Lamb/Mutton biryani (you can replace the meat to whichever you prefer, chicken needs lesser cooking, beef and pork will need more)
For the rice:
500 gm basmati rice, washed & drained
2 dried bay leaves
1 black cardamom
1 star anise
3 tsp cumin seeds
Black peppercorn (according to your taste)
5-7 green cardamom
2 small cinnamon sticks (or 1 large one, broken into two)
1/4th nutmeg (whole, not powdered)
1 small mace
Salt (your taste)
For mutton marination:
1 kg mutton, cut in approx 2 inches pieces (preferably front leg and shoulder)
3 Tbsp garlic paste (I love garlic, you can reduce the quantity if you're not a fan)
1 Tbsp ginger paste
3 Tbsp raw papaya paste (NOT the one for pies - get a raw papaya and blitz it at home)
4 Tbsp hung curd (If hung curd is not available, take about 7 to 8 Tbsp of natural yogurt)
Juice of 1 lemon (+half the rind)
Red chilli powder (1 tbsp if you want it mild, 2 for slightly spicier etc. etc. Cayenne pepper is not a substitute, you need red chilli powder - I'm assuming at an Indian store? Don't get a "kashmiri" powder, that is more for colour than taste)
(at least) 7-8 onions, thinly sliced (more if you like onions
Potatoes - everyone in my family loves potatoes in biryani so I put in loads. You can put in as many as you'd like or skip them altogether. I know you guys get a wide variety of potatoes there, but I don't. You're looking for potatoes that hold their shape well after cooking, and are also a little starchy.
2 tomatoes, chopped into small cubes
2 Tbsp coriander powder
1 1/2 Tbsp cumin powder
1 Tsp garam masala
fresh coriander - chopped
fresh mint leaves
1/4 th cup milk, warm
Clarified butter (Sorry, no substitute for this one - the biryani is flavored with this. If you like, you CAN change this to any other general cooking oil (not olive) or butter. But clarified butter (or ghee) works best)
4 slit green chillies. If you don't want the spice from these, deseed them.
Mix all the ingredients in the mutton section above and allow the mutton to marinate overnight for best results. If it needs to be faster, you can get away with a minumum of three hours. Nothing less than that.
Separate the slices from about 5 onions. In a deep pan add oil and deep fry the onion slices till nicely brown. Take care not to burn them. Remember, these will keep cooking once you take them out of the oil as well. So remove the slices from the oil (with a slotted spoon or ladle) just when they start turning a medium brown. Fry in small batches. Do not put all the slices at a time, that will lead to lumpy messy onions. Keep stirring continuously but gently for an even brown color. Keep them on a paper-towel lined plate.
Chop the potatoes into big chunks - I simply quarter a medium sized potato (size reference
). Flash fry these off in the oil that the onions just came out of. You're not looking to cook the potatoes here. Just fry them enough for them to have a slightly brown outer coat, but are half way cooked in the middle.
Now, heat ghee in a thick-bottomed pan (I use a pressure cooker - if you have one, it's the best option). Add ginger and garlic paste and mix well. Add remaining sliced onions and green chillies. Cook, stirring continuously, till onions are light golden brown. Add coriander powder and cumin powder. Mix thoroughly and cook for about a minute on high heat. If the spices stick to the bottom, deglaze the pan with a tiny dash of water. Add marinated mutton (all of it, the marinade as well) and cook on high heat for maybe about 10 minutes. You might see the oil seperating to the sides, this is fine.
Stir in three cups of water, bring it to a boil, reduce heat and cook covered till mutton is almost cooked (about 70% there). Add tomatoes, salt, garam masala powder and fresh coriander leaves. Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. The ghee would be separated from the spices and there should not be any watery gravy to the meat.
Use only good quality long grain Basmati rice. Soak the rice for 20 minutes in water. Wash well till the water runs clear. Drain all the water. In a small piece of (I prefer muslin) cloth take cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, black peppercorn, star anise and tie a knot to make a small bag. Make sure you're using a white bag, we don't want any cloth color in our food
In a separate pan, add a little oil. Now pop in the bay leaves and the cumin seeds. When they start crackling, add 750 ml water. Bring to a boil, add rice, salt and potli, cover and cook till rice is halfway cooked. Try not to stir too much, it makes the rice a little gloopy. Drain the water & remove the little bag.
In the 1/4th cup warm milk, dissolve saffron strands. You don't need too much - just a pinch. Cover and wait for 20 minutes. Add rose water in the milk. Mix well and cover. Keep aside.
Now for the actual biryani part
Take a large heavy bottom pan with a tight fitting lid. Add 2tbsp ghee to the pan. Melt the ghee on low heat. Turn and rotate the pan carefully so the ghee can coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Switch off the heat. Add a layer of half cooked rice, then meat pieces, add fried onion slices, coriander leaves, fresh chopped mint (not too much mint) and ghee. Again add a layer of rice, then meat...go on like this till you are done. Top and bottom layer will be rice. Cover with chopped mint and coriander, fried onion and slit green chillies.
Put the lid on. Seal the sides of the lid with flour dough or aluminium foil. Put a weight on top if possible. The point is, you're trying to trap all the moisture inside.
Put a tawa on the flame (a flat gridle?). Keep the heat to lowest. Put the pan on the gridle and cook the biryani in this 'Dum' for 40 minutes. Make sure your pan is heavy-bottomed or the rice will burn.
After 40 minutes switch off the heat and let the biryani stand for another 10 minutes. Pop open a corner of the lid and see if there is steam in there. If yes, cook for another 15 minutes the same way. If not, open it up (and go ga ga over the smell!) Eat!
Biryani is traditionally served with yogurt and a fresh cucumber tomato onion salad.