One of the first things I learned about my future husband was his ever-loving adoration of biryani. And not just any biryani. Hyderabadi Kacha Gosht Biryani. Eager to impress, I asked his sister for the recipe as his family was stopping by to visit in a few weeks. She kindly sent over her recipe which involved two single-spaced small-print detailed instructions, and enough ingredients to stock the cabinets of a small army of koala bears for life. We went to Pizzeria Uno instead.
In the intervening years, I've gone from someone who stared at a cooking spoon in horror, I've now fallen head over heels in love with the art of cooking. Because truly, it is art and I love the creative process of blending and combining multiple recipes to find exactly what feels right to me.
So after a decade's worth of cooking under my belt, I decided to give my husband's beloved biryani a try. For something as complicated as this, my intention was to find and follow a recipe to the tee. Unfortunately, this was not doable. My Indian store did not have all the spices delineated in the original recipe I found and I just can't cook with ghee, not with a clear conscience anyway, so this recipe is a blend of that one, this one, and this one, and some of my own ideas.
A note about time: If you like hyderabadi biryani, this is insanely delicious but also requires an insane amount of your time. Not including getting the supplies, or the marination times, this recipe easily took six hours of active work to make, not to mention the active-clean up required as this recipe requires so many pots and pans to chop, fry, and bake that by the time all was said it looked like a hungry burglar had ransacked my kitchen. I would recommend doing this on a weekend with no anticipated guests when attempting this the first time.
A note about the 'vessel': Many of the recipes I studied discussed the layering of the rice in a vessel. I laughed at the descriptor as it lent images of a big steel boat gliding through the Atlantic. Well, as it turns out, you do sort of need a vessel not unlike a boat and unless you do a ton of high-volume cooking, you might not have the type of container needed. I bought a deep turkey roasting foil pan from the dollar store to do the layering and still was not able to fit everything in and so had to make a secondary dish with what didn't fit. Whatever you use, make sure its super deep and wide.
Many of you asked me on my blog's facebook page how to make this dish and so I'm sharing it here. To be honest, I was super stressed making this as it involved so much time, so many ingredients, and so much mess, that if it turned out simply to be a lesson on why we should stick to restaurants, I would be devastated. For this reason I'm sharing this step-by-step with as much detail as I can should you attempt this, [and should I forget all the ways I tweaked when I come back to make this later]. I hope its helpful!
- Rice [3.5 cups] [Be exact. Don't estimate, I did andaza se and ended up with too much rice and had to make kichri with the remaining rice.]
- shah jeera, 1 tspn
- ginger/garlic paste, 2 tbpsn . [You can buy paste but I made my own, just processing equal amounts garlic to ginger] tweak: you can't go wrong with more, I now put 3-4 tbspn
- Greek yogurt full fat, 3/4 cup [don't overdo it because then things will get too watery]
- cloves, 15
- pepper corns, 15-20
- calonji 1/2 tspn
- salt, to taste [I'll go through how much I put in each step]
- chili powder, 1 tbspn
- chilies, 10 cut with four slits [julienned looking]
- mint, 1 cup, chopped
- star anise [2-3]
- onions, two large, finely chopped
- boneless, skinless, chicken, 2 pounds [I now use 3 pounds of organic chicken thighs with bone, the chicken feels more juicy with this]
- bay leaves, 3-5
- oil, 10 tbpsn
- coriander leaves chopped, 1 cup
- saffron, 1 tspn [I used 1 tspn because the recipe I read said so, going forward I will use only a few strands, maybe 1/8 of a tspn the price of saffron is exorbitant and a few strands will do the job, I am including the original amount because this is what I used for the meal you see].
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
- 1 tspn coriander powder
- 1 tspn cumin powder
- 1 tspn turmeric powder
- lemon, 2 squeezed [I use four tablespoons of lemon juice now]
- cinnamon sticks, 3-4
- green cardamoms, 6
- black cardamoms, 2
- water, as needed
- Chop up chicken into cubes [If using thighs, I trim the fat and cut a bit of flesh so all meat is not simply on bones and for the thigh meat to be closer to the bone and more easily cooked through]
- Make biryani masala powder by grinding together:
- 10 cloves
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks
- shah jeera
- 12-15 peppercorns
- 2-3 star anise
- 4 cardamom seeds
- Marinate chicken overnight with: biryani masala powder, yogurt, chilies, ginger-garlic paste, 2 bay leaves, chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, 1/2 cup coriander leaves, 3/4 cup mint leaves, lemon, 2 tspn salt.
- The next day take out chicken and bring to room temperature.
- Soak rice for thirty minutes minimum.
- Add saffron to milk and set aside
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Heat up 5-6 tablespoons of oil and add 1 tspn of salt. Once its heated, add onions and cook on medium heat until uniformly golden brown, do not let them burn. Once cooked, remove and place on a plate that is lined with a paper towel and set aside.
- Note: I did not measure out the oil but most websites recommended this. I just put in two cooking spoon's worth of oil.
- In a large pot heat up the water and toss in bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, black cardamom, 1 teaspoon shahi jeera, 1 tbpsn oil, 1.5 tbpsn salt until its half cooked [about 3-5 minutes]. Strain the water and spread the rice on a large wide plate. [note: I now grind up the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom as it lends to a more fragrant scent][second note: in boiling water cook the rice for FIVE minutes, possibly six, the rice should be softer rather than harder]
- In a large frying pan or wok, cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes on high heat, stirring frequently. [I added a little oil to prevent sticking].
- In your large and deep roasting pan, place all the chicken and masala. Make sure they're not crowding over each other, to the extent possible lay them all flat so they can all be heated equally.
- Spread half the rice, sprinkle with a teaspoon of oil, a quarter cup of saffron milk, and half the caramelized onions, and a few tablespoons of cilantro, and sprinkle a tablespoon of lemon juice, and sprinkle approximately 1.5 tspn salt.
- Spread the second half of the rice, sprinkle again with a teaspoon of oil, the remaining saffron milk, the rest of the onions and sprinkle a tablespoon of lemon juice and sprinkle approximately 1.5 tspn salt.
- Seal with aluminum foil. I sealed tightly with two layers of aluminum foil.
- Place in oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 40 minutes.
- Turn off heat, allow a few minutes to cool, and then gently sift through and mix thoroughly.
- As you mix, taste the salt, I found it a bit lacking and sprinkled a bit more before I served it.