Friday, 26 April 2013

Summertime Indulgence: South Indian Chicken Biriyani

Ah! Finally after several failed attempts at making the ever popular Biriyani, here is an excellent recipe for a delicious Chicken Biriyani. As I have mentioned earlier, Biriyani has been my all-time favorite dish; serve it to me any time of the day and I'm ever-ready to gobble it all up.

Biriyani is typically a special occasion dish, for many reasons. This dish is particularly known for its many layers of flavors that slowly develop and meld together. So, it’s a multi-step process that requires much love in many installments over a long cooking time. Also, those flavors and the aromas from the dish come from a blend of spices that are typically not used in everyday cooking and are pricier, hence adding to the special feel…

The concept of the Biriyani came from Persians. Originated in Persia it was brought to India by travelling Iranian merchants. It is a flavored rice dish made with alternating layers of rice and meat. The meat is cooked separately in a thick sauce/curry/gravy and then arranged between layers of rice and the whole assembly is then cooked very slowly to infuse flavors throughout the dish. When the Mughals conquered Northern India, they introduced much of their cuisine to the populace. As their rule spread further South, most Indians were exposed to the delicacy and it took a firm place in every Indian’s heart. And, then, every region of the country adopted the dish as its own and lent a distinctive flavor and taste to it by modifying the ingredients as also the method based on the indigenous cuisine.

Over time, a distinctive difference developed between the Biriyani as it is served in North India (that is only a slightly modified version of the Persian original) and that in the South, especially, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which, has been significantly modified to suit the Southern Palate.

The good thing about the Biriyani is that the components can be made ahead and it tastes even better the next day as the flavors have more time to develop.

Spices have always been precious and festivals are occasions to indulge and splurge. Accordingly, food on these special days is enhanced in flavor, aroma and richness by various spices and ingredients indigenous to the country like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and Basmati rice and those introduced through the ancient spice routes such as saffron, dried fruits and nuts.

Although, every family makes its own version, and I'm sure they are all yum, I share with you today my Amma's (my lovely mum-in-law) awesome recipe for the flavorful Chicken Biriyani. Amma's Biriyani always tastes lovely and she prepares it with all kinds of meat like Mutton, Beef etc... and all of them taste delicious. My search for a good Biriyani came to an end when I first had Amma's tasty Biriyani but it took me a lot of attempts to get it right! Thanks a ton Amma for so patiently teaching me this yummy dish.

Biriyani is an informal meal, typically eaten family style with the whole family gathered around a giant plate piled high with flavored rice and flavorful meat. That's a fantastic way to eat it, everyone digging in, laughing and enjoying the meal.

I served up my Biriyani with a chilled Raita - Crunchy Corn and Raisin Delight, Date and Lime Pickle and Pappads. This dish is quick and easy but at the same time elegant and bursts with flavors. I dedicate today's post to Amma, my loving mum-in-law. "Amma, I can't wait to make it for you when you come and stay with us in Bangalore" :)

Ingredients for Chicken

1 to 1 & 1/4 Kg Chicken or 14 to 15 pieces of Chicken; cut into pieces
6 to 7 medium size Big Onions; finely sliced
6 & 1/2 inch piece Ginger; ground to paste
17 to 18 cloves Garlic; ground to paste
8 to 10 Green Chillies; crushed (adjust as per spice tolerance)
4 to 5 medium size Tomatoes, finely sliced (refer notes)
4 to 5 tbsp Curd
10 to 12 Cashew nuts; ground to a fine paste with a little milk (optional)
1/2 cup Coriander leaves; finely chopped
1/4 cup Mint leaves; finely chopped or juice extracted
8 to 10 Cloves
4 to 5 Cinnamon sticks
6 pods Cardamom
2 to 3 petals of Star Anise
1 tsp Turmeric
Salt; to taste
Ghee/Oil (refer notes)

Ingredients for Rice

2 & 1/2 cups Basmati Rice; washed, cleaned and soaked in water for 1/2 an hour
5 cups Water
1 clove
1 inch piece of Cinnamon stick
3 pods of Cardamom
1 Bay leaf; coarsely crushed
1 petal of Star Anise
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
A pinch of Turmeric
Salt; to taste
Ghee/Oil (refer notes)

Ingredients for Garnish

15 to 18 Cashew nuts
15 to 18 Golden Raisins
1 medium size Big Onion, finely sliced
Ghee; for frying

Method for the Chicken Curry

Grind all the spices - cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom and star anise to a coarse or fine powder. Keep aside. This is the spice mix for the chicken curry/sauce/gravy.

