April 28, 2007

Malabar Fish Biryani

For 8 people.
To Marinate the fish:
King Fish- 3 lb (5 big slices)or 1 1/4 kg
Red chili powder- 3 tsp
Turmeric-2 tsp
Lemon Juice-2 tsp
Salt to taste
Canola/Vegetable Oil -3/4 cup or as needed for frying the fish.

For the Masala:
Onion –6 medium ones(including one for garnish onions)
Tomato - 2 1/2 medium sized ones cut into chunks.
Green chilies –15 in number
Ginger - 4” piece
Garlic pods –10 cloves (big)
Pepper powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Plain Yoghurt- 1 cup (thick)
Fennel Seeds(Perinjeerakam/Saunf) - 1 1/2 tsp
Cashew nuts-4
Poppy seeds (Khus khus) – 1 1/2 tsp
Mint leaves (Pudhina) - 1 cup chopped
Cilantro leaves (Dhania) - 1 cup chopped
Curry leaves- a handful chopped
Biryani Masala- 1 tbsp
Lemon juice- 1/2 tsp or juice of 1 lemon.
Salt-2 tsp Or as per taste

For the rice:
Basmati rice - 4 cups
Cinnamon (Karuvapatta) - 1 big stick
Cloves (Carambu) -6
Cardamom (Elakkai) - 4
One bay leaf, salt -1tsp.
Lemon juice- 2 tsp or juice of 1 lemon
Garnish: Cashew nuts – A handful, Raisins- A handful
Clarified butter (Ghee) – 5 tbsp or 3 tbsp mixed with 3 tbsp oil( For frying garnish onions)

Biryani Masala:
Cinnamon 2 inch piece
Cardamom 8
Cloves 8-10
Nutmeg (Jathika)-1
Bay leaves- 1
Fennel seed- 1tsp
Mace( Javithri/Jathipathri) 5-6
Caraway seeds/Shah Jeera- 1 tbsp
Star Anise-1
Dry roast all together and grind to a fine powder. Store in a tight lidded bottle and use only 1-2 tbsp for this biryani.

1.Basic Preparation: Soak the fennel(Perunjeerakam) seeds, cashew nuts and poppy seeds in a bowl with water for an hour at least. Wet grind the soaked nuts and seeds with the green chilies, ginger, garlic and very little water to a fine paste. Keep aside. Alternately, you could first powder the poppy seeds and fennel seeds and then soak and grind to make it smoother. Chop the tomatoes into cubes and slice the onions. One onion should be sliced extra fine. This one is for the fried onion garnish.
2. Marinating and Frying fish: Cut the fish into medium size pieces,wash with 1 tbsp lemon juice and drain. Marinate the fish with the chili powder, turmeric, lemon juice and salt. Keep aside for half hour to one hour. Heat up the 3/4 cup oil in a wide shallow pan and pan fry the fish fillets on medium high heat till cooked on both sides. This should take about 7-10 minutes depending on the quantity of the fish. Spread as many fish fillets as possible in the pan. The fish should NOT get crisp as in a fish fry. It should just get slightly browned. Drain onto paper towels and remove any pieces left in the oil. Drain all the oil into a bowl.
3. Rice Preparation: Clean and soak rice for 10 minutes. Drain and keep aside.Boil 7 cups of water with the whole spices and 3/4 tsp salt. When it boils, add the rice and let it cook uncovered for about 10 minutes. When the rice is still hard, with a bit of cooking left, drain the rice and let it cool.It will cook further in the baking.
4. Frying the Garnish: Heat the ghee/oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add the garnish portion of the sliced onions and fry, till golden brown and crisp. Sprinkle some sugar over the onions to speed up the crisping. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the onions and fry the cashew nuts on medium heat till it turns brown on all sides. Drain and remove. Add the raisins now and stir till they plump up. Remove onto paper towels. Drain the ghee/oil into a small bowl and keep aside for flavoring the rice.
5.Cooking the biryani masala/gravy: Use 2 tbsp of the reserved fish oil and add the rest of the sliced onions to the saut̩ pan and saut̩ on medium heat it till it starts getting brown on the edges(about 8 minutes). Add the poppy seed Рginger garlic mixture, tomatoes, curd, lemon juice, pepper, salt, turmeric, biryani masala and the coriander, mint and curry leaves and mix thoroughly. Cook on medium heat for another 5 minutes till the tomatoes get cooked and everything comes together. Check the taste and add salt or lemon juice if needed. There should be some semi-thick gravy left. Take it off the stove.
6. Layering the Biryani: Lay the fried fish fillets gently on the gravy, taking care not to break them. Spread a bit of the gravy around it. DO not stir as it would break up the fish. Spread the cooked rice over the fish and garnish with the onions, raisins and cashews. Now pour the ghee saved from the garnish frying and the oil remaining after the fish frying over the rice in a circle. Pour 2 tsp lemon juice over it. Now cover with a lid and set it back on the stove over high heat for 6 minutes and then on very low heat for 10 minutes. Turn off the flame and let it remain covered for another half hour.
Alternately, you could layer the fish and gravy and rice and garnish as described above in a oven proof dish and bake at 250 degrees for half hour. Mix the rice with the fish masala gently and serve.
Serve with coconut chutney (biryani chammandi), Onion relish (Ulli surka), Yogurt and Papadam.
This is how the rice looks after being mixed together with masala.
Related Links: RP's Fish Biryani