Biryanis are visual delights: a beautiful array of long-grained rice, tender meat, pungent spices, flavourful nuts and most often, orange strands of exotic saffron. But wait, Veg Biryani is one strong contender for attention too! Our favourites at home are Mushroom Biryani and Kathal Biryani, the latter being cooked for parties too.
Originally, biryanis were counted as a north Indian dish (the Mughals based in northern India are the key innovators of this superb preparation) but this fragrant food soon found favour with the Nawabs of Hyderabad and Lucknow. Now, of course, it is a dish prevalent all over the country. And then with a yogurt salad, biryani is undoubtedly lazeez and complete meal, be it non veg or veg biryani.
A good biryani will typically be prepared by a method called ‘dum dena’ : dum literally means breath and the process involves placing the semi cooked ingredients in a pot or deg, sealing the utensil with flour dough and applying very slow charcoal fire from top, by placing some live charcoal on the lid and some below. The magic of dum is the excellent aroma, flavour and texture which results from slow cooking.
Steps for a perfect biryani
A good biryani from scratch needs:
Aromatic water: Aromatic water to cook the rice so use nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves, green and black cardamoms, fennel seeds, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Always cook the rice till three fourths done.
Food for the layers: This could be vegetables, chicken, or mutton.
Garnish layer: This layer needs crisp deep fried onions and fresh mint and coriander.
Saffron in milk: This is an important part in which some saffron is dissolved in milk.
Kewra water: This aromatic flavouring gives many biryanis its characteristic rich flavour.
Final layering: The top and bottom layers are always rice. Arrange a layer of rice. Add the food layer, garnish layer, dissolved saffron and kewra water. You can repeat this. After the topmost rice layer has been added, finish it off with a garnish layer.
Sealing the handi: Most chefs prefer to use atta.
Cooking: Preheat oven. And place the biryani pot. The time of cooking will depend on the amount you are preparing. At the time of service, break the seal or remove the aluminum foil. Or if you are using the slow cooking method on direct heat, place the sealed vessel on a tawa.
Veg biryanis come in many avatars so why stop at a couple? Kaikari Biryani, Chholay Biryani, Khumb Hara Pyaaz Biryani…