn’t source all ingredients I needed so did best with what was available. But apart from sweet-dishes the one food item I really wanted to learn and make was the Biryani. Biryani, a beautiful dish prepared in many parts of Asia with each region having their own special recipe for it. It has a blend meat, semi spicy gravy, sweetness of raisins, some nuts and rice. Hence this is one of the very few delicacies which pleases my heart and my taste buds. So when I checked online for some recipes of Biryani, my screen was filled with all kinds and variations for it …Hyderabadi, Kashmiri, Lahore, Quick cooking, slow cooking, etc etc!! Overwhelmed by the number of recipes online, I turned to the one person who I remember makes an amazing biryani every single time …my Mum 🙂 Last year when I visited India to meet my folks, I looked over my Mum as she carefully went through the whole process of making this brilliant blend of rice, meat and spices!
Making a biryani is not something you can make in under 30 minutes and you require a really long list of ingredients for this. So when my Mum was teaching me how to make it, she broke down the process into a number of steps, some of which can be done a day prior to the actual preparation.
Biryani basically involves cooking a meat curry, cooking fragrant rice and then layering the two together with fried onions, potatoes and aromatics and cooking it together so the flavors blend with each other.
PS : This is not a “traditional” or “authentic” biryani recipe, it is just a recipe which has been made in my family since a number of years and I personally love its taste.
So to begin with the preparation, we started with frying the onions till dark golden brown and crisp. They are traditionally deep fried but you can pan fry them or roast them in the oven. I found a ready made air fried version of these in my local grocery store so I purchased them. I would suggest frying these before hand because they are required for the marination and the cooking too. Once fried you can let them cool and store in an air-tight container till required. Then comes the part of marinating the meat of your choice with a number of spices and aromatics. Make sure you take a darker cut of meat so it won’t dry out during the intense cooking process. So if you are using chicken, use the drumsticks and thigh portion and if you are using lamb use the lamb shoulder.
If you are using vegetables instead of meat, replace the meat with veggies like bell peppers, white mushrooms, baby corn and paneer (Indian cottage cheese).
I used lamb this time and I used 2 pieces of lamb shoulder cut into inch sized chunks. I marinated the lamb shoulder with yogurt, ground Serrano peppers, mint, coriander, fried onions, ginger garlic paste and spices like garam masala and red chili powder. This marination needs to sit for at least one hour and preferably overnight. I let the meat marinate overnight. Both these steps can be done the day before so you don’t have a lot of do on the day of.
On the day of making the biryani I gave myself at least 2 hours to go through the whole process, this is because I was making it for the first time so I needed to ensure every step was followed well. I started by making the curry in ghee. Before adding the spices, I fried some cubed potatoes and pieces of dried fruits in the ghee before proceeding to the tempering or the tadka. For this, I used whole spices like bay leaf, cumin, cardamon both green and larger one called “badi elaichi” ,peppercorns and cloves. These same whole spices are also used to cook the rice in so make sure you keep some extra handy. Once the spices were fragrant I added in finely sliced onions and tomatoes till they are mushy and then adding in the entire mixture of marinated meat. Once the sauce was simmering a bit, I added in a cup of milk and let it simmer and cook for almost 40 minutes on a medium flame.
While the meat was cooking, I moved to preparing the rice. I filled a pot with water and started to bring it to a boil. While it was heating up I added enough salt, the whole spices mentioned above and a teaspoon of ghee. Once the water boiled I added in the soaked rice and let it cook till it was 75% done. Then I drained out the water and let the rice sit till the curry was ready
Pro tip The trick to a perfect biryani is rice to meat ratio – rice should be double the meat you plan to use, and cooking the rice. Here, once you add the rice in boiling water, wait till the water starts boiling again then reduce the heat to medium and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and strain out the water.
Layering the Biryani – Once the meat is cooked, take out half the meat and gravy and start layering your biryani. Divide rice and gravy into two equal portions. Start with a base of gravy in the pot, layer it with rice (do not press the rice in). On the rice sprinkle half of the cooked potatoes and dried fruit, half a cup of chopped mint and cilantro, half a cup of warm milk. Repeat this again with the gravy and rice and cover with a tight lid.
Cooking the Biryani – There are two ways to this, if you are cooking on a stove top place the pot at the lowest heat for 15 minutes. If you are cooking in an oven then heat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place your pot on the top most tray for 10 minutes. Once done, let it stand for another 10 minutes before serving it up!
I know all this sounds like a long and tedious task and many of us would prefer to head out to the nearest Indian restaurant and order one up instead. But, if you decide to go ahead and experience the fun in making this wonderful delicacy here’s a free printable recipe. So print it out, stick it in your kitchen and get cooking!!
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