Make light incisions on the chicken and keep aside.

Heat oil in a pressure cooker or a wok and add the finely sliced onions into it. Sauté till onions reduce in quantity. (do not let the onions turn brown) Remove the onions from the pressure cooker or wok and keep aside.

Into the same cooker, add ginger & garlic paste along with crushed green chillies and sauté till raw smell disappears. Throw in the ground spice mix and stir till raw smell goes away. At this time add the sliced tomatoes, enough salt and turmeric powder and sauté for a few minutes. (do not wait for the oil to float, just a few minutes of sautéing will do) Now toss in the sautéed big onions and combine well. Switch off the fire and add the curd, chicken pieces and finely chopped leaves into it. Cover and cook till chicken is cooked through. Reduce the gravy till it is a thick gravy consistency; residual gravy will be used later in the dish. Once done, add the cashew paste into it and (if you are using it) let the chicken rest for a while; about 1 hour should be perfect. (refer notes)

Method for the Rice

Drain the soaked rice and keep aside.

Heat ghee/oil in a pressure cooker and fry the spices - cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, star anise and fennel seeds) for a few minutes till the aroma comes through. Add the basmati rice and stir constantly on a medium flame for 5 minutes till rice turns glossy and starts crackling. (this helps to avoid the rice stick to each other) Now pour water, turmeric powder and enough salt and combine till everything is mixed well. (make sure you add enough salt but do not overdo it as the chicken has salt in it too) Close the pressure cooker (do not put weight) and wait for high steam to come. Once high steam appears, after a minute reduce the flame to low or sim and cook for exactly 5 minutes. Once done, switch off flame and open lid after 1/2 an hour. (Timing of cooking is crucial in this procedure of cooking rice, so make sure you follow the above mentioned timings to the to get the perfect consistency and texture of the Biriyani)

Separate the rice with a fork without pressing it too much. (refer notes) Keep aside.

Now take a large rice pot or any vessel and grease it with ghee/oil. Layer the rice and chicken mixture; begin with a layer of rice followed by chicken and repeat layers with rice as the final and top-most layer. (refer notes) Add drops of ghee between each layer. (on each layer of rice before arranging the chicken pieces) Place the rice pot or vessel on the fire and keep on gentle sim for a few minutes till the Biriyani is set well and gravy is incorporated well into the rice.

Method for Garnish

Heat ghee in a pan and fry onion, cashew and raisin and keep aside.

Garnish the Chicken Biriyani with fried onion, cashew and raisin. Cover the Biriyani pot after adding the garnish for a few minutes before serving.

Serve hot with fried pappads, dates chutney and a cool raita. And there you have it, awesome Chicken Biriyani…..


1. In case you do not have tomatoes in your pantry you can add 1 ¼ cups curd instead.

2. You can either add ghee or oil to your Biriyani; of course, ghee brings out the authentic flavor of Biriyani. I use a mixture of ghee and oil so I don’t overdo both!

3. If you do not have the time to let the chicken rest, that’s fine, you can add it immediately into the basmati rice and continue cooking your Biriyani. But letting the chicken rest enhances the overall flavor of the dish.

4. I have cooked the rice in my own style of cooking basmati rice since I find this an extremely easy method. But you can choose your most convenient method of cooking the same.

Recipe Courtesy: My lovely mum-in-law, Amma

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! Sunday Biriyani... Done!

    Will let you know how this turned out :)


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