Biryani is a festive dish; a complex rice delicacy, layered with meats or vegetables, spices, fresh herbs and seasonings. In India, when one makes Biryani, in its most authentic method of preparation, it’s for a special occasion, a cherished guest or a Sunday family feast. There are short cut methods and off the freezer rack varieties available too but let’s not go there today!
So, there are many variations of biryani from region to region, like the popular Hyderabadi Dum Biryani from Andhra, influenced by the Nizams who once ruled the State and the Lucknow (Awadhi) Biryani, a Moghul inspired dish from the Northern part of India and others like Calicut Chicken biryani, Kashmiri ghost biryani and Calcutta biryani to name a few.
Despite variations in use of spice blends and methods of cooking, some common notes include frying the rice in ghee or clarified butter to caramelize the grains, giving it a nutty flavor, use of whole spices like bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, mace, saffron and fresh chopped cilantro for garnish.
You’d be surprised to learn that biryani is popular outside of India in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Iran and Turkey too. The world must truly be flat!
Our dish today is Kongunad Mutton Biryani from Southern India, which uses fewer spices compared to other varieties, yet big in flavor.
Mutton or goat meat is the main ingredient in this recipe but you could use chicken instead.
Goat meat or mutton [bone-in]: 2 lbs
Tumeric powder: 1tsp.
Basmati rice: 2lbs
Large onions: 2, sliced
Large tomatoes: 2, chopped
Green chillies (Serrano peppers): 10, slit lengthwise
Garlic pods: 8 nos, slit lengthwise into quarters
Garlic paste:4 tsp.
Ginger paste:4 tsp.
Fennel powder:1 tsp.
Garam masala:1 tsp.
Cardamom powder: 1 tsp.
Coconut powder: 4 tsp.
Plain Yogurt: 4 tbsp.
Lime or lemon juice: 2 tbsp.
2% or whole milk:2 cups.
Water from the cooked mutton: 2 cups
Mint and coriander leaves: a handful each, chopped
Salt: to taste
Coconut oil: 2 tbsp.
Vegetable oil: 2 tbsp.
Whole spices: green cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, star anise- 4 each.
Curry leaves: 1 sprig (abt 15-leaves)
Whole cashews: 15 pieces
Poppy seeds:1 tsp
Wash the goat meat well and cook with 1 tsp tumeric powder,1 tsp salt and 2 cups of water
Cook until just done and keep aside. This takes about 1 hr on medium fire.
In a saucepan or non-stick pan heat coconut and vegetable oil.
Add the whole spices and poppy seeds along with curry leaves. Let the spices splutter, but be sure not to burn them.
Add the slit garlic pods and cashews. Fry for another minute.
Now add onions and green chillies. Fry for 5 minutes.
Next add ginger, garlic pastes and fry for 2 minutes.
Add the powders, cooked mutton, yogurt and lemon juice. Next add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Keep stirring frequently yet gently.
Add washed and drained rice, chopped mint and coriander leaves.
Next add milk, water and water from the cooked mutton. Check for salt and add more if needed.
Let the rice cook uncovered for 5 minutes on high heat till it comes to a vigorous boil. By this time the rice should be 3/4ths cooked.
Next, simmer the heat, cover with a tight lid, and cook for 25-30minutes. Do not disturb the pan for the next 30 mins. No peeking!
Alternately you can place the pan covered with aluminum foil in a preheated oven 300 degrees 25-30 minutes. This process of slow cooking is called ‘dum’ style biryani.
When done, give the rice a gentle fluff using a fork, so as to not to break the long grains. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with yogurt raita or thayir pachadi.