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Monday, August 15, 2011

Traditional Madrasi Chicken Biryani

The traditional madrasi biryani is very popular in South India especially in Chennai where not a single muslim function or event is complete without this being served. Its aroma fills the air and you can smell the biryani at least 5 houses down the street. It is so insanely delicious! 

The art of the traditional madrasi biryani lies in its technique and the few tips and tricks which add to its flavour and taste.  The flavour is enhanced by adding selected whole garam masala spices. Adding too many garam masala spices or garam masala powders mars its flavour and adding cashew or almond paste makes the rice grains sticky.  

What is important in a delicious biryani is a combination of  flavour, texture and taste and this is achieved by adding the right spices, the right quality and the right proportions of all the  ingredients and at the right time using the right technique. It is like a marriage which comes together when everything is in perfect harmony.  

Here's the recipe:


Chicken - 1 whole + 1/2 a breast (2kgs)
Onions - 6 medium size
Tomatoes - 5 medium size (preferably plum)
Cloves - 10
Green cardamoms - 8
Cinnamon sticks - 2- 3 (2 " inch sticks)
Vegetable oil - 1 cup
Ginger garlic paste - 1/2 cup
Thick yoghurt - 1 cup
Green chillies - 10 -12 small size
Mint leaves - a handful
Cilantro chopped - 1 cup
Saffron - 1 generous pinch
Milk   - 1/2 a cup
Turmeric- 1/2 a tspn
Red chilly powder- 1tspn
Basumati Rice - 5 cups (Long grain rice )

*Some of the good brands of regular basumati rice are  817, Lal Qila, Tilda etc.


Peel, wash and slice the onions. You could use a food processor as it is much easier. Grind the ginger garlic paste. Wash and cut tomatoes into quarters, remove the stems from the green chillies, wash and chop coriander, wash mint leaves and keep aside.                                          

Heat 1 cup of oil in a big pot. Add the whole cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamoms.  

Add the sliced onions and fry them on medium heat stirring on and off taking care not to burn them. The onions first turn translucent and then start turning golden brown. This takes atleast 10 to 15 mins. 

The onions should be evenly brown as in the picture.

Stir in the ginger garlic paste, turmeric and red chilly powder. When it leaves an aroma add the tomatoes and green chillies.

Let the tomatoes soften a bit, then add the chicken pieces. 

Roast the chicken in the masala by turning it over gently taking good care not to break the pieces. This should be done on medium to high heat.  

Add the yoghurt followed by mint leaves and chopped coriander. 

Let the chicken cook for sometime on medium heat till the broth thickens a bit and a whiff of the aroma comes out when you open the lid. At this stage the chicken yakhni (biryani curry) is ready. Squeeze in the juiice of half a lime and adjust the  salt. 

Now transfer the chicken to a roaster. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Boil the soaked basumati rice (regular rice should be washed and soaked for 1/2 an hr and the golden sela basumati for 2 - 4 hrs) till it is half cooked. The grains should be soft outside but still brittle inside. 


Drain the rice and pour it over the yakhni (the prepared chicken biryani curry) in the roaster. Top it with chopped coriander and  mint leaves. Dissolve saffron in 1/2 a cup of milk and sprinkle the half the saffron milk on the rice. Add the food coloring to a few grains of cooked rice and sprinkle the colored rice on top.

Close the lid well as firm but not brittle inside. If you find it gritty then bake it for 5 more minutes. Once it is done,  remove from the oven, add the remaining saffron milk, close the lid and let the roaster rest for 5 more minutes. The saffron flavour comes out.and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 mins.

With the help of a flat round spatula gently turn over and mix the biryani from the bottom to the top little by little taking care not to break the chicken pieces.  And as you mix, keep transferring the biryani to the serving platter a little at a time. Do not mix the biryani all at once as this will not only break the chicken pieces but also he rice grains. You have to slowly and gently mix it little by little with all patience.The steaming hot biryani is now ready. Enjoy the chicken biryani with onion raita and egg plant chutney. 

Cooking Tips:

1. When you soak the basumati rice the water should be atleast 4 inches above the rice. If there is less  water the rice would tend to break and become sticky.
2. Boil the rice in a big colander or pot which can hold atleast 2 litres of water. If you boil 1 kg of rice in a 1 litre pot then the rice woud become sticky and mushy.
3. To test the rice for doneness, take a grain of rice and press it between your index finger and thumb. It should leave 3 small brittle grains on your finger. If the rice is not done yet then you wouldn't be able to press the rice. Therefore it should be just a little soft on the outside but still gritty inside. .
4. For extra flavour,smash 3-4 green cardamoms just to open them a little and add them to the yakni when it is simmering in the roaster just before adding the rice. 
5. Adding saffron milk right at the end brings out the extra flavour.
6. I also add a little ghee on top of the rice before steaming it in the roaster at the final stage  for added flavour . 
7. Instead of pouring the saffron milk on the biryani,, you can melt butter in the saffron solution, add some of the boiled basumati rice to it and then sprinkle the butter flavoured saffron rice on top. This also enhances the flavour. 
8. Use preferably plum tomatoes or vine tomatoes as they are not very tangy. 
9. Choose medium sized freshly slaughtered yellow grain fed chicken.
10. Yoghurt should be thick, creamy and sour. I prefer balkan style astro yoghurt or the 3.5% plain astro yoghurt. 
11. Use the darker variety of cinnamon not the lighter ceylon cinnamon which is used in mostly desserts. 
12. For food coloring use the natural food coloring such as cochineal. the other dyes (red no.1 and red no.40) carry great health risks as they come from petroleum byproducts.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Beetroot Biryani

Beetroots - 4 medium sized
Onions - 4 medium sized
Green Chillies -6
Tomatoes - 4 medium sized
Ginger garlic paste - 1/4 cup
Pudina/Mint - a handful
Cilantro - 1 cup chopped
Vegetable oil - 3/4 cup
Basumathi Rice - 4 cups
Dark Cinnamon - 2 inch stick
Green Cardamoms - 6
Cloves - 6
Salt to taste
Turmeric - 1/2 a tspn
Red chilly powder - 1/2 - 1 tspn
Orange color

1. Peel, wash and grate the beetroot. Peel and slice the onions, deseed the green chillies

2.Fry the onions till golden brown in 3/4th cup of oil on medium heat after adding the whole garam masala spices(cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon).
3. When the onions turn golden brown, add the ginger garlic paste followed by the dry spices - turmeric and red chilly powder. (I prefer using either Resham patti chilly powder or kashmiri mirch as they have deep red color and good flavour) Stir for a few seconds, then immediately add the diced tomatoes, green chillies and salt. Cook till the tomatoes are soft and juicy.

4.Throw in the grated beetroot. Turn over and mix well in the masala. Add mint leaves and chopped cilantro.  Let it cook for 2 - 3 minutes on simmer.

5. Meanwhile boil the basumati rice in another pot filled with water. Add one heaped tablespoon of salt to the boiling rice. Cook the rice till it is half done. The outer layer of the grains should have softened a little and when you press it in between your index finger and thumb it should leave at least 2 or 3 round uncooked grains. It is now time to drain the rice using a strainer or a perforated colander. 
6. Pour the steaming hot rice on the beetroot masala. Take a a tablespoon of the boiled rice, add some food coloring to it, mix well and sprinkle the colored rice on top. Also throw in a few mint leaves and chopped coriander. Then let it steam in a preheated oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit. Remove from oven after 15 mins. Turn over the biryani rice gently from the bottom to the top with a round spatula to mix well. Serve hot with onion raita and roasted chicken.