Biryani is a mixed rice dish with its primary origins among the Muslims in India. It is debatable as to whether the Mughals or Arab traders brought the dish to India. Chicken biryani is almost synonymous with Hyderabad and it is no coincidence that the Nizams (Muslim rulers – first as an annex of the Mughals) ruled this part of the Deccan for over two hundred years.
1 (1.5 kilograms) free range chicken jointed in to 8 – 10 pieces
3 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 tablespoons ghee
5 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 thumb sized fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
5-6 green chillies, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
1 cup of washed and chopped coriander roots, stems and leaves
½ cup of mint leaves
2 teaspoons garam masala
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
4-5 teaspoons lemon juice
1 large carrot cut into thick batons of about 5 centimetres in length
2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed well and drained
1 large cinnamon stick
5-6 green cardamoms
3 bay leaves
A few threads of saffron, soaked in a quarter cup of warm milk
Salt to taste
Mix the garam masala, chilli and turmeric powders in a small bowl with a couple of pinches of salt. Rub the chicken pieces with the lemon juice and toss the pieces with the spice powders. Allow to marinate for a couple of hours.
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
In a separate deep and heavy bottomed casserole dish, heat two tablespoons of ghee. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamoms and bay leaves. Fry until beautifully fragrant, then add the rice. Gently fry the rice for a couple of minutes and transfer to a microwave safe bowl (large). Add 3 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir to mix and cook in microwave at 70% power (1000 Watt) for 14 minutes. Remove from microwave, mix the rice and cover with lid.
Place the ginger, garlic, green chillies, coriander and mint leaves in a food processor. Add the yoghurt and process to a fine paste.
Heat oil in a fry pan until fairly hot and fry the onions till golden brown.
In the same casserole dish, heat the remaining ghee until hot. Add the spice paste and fry continuously for 3-4 minutes. If the spice paste is sticking to the bottom add a tablespoon of water. Reduce heat and cook the paste so it reduces to half the original quantity. Then add the chicken pieces and increase heat allowing to cook for 5 minutes. Let the pieces brown and turn them over to cook the second side for three minutes. Now add the carrot pieces and mix to combine. Cook for a couple more minutes.
Remove the chicken and vegetable pieces into a bowl scraping any bits sticking to the casserole dish. Place half the chicken pieces on the bottom of the casserole dish, top with half the fried onions and half the partially cooked rice. Pour half the saffron threads and the liquid. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, rice, onion and saffron.
Cover the casserole dish with a wet tea towel and place lid on top of the towel. Place in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.
Serve hot with raita and pickled onions.
Serves 4- 6.