Biryani is one such dish that is very fondly loved by almost everyone and has a very special appeal - almost like a spell that’s caste on food lovers. People across this nation and across the globe can connect and relate to it with nostalgia, often having a personal story of childhood memories and college days experience to tell. The mixture of different spices and the aromatics with the amazing looking kesaria (saffron) rice gives it a very special get up to it.
The word Biryani is derived from the Persian word 'Birian'. In Farsi, Birian means 'Fried before Cooking'. Traditionally rice and the leg piece of goat used to make Biryani. Now people are making Biriyani with beef, chicken, fish & prawns.Biryani was originated in Persia and it might have taken different routes to arrive in India. Based on the name, and cooking style (Dum), it is also called as Dum Biriyani. It is believed that, it could have come from Persia via Afghanistan to North India. It could have also been brought by the Arab traders via Arabian Sea to Calicut, Kerala. (Derived from squidoo.com).
After my first few attempts on making Biryani, I realized it is simpler than I thought initially. It is important to keep the end picture in mind before you begin to make one. The Biryani in Hyderabad has its own uniqueness and spice combination and so it is in Lucknow, Delhi and Calcutta. The Biryani in Calcutta MUST have potatoes in them.
I am not going into the details of ingredients and quantity simply because there are so many recipes on the net. http://www.indobase.com/recipes/details/chicken-biryani.php is a good and simple one to get an idea.
What is important to know is the procedure behind it.
The first thing you would want to ensure is that the meat, either chicken or mutton, gives you a great kick. Therefore it has to be marinated well. Yogurt (Dahi) is a very good acidic ingredient. There are three major component that is involved in the marinate.
1. An acidic agent like Yogurt, Vinegar, Wine etc makes the meat soft and tender. While meat like fish/chicken can be marinated anywhere from ½ hour to 2 hours, red meat can be marinated to 4-6 hours or even over night. It is important to refrigerate the meat if the marinate process is for more than 2-3 hours. Ensure that the meat comes back to room temperature before cooking it.
2. Spices. There are two types of spices to consider – aromatic and flavor. Cinnamon, cardamom, cloves etc are aromatic spices while ground coriander, red chili powder, garam masala etc are flavor intense spices.
3. The Herbs. Fresh herbs like coriander, mint, basil, fresh chili etc are amazing aromatic and subtle in flavor that compose and compliment well with other spices in the marinade
Bearing this in mind you can combine any combination of herbs and spices that you feel like. There is no hard and fast rule to have a strict combination. The only thing to remember is to add salt just before cooking because salt throws water out from the meat. In the marinate process we want the spices and mixtures to seep and soak right through the meat.
Preparing the rice is really simple. Basmati rice should always be preferred. The rice should be ¾ cooked in water with a little pinch of salt and oil. Once drained, you may add a couple of drops of orange food colour.
It is important to have a thick bottom base handi or cooking vessel.
Ghee is a good oil option to have as described in the recipe link above.
You can layer the rice alternately with the meat or just have the meat at the bottom and layer the rice on top. Sprinkle with rose water and saffron (preferably soaked in luke warm milk) and add a layer or caramelized/ fried onions.
Seal the lid with atta (flour dough) and slow cook the biryani. The mutton/beef biryani would take longer to cook than chicken biryani. For chicken biryani 40-50 min is good whereas for mutton anywhere an hour to an hour and half should give you a well done result. Just make sure that it is slow cooked all the way.
Your Royal Biryani would be ready to be savoured and admired.
Cheers & Slurp