- Boil sufficient water in a deep pan, add three green cardamoms, four cloves, one stick of cinnamon, bay leaves and salt to taste. Boil1½ cups soaked Basmati rice in this till three fourth done. Drain and set aside. Chop 2 pieces of one inch ginger and cut 2 pieces of same size into thin strips.
- Mix 1 cup yogurt, salt, 5 chopped garlic cloves, 1 ½ teaspoons red chilli powder, and half the chopped ginger and marinate 600 grams chicken pieces in this mixture for about an hour preferably in the refrigerator.
- Heat sufficient oil in a kadai and deep fry 2 large sliced onions till golden. Drain on absorbent paper and set aside.
- Heat three tablespoons oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add three green cardamoms, 4 cloves and one stick of cinnamon and sauté till fragrant. Add 2 large sliced onions and sauté till light golden. Add the remaining chopped ginger, 5 chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon coriander powder, 2 teaspoons turmeric powder, 1 ½ teaspoons red chilli powder, one teaspoon garam masala powder and 4 chopped tomatoes. Sauté for about five minutes.
- Add the marinated chicken and cook on high heat for five minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes or till the chicken is tender. Add fresh coriander and mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Dissolve a generous pinch of saffron in warm milk.
- Arrange in alternate layers the cooked chicken and rice. Sprinkle saffron milk, some garam masala powder, ginger strips, fresh mint, fried onions and 3 tablespoons butter in between the layers and on the top. Make sure that you end with the rice layer topped with saffron and spices.
- Cover and seal with aluminium foil or roti dough. Cook in the preheated oven for ten to twelve minutes. Alternatively you can keep the pan on a hot tawa and cook on low heat for ten to twelve minutes.
- Serve hot with raita.
Biryani cooking is a medium of expression for chefs and culinary maestros of yester years. It is a fine blend of rice, spices, herbs and meats or vegetables. The skill of biryani cooking lies in cooking the rice to perfection and retaining the flavour and aroma of spices and herbs used in the process. Biryani is best cooked by dum method that imparts a special flavour and retains all the goodness of spices and herbs and also retains the moisture in the dish.
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. You can choose spices of your choice. It is best to make a potli of the spices so that it can be easily picked out once the rice is done. If you wish to make plain saffron flavoured rice then boil the rice with this aromatic water with added crushed saffron. Always cook the rice till three fourths done.
Food for the layers: This could be vegetables, chicken, or mutton. For this layer, make sure the meats or vegetables are cooked, tender, ready to eat and are almost dry. The chicken is preferred with bone, in bite-sized pieces. Same for 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. This could be given the miss if you are using saffron rice.
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. It is a foolproof seal! It should be a sticky dough. Apply the dough around the rim of the vessel and close the lid. You could also use thick aluminum foil to tightly cover the vessel
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.
Interestingly, the tapestry of Indian culture also weaves in some colourful threads of variety of cuisines. It cannot be gainsaid that in India if you begin to taste a new dish everyday it will take quite a few years before you will have exhausted the entire repertoire of Indian food! That’s India cuisine for you!
Indian food has been synonymous with curries and sweetmeats. In the subsequent articles you will get a chance to savour the hot, tart, sweet and tangy notes that make up the melodious symphony of India cuisine. It will also be a sincere attempt to present easy to cook recipes so that the myth that Indian food is elaborate to cook can be put to rest.
Creativity has surely built a home in India. Given the availability of limited basic ingredients, the diversity of preparations is a surprise. The northern and western parts of the country have wheat as the staple cereal. Mustard oil is a popular cooking medium in the north and east and groundnut oil in the west. The people of southern and eastern parts relish rice. Most of the cuisine in the southern parts makes good use of sesame and coconut oil. A range of spices in a variety of combinations put a distinct stamp of flavour to the regional recipes.
India cuisine is more popular for its wide variety of vegetarian dishes, which depend on the seasonal availability. Dal is a must almost all over the country. Fish, mutton or chicken are the more popular non-vegetarian dishes of which too there is a considerable variety. A meal is generally accompanied with curds, either in the form of raita or eaten plain. This is mostly to combat the other spicy dishes plus aid in digestion. Another integral part of an Indian meal is the stupendous variety of pickles – both hot and sweet.
As we leave you with these mouth watering notes, let us get back following week with more highlights of India cuisine.