Biryani is a rich, exotic rice based dish traditionally prepared with basmati rice, spices and meat,eggs or vegetables.Originated in Persia, biryani took couple of routes to reach India, popular legends says it to be brought to Indian subcontinent by muslim merchants & travellers. In India, the hyderabadi biryani is most popular which is a savored all over the country.
It is a popular saying in my house that a perfect biryani is one whose aroma reaches 7 houses!:) Now, I am not sure whether my version would have passed this acid test or not.I was not desperate enough to go around and knock on doors of my neighbours to find out if they sniffed it:)
Whenever I prepare this dish, I have my little wish list, though a simple one.The first one being aroma, it should be fragrant with warm aroma of spices.The second one being taste, it should be savoury but not overly spicy.The third & last one being that it meets the age-old test that when a handful of biryani is dropped on a hard floor, no two grains of rice should stick to each other.
The recipe which I have jot down here is the way how this delicacy is prepared in my house with onions & dry spices without tomatoes or garlic, ginger etc.It is not a typical layered biryani &I have prepared it with mutton, however you can use lamb or chicken too.The cooking times of meat will vary in that case.
What I needed:
- 1 lb mutton[boneless and cut into 1" cubes]
- 1 1/4 cups basmati rice
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 tsp saffron[kesar] soaked in 2 tbsp milk [optional]
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp red chilli powder [optional]
- 1 tsp dry coriander powder
- 4 tbsp oil [ I used mustard, canola or sunflower can be used]
- 2.5-3 cups water
- 7-8 whole dry red chillies[adjust to taste]
- 1″ stick of cinnamon
- 6-8 cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 7-10 whole black peppers
- 2 pods green cardamom
- 2 blades mace [javitri]
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
- Fresh Cilantro leaves
- Fried onions [ optional]
- Almonds/Rasinis [optional]
Utensils required :
- Pressure cooker
- Tava/ cast iron girdle
- Wide mouth, heavy bottom pan with lid [it should fit on your tava/girdle]
How I did it:
- In a pressure cooker,on medium high heat add mutton ,dry spices and 1 tsp salt to 2 cups water.Close the lid and let it pressure cook until the meat is 80% cooked.This can be tested by opening the lid and squeezing the mutton pieces with fingers, it should be just tender & and not falling apart or soft.
- Once cooked, reserve the stock from pressure cooker into a bowl, separate the mutton from spices and set aside the mutton pieces to cool.Throw away the collected spices.
- Meanwhile,wash the rice thoroughly and set aside.
- In a pan , heat the oil till ripples are formed on the surface.Stir-fry the cooled mutton pieces in this oil for about 1-2 minutes.Take the mutton out and in the same oil on medium heat ,add the onions and stir fry them untill golden brown.Once the onions are done, add the cumin seeds, red chilli powder[if using] , dry coriander powder and saute for about 2 minutes.
- Next, add the washed rice to the pan and saute for about 3 minutes.This gives the rice a nutty flavor.
- After the rice is sauted, switch off the heat and add the mutton pieces, salt and about 2.5 cups of reserved stock to the pan.Let the rice soak for about 20 minutes.
- To the soaked rice, add the saffron -milk ,cover with lid and let the rice cook on low- medium heat.The amount of rice I used took around 15 minutes to cook at low heat.You can adjust stock/water as per your rice variety.
- While the rice is cooking,let the tava/girdle heat up on high heat.Switch off the heat once the rice is done and transfer the pan to the top of heated tava.Seal the edges of the pan and lid with kneaded dough on all sides so that no steam can escape .This process is called dum cooking wherein the dish is slowly cooked on very low heat, mostly in sealed containers, allowing the meats to cook, as much as possible, in their own juices andso thatthe aromas of spices are absorbed within the dish. You can read more about it here and here.
- After cooking on dum for about 8-10 minutes remove the pan from tava and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
- Thereafter, break the dough seal , transfer to a serving vessel and garnish with cilantro leaves ,fried onions & nuts [if using] .
- Serve with raita and salad.
- Seasoning the water in which the rice will cook is very important else the biryani will be tasteless.
- Be patient while the biryani cooks.Avoid opening the lid again and again and stirring while the rice cooks.
- After dum cooking, it is mandatory to let the biryani rest for some time.Do not skip this step.
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