Apparently, the Mughal Kings rose up from the dead to eat Biryani. I, after a 10-day break in India and eating all the delicious Mom made food, was not ready to settle for anything less in Paris. Yet. So, I ended up spending my entire morning and some afternoon to make the super famous and delicious “Kolkata Biryani” With a pomegranate, carrot and mint raita. For the uninitiated Biryani is a saffron and rose water flavoured rice dish cooked with meat and 14 spices!
The list of ingredients might make it look intimidating but honestly, the process is not very difficult at all! So, on a Sunday go ahead and impress the crowd.
There are 4 main focus points. 1. The Masala 2. The Chicken/Mutton 3. Rice 4. Potatoes
1. The Biryani masala
1 tbs cumin seeds, 1tbs coriander seeds, 1 tbs black pepper, 1 tbs white pepper powder, 2 big black cardamoms, 7 green cardamoms, 1 whole nutmeg (jaifal) 2 whole maces (javetri flower), 5 or 6 whole cloves, 1-inch long cinnamon stick
Dry roast them on a pan, when the aromas are released, let them cool and grind them to a fine powder. (make sure not to burn them as they turn bitter quite quick)
2 cups of fine quality Basmati Rice
4 tbs of White Vegetable Oil (I like oil better, they don’t make the dish as heavy as ghee)
2 tsp Rose water or 1 tsp Rose Essence
1 tsp Keora Water (this gives the Biryani its flavour, so this item is important)
1 dollop of ghee
4 pieces of Chicken Legs
2 medium sized Potatoes
4 big Onions
15 cloves of Garlic (I know they are a lot!)
1 inch long Ginger
150 gms plain Curd
1 tbsp Red chilli powder
A pinch of sugar
2 Tbs warm milk
A pinch of saffron (if you don’t have saffron use a pinch of turmeric)
2. The Rice
Wash the rice under running water and then immerse water for at least half an hour. This will get rid of excess starch, resulting beautiful non-sticky rice grains.
To prepare the rice, take 4 or 5 cups of water in a pan and bring it to a boil. Add a couple of green cardamoms, 1 clove and a cinnamon stick. Add a pinch of salt.
When the water starts to boil, add the rice and cook till it is done. Drain the extra water. Clean under running water to get rid of excess starch and salt. Make sure it has a little bit to it and is not completely done. Take a flat plate and spread the rice.
Prepare Onions. Cut 4 or 5 onions and fry them with a pinch of sugar in 2 tbs of oil till they caramelise. We will use half of this for the chicken and half to assemble the rice later.
Prepare Ginger Garlic paste.
We will need a lot of garlic for this dish. The ratio to ginger and garlic is 1:3.
After you peel the garlic and ginger blend them in a blender with a spoonful of water till you get a smooth paste.
Take 2 spoonfuls of warm milk (or water) and add a pinch of saffron strands and keep it aside so the milk gets the colour. If you do not have saffron handy then take the same amount of water and add a pinch of turmeric. The effect will be the same. But be careful, do not add a lot of turmeric powder, it will ruin the aroma.
Cooking the Chicken
Wash the chicken pieces and pat them dry with a kitchen towel or clean cloth.
Heat 2 tbs of oil in a pan and fry all the chicken pieces on all the sides till they start getting a golden colour.
After the chicken pieces start to get a golden brown colour, add half of the fried onions, all the ginger-garlic paste, curd, 1 tbsp biryani masala, 1 tbs red chilli powder, 2 tsp rose water, 1 tsp Keora water and salt.
Mix well and bring it to a simmer. Reduce the heat and let it cook for at least 20 mins. Check occasionally, if required add a little water.
When done take the chickens off the heat and keep them in a separate bowl. We will use the pan to fry the potatoes. We will use the chicken pieces and gravy separately.
Take two potatoes, cut them into four pieces each and cook them in a pressure cooker with a pinch of salt.In the pan, after finishing the chicken, fry the boiled potatoes till they start to acquire some golden colour.
In a heavy bottom pan, put in a layer of the chicken and potatoes plus 2 tbsp on gravy a pinch of biryani masala and some fried onions.
Now add a layer of rice. Top it up with fried onion, 1 tbs of gravy, a pinch of biryani spice-mix and 1 tsp of saffron water (or milk).
Put another layer of rice. Top it up with fried onion, 1 tbs of gravy, a pinch of biryani spice and a tsp of saffron water (or milk). Finish it with a dollop of ghee and a pinch of salt (or acc to your taste)
Cover the pan with a tight lid. Put the pan on very very low flame and cook it for 20 mins. Turn off the heat and let it rest for another 5 mins.
Serve it with some Raita (yoghurt sauce)
A pomegranate, mint, and angel hair chilli raita. Recipe here.