What is a celebration without good food????
Eid, Christmas, New Year, all have one thing in common..lots of mouth watering food and a distinct disregard for the consequences of over eating. Here the holiday season is now officially on and eating is the highlight till Jan 1st. So how many parties do you have planned for next week?(How many did u escape from?)
What is your favorite holiday food? Is it the sweets or the appetizers? I for one thrive on the appetizers and then peck on the main course unless its something very different. And of course dessert rules supreme so have to make some space for that too. But a biryani defies these rules and I have to try it, even if its just one bite.
If we were in Calicut, every weekend would punctuated with a wedding, a birth, a salkaram(party) or whatever..everything being a reason to make a biryani..( eg. every Sunday in my grandma's house!)
So I asked my parents (who missed a whole lot of such events being here with me) if they get sick of it and to my surprise they bashfully refuted it. A good plate of piping hot biryani is always welcome for a Calicut wallah, even if you just had one last week.:) No diets will work there.
I had a lot of requests to post a Chicken Biryani recipe but somehow in my house, since there is more of all the other biryanis being made, this one got left behind. But it is just as good as the other ones so give it a shot. Better late than never, here it is finally. The photo is not complete since I ran out of onions and nuts for garnish but here it is. Also a good mix of masala and rice somehow isin't photogenic! So the final photo is how the biryani should look like before it gets attacked.
Chicken biryani is not fun if the chicken gets dried out and tastes like cardboard. So start with halal small chicken and you are on the right track. Do marinate as much as possible for better taste. If the marination time is more than 2 hours, omit the yogurt in the marinade as it is a meat tenderizer and will break down the meat too much. In that case, add the yogurt when u start cooking. Do not skimp on the ghee-oil while frying the onions for garnish as this is a celebratory dish..not diet food. That oil poured over the rice gives the crucial flavor while dumming or cooking in vapor.
Do not leave the rice in the oven after the alloted time as it will dry out the whole masala and rice.(Spoken from an unfortunate experience.:() Use basmati rice that you are familiar with and not a new sack of rice opened for the occasion. (Another unfortunate experience when the rice got sticky!!)
Do make it in the holidays and let me know.
Eid Mubarak and Merry Christmas!!
You will need: Serves 6 people with a good appetite.:) or 8 people
Chicken - 1 Small chicken of about 2-3 lbs
Onion – 400 gm or 4 medium ones
Tomato - 200 gm or 2 medium sized ones
Small Hot Green chilies – 100 gm or about 17 in number
Ginger - 50 gm or a 2 inch piece
Garlic pods – 50 gm or 8 cloves(big)
Pepper Powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Plain Yogurt- 3/4 cup (thick)
Fennel Seeds(Perinjeerakam/Saunf)- 1 1/2 tsp
Poppy Seeds (Khus khus) - 1 1/2 tsp
Mint leaves (Pudina) - 1 cup chopped
Cilantro leaves (Malli ela/Dhania) - 1 cup chopped
Curry leaves- a handful
Lemon juice- 2 tsp or juice of 1 lemon.(not lime)
Biryani Masala-1 tablespoon. Recipe is noted below.
Clarified butter (Ghee) - almost 1 cup or 1/2 cup mixed with 1/2 cup oil
Cashew nuts – 20 gm or a small handful
Raisins- 20 gm or a handful
For the rice:
Basmati rice - 1 kg/ 4 cups
Cinnamon (Karuvapatta) - 1 stick of 3 inch
Cloves (Carambu) - 4
Cardamom (Elakkai) - 4
One bay leaf, salt.
Lemon juice- 1 1/2 tsp or juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
Cinnamon 2 inch piece
bay leaves- 1
Caraway seeds 1 tbsp
Dry roast all together and grind to a fine powder.
1. Clean the chicken and cut into medium sized pieces. Wash and drain well.
2. Soak the fennel seeds and poppy seeds in a bowl with water for an hour at least and grind with very little water to a very fine creamy paste. If it still feels grainy, add a tablespoon of grated coconut or a couple of cashew nuts to it to grind it well. Keep aside.
3. Grind together the ginger, garlic and green chilies into a very coarse paste. Pulsing them instead of non stop grinding works better. Chop the tomatoes into cubes and slice the onions. One onion should be sliced extra fine. This one is for the fried onion garnish.
4. Marinate the chicken with the poppy seed mixture, ginger, garlic, chili, and all the other spices and ingredients except the onions, biryani masala and herb leaves. Add salt too and keep covered for two hours at least. Marinating is very important in the case of chicken to help it to absorb the flavors. (But don't marinate the chicken over night as the texture will change. If you have to marinate overnight, omit the salt, lemon juice and yogurt and add that the 1 hr before cooking.)
5. Heat three fourth of the ghee/oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add the garnish portion of the sliced onions and fry, till they turn golden brown and crisp. Add a sprinkling of sugar to speed up the process. This should take about 10 minutes on medium low heat.. Remove the onions and stir 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. This ghee/oil is used for flavoring the rice so save it.
6. Heat up the remaining oil and add the rest of the sliced onions and saute it till it becomes translucent. Add just the marinated chicken, and saute it on all sides for 3-4 minutes on high heat. Add the rest of the marinade and the biryani masala and the coriander, mint and curry leaves and mix thoroughly. Cook it uncovered on medium high heat while stirring constantly till the visible liquid is reduced to half.
Then keep it covered and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Check frequently to prevent burning and wait till the oil starts to separate. There should be some gravy left and the chicken should be almost cooked, not-coming-apart cooked. Add water only if there is no liquid for the chicken to cook. Check taste and add more salt or lime, pepper etc if needed.
7. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Clean and soak rice for 10 minutes. Keep aside. Heat 3 tbsp of the remaining onion ghee/oil and add the whole spices- cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves. Sauté for a second and add the drained rice. Stir fry the rice till it turns opaque and add 6 cups water (three fourth of the quantity required for ghee rice). When the water-rice mix comes to a boil, cover and cook on slow heat till all the water is absorbed. This would take about 4-7 minutes.
9. In an oven proof dish, spread half of the chicken masala(it should have some thick gravy)and place half of rice over it. Sprinkle some lemon juice to prevent the rice from sticking. Spread the remaining masala and top it with rice followed by lemon juice. Pour the ghee/oil(leftover from frying the onions) on top of it and sprinkle some garam masala, fried onion, nuts and raisins.
Close it with a layer of aluminum foil , crimp it along the sides and then put the lid and put it in the oven for 20 -25 minutes. Remove and let rest for another 5-10 minutes before opening.
10. Serve with coconut chutney (biryani chammandi), Pickled onions (Ulli surka), Yogurt and Papadam.
Alternately, if you are just cooking a small quantity, when the chicken is almost cooked and the gravy reduced, spread all the half cooked rice over it,right into the saute pan. Sprinkle nuts, raisins and onions and close with a tight fitting lid. Heat a flat cast iron skillet or the Indian Tawa, place the saute pan on it and cook on high heat for 20 minutes and then turn off the flame. Let it rest unopened on the tawa for another 15 minutes and now the "dum" work is also done.
Open and serve the top rice as white rice and mix part of the rice with the masala and serve separately.Enjoy!
Calicut Biryanis are usually made with a special rice called Kaima as the grains are smaller and impart a nicer texture to the Biryani. Kaima is a small aromatic flavorful rice also called "Jeera Rice", it stands apart just like Basmati. Available in all Indian stores here. You could use basmati too if you prefer. The photo below shows the difference in both qualities of rice.
This is a picture of an earlier batch of biryani made with basmati rice and has the requisite onions, raisins and nuts as garnish.