In the past, making biryani was a big no-no. Why? Because there is so much that usually goes in to it. The Mughal Emperor’s cooks created this dish for their men, as it had the meat, rice and spices that would be expected in a meal, but in one dish. Back then, it probably consisted more of mutton, but chicken was primarily adopted when the dish arrived in India. It is so versatile – you can have anything in it; fish, lamb, prawns, vegetables etc. It is such an underrated, beautiful dish that embodies such aromatic flavour. But nowadays, you can get it for as little as £2.00 a portion. I never had the time to make it properly; mainly because I didn’t have the appropriate cooking equipment needed. However, I do not need to! Why? Oh, you ask so many questions! I’ll tell you anyway – the recipe I’m about to tell you is so much more simplified without withdrawing from the flavour of a true biryani! Yes, you can find packet biryani mix out in Asian shops, but that’s not the real deal. This is.
Now, I would usually list the ingredients down first before explaining the method, but I’m not going to this time. I’m going to explain how to cook this deliciousness, together with what is need and how much of it. If I list the ingredients first, you’ll be overwhelmed. But once you see how simple it is, you’ll understand. Trust me on this one!
So, here we go:
First, you need to get a pan of water to the boil. Into this water, you need to add an Indian bouquet garni. What’s this? It’s simple, that’s what it is. All you need is a small cheese cloth/muslin cloth and place 3 black cardamoms, 6 green cardamoms, 10 cloves, pinch of around 7-10 peppercorns, 3 bay leaves and a stick of cinnamon. Tie it up and that is your Indian bouquet garni. Throw this into the water that you’re trying to bring up to a boil and also add 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds and 1 teaspoon of salt into the water. Not into the bouquet garni.
Next, you need to soak some rice. Now, it is so important to use good quality rice. The rice is going to embody the full flavour of the marinated chicken, spices and herbs so it needs to be top-notch. I tend use some good basmati rice. Soak about 1 and a half cups of basmati rice in anything but hot water, for 20 minutes. Think of this as preparing the rice to capture those flavours!
Now we can marinate the chicken to make it succulent and yum! I normally use a whole chicken and cut it myself, but you might not want to do that yourself. You can find pre-cut chicken virtually anywhere – but make sure it’s with the bone, and not boneless. There is so much flavour to chicken on the bone and it almost has a stock-like effect on the biryani. If you can’t stomach chicken on the bone, you can opt for boneless chicken, but really try to buy it on the bone.
You want to place this chicken, along with the following ingredients, into a pan that can go on the stove. The pan needs to be large enough to contain all of the biryani in it; you’re going to cook the whole shabang in this pan. Now with this chicken in the pan, you need to add the following. It may seem like a lot, but it’s so worth it! Add in 2 tablespoons of ginger and garlic paste, 1 tablespoon of red chilli powder, salt according to your taste, 1 cup of thick yoghurt, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, 1 teaspoon of green cardamom powder, brown (fried and cooled) onions, 4 teaspoons of ghee, 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped coriander, 10-12 mint leaves and finally (!) 2 broken green chillies. A few things about the ingredients just listed – it is vital that the yoghurt is thick. It makes such a difference to the tenderness of the chicken. The onions – that’s optional, but it makes it yummy. Just fry some onions in any oil (except olive oil) until they are very brown. Drain away any excess oil and let it sit to cool down. All the spice powders can be found in most Asian shops. It also adds to the authenticity! Mix the chicken with the listed ingredients until it is well incorporated. Then add 1 teaspoon of turmeric and the juice of one lemon and mix again. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
The rest is easy now.
When the water starts boiling (not rapidly, but starting to), add the rice. Keep stirring the rice once you have added it in so it cooks evenly. We only want the rice to be cooked 3/4 of the way, not fully. If we cook it fully, then the biryani will be mushy and soggy. You can tell when the rice is 3/4 cooked by the way it feels. It almost crumbles in your hand when you try to squeeze it. Just take a few grains and see how it feels. Cooking is all about intuition 😉
Once the rice is 3/4 cooked, layer half of it onto the marinated chicken. Don’t worry too much about the water that sneaks in with the rice, it’ll only add moisture. Just try to get rid of as much as you can. On top of the rice, sprinkle coriander, mint, brown onions, garam masala powder, saffron soaked in milk, a little more ghee and green cardamom powder. Then add the rest of the rice on top. Straining the second batch of rice will probably help. You can throw away the bouquet garni; we’ve stolen all its flavour XD
Now put the pan on a medium flame. The lid needs to create an air-tight effect. If the lid of your chosen pan is a little loose, make a simple flour dough (flour and water) and stretch it around the top of your pan and close the lid tight. This should help build up steam and heat within, to add to the moisture of the biryani.
After about 15 minutes, you should see steam escape from the top. This means it’s ready! Once you see this steam, lower the flame and keep it on for another 5-8 minutes.
Ta da! All done. I know, it seems like a lot. But when you actually get to trying it out for yourself, you’ll see how easy it really is!
Until next time, have an awesomesauce day!