Chicken Biryani Pulao/Pilaf Rice
Biriyani is a combination of rice with meat or chicken or prawns or vegetables or fish. It can be a meal in itself or can be served as part of a Indian meal. Do not be put off by a long list of ingredients, it is an easy dish to cook. Make sure that you have all the ingredients, cutting corners spoils the end result. Chicken can be substituted with lamb or prawns or even mixed collection of vegetables like potatoes, peas, carrots, cauliflower florets. Serves 6-8.
Pulao is called Pilaf or pilau in UK.
1 kg. chicken, cut into bite size pieces or small chicken thighs. Small pieces are better.Do not use poor quality chicken for this dish.
750 gm.-1 kg. Basmati rice
2 1/2 litre water for rice
6 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup oil or a mix of oil and ghee (clarified butter)
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 inch piece ginger, chopped or grated finely
4 large cardamoms*
6 green cardamoms*
2 inch piece of cinnamon*
4 bay leaves*
8-10 black pepper corns*
2-3 green chillies- slit lengthways, adjust to your taste
2- 2 1/2 tsp. salt, adjust to your taste
1/2 tsp. chilli powder, adjust to your taste
2 tbsp. thick yoghurt or dahi (do not use skimmed milk yoghurt)
2 large tomatoes, chopped into 1 inch/2.5 cm. chunks
1 bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
1 small bunch of mint leaves, chopped
1 lime or 1/2 lemon, cut into small pieces
A few strands of saffron soaked in a tablespoon of warm water
1/2 tsp. salt for boiling rice
1-2 tbsp. ghee/clarified butter
1/4 tsp. Orange or jalebi food colour, dissolved in 2 tbsp. water
10-12 blanched almonds/cashews, deep fried (optional)
Wash and drain chicken.
Heat oil/ghee in a large pan and fry onions, until quite dark brown, almost caramelised.
While onions are frying, prepare/measure all other ingredients.
When onions are dark brown, take them out of the oil and keep aside.
Crack open brown and green cardamoms a little by wrapping them in a kitchen towel and bashing them gently with a rolling pin.
In the remaining oil from frying onions, add all the whole spices*, ginger and garlic. Fry for a minute or two to release the flavours.
Add chicken pieces, salt and chilli powder. Stir fry until chicken is nicely browned on all sides.
Add yoghurt, tomatoes, coriander and mint leaves-saving a few leaves for boiling with the rice, sliced green chillies, pieces of lime and 2/3rd of the fried onions-keeping 1/3rd onions aside for garnishing later.
Cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is nearly cooked and only a little gravy is left.
While chicken is cooking, boil water for rice in a separate pan, with a few mint & coriander leaves & salt added.
Add rice and boil briskly, with the lid off, until 2/3rd done (2 grains felt, when rice is pressed and squashed between two fingers).
Drain the water off the rice in a colander. Run a little cold water over it, to stop the rice from cooking further while resting. Leave in the colander for a few minute, for all the water to drain out.
Grease a large oven proof dish or a pan and spread 1/3rd of the rice in a layer at the base of the pan. Sprinkle half of the soaked saffron on the rice Dot with 1/4 tsp. of liquid colour here and there.
Skim off the surplus oil from the cooked chicken.
Now place 1/2 of the chicken in a layer on top of the rice.
Next, layer with second 1/3rd of the rice. Sprinkle remaining saffron on top.
Now spread remaining half of the chicken on top, in a layer.
Finish with a layer of the remaining 3rd of the rice.
Sprinkle fried onions on top.
Dot with a little ghee and a few drop of liquid jalebi (orange) colour randomly. If dry colour powder is used, dissolve it in a teaspoon of water. This gives you a few dark orange coloured rice grains interspersed in the rest of the rice. It looks very nice when served.
Cover the pan with a tight lid.
Put it in a medium hot oven, 170º-180° C, on the centre shelf, for 20 minutes or so, until the rice is fully done. It can be cooked directly on the hob, on a low flame, with the lid tightly closed. This will take 20-30 minutes. My mum used to seal the lid with a little dough, put a few pieces of charcoal on top of the lid, and leave it on gentle heat/dying charcoal. But she of course made only vegetable pulao, not meat biriyani!
Serve hot, garnished with almonds or cashew, saved fried onion and a few mint leaves .
If you would like a richer biryani, add another 500 gm. of chicken. Remember to increase all other ingredients, except rice, accordingly.
Biryani can be pre-prepared up to step 20, cooled quickly and then kept in the fridge. Do not leave cooked rice lying around at room temperature. Cooking time in oven will be increased by 10 minutes when cooking chilled Biryani from the fridge.
Biryani freezes reasonably well. Defrost fully. Sprinkle a little water on top, cover and heat in a microwave, or an ordinary oven at low-medium heat or in a heavy bottomed pan, on low heat for 20-30 minutes, until steaming hot.
BBQ Biryani Parcels: Cook rice as per your recipe. Make small parcels, one portion per person, each wrapped in aluminium foil. Place parcels on BBQ for a few minutes to heat, about 8-10 minutes, turning over once. Serve the parcels straight from the BBQ.