Chicken Biryani

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Who doesn’t love biryani?! I have not done any survey but I can be sure that it is Pakistan’s most favourite dish! To be honest, I was introduced to this cuisine quite late in my life. Perhaps I was in college when I first tasted this delicious food. Being from a punjabi family the only savoury rice dish I was brought up on was pulao or pilaf as it is called in the west. There are so many options in pulao that I never thought I was missing something until I tasted biryani!

To me biryani was something that can only be made with a readymade boxed spice mix. I never thought that biryani’s taste can be achieved by adding a homemade masala. My inspiration came one day when I was craving for biryani and couldn’t go to market to buy that boxed spice mix. I thought to myself that this is my chance for glory! lets make biryani from my own spices! So I did a quick internet search and I made the biryani with whatever spices I had available in my kitchen. The biryani that day didn’t have the authentic biryani taste but at least I knew which spices I was missing!

After my first attempt I experimented a number of times and have come up with this recipe. I have used a limited number of spices but it gives a very tasty outcome.

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Lets have a look at the recipe.

Ingredients:

Chicken 1 cut into 16 pieces (I used 12 pieces to adjust for chicken to rice ratio)

Basmati Rice 2 1/2 cups (soaked for 30 minutes)

Onion 2 large

Tomatoes 4

Garlic 5-6 cloves

Cooking oil

For marinade:

Yogurt 1 1/2 cup

Salt 2 tsp

Red chilli powder 2 1/2 tsp

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Chaat masala 2 tsp

Garam masala powder 1 tsp

Coriander powder  1 tsp

Grated nutmeg & mace (jaifal & javatri) 1/2 tsp

Cinnamon powder 1/2 tsp

Cumin seeds 1 1/2 tsp

Fennel seeds 1 1/2 tsp

Black pepper cones 6-7

Cloves 5-6

Cinnamon stick 1 inch piece

Cardamom 4-5

Black cardamom 2-3

Some of the spices used in marinade
Some of the spices used in marinade

Method:

Whisk the yogurt well and add all the spices. Marinate the chicken in this spiced yogurt for 2-3 hrs.

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Fry onions in 1/2 cup oil until golden brown. Then add the chopped garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the marinated chicken and tomatoes and cook with lid on medium low heat until tender and all moisture is gone. Stop cooking when oil separates from the chicken.

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Boil soaked rice in salted water. Taste the water for desired saltiness. Use a big pot which can be used for layering the biryani. Drain the water when rice is cooked 90%. I have used sella rice in my biryani but I prefer basmati rice as it gives a better taste and texture to the dish. Its up to your choice which ones you want to use.

Assembling:

Mostly people give 2 layers of chicken and 3 of rice alternatively but I find it easy to just sandwich chicken between 2 rice layers. I have found no difference in the end result with either of the two styles so I just go with less work!

Divide rice in 2 parts. Coat the sides of the pot with a thin layer of oil so that rice doesn’t stick to it. Put half of the rice at bottom. Then put a layer of chicken and then rice again on top. Pour 1/2 cup of oil on top. Put some chopped coriander & mint leaves (optional) and yellow food colour mixed in some milk I also added 1/2 tsp kewara essence mixed in 2 tbs water for extra fragrance.

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Close the lid and keep the heat medium for first 10 minutes and then cook on low heat for another 10 minutes. I like to put my pot on an old tawa to prevent rice from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan. I also place a newspaper on top before putting the lid on so that water from steam doesn’t drip back on the rice and finally I put a heavy object preferably a mortar just to make sure that steam doesn’t leave the pot and rice are cooked properly.

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After the stated time open the pot and check. Turn the heat off if the rice are soft and there isn’t any moisture at the bottom of the pan.

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Biryani is ready! Serve hot with raaita and fresh salad!

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