For a long time, I was tricked into thinking that Yakhni pulao is biryani. Most of my family, still, for some reason refers to it as biryani but its not. This is not a layered rice dish, it is a pulao. Yakhni is ” broth” and this dish is basically basmati rice cooked in a delicious made-from-scratch meat broth.
South asian broths have much more depth of flavor due to use of spices. I dont pressure cook the meat, I let it simmer for couple of hours or more depending on the quantity. Slowly the meat releases its flavor into the water along with those of the spices and herbs. The delicious yakhni is full of body and I remember mom would ladle it into teacups and give us to drink as it is as a soup.So comforting on a cold night. You can do the same if you are not in mood for a pulao.
A delicious yakhni needs bone in meat or chicken and time! There are no powdered spices and all the flavor comes from whole spices, dried chilies, ginger and garlic. Caramelizing the onions well before cooking the rice is another important step, do not rush it, brown the onions nicely, they add not only to the taste but also to the color of the pulao.
This recipe is one of my most family’s most oldest. It was cooked winter long and it is a great way to feed big families or when entertaining. You can serve it with a light chicken curry or any side but I really just like it with plain raita.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
For the Yakhni
- 1 lb bone in mutton or chicken, cleaned
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1.5 tsp black peppercorns
- 2-3 bay leaf
- 2 whole black cardamom, slightly cracked
- 2 cinnamon stick
- half nutmeg
- 7-8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 inch fresh ginger, peeled
- 1/2 onion, roughly chopped 8-10 dried chillies
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups water
For the Pulao
- 1 + 1/4 cup basmati rice
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1.5 cup sliced onions
- Red chili powder to taste
- 1 tsp shah jeera
- 2.5 cups liquid (yakhni topped with water)
- Salt to taste
- Cilantro, raita, ginger jullienes etc to serve.
Step 1 Make the Yakhni (Spiced Broth)
Add everything listed under yakhni to a dutch oven. Cover the pot and set on a medium high stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 1.5 hours till the meat is fork tender but not falling apart. You can do the same thing in an instant pot or pressure cooker but slow cooked yakhni is something else 🙂 Meat releases its own juices and water as it will cook so don’t add much water in the beginning. Also please keep in mind that the cooking time of meat will depend on how small or big the cuts are. So adjust accordingly.
Once the meat is cooked, switch off the stove.Pick out the meat pieces using a spoon into a medium bowl and cover the bowl with a cling film to make sure that the meat does not dry out. Set a large colander over another large bowl and drain the yakhni in there. Dont be tempted to mash the ginger or garlic or onions, else the yakhni will lose its soupy texture. Discard the things in the colander.
Yakhni is ready. You can enjoy it as it like a soup when while it is warm with few squirts of lemon and scatter of fresh cilantro. Add a few pieces of cooked meat to make it more filling.
If you make a pulao, follow step 2 below. Keep in mind that do not make the yakhni a day ahead, the taste changes so its best to make it a couple hours before when you want to serve as soup or make a pulao.
Step 2 Make the Pulao
Wash the rice 2-3 times under a running stream of water. Soak the rice for 20 mins in enough water.
Measure the yakhni. The variety of rice I use needs double amount of liquid to cook. So I needed 2.5 cups of liquid to cook the rice. I got 2 cups of yakhni from the recipe above and I added 1/2 cup water to it.
In a wide shallow pot, (I use my braiser) or you can use a kadhai or a 12 inch pan, add the oil. Once the oil is warm, add the sliced onions. On medium heat, brown the onion. It takes about 8-10 minutes but do not rush this process.
Once the onions are dark brown, add the red chilli powder to oil along with cumin seeds and saute for 30 seconds. Add the meat to the pan and stir around with the onions for 3-5 minutes on medium heat. The meat will brown a little, once so, add the soaked rice(discard the water in which you soaked) along with yakhni (+water). Mix gently and taste the salt in the liquid, it should be sharp salty at this stage else adjust it, this makes sure that your rice comes out properly seasoned once cooked.
Cover with a lid and set the rice to cook on medium high heat, once you see that the liquid is bubbling, reduce the heat to the lowest and let cook for 20-25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is soft. Switch off the stove and let the pot sit undisturbed for atlest 10-12 minutes.
Uncover and using a rice spoon or a small plate, fluff up the rice from once side. Yahni pulao is ready.Serve as you wish. Taste amazing next day.
This recipe can be easily doubled. Just adjust the cooking times for both rice and meat in that case.