Biryani on the other hand uses par boiled (cooked three fourth) rice boiled in plenty of (unmeasured) water and then assembled with the main ingredients. This method involves the par boiled rice to be placed over the almost cooked meat. The vessel is then sealed with aluminium foil or tightly sealed with dough and put on a ‘dum’ (cooked on slow fire for 30-45 minutes so that all the flavours amalgamate well). This process helps the rice to cook completely. Once done, the pot is allowed to sit for 5 minutes before it is opened & served.
So technically while the Pulao uses the ‘absorption’ technique of cooking the rice, the Biryani uses the ‘draining’ technique.
The success of a Biryani always depends on the quality of rice used, so always try to use the best quality. Use of desi ghee and good quality spices also help bring out the best flavours. The process also involves preparation of the ‘Birista’ which is finely sliced onions that are deep fried to golden brown which impart a unique richness & flavour to the Biryani.
Recipe Source: Pulaos and Biryanis by Katy Dalal
For the rice:
- 500gms basmati rice
- 3 crushed green cardamoms
- 2 pieces of cinnamon (about 1″ each)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
- 1/2 tsp caraway seeds (shahjeera/black cumin)
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 gram saffron (kesar)
- salt to taste
- juice of 1/2 lime
For the marination:
- 800 gms mutton (goat meat) *see notes
- 250 gms thick curd
- 1tbsp ginger garlic paste (I used freshly ground paste)
- 1/2 tbsp red chilli powder (increase it to 1 tbsp if you can tolerate spice)
- juice of 2 large limes
- 2″raw papaya finely ground (I skipped this as I didnt have any)
- 4 medium size onions sliced fine
- A pinch of garam masala
- Ghee for frying
- 2 star anise
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tbsp carraway seeds
- 3 green cardamoms (seeds only)
- 10 peppercorns
- 1″ piece cinnamon
- 3 cloves
- 2 mace flowers (javitri)
- 3 medium onions sliced
- 3 green chillies deseeded
- 1 fistful of coriander leaves
- 1/2 a cup (about 4 stalks) mint leaves
Marinating & cooking the Mutton:
1. Cut the mutton into medium size pieces, wash & drain well
2. Make a marinade of thick curd, red chilli powder, ginger garlic paste, lime juice and salt (to taste) and apply it to the mutton pieces well. Keep it aside for at least 2 hours.
3. In a wok/kadai heat some ghee and fry the sliced onions well till golden brown. Drain well & remove on an absorbent kitchen towel. Allow to cool for a few minutes – they will turn crispy. Sprinkle a pinch of garam masala. Crush them in a mixer grinder and add them to the marinating meat.
4. Next grind all the dry ingredients of the masala and add the wet ingredients & swirl it into a fine paste. Add this masala to the marinating meat.
5. It is ideal if you can cook the meat on slow fire, but this could take over an hour and half. To cut short the cooking time, I pressure cooked the marinated mutton as follows:
In a sufficiently large cooker, heat some ghee and fry the mutton pieces for about 2 minutes & add all the masala which was marinating along with it and mix well. There is no need to add additional water – if you wish you can add 1/2 a cup of water and mix again. Close the lid of the cooker, place the weight (whistle) and pressure cook on full flame for 10minutes or till the first whistle goes off. Reduce flame & cook for another 15-20 minutes (if you get tender meat) or till meat is done.
Cooking the rice:
1. Wash the rice and soak it for 10-15 minutes. Drain & keep.
2. Warm up the 1 cup of milk. On a hot tawa toast the saffron (kesar) slightly till crisp (do not burn it)- do this on a slow flame & toss it around gently using a clean kitchen towel. Crumble this saffron into the warm milk. It will turn yellow as the strands leave a beautiful colour & fragrance.
3. In a large pan boil plenty of water (you can measure double the water and throw in an extra couple of cups – but remember that you will need to drain the water so it has to be plenty or the rice wont cook and fluff up properly). When the water comes to a boil, toss in the spices – cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, fennel seeds, caraway seeds.
4. Add the rice, stir well. Add salt to taste. Cover with a tight lid so that no steam can escape. Cook till the rice is done three fourths – to check this, take a grain of rice and press it between your index finger & thumb, if it breaks into three parts, your rice has cooked just right. Turn off flame and drain the rice in a colander. Spread it out on large thalis (plates) and allow to cool. Sprinkle some lime juice & the saffron milk & mix gently.
Assembling the Mutton & Rice:
1. In a handi/wok with a wide bottom transfer the cooked meat from the pressure cooker and then place the par boiled rice on top of the meat. Seal the pan with foil and then place a lid over it or you can cover the pan with a lid & then use dough along the rim. (knead the dough & roll it into a thin coil & use it to seal the edges)
2. Place a large iron tawa on the flame & the sealed pan on top of the tawa. Cook on sim for 30-40minutes. Turn off flame after 40minutes and allow to settle for 10-15 minutes before opening it. Open and cover with silver vark (optional). Serve hot with raita!