If anyone were to ask me which dish would be the perfect introduction to Indian cuisine, the reply would, undoubtedly, be biriyani.
Interject here, that it could/should/ would be my absolute last meal on earth, if circumstance allows me the privilege.
From distant Persian beginnings, biriyani/biryani/biriani- till the day I really don't know how it's written,- bears a variety of flavor allegiances to the regions, communities, people, even chefs that have touched and tweaked upon its blueprint. Essentially, there are as many interpretations of biriyani in India as there are cities on the country's map.
It's a celebration of all that is desi food. To the deep colors, layers of curried masala and perfumed specifics of rice, this could be the poster child for the all-in-one meal, transcending borders, perhaps the answer to world peace.
These would be-
Whole spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, mace
Immense amounts of ginger and garlic
Fragrant long grain rice
Typically, biriyani includes a protein slow cooked in a substantial gravy, which in turn is layered with par-cooked rice. This is further simmered in a cooking form/art called "dum"- where ingredients are sealed in vessel, with a dough around the lid to create foolproof flavor penetration.
The Le Creuset is paramount in doing high capacity meals such as this one. It does justice to pounds of meat that require tenderizing and juice oozing in one go. If I really need the dum effect, aluminum foil-lined under the lid does the trick.
The chicken, being fried, adds a whole new dimension to texture. It lends bite as well as flavor to biriyani's base foundation. The composition of browned onions and numerous aromatics working in unison, brilliantly execute a perfect chicken and rice combo. If you don't know already, frying makes things addictively delicious, another reason you can't deny eating right out of the pot.
The learning curve for biriyani isn't all that steep. Once you get it, you literally have the magic wand of A-class, fit-for-royalty casserole making at your disposal.
In finale, opening the lid, and inhaling what lies within will be the best" wait for it" scenario you've ever experienced. A glorious production that makes you look like you've slaved over it all day.
Eat it warm. It's excellent with hard boiled eggs as a finisher on top and improves in leftover quality.
Serve it with yoghurt raita( below).
But by all means, try it... and eat it in the way that makes you happiest.
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 6 mint sprigs
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 3-5 serrano peppers, depending on level of heat desired (seeds out if preferred)
- 4 tbsp roughly chopped garlic
- 1 inch ginger, roughly chopped
- 1-2 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ginger power
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup cashews
- 1 pound skinless split chicken thighs, cut into 3 inch pieces
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 whole yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 1 2 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 piece mace
- 2 cloves
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 star anise
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ cup plain nonfat yoghurt
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 4 tbsp ghee
- ¼ cup raisins
- Blend together lemon juice, mint, 3/4 cup cilantro, serranos, garlic and ginger into a smooth paste. A fews splashes water may be needed to create the desired level of smooth. Set aside.
- In a bowl coat chicken with the powdered spices, from chili to turmeric. Add salt and two tablespoons of oil. Cover pieces evenly with marinade.
- Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Soak 1/4 cup cashews in 1/2 cup water. Heat in microwave for 1- 1 1/2 minutes until softened. Blend to a paste and keep aside.
- Set temperature in air fryer at 390°F.
- Place chicken in wired tray or basket of air fryer. Spray with nonstick cooking oil. Set timer for 10 minutes.
- When browned on the sides, take out and flip pieces to the other side. Place tray back in and cook for 12-15 minutes until cooked and crisped brown. Keep pieces aside.
- Soak basmati in water sufficient to immerse grains.
- Separately, over high heat, add bay leaves, salt to 4 quarts of water and bring water to a boil.
- Rinse out rice and add it to the simmering water. Bring back to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
- Drain immediately. It should be parboiled and about 75% done.
- In a heavy(preferably cast iron) 5 qt or larger dutch oven, heat remaining oil.
- Add onions until translucent.
- Take out a quarter of the onions(1/4) and keep aside.
- Lightly crush the cinnamon, mace, cloves, cardamom, star anise in a mortar and pestle, or even using the flat side of a knife against a cutting board.
- Add the spice mixture to the onions in the pan. Stir until the onions are translucent.
- Stir in the blended garlic- ginger paste. Saute until cooked all ingredients are cooked.
- Add tomatoes and chili powder. Saute.
- With heat at medium, pour in 1 cup of water and bring ingredients to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add in ground cashews and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Put about half of the chicken pieces in the gravy. Stir in garam masala.
- Lightly whip yoghurt with a spoon and mix into the curry. Bring the heat down to medium low for this step.
- Add salt. Simmer for 6-8 minutes.
- Layer the parboiled rice on top of the simmering chicken curry. Pour 3 three tablespoons ghee on top of the rice. Place lid on( it should be a heavy, tight fitted lid, if not cover the mouth of the pot with foil, then place lid over it. Allow curry to cook for 2-3 minutes at medium heat.
- Reduce heat to low, keep pot covered and cook for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from burner.
- In a saucepan, heat the remaining tablespoon of ghee.
- Fry the reserved partly cooked onions until brown and crisp. Take out and set aside.
- Add remaining 1/4 cup cashews Fry until brown. Set aside.
- Fry raisins until swollen. Set aside.
- Open the lid and either flip the dish carefully over a large platter. I fork it through so that you get nice pieces of curry stained rice and chicken throughout.
- Top biriyani with the remaining fried chicken pieces, fried onions, cashews and raisins.
- Garnish with the remaining cilantro.
- Serve with cucumber-tomato yoghurt raita.
Cucumber-tomato yoghurt raita~
- 1 cup nonfat plain yoghurt
- ½ cup chopped English cucumber
- ½ cup chopped tomatoes
- Whisk yoghurt with salt, until smooth and creamy
- Stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Serve as a side.
I like bone-in chicken for deeper flavor. However, boneless will work perfectly well.
“I came to Him because I did not know which way to turn. I remained with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him as a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny. I came amid the thunderous cries of a culture that has 330 million deities. I remain with Him knowing that truth cannot be all-inclusive.”
"Teach us to number our days, that we may have a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12