Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Biryani Express!!

While was bustling with visitors looking for Rakhi gifts (an Indian celebration of siblings), I got a surprise visitor at my place too. Though in between work, I don’t believe in entertaining; this was one situation I couldn’t excuse myself from. And now, when I think back, it provided me with a nice time to catch up with myself and to let my hair down for once.

Working from home is something I am yet to come to terms with. With real estate prices of Mumbai, I have no other solution but to endure these maddening days when my pretty little home transforms into a frantic, noisy chocolate factory. There have been times when I have actually asked people to leave or not come at all. The entertainer in me cried out loud, but the chocolatier in me had the firm hand. But this dinner was different, and couldn’t be ignored at all.

Now if it is so important for me, then the menu had to show that up straight. Easy simple ingredients, which would give out the most exquisite, delicious dishes.  So I chose chicken and rice with wine followed by apples for dessert; can u get simpler “everyday” ingredients than that. So the menu for the night read out like this:
  • ·         Quickest Chicken Biryani
  • ·         Mint Raita
  • ·         Some leftover Paneer (cottage cheese) masala (optional!! :P)
  • ·         Baked apples with cheese, served with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

So this is my mantra in hosting successful dinner parties in the middle of a hectic working week. I am sure you have more such awesome ideas and recipes that you or your family uses. Please feel free to write to me about them. I love reading your comments, suggestions and experiences!!

Now to the recipe of this post, I am gonna spill the beans on my quick quick biryani. There are a few steps you need to follow, but nothing that is not gonna let you finish cooking between 30 minutes. So strap on your seat belts now, because the roller coaster ride to making a perfect plate of Biryani begins...


For the Biryani Part of the dish:
1 cup Biryani Rice (The pic taken is from earlier times, when I made the biryani using everyday rice rather than the expensive biryani basmati. If you are not too choosy, feel free to use whichever kind of rice you like.)
Salt to taste
A bunch of whole spices like a star anise, a cinnamon stick, couple of cloves, a dried red chilly and ½ tsp of shahi jeera.
2 onions chopped
Big handful of mint leaves
Big handful of coriander leaves
Traditionally saffron with water, but I didn’t have saffron at my place, so I dissolved 2 pinches of turmeric in water, to get the colour right. Flavour wise, saffron is the best way to go!

Riot of colours!!
For the chicken part of the dish, marinade the chicken for 30 minutes in a mix of:
400 gms Chicken
200 gms curd
Turmeric to taste
½ tsp Cumin powder
½ tsp Coriander powder
¼ tsp all spice powder (Garam Masala)
Cinnamon powder to taste
Salt to taste
1½ tbsp of olive oil (love the fruity flavour it adds, groundnut oil will work too)
1 heaped tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste

and 2 tbsp of oil for frying chicken and onions

I always mix these spices in the curd and whisk it well to incorporate. Then slowly add in the chicken to sit and absorb flavours of the spices. If you are using big pieces of chicken with bone (like a couple of whole legs), spritz on some fresh lime on the flesh, before submerging it into the curd mix. The acid in the lime juice will help tenderizing the muscles of the chicken, resulting in shorter time to cook.

Before you start prepping the ingredients for the dish, soak the rice in some water and let it rest there for at least 10 mins, longer the better.

Meanwhile prep the herbs and onions, and get a pan of water to come to the boil.

Once the water starts boiling, throw in the whole spices and a generous amount of salt. Remove the residual water in which the rice was sitting and add it to the boiling pan of flavoured water. Let it cook for 5 minutes on a high flame.

While your rice is cooking, heat a wok with oil and caramelise your onions till light brown. Once you are happy with the colour, mix in a pinch of salt to season and remove from the wok.

After five minutes, remove half the rice from pan. By this time, the rice should be 40% done, with a resisting bite in the middle part of the grain. This portion of rice will cook further with the chicken. The half which is still boiling in the flavoured pan will be removed when almost al dente or 80% cooked. This portion of rice will go on top layer of the biryani, which will be exposed to only residual heat. 10 minutes in boiling water of the pan should render the rice 80% cooked.

Now, in the wok where you fried the onions, pour in another tablespoon of olive or groundnut oil and brown the chicken slightly to enhance the flavours. This is an optional step but I strongly recommend you to do so.

Once all these tedious prepping is done, start layering your Pressure cooker. I suggest use a pretty one, which can later be also used as a serving dish.

Hot and steamy!! 
Now to layering:
The meat with bones will take the most of time to cook, and thus it goes in at the bottom. Cover it with a layer of the marinade. If you have boneless meat left for a second layer, then divide the marinade accordingly. Sprinkle on a big dose of fresh mint and coriander leaves followed with a splattering of fried onions.

This will be followed by 40% cooked rice. Layer the top of the 40% rice again with herbs and fried onions. 

Boneless chicken pieces along with its marinade will go in next, followed by herbs and onions, topped later with the 80 % cooked rice. Once this layer is complete with a generous sprinkle of fresh herbs and fried onions, splash on the Turmeric-water-mix for a pleasing yellow colour. If you intend to serve white biryani, then simply splash on a few spoons of water to complete the layer. At this stage feel free to add in any nuts if you may want to.

Tightly secure on the lid and let it cook on a high flame till it blows the whistle for the first time. Now reduce the flame to the lowest possible and let it simmer till it blows the whistle once again. On the 2nd whistle, switch off the gas and let it release the steam slowly, unaided.
All done and beautiful!!

While your biryani rests, take out a mortar pestle to smudge about a handful of mint leaves with a teaspoon of brown sugar. The leaves will wilt and smash into a pulp pretty quickly. Dump in the sugar and mint mix, season with salt and pepper and viola, mint curd is ready. To transform it to raita, whisk vigorously till its cream like smooth...

To pair the perfect wine:
Biryani, just like the other spicy Indian food, is best paired with a nice red wine with robust flavours and a wonderful body. Shiraz is one of my favourite, while Merlot is another that can be paired well with this meal. 

And I cannot stress enough, but please note; when the bottle says it is supposed to be served at room temperature, it means a pleasant 18 degrees, which would be the room temperature of a northern European country. India is a tropical country; hence the wine should be served at a pleasant temperature acquired by an hour of refrigeration.

My next post is gonna be all about the dessert, Baked Apples with Figs and Cinnamon!! Cheers!!

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