My First Chicken Biryani
I did it! Finally, I made chicken biryani! After one failed attempt in the past and many subsequent lamentations, at long last I was successful in my endeavor to produce that dish which everyone else seemed to be adept at. Biryani happens to be one of my favourite dishes – I can have it at any time of the day! I can’t tell you how frustrating it was for me not being able to make it. Now, I can rest in peace. Whew!
Surprisingly, biryani is actually a very simple procedure. I don’t know why I was so scared of it. I would take one look at the list of ingredients and decide it to be too tough. My mind would start giving me excuses like “I don’t have the right vessel”, “Too many ingredients”, “I have no time” and so on.
And then I noticed that everyone in my office brought biryani for lunch. Including a newly married colleague of mine who confessed that neither he nor his wife had any experience in cooking prior to their marriage. So, even newbies were cooking biryani, and such delicious ones at that. I had to give it a try. My first attempt turned out to be an utter waste of precious rice, spices and mutton. It was plain mush, a type of non-vegetarian khichdi. I drooped down in depression and the experience reconfirmed my belief that I can never cook biryani.
Then, a few days back, I don’t know what came over me. My father-in-law’s birthday was approaching and I just wanted to cook biryani and get done with it. I consulted my cousin Mainoo Ba (who blogs at www.indraniskitchenflavours.blogspot.in) and learnt some basic things. I also looked at a number of biryani recipes and finally decided on my own.
My main issue was that I did not have a large flat bottomed vessel, preferably a hindalim based one. I only had my faithful pressure cooker to rely upon. Unfortunately, none of the recipes I saw online advised about cooking biryani in a pressure cooker. So, it was upon me to calculate the cooking time. Somehow, everything worked out just fine and I am proud of my pressure cooker that yielded the biryani.
Anyways, let me share with you my version of chicken biryani. I decided to cook with chicken this time after the gamble with mutton failed in the last instance. I was cooking for a large group (8 people) and hence my measurements were likewise.
1 kg chicken, cut into medium sized pieces
1 kg rice (I used the short grained but immensely flavorful Jeera Rice, you can use Basmati)
5 medium sized onions, thinly sliced
4 potatoes, quartered
3-4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
2 green chillies, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste,
1 teaspoon each of turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and Garam Masala powder
2 tablespoons curd
½ cup milk
A small bunch each of mint leaves and coriander leaves, torn to shreds and divided into two halves
A handful of whole spices (5 cloves, 4 small pieces of cinnamon, 3 cardamoms, 2 bay leaves, a few peppercorns)
A dash of food colour (Kesar flavor), optional
1 cup grated carrot
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons rose water
Refined oil for cooking
Salt, sugar and ghee (clarified butter) to taste
A handful of cashew nuts and raisins for garnishing
Combine together the rice, grated carrot and the whole spices. Cook in boiling water till half-done. While boiling the rice, add salt and lime juice. Drain and keep aside.
In a kadai or wok, fry the quartered potatoes till they are golden and half-cooked. Add salt, remove them from the kadai and keep aside.
In the same oil, fry the sliced onions with a pinch of sugar till they caramelize. Reserve around half of the fried onions for later use. Let the other half remain in the kadai.
Add ginger garlic paste, green chillies and chopped tomatoes to the kadai. Then, put the spice powders (turmeric, cumin and coriander) and stir well.
When the tomatoes turn mushy, tip in the shredded mint and coriander leaves. Next, add the chicken pieces. Spoon in the curd, add salt and cook till the chicken is almost done. Let a little gravy remain. (At this point, I was quite tempted to quit the biryani and just serve chicken curry and rice.)
Now, take a large pressure cooker and put in the chicken. Spread a layer of par-boiled rice over the chicken. Settle in the fried potatoes into the rice. Now, arrange the reserved fried onions, mint and coriander leaves over the rice. Drizzle the rosewater and milk all over the rice evenly. Pour in the kesar food colour, mixed with a little milk, in the centre. Finally, add some ghee and sprinkle a little Garam Masala powder before closing the lid of the pressure cooker.
Now, let the heat be on high for around 2 minutes and then lower it. Cook in low heat for 12 minutes. The whistle should not blow at any stage. After the 12 minutes are over, switch off the gas and let it stand till the steam escapes. Finally, open the pressure cooker with a flourish and allow the ensuing aroma to engulf your home. Garnish with browned cashew nuts and raisins.
I was so very happy with my chicken biryani! It looked beautiful, almost like the ones I saw on other blogs, and the aroma was heavenly. I thought it was slightly dry but I will take dry over mushy any day! I guess if I had put a second layer of chicken and rice, it would have become moist. Since I was cooking with 1 kg rice and 1 kg chicken, I had to cook in two batches in my pressure cooker. Next time I will get a large vessel and make two layers.
I served the chicken biryani with cucumber-onion raita and an amazing curry the husband had made all by himself. I don’t know how exactly he made it but it turned out to be the perfect accompaniment. I was happy to see that there was no leftover that day.
So, that’s the tale of my chicken biryani. And there is a moral to the story – if you think you can’t do it, then try, try, try again! And don’t be a chicken!
I did a guest post about this biryani at Poornima's blog. Do check out her blog - it's an absolute treasure trove of biryani recipes!