BUT, I hope to be better organised and keep up with it - I definitely don't want to give it up. Thank you A for prodding me on and reminding me that there ARE people (even if they are only a handful :) ) who read this blog and making me want to make that effort!
This post for example, I did write it on the weekend, but just didn't end up uploading the pics....well, this morning I did. I have also decided to schedule my posts in advance so they get published regularly and I don't have to find time during the week to post.
Your comments are much appreciated, do keep them coming; they inspire me to blog!
Biryani – the name conjures up images of aromatic Basmati rice, each grain cooked to perfection yet retaining its indivudality. The saffron tinted rice hides within its bosom succulent pieces of lamb which have been marinated in a mixture of yoghurt and spices and then cooked along with the rice till the meat falls apart from the bone. Visions of huge "degchis" being cooked on "dum" (slow cooking) for feasts for special occasions come to mind.
Though these images are probably more nostalgia than reality, things haven’t really changed much where the biryani is concerned. Sure, now they can be had anywhere - from a dhaba to a five star restaurant without waiting for a wedding, but authentic recipes, freshly ground masala and the slow cooking have not been completely forgotten.
The Biryani has a rich history –it is supposed to have originated in Persia and come to India via Afhanistan, brought by the Mughals (Taimur is usually credited with this) as part of the rich heritage they brought with them when they invaded Northern India. After that, it seems to have taken on a life of its own, going South from the Avadhis to the Nizams of Hyderabad and morphing into even more different varieties. Read more about its history here
For me, a good Biryani has always been more about the flavours than the meat - I know, sacrilege! Chitrita Banerjee in her book "Eating India" - writes about the difference between the rich Avadhi Biryani and the "kucchi" Hyderabadi Biryani and prefers the former over the latter.
Well, for me its, the other way - Biryani in the North has always seemed to be less flavourful than the Hyderabadi Biryani or even the biryani made down south in Tamil Nadu. Maybe its to do with the fact that Avadhi biryanis rely more on the flavours from the meat itself(which is precooked and added). I love the Hyderabadi biryani because the meat when cooked with the rice in its rich marinade, imparts a heavenly flavour to the rice.
In Mumbai, there was nothing , according to me, to beat Lucky's biryani - a small joint in Bandra which had the most amazing biryani ever; I still remember ordering it for my 22nd birthday, my last one as a Mumbai resident. On later vists I have had biryani from Urban Tadka and it was passable, in an assembly line kind of way.
I have had more biryani since then, mostly in Chennai. Crescent in Nungambakkam was a favourite with my boss, he ate it practically every day;then there was Deluxe - a hole-in-the-wall in Pondy Bazaar, T. Nagar which served up a mean prawn biryani as well as a Deluxe special which was a favourite with out-of-towners because of the fried chicken pieces in it. Amravati's biryani was a hit-and-miss affair and depended on the day you went while Anjappar's was quite good. Ponnuswamy's biryani was overrated according to me while I have heard the biryani in Velu's Military Hotel is quite good.
Often while driving on the highway to Ooty or Kodai, we would see these signs at roadside dhabas "briyani ready" and I would wonder how these would taste if only we had the time and inclination to stop by. While waiting in the car in Mylapore one day, while my husband ran an errand, I saw this small shop which had a huge "degchi" (vessel) of biryani right outside the cash counter. As people would come and pay up, the guy manning it would take a quarter plate and just plunge it into the vessel and remove a plateful of biryani which he would shape into a heap with another plate, making sure it had the requisite three to four pieces of meat in it with one boiled egg. He served a cool 5 plates in the fifteen minutes I was parked...
The best biryanis I have had till date are:
1. Biryani catered by this lady in Kilpauk for my last birthday - it was the first time there were no leftovers.
2. Biryani at a small eating joint in Egmore (Marhaba Thirumana Biryani) which served only biryanis - nothing else.
And now coming to the biryani I made this Sunday. It was chicken biryani (I know, sacrilege again, but we prefer chicken to red meat!) ; hubby "felt like eating biryani" and I didn't feel like going out and experimenting in Delhi (haven't yet found a place which we like, have heard a lot about Andhra Bhawan though and need to check it out).
So I made it at home - the chicken was really tender and the rice loaded with the taste of spices and the marinade. It took me just about an hour to make, not counting the marination time for the chicken which was about another hour and a half; I actually marinated the chicken, went out grocery shopping and then came back and made it in time for lunch.
So, you can try this simple version when you are in the mood. You can add biryani masala which is available under different brands, if you want the restaurant taste.
Chicken - 8 pieces
yoghurt - half a cup
red chilli powder - 1 tsp
coriander powder - 1 tsp
turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp
salt 1/4 tsp
Basmati rice - 1.5 cups
few strands of saffron soaked in warm milk
Cardamom - 4
Cinnamon - 1 " stick
Tej patta - 2
Onions - 2 sliced
Oil - 1 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tbsp
salt to taste
1. Mix the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken in it for about an hour and a half atleast. Soak the basmati rice in three cups of water for about half an hour.
2. Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan, add half the whole spices and fry one minute till they change colour.
3. Add the sliced onions and fry till well for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the chicken pieces along with the marinade and fry on high heat for about 5 minutes turning mid way so that both sides get seared. Lower flame, add 2 cups of water and simmer for another 10 minutes till the chicken is cooked.
4. Remove the cooked chicken pieces from the pan and strain the stock and keep aside.
5. Heat the remaining oil in the same pan, add the other half of the whole spices and when they change colour, drain basmati rice (reserving the water) and add to the pan. Fry for three minutes, then add the chicken pieces.
6. Measure the chicken stock you have reserved and add the basmati water and saffron milk to it to make 4 cups.Add it to the pan along with salt, bring to boil and then cover with a tight fitting lid (or seal with atta dough) and cook for about 10-12 minutes, till the rice is cooked but stays separate.
Switching it off a bit earlier helps since it will cook further with the lid closed.